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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How long is it?

Jonathan Hicks
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Today's post is by Nathan Cooper:

1. Length doesn't have to be everything.

As we all know, length can be an issue. Underestimate it and you may find yourself kept up all night (albeit enjoyably). There are also a lot of players out there who will have no scruples when it comes to lying about it. Let us therefore take a short tour of the subject of length – particularly in the context of boardgames, where refreshingly most people want you to think that theirs is shorter than it actually is.

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Thu Nov 23, 2017 2:53 pm
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Orléans vs Altiplano

Jonathan Hicks
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I really like the deck building mechanism in general.  I was a big fan of Dominion when it came out, but deck building seems to have been done to death in recent years.  However, when bag builders came along, they breathed new life into the genre for me.  They took the principles of deck building and created something new.

In case you’re not familiar with the idea, you draw tokens (or cubes) out of a bag and use them to take actions, which often involve buying more tokens that get added to your bag.  There’s just something about rummaging around inside a bag hoping to pull out the tokens you really want that’s so satisfying.

Orléans was one of my favourite bag builders.  It combined a kind of worker placement with bag building in a way that allowed for lots of different types of workers.  Altiplano is effectively the sequel to Orléans and has just been released at Essen.  It is by the same designer and uses many of the same concepts.

The big question is: how does it compare?  Orléans is rated very highly on BoardGameGeek (currently the 24th highest ranked game in the world!).  Could Altiplano be better?  How does it differ from Orléans?  Let’s find out…


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Fri Nov 17, 2017 4:41 pm
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Classics: Power Grid

Jonathan Hicks
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Power Grid is a game about buying power stations and managing an electricity grid.  As themes go, they don’t get much duller than that.  It also has paper money, far more adding up than even I (with a Maths degree) would want to do, and a very confusing system that prevents players from using certain parts of the board when playing with fewer than 6 players.

It sounds terrible.  And yet, despite being over 10 years old, it’s currently ranked 23rd on BoardGameGeek.  General opinion considers it to be the 23rd best game in the world!  How can it be that good?

The first time I played Power Grid, I had heard it was a good game so I had high expectations.  However, when you get it out and set it up, it doesn’t impress.  The wooden components are nice enough, if rather plain by today’s standards, but the artwork looks… dated.  It’s nice artwork, but it doesn’t make you think “Wow!”.  So then you don’t really expect much when you play.

By the end of my first game though, I got it.  I could see why people rated it so highly.  So what is all the fuss about?  Does it stand up to current standards of game design?  Let’s take a look…


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Tue Nov 14, 2017 5:26 pm
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Terra Mystica vs Gaia Project

Jonathan Hicks
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Terra Mystica is one of my top ten games of all time.  I’ve played it and played it over the years.  When I heard that they were retheming Terra Mystica in space (Gaia Project), I was very interested, but also apprehensive.

Would it just be a straight retheme or would there be significant differences?  Could they really improve on what I perceived to be a near-perfect Euro?  Would there be an inevitable disappointment that either it didn’t really add anything significant or was actually worse because they made changes that I wasn’t keen on?

Well, following its release at Essen, Gaia Project has been played by our gaming group at almost every opportunity.  Terra Mystica is a group favourite, so everyone wants to try it.  First up, let me tell you: they did it.  I don’t know how they managed it, but it’s better.  It looks like you can improve on perfection after all.

So today I’d like to talk about the differences between Terra Mystica and Gaia Project and why I think Gaia Project is a better game.  Is it good enough to purchase if you already own Terra Mystica though?  Let’s have a look…


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Fri Nov 10, 2017 9:18 pm
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You can't understand how humble I am!

Jonathan Hicks
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Today's post is by Nathan Cooper:

Making gamers great again.

Gaming standards have fallen far too low recently. I used to try to advise other players about how to improve their play, but nowadays the advice I feel most like giving is “Perhaps Exploding Kittens would be more your thing...” The time has come for a revolution. Too long have we allowed hipsters to infiltrate our ranks, using the fact that boardgames have become trendy to inflict their finely-groomed beards and complete lack of any understanding or reasoning ability whatsoever on innocent gamers. Too long have we put up with people who build stables in Agricola, who think that the Terra Mystica factions are balanced and who say things like “It was a really great move – he set it up so that he got loads of good stuff if he rolled a six and then he did!”

