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Boardgames To Go

Mark Johnson's occasional and opinionated podcast, Boardgames To Go, now has its own blog on Boardgamegeek.

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BGTG 151 - Mark Hates Games (with Brian Murray & David Gullett)

Mark Johnson
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Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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"Mark hates games."




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Is that true? No, but it's a comment I've heard secondhand more than once! Brian Murray is a great gamer I've met at SoCal Games Days, and through our shared friend Davebo. He's the one who hears me critique a game, or just be completely lukewarm on it, or pick it apart, and thinks that I just don't know how to relax and have a good time with boardgames. Or something like that. I'm probably putting words (the wrong words) in his mouth, but that quote above is 100% from Brian.

So it was time to have him on the podcast. Then his words can come out of his own mouth, and you all can decide what you think about it!

(We recorded this at Dave's house, sitting in his living room during a Sunday in July. Partway through the recording a raven squawks outside, and keeps going for a while. But he eventually stops. Nevermore! Perhaps a more serious concern about the audio is that all three of our voices sound pretty similar. Good luck with that.)

I've never been a Cult of the New guy, but Brian clearly is. Or, as he clarifies, he's a Cult of the New-to-Me guy. Lots of boardgamers are that way. Maybe that's you, too. Not me. I'd much rather play an old favorite. Despite that, I still play a lot of new games. And no matter what Brian says, I love some of them. Lots more are perfectly fine, just ok, but nothing more. I'd probably rate them a 6 on BGG and have no need to play them again. Brian is more likely to enjoy the experience of playing a new game just for its own sake. The excitement of seeing something new, how it's produced, the way it plays, new rules, and all the rest.

The conversation inevitably crosses over into Kickstarter. You can imagine why. If you're excited by the newness of a game, then Kickstarter is heaven. There are so many new games there! But if you're like me, and prefer to wait until a consensus emerges through the community (& marketplace) about the tiny subset of "keeper" games, then Kickstarter doesn't really offer much. Honestly, I'm looking forward to the first "modern classic" that comes out of Kickstarter that even I need to own. It just hasn't happened yet. Call me up in 2016.


On the air, Brian coins a phrase that should enter the standard lexicon of our hobby: Family Math. I love it! The mathematical rationalization a gamer-parent does in his head to justify the expense of a new game. I'll play it with my wife, or with my kids...


What fills our hobby isn't a bunch of people who enjoy playing games. Instead, we're a bunch of people (even old curmudgeons like me) who enjoy learning games. Part of that is the novelty alone, seeing something new. Another big part is the mental challenge/enjoyment of your first chance to figure out a strategy for the new rules & mechanisms of a game. However, sometimes even Cult of New gamers want a chance to dig deeper into a game that rewards repeated play. Exploring more avenues to victory, seeing more of what the game has to offer, or even just the pleasure of starting a game without having to teach the rules. On the subject of newness versus repeated play, Brian and Dave are in one of those groups that started the 10-by-10 challenge at the start of the year: pick 10 games that your group "commits" to playing 10 times each. Even though they didn't stick with it, they explain how it was a useful thing for their group to attempt.

By the way, the games we played together just before turning on the recorder were Timeline: Music & Cinema, Ave Caesar, Powerboats, and 7 Wonders.





Poll
What would you rather play?
The new hotness
An old classic
      89 answers
Poll created by MarkEJohnson



-Mark




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24 Comments
Fri Sep 19, 2014 1:52 am
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Do I have listeners in Sweden? (Or Denmark)

Mark Johnson
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I'm curious because I'm visiting Stockholm right now. (Växjö and Copenhagen later in the week.) Next I'll go check BGG's listings for gameshops in Stockholm.

