Monthly Archives: September 2013

Monday Brews: 9-30-13

Today is the last day in September. Where did this month go??? Well, at least it is ending nicely by attending Protospiel-Milwaukee this past weekend! So I had the opportunity to play some unpublished games, including some that I really really enjoyed.

I have an opinion about writing about unpublished games. Here it is:

If you loved the game, write about it. If you did not love the game, don’t write about it. Negative press for any game that potentially could be published as anything other than the form you played it is just bad business.

So while there were other games I played that I enjoyed but the designer will be changing, I will not be writing about them. I don’t want to be unfair to any designers whose games may change for the better. But I want the games I played that I thought were awesome to be noted as such.

Alright, here’s the list of the Boards & Barley that I enjoyed this past week:

The Barley

I wish I had these glasses to further my enjoyment of pumpkin beer!

O’Fallon Pumpkin Beer: This beer has a lot of pumpkin attitude in it. There’s nothing subtle about the amount of pumpkin in this one. It was enjoyable, but be warned that it is heavy on pumpkin.

New Glarus Totally Naked: I used to dislike this beer for some reason that I cannot remember. But when I had a bottle of it that was leftover after the latest game night I found that it was quite enjoyable. It’s just an enjoyable brew.

Milwaukee Brewing Sasquash Pumpkin Porter: Wow. Now this was an enjoyable beer! I was glad my friend Ben brought it over for us to enjoy. Want to learn more? Check out this article by Chris Drosner of the Wisconsin State Journal.

New Glarus Staghorn Oktoberfest: I enjoyed two of these excellent beers while attending the New Glarus Oktoberfest celebration with fellow game designers: Brett Myers (@Brettspiel), Chevee Dodd (@cheveedodd), and Dave Ross (@ddgdrs). The pretzel bigger than my head and the delicious brat were excellent as well!

Pearl Street El Heffe: This was enjoyed at Protospiel, in a glass, because we bring glasses to Protospiel because beer is better in a glass than the bottle. It was a fine wheat beer, though my attention was more on games than beer.

The Boards

X-Wing: I played my second game of X-Wing while brewing a Scotch Ale on a chilly Wedndesday night. It was beautiful! However, my experience was enhanced by my ability to roll only hits and critical hits. I think I only had three dice results all night that were misses.

Scoville: While at Protospiel I was able to teach a 4 player game and to partake in a 3 player game. The 4 player game had three first timers, so it took a little longer than I would have liked, but afterwards one of the new player said they’ll be backing it when it goes up on Kickstarter! So that was pretty awesome. And in the 3-player test I got a lot of good feedback which I will be mentioning to the publisher.

The blurriness is due to the Orcas jumping across time!

The blurriness is due to the Orcas jumping across time!

Quantum Orcas: Yes, this is the game that I made up last Friday in my Design Me article! I mocked it up and it actually got played 4 times during Protospiel. That was partially due to it being about a 10 minute game. It got comments like, “It didn’t suck,” “It was playable,” and “It was really interesting.” So I’m pleased that a game that was less than a day old was not broken and actually worked pretty well.

The City Beneath: Designed by my friend Adam Buckingham (@adambuckingham) this is a game about a heist crew who has stolen some stuff and now are trying to get away. In the game players begin with limited skills. Throughout the game they can increase their skills and be able to elude the police more efficiently while placing the blame on the other players. There are some really awesome social aspects to this game that make it quite enjoyable. Adam has put in a lot of effort and this game keeps getting better and better!

Hedeby: Chevee Dodd cut my first play of this short when he taught it at Protospiel-Milwaukee back in March. This time around, with the game being an insane overhaul of awesomeness, we were able to play the game without him ending it. This game is really fantastic! You are Vikings who are trying to raid and build a town. The engine building portion of the game is totally awesome and it gives you the means of decreasing the luck of the dice as the game progresses. I will be owning this game when it comes out!

