At the start of 2016 I posted an article called “The List.” The article was a list of games that my gaming group owns but had not yet played. It was a pretty good sized list that grew throughout 2016. For the first half of the year I was regularly posting updates to The List and providing brief reviews of the games we crossed off. That tailed off a bit later in the year when I gamed less and lost a little interest in gaming due to life.
But here we are at the end of 2016 so I am providing one final recap to The List. Let’s take a look at how we did. Go back and visit the original article: The List.
The Final Tally
There are 57 games on The List, which does not include games like Great Western Trail, SeaFall, Grand Austria Hotel, and many more that were purchased along the way. I’ll leave those out for now since that’s too much to try and remember (I should have stuck with the regular updates).
Of those 57, 28 were played.
So 28/57 means we played less than half of the games. Ouch.
Some games got traded before we played them. Others were just not interesting enough. Mistakes were made. Excuses rose to the surface. For one reason or another we didn’t do that great with The List.
This is kind of a downer and I don’t want downers to drown out the joy that I had through board gaming in 2016. So here are my top games from the year:
Top 5 Games of 2016
- Orleans: This was/is my favorite. I love how it all works together. I love how every decision seems like a good one and that everything you are doing moves you forward rather than backward. It works really well and flows smoothly. I think I might get the expansion for 2017.
- Pandemic: Legacy: I’m not a huge Pandemic fan. But this makes the list because of the great group of people I am playing it with. We’ve had a lot of fun trying to work through the ups and (mostly) downs that the game presents. We’ve come up with creative names, like Eko “Flavor-Crystal” Farts. Overall it has provided hours of great gaming time with great friends.
- Karuba: It’s so simple to teach and play. I’ve introduced it to a bunch of people and now my family collectively owns three copies between me and my brothers-in-law.
- Scythe: I only played once and I played poorly. However, it is obvious that this game has great depth and a truly immersive experience. It takes a special game to make you feel like you are in the game. This one succeeds at that.
- The Voyages of Marco Polo: True, classic, solid Euro. Really hit the mark for me. I LOVE the variable player powers. The dice placement works really well. Overall this is a game I can’t wait to play again.
Best Expansion of 2016
A little shameless self-promotion never hurt anyone, right? My favorite expansion from 2016 was Scoville: Labs!
What I love most about this expansion is that it adds a great layer of control to the game.
One of the things people griped about with the base game was that it was too tactical and they didn’t have enough control with what they were getting and when they would get it. That’s why i designed the personal pepper lab.
With the lab you can control exactly what you get and when you get it. This allows for a greater level of strategy rather than the more tactical base game.
Plus, as a bonus it comes with a bunch of extra peppers, which helps with the other common gripe from the base game that players would run out of peppers.
Check out Scoville: Labs from your favorite local game store or your favorite online game store.
Honorable Mention Games of 2016
There are a bunch of other games I really enjoyed from 2016. My list above was capped at 5 to really highlight those games, but these games also deserve some attention.
- Covert: The highlight of this spy-themed cold war Euro is how you can create fantastic combinations of cards, which allow you to pull of some really great moves. The gameplay works well and the artwork is amazing.
- Potion Explosion: This was a hit with some of our wives, which means it’s a winner. I didn’t have high expectations for this game, but once I played it I realized that I wanted to keep playing. The part that sells it to me was the special abilities of the potions.
- Quadropolis: So clever and tight and unique. Decisions are interesting and the placement of your tiles matters SO MUCH! I really like trying to figure out the best placement for tiles relative to how other players are playing. There’s actually quite a bit of interaction here as well.
- SeaFall: I’m not sure yet whether I enjoy this game. However, the experience is really what you are paying for when you buy this one. This presents a fantastically immersive experience for gamers. Now all I have to do is try to figure out how to get out of last place before we are done with the campaign.
- Terraforming Mars: Use the Draft Variant. This is a really enjoyable engine building game (using “engine building” lightly). Players use cards and can create combinations that will help them get ahead. Without the draft variant this game wouldn’t make the list.
Looking Ahead to 2017
I’m not doing another “The List” type thing. That was too much effort to track and bother over.
Another mistake from 2016 was that my gaming group switched to once-a-month rather than twice a month. We will be going back to twice a month.
As for design efforts I have one solo design that I believe has great potential and one co-design that I believe has even greater potential. Development on these two games will be at the forefront of my efforts. It would be great if I could get another game signed, but that’s something that is outside of my control and, as such, is not a reasonable goal.
My 2017 convention schedule is sparse at this point. I’ll probably go to Protospiel-Milwaukee in the spring and Protospiel-Madison in the fall. I’ll definitely be going to Gen Con in August. I’d love to go back to Grand Con in September or BGG.Con in November. Those are both enjoyable gaming-focused cons. Maybe 2017 will be the year I finally get to Origins.
As for this website, I’d like to hear from you. Let me know what sorts of articles you are interested in reading. What would you like to see on this site? Do you want more random design efforts like the Design Me articles? Would you like more tutorials like the “How To Teach Games” type stuff? Or maybe more game design related content like blank card templates or usable vector icons? Please feel free to comment here or on Twitter and let me know what sort of content you would be the most interested in.
Thanks for reading! I wish you a great 2017.
