Category Archives: board games

Support Board with Life: Season 2!

This is not a normal post for this blog. There is no gaming philosophy like in Ulf´s posts nor are there any weird birdwatching-parallels like in mine. This post is just to notify everybody within my reach (maybe around 20 people or so…) that the boardgaming series Board With Life exists and runs a kickstarter campaign which will end in two days and that they are well worth a couple of American dollars.

Just watch this video:

In it you will see that they are funny, talented, very professional and that what they make is all about Important Things, like boardgames and people.

In my opinion, everybody should support this kickstarter and make it easier for these people to continue creating great stuff for boardgamers and for potential boardgamers, i.e. the rest of mankind.

Spreading the disease – zombies, brains and gaming

I was at a conference with the company I work for the other day. In the midst of discussions about the new project planning system that is on its way and about lichen, fish and snakes and stuff we normally talk about at my work, we suddenly had to rise and walk over to another room where we got a rather lighthearted and very professional talk about what is good for the brain and how to stimulate it.

The only problem I had was that all I could think about was “BRAIIIIIIIINS” and zombies. Yes, I was rather tired and in real need of getting at least one game played with my very nice, but rather un-gamey colleagues.

Later that evening I managed to convince a few of the others to play a round of Zombie dice with me and my restless soul found it´s peace and I could go to bed without the game-itch still in my nerves. Zombie dice is maybe not a very deep game, but as most really light games it is good for some nice trash-talking, as a filler or as in this case, to go with a nice glass of red wine. If you haven´t encountered it, it is a push-your-luck dice-rolling game, where you draw dice out of a cup, roll them, save all brains (good to eat) and shotguns (bad for you). You then draw and roll more dice until you either decide to stop and count your collected brains for points or get three or more shotguns and get no points this round. We got a couple of games, had some good laughs about luck and bad luck, naïve overconfidence and boring safe-playing and then went off to bed.

Later that night I kept thinking about Zombies. How they seem to have such a wide appeal to many, many gamers. But not to me. I cannot get enthusiastic about the whole zombie business. To me, it is all rather one-dimensional, repetitive and depressing. It just doesn´t trigger my imagination. I thought about if there was anything that could make me more interested or sympathetic to the theme. Finally I realized that there is one thing: Socially, zombies and I work according to the same script!

  1. Identify humans
  2. Get brains
  3. Spread infection

Unfortunately, that´s where the similarities end (except on frequent occasions, when I have had too little sleep). Zombies want brains to eat, I want them to manipulate into gamer-brains. Zombies spread zombie-infection, I spread gamer-infection. But still, being a gamer-missionary is a bit like being a zombie! There is a chance of mutual understanding! Maybe I should pre-order Dead of Winter?

Questions

  1. Are there any themes that you, dear reader, have difficulties in getting into?
  2. Why zombies?

7 Wonders and birdwatching

My geeky life started with birdwatching. From my earliest years I have memories of for example sitting on my fathers back trying really hard to drop my wellingtons, just because it was so exceptionally funny, while my father tried to work out the status of a nest of an osprey or other. I have realised that I still categorise many things according to birdwatching nomenclature. That is also true for games. For example, when I finally got hold of Tales of the Arabian Nights, I rejoiced with the knowledge that I had secured yet another cosmic mindf**ker – something really cool and rare. Yes, there are lots of nice words around. The most important thing in this is ticks. When you see a new species, you get to make a tick in your tick-list. I, of course, have a tick-list for games in my head.

Another term is shame-ticks. To be honest, this is my translation of the Swedish term skamkryss. The English equivalent is actually rude and misogynistic, so I won´t use it. It stands for a species, that one should have seen a long time ago, considering how many other species one has seen. One of my most serious shame-ticks in gaming has until recently been 7 Wonders.

As probably everyone knows, 7 Wonders is a card game where you try to build the most developed civilization, through advances in science, warfare, trade, production or monuments. You do this by collecting cards in a drafting mechanic, where you get a hand of cards, keep one and then pass the hand on to the next player. The really hard choices you have to make are when a hand contains both cards you want to collect for yourself and cards that you really have to deny your competitors around the table. This puts you in impossible situations and you have to choose, and you can´t and you panic and oh, its so nice.

