With Hurricane Maria currently devastating the Caribbean, people are once again battening down the hatches and preparing for winds that could reach over 150 mph. While they are waiting, they could do worse than play a game or two to try to take their mind off it. That is exactly what the Virgin tycoon, Richard Branson, did when Hurricane Irma struck his home, Necker Island, in the British Virgin Islands. According to his blog, Richard and his team settled down to an evening playing Perudo (aka Liar’s Dice) before the whole team slept together in two rooms, listening to the parrots chattering away next door, waiting for the arrival of the approaching menace.
– Image from virgin.com
This is not the only time Richard Branson has shown an interest in games. He has expressed a love of chess previously, but he also nearly had a commercial interest in another well known game. Back in the early 1980s, a friend in Canada, introduced him to a new board game. It was such a hit that developers invited him to travel to Quebec and seal a deal to distribute the game globally. Since Richard was incredibly busy with Virgin Records at the time, the trip was postponed so the developers sold the game, Trivial Pursuit, to another company, and the rest is history.
This week on The Great British Bake Off, it was biscuit day. So, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith set the remaining eleven bakers the challenge to bake a biscuit-based showstopper with a boardgaming theme that could actually be played. Now on its eighth series, The Great British Bake Off recently moved from BBC to Channel 4, a change that was accompanied by a rejuvenated presenting team including Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding.
– Image from Channel4.com
Sadly, the games depicted were all variants on traditional games like Snakes and Ladders, Coppit (similar to Ludo), Operation and Chess rather than some of the fantastic modern classic games now available. Nevertheless, there were some interesting renditions, including from one contestant, Kate, who went for something slightly more modern, basing her creation on Jumanji, the game from the eponymous film. Stacey was more ambitious deciding to design her own game called “Get to School”, as well as bake it. There wasn’t time to play test that, but Paul Hollywood did challenge student Liam to a game of Noughts and Crosses played with his compendium of biscuit games. In the end, the title of Star Baker went to Steven, the Marketer from Hertfordshire, for his “Check Bake Game”, based on Chess.
Last week, a team of boardgamers were pitted against three lovers of Latin cuisine, on the quiz show, Only Connect. Only Connect is an unusual program that takes pride in being esoteric, challenging teams of contestants make connections between apparently unconnected things. The team of Meeples included Gail Trimble who led the Corpus Christi College team to the final of University Challenge in 2009. Although Corpus Christi beat the team from Manchester by eighty-five points, they were later disqualified after an investigation revealed that one of Gail’s teammates finished studying at Corpus Christi while the series was being recorded. Now back in Oxford, Gail currently holds the position of associate professor in Classical Languages and Literature. Proving that gaming is a family affair, Gail was joined on Only Connect last week by her husband Tom West and her brother Hugh. Amongst other things, this episode featured groups of geometric shapes, lucky statues, and micro-genres on Netflix. The Meeples took an early lead, and despite failing to solve their “Wall”, progressed safely onto the next round. The episode is available to watch on iPlayer until the end of the month.
The culture of arranged marriages is still very prevalent in South-Asian societies with many girls forced into marrying someone their family chooses for them. The husband is typically chosen on the basis of his wealth and social status, or sometimes, even as a business deal. Most of these women cannot fight against the culture because they aren’t educated enough to be able to provide for themselves. Arranged! masks the darkness of this topic, and provides a light-hearted platform for people discuss these issues surrounding arranged marriages. The game involves a matchmaker (“Rishta Aunty”) who is trying to get the teenage girls married off to any and every boy she can find. Meanwhile, the girls spend their time coming up with creative ways to avoid getting hitched for like talking about having a career, gaining weight, being seen in the mall with boys, and many other things that every other society would consider normal, but are seen as disgraceful in South Asian culture. Eventually, Aunty comes across the Golden Boy, a green-eyed, light skinned, CEO of a business with a foreign passport. This is when the game dynamic switches around and it turns into a rat race to get married to the dreamy Mr. Right with the girls making their way towards Aunty by flaunting their talents.
