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Monday Brews: 3-24-14

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of playing a bunch of game design prototypes as I was attending Protospiel-Milwaukee. Since they were unpublished prototypes I’m not going to share my opinions about them. If you want my opinion, ask me privately.

For those who do not know, Protospiels are game designer conventions. The idea behind them is that you can get feedback on your game designs from other designers, who are likely to see the game differently than gamers in general. It is a fantastic event for aspiring and successful designers alike if for nothing else than networking. I met a bunch of new people, hung out with some old friends, and got my newest design, Brooklyn Bridge, to the table for it’s 4th playtest ever.

Overall it was a great weekend and I can now make both Brooklyn Bridge and Quantum Orcas even better.

But today is Monday, so let’s cover the Boards & Barley that I enjoyed this past week…

The Barley:

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: Lakefront Brewery Big Easy Imperial Maibock

Sometimes it is worthwhile to put the spotlight on things because they are not good. This beer was very interesting. First, if you are going to make a seasonal beer that is light for Spring, why make it Imperial? Second, why make a Maibock that doesn’t taste like a Maibock?

I typically enjoy drinking a Maibock because it makes me think of Spring and melting snow and blossoming flowers. This beer didn’t have the Maibock characteristics that made me think of those things.

The Boards:


I got the chance to play Kane Klenko’s Mad City by Mayfair Games last Saturday and I forgot to add it to last Week’s Monday Brews. Fortunately I was able to play it again at Protospiel so I am placing it in the Boards Spotlight this week.

In Mad City you are building a city of residential, industrial, and urban areas. To score the most points you will want to put those areas near each other. So you should build larges groups of residences or large groups of industry. No one wants their house next to an industry. So the larger the groups you can make, the more you can score.

I won’t get into the game any more than that for now, but you can look forward to a review of Mad City on Friday.

  • Quantum Orcas in space. Plastic monsters work too.

    Quantum Orcas in space. Plastic monsters work too.

    Quantum Orcas – this was requested by several different people who wanted to play it. So I think it was played 4 or 5 times at Protospiel.

  • Crokinole
  • LXIX: Year of Four Emperors designed by Brett Myers
  • Pull! designed by Chevee Dodd
  • Sunset Showdown – designed by Jason Kotarski
  • Lexicards – designed by Wade Johnston
  • Prohibition – designed by Neil Roberts
  • I love those farmer meeples!

    I love those farmer meeples!

    Scoville – I got to play this with the honorable Ryan Metzler of The Dice Tower and a very nice respresentative from AEG. It was fun to play with the farmer meeples that TMG sent me. I lost, but so did Metzler.

  • Copper Country – designed by Scott Diehl and David Lankton of CMX Games
  • Sequoia Grove – my failure of an entry for Dice Hate Me Games’ 54 Card Challenge. But I think I have an interesting mechanic in the game though Metzler would disagree.
  • Backyard Astronaut – designed by Adam Buckingham. I’ve mentioned this one before. He got a bunch of playtests and people enjoyed the game!
  • Don't worry... it's different already!

    Don’t worry… it’s different already!

    Brooklyn Bridge x2 – After a playtest with my Level 1s I made some changes and it worked much better at Protospiel. I got some good feedback and I am now equipped to make this game great.

Those are the games I played last week. It is fun to play a bunch of prototypes and see what other people are working on. It was also fun to do some networking and meet other great people in the game design industry. It’s worth going to things like Protospiel for that alone!

Designer’s Corner

With my attendance at Protospiel I had prepared Version 4 of Brooklyn Bridge in the hopes of playtesting it with other designers. After Playtest #3 last week with my Level 1s I knew I had to adjust things before putting it in front of other designers. So I made a new version (seen in the picture of Brooklyn Bridge above) and tweaked a bunch of stuff.  The result was a much quicker gameplay that finished with scores much more aligned with what I would want final scores to be.

The game at this point works and has interesting decisions. It still needs to be streamlined slightly. I have a path forward in that regard.

Also, I now have a good idea of how I want to separate in-game scoring from end-game scoring so that even if you are behind you still have hope that you can finish with the victory. So there are a lot of good things going on with Brooklyn Bridge.

I also got Quantum Orcas to the table four or five times. I don’t think the game is very good, but several people wanted to play it. Fortunately it plays in 10-15 minutes, so the players didn’t suffer for too long.

