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Are You Insane? :: How The Bene Gesserit Coerced Me Into Game Design

Stephen The_Geek
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
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I love Dune. I've read all of Frank Herbert's series a number of times. I've got the Sci-Fi channel's Dune and Children of Dune mini-series sitting on my DVD shelf and I've even watched the awful 80s Dune movie five or six times. Every couple of years I forget how awful it is and give it another try hoping it will improve when I watch it again. It doesn't.

So around four years ago when I heard about the now discontinued Dune board game I was curious. Initially I thought it would be a poor cash in on the movie. But then I read a bit more about it and discovered that it was a highly respected game which would sadly never see a reprint. I read that people loved the asymmetry of the races, including the special Bene-Gesserit win condition, which perfectly matched that faction's strengths and powers from the book series.

But the thing that stuck with me the most was a brief description of one aspect of combat - forces committed to combat died, but if you lost the combat all of your forces died.

That one idea stuck with me. I had no idea (and still have no idea) how that mechanic actually works in Dune the board game. But it was inspiring. I wanted to create a game. But this time it was not going to be terrible. I began to formulate a game that was a blatant thematic rip off of Dune.

So I began to iterate over my design. It was going to be a hex-based game. It was going to incorporate the "choose how many to die" mechanic. Each round would have a bonus or an impediment to all players given by an increasingly paranoid emperor. The game was called Imperial Decree.

Imperial Decree was to be won by the player who shipped the most "grubs" which had properties that stopped the ageing process and couldn't be found on any other planet in the universe (if you're not familiar with Dune, substituted "grubs" for "spice" and you have basically got yourself the premise of Dune).

I threw pretty much anything cool I could think of into the game. It was going to have an alignment system where doing "good" actions moved you towards the "good" end of the alignment spectrum and "evil" actions moved you in the opposite direction. The "good" leader would get a special bonus and the "evil" leader would get a special bonus.

I even made a prototype for Imperial Decree. I still have many of the hand-written cards sitting on my desk.

But Imperial Decree had one problem - it was awful.

I could never get the combat (which I'd thought I'd ripped from the Dune game) to work in a non-clunky fashion. Looking over my initial rule book, 3/4 of it was devoted to the combat system which was overly complex and fiddly. I have since learned a bit more about the actual Dune combat mechanic, which is nothing at all like the mechanic I had developed for Imperial Decree.

The alignment system didn't work either. As much as I liked it, there was no real way of making it interesting in the context of my game. The reward for being the "good leader" or "evil leader" was insignificant next to the cost of getting to that place. I still really like the idea of an alignment system and maybe I'll use that in another game, but it was a darling I ended up abandoning at an orphanage.

This time I realised all of this before subjecting my friends to the game, which I'm very glad for. My last update to the Imperial Decree rulebook was a couple of months before my firstborn arrived.

Around the same amount of time before my second child's birth (two years later) I looked at Imperial Decree with fresh eyes and realised that there were two things about it that were salvageable.

One was the hex-based map. The other is the heart of what was to become Ashes of the Ancients.
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Boardgames above and beyond :: Dominant Species - Review

Kim ----
Belgium
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Hi guys,

Years ago, when starting out this hobby, Dominant Species was a game that I enjoyed very much. One day it got on the shelf and it was like it moved in there. We haven't played this game for a long time. Lately I'm in kind of a nostalgic mood and we took it of the shelf where it lived now. It got another play in. Today I want to tell you how I enjoyed playing this!

With this board game you travel back in time. It's not to the start of my board game hobby but way back. The game takes place ages ago, in 90.000 BC. The great ice age is freezing over.

Every species has to fight for their survival. They are adapting to the slow-changing earth and keep it's population up.

In this game each player takes on the character of one of the six major animal classes. There are mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, arachnids and insects. The role that you choose will also determine where you stand in the balance of things. This balance is quite natural and it is survival of the fittest.

The game is an action pawn placement game. Every player wants to be dominant on as many different terrain tiles, so that we can collect card effects. On top of the also victory points are linked to these terrains.
To get to this point players are aided by branching out like speciation, migration and adaptation.

The one with the most victory points, aided by it's domination, will be the winner of this game.

