Monthly Archives: March 2014

Monday Brews 3-31-14

Yes. My Wisconsin Badgers are in the Final Four! What more could I ask for? This isn’t a sports blog so I’ll spare you the awesome details, just be aware that I’m excited about that.

This is, however, a blog about beer and board games. And each Monday I share a recap of the Boards & Barley that I enjoyed the previous week. So I welcome you here to see what I enjoyed. If you enjoyed something special, please feel free to comment below!

The Barley:

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: Redhook IPA

I’m not an IPA guy. I’m not a hoppy guy. But I’m sick of sharing those two disclaimers. So by golly I’m gonna start enjoying these types of beers. There are so many of them out there that I don’t want to exclude them any longer.

So I started this new escapade with the Redhook IPA at a recent board game night. I was pleased by the lack of over-the-top hops. It was bitter, but not unacceptably floral. So I’d say I would enjoy this again. I’m excited to be branching out into a new realm of beer. I’m sure I won’t enjoy them all, but at least I’m diving in!

The Boards:

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: Quantum Orcas

I’m not sure why Quantum Orcas still exists. It’s probably because it only takes 10-15 minutes to play and has a quirky theme. No matter the reason, it is still around and it keeps getting better. I’ll give more details below, but Quantum Orcas has gone beyond “pet project,” as a good friend mentioned, and it’s now a legit game design. I’m pretty excited about that.

  • Mad City
  • Alhambra
  • PROTOTYPE: Scrapyard – This was a neat two-player game where players try to build the best upgraded robot. I really enjoyed the mechanic and I think there is a sweet design inside this concept.
  • Backyard Astronaut

Designer’s Corner:

As I mentioned above I’ve kept working on Quantum Orcas. The biggest change I recently made was to change it to allow for 4 players. Previously it was only a two player game. Ultimately there is no good reason for this not to be playable up to 4.

So I designed decks of cards for each player and had my first ever 4 player playtest. It worked pretty well. I don’t think people were in love with the game, but the changes I implemented made it quite a bit better.

Another thing I changed was how the asteroids move through space. (Timeout… I thought this was a game about killer whales eating boats? What’s the deal? Well I changed it based on feedback and now you are an orca in space eating asteroids. That’s the deal!) Previously small asteroids would move toward the upper left corner of the 4×4 grid and large asteroids would move to the lower right corner. This caused a large pile of small asteroids in the 1, 1 spot. And players just didn’t think that helped to make it fun. Now small asteroids move up on the board and large move down. They both follow the star lines on the tiles on the board. This seemed to work quite well without increasing the fiddliness.

These show the placement of new asteroids and the Quantum Blowhole for each round.

The other change is that I now have an Asteroid Deck. The card example shown above has already changed after I received a suggestion of having the rows be labeled A through D instead of numbers. I originally had numbers in two colors because you would have to roll two d4s for each asteroid that you were to place. That was the fiddly part. Now there are 16 cards for seeding, 8 of which are used in a game of Quantum Orcas. These cards help speed up the game a lot!

The other game you might have heard me talking about is Brooklyn Bridge. I love this game. It has a unique time-based worker placement mechanic that has received awesome feedback. People really seem to love it. The biggest issue with the game currently is that it takes too long. I recently received feedback that will help me cut that quite a bit. I am actively making changes and trying to cycle through playtests with this game. I think there is a lot of potential here and my plan is to have 30 playtests completed and have a refined game by GenCon.

I also came up with a new game design based on a conversation with a co-worker. I don’t want to share any info yet, but I think it could potentially be a really amazing game. The only detail I’ll share is that it would have a space/sci-fi theme.

Horizontal Rule

So those are the Boards & Barley and game design efforts I enjoyed this past week. What did you enjoy?!

Minute to Win it? A Review of Mad City

I recently played Mad City, a new release by Mayfair Games in their Fun Fair line. This game also happens to be designed by a local designer. Kane Klenko is the designer and you can read his Designer Diary on BGG.

Today I’ll review the game. I have played it three times.

Mad City lasts a variable number of rounds. In each round players have 9 tiles and they will have one minute to build their city by arranging the tiles in a 3×3 grid. All tile placements are allowable. After the minute is concluded players may bid if they believe they have the largest group in one of four categories: Residential, Industrial, Urban, and longest Road.

