Category Archives: The Barley
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It’s Monday and there are two inches of fresh snow on the ground in Madison this morning. But I am back from BGG.con and am happy to provide a special recap version of The Monday Brews for you! My BGG.con experience was awesome, so let’s not delay in the telling of tales and sharing of stories in the Monday Brews.
While I was at BGG.con I only had a few brews. The hotel bar had a very small selection so I basically skipped the Barley portion of the week. I did sneak in a few brews and here they are…
Shiner Bock: This seemed to be the staple both at the bar and available in the coffee shop. So I had a couple of these. Unfortunately the $7 per bottle price tag was a little steep for me so I didn’t have more. This isn’t what I would consider a great beer, but it’s from Texas, so that counts for something, I think.
Sierra Nevada IPA: This was the on tap beer for the “Cash & Carry” food section offered at the convention hall. My awesome publisher was kind enough to purchase one for me while I was demoing Scoville. I’m not an IPA guy, but it hit the spot.
Some Texas IPA: While having an entertaining evening at the hotel bar before heading to a party I was able to enjoy some other Texas IPA. I have no idea what brand it was and neither did the waitress. Oh well.
In a typical week I play between 2-7 games. In last week’s BGG.con week I played or taught 36 games! I’ll be recapping each BGG.con day with the games I played.
On my flights I got in my first two games of the week. Those were Ascension and Le Havre. I can’t sleep on planes so having these games helped pass the time. I arrived in Dallas around 2:15 and headed straight to the convention. Since I was there to demo Scoville I immediately went to the demo area and set it up. Table D6 in Demo Land would be my home base for the next four days.
Scoville Demo x4: Wednesday afternoon/evening I was able to run four demos of Scoville. I had already visited the exhibit hall and snagged one of the last five copies of Glass Road. I’m glad I didn’t wait to get one. My big mistake while running demos was not documenting who played them. Gil Hova has a great recap article on BGG where he links to all the players who he played with and I wish I could have done the same. At least I learned something. After four demos it seemed people were liking the game. I was pleased with that.
Glass Road: After leaving the demo hall I found the Tasty Minstrel guys in the Jonsson room and we sat down to punch and play my copy of Glass Road. Seth had already played so he was able to teach us. I was already a little brain burned from the 4 Scoville demos so I didn’t play a very good game, but I’m glad to have bought a copy since I think it is fun and interesting and short enough to make regular visits to my gaming table.
Bang! The Dice Game: I like Bang and think it’s a fun game, but with player elimination I think it’s a little too long. Enter the dice version. I played this with Chris Kirkman of Dice Hate Me, Darrell Louder of Compounded and UnPub fame, Michael Mindes of Tasty Minstrel, and Scott King of game photography awesomeness. I’m not typically much of a social gamer and my face usually gives everything away. But since this is a dice version I was able to help my team lose quickly instead of dragging things out. I’m tempted to pick this up.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf: I had never played Werewolf before. In fact I feel really bad that I always thought people looked really goofy when playing. I blame that on ignorance. The new One Night Ultimate Werewolf not only has really nice looking artwork, but it’s a lot of fun. With the same group as Bang The Dice Game we had one particularly funny moment when the reader, who shall remain nameless, was reading the part about the “Troublemaker” and instead of reading down into the rulebook like for the previous players he lifted his head while reading the troublemaker portion and gave himself away. It was really hilarious when we all lifted our heads and started laughing.
I woke up early to head to the coffee shop and grab a strong caffeinated beverage and worked on some game design until the exhibit hall opened at 10. After a quick walk through the hall including purchasing the new Ticket to Ride: Nederland, I was back in Demo Land for more Scoville. Here’s what the gaming hall looked like:
I was able to run 4 more Scoville demos before I realized that I was hungry. After snagging some food I joined up with the awesome Benny Sperling and his wife Jax for some non-Scoville gaming. It was a nice break.
Trains: I’ve played Trains a few times so far and I think I enjoy it. I like that it has similarities to Dominion, which makes it accessible. But I dislike that it is so similar to Dominion. While having the board gives an extra dimension, there are often turns where you can’t do anything. And that’s not due to having a lot of waste in my hand because I ended with only 4 waste cards. I’m hoping that upcoming expansions pull this game further from Dominion.
