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Boardgame Babylon is a podcast about designer board games. The show features session reviews, "Rectangular Table Discussions" with guests and themed shows on subjects of interest to players of euro/designer/strategy games. Your host, E.R. Burgess, is a longtime writer, game player and 'redesigner' of board games who will occasionally veer off on tangents about his other passions: literature, film and music.

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As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Listeners should assume that E.R. Burgess and Boardgame Babylon receives review copies of games but is not paid by any tabletop games industry organization.

Bo Radakovich is one of those guys who has given a ton to the gaming hobby as a designer, a publisher, a producer, a game convention organizer and so much more. It's great to have him back on the show after many years and I hope it won't be as long before he comes on again.

For this show, we talk about Bo's new Kickstarter campaign for Pirate Den, a fun new 30-minute game that is light enough for casual players but has the depth to interest serious gamers as well. It looks like a terrific game and you have until April 10th to support it and get the very cool sounding Kickstarter exclusives.

We also briefly chat about his company Gamesmith and his role with International TableTop Day, a cool holiday he cooked up with his friends at Geek and Sundry last year. This year is going to be bigger than ever so check out their event listing.

Want to see Bo showing off Pirate Den at SXSW? You can learn it and see the whole game played in 20 minutes.

Thanks again for downloading and listening to Boardgame Babylon.

 

Direct download: 106_Boardgame_Babylon_v106_-_QA_with_Bo_Radakovich_of_Gamesmith.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:39 AM

The first BGB of 2014 is a Q&A session with Joey Vigour and Matt Austin of Mirror Box Games, discussing their fun new game Chaosmos.

I've been meaning to play Joey's game for ages and I'm happy to say I finally got a chance over the holidays while enjoying a nice time at our SoCal board game cafe, GameHaus. I found Chaosmos to be a fun deduction game with a cool sci-fi theme, awesome art and alien races, and some inventive mechanisms. So, I invited them on the show to chat about their game. I think they did the right thing by getting a lot of exposure for their game and getting it played a lot around the country before hitting Kickstarter and clearly there was demand because it funded quickly, even with a lofty (for board games!) goal.

You can find more details on Chaosmos and support it on Kickstarter. It is already funded but their stretch goals seem pretty juicy for fans.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the show and I'm glad to say getting back on the mic more is part of my plan for 2014. In addition to my work on three key games this year, I'm dialing back my involvement with Strategicon to focus my non-gaming gaming time other activities.

Feedback is always welcome either here or to my e-mail address on the side. Thanks for downloading and listening.

Direct download: 105_Boardgame_Babylon_Volume_105_-_QA_with_Mirror_Box_Games.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:36 AM

One of our most sought-after designers finally made the journey to Southern California to join us for a Strategicon. The varied, innovative designer Vlaada Chvatil, the man responsible for such amazing games as Through the Ages, Galaxy Trucker, Dungeon Lords, and Mage Knight came to Gateway 2013. Here is our Q&A session with him, where we discuss his ludography, his game company CGE, and his history in gaming. We hope you enjoy his comments.

Direct download: 104_BGB_Volume_104_-_QA_with_Vlaada_Chvatil_at_Gateway_2013.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:21 PM

Gamex 2013 was waaaaay back in May and somehow it took me until August to get this show out. Sorry about that but things at BGB have been pretty busy.

Anyway, this is the rest of the conversation we had when we were honored to host Scott Alden, the man behind Boardgamegeek.com and the convention for its fans, joined us as our Guest of Honor. And we were also lucky enough to lure GameNight Hosts and Producers Lincoln Damerst and Nikki Pontius over to talk about all kinds of game stuff. Listen in to the latter half of the conversation to hear more GameNight secrets ('those aren't bongs!') and more about the hobby in general with these three welcome guests to BGB.

And we're just about a month off from hosting Gateway 2013 Guest of Honor Vlaada Chvatil. I'm going to endeavor to release that show while we're still at the convention. There may be one more show in the interim, too, if I can get my possible co-host together for it. To whet your appetite, I'm calling that show "Gamer Dad Epic Fail". 


Gamex 2013 came and went earlier this summer. We were happy to host Scott Alden, the man behind Boardgamegeek.com and the convention for its fans, out to hang with us for the weekend. We played many games, enjoyed his company, and were happy to have Lincoln Damerst, one of the main BGG guys these days and host of the hit series of board game videos GameNight! and his lovely wife, Nikki Pontius, a Queen Games representative and producer of many a Kickstarter campaign, join us as well. We talk about many subjects from game cons to game libraries, Spiel, Kickstarters and a whole lot about GameNight!

