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Grand Con 2016 Recap

Grand Con Logo Revised.pngI had the privilege of being a guest at Grand Con 2016. I was invited to attend, run demos of Scoville, give a seminar about The Story of Scoville, and attend the VIP dinner where there was a special surprise.

Grand Con is a gaming convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It has been growing each year and had an expected attendance of about 2,000 people this year. They are out-growing their facility because there is so much awesomeness!

Attenders could visit the vendor hall, with a nice selection of vendors and products. For gaming vendors there was Tasty Minstrel Games, Floodgate Games, Kids Table Board Gaming, Green Couch Games, Calliope Games, Action Phase Games, and a few more that I don’t remember. For a full list visit the vendor page.There were also some RPG booths, a couple local game store booths, and a few other things as well. It was a nice vendor hall that I will expect to be even grander next year.

Attenders also had access to the Grand Con game library. This one isn’t as large as the Gen Con game library, but I would say that the quality of games in the Grand Con library was better since they weren’t overloaded with a bunch of out-dated inventory. There was a great selection of about 400 games, many of which were brand new. The gaming library room was almost always full.

Another nice thing was that Grand Con had many events and a nice event catalog for the attenders. They had brought in a bunch of game designers and ran charity “Play with the Designer” events. The gamers really seemed to like these events. Proceeds went to the De Vos Children’s Hopsital.

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Craft Beer I Enjoyed

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Some awesome artwork on the Bell’s Eccentric Cafe menu.

You can’t really go to Grand Rapids and not enjoy craft beer (unless beer isn’t your thing). So we made sure to work in a few different breweries along the way. On the way to Grand Rapids we stopped at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo. We enjoyed some flights of beer in their beer garden and soaked up a little sun in the beautiful weather. My favorite beers from Bell’s were the Roundhouse India Red Ale and the Special Double Cream Stout.

After we left Bell’s we headed to Grand Rapids and ate dinner outside at Founders Brewing. They have an amazing indoor/outdoor area to accompany their excellent beer. Since I had tried 8 different kinds at Bell’s I was feeling a little beered out. I opted for a low abv beer called CTRL ALT Delete. When I “Untappd” it I earned a special badge that I had been working towards. I earned “Legendary” status for having 500 unique beer check-ins.

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That was a fun milestone to hit and I’m glad that it happened in “Beer City.” During our trip we also visited Brewery Vivant, which was probably awesome but I was struggling from a duel with some bad sushi, so I didn’t partake. It was located in this awesome old church and everyone liked the beers they got.

The other brewery that my friend Jeremy and his wife visited was The Mitten, which is in an old firehouse. He mentioned that the beer was pretty good overall.

It was nice to be able to fit the “Barley” with the “Boards” and make it a complete trip.

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Games I Played

One of the best parts of a game convention for me is that I can usually learn and play new games that I don’t own. My wife and I attended with another couple. So we took advantage of free time and the game library and learned and played the following games:

Port Royal: We played this in our hotel room and we love this game.

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The marble holder where explosions occur!

Potion ExplosionMy friends and I had tried to demo this at Gen Con but the demo copy was always occupied. So we grabbed the library copy and played it and really enjoyed it. The decisions were more interesting than I expected and my friend ended up buying a copy at one of the vendors.

Fauna: This game is kind of like an animal specific version of Wits and Wagers. Players have to guess things like where animals live, the weight, the length, or the height of the animal. We liked it and thought our kids would like it. It was easy to learn and play.

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A look at the box and main board of Coal Baron.

Coal BaronI had wanted to play this one for a long time. Jeremy and I got it out. I had already read the rules so we were able to get started pretty quickly. I really enjoyed this game. The artwork is great, the gameplay is fun and interesting, and it all worked well. The only complaint I had was the paper money. They really missed the mark with the paper money as they could easily have used cardboard coins like most of the game industry. Overall this was my favorite “new to me” game of the convention and I’m glad I finally was able to play it.

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The unnecessary but cool looking ships of North Wind.

North Wind: We sort of enjoyed this Klaus Teuber game since it has some fun decisions. The downside is that you can literally go the entire game without ever being able to complete an objective. This is simply based on the luck of the draw from the tiles you reveal. The other downside for us was the constant shuffling of a tile pile after each player took their turn.

Gold West: I had played the prototype with the designer a couple years ago and I really enjoyed it. I am sad that it has taken me this long to play the final product. I think this game has some fun and interesting choices. The gameplay is pretty simple though the main mechanic can be a bit tricky to figure out how best to use it. I love the theme. The artwork was excellent as well. I recommend checking it out. If I hadn’t played it before the con this may have ousted Coal Baron for my favorite game.