The 2017 winner of the coveted German Game of the Year or Spiel des Jahres award is Kingdomino. Kingdomino is a simple little tile laying game with elements borrowed from other games, in particular, Carcassonne and Dominoes. These are combined to make a well presented family game where players taking it in turns to add to their kingdom by placing dominoes that depict different terrains types. We have played Kingdomino several times on a Tuesday evening and everyone who has played it has enjoyed it. Discussing it among the group, everyone has felt that it is a fun, light filler that is very accessible and is a worthy winner. The Kennerspiel des Jahres was awarded at the same time. This honours more challenging games and was first introduced in 2011 to make up for the fact that the main, Spiel des Jahres award had moved away from the slightly more involved fare (like El Grande and TIkal) towards lighter, more family friendly games (like Dixit and Qwirkle).
– Image by boardGOATS
Unusually, this year the Kennerspiel des Jahres award went to a series of games: EXIT: Das Spiel. These are cooperative games that reproduce the experience of an escape room by providing a series of puzzles inside a game box. There are currently five of these games, though the award is for the first three, The Abandoned Cabin, The Pharaoh’s Tomb, and The Secret Lab. Unfortunately, as a group we rarely play cooperative games and are not huge fans of the modern trend for social deduction type games, which means we are unlikely to play this soon on a Tuesday evening. The Kinderspiel des Jahres award was announced last month and went to Ice Cool which is a beautiful dexterity race game with cool little “weeble” penguins and wooden fish pegs.
Last weekend, 2nd-4th June, gamers once converged on Birmingham for three days of fun and games for UK Games Expo. Whereas Essen, is primarily a trade fair so is all about the business surrounding games with lots of buying and selling, Expo focusses on gamers playing games and includes Euro Games as well as lost of role playing games, miniatures games, and war games. In addition to tournaments there is lots of “open gaming” space and demonstration events for new designs. There are lots of activities specially designed for kids in the “Family Zone” as well as a trade fair with all the latest games for their parents and seminars presented by industry experts, panels and celebrity guests.
– Image by boardGOATS
This is the eleventh year of Expo and the event gets ever larger. Like last year, there were activities in both the NEC and the NEC Hilton Metropole, though this year it spread into Hall Three at the NEC as well as taking over the whole of Hall One with the food fair outside. The focus of Expo is on playing games rather than marketing, so there are generally fewer new releases available than at some of the other conventions. The trade fair is growing though and as a result there were more new games available this year than previously, including The Cousins’ War (a two player game from Surprised Stare Games); Santo Domingo (a new light card game in the style of Port Royal) and Capitals, the new expansion to one of our favourite games, Between Two Cities. There were also demonstrations and play-testing of of some exciting pre-release games including the new Splendor Expansion and the upcoming stand-alone Snowdonia variant, “A Nice Cup of Tea”.
– Image by boardGOATS
A number of GOATS went to play and make purchases with some taking time off work to go on the slightly quieter Friday, while others braved the hoards over the weekend. A fun time was had by all and it will no-doubt be a topic of conversation next week. when we will surely play some of the new acquisitions.
Today, the Spiel des Jahres Award nominations were announced. There are three awards, a children’s game award (Kinderspiel des Jahres) and the two that interest us more, the “Advanced” or “Expert” Kennerspiel des Jahres and the main award, the Spiel des Jahres (which is often interpreted as the “Family Game” award). This year there are three nominees in each category:
We’ve discussed the possible nominations a couple of times within the group, but nobody really had much idea this year. Part of this is because we’ve not really engaged with many of these, though Kingdomino did come up and we are planning to play Terraforming Mars on 30th May, so we will be able to make our minds up about that one then. Fabled Fruit, Captain Sonar, Great Western Trail and The Grizzled also came up in our discussions and these were recommended by the Jury. The winner of the Kinderspiel des Jahres will be announced in Hamburg on 19th June, with the Spiel and Kennerspiel des Jahres a month later in Berlin on 17th July.