Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

BGTG - May 30, 2005 (SR: Struggle of Empires, Alhambra, Flowerpower)

I had a few technical challenges with this show--hopefully none of them come through in the recording. (I did the intro on my little Treo phone/PDA thingie, then pasted it into my normal Audacity recording software. I hadn't noticed that this fiddled with my normal sampling rate, which affects some CD burners. I think I fixed it, though.) By all means, let me know if something is amiss.

Note the updated sidebar, with a new poll about the IGAs and results from the previous poll. I think the latter are skewed somewhat--folks who rely on iPodder or similar software may not visit this site on the web as often, so miss out on the polling. Not that it matters greatly. I'm guessing that I've got about a 50-50 split between listeners who use podcatching software and those who prefer to download direct from this website. (The latter may appreciate my new mp3 graphics, making the downloadable shows easier to spot.)

In this show I mostly ramble on about Struggle of Empires, plus the other two games I got to play with family members. I also get to open with some feedback from Rick Thornquist about my IGA comments last time. Always love the feedback... :-)

Oh! At the very end I get to announce that I'm going to BGG.con! I'll be looking forward to it all summer. Haven't cashed in the frequent flier miles yet, or made a hotel reservation, but I sent off my pre-reg forms & check. I'll be meeting a few friends I already know there, but will also attempt to meet some new people. We'll see how I do compared to my previous experience at the Gathering!

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Struggle of Empires

Sunday, May 29, 2005

BGTG - May 28, 2005 (Intro to Strategy Boardgames)

This show may not be as interesting to listeners who have been enjoying this hobby for a while. But as I mentioned in a previous show, I think it's important that this podcast have one show intended for newcomers. Though there are at least a couple more boardgame podcasts out there, mine is still the one that pops up when someone does a podcast search specifically for boardgames (only because it's in my title).

So, for all you newcomers, have a listen to this particular episode. I get to spend some time talking about what these sort of games are (and what they aren't), good suggestions for your first purchases, where to find the games, and how to find other players.

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Game suggestions (Designer/Publisher)
Settlers of Catan (Klaus Teuber/Mayfair Games)
Carcassonne (Klaus-Jürgen Wrede/Rio Grande Games)
Bohnanza (Uwe Rosenberg/Rio Grande Games)
Ticket to Ride (Alan R. Moon/Days of Wonder)
Through the Desert (Reiner Knizia/Fantasy Flight Games)
Lost Cities (Reiner Knizia/Rio Grande Games)

A good intro to "German" games
'German' Game FAQ (from (the hobby's central website)
Bruno Faidutti's Ideal Game Library (online game store)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Another "people's choice" award

I haven't talked very much about wargaming on Boardgames To Go (yet...). However, I do still play some of those, and today happens to be the final day for submitting your votes for the Charles S. Roberts awards. Though handed out at Origins (I think), the CSR awards have more dignity and credibility within the now-smaller hobby of board wargaming. Their history stretches all the way back to 1974. Consimworld does a very good job keeping the fire burning for this award, probably increasing voting and participation compared to the early 1990s. Alan Emrich maintains a web page all about the CSRs which is a great read. (Actually, Alan's entire website is fascinating if you've got any interest in wargaming.)

Vote today for the Charles S. Roberts awards.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

BGTG - May 22, 2005 (Game Awards)

A theme show I'd mentioned earlier, focusing on the ideas behind game awards. I was consciously trying to avoid just making this a rundown of the various awards, trying to get a little behind the purpose and motivation for game awards. Was I successful? Partially, I think.

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Brett & Board's Awards page
International Gamers Awards
Deutscher Spiel Preis form (and Mik's explanation for English-speakers)
Essen '04 and Nürnberg '05 games eligible for DSP voting
Origins People's Choice Game of the Year Awards
Meeples' Choice Museum
Stven Carlberg's BGG forum post about game awards

Friday, May 20, 2005

A little tweaking

I did a little tweaking this afternoon, discovering that I had a way to check some more usage statistics than I'd previously known. One of them I can share right here on the sight: a little graphic at the bottom of my sidebar, tracking the number of listeners(?) using my feed. At least, I think that's what it's tracking. The poll (also at sidebar) indicated over half of my listeners are not using podcast aggregator software (e.g. iPodder, Podnova) at all, but continue to just download the audio files through their web browser. Maybe I'll start calling those folks right-clickers. :)

Since this podcast is something I'm doing for fun, I told myself I wouldn't, shouldn't care about usage stats and the like. And yet . . . once you find they're available, it's impossible not to look. It's also proving impossible for me to not care about whether my listener base increases or not! There, I admit it--I'd love to have more listeners. But if it doesn't happen, I can live with that. The download stats from my server look like I've got about perhaps 100-150 listeners (well, downloaders), the stats from the podcast feed (which won't include the right-clickers) are around 70, and the poll has 23 respondants as I write this. I imagine those are generally consistent with each other.

