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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!


Monday Brews: BGG.con Recap

It’s Monday and there are two inches of fresh snow on the ground in Madison this morning. But I am back from BGG.con and am happy to provide a special recap version of The Monday Brews for you! My BGG.con experience was awesome, so let’s not delay in the telling of tales and sharing of stories in the Monday Brews.

The Barley:

While I was at BGG.con I only had a few brews. The hotel bar had a very small selection so I basically skipped the Barley portion of the week. I did sneak in a few brews and here they are…

Shiner Bock: This seemed to be the staple both at the bar and available in the coffee shop. So I had a couple of these. Unfortunately the $7 per bottle price tag was a little steep for me so I didn’t have more. This isn’t what I would consider a great beer, but it’s from Texas, so that counts for something, I think.

Sierra Nevada IPA: This was the on tap beer for the “Cash & Carry” food section offered at the convention hall. My awesome publisher was kind enough to purchase one for me while I was demoing Scoville. I’m not an IPA guy, but it hit the spot.

Some Texas IPA: While having an entertaining evening at the hotel bar before heading to a party I was able to enjoy some other Texas IPA. I have no idea what brand it was and neither did the waitress. Oh well.

The Boards:

In a typical week I play between 2-7 games. In last week’s BGG.con week I played or taught 36 games! I’ll be recapping each BGG.con day with the games I played.


On my flights I got in my first two games of the week. Those were Ascension and Le Havre. I can’t sleep on planes so having these games helped pass the time. I arrived in Dallas around 2:15 and headed straight to the convention. Since I was there to demo Scoville I immediately went to the demo area and set it up. Table D6 in Demo Land would be my home base for the next four days.

Despite protoype art people were still interested in playing!

Despite prototype art people were still interested in playing!

Scoville Demo x4: Wednesday afternoon/evening I was able to run four demos of Scoville. I had already visited the exhibit hall and snagged one of the last five copies of Glass Road. I’m glad I didn’t wait to get one. My big mistake while running demos was not documenting who played them. Gil Hova has a great recap article on BGG where he links to all the players who he played with and I wish I could have done the same. At least I learned something. After four demos it seemed people were liking the game. I was pleased with that.

Glass Road: After leaving the demo hall I found the Tasty Minstrel guys in the Jonsson room and we sat down to punch and play my copy of Glass Road. Seth had already played so he was able to teach us. I was already a little brain burned from the 4 Scoville demos so I didn’t play a very good game, but I’m glad to have bought a copy since I think it is fun and interesting and short enough to make regular visits to my gaming table.

Bang! The Dice Game: I like Bang and think it’s a fun game, but with player elimination I think it’s a little too long. Enter the dice version. I played this with Chris Kirkman of Dice Hate Me, Darrell Louder of Compounded and UnPub fame, Michael Mindes of Tasty Minstrel, and Scott King of game photography awesomeness. I’m not typically much of a social gamer and my face usually gives everything away. But since this is a dice version I was able to help my team lose quickly instead of dragging things out. I’m tempted to pick this up.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf: I had never played Werewolf before. In fact I feel really bad that I always thought people looked really goofy when playing. I blame that on ignorance. The new One Night Ultimate Werewolf not only has really nice looking artwork, but it’s a lot of fun. With the same group as Bang The Dice Game we had one particularly funny moment when the reader, who shall remain nameless, was reading the part about the “Troublemaker” and instead of reading down into the rulebook like for the previous players he lifted his head while reading the troublemaker portion and gave himself away. It was really hilarious when we all lifted our heads and started laughing.


I woke up early to head to the coffee shop and grab a strong caffeinated beverage and worked on some game design until the exhibit hall opened at 10. After a quick walk through the hall including purchasing the new Ticket to Ride: Nederland, I was back in Demo Land for more Scoville. Here’s what the gaming hall looked like:

Pure gaming Awesomeness!

Pure gaming Awesomeness! (Apparently also pure gaming blurriness)

I was able to run 4 more Scoville demos before I realized that I was hungry. After snagging some food I joined up with the awesome Benny Sperling and his wife Jax for some non-Scoville gaming. It was a nice break.