This is part one of the conversation. Part two will come out next week when I return from San Diego ComicCon.

Direct download: 102_BGB_Volume_102_-_QA_with_Scott_Alden_at_Gamex_2013.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:31 AM

Not to spoil you but here is another Boardgame Babylon that was recorded at Orccon 2013. Inadvertently, this show was done with all the guests at Orccon on the same panel and it feels to me a bit like Graham Norton’s chat show - an opportunity to bring the audience a blended Q&A session with our guests. Sometimes that format works best, especially when you have articulate guests like Richard, Justin and Anne-Marie. I really enjoyed this conversation and hope you will, too.

Please check below for details about the Fireside Games tour of the U.S. that is currently going on. You will definitely want to check out their fun family games and you won’t meet a nicer couple of game designers (okay...Andy and Kristin Looney are right up there, too. And Dirk and Barbara Henn. Wait - maybe there are a lot of these wonderful pairs...)

Thanks for downloading and listening.


Show Notes

Fireside Games on Facebook  Castle Panic   Bears!   Bloodsuckers

Plus - what the heck is this?



Yes, it's been six months since the last Boardgame Babylon. Listen in for my excuses but mostly, you should download this show to hear the wonderful stories of Richard Breese, designer of Reef Encounter, The Boardgamegeek Game, Keythedral, Aladdin's Dragons, and the top-rated Essen 2012 release, Keyflower. Richard was kind enough to join us here in sunny Southern California (yes, it was gorgeous over Presidents' Day Weekend - why weren't you here?) for our first Strategicon of the year, Orccon 2013.

And, yes - we finally hit 100 episodes. I didn’t make much of a big deal about it considering I have more than 10 podcasts sitting around waiting to be edited. Someday, I will get to them.

Show Notes

Richard Breese   Keyflower   Reef Encounter   The Boardgamegeek Game

Chikara   Chamelequin   Keywood   Aladdin’s Dragons   Mosaix

Talisman   Stuart Woods’ Eurogames   Strategicon Conventions on Facebook (for pictures)



Gaming lost the creator of the hobby’s greatest games earlier this week. I share in the game community’s mourning for Allan Calhamer, designer of the masterful game Diplomacy.

In many ways, this is the game that made me a gamer. Sure, I grew up playing card and board games and I played plenty of Dungeons and Dragons before I ever found Diplomacy. But this was the first game where I really thought about the rules, where I carefully read them when I was not playing, and where I read a guide about how to play the game. That's when you're a serious gamer, right? When you think about a game seriously and focus on it outside of play opportunities. Even with my years of playing chess (and reading a short book or two about it), I don't think I really thought about how I might come up with my own strategies - heck, chess strategies are just there for you to use. Diplomacy really got me thinking because it wasn’t just strategy and using the rules - you had the squishy negotiations there. The strategy wasn’t just making good choices and trying to anticipate moves; in Diplomacy, you could persuade your way to a win. This was new and amazing and although the rules are pretty simple, I studied them carefully to figure out ways to improve my play, studied the map, considered ways to manipulate other players in the game. That sure seems to me like a point of transformation from person who plays games to ‘gamer’.

This was 1985. I've told the tale of my exposure to it at weekly games held by the SysOp of a BBS I called back at that time on the podcast before. It was glorious; I was routine trounced by older gamers - some just a few years older and some twice my age. I was back-stabbed, front-stabbed, betrayed, left for dead, and generally mistreated by the folks who taught me the game. And I loved it.

We used to joke that my friend Rob had a 'backstab gland' - some internal organ that would push him to turn on someone no matter how well he and his alliance might be doing. He felt that the game strongly encouraged that behavior.

Also in the 80's, I refereed my first Diplomacy tournaments at Strategicon Conventions. They were vicious games with the nastiest bunch of players filling out a two round tournament. 49 vicious players would fill a hotel conference room with 7 games so that one winner could go on to the final round from each table. That last table had the same guys frequently - the biggest snakes in L.A. gaming. It was wonderful to see these guys go at it; although many of the conversations were private, you could hear the way they were twisting things around to convince each other and lying through their teeth about the perceived value of a certain piece of land. The alliances didn’t come easily with players at this level. How could you trust these people? I wasn't going to be able to play at the level these people were operating on but it was thrilling to listen in on their duplicitous discussions.

