Monday, July 4

A Sabbatical

As I'm sure you're aware, this blog about designing and playing games has been very light on the designing for the last few months.

Since my promotion at work last October I've been doing a lot more travel for work, and with a young daughter and The Wife at home, when I'm around I've been choosing to spend most of my free time with them rather than designing games.

Added to that, programming which has been a major hobby and/or my career for the last thirty years is no longer part of my day job, and I miss it. When I have found some time to kill recently, I've chosen to work on my phone apps to scratch that programming itch, rather than my games designs. I've got a few ideas on the games design front, but I can't seem to get the enthusiasm together to actually make any progress on them.

Board gaming is still a huge part of my life (I'm on course to play more games this year than I have in the last ten!), but game design seems to have slipped down the list behind spending time with my family, learning German and Portuguese, programming and finally getting some exercise. Slipped to a point where it's just not happening any more.

I have no way of tracking how many readers I have any more (my stats are getting spammed by spider bots), so I've no idea if anyone reads this, but my guess is that those of you who do are reading it to hear about my experiences as a board game designer and former publisher, not talking about my programming progress or how I hope to do some games design next week.

So I'm going to stop blogging weekly, and just blog when I have something worth saying (and hopefully reading!) on the games design front. Thanks to those of you who've read my weekly ramblings for the last four years.

Monday, June 27

I'm Stealthy, Like The Ninja

It's been a good week. Monday and Tuesday I had the house to myself in the evening while The Wife was in Germany, so I spent the time getting a decent chunk of functionality into German language phone app.

Wednesday I managed another Games Night (work commitments are cancelling a disturbing proportion of them at the moment). We played Lost Cities, Alea Iacta Est (knocking it off my not yet played this year list), Pandemic: The Cure (same again, plus we played it twice, so two more plays towards ten plays) and then a couple of games of Zombology. We'd also manged my first lunchtime games club in ages that day too - Gav beat me twice at Taluva. Man, I'm so glad I bought that! We've been playing it loads.

Then finally on Saturday I made it to Newcastle Gamers too. Newcastle Gamers is on twice a month. We're halfway through the year, so there's been at least (they hold a few special extra sessions every now and again) twelve sessions in 2016. And this was my first one. First! Turns out this new job is keeping me pretty busy.

Thankfully I had a great evening. I got there about quarter to eight, and after waiting for five or ten minutes I joined Ruth, Tom and Sarah for a game of Beyond Baker Street. It had a lot of similarities to Hanabi (you play with face-out cards in your hand and have to build sets playing blind from your hand). Our four player game seemed extremely hard and Tom and Sarah who had played it a lot since being taught it by the designers at the UK Games Expo said it was easy with two, but tricky with three. After that, they looked at my pile of games (Endeavor, Homesteaders, K2, Kodama and Zombology) and chose Zombology. We played it a couple of times and again, I didn't tell them I was the designer until we had finished. They seemed to enjoy it, and asked about where to get it, but of course the only option at the moment is the very expensive shipping from Drive Thru Cards.

After a couple of rounds of Zombology Tom and Sarah headed off so I went looking for another table and managed to join Becky, Mangler, Gordon and Richard for a game of Sushi Go! As soon as I saw it was I keen to play - I knew the designer was of interest to me (though I couldn't remember who it was) and I love sushi, so it seemed win-win. It turns out the designer was Phil Walker-Harding who used to blog here with me eight or nine years ago, before he became a very successful designer (Archaeology, Sushi Go!, Cacao and most recently the Spiel des Jahres nominated Imhotep). I'd not played any of Phil's games since I playtested Cannonball Colony years and years ago, so it was great to try one of his designs and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Like Zombology it's a drafting game, but one with a steadily diminishing hand and set-collection elements. The art was cute, the theme was cute and it was a quick, fun game. I've added it to my wishlist :-)

After a couple of games of Sushi Go! we also played a couple of Zomobology (after Gordon left), and again I neglected to mention I was the designer until after we finished. They seemed to enjoy it (and Becky was complimentary about the art too!) and they also asked about how to buy it when I made my reveal. I'm beginning to wonder whether I should make some more hand-made ones...

