Friday, June 23


I'm off on holiday tomorrow for ten days in the South West, so I'll not be posting for a bit. I'm hoping to take a copy of Luke's game with me to playtest, and to enjoy a nice, relaxing break.

When I get back things will hot up with Border Reivers as I try to get everything together and construct a bunch of copies to take with me to The Cast Are Dice where I'll be playing it with anyone who's interested and hopefully selling a few copies. If you're going along please swing by and say hello!

Thursday, June 22

The tales of a casual games designer: Part 1

As Jack asked me to say something about the latest game I've been working on, I decided that I might as well incorporate it into my own little series. Anyway, I'll be keeping you, the reader, up to date on the positive and negative feedback of my latest print out and play game "First Past The Post". It's gone out to a few people now so hopefully it'll get some positive reviews and gain some interest. I'm not looking for Lost Cities or San Juan mk.II, rather a game that is seen that "Not bad" and "Worth playing again". That'll be success for me as it's my first light game, breaking away from heavy maths invovled in previous attempts. Laters, Luke

Board Games Design and Publishing: Part 2

As I mentioned in the first part I'll not go into to much detail on the design front as it has been a long time since I did any real design on Border Reivers, so I'm going to concentrate on the publishing side of things.

In this part I'll discuss the options for publishing your game idea once you have designed it. I'm assuming two things - firstly that you want to get your game in front of a reasonable number of people and secondly that you don't have unlimited funds. As I see it, you have three options:

  • Submit it to a publisher,
  • Publish a limited run yourself in an amateur fashion,
  • Publish your own game professionally.

Submitting your game to a publisher is the traditional route. You contact a range of publishers to see if they are accepting submissions (fewer and fewer of them are) and once you find one that is, you submit your game to them. How they like to receive game submissions (rulebook only, prototype, etc.) vary from publisher to publisher so it's best to ask before you submit. This route has the advantage of being the cheapest - the only outlay is a rulebook, or possibly a prototype until you get to the contract stage when you'll need a contract lawyer. In addition, since all the production effort is handled by the publisher, you have far more time available for starting another game design. The downsides are finding a publisher who is accepting submissions, and taking the criticism. You will get criticism. The publishers are likely to be far more experienced at this than you are - how you respond will likely determine the success of your game design. You need to be able to adapt the game design based on the feedback you receive without taking it as in insult. You must also be prepared to be knocked back - it's far more likely than acceptance, especially for inexperienced or unknown game designers.

The amateur self-publishing route is what I've chosen for Border Reivers. You produce a small run (i.e. less than 100 copies) of your game. For such a small run you will not be able to afford to produce all the parts professionally and the cost per game will be exceptionally high. The advantage is that while the cost per game is high the cost for the run is still less than a larger professional run. Also, you end up with a smaller number of copies to get rid of. It's a nice way to make enough copies to get some feedback without committing a small warehouse-worth of storage space. With a limited run you can get printing done professionally (due to the wonders of digital printing) and you can probably afford generic wooden or plastic pieces. However, custom boxes and box inserts, bonding printed sheets to thick card, die cutting and custom plastic pieces will be far too expensive. Unless you're a competent artist (or know one who'll work for free) the artwork will also be lacking. The game will therefore look sub-standard in terms of production quality, but you can sell it based on its exclusivity, or trade on the fact that you're a one man band (which will appeal to some customers). You could also make the run a limited edition or sign the copies to attract more customers. The bottom line however, is that your game needs to be good enough to sell at a fairly high price despite the low quality production. This route requires by far the most effort on your behalf, as not only do you have to spend time sourcing parts and suppliers, but you will probably have to do alot of the artwork and game construction (gluing, cutting, etc.) yourself. This will take an inordinate amount of time - trust me. For this route (and to a lesser degree the next one) you will also need to have selling skills, it's no good making them if they just go mouldy in your basement. If you're going it alone, don't underestimate the importance of sales and marketing - both will be required to successfully sell the run.

If you go down the professionally self-publishing route you need to be damn sure your idea is a winner. Stop, think of all the downsides of your game, playtest it and listen carefuly to the feedback. This route is by far the most expensive, both in terms of hard cash, and also storage space. When I lived in Bristol I met the guys who designed The Buntu Circus. They had their design accepted by Waddingtons or someone similar (I can't remember who), but turned them down as they wanted to re-style the game. Instead they published it themselves. Their small flat was rammed with boxes of the game. To go down this route you need to publish enough copies so that the economies of scale make it cheap enough that you can sell it to stores and distributors at 40%- 60% of the retail price, and still make a profit. You also can't afford to do anything yourself (except possibly box packing), as this will be too time consuming for a large number of games. You'll need somewhere to store them (a garage or large spare room is an absolute minimum - a warehouse would be better). You're looking in the region of 500+ copies, preferably more to get the price per copy low enough. Also you will need to consider the effort required to sell and deliver large volumes to distributors as you are unlikely to be able to get rid of all the copies over the internet or via personal sales.

In the next part I'll go into more detail on option two - the only one I've had any experience of.

Tuesday, June 20

Absolute Balderdash Review

Last night we went round to some friends for a really nice meal, and afterwards we played Absolute Balderdash. For once it wasn't me suggesting to play a game, which made a pleasant change.

I'll freely admit that I prefer strategy games to party games. However, Absolute Balderdash is entertaining due to the scoring method. The good: the scoring method requires you to interact with your opponents which adds interest. The bad: the board and pieces are fairly bland, generic party game fare.

In Absolute Balderdash, players take it in turns to read out a question from one of five categories:

  • Words: The reader reads out an obscure word, such as 'Titillomania' and the other players must write down a meaning for it.
  • People: The reader reads out the name of a person, and the other players have to write down why that person became famous.
  • Initials: The reader reads out an acronym, such as ACNE and the other players write down what it stands for.
  • Film: The reader reads out the name of a film, and the other players have to write down the main plot line.
  • Law: The reader reads out the beginning of a law (e.g. In Brainerd, Minnesota, it is illegal for men to ...), and the other players must complete the law.

While the other players write down their answer the reader must write down the correct answer as provided on the card. The reader then reads out all the answers and players must guess which one is correct. Here's where it gets interesting. The scoring is as follows:

  • You get one point for guessing the correct answer.
  • You get one point if someone guesses the answer you wrote down.
  • You get two points if you're the reader and nobody guesses the correct answer.
  • You get two points if you write down the right answer.

The answers tend to be fairly off the wall, so your chance of writing down the correct answer with nothing to go on is fairly slim. Your best bet when it comes to getting points is twofold: write an answer so implausible that your opponents believe it is the right answer; and to correctly guess the right answer from those provided by your opponents - by this point there's more information available and it's much easier. The former is actually a very entertaining mechanic as you try to create answers strange enough for the other players to believe they're the right answer.