If players bid and have the largest, they will earn 3 bonus points. If they bid and do not have the largest, they will lose 2 points.

There is also a park ranger tree which can be taken by any player (unless that player already has 50 points or more). Once you take the tree you cannot rearrange your city any longer. However, if you have parks or ponds in your city you will earn more bonus points by taking the tree.

After the bidding portion is completed then players can score their city. There are 9 scoring categories, three for each of Residential, Industrial, and Urban. Depending on how many of each type of building you have grouped together in your city you will either be rotating, flipping, or scoring. Here’s a look at the tiles:

Blue = Urban, Red = Industrial, Yellow = Residential, Circles = Bidding Tokens. (Image via BGG User Osirus)

For example, if you built a section of the city with 4 residences (yellow) in it you would rotate the yellow pentagon (which is for 3-6 residence sized groups) clockwise, which would result in the “4” being at the bottom. The number by the arrows represents how many of those size groups you need to build before the scoring tile flips over. Once the scoring tile is flipped over it will then allow you to score points for those size groups.

It is beneficial to try and get your scoring tiles flipped over early on so that you can score faster than the other players. The round during which someone scores 100 points is the final round. The player with the most points wins the game.

Here’s What I Like:

Fast Play: This is a game that doesn’t take any longer with more players or shorter with fewer. It is basically a race against the other players and each round takes only a few minutes. You can play with up to 6 players and there is minimal downtime. This isn’t a turn based game. You are racing. A minute is the perfect amount of time to try and build your city to score loads of points.

Scoring Mechanic: I think the scoring mechanic of having to build smaller groups to get your scoring tiles flipped over rather than just building the largest groups possible adds a great layer of strategy to the game. I especially like how it creates a natural acceleration in the game. The first few rounds you can feel like you are making little to no progress. But all of a sudden your scoring tiles will be flipped and you’ll be able to rake in the points. It is a very clever mechanic and it works really well!

Here’s What I Dislike:

Sand Timer: It has been reported that several people have received sand timers in their copy of the game that are either short or long. One such account reported their timer only ran 25 seconds. This is a quality control issue from the sand timer manufacturer. If you have had problems or noticed your timer isn’t very close to one minute, I imagine Mayfair Games can help you out. (Mayfair Contact Page) Sand timers aside, I recommend using a timer on someone’s phone so that no one has to watch the timer. Plus, phones make a noise that all players can hear so everyone knows when the minute is up!

Designer Perspective: What Would I Change?

I struggled trying to think of something I would change with this design. It is a really elegant and simple design that is accessible, family friendly, and fun. Perhaps what I would change are the scoring tiles. After a half of a game they’ll make sense, but up front they can feel a little daunting. One option would be to have tracks on your player score mat. Then every time you complete a section of buildings you slide the marker cube over for the section of that size. When it is all the way to the right then you can start scoring that category. This, however, would likely cause the cost of the game to rise since cubes are more expensive than chits. But that’s what I would change to make the game slightly simpler to learn.

Beer Pairing

Kane is a local guy and I get the feeling that Mad City is perhaps named after Madison, Wisconsin’s nickname of “Mad City.” With that in mind I feel the best pairing would be a local beer by the name of Mad Town Nut Brown by local brewery Ale Asylum.

This is a brown ale brewed in town by rapidly growing Ale Asylum. It is a nice accessible beer that beer drinkers will enjoy. It weighs in at 5.5% abv and has a “creamy finish that you’ll dig.”

Overall Rating

I really enjoy this game. It is fun, fast, and engaging. Players I’ve played with have really enjoyed it as well. It possesses the elegant scoring mechanic that accelerates the game. It has the park ranger tree which gives you a reason to build quickly. And it has a good level of strategy with how to best build your city. I’m looking forward to playing again soon. I’ll rate Mad City an 8 out of 10 on the BGG scale:

Very good game. I like to play it. Probably I'll suggest it and will never turn down a game.

Very good game. I like to play it. Probably I’ll suggest it and will never turn down a game.

Monday Brews: 3-24-14

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of playing a bunch of game design prototypes as I was attending Protospiel-Milwaukee. Since they were unpublished prototypes I’m not going to share my opinions about them. If you want my opinion, ask me privately.

