Is there a board game for you?

This is for #Blogmas 2020.

Another gaming article I originally wrote for Board Game Crate.

So, someone in your household has ordered themselves a box of board games with some weird-looking games and you’re not sure what to make of them.
Up until now, board games have been for other people. You have not the fondest of memories of playing Monopoly in a caravan on a rainy day, or trying Mousetrap with missing components and you’ve decided that board games are not for you.

Of course, you may be right – but are you aware of the variety of games on offer?

They’re not all card-shuffling or dice-chucking, unless that’s what you like, in which case, there are hundreds of different card games. There are deck-builders such as Dominion where you use Medieval-themed cards to get more cards or Card Drafters like Sushi Go! where you swap cards to collect sets of food. Dice games like Liar’s Dice where you bluff about what you’ve rolled or Quarriors! in which you use your dice to combat your opponents.

If you don’t like components and ‘fiddley bits’ try Escape From The Aliens in Outer Space which comes with paper, pencils and cards with which you plot out your secret route on a map while finding the other players’ locations – or keeping away from them (a real thriller). For a more party-game scene try Telestrations which is Pictionary meets Chinese Whispers (hilarious). Both games are good for six or more players.

For stories and story-telling there are so many Role-Playing games where you become a character and go on an adventure. If you’re not a fan of dragons or elves look up your favourite fandom and you may be surprised to see that there’s a Role-Playing game based on that (or something similar).
For more structured story-telling, try Rory’s Story Cubes or Once Upon a Time which provide cues in the form of dice or cards to help construct the stories, which can be as elaborate or as short as you want.

If you like working as a team, try Pandemic, Castle Panic or Battlestar Galactica where you work together (mostly) to beat the game by eliminating globe-spanning diseases, hordes of incoming orcs or Cylons working with a treacherous player.

Beasts Of Balance incorporates your phone or tablet as well as being a delightful game of dexterity and balance, one of a new generation of games incorporating contemporary technology.

Don’t know where to start? Seek out gaming groups in your area or download games from the Apple Store or Steam (for a fraction of the price of the physical copy – some are even free) to try out and experience different games and gaming styles. Alternatively try Board Game Arena to sample some games for free (or for a price) against your friends and family online. There are also gaming conventions where you can try out all sorts of games with help.

I can almost guarantee that there is a game out there for you, whether it’s the gameplay, theme, player-base, complexity or length that hooks you.

Introducing games to beginners

This is for #Blogmas 2020

Another article I originally wrote for Board Game Crate, now available for general enjoyment.

Usually, whenever I bring up the subject of board games, most non-gamers immediately conjure up such titles as Monopoly,Cludo or Game of Life. Now, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying those games, but the roll-and-move mechanic doesn’t really give preparation into deck-building, drafting, line-of-sight, tower defence, worker placement, co-operative, buffs & de-buffs, point salads and so on. Having seen first-hand the deer-in-headlights terror displayed by a new player subjected to StarCraft: The Board Game, I thought it best to provide some tips when introducing games to new players.

Choose games that utilise only 1 or 2 mechanics. For example, Dominion, being one of the first deck-building games, is just about deck-building so should be easier to introduce instead of games such as Star Realms that has added combat and synergy or Clank which has a lot more going on. Sushi Go nicely introduces the idea of card drafting and set collecting, to be built upon later by more complex games such as7 Wonders and Terraforming Mars.

Dumb down the rules – but don’t give the appearance of doing so. Many games nowadays have a ‘Family’ or ‘Newbie’ version of the rules for first play. Using these rules as if they are the only rules not only helps players get into the game, but also avoids them feeling patronised.

Play games that are still readily available. It can be really off-putting when someone accompanies a friend, partner or co-worker to a game, really enjoys it, and then searches online to buy it only to discover it’s only available for upwards of £250 on ebay and in German.

Be patient. We were all beginners once upon a time. If they struggle to comprehend a rule, try using analogies, show a youtube clip – or even give them the rule book for them to interpret for themselves. Be prepared to field the same question time and time again. Also, when they’re caught out by a rule you so totally did actually explain to the right at the beginning, just accept the blame for keeping it a complete secret and give them 50 points in compensation.

