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The List – Patchistory, China, Rome: City of Marble

Three more title are being crossed off The List! While I didn’t play all three I wanted to remind you of the criterion for crossing a game off the list. A game shall be crossed off when at least two of our core group of 4 have played the game.

So while I own games that I have played, they might still be on the list since they do not meet the criterion.

Also, since I did not play Patchistory or China I am bringing in A-Game and J to share their perspective. But let’s start with Rome: City of Marble since I have now played it twice.

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Rome: City of Marble

pic2586529_tI love this game. I loved it in prototype form and I love it in final production. I am friends with the designer, Brett Myers. The way he designed this game to utilize rhombuses is intriguingly clever.

In Rome: City of Marble players have two actions per turn. Their objective is to build the city of Rome. This is done by obtaining and placing rhombus shaped tiles onto the city map. Whenever a hexagon shaped intersection between tiles is completed, a building or a fountain is placed at that location. If a player have influence over that location by having their magistrate on the correctly colored tiles, then they claim that building. If no player has influence it becomes a fountain.

Over the course of the game players earn points by completing buildings, having proximity to fountains, being connected to aqueducts, and more. I like that the balance of scoring is about 50/50 in-game versus end game. So you don’t know exactly who will win unless you are an uber nerd who crunches the numbers after every single action taken in the game, which kind of takes the fun out of any game, so don’t be that person.

Overall I am looking forward to playing Rome: City of Marble many more times.

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This was played by J and A-Game among others at Board Game Night. Here is J’s review:

pic63275_tChina is an old school euro. An old school euro to me is a collection of rules, mechanics, and scoring that drive the players to difficult or interesting decisions but do not embrace the ‘theme’ of the game.

In China there is a network of roads and towns on a board and the board is divided into areas. On your turn there is basically one action you can take (placing pieces on the board) and the action is limited by various rules (the three cards in your hand plus rules about how many pieces can be placed). The scoring is tied to having a majority in an area and having a majority across two bordering provinces.

I like old school euros because they are usually easy to learn and teach and don’t often take more than 1 hour to play. However, they are almost always lacking a theme that is well integrated with the mechanics. This game fits both of these conditions to a tee. The game is easy to learn, teach, plays quickly, and has some good decisions. However, the only reason it’s called China is because that is the graphic they chose to put on the board. The interplay of mechanics and scoring is clearly front and center here and that’s ok by me.

Old school euros have a lower ceiling and higher floor for me. I don’t typically have great gaming experiences with them but I’m also rarely disappointed by them. If you need a recommendation for an old school euro that delivers a really good experience I suggest Taluva. If you’re looking for another collection of mechanics and scoring conditions consider China; it will meet those expectations.

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This was played by A-Game, Bosun, and J over the weekend. Here is A-game’s review:

pic1949968_tI was looking forward to playing Patchistory. So I was glad when we brought it out for a three player game night. The focal point of the game is a patchwork map building mechanic. Each round, players bid on terrain tiles that provide different resources. These tiles are placed overlapping so you have to cover part of one tile in order to play another. Mixed into the terrain tiles are great leaders from history and architectural wonders. These tiles are permanent, so you can’t later over them. It was a cool mechanic that presented some very interesting decisions.

If the game was primarily centered around the map building, I think I would have really liked it. Sadly it was not. The remainder of the game consisted of bookkeeping and a long list of potential actions you can take each round. All the actions required the same resource (political points) so politics became the most important resource. If you don’t have a lot of politics, you can’t really do much. The actions themselves often felt uninteresting or unimportant. The only one that stood out to me was the ability to offer aid to your neighbor, which they can accept or reject and you score points either way, giving you the opportunity to offer something you know they will reject, so you can score points at no cost.

As the game goes on, the terrain gets more powerful, but the actions get more expensive, so it is basically a wash.

On the whole, the game had a few bright points, with a lot of fiddly bits in-between.

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I’d like to thank A-Game and J for contributing their reviews. We’ll keep it up as the year progresses and we continue to cross games off The List. Thanks for reading!


The List – Xia and Arboretum

The other day I posted an article about The List. It’s a list of the unplayed games my group owns. Our goal for 2016 is to work through these unplayed games. As we do so I’ll be posting brief reviews of the games.

These reviews will be after one play, so take that as you will. However, since we have so many unplayed games and so many games that we love to play, if a game doesn’t strike us after one play then we probably won’t play it again.

The other day we crossed two off the list. These were Xia: Legends of a Drift System by Far Off Games and Arboretum by Filosofia and Z-Man Games.