Mai-Star: This is a game about geisha and guests by the designer of Love Letter. On your turn you can either place an advertiser or a guest. Advertisers let you entertain better guests. Guests let you have special abilities when played. This is a light and interesting game that’s played over three rounds. I’d play it again but it’s not something I would buy.
Scoville x3: After Mai-Star I hustled back to the demo table where people were waiting. I not only taught them the game, but also two other groups after them. Overall I demoed Scoville 7 times on Thursday.
New Bedford: I was fortunate to know someone who had brought a print and play version of New Bedford by Nathaniel Levan and Oak Leaf Games. It is a game about a whaling town, which is a cool theme. Your goal is to send out boats to capture whales. But the coolest part about the game is how the town itself actually gets built. Players have worker placement spots where they can gain resources or money, or build buildings. Buildings can then be used as worker placement locations. Head to the Oak Leaf Games website to learn more. My first impression was that it was a very entertaining game and I am looking forward to playing it again!
Embarrassing Moment Nominee: In case you are unaware there is a designer with the name Alan R. Moon who designed a little game called Ticket to Ride. You might have heard of that game. It’s the one in Target with the sticker that reads “Over 2 Million Copies Sold.” Yeah, the guy is sort of a celebrity in the industry. Well, he happened to be standing near my demo table and I had to walk over and introduce myself. That was the cool part. The embarrassing part was that I immediately mentioned how I had an awesome idea for the contest that they ran last year and I started to go on and on about my idea a new Ticket to Ride. Then in my head I froze and realized that the poor guy probably gets bombarded by hundreds of ideas all the time and he probably doesn’t want to hear one from some dude that he just met. I basically told myself to shut up, thanked him, and walked away feeling like an idiot.
Friday was a down day for Scoville with only 5 demos, but when I wasn’t demoing I was connecting with people in the UnPub Proto Alley or schmoozin with publishers.
Scoville x5: Friday’s Scoville demos were the first to have a repeat player. I thought that was pretty cool.
Compounded (With possible expansion): I love Compounded and I had the opportunity to play it with the publisher and a few others in the UnPub area. The designer was demoing it with a possible expansion that I thought made the game more interesting. I won’t mention any details about the expansion because there’s nothing official, but they wouldn’t go wrong by adding it to the game!
Double Impact: This was a prototype that I would PNP immediately if I could get my hands on the files. There was just something about the game utilizing worker placement and very interesting decisions that I found fascinating. I was also drooling over the brilliant iconography. The designer was at the table and the other player was annoyed with me fawning over the game. While the game needs a little tweaking, it has a very promising future.
Belle of the Ball: I backed this game on Kickstarter nearly on artwork and graphic design alone. I finally got to play it and I am very happy to report that it was also a very good game. The Belle cards add a lot of “take that” type of action to the game, but also allow you to increase the awesomeness of your party. I’m looking forward to this one arriving next year!
Round Trip & Enqueteur by David Short: David is a Tasty Minstrel Games alum with Ground Floor and Skyline having already been published. So it was a pleasure to meet him and play some of his prototypes. Round Trip is about getting yourself to your gate at an airport. It utilizes a mancala mechanic, but does so in a more interesting way because of the interaction between other players and the cards you are trying to score. I was pretty impressed with the state of the game considering it’s only a few months old. Then we played Enqueteur, which is a very nice step up from Love Letter. It plays similar to Love Letter but adds some interesting complications to the game. David is doing some awesome designing right now and I wish him the best!
Pitch Car: After leaving the gaming hall a few of us decided to play a quick lap of Pitch Car which was set up in the open area. The track setup is shown below. It was pretty epic. What wasn’t epic was how I played. Despite that it was a fun way to cap off the night!
I started Saturday early since I wanted to get in as many demos of Scoville as I could. But it would turn out that my gaming day would begin with something called Dart Gun Desperados a.k.a. Rubber Banditos.
Rubber Banditos: This is a crazy cool game by Steve Avery, who co-designed Nothing Personal with Tom Vasel, who you may have heard of. The idea of the game is you are trying to gain money with your people. But you’d better beware or you’ll get shot by an opponent. And the shooting was done with real rubber band shooters. You would actually shoot rubber bands at your opponents figures. While I ended with no money, the gameplay itself is what made the game for me. The best part is the gun fight where you duel with an opponent. Steve was awesome to meet and talk with and I look forward to enjoying a brew or two with him in the future!