In addition to the question mechanics, the game features a scoring track which determines which type of question will be read out and a spinner allowing players who land on certain spaces to spin the spinner and either move back one or forward two or three extra spaces. These are fairly standard, and feature in lots of party games - so nothing particularly interesting there.

Still, Absolute Balderdash is fairly entertaining, even when sober, and if party games are your thing then it's a good example of the genre. I give it 6, but it's probably nearer 7.5 for party gamers.

Monday, June 19

Hot Games Action! - Part 2

Saturday night the games continued as we had several friends round for a games night. The temperature was equally ridiculous, it was 27 degrees in our flat at 11pm!

First up, Roman, Jochen, Paul and I played my first game of Power Grid by Friedemann Friese - a recent Birthday present (thanks Linz and Cath!). We chose to play not to play the Germany map (despite 50% of the players being German) since the American map is supposed to be slightly easier and none of us had played before. We read through the rules, and once we thought we had the idea we began to play tentatively.

Paul chose the cheap connection costs of the North-East, Jochen headed for Alabama, Roman the Mid-West and I chose the central North. During the first few turns things were fairly close with me lagging behind slightly, but just before stage two began Paul got trapped as we had surrounded him, so he had a turn or two without many expansion opportunities. Jochen chose to go down the renewable resources route, building green Power Station after green Power Station, and obviously benefitting from the reduction in outlay as he didn't need to buy any fuel. From Paul's early lead, Roman and I began to edge into the lead and Jochen started trailing, I'd gone for a few big power plants that were of mixed fuels so they were fairly cheap to power.As the game entered the closing stages I looked to the available resources and noticed there was hardly any coal left, I looked down and realised over the last few turns I've bought new power plants that all run on coal! No! Yup. I'd completely scuppered myself. I bid for the 50 renewable power plant but it was too late. Roman built a whole bunch of power plants after buying the last of the coal. So the final turn ends with us powering: Roman - 19, Jochen and Paul - 17 and me 12 out of my 16 plants. Soundly thrashed!

After that the Germans were all gamed out, so Paul and I cracked open my copy of Ticket To Ride and played three games of that. Paul picked the rules up very quickly and completely out played me over a three game series. He managed to complete high-value routes such as coast-to-coast ones, consistently claimed the longest route and won each game by at least ten points. I was quite conservative on my routes, only keeping all three of my initial draft once, and never choosing to take extra routes during the game. Perhaps that's where I fell down, I never failed to complete a route, but I never got many points for them either.

It was getting late, so we had a quick game of Carcassonne to end the night (at 1:45am). I won the game, but since I'd played hundreds of times and this was Paul's second game I can't really count it.

All-in-all it was a great night, and I got several people to sign up as blind-playtesters for Border Reivers, which is great, as I need some feedback on the rules once I've got them ready.

Despite not winning a game (except a couple of games of Carcassonne against two relative newbies - which don't count) Saturday was a great day's gaming. I got to experience four new games, and play nine games in one day (plus the first two hours of the next one). I'm going to miss the next games club meet as I'm going to be in Devon and Cornwall on holiday, but I'm looking forward to going again soon.

Sunday, June 18

Hot Games Action! - Part 1

I went along to Beyond Monopoly again yesterday afternoon for a few hours of gaming. When I got there the place was pretty busy - there must have been over thirty people including I'd guess about 10 kids. It's nice to see the kids there, they are of course the future of the hobby.

Everyone seemed to be busy, then I noticed a guy hovering over one of the games, I introduced myself and we picked up Euphrates & Tigris a tile laying game by Reiner Knizia, set during the dawn of civilisation in what is now Iraq. While we were setting up and Wolfgang was explaining the rules, Colin and Paul asked if there was room for more so we settled down to a 4-player game. The first thing that struck me was this German version was for 2-4 players, whereas only the day before I had been thinking of buying the English version, which was only 3-4 players. Bizarre. The game was slightly complicated on the surface (we had three beginners playing and we all had difficulty remembering which tiles counted when resolving internal and external conflicts), but obviously had some subtlety hovering under the surface. I was playing fairly randomly for most of the game as I struggled to determine a decent strategy, I also failed to play either of my two disaster counters, which was probably a mistake.

Throughout the game, I was also completely short-changed of green tiles. The reason this matters is that you score independantly in each of the four colours, and your final score is the lowest of your four scores - forcing you to diversify. This was a really interesting mechanic, which I think with a little more practice I could learn to love. It's another game where you keep your scores hidden, so everyone is kept interested as they don't know whether they are still in with a chance of winning. Come the end, we were all convinced we had lost by miles, but it ended up being very close: Paul - 6, Wolfgang - 6, Me - 5, Colin - 4.

After Euphrates & Tigris we looked for another game for the four of us, and someone suggested Medici also by Reiner Knizia, about which I'd heard good things on BGG. It was the first auction game I'd played and as we were setting up Rob came over to join in so we ended up playing a 5-player game. Sadly I forgot to take a photo of medici, so you'll have to make do without one.

The game is set in Renaissance Italy, as players play as merchants shipping goods. The game is played over three turns, and during each turn players take it in turns to turn over cards describing trade goods and then auction them. You bid with your money, which is coincidentally your VPs, so not only do you have a limited supply but you want to end the game with as much as possible. There are five types of goods and the two players who have shipped the most of each type of goods so far get some money at the end of each time. In addition, there are points for having the heaviest ship during each turn. Again I was fairly lost during this game, as I had no idea what a heavy load was until the end of the first turn, and there are only three. I wasn't sure how much to pay for card combinations, and I'm sure I made a few mistakes. At the end of the first turn I was last by a fairly hefty margin, but I was lucky at the end of the second turn, since if it's your turn to draw cards and everyone else's ship is full you have to take whatever cards you draw from the deck, and I was lucky enough to draw two cards of a type I was already shipping this turn. This got me the most of that type and enough cash to get back in the game. In the end I managed to sneak second place behind Colin's comfortable lead: Colin - 122, Me - 83, Rob - 82, Paul - 75, Wolfgang - 72.

The others went to join in a game of Ca$h 'n' Gun$, which didn't sound that interesting from the explanation I got, so Paul and I played a game of Lost Cities. I'd not played it before, and Paul had just bought it so we were both up for it. It turned out to be my third Reiner Knizia game of the day, it wasn't intentional, but when someone has made so many games it's hard not to end up playing them, just through luck of the draw. Lost Cities is a card game of running archaeological digs to explore five lost cities.

I really liked this one. It's quick, it's simple and it's nicely themed. The cards are well illustrated (and the fact that each set of cards makes a larger picture of the appropriate lost city is pretty cool). Despite my appreciation of the game I really sucked at it. I couldn't keep track of my expeditions, and since each starts off worth -20, and the end of the turn always comes round much faster than you expect. I ended up regularly losing money on expeditions, and each turn Paul thrashed me. From 33-11 at the end of the first turn I ended up losing 99-27!