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A nice look at the game board for Gold West.

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The Cacao  board near the end of the game.

Cacao: This wasn’t in the library. Jeremy bought a copy from a vendor and we cracked it open. It is a tile laying game where played collect and sell cocoa pods. Players also utilize the temples for scoring, take advantage of the lakes, and earn sun tiles for bonus overlaying abilities. We collectively enjoyed the game quite a bit. While I was off on a Scoville demo, the other three played it a second time. So it was well liked.

Vikings on Board: Jeremy and I had considered purchasing this at Gen Con. The rules are pretty simple but the gameplay is total chaos. We stopped playing because we didn’t like that you had seemingly little control over what you could accomplish. It was definitely too much of a “take-that” game for the four of us.

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The Vikings on board the board for Vikings on Board.

Going, Going, Gone!I had played this at BGG Con 2013 with Mr. Buonocore and company. At that time of night it was an excellent experience. So we cracked it open here and enjoyed it as well. My wife was great at dumping all her cubes into one single cup, which she would win, and then have very few cubes left. She won one auction 12 to nothing. She won another 7 to nothing. She didn’t win the game. Jeremy managed to get a set of 7 instruments for a big score of 44. We liked it and I’ll definitely play it again.

Train of ThoughtWe got this older TMG game to the table since we wanted a shorter game. In Train of Thought you try to get the other players to guess your secret word by using a pre-determined word in your clue. When (if) they guess, you get a new secret word and have to use the guessed word in the clue. Your round continues with your train of thought until the timer runs out. Some of the words were really tough to connect, but as we went on we got better at it.

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Scoville Experience

It was a privilege and honor to join the Grand Con team to run a few charity “Play With The Designer” Scoville events. At each of these events I was able to award the winner a copy of Scoville. It is always so much fun to play with people who are new to the game or with people who have played it and are passionate about it. I got a good mix of both during the convention. During one event the guy who took second place went to the TMG booth in the vendor hall, bought a copy of Scoville and Scoville: Labs and brought the back to me to have him sign them. That sort of stuff is really what makes game design worth it to me.

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A Scoville conga line!

Overall people who played seemed to really enjoy the game. One couple had me sign one of their recipe cards, which I was happy to do.

The other cool event was a seminar called, “The Story of Scoville.” For this seminar I was joined by the Scoville artist, Josh Cappel, and the TMG representative at Grand Con, Daniel Hadlock. We covered the whole story from my end of coming up with the design, to Josh’s artistic picture of the process, to Daniel’s “behind the scenes” manufacturing and distributing stuff. It was a lot of fun to do. One of the people was a younger guy who is interested in game design. It was a great opportunity to share with him some of the things I have learned along the way about game design.

The other really awesome thing was the VIP dinner on Saturday night. Each of the VIPs and the guests had a special banquet dinner with each other. I had an excellent steak and baked potato and some local craft beer. But the highlight of that party for me was the special cakes that Grand Con had made for the event. It speaks for itself:

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A Scoville (right) and Scoville Labs (left) cake to celebrate the convention!

The whole cake was edible. The hand and trophy were made with rice krispies. The top layer was a bananas foster cake. The bottom layer was a spicy chocolate cake. And the labs flask was a cookies and cream cake. It was a little sad when they started to get cut up and served to people. I couldn’t believe how awesome the cakes were and it was so exciting to be a part of that.

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Overall I’d like to thank Marc Specter and Brian Lenz and all the Grand Con team for putting on an excellent show and for inviting me to be a part of it. I also want to thank those people who participated in all the charity events. Your generosity was excellent. It was great to see good friends and make new ones. The board gaming community is always awesome and it’s so fun to be a part of it!

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Scoville: Labs Now on Kickstarter!

The first expansion for Scoville is now live on Kickstarter! For $20 you can get the expansion. For $60 you can get the game and the expansion! But hurry, this campaign is only for 10 days and ends on August 21st!

The following information is from the Kickstarter campaign page

What’s In The Box?

Scoville Labs is an expansion for Scoville. [the base game is required for play.]  In the box you will find:

  • 6 Player Labs for private pepper research.
  • 9 Market Orders.
  • 9 Recipes.
  • Pepper Multiplier tokens.
  • 6 More “Plant 1 Extra Pepper” tokens.
  • 5 Phantom Peppers.
  • 5 each Green, Orange, and Purple Peppers.
  • 5 each Black, Brown, and White Peppers.
  • 1 Rule Book

And there are stretch goals, so when the project receives enough funding then we’ll get more awesome stuff in the box! Go check out the campaign to learn more about the stretch goals.

