The 2015 People's Choice Top 100 Solo Tabletop Games: a list produced by BoardGameGeek's 1 Player Guild in connection with the 1 Player Podcast. Over 200 voters today put the Mage Knight Board Game in the top spot once more, but a number of smaller/shorter games made the top 10 too. The group's FAQ "Why do some people play solitaire board games?" explains how solo tabletop gaming complements multiplayer and digital board gaming. This week, incidentally, the iOS Board Games blog is synopsizing the latter in its annual Digital Board Games Gift Guide. [more inside]
Were you thinking of buying a board game for someone this holiday season? Snakes and Lattes would like to help you pick just the right one.
You are first a wife and a mother. Go to the Doll House. Sexism was conceived in 1971 by Carolyn Houger, (interview at link) a resident of Seattle, Washington. With the creation of Sexism, Houger hoped to “bring out the humor in the Women’s Liberation movement.” The idea for the game came to Houger after her four-year-old daughter returned home after playing the card game “Old Maid” with her friends and made the statement, “wouldn’t it be terrible to be an old maid?” [more inside]
With F. A. O. Schwarz's iconic 5th Avenue store closing for good last week (Gothamist photos), why not look back at the 1911 Spring And Summer catalog and the conversation effort to preserve the catalog at the Cooper Hewitt design museum..
"In the simulation, an average game [of Chutes and Ladders] lasts 26.5 turns, but it is a right-tailed distribution, so the longest game lasted 146 turns! If only there was a way to give each game a more consistent and shorter length. Then, it hit me. There are nine ladders and ten slides. There is a ladder missing! What if I placed a new tenth ladder on the board that consistently shortened the game? Yes, but where?!"
You're sitting down with your friends to play a boardgame, and you find yourself in a conundrum: how do you choose a first player? Sure, you could roll a standard die and take highest number, but what if there's a tie? That could take forever! Besides, wouldn't you rather be mathematically sure that everyone has a fair shot at each spot in the turn order? Of course you would!
Cards Against Humanity gives you two or sometimes three pieces to snap together, and it tells you you’re done. That’s it. And you know what? Often, many of these combinations aren’t very good. They aren’t very good whether you find their subjects funny or not, offensive or not. They aren’t very good because they’re sometimes nonsensical or just weird. They aren’t very good because, in an attempt to be as shocking, controversial and offensive as possible, the designers have forgotten to… make things work. There’s very little creativity in combining cards into a joke, because the work and the structuring is done for you. It’s almost like copying someone else’s homework. There’s no life in there [...] Cards Against Humanity opens and closes the joke for you. It’s limp, passive, inert.Review: Cards Against Humanity
The game ends in nuclear war only about 5 percent of the time. That’s a good thing. It gives Ananda Gupta faith in humanity.Twilight Struggle is the best board game in the world (and Ananda Gupta is its designer) and is all about replaying the Cold War. The worst games? Tic-tac-toe, Snakes and Ladders, Candy Land, The Game of Life and Monopoly, according to Oliver Roeder and based on ratings taking from BoardGameGeek. (Twilight Struggle previously.)
“At first we’re like, ‘What the hell is this? Brick? Wool? What kind of game is this?’” said starting center Corey Linsley. But that quickly faded. “We are completely addicted to it, we play it whenever we can,” said tight end Justin Perillo.
Wil Wheaton has a Youtube channel called "Tabletop" where he posts videos of himself with three guests playing various board games. Originally he thought the audience was going to be exclusively adults, but it turned out that a lot of people were watching the show with their kids. So in this week's episode, the game is Catan Junior, a cut-down version of Settlers of Catan intended for kids, and Wheaton's three guests are all 9 years old. Please enjoy Catan Junior.
Noted boardgaming blog Shut Up & Sit Down (previously) has been publishing its "Top 25 Games Ever!" all week long. Now that the series is complete, let the arguing begin: 25-21, 20-16, 15-11, 10-6, 5-1.
