Archive for the ‘general’ Category


November 25, 2014 Leave a comment

Not a big deal, but I’ve been busy updating the site and cleaning up links, etc.  I’ve updated my About page, the Guide to Modern Gaming, the Links page, and a bunch of the links in the bar on the right.  You might want to check it out.  :-)


Core Games 2014

November 23, 2014 Leave a comment

So I was looking through some of my BGG bookmarks recently, and I came across the link to this, the core games of 2008.  And of course it got me to wondering what this list would look like in 2014.  I did several different searches on BGG, but I wasn’t able to come up with anything.  So I decided to create the list myself.

I used Tony Ackroyd‘s methodology, or something close to it:  to be in the core games list, a game has to be ranked in the top 100 games, has to be in the top 100 owned games, and has to be in the top 100 played games.  When looking at the top played games, he only counted plays by distinct users, so I did the same.  I decided to look at all the plays in 2014, from January 1 to now.

First, I pulled up the top ranked games, then the top owned games, and finally the top played games.  Then a little magic in LibreOffice Calc, and here they are:  the core games of 2014.

How does this compare to the list from 2008?  It’s quite a bit different, really.  Of the 27 games on this list, and the 38 games on the list from 2008, there are only 7 games that are on both:  Twilight Struggle, Agricola, Puerto Rico, Power Grid, Race for the Galaxy, Ticket to Ride: Europe, and Ticket to Ride.  Might be good to check those out, if you haven’t already.  :-)

top 5 gateway games revisted

November 19, 2014 Leave a comment

A while back I wrote a post called Top Five Gateway Games.  In it, I argued that the top five gateway games should likely be Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, and Blokus.  Turns out I was wrong.  Though I like Blokus, I no longer think it should be the fifth gateway game.

I think the answer, in retrospect, is pretty simple:  take a look at the five most popular family games on BGG, and voilà!  You have your answer.

top five

So now for the canonical list:

  1. Settlers of Catan: 3-4 players, 90 minutes, ages 10 and up, 1995, weight of 2.4.
    The importance of Settlers to the modern gaming scene cannot be overstated: it single-handedly reinvented the industry. And with good reason — it’s tense, it’s fun, and it’s paced well, too.
  2. Carcassonne: 2-5 players, 60 minutes, ages 8 and up, 2000, weight of 1.9.
    A personal favorite, this game is extremely creative. You build a landscape by placing tiles, then inhabit that landscape by deploying your meeples.
  3. Ticket to Ride: 2-5 players, 45 minutes, ages 8 and up, 2004 weight of 1.9.
    My favorite game to teach to newbies, this one is always a hit. It’s easy to teach and easy to learn, and with a playing time of under an hour, you really can’t go wrong.
  4. Pandemic: 2-4 players, 60 minutes, ages 10 and up, 2008, weight of 2.3.
    An excellent game where players play against the game itself to try to eradicate diseases.  It’s been a hit with everyone I’ve introduced it to, and it’s a great couples game, too.  Not an easy game to win, but very satisfying when you can pull it off.
  5. 7 Wonders: 2-7 players, 30 minutes, ages 10 and up, 2010, weight of 2.3.
    A fun game that can be played with up to 7 players (always a plus), gives players multiple ways to win, and provides a nice introduction to card drafting.  As a bonus, there’s very little downtime, as all players are taking actions simultaneously. Not sure why this one didn’t make the cut the first time….

gaming gift guide 2014

November 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Okay, so I thought I would post another gaming gift guide — hopefully this’ll get me back into blogging a bit, but I’m not making any promises.

I’ve learned a lot about games in the last few years, and I hope to share some new discoveries.  Some of these games may be out of print, but that’s okay — it’ll likely still be possible to track them down.

A disclaimer:  most of these games are in the light-to-medium range, as I tend to prefer games that can be taught in 10 minutes or less.  I like gateway games — games that are suitable for gamers and non-gamers alike.  Heavy games are fun, but I find it a lot easier to get mid-weight games on the table.  And if I’m honest with myself, I’m up for a one-hour game a lot more often than I’m up for a two- or three-hour game.

These are the games that I’m almost always up for playing, the games that I can recommend without reservation, the games that I like best.  They are also, because I’m a designer, games that I consider to be elegant.  They are, in most cases, games that I wish I had designed.  Some of them are drop-dead brilliant.

