Category Archives: News

Boardgames in the News: 20 Years of BoardGameGeek

On 22nd January 2000, largely unnoticed, a little website called boardgamegeek.com went live for the first time.  Created by Scott Alden and Derk Solko around the time when everyone else was worrying about The Millennium Bug, boardgamegeek.com has now become the largest “one-stop-shop” for board gamers.

Original BGG Logo
– Image from
boardgamegeek.com

Among other things, it comprises a database with over 100,000 entries; a forum (essential for checking rules etc.), and vast amounts of User-created content, including photos, player aids and rules translations—there is even a marketplace where gamers can buy and sell games.  In 2006, after just six years, the site was generating sufficient funds for Scott Alden to give up the day-job and work on BoardGameGeek full time.  Since then, the site has grown further:  it now includes role-play and video game strands, and they hold their own biannual conventions (BGG.CON and BGG.Spring) with some three thousand attendees.

BGG Ernie
– Image from
boardgamegeek.com

The growth of BoardGameGeek has been commensurate with increasing recognition and participation in board gaming as a whole.  Although there have been many factors that have led to this, it is clear that the provision of extensive information about games and where to get them provided by other gamers, has been massive.  Thus, the creation of BoardGameGeek was undoubtedly timely, but without it, it is arguable that the BoardGameGeek has been essential to the development of the wider board gaming community. So here’s to the next twenty years!

BGG Corner Logo 2019
– Image from
boardgamegeek.com

Next Meeting – 21st January 2020

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 21st January, at the Horse and Jockey pub in Stanford-in-the-Vale.  As usual, we will be playing shorter games from 7.30pm as people arrive, until 8pm when we will start something a little longer.

This week, the “Feature Game” will be Ticket to Ride, specifically, the European editions.  Over the last year, on games night we’ve spent a lot of time discussing Brexit and following the seemingly endless series of votes in the House of Commons.  As a strongly pro-Europe group, we felt we had to mark the last meeting while we were still part of the EU, and we’ll do it in the only way we know: by playing some of the European versions of Ticket to Ride:  Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Netherlands and of course, Europe.

Ticket to Ride: Switzerland
– Image by boardGOATS

And speaking of Brexit…

Jeff was working in his local pub, when Nigel Farage walked in and asked for a pint.  Jeff went to the pump and drew a pint of Jockey and then threw it into Nigel’s face.

“Why on earth  did you do that?” asked Nigel, wiping beer out of his eyes.

“You asked for a pint, but you didn’t say how you wanted it delivered,” replied Jeff.

Nigel was in a good mood as Brexit day was approaching fast, so he put his large spotted hanky back into his pocket saying, “OK, I get, you’re a Remoaner, I won’t make a fuss, I’ll just have a pint in a pint glass.”

Jeff gave him a firm stare. “No, you can’t ask again,” he said.

“Why not?” Nigel asked.

“Democracy,” Jeff replied.

Boardgames in the News: Asmodee Acquiring Again

The development of Asmodee from a small French games company primarily known for clever little kids game like Dobble and Jungle Speed, into an industrial conglomerate has been covered extensively here.  Over the last decade or so, they have acquired Days of Wonder, Fantasy Flight Games, Z-man Games, Mayfair and Lookout Spiele amongst others.  They have also leveraged control of the distribution network through the purchase of Esdevium (UK), Heidelberger Spieleverlag (Germany), Hodin (Belgium), Asterion Press (Italy), Millennium (Spain), FRED Distribution (USA) and agreements with Rebel (Poland), and Alliance Game Distributors (USA).  These acquisitions tend to come in flurries presumably as funds are made available and it seems they are in the middle of another one now.

Asmodee Logo
– Image from escapistmagazine.com

In March last year, Asmodee signed a deal with CMON Ltd., to exclusively distribute the publisher’s board and tabletop games in North America.  Distribution agreements happen all the time because they help distribute costs between companies as well as distribute games to gamers all over the world.  What makes this agreement slightly more unusual is that CMON are a US company that have been successfully distributing their product across the USA.  Where Asmodee are concerned, a distribution agreement announcement is usually followed by more announcements, and this was no exception.  Over the Summer, Asmodee announced a similar distribution agreement with the Swiss publishing house, Helvetiq, and acquired the French-language boardgame site, Tric Trac.

