Category Archives: News

Spiel des Jahres Nominations 2022

The nominations for the three categories of Spiel des Jahres have been announced.  This is arguably the main award in board gaming and is the one everyone wants to win.  There are three categories, the Kinderspiel (children’s game) , the Kennerspiel (“expert’s” game) and the most desirable of all, the family award, the Spiel des Jahres.  The nominees for this year’s awards have been announced as:

In recent years, there has been an increasing tendency by the committee to reward games that challenge the conventional idea of a game.  This was certainly true with Last year’s winner, MicroMacro: Crime City, which is very different to traditional games and arguably is more a cooperative crime-solving activity using the medium of “Where’s Wally?“.  The “game” is played on a large monochrome map, with a deck of cards. The cards ask questions with the answers to the questions on the map. In turn, these lead the players to the solution to each of the sixteen cases.

– Image by BGG contributor Hipopotam

The Kennerspiel des Jahres award which honours slightly more challenging games, went to Paleo and the Kinderspiel des Jahres award winner was Dragomino, a children’s version of Kingdomino (which won the main prize in 2017).  Paleo is a co-operative campaign game, where players try to keep the human beings in their care alive while completing challenges.  With the games honoured by the main award becoming lighter over the years, we have found the Kennerpiel des Jahres is generally a better fit to our tastes.  However, campaign and legacy games are not well suited to groups where the people playing games are different from week to week, and many people don’t like cooperative games too, so it will be interesting how this award changes in coming years.

– Image by from spiel-des-jahres.de

 

Next Meeting, 17th May 2022

Our next meeting will be Tuesday 17th May 2022.  As usual, we will start playing shorter games from 7.30pm as people arrive, until 8pm when we will start something a little longer (table is booked from 6.30pm for those who would like to eat first).

This week, the “Feature Game” will be the Arts and Architecture expansion (rules, review & how-to-play video) to Tapestry (rules, review & how-to-play video).  We played Tapestry with the Plans and Ploys expansion a few weeks ago and it was enjoyed by everyone involved.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

And speaking of architects…

Jeff was working in a pub, as a barman, serving pints.  One day, an architect who was drinking at the bar had an idea. He issued a challenge to anyone in the pub to see who could design the best building in five minutes.

A cowboy accepted the challenge, so Jeff found some paper and pencils and handed them out.

Then, Jeff counted them down, saying “Three… Two… One… DRAW!”

And the cowboy shot the architect.

Boardgames in the News: Ten Years of Love Letter

This week, Love Letter celebrated its tenth anniversary.   Originally self-published by Seniji Kenai (of the Kanai Factory) and released at the Tokyo Game Market in 2012, the sixteen card micro-game has been a roaring success from the very start.  The game reached a much wider audience, however, after the designer Seniji Kanai literally gave the AEG owner John Zinser an “elevator pitch” when he demonstrated Love Letter to him during a ride in a lift. As a result, the game received a US release in later the same year and has since sold an more than three million copies copies worldwide.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

The secret of Love Letter is in its speed and simplicity:  on their turn, players draw a card and add it to their hand, then choose one of their two cards to play.  Each card is numbered, and the winner is the player left holding the highest value card at the end of the game, or the last person standing, if everyone has been eliminated.  The clever part are the actions, which work fit together well, creating a really tight game.  The actions are simple enough that they can be played as an introductory game with players just reading the cards and choosing one of the two options, but also works as a very quick filler for more experienced gamers.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Since its release, Love Letter has been continuously in print with some thirty or more variants and special editions including Santa, Munchkin, Batman, Hobbit, Star Wars and Lovecraft themed versions.  Some of these have small rule changes, while others simply have alternative artwork.  There have also been games that develop the core mechanism like Infinity Gauntlet, Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace, Archer: Once You Go Blackmail… and the Lost Legacy series of games.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

To celebrate the tenth anniversary, Arclight, the Japanese publisher of Love Letter, is planning three new editions of the game:  a collection of all the variants; a version with alternate action cards that can be swapped in and out, and a campaign based story-driven edition of the game.