We rounded the night out with a game of Kodama, another one on my ten plays list (only one game left!).

All in all this week, I managed to play two new to me games (Sushi Go! and Beyond Baker Street), three games towards my ten plays list (Kodama and two of Pandemic: The Cure) and two off my not yet played this year list (Pandemic: The Cure and Alea Iacta Est). Busy week!

At the halfway point of the year, I've managed to played nineteen games for the first time this year, that's nineteen towards my goal of 24 - it's looking very achievable!

Monday, June 20

Getting Back Into The Swing Of It

After my full-on trip to the States I returned home to a very busy week at work, with loads of people from America and Manchester (including my boss) over for a meeting. To make things more exciting, I caught a filthy cold on the plane home so for most of the week I felt rough as a dog too.

By judiciously avoiding alcohol on a work night out on Tuesday (I also left at 7:30!), I managed to mostly get over it by Thursday thankfully.

My only real gaming this week was the first Games Night in three weeks on Wednesday when we managed to tick Agricola off my 'haven't yet played this year' list and another Colt Express play towards my ten plays list. It was a fairly quite one - just Ian, Mike and I which meant we could get a longer game in too.

Yesterday The Wife swanned off to Germany for a couple of days for a work conference, so until late Tuesday evening I'm solo Parent-In-Charge of The Daughter. I'm using the evenings after The Daughter goes to sleep to do a bit more work on my German language app (taking shape nicely!) and finally making the next version of Dragon Dance. Last time I played it with Paul (back in 1870-something I think) he had a great idea about replacing the short/long range indicator card with a card that tries to convey a sense of space. I'm going to knock something up tonight and will see if I can get it tested in the office this week.

Next week I'm in Romania for most of the week so, if it works, I'll have some time to knock up a proper version of it in InDesign during my mornings/evenings. Of course Romania means no Games Night or lunchtime gaming club again. I need to spend some time in the country!

The week after Romania is Newcastle Playtest, and seeing as I've missed the last two (holiday in Portugal and conference in San Antonio), I'm really keen to make it to this one, especially if I've got a new version of Dragon Dance for Paul to try!

Monday, June 13

Gaming In San Antonio

So last week I got one evening off from work in my week long trip to San Antonio in Texas and rather than wander the hospitality suites at the convention hoovering up free beer and food I chose instead to get a cab out to Dragon's Lair and get some gaming in.

I'd asked on BGG beforehand and a guy called Sean had told me about it and even offered me a lift back into town afterwards if he was around. If he was around I didn't see him unfortunately, but I still had a great night. On arrival I wandered round the store briefly and had a look at their collection of games (pretty good, but not as extensive as The Source in Minneapolis a few years ago). Then I went into the gaming room and met Chris. He was waiting for the Netrunner crowd to turn up so we had a quick game of Kodama (its nice small box is very portable!) and then they arrived and I was invited to join a game of the Legendary Deck Building Game with Al, Jimmy and Chante. I think we got a couple of rules wrong (none of us new the game well enough to pick up and explain so we were learning from the rules - which is often tricky), but it was fun nevertheless. After that Michael joined us and we had a game of Dead of Winter, which was new to all of us except Michael. It turned out that Michael was a traitor, so against four newbies he had fairly easily run of it and the rest of us were overwhelmed after an hour and a half or so.

After that it was getting late so Chante and Al headed off and Michael, Jimmy and I had three games of Zombology. It was an easy sell after Dead of Winter - another zombie-themed semi-coop but one that played in ten minutes! I had introduced myself as Jack and didn't call out the fact that I had designed the game, so as far as they were concerned we were just playing a game I'd brought along, rather than one I was pushing as the designer. We ended up playing three games: I won one on my own, we all died in the second and in the third I think we all won. The guys really enjoyed it and it wasn't until we were in the car on the way back to my hotel (Michael had kindly offered me a lift) that I told him I'd designed the game. I'm still not sure why I kept it to myself but it worked out OK! We ended the night with a quick pint in the hotel bar which was rammed with people from the convention.

