Monthly Archives: May 2014

Baby Hiatus

Hi Everyone. I just wanted to write a quick post and let you know that I haven’t disappeared off the face of the earth, though I am on Cloud 9!

Last Friday my wife and I had our third baby. She and mom are doing very well. The baby’s name is Charlotte and she is an adorable baby.

I’ve got a few different articles lined up for you all over the next few weeks and I’ll post them when life lets me. Thanks for understanding. In the meantime you can enjoy this picture of my new daughter with special thanks to my sister in law for taking some baby pictures:

Charlotte

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Monday Brews 5-19-14

After a week off from my Monday Brews articles last week I’ve wrangled up a long beer list. It was aided by the fact that my city was having a Craft Beer Week. And it was also aided by two playtests of Brooklyn Bridge. So I’ve got a nice long beer list for you this week.

I also brewed another beer. I’ll be writing about that later this week unless my new baby pops out of my wife’s belly. It is a wheat beer that I’m calling “You’ve Been Wheated.”

So let’s jump right in and start with the barley…

The Barley:

Best word to describe it: Yum!

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: Tyranena Doubly Down and Even Dirtier Barrel Aged Chocolate Vanilla Double Stout

I enjoyed this most amazing beer with possibly the longest beer name ever during a Madison Craft Beer Week event. It was on tap and it was amazing. It was very rich with a beautiful flavor and a solidity to it that made it feel as though you just ate a full meal. I will definitely drink this again. Also, it’s baby brother, “Down & Dirty,” is also very good and more accessible.

  • Sprecher Special Amber
  • Boddingtons
  • NEW! New Belgium Snapshot – I liked it at first but then it seemed to have a characteristic closer to a Sour beer. I’ll try it again.
  • Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
  • Lucette Hips Don’t Lie
  • NEW! New Glarus Spiced Ale – Not as spicy as I was expecting, which was pleasant.
  • NEW! Boulder Shake Chocolate Porter – Warm this one up a little and you’ve got yourself a full-on dessert!
  • NEW! Potosi Steamboat Shandy – This was a very enjoyable shandy.
  • NEW! Blakkr Imperial Black Ale – This brew is actually a partnership between three breweries. (Three Floyds, Surly, Real Ale). I didn’t particularly enjoy this brew.
  • New Belgium Trippel
  • Hofbrau Original
  • Bridgeport Kingpin
  • NEW! Green Flash Double Stout Black Ale – This was an excellent, deep, dark double stout.

The Boards:

How good of a Euro could this be? They don’t really look that bored.

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: Aquadukt

This isn’t a new game, but it was new to me. And I loved the simplicity of it! The options you can choose on your turn are simple (build houses OR build a well OR build canals). But with those three simple choices comes a game with surprising depth. Which house tiles do you build – 1s, 2s, 3s, or 4s? When/Where should you build a well? How/Where should you build canals. This is a euro and it doesn’t try to hide it. The board is basically a big grid sectioned into 20 areas. I love games that use simple mechanics but yet have deep and interesting decisions!

  • Targi – such a fun 2 player game!
  • Quantum Orcas – Ran another successful playtest. Still not sure what I want to do with this game.
  • Love Letter
  • Unpublished Prototype – oh man… this one is SOOO good!
  • Qwirkle
  • Brooklyn Bridge – more below.

Designer’s Corner:

The progress currently being made on Brooklyn Bridge is making me feel much better about the game. While there are interesting mechanics that people seem to enjoy it has been all the other stuff in the game that has been needing the work.

The most major change is that money is no longer a part of the game. (Side note: I may bring money back with money being the points in the game. Currently the points are set up such that they could be equivalent to $$.) Previously players could earn money without having to build the bridge. That meant that early in the game they would focus on money to buy abilities. With the change the only way to buy abilities is with points and the only way to get points is to actually build the bridge… imagine that!

I am extremely happy with how the latest playtest went. The first half of the game worked really well, consisted of interesting decisions, and players overall seemed to be having fun. A big thing that was an improvement was the new player mats. These allowed me to get rid of the 30 red, 30 yellow, 30 brown, and 30 silver cubes that represent the bricks and mortar. Now players have one cube of each color and they move it along on their player mat.

Player Mat - Green for V7

It wasn’t all good though. The second half of the game imploded. It was as if the game ran into a brick wall (no pun intended). The upside is that I have implemented a few changes which should circumvent that issue. I can’t wait to get it to the table again. This is probably the first time with Brooklyn Bridge where I really feel like there is “publishing potential.”

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There you go… the late, great version of two weeks of Boards & Barley. What Boards & Barley have you been enjoying???

