• Top games to introduce folks to the hobby?

    There's a twitter phenomenon called "Board Game Hour" hosted by The Ministry of Board Games (www.mofbg.co.uk). Recently the founder of both, Nate Brett, asked his followers what they thought was the best game to introduce new players into the board gaming hobby. The results (and an extensive list of follow-up conversations) can be found at the Ministry of Board Games site under the heading "Try it, you might like it."

    The only problem with this list is that the suggestions don't consider the new players' tastes, ages, attitudes, or gaming experience. Nor does it account for the situation or environment that game(s) might be played in. It's a good list of good games, that's certain. But there's a lot more to the subject than just "make a list."

    "Castle Panic" might be a great game to bring teen geeks into the hobby, but if the novices don't know orcs from archers, this might not be a good choice. "Time's Up: Title Recall" is an awesome party game, with plenty of laughs and quick thinking. However, if your candidates are quieter types with performance anxiety, maybe not so appropriate.

    "Know your audience" is a good rule of thumb for a public speaker or entertainer, and just as valid for a "Game Sommelier" (thank you, Stephen and Dave at "The Spiel"). Considering the folks around the table, you can choose a game that will break the ice without burning the brain, and will focus on a theme or basic mechanic that all participants will enjoy. Throwing someone who's a Euchre player into a game of "Elder Sign" might work, but a comfort level with cards would suggest that Dominion might be a better choice. For a family who once played Chutes and Ladders, one might bring out "Magical Athletes." Almost anyone can warm up to Carcassonne or Ticket to Ride, and it's always a joy to see folks working together at Forbidden Island.

    Ask them what they like to play, too. I'm always up for a game of Sequence or Sorry or Scrabble or Scene-It! Then I can follow up with, "That was great fun. Have you ever played Fluxx or Guillotine or Settler of Catan?"

    There are so many choices to be made, and if made well, a good time will be had by all. And many more to come!

  • GrandCon — table-top games and more!

    GrandCon table-top gaming eventGreetings, table-top gamers:
    If the timing is right, and you have a few hours to spend immersed in the table-top game hobby, maybe you should seek out a local game convention. If you’d like to see the latest products and find knowledgeable folks to help describe them for you, here’s the place to be. In many cases, the actual designers of the games are there to show you how they’re played, and there will most likely be rooms filled with tables where you can try out a game before you buy.

    The calendar is filled with game cons these days. Every town on the map, it seems, has some kind of gathering happening to attract game players, game sellers, game designers and publishers, and mostly game fans. Attendees can enjoy shopping (browsing), talking with others about the latest releases and the classic board games, their latest adventures and hopes for the future. There are septuagenarians and toddlers, growing families and happily singles, quiet intellectuals and rambunctious partiers, conservative straights and radical cosplay nerds — in short, a fascinating cross-section of American geekdom.

    This was the second year for GrandCon — and my first visit. The comments I heard were that this is a tremendous second go for a con, and most everyone agreed that (with a more consolidated venue next year) it can do naught but grow. The success of last year’s premier GrandCon enticed visitors from well beyond the region, including folks from thousands of miles away. Yes, it was a big deal!

    One thing to clarify: in larger urban areas in particular, some of the game cons are very specific in their subject matter. There are cons that only focus on war games, kids’ games, or role-playing games — even cons that only focus on a single game, like poker or Magic the Gathering. So read the event flier carefully before you go. If they’re family-friendly, their website will probably say so. GrandCon provided a modest bit of the family-friendly, though it’s not their focus. The champion of family-friendly cons is probably ChiTag in Chicago each November, with large play areas and plenty of kid stuff going on while, in another part of the hall, rows of tables host a Magic the Gathering tournament.

    GrandCon was a great time, and I got to see some demos of not-yet-released products, put together some Christmas lists, and spend too much on games I’ve been wanting for some time. If you’re just getting into the hobby, it’s a great place to meet local folks and set up opportunities to play more and share!

    Many thanks to the organizers and volunteers who made GrandCon happen — one of the highlights of the season!

  • Top ten reasons to like top ten lists.

    Some folks use lists as tools to keep their busy lives in order. Others are just compulsive list makers. Some lists are collections of facts and figures - the dry necessities of life, I suppose. But here, we're talking purely subjective choices, brought together for the fun of it.

