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Board Games with Scott!
August 8, 2010 2:31 AM   Subscribe

Confused in Catan? Conflicted about Carcassonne? Puzzled in Puerto Rico? You've heard about all these awesome new board games that are out these days, but don't know where to begin? Help is here! Scott Nicholson knows all about 'em, and will explain them in great detail in his video series Board Games With Scott!

Board Games 101, for those getting started.

Some interesting episodes/games:
3. Friedrich, an asymmetrical wargame.
5. Heroscape, Hasbro's collectable wargame with a board you piece together out of terrain bits.
11. Ticket to Ride, a card-collecting, route-building game.
15. The Big Idea, Cheapass Games' silly invention game
32. Carcassonne: The Discovery, an introductory version of the tile-placing, territory-claiming game Carcassonne.
42. World of Warcraft: The Boardgame, for the WTF value.
45. Puerto Rico, Scott's favorite board game (mine too)
51. Agricola, a fairly new and awesome game with some similarities to Puerto Rico
61. Tulipmania 1637, designed by Scott!

The complete list

Top gaming experiences of 2008
Top gaming experiences of 2009

After watching a few, you'll probably get a kick out off this self-parody (warning: unexpected use of both Muppet Monopoly and polydactyl cat)....
posted by JHarris (56 comments total) 89 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nice post! Appropriate that this should be posted on the last day of GenCon. Also, I will now put the obligatory link to BoardGameGeek, which is by far the best board game site on the net.

Oh, by the way, did you know that the World of Warcraft video game has .wtf files? .wtf = Warcraft Text File.
posted by Vindaloo at 3:22 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


It should be noted that the stated intent of the series is recently changed. Rather than examine single games, Scott now explores specific mechanics, such as the simultaneous auction format shared by Vegas Showdown (shockingly good given it's publisher), Amun Re (by mainstay Reiner Knizia, Homesteaders (great but hamstrung by poor Chinese printing, and Cyclades (a hot combo based Euro that is well-disguised as a war-game).

That said, some of his earlier work is strong enough to substitute for most of a standard teach. His one hour video (!) on Die Macher is required viewing if you are crazy enough to play that game.
posted by parliboy at 4:25 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh man, awesomesauce!

A friend has been into these sorts of European games for years, and when we go and visit, we often play a new game (started with Settlers, then moved on to stuff like BANG! and Guillotine and Carcassone and Citadels and more recently Pandemic - all of which I adore). It's only been in the past few months, though, that we've started actually buying a few of these, and so to now have this resource makes me happy. I really like being able to invite people over and having fun games to play, rather than spending money to go out to dinner and/or movies every time I want to see friends.

These are great - I'm looking forward to watching many more when I'm not about to pass out. :)

(I highly, highly recommend Settlers, Citadels, and Pandemic to anyone reading, by the way. They're hilariously fun.)
posted by po at 4:40 AM on August 8, 2010


There's a fantastic version of Carcassonne out for the iPhone / iTouch / iPad.
posted by EmGeeJay at 5:02 AM on August 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


Inappropriate use of hands.
posted by ZaneJ. at 5:30 AM on August 8, 2010


How weird--I was just this now reading a Wired article from 2009 about Catan, popped over to the blue, and hey!

...the phrase German-style game is now shorthand for a breed of tight, well-designed games that resemble Monopoly the way a Porsche 911 resembles a Chevy Cobalt.

I'm sold. Now I just have to pick one...
posted by Chichibio at 6:02 AM on August 8, 2010


Well, Scott should never describe games he dislikes, because he completely misrepresented how you get resources in Stone Age in the "games you get resources by rolling dice" video.
posted by jeather at 6:18 AM on August 8, 2010


Drat. I was hoping he had covered Race For the Galaxy, because I am intrigued by it but terrified of it. I've read the manual a bunch of times, and started some games against the computer AI, but it eludes me almost completely.
posted by joelhunt at 6:53 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The iPhone Carcassonne game is really well done. It's how I spend my subway ride.
posted by chunking express at 7:06 AM on August 8, 2010


Ticket to Ride! Ticket to Ride! Oh my god! I love that game. So my boardgamefriends and I are a bunch of extreme train nerds who all decided to go to grad school to get our MCPs in transportation planning. Hence, this game was made for us. There was a period in which we all got together and played it maybe 10 times a week. We'd text each other and say "TTR?" It was like a drug. I usually lose, but I got the highest score we ever recorded, too (191) so I think of myself as sort of a TTR situation-specific idiot savant. Another time, someone blocked my friend from going to Portland, and he threw a chair across my apartment. Drama! This game!