Baron Age: By the designer of Coin Age, Adam McIver (@ad7m), this game has some of the feel of Coin Age, but it is ramped up in a most amazing way. In Baron Age players try to control areas to earn points. On it’s own that doesn’t sound that different or unique, but the way it is utilized in the game is awesome. Players each have their own scoring condition that is secret. Throughout the game you are rolling and placing dice onto a map with distinct regions, each with a different number of sections. Three dice can be placed in each region. But depending on what the die results were the player gets to do different things. I won’t give more details here, but like Hedeby, I will be owning this game when it comes out!


So that’s the Boards and Barley that I enjoyed this week. What did you enjoy this past week?


Design Me: Area Movement

It’s time to flex my brain muscle once again! Why? Because it’s a Design Me Friday! Every other Friday I do some exercise… of the mind! The idea behind these Design Me articles is to practice being creative and see what I can come up with in the spur of the moment.

In the last two exercises I designed a dice rolling worker placement game about brewing beer and a grid movement resource collection game about flying your aircar around a distopian world. What ever might I come up with today???

Once again I am using the tool from Boardgamizer for the inspiration for today’s exercise. Let’s see what it came up with:

Time traveling boats capturing other boats while only having 18 cards. This could be challenging to design!

Time traveling boats capturing other boats while only having 18 cards. This could be challenging to design!

Quantum Orcas

A little closer and that boat’s a goner!

Alright, where would one begin with a time traveling boat game based on capturing other boats all while having less than 18 cards?? Time Pirates is the first thing that came to mind, but I cannot compete with the Alan R. Moon version of that game. So I’ll go a different route. Whales.

This is only my third Design Me article, but all of the names of these fake games have been terrible. So there’s no reason I can’t call this game Quantum Orcas. But I admit, it is a pretty lame title.

In Quantum Orcas you are a killer whale that likes to eat boats. You also possess the awesome ability to jump through time. Okay… you can’t really jump through time. You can merely freeze time to make it appear that you are jumping through time. I guess the whales realized that swimming was too slow so they had their scientists (Beluga whales) design time jumping suits for them to wear so they could eat more boats.


I’m designing this as a two player game of epic boat munching awesomeness. Here are the components:

  • 48 Cards (16 for each player and 16 for the grid)
  • 8 Number tokens to mark the grid (4 gray and 4 blue)
  • 2 Four-sided dice (one gray and one blue)
  • 2 Whaleeples
  • 6 Large boat pawns
  • 12 Small boat pawns
  • Rulebook

The objective of the game is to chomp the most boats. To set up the game, shuffle and randomly place the 16 grid cards into a 4 x 4 grid. Then line up the blue and gray number tokens along the top and left edges of the grid as shown below. Then each player will roll the two 4-sided dice to determine their starting grid location. In the image below Blue rolled Gray-4 and Blue-1 while Green rolled Gray-2 and Blue-3.

Each player has a hand of 16 cards that represent the grid locations. Throughout the game you can only play each card once. The game is played over 10 rounds, so not all locations will be visited by both players.

At the start of the game each player will roll the two dice to determine the location of a small boat and a large boat. Therefore there will also be 4 boats out on the water. Note: Boats cannot be placed on the whale locations, so if that happened, the dice should be re-rolled until the boat can be placed on a vacant spot. Here’s the game after initial setup:

The orcas are getting hungry!

The orcas are getting hungry!

How to Play

In each round (except the first) players will each roll the dice to determine where to place a new boat. Once rolled, players will choose whether to place a big boat or a small boat at that location. At this point it does not matter whether or not a whale is already at that location. Place the boat there anyway because the whale will be moving off of that spot.

Once the boats have been placed then the players will choose a card from their hand, which represents a grid location. Each player will reveal their card simultaneously. Players will then move their pawns onto the corresponding grid spot.

