I think this is called, “tooting your own horn”

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Sebastian Sohn (BGG’s chaosbreaker and an assistant teacher for a game design class at the Arts Institute of Los Angeles) concerning my Ingenious implementation here on Marquand.net. Sebastian maintains one of the coolest geeklists on BGG albeit with one of the most unwieldy titles Sebastian Sohn’s SoftBoard Games: Free, Commercial, and Abandoned Computer Version of Board, Card and Role-Playing Games with Computer AI (Artificial Intelligence) Opponents with Screen Shots. In his email, he was curious about how I’d managed to keep my implementation of Ingenious up and running when so many other sites have been forced to remove them. After exchanging several emails, he decided to “interview” me for The Game Cookery, a web site dedicated to games and game design.

I was surprised and a bit flattered to be interviewed because I’m not a person of significance in the world of board games. I’m just a guy who carries on normal life activities in the middle of Ohio, has a rather questionable number of board games stacked in his house, wrote some code on the side, and wishes he had more time to play games. I don’t really know what horn I’m tooting here but it feels like I’m tooting something. Maybe I’m just plain tooting. In any case, you can find the article here if you so desire to read more.

Thanks Sebastian. Hope I didn’t screw up.

Matt’s Unplayed List – May 26th, 2010

It’s about time for another summary of Matt’s unplayed list. In looking back at my list from January 2009, I’ve managed to whittle the eleven unplayed games down to just eighteen! At this rate I’ll be done by, well, never! Only two of the original eleven made this list, four were traded, and five got played. In rereading the original list I got a chuckle out of my comment about Dominion:

This card game for 2-4 players only lasts 30 minutes but there are 500 cards and the game features a “deck building” aspect much like a collectible card game. There’s something daunting about that for me. Maybe it’s feeling like I’d have to play it so many times to feel like I know what I’m doing.

Sheesh, Dominion is almost a filler game now. Great yes but not a thinky game by any means. You can play it almost on autopilot. If you don’t have a copy, pick it up and play it a few times and then inflict it on your extended family during the holidays or weekend get-togethers.

Okay, embarrassing as it is, let’s get on with the list:

  • American RailsMy copy of American Rails is one of only 130 copies designed and crafted by Tim Harrison from Games on the Brain. The game only recently arrived and I won’t say much about it since I wrote about it just a few days ago.

    Having just gone through the rules, I’m itching to play it in the wild. I’ve played Chicago Express and enjoyed that well enough but the board-mounted dials seemed a bit gimmicky. The three phase action driven variable turn order of American Rails may just clean that part up for me.

  • AndromedaOkay, I’ve got to come clean on this game. For consistency, I probably should have included this game on the previous list. I have played the game, once, years ago but not this copy. It’s an “okay” game, an older design (a bit more simplistic?), but holds a bit of nostalgic interest and features some, albeit simplified, tech-tree building mechanics. Well, and it has the cool comic ash-tray of death!

    The game boils down to set collection (cards) but requires players to make “offers” of cards to other players in hopes of enticing them to trade cards with you. The selection of the offer triggers the same sort of feel to the player as does composing the offer in Oasis or the goods selection in Medici.

    Andromeda is one of those games I’d love to play but I can’t really see when I’ll get it to the table. There are many other better games and although I currently have it up for trade, something about it makes me want to keep the copy.

  • AntikeI rationalized buying a copy of Antike because of the roundel. I liked Hamburgum (one of the five that got played from the last list) and thought to myself, “Self, it’s got the roundel…what’s not to like!”

    Unfortunately, it hasn’t seen the table and I doubt it will. I don’t know what I was thinking. It looks like a great game but with the 120 minute play time and the complexity of the rule set it just isn’t going to happen. It’s not overly complex or anything but just not worth the level of effort to relearn it well enough to teach it given my current gaming tastes. To the trade pile it goes!

  • ContainerI’ve mentioned Container several times and still hold out hope that I’ll get it to the table. Months ago I played some sample rounds in an attempt to learn the game and, at the time, had a pretty good grasp of the rules. However, it has a bit of a circular nature to the rule set (A leads to B which is important to maximize C which affects your ability to do more A) and the fine points are again lost (not that I even grasped them in the first place). I’m beginning to think my gaming tastes are changing.

    Off to the trade pile.

  • Funny FriendsPicked this one up in a CABS Math trade. I have no idea what I was thinking. On the trade pile.
  • GheosI hypocritically do not classify myself as an abstract game lover but deep down I must be. I tell myself I don’t enjoy simple area control games and I don’t usually do well at playing them but if that’s true, why am I drawn to them? Gheos is a relatively simple tile laying abstract with a pseudo-combat theme draped over it in much the same way that thematic clothes adorn Attika. I’ve only ever played solo sample rounds to learn the rules but I’ve never pushed to get it to the table. There are so many other “better” games, whatever that means, that I’ve never really thought it a contender. Again…to the trade pile it goes.
  • Hansa TeutonicaTechnically speaking, I’ve played Hansa Teutonica before at last year’s Great Lakes Games but I’ve never played this copy. I have high hopes for getting this one to the table so it’s not going to the trade pile. Definitely a “gamer’s game” in that there are a lot of options, multiple paths to victory, and a rule set complex enough to ward off casual gamers. However, it does massage that cerebral charley horse that crops up every now and then.