I'm so glad it replaced Settlers as the game we played. For some reason, I could never get into Settlers.
posted by millipede at 7:11 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


joelhunt, Race for the Galaxy was similarly opaque to me. Despite my best friend loving it and playing it many times with him and compatriots, it remained a game that just flat out would not click for me. What in the how did the what happen? I would say. Even when I won! I'm not just a dabbler in boardgames, either.

Then, this Christmas, for absolutely no good reason I finally understood it. Maybe because I'd been reading a bunch of ancient Andre Norton pulp scifi, I don't know. It finally clicked and now I actually understand how it works and it is, in fact, super fun. So, do not despair! Get a couple friends and play around with it, and it will make sense to at least one of you.
posted by Mizu at 7:11 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love these games. I love Dominion even more. This is awesome. I will have to use it to explain things to neophytes.
posted by grouse at 7:18 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ticket to Ride is my least favourite board game, and I have no idea why so many people are fond of it.

Carcassonne App players: please invite me to play with you. I'm not very good at the game, but I do enjoy having board games ongoing. My email is in my profile.
posted by jeather at 7:19 AM on August 8, 2010


Wheat? Anyone? Trade for wheat? Anyone? Come on!
posted by griphus at 7:51 AM on August 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


These are great and the new social cachet of boardgames is great. I can now play boardgames with people I don't know at all who have no real claim on being nerds.
posted by grobstein at 8:16 AM on August 8, 2010


Here you go, griphus!

*hands griphus a card; both look confusedly at wheat cards exchanged*
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:32 AM on August 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


I shall trade nothing for wheat. I will build my island paradise on the backs of sheep! Roads paved with mutton! Cathedrals of lamb! The mint jelly will pour down upon the ram-thatched roofs and the yogurty dressing will caress the shores of my fluffy ewe beaches.
posted by Mizu at 8:52 AM on August 8, 2010 [11 favorites]


Ha! That guy was my reference professor in library school.
posted by missrachael at 8:59 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ticket to Ride is my least favourite board game, and I have no idea why so many people are fond of it.

Because it uses a simple set collection mechanic to allow people to form strategic chains which can cut other players off. It's still got the territorial aspect of a game like Monopoly, which a lot of people like, but it's gentler and also doesn't suck as a game.

It's a good introduction to train gaming in that regard.
posted by mightygodking at 9:06 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's an iPad version of Medici that is also good. I like that board games are getting iPad treatments.
posted by painquale at 9:09 AM on August 8, 2010


*hands griphus a card; both look confusedly at wheat cards exchanged*

That surely beats the inevitable mid-game "wait, what exactly do you mean by "trade for"?" conversation.
posted by griphus at 9:14 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Because it uses a simple set collection mechanic to allow people to form strategic chains which can cut other players off. It's still got the territorial aspect of a game like Monopoly, which a lot of people like, but it's gentler and also doesn't suck as a game.

Well, I obviously disagree with the last part of that statement. But in any case, I am rarely called upon to play it. (I was asking rhetorically -- I can actually see how it's a well-developed game, I just dislike it.)

That surely beats the inevitable mid-game "wait, what exactly do you mean by "trade for"?" conversation.

Hint: don't play with people who all speak a different first language, and who have 3 or 4 or 12 slang terms for every single item in the game except sheep. You will never figure out what the trades are fast enough to make them.

One day I will get a few people together to play Catan where you get to choose the next number to roll, but either based on a deck of dice with 3-6 cards face up or based on filling out the probability table, so the first 36 rolls have exactly one roll of 2, etc.
posted by jeather at 9:46 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


That surely beats the inevitable mid-game "wait, what exactly do you mean by "trade for"?" conversation.

I generally say things like "I have wood for sheep."
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 9:55 AM on August 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm eternally grateful for Scott's Agricola video. It is a far better explanation of the game's play sequence and strategies than the convoluted rulebook.

(Also, because of his video it's become an unwritten rule in my house that once the boar action card is flipped someone has to shout, "Piggies! Oink oink oink.")