So, why the title? It was baking in there! It was like playing games in a sauna. Still, yet another good session of games that are new to me.

Saturday, June 17

Festival of Games!

It's my local games club day today, so I'm going to pop along for several hours this afternoon, yet again I'm hoping to get to try out a few games I've not played before.

Then in the evening, if that wasn't enough we're having a bunch of friends round in the evening for games. I'm hoping to get a game of Power Grid in, plus anything else from my limited collection, I imagine Puerto Rico, Carcassonne and maybe Ticket To Ride will get outings.

Anyway, I'll get a couple of session reports up over the next few days...

Friday, June 16

Another New Game!

I went into town today with The Wife and we swung past my FLGS Travelling Man. The Wife was going to buy me a game so I had a look through the stock and I was drawn to two of the items on my wishlist from a couple of weeks ago: Tigris and Euphrates and Ticket to Ride.

It was a toss up, I'd played Ticket to Ride and instantly loved it (like 500,000 other people apparently), and I was keen to play Tigris and Euphrates. In the end I chose Ticket to Ride as the box of Tigris and Euphrates was slightly damaged and TtR plays with 2-5 whereas T & E is only 3-4 - a couple of numbers we don't often get.

Board Game Design and Publishing: 1

Part of the raison d'être of this blog is to recount my experiences of designing and publishing board games. However, the content has been sadly light on this front recently, so I'm going to try to remedy that over the next few weeks with a series of posts recounting the recent history of Border Reivers. They will be interspersed with other posts, but hopefully will form a fairly coherent history of the project.

I'll start this series off with a longer term history to get things up to speed, and then in the next installment start the recent history which is almost entirely to do with self-publishing rather than design.

Border Reivers was conceived during my Christmas holidays in 2002. As I've said before, I had recently played a game of Mighty Empires that had lasted 36 hours without getting anywhere. I liked the concept of the game (fantasy empire-building) I just didn't have whole weekends free to play games like that. For many years I had been developing bits of computer games in my spare time but I was getting frustrated by the amount of effort required to finish a computer game (professional ones take teams of tens of people a couple of years to complete). So I thought I'd try to create a board game for a change.

It carried with it the exciting (but at that point unlikely and remote) chance I might actually finish a project I had started, since it is definitely possible to design a board game by yourself - the vast majority are one person jobs. I'll not go into too much detail about the design effort as it was two years ago now and I've forgotten much of the detail. More on that when I get back to designing my second effort Codename: Dollyo after Border Reivers is out of the door.

Initially I had a concept (which is essentially still in the game) and I started playing the game against myself just scribbling the board onto a sheet of paper, using pieces from Settlers and Carcassonne. I also use coins and glass beads in the early stages. Once the balance of the early elements was sorted out (i.e. it wasn't completely broken) I started inflicting it on my friends and family. I got loads of really good feedback in those early stages which led me to simplify things a great deal, and add the cards (after a suggestion from The Wife). I'm definitely from the start complex and simplify school of board design.

As things started to settle down, and I got a feeling for what was working and what wasn't, the game continued to evolve. During this phase I created several versions of the cards (using Microsoft Publisher and a local printing shop) which I cut out with craft knife and cutting mat, and the prototype army, town, city, tower, castle and mountain range pieces which I sculpted from FIMO. The towns and cities were discs made by rolling the FIMO out flat and then cutting round 2p and 1p coins, the others were little sculptures. At this stage I was interested in making an attractive and interesting prototype to play while I solidified the rules - I had no consideration of minimising production costs. I also went through several incarnations of the tiles, initially badly painted foamboard, working up towards the pencil crayoned thick card ones I'm using at the minute, which are also laminated for reducing wear and tear. During this phase the rules were mostly in my head, with a few notes scribbled down in a notebook.

Once the design was nearly finished I started considering reducing the production costs, as I was looking into getting a few copies made for friends. I replaced four small decks of cards in the players' colours with a single deck, I reduced the number of pieces and tiles the game contained and generally looked to economise. By designing the tiles as double-sided I'd already made things difficult for myself, and over the last few years I have often considered various ways to make the tiles cheaper - but sadly I keep coming back to the double-sided version. I also wrote the rules up in a little booklet, again using Microsoft Publisher.

Once I considered Border Reivers complete, I stopped pushing my friends to play it with me, and I moved on to other things. Border Reivers got shelved, I started designing Dollyo and a couple of other games, and then moved away from my gaming chums. Recently, I decided to go for it again with Border Reivers and at that point I started looking into publishing it myself.

Why not tout it to real publishers and try to get it published professionally? I guess, as much as anything, I relish the challenge of getting the game published as cheaply as possible while maintaining what I consider to be an acceptable quality. I look forward to seeing not only my name in print, but a game that I made in every sense of the word. I look forward to introducing it personally to other gamers, getting their feedback and hopefully selling enough to cover my costs. But mainly I guess it's just down to needing an obsessive hobby :-)

Since the renewed effort on Border Reivers I have made only very small changes (re-tooling the rules on a couple of cards after realising they were pointless!), but other than that the rules are now finished. Before I do the final print run I need to do some blind playtesting where I give the game and rules to some people who've not played it before to see how clear the rules are and to get some last minute feedback on the game as it stands. It'll not be too late to make some slight changes to the rules at that point - hopefully that's all it will need.

The next installment will discuss how I started to go about publishing the game.

Thursday, June 15

Strategy In Board Games

I'm a big fan of 'Eurogames' - designer games released in the last few years. These games are usually fairly short, feature a lot of strategy and far fewer random factors than traditional board games such as Monopoly, Ludo and Risk.

My recent discussion on BGG made me consider what I mean by 'strategy' in a board game, and what it is about strategy board games I like. I was also doing some revision for an exam at work and came across a definition of 'strategy' in a project/business sense which made me think about it some more. I'll repeat the definition (courtesy of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, on

The art or skill of using stratagems in endeavors such as politics and business.

And for reference, the definition of stratagem:

A clever, often underhanded scheme for achieving an objective.

This allows me to create my own definition of strategy in games:

The art or skill of planning, adapting and using clever, or underhanded schemes to win the game.

I stole bits of that from the other definitions of strategy on the same page. The point I'm trying to get across can be broken down into several sub-points. To be a strategy game I think the game:

  • must provide several strategy options allowing the players to plan a strategy.
  • should be deterministic enough that the player can choose a strategy in the early stages and then act it out throughout the game;
  • should allow players to execute their chosen strategy or strategies in an underhand way that means their efforts are not necessarily obvious to their opponents;
  • should provide enough depth that the players have to respond to the actions of their opponents adapting their strategies to the prevaling conditions;
  • should combine the above attributes in such way that players require skill, that can be developed through repeated play, to master the intricacies of the game, allowing them to choose strategies that will optimise their chances of winning the game under diverse conditions.

