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

Monday, August 29, 2005

BGTG 33 - Local game groups (with Ryan Wheeler)

Ryan shows up in lots of my session reports because he's the most constant figure at Santa Clarita Boardgamer sessions. He and his wife Erin host most of our game nights. With that in mind, this show was intended to be about the "care & feeding" of local game groups: how to start one up and keep it going strong. That's pretty much what was recorded, though it also rambled through some fun history of our game group in particular. You probably learn as much about me through this conversation with Ryan as you do in my Boardgaming Biography show (way back in show #13 on June 4).

In the show we talk about the awkward but necessary step of screening new people who might come to your private game group. SCBer Greg Pettit let me share this private email thread between he and I way back when. It led to a phone call that was a little awkward, too, but could be made easier through the more personal communication. Greg joined the group right after. Maybe when I get him on the show I can ask him for his memories of this exchange. (I'm going to talk Greg into an All About show featuring Euphrat & Tigris . . . it's just a matter of time!)

Greg Pettit wrote:
Hi -

I found your website through BoardgameGeeks, and was hoping for some more information. I just moved to Glendale from Houston, TX and I'm already missing my old game group. If you guys are still getting together, I would like to know when and where (if new players are welcome). Thanks.


From: Mark Johnson
To: Greg Pettit
Subject: Re: Santa Clarita Boardgamers

Greg, we still haven't found a permanent new location for the Santa ClaritaBoardgamers. In the meantime, we're getting together at my house every other week. The next time will be this coming Wednesday, March 13. Here aresome things you should know about us. We play multiplayer strategy games (so-called "German games") like Settlers of Catan, Bohnanza, or Carcassonne almost exclusively. Although I myself play wargames or CCGs on occasion, that isn't what we play when we all gettogether for game nights. Likewise, no RPGs. The focus is on fun first, competition and skillful play second. While my kids are awake (till 9:00 or so), there's a need to keep a lid on any foul language. Oh, and no smoking.

If that seems like a lot of rules, understand that it's simply to keep gamenight enjoyable for the *group.* We're having fun now, and want to keep itthat way, even as we increase our number. New people are welcome, but if there's any friction, that person won't be invited back. You know, this sort of conversation works a lot better in person than over email, so please give me a call. My home number is xxx-xxxx. Hope to hear from you!


Greg Pettit wrote:
That all sounds great, just like the group I hosted back in Houston. I'm familiar with all the German games (they're just about all I played backhome), but I donated all of them to my friends before I left, so I won't beable to bring any. How many people do you usually have?

I don't want to disturb the dynamic, and I'm already a little nervous/shy about just showing up. I guess I'll call to sort of introduce myself once I've figured out if I can make it. Thanks for the info.


This show was a lot of fun for Ryan and I to record, as you can hear.


P.S. I'll have to scan a 6 card from David & Goliath (1st edition) sometime later... :-)

Ryan Wheeler's BGG profile
Boardgamegeek's Gamerfinder and Gamer Database
Santa Clarita Boardgamers' basic web page
My old Tri-Valley Boardgamers archived web page
The call I put out on to start TVB (August '96)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

BGTG 32 - SR: Torres online, Fjords, Carcassonne:Princess & Dragon

Though I've missed the past three Santa Clarita Boardgamers sessions (drat), I've still had a few opportunities for playing games. Here are some opinions about those, including a new play-by-web offering, Torres.

Also, I hadn't included any email (or voicemail!) feedback for a while, so it was starting to pile up. Rather than cut that short, I decided to move the feedback segment of the show to the end. That way, the listeners who are only interested in the game opinions can easily skip the feedback, and the rest can just listen to it all. Afterward, I thought how similar that is to the Letters column near the end of Counter magazine (and before that, Sumo). I bet I'll be doing it this way from now on.


Torres at Boîte à Jeux
Carcassonne:Princess & Dragon

Thursday, August 18, 2005

BGTG 31 - All About Medici (with Dave Arnott)

Another All About show, another with a second voice, and another long one! This should be interesting... Though I normally prefer shows to be shorter, perhaps only half as long, this is also the kind of show I'd like to listen to. But does anyone else feel the same? An hour of two guys talking minutiae about Medici: whether you ever flip more than one card for auction, offensive vs. defensive bidding, and how player position affects the responsibility for stopping a leader. This show mimics some of the post-game discussions we've had somemtimes, wanting to figure out what makes the game tick. Or how to stop losing.