Trains: I’ve played Trains a few times so far and I think I enjoy it. I like that it has similarities to Dominion, which makes it accessible. But I dislike that it is so similar to Dominion. While having the board gives an extra dimension, there are often turns where you can’t do anything. And that’s not due to having a lot of waste in my hand because I ended with only 4 waste cards. I’m hoping that upcoming expansions pull this game further from Dominion.

Mai-Star: This is a game about geisha and guests by the designer of Love Letter. On your turn you can either place an advertiser or a guest. Advertisers let you entertain better guests. Guests let you have special abilities when played. This is a light and interesting game that’s played over three rounds. I’d play it again but it’s not something I would buy.

Scoville x3: After Mai-Star I hustled back to the demo table where people were waiting. I not only taught them the game, but also two other groups after them. Overall I demoed Scoville 7 times on Thursday.

New Bedford: I was fortunate to know someone who had brought a print and play version of New Bedford by Nathaniel Levan and Oak Leaf Games. It is a game about a whaling town, which is a cool theme. Your goal is to send out boats to capture whales. But the coolest part about the game is how the town itself actually gets built. Players have worker placement spots where they can gain resources or money, or build buildings. Buildings can then be used as worker placement locations. Head to the Oak Leaf Games website to learn more. My first impression was that it was a very entertaining game and I am looking forward to playing it again!

Embarrassing Moment Nominee: In case you are unaware there is a designer with the name Alan R. Moon who designed a little game called Ticket to Ride. You might have heard of that game. It’s the one in Target with the sticker that reads “Over 2 Million Copies Sold.” Yeah, the guy is sort of a celebrity in the industry. Well, he happened to be standing near my demo table and I had to walk over and introduce myself. That was the cool part. The embarrassing part was that I immediately mentioned how I had an awesome idea for the contest that they ran last year and I started to go on and on about my idea a new Ticket to Ride. Then in my head I froze and realized that the poor guy probably gets bombarded by hundreds of ideas all the time and he probably doesn’t want to hear one from some dude that he just met. I basically told myself to shut up, thanked him, and walked away feeling like an idiot.


Gift shop items that reassured me I was demoing Scoville in the right state!

Gift shop items that reassured me I was demoing Scoville in the right state!

Friday was a down day for Scoville with only 5 demos, but when I wasn’t demoing I was connecting with people in the UnPub Proto Alley or schmoozin with publishers.

Scoville x5: Friday’s Scoville demos were the first to have a repeat player. I thought that was pretty cool.

Compounded (With possible expansion): I love Compounded and I had the opportunity to play it with the publisher and a few others in the UnPub area. The designer was demoing it with a possible expansion that I thought made the game more interesting. I won’t mention any details about the expansion because there’s nothing official, but they wouldn’t go wrong by adding it to the game!

Double Impact: This was a prototype that I would PNP immediately if I could get my hands on the files. There was just something about the game utilizing worker placement and very interesting decisions that I found fascinating. I was also drooling over the brilliant iconography. The designer was at the table and the other player was annoyed with me fawning over the game. While the game needs a little tweaking, it has a very promising future.

Belle of the Ball: I backed this game on Kickstarter nearly on artwork and graphic design alone. I finally got to play it and I am very happy to report that it was also a very good game. The Belle cards add a lot of “take that” type of action to the game, but also allow you to increase the awesomeness of your party. I’m looking forward to this one arriving next year!

Round Trip & Enqueteur by David Short: David is a Tasty Minstrel Games alum with Ground Floor and Skyline having already been published. So it was a pleasure to meet him and play some of his prototypes. Round Trip is about getting yourself to your gate at an airport. It utilizes a mancala mechanic, but does so in a more interesting way because of the interaction between other players and the cards you are trying to score. I was pretty impressed with the state of the game considering it’s only a few months old. Then we played Enqueteur, which is a very nice step up from Love Letter. It plays similar to Love Letter but adds some interesting complications to the game. David is doing some awesome designing right now and I wish him the best!

Pitch Car: After leaving the gaming hall a few of us decided to play a quick lap of Pitch Car which was set up in the open area. The track setup is shown below. It was pretty epic. What wasn’t epic was how I played. Despite that it was a fun way to cap off the night!

