Archive for January, 2014

Review: Suburbia – It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Suburbia_box

That looks like a great neighborhood for a family with a guitar playing teenage son who skateboards, a crazy old scientist, and a time machine.

Suburbia was on my to-get list for a while. I grew up playing Sim City 2000, carefully planning urban development on a unique map, balancing commercial, industrial, and residential sectors to meet the needs of the population. When I first started to get into board games, most of the “city building” games seemed to focus on either building effects or locations, while ignoring any direct interaction between buildings. (Alhambra comes close, but the setting and scale were not quite what I was looking for)  But then, I happened across the Designer’s Diary for a game called Suburbia on BoardGameGeek. I saw that this game might have the sort of interactions I was looking for, where the building’s abilities, type, and placement all had effects on the game. Now that I have it, I can say that Suburbia lives up to my expectations.

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Feminism & Boardgames: It has more to do with feminism than boardgames

The following is a post from Anna Rutledge, Nat’s wife.
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“What are your hobbies? You know, what do you do for fun?”

At social events when people are politely trying to get to know me, I absolutely dread being asked this question. The only reply I have is always something like, “Well, I have a pretty demanding job so I don’t do a whole lot… What about you?”

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to the question of what I do for fun. And although I play boardgames, I’ve never really felt like a “boardgamer” per se. The conversation about “Women and Boardgaming” on @BoardgameHour this week provoked me to consider the subject. I proudly consider myself a feminist, so it was time for some thinking. Read the rest of this entry »

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New Bedford Joins Dice Hate Me Games

If you heard the latest State of Games Podcast, follow us on Twitter, or happened to have read the Dover Post, you might have heard that New Bedford was signed by Dice Hate Me Games as the “flagship” of their 2014 lineup. Pun intended, I’m sure. I’m incredibly excited to be working with Chris to bring New Bedford to Kickstarter later this year.

This exciting news actually happened as part of Unpub 4, but I wanted to give Chris a chance to make a more official announcement first. Plus I thought it was exciting enough to get its own post, and didn’t have time to write it up before now.

There are still some tweaks that need to be made based on some feedback from Unpub 4 and lots of playtesting ahead. There will also be plenty of additional information as the game takes its final form and the Kickstarter Campaign is prepared. So keep following for all the latest.

A big thanks to Darrell Louder for talking it up, Chris for seeing something in it, and all the players who provided feedback to make it a great game.

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Unpub 4 Wrapup

Wow, Unpub4 was a fantastic event, and I want to start by thanking Darrel Louder and all of the volunteers for Unpub that made it so successful. There were 2 full days of testing, game playing, prizes, and a lot of fun. I was able to meet a lot of great people in person for the first time and really enjoyed seeing the people I knew. So here is a recap of my experiences.
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10 Acres Basic Crops and Animals

Unpub 4 is tomorrow, and I’ve been doing a lot of preparation, but I was able to put together an overview of the game as it is currently. After the changes from the previous test, I got through a game of 10 Acres with 4 (in a bit more than 10 minutes, but it was a learning game) by increasing the number of cards and restocking at a fixed rate. Unfortunately, I discovered that resupplying was too slow, hampering some strategies. But I got some great advice, and the resupply rate will probably be set by tokens, to have the right number of goods added to the game. I also discovered that unlimited special harvesting could make a game last forever. So the special rules are probably becoming one-time use tokens.

I also rearranged the rule cards a bit, and I’m finally happy with their format, so it’s time for an overview of the basic products in the game. I’ll start by explaining the ones I have been using since the beginning.

The basic animals are Cows and Sheep. Cows are the most valuable product in the game, and are worth 2 points when harvested. Sheep are worth only 1 point. They also share growth behavior, giving 1 new for every 2 existing. Location doesn’t matter, so it’s just the total number that counts. In addition, new cows or sheep can be placed on any space that already holds one of the same animal. However, only 2 cows can be kept on a space, while there can be up to 4 sheep. This means cows are slow to grow and max out quickly, requiring constant attention, while sheep are less intensive. As another trade off, cows are worth only 1 point per 2 cows at the end of the game, while each sheep space is always worth 1 point.

On the crop side are grain and vegetables. Grain and Vegetables are similar because they each grow at a steady rate. Grain is the more flexible crop, and benefits from having a long time to grow, giving 1 point per grain. Vegetables are more fickle, and can only be harvested for points when fully grown, but give 5 points when harvesting the whole space. Grain left at the end of the game is only worth half as much, while vegetable spaces are worth 1 point, even if not fully grown.

Fruit is slightly different from the other plant crops. I haven’t decided if it should represent apples, strawberries, or something else, but in any case, they do not “grow” in the same sense as the other plants. Since each turn is basically a year, fruit generates points by “regrowing” year after year, instead of by replacing them. Because of that, fruit is worth nothing when harvested, and very little at the end of the game.

I am mostly happy with the different mechanics for each of the basic products. I would love to have sheep to generate points during growth, like being sheared for wool, but I haven’t been able to make it work so far. It also gives me room for an expansion like Alpacas.

I also have some extra crops I was looking at adding into the game.  So far I have ideas for Beans, Flowers, Pigs, Chickens, and Alpacas as I mentioned above (but I’m out of cube colors). I’m also working on some special actions that involve farm improvements that a player could construct instead of a normal action: fences that break adjacency on your own or another player’s board for some direct interaction. And some Barns and Greenhouses, which are expensive to build, but generate extra points for animals and plants, respectively.

I’m not going to give the full details yet so you need to come to Unpub 4 to get the first look and help test these new concepts.

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Top 10 Reasons to Attend Unpub4

It’s the week of Unpub4! That means I’ve got a lot to do and a lot to say.

I’ve just started doing some writing for Unpub.net, all about why you should become involved in Unpub. If you haven’t yet, check it out.

But to start the week off, I thought I’d post a list of some reasons to come to Unpub 4:

10. You get two days for the price of none.
9. You can boss designers around and maybe beat them at their own games.
8. You can tell your friends you played a game before it was cool.
7. Designers will literally compete for your attention. Maybe with swords.
6. Prizes! Lots of publishers have provided games to give away, so fill in those Feedback Forms!
5. You won’t have to worry about having nothing to do this weekend.
4. No taxes when you buy all those new games.
3. Downton Abbey doesn’t start til after Unpub ends
2. You get to use the #unpubbing hashtag all weekend
1. That enticing perfume of cardboard, markers, and glue.

Like you need a reason besides having a fun weekend of playing unpublished games with the designers.

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Game Theory: Luck Mitigation

It’s the final round. The game hangs in the balance. All that stands between you and the win is one last roll of the dice. Literally anything but a 4 will give you what you need to win. You hold your breath and roll. The last die spins on its corner for what seems like 10 seconds, before picking a side to land on. It’s a 4. Once again, victory has been snatched out of your hands at the last moment. Practically everyone has encountered a situation like this before. There is no doubt that the element of the unknown brought by luck can lead to some tense and thrilling events in a game.

But sometimes, it just doesn’t seem fair. The game defies probability turn after turn, completely putting you out of the running. Even when you make every effort to plan for bad luck, forces beyond your control dictate your success completely. You can spend an entire game planning, but the 1000:1 odds never come out in your favor. You reflect on the game, and realize that nothing you could have done would have changed the outcome. Angered by the arbitrary nature of the game, you vow never to play it again. Another game has been ruined by luck.

Today, I look at ways to avoid having the luck overshadow all of the careful thought and planning that went into the game. And maybe help players have a better time playing.

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