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2014 Review - Playin’ Games

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A whole year’s worth of gaming reviewed in one blog post.  Hmm. Could be a long one. Note: I wouldn’t consider this a review of the games so much as a review of my experiences with them.

I started tracking my plays on BGG in January 2014, so I can report on the games that I played and the ones that didn’t get any attention. It wasn’t until later in the year that I heard about various challenges gamers set for themselves like “10 x 10” and “H-Index of 14 in ‘14” so I did not start the year with any such goals. Mostly I was just curious about how many games I would actually play, but I suppose I also wanted to see what games were getting the most plays and compare that to the ones that, by recollection, were providing the most entertainment.

At the risk of falling into complete nerdom, a little analysis of the year’s plays follows.

Community Focus: League of GameFakers

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In a recent post on the League of GameMakers, Michael Domeny challenged his cohorts and readers to the “League of GameFakers” Game Title Challenge. The rules are as follows:

  1. Take the title of a board game.
  2. Remove any one letter.
  3. Replace it with a different letter to form a new title.
  4. Write a description and pitch your game in the comments below!

The gang at League of Gamemakers and their readers had many clever contributions that are worth reading. This was my entry:

Community Focus: Introduction

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The Community Focus tag is used to identify blog posts that either highlight the board gaming and design community or Opie Games interaction in that community. Some posts will appear in the Game Design blog, some in the Game Industry blog, and some in the Gaming blog depending on the community discussed, but all will appear under the Community tag. Here is an example of the content you will find under this heading.

Resource Focus: The Dice Tower Network

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The Dice Tower Network describes itself so, “The Dice Tower Network is a group of podcasts and videocasts that promotes excellence and fun in board gaming.” At the time of this writing, the network is about 25-30 associated, but independent podcasts offering audio and video entertainment related to table top games, game reviews, and game design. All of these are worth a listen to see if they suit your needs and wants, but not all are actively producing content. Several of these services will also be listed here in the Opie Games resources separately; concentrating on the ones that I find the most interesting and consistent with my needs.

Resource Focus: The Dice Tower

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The Dice Tower website, podcast, and anything you can think of to promote the board game hobby is the brain child of Tom Vasel. It is unlikely that you have found Opie Games without already being very familiar with the Dice Tower, but here is a quick breakdown. Eric Summerer has joined Tom as producer of the podcast and there are many contributors to the site and the web presence that is The Dice Tower. Tom and company produce an amazing amount of game related content every week.

Eliminating Player Elimination

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In modern hobby board games player elimination has largely been eliminated. That’s a good thing, right? Probably, but it depends on the implementation. Let’s take a look.

Current Norm: Generally, most recent games avoid player elimination unless the game takes less than about 30 minutes and any player is unlikely to be out of the game for more than about 10-15 minutes. (Note: These statistics are based on a quick summary of games I have played recently and are not scientific, but you get the idea). The modern designer doesn’t want any player left in the cold for more than about 10 minutes and presumably that is based on the fact that most players don’t want to risk being out in the cold for more than that either.

As a designer working on a game design, you may ask yourself, “How do I keep all the players in the game to the end?” Depending on what you mean by “in the game” you may be asking yourself the wrong question. If your first thought is to let the player stay in, but without any real chance of winning (probably by some brute force method of basically starting over) then you are not only asking yourself the wrong question, but getting the wrong answer. Better to let them go jump into another game or Tweet on their phone for the rest of the game than to patronize them with a false sense of belonging in the current game. At least they will be Tweeting about how they sucked instead of how your game sucked. Maybe.

Resource Focus: Board Game Geek

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If you don’t already have a Board Game Geek account, follow the Homepage link and set one up. Spend a few hours (or days) perusing the site and setting up some subscriptions to content that interests you. Then come back here. Board Game Geek was not the first resource featured here solely because I assume you already know everything you need about it.

Scott Alden and Derk Solko started the site in 2000 that has been growing at an increasing rate ever since. For more information, read the Wikipedia Article or visit the site and find out for yourself.

Social Deduction – The Real Deal

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You might say I am a fan of social deduction games. They can be exciting and really get a group activated. Their success is often related to the gaming group dynamics, but there is enough variety in the genre that it isn’t difficult to find one that will suit most groups. (Watch for my related article on the varieties of social deduction games).

I had been thinking about introducing a group of my friends (4 other couples) to hobby gaming, but did not have much indication that they would be interested; other than they generally like to have fun by socializing with a fair dose of kidding thrown in. For this group I figured a typical, safe starting place like Dixit (for this many people we play teams).  A few have artistic leanings and occupations so the artwork would be the hook and they should have some creative clues. Based on the dynamics of the group, though, I really wanted to check their interest in a social deduction game.

We invited them all over for a happy hour at our house and I was prepared to have Dixit and several other games ready to spring on them. Here’s where the story gets interesting…

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