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Sat Sep 6, 2014 10:38 pm
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Right place, right time

Mark Johnson
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Ah, the wonders of the modern age! This week I traveled to Rhode Island on a business trip. After posting a joke about distinguishing between Connecticut and RI drivers, gamer Charley Eastman (he of the Little Wooden Cubist podcast that once was) saw my location and suggested we meet in person to play some games. How wonderful! As luck would have it, we were able to make that work. He drove down from the greater Boston area to meet me, we talked about gaming, family, and podcasting, and then we played a couple games.

The only game I had with me is a small, light wargame about the Roman Civil War, called Caesar XL (Victory Point Games). It's definitely a light one. In fact, the "XL" is a play on same-designer Joe Miranda's more famous Napoleon 20 series. Those battle games have no more than 20 counters on the map. Caesar XL has no more than 40 (get it?). Most of the time, a lot less. It's a point-to-point map, as Caesar and Pompey battle it out for supremacy over the Roman world. Rather than just a military game, there's a simple economic system and a way to win a political victory by accumulation of Forum cards and their special conditions (and rewards).

I liked it ok (more than its block game big brother, Julius Caesar, I think), but the dicing to resolve battles was tedious. More than anything, I'm holding out hope that the intermediate and advanced versions of the game will offer more interest than this first outing with the basic rules. There is a whole bit with Barbarians and other counters that we never got to use at all.

In our game, Charley won as Pompey. When our two leaders finally met in battle, he defeated Julius Caesar. Though I promoted Octavian soon enough, the loss of my supreme leader was a heavy blow, and I didn't take enough time to regroup before putting myself in harm's way again.


========================================


Next we played a couple games of Cube Quest. I'd never even heard of this one from Gamewright. That's a company focused on kid & family games for the American mass market. I like what they do, and had never seen them attempt something so big & deluxe as Cube Quest. It's a flicking game with variable units and strategies. Pretty clever. The "mouse pad" playing surfaces, as Charley called them, don't lie flat, but that's actually a GOOD thing. Maybe Gamewright is making lemonade out of lemons, but I thought the waviness of the "terrain" added a lot of interest and challenge to the core dexterity game.

First Charley taught me the basic game, using Grunt defenders and Strikers mostly for attack. Even with just those units, there's a lot to think about in how you initially deploy your units, position them for defense as the game goes on, and make your own attempts to capture the opposing king. True, some shots--intentional or otherwise--have you chasing deflected cubes all over the floor, but that's ok. I appreciate that, like Crokinole, sometimes there is the need to make a shot with power. It's not all about finesse.

For our second game we used several of the more advanced cubes with their own special powers. The Stealth guys were the most fun, though in the end I won our game by old-fashioned brute force, not a trick play.

Thanks again, Charley!

-Mark
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Fri Sep 5, 2014 7:32 pm
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BGTG 150 - 100 Great Games, part 7 (with Stephen Glenn & Mark Jackson)

Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
California
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Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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Mark Jackson
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Stephen Glenn and Mark Jackson rejoin me (Mark JOHNson) to continue this series. In 2012, these two guys polled a number of experienced gamers (a few designers, many reviewers, all enthusiasts) for their top games, consolidated their answers, and asked to come on my podcast to count down the results. I was pleased to be part of the poll, and doubly pleased to have them on Boardgames To Go. I really like how Stephen describes this:

"a fun list to discuss over coffee & pie."


The poll was for our favorite games, not necessarily the best games. We even got to submit a top fifteen, which took the usual tough request for a top ten and gave us the breathing room for five more titles. I know in my case, it made it easier to add some very recent games to my longstanding favorites. On each podcast we're counting down a bunch of titles until we get to a final show with the Top Ten. I'll be interspersing 100 Great Games countdown episodes with my other podcast episodes.

Here are #11-20 on the list, counted down in reverse order as we discuss them on the podcast. I thought we'd have nothing but praise for all of these highly-ranked games...but perhaps I should've known that that the three of us would take turns expressing reservations about even these amazing games. (It's going to make my upcoming "Mark Hates Games" episode all the more relevant.)

