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I work in a pretty small firm (less than 50 employees), and most lunchtimes a group of about 4 (very occasionally 5) of us get together for some gaming. I'm the only boardgamegeek in the group.. the others I'd probably class as occasional gamers, but they certainly enjoy the games that we play!
The group started out when one of my colleagues asked me about learning Mahjong (since she knew I had played)... so between us we asked around to see if anyone else in the firm was interested, since we had to try and get a 4 together. We recruited a few other people, so one day I took my Dad's old mah-jongg set and I spent a lunchtime teaching the game. For a few months then we'd meet up a few lunchtimes a week and play... At that point we actually had more than 4 people, so we'd rotate who played.
Now Mah-jongg is ok, but it's not a game I enjoy playing very often... so gradually I started to try a few other games out with the group. I admit I was clutching at straws a bit to begin with as I had no idea what games would work well in the lunchtime environment.. there were some misses (Although good fun, Bohnanza took too long; Fiji was simply too random; Ra and Blue Moon City were a bit too deep), but there were a few big successes... Saboteur went down really well, and we played this a lot in the early days. Ave Caesar also proved to be a big success, with plenty of screwage.. but it took longer to play than the other games. Give Me the Brain! was also very well received and quick enough that we'd be play 2 or 3 games in a lunchtime.
Sadly our enthusiasm for GMTB waned, and when a couple of our group left the firm, it became harder to get saboteur to the table. I tried to introduce a few more games... Breakaway Rider was popular for a while.. the group especially enjoyed the fact that if you forgot to pick up it was tough! Circus Flohcati was also popular for a short while... but our next big hit was Guillotine, which quickly became our #1 game with it's ideal balance of short duration, lots of screwage and high level of replayability. Indeed it is still very popular today, even though we have played over 350 games.
I definitely burnt out on Guillotine a lot sooner than the others in the group, so I renewed my search to find other interesting lunchtime games... BANG! and Landlord! both seemed like they would fit the bill, but in the end both took a bit too long for our limited timeframe.. and Bang also suffered because we were now down to just 4 players. I also tried Family Business, but we all agreed it was not a very interesting game, despite the level of screwage.
The next hit was The Bucket King, especially since I introduced it with two variants to add more screwage... firstly we played to the death instead of ending the game prematurely as in the basic rules, and secondly we played with the direction reversal variant listed in the rules.. This meant you could change direction of play by equalling the current total, which is great for screwing the guy before you. Sadly enthusiasm for this game waned quicker than some of the other games, while Guillotine continued to be very popular.
The most recent game that has been popular is Coloretto, with it's simple set collecting, but with a good deal of screwage (present also in Zooloretto, but not as easy to 'spot'). Having played and enjoyed other 'retto games in my other game groups, I picked this shorter and simpler version up off a chain of Generosity and since then, it has been almost as popular as Guillotine (thankfully) and we now tend to play 1 or 2 games of this before finishing off with a game or two of Guillotine... Ave Caesar still sees the occasional play, especially since I had printed a set of the old tracks, which make for an even tighter game.
On occasions a couple of the other guys won't be able to make it, so my colleague and I play either Cribbage, Backgammon, or more recently 2-player Coloretto.
Naturally, I'm still on the lookout for good, short games with plenty of screwage... Check out my series of Lunchtime Gaming Reviews for more detailed discussion of some of the games we've played.
With Boardgamegeek being the international melting pot that it is, it stands to reason that it would be almost impossible to get together for a game with many of the people I enjoy here on the site (though I have managed to game with some of them face 2 face!)... so what better way to enjoy gaming together than a Play by Forum format. It's one of many logical extensions of the old play by mail format that was popular for chess and other traditional board games.
I think Battlestar Galactica was the first game that I became aware of in the Play by Forum format... the popularity of this game grew very rapidly, to the point where there were endless waiting lists to get in on a game. I didn't get involved to begin with as I wasn't sure how enjoyable the game would in this format, but a friend asked me to take over his position while he was away.. (he knew I had played the game and that I would be on BGG often enough to keep the game moving). despite it being late in the game, I had a blast and subsequently signed up to play a full game.