We got owned by a first-timer!

We got owned by a first-timer!


I started Saturday early since I wanted to get in as many demos of Scoville as I could. But it would turn out that my gaming day would begin with something called Dart Gun Desperados a.k.a. Rubber Banditos.

How fast an you draw your rubber band six shooter?

How fast an you draw your rubber band six shooter?

Rubber Banditos: This is a crazy cool game by Steve Avery, who co-designed Nothing Personal with Tom Vasel, who you may have heard of. The idea of the game is you are trying to gain money with your people. But you’d better beware or you’ll get shot by an opponent. And the shooting was done with real rubber band shooters. You would actually shoot rubber bands at your opponents figures. While I ended with no money, the gameplay itself is what made the game for me. The best part is the gun fight where you duel with an opponent. Steve was awesome to meet and talk with and I look forward to enjoying a brew or two with him in the future!

Scoville x5: One of the highlights of the convention was that I got to play Scoville with both Seth and Michael from Tasty Minstrel. It was interesting to see the strategy of how they played. And it was also very nice after the closing ceremonies when TMG gave me the okay to wrap up the demos. With 22 demos under my belt I increased my number of plays significantly. And I can honestly say that I did not get sick of the game. Thank you to all who played the game. I am honored and humbled by your kind words.

Going, Going, Gone: Appropriately enough the very last game I played was Going, Going, Gone. This is an action auction game where players try to bid on five different auctions at the same time. We were playing an adult version that featured some of the Shiner Bock that I mentioned above and we were taught by the spunky Betsy Ross. It was sheer fun, unless you kept getting beer spilled on your arm.

Embarrassing Moment Nominee #2: I have an issue with dragging out stories and Saturday night was one of those moments. I was trying to tell the story of how I met a publisher at GenCon 2 years ago and failed to pick up the check and then how I met another publisher 2 years ago and submitted a crappy game, and how ultimately those are the two publishers I am now closest with. It’s actually a really cool story but should only take about 5 minutes to tell instead of fifteen. Afterword someone with clout in the biz said, “That was the longest story ever!,” but with mildly stronger language. I felt bad about wasting their time. If you ever want to hear the story I’ll be happy to practice a short version before telling you the story.

My BGG.con experience wrapped up with the I’m Board With Life crew who were throwing a party in their rooms. We had an exceptional bartender for starters, but I was also able to meet Quinns from Shut Up Sit Down. That was pretty cool, especially since he said Scoville sounded interesting! I also had an inspirational moment about greater stuff in life when chatting with the wife of one of the I’m Board With Life guys. She helped me gain perspective on life in Central America and I am afraid to say that we in the US don’t have the right understanding of Latin American culture. If I took nothing away from BGG.con other than that conversation, then it still would have been worth it. I couldn’t thank her enough for her honesty.

Other Awesomeness:

BGG.con is a fantastic convention. I love that it is singularly focused on board games. I love the intimate feel where it’s like you’re all part of a family. And I love that there are so many amazing people who attend. I met so many of you and I’d love to list you all but I know I would forget some. Needless to say, BGG.con is great for networking and socializing with really awesome people.

I also enjoyed the exhibit hall since it wasn’t like fighting for survival the way the GenCon exhibit hall can feel at times. It’s so casual and you can just chat with people and make lasting connections. I particularly enjoyed my conversation with the awesome couple behind They had a great booth and they offer awesome stuff to spruce up your games.

I specially want to thank Darrell Louder for his time contributions to run the UnPub Proto Alley. While I did not have the chance to participate, I understand what an awesome venue it can be for aspiring game designers. It offered the chance for designers to get and give feedback for prototype game designs. That’s the same way that I first got Scoville to the table in front of other designers. I’m not sure if there is a better way for networking and bettering your designs than things like UnPub. So make sure you thank Darrell when you get a chance. He’s an awesome dude.

My only regret of the convention is that I did not get to play most of the Hot Essen Releases. These included Amerigo, Lewis & Clark, Machi Koro, Concordia, Caverna, Nauticus, Russian Railroads, Nations and Madeira. They were sitting so tantalizingly close to my Scoville demo table.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to play a prototype of Scoville. I am humbled that so many people were willing to sit at a table and play a prototype when all the Hot Essen Releases were just mere feet away. BGG.con was a fantastic experience and I’m very much considering going back next year.