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Xia: Legends of a Drift System


Box cover image via

My friend A-Game backed this one on Kickstarter. We knew that it would be a long game so we limited the play time and used that as the endgame condition.

In Xia players command space vessels set upon gaining Fame Points. Fame points are earned in numerous ways, like exploring, selling cargo, and completing missions.

This is a pretty epic game in terms of decision space and game production. There are bunch of different ships you can command and each has its own miniature to fly around the map.

And speaking of the map, players will expand the map by adding sectors to the map as the game moves along. Sectors can contain planets, nebulae, gates, or even the Sun.

My Thoughts:

I think Xia is a fun game. I enjoy the building of the map and the exploration aspect of the game. There are many ways to earn Fame Points, which allows players to try different things in the game. In some ways this game feels like Merchants and Marauders in space, which is a good thing.

The biggest problem we had with the game was the downtime. When your turn is over it could be a long time until your next turn and there’s really nothing to do during the downtime unless someone attacks you. The downtime was kind of a killer for me.

Overall I thought that Xia was fun and I would play it again. Next time we would try a variant that cuts the downtime, perhaps by limiting players to two actions at a time and then a simultaneous Business Phase.

The Highlight:

On the very first action by the very first player he chose to “Blind Jump” to explore a new sector. It was the Sun and he was destroyed. He died on the very first action in the game. It was pretty hilarious. We let him redo the action and shuffled the Sun back into the deck.

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Box cover image via

This is a game that I almost bought at Gen Con but Z-Man wasn’t discounting the price at all so I passed. In Arboretum players are working to create paths of trees by playing cards to their display.

The gameplay is pretty simple. Players draw two cards, play a card to their display, then discard a card. Play continues until the draw pile is empty. Then the paths are scored.

Where the game is really interesting is in the scoring. There are ten types of trees in the game. To score a tree type you need two things: 1) a Path that begins and ends with that tree type and 2) the highest sum of that tree type in your hand at the end of the game.

So there is a very interesting balance of using cards versus holding on on to them.

My Thoughts:

I’m not a huge fan of the art direction of the game or the theme for that matter. It is different and unique and I give them credit for that but ultimately this seems like an abstract game that could have utilized many different themes and played the same way.

The other issue is that it took a little too long for what the gameplay presented. We all felt as though we wished we could have done more on each turn. Of course that would have changed the thrust of the design. Maybe a nice variant to speed up the game would be to remove one or two tree types.

The Highlight:

Perhaps it was a lowlight instead, but one time when I was drawing cards I drew from Bosun’s discard pile and then flipped the top card of the deck onto his discard pile. It was just a random moment where I spaced out and misplayed. It didn’t affect the game much but it made for a funny moment.

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Overall we are off to a great start by getting two games crossed off The List! We’ve got many more to go, however. And I’m sure we will add a few more games to The List as the year moves along.

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:


2013 in Review

Welcome to 2014! Today I wanted to look back on my experiences in 2013, point out some highlights and mention some stats from the blog. (Unfortunately WordPress won’t send me one of those fancy Year In Review stats thingies since this blog is not quite 1 year old).

January 11th: Scoville Playtest #1

It was nearly one year ago that I playtested Scoville for the first time. I had been working on it a lot and had just had a breakthrough that made it ready for testing. At the time I had no idea that Scoville would make 2013 what it did.

The playtest went really well. Of course there were tweaks to be made. But the overall feeling coming out of that playtest was, “Holy cow… there’s a lot more game here than I thought!” I playtested Scoville 6 more times in January.


I took Scoville to Protospiel-Milwaukee and it was well received. I even got Ryan Metzler to play it! I also got to meet Grant Rodiek, Matt Worden, and Chevee Dodd. If you like game design at all you should be following those three awesome gentlemen on Twitter.

If you want to learn more about my Protospiel experience check out my article: Protospiel Recap

Shortly after Protospiel Tasty Minstrel Games requested a copy of Scoville for evaluation. I obliged, of course, and sent them a copy ASAP. Overall it seems it was definitely worth it to attend Protospiel! Special thanks to Chevee Dodd for his kind words in his recap article: Weekly[ish] Update – 3-15-13

Bellwether Games Interview

One of the highlights of 2013 was being interviewed by Bellwether Games. They interview a designer a month and it was a privilege to join those ranks! You can read the article here: Ed Marriott Interview

TMG Announces Scoville

By July I had signed a contract with Tasty Minstrel Games for Scoville. They announced the deal on July 21st and I was so happy to be able to tell the world! I wrote this article, which includes an awesome logo revision for TMG, about the contract.