Boardgames in the News: The Museum of Board Games in Newent (Again)

As reported last year, the small Gloucestershire market town of Newent, houses The Museum of Board Games, owned and curated by Tony Boydell (designer of Snowdonia, Ivor the Engine, Guilds of London and Scandaroon amongst other games).  The other day, the  former BBC and ITV news reporter, Anna Brees, popped in to chat and do a little filming…

– Video by Anna Brees

Boardgames in the News: National Board Game Day

Apparently, today, 11th April, is National Board Game Day.  National, in this context, means North American, but that hasn’t stopped people from the UK from celebrating it too—Zatu Games, for example, are offering freebies for orders placed today.  The fact that today is a work day, makes it less conducive to playing games than, say, International Tabletop Day, which is the first Saturday in JuneNational Card Playing Day is also celebrated in the US on 28th December, at a time of year when we in the UK often spend more time with the family.

Christmas Tree
– Image by boardGOATS

The winter weather during the holidays between Christmas and New Year means there is a focus on indoor activities, particularly board and card games (which are often festive gifts with this in mind), so we already share National Card Playing Day.  In addition to these, there is also International Games Day in November, an event originally designed to highlight the fact that modern libraries are about more than just books, and was started by the American Library Association (ALA) in collaboration with the Nordic Libraries “Nordic Game Day”.  Last year, this became International Games Week and this year is set to become International Games Month!

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

For most board gamer enthusiasts though, we don’t need a “Special Day”—every day is a “Game Day”.

Boardgames in the News: Dice Shaken, Not Stirred…?

When packing pieces away, most gamers have given the box a shake to get the bits to pack better.  For most people this is instinct, but there is science behind it as reported by Asencio et al., in Physical Review Letters in 2017.1,2  Tapping a box of marbles or sand will encourage the pieces to pack themselves progressively more tightly, however, the effect quickly reaches the point of diminishing returns; the maximum density is only approached after a very long time and the right tapping sequence. Asencio et al.,1 report experiments with a cylinder full of dice, showing that with vigorous twisting back and forth, the pieces rapidly achieved their maximum density.

Dice
– Image from physics.aps.org

These studies show that the degree of ordering depends strongly on the rotational acceleration applied on each twist.  Only ten thousand twists are needed where the acceleration is around half that due to gravity (0.5 g), but below that, packing proceeds so slowly that it is unclear if the dice would ever reach their maximum density.

– Video from physics.aps.org

 

1 Asencio, K., Acevedo, M., Zuriguel, I. & Maza, D., Phys. Rev. Lett. (2017), 119, 228002; doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.228002.
2 Buchanan, M., Phys. (2017), 10, 130; doi:10.1103/Physics.10.130.

Goats in the News: Kids Help with Hospital Stress

Baby goats are adorably cute.  Even watching just a few seconds of kidding around makes people smile and that alleviates stress.  It should be no surprise then that in a trial in Portland Oregon, baby goats have been found to help to relieve stress of staff an patients as reported by the BBC this week.  Hospitals are noisy, chaotic places which doesn’t help patients to recover or staff perform at their best.  They have designed gardens to reduce stress levels and, from time to time, a flock of two-week old baby goats come to visit.  Staff and patients alike report finding it very soothing and relaxing cuddling the little kids, even the video is cheering.  And the kids seem to like the attention too.

Baby Goat at Hospital in Portland Oregon
– from bbc.co.uk

– from twitter.com

Boardgames in the News: Kickstarter, Blockchain, Discord, Ravensburger, & Gamefound

Crowdfunding is the practice of project funding using a large number of investors, usually with many small financial contributions.  Although it is often thought of as a modern practice, it actually has a long history, with its roots dating back centuries to a time when printing was very expensive and people were encouraged to subscribe or otherwise commit to buying a publication in advance.  In 1697, Dryden’s “Works of Virgil” was published like this, and with staggering parallels to modern crowdfunding, there were two editions, including an “exclusive limited edition”.  Over the last twenty years, however, the practice has become more and more popular with entrepreneurs increasingly put in touch with investors through online platforms like Kickstarter.