Agricola previously. If you have the chance, try it out. It really is a fantastic game.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:57 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I, too, learned to play Agricola by watching Scott's video. Had my first non-solo game just the other night, in fact.

I'm really surprised more game companies don't have video walkthroughs of games/rules. The only 'official' YouTube game company channel I can think of is Steve Jackson's.
posted by soplerfo at 10:42 AM on August 8, 2010


Ticket To Ride kicks my ass every time. I was ready to strangle my girlfriend for completing six (six!) routes.
posted by spamguy at 10:46 AM on August 8, 2010


So it is time to tell the world about Settlers of Catan: The Drinking Game. The rules are simple: you play Catan normally, while drinking the alcoholic beverage of your choice. Whenever you finish one standard drink, you receive a free resource, also of your choosing. Drink fast, drink slow, use a mixer, it's entirely up to you. The trick here is balancing your intake so as to provide needed resources to advance in the game, while retaining enough wits to play strategically.

Notes: Do not play more than one game. Hurling results in immediate disqualification. Your mileage may vary.
posted by zachlipton at 10:48 AM on August 8, 2010 [25 favorites]


Damn, I was hoping he'd done Dust, which I really want to play but just can't justify shelling out 60 bucks for, especially when I don't actually know if I'll be able to convince any of my friends to play with me. A video explaining it ahead of time would have made the purchasing decision a lot easier.
posted by Caduceus at 10:56 AM on August 8, 2010


I'm eternally grateful for Scott's Agricola video. It is a far better explanation of the game's play sequence and strategies than the convoluted rulebook.

Last year at DragonCon I went down to the (unspeakably awesome) board gaming room and asked at the desk to check out a game that they thought was interesting to try to learn and play. They handed me Agricola, and I went over to sit down with it to try to make sense of it. This I utterly failed to do. Those rules are a mess. Watching Scott's video caused the game to "click" with me, and that was what made me realize that, you know, Board Games With Scott just might be FPP-worthy.
posted by JHarris at 10:59 AM on August 8, 2010


Ticket To Ride kicks my ass every time. I was ready to strangle my girlfriend for completing six (six!) routes.

In my experience, this is the One True Way to play Ticket to Ride:
- First, you should understand that the game is limited by the number of train cars the players have, and these cards have a roughly one-to-one relationship with cards drawn. Every car placed comes directly from a card drawn, see? This means that games tend to have a constant length. You only have so many turns to use. In practice, due to ticket draws, route-claiming turns and unused cards, you can add some turns to this, but still, the end of the game is sight from the very first turn.

- Since you only have so many turns in which to earn points, you must make all your turns count. This means that trying to block your opponent is usually a bad strategy; you don't know what tickets he's trying to make, since there are so many tickets that share routes, and every route you claim that doesn't factor into your own web is a wasted scoring opportunity.

- Tickets are important, and allow you to escape the "maximum score" phenomenon (without tickets or Longest Route, the highest score you can reach is 109 -- think about it) but it's just as important to focus on claiming higher-value routes. Since you only have so many trains, you only have so many points you can get out of them. So, it's by far best to claim six-space routes whenever you can, since they get you the best number of points for every car you play. This also helps to keep your ticket-building flexible, allowing you to work around opponent route claims by taking easier, shorter routes if need be.

- When selecting tickets, it's better to keep those with higher synchronicity, those that can be made along with other tickets you have. You only have so many trains to place at best; if it takes more than 45 cars to make all your tickets then you couldn't complete them all even if no one else was playing! During the game, we find it's best to draw tickets only when all your current tickets are either complete or hopeless, or are drawing out of desperation towards the end of the game (which is a risky but potential very valuable option), and only keep tickets that you can make quickly.

- All of these factors combined cause our own gaming circle to begin games of Ticket to Ride by building up a massive hand of cards, dozens of them, in preparation for trying to claim an important six-car route right off the bat. Six-car routes are worth maximum points, and by doing this you can claim it at the earliest possible opportunity. If another player blocks your ticket, you can then usually work around it pretty easily with the cards in your hand.