Even a simple game such as Carcassonne can fulfill the above points in my opinion, it doesn't need to be a heavy game such as Caylus.


P.S. Eng-a-land, Eng-a-land, Eng-a-land! Let's hope we can do better than we did against Paraguay.

Wednesday, June 14

Ninja Galaxy Discussion

When I posted my review of Ninja Galaxy a couple of days ago I also cross-posted it to BGG as is my want.

The review started an interesting discussion on the Geek about the game mechanics. There were a couple of guys who liked the game for the same reasons that I disliked it. We went back and forth a bit explaining our reasoning and in the end agreed to differ.

It was nice to have a pleasant and polite disagreement on the internet - too often they descend into childish flaming.

Border Reivers: Making Progress

Hard work, this board game production business.

I've got several things in progress at the minute:

  • The cards - I'm pretty happy with the front design, not so sure about the symbols on the back of the cards and I'm missing a logo for the game which I'm getting some help with.
  • The rulebook - I've had a rulebook written for a couple of years, but I need to re-write it to be better written, clearer and more thorough. I'm also working on a cover design for the rulebook. I need to post the rulebook to myself via Special Delivery for copyright claiming purposes. But I've been putting it off until the I've finished the rulebook. I'll also need to do some blind play-testing once the rules are finished to further improve their clarity.
  • This blog - I'm trying to build up a readership, by blogging regularly, and hopefully in an interesting manner.

I really need to start finishing some of these things off, since I've set myself a deadline of mid-July to get the game ready for The Cast Are Dice. I'm hoping to take several copies to play and hopefully sell. Time to start setting myself individual task deadlines I think.

I especially need to finish these off as I have to also do designs for the top and bottom of the box, the scoreboard and the mountain ranges.

Tuesday, June 13

Border Reivers Session Reports

As I've mentioned before I played a couple of games of Border Reivers this weekend. One very early on Saturday morning with Dunk while quite drunk, the other with Gav and Ciara on Saturday evening.

Since submitting Border Reivers to BGG I've not actually done anything with the BGG page. It's bare. Considering how much content a popular game on the Geek generates in terms of pictures, rules translations, rule variants, FAQs, session reports and reviews the Border Reivers page looks quite sad. There's a reason why I've not done much, I don't want to post images until I've a production copy to use, and none of the playtesters are on the Geek to generate reviews or session reports. However, since my aim is to sell the game, I think the Geek could be a valuable resource from a marketing perspective.

I know that other designers have been slated for using the Geek as free advertising, but I think as long as I contribute other useful content to the Geek (such as reviews and images of other games, moderating other users' submissions and forum comments) and as long as I pay Aldie for all his hard work (through being a supporter), I'm entitled to promote Border Reivers in a similar fashion to the other games listed.

I've got to be careful not to commit a Rule 7 Violation, but as long as I don't spam the hell out of them and I'm not too over-the-top hopefully I'll not upset anyone.

Anyway, to the point.

Friday night, after a game of Ninja Galaxy, Dunk and I settled down for a game of Border Reivers. After several hours in the pub celebrating my birthday I was a little the worse for wear, but fortunately the late start (around 1:45am) and the drink were affecting Dunk equally.

Sadly all I really remember about the game (I told you I'd been drinking) was the Insurrection card. I chose one fairly early on and was gleefully waiting to play it on Dunk when he least expected it. It's one of the cards you have to play before your reinforcement phase (to stop you playing it the turn you pick it up) and for about five or six turns in a row I gave a little 'D'oh' after every reinforcement phase as I realised, yet again, that I'd forgotten to play it. I imagine in a game between normal players the conversation would go a little something like:

  • Aristotle: D'oh! I've forgotten to play a card! Do you mind if I play it now?
  • Boudicca: Chimp!
  • Confucius: Did you pick it up this turn?
  • Aristotle: Nope, a couple of turns ago.
  • Boudicca: Go on then.
  • Confucius: (under breath) Cheat.

But, since I designed the game, and I'm continually victimised for 'remembering' rules halfway through the game, I decided to play it by the book. In the end, Dunk picked an Insurrection and played it on me before I got to do it to him. He eventually won the game by annihilating me.

On Saturday we wnt round to Gav's for games. It was the end of a long day: we'd had a barbeque earlier in the day while watching the pathetic England match, then been to the casino and now we were playing games. To be honest we were all a bit too knackered, and despite me bringing two bags full of games only Carcassonne and Border Reivers got a look in. Gav and Ciara decided to play Border Reivers (mostly Gav) and I joined in. We set up a 3-player board and placed the forests, mountain ranges and mine. Gav was going first so he got to place the mine but was last to choose a start tile. I got a good location, slightly nearer to the mine than the others, and capitalised on it by quickly rushing in. I also moved the bulk of my armies to a choke point between two mountain ranges and fortified it, and fortunately, this was in front of the mine, so I didn't need to tool up there too. Ciara hadn't played before and admitted that she didn't really get the game until near the end, so apart from a brief attack we didn't really get involved much.

Holed up behind my fortification I felt fairly safe, so I tried to save my income. You can win the game by starting your turn with 40 gold, so I chose saving over reinforcements most turns, except a couple of occasions when I really needed something.

Since I had the mine sewn up, and Ciara was also playing defensively, Gav (who had played a couple of times before) took advantage of the quiet game to become Mister Civilisation. He quickly built the maximum three cities and several towns. He upgraded his cities to have markets and was getting income and reinforcements at a staggering rate. I was convinced he was going to beat me via economic means but he continued to spend his income building up an impressive army.

Meanwhile, I was crawling towards the requisite 40 gold. So slowly. Despite the mine, my save-not-spend strategy was limiting my reinforcements and hence my settlements, so my income was less than half of Gav's. Fortunately, Gav noticed too late and when he tried to steal my income in a last ditch attempt to stop me winning I was able to pull back from my fortifications to protect my settlements. Sadly for Gav, it was not to be. Although Dave had snatched a win from Wilka's jaws in exactly the same fashion last time we played, Gav was unable to do the same and I scraped a lucky win that I really didn't deserve.

Monday, June 12

Ninja Galaxy Review

As I said yesterday, I got a couple of late-night games in with Dunk on Friday night. The first game was Ninja Galaxy which a received a free review copy of several weeks ago. This was the first time I played it, so here's my review the game based on a single play.

Ninja Galaxy is a roll-and-move game about space-age combat between futuristic ninja clans engaged in a battle to the death. The good: the production values are excellent, the artwork is technically good - if not to everyone's taste, the transparent dice are cool - as are the ninja meeples and the game comes with English and German rules out of the box. The bad: the game features little strategy and has some awkward mechanics (moving onto the board and turn order). I'll admit I'm not this game's target audience (I'm a Eurogamer) as both the artwork and the rules seem to be aimed more at children.

