Monthly Archives: April 2014

Monday Brews 4-7-14

Welcome back to another awesome week on Boards & Barley. Don’t worry… I won’t fool you with that whole Hexes & Hops thing again. Two days ago, Saturday, was Table Top Day! I played no games on Table Top Day. Does that mean I have to turn in my gamer card? Instead I took my kids to my parent’s house and we all colored Easter eggs a couple weeks early. My kids loved it! And I found one of my first brews leftover at my parents house. It was one of my Alberti Ambers! I’m excited to try it a year after it was brewed and see if I still like it as much as I did a year ago!

Well I imagine many of you DID play games on Table Top Day. If so, let me know what your favorite game was!

Did you know that today, April 7th, is National Beer Day? From Wikipedia:

  • National Beer Day is a celebration of the Cullen–Harrison Act being signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 22. That law went into effect on April 7 allowing people to buy sell and drink beer again as long as it was < 3.2% (4% ABV).

I did happen to have a few brews last week, though, so let’s start with the Barley.

The Barley:

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: New Glarus Spotted Cow

This is one of the most popular beers in my locale. It is a farmhouse ale that is naturally cloudy. It reminds me of a cream ale or a Hefeweizen in its characteristics.

One of the reasons it is popular is because it is a really good beer. Unfortunately for you non-Wisconsin folks you’ll have to come to Wisconsin to get it.

Honorable Mention: 4 Brothers Sibling Rivalry

The Boards:


This was the only game I played last week and I played it twice with my wife. The first time I dominated her. The second time, a few days later, she had thought about a new strategy and it worked as she dominated me.

In the game you are trying to collect sets of the same color which can then be turned in for points. A round lasts until two piles of point tokens are gone. Then you total the points you have and the winner gets a token to mark their victory. This is a best out of three game, so the first person to win two rounds is the overall winner.

For those who haven’t play Jaipur, it is a great two player game that is light yet fun. My wife and I enjoy it and I would recommend it!

Designer’s Corner:

I didn’t really do all that much in terms of design this past week. I did, however, put more thoughts together for that space/sci-fi game I mentioned last week. The most interesting thing about this current concept is that it has a terrestrial theme as the basis for the mechanics and I’m going to apply them to space instead. I normally don’t use mechanics from a theme without using the theme itself. The tentative title is Armada Galactica.

I’m actually really excited about this game. I think I’m gonna try to make it about a 1 hour game with an Ameritrash feel rather than my standard Euro feel. That means I’ll have a heavy Euro and a medium Ameritrash design going at the same time. That should keep things interesting.

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There you go. Those are the Boards, Barley, and Design Efforts I enjoyed last week. What awesomeness did you enjoy? Did you dominate Table Top Day? Try any new brews?

Real Favorite Things

April Fool's Version of B&B

April Fool’s Version of B&B

Most of you understood that my “Hexes & Hops” article was an April Fool’s joke. Others mentioned that they actually preferred the green motif. If you missed out on the fun and want to see what it looked like, just click the image to the right.

I had fun writing that article and I hope you enjoyed reading it. Today I’m posting a true version of my favorite things. And I’m using all the same categories from the April Fool’s article.

Let’s get started with my favorite Barley things…

Barley Favorites:

BEER STYLE: Just about anything Belgian

I love Belgian beers, specifically Trappist beers. They have floral notes and beautiful body. And they are easy enough to understand with the names Dubbel, Tripel, Quadrupel, etc. Of those varieties I would say Tripel is my favorite. But be careful because these tend to be on the strong side. Here’s a picture from Wikipedia showing some of the best Trappist beers and their glasses:

For the next Board Game Night???

Honorable Mention: Honey Anything, Scotch Ale, Hefeweizen


If I’m going out for a beer I’m gonna go someplace where they either brew beer or they serve local beer on tap. There are actually two new places being built near me that will be great Beer Establishments. I’m also blessed to have a brewery within 1 mile of my house, another big one 25 minutes away, and several more within the city. Madison, Wisconsin is a great beer town!

So I’m not going to bother going to one of those places with the bucket of Miller Lite. I’m going to a place that offers at least 10 different “good” beers on tap. I recommend this strategy.

BEER: Duvel or Orval

To go along with my favorite beer style, I would say my favorite beer would be either Orval, which is trappist, or Duvel. These are both awesome beers with amazing flavor. Of course Chimay, Rochefort, Westmalle, and La Trappe are great substitutes.

Honorable Mention: Leffe, New Glarus Cabin Fever Honey Bock (local), Lake Louie Warped Speed Scotch Ale (local)

BEER BREWING PHASE: Cracking open the first of a new batch!

I’d be fooling myself if drinking that first new beer wasn’t my favorite part. It’s way better than the boiling, racking, or bottling. Obviously we don’t brew beer so we can have fun brewing. That’s a side benefit. The real reason we brew beer is so that we savor and enjoy fine beer!