- Wild card draws from the face-up cards seem like a good move, but in fact are usually only worth it if you absolutely need one to finish a route. Drawing face-up wilds means you end up with one fewer card of income compared with the other players, meaning they will each be able to play roughly one more car by the end of the game. Not to mention that wild cards are quite common in Ticket to Ride: all the colors have 12 cards in the deck, but there are 14 wilds, so you have a good chance of drawing "free" wilds from the face-down deck anyway.
posted by JHarris at 11:57 AM on August 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Damn, I was hoping he'd done Dust

It's Risk, but with better rules. If you like Risk but wish it made more sense and had more options, you will probably like Dust. Because it's like Risk, it's usually relatively easy to get nongamers to play it, too.
posted by mightygodking at 12:53 PM on August 8, 2010


Thanks for the link. Just started up with a game playing group, and read a review of [url=http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2010/08/arkham-horror-may-not-be-easy-but-it-sure-is-great.ars]Arkham Horror[/url], which I've only heard discussed in hushed, horrified tones.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:05 PM on August 8, 2010


Sorry, borked the link.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:07 PM on August 8, 2010


I was once at a party at this house where about eight girls, fellow university students, lived together. They were all very drunk, but they managed to teach me how to play Catan. They'd all tag out and swap places throughout the game as more people arrived and more booze was poured. One friend of mine would dash back and forth between doing shots with the Bethany sisters and collecting her resource cards. Another girl was so stoned she couldn't even open her eyes, but she still managed to dick me out of some Wood and end up winning the game. Then everybody smoked raspberry tobacco out of a hookah.

That night I realized that taking post-secondary education was the best decision of my life.
posted by EmGeeJay at 1:17 PM on August 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


We've played a few games of Arkham Horror. It is great, yes, although very long. A game that's rather a lot like it, surprisingly, is Munchkin Quest, which steals much of its monster movement system and has a modular board besides.
posted by JHarris at 1:22 PM on August 8, 2010


Bold statement time: between advances in roguelikes like Dungeon Crawl, POWDER, Dwarf Fortress, and the unexpected return of board games from the Hasbro ghetto, we are living in a kind of golden age of smart gaming. Mainstream attention is distracted by shiny toys like first-person shooters and a hundred rebrandings of Monopoly, allowing all these wonderful games to flourish beneath the radar.

Before long they'll probably turn around and suddenly discover all these amazing pastimes, and ruin it all with a flood of filthy lucre, so enjoy them while you can guys.
posted by JHarris at 1:30 PM on August 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


The experience that people are describing with Agricola, I had with Puerto Rico. I blogged about it. And one of the commenters on the blog entry linked to an article on the Agricola rules, written by someone who translated them into English.

The 2010 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming was announced on Wednesday evening, and went to Boardgamegeek. Very pleased about that.
posted by Hogshead at 1:35 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


From Hogshead's blog post:

Puerto Rico has the worst-explained set of rules of any boardgame I’ve ever played.
[...]
I defy anyone to work ouit how to play the game from that set of rules as written. It can’t be done.

That's exactly what we did. It took a little doing, but the sidebar that summarizes each major element in concise language helped out tremendously. And more importantly it's great for referencing if you have questions during the game.

Meanwhile Agricola's rulebook may seem but a little bigger, but the second half of the thing is printed like it was listing medicine side effects or the 27 different things that will cause your credit card's interest rates to increase.
posted by JHarris at 2:00 PM on August 8, 2010


!!

Hogshead, you wrote The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen! I have so been planning on getting that game, it's such an awesome idea!
posted by JHarris at 2:08 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


(That article on the translation of Agricola's rules is fascinating as well)
posted by JHarris at 2:15 PM on August 8, 2010


Is there another copy of the video for Puerto Rico? Seems to be broken.
posted by lunit at 2:59 PM on August 8, 2010


Hogshead, I just bought The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen! (Thanks, MeFi, for being so awesome.) Now, to find some like-minded prevaricators to play.

I am thinking about going through with Arkham Horror, especially since I've been obsessed with cstross' Bob Howard series. (My Bob Howard Laundry Munchkin mash-up consists of Cthulthu and Spy sets, which makes for a fun and strange game.)
posted by ntartifex at 3:16 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is there another copy of the video for Puerto Rico? Seems to be broken.

Go to this Internet Archive page for the episode, and directly download the format you want.
posted by ZeusHumms at 4:24 PM on August 8, 2010


And ka-ching.