I'm not sure when I'll get to record another podcast. I'd like to do so this weekend, but with my inlaws coming to visit I may not get the chance. Remember that I want to talk about game awards in my next themed show, and am calling for feedback or questions relative to that topic. Not much (any?) response so far . . .

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

It's over, but at least I've got a poll working

Just as I predicted, the universe returned to normal and I dropped off the Top 40 list at This morning I found that the listing was based on subscriptions, I imagine ones registered through the Podnova website. Now Adam Curry and Dawn & Drew have resumed their rightful places atop the podcast world. However, I see that Geek Speak has now made the list, and that show might have the legs to stay there awhile. Good luck to Derk and Aldie!

This evening I managed to put a little poll in the sidebar at right. For now it's a boring podcast sort of question, but once I'm sure it's working right I'll start posing some questions about the show, its content, and so on.

Those of you who are reading this through an RSS reader, be sure to make your way over to and exercise the poll.

Monday, May 16, 2005

My feet are on the ground, and I'm reaching for the stars!

It can't last--I know it can't--but all day I've been in the listing of Top 40 podcasts at This site is primarily a new podcatching service, one that works as a web application or downloadable client . . . or both, synchronized together. They've even got an audio player built into the website, allowing you to stream shows like mine. I've got a clickable link to the right that makes it a snap to subscribe. The client software looks very similar to iPodder, so I'm guessing they used similar development teams and tools. Pretty cool.

But right now the coolest thing is my highly-rated listing. ;) Like I said, at about 100-150 listeners, I'll be blown out of the water soon enough. I'll just enjoy my 15 minutes while I can.

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P.S. On the not-so-good front, I see the limitations of my entry level podcast hosting service are starting to make themselves felt: a few of my earliest shows are no longer downloadable, having been automatically archived at the host due to storage limitations. I could pay for increased service, find a new host altogether, or just leave things alone. For now, I'm taking the easy, least expensive route. As long as people download current shows within a couple weeks, they shouldn't miss anything.

BGTG - May 16, 2005 (Conventions, part 2)

Finishing up the earlier theme show about conventions, this time covering invitational events like The Gathering of Friends and Gulf Games, then wrapping up with some of the smallest but best events, public Games Days.

At the end I mention the next theme show will be about the various game awards, and I'm asking for feedback/input about that topic in particular.

(No website for private events like the Gathering and Gulf Games, sorry!)
One and another entry from my old weblog about my trip to The Gathering in 2003
SoCal Games Day
Bay Area Games Day
Games Day Planning mailing list
My article in The Games Journal about planning SoCal Games Day
Slug-A-Thon must be dead now--it's got no website. Too bad.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

New domain name, email, even a BGG text ad!

Last week I purchased my own domain name for this site & podcast. It's now at (what else?)...

This also permits me to receive email feedback at Don't worry, all of previous email and web addresses will continue to work. The RSS/podcast feed is unchanged. This is just cooler. :)
Finding that all less expensive than I expected, I decided to spring for a Boardgamegeek text ad. The base price for those things is just ten bucks, which will get about a week of exposure. After one day, I've got a grand total of 2 "click-throughs" from the ad to this site. But hey, it's all for fun.

BGTG - May 14, 2005 (SR: Crokinole, Schrille Stille, Star Wars Attack of the Clones, Puerto Rico, Traumfabrik)

This audio session report mostly talks about the games I played at two recent Santa Clarita Boardgamer sessions. What do people listen for in an audio session report, anyway? I don't spend any time explaining the mechanics of the games. That's not a good use of anyone's time, especially my own. You can follow the links below to learn all you'll want about rules & mechanics.

