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

Friday, March 31, 2006

BGTG 54 - April 1, 2006 - New Gamer and Gamer Dads (with David Gullett)

[A technical complication meant this show took the longest to pull together, but I'm pleased to say it worked completely. If you want to read the audio editing story, check out the boardgamepodcasters mailing list. -Mark]

This is a combination show, an interview with David Gullett that's about being a boardgame newbie, as well as about playing games with your kids. It's in the latter context that I met him when we pre-arranged some games for us to play with our kids at a SoCal Games Day. The last time he came over to my place with his boys to play some more family games, we took some time to record this podcast. The first third or so is about being that latecomer to this hobby, discovering it through a websearch in 2005 that led him to Then we get to talking about playing games with our kids. Finally, we get the kids themselves on the air.

This is a subject I'm finding myself increasingly interested in, bolstered by the success I'm starting to have with my own family. Remember the dialing-it-back, family-focussed plan for my hobby in 2006? I think it's working. That's a future show in itself. David is having even more success earlier with his family, and you'll hear why. He's a very fun character who's making good decisions as a parent. He makes me wish I could turn the clock back and do the same with my family four years ago!

This show didn't have the same sort of outlined script I usually use. David's other hobby is amateur improv comedy, so the lack of an outline presented no problem for him. I'm not as quick on my feet, and upon listening to the show I think I jump around a bit more, interrupt myself and fail to finish my sentences sometimes! Hopefully you can get the gist of what I'm saying when I try to relate German children's games to movies like Spy Kids. Honestly, it makes sense to me but maybe I didn't finish the explanation in the podcast!

David is the first one to claim the title of Guest Host on BGTG for the part of this show when I sign off and he interviews his kid & mine at the same time. A podcast original! (For boardgame podcasts, anyway!)

The show was originally recorded way back on March 4, but it took me this long to get it out. If you make all the way to the end, I think you'll agree this publication date is appropriate. :)


P.S. A fun little gaffe when David mentions The Dice Tower as competition to BGTG, and I say "I don't consider them competition." What I meant to say was that I don't consider podcasting a competition, of course!

David Gullett's profile on BGG (davebo)
His many family-focussed Geeklists
True Colors (the game that led him to BGG!)
Games for the lunch hour: San Juan, Attika, Jambo, Lost Cities
Too geeky for work: Colossal Arena, Dungeon Twister, Memoir '44, Heroscape
ItsTime4Games podcast
Games we played with the kids: Diamant, Loco
German family games: Midnight Party, Gulo Gulo, Igloo Pop
American family games: Clue, Sorry, Careers, Life, Smarty Party Jr., Apples to Apples Jr.
Jake's favorites: Heroscape, Puerto Rico, Bang!

They're coming! Honest!

Apologies for taking so long to get these shows out. Really--they're very close. I'm proof-listening to the Gamer Dad episode with David Gullett now, and I've already recorded the All About Vinci show with David Arnott. Now, both of these shows are good, but long. Or maybe: good and long. The issue of show length is one I've brought up on the podcast a few times, and though most of the feedback says length is fine if the content is good, it's starting to bother me.

I think the solution is not to cut good content short, but to have more small shows interspersed with the big ones. Lately, even my session report shows have gotten long, and that's where I think I need to cut down. Or take a small topic (like my blogroll, or ordering games from Germany), and make a mini show of it, rather than combining topics into a big show. That way, there will be more varied content here. Not everything has to be the CD-busting interview or All About show.

However, that's what's in the queue now. There was the All About La Città show, and now these two biggies I'm currently working on. So for a little while longer it'll feel like BGTG is a long format podcast. And it will be, for particular shows. But I'm going to make an effort to squeeze in those bite-sized shows, too. I'd like your feedback on this plan.


P.S. In a week my family & I are headed to Hawaii for vacation. I'll have the laptop with us, but I'm not sure if I'll record any shows or not. I'd like to--it's fun for me and actually a perfectly fine thing to do on vacation--but we'll see. What I need to do is update the web page. There's some general cleanup I need to do here on the front page (getting rid of the poll, for instance), and I should post a few secondary pages (show archive, a thank-you page for contributors, and a how-to for my Skype setup).

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A show-and-a-half look forward

I'm wrapping up some editing on a show I recorded with David Gullett (davebo on BGG) about gamer dads, as well as his relatively recent entry to this hobby. Fun stuff, especially when we got both his kid and mine on the air for a few minutes near the end. There's just a little technical stuff on my end to work out and I'll get it posted here. (We actually recorded that podcast the day before I recorded All About La Città with Jonathan Degann.) Speaking of "technical stuff," I've now kicked off a little mailing list for fellow boardgame podcasters to share tips & techniques, ask questions & offer advice to each other, and so on. I've invited a number of current podcasters to the list already, but if I missed you out there, just come join us. And if anyone is thinking about starting a new podcast or just wants to hear more behind-the-scenes info, you're welcome, too. It's at .