ArtistShare Logo
– Image from artistshare.com

The first commercial crowdfunding platform was artistShare in 2001, this was soon followed by IndiGoGo (2008) and in particular Kickstarter (2009), which have had a massive impact on board game production.  In 2016, Gamefound was launched, initially as a “pledge manager” to support crowdfunded board game projects at the fulfillment stage when it is necessary to manage details of large numbers of backers and ensure they are sent the correct “rewards”.  In 2021, however, Gamefound itself moved into crowdfunding, becoming a one-stop crowdfunding shop targeted at board games and board gamers.

Ravensburger Logo
– Image from ravensburger.org

This takes money of course, which is presumably the reason for the recent announcement of an investment by the German toy and games manufacturer, Ravensburger.  Ravensburger are well known in the board game world, in particular for their production of the Alea range of games.  However, they are much more than that, and are one of the biggest jigsaw produces, and indeed were literally the producers of the world’s largest jigsaw in 2016 (though this record has since been broken).  They also acquired the Swedish toy company BRIO in 2015, and as such are one of the world’s largest suppliers of trains too.

Brio Train
– Image from brio.us

The slightly curious aspect of this is that, unlike Queen Games for example, Ravensburger have not hitherto engaged in crowdfunding board games, so it is unclear what is driving Ravensburger’s interest.  It is unquestionably a great move for Gamefound, however, especially at a time when arguably their most significant competitors, Kickstarter, has recently encountered a very negative response to their intention to use Blockchain technology.  According to Kickstarter’s blog:

As a first step, we’re supporting the development of an open source protocol that will essentially create a decentralized version of Kickstarter’s core functionality. This will live on a public blockchain, and be available for collaborators, independent contributors, and even Kickstarter competitors, from all over the world to build upon, connect to, or use. … We’re establishing an independent organization that will kick off the development of the protocol. Kickstarter PBC will provide this new independent organization with some funding, appoint an initial board, and commit to being one of the protocol’s earliest clients, meaning Kickstarter.com will be built on top of the protocol. As a user, the Kickstarter experience you’re familiar with will stay the same. You won’t “see” the protocol, but you will benefit from its improvements.

Blockchain is a data-sharing security technology where blocks of data are encrypted in a way that depends on other blocks in the chain.  Thus, if one of these blocks is illicitly changed, it will (to quote Fleetwood Mac) “Break the Chain”.  With many participants in each chain and the same data being stored multiple times via multiple chains, data integrity is maintained.  The whole procedure is carried out in “The Cloud”, which minimises the infrastructure needed at each step, but the redundancy and nature of repeated complex operations means there is a significant environmental impact.

Kickstarter Logo
– Image from kickstarter.com

Although Blockchain is typically associated with crypto-currencies, Kickstarter have been clear that normal credit/debit cards can still be used for pledges and creators would receive funds in the normal way.  Kickstarter have been clear that they intend to make it “carbon-negative”, but that has not stopped a lot of project creators and backers expressing their concern.  Even the designer of Wingspan and Mariposas, Elizabeth Hargrave, who has not hitherto used Kickstarter to produce one of her games, has commented.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The nature of this concern is not always entirely clear, though the root seems to be the environmental aspect, with many creators additionally concerned that their projects will be tarnished by association.  In November, Discord reportedly abandoned plans to integrate a cryptocurrency wallet on the platform after reports of supporters cancelling their subscriptions.  The development of Gamefound as a crowdfunding platform, however, means that even if Kickstarter continue down this route, game producers will at least have a choice.

Gamefound Logo
– Image from gamefound.com

Boardgames in the News: Games making Cameos on TV

Board games are an integral part of family life and growing up and, as such, they have a long tradition of appearing on TV programs.  For example, Kramer and Newman get wrapped up in a game of Risk in Seinfeld, Scrabble features in the second series of Hamish Macbeth and in The Simpsons, while Stratego was the game Fox Mulder was playing with his sister the night she was abducted in the X-Files.  Often, games are used to highlight something “geeky” or otherwise “cerebral”.  So, Rimmer was known to maintain a “Risk Campaign Diary” and often recounting games turn-by-turn to his crew mates in Red Dwarf, and in Star Trek: Voyager, Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres were shown playing Quarto (though it is probably known by a different name in the twenty-fourth century).

