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Maven Games

Maven Games is a boardgames publisher, based in Nottingham, UK, and built up around the community at the The Dice Cup (a boardgame cafe). It is linked with the Boardgame Opinions YouTube channel and is run by Jonathan Hicks. The blog contains articles on a wide variety of topics, from gaming to publishing to living in community.

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Top 5 Christmas Games 2018

Jonathan Hicks
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Nottingham
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Christmas is fast approaching again.  Time for some serious gaming!  I have been playing games with my extended family pretty much my entire life at Christmas and it’s always a highlight of the year for me.

What should you play though?  You often have an unusual mix of people to play games with during the holidays, from the very young to the very old.  You certainly can’t break out your favourite heavy Euro unless you have very intellectual family members!

So in no particular order, here are my recommendations for games to play at Christmas, whether it’s with friends or family…


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Today 4:18 pm
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KS Spotlight: Tainted Grail

Jonathan Hicks
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One of the biggest Kickstarter projects of last year was The 7th Continent.  It garnered a massive $7 million in pledges from over 40,000 backers.  It was a sprawling, survival, adventure game where cards formed an expanding continent.  I loved it.

So when someone recommended Tainted Grail to me as being a dark fantasy version of The 7th Continent, but better, I was immediately hooked!

It is currently on Kickstarter (finishing on 28th December) and achieved well over $1 million in funding in the first day!  It is already one of the top 100 most-funded projects ever on Kickstarter (not just boardgames) and it is less than a week in at the time of writing.

Interested?  Let me tell you about it…


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Sun Dec 9, 2018 4:07 pm
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Kickstarters are Like Buses…

Jonathan Hicks
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…you wait around for months and then seven come along at once!  Having had nothing but eerie silence for several months, I have received seven different Kickstarters over the past few weeks.

The interesting thing is the range of dates over which I originally backed them.  It’s not like I backed seven projects all within the same month last year and now they’re all delivering.  I backed the first game from this group in July 2017 and I backed the last one in March 2018.  That’s an 8-month period!

I’ve been backing Kickstarters for several years now and I’ve noticed this trend before: like buses, they tend to clump up and all arrive at once.  Why is that?  I keep trying to space out my backing in an effort to space out the arrivals, but it never works!

Well, I think there are two key reasons for this.  Let me tell you…


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Mon Dec 3, 2018 9:27 pm
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House Rules

Jonathan Hicks
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We started a new series on the Boardgame Opinions channel last week called House Rules.  The idea behind it is that contestants are trying to figure out the rules to a game just by looking at the components.  Supposedly they’ve “lost” the rulebook and just have to take an educated guess as to how to play.

Afterwards, someone who has played the game properly and knows the rules comes on and lets them know how they did: what they got right and what they got completely wrong!  It was a fascinating experiment.  How well do you think you would do on House Rules?


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Sun Nov 25, 2018 11:40 pm
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Top 5 Games from Essen 2018

Jonathan Hicks
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With around 1400 games being released at Essen this year, I haven’t quite managed to play all of them yet!  So I’m compiling my list from a rather narrow sample, but I’ve certainly played most of the high profile releases now.

Some games have come through traditional retail channels (which I can play through my local boardgame café: The Dice Cup); some have come from Kickstarter (lots of Kickstarters push to have release versions of their game available in time for Essen); but I bought a lot of games myself at Essen, exceeding my luggage allowance for the return flight!

My criteria for being an Essen game is a bit loose: essentially, it’s anything that I either played at Essen (which includes demos of unreleased games) or that was released at Essen and I’ve since played back in the UK.

So without further ado, here are my top 5 favourite games (in no particular order) from Essen this year...


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Sun Nov 18, 2018 8:54 pm
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What is Essen?

Jonathan Hicks
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A couple of weeks ago, I took a flight to Essen, a city in Germany, with my son for a long weekend away. Our sole purpose for going was to visit the Essen Spiel 2018, the largest boardgame fair in the world. A whopping 190,000 people attended the fair this year.

I’ve been mulling over my experiences since coming back and thinking about how it compares to other boardgame conventions (such as the UK Games Expo, which is my main benchmark for comparison).

People warned me before going that it was very cramped and not necessarily a very enjoyable experience. Apparently, some people would go there to buy the latest games and saw the fair itself as a necessary evil.

Much to my surprise, I enjoyed it far more than I expected to, but it is quite different from other boardgame conventions and there are a few things that you ought to be aware of if you’re considering going for the first time. Let me tell you all about it…


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Mon Nov 12, 2018 10:09 pm
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Graphic Novel Adventures

Jonathan Hicks
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As a child, I was always a sucker for Choose Your Own Adventure books.  The idea that you didn’t have to follow the hero around, but could actively decide which path to take, was revolutionary at the time.

Obviously we have plenty of games these days that give you a character and you get to decide everything that that character does.  One thing that many of these games lack though, is the depth of theme that you get from a well-written story.

Combining an engaging story with enough decision making to make you feel part of that story is a tricky balance to strike, and even today very few games manage this.  One new entry into this genre is a series of books from Van Ryder Games known as Graphic Novel Adventures.  Let me tell you about them…


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Mon Oct 22, 2018 8:26 pm
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Two Player Games (part 3)

Nathan Cooper
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If you want to be really unsporting and generally piss people off as much as possible – and I mean without becoming a professional footballer – you should consider colluding in Castles of Mad King Ludwig. You pre-arrange with a friend that whenever you are master builder you will put whatever they most want into the highest price slot and they will buy it from you. In return you will do the same when they are master builder, and so the money just moves backwards and forwards and is never really spent. In the meantime, you both get whatever rooms you want and the other player(s) are cut out of the game.

Obviously it is rare for something quite as extreme as this to happen, and the behaviour is often not formalised in such a way, but the fact that this kind of process works is something of a flaw with an otherwise excellent game. However, in the two-player version, it is automatically fixed.

So, which games actually benefit from the two-player mode and why?


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Mon Oct 15, 2018 8:32 pm
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Overseas Payments

Jonathan Hicks
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This might seem like an odd topic for a boardgames blog, but today I’d like to talk about making payments to people who live overseas.  If you ever decide to begin publishing boardgames though, this will become immediately relevant.

We have had to make many payments overseas since we work with people and companies from all over the world.  We have worked with artists from Malaysia and Bulgaria, programmers from Kazakhstan and India, voice artists from South Africa and the USA, not to mention manufacturers who, for most boardgames companies, are based in China.

It’s not until you have to make your first payment overseas that you realise it isn’t as straightforward as you might think.  There are many different ways to do it and it can cost you an arm and a leg if you don’t do your homework.  So let me share some of my findings with you.  You might find them useful one day…


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Mon Oct 8, 2018 10:48 pm
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Two Player Games (part 2)

Nathan Cooper
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Sometimes, I really think that boardgame designers have a better understanding of human nature than anyone else. Take Catan, for example. You are a group of bedraggled settlers, just arrived on an uninhabited island and desperately in need of food and shelter. You want not only to survive but to build a new Utopia – a place that others will some day look to and say “This, truly, is civilization!” And how do players go about enacting this magnificent vision? By faffing around for ages doing very little apart from occasionally robbing each other, and eventually getting so bored that trying to compress four sheep until they turn into a brick seems like a good way to pass the time...

In the spirit of this classic boardgame, this week's post will focus on the ill-conceived, unsuitable and generally ridiculous end of two-player gaming. Which games really don't work without at least three players?


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Wed Oct 3, 2018 7:16 pm
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