For those who do not know, Protospiels are game designer conventions. The idea behind them is that you can get feedback on your game designs from other designers, who are likely to see the game differently than gamers in general. It is a fantastic event for aspiring and successful designers alike if for nothing else than networking. I met a bunch of new people, hung out with some old friends, and got my newest design, Brooklyn Bridge, to the table for it’s 4th playtest ever.

Overall it was a great weekend and I can now make both Brooklyn Bridge and Quantum Orcas even better.

But today is Monday, so let’s cover the Boards & Barley that I enjoyed this past week…

The Barley:

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: Lakefront Brewery Big Easy Imperial Maibock

Sometimes it is worthwhile to put the spotlight on things because they are not good. This beer was very interesting. First, if you are going to make a seasonal beer that is light for Spring, why make it Imperial? Second, why make a Maibock that doesn’t taste like a Maibock?

I typically enjoy drinking a Maibock because it makes me think of Spring and melting snow and blossoming flowers. This beer didn’t have the Maibock characteristics that made me think of those things.

The Boards:

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: Mad City

I got the chance to play Kane Klenko’s Mad City by Mayfair Games last Saturday and I forgot to add it to last Week’s Monday Brews. Fortunately I was able to play it again at Protospiel so I am placing it in the Boards Spotlight this week.

In Mad City you are building a city of residential, industrial, and urban areas. To score the most points you will want to put those areas near each other. So you should build larges groups of residences or large groups of industry. No one wants their house next to an industry. So the larger the groups you can make, the more you can score.

I won’t get into the game any more than that for now, but you can look forward to a review of Mad City on Friday.

  • Quantum Orcas in space. Plastic monsters work too.

    Quantum Orcas in space. Plastic monsters work too.

    Quantum Orcas – this was requested by several different people who wanted to play it. So I think it was played 4 or 5 times at Protospiel.

  • Crokinole
  • LXIX: Year of Four Emperors designed by Brett Myers
  • Pull! designed by Chevee Dodd
  • Sunset Showdown – designed by Jason Kotarski
  • Lexicards – designed by Wade Johnston
  • Prohibition – designed by Neil Roberts
  • I love those farmer meeples!

    I love those farmer meeples!

    Scoville – I got to play this with the honorable Ryan Metzler of The Dice Tower and a very nice respresentative from AEG. It was fun to play with the farmer meeples that TMG sent me. I lost, but so did Metzler.

  • Copper Country – designed by Scott Diehl and David Lankton of CMX Games
  • Sequoia Grove – my failure of an entry for Dice Hate Me Games’ 54 Card Challenge. But I think I have an interesting mechanic in the game though Metzler would disagree.
  • Backyard Astronaut – designed by Adam Buckingham. I’ve mentioned this one before. He got a bunch of playtests and people enjoyed the game!
  • Don't worry... it's different already!

    Don’t worry… it’s different already!

    Brooklyn Bridge x2 – After a playtest with my Level 1s I made some changes and it worked much better at Protospiel. I got some good feedback and I am now equipped to make this game great.

Those are the games I played last week. It is fun to play a bunch of prototypes and see what other people are working on. It was also fun to do some networking and meet other great people in the game design industry. It’s worth going to things like Protospiel for that alone!

Designer’s Corner

With my attendance at Protospiel I had prepared Version 4 of Brooklyn Bridge in the hopes of playtesting it with other designers. After Playtest #3 last week with my Level 1s I knew I had to adjust things before putting it in front of other designers. So I made a new version (seen in the picture of Brooklyn Bridge above) and tweaked a bunch of stuff.  The result was a much quicker gameplay that finished with scores much more aligned with what I would want final scores to be.

The game at this point works and has interesting decisions. It still needs to be streamlined slightly. I have a path forward in that regard.

Also, I now have a good idea of how I want to separate in-game scoring from end-game scoring so that even if you are behind you still have hope that you can finish with the victory. So there are a lot of good things going on with Brooklyn Bridge.

I also got Quantum Orcas to the table four or five times. I don’t think the game is very good, but several people wanted to play it. Fortunately it plays in 10-15 minutes, so the players didn’t suffer for too long.

I got a bunch of feedback that was all over the map for Quantum Orcas. But perhaps the best thing to come out of Protospiel for the game is that I now have a good way to break ties. I’ll keep testing this one and see if I can make it as awesome as its title.

Thanks to everyone who played my games over the weekend. I had a lot of fun teaching them and watching you play them.

Horizontal Rule

So those are the Boards & Barley I enjoyed last week. Did you try anything new that you thought was special?

