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:
It’s usually this time of the year that I don’t put much effort into game design. Between Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas each about a month apart there’s always something to be looking forward to during these months. And that also typically means I travel more than normal to make sure I visit family.
So I find myself in the designer doldrums. A place no designer wants to be, yet I’m guessing we all find our way here at one point or another. My visit to the doldrums is aided by the upcoming Kickstarter campaign for Scoville. There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes and it has captured my attention like going on a first date. Never-the-less, I am adrift in the game design ocean and the wind has stopped blowing.
Today’s self-help article is all about how to get inspired and out of the doldrums. I am presenting 5 ways to get back in the game. So when you find yourself without inspiration or desire to design, try out these five things:
Play New Games
This one is a fairly obvious option. By playing games that are new to you you can get inside the mind of other designers. New games often have new quirks to mechanics that you may not have seen before. Those quirks might inspire you to try out a new mechanic of your own.
Read a Book
Often when you enter into someone’s creative world you can pick up little things that might inspire you. By reading a book you may find that you love the story and could be inspired to design a game that fits the theme. The other benefit of reading a book is that you get whisked away from everything else on your mind. You can get lost in the world inside the story. It’s often these moments of escape where you brain gets inspired!
Watch a Documentary
For inspiration I prefer documentaries over normal movies. Documentaries often share the nitty gritty of some topic that you otherwise might not find interesting. And often it is the nitty gritty that can give you inspiration. My first hand example is with my design for Brooklyn Bridge. I was watching a BBC documentary about it and the whole idea of sending workers into a caisson while risking caisson’s disease was really inspiring. It seemed to be something that could be a fun game mechanic. So find an interesting documentary and see if it reveals any interesting game mechanics!
Visit a National Park
One of my favorite ways to get inspired is to simply get outdoors. Despite the cold weather moving in, if you can get to a park and let your mind relax and forget about all the other stuff that makes your life busy, then you might be able to get inspired. While nature itself isn’t necessarily the thing that I look to for game mechanics, it is the place I can go to do some clear thinking about game mechanics. Plus, who doesn’t like to smell the fresh air and get away from things for a while?
Clean Your Workspace
This last one isn’t nearly as fun as the first four, but I find it can be just as inspiring. My workbench and design area often fills up with clutter, game components, tools, and more. The result is that it becomes a non-useable space. The clutter ends up hindering my design abilities. So every once in a while I like to spend an afternoon and completely overhaul the space and get it cleaned up. Once that workspace is pristine I find that I can sit there and really think about game design. If your workspace is cluttered, then perhaps your brain is cluttered too. Clean up your desk and your mind will be able to work better.
Those are some of the ways that I like to break out of the designer doldrums. Where do you turn for inspiration and ambition?
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?
Hi Everyone! I’ve been having a bit of writer’s block lately and I finally realized why. It’s because with the Scoville Kickstarter launching soon my brain has been floating in hyperspace. I completely missed October. And I don’t think there’s been a night so far in November where I haven’t dreamed about the game of the Kickstarter or the artwork. I might be losing my mind.
Today is a Friday which would normally be a Review day or a Design Me day. But I’d rather write about Scoville and give you an update.
Art by Joshua Cappel
I couldn’t be more excited with the artwork choice by Tasty Minstrel. If you’ve read my board game reviews then you know I commonly list artwork as either a positive or negative for games. That’s because artwork is a big deal for me.
So when Tasty Minstrel told me that Joshua was on board I was elated. I love his style and the flavor that he adds to the game. Here are a couple of samples of his artwork. These are not images from Scoville. The first is from Garden Dice and the second is the board for Belfort:
That’s some awesome stuff. If you haven’t played Belfort you should really go check it out. And make sure you look for all the cool easter eggs on the main board!
While the prototype is basic and I have not added much artwork to it, I have had a vision for the artwork basically from the start. And if the funding hits a certain level then that vision will turn into reality! I’m so excited to see what Joshua does with the game!
Well, unfortunately I can’t really say very much. But I’ve seen the KS preview and I can tell you things are moving along nicely! We’ve got a great lineup of stretch goals. I’m probably not supposed to say this and I might get in trouble for it, but Pepper Farming Meeples may or may not be one of the stretch goals. *wink wink*
I’m also probably not supposed to share this potential stretch goal (peppers instead of cubes). So don’t tell anyone! (or tell the world – this awesomeness should be shared!). Here is a quickly done example of what the peppers could look like. The colors aren’t perfect and I believe the platinum pepper may have a nice shiny coat, but don’t hold me to that!
So that’s all I can share today. I’m hoping to be able to tease you with some artwork next week, but let’s not count on that. But for those of you who are attending the Board Game Geek Convention from the 20th to the 24th I will be there demoing the game basically all day and all night. If there are other games you are interested in checking out, then let me refer you to this geeklist:
So if you want a demo I’ll probably be running them every hour on the hour. But if you miss the top of the hour, don’t let that stop you from checking it out! It’s gonna be an awesome time!