I love to connect with Dominant Species again. This game is rather complex and for me it was searching what every action did again. It was also not immediatly clear to me how every action was useful. Luckily it became clear very quickly how to everything added up.

The game took quite long for us. We played almost two hours and it was only a two-player game. It didn't feel like two hours though, because it just flew buy. You're thinking al the time about what is happening next, how to save yourself or how to sabotage the other players. I really like this balance and how to tilt it.

This game is a thumbsup: 9/10.

Everytime someone suggests this game I would play it!
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Maven Games :: The Kennerspiel Des Jahres 2017

Jonathan Hicks
United Kingdom
Nottingham
Nottinghamshire
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The Spiel Des Jahres (Game of the Year) nominees were all strong candidates this year, but what about the Kennerspiel (Strategy Game) nominees?  It’s an unusual selection of games, that’s for sure.  Let’s take a look at them and I’ll give you my pick for the Kennerspiel Des Jahres 2017.

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Today 9:32 am
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Shefford Friday night games :: Friday 21st July 2017

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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Games, games and more games!
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Last Friday was quiet, with just 5 of us. We started with a 4 player Love Letter while waiting for the 5th to arrive, which Sami finally won. Next came Powerboats, which everyone had played once before. It came down to who had the least disasters, and in which round! James had a disaster in the second round, but recovered well, to give him second place overall. John had a disaster in the first round, but then placed well in the next two, to just pip James to first place. I was ahead after the first two rounds, but then placed last in the final round, which meant my overall score was 4th!

After that we went for Schrille Stille, which was new to John. And it proved that it does help a bit if you have some experience with this game, as John was definitely lagging a bit all game. I was ahead for most of the game, impressively jumping both the first two white lines in one round, taking out the Top 6 bands all at once! However, this meant I had the usual late game slump, as my remaining few bands were all picked on and all dropped off the board, with Seb just beating Sami to first place by one point, and me dropping to third.

After that Seb suggested we continued with some more lighter fare, and Knowing Me Knowing You tabled next, in which Sami and I proved to have a distinct advantage, finishing in tied first 15 points clear of anyone else - for once the questions were ones where husbands/wives had an advantage!

Beyond Balderdash was suggested next, which again was new to some of the others, although for Sami and I it was a university staple, although we haven't played it in years! Early on it looked like it was between Sami and Seb, but then Sami was able to get a bonus from the double points score and Seb wasn't, and pushed ahead. James, who had been lagging a little behind all the early game, suddenly had a few good rounds, and ended up tied second with Seb.

We finished with two rounds of Der dreizehnte Holzwurm, which again was new to some players. In the first round James looked like he would manage to go out, but got squeezed at the end, followed by Seb, and I went out to finish the round. Sami also had a good score, and only Seb was slightly negative. The second round was more of a disaster for people - this time James and John were the two to be squeezed, and both had to take large negatives on the turn that finished the game, to leave them with overall negative scores. Seb had a good positive score, but his bad first round meant he was in third. I was just able to keep ahead of Sami overall.
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Games & Llamas :: Week 30: Holiday of gaming

Isra C.
Spain
Valdemoro, Madrid
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Finally my holidays at work came and this normally means a trip to some place, cities, treks or wherever, but this year is quite complicated because Shei is working this summer. Anyway, we're going to visit Japan on September so we only have to wait a little bit

This week was a great gaming week, so let's see how it went!

Wednesday


This day we rescued from the shelf a game that was too much time without a play: Mombasa A really good game of strategy that makes your brain hurts. How yo discard the cards in which spot and how to claim the majorities you have -but you cannot use before claiming- is a delight. We even printed the Mombasa: Cooked Books Mini Expansion because we wanted to try that little variant and we don't have any store to buy it (we found a couple but it was too expensive just for a small tile) so if we found it for a reasonable price we'll get it. This mini expansion adds the thing you miss the first games. You have a majority for almost everything but not for books. Great great game!




Thursday


Light day. Only played with our copy of Honshu playing the variant of 2 players that actually worked very very well! We thought that it could be worse but actually it is great. After that, a couple of games of our (probably) most liked abstract game: Hive




Friday


Shei surprised me giving me one of my birthday presents in advance <3 And because of the simplicity of the rules, we punched it and played our first game of Caverna: Cave vs Cave. And it was soooooo great. It's nothing that you can say it's -really- new, but it's perfectly designed. It is more in the line of Agricola ACBAS than Inland Port. It's really great!



