Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BrettSpiel board game blog

Google alerts threw me a really great blog today by Brett Gilbert called BrettSpiel. I admit, part of why it caught my eye was because the entry was called, "Coffee Morning." That's a phrase uttered frequently and fondly (with just a hint of quiet desperation) at my house. :)

One of the posts he made a few days ago included a clip of Reiner Knizia talking about his game design philosophies. I'm very glad to have seen this, thanks Brett for talking about it! Here it is:

Not sure how I will keep up with the pace of entries here, but since the ones I've sampled so far are well-written and fascinating, I figure I'll manage.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another recession-centric article

Board games get new life in tight times
According to an Associated Press report and figures from, board game sales have risen while most other non-essential item sales have declined. There was a 5 percent increase in January and a 6 percent in February. In fact, since 2006, there has been an overall 13 percent increase in board game sales, the AP report stated.

..."Anytime that people want to save money, next to books, board games give you the most bang for the buck," she said. "They don't need batteries, they're portable, they can be used over and over again, and there's something different about them every time."...

I would argue that board games are WAY ahead of books as far as bank for the buck. Unless you're borrowing from the library, which isn't fair because that's free, and besides, more and more libraries are having board game events.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Catan cakes

I have always been enamored of the pac-man cookies that I've seen from time to time online. Space invaders, too, those are fun.

But now, now I have a mission made clear to me by @allenshull. I must make Catan cakes.

In fact, I must do whatever it takes to host a huge gathering of board gamers at my house for a day, for the sole purpose of serving...Catan cakes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

7 brilliant documentary character studies

Or at least, the first one is brilliant enough to make up for any shortcomings in the next 6. I haven't made it that far yet, but the first one is so excellent, I couldn't wait to share:

The article is called 7 Great Documentary "Characters" and it's one more reason I wish I got The Documentary Channel.

One thing I have to say: Billy Mitchell may not be quite the villain he was edited/portrayed as in The King of Kong, but he IS undeniably an interesting character, so I think it's OK that he's included here.

For love of the game

Indian lawyer turns IPR into a board game
The rules are simple. Players start by choosing one industry, represented by a pictographic card, out of four options—automobile, pharmaceutical, food and beverages, and information technology—depicted by a car, a drug, a drink and a computer system.
Each product has a portfolio of 15 unique intellectual properties associated with it marked on the cards...

OK, so it doesn't necessarily sound like a game I'd be interested in, but I applaud the fact that this guy was passionate enough about the subject to work for 2 years on a board game about it. Especially since, as the article points out, board gaming is not currently a part of India's mainstream culture. “Here, there are only cards and gambling.” From what I've learned thus far, that kind of passion is what being a board games designer is all about.

Further, he's not in it for the money, and plans to make the game available free to anyone who can't afford it, and make a free online version as well. And ironically, for a game about intellectual property, Mr. Anand has made his game open source. So, if you don't think it sounds compelling, give it a spin and make some changes! :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Miami Herald notices the trend

Fans pass go, collect European versions
...European-style or, more specifically, German-style board games have recently been gaining traction in the mainstream American market. With a sophisticated blend of strategy, chance and social interplay -- and higher-quality pieces made of wood rather than plastic -- these board games from across the pond have generated legions of serious gaming fans....

I don't really have a lot to say at the moment other than, "Holy cripes, another one..."

Live from Studio B

This past weekend, Studio B was more a place of thought than action, but I did manage to make some important progress on a couple fronts. First, I made a decision on a website style for the impending dedicated website for this project. It's a pretty template, with the same rich browns and solid colors that I gravitated to for my business cards. It's all subjective and somewhat arbitrary, but these colors just feel "board gamey" to me. I'm an old-school HTML'er and not a whiz with Flash web templates, so I'm going to have to get somebody to help me customize this template, but I'm sure it'll get figured out.

I added more notes to the project notebook, including some thoughts about a couples and friends segment (I was surprised at how many couples met through board gaming, but really, why not?), and also some ideas for putting a big survey out to gain some interesting data on dedicated board gamers.

Board games are popping up regularly in the news, with a lot of media focusing on the "budget-friendliness" of them in "these tough economic times." They're clearly not talking about dedicated designer board gamers when they say that, at least not from what I've seen of the average size of a Thought Hammer order. The following article is more about non designer-games, but it's still encouraging people to game, and that's what counts.

Board games come back in a big way
“What do we get out of it? Sometimes useless knowledge,” said brother Nicholas DiGesare, 29. “It saves a lot of money, too. Movies are so expensive. Spend $20 on a board game, and then all chip in for food. It becomes easy to have a good night, rather than going out.”

Now that staying home is even more in vogue, board games have become a preferred form of entertainment for many families who would rather talk than text.

I think just as significant as the economic aspect is that "rather talk than text" part. I love eye candy as much as the next technophile, but with big screen tv, iMax 3D, iPhones, Nintendo DS, and computers, computers, computers...sometimes it's nice to do something that doesn't run off a power source.

Here's another article, about a different economic element of board gaming; the board game version of a Tupperware party?

City woman plays games for work
...After deciding to become a consultant for SimplyFun, she started hosting game parties, where guests play the games and have the opportunity to buy the ones they like.

“Since I love games so much, I could talk about them and get excited about them,” she said. “You don’t really need me to tell you anything because you’ll like them.”

She said she’s recently been able to get approval to show her games to Stillwater Public Schools....

Again, not really designer board games, but mostly designer board gamers seem non-judgemental about these things. I just think it's good that classrooms are open to this sort of thing. Good for the hobby in the long run, and good for the kids too. :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

More board gaming in the news

There was an article yesterday by Marc Charisse in the Evening Sun, Video games have no monopoly on fun.

