Category Archives: The Barley
If you like beer, I’m glad you’re here. All of my posts about beer are here!
Grand Con 2016 Recap
I had the privilege of being a guest at Grand Con 2016. I was invited to attend, run demos of Scoville, give a seminar about The Story of Scoville, and attend the VIP dinner where there was a special surprise.
Grand Con is a gaming convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It has been growing each year and had an expected attendance of about 2,000 people this year. They are out-growing their facility because there is so much awesomeness!
Attenders could visit the vendor hall, with a nice selection of vendors and products. For gaming vendors there was Tasty Minstrel Games, Floodgate Games, Kids Table Board Gaming, Green Couch Games, Calliope Games, Action Phase Games, and a few more that I don’t remember. For a full list visit the vendor page.There were also some RPG booths, a couple local game store booths, and a few other things as well. It was a nice vendor hall that I will expect to be even grander next year.
Attenders also had access to the Grand Con game library. This one isn’t as large as the Gen Con game library, but I would say that the quality of games in the Grand Con library was better since they weren’t overloaded with a bunch of out-dated inventory. There was a great selection of about 400 games, many of which were brand new. The gaming library room was almost always full.
Another nice thing was that Grand Con had many events and a nice event catalog for the attenders. They had brought in a bunch of game designers and ran charity “Play with the Designer” events. The gamers really seemed to like these events. Proceeds went to the De Vos Children’s Hopsital.
Craft Beer I Enjoyed
You can’t really go to Grand Rapids and not enjoy craft beer (unless beer isn’t your thing). So we made sure to work in a few different breweries along the way. On the way to Grand Rapids we stopped at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo. We enjoyed some flights of beer in their beer garden and soaked up a little sun in the beautiful weather. My favorite beers from Bell’s were the Roundhouse India Red Ale and the Special Double Cream Stout.
After we left Bell’s we headed to Grand Rapids and ate dinner outside at Founders Brewing. They have an amazing indoor/outdoor area to accompany their excellent beer. Since I had tried 8 different kinds at Bell’s I was feeling a little beered out. I opted for a low abv beer called CTRL ALT Delete. When I “Untappd” it I earned a special badge that I had been working towards. I earned “Legendary” status for having 500 unique beer check-ins.
That was a fun milestone to hit and I’m glad that it happened in “Beer City.” During our trip we also visited Brewery Vivant, which was probably awesome but I was struggling from a duel with some bad sushi, so I didn’t partake. It was located in this awesome old church and everyone liked the beers they got.
The other brewery that my friend Jeremy and his wife visited was The Mitten, which is in an old firehouse. He mentioned that the beer was pretty good overall.
It was nice to be able to fit the “Barley” with the “Boards” and make it a complete trip.
Games I Played
One of the best parts of a game convention for me is that I can usually learn and play new games that I don’t own. My wife and I attended with another couple. So we took advantage of free time and the game library and learned and played the following games:
Port Royal: We played this in our hotel room and we love this game.
Potion Explosion: My friends and I had tried to demo this at Gen Con but the demo copy was always occupied. So we grabbed the library copy and played it and really enjoyed it. The decisions were more interesting than I expected and my friend ended up buying a copy at one of the vendors.
Fauna: This game is kind of like an animal specific version of Wits and Wagers. Players have to guess things like where animals live, the weight, the length, or the height of the animal. We liked it and thought our kids would like it. It was easy to learn and play.
Coal Baron: I had wanted to play this one for a long time. Jeremy and I got it out. I had already read the rules so we were able to get started pretty quickly. I really enjoyed this game. The artwork is great, the gameplay is fun and interesting, and it all worked well. The only complaint I had was the paper money. They really missed the mark with the paper money as they could easily have used cardboard coins like most of the game industry. Overall this was my favorite “new to me” game of the convention and I’m glad I finally was able to play it.