Ninja Galaxy is a fairly short game for 2-4 players, each of which controls one of four ninja clans. Each clan comprising of three ninjas, three light-swords (think lightsabers or space-age katana) of varying strengths (1, 2 and 3), three light-stars (space-age shuriken) and three portal blockers. Light swords are only used for combat between ninjas, whereas light-stars can be used for a more lethal form of combat or to destroy the portal blockers. The portal blockers are used to block players access to areas of the board.

The board consists of four rings comprising a different number of spaces in the colours of the four ninja teams. The outer ring features thirty-two spaces including four 'sun windows', the second one sixteen, the third one eight and the final ring only four. In each case the number of spaces is divided equally between the four player colours.

Players take it in turns to roll a dice and move one of their ninjas that number of spaces. If the ninja lands on a space of their own colour that ninja may move through the portal to another space of their colour on the same ring or an adjacent ring and then roll again. If they land on a ring of another colour their turn ends, although they may place a portal blocker to sabotage the player who's space they have landed in. If you land on one of your spaces with a portal blocker you cannot move through the portal until the portal blocker has been destroyed. Your three ninjas start on your sun outside the outside ring and can only move onto the outside ring through the 'sun-window' if you roll an odd number. The aim is to get your ninjas to the central ring pick up a 'Negative Energy Disc' (NED) and deliver it to another player's sun window - eliminating them from the game. The other way to eliminate them is to kill all three of their ninjas in combat.

Combat ensues when you enter a space containing another player's ninja. You have two options: either attack with a light star or attack with a light sword. When using a light star you roll a D12 and your opponent rolls a D6. If the attacker rolls a higher number (which happens 71% of the time) the opponent's ninja is removed from the game. Whether the attacker rolls a higher number of not their light star is also removed from the game. You only have three light stars, and you need them to counteract opponents portal blockers so you have to use light stars with caution. The second attack option is to use light swords. In this case each player chooses one of their three light sword tokens (numbered 1, 2 and 3) and rolls a D6. They add the value of their chosen light sword to their die result and the loser loses the light sword token they chose to use. If a player has no light swords tokens left and they lose the fight they lose the ninja.

If a player loses all their ninjas they are eliminated from the game. The other elimination method is to use one of your ninjas to go to the inner-most ring and collect a NED. If you successfully attack a player's sun window with the NED then they are also eliminated.

There are three things that put me off this game:

  • Starting the game - you may not move any of your ninjas until they reach the rings. To get a ninja from your star system to the outer-most ring through your sun window you need to roll an even number. Most of the time you'll do that fairly frequently, in some games you'll face a dearth of even numbers which effectively keeps you out of the game. The mechanism seems gratuitous and it can be very annoying to be excluded from the game in the early stages.
  • Turn order - when you attack an opponent's ninja the turn order can go a bit screwy. If the attacker wins they get to move again, if they fail then the defender gets to move and the turn order continues from the defender. Imagine a 3-player game where player one attacks player three and fails, so player three takes a turn, followed by player one. Player two has missed their turn through no fault of their own. It also complicates keeping track of who's next.
  • Random factors - Since it is a roll-and-move game your options depend entirely on what you get on your movement rolls. It's very difficult to plot a strategy under those conditions.

The only real strategy is to move to the centre then move out with a NED and target an enemy sun-window. Occasionally, you have the option of attacking another player - but you run the risk of losing one of your light stars or laser swords. Portal blockers are useful in trying to stop your opponents do the same, but you've only got three of them. Since there is only one space of each colour on the inside ring, and two in the second ring there is no point in playing them on the outer two rings.

However, it's not as bad as it sounds. The ninja theme and colourful artwork will appeal to kids, and the simple rules will be easy to introduce to children. The game is for players aged nine and up, and it will be most popular with those at the lower end of this spectrum. In addition, I also received a set of 'advanced rules' for the game designed to make the game appeal more to Eurogamers, I've not played these yet - I'll post again once I have. Personally, I give it a 5 on the BGG scale but for families with fairly young kids I imagine it would be a 7.

Sunday, June 11

Power Grid - Nice Box!

I went to Newcastle yesterday to celebrate my birthday with chums there and Linz & Cath, as well as putting us up for the night, gave me Power Grid for my birthday.

I've never played it, but first impressions are very encouraging. Considering how much I bitch about box illustrations, the fact that I like this one should count as a real commendation. The box a nice design, with a really 1930s feel:

Like a lot of games it has three icons on the box used to quickly inform a prospective purchaser of three key characteristics of the game: number of players, age recommendations and playing time. These are great in Power Grid's case. It's a game about running an electricity network - supplying cities and building generation plants. The icons reflect that :-)

I've not played it yet, but I was also impressed that this edition has a double-sided playing board, with the original German map on one side, and the American map used for the American version on the other. That's a really nice touch.

Saturday, June 10

Birthday Games :-)

I got a couple of new games yesterday (well expansions really):

I also got a couple of drunken games in last night, one of Ninja Galaxy the other of Border Reivers between 1am and 2:30am this morning. I'm off to Newcastle in a minute to continue celebrating my birthday - I'll post a session report tomorrow.

P.S. Come on England!

Friday, June 9

Which Came First?

... the theme or the mechanic?

Eurogames are often accused of having paper-thin veneer themes. They tend to have fairly abstract mechanics with a basis in some form of mathematics with a theme on top. Examples of some game themes are:

  • Puerto Rico - Colonising the New World,
  • Tikal - Exploring the jungle ruins at Tikal,
  • Carcassonne - Developing the land arond the French city of Carcassonne,
  • Caylus - Building a castle for the King.

I'm not really interested in why games are themed - I'm guessing it's to draw the players in and also as a marketing ploy. What I am interested in is the development of the game. Did the designer start with a theme and then choose mechanics to fit? Did they start with some abstract mechanics and add a theme on top? Did the publisher add the theme for marketing purposes? If either of the latter two options, did the designer redesign the game at all to better fit the theme?

I've designed one game and started designing three others. I've tried both the first two methods. My first game Border Reivers started with the mechanics, the other three all started with a theme. I started developing Border Reivers after a painfully long game of Mighty Empires with Tim and Dunk (and that wasn't even fighting the battles with miniatures). I really liked the style of game (medieval empire-building), but after 36 hours I was losing with Tim and Dunk clearly ahead of me (Tim winning by a nose) and the game wasn't going anywhere. We decided to give up after one more turn, and then something totally random happened almost wiping out Tim ( a dragon attack or somesuch). It was ridiculous, after such a long game for the playing field to completely change like that. So I thought I'd make a similar type of game that was less random and much shorter. I was aiming for under an hour, but Border Reivers can stretch to a bit longer than that with three players - like many three player games when the two losing players gang up on the winning player. Once then rules settled down after a couple of years, I started to look for a theme and chose the Border Reivers as they were a local, historical phenomenon and they fit the mechanics fairly well (especially the raiding card). I'll be honest, it's not the strongest themed game.