Nobody Plays Brown – Homebrew #5

NobodyPlaysBrownLabel051314

I brewed my first batch of beer for 2014 last week. It was a bit chilly sitting in my driveway while the wort was boiling. But I powered through and now my brew is transferred to the carboy getting tastier by the day.

There’s just something about brewing your own beer. It’s manly. It’s adventuresome. It’s rewarding. So in a few weeks I’ll have about 50 bottles of Nobody Plays Brown. How cool is that?

Brown Ales… What are they?

Brown ales are described this way on BeerAdvocate.com:

Spawned from the English Brown Ale, the American version can simply use American ingredients. Many other versions may have additions of coffee or nuts. This style also encompasses “Dark Ales”. The bitterness and hop flavor has a wide range and the alcohol is not limited to the average either.

And since you may not know what an English Brown Ale is either, here is the BeerAdvocate.com description for that:

Spawned from the Mild Ale, Brown Ales tend to be maltier and sweeter on the palate, with a fuller body. Color can range from reddish brown to dark brown. Some versions will lean towards fruity esters, while others tend to be drier with nutty characters. All seem to have a low hop aroma and bitterness.

And since you may not know what a Mild Ale is either, here is the BeerAdvocate.com description for that:

The quintessential British session beer, like its name suggests, a Mild is known for its low level of hops character. Alcohol content is traditionally very low. Grainy to toasty malts might be present, but expect some body from the high dextrins produced in brewing. Low carbonation with a near still, bubbly head. Colors can range from gold to dark brown. Traditionally a draft beer made popular in London and the Midlands of England.

Brown Ale

So what did we learn? Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of Brown Ales:

  • Low level of hops
  • Low alcohol level
  • Malty
  • Can be nutty (Can’t we all?)
  • Reddish brown to dark brown

There you go. Now you know as much as I do about Brown Ales!

Caribou Slobber = Nobody Plays Brown

This brew was a kit I received as a Christmas present from my older brother. It is called Caribou Slobber and is a kit based on Big Sky Brewing‘s Moose Drool.

For 2014 I am choosing board game related names for my brews. I twitter-sourced this name and must give credit where credit is due. Thanks to the Cardboard Jungle Podcast for the suggestion!

The kit includes the following:

  • Specialty grain (Breiss Caramel, Fawcett Pale Chocolate, Black Malt)
  • 6 lbs Amber Malt Syrup
  • 1 lb Amber Dry Malt Extract
  • 1oz US Goldings Hops
  • 1oz Liberty Hops
  • 1oz Willamette Hops

Those are the key ingredients for the brew. You can check out the recipe here: Caribou Slobber Recipe (pdf).  It’s a pretty easy kit to brew and I had an enjoyable time brewing it.

In another week and a half I’ll bottle it and then the aging begins. I think I’ll see if I can save most of it for fall.

Anyone know of a cheap place to buy glossy label paper so I can make some labels for this brew?

Building Buildings – A Review of The Builders

A bored European on the cover?? I’m In!

My level one friend Jeremy went to Essen last year and hoped to pick this game up but unfortunately it wasn’t available. So I picked it up a few weeks ago. Packed in a nice little tin is a really enjoyable game. I’ve played two times, which is enough for me to review it.

Let me remind you that I review games after 1 or 2 plays because if it stinks after 1 or 2 plays then I’m not likely to play it again. So games usually have to make a pretty good impression early on for me to desire more plays.

So today I present my opinions on The Builders!

In The Builders players are racing to 17 points. Points are earned by completing buildings or tools, each of which can be worth points. Players will utilize their workers by sending them to work at their buildings that are under construction. Once the resource requirements for a building are met with workers or tools then the building is completed. The player will earn coins instantly and points which are counted at the end of the game.

The Builders set up for three players. Image via BGG user Spielemitkinder

At the start of the game each player will begin with an Apprentice card as their lone worker. Five buildings and five workers will be placed on the table. Each player will also begin with 10 coins.

On your turn you can do three total actions, choosing from the following:

  • START CONSTRUCTION: Take one of the five available building cards
  • RECRUIT A WORKER: Take one of the five available worker cards
  • SEND A WORKER TO WORK: Place one of your workers next to one of your unfinished buildings
  • TAKE COINS: Take coins

Those are the four actions you can choose on your turn. You could do the same action all three times if you so desired. There are a few rules with how choosing the same action works, but I won’t get into that here.

Basically you go around and around until someone gets to 17 points. Then you finish the round and score it. Pretty simple… but is it any good?

Here’s What I Like:

ARTWORK: Amazing! The artwork for the buildings in this game is so vibrant and colorful that they really pop on the cards. If I were an artist I would want to make things look like the buildings in this game.

EASE OF GAMEPLAY: Since players only have three actions per turn, and since there are only four options from which to choose, this makes for pretty simple gameplay that is easy to understand. It’s also very easy to teach this game, which allows me to play with non-gamers or baby gamers.