While I never got good enough to actually advance in the tournament to the final table, I believe the time I spent playing Diplomacy improved my negotiation skills immensely, taught me about how to measure risks, and how to be more conscious of ulterior motives in general. I believe that I owe a lot of my strengths in these areas to Allan and his wonderful game. Thank you and rest in peace, Mr. Calhamer. My condolences to his family and friends.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:39 AM

If there was a game in the entire series that I knew would go down well with the family, it was Royal Turf. One of the most approachable games in the entire Alea series, Royal Turf is light but interesting, has some opportunities to be nasty, and it plays quickly. I should preface this by saying that we traditionally cut the game down a bit even though it is pretty short. I’m ready to be done with it by the time we get through two races. Although a third race surely evens out the luck (or makes for a miserable final go for someone suffering a bad streak), I find that casual players are fine with two games - and we usually don’t bother doubling the last one. Second, I would note that while I love the ‘0’ bets to bluff others into thinking you might or might not favor a certain horse, I tend to leave it out for first time play and even a second play for some casual gamers. Does it seem like I love the game a bit less because I’m tinkering with the Good Doctor’s sacred rules? Perish the thought - Royal Turf is a wonderful game that we always enjoy playing.
In this case, the Family Challenge took on an extra dimension - my parents played with us. We're lucky enough to have my parents just a mile and a half away and we regularly dine with them once a week. In years past, dinner was at their house and I always wanted to play a game after we ate. While I grew up in a card-playing family, my parents had never really gotten into ‘These Games of Ours” despite my efforts. I mean, they played contract rummy - quite viciously - with my aunts and uncles all the time. Yet, when I showed them a few Gateway Games, they were reluctant. I can recall trying to convince my dad to play Ticket to Ride and him looking down his glasses at the plastic trains and smiling politely as he shook his head. Our usual tricks to lure people into the hobby were not working.
Finally, one night after our usual dinner, I brought out what I dubbed (to myself) a ‘Pre-Gateway Game” - in other words, a game that even the most casual of card players couldn’t really sneer at because it just had numbers and chips - no funny business. That game was Geschenkt (or No Thanks, if you prefer). I just slapped it on the table and told them we were going to play it. Thankfully, they sat down, listened to the rules politely. and ended up really enjoying the game. That was the beginning of a couple of happy years where we’d enjoy a weekly game or two with my parents after dinner while our kids played with whatever toys lived at the grandparents’ house. Coloretto and Drive led to many others and, eventually, Mystery Rummy: Rue Morgue became the big hit. How I loved hearing my parents bicker when one would pass the other a questionable card. They were hilarious! We had such a great time every Tuesday night (surely the lousiest night of the week - but no more!). I even triumphantly got Ticket to Ride to the table...and they just loved it.
Unfortunately, this fun was cut short by my father’s stroke five years ago. We are thankful to still have him in our lives but he’s not what he once was. The games stopped and although my mother played the occasional game of cribbage with him, it was mostly just going through the motions. When I’d brought up the possibility again, my mother discouraged it and my father didn’t respond. We starting dining out at restaurants for our weekly dinner, creating an environment less friendly to games even if it kept our traditional family dinner going.
But this week, we got takeout and ate at my parents' house and I took my chance to simply make it happen again. I knew I could do it if I was armed with the right game and Royal Turf was going to be it. My mother and father are horse racing fans (I grew up close to the storied Santa Anita Race Track), if casual ones, so I figured the theme could work. Furthermore, Royal Turf lends itself to ‘helpful suggestions’ by others since there is little hidden information so I figured we could help my Dad with the game if he got a bit lost. At the last minute, I canceled plans to have him play on a ‘team’ with my mom so we had the full complement of six players. The kids were excited to play, having been disappointed that we didn’t play the other night when Wyatt Earp hit the table.
What ensued was some glorious racing fun. Though I did minimal explanation upfront (another notable plus for RT), everyone ‘got’ the game immediately and we dove right in. Three or four rolls in, my daughter and mother sorted out the value of ‘trashing’ another horse with a lousy roll - and the nastiness that my wife, son, and I had been doling out became more obvious. My father gleefully bet on the horses I deemed long-shots (Early Grey and Albino), only to see them snatch places in the Winner’s Circle in both races. Darn me for only betting on old Earl Grey in one of the races - I almost always throw a chit on that old nag. In the second race, he was already comfortably ensconced in the 1st Place spot (with the pace bonus) while the rest were barely halfway around the track. Indeed, one of the most enjoyable parts of Royal Turf is when just the right roll comes up and a horse rockets ahead 13 to 15 spaces. I was reminded about how much I like the lopsided die, which heavily favors the horse head (3 to 1 of each other icon) and how that plays into the steady runners and long-shots. In this way, the game reminds me of the looseness of Ra because although you can work percentages out a bit, they don't seem worth it. Better to simply just take your shot and go with your gut on what to select. I love that in a game.
The intensity and negotiations were thrilling, with the kids coordinating rolls and figuring out the probability of success sometimes (unlike me, my son is a numbers guy through and through) - and perhaps over-directing my parents and their choices. But their advice was always reasonable - even if it occasionally favored their horses. Hey, I’m okay with it. I’m raising smart, dynamic kids that should know all the angles. They see their dad doing it, too (and gleefully trashing his wife’s horses - hey, what can I say? She’s cute when she’s annoyed at me for a silly reason). It really makes a father proud to see them giving it their all.
In the end, Early Grey’s second and then first place showings gave my father a nice margin of victory over my daughter and me. My son and wife scored dreadfully; only after the final count did I realize we neglected to deduct the 100 pound penalty for each bet on the last place horse. In this case, it would have only robbed the poor of their meager winnings so I turned a blind eye to the mistake. It occurred to me that this penalty feels kind of like a ‘poor get poorer’ situation - particularly with such a large number of players. With fewer, scores tend to be tighter (in my experience) and so smacking down a horse or two to drop someone into the last spot can be a good choice. In this case, it would have just seemed cruel. So, we ignored it and cheered on my father and his big win. He had left the table mid-game to get a Santa Anita hat on and attributed his success to his stylish chapeau. How's that for getting into the 'pasted-on' theme? Score one for Dr. Knizia.
The kids really enjoyed the game. Although my son did poorly, he enjoyed the minor wins (a horse of his coming in) and that reminded me of how a game can pump players up with in-game successes. Those little victories help make the game more enjoyable for young players even if the final outcome doesn't end up going their way. My son was immediately keen to play the game with friends, knowing the rules are not a burden for casual players and the game includes the activity most people associate with games - rolling dice. RT was way ahead of the curve on using dice in eurogames for this kind of situational luck (which offers more options than a Settlers roll). But, of course, Reiner has never felt a mechanism is bad; it's about the implementation. I'm glad others have come around to that idea because I quite like rolling dice. Yahtzee and Backgammon are just forever in my blood, I think.
I know I’ll remember this night. I’m thrilled that Royal Turf let us recapture a wonderful tradition of playing games with my parents (and now the kids) after our weekly dinners. Although I can’t really expect to play many more of the Alea titles with my parents, I’m really excited that we could share the experience of one of the lightest games in the series with them. RT ended up being a big hit that we know we will requested again - and you can bet that I will have another game under my arm when I go to my parents’ house for dinner next time. Sometimes you just have to make those family traditions come alive again (or be born in the first place). You (and hopefully everyone) will always appreciate it in the end.
Category:general -- posted at: 5:58 AM