I'm primarily telling stories about what happened when we played the games, sprinkled with some opinions about them. I'd love to expand the opinions into something with more analysis, more depth. But frankly, if I do that it'll be one of the other, themed Boardgames To Go episodes, not wrapped inside an audio session report. (In fact, I've been thinking more about that lately, how I got some good response for the show where I talked about El Grande a bit. I'd like to do more of those, if I'm up to it.)

If the people who like these audio session reports are happy with their rambling nature, then I guess everything's working fine. Currently, they're pretty easy to knock out.

Games mentioned
Schrille Stille
Star Wars Attack of the Clones
Puerto Rico

Xe Queo!

Email Mark Johnson

Thursday, May 12, 2005

BGTG - May 12, 2005 (Listening to podcasts--and recording them!)

June 11 update: I've switched over to 32kbps MP3 exporting out of Audacity, rather than the 48 I was originally using. For speech the difference in audio quality ought to be barely detectable, while the filesize savings are nothing to sneeze at (around 25%).

This particular podcast has nothing to do with boardgames! It's a special show about podcasting itself. The first third of the program are instructions for how to automatically download the podcasts via podcatching software like iPodder, or at least a recommendation that you use an RSS reader to keep up with my site.

In the remainder of the show I describe how I go about recording, hosting, and linking Boardgames To Go. I hope it comes across how simple it is--how anyone with something to say could be doing the same thing. Particularly if you've been thinking about podcasting, but been intimidated by the expense and complexity of fancy microphones, mixing boards, and so NEED to listen to this show. Don't let the fact that I'm an engineer fool you--I'm a mechanical engineer, not a computer geek. I work in a world of gears and bearings (or else budgets and staffing plans!). If I can make this work, I bet just about anyone can.

Something I forgot to point out in the podcast itself was how much of what I describe is multi-platform, or platform-independent. The software is available for Mac and Linux, as well as Windows, and much of the rest of what you do happens on the web itself.

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Links for listeners
Bloglines (web-based RSS reader)
iPodder (podcatching software, for Windows/Mac/Linux)
Michael Geohegan's Intro for Podcast Listeners

Links for podcasters
Audacity (recording software)
Liberated Syndication (hosting service)
Blogger (blogging service)
How to use Blogger and Feedburner to make a podcast feed
AudioShell (id3 tagging software)
Michael Geoghegan's excellent Podcast about the Podcast
Looperman (royalty-free music samples)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

BGTG - May 10, 2005 (Conventions, part 1)

Finally did the show about conventions, and I didn't even finish what I wanted to say. But I limited myself to a half-hour, just the same. I'll wrap up in a future show, though that will probably not be my next show. In this one I start at the top, discussing my one day at Essen 2003, other experiences with Origins and Gencon (well, at least Gencon SoCal), talk up some more-than-regional cons like Kublacon and BGG.con, of dump on local cons like our Strategicons. I guess they're for somebody, they just aren't for me. In that future show I'll get to Slug-A-Thon, Games Days, and the invitationals (GoF, Gulf Games).

My Essen 2003 article at The Games Journal
Ward Batty's traveler's guide to Essen
Gencon (especially Gencon SoCal)
Kublacon (San Francisco, May)
BGG.con (Dallas, November)
Strategicon (Southern California, various)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

BGTG - May 2, 2005 (SR: Settlers, Dancing Dice, Basari, Ra, San Marco, Xe Queo!, Ingenious, Star Wars Ep. 2 Card Game, Kapitan Wackelpudding)

Oof, that's a long title for this post. But I wanted that top line to tell people what's in this podcast, so that can see it in their RSS reader or podcast aggregator. This entire show is an audio session report. As you'll hear in the podcast, I received some good suggestions that I could kill two birds with one stone by keeping the session reports, just separating them out into their own show. That way they aren't shoehorned into the end of another show, the people that aren't into these things can easily skip them, and it helps keep the shows right around 30 minutes. (The last show was a little too long.)

The way I think of them, these audio session report podcasts will be inserted as-available into the schedule of other, themed shows like the ones I've been doing. So in my previous podcast I said the next one would be about game conventions. That's still true--my next themed show will be about that. The audio session report just pops in when I record it (i.e., today).

Game links: Settlers of Catan, Dancing Dice, Basari, Ra, San Marco, Xe Queo!, Ingenious, Star Wars Episode 2 Card Game, and Kapitän Wackelpudding.