I’ve been messing around with half a dozen designs lately and I seem to be stuck on each and every one of them. The only design that is making progress is a co-design with a friend of mine. So I’ve been thinking about mixing it up to try some different approaches to designing game. Today I wanted to present four approaches that you can use as a starting point. I am going to try each of these four approaches over the next month and see if I find inspiration.
One of the most popular ways of starting out a game design is to choose a theme that you think is interesting.
This is a wide open way to design. You could choose to design about paratroopers rescuing chickens stranded on Antarctica. You could design about scuttlefish escaping sea urchins.
Going Theme First allows you to choose whatever you want the game to be about. Once you’ve chosen the theme you can then begin to consider the mechanics that might fit with the theme.
I personally like Theme First design. I like to picture myself immersed in the theme wondering what ways I can bring the theme together and make it feel like a grand experience.
This is probably the other most popular way of designing a game. The designer might come up with a really interesting way to play a game. This could be a new component, a new way of using a component, a new combination of mechanics, or other things that haven’t been done before. Or you could pick a mechanic that has been done before and add a twist.
Once you’ve figured out your main mechanic and made it playable you can try to figure out what type of theme might fit with your mechanic.
This way of designing assures the designer that their game will utilize a gameplay mechanic that they like.
Scoring Condition First
This is a lesser used way of designing games. Some abstract games are designed with the scoring condition as the driver for the design.
This is essentially a specific variant of Mechanic First design, but with the end-game in mind. Designers choose how they want the scoring to work. Then they will fill in the design with the mechanics and slap on a theme if necessary.
This is something that I’ve been wanting to do but have not found a scoring condition that I like enough to build a game around.
This is a tough one to do because most designers don’t design around a “final product” type component. But there are times when a designer may make a game from the components that they have available.
When designing component first you would often choose a component or components that you really want in your game. Then you would choose a theme or mechanic that will work with those components.
This can be pretty awesome if you have a great component in mind. If you want to go with this approach it is probably best to be innovative and use either new components that haven’t been used in games before or to utilize existing components in new ways.
There are, of course, other ways to get started with a game design but I think these four ways are a great starting point to get you thinking about your game designs. If you have other ways that you think are important, please share them in the comments section. Thanks for reading and have a great Thanksgiving (If you are in the US) or a great weekend around the rest of the world.
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.
When designing games it often becomes helpful or necessary to have a quality prototype, which often includes a quad-fold board. There are easy ways to do it, like taping a few pieces of paper together. And there are more difficult ways to make them. I usually only make them when I would rather have it fold to fit in a box. Today I want to share my method for producing a decent quad-fold board for your game design purposes.
Here are the components I use when making a quad-fold board:
- Matte board (I buy bulk scrap matte board at Hobby Lobby since it is so inexpensive)
- Photo Paper (I use Kodak Glossy Photo Paper)
- Glue Stick (Or adhesive of your choice)
- Tape (I prefer masking tape)
- Rotary Cutter (I use this one)
The methods in this article are based on the fact that I have a 12 inch rotary cutter that cannot cut through two pieces of matte board at the same time. If I could cut through two matte board pieces at a time then I would probably use a different method.
My assumption here is that you already have artwork you’ve created. If you have the artwork ready, then here are the steps I follow to make my quad fold boards…
Print the Artwork
When I work with larger sized images I usually print them from either MS Publisher or MS Powerpoint. Publisher will require you make a larger template, but that is pretty easy to do. When you print this way you will print on several sheets of paper.
Once they are printed I will cut off the white margins for all the interior edges that will join up together. You can see an example of the cut photo paper above in the image with the glue stick.
Glue the First Two Pieces
Depending on whether you want your board to fold with the artwork out (unusual) or inward (common) you will either have to do one or two of these procedures respectively.
As I mentioned earlier, you will do this once if you don’t care that your artwork folds outward. If you prefer your artwork to fold inward, then repeat this process with the other two pieces of your quad-fold board.
Before moving on I always like to check how smoothly the board folds. Here’s my example:
Completing your Board
With a set of two pieces taped together you are now set to complete your board. This step is pretty simple. With all four pieces laid out, flip them all over together. Make sure they go into the correct places when flipped. You don’t want to flip them where they are but rather flip them and swap them horizontally. Before I start I put a piece of tape in the corners that line up in the middle of the board. This helps me know that I have the pieces together the right way.
With them in the correct locations, all you need to do is apply two more pieces of tape as seen here:
Completed Quad-Fold Board!
And there you go! You now know how to make a quad-fold board for your game designs. Just keep in mind that if you would prefer the artwork to fold inward then do the “Glue the First Two Pieces” process twice. Then flip them and use only one piece of tape on one of the seams.
Here’s is my completed board for this article:
And here is the quad-fold board I made for a high quality prototype of Scoville using Joshua Cappel’s artwork:
If you are not equipped with printing capabilities or if you would prefer to not do this on your own, then feel free to utilize The Game Crafter as they can create a quality quad-fold board for you. You just upload your artwork in the correct size and pay a little money and they’ll make your board and mail it to you.
They have the following options available:
- Bi-fold Board (9 x 18 inches)
- Accordion Board (8 x 16 inches)
- Quad-fold Board (18 x 18 inches)
- Six-Fold Board (27 x 18 inches)
So how do you make your quad-fold boards? Do you use a different method? I’d love to hear if there is a better way (I’m sure there is).
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!