If there is a small boat at that location, players will “EAT” the boat and move it to their area on the table in front of them. If there is a big boat at that location, players will “EAT” the boat and move it to their area on the table in front of them AND randomly discard one of their remaining cards. Over time a whale may come to a spot where there are more than 1 boat. If this is the case, the player may discard cards from their hand equivalent to the number of boats on that location and then eat them all. For example, if the green player moved to a spot where there were two small boats, that player may discard two cards and eat both of them. A player may choose to not discard any more cards and then would get to eat only a small boat from that spot. Big boats always require the discarding of a card, so if a whale came to a spot where there was a small boat and a big boat, it would cost three cards to eat them both.

Note: discarded cards are removed from the game.

Once each player has moved their whale and eaten a boat if possible, then it’s on to the next round. Note: this movement mechanism represents the whales jumping through time to come up on the boat without the boat being able to flee.

If, however, both players chose the same location then it becomes a Whale Duel! Players check to see how many boats they have eaten (Big boats count as 2 small boats). If one player has eaten fewer, that player wins the duel since their voracious appetite would cause them to womp on the other whale and win the battle. If both players have eaten the same number of ships then each player will choose and reveal a card from their hand. They will add together the blue and gray values. Whomever has the highest total will win the battle and will have to discard their card. The loser does not have to discard their card. If there is still a tie, no player eats the boat and the bosun and captain grab a bottle of rum and celebrate!

After ten rounds each player will total their value of boats eaten, keeping in mind that big boats count as 2 small boats. The player who has eaten the most boats wins the game!

Your Designer Perspective

So what would you change about this game design? Did I miss anything major? Are there holes in the design? Anything seem broken?

Those are all excellent questions that designers need to constantly be asking about their designs. I challenge you to use the Boardgamizer tool to try and come up with something on the fly. It can be a lot of fun!

Today’s Design Me exercise was actually a lot of fun. I think I could mock this game up relatively quickly and see how it plays out. Thanks for reading today, and don’t forget to exercise your game designer brain!

Sourcing Game Components: Dice

Just think of the potential game designs waiting in that pile!

Today is the final article in a series of four articles about where to find prototype worthy game components. Here is the list of articles from this series:

Before we get started I want to make one point clear: This article is not about standard dice or even RPG dice. You can find standard d6s and RPG dice at your favorite local game store.  If you want standard dice visit your local store or local thrift store. Or if you want really nice standard dice then check out Chessex. This article is about where to find blank dice, or special dice, or even dice that you can write on!

And my disclaimer: I have not used dice in any of my game designs. While I know where to buy dice, I cannot speak to their quality, feel, or character.

As a reminder I want to give credit to the list that inspired me to write these articles. This list is much more exhaustive than mine since I am just highlighting a few of the major suppliers. But here’s the list so you can check it out yourself:

So today I present a few of the sources that I think are worth checking out…

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Indented Blank Dice

They are just waiting for your awesome design!

When it comes to using blank dice for game design, look no further than Indented Blank Dice! These are six sided dice with indented sides.

Why indented sides? The sides are indented so that when you put a sticker on the side it won’t rub off or cause irregular rolls.

These are 19mm on an edge and the indented portion measures 1/2″ x 1/2″. They will also sell you sheets of labels on which you can print your game design’s custom icons. Here is their pricing for US and International:

# Option Price
1 25 Dice – Domestic US $15.00
2 25 Dice – International $35.00
3 50 Dice – Domestic US $25.00
4 50 Dice – International $45.00
5 125 Dice – Domestic US $50.00
6 125 Dice – International $70.00
7 250 Dice – Domestic US $95.00
8 250 Dice – International $115.00
9 1000 Dice – Domestic US $300.00
10 1000 Dice – International $320.00

Those prices seem a little expensive to me, but if you’ve designed the next Kingsburg, Alien Frontiers, or Macao, then you can probably justify the cost.

Each sheet of labels that they sell will handle 36 dice. Two sheets will cost your $6.