Escape From Colditz
– Image from bbc.co.uk

More exiting games have started to appear on TV recently though.  A few years ago, we commented on how Mage Knight featured in the BBC romantic drama Last Tango in Halifax but that is by no means the only TV program to use a designer board game to create atmosphere.  The BBC has a bit of a penchant for including board games in their programs, and when they do, they often choose games that are outside the mainstream.  For example, in the 1970s police drama, Life on Mars featured people playing Escape from Colditz, and more recently, the second series of Killing Eve showed Villanelle playing Dixit.

Dixit on Killing Eve
– Image from bbc.co.uk

In this case, it is a plot device, as Villanelle’s protagonist is commented, “You are struggling with the rules of Dixit, a simple story telling game for players aged eight and upwards, and yet you claim to have two philosophy degrees.”  The BBC doesn’t have a monopoly on showing modern board games, however.  The Channel 4 program, The IT Crowd regularly featured a stack of games in the background that variously included Memoir ’44, Ticket to Ride, Shadows over Camelot, Mystery of the Abbey and War on Terror, while Settlers of Catan, Talisman, Ticket to Ride, and Race for the Galaxy are all shown on shelves in The Big Bang Theory, highlighting how games are still often seen as something for “geeks”.

Tikal
– Image from youtube.com

The “geeky” angle may be changing though.  The Amazon thriller Reacher shows people playing Settlers of Catan in a safe-house, and there is a game shown in every series of the Canadian thriller, Orphan Black because co-creator John Fawcett is a gamer and the show has a “Board Game Advisor” (games featured include Gloomhaven, Runewars, Agricola, Descent, Dead of Winter and Scythe)Tikal even appeared in Glee during the fifth season where the cast sing, “What does the Fox Say?”  Some of these appearances may be paid product placement, in particular Arkham Horror in Limitless and Race for the Galaxy in Silicon Valley, with Rio Grande Games allegedly having confirmed that they have paid for games to appear in shows.  That is not the reason in all cases though.

Wingspan
– Image from itv.com

Last week, Wingspan appeared in the ITV soap-opera, Coronation Street with people shown reading the rules and references to having played later.  Designer Elizabeth Hargrave confirmed that this was not a case of product placement, commenting that the show got in touch and no money had changed hands.  It is possible that one of the script writers is a fan of modern board games as “Corrie” did something similar just over a year ago with Billy Mayhew shown struggling to fathom the rules to Mysterium shortly after Christmas. With the appearance of modern board games in programs like this, it is clear they are no longer solely the preserve of the “geeky”, though it would probably help if we could get rid of the “frowning over difficult rules” stereotype.

Mysterium
– Image from itv.com

Boardgames in the News: Asmodee Changes Hands Again and Lots of Money is Made

Asmodee started life as a small French company best known for clever little Snap-variant card game, Dobble.  However, a series of mergers, buyouts and distribution agreements has left the company with a stake in some of the best known modern games including Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Pandemic and Carcassone.  As a result, the company is arguably the most dominant force in the world of modern board games.

Dobble
– Image adapted by boardGOATS

Paris-based private equity house Eurazeo had owned Asmodee for four years, when three and a half years ago, they sold it to another private equity firm, PAI Partners.  At the time, Asmodee, had an enterprise value of €1.2 billion, making €565 million for Eurazeo and its investors and giving a return of about 35%.  Over the last year, Asmodee acquired Plan B Games, the US retailer Minature Market and, following its success during the global pandemic, the games online platform Board Game Arena.  This activity was building towards another potential sale and last autumn, with PAI Partners making preparations to sell Asmodee for a reported €2 billion.

PAI Partners
– Image from paipartners.com

Then, just before Christmas a deal was announced with Sweden’s Embracer Group AB for €2.75 billion.  Embracer Group AB were formerly Nordic Games Licensing AB and THQ Nordic AB and are a Swedish video game company based in Karlstad.  Under this deal, Asmodee would continue to operate much as before, as an operating group within the Embracer Group.  No reorganization is expected and Asmodee’s CEO Stéphane Carville together with his management team would continue in their current roles.

Embracer Group AB
– Image from embracer.com