Then a couple of games of Strike with Shei's mother. She joined with Strike but no with our second game of Honshu with 2 players. Shei seems to be unbeatable in this game!






Saturday


The big day started with another game of Caverna: Cave vs Cave! It its really nice how the buildings are showing up during the game. You can excavate one building that could give you a lot of points, but it is possible to get stolen by your opponent.



After lunch, we played a game that we stopped playing for no reason and it is really fun and great: 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis. A kind of TwiLIGHT Struggle with more paranoia and bluffing. It gets played very quickly (Shei and I we play in less than 30 minutes) and it gives you the tension enough to play again.



Then a game that was in our pile of shame because of the rules ¡Abordaje!. Confusing and wessy rules for such a small game mixed with messy game play... sadly didn't liked. We know the designer and he's a friend of us (and liked a lot other games of him) but not this one



After this, a beast of strategy: Madeira, a game that we don't play too often due to the long of the game and the dense of the rules. When you play, is not that complex at it seems at first glance, but if you don't play more often, you probably forget the rules. It is a great game full of paths to the victory and it works pretty well with 2 players. Never played with more.

The only thing that we didn't like this time is we were tied. And the tie were broken by the turn order. I think that tie in this game is just in rare cases


After dinner, we played lighter games like Abalone, Arboretum and The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game. They were light, but with tough decisions. We love this small games that makes your brain exercises a little bit.





Sunday


Party day with our family. Another present in advance by Shei (She surprised me this time even more!) <3<3: Don't Mess with Cthulhu. This is a winner game in every game session with 4 or more people. With too few cards makes a game dynamic really fun. Like The Resistance but better (imo). Then, more plays of Strike and the incredible fun Happy Salmon



See you next week!! The next week will be huge, because Shei and I organize a private convention in Villacañas with our friends of "Jugando en Pareja" for the third year in a row: Ludicañas. We usually play more than 30 games in the whole weekend so we'll see how this year will go!
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Today 7:58 am
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It Beats Watching The TV :: Another one for the Purists

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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Everyone likes loves a cuppa, but it's a right pain when you can't find a suitable coaster to protect your (coffee) tabletop isn't it?
Never an issue in a board gamer's house though eh?



devil devil devil devil devil devil devil devil
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Every Man Needs A Shed :: i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)

Anthony Boydell
United Kingdom
Newent. Glos
Unspecified
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It was about 0100HRS on the 1st of January, 1991 and our little group was walking back to Karen's family home from the marketplace in Ross-on-Wye; our traditional method of seeing in the New Year was to begin at The Hope and Anchor pub (by the river) and then wander up to the centre of the Town around 11.45PM to cheer and shout with thousands of others. On this occasion, our friends from Liverpool Polytechnic days - Malc and Angie - were with us and, as Karen and I meandered hand-in-hand up the road ahead of them, something flashed in my mind and I pulled her in to a doorway: "Will you marry me?" I asked, my head clear and my heart pounding. She paused, temporarily dumbstruck, and then looked me in the eyes and breathlessly replied: "Yes!"

The families were delighted with our plans because they've known each other since the Second World War: two prior generations of honoured and close friends now brought together, Shakespeare-style, by marriage. A year or so later, with a house mortgaged and ready for decorating, on July 25th, I stood in Blaisdon Chapel - in a too-big-for-me purple suit - and watched my true purpose walk down the aisle toward me.


One of my favourite photographs of all.


Five children, three houses, two careers and a quarter of a century later, Karen and I are still holding hands when we walk in to town, still cooking together, still cuddling up in front of our favourite TV shows, still lying awake in the late dark talking and planning and reminiscing and still very much in love with each other.


(drawn by our eldest daughter)


Twenty five years is half my life and, yet, in no time at all it has whistled by; it's been a joyous, fraught, glorious, painful, surprising and wonderful trip so far and long may it continue - Karen and I walking it together.

For my love:

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)


e.e.cummings (1952)
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Browsing the gaming world :: Day 199, Lagos. ...Bata photo Waf...