My 2013 GenCon Experience

Yesterday I posted a gallery with 40 pictures from GenCon. Today I am giving a more prose-y account of my experiences at GenCon. But with having only 15 hours of sleep total during GenCon I may not remember all the details. So bear with me as I blab through this.

Scoville and my approach to GenCon 2013

Ahead of Schedule!

Ahead of Schedule!

When the calendar flipped from 2012 to 2013 I made a list of goals for the year. One of those goals proclaimed this year the “Year of Manliness,” which we won’t get into here. 🙂 Another goal was to design and playtest Scoville so that it was ready to pitch at GenCon. If you follow this blog at all then you likely know that I didn’t have to pitch Scoville last week at GenCon since it was already picked up by Tasty Minstrel Games. Yay!

So I figured I could try and get another game ready to pitch for GenCon. But that didn’t happen. Games don’t just develop themselves. While I brought a copy of Trading Post and a copy of Conclave, neither were to the point where I felt comfortable putting them on the table with other people besides myself. I showed Conclave to a few people who seemed to like the concept. But the bottom line was that since Scoville was signed and I had nothing else to show I was basically free of stress at GenCon 2013.

So my approach was to cultivate, enhance, and develop professional relationships with designers and publishers. Basically I just wanted to meet as many people as possible. That’s a pretty nice approach to be able to take. I always have to keep in mind that while board games and board game design are my hobby, they are the real-life day to day jobs of a lot of the publishing companies. It’s easy for me to just go up to them and joke around and have fun, but I have to remember that these are professional relationships and I should try to treat it as such. So don’t act like a jerk and do stupid stuff since these are the people that you could be working with in the future.

I brought along the business cards that I had made for Protospiel-Milwaukee. I think I handed out about 30 of those over the course of the convention. I also was able to gather a few business cards from other people. I’ve gained a few new Twitter followers as well, which is always great. So overall I’m pretty happy with the business relationships that I formed.

Thursday Recap

On the road to GenCon!

On the road to GenCon!

Our 5 person cadre hit the road from Madison around 5am. That felt really early, but we powered through and it felt great to be hanging out on the way to GenCon.

Our drive had a few highlights, and thankfully no lowlights. Along the way we made two pit stops. The first was in the beautiful small town of Tonica, Illinois. Unforunately we had to drive like two or three miles off the freeway just to find the gas station. But at least when we found it, it lived up to the expectations of a small town gas station in Illinois.

At the second gas station we stopped at we were pleased to see 10 police cars with cops surrounding a car at a gas pump. We weren’t sure if we were safe, but we gawked for a while anyway.  But let’s keep going with this recap.

On the road we played one scenario of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. I had not played a game like this before but I really enjoyed it. It’s basically a thinky game where people talk through the scenario and try to figure out the Who-Dun-It type thing. We ultimately got the answers right, but we used way more leads than Sherlock did.

Another thing we did during the ride was design a game together. We even pitched it to a publisher later in the con, but I don’t think we were able to really portray the potential of the game. These are all the details I can give, but I think this game has a lot of potential.

We rolled into Indy around lunch time and headed to a restaurant called Yats. Ben had spoken so highly of it last year that we figured we should start our GenCon with it this year.  It was delicious.

Then we hit the hotel and then hopped in line for our GenCon passes in Will Call. The excitement was abundant! To the exhibit hall we went, ready to buy games and meet people!

Thanks Ken!

Thanks Ken!

The first person I met was Ken Grazier of He had made some Scoville buttons for me and so I traded a small amount of cash for them. They turned out great and I’m thankful to Ken for his button making prowess.

Then we headed to a few specific booths to try and snag some stuff. Thursday isn’t our main exhibit hall day, so we jumped from booth to booth.

An obvious stop for me was the Tasty Minstrel Games booth. I connected with the TMG guys and met the awesome Brian Frahm, who was demoing Dungeon Roll a ton over the convention. Brian is a great guy and it was a pleasure to meet him.