All in all a great night: another play of Kodama towards my ten plays, a new to me game towards my 24 new to me games this year goal and some Zombology fans.

Now I'm back I need to try to get the new Dragon Dance made up and crack on with that before I'm off again to Romania at the end of the month! For the moment though I need to concentrate on shaking off the filthy cold I acquired at some point during my trip :-(

Monday, June 6

Hello From Sunny San Antonio

As I mentioned last week, I'm in San Antonio, Texas this week for work. It's a very busy week but I've managed to get tonight off so that I can go to the San Antonio Board Gamers meetup at Dragon's Lair. I've brought Zombology, Dragon Dance (which needs an overhaul) and Kodama with me, hopefully I'll get to try some new stuff too.

San Antonio

Last week I was away for a mid-week trip to Derbyshire for my friend Tim's secret birthday party. It was Monday to Friday, but we had to leave on Thursday as I was flying from Newcastle first thing on Friday morning. I took a decent stack of games: Zombology, 6 Nimmt!, Kodama, Incan Gold, Ca$h 'n Gun$, King of Tokyo, Colt Express and Firefly. Tim had brought a load of games too and Simon and Duncan had also brought a few. I managed to play everything I brought except 6 Nimmt! but managed to miss every game of something someone else brought due to either looking after The Daughter, cooking a meal or having gone to bed early to make up for a game of Firefly the night before which had finished just after 2am.

Zombology was well received after the first couple of games when people were still trying to work out what was going on - it seems there's a fairly steep learning curve for new players. We also saw a game where Zombyism was cured but none of the players won, which was a first I believe. Two plays of Ca$h 'n Gun$ took that off my ten plays list and the plays of Kodama and Colt Express also moved them nearer to escaping from the ten plays list.

I've now got 12 games left on the list, one of which is definitely going, three (Koi Pond, Libertalia and Pandemic: The Cure) are at risk and might well go too and the others I expect to have cleared off the list by the end of the year. My unplayed so far this year list however still has 26 games on it, including many previous staples such as Die Speicherstadt, Puerto Rico, Thunderstone and Agricola.

These lists are just for interest this year, instead of part of my goals. The only gaming goal I have is to play 24 new to me games this year. At 16 by early June I'm in good shape for that, let's see if I can add any tonight!

San Antonio

Monday, May 30

On The Road Again

I'm going to manage only two weeks in the office in both May and June!

So far this month I've had two weeks in Portugal on holiday, then two weeks in the office (including last week), now I'm off for another holiday with some friends from Monday to Thursday. Then I've got a week in San Antonio, TX for work for the conference that I go to every year, followed by two weeks in the office before I head to Romania for a week for work again. It's far more travel than I'm used to.

Last week I did very little that was blog worthy, I mostly spent the week hanging out with my family after the weekend away at Beer and Pretzels. I did manage a Games Night on Wednesday (they are far less frequent than I'd like due to travel commitments) and a lunchtime games club on Thursday where we played Taluva again.

I'm hoping to get some games in on my holiday this week, and then the 17 hour journey to San Antonio will be spent with poor Ian strapped into a seat next to me and my iPad full of board games, so I'd imagine we'll play a fair few games (or I'll get axe murdered at 37,000 feet, one of the two).

On the subject of axe murdering, the conference I'm attending in San Antonio moves around the US and this will be my fifth one on the trot. At several of the last few I've met with random strangers (and some internet friends) to go gaming.

In Vancouver in 2012 I met with Tao who runs Starlit Citadel who had been very supportive of Reiver Games. We went for coffee before he took me back to his warehouse to show me his operation.

Minneapolis in 2013 involved twice meeting up with strangers I'd met on BGG and getting driven to an out of town location (the Fantasy Flight Event Center!) for an evening of gaming. I returned safe and sound and had a blast with Alfredo, Jay and Fred.