    Hansa Teutonica falls in the same category of complexity as Caylus, Vasco da Gama but I find it plays most similarly to Endeavor. Both games feature exploration of “roads” leading to “cities”, area control within “regions”, tech-tree building allowing more powerful moves on subsequent turns, etc. Good stuff.

  • Key HarvestI was pumped when I managed to obtain a Pro Ludo version of Keythedral and even more pumped after playing the game in the wild. My new found interest prompted me to start looking for other games in the “Key” series. My trek led me to scoring a copy of Key Harvest in an auction and when it arrived I tore open the box, put out the bits, opened up the rules and thought to myself…”This was dumb, why didn’t you look at the rules on BGG first! Idiot!”.

    Keythedral just seemed so much more straightforward. The artwork, like Keythedral is top-notch stuff but the Key Harvest rules seem opaque enough for me to mentally check out while reading. I imagine others feel the same about my beloved Reef Encounter (which, strangely enough, I don’t have difficulty with) but I wouldn’t mind if my copy of Key Harvest was joined with golf balls and rope in a risky “junk shot” attempt to plug the BP oil well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Up for trade.

  • Leonardo da VinciGot in a Tanga Deal of the Day for something like $10. I should have just taken the money and stuffed it directly in the jar where I keep the loose change I use to offset the cost of my impulse buy aversion therapy sessions. Up for trade.
  • Louis XIVI played this once years ago (2006 maybe?) and thought it was pretty good. I enjoyed the El Grande-like management of workers in this “worker placement” game before worker placement was a term. If I remember correctly after that one play, the end game’s resolution of the little blindly drawn tokens seemed a bit off. After having many more games under my belt in the last 4 or 5 years, I wonder what I’d think of it now. Picked up the copy in a CABS Math trade last year and there it sits, still in the shrink.

    I’m not willing to trade it just yet but if it doesn’t see the table soon, it might find itself on the slippery slope to the compost pile.

  • Lucca CittaNot much to say here. This game was thrown in a BGG Trade as a bit of a sweetener. Never played but supposedly pretty good. Probably not worth the postal costs of sending it anywhere so I should either play it or throw it in the box of other card games to slowly fade to obscurity.
  • New EnglandA hold over from the previous list. New England is a simple “family-weight” tile laying game with some interesting bidding for turn order mixed in. The decisions you make when deciding where to placing your tiles is usually pretty straight forward but when to “flip” tiles for points and how much to bid for the actions and therefore turn order adds an interesting twist.

    However, again it just never pops out as a game I want to push to get to the table. I thinks there’s potentially too much of the “cult of the new” going on inside my head. I’m sure the game is good but like Andromeda, is it good enough? Up for trade.

  • Railways of EuropeI’ve mentioned before that I think of myself as a closet “train gamer” but drag me into the light to play and you’d witness suckage beyond that which you’d ever thought possible given that I play by my gut and not by the math. I have in my head that to be a good train gamer, you’ve got to be able to calculate future worth and evaluate how much to bid in auctions, pay for track building, timing shipped goods, etc. If you can’t evaluate the ROI, you’re gonna suck. That’s me…suck, but oh the theme is so enticing.

    I can’t imagine trading Railways or its parent game Railroad Tycoon. Why you ask? Well, probably because I’m stupid. Next!

  • RichelieuI really have no comments on this game other than I received it as a complimentary copy from Michael Schacht along with a copy of Crazy Chicken. I’m currently working with two other developers on an iPhone Application for Crazy Chicken licensing the game from Michael. We discussed that Richelieu might make a nice follow on game but it’s since been removed from consideration due to some other deals Michael has going on. So, there it sits on the shelf still in the shrink.
  • Tal der KonigeTechnically speaking, I’ve played this game before and it was the copy I now own. However, it was at last year’s Great Lakes Games convention and it was still in the possession of the original owner. He’d not played it in years and we struggled a bit through the rules and I think we got several things wrong.

    So, I’m calling that play a mulligan and I want to play again. The game, long out of print, routinely goes for $50-$75 and I couldn’t pass up the copy for a no-ship $40. However, if I don’t play it, I might as well have put the money in my “jar” (see Leonardo da Vinci above).

