Posts Tagged ‘boardgamegeek’

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 lecture on board game design

November 7, 2011 1 comment

I recently had the opportunity to give a lecture at the university where I work about board games and board game design.  I basically just gave an overview of the modern gaming scene (with an emphasis on family strategy games) and talked for about twenty minutes about how one goes about designing a board game.  It was fairly well received, I think.  There were thirteen students in attendance.

After I introduced myself I asked how many people had played Settlers:  four.  Carcassonne:  one.  Ticket to Ride:  one.  Pandemic:  zero (though one person had heard of it).  Magic:  one.  Dungeons and Dragons:  one.  Risk:  three or four.  Monopoly:  thirteen.  Blokus:  two, followed by a discussion about the correct pronunciation of the name.  Dominion:  zero.  Puerto Rico:  zero.  Agricola:  zero.  Power Grid:  zero.

I wasn’t surprised, really — mainly I wanted to know roughly who my audience was before starting in.  One of them asked about Scrabble and Bananagrams and where those games fit in to all this, and I said Scrabble was very highly regarded but not quite the same kind of game.  Two people had played Bananagrams.

The students were very polite and fairly engaged.  They wanted to know where they could learn more about games like this, and I told them to check out BoardGameGeek.  They wanted to know where they could buy games like this, and I told them to check out Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or one of several different online vendors.

I described the top three gateway games in some depth, giving an overview of gameplay in Settlers, Carcassonne, and Ticket to Ride.  I had unfortunately only brought one game with me (Settlers), so the talk was definitely lacking in the visual aid department.  I should’ve brought TtR so I could show off its board.

They had quite a few questions about board game design, and they were interested to hear about some of the games I’ve come up with.

There were two neat / funny moments.  The first came at the beginning when I asked why they had chosen to theme their honors orientation class around boardgames.  Their reply?  “It was either that or duct tape.”  Fair enough.

The second came at the end when I told them I was thinking of teaching an honors seminar on board game design.  I asked if any of them might be interested in such a class, and about half of them said they thought it sounded fun.  One student appeared to wake up at that point just so he could express his enthusiasm for the idea.

He kind of reminded me of myself when I was younger — I would’ve given anything to take a class on game design when I was in college.

That, and the fact that I was always half asleep.  :-)

lies, damned lies, and statistics; more fun with BGG URLs

June 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Thanks to Pelle Nillson, I now have a Python script that enables me to download BoardGameGeek game data using their XML API. I hope to do a number of posts based on this data in the near future, but I first wanted to correct a post I did recently.

In more BGG stats: fun with numbers, I shared a snapshot of a spreadsheet table listing the fifty games with the highest wanted in trade / offered for trade ratio in the BGG database. I included a caveat:

I didn’t go through the entire BGG database looking for the twenty games with the highest ratio, instead I assumed that they would all be in the top 100 games wanted in trade. And this might well be a bad assumption.

It turns out it was a terrible assumption. If you look at all games in the BGG database, the top twenty come out quite a bit differently:

So now, the top 10 include Julius Caesar, Hive: the Ladybug, Big Boss, Dominion: Cornucopia, K2, Railways of the Western US, Airlines Europe, Santorini, Olympus, and German Railways. And that’s quite a different list.

Sorry ’bout that….

To end this post on a more positive note, however, I’d like to share another little URL hack anyone can use to get at the data on BGG in a slightly nonstandard way.

In fun with BGG URLs, part III, I showed how it was possible to sort the games by number owned. Did you know it’s possible to do the same thing with just games in the family category? Just add “familygames/” before “browse/” in the URL above, and you get: Cool, huh? You can also do this for strategy games, for abstracts, for party games, and for wargames.

And if you don’t want to sort by number owned, you can also sort by other things, too: number wanting (sort=numwanting), number trading (sort=numtrading), number wishing for (sort=numwish), and pageviews (sort=views).

The general principle, here, is that you can add the type of game you’re looking for before “browse/” to limit the results you get.

Now I think that’s pretty neat. :-)