In my poll associated with the last installment of 100 Great Games, I asked about the theming--or lack thereof--in Knizia's landmark cooperative game, Lord of the Rings. The smallest portion felt this was a mechanical, pasted-on theme kind of game. Instead, most felt that the theme does come through from the cooperative gameplay (mechanisms), while several more credited the amazing artwork for evoking the theme.

This time I'm returning to Knizia for the poll. It just worked out that way. We discussed Medici in a previous episode (and I recently played the unfortunately-ugly latest edition), and now Ra has come up. We used to ask ourselves which of Knizia's "auction trilogy" was our favorite (these plus Modern Art). That's what I'm asking here, only Mark Jackson suggested I widen it to include several more of Knizia's excellent auction-based games (including Mark's favorite, as you can hear in the episode). Did I forget to include your favorite? Tell me so in a comment, below.



Stephen Glenn's designer page at BGG (Balloon Cup/Piñata, 1st & Goal, You Must Be an Idiot!)

Mark Jackson's personal blog

-Mark

P.S. If you want to see the original version of the list these guys made it in 2005, it's still available at 100 Great Games, 2005 Edition (THE ONE HUNDRED).



Poll
1. Which Knizia auction game is your favorite?
Modern Art
Medici
High Society
Ra
Traumfabrik (Dream Factory)
Amun-Re
Taj Mahal
Merchants of Amsterdam
Money!
Something else (tell us below)
I don't like any of these
Haven't played enough to pick one
2. How many of the games below (100 Great Games, #11-20) have you played?
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
      251 answers
Poll created by MarkEJohnson



#20 - Cosmic Encounter
Designers: Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge, Bill Norton, Peter Olotka
Artists: many…
Publisher: Eon/Fantasy Flight Games
Year: 1977, 2008





#19 - Brass
Designer: Martin Wallace
Artist: Peter Dennis
Publisher: Warfrog Games
Year: 2007





#18 - Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization
Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
Artist: Richard Cortes & Paul Niemeyer
Publisher: Czech Board Games/Eagle Games
Year: 2006





#17 - Carcassonne
Designer: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
Artist: Doris Matthäus
Publisher: Hans im Glück/Z-Man Games
Year: 2000





#16 - Tigris & Euphrates
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artists: Doris Mathäus, et al
Publisher: Hans im Glück/Mayfair Games
Year: 1997





#15 - Agricola
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Artist: Klemens Franz
Publisher: Lookout Games/Z-Man Games
Year: 2007





#14 - Lost Cities
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artist: Claus Stephan
Publisher: Kosmos/Rio Grande Games
Year: 1999





#13 - Ra
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artist: Franz Vohwinkel
Publisher: Alea/Rio Grande Games
Year: 1999





#12 - Steam
Designer: Martin Wallace
Publisher: Warfrog/Mayfair Games
Year: 2002/2009





#11 - The Princes of Florence
Designer: Wolfgang Kramer & Richard Ulrich
Artist: Franz Vohwinkel
Publisher: Alea/Rio Grande Games
Year: 2000










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35 Comments
Wed Sep 3, 2014 10:54 pm
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A couple familiar classics, plus family gaming

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I've really enjoyed dropping in on my new Denver friends when on a business trip out here. Last week I got to meet & re-meet those folks, and get two classic games to the table.



You probably know that Medici, on the left, is one of my all-time favorites. Yet I hadn't played in at least a couple years. We had a group of five (a perfect number for this game!), where all others were new to it. This is the first time I'd seen the latest(?) Rio Grande version, and it's just as horrible of a production as I'd feared. The commodities are tiles instead of cards, which actually works worse in gameplay. The wooden markers don't really fit well on the places they're supposed to go on the board. Worst of all, the commodities (5 distinct card suits in the original & best Amigo version, as well as the pretty-good French edition) are 5 INdistinguishable, bland icons. Really horrible, and a travesty to a good game. You'd do better to make your own cards on ArtsCow and construct your own simple board.