  • WallensteinI received this copy in a BGG trade in which I felt like I made out like a bandit. I traded a copy of After the Flood which I’d gotten for free by mistake when I’d ordered a copy of Tinners’ Trail. Getting good three or four player games to the table is difficult enough let alone a three-player only game so I was willing to trade it straight up for a mint copy of Wallenstein. But…there it sits. The awesome cube tower just mocking me from inside the box. Some day, cube tower…some day.
  • Witch’s BrewRecently picked this up with the hopes of it filling a niche of lighter weight card games for a group of casual gamers I play with on a monthly basis. I haven’t gotten through the rules yet but in just browsing them I’m starting to wonder if my “light weight” filler might end up being too heavy weight for the group. Ah, what the heck, it’s worth a shot at least once.
  • ZendoI’ve always been intrigued by this game but mostly because of sheer weirdness of it. The game’s odd positioning as something that crosses the line between party game and actual competition I thought it might fit my casual group. Like other “party-ish” games where a single player represents the “leader” and others follow (e.g. Apples to Apples & Dixit), a Zendo “Master” uses small plastic bits and constructs structures that conform to some hidden set of rules. Other players attempt to guess the rules through inductive reasoning through trial and error at building their own structures.

    For the few plastic bits that are in the box, this out of print game routinely goes for $40-$50 so I’m not about to trade it. I got the copy in a CABS Math trade and just haven’t made the push to the table yet. Its time will come.

American Rails

Broke out American Rails and started going through the rules. You can certainly see the Chicago Express influence on the design. The game features six train companies each with different numbers of stock certificates and track (cubes) available and players vie for investing in the companies that earn them the most money by game end.

Through a series of stock auctions and several “years” players extend the lines of the companies by placing track (cubes) across the eastern United States. Money used to win the auctioned shares goes into the company coffers and is used to build track. The cost of track is determined by how many cubes are in a hex and what type of terrain the hex represents (plain, forest, and mountain). Some hexes can be “developed” increasing their value to the company when dividends are paid to shareholders at the end of each round. Each city you connect to increases your dividend. If you hold the city individually you get more than sharing the city with another company.

The turn structure within a round reminded me vaguely of Tinners’ Trail. There is no time component of your move affecting turn order but the the action phases within a round feature three columns of actions. As you take an action you place your disc on the action followed by everyone else. Turn order for the next action phase follows top down from the column. Choose a more powerful action this phase and you’ll go later in the turn order in the next phase.

I haven’t played a full game solo nor played “for real” but it seems money is very tight and you’ve got to be smart at knowing how much to bid and how best to use the money that the company amasses by auctioning shares. It appears that making a mistake can be costly.

I suspect I’m no good at the game since I play more by my gut than “by the math” but it does feel intriguing. Looking forward to learning more.

Gathering of Neighborhood Friends

Lisa and I got together with a few friends from around the neighborhood for some good company, good food, and light games. We managed to struggle through our first playing of Nuns on the Run on odd deduction game where one player plays the role of the two guards and everybody else is running around the nunnery trying to obtain a secret key to the room holding a hidden treasure. If you can obtain your treasure and make it back to your room without the guards catching you, you win.

Nuns on the Run is a bit long for what it’s worth and I think we were playing a bit wrong in how we become visible for short periods of time during our moves when we cross the guards line of sight. It’s not a game I would buy but worth a play just to see what it’s all about.

We also played Medici with six which was quite fun. Medici is a relatively dry (not much theme) game of purchasing goods at auction to fill your ship. Once everyone has a full ship (or the tiles run out) everyone unloads their various goods for points. Everyone is trying to gather goods that when delivered push their tokens higher on the goods tracks but sometimes you must fight others for those goods at the auction. Medici is a short (about 45 minutes) game and with only a few turns in each of the three rounds it’s over before you know it.

American Rails Arrives

My preorder for American Rails arrived today. The game is one of 200 (oops!) I mean 130 copies (thanks for the correction Tim) designed by Tim Harrison and produced by his own company Games on the Brain. I’m not a “train” gamer but I’ve always thought I could be one if I thought about it long enough.

From BGG: This luckless game was inspired by John Bohrer’s development of Chicago Express and the Historic Railroads System from Winsome Games. Set in the United States east of the Mississipi, American Rails features player-controlled variable turn order, “city dilution,” and variable setups, giving this cutthroat train game an unprecedented level of replayability.

Wasabi and Games For Geek Gold Lottery

I’ve posted an entry in the “Games for Geekgold” lottery for my copy of Wasabi. The lottery will close at May 31st and I will pick a winner using the Original Awesome Tool – BGG Geekgold Lottery Picker created by jeromier.Each 1 geek gold tip given to the geek list entry for Wasabi gives you one chance to win. As a bonus, every 5 geek gold grants you a free 6th entry. Shipping is on the winner unless the list reaches 200 geek gold. At that point, I’ll cover the first $12 in shipping. International entrants are welcome. Good luck.