Scoville x5: One of the highlights of the convention was that I got to play Scoville with both Seth and Michael from Tasty Minstrel. It was interesting to see the strategy of how they played. And it was also very nice after the closing ceremonies when TMG gave me the okay to wrap up the demos. With 22 demos under my belt I increased my number of plays significantly. And I can honestly say that I did not get sick of the game. Thank you to all who played the game. I am honored and humbled by your kind words.
Going, Going, Gone: Appropriately enough the very last game I played was Going, Going, Gone. This is an action auction game where players try to bid on five different auctions at the same time. We were playing an adult version that featured some of the Shiner Bock that I mentioned above and we were taught by the spunky Betsy Ross. It was sheer fun, unless you kept getting beer spilled on your arm.
Embarrassing Moment Nominee #2: I have an issue with dragging out stories and Saturday night was one of those moments. I was trying to tell the story of how I met a publisher at GenCon 2 years ago and failed to pick up the check and then how I met another publisher 2 years ago and submitted a crappy game, and how ultimately those are the two publishers I am now closest with. It’s actually a really cool story but should only take about 5 minutes to tell instead of fifteen. Afterword someone with clout in the biz said, “That was the longest story ever!,” but with mildly stronger language. I felt bad about wasting their time. If you ever want to hear the story I’ll be happy to practice a short version before telling you the story.
My BGG.con experience wrapped up with the I’m Board With Life crew who were throwing a party in their rooms. We had an exceptional bartender for starters, but I was also able to meet Quinns from Shut Up Sit Down. That was pretty cool, especially since he said Scoville sounded interesting! I also had an inspirational moment about greater stuff in life when chatting with the wife of one of the I’m Board With Life guys. She helped me gain perspective on life in Central America and I am afraid to say that we in the US don’t have the right understanding of Latin American culture. If I took nothing away from BGG.con other than that conversation, then it still would have been worth it. I couldn’t thank her enough for her honesty.
BGG.con is a fantastic convention. I love that it is singularly focused on board games. I love the intimate feel where it’s like you’re all part of a family. And I love that there are so many amazing people who attend. I met so many of you and I’d love to list you all but I know I would forget some. Needless to say, BGG.con is great for networking and socializing with really awesome people.
I also enjoyed the exhibit hall since it wasn’t like fighting for survival the way the GenCon exhibit hall can feel at times. It’s so casual and you can just chat with people and make lasting connections. I particularly enjoyed my conversation with the awesome couple behind MeepleSource.com. They had a great booth and they offer awesome stuff to spruce up your games.
I specially want to thank Darrell Louder for his time contributions to run the UnPub Proto Alley. While I did not have the chance to participate, I understand what an awesome venue it can be for aspiring game designers. It offered the chance for designers to get and give feedback for prototype game designs. That’s the same way that I first got Scoville to the table in front of other designers. I’m not sure if there is a better way for networking and bettering your designs than things like UnPub. So make sure you thank Darrell when you get a chance. He’s an awesome dude.
My only regret of the convention is that I did not get to play most of the Hot Essen Releases. These included Amerigo, Lewis & Clark, Machi Koro, Concordia, Caverna, Nauticus, Russian Railroads, Nations and Madeira. They were sitting so tantalizingly close to my Scoville demo table.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to play a prototype of Scoville. I am humbled that so many people were willing to sit at a table and play a prototype when all the Hot Essen Releases were just mere feet away. BGG.con was a fantastic experience and I’m very much considering going back next year.
It’s a good news – bad news Monday here at Boards and Barley. First, the bad news: the Scoville Kickstarter campaign is being moved to mid-December. We’ll all just have to be patient a little longer. Now the good news: I’ll be at BGG.con demoing Scoville and meeting a lot of you awesome people this week!
That’s right. It’s gonna be a slow week on Boards and Barley because I’ll be down in Dallas enjoying some full on boards and barley with fellow designers and gamers and publishers. It’s gonna be awesome!