Baltimore in 2014 was a no show, but I was back to my old tricks in St. Louis last year with Dan meeting me, taking me for dinner and then gaming before driving me back to my hotel at the end of the night.

This year I've managed to wangle a night off work on Monday and will be heading out to Dragon's Lair for an evening of gaming (and hopefully a fourth successful axe-murdering dodge).

It's a great opportunity to meet new people, play new games and see a bit of the city other than the Convention Center and my hotel.

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 23

Beer and Pretzels 2016

It's been a great week of gaming, culminating in my weekend con trip of the year at Beer and Pretzels 2016 in Burton on Trent. Wednesday I went to Manchester with Ian, so once I'd finished my presentation slides we played a few games on the iPad (including 6 Nimmt! which works better than I expected pass and play). Thursday was Games Night featuring 6 Nimmt! (again) a couple of games of Race for the Galaxy, King of Tokyo and a couple of games of Zombology. Friday I had a night off gaming and an early night to try to recover from a few bad nights sleep and to ready myself for the early start.

Five AM on Saturday I planned to quickly turn off the alarm and get ready as quietly as possible to avoid disturbing The Wife (who doesn't deserve a 5am start just because I want to go gaming). Sadly at 4:58am every house alarm in the street (including ours) went off due to a very brief power outage. I sprinted downstairs to turn it off, The Wife, thinking it was a fire alarm had dashed into The Daughter's room, where she was happily sleeping through it! The Wife went back to bed and I got in the shower only for it to happen again and this time The Wife has to sprint downstairs. Sub-optimal.

Burton Town Hall

Still, it meant I was definitely awake and didn't miss my train to Burton! Beer and Pretzels has been held in the lovely Burton Town Hall for the last 27 years, but sadly this may well be the last one. The council are putting the rent up by a huge amount and Sal and Phil who organise it have yet to find a suitable replacement venue. Three out of the last four years I've been down and met up with Terry, one of my old Bedford gaming chums, for a great weekend of gaming, beer and catching up with friends.

On Saturday Terry and I played a few games with Paul and Carol and their friends Tony, Callum and Phil and a few 2-player games together. We started with Kodama, then Port Royal, Zombology, Magnum Sal, Roll for the Galaxy (ticked offf my ten plays list!), The Voyages of Marco Polo, Patchwork a couple of times, Murano, Kodama again and ended with another play of Port Royal.

Port Royal, Magnum Sal, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Patchwork and Murano were all new to me and all good games. Patchwork stood out as my favourite of the bunch with Port Royal and Marco Polo also particularly good fun. I can see Port Royal being popular at Games Night, so I might have to get that. As I expected, Kodama is growing on me the more I play it, I imagine I'll tick off the remaining 7 plays required to get to ten quite quickly.

Beer and Pretzels 2016

Sunday was a shorter day as I had to get the train home at 5:30, but I still managed another 9 games. We played Oh My Goods!, Kodama (again), Roll for the Galaxy (again), Burano, Kigi, Koi Pond, Port Royal (again), Hamsterbacke and Roll again!

Oh My Goods!, Burano and Hamsterbacke were all new to me and it's becoming clearer to me that I'm moving towards lighter games. I thought Oh My Goods! was great fun, and surprisingly deep for a little card game. Hamsterbacke was also very enjoyable with plenty of screwage.

Burano on the other hand (where I was flailing around completely unsure of what I was doing) I really didn't enjoy. It has a mechanism where at the start of each round you have a minute to build a pyramid of cubes which affected what actions you could take for the next 12-16 rounds. It was immensely frustrating since as a beginner I had no idea what to do and then ended up hamstrung for the next 45 minutes four times during the game. What's more, it's didn't seem to add anything to the game. Needless to say I am not a fan.


All in all a fantastic weekend. Patchwork was my favourite of eight new to me games, putting me well on the way to my 24 new to me games this year goal. We played three games three times: Kodama (which Paul bought after our play), Roll and Port Royal.

In addition, I spent 8 hours programming on my German language app on the train journeys and on Sunday morning!

Next week will be noticeably quieter!