Speaking of boardgames, which we seem to be, Cadbury the chocolate giant recently bought out by Hershey, is running a competition for what it calls a 'pocket game'. My entry Flick Racer made the shortlist, and now it's in a public-vote runoff that closes at noon EST on Monday. I'm in the lead right now, but it ain't yoga till it's yoga and I could use your votes.

The URL's here: http://www.pocketgamecompetition.co.uk/ and while you do have to register, the process is fast, painless and spam-free. Also you can vote for more than one game, and there's a couple of other good ones in the mix. The two highest-rated move on to the final round which involves 25000 physical prototypes of each and a BIG vote-off, and the winner gets £3000 (£4500) and their game given away all over the UK in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics. So I'd like the winner to be, you know, a good game. Preferably mine, of course.

Flick Racer is Subbuteo vs Scalextric, or Carrom vs Formula De, or a stripped-down mashup of Pitchcar/Carabande with fewer rules and more tactics, or a spontaneous recreation of the Finnish sandpit game Neppis. Or Shove Ha'penny with cars. I think it's pretty neat, and I'd be interested to know what you reckon.
posted by Hogshead at 4:34 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, it says "Martin Adams" on the Flick Racer poster. Martin's a charming fellow who looks a lot like me and often finishes my sentences. (The first round of the competition had ten judges, and five of them know me.)
posted by Hogshead at 4:51 PM on August 8, 2010


Ah, cool that you're using a pseudonym to avoid the judges giving undue influence to your work. I'll have a look!

It's rather a shame however that yet another company has been absorbed into a huge conglomerate. I guess Cadbury is going to start tasting like cardboard now.
posted by JHarris at 5:13 PM on August 8, 2010


@JHarris Thanks for that. Amusingly, I was asking a group of friends for their votes a few days ago and one of them told everyone that they should vote for her instead. Turns that she was co-designer on Choc-a-Block, another shortlistee, and went uncredited for the same reason I did.

As far as the chocolate goes, I'm just hoping that Green & Black's, which was bought out by Cadbury's in 2005, remains untouched by Hershey.
posted by Hogshead at 5:45 PM on August 8, 2010


Confused in Catan?

I am. I haven't played it and was looking forward to a nice overview. But he doesn't have an episode on it!
posted by CaseyB at 7:14 PM on August 8, 2010


Heh, I thought he had when I wrote it. However, the most recent video, the one on dicing for resources, covers some of it.
posted by JHarris at 9:15 PM on August 8, 2010


I saw a Cheapass games title in the list. I spotted these at my local game store the other day (the place that charges astronomical prices, so even something cheapass was $15).
Has anyone got any favourites? We like Carcassone and Ticket to Ride.
posted by bystander at 4:50 AM on August 9, 2010


Most of the Cheapasses are worth the price of admission. The classic is Kill Doctor Lucky, an unofficial prequel to Clue/Cluedo. Before I Kill You Mister Bond (which I believe has a new title these days) is also awesome. But they're all good: James Ernest is a prodigiously talented designer.

(Admission for bias: I appear in a film that James directed: The Man Between)
posted by Hogshead at 8:24 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


(My Bob Howard Laundry Munchkin mash-up consists of Cthulthu and Spy sets, which makes for a fun and strange game.)

My friends and I all bought different Munchkin sets to play combo games with each other, and I chose to get the Cthulthu and spy sets for the same reason you did. The Cthulhu set is great, but the spy set really needs an expansion or two. Russians are over-powered, and the Chinese ability depends on hirelings, of which only one is included in the entire set.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 11:06 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has anyone got any favourites? We like Carcassone and Ticket to Ride.

Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico! PUERTO RICO.

Carcassonne is great, but I find it's a lot more cutthroat than you might think. Battle over ownership of terrain features can become heated.

Ticket to Ride is great, but a little light-weight in its base form.
posted by JHarris at 12:24 PM on August 9, 2010


XKCD does Agricola.
posted by mecran01 at 2:02 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised Neppis (Wikipedia, video on Vimeo) has never been mentioned before on Metafilter. We used to play it often in the neighborhood sandboxes when I was a kid and I must admit to having later also participated in a few beer-and-nostalgia -fueled events like the one seen in the video.
posted by Anything at 10:35 PM on August 15, 2010


(Referring to Hogshead's comment above.)
posted by Anything at 10:37 PM on August 15, 2010


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