I got a bunch of feedback that was all over the map for Quantum Orcas. But perhaps the best thing to come out of Protospiel for the game is that I now have a good way to break ties. I’ll keep testing this one and see if I can make it as awesome as its title.

Thanks to everyone who played my games over the weekend. I had a lot of fun teaching them and watching you play them.

Horizontal Rule

So those are the Boards & Barley I enjoyed last week. Did you try anything new that you thought was special?

Monday Brews – 3-17-14

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Did you know that Saint Patrick is the patron saint of engineers? I am an engineer and at the engineering school I attended they always made a really big deal out of St. Patrick’s day. The school president would wander from classroom to classroom and cut the ties off of the professors. If your professor got his/her tie cut off, then class was over! It was a little strange, but the students always liked it.

Anyway, who is going to celebrate with a Guinness tonight? Well, if you do, enjoy one for me too! I’ll be at home working on getting Brooklyn Bridge ready for Protospiel-Milwaukee. More on that below.

Let’s recap the Boards & Barley I enjoyed last week…

The Barley:

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: 4 Brothers Sibling Rivalry

At my local grocery store I noticed this new brand and chatted with the fine elderly gentlemen that runs the beer portion of the store. It is a Wisconsin beer company and they make “blended” beer. For example, the Sibling Rivalry is a blend of an Amber, a Red, and a Brown ale. But don’t worry, if you drink one it still only counts as consuming one beer! I thought it was actually quite tasty. My initial worry was that they must be bad at making good beer and so they figured they would blend it because then no one would know whether it was good or not. But at a recent game night someone mentioned that three bad beers can’t be blended to make a good beer. And I thought it was a good beer, so they must be good at making beer. If you see this or their other three styles at your local store, give it a shot!

  • NEW! Tommyknocker Cocoa Porter Winter Ale: I enjoyed this cocoa porter from a brewery that I had not previously heard of. They have a few others varieties I’d like to sample.
  • Breckenridge Vanilla Porter
  • New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red
  • NEW! Tyranena Down ‘n’ Dirty: This was a very enjoyable chocolate oatmeal stout that was neither too heavy on chocolate nor oatmeal. I’d enjoy another one.

The Boards:

The ugly first prototype.


I finally got Playtest #1 out of the way. That’s always a huge barrier and it has been vanquished.

Brooklyn Bridge is a time-based worker placement/resource management game about building the Brooklyn Bridge. In the game you have a small crew of workers that will need to collect and use resources to build the bridge. The crew that contributes the most to completing the bridge will be the winner.

The design is currently set for 2-5 players. It took my friend Adam and I 2.5 hours for the first playtest. That is much longer than I anticipate a final version to take since we were discussing a ton of things and playing relatively slowly. The bottom line, though, from playtest #1 was that the game worked, nothing seemed broken, it included some very interesting choices, and it seemed fun. So I am VERY pleased with how it went.

  • Dungeon Roll x3
  • Forbidden Island x3: This is not a new game to me, but it was new to my kids (ages 4 and 2). I thought I would see if they liked it and they totally did. They kept asking me to play “the island game” with them. The strange part is that we won all three games that we played. That almost never happens! I’m just glad they enjoyed it and I hope it serves as a gateway to get them playing some more awesome games.
  • NEW! Curling: Jeremy, the maker of the crokinole board and guest post writer from last week also made a curling board. You can check out a picture of it in my tweet here. It was a ton of fun to play even though it took a while to figure out how hard to slide the discs. It will be even more fun when we get good at it.
  • Crokinole
  • Robo Rally (8 players)
  • Kingdom Builder (8 players)
  • NEW! Tessen: While I had previously played a demo copy, taught by the designers Chris and Suzanne Zinsli, this was my first play of my final production copy. This game is really enjoyable, fast-paced, and fun. I beat my sister in three straight games.
  • Tip the Cows: If you have ever played Pass the Pigs, then you know how to play Tip the Cows. It’s basically the same game but with cows instead of pigs. It’s a fun little press your luck game where you get to roll cute animals.

Designer’s Corner:

So Brooklyn Bridge Playtest #1 went well… what’s next? I have already redesigned and made a second prototype board based on the results from the first playtest. Normally I don’t like to change things until it has been played a bunch, but due to the weight of this game and the obviousness of some of the necessary changes I don’t see any reason why I should postpone integrating the changes.