In the game I thought I was going to do the horrible thing--teach everyone the game, then wipe the floor with them. Everyone was overbidding, and I got some lucky purchases for cheap or free as they filled their boats. But guess what? Another player shrewdly maxed out one of his suits, scoring the +5 bonus in the second round, and +20 in the third to win the game!

Next up was Liar's Dice, actually the nice, Spiel des Jahres edition called Bluff. This is a classic I've always held at arm's length, probably because I get destroyed by my local friends. Perhaps I'm learning how to play it, or I had a good night. I was still the second person out, but that was better than normal! It was a great finish, typical of this game, where two players with a single die each were able to whittle down the guy with three dice until he dropped out. Then the two remaining ones had their final showdown, which ended when both rolled a star under their cups!


========================================




Back at home, I enjoyed playing some games with family, too. How many remember the one on the left? This is Tally Ho!, a Kosmos 2-player I don't hear much about. I think it's pretty great, though, and Kosmos must've thought so, too--this is actually a reprint of a much older game. I've never seen that original, but this Kosmos/Rio Grande title is one of my keepers. Sure, there's luck in the flip of the tiles, especially the direction of the hunters' guns, but that's what makes it FUN. Also, there's room for a lot of clever positional play with the revealed tiles.

Just last night I finally got to get my deluxe edition of Hanabi to the table. What I really want to do is play this version with domino or mahjong-like tiles OUTdoors, such as by the pool. But it was too hot yesterday. Maybe later. I'd played a bunch of Hanabi with my daughter & her boyfriend earlier this summer, using the cards, of course. After refreshing my wife with the rules (it had been years since she'd played). We looked carefully, but I think I'm lucky--no tiles are marked. (Though I understand the publisher is good about replacements.) We ended up with a score of 19, about what we usually get. Even though the cards are more ergonomic, in some respects, in other ways the tiles are nicer, and the deluxe pieces just add the aesthetic appeal of the game.
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Wed Sep 3, 2014 1:23 am
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BGTG 149 - Modern Microgames (with Jeff Myers)

Mark Johnson
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California
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Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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Direct download MP3


Scroll down to vote in the poll, and follow links.








Microgames are hot right now. It all "started" with Love Letter, when it burst onto the scene at Essen two years ago. Here was an game that was so inexpensive as to be an impulse-buy, so small it could fit in your pocket, so simple it was easy to teach anyone, and so quick it invited games whenever you had some spare time & friends onhand, like at a restaurant. Suddenly the game was everywhere, re-themes were ubiquitous, and other small games inevitably followed.

The problem with that explanation, of course, is that Love Letter wasn't the first incarnation of a microgame. Far from it. In the days before euros (almost before RPGs), the term "microgame" appeared to describe small format wargames. In fact, I have an early BGTG episode all about those! For some diehards, that term still starts in the late 1970s with pocket-sized hex & counter wargames. Even if that was way before your time, you probably know one example from that era, because Steve Jackson recently republished his landmark title, Ogre. Besides the Kickstarter behemoth, he proudly re-issued the original microgame version of the game, and at the same price! $2.95!

But putting aside the history lesson (and soapbox), it's still true that Love Letter got a lot of attention, and has sparked interest in gamers, designers, and publishers, for new boardgames in a small format. Jeff Myers, of the excellent GameGuyThinks blog, joins me to discuss this topic. This time, I try my best to avoid the trap I usually make for myself: definitions. Though we try to define what microgame means in 2014 a little bit, we don't get bogged down or philosophical on that point. It's more fun to talk about some examples we've played, as well as reconsider some earlier games that might now appear to be microgames. Or are they? To be honest, I don't see a big difference between what we've long called Filler Games and this new crop of Microgames. Not unless there's something magical about having only sixteen cards. Also, the ever-increasing field of Print-n-Play games crosses over to this topic, too. (If you really want to discuss/argue about the definition of microgames, go see manchuwok's geeklist.)