CMON Logo
– Image from cmon.com

For eighteen years from 2000, Tric Trac was an independent enterprise with some 40,000 members directed by Monsieur Phal (aka Philippe Maurin).  In 2018, Flat Prod SARL (the parent company), sold Tric Trac to Plan B Games, a new company that grew out of the fallout of Asmodee’s acquisition of F2Z/Filosofia/Z-Man Games etc., in 2016, and won the Spiel de Jahres Award with Azul.  Tric Trac has been more commercial than the popular US-based, English-language website BoardGameGeek, which has been running for a similar length of time.  However, there have long been suspicions of that Asmodee have received special treatment from Tric Trac, suspicions fueled by the fact that the parent company Flat Prod SARL was formed by Philippe Maurin and the company Plume Finance, which is wholly owned by Marc Nunès, original CEO of Asmodee.  However, with Asmodee being such an important part of the French boardgame industry, it is perhaps unsurprising that their games take a lot of space on French website dedicated to boardgames. 

Tric Trac Logo
– Image from trictrac.net

With France’s foremost website in the hands of such a dominant force, there are concerns about a lack of critical objectivity and that Tric Trac could ultimately become a promotion channel for Asmodee.  It may be that with the retirement of it’s founder, Asmodee bought Tric Trac to ensure its survival and make sure the source of French-language boardgame media remains available and there is no sinister motive.  They have promised the team editorial freedom, but it is highly likely that Asmodee are the ones benefiting the most from the site anyhow, simply because they’re the biggest player in the market, especially given their history as a French company.  Since then, however, Asmodee have signed another distribution agreement, this time with Funforge, to distribute the French publisher’s titles in the U.S., and today they announced the acquisition of the Belgian publisher, Repos Production.  Repos are best known for games like 7 Wonders, Ghost Stories, Concept, Ca$h ‘n Guns and this year’s Spiel des Jahres winner, Just One.  Sometimes it seems like every successful company is a target and soon Asmodee will have a strangle-hold on the modern boardgame market.  Some people say they already have.

Repos Production
– Image from google.com

Boardgames in the News: GOATS on the Radio

Christmas is a very special time for families, and what could be better than spending time playing games together.  To discuss some of the options, on Christmas Eve, representatives of boardGOATS and Didcot Games Club were invited to chat to James Watt at Radio Oxford’s Summertown Studio.  The interview started shortly after 2pm and lasted around twenty minutes.

Radio Oxford 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

Time was very limited, but PitchCar, Dobble and Ticket to Ride (specifically the festive Nordic version) were all discussed, and a game of Boom Boom Balloon was played live on air.  These are all all great fun family-friendly games, but there are many more available:  we listed ten of our favourite games to play with family a few years ago, and recently added another five.

Radio Oxford 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

The interview can be found online for a few weeks, and starts at 2:10:50.

Boardgames in the News: Another Five Great Family Games to Play at Christmas

Four years ago, we posted a list of ten great games that are ideal to play with the family at Christmas.  That list is still valid of course, but there are so many great games out there now that we decided to put together another list of ten – and these are just as good!  As before, they are all readily available online and/or in dedicated boardgame shops.

    1. ICECOOL & ICECOOL2 – This is a fantastic little chase game guaranteed to get kids of all ages involved.  Players take it in turn to try to catch the others who are flicking their “Weeble-like” penguins around the three dimensional board collecting fish.  The two versions can also be combined to give different layouts and play twice as many people for twice as much fun.
      Target Audience: Families; ages 6+
      Game Time: From half an hour up.
      Price:  Approximately £30 from amazon.co.uk.

      ICECOOL
      – Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312
    2. Boom Boom Balloon – This is a very silly, simple game, that is a huge amount of fun for kids and adults alike.  Essentially, everyone takes it in turns to push sticks into a balloon with stress levels rising until it inevitably bursts.  The balloons are slightly toughened so they take a huge amount of punishment, ramping up the tension…
      Target Audience: Friends & Families with ages 2+
      Game Time: 5 mins though it takes a little time and puff to set up the balloon in the frame.
      Price:  £10-20 from amazon.co.uk.