Never-the-less, today is Monday so I present to you the Boards and Barley that I enjoyed last week:
Newton’s Oatmeal Stout: My own oatmeal stout is a decent homebrew. However, it is gonna have some competition soon as I recently bottled my scotch ale, which will be named after Sir Alexander Fleming.
Lost Coast Eight Ball Oatmeal Stout: This is a pretty good oatmeal stout, expecially since it doesn’t have that “homebrew” characteristic that my beer possesses.
Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout: A straggler from the 6-pack I purchased was thoroughly enjoyed. I find this double cream stout to be very drinkable.
North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout: It was a strange week for me barley-wise. I only had stouts. A few years ago that would never have happened. I do believe my beer palate is maturing! Unforunately I enjoyed this brew after those other stouts and so I only went for half the bottle. But if you want something potent then I would recommend anything that says “Russian Imperial.”
Cable Car: This is one of the best games to get a game night started. The strategy is light. The decisions are few. The screwage is immense. It has everything to get people into the gaming mood. And since it plays quickly, Cable Car makes it to the table relatively frequently. Fun game!
Last Will: I played this at our board game night as well. And I lost badly. I am usually pretty good at this game, but I made a HUGE error on the very first turn and really botched things. Plus, the Old Friend wasn’t available for me as the first player in the first round. That really hindered my game. But despite my pitiful performance this is a game that I love playing. It is a really awesome design.
Compounded: I taught Compounded to four family members over the weekend and the consensus was that they loved it. One of them is a chemist so it was right up her alley. My older brother, who isn’t really a gamer, dominated everyone by getting some compounds completed really early. If you have yet to check out Compounded, maybe it’s time to pick it up!
Kingdom Builder: We played Kingdom Builder with the Crossroads expansion. It is a great expansion and I love the new “objectives” to strive for during the game. This is a really enjoyable game for me as it is light enough to keep my wife interested, yet deep enough to make me care on every turn.
Dungeon Roll: I played this solo and had a decent game… or so I thought. I fought hard to get those 19 points only to learn that that only makes me a Village Hero. I must be doing something wrong since I barely ever score in the 20s. Oh well. Also, if you haven’t seen it, there is a Winter Heroes promo pack on Kickstarter right now for a super low price. But hurry up since there’s less than 24 hours to go!
As I mentioned last week I’ve been in the designer doldrums lately. This time of year is usually so busy for me that I brain rarely gets a spare moment to work on hobby stuff. However, since I’ll be down at BGG.con this week I’m going to bring my notebook and idea box to see if I can come up with anything for my current games or possibly to come up with a few new games. I’ll keep you posted.
So those are the Boards and Barley that I enjoyed last week. What did you enjoy? And will I see you at BGG.con?
A game that I received via Kickstarter that has brought enjoyment to my gaming group recently is Compounded. This game was designed by Darrell Louder and published by the excellent Dice Hate Me Games.
In Compounded you are essentially a lab manager taking care of different experiments. Your objective in the game is to earn the most Atomic Points (AP… Note: this is the type of AP that you want!). Atomic points are earned by completing compounds. Each round consists of the following four phases:
- Discovery Phase: Players obtain new elements from the draw bag based on their Discovery research level.
- Study Phase: Players place or move their claim tokens, which indicate the compounds that they are claiming.
- Research Phase: Players take elements from their workbench and place them on compounds.
- Lab Phase: Players score any completed compounds and deal with any lab fires.
The game lasts until someone reaches 50 atomic points or when someone has 3 of their 4 research levels topped out or when the research field can no longer be filled.
Throughout the game players are trying to complete compounds that will be beneficial for them. Beneficial refers to the type of research that they will gain when completing a compound. Let’s take a look at the examples in this image:
The compound in the middle, Hydroxylamine, will award 6 atomic points (upper right corner). The player completing the compound will also be able to increase their “Discovery” experiment level (Blue indicator next to the score). Also, the player completing the compound would receive a Lab Key token, which they could use later in the game to obtain the first player marker. The compound on the left awards 5 points, a bump in the “Research” experiment level, and causes volatility in the lab (red flame icon in the lower right corner), which is like a lab fire. The compound on the right awards 6 atomic points, a bump in the “Study” experiment level, and safety goggles, which can be really useful!