Be aware of short attention spans. In today’s world of soundbites, people can be less tolerant of sitting there while you read them all 64 pages of a rule book and then watching you sort and arrange seemingly countless components across the playing area while their sweaty hands grasp the hand of cards they were given at the start as if they were a lifeline to sanity. Set up before-hand and play to introduce, not play to win. Aim for a half-game so that they grasp the basics. Then, when they’re happy, start over.

Finally, accept there is such a thing as beginner’s luck and not rage out by being totally defeated by someone who’s still coming to grips with a changeable turn order. Remember, they need to enjoy their experience so they will come back where you can then properly demonstrate just how to completely destroy an opponent.

Expansions – What are they good for?

Another article that I wrote for Board Game Crate. This is for #blogmas2020

If you’ve ever been to a games expo or one of the better games stores, you may have encountered countless expansions of one of your favourite games. As you peruse this dazzling display you see that each one promises extra bits, more cards, alternative boards and Cthulhu.

Although many of these expansions won’t exactly break the bank, the sheer number of expansions accompanying some games can hit the bank account pretty hard.

Expansions are content add-ons (DLC, if you like) for a game that either couldn’t be released with the original game due to costs or time or are subsequent ideas that have been made available later. The base game will work fine without them, but if you are thinking about getting an expansion, consider the following:

If you already love the game as it is and enjoy the particular nuisances of it, then expanding it may well change that, and not necessarily to your liking. Try it first.

If you’ve played a game so much that it no longer has any surprises for you, then an expansion can reinvigorate your interest in it by giving you new goals to aim for or extra things to do. Dixit can benefit with more cards to talk about, King of Tokyo/New York gets monster variety with the Power Cards, Catan can be reimagined with new gameplay, and everyone needs more Cthulhu (apparently).

Don’t feel like you have to get every single expansion to a game to make it work. Pick the expansions that work for you. You don’t like Cthulhu – then don’t get that expansion. Some expansions may also be doubled up (Smash Up) for increased variety.

If other players in your gaming group also have the game, it might be worth syncing your expansion lists so that you don’t double-up unnecessarily. When they come to you, you can play your expansion, and vice versa, thereby increasing your gaming experience further.

If player limits are a problem, some change the game to support a greater number of players (Small World, Cosmic Encounter, Catan).

If you encounter an expansion of a game you particularly enjoy, it might be worth picking it up on the off-chance, you may be surprised and you may regret turning it down. I am constantly lamenting not picking up the long out of print expansion StarCraft: Brood War when I had the chance.

Once you’ve got an expansion you may wish to keep it in its own box allowing you to play the original (vanilla) untainted game – particularly if introducing to new players. Or you can fully integrate it all into the base game box (if it fits) and play the complete experience. Cards from expansions are usually marked so they can be identified and separated out again if need be.

At the end, no one is forcing you to buy an expansion but their relatively low price tags can make them idea gift ideas or even the answer to that difficult question: So what do you want for your birthday?

Am I a Gaming Snob?

This is for day 9 of #Blogmas 2020.

This article of mine was originally published in the Board Game Crate booklet that came in their boxes. Now that they are unfortunately no longer trading, here it is again for everybody to enjoy.

Whenever I enter a toy store with my children I always head off over to the aisle that proudly heralds the presence of board games. Every time I have high hopes, and every time I’m faced with a wall of boxes sporting brightly-coloured moulded cheap plastic and labels stating, ‘Whipped cream not included’ or ‘Download the app!”
Now, I remember growing up with games with a lot of moulded plastic, such as Downfall and Guess Who (admittedly nothing I had to shove my face through) and have fond memories of many of them. However, it’s been nearly 25 years since the Settlers of Catan shook up the gaming world. Since then board games have come on leaps and bounds with deck builders, warfare miniatures, card drafters, bluffers, strategy and so on. Not only that, but most gaming styles have offerings that fall into the ‘budget’ price bracket and are easy to play as a family. A Game Of Thrones: Hand of the King, Tsuro, Star Realms and Rumble in the House are just a few examples.
Unfortunately, mainstream toy stores don’t usually stock such things, but will stock yet another Monopoly iteration – latest one I spotted was Fortnite – or Don’t Step In It! which, I suppose, is the natural successor to Doggie Doo…
So have I become a gaming snob or do normal people only consider it a game if it features a randomly flushing plastic toilet?