We also stopped at the Cool Stuff Inc. booth because they usually have great deals on board games. We then stopped at the Alderac booth to grab Trains. Then we jumped over to the Asmodee booth to snag Spyrium. And then we hit up the Queen Games booth where we got the new Kingdom Builder expansion and Via Appia. We also stopped at the Game Salute booth to grab Keyflower and The Little Prince and check out Nothing Personal. Overall we got a nice lot of games on our first day:

First Day Haul at GenCon!

First Day Haul at GenCon!

In the picture it should be noted that League of Six was obtained via trade.

Then we headed to our hotel room to unwind a bit and decided to head to the bar for a game. We played The Little Prince, which I’ll be reviewing on Friday. Then we headed to dinner where we got in a game of Love Letter.

Overall I was able to connect with a bunch of people on Thursday, which was awesome. Here are the games I played on Thursday:

  • Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (The Cryptic Curse scenario)
  • The Little Prince
  • Love Letter
  • Piñata
  • Skyline
  • Spyrium
  • Super Awesome Thing (prototype)
  • Coloretto
  • Coup

As for the Barley side of things Thursday included a sample of the GenCon brew “Flagon Slayer,” a Rock Bottom Honey Ale, and the brown ale at the JW Marriott.

Friday Recap

Kings of Artifice by Wyrd Games

Kings of Artifice by Wyrd Games

Friday is our main Exhibit hall day. On the way to the exhibit hall we noticed a game called Kings of Artifice that none of us had heard of. This was being demoed in Hall C (I think) by the publishing company called Wyrd Games. It had an interesting mechanic of summoning people onto the land and using them to the best advantage. You could be conservative and focus on building your little part of a kingdom, or you could be aggressive and try to wipe out your opponents. It seemed like an interesting game but wasn’t something our group ended up buying. While we were demoing I received a message from the honorable Matt Worden. It was an invitation to speak in a panel discussion on Protospiel. My awesome friends had no reservations about me going to partake in the panel.

So I went over to the Crowne Plaza and joined some esteemed designers for the panel discussion. That was the awesome part. The downside was that there were only six attenders. We had as many people on the panel as there were people attending the panel. Apparently they had 45 attenders last year. I think that since it was in the Crowne Plaza, people weren’t willing to leave the convention center to come over and attend. But I was honored that Matt would invite me to come speak on the panel. Thanks Matt!

The other downside was that I was really looking forward to walking through the exhibit hall. I figured my guys were already halfway through it. But when I came back and found them in Hall D playing a game I was greatly pleased that they had not yet gone into the hall. They chose to play a game and wait for me instead. That was awesome!

So we started walking aisle by aisle through the hall. It’s such an experience to do that. If you’ve never been to GenCon it’s hard to understand the massiveness of the exhibit hall. We bought a few more games before three of the five of us headed out for a talk on Evil Villains by author Brandon Sanderson. One of the fun things about the exhibit hall is sitting down and trying games. One of my favorite games to play was Weykick. It’s basically a magnetic take on air hockey, but it’s very enjoyable. I got owned by Jeremy. We also tried Crokinole, which is a game we’d like to build for ourselves. It’s a fun flicking game on a big round wooden board.

Brew Crafters is awesome!

Brew Crafters is awesome!

We finished in the hall in time to grab some food at Chick-Fil-A in the mall before a demo. We successfully avoided the two hour lines at the food trucks this year! Lunch in hand, we joined up with our guys at a demo for Dice Hate Me Games‘ upcoming game Brew Crafters by designer Ben Rosset. I’d go into a review of the game but I might save that for a session report on BGG. The bottom line is that this is a great game, and not simply because it is a perfect fit for Boards & Barley! It worked really well, the decisions in the game all seemed important and made sense, the theme was awesome, and, most importantly, it was a lot of fun! I’m looking forward to seeing this one on Kickstarter! Ben is a very nice guy and it was a pleasure to meet him. Check out his other game, Mars Needs Mechanics, available from Nevermore Games.