As players complete compounds their abilities will increase. That nature of the game allows things to ramp up really well throughout the game. Here are my thoughts:
Here’s What I Like:
Science and Theme: You’ve gotta give it to the designer and publisher. This is not a typical theme and I imagine some people would find it dry because there is no boring looking renaissance man on the cover. However, the theme is so perfectly integrated into the game that you almost forget that don’t realize Hydrogen Oxide is, in fact, water! Everything thematically works really really well in this game.
Graphic Design: Normally I list that I enjoy the artwork in a game. This game is a little different. There is actually very little artwork. Rather, the game is nearly all graphic design. Even the box cover isn’t your typical fully painted work of art. So why is this in the section of things I like? Because they pulled it off beautifully. In a game like this there’s just no need for gaudy, over the top artwork. This is a streamlined product that looks really nice.
Gameplay: I really enjoy how this game works. It is similar, in some respects, to Scoville in that each round of the game is made of different phases. I enjoy that each round is discrete and you have to work to maximize what you can do during your turn while hoping you’re doing a better job than your opponents.
Here’s What I Dislike:
Luck: Since drawing elements during the discovery phase is a luck mechanic, it can make things a little frustrating if you are unable to draw what you need. This issue is minimized, however, by your abilities as they increase throughout the game. While luck is present, it becomes less and less as the game goes on, which is good.
Flame Token and Draw Bag Components: This is more of a gripe than something I dislike. I wish the flame tokens were slightly larger so they would be easier to grab. I understand that their size makes them fit really well onto the compound cards, so I can forgive that. The draw bag is also slightly too small. We swapped it for a draw bag from VivaJava and the VivaJava draw bag worked much better.
Designer Perspective: What Would I Change?
First, you should be aware that I have not yet played the game with the Chemical Chaos or Journal expansion cards. As a designer I would like to drop some of the symmetry from the game. I’m not sure how it would work, but I like the idea of having different starting conditions or abilities for each player. Perhaps Player 1 could start with a bumped Discovery level and fewer elements. Perhaps Player 2 could start with a bumped Research level. Those options for asymmetry wouldn’t work very well. A better option would be hidden objectives. Like someone could be an Oxide collector where they try to get a set of three different oxides for bonus points. I think that could be fun as it helps to steer your long term strategy in the game.
According to the website, Dark Element is strikingly viscous and creamy on the palate with citrus fruit and chocolate cream. It sounds like a delicious beer that would pair well with Compounded!
I really think this is a fantastic game. The game flows nicely, minimizes downtime, maximizes strategic decisions, and, most importantly, is a lot of fun. But then as a bonus you can learn stuff while you’re playing! I can’t wait to play Compounded again. I’ll rate this game a 9 out of 10 on the BoardGameGeek scale:
Happy Monday everyone! It’s supposed to be snowing here today. The Green Bay Packers lost yesterday. And I lost my voice over the weekend. So it’s not really a happy Monday. That’s why I bring you the Monday Brews each week here on Boards & Barley. I’m going to skip the Designer’s Corner section of the article today since I did no design work whatsoever last week, what with the Scoville campaign on Kickstarter launching soon.
Never-the-less, here are the Boards and Barley that I enjoyed last week:
Capital Supper Club: I enjoyed this while bowling. It’s a “not bad” beer from a local brewery that is easy to drink and is quite enjoyable.
Spaten Optimator: I also enjoyed this one while bowling. It was on tap but it sort of tasted like it made a stinky and long trip overseas from Germany. I’ve definitely had better Optimator.
Bell’s Two Hearted: This beer, also enjoyed during bowling, is about where I draw my hop line. I am not a fan of overly hoppy beer, but this Pale Ale toes that line nicely.
Bell’s Double Cream Stout: When they say “Double Cream” they mean it! This is a smooth and creamy concoction of deliciousness that was worth purchasing. Very enjoyable.
Tyranena The Devil Made Me Do It: This is a special beer from their Brewers Gone Wild series. It is an imperial Coffee Porter and it is awesome. Though it is an imperial, it doesn’t pack the alcohol punch that many imperials possess. The best part is the smooth coffee nature of the beer. It was an all around enjoyable brew.
Newton’s Oatmeal Stout: I enjoyed another of my own homebrew. Thankfully it doesn’t suck.