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Boards Favorites:

GAME MECHANIC: Worker Placement

I love worker placement games. Some of my favorites are Agricola (which I rarely play), Belfort, and Stone Age. I like the idea that each player has a “crew” to work with and the winner will be the player who best utilized their crew.

If you want to learn more about the Worker Placement mechanic check out iSlayTheDragon’s guide: Take This Job and Place It.


Games are all about fun. So if you are playing and conversing in a manner that is fun and you are fun to be around, then you fit in the category of “Fun People.”


I like it when people bring beverages, snacks, and games to a Board Game Night. It shows you are taking ownership of it. It shows you are there to have a good time. It shows you are part of the group rather than a clinger-on. I also like it when people take charge and read game rules ahead of time or come prepared to teach a game that they enjoy. Be part of it, people!

GAME ART: Merchants & Marauders

This game wins for the board and the player mats. I absolutely love the use of vivid and bright color. I’ll skip the explanations and just show you the art:

This doesn't even do it justice.

This doesn’t even do it justice.

When you’ve got ships out there on the board sailing around then you can really immerse yourself in the Pirate culture!

GAME: Scoville

Alright… call me out on loving my own game. That’s fine. But I wouldn’t have designed it if I didn’t at least like it. And it turns out that I really love Scoville. I’ve played or taught it over 125 times and I’m not sick of it. It is simple, elegant, easy to learn and play, but deep in the interaction and gameplay departments. When it gets produced I hope you’ll check it out.

GAME DESIGN TIPS (Rebuttal of the fake ones):

  1. DO NOT hire an artist for a prototype. Let the game persuade a publisher and then THEY will hire an artist.
  2. DO NOT quit your day job after one successful game. Board game design doesn’t pay the bills.
  3. You should playtest a game no less than 40 times. Preferably closer to 100. Fine tune that thing like it’s a 50s Corvette that still roars like a lion!
  4. Playtest your game enough to find any place where it might be broken and fix those places. Broken games suck and demonstrate that you probably haven’t put enough work into it.
  5. Don’t go hog wild over adding tons of components. Try to keep the component list as streamlined as possible. But if you need to components to make your game great, then go for it!
  6. Don’t sell out a Kickstarter campaign by adding minis. Just make a great game.
  7. Don’t force a long playtest on people. Play long enough to get valuable feedback.
  8. Don’t use spinners. There are almost always better, more fun ways to design random elements of gameplay.
  9. Paper money works, but I prefer chit coins.
  10. Don’t design a CCG. But if you do, make it great!

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There you go. April Fool’s is over and this article should fit much more closely with your Boards & Barley habits. Feel free to chime in with your favorites as well!

Hexes & Hops Favorite Things

I’m sick of that old Boards & Barley motif. So I’m switching it up for the foreseeable future. Today I want to provide you with a list of my favorite things in the gaming and brewing world. There are many things that make both the gaming and brewing hobbies awesome and I imagine you will share in a lot of my opinions today. Let’s start on the Hops side of things…

Hops Favorites:

Perfect color! (And flavor, for sure!)

BEER STYLE: Adjunct American Lager

I’ve had Bocks, Cream Ales, Dunkelweizens, Trippels and just about everything that you can think of. I just can’t help but possess an affinity toward the American Adjunct Lagers. I mean, so many people drink them that you can’t help but love them. And the television advertisements with Clydesdales and Vortex bottles are AMAZING!

Plus, my family is all geniuses (according to MENSA) and they prefer American Adjunct Lagers. So of course this would be my favorite beer style. Also, I really prefer my beer looking the same coming in or going out. The clearish yellow color is ideal for that. ‘Merica is really nailing in on the head with this beer style!


Sure, some of you may prefer those high end establishments with 40+ beers on tap from all over the world. You’re wrong. The college bar seen, with it’s 3 American Adjunct Lagers on tap or buckets of 5 cans for $6 are the truest beer scene there is. And they usually have so much history. Often they are named after some famous old dude who somehow managed to skirt the law during Prohibition. So they’ve got history and awesome beer at incredible prices.

See how happy everyone is? College bars are the best!


Just like graffiti, PBR has a special place in many people’s hearts!

BEER: Pabst Blue Ribbon

I’ve gotta be a homer on this one and choose a local beer. Anything that wins a blue ribbon is fine by me! PBR is from Milwaukee, where I grew up. So maybe I’m biased. I’m not. It’s fantastic beer and I’m just finishing my third of the day.

Did you know that it’s also perfect for eating with your cereal. I actually prefer pouring an ice cold PBR over my Honey Nut Cheerios instead of milk. When that sugary layer on the Cheerios melts away you are left with a PBR that is infused with the sweetness of honey. So Good!