Monday Brews – 3-17-14

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Did you know that Saint Patrick is the patron saint of engineers? I am an engineer and at the engineering school I attended they always made a really big deal out of St. Patrick’s day. The school president would wander from classroom to classroom and cut the ties off of the professors. If your professor got his/her tie cut off, then class was over! It was a little strange, but the students always liked it.

Anyway, who is going to celebrate with a Guinness tonight? Well, if you do, enjoy one for me too! I’ll be at home working on getting Brooklyn Bridge ready for Protospiel-Milwaukee. More on that below.

Let’s recap the Boards & Barley I enjoyed last week…

The Barley:

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: 4 Brothers Sibling Rivalry

At my local grocery store I noticed this new brand and chatted with the fine elderly gentlemen that runs the beer portion of the store. It is a Wisconsin beer company and they make “blended” beer. For example, the Sibling Rivalry is a blend of an Amber, a Red, and a Brown ale. But don’t worry, if you drink one it still only counts as consuming one beer! I thought it was actually quite tasty. My initial worry was that they must be bad at making good beer and so they figured they would blend it because then no one would know whether it was good or not. But at a recent game night someone mentioned that three bad beers can’t be blended to make a good beer. And I thought it was a good beer, so they must be good at making beer. If you see this or their other three styles at your local store, give it a shot!

  • NEW! Tommyknocker Cocoa Porter Winter Ale: I enjoyed this cocoa porter from a brewery that I had not previously heard of. They have a few others varieties I’d like to sample.
  • Breckenridge Vanilla Porter
  • New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red
  • NEW! Tyranena Down ‘n’ Dirty: This was a very enjoyable chocolate oatmeal stout that was neither too heavy on chocolate nor oatmeal. I’d enjoy another one.

The Boards:

The ugly first prototype.

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: Brooklyn Bridge

I finally got Playtest #1 out of the way. That’s always a huge barrier and it has been vanquished.

Brooklyn Bridge is a time-based worker placement/resource management game about building the Brooklyn Bridge. In the game you have a small crew of workers that will need to collect and use resources to build the bridge. The crew that contributes the most to completing the bridge will be the winner.

The design is currently set for 2-5 players. It took my friend Adam and I 2.5 hours for the first playtest. That is much longer than I anticipate a final version to take since we were discussing a ton of things and playing relatively slowly. The bottom line, though, from playtest #1 was that the game worked, nothing seemed broken, it included some very interesting choices, and it seemed fun. So I am VERY pleased with how it went.

  • Dungeon Roll x3
  • Forbidden Island x3: This is not a new game to me, but it was new to my kids (ages 4 and 2). I thought I would see if they liked it and they totally did. They kept asking me to play “the island game” with them. The strange part is that we won all three games that we played. That almost never happens! I’m just glad they enjoyed it and I hope it serves as a gateway to get them playing some more awesome games.
  • NEW! Curling: Jeremy, the maker of the crokinole board and guest post writer from last week also made a curling board. You can check out a picture of it in my tweet here. It was a ton of fun to play even though it took a while to figure out how hard to slide the discs. It will be even more fun when we get good at it.
  • Crokinole
  • Robo Rally (8 players)
  • Kingdom Builder (8 players)
  • NEW! Tessen: While I had previously played a demo copy, taught by the designers Chris and Suzanne Zinsli, this was my first play of my final production copy. This game is really enjoyable, fast-paced, and fun. I beat my sister in three straight games.
  • Tip the Cows: If you have ever played Pass the Pigs, then you know how to play Tip the Cows. It’s basically the same game but with cows instead of pigs. It’s a fun little press your luck game where you get to roll cute animals.

Designer’s Corner:

So Brooklyn Bridge Playtest #1 went well… what’s next? I have already redesigned and made a second prototype board based on the results from the first playtest. Normally I don’t like to change things until it has been played a bunch, but due to the weight of this game and the obviousness of some of the necessary changes I don’t see any reason why I should postpone integrating the changes.

I am very excited about this game and I’m hoping to test it two more times this week so I can tune it a bit before Protospiel-Milwaukee. I think it has a lot of potential and I can’t wait to get it in front of more players!

Horizontal RuleSo those are the Boards & Barley I enjoyed last week. What did you enjoy? Did you play anything for the first time? Any new brews?

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