What Makes It Special?

The laboratory workbench for the blue player.

The laboratory workbench for the blue player.

Scoville: Labs is great because it gives players something they lacked in the base game: Control. Now that the competitors in the Scoville Chili Festival are allowed to do their own research they’ve all installed their own lab. The lab allows a player to plant and cross-breed peppers outside of the influence of other players. Now they can have more control over some of the peppers they will receive, and when they will receive them.

Using the 3 x 3 pepper lab players may plant a pepper in one of the pots each round. In subsequent rounds whenever a new pepper is planted it will immediately cross breed with the peppers directly adjacent to it. No one can mess with your lab, which means you have control over what you want to harvest from your lab.

I really like how the simple 3 x 3 personal lab can modify the game in such a fun and exciting way. I’m looking forward to seeing what you all think of it.

Plus, the expansion comes with more of those awesome peppers! So go check it out today! I’d love your support.

Monday Brews – 3-30-15

Welcome back to Boards and Barley. It’s been 20 days since I last posted anything. Why? Because board gaming stuff is a hobby and not a job (Though if that changed it would be pretty sweet). I love blogging about board game stuff, but when things get really busy this hobby falls to the back seat before anything else. Never-the-less, I’m going to adjust my schedule so that I can continue blogging and sharing tips about homebrewing and designing board games.

One of the first things I want to do is to renovate (i.e., create) a Game Design Page that compiles all of my articles about the game design process. I’ve posted stuff about game design from concept to publication and I think having all that in one place would be really useful.

I also want to start a regular Tuesday article about beer that focuses on a Beer of the Week. I like to try as many new beers as I can and I’d like to share my thoughts about the beer and its style with you.

Another thing that I’ve missed doing are the “Design Me” game design exercises. These are relatively easy to post so I think I’ll try to get back into those. Plus, they are very beneficial for game designers as they help flex your game design muscle.

But today is Monday so let’s check out the Boards & Barley I’ve been enjoying!

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The Barley

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT:
NEW! Ale Asylum HuMMMane India Brown Ale

I bought a six pack of this brew at my FLBS (Favorite local beer store) because they were giving away samples and because the proceeds would go to support the local Honor Flight. For those not aware of the Honor Flight program, it is a program that takes war veterans to Washington DC to visit their respective war memorials. Then there are usually nice crowds to welcome the war heroes back home when their airplane lands. With a father who was in the military and with a brother who has served tours of duty in places I would never want to go I am very happy to support the military whenever possible, and the honor flights are a great way to do so.

New Beer Count for 2015: 22

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The Boards

My sister beat me and become the Harbour Master!

My sister beat me and become the Harbour Master!

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT:
NEW! Harbour

There is a lot of game in this little box. In Harbour players try to manage their resources, ship goods, and buy buildings. There are a lot of interesting decisions to be made while hoping your opponents don’t modify the market and sweep the rug out from under your feet. I’m glad I backed this Tasty Minstrel Games project on Kickstarter.

  • Scoville
  • NEW! Fidelitas I thought this game was pretty clever. I played a 2 player game and I enjoyed it. Playing it a second time will be even better know that I have a better idea of how the game is played and what combos exist.
  • Crokinole
  • Concordia (Half of a game)
  • Dungeon Roll
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Ziggurat Playtest

New Board Game Count for 2015: 15

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So those are the Boards & Barley that I’ve been enjoying. What have you been enjoying?

When you receive Scoville…

Awesomeness coming soon to a table near you!

Awesomeness coming soon to a table near you!

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen. With people posting pictures of their copies of Scoville on Twitter and Facebook I figured I should post something about Scoville. This has been an extremely fun ride from the start of the design process all the way through to this point. I can’t wait to start reading reviews and hearing what people think.

So today I have a few tips regarding the game and the components. I will also link to a different version of the cross-breeding chart for those who are more equation oriented.

Before we get into the tips, if you have received your copy, please go ahead and Tweet it, Facebook it, Instagram it, BGG it, or anything else. Let’s spread the word about Scoville and make it a big hit. (Disclaimer: if you don’t like it, please keep your mouth and social media shut. 🙂 Thanks!)

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Components:

OCD vs. non-OCD: The board has pepper punch-outs so that the peppers can be “planted” and all line up perfectly. This is great for people who want things all orderly and such. HOWEVER, if you would prefer to be able to put the peppers on the board in any direction, then just don’t punch out the pepper punch outs.

Would you prefer those peppers to be sloppily arranged?

Would you prefer those peppers to be sloppily arranged?