"With Christmas not far away, you may start seeing ads for video games that try to marry the VCR with traditional board games. Unhappily, that marriage more often resembles the bickering Lockhorns than the mild-mannered Nelsons. Here's a look at three of the games now
out in 1986." But that's only a snapshot of the dynamic world of VCR board games, which peaked in the early 1990s with the Atmosfear series, known as Nightmare in Australia, where the game series was a huge cross-media empire, bigger than "Crocodile" Dundee. Another significant game was Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game, if for no other reason that it is canon and expands the story of the second Death Star. There are less than 100 VCR board games, and the videos for many of them are currently online, with more game documents and details on Board Game Geeks. By the end of the 1990s, the VCR was on the way out, replaced by DVD board games. Let's browse the isles of toy stores past, thanks to the crowd-sourced nostalgia that is the internet. [more inside]
The best learning games are always fun. Try playing them yourself and see if you enjoy them. No matter how advanced your understanding of the subject matter, a good game should still be fun. I've understood algebra and number partitions for decades, but DragonBox and Wuzzit Trouble are still challenging puzzlers that I like to fiddle with on long airline flights. All good games offer challenges in intuitive ways. In fact, this is the reason games work so well for learning: Players are intrinsically motivated to identify and succeed at understanding the game's mechanics.The MindShift Guide to Digital Games and Learning provides a basic introduction to the use of video games in education, gives several thought-provoking examples, and points to numerous sites with related goals, including Edutopia's articles on game-based learning and Graphite's reviews of digital games with educational content. Meanwhile, this being what The Guardian has just called "Board games' golden age," resources such as Play Play Learn, BoardGameGeek's Games in the Classroom, and The Dice Tower's recent countdown of "Top Ten Games for the Classroom" offer interesting options for the tabletop as well. [more inside]
Ticket to Ride is a board game about trains. Specifically, it's about connecting cities by claiming sections of track via matching cards of the same color (or symbol, to give a little help to the color-blind). The game (published by Days of Wonder) is quite popular, having sold many hundreds of thousands of copies, and it's won a ton of awards, including the prestigious Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) and the first Diana Jones award given to a board game*. There was even a world championship held this year to celebrate the game's tenth anniversary, featuring 25,000 players who were whittled down to 28 national champions (well, two from "North America," that is, the U.S.) for the finals in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France. The finals were broadcast over the Internet on Tric Trac TV -- which is how the cheating in the final match was discovered. [more inside]
Chesscademy is a chess teaching website modelled on Codecademy. As such, it gives a sequence of short puzzles and exercises which help you build up knowledge of everything from how the pieces move to the intricacies of positional play. Sections of each 'course' are introduced by a short video. It's like a well-written chess book with interactive diagrams!
Big Game Theory! Board games that tell stories. The Bored Gaymer. A girl likes games. HiveGod's Yell Matrix. QWERTYUIOP. 365 Days of Gaming. Those are a few of the most favorited current blogs on BoardGameGeek, and these are a few of their most favorited posts. [more inside]
"But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let me tell you a story: a story about a board game. The Murder, She Wrote board game. You didn't know such a thing existed? Neither did I, before my friend Sarah brought it one summer to camp. (For the sake of clarity: I mean camp in the upstate New York sense, i.e., a small un-insulated cottage on a freshwater lake that has a preponderance of mismatched glasses and forks with wonky tines and maybe exposed studs but is the greatest place to family-vacation on earth.) Sarah and I met in day care, and had been friends for years—but this year, when she came to visit, she unknowingly brought the one thing that would enflame my jealousy." [more inside]
Competitive board gamers are a serious lot. Perhaps none are more serious than the players of the most ruthless and harrowing board game of all: Diplomacy.