      Boom Boom Balloon
      – Image by boardGOATS
    3. Ca$h ‘n Guns – Nothing says Christmas quite like waving a foam gun at Grandma!  This is a fun bluffing party game where players are gangsters and anyone left in at the end of the round shares the loot.  The player with the most loot after eight rounds is the winner.  Hilarious fun, but nowadays, the involvement of guns (even foam ones) means its not really suitable for children under ten.
      Target Audience: Older children and adults; ages 10+
      Game Time: 45-60 mins
      Price:  Readily available for around £25-30.

      Ca$h 'n Guns
      – Image by boardGOATS
    4. Azul – This is one that is likely to appeal to those who like Scrabble, but lose because they can’t be bothered to learn a dictionary off by heart.
      Target Audience: 10 and up
      Game Time: 30-45 minutes
      Price:  £30-40 from amazon.co.uk.

      Dobble
      – Image by boardgamephotos
    5. Just One – This is a clever party game where everyone plays together to do the best they can as a team.  A sort of “word charades”, in each round one person guesses which of five words is the right one, while everyone else offers clues.  With everyone working together, this is a lot of fun with a family group and ideal for families at Christmas.
      Target Audience: age 8+ though they need good literacy skills
      Game Time: 20 mins per game plus a few minutes setting up
      Price:  approximately £20 from amazon.co.uk.

      Just One
      – Adapted from image by BGG contributor kalchio

Boardgames in the News: Bugs on the Brain

Over the last few years there have been a few boardgame-related publications in scientific journals.  More recently, work by Wasserman & Koban1 using Hive to study the development of player skill was reported in the Journal of Expertise.  Unsurprisingly, they showed that the more Hive is played, the better the understanding and the better the player becomes at playing.  There is conflicting evidence in the literature about whether skill acquisition generally increases at a continuous rate (linear) or increases with diminishing returns (more curvilinear).  This study suggests that player skill increases with diminishing returns, however, understanding increases linearly, at a continuous rate.  Thus, the implication is that if the best players wish to improve their game play, they need to increase their understanding more than less advanced players.

Hive
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor zombiegod

1 Wasserman, J. A. & Koban, K., J. Expertise (2019), 2(2), 121.

Golden GOAT Award Winners – 2019

The second Golden GOAT Award was announced at the boardGOATS 2019 “Un-Christmas Dinner” on Tuesday.  As last year, we also gave an award acknowledging our least favourite game of the year, known as the “GOAT Poo” prize.  Only games played at a GOATS games night since the 2018 Un-Christmas Dinner could be nominated, and, in a slight change to the rules from last year, everyone had three points to hand out for the Golden GOAT Award (plus a bonus if wearing Festive Attire), and everyone could nominate up to two individual games for the GOAT Poo Prize.

Boom Boom Balloon
– Image by boardGOATS

This year there were a number of popular nominees, including Gingerbread House, Lords of Vegas, Villagers and Tokaido, with Boom Boom Balloon getting several honourable mentions for being very silly, but a lot of fun.  There was some surprise that Terraforming Mars, Keyflower and last year’s Golden GOAT winner, Altiplano, had all not been played (we must make sure we rectify  that next year).  This was perhaps a measure of how strong the field was, and many people commented that there wasn’t a stand-out “bad game” for them.  Tapestry was a strong candidate for the unofficial “GOAT Marmite-factor” Award receiving nominations for both prizes and added controversy, with a suspicion that its nomination for the GOAT Poo Prize was based purely on the appearance of complexity rather than any actual experience.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

The winner of the “GOAT Poo” award was 7 Wonders, with nearly a third of the group nominating it; it is clearly another Marmite game though as there were plenty of people keen to jump to its defense.  The clear winner of the Golden GOAT 2019, however, was Wingspan, with Key Flow an equally clear second (the Silver GOAT perhaps?).  Both are excellent games and very deserving choices; we look forward to playing them more next year.

Golden GOAT - 2019
– Image by boardGOATS