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They look similar to Indented Blank Dice, but they’re from Europe!

If you are a friend from across the pond, i.e., from Europe, then perhaps your first stop should be!

In addition to a nice assortment of indented six sided dice they also offer 8 sided indented dice. Here is the page for their six sided dice: – 6 Sided Dice

But here’s the kicker… If you were to purchase 25 of these at £0.20 each (to compare the pricing against the source above this one) you would find that it would cost roughly US$15.50 to ship to the US. That’s only $0.50 more than the above source. So if has a color that you desperately need, then maybe you could order from them instead.

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Print & Play Productions

672c6-print2band2bplay2bproductionsThey make the list again since they offer so much awesomeness! If you are looking to order a bunch of different components for your game prototype and you need dice as well, then consider ordering from Print & Play since you can get cards, chits, meeples, and dice all from the same source! Here are a few different dice options offered by Print & Play:

Side Note: I personally met the guy behind Print & Play productions at GenCon and I can safely say he’s an awesome guy. I would definitely feel confident when purchasing from him. And the fact that you can order basically all of the components you would need for your prototype from one source makes Print & Play pretty awesome!

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EAI Education

The EAI Education catalog is a fantastic one-stop-shop for game designers. You can order cards, dices, cubes, and more all from their online catalog at excellent prices!

If you do a search for “Dice” you’ll get 206 results. While they have way too many awesome options of standard dice, fudge dice, fraction dice, etc., here are some blank dice options that I think could be useful to game designers:

And if you need standard dice to compliment your game design, then you can believe that EAI carries what you need!

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The Game Crafter

The guys at The Game Crafter also offer black indented dice. If you choose “dice” from their parts selection you’ll get a bunch of standard dice as well as blank dice.

They offer 8 different colors at $0.40 each, though if you order more than 9 of any color the price will drop to $0.38 each. These prices are better than some of the other sources listed above for indented blank dice.

But as I mentioned when writing about TGC for the Meeples article, if you are ordering components like these you still have to wait in their production queue. Since I live in the Madison area I think I should volunteer my time to fulfill component-only orders with no customization of cards or boxes or rules. That way, if you order stocked components only, the order would skip the custom production queue and be able to be mailed to you much more quickly. This isn’t a huge complaint and it doesn’t hold me back from ordering from TGC. It’s just something I think they could do a little better.

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The interwebs offer a bunch of sources for dice, but Amazon seems to have some good options. Here are a few that might be good for game designers:

So perhaps Amazon will be your go-to source for dice.


And there you have it, folks! This is the conclusion of my series on sourcing game components. You should now know where to find all of the components you need. Thanks for reading along during this series. It has prompted me to desire a large order of components from all these different sources. I’d love to simply stock up on tons of stuff so that I can have the world of game components at my finger tips in case inspiration strikes! Good luck game designers!

Monday Brews: 9-23-13

Good Monday to all of you! I hope you had a great weekend. I had a very nice weekend. I got a few games in, attended a football game, and came up with a new game design that I’m pretty excited about and am hoping to get ready for Protospiel-Milwaukee, which is this coming weekend!

Let’s see what Boards & Barley I enjoyed this past week…

The Barley:

Barley and Boards are good on their own, but are unstoppable when combined!

Barley and Boards are good on their own, but are unstoppable when combined!

Leffe Bruin: I love Leffe. The Blond and the Brown are both really enjoyable. I think I prefer the blond during the spring and summer and the brown during autumn and winter. We were having a game night last week so I bought a 6 pack of this. Fortunately for me only one person took one, so I had plenty for myself! Side note: a friend of mine also likes Leffe and we once had fun making up Steampunk names. His chosen name: Leffe Steampunker.

New Glarus Staghorn: Yep, I enjoyed more of New Glarus’ Oktoberfest brew. It’s so good!