We talk about the new line of modern micros from Chris Handy (his Pack O Game series) and Rob Bartel (his Famous/World's Smallest Sports Games series). There are some good ones in there (I particularly recommend Famous 500, the car-racing game).


Jeff came up with a point system he thinks helps identify microgames. It's semi tongue-in-cheek...but only semi.

+1 30 components or less
+1 20 components or less
+1 10 components or less
+2 Retail package of 20 cubic inches or less
+1 Footprint of 20 square inches or less
+1 Retail price of $20 or less
+1 Retail price of $10 or less
-5 Cards are only component
-5 Micro-version of larger game.

If you score 5 or more points, you may be a microgame.

So what about these?




Links
Rob Bartel's Famous/World's Smallest Sports Games series
Chris Handy's Pack O Game series
BGTG 26 - Microgames
Microgame HQ - the database of older, wargame-style microgames that I worked on in the 90s
Pack O Game kickstarter (ends Aug 30)
Classic Microgames Museum
Crazy Squirrel - Fresno's awesome game store.
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GameGuyThinks blog


Poll
What are the important qualities of a modern microgame?
  Very important Kind of important Not that important
Fits in (or almost in) a pocket
Retails for under $20
Plays in 30 minutes or less
Can play on a crowded restaurant table
Has fewer than 20 parts (cards, tokens, etc)
Isn't a small/travel version of larger game
Plays with more than just cards or just dice
      140 answers
Poll created by MarkEJohnson



-Mark




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35 Comments
Wed Aug 27, 2014 6:11 am
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Ideas for an embroidered shirt?

Mark Johnson
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I'd like to get an embroidered polo shirt for my podcast. Something I'll proudly wear at BGG.con when I go in November. Has anyone done something like this? I'm not setting up a webstore for merchandise--just want to have one "vanity" shirt made for me. Years ago I did this with cafepress.com, but that was one of those "print-on-demand" kind of shirts, not as nice as an embroidered one.

I've found one place that will do just one (another than will do a minimum order of 6), but haven't worked the kinks out yet. I thought someone out there may have some advice for me. Thanks.

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Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:30 am
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I don't get it

Mark Johnson
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My last two posts--which had no podcast--quickly accumulated about 50 thumbs. It takes about 30 right away to get visibility on BGG's daily front page of blogs (which then has a positive, snowballing effect). Now I post the podcast folks have been clamoring for, another 100 Great Games episode, and it languishes at a couple dozen thumbs, invisible to the front page. I'm not begging for thumbs here, I'm asking a question about BGG-as-social-media:

Do the actual podcasts get fewer thumbs because folks naturally want to listen to them first before they give a thumb or not (and then it's hard to remember to come back, I know)?

Or is it that a short post--even just an announcement that more podcasts are coming!--is easy to read & thumb immediately, because you're happy about more podcasts?


(As I've said on-air before: Please don't thumb the podcast if you don't want to. But also don't forget to thumb it if you like it! It helps my visibility and lets other people discover it in the first place. Thanks.)
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Mon Aug 18, 2014 8:14 pm
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BGTG 148 - 100 Great Games, part 6 (with Stephen Glenn and Mark Jackson)

Mark Johnson
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Stephen Glenn and Mark Jackson rejoin me (Mark JOHNson) to continue this series. In 2012, these two guys polled a number of experienced gamers (a few designers, many reviewers, all enthusiasts) for their top games, consolidated their answers, and asked to come on my podcast to count down the results. I was pleased to be part of the poll, and doubly pleased to have them on Boardgames To Go. I really like how Stephen describes this:

"a fun list to discuss over coffee & pie."


The poll was for our favorite games, not necessarily the best games. We even got to submit a top fifteen, which took the usual tough request for a top ten and gave us the breathing room for five more titles. I know in my case, it made it easier to add some very recent games to my longstanding favorites. On each podcast we're counting down a bunch of titles until we get to a final show with the Top Ten. I'll be interspersing 100 Great Games countdown episodes with my other podcast episodes.