Pastplay: Teaching and Learning History with Technology. The fourth book from the digitalculturebooks imprint of the University of Michigan Press, Pastplay includes a wide range of essays, all available online for free. T. Mills Kelly reflects on his historical methods course which resulted in a historical hoax, “the last American pirate,” declared one of the 10 biggest hoaxes in Wikipedia’s first ten years. Matthew Kirschenbaum discusses if board games work better than computer games for teaching history. The book's chapters cover successful combinations of play, technology, and history. Yet, many are wary, as a "playful approach to teaching and learning with technology can seem like the worst of all possible worlds: the coupling of strategies developed for entertainment with tools created for commerce." [more inside]
Tabletop Simulator is a, well, simulator for tabletop gaming. The trailer shows a number of applications: classics like chess and chinese checkers, RPG campaigns, and games using a standard deck of playing cards. And if you're looking for something with less structure you can set up domino chains. The game supports net-play with friends (video has a bit of cursing), with the option of flipping the table if the game isn't going your way. [more inside]
The New Yorker profiles Klaus Teuber: The Man Who Built Catan
Risk: Legacy, released in 2011, adds an interesting twist to the classic boardgame: it introduces permanent, game-changing modifications to the board and game pieces every time it is played. Last year, the designer of the game, Rob Daviau, gave a fascinating talk on the design challenges inherent in such a game. The video of that talk is now freely available to watch. [more inside]
Lonely? Bored? Well, the 2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest is here to help you stave off boredom this weekend (and burn through all of your printer ink). This year's winner is Maquis, a "solitaire worker-placement game with variable goals and a play time of approximately twenty minutes. The player places his resistance agents on spaces around town to achieve his goals - blowing up trains, publishing underground newspapers - but at the same time Milice collaborators and Wehrmacht soldiers patrol the area." [more inside]
“Something Terrible Has Happened Here”: The Crazy Story Of How “Clue” Went From Forgotten Flop To Cult Triumph. (previously)
Hasbro took a vote, and the internet has spoken. Not content to simply remove the losing token from the game, Hasbro will send the offending piece directly—and permanently—to jail. The ballots have been counted, and the people have said F the iron—the new Monopoly token will be a cat. [more inside]
Quintin Smith (of Shut Up & Sit Down) argues that we're entering a golden age of boardgames (45m Vimeo talk). [more inside]
Davis and Ma wrote up a long list of one-paragraph game pitches to prototype. They would be small, manageable games that two people could complete on their own. The game they chose to go with would have to be finished within a year, because that was all they had budgeted for. Among the pitches inspired by board games, roguelikes and all the genres that excited them was a 2D, top-down management game called FTL. The Opposite of Fail - The making of FTL (Previously)
Allan B. Calhamer, creator of the board game Diplomacy, passed away on February 25th. Despite the game's success he never made a living off it, and worked for many years as a mail carrier in La Grange Park, Illinois. Chicago Magazine published a profile of him in 2009.
Provincial is an AI that plays the card game Dominion (previously). The author of the bot has a section on how it works, and the application is available for download if you want to test your skill against it. Via the Dominion Strategy forums, where the author (techmatt) chimes in partway through the thread.
Take a copy of Monopoly, cover it in lye for a few days, boil from off the bones whatever flesh remains, and give the clean white skeleton a tasteful, minimalist paintjob, and you end up with ONOPO, an extreme reduction of the original boardgame by Metafilter's own Matthew Hollett, aka oulipian. Via mefi projects, hat tip to fastcodesign c/o Rock Paper Shotgun's always-lovely Sunday Papers feature.
In November 2007, a new board game called Yavalath was invented. The rules of Yavalath are simple: Players take turns adding a piece of their colour to a hexagonal board and win by making four-in-a-row of their colour – but lose by making three-in-a-row beforehand. Yavalath has proven reasonably popular as its simple rules allow interesting and surprising situations to develop due to its innovative win with four but lose with three winning condition. But Yavalath is really set apart from the many other board games invented in 2007 by one remarkable fact: Yavalath was designed by a computer programme. [more inside]
Ever played Monopoly? Then you've played a board game that was designed by a woman (it was, under its original title, "The Landlord's Game," the creation of Elizabeth Magie). Want to play more board games designed by women? Let's go! [more inside]
Monopoly Is Theft. The antimonopolist history of the world’s most popular board game.