Also, if you want another "homework assignment" to prepare for the next All About show, go play Vinci. That's the game I'm set to cover with returning guest BGTGer Dave Arnott. He did the All About Medici show with me some time ago, we played Vinci together just last night, and these podcasts are often a reflection of the sort of boardgame conversations we have over the phone. No, we're not geeks . . . :) Anyway, I'd guess that Vinci show is a couple weeks away. If possible, I'd love to get into the swing of giving everyone at least that much of a heads-up on upcoming All About shows. Sort of like those radio and tv-based book clubs.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Happy Birthday to BGTG!

In prepping that last show I missed the fact that the one-year anniversary for this podcast already came & went! I'd remembered it was sometime in March, but hadn't taken the time to find out exactly when. Then I spotted a "happy birthday" to me from Naturelich on his blog. Turns out it was on March 3rd, 2005, that I posted my first, awful epsiode. Nowhere to go but up after that!

Though I occasionally apologize, whine, or even complain about the sound quality, production schedule, or something else on the podcast, the truth is that I really enjoy it. It's fun for me to do, and the encouragement I get from you listeners makes it very rewarding.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

BGTG 53b - Mar 6, 2006 - All About La Città (with Jonathan Degann, part 2)

Here's part two of the podcast, the one where Jonathan and I get into La Città in detail. By the way, be sure to check out Eric Burgess' podcast Boardgame Babylon, which also features periodic episodes where he covers a single game in depth. In fact, he calls them his In Depth features. He's already done Caylus as a solo show, and recently did Ra with a second person.

La Città is one of the heavier or lengthier games I enjoy, and as such it's sort of a crossover hit between Jonathan and I. Though a little hard to track down now in English, it's supposed to be available for play-by-web on before too long, and the original German edition is still for sale from overseas mail order houses like Adam Spielt,, and so on. (Which reminds me . . . is there still any interest in a show about placing overseas orders? I learned to do that with Jonathan, as it were.)

After recording the podcast, I re-discovered a website that looks to be a personal site of the designer, Gerd Fenchel. It's got some very interesting material about the history of the game, including photographs, starting from a 6-hour prototype in 1992 that was set on Alpha Centauri! Later it was rethemed to ancient Greece before settling on Italian city-states in the renaissance. The designer credits the development team of TM Spiele (affiliated with Kosmos and including Klaus Teuber, as I understand) with tightening and shortening the game up. That development process is something I'm very curious about and am looking for opportunites to explore in a later podcast.

I'm trying to get the sense of what's being said on the web page by piping through an online translator . . . with all of the inaccuracies in language that method produces. I wonder if we could get someone to produce an english language translation of those pages? Oh, be sure to check out the photo-journal of this famous cities in Tuscany (the link called "Reise").


La Città
Designer Gerd Fenchel's home page
The Google-translated page about the history of the game's development

BGTG 53a - Mar 6, 2006 - All About La Città (with Jonathan Degann, part 1)

Finally! Another All About show, which are the sort that everyone seems to love best. This one was recorded with Jonathan Degann, who you may know from his opinions on mailing lists, his Game Theory 101 articles on The Games Journal, or most recently his own blog. Jonathan is someone I played with regularly for some time, when I was with the Left Coast Gamers. Then a few years ago I helped get the Santa Clarita Boardgamers going in my own town, though I still see Jonathan at SoCal Games Days and some other opportunities.

As I've done in the past, the show was long and interesting enough to split it into two parts. The first is talking with Jonathan about his background in the hobby and those writings of his. Then in the second part we get into the actual game discussion.

By the way, have you noticed my voice all over some other boardgame podcasts? I'm becoming an audio spammer! No, I just got in the swing of recording a response or question after listening to a podcast. I didn't think they'd all use them at once! :)


Earliest games: Clue, Life
3M titles: High Bid, Stocks & Bonds, Acquire
The dark years: Strategy & Tactics, Panzergruppe Guderian, bgg blackSmoker's Wild
Getting better?: Guerilla, Blackbeard
The Games Cabinet
A whole new world: Incognito, Modern Art, Elfenroads, El Grande, Settlers of Catan, Serenissima
Game Theory 101 articles on The Games Journal: Story Arc, The Bomb, Agonizing Decisions, Nervous Systems
A Fine Disregard, by Kirk Varnedoe (critical analysis and appreciation of modern art)
Jonathan's blog: Journal of Boardgame Design

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Homework assignment: La Città

Not really an assignment, but if you want to get the most out of the next All About show, maybe you'd like to refresh your memory about La Città. I recorded a two-parter with Jonathan Degann about his game analysis in general (part 1), and La Città in particular (part 2). It'll take me a day or three to finish it up.

If I had a little better control of my recording schedule, I'd love to give everyone about a one month heads-up on the All About shows, sort of like how a reading group shares a book title before the actual discussion. I think my next All About show will be Vinci, with Dave Arnott, but I can't be sure.

I've got another show "in the can," too--one talking about gamer-dads and being a new boardgamer in general with David Gullett (davebo on BGG). This one has kids--multiple kids!--on the show and will take a little more editing, too.


P.S. Sorry that the email address I give out for this podcast (linked above) filled up recently. If you sent something and it bounced, please send it again.