North Wind: We sort of enjoyed this Klaus Teuber game since it has some fun decisions. The downside is that you can literally go the entire game without ever being able to complete an objective. This is simply based on the luck of the draw from the tiles you reveal. The other downside for us was the constant shuffling of a tile pile after each player took their turn.
Gold West: I had played the prototype with the designer a couple years ago and I really enjoyed it. I am sad that it has taken me this long to play the final product. I think this game has some fun and interesting choices. The gameplay is pretty simple though the main mechanic can be a bit tricky to figure out how best to use it. I love the theme. The artwork was excellent as well. I recommend checking it out. If I hadn’t played it before the con this may have ousted Coal Baron for my favorite game.
Cacao: This wasn’t in the library. Jeremy bought a copy from a vendor and we cracked it open. It is a tile laying game where played collect and sell cocoa pods. Players also utilize the temples for scoring, take advantage of the lakes, and earn sun tiles for bonus overlaying abilities. We collectively enjoyed the game quite a bit. While I was off on a Scoville demo, the other three played it a second time. So it was well liked.
Vikings on Board: Jeremy and I had considered purchasing this at Gen Con. The rules are pretty simple but the gameplay is total chaos. We stopped playing because we didn’t like that you had seemingly little control over what you could accomplish. It was definitely too much of a “take-that” game for the four of us.
Going, Going, Gone!: I had played this at BGG Con 2013 with Mr. Buonocore and company. At that time of night it was an excellent experience. So we cracked it open here and enjoyed it as well. My wife was great at dumping all her cubes into one single cup, which she would win, and then have very few cubes left. She won one auction 12 to nothing. She won another 7 to nothing. She didn’t win the game. Jeremy managed to get a set of 7 instruments for a big score of 44. We liked it and I’ll definitely play it again.
Train of Thought: We got this older TMG game to the table since we wanted a shorter game. In Train of Thought you try to get the other players to guess your secret word by using a pre-determined word in your clue. When (if) they guess, you get a new secret word and have to use the guessed word in the clue. Your round continues with your train of thought until the timer runs out. Some of the words were really tough to connect, but as we went on we got better at it.
It was a privilege and honor to join the Grand Con team to run a few charity “Play With The Designer” Scoville events. At each of these events I was able to award the winner a copy of Scoville. It is always so much fun to play with people who are new to the game or with people who have played it and are passionate about it. I got a good mix of both during the convention. During one event the guy who took second place went to the TMG booth in the vendor hall, bought a copy of Scoville and Scoville: Labs and brought the back to me to have him sign them. That sort of stuff is really what makes game design worth it to me.
Overall people who played seemed to really enjoy the game. One couple had me sign one of their recipe cards, which I was happy to do.
The other cool event was a seminar called, “The Story of Scoville.” For this seminar I was joined by the Scoville artist, Josh Cappel, and the TMG representative at Grand Con, Daniel Hadlock. We covered the whole story from my end of coming up with the design, to Josh’s artistic picture of the process, to Daniel’s “behind the scenes” manufacturing and distributing stuff. It was a lot of fun to do. One of the people was a younger guy who is interested in game design. It was a great opportunity to share with him some of the things I have learned along the way about game design.
The other really awesome thing was the VIP dinner on Saturday night. Each of the VIPs and the guests had a special banquet dinner with each other. I had an excellent steak and baked potato and some local craft beer. But the highlight of that party for me was the special cakes that Grand Con had made for the event. It speaks for itself:
The whole cake was edible. The hand and trophy were made with rice krispies. The top layer was a bananas foster cake. The bottom layer was a spicy chocolate cake. And the labs flask was a cookies and cream cake. It was a little sad when they started to get cut up and served to people. I couldn’t believe how awesome the cakes were and it was so exciting to be a part of that.
Overall I’d like to thank Marc Specter and Brian Lenz and all the Grand Con team for putting on an excellent show and for inviting me to be a part of it. I also want to thank those people who participated in all the charity events. Your generosity was excellent. It was great to see good friends and make new ones. The board gaming community is always awesome and it’s so fun to be a part of it!
