“Filler” Games

In the fall, I Kickstarted a few games that were “filler” type games. These are games that take less than 30 minutes to play and usually have a small footprint. Their purpose to “fill” the time. You could be waiting for another group’s game to end. You could want to play a quick game. Either way, these filler games fit the bill.
Everyone is going to have a different idea on what a filler game is. For me, filler games are short without losing any substance. You could say that a game like “Speed” (think 52-card deck) is a filler, but there is no substance to that game. I game like Coup is also short, has few components, but has a wide breadth of diversity and smart decisions.
A few I backed last year are Ahead in the Clouds and Pack o Games. The latter contained 10 little games in a small pouch. By little, I mean the games are about the size of a pack of gum. Both of these games helped broadened my scope on what makes a good game. Both games use the cards themselves as the “board.” Players use cards to mark resources as well. For my “Lawnmowers” design, I have started to think in this direction. A box with components isn’t needed. A few positioned cards can give the illusion of anything. A creator can position nine cards to look like nine street blocks, complete with streets. Those games have helped me to think “outside the box” and toward a different type of game.
More and more I value the filler game for low play time and easy accessibility. I often underestimate the difficulty of games. Fillers have helped me to bring my family and new gamers along into my hobby. They are sneaking up as my favorite type.

Nerdstravaganza – A Gaming Event – Part 2

The Nerdstravaganza weekend has come and gone. It was a blast as usual, and this time we had over 20 students join us for the festivities. All in all, it was a successful mashup of old gamers and new. I had several major takeaways from the weekend.

Games are Exhausting

My gaming began when my friend showed up Thursday evening at my house. He joins us for every event and stays with my family. We played several games that night. Friday started early and ended close to midnight. After two games of Feast for Odin on Saturday, the games completed their conquest of my brain. This is a good thing. The alternative is to do nothing with my brain on my days off. I’ve written before about the benefits of gaming for your brain. My hope is to stave off mental decay as long as possible. I think brain workouts like this weekend are essential in that task.

New Gamers are Exhilarating

I love gaming with my friends. We’ve been gaming together on many platforms for many years. I prefer playing games with them because they are a known variable – they love games and love playing them. What place do new gamers have in my life? Being able to teach new games to eager and excited students was a great joy that I haven’t often experienced. When I teach games, it is either to my family or my friend group. I enjoy teaching them, but there was something different about teaching the students. My favorite moment is when they would choose to play a game that I had taught them. As they left, they were talking about their favorite games of the weekend. To me, that is a solid victory for my soul, and for board gaming in general.

The Game and the “Gamer” are Evolving

I’ve been playing board games for a long time, but only in the last 7 years have I considered it a hobby. In that time, designer games have evolved from basic euro games to the board game equivalent of a thrill ride. Games are more flashy and colorful – and more expensive. The new breed of gamer has taken up the mantle and is now demanding more flash, more color, and more cost. Gamers don’t mind paying over $100 if they can get a cool dragon miniature or some nice metal coins. Where does that leave a game like Castles of Burgundy, which is an incredible game with low production value? Sadly,it leaves it unplayed.

Some games are revamping. I read that Brass is getting a polished new look. Maybe other greats will as well. What do you think about the new turn in board gaming? Good or bad for the hobby and why?

Nerdstravaganza – A Gaming Event – Part 1

For almost ten years, my friends and I have met together a few times a year to play board games. Most of us met in college. Since then, we’ve gotten jobs and families of our own, but we are all still friends. This is our reunion. It’s our way of enjoying what we always enjoyed together and keeping our friendships strong.

The event has taken many forms over the years. We began meeting in one of our houses. As that option was no longer viable, we moved to local (Murray, KY) rental spots. Tomorrow, we will meet at the high school where my wife and I teach. We’ll be inviting my gaming club, the Gametes, to join us.

As I’ve stated many times, gaming with family is a good thing for a family. It keeps them communicating and working together. Even in competitive games, the act of learning and playing a game together is a bonding experience. I say the same thing for a good game group. Event though we only meet a few times a year, it’s a great time. We keep our friendships kindled and re-up on life together. We chat daily using Google Hangouts, but there is no substitute for face to face interaction. Board games create that face to face interaction as well as any other activity.

For my next article, I’ll write a post-event wrap-up. I’m interested to see how a bunch of high school kids mix with a bunch of late-30s kids.