My next two attempts were theme driven. A Samurai duelling card game and a mission-based game inspired by the Firefly sci-fi TV series (it's great - I highly recommend it). The mechanics of both of these games changed over time as I tried to get the game to mirror the theme. Eventually I shelved both of them.

My latest game Codename: Dollyo is also theme driven, inspired by a trilogy of books that I love. It's a game of politics and intrigue in a setting similar to feudal Japan or Korea. Over the last year or two it's mechanics have completely changed on a couple of occasions as I discover new ideas. Each time I try to pick mechanics that give a fun gaming experience while remaining true to my subject matter.

Which works best? Judging by my experience, designing the mechanics first and then giving it a thin coat of theme means you end up with a finished game. Starting with a theme and trying to pick and chose mechanics to fit the theme ends up with lots of half-finshed games. I wonder which method other games designers use? It's a question I'll have to ask any I bump into at Essen this year.

Thursday, June 8

Jack's Top 5: Numero Uno

So here it is, finally, after all the wait - my favourite game at the moment. I've played this one literally hundreds of times over the last four years or so - and I still love it, truly the sign of an excellent game. I'm sure you've all guessed it by now, judged purely on my session reports, but I'll spell it out for you anyway.

Carcassonne is a light and quick tile-laying and area control game by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede. It's spawned a host of expansions and a spin-off game, and was the game that brought us meeples.

The good: This is an excellent filler game, once you know what you're doing it can be very quick to play; the tiles are attractive; the meeples are fantastic; meeple stacking gives you something to do while waiting for your turn and it makes a good 'gateway' game to introduce new players to the hobby. The bad: the box design (at least in my version) features an awful illustration and the farmers scoring rules are... complicated.

In Carcassonne, players compete to develop the area around the French city of Carcassonne by building roads, cities and cloisters. The game is based around a set of seventy-two square tiles featuring a combination of roads, city segments and cloisters surrounded by farms. Players take it in turn to pick a random tile from the face-down (or hidden) supply and then play it next to one or more existing tiles such that all the adjacent edges correspond ( i.e. you must place a road edge next to a road edge, a city edge next to a city edge, etc.). Once the tile has been placed the player has the option of placing one of their limited supply of meeples onto one of the elements of the tile they have just placed:

  • On a road: When the road is terminated at each end the meeple is returned to the player and they score one point for each tile the road passes through. If the road is unfinished at the end of the game the road scores the same number of points.
  • On a city segment: When the city is complete (it is completely surrounded by walls) the meeple is returned to the player and they score two points for each tile the city (partially) covers. Any pennants (small blue and white shields in the corner of a city tile) score an extra two points. If the city is unfinished at the end of the game it only scores half ( i.e. one point per tile & pennant).
  • On a cloister: When the cloister is completely surrounded by other tiles return the meeple to the player and they earn nine points. At the end of the game an unfinished cloister earns it's player a point for every adjacent tile plus one.
  • On a farm: Farms only score at the end of the game. A farm scores four points for every completed city to which it is connected.

You cannot place a meeple on an element that already has a meeple on it (whether the existing meeple is your own or another player's). However, and this is where the fun begins, you can place a meeple on an unclaimed element nearby and connect the two. When two or more players have meeples on an element the player with the most meeples gets the points - the others get nothing. If it's a tie then all the tied players get the points.

You can play Carcassonne as a friendly game, each player creating their own elements and completing them blissfully in a world of their own, or you can play it aggressively, actively trying to muscle in on other player's elements, or placing tiles in such a way to make your opponent's elements difficult (or even impossible) to score - keeping their meeples tied up on the board. Since each player only has seven meeples and a meeple remains on the board until the element it's claiming is completed, the meeples become a limited resource later in the game as you try to estimate whether or not placing a meeple on the tile you have just drawn is an optimal scoring strategy. There's nothing as frustrating as getting a cloister, with an ideal location to place it in and having no meeples left to claim it.

Because the scoring is done throughout the game and as well as at the end, you're not entirely sure who is going to win, it's fairly common for someone who was lagging behind when the last tile was laid to win once the unfinished elements and farms are tallied. This keeps everyone's interest levels up as they might still be in with a chance.

The edition I bought also came with a free expansion 'The River' which replaces the starting tile with a series of twelve tiles that form a river from spring to lake. This adds an interesting new layout to the game - I probably play with it as much as I do without.

In summary, Carcassonne is a wonderful, elegant game. It's quick, simple and easy to explain. It's a great introductory game for non-gamers and a good filler while you're waiting for others to finish a longer game. On BGG I've given it a 9, but after four years of playing it I still play it remarkably often, so perhaps a 10 might be in order. I'll split the difference and call it 9.5.

Wednesday, June 7

Random Factors In Games

Modern Eurogames like Puerto Rico are tending to shy away from random factors within the game. Dice, in particular, are out of favour.

So I'm wondering why? I can understand that an unlucky run on the dice could spoil a game session for you, and that would put you off the game. I get that dice (and by association random factors in general) evoke memories of the old school roll-and-move games we used to play as kids such as Monopoly, Ludo and Snakes and Ladders, which are looked down upon for their lack of strategic options.

When you play a game without any random factors (such as Chess) you get a purely strategic workout, just you and your opponent(s) pitting yourselves against each other in a battle of minds, working within the confines of the rules and mechanics of the game. It's pure. It's refined.

So what happens when you introduce a random factor such as die rolls or card/tile drawing? Well, you're still competing against each other within the confines of the game but now there's a new element. Chance. Probability. There is now the chance that your luck will be terrible, you'll get completely shafted and lose the game through no fault of your own. In most of the games you play, you would expect that your luck will be average (providing there are enough random events during the game), and that of your opponent will also be average, but every now and again the game itself will screw you. Now there is another dynamic to take account of - probability. A basic knowledge of the mathematics of probability and some understanding of the possible outcomes of the random events (e.g. knowing the tile distribution in Carcassonne) allow you to plan for the probable outcomes of the random events in much the same way as you would plan for the probable outcomes of your opponent's move. It's a very similar experience, only now there is another opponent to analyse - probability. It will often do what you would expect (like a competent opponent), but sometimes it throws you a curveball (like an excellent or inexperienced opponent).

Life itself is full of seemingly random occurences (whether there are or not is a subject for a late night drunken conversation), so why should we try to remove them from our games?

Maybe it's my roleplaying past coming through, maybe not, but I like dice. There I've said it. I do. They bring another interesting element to the game, another opponent to pit yourself against and to analyse into submission.

Tuesday, June 6

Border Reivers Design

I'm trying to get Border Reivers ready to print and assemble in time to take to The Cast Are Dice. So I've picked up the pace on the design work. I've got a provisional card reverse design and a slightly more concrete card front design on the Border Reivers design page. Please take a look and either email me some feedback or post it as a comment here.