I am very excited about this game and I’m hoping to test it two more times this week so I can tune it a bit before Protospiel-Milwaukee. I think it has a lot of potential and I can’t wait to get it in front of more players!

Horizontal RuleSo those are the Boards & Barley I enjoyed last week. What did you enjoy? Did you play anything for the first time? Any new brews?

Monday Brews 3-10-14

At Protospiel-Milwaukee your dreams can come true! (Photo from

As we start another week it is great to know that the weather will be warming soon, the grass will reappear, and we will all be able to spend more time outside. The downside is that often means less gaming. The upside is that it means more grilling and drinking beer, which is awesome on a warm summer day. I can almost smell some brats sizzling right now.

Alas, there is still over a foot of snow in my yard and I’m still cold. Fortunately it’s almost “Game Design Season!”

What is Game Design Season? Well, for me it is book-ended by Protospiel-Milwaukee in March and September. But doesn’t game design happen year round? Certainly. I work on game designs throughout the year. But from March to September I am presented with more awesome opportunities like Protospiel and GenCon. It is those opportunities, and the awesome people who attend them, that really make it Game Design Season for me.

So Protospiel-Milwaukee is a couple weeks away and I’m in hurry-up mode trying to get a few games/expansions prototyped and playtested. Designer feedback at those types of conventions is some of the most valuable feedback you can get. I’ll be attending Protospiel-Milwaukee and I hope to see you there.

Now let’s get to the Boards & Barley that I enjoyed last week…

The Barley:


Nothing makes it seem more like Spring is right around the corner than enjoying a Maibock! Well, maybe daylight savings or March Madness, but you get the idea. Capital Brewery, in my own city, produces a very enjoyable Maibock.

I had my first Maibock of the year while chatting with a Level 1 friend about game design. I was sharing with him my ideas for Brooklyn Bridge. It was an enjoyable conversation with an enjoyable spring beer… as it was snowing.

  • Capital Amber
  • NEW! Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale: My friends know that I’m not a huge fan of hoppy beers. But they recommended this one to me because it wasn’t too hoppy. I agreed and I quite enjoyed this beer, from a company known for being hop-forward.
  • North Coast Brother Thelonius
  • Fleming’s Scotch Ale (Homebrew)

The Boards:

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: Tokaido (Antoine Bauza)

So beautiful. I wish I had a poster of this box cover!

So beautiful. I wish I had a poster of this box cover!

I finally had the chance to play Tokaido. While the game isn’t the best game I’ve ever played, I would say that it definitely was enjoyable. The idea of taking a journey through the mountains and trying to maximize your points while others are taking the spots you wanted seems to work really well. The game is simple enough yet presents interesting enough decisions.

But the real “selling point” for me is the artwork. Everything about the game looks good. It has a very clean look with well defined artwork. The cards are beautiful, the money looks great, the board looks nice and the box cover blows me away. I’d play it again just to see all the amazing art one more time.

  • Dungeon Roll x4
  • Crokinole x3
  • Backyard Astronaut: This is not a published game… yet. It is a friend’s design that is awesome and enjoyable. It is a tile based game where you are building a rocket from scraps found in a junkyard. Community scoring conditions guide your decisions in this 2-5 player game. I am looking forward to playing it again at Protospiel-Milwaukee!

Designer’s Corner:

I currently have two active projects that I am trying to get ready for Protospiel-Milwaukee. One of them is the oft-mentioned Brooklyn Bridge and the other is a possible expansion for a different game with which I am associated. I won’t say anything about the latter, but the former is coming along nicely. I almost have a prototype completed and I think I should be able to get in Playtest #1 this week! Hopefully it will work and not seem totally broken.

So if you are going to Protospiel-Milwaukee you’ll be one of the first to see/play either of those projects! I hope you can join me there.

Horizontal Rule

So those are the Boards & Barley that I enjoyed last week. What did you enjoy? Play or drink anything new that was really awesome?

Monday Brews: 9-30-13

Today is the last day in September. Where did this month go??? Well, at least it is ending nicely by attending Protospiel-Milwaukee this past weekend! So I had the opportunity to play some unpublished games, including some that I really really enjoyed.