So here they are, in order of their ranking on boardgamegeek:

  • Ticket to Ride — my favorite game to teach to newbies, it can be taught in 5 minutes or less.  There’s great tension, simple but meaningful choices, and a whole lot of fun.  My only complaint is that it can go on a bit long, but hey — it’s still a classic.  My favorite with 4 or 5 players is the original; my favorite with 2 or 3 is Nordic Countries.  The whole family of TtR games is discussed on the family page that’s devoted to them.
  • Jaipur — an excellent game for two, my wife and I play this one often.  The key to this game is getting into the flow of it — when you’re in the flow, you always seem to get the right cards at the right time.  Control the pace and you control the game.
  • Carcassonne — a tile-laying classic, this is the game that got me back into gaming.  It makes me feel like a kid when I play it, kind of like a sandbox where you can keep score.  Just don’t throw too many expansions in, though, as that’ll bog it down.
  • Battle Line — a great Knizia game for two, it’s kind of like Lost Cities‘ less popular cousin.  In many ways, though, I like it better.
  • Hanabi — if you like co-op games, you should give Hanabi a try.  It’s easy to teach to new players, unlike a lot of co-ops, and it’s fun, too.
  • San Juan — better than both Race for the Galaxy and Puerto Rico in my opinion, San Juan doesn’t get the love it deserves.  Sure there’s a lot of luck, but that doesn’t bother me.  It’s fun, it’s relatively easy to teach, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome.  One downside is that it takes a game or two to get used to the cards, but that’s true of a lot of games.  Can be hard to find.
  • For Sale — a brilliant, two-stage auction game.  I’m not any good at it, but I still enjoy playing it.
  • Lost Cities — another excellent two-player game by Knizia.  Lots of tension, and you can never do all that you want.  The big lesson?  Never bite off more than you can chew….
  • Santiago — a brilliant auction game with some very clever mechanics.  I definitely wish I had designed this one.
  • Blokus — like a strategic version of tetris, you want to get rid of as many of your pieces as possible.  A classic.
  • Coloretto — absolutely brilliant.  Schacht is probably my favorite designer, his stuff his clean and elegant.  I like this one better than both Zooloretto and Aquaretto (larger games based on the same mechanic).
  • Morels — a relatively unknown game, it’s an excellent game for two.  As far as I know, it’s only available on Amazon.  My one complaint is that there’s a lot of card sliding, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying it.
  • Hey, That’s my Fish! — very abstract, but lots of fun.  A quick game of positioning and area control.  Reminds me a bit of Amazons, but it’s lighter and more playful.
  • Incan Gold — a classic push-your-luck by Faidutti and Moon where you’re also trying to second-guess what your opponents will do.
  • On the Underground — a great connection game with a lazy passenger.  The only problem is that some players have a hard time figuring out how the passenger will move.  Fussy, in other words, but good.  One of my favorite discoveries of the last two years.
  • Word on the Street — a great party game if you like words.
  • Zombie Dice — a great filler, fun to play while you’re waiting for your guests to arrive.
  • Cockroach Poker — you like lying to people?  Good — get Cockroach Poker.  It’s very clever, and some of our friends absolutely love it.
  • Lascaux — no, this isn’t designed by Schacht, but the core bidding mechanic is his (from Mogul).  It’s brilliant.  My only complaint is that the cards can be hard to tell apart when they’re all the way across the table.
  • Fastrack — an excellent and highly-addictive dexterity game.  I played a larger version at BGG con and loved it.
  • Battling Tops — what can I say, this game is awesome — it’s really fun to watch the tops do battle with one another.  More an activity than a game, but a great activity.  And there’s probably a great drinking game in there, too.
  • Nada — a quick dice game requiring very fast thinking.  Simple and elegant, it’s a nice filler if you have somewhat manic friends.

I hope, if you try them, that you enjoy these games as much as I do.

a bit of news

October 5, 2013 2 comments

First, a bit of good news:  I just signed a contract with Mayfair Games to publish Lemuria in early 2015.  I don’t know what they’ll call it, or what the theme will be, but I’m very excited that they decided to move forward with this project.  Now I need to turn my attention to my next game, City Builder….

I haven’t been blogging very much lately, so I decided to try microblogging instead.  You can read my twitter blog at

I still plan to blog occasionally, mainly to share news, game guides, and my own print-and-play games.  I may post other things, too, but the bulk of my blogging energy will be on twitter now.

May the dice be with you.  :-)

recent activity, Goblins Inc.

February 18, 2013 Leave a comment

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Okay, so I haven’t been blogging much recently.  What I have been doing, however, is playing a lot, designing a lot, and trying to get things published.  I went to BGG.con in November, and it was a blast.  It was a kind of a busman’s holiday, where I was both trying to enjoy the con and talk to publishers.  I really enjoyed it, and I was also able to convince a publisher to take one of my games home with them.  Hooray!

So what have I been playing?  New games since the last time I blogged include Roma (a giveaway at BGG.con), Knizia’s Samurai, a number of Schacht’s games (Hansa, China, California), Lowenherz (picked up at the BGG.con marketplace), a number of Feld’s games (Notre Dame, Castles of Burgundy, The Speicherstadt), Friese’s Famiglia, Friese’s Copycat, Goblins Inc, Goa, Finca, and Princes of Florence.  For me, the standouts have been Roma, Castles of Burgundy, Goblins Inc, Goa, and Princes of Florence.

The wonderful thing about being a designer is that all these new games (and game purchases, if my wife is reading this) are all research.  I need to know what’s out there….