Here’s What I Dislike:

ACTION CLARITY: What I’m referring to is when you choose the same action several times. For instance, when you place two workers on the same building in the same turn there is a compounding of actions and money that isn’t completely clear in the rulebook.

Designer Perspective – What Would I Change?

This is an all around solid design. That makes it tough for me to think of something I would change. One thing I would change is to add female workers to the workers deck. There’s no reason they all have to be male. Perhaps the biggest thing I would change would be to add bonus points for building similar types of buildings. So players could purposefully try to build a church and a cloister and earn bonus points. Those types of combos could be very interesting, especially if similar types of buildings required different resources.

Beer Pairing

This is a simple, light game with nice deep decisions. So it calls for a similar beer. One that comes to mind would be the La Trappe Tripel. Most tripels seem to have two taste components. When you first take a sip you get an excellent character of quality beer. Then after you swallow you typically experience floral overtones. That’s similar to The Builders in that The game is so simple and exhibits an “excellent character.” Then once you’ve played it you can see some awesome depth, similar to the floral overtones.

Overall Rating:

I really enjoy The Builders. It is fun, quick, and yet has compelling and interesting decisions throughout the game. It is a test of optimization, to be fair. But I ignore math when playing games and focus on fun instead. And this game is a lot of fun. I’m rating it 8 out of 10 according to the BoardGameGeek.com rating 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 – Cinco de Mayo 2014

Hola! Welcome back to Boards & Barley for an awesome Cinco de Mayo! According to Wikipedia, Cinco de Mayo is also known as El Dia de la Battala de Puebla (Day of the the Battle of Puebla). It celebrates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the french forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. Now we commemorate by eating lots of chips, salsa, and guacamole and enjoying oversized Margaritas. Bummer… now I’m hungry for quacamole.

It’s Monday so here on Boards & Barley I like to recap the games and beer that I enjoyed in the past week. I’d love to hear what you enjoyed this past week. Feel free to leave a comment below! Let’s start with the Barley…

The Barley:

Belgians brew great beer!

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: Karmeliet Tripel

I had never had the Karmeliet Tripel before, which is a travesty for someone like myself who really enjoys the Belgian Tripel variety of beer. The new local establishment that I keep mentioning had this on tap and served it in the glass shown in the picture. It was an excellent beer and I would definitely enjoy it again.

  • NEW! Duchesse de Bourgogne – Another amazing Belgian Beer! I think I could easily get by with Belgian beer if it were the only country from which I could enjoy beer.
  • Spaten Optimator

The Boards:

No spotlight this week. I played a few games but would rather just list them.

  • Crokinole – Played with 4 players (6 discs each). We added a cool scoring rule where you score 10 points for each opponent’s disc that you knock out of play. However, if your disc also goes out of play on the same flick then it is a scratch and you do not get the points. This added a fun level of play to the game.
  • Unpublished Prototype – This is a four player 4 card game that I don’t want to say too much about other than it is really awesome.
  • Unpublished Prototype – I played a friend’s co-op game about healing patients. This game was very enjoyable and had an interesting and dynamic time aspect.
  • Unpublished Prototype – This was a stock market game that had some interesting elements and worked well. I sure would love to see a different theme, though.
  • Forbidden Island – I played with my kids and we lost on the VERY FIRST flood card (Fool’s Landing). I’ve never lost that quickly. You’ve technically only got a 19% chance on losing on the first draw of flood cards (16.7% on first card). And those percentages are ONLY if Fool’s Landing was one of the first six flood cards during setup. After we lost we reset the board and played again. But my kids lost interest before we could finish even though we had three treasures and a very good chance of winning.

Designer’s Corner:

I worked on Brooklyn Bridge this week. However, I have a problem in that there are about four different routes I would like to try with the design. I have several large changes that I would like to get playtested, which means my road to a “completed” game is going to be a much longer one that it was for Scoville. That’s fine though since I think this game has a lot of potential. Currently, however, it is more “Large Chunk of Stone” rather than “Finished David Sculpture.” I’ve just got my work cut out for me.

I also really want to dive into the design for Armada Galactica. I’m holding back on this because I don’t want to get into a cycle of 50% completed games. I’d rather keep my focus on Brooklyn Bridge and get that to the state where I could show it to a publisher with confidence. Sorry Armada Galactica… you’ll have to wait.

Also, I came up with what I believe could be a REALLY interesting tactile abstract game. I think this has the potential to be in the Qwirkle or Ingenious realm so I’m not going to give away any details just yet. Unfortunately this too will be waiting in the design queue for Brooklyn Bridge to progress.

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Alright everyone. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed some Boards or Barley last week. If you tried something new that was awesome, let me know!

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