One of my gaming goals this year is to introduce my family to the entire Alea series of games (yes - the Big, Medium and Small box sets). It's a big list and some of the games are a bit more complex than the games we are usually playing with the kids but I'm partly doing this because I realized that my kids are suddenly 11 and 13 - well past the age to play most hobby games. Where did the tween years go? I let them slip by me and never made a good enough transition from the younger player games to the more serious stuff I generally prefer. We'll change that with this challenge.

I love the Alea series as both a gamer and a collector. Yes, other publishers put numbers on their boxes now but Alea were the originals to have that audacity - and no one has a library like this one. So, I'm going to see how far we get. My plan: Small to Big...but we won't stick to just doing them sequentially. I'm going to dip into the different sizes a bit but if I don't do them sequentially within the series, we'll end up with a bunch of clunkers at the end (yes, although the quality is pretty high, there are clunkers - but I'm not naming names...yet).

The Alea Series Challenge began tonight with Alea Small #1: Wyatt Earp. I'm a big fan of rummy-style games and Mike Fitzgerald's charming Mystery Rummy series (of which Wyatt Earp is an unofficial member) hits a sweet spot between the simple card play and some extra rules for interest. Although the conventional wisdom is that WE is best with three (MR: Rue Morgue, with its delightful partnership rules, is primo for four), the family played it tonight. Three rounds in, Gwyn and I were tied at $23K each (one K shy of the winning condition) after everyone but Xtina lost a big payout due to nasty Hideouts. The fourth round was vicious, with the Hideouts out again and more special cards putting a share in the big takes out of reach of the second place players. In the end, Gwyn triumphed on picking up the one big bounty from the previous round that hadn't paid out at all. Although the game ran a bit long because of the excess of Hideouts in the third round, it was a good experience and kept the kids engaged once they recalled the rules and felt they were in contention. Although we planned to hit Royal Turf as well, it got late so we called it a night. Off to a good start with the Small Box games...although I better read those Die Sieben Weisen rules again...

I'll surely do an official podcast at the end of the run but you can see my brief session reports until then.

Category:general -- posted at: 7:18 AM

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