In other news, I'm thinking of using the feint northern Britain map in the style of the game tiles as a sort of unifying theme. You can see it on the card front and back and I'm thinking of using it as a background on the scoreboard too.

Monday, June 5

What's Your Favourite 'Who Starts?' Mechanism?

Most games have a player who plays the first turn or who starts the game. So how do you choose that player from the many eligible candidates hovering around the board in anticipation? Some games specify a method, others leave it up to you. So what's your favourite method - either specified or a house rule?

To get the ball rolling ones I've come across recently that tickled my fancy:

  • Ticket To Ride: Who is the most widely travelled player?
  • Kreta: Who is the youngest player?
  • Timbuktu (this may be a house rule ;-) ) Who has ridden a camel most recently?
  • We often use: Who's birthday is next?

If you've a favourite, post it in the comments.

Sunday, June 4

Jack's Top 5: Number 2

It's the highest rated game on BGG, and it's easy to see why: the board and cards are well illustrated, the wooden pieces are great and the game has a wealth of strategies and excellent balance. At number 2: Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is a strategy game for three to five players set during the colonisation of the New World. Players compete building plantations, shipping goods to the Old World and constructing buildings. The game is largely deterministic, with few random factors, and features very little downtime between turns.

The good: the pieces and player mats are very attractive, the gameplay is solid and there are a wealth of strategies available making it an enjoyable play. The game is very well balanced, and the hidden nature of the VPs means everyone thinks they are in the running near the end so no-one gets left out. The bad: very little to be honest, the box isn't as well illustrated as the pieces, and (at least in the games I've played) the position you start in (relative to the player going first) will largely determine which of the popular buildings you get, which then has an effect on the strategy you choose.

The game takes a fair amount of time to set up as you sort the various counters and tiles out. The game is focused around a central board, and in addition each player has their own mat with 12 building spaces, 12 plantation spaces, a handy crib sheet for the player roles and a couple of spaces for spare men and the goods you have accrued. I really like it when game pieces tell you the information you need (like the crib sheet you get in Settlers of Catan), so you don't need to keep looking things up in the rules - that's a definite plus in my book. The central board has a space for the cash tokens and for the various types of building you can build - the buildings are laid out in order of the cost to build and grouped by the reduction you can gain from quarries - yet more information from spacial layout of the game pieces. In addition, there are five types of goods (coffee, corn, indigo, sugar and tobacco) with a limited number of barrels each, a trading house with four slots, a colonists ship, three trade ships, a pile of victory points and up to eight player roles. It should be noted that the little stained wooden octagonal prisms used for the goods are excellent representations of barrels, a far better use of them than as explorers in Tikal.

Once the set-up is complete the game proper gets under way. Choose a 'Governor' who gets to start the round, that player get first choice of the 6-8 roles:

  • Builder - Each player gets to build a building providing they can pay the building's construction cost. The player who chooses the builder pays one less for his building. Players who have occupied quarries instead of plantations on some of their plantation spaces get a reduction in the building costs.
  • Captain - Each player gets to ship goods to the Old World on the three ships. The ships are of varying capacity (3-player: 4, 5 & 6; 4-player: 5, 6 & 7; 5-player: 6, 7 & 8). You must place the most goods you can first, and cannot have goods of different types on the same ship, a type of goods can only be on one ship too, so later on you run the risk of being unable to ship goods. Just to make things more interesting, any goods you have left after everyone has shipped their goods get discarded (unless you build a warehouse) and only full ships are emptied limiting the goods supply until the ships are filled later. Players get one VP for each goods barrel they ship, and the player who chooses the captain gets an extra VP.
  • Craftsman - Each player in turn produces resources from those of their plantations that are occupied and have a corresponding occupied production building. The player who chose the craftsman gets an additional barrel of a type they produced.
  • Mayor - Each player in turn gets a colonist from the colonist ship until the ship has run out. These colonists are placed on buildings or plantations to 'occupy' them enabling them to be used. The ship is then restocked with as many colonists as there are unoccupied building spaces in the game. If this number is less than the number of players then the ship is restocked with as many colonists as they are players ensuring that each player will get a colonist next time it is chosen. The player who chose the mayor gets an additional colonist.
  • Settler - Each player may chose a plantation from the selection available (a random selection with one for each player plus a spare). The player who chose the settler may instead chose to take one of the eight quarries while they last.
  • Trader - Each player in turn gets one chance to trade a good they have to the trading house for cash. The goods have different base values (corn = 0, indigo = 1, sugar = 2, tobacco = 3 and coffee = 5), but this can be boosted by building markets which yield additional cash for trading. In addition, the player who chose the trader gains an extra coin.
  • Prospector - The number of prospectors vary depending upon the number of players (3-player: 0; 4-player: 1; 5-player: 2). The prospector gives the person who claims it gets a single coin, but no other players benefit at all.

When role is selected by a player they get to use it first, then every player in turn starting with the chooser gets to make use of it. Each player gets to chose a role in order, from those left by the preceding players, until all players have taken a role. Once every player has chosen a role and everybody has played it the turn ends. The remaining three roles that weren't chosen get a coin placed on them as a sweetener, and everybody returns the roles they chose. Finally the governor moves on to the next player.

The games ends at the end of the turn when either the colonist ship could not be refilled after it was emptied; the VPs have run out or a player has built on all twelve of his building spaces. The winner is the player who has the most VPs from shipping goods to the Old World (which are kept hidden) and buildings (each of which has a VP bonus associated with it increasing with the cost to build).

Buildings are key in Puerto Rico, each one has a VP value which is added to your hidden shipping score at the end of the game. In addition, each building provides a service if it is occupied. There are production buildings without which you cannot produce goods (exception: corn is produced without a building), and special purple buildings which allow their owners to bend the rules or gain a certain benefit. The most expensive buildings occupy two spaces and give a further VP boost at the end of the game only if occupied. Each building has only a few incarnations so if there is a building you are desperate for, you'd better hope you can get the cash together before one of your opponents gets their dirty mitts on it. The big, expensive buildings are singletons, making them even more valuable. Each building has a cost to build, and the more expensive it is the more quarries you can use to reduce its cost, up to a maximum of four.

The other method of gaining VPs is to ship goods to the Old World. This involves a careful balancing act as you need to get plantations (to produce the goods), build the corresponding production building, get colonists onto both to occupy them, produce goods during the craftsman phase and then ship goods during the captain phase. Since the number of goods barrels available is limited it is easy to get shafted when other players produce their goods before you and take all the barrels before it comes round to you turn. Also the nature of shipping means in the later stages of the game some players will get stymied, unable to ship goods due to the shipping restrictions. You generally want to be soon after the person who chose the role or the chooser, as being last in line can be very frustrating as you watch your opportunities dwindle.