I have an opinion about writing about unpublished games. Here it is:

If you loved the game, write about it. If you did not love the game, don’t write about it. Negative press for any game that potentially could be published as anything other than the form you played it is just bad business.

So while there were other games I played that I enjoyed but the designer will be changing, I will not be writing about them. I don’t want to be unfair to any designers whose games may change for the better. But I want the games I played that I thought were awesome to be noted as such.

Alright, here’s the list of the Boards & Barley that I enjoyed this past week:

The Barley

I wish I had these glasses to further my enjoyment of pumpkin beer!

O’Fallon Pumpkin Beer: This beer has a lot of pumpkin attitude in it. There’s nothing subtle about the amount of pumpkin in this one. It was enjoyable, but be warned that it is heavy on pumpkin.

New Glarus Totally Naked: I used to dislike this beer for some reason that I cannot remember. But when I had a bottle of it that was leftover after the latest game night I found that it was quite enjoyable. It’s just an enjoyable brew.

Milwaukee Brewing Sasquash Pumpkin Porter: Wow. Now this was an enjoyable beer! I was glad my friend Ben brought it over for us to enjoy. Want to learn more? Check out this article by Chris Drosner of the Wisconsin State Journal.

New Glarus Staghorn Oktoberfest: I enjoyed two of these excellent beers while attending the New Glarus Oktoberfest celebration with fellow game designers: Brett Myers (@Brettspiel), Chevee Dodd (@cheveedodd), and Dave Ross (@ddgdrs). The pretzel bigger than my head and the delicious brat were excellent as well!

Pearl Street El Heffe: This was enjoyed at Protospiel, in a glass, because we bring glasses to Protospiel because beer is better in a glass than the bottle. It was a fine wheat beer, though my attention was more on games than beer.

The Boards

X-Wing: I played my second game of X-Wing while brewing a Scotch Ale on a chilly Wedndesday night. It was beautiful! However, my experience was enhanced by my ability to roll only hits and critical hits. I think I only had three dice results all night that were misses.

Scoville: While at Protospiel I was able to teach a 4 player game and to partake in a 3 player game. The 4 player game had three first timers, so it took a little longer than I would have liked, but afterwards one of the new player said they’ll be backing it when it goes up on Kickstarter! So that was pretty awesome. And in the 3-player test I got a lot of good feedback which I will be mentioning to the publisher.

The blurriness is due to the Orcas jumping across time!

The blurriness is due to the Orcas jumping across time!

Quantum Orcas: Yes, this is the game that I made up last Friday in my Design Me article! I mocked it up and it actually got played 4 times during Protospiel. That was partially due to it being about a 10 minute game. It got comments like, “It didn’t suck,” “It was playable,” and “It was really interesting.” So I’m pleased that a game that was less than a day old was not broken and actually worked pretty well.

The City Beneath: Designed by my friend Adam Buckingham (@adambuckingham) this is a game about a heist crew who has stolen some stuff and now are trying to get away. In the game players begin with limited skills. Throughout the game they can increase their skills and be able to elude the police more efficiently while placing the blame on the other players. There are some really awesome social aspects to this game that make it quite enjoyable. Adam has put in a lot of effort and this game keeps getting better and better!

Hedeby: Chevee Dodd cut my first play of this short when he taught it at Protospiel-Milwaukee back in March. This time around, with the game being an insane overhaul of awesomeness, we were able to play the game without him ending it. This game is really fantastic! You are Vikings who are trying to raid and build a town. The engine building portion of the game is totally awesome and it gives you the means of decreasing the luck of the dice as the game progresses. I will be owning this game when it comes out!

Baron Age: By the designer of Coin Age, Adam McIver (@ad7m), this game has some of the feel of Coin Age, but it is ramped up in a most amazing way. In Baron Age players try to control areas to earn points. On it’s own that doesn’t sound that different or unique, but the way it is utilized in the game is awesome. Players each have their own scoring condition that is secret. Throughout the game you are rolling and placing dice onto a map with distinct regions, each with a different number of sections. Three dice can be placed in each region. But depending on what the die results were the player gets to do different things. I won’t give more details here, but like Hedeby, I will be owning this game when it comes out!


So that’s the Boards and Barley that I enjoyed this week. What did you enjoy this past week?

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