Alexandre Correia
Portugal
Lagos
Algarve
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A lot of travelling in the geekland. Over land sea and air... or should I say over images, text and audio! I'll start with the text first. From the BGG News blogpost, it seems that John Clowdus Smal Box Games portfolio is getting reprints and eventually more content in some of it's back catalog. The company's was acquired by Kolossal Games and this means "updated and upgraded components, themes, graphics, and rules" on newer versions of power classics like Omen: A Reign of War. ...let's see what this means to original backers of John's awesome titles if any expansions are created for those games.

Over audio outlets, the latest episode of Cardboard Herald, with yet another interview with Jamey Stegmaier, revealed that more content for Viticulture will be released! A small expansion like Moor Visitors Expansion but this time without visitors? Regardless, anything Viticulturesque is always good news for the fans of the game.


Just one more glass of wine please.

And then went to image land browsing. I had a bunch of back feeds from Instagram's cardboard geeks and this is what came out:

Taj Mahal is 17 year old classic from Knizia. Awsome components in this card driven route building game. I don't think I've ever tried a route building game before...


Taj Mahal..., by Jason Sirignano

Stockpile is the only game owned by my friend Joel ( a gift from gamer friend João). When he first got it we used to played all the time. But eventually the two-player sessions paled when we got the taste of a three player gameplay. But for 30 minutes of play, you can't ask for more in this stock exchange simulation.


Stockpile..., by Vincent Iacono

I remember seeing Tavarua during the Kickstarter campaign... Didn't hold me back then. But sometimes an amazing photogenic image will creep in my media consumption I get the shakes for trying it out! Just look at it!


Tavarua..., by playtography

Beast of Balance is creating quite a buzz. A dexterity game that blends physical and digital gameplay where players need to mind the balance of the stack and the balance of the virtual world that they create with the stacking physical pieces. I doubt I'll ever own it, but in a Con, it's definitely a must play game!


Beast of Balance..., by playtography

On the other hand, Shahrazad ticks all the boxes to make it into the collection! Small box solo game, with spatial reasoning behind the decisions. Best part? Stunning artwork on big cardboard tiles. No more fear of the wind when playing outdoors in windy Lagos where a Limes or Aquaducts card can't take a little gust before flying off!


Shahrazad..., by playtography

Helvetia, Helvetia... It's a constant in many Math Trades. It's a constant OOP game and it sells for incredibly high prices for a game in that league. In all aspects, it's seems like a classic designer's game that I must try eventually. High-interaction worker placement? Count me in for the next reprint.


Helvetia..., by playtography

And finally Tokaido. My first case of a game that seemed perfect for me and that I wanted desperatly to love... but fell flat in our available gaming time. Like Kodama, while playing I get most out of the experience of "travelling" than from the points or who won in the end. If it had showed up in our lifes at the time of Carcassonne or Pandemic, or even instead of Takenoko, it might have become a house staple.


Tokaido..., by the_review_board


As for games played, me and Alice broke a new game today. Mostly to test it and to give Alice a first contact. Bata-Waf, is a small card game, with big cards, where the goal is to acquire all the cards, by comparing one at the time and check for the bigger dog. In case of a tie, there's a Bata-Waf event where more cards are added to the pool and the rematch winner takes them all.


Big dogs.

Now... I did shuffle the deck. A lot, since Alice particularly likes to see me shuffle and the sound it makes. So it was to my surprise that after only a few minutes of "dogfight" she won all the fights! So I couldn't really tell if she understood who had the bigger dog, since she would always point her finger to her own card and win!

Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow guys.

Photo & Image credits: ZombieBoard, vinniebrasco
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That's What She Said :: I Suck at Blood Rage and Other Inconvenient Truths

Charlotte Malone
United States
Floyds Knobs
Indiana
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Blood Rage always makes me think of two things: Leon and burritos.

Leon because he won the second time we played Blood Rage, and it was the first time any of us had ever beaten Workman at a real game. (King of Tokyo doesn't count. Sorry Steve.)

And burritos because the night Leon won, Workman was sick. I'm sure it in no way affected his game play, but he was just barely not dead. And after we played, we went out for Mexican food and he forced himself to eat a burrito because he hadn't eaten in like two days and he needed to get something down. It might have been the most disgusting thing I've ever watched anyone do. And I've raised two sons, so that's something.