I’m currently working actively on about three games:  City Builder (an update of Hacienda, for those who’ve been keeping track), 12 Lords a-Leaping (a strange cross between Container and Coloretto), and Venture Capital.  City Builder is the one that’s been taking up most of my time recently, as I’ve said I would get a copy of the rules to a publisher by the end of the month.  That’s really going to be pushing it….

What am I looking forward to?  Two things:  Cabin Con 2013 (a gathering of friends in March) and owning my own copy of Goblins Inc.  I played it at BGG.con, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  There’s a lot of chaos, kind of like Galaxy Trucker, but in Goblins the mayhem is personal.  Published in 2012 by Czech Games Edition (and brought to the US by Rio Grande), it’s a fun game for people who don’t mind a bit of luck.  It plays in 60 minutes and is Filip Neduk’s first game.  I hope it won’t be his last.

For those who haven’t heard much about Goblins Inc, it borrows many of the mechanics of Galaxy Trucker (building a ship before piloting it, rolling dice for destruction, &c.) and wraps them in a theme involving battle bots.  It says it plays from 2-4 players, but the nice folks at BGG don’t recommend it for 3 — it’s recommended for 2 players, and it’s said to be best with 4.  Having played the game with 4, I have a hard time imagining how a 3-player game would go — there’s probably some clever mechanism in there to make it work, but it’s most naturally a 4-player game.

Battling robots (not sure where the Goblins bit comes in) is a team sport, where players must cooperate to both build and pilot their bot.  While players are cooperating, they’re also competing with one another, as each player has her own personal goals that differ from the goals of her partner.  It’s an uneasy alliance.

In the building phase, one player picks out the components that the other will have to use to build their ship.  While the builder might want more guns, his partner might want more engines.  And since his partner is the one picking which pieces will be used, he’s going to have to make do with engines.

Once the two bots are built, then they go into battle.  One player of the partnership chooses which tactics to use, while the other player drives the ship.  This doesn’t require as much cooperation as one might want, but it does give both players something to do.  If both ships survive the current round, then the two players switch roles and the bots go at it again.

This is one of those games that’s just fun to play.  In both of the games I played, players were laughing and whooping it up.  It didn’t really matter who won or lost, it was just as fun to see your own ship blown apart as it was to score a lucky hit on your opponents.

It’s not for everyone, obviously, but that’s true of any game.  Players who like Galaxy Trucker and want something a bit more confrontational should definitely pick it up.

If you want to read a review with a few more details about the gameplay, check out “Giant Robot Smash Up” by JohnBandettini.  He does a good job of explaining the game, and he includes a lot of pictures, too.  :-)


cult of the new?

September 26, 2012 Leave a comment

So I got to thinking the other day about the “cult of the new,” and I began to wonder if there was any way to see if there really was an effect along those lines at BGG.

How did I decide to go about it?  Using two sets of numbers:  first, a breakdown of the number of games in the top 250 ranked games by year, and second, a breakdown of the number of games in the top 250 most popular games by year (as measured by the number of players who have ranked the game).

Is this a perfect way to do it?  No, there are obviously any number of factors that would tend to skew the data in one direction or another.  But it isn’t bad, and all I was looking for was a back-of-the-envelope kind of calculation, anyway.

How did I get the data?  With a little URL hacking, that’s how.

For the number of games in the top 250 ranked games that were published in 1995, for example, I entered the following URL:[yearpublished][min]=1995&range[yearpublished][max]=1995&range[rank][min]=1&range[rank][max]=250&B1=Submit&sort=rank&sortdir=asc.  If you follow the link, you will see that there were four.

For the number of games in the top 250 most popular games that were published in 1995, on the other hand, I entered:[yearpublished][min]=1995&range[yearpublished][max]=1995&range[numvoters][min]=3362&range[numvoters][max]=250000&B1=Submit&sort=numvoters&sortdir=desc.  The number?  Seven.

(How did I come up with 3362 as the minimum number of voters for the 250 most popular games?  Look at all the games in the database, sort by the number of voters, and see how many votes the 250th game received.  Simple.)

On to the visuals.  In the graph below, blue shows the number of games in the top 250 highest ranked games, broken down by year; yellow shows the number of games in the top 250 most popular games, broken down by year.  Red and green show these same numbers while looking at only the top 100 games in their respective categories.

So what, if anything, does this graph tell us?  Both the yellow and green lines (tracking the most popular games, as measured by the number of voters) peak in 2004 and then drop off.  Both the blue and the red lines (tracking the highest ranked games), however, peak in 2009.

While certainly not definitive, this does suggest that (a) games take a while to be widely adopted by the BGG community, and (b) our ratings of these games do tend to fall over time.  We tend to rank games more highly, in other words, when they’re still relatively bright and shiny, and we tend lower our ratings when games begin to show their age.

If I were on Mythbusters, I’d have to conclude that the myth was confirmed.  What do you think?