This one was basically a response piece to Andrew Curry's Monopoly Killer article, but with some interesting additional facts of its own.
Ironically, the electronic revolution that nearly killed board games over the last quarter century has given them new life online, allowing people who own the same game to play in real time over the Internet. And as modern economics provoke a reexamination of our lifestyles, board games are making a comeback in the United States....

You can read the entire piece here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Two recent articles

In case you missed them, there were two recent articles about designer board gaming in the mainstream news media:

Masters of the (Tabletop) Universe
New York Times - ‎Apr 3, 2009‎
THEY tumbled in at 7:30 on an icy Friday night, collecting in the eat-in kitchen. Handshakes and the usual opening pleasantries. They were nine: eight men and a woman. They had a lot to do — build medieval kingdoms, manage beer gardens and construct galactic civilizations. If they had any energy left, they would cure the world’s deadliest diseases.

and, as I mentioned before, this big feature piece from Wired Magazine:

Monopoly Killer: Perfect German Board Game Redefines Genre

UPDATE - I got in touch with Andrew Curry, and a neat bit of info is that the picture above is of Klaus Teuber and his son, in their backyard. :)

In 1991, Klaus Teuber was well on his way to becoming one of the planet's hottest board game designers. Teuber (pronounced "TOY-burr"), a dental technician living with his wife and three kids in a white row house in Rossdorf, Germany, had created a game a few years earlier called Barbarossa and the Riddlemaster, a sort of ur-Cranium in which players mold figures out of modeling clay while their opponents try to guess what the sculptures represent. The game was a hit...

While the idea of someone playing Catan in their backyard in the grass is kind of amusing, I must admit, we have taken it with us on camping trips and had a BLAST (I'll have to dig up that photo).

Nice to see Wired and NYT talking about designer board games! Some people I've talked to felt that the Times' piece made fun of the hobby in a way, but if so I think it was good-natured fun, and I still feel it paints things in a positive light.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

For real

I just finished transferring over all the taped footage from The Gathering onto the Cavalry hard drive. I've been simmering ever since I left there for there airport as far as storyline, incorporating that footage, and what elements I yet need.

As they've stated on the Double Down Film Show, you really should have a dedicated website for a project like this, and not rely on gmail and blogger. Don't get me wrong, they've served their purpose thus far, and from a purely functional standpoint, you could easily get away with using those free resources clear to release. However, there are more elements at play than pure functionality.

And that's why a real website is coming soon. :) Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Back from interviewing

I've returned from the most recent filming expedition, the Gathering of Friends, which I attended Saturday night through Tuesday morning (and by that I mean like 4:30 AM Tuesday morning, which is when I went to bed...for an hour and a half, before getting up again.)

I saw and heard many interesting and wonderful things, and met many interesting and wonderful people. There were board game designers and industry notables as far as the eye could see, making it a pivotal few days for the documentary, and an opportunity I was not going to squander. It was hard, because there were so many games I'd never seen before, even many prototypes, and I really needed to NOT play them. I made 2 brief exceptions, for The Resistance, and Fits. It was probably a valuable little break, I rationalize. :) All work and no play..., as they say. But for the most part, I stayed focused.

At this event, you need to check your sleep needs at the door. These guys are here to game, and they do not stop gaming. I never found the main room completely empty during my entire stay. The closest it came was once around 7 AM, when less than a dozen people were to be seen, but that lull didn't last long. This made it much easier to amass interviews than in most traditional settings. I think I wrapped up one interview around 10:30 PM, then went downstairs to a packed gaming floor to continue filming.

The interviews included designers Alan R. Moon (Ticket to Ride), Friedemann Friese (Power Grid), Stephen Glenn (Balloon Cup), Kory Heath (Zendo), Peter Hawes (Heads of State), and Jay Tummelson, founder of Rio Grande Games, to name a few. And I do mean a few, there were many other people I talked to, though not ALL the ones I would have liked. It's time to start a page listing all of the interviews I've done, and I'll be doing that soon, so keep an eye out!

Sincere thanks to everyone at the Gathering who took the time to talk to me, and help out with advice and additional introductions (and food, thank you for the FOOD invites). You were the greatest bunch of people one could hope to meet!

Friday, April 3, 2009


Back in college, cramming was one thing I prided myself on NOT doing. I would spend hours reviewing organic chemistry chapters, weeks ahead of the test (and still get a C, organic chem's way of being funny with the symbol for carbon). Last night started to feel a bit like cramming, though in a fun way, because I started packing!

By the way, have you heard about The Documentary Channel? It fills me with joy. Granted, I'd be more full of joy if I were a DISH Network customer (they have Pizza: The Movie!), but I recently started conversing with @TheDocChannel on Twitter, and she mentioned that some of the stuff can be seen online at Sling.

The first thing I watched there was an indie documentary about a moonshiner. While not my typical geek fare, this was a crisply-filmed documentary with beautiful imagery and interesting characters. I paid close attention to things like interview framing and out-take shots, as I sit here trying to get back in the filming mindset after a month away from the dv. My plane leaves in less than 24 hours for what is without question one of the most important filming sessions this doc will have (the other being Essen). Jason Scott had some great timely advice as always to allay my stage fright nerves.

Oh, and if you haven't checked out the April edition of Wired Magazine, there's a GREAT article about the rise of designer board games in the United States entitled, "Monopoly Killer."

Thanks to Anthony Q. Artis of Down and Dirty DV for the link to the online version! While I don't think it's entirely fair (I actually kind of liked it as a kid), and even though it really isn't an "us" vs. "them" situation, Monopoly seems to be the poster child for everything wrong that designer board games do right. Somebody has to take that bullet, I guess, because we need an easy way to boil down the complex simplicity that is the designer games genre into something quick that will click with people when you try to explain in a single sentence.