Boards & Barley Stats & Stuff

I started Boards & Barley last January with the intent of writing about home brewing and game design. It ended up being heavily tilted toward game design, but I don’t think that’s a problem. Here are the monthly viewership stats:


Overall the site was visited by 90 different countries (that still boggles my mind!). Here’s a look at the map:

22 countries viewed B&B once in 2013.

22 countries viewed B&B once in 2013.

The top five most viewed articles were these:

Apparently people really like reading about prototyping. I’ll definitely write more about that.

The most clicked items were these:

And the top referrers (other than Twitter and Facebook) were:

But 2013 Was All About the People

While it was great that I signed my first game contract and wrote a bunch of stuff and got some people to read it, the real highlight of 2013 was getting to meet so many awesome people in the game design community.

At Protospiel-Milwaukee I met a bunch of awesome designers. I owe them all at least two PBRs each!

At GenCon 2013 I met about 30 designer/publisher people I had not already known. Thanks to everyone who was willing to sit down and spend their precious time playing my Scoville prototype. Also thanks to Matt Worden for inviting me to speak on the Protospiel panel.

At BGG.con I met another 15 people I had not already known. Thanks to all those who were part of the 22 Scoville demos that I ran during the con. Thanks for taking the time to play my prototype when all the hot Essen games were only a few tables away.

Here is a big list of awesome people I met throughout the year (or that I had previously met and got to hang out with again during 2013) (I likely missed a few of you. For that I am terribly sorry!):

Chevee Dodd, Grant Rodiek, Matt Worden, James Mathe, Scott Metzger, Matt Loomis, Carl Klutzke, Eric Jome, JT (The Game Crafter), Brett Myers, Kane Klenko, Espen Klausen, Ryan Metzler, Steve Dast, Peter Dast, Francois Jolie, Neil Roberts, Scott Starkey, Michael Mindes, Seth Jaffee,Ken Grazier, Jason Tagmire, Nolan Lichti, Kevin Kulp, Tom Vasel, Eric Summerer, Chris & Suzanne Zinsli, Jay Treat, Cole Medeiros, Robert Couch, AJ Porfirio, Eric Leath, Mike Mullins, Jeff Large, Kevin Nunn, Don Beyer, Patrick Nickell, Adam MacIver, David Chott, Darrell Louder, Ted Alspach, Ben Rosset, J. Alex Kevern, Benny Sperling, Jax Sperling, Matthew O’Malley, David Miller, Rob Lundy, Michael Coe, Corey Young, TC Petty III, Andrew Tullsen, Chris Kirkman, Jamey Stegmaier, Ben Pinchback, Matt Riddle, Alan R. Moon, Gil Hova, Andy Van Zandt, Dan Manfredini, Rael Dornfest, Scott King, Matt Leacock, Matt Wolfe, Randy Hoyt, Scott Morris, Quinns (SUSD), Colby from Plaid Hat, Norman from Big Game Reviews, Mike Eskue, The I’m Board With Life crew, Brian Frahm, Chris Darden. And there are some many more of you on Twitter that I am looking forward to meeting in person!

Special thanks to Chris Kirkman of Dice Hate Me games for being willing to evaluate a game from an unknown designer.

Special thanks to Michael Mindes and Seth Jaffee of Tasty Minstrel Games for being willing to accept a game from me and for the contract.

Special thanks to Grant Rodiek, Matt Worden, Chevee Dodd, and Brett Myers for your awesomeness at Protospiel-Milwaukee and your willingness to share so much info on the game design community.

Special thanks to my level 1 friends Jeremy Van Maanen, Adam Buckingham, and Ben McQuiston for being willing to playtest my games, whether good or bad, and for telling me the truth about how good or bad they are.

Most special thanks to my wife Erin for putting up with my piles of chits and cubes and cards and paper scraps all over, and for submitting to the earliest and worst playtests of all my game ideas. Love you babe!

2013 was an amazing year and I can’t wait to see what 2014 will bring! Tomorrow I will post an article about my designing and brewing goals for 2014. Thanks for reading!

B&B now on Tumblr!

This is more of a side note than anything. But Boards & Barley is now on Tumblr!

What does that mean? It means I now have a good way to have all my photos in one place. And since I’ll be sharing a lot of photos from GenCon it seemed like a good time to start the Tumblr feed.

If you don’t want Tumblr, no worries! I have it synced to my Twitter account and so the Tumblr posts will also be tweeted there. So if you already follow me on Twitter, you’re already set up to see the awesomeness!

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