An interesting thing is that this game is so wide-spread. You can buy it not only in specialist game stores but in almost every book shop. It is even translated into weird languages such as Swedish or Finnish. Games this easily found are either really bad (like monopoly) or really easily accessible. 7 Wonders definitely falls into the latter category. It is easy to start playing. The thing is, though, that it is also very punishing. If you are a beginner and play against experienced people, you will be crushed. Trust me, I know.

A week or so ago, I finally had a chance to play a game of 7 Wonders. With me at the table were my older two kids, an old friend who is a fellow gamer, and his girlfriend who is not, although obviously with a sharp mind suited for gaming. My son went for a strategy of total war, my daughter chose science and some buildings, my friend took as many of the monuments and buildings as possible and his girlfriend somehow managed to get hold of an awful lot of guild cards – cards that let you count other cards of different types in your own and, sometimes, your neighbouring players´ tableaus and give you an awful lot of points for them. I ended up trying a little of this and a little of that, which proved to be a really lousy strategy. Or maybe lack thereof. Me and my warrior-son ended up last, my daughter a number of points above us, my friend with quite few more and his girlfriend with a victory of about a mile.

I was intrigued of the game mechanic, of the fact that the theme actually came through and of the depth. It is, as I said before, easy to learn enough to start playing, but after that you have quite some way to go to get good. This obviously makes for a really good game, but I am a little amazed that it seems to have such a wide an appeal, even to non-gamers.

Anyway, a good beating like that and the feeling that this game has a lot of replayability made me sure that this belonged in my collection. I ordered it online, and here it is now. I am going to study the rules and hopefully get it played within next week. A good point is that also my kids got really enthusiastic about it, so a safe bet is that we are going to spend at least some part of next week-end with this lovely box. I´ll also make sure to get them to be able to list the seven wonders of the classical world…

Questions:

1. Should a good entry-game be as skill-based as 7 Wonders?
2. Can anybody teach me how to get good at this? Help!

Who’s the player with the longest… nose?

There has always been rules for assigning Starting Player.

When I was little the rules said you randomly decided by rolling dice, or in rare occasions it said the person who owned the game took the first round. Which made some sort of sense when you were 10 years old, since, hey… it’s my game! I go first!

These methods still exist, but the last five-or-so years there’s been a virtual explosion of alternative methods. These days you decide who will go first by referencing some fact or other about the players around the table

The question is A) are they really all that different and original? B) what impact does it have on our games? and C) what the hell is going on?

I’d argue that they are all more or less the same. You find out some fact about the players to get at who is going first. This could be anything from comparing physical attributes to personal details about origin, habits, health, work, living place e.t.c.

The arguments against these methods could be that not everyone wants to be scrutinized to see if they have more almond-shaped eyes than everyone else. The game might cross a line and become too personal if the starting player is the one who last visited a doctor.

Some of the geographical criteria easily falls flat: Who was the last player to visit an island if the game is actually played on Manhattan… or in our case Hisingen? Or who last was underground, when we’re always playing in my basement…

Another reason not to like these methods might be that there is an in game advantage to go first or last in a game. And if the same group plays the game multiple times normally the same person will go first. The meta-game will then be to remember this, and have a seat at the table accordingly, if you happen to know that it’s better to go last for instance. This way lies madness.

Why then? Why do this instead of rolling dice?

I believe that the sole purpose of this, silly humour and all, is that the rule ask the players to chit-chat / interact to come up with a “winner”, instead of blindly throwing dice. This is warm up. The banter can start straight away and if you belong to a group that know each-other well, you’ll probably start the name calling right around the time someone goes; “I visited another town this morning!” And if you are playing with strangers you might actually get to know them better if the player born in the smallest town should start the game.

In short it prompts table talk and social interaction.

So do we like it? Do we hate it? Is it silly? Do we ignore these rules and roll a die anyway? Or do we just run a “roshambo“? Let us know in the comments.

Quiz!

What game uses the following trait/fact to determine first player? (these are all real examples with at least one game using this rule)

  1. The person who has been the deepest below the surface of the ocean.
  2. The person with the pointiest ears.
  3. The last person who was ill.
  4. The last person who visited an Island.
  5. The person born in the smallest town.
  6. The last person who visited a different town.
  7. The last person who was underground.
  8. The person with the most almond shaped eyes.
  9. The most aggressive person.
  10. The person with the most facial hair.