Puerto Rico is a game of limitations: there aren't enough of the buildings you want; you frequently run out of goods in the later stages of the game; there are only eight quarries; the trading house and the ships have a limited number of spaces available and you never have enough money to build the buildings you want. To win the game you need to be able to choose a strategy which minimises the effects of these limitations on yourself. If your opponents are getting loads of plantations of a particular type choose something else - you'll not get the good later on if you choose the same thing. If you're the only one with the expensive goods trade them - they'll limit others ability to trade. The strategies are numerous, and you have to respond to those of the other players - if you don't they'll bite you later on.

Puerto Rico is an excellent game, the balance between shipping goods, building buildings and plantations is superb, and the hidden nature of the shipping VPs keeps you guessing until the last minute who will win - keeping the interest levels up for all players. I give it a solid 9 on the BGG scale.

Saturday, June 3

Games Club: Session Report

Today I actually managed to get to my games club for the first time and it lived up to my expectations. I got to play five games, none of which I'd played before. In addition, I had a cheap but very nice lunch and a good pint, so all-in-all a good day. Here's a session report of what I got up to - click on any image to see a larger version as usual.

When I arrived there was already a large game of Railway Tycoon in progress, so Jon, Mark and I played Kreta by Stefan Dorra, an area control game set on the island of Crete. Players compete to control the areas around a series of area corners, scoring points if they win or tie for control of the area. The game consists of eleven rounds, and you can see the corners which will be scored in the next two rounds. The game started off fairly tight, but I accidently placed a couple of my boats next to the corner to be scored in the next turn fairly early on. You get a bunch of options in each turn, one of which is to end the turn and score it, and Mark who was before me chose to score that turn. After we'd worked out the points for the current turn it was my choice, and since I had control of the only two areas to be scored next time round I immediately ended the turn and got 10 points. That lead fluctuated through the remaining turns but was never overcome, so I ended up winning my first game.

We then broke for lunch, nipping downstairs to the bar for some nice, and exceptionally cheap, pub food. While we waited for our food to arrive we had a quick game of 6 Nimmt! by Wolfgang Kramer, a fairly simple card game. The aim is to avoid having to pick up cards, as each card has a score from 1 to 5, and the player with the lowest score at the end wins. Players simultaneously chose cards and then reveal them - then they are played in numerical order. You have to play a card in a row, next to the card which its numerical value (1-104) is least above. If you place the sixth card in a row you have to pick up the first five and the row starts again with your card as the first. If your card is lower than the ends of all the rows you take a row of your choice and pick it up, adding your card instead. It was a quick and interesting game as you try to guess what cards your opponents are going to play, and hence limit the damage they can do to you. Good fun.

After lunch we started a game of Tikal by Wolfgang Kramer (again) and Michael Kiesling with Robert joining in. In Tikal players are archaeological teams exploring the jungle trying to unearth Mayan (or similar I didn't read the rules) ruins. Players take it in turns to turn over a tile (either temple, clearing or treasure), place it on the board and then spend 10 action points on various options. The game is scored four times at approximately 25%, 50% and 75% of the way through the game and at the end. During the non-scoring turns you try to set your pieces up to make the most of the scoring and capture treasure; in the scoring rounds you mainly find yourself competing for temples with the other players and trying to dig out more of the temples you control to gain more points. I was expecting big things from Tikal as it appears to be a favourite of Mario T. Lanza, and I wasn't disappointed, there are plenty of options, and lots of strategising as we rushed to claim the most valuable temples and then fought to hold on to them. I somehow managed to win this one as well, despite Jon trying to get the others to gang up on me and break my lead.

The fourth game of my day was Timbuktu by Dirk Henn, again with Jon, Mark and Robert. This one features little wooden camels! Always a winner. In Timbuktu each player controls a number of camels trying to get goods to Timbuktu. Each turn, players take it in turns to move their camels into the next available space in one of five lanes. However, at the end of each turn robbers will strike a number of the spaces on those tracks. During the turn you glean more information about which spaces will be hit and for which items, and so you need to try to place your camels such that you lose as few items as possible. This is largely a deduction game (in a similar fashion to cluedo) as each player gets knowledge about three of the five robber attacks, and has to infer the rest of the information from what they have and the actions of the other players (who will have knowledge of a different set of attacks). In the fourth out of five turns the information I gained wasn't of much use to me (as I'd placed my camels where they couldn't reach the tracks I had information on) so I had to guess. I guessed badly and lost loads of goods. There other three ended the game with scores between 110 and 120, I got 83 - a sound thrashing - not unlike England gave Jamaica today :-).

It was an enjoyable game, but I'm not a huge fan of deduction games and I'm not in a rush to play this again. Still, it is pretty, and wooden camels rock, though the game has way too many stickers for my liking.

My final game of the day was Who's The Ass my third Wolfgang Kramer game of the day. We played a five-player game with Mike joining in as well. This is another simple card game, based around two decks of cards, and to be honest you'd be better off playing it with two decks of cards - I didn't like the card design as they had the little numbers in the corners like a deck of cards, but only at the top, so you had to turn your cards up the right way to read them - too much of a faff. Like 6 Nimmt! the aim of the game is to minimise your score by getting rid of your cards. However, unlike 6 Nimmt! this game seemed to be decided mostly by the hand you were dealt, there didn't seem to be much in the way of skill involved. This was definitely my least favourite game of the day.

There were around 16 attendees today, which considering the weather was gorgeous, it was half-term and there was an England match on is pretty damn good.

Friday, June 2

Cards Design

I've now posted the first draft of the card reverse design on the Border Reivers Design page. Please send any feedback as usual to me or post it here as a comment. I'm intending to add the Border Reivers logo to the centre of the card, once I've got a logo :-)

Border Reivers Listed On BoardGameGeek

Now that Border Reivers development is progressing well, I've decided to list Border Reivers on BGG. It will provide a place to collate information about the game that is more public than the Reiver Games website, and it will also hopefully generate some interest, as I need to sell a lot of copies to cover my costs.

You can see the entry here, and those of you who have play-tested the game can rate it. If you do decide to rate it, please rate it honestly and realistically, and rate other games you like too. Games that have very high ratings from a small bunch of people who haven't bothered to rate anything else are assumed to be being fixed by the designers - so that will hinder progress rather than help it.

Thursday, June 1

Games Club!

Many weeks ago I tried you make it to my local games club: Beyond Monopoly York, but was thwarted. Since then I've been away for all their recent meetings.

This weekend I'm determined to get there, I've been keeping it free. I've not actually played many of the recent Eurogames - if you've been reading this blog regularly you'll know I just tend to play a limited selection fairly often. They've 20-odd games I haven't played so it'll be a good opportunity to expand my gaming horizons and get to know some of the local gamers.

I'll post a session report here to let you know how it went...