Monday Brews – 3-30-15
Welcome back to Boards and Barley. It’s been 20 days since I last posted anything. Why? Because board gaming stuff is a hobby and not a job (Though if that changed it would be pretty sweet). I love blogging about board game stuff, but when things get really busy this hobby falls to the back seat before anything else. Never-the-less, I’m going to adjust my schedule so that I can continue blogging and sharing tips about homebrewing and designing board games.
One of the first things I want to do is to renovate (i.e., create) a Game Design Page that compiles all of my articles about the game design process. I’ve posted stuff about game design from concept to publication and I think having all that in one place would be really useful.
I also want to start a regular Tuesday article about beer that focuses on a Beer of the Week. I like to try as many new beers as I can and I’d like to share my thoughts about the beer and its style with you.
Another thing that I’ve missed doing are the “Design Me” game design exercises. These are relatively easy to post so I think I’ll try to get back into those. Plus, they are very beneficial for game designers as they help flex your game design muscle.
But today is Monday so let’s check out the Boards & Barley I’ve been enjoying!
NEW! Ale Asylum HuMMMane India Brown Ale
I bought a six pack of this brew at my FLBS (Favorite local beer store) because they were giving away samples and because the proceeds would go to support the local Honor Flight. For those not aware of the Honor Flight program, it is a program that takes war veterans to Washington DC to visit their respective war memorials. Then there are usually nice crowds to welcome the war heroes back home when their airplane lands. With a father who was in the military and with a brother who has served tours of duty in places I would never want to go I am very happy to support the military whenever possible, and the honor flights are a great way to do so.
- Homebrew – Rolling Dubbels Belgian Dubbel
- NEW! Ommegang Hennepin Saison
- NEW! Ommegang Three Philosopher’s Quadrupel
- Duchesse du Bourgoune
- Homebrew – Nobody Plays Brown Brown Ale
- Tyranena Fatal Attaction Imperial Black IPA
- Vintage Brewing Dedication Belgian Dubbel
New Beer Count for 2015: 22
There is a lot of game in this little box. In Harbour players try to manage their resources, ship goods, and buy buildings. There are a lot of interesting decisions to be made while hoping your opponents don’t modify the market and sweep the rug out from under your feet. I’m glad I backed this Tasty Minstrel Games project on Kickstarter.
- NEW! Fidelitas – I thought this game was pretty clever. I played a 2 player game and I enjoyed it. Playing it a second time will be even better know that I have a better idea of how the game is played and what combos exist.
- Concordia (Half of a game)
- Dungeon Roll
- Ticket to Ride
- Ziggurat Playtest
New Board Game Count for 2015: 15
So those are the Boards & Barley that I’ve been enjoying. What have you been enjoying?
A Guide for Beer Glasses
My friend Jeremy recently bought me a beer glass on a recent trip. It’s not just any beer glass. It’s different than any other beer glass I’ve seen.
What makes it different is the curvature of the glass. The sides are slightly curved like an Irish Imperial Pint glass. But also the bottom has a nice rounded feature that makes this glass have a very nice feel in your hand.
I have a collection of about 30 pint glasses. I typically prefer the Shaker pint glass style with the straight walled sides. But I like to make exceptions for glasses when they’re awesome. This beer glass from Odell Brewing is awesome.
So today I wanted to write about different beer glass styles including what beer styles go in them. But as I was doing research I found a really nice infographic from a company that sells a hangover product (Revivol). And then I found a second one (from Central Restaurant Products) with a little more info and less graphics. I like them both. So instead of me typing a bunch of stuff, here are two pretty sweet infographics:
Monday Brews – 3-9-15
It’s gonna be 48 degrees here in Wisconsin today so that’s pretty awesome. Also awesome is that the college basketball tournament is approaching. I love the tournament because the kids playing college basketball put so much heart into it compared to professional sports where it’s more about money. But this website isn’t for writing about sportsball.
So let’s see what Boards & Barley I’ve enjoyed over the last week:
NEW! Snake River Vienna Lager
My friend Jeremy brought these back from a recent trip out west and graciously shared them with us. It was a very enjoyable beer and was characteristic of Vienna Lagers. I’d love to visit the brewery someday. By the looks of their website they’ve got a great brewpub.
- Gray’s 56 Oatmeal Stout
- NEW! Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils
- Revolution Anti-Hero IPA
- Homebrew – Rolling Dubbels
New Beer Count for 2015: 19
I had been wanting to play this game by Czech Games Edition for a while and was able to get it to the table at Board Game Night. Alchemists is like Clue except instead of having to figure out three things you need to figure out 8. And instead of having turns where you roll a 1 and move one space through the mansion you can do great stuff every turn. And instead of having the game end by someone making a lucky guess you play 6 rounds.
Alchemists was a ton of fun. The gameplay is great. The theme works really well. The deduction is intense. I lost badly but I seriously enjoyed the game. The only downsides for me were that there’s a pretty steep learning curve. The first play took us three hours. That included the time it took to teach, though. The bottom line was that I thoroughly enjoyed the game and I can’t wait to play Alchemists again.
- NEW! Robinson Crusoe – We got beat so badly that I’ll have to play again just so I can feature it as the BOARDS SPOTLIGHT without feeling like we played so poorly.
- Roll for the Galaxy
New Board Game Count for 2015: 14
Ziggurat is coming along nicely. I have been working on it feverishly so that I can have it ready for Protospiel-Milwaukee in April.
The problem that was mentioned about the game in it’s previous form was that if you weren’t building you were falling behind. And the first to build got the better bonuses so they could build better and faster and become a runaway leader. That was a bummer.
So I’ve come up with a new, more “Euro” system of playing this game. It will turn the game into more of a point-salad, “Feldian” type game, but those are the types of games I enjoy.
The solution I came up with changes the game slightly in that it is mildly less accessible since the learning curve is steeper. However, the game play should be much improved as there are more things to consider on each and every turn. The scoring conditions are also improved. In the previous version the win would all but be known when the game ended. I prefer that players not know who is going to win before the end of the game. This gives all players hope that they might somehow sneak out a victory. So I’ve changed it so that there are a lot more points counted at the end rather than during the game.
Overall I’m really excited about where this is going. I think there’s a lot of potential here. But ultimately, this game is a lot of fun to design.
So that’s what I’ve been up to. What Boards & Barley have you been enjoying?
Craftbeer.com = Awesomeness
Today I right a wrong. The wrong is that I’ve never blogged about Craftbeer.com. It is a traveshamockery that will be resolved today.
Why today? Because yesterday my buddy, Brett Myers, tweeted about some new awesomeness:
One of the questions I get asked frequently, and also ask of others, is, “What is your favorite beer style?” I often answer that anything Belgian is my favorite. I love Dubbels, Tripels, Saisons, etc. Then people ask what those are like. I usually mumble something about a floral character and distinct taste. But now I have a sweet resource to which I can refer people.
Craftbeer.com Style Guide
Yesterday Craftbeer.com posted a news release marking the launch of their new Beer Style Guide. This allows people to search for beer styles based on SRM (color), IBU (bitterness), and ABV (alcohol by volume). Here is a glimpse at the style selector:
By adjusting the sliders you can hone in on the styles that fit what you’re looking for.
Clicking on any style brings you to a page with much more information about it. Click here for the Belgian Dubbel page. The information pages are great. They tell you the average ranges for SRM, IBU, and ABV. They show the type of glass in which to serve that style. It’s just pure awesomeness.
In the past when I wanted to learn about beer styles I would visit Beer Advocate. Their style guide is nice and was my go-to source for years. In fact, I will still reference it when I need information regarding American Adjunct Lagers.
So if you are a beer connoisseur or snob or just enjoy some Pumpkin Peach Ale over golden suds, then I recommend you check out the Beer Style guide and then everything else on Craftbeer.com.
Have a great weekend and enjoy a brew or two!