Here are #21-30 on the list, counted down in reverse order as we discuss them on the podcast.

After the previous episode of 100 Great Games, we received some (ahem) feedback regarding the games we didn’t like (I’m looking at you, Taj Majal), or didn’t know much about (such as War of the Ring). I’m pleased to say we don’t have that issue this time. I get to look over the still-secret list going all the way to Number One, and I can safely say that we’re familiar with all of the remaining games. Which is as you’d expect, right? As we get near the top we’re getting into even more of the modern classics that every self-respecting gamer should seek out & play. But, since you’re only hearing three voices from a survey of many more people, we may not all LOVE the remaining games. But we certainly respect them. (And as you’ll hear, in many cases we do love them!)

We’re nearing the end, only two shows left after this one to finish the countdown! We’ve already had suggestion for a supplemental episode, and it’s under consideration. Other ideas are welcome.

Finally, taking a page from Geek Weekly, I’m going to try adding a poll to each of my podcast episodes. I’d like folks to check out the blog (perhaps comment below), and there’s always a good question to pose after a podcast. Be sure to listen to the episode first, to get the context for the question. In this case, it’s about the theming (or not) in Knizia’s Lord of the Rings.


Stephen Glenn's designer page at BGG (Balloon Cup/Piñata, 1st & Goal, You Must Be an Idiot!)

Mark Jackson's personal blog

-Mark

P.S. If you want to see the original version of the list these guys made it in 2005, it's still available at 100 Great Games, 2005 Edition (THE ONE HUNDRED).



Poll
1. Do you find Knizia's Lord of the Rings to be thematic?
Yes, the cooperative mechanics invoke the feeling of the fellowship
Yes, but primarily through the artwork
Not really, it's mostly about Knizia's clever mechanisms
I haven't played it
2. How many of these games have you played?
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
      96 answers
Poll created by MarkEJohnson



#30 - Tales of the Arabian Nights
Designers: Eric Goldberg, et al
Artists: Peter Gifford, Dan Harding
Publisher: Z-Man Games/West End Games
Year: 1985, 2009





#29 - Lord of the Rings
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artist: John Howe
Publisher: Sophisticated Games/Fantasy Flight Games
Year: 2000





#28 - Web of Power
Designer: Michael Schacht
Artist: Franz Vohwinkel
Publisher: Goldseiber/Rio Grande Games
Year: 2000





#27 - Twilight Struggle
Designers: Ananda Gupta, Jason Matthews
Artists: Rodger B. MacGowan, Mark Simonitch, Viktor Csete, Guillaume Ries
Publisher: GMT Games
Year: 2005





#26 - El Grande
Designer: Wolfgang Kramer, Richard Ulrich
Artist: Doris Mathäus
Publisher: Hans im Glück/Rio Grande Games
Year: 1995





#25 - Medici
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artists: Dominique Ehrhard, Franz Vohwinkel, David Cherry
Publisher: Amigo/Rio Grande Games
Year: 1995





#24 - Memoir '44
Designer: Richard Borg
Artists: Cyrille Daujean, Julien Delval, Don Perrin, Claude Rica
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Year: 2004





#23 - Can't Stop
Designer: Sid Sackson
Publisher: Parker Bros/Gryphon Games
Year: 1980





#22 - Time's Up!
Designers: Peter Sarrett
Publisher: R&R Games
Year: 1999





#21 - Crokinole
Year: 19th Century (traditional)










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Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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Fri Aug 15, 2014 11:30 pm
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Two podcasts "in the can"

Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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That's a Palm Pilot on the left, and a pink iPod mini on the right. Yes, I've been doing BGTG that long!
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Episodes were a little more rare than I'd like during the first half of the year, but right now I've got two more recorded, and a third planned. Next week I plan to post the next installment of the 100 Great Games series, and following that I've got a fun discussion with friends who accuse me of "hating games."

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Tue Aug 5, 2014 5:59 pm
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