A brief history of the Meeple.

This is for day 5 of #Blogmas 2020


It is believed that Meeplekind long ago evolved from Pawandertals (which, in turn, trace their origins from Countersaurus Tokenus).
The common meeple (as sung about in the popular song by Mulp) comes in a variety of colours and shapes and are often called: Thingummies, Doofers and rather crudely, Men.
Meeples have an odd relationship with numeracy.
A single Meeple should be a Meep, Mip or Merson. Two Meeples are a Muplet. Three or more are simply referred to as a hoard.
The Carcassonoid has been the more widely utilised of Meeplekind, but nowadays a greater representation of the Meeple Minorities have finally become the norm. From differing ‘man’ shapes and even animals and plants. Even their genetic material has diversified from wood-based to plastic-based.

Typically, the average Meeple likes nothing better than being placed as a worker and is so adaptable that they can take on any task. Purely by where they are placed, they can create dinosaurs, plough fields, assassinate other Meeples, or make more Meeples. With their task completed they instantly cease to be able to perform that task and enter a state of stasis called Supply. While in Supply they quietly suffer the indignity of being fondled and stacked on top of one another. Occasionally, they drop off the edge of the world and make a break for freedom in the fabled land of Under the Dresser where they live in bliss with three dice and a golf ball until being captured by the dreaded agency of the gods the Vacuum Cleaner.

Games Night 30th November 2020

This is for day 3 of #Blogmas

Following the success of our previous virtual games night, we thought we’d give it another go. Phil hosted us again on Board Game Arena

Three of us again this week: Malcolm, Paul & Phil.
This time we met up using Gather, something that Phil was experimenting with. I think he would have had better luck herding cats than it was getting us two under control.
Anyway…
First game we played was
from Z-Man Games
Malcolm quickly explained the rules and off we went. Phil had a little trouble getting the hang of using the interface, and accidentally recalled all his placed men without actioning them.

The final round saw two of the three stacks of huts being depleted.
The final scores:
Malcolm: 267 (125 in game and 142 from the cards and resources)
Paul: 166 (87 in game and 79 from the cards and resources)
Phil: 192 (156 in game and 36 from the cards and resources).
Yay, Malcolm won something!

With a bit of time left, we felt we could fit in a game of

from Repos Production
Phil covered the rules and we commenced card drafting.

This is a great game, but not one for covering a blow-by-blow account so, onto the scores:

Malcolm Paul Phil
Conflict 14 8 -6
Money/3 8 1 2
Wonder 10 3 7
Civilian 7 14 28
Science 2 31 0
Commerce 3 0 0
Guild 7 0 20
Total 51 57 51

Well done Paul, all that science paid off!
Another great week!

Games Night 16 November 2020

This is for day two of #Blogmas2020

Thanks to the existence of Board Game Arena a games night happened.
I was contacted out of the blue by members of the group when I was based in Bedford asking if I wanted to play a game. Naturally, I said yes so games we played, remotely.

Three of us this week: Malcolm, Paul & Phil
First up Phil introduced us to

from Restoration Games
We ended up playing two games of this. The first was on the main board and saw Paul and Malcolm fumbling about not really knowing what they were doing.

In the end, the final scores were:
Malcolm: 4
Paul: 11
Phil: 26

For round two, we played on the Danger Circuit board:

This time we all had a better idea of how to play this game, and the final scores were:
Malcolm: 11
Paul: 20
Phil: 6
It just goes to show what happens when you show someone else how to play a game you already know how to play…

With some time left we decided to play

from Libellud

Malcolm explained the rules this time.
Dice were rolled and picked, tokens were claimed and cards were played.

The final score:
Malcolm: 106
Paul: 165
Phil: 130

Well done Paul!