There’s nothing better than having to wash 50 bottles, a plastic 5 gallon bucket, an auto-siphon, 50 bottle caps, a plastic tube, and some plates to rest the stuff on. Boiling the wort is alright. Transferring the beer from the plastic fermenter to the carboy is fine. But the best part of homebrewing is getting to spend three hours with my 50 newest friends (the bottles). Sanitizing and filling each bottle one at a time is so fulfilling! Why would anyone ever want a kegging kit. Those people are totally missing out!


Those are my favorite HOPS related things… lets move on to my favorites from the HEXES category!

Hex Favorites:


I grew up with this game mechanic. I think we all grew up with this mechanic. And obviously this choice is backed by nostalgia. But seriously… when the game can play itself in such a way that you are sitting there like you’re at the movie theater, that’s awesome!

Think about it… you get the awesome tactile feel of a die in your hands. You shake it, some people blow on it, and then you drop it to the table. Then tension fills the air as you are wondering, hoping, dreaming of seeing the right result on the top face. Sure, sometimes you don’t get the result you were looking for. But when you do it’s as if you’ve got a scissors in your hands and you’re cutting down the nets on your way to the Final Four! Does it get better than that?

Think it through, my friend. Think it through!


I won’t call it “Analysis Paralysis” as I don’t like that derogatory term. However, the player who thinks through their decisions is really the wisest of sages. They can see the big picture. They can calculate like a NASA rover crew. They know how to optimize their every move. To watch a Thinker in action is like watching Van Gogh paint sunflowers in a field on a warm summer day. Glorious!

The other advantage is that while The Thinker is choosing his or her action it allows for you to have the time to emulate their truly genius play style. Their awesomeness in thinking each decision through and through is what allows you to become a better player by also having time to think about the moves you will make when your turn comes up in 10 minutes.

From now on you should treasure and embrace the Thinker!


Some people would probably dislike finger lickers. They’d say something like, “They lick their fingers, then touch my game components. It’s like my game components have been in their mouths!” I disagree. Finger licking is an ages old way of cleaning the crud off your finger tips. Let’s face it, we usually have snacks that stick to your fingertips as you’re eating them. Doritos are guilty of this, but let’s not blame the delicious chips. What better way to clean off your fingers than to lick them, right in front of everyone, so they all know that your fingers are clean? I mean, can you imagine if people had to walk all the way over to the bathroom to wash their fingertips every time they had a snack? Games would take forever!

GAME ART: Glory to Rome

I’m a fan of the KISS method (Keep It Simple, Stupid!). Glory to Rome utilizes the KISS method greatly! The art is so simple. It gloriously portrays what the game is about. The vivid use of color gradients is strong with this one. Check out the box cover:

Simple Font, ✔. Picture of game, ✔. Cartoon art of crazy dude with sword, ✔. Non-cartoon art of roman building, ✔. This game has it all!

I can’t take my eyes off that awesomeness! If you can, then here are two Runners-Up for you: Letter head and Europa 1945-2030.

Tech Support: Allowing us to relive our great experiences since 2005!

GAME: Tech Support

Some games have themes we can’t relate to. Whales in space. Building Bridges. Cross-breeding peppers. You get the idea. But there are some games that are so accessible. There are games that everyone can relate to. This game, Tech Support, is just that!

I mean, everyone loves great tech support and we can all relate to it. I can’t think of anyone I know who hasn’t had a great experience with tech support whether it was about their computer or their phone or their cable. So of course this is a perfect theme with a HUGE potential audience!


There are a few favorite game designer tips so I’m lumping them all together here.

  1. All prototypes should be “publisher ready.” If you haven’t hired an artist for your prototype, don’t bother showing it to a publisher!
  2. Each game you design will sell at least 50,000 copies. So don’t be afraid to quit your day job.
  3. You only really need to playtest 1-3 times. (Insider secret!)
  4. Balance Shmalance: unbalanced games are always more fun as players can try to find the hidden ways your games are broken paths to victory!
  5. Don’t worry if your game has 500 wooden components. They’re so cheap that a publisher won’t mind.
  6. If you want to launch a Kickstarter campaign, just add minis to your game. It’s the easy path to the money.
  7. 2 Hour playtests are fine. People are just joking if they complain.
  8. Spinners are a great way to add randomness to your game design. Dice are way overused.
  9. Paper money is awesome. Don’t let that Vasel dude fool you.
  10. CCGs are the wave of the future. Start designing one today!

There you have it. Those are some of my favorite Game Design Tips. I hope you learned a little something from that list!


I’m excited to be kicking off this new Hexes & Hops motif with such a great article. Thanks so much for reading. In the rare instance that you may disagree with my choices, please feel free to comment below! You’re the best!

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