Lost Coast Eight Ball Oatmeal Stout: Here’s another oatmeal stout that I enjoyed. I had it back to back with my homebrew and was pleased that they both tasted pretty similar. The Lost Coast had a better finish and felt more refined, though. Pretty good brew.
Star Wars X-Wing: I continued my streak of winning while playing a 125 point battle that included the Slave I and the Millenium Falcon. I was part of the Imperial Force and was in control of a Tie Bomber and a Tie Fighter. My team mate was in control of the Tie Interceptor, a Tie Fighter, and the Slave I. Overall we had a really great space battle that took a while to play. But in the end my team was victorious and I am not 4-0 while playing X-Wing. It’s a super awesome game!
Settlers of Catan: I had the privilege of not only teaching the game to a new player, but I also had the privilege of playing the game with three women. That’s not a very common occurrence, unfortunately. Two of them love Catan and were very competitive, which might have helped the new player. The new player ended up winning as she was able to steal the longest road at the end for victory.
Quantum: My level 1 friend, Jeremy, had the privilege of making his first ever appearance at the Spieltage at Essen. Quantum is one of the games he picked up and we were able to play it on Saturday with our friend Ben. WHile I’d like to say it was utterly and completely awesome, I can’t. Jeremy beat us in about 14 minutes. “Beat” is actually a pretty weak way to say it. He completed crushed us. He was able to get all four of his quantum cubes out there before Ben or I got our second cube out. It was pretty embarrassing, really.
Compounded: After the pummeling in Quantum we decided to play Compounded. I really enjoy this game. It is such an elegant design and is so much fun to play. I love the theme and how well everything is integrated together. Darrell Louder (designer) and Dice Hate Me Games (Publisher) really have a great game and great production here. I just wish it came in a bigger box, because the amount of game in the design is definitely worthy of a big box.
So those are the Boards and Barley that I enjoyed last week. What did you enjoy?
One thing that a lot of people overlook when enjoying a nice brew is whether that beer is an Ale or a Lager. Do you know the difference? Is the difference something you can tell just by tasting? In this first Brewology article, of what I plan to become a series, I will examine the differences between ales and lagers and what it means for you. So grab a cold one, put your feet up, and enjoy the basics of Ales versus Lagers.
Ales versus Lagers
Here’s the most basic thing you need to know about the difference between ales and lagers:
Fermentation Temperature and Time
One of the differences between ales and lagers is the temperature at which fermentation takes place. Ales are fermented in the 60-72 F range while lagers are fermented in the 40-50 F range.
The yeast at higher temperatures for the ales will be “busier” than its cold temperature counterparts. For this reason ales do not require much time for the fermentation process. For most homebrewed ales the fermentation time is typically less than a month.
For the lagers, well, they like to takes things slow. If ales are the ones on the dance floor, the lagers are definitely the wallflowers. The lower fermentation temperature means that it takes longer for all the yeast to do its thing. Some lagers take a couple months to ferment. It also means that lagers will have milder, crisper flavor.
Yeast – Saccharomyces Whatsit?
Ales are made with top-fermenting yeasts. Lagers are made with bottom fermenting yeasts. So what?
One of the main differences here is that ale yeasts produce chemicals called esters. According to the awesome BeerAdvocate.com esters are volatile flavor compounds naturally created in fermentation and are often fruity, flowery or spicy. These are what add a lot to the character of the ales that cannot be found in the lagers. For lagers the contribution from the yeast is little more than digesting the sugar and turning it into alcohol. Lager yeasts don’t add much for flavor.
Additives – Thanks Reinheitsgebot
An old Bavarian purity law from the year 1516, known as Reinheitsgebot, required that only three ingredients be used in the brewing of beer: water, hops, and barley. Later on yeast was added as an acceptable ingredient. And since at the time only lagers were brewed in Bavaria, this law was applied to lagers.
What that means is that lagers could not be experimented with by adding other things like different types of malts. So that role fell onto ales outside of Bavaria. Nearly all ales these days are brewed with extra, or adjunct, ingredients. I have brewed with honey as an extra ingredient, for example. The additives are a main reason that ales have so many more styles than lagers.
Alright, that was a very brief crash course in the differences between an ale and a lager. I still don’t know how to taste the difference, so I can’t speak on that. However, here is a handy graphic that shows whether a certain style is typically an ale or a lager: