Category Archives: Board Games
I recently had a “non-gamer” game night with some neighbors of mine. It’s a great opportunity to be able to get together with people who don’t normally play hobby games. I love it when they play a game and then realize that there are more interesting things than LIFE, Monopoly, and Sorry.
I had tweeted a request for gaming options to see what people would recommend and I was inundated with great ideas. Thank you to those of you who replied to my tweet. Because I got so many results I thought I would bring all those suggestions together into this article to help you host a “Non-gamer” Game Night!
Invite some people!
You can’t have a game night without the people. (Well, you can since there are a lot of solo games out there, but I prefer playing games with other humans beings). So the first thing you’ll want to do is invite those neighbors of yours, or co-workers, or general acquaintances, who may or may not be interested in playing games. Bribe them with snacks or beverages. Tell them whatever you need to tell them to get them in the door.
Once they are there, here are two things to avoid:
- Don’t overwhelm them with the depth of your gaming knowledge. Just let them know you like games and wanna hang out with them for a while.
- Don’t go all crazy with the lingo by using words like “Meeple.” It may turn some people off. Use layman’s terms like “pawn” or “player piece.”
Did Someone Say “Snacks”
I usually like to have cheese and sausage and Peanut Butter M&Ms for game night. These are pretty safe foods, though the cheese and sausage should be accompanied by napkins to help the finger-lickers in the group have a more hygienic way of cleaning their fingers.
I have a general rule for game night snacks: nothing juicy, nothing sticky, nothing crumbly.
Cheetos and similar foods are particularly bad because of the residue they leave behind on your fingers. The residue can easily be transferred to your precious game components. And when the typical game costs $40-$50 you just don’t really want to see Cheeto dust coating the cards. There was one time where someone wanted Chicken Wings. I almost uninvited them.
So pick out something dry and clean, like the aforementioned Peanut Butter M&Ms, or perhaps some Red Vines. Finger foods that can be popped into your mouth work well.
The (Gate-way) Games
So you’ve got the “non-gamers” in the door. Excellent work. (Note, I put “non-gamers” in quotes because deep down inside of us all we are all gamers even if we don’t know it). Now it’s time to get the right game to the table.
With non-gamers there are a few things you should consider when choosing the game:
- Are the rules easy to teach?
- Is the game easy to play?
- Does the game take a long time?
The first two mostly go together. You’ll want a game that is pretty simple to teach and play. Games that offer players only a few limited choices are usually good options. The third one is important because you typically don’t want to lose your audience in a 60+ minute game. It would almost always be better to player three 20 minute games.
This is where the tweet came into play. I wanted to get opinions about games that work well for non-gamers. I got a bunch of replies and here are some of the best games that I think fit my criteria for a non-gamer game night, in order of most recommended first:
- Ticket To Ride – Classic gateway game. Build train routes. Three choices on your turn (Take Cards, Take Routes, Build connections).
- Lanterns – A lovely game with a simple rule set. Play a tile, people get cards. Try to get the right sets of cards.
- Camel Up – Qwirky theme and artwork. Players take one of five actions (Roll a die, Guess the Winner, Guess the Loser, Place a bid, Place Oasis/Desert)
- Carcassonne – Another classic gateway game. Place your tile and possible a player pawn. Do the best with the tiles you draw.
- Codenames (And/or Codenames: Pictures) – A great party game where two clue-givers try to get their team to guess the correct words (or pictures). Great with larger groups.
- Splendor – Basically a theme-less game, but the gameplay is simple and rewarding. On your turn you either 1) Take Gems, 2) Reserve a Card, or 3) Spend Gems to earn a card.
- No Thanks – It’s a light card game about getting the right numbered cards. Try to get cards in sequence without gaps or you’ll get too many points. You don’t want points.
- For Sale – Another light card game. This has two phases. Each is pretty simple to play.
- Sushi Go – The easiest card-drafting game. Players are dealt a hand of cards. They choose one, play it, and pass the rest. Then they draw from the cards that they received. This continues for three quick rounds.
- Love Letter – Very light and easy to understand yet full of interesting gameplay. On your turn you have a card in your hand already, you draw another, choose one of them to play and follow the instructions. You want to be the last person standing.
- Qwixx – A light dice rolling game where players try to cross off numbers from 2 to 12 or vice versa. Easy to teach and quick to play.
There are some honorable mentions that are pretty good choices, but I couldn’t recommend them before any of those in the list above. These included
- Bohnanza (Sometimes the “Bean Fields” idea confuses new players and some of the rules are just a little too much to remember for first timers)
- 6 Nimmt (Haven’t personally played it so I couldn’t put it on the list)
- Las Vegas (Haven’t personally played it so I couldn’t put it on the list)
- Time Stories (I think this is probably too heavy and I haven’t personally played it so I couldn’t put it on the list)
- Quadropolis (This was close to making the list)
- Tokaido (This was also close to making the list)
- Diamonds (Haven’t personally played it so I couldn’t put it on the list)
- Rolling America (This probably could join Qwixx above but I haven’t played it so I didn’t want to put it on the list)
- King of Tokyo (The special ability cards can make this a little more complicated than I’d like for non-gamers)
- Forbidden Island (I don’t like co-op games for non-gamers)
- Paperback (Fun deck builder, but deck building isn’t something I would push on non-gamers)
- Libertalia (Very fun game but a little too deep for non-gamers)
- Hanabi (Meets the criteria but it’s so thinky that I’d rather have something slightly easier for non-gamers)
- Colt Express (Way too heavy for non-gamers)
It is important to be patient with non-gamers. We gamers seem to grok new game rules pretty quickly and it is easy to take it for granted when new gamers or non-gamers don’t understand things. So take your time. It takes hearing something three times before it really sticks. Usually after I teach the rules I do a quick recap.
Remind people that you are getting together to have fun and hang out. Don’t make winning the only thing. Try to avoid back-stabbing play and certainly don’t go after any one player. Make them feel welcome and give them a chance for victory. If they win it will put good vibes in their head and they’ll be more likely to come back for another game night.
So there you go. Get your non-gamer friends in the door, choose some appropriate snacks, and get the right game on the table! Let me know what you do to help your non-gamer friends enjoy an evening of cardboard.
Update: I forgot to add Dingo’s Dreams to the list of demoed games. Added at 3pm 8/8/2016.
As soon as Gen Con 2015 finished I started looking forward to Gen Con 2016. It’s become an annual tradition to attend and we’ve had at least four of us go every year.This year we were looking to do things a little differently with mostly non-Gen Con activities on Saturday. Let’s get to the recap.
This was the first year that we decided to go Wednesday night rather than Thursday morning. In the past we would leave Wisconsin around 4am on Thursday, which would get us to Indy around 11. Then we would have lunch at Yats. Then we would finally get to the exhibit hall around 1 or 2 and only have a few hours in the hall that first day.
So we decided to go Wednesday night. When we got to the Marriott we learned that for the 5 of us we had a room with one king bed. Uh oh. Thankfully I had brought my airpad and sleeping bag. But they would only allow one roll-away bed so one of us was on the bare floor. It was about 1am when we hit the sack.
Our plan was to rush to the Plaid Hat booth and get SeaFall since we wanted to play it during the convention. We purposefully did not pre-order it since we wouldn’t have it at Gen Con. This completely backfired as Plaid Hat sold ALL their copies to the VIGs who got to enter the hall an hour before the peasants. The worst part was knowing that while waiting to enter the hall the game was sold out.
I waited at a different entrance so I could head to the Tasty Minstrel Games booth and grab a copy of Guilds of London. This game by Tony Boydell looks really good and I was so happy to get a copy. Special thanks to those VIGs for not buying all of them.
So we got one of the games we were hoping to snag right away. We would learn later that other games we were interested in also sold out relatively quickly, like Covert from Renegade Game Studios and Terraforming Mars and The Dragon & Flagon from Stronghold Games. It happens every year. More conversation about game debuts and how they are sold later this week.
After the initial rush we basically spent the day tooling around in the hall. We demoed some games, bought some games, and just enjoyed the fact that traffic in the hall all day Thursday was lighter than we knew it would be on Friday and Saturday.
Throughout the convention it seemed like copies were being sold! Thanks to everyone who has been enjoying Scoville!
Thursday evening we enjoyed some quality beer at The Yard House, a place with 130 beers on draft!
We had planned on Friday being a demo day. We had bought tickets for a bunch of demos and enjoyed the quieter pace of the open gaming hall.
Friday night we continued our tradition of walking to the Rathskellar, enjoying big German lagers, smoking a cigar, listening to live music, and having platters of German sausage, brat balls, jalapeno poppers, hush puppies, chicken cordon bleu rollups, and pretzels!
The Rathskellar is a fantastic escape from the rush of Gen Con.
We had a non-Gen Con schedule set up for Saturday that included Duckpin bowling and a AAA Baseball Game.
But Saturday got started for me by hanging out with the awesome Grant Rodiek of Hyperbole Games and designer of Cry Havoc from Portal Games. He and I hung out, chatted about life, showed each other some prototypes, and had a good time.
After that I went to pitch a game. This was a great experience for me as it was my first real “pitch.” I’ll keep you all posted if anything comes from it.
After the pitch it was time for Duckpin bowling. We drove over to Fountain Square and had a good time despite our terrible scores. In 100 total frames we had 5 spares and 0 strikes. Our scores averaged about 70.
When we got back to our hotel we sat down in the lobby and played Scythe. It was the first play for me and Ben and the second play for the other three guys. Ben and I took 4th and 5th place. It’s a great game that I think I’ll enjoy more on the second play now that I know and sort of understand the system.
After Scythe we went to the Indianapolis Indians game. I had been looking forward to it because they were giving away a Pop Bobbleheads Flash Bobblehead as a promo. I really wanted one to give to my 4yo son. They were giving them to the first 2500 fans. I’m pretty sure we were fans #2501, 2502, 2503, 2504, and 2505 (well maybe not quite that close). We just missed out on getting one and I was pretty bummed. But it was fun to watch the game, especially since the Indians pitcher had 8 strikeouts in the first four innings. Also, it was Superhero night and The Flash was there and the Indians were wearing special Flash uniforms.
We left about midway through and went to our hotel room to play a few games. We played Order of the Gilded Compass and Paperback. I thought Paperback was a fun version of a deckbuilding game. In it you buy cards that have letters on them and then on your turn you use the cards in your hand to build words. It was fun, but the end of the game meant that our Gen Con 2016 was coming to an end. Sunday morning we packed up early and hit the road.
One of the highlights was in the First Exposure playtest hall where I had a chance to see a new capability of The Game Crafter. They recently announced that you can order custom cut components. Here is an example of what you could possibly do:
Another highlight is seeing the “Big” versions of games. This year they had a big version of King of Tokyo, which I knew my son would like to see.
Seeing the huge Pickachu was cool too…
But one of my favorite highlights is simply reconnecting with people that I only get to see once or twice a year. There are so many awesome people in the board game world and it’s always a pleasure hanging out and seeing what’s new in their lives. My next con is Grand Con in September and I’m looking forward to meeting new people there as well!
The games we demoed during the convention included (I’m positive I missed some):
- Beyond Baker Street – This is a Hanabi-esque clue-giving and deduction game with excellent artwork. The gameplay was a little too similar to Hanabi to make us want to buy it but if you don’t already own Hanabi I recommend checking this out.
- Order of the Gilded Compass – We really enjoyed this remake of Alea Iacta Est enough to buy a copy. There is a lot of replayability in the game. Unfortunately there are a few issues with the production includind copy/paste problems with the rulebook, and color issues with the red and orange dice looking too similar.
- Oceanos – The artwork is awesome and the gameplay familiar. We only demoed the first round but I can imagine that the second and third rounds are just as fun. I would have bought this if they still had copies left.
- The Grizzled – We randomly sat down for a demo of this and almost beat it! But we lost. It’s a tough game.
- World’s Fair 1893 – I really liked this game. The design is elegant and the gameplay is simple. But getting what you want is tough to do. The artwork on this one is really appealing as well.
- Quartz – I was really hoping this would be great because the artwork really drew me in. Unfortunately the thrust of the game is not the collecting of gems but the messing with other people’s gems. My gaming group isn’t much of a “take that” or “screw your neighbor” group so I was a little disappointed with this one.
- Mythe – I hadn’t even heard of this one (which released in 2012?) but Scott Morris in the Passport Booth was happy to demo it for us. In the game you are pressing your luck to move your mouse toward the dragon to defeat him and take back the cheese. You draw cards from other people and decide whether to stop and move or keep going and risk gaining nothing. It had this pretty neat pop-up folding board.
- Covert – Kane Klenko is the designer and a friend of mine. It was awesome to see the final version of the game and I was happy for him that Renegade sold out of all their advanced copies. One of my favorite parts in the game is that you can set up awesome combinations of moves to complete missions. Go check this one out or pre-order it today!
- Stockpile – Despite this being from local designers my group was finally able to demo this stock game. We enjoyed it since you have limited knowledge of what the market is going to do. The game worked well and I’d like to try the advanced version and the expansion.
- Boomtown Bandits – This game was disappointing. One of the players lost almost all the battles and only had one card after four rounds. We didn’t enjoy the gameplay very much.
- Klask – In each of the previous Gen Cons we attended we would do a little Weykick tournament in the exhibit hall. Weykick is no longer available so this year we went in for a Klask demo and used that for our tournament. Klask was fun and had more strategy than Weykick. I was glad I could snag a copy since they only had 50 per day.
- Mystic Vale – I didn’t get to demo this but the other guys did. The consensus was that the mechanic is really neat but the gameplay was too much solitaire. We are looking forward to seeing what AEG does in future games with the mechanic.
- Captain Sonar – This was fun chaos! Players are on a team that is controlling a submarine trying to hunt down the opponents submarine. We had a big crowd around us while demoing and we almost had the opponents. There was a lot of shouting and listening and general craziness. It was pretty fun.
- Dingo’s Dreams – I originally forgot about this demo. It is a Bingo style game where you play your animals onto your 5×5 grid to try and match the reference card that was drawn randomly. First player to match the pattern wins a point. Play to a pre-determined number of points. A friend said it was quite “zen.”
Gen Con 2017
One of the things I think I’d like to do next Gen Con is to pitch more games. I enjoyed that experience and that there is potential from it. Participating in the Publisher Speed Dating would be a fun option.
Another thing that I didn’t really do this year was stay up late in the open gaming hall with all the game designer folks. I just didn’t feel like it this year but I regret that decision. I’ll definitely do more of that next year.
No matter what, I’m already looking forward to Gen Con 2017!
Wow… Gen Con is almost here! One of my favorite things each year is the anticipation of Gen Con and checking out the new games that will debut at Gen Con. There are two great lists that I used to build this article. They are:
On one hand I really like the preview list because it has a ton of games on it. On the other hand it is a disappointing list because like 150% of the list seems to be games that are only available for demos ahead of later release or a later Kickstarter. That’s why I prefer the second list because it has only the new games that people can actually buy at Gen Con. I can get excited about those games knowing I actually have a chance to take a copy home with me.
Exciting New Games I Could Purchase
These are listed in order of their appearance on the list. The order I am listing them has nothing to do with my interest in the games.
Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails – I love the idea of having both trains and ships on the board. I came up with this idea for the Days of Wonder contest in 2013 and told Alan R. Moon about it at BGG Con 2013. I’m pretty sure that’s where he got the idea 🙂 So of course I’m interested in this one.
Five Tribes: The Thieves of Naqala – I love Five Tribes and this is a no-brainer for me to purchase despite the lustful appearance of the
prostitute thief on the cover.
Quartz – I love the artwork and the simple gameplay. I think my kids would like this one.
SeaFall – Our group will be purchasing this if we can snag a copy. We’ve loved Pandemic: Legacy and being able to play a storyline game in a sailing setting will be right up our alley.
Cry Havoc – This game is great. Grant Rodiek has worked his tail off on this one from way back in the day when I designed a “Battle for York” logo for him.
Terraforming Mars – This just looks awesome.
Covert – I played the prototype and loved it. I think this game will be a hit!
Order of the Gilded Compass – A rework of Alea Iacta Est with some improvements means I’m definitely interested in this. Plus, the theme is enjoyable for me.
Oceanos – This looks like one my kids and I could enjoy together. The theme and artwork look great. Plus, Bauza!
Vikings on Board – The components look awesome. The gameplay looks enjoyable. And this just seems like it will be fun to play.
Guilds of London – I’m hoping I can snag one of the 200 copies they’ll have at the convention. I’m dying to play this one.
Tides of Madness – This seems a little too similar to Tides of Time to make my “purchase list” but I enjoyed Tides of Time a lot so I’m placing this on the Honorable Mention list.
Scythe – This is only here because someone in our group backed it and received it already. If your group doesn’t own it, go buy it!
Merchants and Marauders: Broadsides – Merchants and Marauders is one of my favorite games in which to immerse myself. The theme is really thick and enjoyable. The components are fantastic. M&M is a truly enjoyable game. If Broadsides has a similar feel then this might be purchased despite the $45 price tag for a 2 player game.
New Bedford – This is on Honorable Mention because I backed it and have already received it. Go demo and buy this one. It’s a very fun game!
Ta-Da! – Frantic Dice Rolling? Wizards creating Spells? Stephen Avery? I’ll definitely check this one out.
What games have piqued your interest? What are you looking forward to the most during Gen Con?
Continuing to cross games off The List, this time we were able to cross off a whole bunch. My last update to The List was in March so I’m trying to get caught up and I’m finally getting around to writing about them. Let’s start with Orleans. But first I’d like to give a big shout out to all the Russian followers I’ve received lately. Thanks so much for following my blog.
Orléans is my current favorite game despite never having won. In Orléans players use a unique mechanic of action selection. Each player has a set of four starting workers. By sending groups of workers to locations on your player board you can gain new workers. These new workers can allow you to visit new locations on your player board that provide new actions.
I love the dynamic of trying to get certain workers while constantly wanting all the other workers. It is one of those games where you can feel good about what you are doing in the game and then you realize the other players are doing awesome things too and then you get jealous and wish you were doing the things they were doing but then you would realize that you just can’t do it all. I love it. This is a game that I can’t wait to play again!
Flash Point: Fire Rescue
This one shouldn’t technically be off the list because it hasn’t met the requirement of being played together by at least 2 of the 4 Listers. However, I’m crossing it off because the other Listers were present when the game was played.
In Flash Point players work cooperatively to extinguish fires, rescue victims, and make sure the building doesn’t get completely annihilated by a strong and growing fire.
On your turn you get a certain number of actions, usually 4. You can use those actions to extinguish fires, heal people, move around in the building, and more. If you can save enough victims then you win the game. I think we barely won.
I thought the game was fine. I don’t really care that much for games like this where players cooperate. It was fun to barely win but this just wasn’t all that fun.
Who wants to make some dresses? That’s what you get to do in Rococo. Well, among other things like decorating the hallways.
Players utilize employees to take actions and earn bonuses throughout the game. You can also hire more employees which might provide better bonuses as the game goes along. The main idea of the game is that you are working toward creating dresses that can be rented out for the evening. These dresses can then be placed throughout the building as you work to earn big points at the end of the game.
Overall I thought the theme was interesting and different. But the game itself felt fiddly and had too many “exception” rules where there are one-time things that you have to remember during the game. It was fun but I’m not dying to play it again.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Pandemic: Legacy is a legitimate experience to be enjoyed by gamers of all types! A group of four of us have played through the first three months. There are no spoilers here so feel free to keep on reading.
Players work cooperatively to cure and eradicate diseases throughout the world. It is a co-op game that works the same way as Flash Point. Overall I don’t think Pandemic: Legacy is my favorite due to that nature. However, inside this box is not just a game. There is an experience inside this box that you can thoroughly enjoy if you’ve got a good group that can play through the game together. For that reason, the experience, this game was really enjoyable and will continue to be as we play through the remaining months.
Rampage (Terror in Meeple City)
My friend has the “Rampage” version of the game, but it is now called Terror in Meeple City, which I think is a pretty bad name which loses all the nostalgia and mental connection to the old video game that was enjoyed by so many of us.
In Terror in Meeple City players control monsters who try to destroy buildings and eat people. Points are scored when buildings fall, when you hurt another monster, when you eat people, and more. Each player has a secret goal of their own for endgame scoring. But basically you want to eat as many people and destroy as many buildings as you can. One action even allows you to blow on the game to try and destroy stuff.
This game was quite a bit of fun among the chaos that became the board. I’d play it again and see if I could do some better destroying.
More games have been crossed off The List and I have been delinquent in reporting our progress. Today’s update covers three games: Colonia, Discoveries, and Francis Drake.
We did not complete a full game of Colonia because it was taking too long with 6 new players. However, I think I mostly enjoyed the game. It is essentially a big chain reaction. Once turn order is set for the round players will:
- Get resources
- Spend resources to get goods tiles
- Spend goods tiles to get location specific money
- Spend location specific money on location specific cards
- Location specific cards are worth points at the end.
So there is a huge A-B-C-D-E type chain reaction in the game that forces players to manage their available worker pool. You don’t want to run out of available workers or you won’t be able to do the things you need.
I thought the most clever mechanic is the time-delay with workers spent in Round 1 not being available again until the appropriate time in Round 2.
Overall I think I’d like to play again with fewer players. The game has potential but I don’t think it’s a great game.
My friend J and I had been working on a Lewis and Clark game design some years back before the game Lewis & Clark came out. When it was released we were both pretty excited to see what the designer came up with. One of the things that was absent from his game that we had planned on including in ours were all the Discoveries made along the trip. So I was pretty excited when I learned about this game, which is all about the discoveries.
In Discoveries players will manage a fleet of dice that will be used to take actions. Actions allow you to obtain Indians (which gives you special abilities or other action spaces), go exploring and complete exploration routes, change your dice, and more. The goal of the game is to gain as much knowledge as possible.
I thought the game was pretty good. It was a little fiddly with having to change dice as often as I did. I think it would work better with three or more players rather than just two. I’ll play it again so long as it would be with more than two players.
I wanted to own Francis Drake since we demoed it at Gen Con 2013. I thought it was a really excellent game then but I couldn’t drop $80 for it. I found it last Gen Con at a nicely discounted price so I snagged a copy. We finally got it to the table during a game night and I still think it is excellent.
The game is divided into three Voyages. For each voyage there are two parts. The first part is a great worker placement goods procurement phase where players place their workers along the street as they approach the harbor. Only one player can claim any given spot. And you can never go “backwards” along the street, meaning once you have placed a worker somewhere you can only place subsequent workers closer to the harbor. I think this is a really fun way to obtain resources for the voyage.
The second part of a voyage is setting sail and completing missions in the four regions on the map portion of the board. These missions include attacking forts and towns, obtaining trade goods, and attacking Spanish Galleons. The tricky part about it is that players missions discs are numbered and they happen in numerical order. So someone may get to do an action before you because they have a smaller number on their disc.
Overall I really think Francis Drake is a fun game. There is a lot to think about in terms of the decisions you make throughout. And there are plenty of ways to score. I’m looking forward to playing again.