"You are a monarch, like your parents before you, a ruler of a small pleasant kingdom of rivers and evergreens. Unlike your parents, however, you have hopes and dreams! You want a bigger and more pleasant kingdom, with more rivers and a wider variety of trees. You want a Dominion!" Dominion is an award winning game that combines the staples of Eurogaming with the addictive nature of collectable card games. [more inside]
The Politics of Competitive Board Gaming Amongst Friends is a short documentary by Jay Cheel whose subject is summed up by its title. You can see other short films by Cheel at his website. The main protagonist of the doc, Gerry Eng, a.k.a. Reed Farrington, has been the subject of many Cheel films, such as Cooking with Gerry, Cooking with Gerry #2, Poutine, A Very Gerry X-Mas and Reed's House.
Photographs of the Prison Chess series were taken in 2008 and 2009 in a maximum security facility of the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. [more inside]
Here is VASSAL, an open-source engine for playing board games online, by email, on forums or on a single machine. Which board games? These. (Requires Java.)
There are few boardgames that the connoisseurs over at BoardGameGeek hate with as much passion as Monopoly. But many of them are drooling over a custom Monopoly set Elisabeth Redel made for her boyfriend. It's a gorgeous version themed to Bethesda's Fallout 3. Behold, Fallout Monopoly.
"Having now played the game, I'd like to take issue with the slogan on the box. 'Fun' this game is not. And 'educational'? Well, if disappointment, conflict and frustration are character building experiences, then I guess you could say there is an educational element to this game." Rap Rat is a bizzare video board game with an aesthetic that can best be described as in your face (gameplay video). [more inside]
Did you know that popular, absurdly inexpensive board game producer James Ernest's Cheapass Games has released some of their most popular games as free PDFs? Among them Deadwood, Devil Bunny Needs A Ham, The Big Cheese, FALLING and Unexploded Cow? [more inside]
Minecraft mastermind Markus "Notch" Persson has officially announced his company's next project: a hybrid online board game/trading card system called Scrolls. Spearheaded by Mojang co-founder Jakob Porser (interview) and with backstory penned by Penny Arcade wordsmith Jerry "Tycho" Holkins, the game will consist of turn-based battles between collectible "scrolls," illustrated character cards strategically deployed on an abstract gaming grid. In an interesting inversion of the Minecraft model, the game itself will be free, while updates in the form of additional scroll packs will cost a nominal fee -- a business model gaming analyst Sean Maelstrom decries as "snake oil." Mojang, for their part, is unafraid and even eager to target an untested slice of the gaming market, and is angling to get their playable prototype of Scrolls ready for a possible Alpha release this summer.
In 1979, gaming company Avalon Hill (since bought by Hasbro) released a board game based on the popular science fiction novel Dune. Regarded by many as a masterpiece of the form, it is an asymmetrical wargame designed by Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge and Peter Olotka, the people who created Cosmic Encounter. Six different factions vie for control of the desert planet Arrakis. As WickerNipple notes in his Everything node on the game, “Instead of giving subtle differences to the various factions like most games, Dune gives huge differences and advantages, that don't over-balance things only because every faction receives them.” The thing is, each player has special rules that give them very different options and abilities compared to the other sides, and yet the game remains balanced (especially when played by a full six players). The game has been long out of print due to the Frank Herbert estate refusing to re-license. Fantasy Flight Games is rumored to be working on a release of the game without the Dune license. Importantly, all the necessary files are available on the game's BoardGameGeek page to construct a copy of the game. (Homebrew game board - Rules, cards, counters and extras - Windows freeware game client and server) [more inside]
In 1989, Milton Bradley debuted HeroQuest, a board game in the style of Dungeons and Dragons. Not to be bested at their own game, D&D's parent company TSR released Dragon Strike (reviewed here by Angry Video Game Nerd's James Rolfe.) Packaged with the board game was a low-budget fantasy short film meant to simultaneously set the mood, demonstrate a potential adventure and explain the rules.
Four different shogi-playing software programs combined forces to "aggressively pursue" and defeat female champion Ichiyo Shimizu in 86 moves. (previously)
The art of Clue suspect cards through the years, courtesy of The Art of Murder, a comprehensive Clue fan site.
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