Lake Louie Dino’s Dark: I’ve had other beers from Lake Louie before, but never the Dino’s Dark. The other beers they offer have all been really enjoyable. This was no different. They have a pretty small operation, but they sure put out high quality beers! I’m hoping to tour their brewery some day.

Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest: I still had one on hand from the crate we bought a few weeks ago. I solved that problem by quickly downing this tasty beverage.

Paulaner Salvator Double Bock: Yum. I enjoyed this beer while on a date with my wife where we got three games to the table. Wife + Beer + Games = Great date night!

Tyranena Gemuctlichkeit Oktoberfest: Besides the goofy name, this was a pretty decent Oktoberfest brew. It should be noted that I will have to try another one since I drank this one from the bottle while I was also watching my kids, which ultimately lowered the overall experience with this beer. What a pity, having to re-try a beer.

The Boards:

X-Wing: Why did it take me so long to play this game? Maybe because I kept waiting to see if my local Target would drop the price to $12 like other people have mentioned. You lucky people. Fortunately my friend bought a copy (and has subsequently bought a bunch of add-ons). So I was able to get my first taste of the game. AHHH-mazing! It helps that I rolled hits on 90 percent of my rolls. It was total domination!

My first ever Galaxy Truck!

My first ever Galaxy Truck!

Galaxy Trucker: I received this game in a trade over a year ago. This past Wednesday I finally got to play it. That is unacceptable and I have offered my sincerest apologies to my copy of Galaxy Trucker. I may have to send a personal apology to Vlaada Chvatil. When we played it we realized that it was completely awesome! This is a really excellent game that I should not have waited so long to play.

Libertalia: Arrr Matey. We got Libertalia to the table on Wednesday and, as usual, thoroughly enjoyed it. Well, I enjoyed the first two rounds. I was playing my best game of Libertalia ever. Then I got Monkeyed. And the Monkey passed me 4 curses. And to add insult to injury, during dusk I had to take another curse token. Needless to say I did not win.

Tsuro: My friend’s $1.20 thrift find of Tsuro keeps making it to the table. We played a pretty fun game of it where nearly everyone was left until the last four tiles. This is such a good filler game, but I don’t think I’d pay $40 for it.

CoinAge: I got a free copy of CoinAge from the designer, Adam McIver, at GenCon. I hadn’t been able to play it until last Friday, when I taught it to my wife. For being a game of three cards, where two of them are rules, I’ve never realized how much strategy you can pack into a game that requires pocket change. This was really enjoyable and I’m looking forward to playing it with someone who likes games more than my wife.

Morels: This is a game that my wife really enjoys. I enjoy it for that fact. You can check out my review of Morels to see what I thought. But the fact that my wife will play it with me means it gets a shiny little star.

The Little Prince: This is another game that my wife enjoys. So with Morels from GenCon 2012 and The Little Prince from GenCon 2013 I’ve been able to prove to my wife that my visiting of GenCon has been worth it both years. While I don’t enjoy the 2 player version of The Little Prince as much, it is still a really fun game.


So those are the Boards and Barley I enjoyed last week. What did you enjoy???

Yarr! Merchants & Marauders be Awesome!

Yesterday was National Talk Like A Pirate Day. So I bet a bunch of you played Pirate themed games last night. I didn’t play any pirate games last night, but I did watch a show about the industrial age and now I have an amazing game design concept which I’ll be keeping quiet about for now. Never-the-less, due to all the Pirate-y goodness I am reviewing a fantastic game called Merchants & Marauders. Let’s get to it!

For those of you who enjoy Pirates and everything involved with that genre and history, then this is the pirate game for you!  In the game you take on the role of a captain who is exploring the open seas of the Caribbean.  During the game you have the option to be a merchant and pick up goods and deliver them to other ports, or you can be a pirate (marauder) and raid other ships and plunder gold.  But the game goes so far beyond just that.  There are rumor cards to fulfill (for example: you could get a rumor card that says there is hidden treasure off of Cartagena… if you prove the rumor to be true, then you are rewarded with gold!).  There are mission cards to complete for bonuses.  There are different types of ships you can own.  There is so much to this awesome game!  If you feel the desire to plunder some booty, then hop aboard and sail the open seas with me!