Board image from my current Shadow Hunters PBF
I then started to think what other games would work in a PBF format, and at that time there was a lot of interest, amongst some of my geekbuddies, in Shadow Hunters, so I set about crafting a Shadow Hunters PBF game, and in November 2009 the first game got under way. It was a lot of fun for me to moderate a hidden role game like this... seeing what everyone did and said, having all the information... and the players seemed to enjoy the game in this format too... certainly everyone who played was keen to sign up for the next one, and we picked up a few other players too.
With subsequent games that I moderated, I was able to refine the format a little bit.. using a graphics package (The GIMP) to quickly generate snapshots of the board... and a googledocs spreadsheet to track details such as characters and teams.. and to randomise cards in each of the decks.
I ran 3 games of Shadow Hunters before taking a break.. by which time Jeff (aka Teriyaki Donuts) had offered to take over moderation so that I would get a chance to actually play... he brought his own style to the game, and came up with a few ideas that I would later incorporate into my next game e.g. BGG avatars on the snapshots instead of boring coloured markers. It was a lot of fun to play, but I got killed off fairly early on (no doubt payback for the previous games I had moderated).
Board image from my Saboteur PBF
I was still on the search for games that would work in a PBF format, and at some point I suggested Saboteur (no surprises what type of games I enjoy!)... A number of my geekbuddies were interested, so again I set up a PBF game and used my forte for manipulating board snapshots to come up with what I thought was a pretty decent PBF game. However it played a little differently than it does face to face... mainly because the game relies so much on table talk, that the players were having to do via posting in the forum.
Meanwhile Jonathan (Mr KSensei) had suggested trying Betrayal at House on the Hill as a PBF game, and he offered to moderate it. I had a lot of fun playing this, but compared to Shadow Hunters and Saboteur, it looked like a lot work to moderate... particularly since there are 3 levels to the board, all of which expand quite a bit in the early stages of the game.
After a long break, during which time I became a father, I felt the urge to run another Shadow Hunters game, and quickly found 8 willing
victims players. This started in February 2011, and is currently ongoing.I'm also already committed to running another one when this finishes, as my wife expressed interest and was disappointed there was no space this time round.
So what of my future in PBF games... well I would like to continue to moderate the occasional Shadow Hunters game... I'm also on the lookout for other games I can have a crack at moderating... For some time I've fancied giving Red November a go, and recently I've thought Robo Rally might work.. it would be a change of pace from the hidden role games, but apparently does work as a play by mail game, so should fit the PBF model. Chris (boltongeordie) has also offered to moderate a game of The Resistance, which a number of us are keen to try.
For the last week or so I've been obsessing a bit over Robo Rally... I've always enjoyed the game, but it has lain unplayed for a good long while, and it wasn't until we played a friends copy at our weekly game group that I remembered how good the game was.
Last week's play was the first for my wife, who promptly won the 6 player game. She enjoyed it, and seemed to be pretty good at it too. We played a couple of 2-player games during the week, and it turned out to be no fluke.. she beat me in the first game and almost won the second.
But the obsessing didn't ended there... on Andrew Tullsen's Item for Geeklist "P&P Productions - Want a quote?" someone requested a price for printing boards, and linked to an excellent repository site: http://tartarus.org/gareth/roborally/boards/all.. So I quickly became enthralled by the possibility of expanding my meagre collection of boards. I downloaded a number of the 'official' boards, as well as a couple of boards from other sources and began to contemplate which boards I would want printed.
Then up popped another thread about Re: Printing out custom boards.. where I commented that Andrew had quoted for printing boards.. and I also thought Alysa might be able to print boards (for us Europeans)... She followed up with a quote, which I will be going ahead with very soon (once I've decided which combination of boards I want).
But I began to delve deeper... As an experienced user of The GIMP (gnu image manipulation program) I decided to explore the possibility of creating my own board using graphics from the other board images. So I created a layered image document and began copy/pasting board elements into a master document that I could then use to create custom boards. A good few hours of work later I had a decent master document and the beginnings of my own board... a few late nights and the odd lunchtime and I finally came out with a finished board...
I'd like to get this board printed up with my other ones and just give it a try... I've no idea how it will play, but it's made up of pretty basic elements, so shouldn't go too disastrously wrong. And if it does.. well hey! That's Roborally!