Pepper Punch-outs: “Pepper Punch-outs” is not the name of an expansion I’m working on (though I suppose it could be!). These are the little cardboard pepper shaped pieces you can punch out of the board. I mention them because they come in really handy if you happen to run out on any specific color of pepper during the game. I recommend saving these little cardboard peppers in the box, just in case you need them.

Sleeve the Cards?: Some people sleeve cards for every single game they own. Others sleeve them for games with high-use cards. The cards in Scoville are what I would call “low-use.” The cards are only handled when obtaining them and scoring them at the end. Otherwise they just sit around. So I personally don’t feel they need to be sleeved. However, if you prefer them sleeved, check out this thread on BGG which can give some guidance about the right size of sleeves. The recipes are 44x67mm and the market cards are 51x51mm.

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Gameplay:

One of the biggest issues I hear from new players is that the cross-breeding chart is too much to grok. So I made a new version that is simpler to read and lists the rules of thumb for cross-breeding. You can download the doc file from Board Game Geek. Or you can save this picture and print it:

An alternate Scoville Cross-Breeding Guide.

An alternate Scoville Cross-Breeding Guide.

That should help you out in case you don’t like the 10×10 grid version.

As I designed the game I struggled mightily about choosing the form of the cross breeding chart. This equation version was easy to read and put things succinctly. But the grid put every breeding combo right in front of you. So I went with the grid. If you prefer this equation version, please let me know.

Beginner Tips

Bonus Plaques and Market Orders: Recipes are mighty appealing, and they should be. But don’t count out the bonus award plaques from the town mayor. Also, don’t neglect the market orders. Many of the afternoon orders are worth 4 points. So if you can get a few of those they really add up.

Bonus Abilities: These are worth 4 points each if unused, but I recommend using them. They can be used to create a huge advantage in the game. One way I like to use them is to gain multiple phantom peppers at a time while preventing all other players from getting any. Plus, the game is meant to be played for fun and I believe it is fun to use those special abilities.

Block other Players: I love how you can block other players from spots on the field. Use this to your advantage. Plant a good combo in a spot only you can reach and then end your turn there even if you’ve only moved one or two spots. This can induce frustration from the other players, which can be fun.

The Yellow and Red player are mired in battle for the peppers in that part of the board.

The Yellow and Red player are mired in battle for the peppers in that part of the board.

Horizontal RuleThanks so much for your interest in Scoville. I believe copies will be moving to retailers and online stores in the very near future. If any of you have issues with your components in your copy, please let me or Tasty Minstrel Games know right away. And if you enjoy the game, feel free to rate it a 10 on BoardGameGeek.com!

Scoville on Kickstarter!

I was originally planning on posting an article about Decision Space in game design but certain events have caused me to postpone that article. It’s still coming at some point and I think it’s a pretty good article, but today I can’t help but share about Scoville.

Scoville has Launched!

If you are interested in the game and seeing the art or watching me in a video, then head over to the campaign page. The first 24 hours of the campaign saw 498 backers pledge $20,876. I am truly amazed at the response so far for Scoville.

Also, if you are a backer or are on Twitter, feel free to use this image as your avatar! The more we can spread the word, the more likely we will be at hitting our funding goal and the stretch goals.

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Designing vs. Publishing

On the Kickstarter page you’ll notice that two of the stretch goals are to add a 5th and 6th player. While some people might grumble that the Print and Play files have always had the capability for 6 players, why does the Kickstarter version only have 4 players out of the gates?

This is a great debate between designing games and actually producing games.

As a designer I could add whatever I wanted into my designs. It could have 2000 wooden bits, 500 cards, 100 modular boards, and so on.

A publisher would never sign a game like that.

So there comes a time when designers must start to think like publishers. In order for Scoville to be up to a 6 player game, it would require more Market Orders, more Recipes, more Player Screens, More Pawns, More Coins, and more Bonus Action Tiles. Each of those elements are things I could easily produce for the few prototype copies that I made. But their are actual cost considerations for a publisher to produce them.

So while it is easy for a designer to add whatever they want into a game, it ultimately takes real money to make it happen.

That’s the case with the 5th and 6th player stretch goals for Scoville. I hope you all understand.

Go Check It Out!

The artwork for Scoville was done by Josh Cappel, who is a pleasure to work with. I love his style and it is clear that he really brought the town of Scoville to light in the artwork for the game. Here’s a picture of the box:

Will you be the best pepper farmer and win the Scoville trophy?

Will you be the best pepper farmer and win the Scoville trophy?

I’ll be sharing more art with you here and on Twitter as the campaign moves forward. Thanks so much for checking out my game.

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