After that we went to the Rathskellar for an awesome time in the beer garden. There were German beers on tap, pretzels to consume, and a plate of sausage that tasted delicious. On top of there there was a really good band that had a great sound. Hanging in the beer garden was one of the highlights of GenCon 2013.

Late that night we headed back to Hall D with a latte. I had the pleasure of teaching Scoville to several new players. It seemed well received and I was happy to give away some of the buttons. It was also cool to have two simultaneous games running. At the same time we were able to chat with Michael Mindes, owner of Tasty Minstrel Games. I also had the privilege to meet Rob Lundy, artist/graphic designer for Dungeon Roll. He’s a home brewer, too!

After all was said and done I rolled/slumped into bed around 3:30am. I’ve been told that’s typical of GenConners.

Friday games I played were these (Not very many):

  • Kings of Artifice
  • Dread Curse
  • Weykick
  • Crokinole
  • Brew Crafters (prototype signed with Dice Hate Me Games)

And Friday’s Barley choices included two (large) Spaten Optimators.

Saturday Recap

Saturday is our last day of GenCon since we normally depart early Sunday morning. We started things off with a demo of Rialto by Stefan Feld. I had already picked it up from the Tasty Minstrel booth because of the great price ($30). It was nice to have someone teach us the game though. It was an enjoyable play and the game seems like a nice lightish Feld game. I was happy to have picked it up.

We then wandered the hall a little more to make sure we didn’t miss anything and to pick up a few other things. I snagged Targi for $20 which seemed like a good find. Then we had lunch and made our way to the GenCon Library room.

In the Library we had scheduled a demo of Francis Drake by Eagle/Gryphon Games. I was a little hesitant about trying this out because it seemed primed to be a 3 hour dry and boring Euro. Boy was I wrong. This game was really fun. There is a nice resource procurement track that worked really well. After goods are obtained you then ship off for a trip to central America where you can pick up trade goods, battle against villages and forts, and attempt to battle another ship. This game was very solid and was really enjoyable. I was very surprised by how fun it was and how not-dry or boring it was.

After dinner at Rock Bottom we made our way to Hall D again where we got in a game of Flick Wars coming soon by Andrew Tullsen and Print & Play Productions. I personally enjoy flicking games like Bisikle, Crokinole, and others. This was also a fun flicking game. I believe Andrew will be putting it on Kickstarter in the near future.

We also got to play Lagoon by David Chott, which should be coming to Kickstarter by his company, 3 Hares Games. While the fantasy theme wasn’t really my thing, the gameplay was very interesting and enjoyable. There are some really interesting combos you can do in the game, which make the decisions really awesome. There is a nice balance of trying to aim for combos to set something up for a future turn versus simply trying to score a tile on the present turn. I think this game was well done and I wish David the best with it.

After that I was fortunate to have a few more players for Scoville. And I was able to sit down for the game as well. It went well and I heard something that really humbled me. One of the players said after the play that it’s in his top ten games. That was amazing.

The night ended with a play of Alex Kevern‘s Gold West prototype. And I had the privilege of playing it with him, Ben Pinchback (Co-Designer of the award winning game Fleet, currently with an expansion on Kickstarter), and the honorable TC Petty III (Designer of the awesome game VivaJava). It was great to meet them and game with them. They are all outstanding people.

Alex Kevern's Gold West

Alex Kevern’s Gold West

Gold West is a great game. There is a really cool take on the Mancala mechanic that you really need to think about to maximize what you can do on your turns. In the game you are helping to develop a western town. You obtain metals and building materials that you have to figure out how best to use. Each turn you can place a building onto the territory and claim the goods from that piece of land. Once you have the goods, you need to place them into one of the Mancala spots on your player board. This is the tricky part of the game. On any given turn you can only use the resources that are placed into the last spot after taking a Mancala action. So you have to plan accordingly. This is a sweet use of the Mancala mechanic and made the decisions in the game very interesting.  The other part of the game that I really enjoyed was how to use the resources once they are available. You can ship off the metals, use them to develop the boom town, or fulfill investments for big points. Each of these mechanics works really well together and I was happy to be able to play the game. It was fun and strategic while also being accessible and easy to teach. And it only took about 55 minutes for four players to finish the game. That’s awesome!