Anyway, we played Blood Rage again tonight, over a year later. Steve is still dead to us, so Munch played as our fourth. My primary take-away from my previous plays was that you cannot recover if you screw up. The game has a very tight clock and there's no time for make-ups. I reread the rules and watched a video so I wouldn't waste any time coming up to speed. It didn't matter. I suck at this game.


I was the mighty Raven clan. They're actually quite cuddly when you get to know them.



I dig the drafting in this game. OT, does the guy on the far right have a sword sticking through his face, or is it just a bad angle?

I had a decent first turn and a half. I had a clan upgrade that let me repillage a pillaged area and I worked it hard. For one age. I never could get it working after that. For the final age, I couldn't get figures on the board. I literally had one ship on the board towards the end. There was no where for me to invade. There was some confusion around ships (pro tip: even if everyone at the table tells you you're wrong, check the rulebook anyway) and once all that got figured out, I realized I could have done a lot more than I did.

As it was, my one little ship didn't do anything for me, but he boned everybody else at least once. Everyone kept forgetting he was there, and he kept interfering with everyone's pillaging plans. I was real sorry about that too.


This little guy caused so much trouble. He was my MVP.

Workman was rocking his Loki strategy, dying and respawning and getting points for his troubles. I hate him. I even hate drafted him once, which is not like me, and it was insanely satisfying.

Leon was behind everyone in points, but he maxed his tracks and was going to clean house on points at the end of the third age. And then Munch happened. I can't even remember now what Munch did (my game was over and I was mostly checked out) but it derailed Leon's plans to dominate.

So Workman won by dying well, and I can't remember whether Leon or Munch finished second. But I was last. I didn't get lapped this game, so I did improve, but Blood Rage is just not my game.

I like it, but I suck at it. In all my games, I can't seem to get where I need to be on the board. I don't advance my tracks, and I'm out of the game well before the game ends, which makes for a bad time. I appreciate that Blood Rage is a solid game (simple mechanics, deep strategy) I just wish I was better at it. And I wish I could remember the difference between Yggdrasil and Valhalla. I had a couple of awkward moments around that. That's all you need to know.



After dying gloriously in battle over and over and over, we played Love Letter. I won. It was like dying gloriously in battle only without the battle and without the dying. It was really just the glorious.

One other game night fact worth mentioning: Leon shared with us a life goal he has around hitting someone in the face with a plate. Not a specific person, just a desire to hit a face with a plate and shatter it (the plate, not the face.) It's good to have goals and share them with your peeps. So they can share them with the internet at large.

Anyway, another fun-filled game night has been immortalized. Thanks for reading and happy gaming!
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ABX Boardgamers' Group (What we're playing) :: AAR for 24 Jul 2017

Mark Bakke
United States
Augusta
Georgia
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Not sure what's going to be worse -- the actual Mayweather/McGregor fight or all of the interminable hype leading up to it.

Neuroshima Convoy
Got a couple more cracks at this interesting two-player combat game. I won a game as the Molochs primarily by building a strong force at the chokepoint just prior to New York City and being able to counter most of what the Outpost player could try to bring in. I took the Outpost in the second game and had abysmal luck drawing cards. This led to my getting seriously overwhelmed in New York City. Fun stuff!

Mystic Vale (tournament)
The tournament kits for this event were *very* nice. Promo cards, an achievement log, and counters to keep track of Spirit symbols were all nice additions to the game and well worth the entry fee. My performance, however, was rather horrible. I ended up with fewer points in three games than the winner got in just *one* game.

Lanterns
My first time getting to play this abstract tile-laying game. You're trying to lay tiles that will match up colors and get you the cards you need in the proper combinations to turn in for VP chits and gift/favor tokens. We had a four-player game and quickly got into the strategies necessary to prosper. The very nature of the game play and the limited number of total turns leads to a very close finish.

Favor of the Pharaoh
Three-player game to finish off our day. My final roll produced an amazing finish that nobody had ever seen before. The combination of the black "Voyage" die and the Herder tile producing lots of extra dice allowed me to rack up the astounding final total of *20* threes.


Other games played and demoed today included: Victory in the Pacific, Up Front, and Space Hulk...
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