Here’s what the game looks like on the table:

Yarr Matey! It be a thing o’ beauty!

So each player is a different captain in control of a ship. On your turn you can choose from several different actions depending on whether you’re in open water or at a port. If you choose to be a merchant then you’ll want to go from port to port picking up and delivering goods for a boatload of booty! If you attack someone, then you are automatically considered a Pirate. This is a more high-risk venture but it can also bring big rewards. But, as they say, “Once a Pirate, Always a Pirate!”

During the game other ships also begin sailing the seas. You have to watch out for these ships. If you are a merchant you’ll have to stay away from Pirate ships, and vice versa. The whole time you are trying to obtain money. The game ends when someone gets to 50 doubloons.

Here’s What I Be Liking:

Artwork: This artwork is absolutely sensational.  It is a pleasure for my eyes to look up the game board and player mats.  The colors are vibrant.  The art style is impressive.  And there is nothing to dislike when viewing this game! I am typically influenced by the art on games and this is no different. It’s amazing!

Sailing the Open Seas: This game let’s you sail around as you wish. You are a captain and you have full control of the helm.  Nothing guides your strategy in this game and you are free to do as you please.  I love having that openness, knowing that I am fully responsible for the actions I take in the game. There are not many games that really immerse you the way this game does!

Many Options: In this game you constantly have many options available to you.  You can do numerous things when you are in a port.  You can choose to become a pirate by raiding a ship.  You can attack your enemy.  You can try to complete missions or determine if rumors are true. Overall there are a lot of things you can do!  It really feels like you are guiding a vessel around the Caribbean!

Here’s What I Be Disliking:

Downtime: The only complaint I have is that when the other players visit a port it can lead to a lot of downtime where you just don’t do anything.  With four players all taking port actions on their turn it can lead to a long time to wait between turns.

Length of the Game: I love Merchants & Marauders. But it takes a long time to play. I group it into the same game length category as Eclipse. It the game didn’t take so long to play it would make the table a lot more often.

Designer Perspective – What I’d Be Changin’:

One thing that seems a little off is that being a Pirate is really hard. I’d like piracy to be a more viable option for players. While the game makes being a pirate have about the right feel, I would rather have the game be a little off theme to make piracy more fun. So I would either make the pirate ships more evasive so that they can plunder and run or present more options for pirates to obtain booty. This isn’t that big of a change and could make it more fun to be a pirate.

The other thing I would change is to add scenarios to the game. I know that the rumor cards give players to work toward, but I would prefer some cooperative scenarios for the game. Imagine all players playing as Pirates and trying to plunder a fleet of merchant ships that are controlled by the game. That would be a lot of fun!

Beer Pairing:

I wish I were out on the open seas soaking up the sun and sucking down a Red Stripe!

While a big jug of rum would be the ideal beverage pairing for this game, I will pick a beer anyway. And I can’t think of a more fitting beer for sailing around the Caribbean than Jamaica’s finest, Red Stripe.

I have to wonder if they didn’t choose the bottle shape so that it felt more like a jug of rum. It’s not a typical shape for beer bottles. But I suppose that’s fitting since Merchants & Marauders isn’t a typical pirate game. It’s better! I haven’t played it in a while, but now after posting this I really want to get it to the table again!

Overall Rating:

I love this game. I love imagining myself sailing the Caribbean with a crew on board who are ready to deliver goods or plunder another ship or suck down some rum. The theme and artwork are so capturing that they really bring me in. Plus, there’s the really cool cardboard treasure chest where you can stash your doubloons. I want to play again and I am rating this game a 9 out of 10 on the Board Game Geek scale:

Excellent game.  Always want to play it.

Excellent game. Always want to play it.

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