The games I played on Saturday were these:

  • Rialto
  • The Downfall of Pompeii
  • Francis Drake
  • Love Letter
  • Flick Wars (prototype)
  • Lagoon (prototype)
  • Scoville
  • Gold West (prototype)

The barley I consumed were a pair of Rock Bottom brews: Red Ale and Kolsch.

Saturday was over and Sunday meant waking up early and hitting the road. So here are my final thoughts from GenCon 2013:

Top Games Played During GenCon:

My favorite unpublished games were Brew Crafters and Gold West. Those games are both games I would have bought at the convention if they were available. I’ll definitely be watching the development of both of them.

My favorite published games (or soon to be released) were The Little Prince, Spyrium, and Francis Drake. These three games were my most enjoyable plays of the convention.

I also reconnected with or introduced myself to about 50 people. That was great since I had only previously known people through online connections. For aspiring designers who want to get in the game I highly recommend getting on Twitter and starting to develop relationships with the awesome people in the industry. I’ll see you all next year! (Hopefully sooner)

Biggest Disappointments:

I was really hoping to pick up Bruges at GenCon. But Z-Man games only brought a few copies and it was sold out after a half hour. That was well before we arrived on Thursday. That was really disappointing.

The other disappointments had to do with prototype games that I didn’t have a chance to play. I really wanted to try Gyre by Eric Leath (and I’ll likely PNP it), VivaJava Dice by TC Petty III (but it was 3am by the time TC had a chance to show me), Belle of the Ball by Daniel Solis (I think Dice Hate Me had a copy available), and Pay Dirt by Tory Kniemann (designer of Alien Frontiers). Those are all games I had hoped to play but didn’t get the chance.

Next year I think I’ll try and schedule more appointments with people so I can try out their games rather than simply trying to connect randomly.

Overall, though, for these to be the big disappointments means that my 2013 GenCon experience was pretty awesome!

Monday Brews: 8-12-13

Oh baby! It’s GenCon week! That means I’ve already been staying up way too late as I prepare for the convention. I’ll be providing my GenCon Preparation blog post tomorrow with tons of awesome goodness (maybe). But today is Monday.

That means it’s time to review the Boards and Barley that I enjoyed this past week. Let’s start with the Barley as usual…

The Barley:

Ben Franklin’s Honey: I am nearing the end of my supply of my second homebrew. I had hoped to have a few of these left to bring to GenCon but that’s not the case anymore. Sorry fellow designers. At least we still have PBR!

Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss: This excellent Wisconsin beer is enjoyable to drink, goes down smooth, and has a refreshing taste of honey. This is a favorite summer beer of mine, especially when I’m camping.

Lake Louie Warped Speed Scotch Ale: Lake Louie makes my favorite Scotch Ale. Located in Arena, WI, they have made tasty beer for a while now. But just recently, I believe, they just re-opened their doors for tours. This scotch ale is a really good beer.

Warning: May make other game designers jealous!

Boddington’s Pub Ale: A can of Boddington’s isn’t just an enjoyable beverage. It’s also an enjoyable experience. I brought a couple to Protospiel-Milwaukee and could feel the jealousy of our fellow designer’s as Adam and I cracked the can and listened to the widget exhale. This British pub ale is a very excellent beer, even outside of game designer events! The only downside is that it’s a product on InBev.

Alberti Amber: I have had the last of my first homebrew ever. There’s a little tear running down my cheek. My friend’s seemed to enjoy this one so I may brew it again. Alberti and I had an enjoyable ride.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: I purchased this and the Leinie’s Honey Weiss for our softball team to enjoy after our last game of the season. Thankfully we won the game and became the league champions! That made this beer much more enjoyable, since I’m not typically a Pale Ale or IPA kind of guy.

The Boards:

It was another slow gaming week for me. I’ve been pretty busy prepping for GenCon and haven’t had as much time to actually play games. But here are the two lonely games I played this week:

Qwirkle: This is a great abstract game. In Qwirkle you are trying to complete sets of six tiles of either the same shape or the same color. There is a fun amount of strategy in this game. It’s pretty easy to teach. And since I have the travel edition it is pretty easy to take anywhere!