I'm behind on feedback, both replying to it privately and including it on the podcast. Would you believe two people have used the voicemail line now? :-) I plan to catch up some in my next Session Report show.


Dave Arnott's filmography at
Dave's 2-player game database at Luding
(Original Amigo board, Rio Grande board, recent French board)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

BGTG 30 - Game Presentation with Greg Wilzbach

This was a fun show to record, sitting down with the local gamer & friend who designed the BGTG logo(s). After some general chat about how Greg's background, how he got into the hobby, and joined the Santa Clarita Boardgamers, we got into the main theme of the show: boardgame presentation. For a graphics and design-savvy guy like Greg, that value of a game's good presentation is obvious. For a numbers & facts engineer like myself, I actually had to learn this. I'm a believer now, though, and we had a good discussion about what makes some game presentations work better than others. It's components/physical production, complementary artwork, even ergonomics (I think that's the term).

We made reference to so many gamers & publishers, these show notes have an enormous number of links. Even so, I probably missed some (like I missed the link to James Van Verth's funny story about game rules in show #28). This show is far & away my longest one yet, at just over an hour. Still brief compared to some other shows. :-)


Funkenschlag, Ad Acta, Tahuantinsuyu
Way Out West
Lord of the Rings
Up Front
Publishers: Alea, Days of Wonder, Fantasy Flight, Eagle, Goldseiber
Shadows over Camelot
Pirate's Cove
Twilight Imperium

Big City
Edison & Co.
Das Leztze Paradies
(The Last Paradise)
Krieg und Frieden
Reef Encounter
Hammer of the Scots, Napoleon, Bonaparte at Marengo

Sunday, August 07, 2005

BGTG 29 -The Wife Show

It's been a long time coming, but I finally got my wife Candy to join me for a podcast. Considering how popular and everlasting the question "How can I get my wife/girlfriend to play games with me?" is on discussion boards, this podcast should be of interest to many. Candy plays games with me, sure, but she's not an avid hobbyist like myself. Or rather, she's got her own avid hobbies--boardgames just aren't one of them.

As I knew I would, this show was a lot of fun for me to record. Did I learn anything I didn't already know? Hmm, not much, I guess, but some. I still think Magic and CCGs are less geeky than roleplaying sessions, but perhaps this is splitting hairs. :-)

Sure enough, she did manage to record her own new podcast the same day, too. It's a much shorter show (~5 minutes for the first episode) about Candy's favorite hobby--reading fiction. You (or your significant other) may care to check it out at


A Good Read (Candy's own podcast, brand new!)
Word games: Scrabble, Fluster
Ticket to Ride

BGTG 28 - SR: Way Out West, TransEuropa

Sorry for the nearly 2-week break between podcasts. That wasn't my plan, but life sometimes gets busy. Fortunately, half of that was for a fun weekend spent winetasting with Candy when the kids stayed with my folks. We went to the Santa Ynez valley area made more famous recently by the movie Sideways.

But this show isn't about that--it's about catching up on some older feedback (including another audio comment), sharing some news, and talking about the games I played at the recent Santa Clarita Boardgamer session.


P.S. Forgot to mention that our Way Out West game completely stalled when faced with the almost inevitable question of what happens when all cowboys die in a simultaneous shootout. Unbelievably, the rules don't say!! It was a serious turning point, one we didn't want to just "wing it and move on." We finally had to pause the game, go online to BGG, and find the answer to the question according to the designer. I'm glad we found out the right answer, but that was a pain.

Geek Fu Action Grip podcast
I'm not the only one who struggles to explain rules
Have Games, Will Travel podcast
Roll 2d6 podcast
Le Valet d'Couer game store
Recent acquisitions: Droles des Zebres, Aloha, Castle, San Juan, TransEuropa
Games played: Way Out West, TransEuropa