100 Games Challenge

In recent perusing of Facebook, I’ve come upon the same picture over and over. It is a picture of a plaque that has 110 empty spaces for meeples. To their left, there are whiteboard spaces for names of games. The idea: play 10 games 10 times each. Some have called it the 100-Game Challenge. I called it an immediate buy. (click picture for your own)

The title “In This Home We Game” of course caught my eye because of my love of gaming with my family. We bought it and decided that each of us would choose 2 games. We wrote them all down and proceeding to plan our strategy to make it through the challenge.

We chose the following games:

  1. Terra Mystica
  2. Castles of Burgundy
  3. Carcassonne
  4. Feast for Odin
  5. Scythe
  6. King of Tokyo
  7. Small World
  8. Quadropolis
  9. Zooloretto
  10. Pups

There is a mix of heavy and light, leaning toward the heavy side. My family tends to play heavy games though that doesn’t mean we don’t like light ones.

I plan to update the status of the challenge as we go through it. Which games would your family play in a similar challenge?

Gametes – A Board Game Club

Though I’m a biology teacher, I often talk about games with my students. Board gaming is an important part of my life, and in talking about my life, board games come up. One of my classes became interested in my design project. They started asking questions about more and more games. One day, while talking about DNA Replication, they asked me to sponsor a game club.

They began with the idea of a game/science club. That’s where the name “Gametes” found its genesis. Though we have dropped the science part of the club, the name has stuck. They even ask, “When is the next Game…meet?” Funny, right?

One of the most exhilarating things about this club has been watching them play. When the learned King of Tokyo for the first time, you would have thought they were at a prize fight. When the winning roll happened, there was a collective squeal from the group. Some even fell out of their chairs. The table could not contain the fun, so it spilled onto the floor. It was one of my greatest gaming experiences.

We’ve met several times and it has been great to experience the games with them. I wish I had started the hobby at their age, but I’m glad I started when I did.

My club does have some needs. I’d like for them to have their own collection. I’d also like to have some prototyping materials available to them. As all gamers, their minds will expand to making their own games. I want to be ready. I’m hoping to find a view generous donors via the crowdfunding scene to get us off the ground.

What other needs does a fledgling board game club have?

Heartland – March Update

The state of my game is good. It has gone through several iterations in the past few weeks. I think the changes have been good and have improved the “fun factor.” After one playtest, I was sad to stop playing. 

One part I’m thrilled about is the effects the changing of the seasons has on gameplay. When Spring arrives, you may think it’s time for planting. One card has a late freeze set in, thus making farming more difficult. Not only does the late freeze affect the current season, but in the fall, livestock won’t have enough food. This will affect their production. The game forces you to interact with the random elements presented by the seasons. It also makes you prepare for their future impact. This creates a density of important decisions that is satisfying.

One aspect that I’ve had to tinker with more than I had hoped is the building upgrades. Each city will be able to construct buildings that help them thrive in the new economy. I have waffled between two choices. One is for the playings to each have access to every building type. The other is a common building “pool” for players to choose from. With the latter, once a player buys a building, it is no longer available for the other players. Both have their advantages.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your input to help me make a decision.

Interview with Geoff Engelstein – Part 2

This is part two of the interview I had with Geoff Engelstein. I encourage you to go back and read the first part. His insight into design and gaming with family was helpful and encouraging.

What gets a new game design started in your family?

Literally anything. There are like 8 different prototypes in different stages scattered around the house. And hardly any car ride goes by without someone throwing some type of idea out there.

What advice would you give a family that wants to start gaming together?

Play games that they want to play, at least at first. Don’t push them into games that are too complex for them. Also, don’t be afraid to change the rules if you need to for younger kids. We played Monopoly when the kids were very little with everything costing a dollar. Just play and have fun.

Having said that, my second piece of advice is, don’t let them win. They should earn it. You don’t need to crush them – by all means keep it close – but don’t deliberately throw games.

What advice would you give to budding game designers?

Just do it. I see a lot of people that have ideas, but aren’t always willing to put them out there and test, and tweak, and throw out the bad ideas. It’s a long road but can be very gratifying.

Also don’t expect to get rich. You’ll need to put out a lot of games each year to make a living at it, so do it, at least at first, because you love it.

The last bit of advice he gives about not making money was good for me. Several years ago, I considered getting into game design, but I was afraid I would be “unsuccessful.” We all understand the fear of failure. For some reason, I had linked making money with my desire to make games. I heard many designers share Geoff’s advice here.  After that, I became convinced that money and success in this craft aren’t tied together. Sure, there are the Alan Moons and Richard Garfields of the world, but most designers have day jobs. That was encouraging and empowering for me as a designer. My hobby didn’t need to make me money. I just needed to make me happy. And it has.




A blog discussing games, family, and games with family.

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