Scoville: I had the pleasure of testing Scoville with a good friend of mine. He had previously played the game twice, including the 4th ever playtest in Scoville history. We played a very close game until the end when he beat me to a 16 point recipe and I had nothing to fall back on. I love that about the game though; Sometimes you just have to make sure you get what you want first! I ended up losing, but the game was a lot of fun. Here’s a picture from early on in the game at our camping table:

Sometimes playing by the light of a lantern is really fun!

Sometimes playing by the light of a lantern is really fun!


Last Friday was my birthday. And it happened to coincide with the receiving of two Kickstarter project rewards and one Blogiversary prize!

The special Kickstarter variant “Mimic” box.

On Friday before we left for camping I received my Dungeon Roll game from Tasty Minstrel Games. Dungeon Roll comes is a sweet treasure chest box. It includes a bunch of custom dice and hero cards. I have not yet played, but since there were over 10,000 backers there’s no shortage of people who have gotten it to the table. Congrats to Tasty Minstrel on a very successful campaign!

Then when I got home from camping I learned that my Catan Board had arrived. This was expected to arrive in April, so that’s a little disappointing. But the product looks really nice. I’m hoping that it works as advertised.

And finally my prize arrived for being the randomly chosen winner of the Theology of Games Blogiversary Contest #2. The game I won is Sunrise City, by Clever Mojo Games! I’m very excited to get this game to the table!

Add in the fact that I also received Le Havre: The Inland Port and a set of Beer Glasses for my birthday and you’ll see that all the gifts I received had to do with either Boards or Barley. (Disclaimer: I also received Seasons 1 & 2 of MacGyver, but I already had those so I returned them and bought something for my kids with the money).

And now we’ve got GenCon week! So I’ll pretend it’s my birthday all week!


So that’s the Boards and Barley that I enjoyed this past week. Any of you try a new game or new brew that left a lasting impression?

Scoville Under Contract by TMG!

TMG Dragon loves peppers!

TMG Dragon loves peppers!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I can finally announce that Tasty Minstrel Games has contracted my game Scoville for publication!

As you can imagine, I am very excited about this. Scoville will be my first published game and I’m grateful for TMG taking me into their fold.

So who is Tasty Minstrel Games? TMG is a board game publishing company run by Michael Mindes. On board with Michael is game designer/developer Seth Jaffee. You can check out Seth’s blog at

TMG has been putting out very quality games that contain beautiful artwork and are exceptionally enjoyable. Some of their recent awesomeness includes these games:

In Dungeon Roll the player’s goal is to collect the most experience points by defeating monsters, battling the dragon, and amassing treasure. Each player selects a Hero avatar, such as a Mercenary, Half-Goblin, or Enchantress, which provides them with unique powers. Then players take turns being the Adventurer, who boldly enters the dungeon seeking glory.

Belfort is a worker placement game with area majority scoring in each district as well as for each type of worker. Buildings give you influence in the districts as well as income, but taxes increase based on your score so the winning players will have to pay more than those behind! Manage your resources and gold well, choose your buildings wisely, and help build the city of Belfort!

The process is simple: Factories produce the goods (machinery, textiles, chemicals, food, and luxuries) that are coveted by the city folk. Airships – forbidden from landing in the cities but capable of carrying cargo over great distances – must be used to gather those goods and deliver them to depots along the rail network. Trains then haul the goods to the cities that want them, earning cash for the competitor who gets there first! Will you be the “King of Air and Steam?”

Also in the TMG queue and coming to stores soon is the new Stefan Feld game Rialto, the game about Florentine Medici-ness called Il Vecchio, as well as the expansion for Village (the 2012 Kennerspiel des Jahres) known as Village Inn.

But don’t forget about their other highly rated game, Eminent Domain, by Seth Jaffee. You can learn more on the BoardGameGeek page.

I will be keeping you all updated as Scoville progresses toward publication. Thanks for all of your interest. If there are any questions you have regarding Scoville, please post them as a comment below and I’ll be happy to reply!

Thanks! These are exciting times for me and for Tasty Minstrel Games! Make sure you visit them at GenCon at booth 459:

This booth will be filled with awesomeness!

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