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Tue Nov 7, 2017 12:18 pm
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Classics: Dominion

Jonathan Hicks
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Today begins a new series looking at some of the great games from yesteryear.  Games that you may have heard people talking about, but never got around to playing.  Games that have stood the test of time and are widely acclaimed.  Games that, in short, have become classics.

I grew up playing card games.  From Rummy to Poker, so many card games involve you drawing (or being dealt) cards from a communal deck of cards.  This paradigm was so ingrained in my psyche that I couldn’t get my head around Dominion (the game that made deck building famous) when I first got it.

I had borrowed a copy off my friend and people said it was good so I eagerly read the rules and tried to play it with my wife.  We didn’t get it.  In Dominion (according to the rules), everyone has their own deck of cards and their own discard pile, rather than using a communal deck and discard pile in the middle of the table.

Okay, fair enough.  You draw some cards from your own deck each turn and use them to buy cards from a selection of available cards in the middle.  But then the cards you buy, along with the cards you used (and even the cards you didn’t use) all go in your discard pile.  Wait, what?!


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Fri Nov 3, 2017 4:57 pm
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Educational Games for Teenagers

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I’ve played a lot of games with my son over the years and I think good games of any variety are incredibly valuable from an educational point of view.  They teach a wide range of skills from reading to dexterity to resource management.

However, as he gets older, the specific requirements of different school subjects become much more demanding.  Knowing that the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone isn’t going to cut it in high school.

So which games can you play with teenagers that will really teach them something useful from the point of view of school?  Let’s take a look…


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Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:20 am
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Educational Games for Children – Part 2

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Last week we discussed a few principles for playing educational games with children.  Games that will allow them to play increasingly complex and (hopefully for you!) more interesting games as the years go by.

In today’s post, I’m going to provide a long list of recommendations.  These are the games that I’ve had lots of success with, but your mileage may vary!  I’m still surprised when Noah seems disinterested in a game that I think is amazing and ought to be appropriate for his ability.  If your child shows no interest in a game, just leave it and move on to something else.  There are enough great games out there that they don’t need to love everything you love.


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Fri Oct 27, 2017 4:21 pm
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A Game of Games

Jonathan Hicks
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Today's post is by Nathan Cooper:

You win or you lose.

Last weekend a terrible thing happened – a friend of mine married someone who does not like Race for the Galaxy. I refer here to the wedding of two friends of mine, and in case they read this and are offended I should mention that I don’t really consider them getting married to be a terrible thing! I am quite tolerant in general and I do think that, if sufficiently compensated for by other good qualities, not liking Race for the Galaxy is not a completely irredeemable character flaw. The groom, a keen player of X-wing, once tried to play a game of it with me, my wife and another friend of ours on his living room floor. He still refers to this incident as “The great X-wing disaster.”

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Wed Oct 25, 2017 1:39 pm
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Educational Games for Children - Part 1

Jonathan Hicks
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In the previous post, we looked at educational games for pre-schoolers.  Once your child can read reasonably confidently, it opens up a slew of new possibilities for gaming.  If they can read before starting school, there’s no need to wait to tackle some of these games (I certainly didn’t!), but as a general guide, I would introduce most of these games while they’re in Primary school (ages 5 – 10).

There are a lot of games that I would like to recommend for this age group, but there are also quite a few principles that I’d like to talk about first, so I’ve split this post into two parts.  Today, we’ll be covering the principles and I’ll provide you with a big list of recommendations in Part 2 next week.

This age is where things really get interesting.  My son is still in Primary school and there are very few games that I couldn’t play with him now.  He will play Mage Knight quite happily, for instance.

So let me try to outline a potential route for developing your child’s game-playing ability, which will help enormously with their education in all kinds of ways.


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Mon Oct 23, 2017 4:55 pm
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