    Many publications, websites, podcasts, blogs and broadcasts have their top-ten lists (or top eleven, or even top 100). Folks are interested because we understand the list maker's feelings about a subject. We probably share the same values or opinions. In any case, to paraphrase: "One man's Top Ten is another man's Bottom Ten." We all have a right to our own opinion (right or wrong).

    I beg your forgiveness. I might not have played every Board Game in the history of everything. I try, but the real world tends to hinder my efforts. So my lists are based on two major criteria: "What do I think of a game based on personal experience?" and/or "What does the rest of the world think of it?"

    Likewise, I can't read every Top Ten list in the world, so I might be missing some critical evaluation somewhere out there. So take these entries as my own non=professional opinion in whatever wacky category we can come up with, and be sure to let me know when my opinion is wrong.

    1. Top Ten lists inform, succinctly, of what the list maker deems noteworthy. Some list makers take great care in making their lists, subjecting every candidate to detailed and systematic scrutiny. Others like something because they like it. 'Nuff said.

    2. Comparing Top Ten lists reinforces the individual evaluations with a group opinion. Statistically, if the number of Top Ten lists being compared is huge, the opinion should eventually approach a high degree of objectivity. (All you philosophers out there please refute that argument.)

    3. If I trust a Top Ten list, it saves me a lot of primary research. Let someone else do the trial-and-error and I will benefit. This assumes that the list maker's opinions, values, and tastes are similar to my own.

    4. They're quick. I can scan a Top Ten list in a few seconds, as opposed to reading in-depth critiques of a group of games. It's fast food for the opinionator.

    5. They aren't necessarily intended to be permanent. Most such lists are revised and reissued as often as the authors wish. They are living documents that change as the subject matter or the criteria change.

    6. I can ignore a Top Ten list that I disagree with. (And so can you!)

    7. Top Ten lists save me money. That is to say, they can help me avoid spending money unwisely. Like most folks, I can succumb to the shiny and sometimes even the hype, but if I see that a majority of trusted sources advise caution, I can think about the purchase one more time.

    8. Learn something new! A Top Ten will often include a previously unfamiliar item. By its inclusion in the list, it may well be a candidate for further investigation. Seek it out, play it, evaluate it, buy it, recommend it!

    9. Influence a tough decision with additional input. I might find myself torn between two alternatives, and a Top Ten list could persuade me to decide one way or the other, thus relieving me of the stress of a tough decision. (Then, if I find it's ultimately a wrong decision, I have someone else to blame.)

    10. Ten is a nice number for stuff. Ten fingers and toes. Ten single-digit numbers (if you count zero). Ten millimeters in a centimeter. It's all very convenient, and easy to accommodate mentally. Top 100 lists might just as well be a Top Million... I really only care about the Top Ten. Don't you?

    11. Well, it's one louder, isn't it?


  • Great New Games Debut at GenCon 2014

    gencon 2014GenCon is one of the world's largest and most anticipated game conventions. Each summer, game publishers time the release of many of their new products to debut at GenCon, and with 56,000 gamers descending upon Indianapolis for the experience, there is a lot of buzz generated. And after the con's over (this year's GenCon was August 14-17), attendees come away with their impression of what the new "hotness" will be for the coming months.

    Most of the popular board-game podcasts and blogs have done a recap of their GenCon experiences, and what they personally considered the most memorable new games at the show. What is it that everyone wants to play now? Everyone has their own list, but here's a sample of the buzz I hear...

    Sheriff of Nottingham, Tragedy Looper, Imperial Settlers, Dead of Winter, Black Fleet, Camel Up, Diamonds, Quilt Show, Castles of the Mad King Ludwig, King of New York, Kingsport: Festival; and many, many more.

  • High Society - a light card game ... but challenging!

    high-society-gameIf you like competitive buying, light card games, and making decisions then High Society is for you. Each player begins with the same amount of money, bidding on extravagant treasures that will make them the envy of their fellow capitalists. But should you bid high early in the game, or save the big bids for later to avoid failure and scandal? A fast, family friendly card game with surprisingly deep strategy, this offering from Gryphon Games is like no other from prolific, award-winning game designer Reiner Knizia.



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