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

Friday, March 20, 2009

BGTG 91 - 2008 Year in Review (with Dave Arnott)

What started as one show with two topics ended up being two shows. This is the first part, where Dave Arnott and I reflect on 2008. That means talking about our games played, totals as well as "fives & dimes." We also consider which were are favorite releases or discoveries in 2008. Along the way are some inevitable discussions about online plays, whether realtime (e.g. brettspielwelt, Game Table Online) or play-by-web (e.g. Mabiweb, Spielbyweb).



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you tell me the name and gist of the 3-player Settlers of Catan variant Dave alluded to?

3:53 AM  
Blogger Mark Johnson said...

There was one nicknamed the "Settlers of Iowa" after the shape of the map with some hexes removed. The idea was to reduce the map so that a 3-player game had the same tight competition for good spots that the normal 4-player version does. I'm not sure if that's what Dave meant or not.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great show as usual.

This is more aimed at Dave. (Not sure if he checks here).

He mentioned a few times the easy play line. I recently stumbled across them and would like to see a quick ranking/summary of the games by Dave.

Which are his favorite and why?

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the podcast. I have never really keep track of what I have played. I tried a little on BGG but it just is not me. I really don't care and I only did it to be able to participate in the nickel and dimes. I care more about what other people have played because that has helped me find some cool gems. I am not off to learn DOG.

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Dave Arnott said...

Hey, All,

Been sick for that last few days.

Settlers Variant: I know it as Settlers Turnier, as that's what it is called on Brettspielwelt. I'm pretty sure that's German for "Tournament," but I couldn't find any links online that explained it (something just for BSW, maybe?), so here it is...

The ONLY difference is in initial placement. Place your first SETTLEMENT and road as usual. Player 1, then 2, then 3. Then place in reverse order, but this time with a CITY and a road. Player 3, then 2, then 1. And then, starting from Player 1, all players place a THIRD road - Player 1, then 2, then 3. This road must, of course, follow road-placement rules, building off of one of your existing roads, or your settlement or city.

Then play the game as normal, starting with Player 1.

Oh... your initial starting cards are given out as in the NORMAL game and are NOT doubled even though you placed a city to collect them. So the most commodity cards you can start with is still 3. But, of course, your production during the game is doubled on your city numbers, like a normal city would.

It's a much faster game, as you might imagine, since all players have greater production, and also start with 3 VP now instead of 2VP... and also, due to the extra road, you will usually have an immediate spot to build on, assuming an earlier player's third road didn't totally cut you off :)

But in addition to being faster, having that second placement be a city seems to tighten the board up for some weird reason, which was always my one problem with 3-player Settlers: the board was too open, with not a lot of fighting for position.

I have only played this variant online, by the way, but I can't imagine I'd like it any less face-to-face.

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Dave Arnott said...

Here's the thing about Easy Play: when I compared them to Alea, I didn't mean that the games from each were necessarily comparable. Nothing in the Easy Play line is as good as Ra, or Chinatown, or Taj Mahal, or Princes of Florence, or Puerto Rico. But nor are they trying to be.

What I meant was this: like Alea, every game I've played (so far) in the Easy Play line is a good solid game that I like. Someone there, in my opinion, is doing a great job developing and overseeing their line, but make no mistake, the Easy Play games are all meant to be lighter, "fluffier" games. Fillers, as well as the Mike Siggins coined "super-fillers."

You know... EASY to play.

My favorite is probably the lightest one: FINITO. In fact, this is really more of a puzzle-race than it is a game, kind of like Take It Easy but with a die. Or Wurffle Bingo, if it were actually Bingo in the sense that all players are "racing" to finish their board first. There is no player interaction, so this is definitely going to be a hit-or-miss game, and it is light light light - we usually play 3 or 4 games of this in a row, and that only takes us about 30 minutes total - but most people I've introduced it to have enjoyed it.

BURGENLAND is probably next, but this one's only for 2 players. Be warned though: the first few games you play can be total blowouts, as it takes a game or two to assess risk/reward here.

I've only played DRACHEN WURF once, but it's essentially a more gamery version of Yahtzee Free-For-All. In fact, the similarities bewtween the two of them are enough that I totally thought they were from the same designer (Yahtzee being the US licensed version), but they are surprisingly not related at all.

You can go to boardgamegeek for more detailed descriptions, but what all three have in common is DICE, and the risk/reward (and luck) that comes with that. Me, I like "family" dice games, as well as "family" games that use dice (I'm using that "family" tag to separate dice games from, say, wargames or D&D, neither of which I care for). And what's cool is that these three use dice in very different ways from each other.

But if dice ain't your thing...

Then maybe try BIG POINTS. No dice here. And though this is my least favorite, it is arguably the game considered to be the "best" in the line by most other people. And I can see why, as it's a fine, solid game, similar to Tutankhamen, but has kinda the same problem for me as Tutankhamen, and that's the end game scoring/kingmaking, though it's dealt with MUCH better in Big Points. And my "least" is relative here, I'd be willing to play this if someone suggested it.

I haven't played, or even seen, the others: TIKI TOPPLE or the one I suspect could be my new favorite, LOS BANDITOS - Knizia's dice version of his card game, Schotten-Totten, a game I already rate a 10.

But again, none of these are, say, higher than 7's for me. And other than Finito, I haven't really played them a lot to see how they "wear." It was just a really cool surprise last year to see such a nice level of consistancy from one line.

6:17 PM  
Anonymous Daniel Brown said...

Thanks Dave for all the info on the Easy Play games. I appreciate you taking the time to be on the podcast with Mark. I think Mark is at his best sometimes when he has a partner on the podcast.

9:22 AM  
Anonymous davebo said...

Logging computer plays is wrong, wrong, wrong, and I refuse to listen to any logical arguments that may sway my opinion.

I enjoyed the show, however, after I mentally filtered out all of those abomination plays. Perhaps I'll put out my own remix version of your podcast, more fit for discerning adults.

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoy listening to your shows Mark... On my way to work this morning, I found myself chuckling at your Pandemic - inspired "three blue cubes in New York" comment in relation to a local flu outbreak....and this is the same morning on which the national headlines are all focused on the swine flu, and in particular its outbreak in Queens...

Regardless, I thought it a very funny anecdote for the rest of us boardgamers.

Keep up the great podcasts!


5:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the power of BGTG I immediately bought Dog and Los Banditos (which I had been looking for for a while) from This was a pretty great experience so thanks for that show a while back on buying from! Shipping was 15 Euro but the games were super cheap because they remove the VAT. I think I paid a total of 45 US including the 15 Euro shipping. I also noticed they have a lot of stuff I have paid way too much getting from US online retailers. I'll be doing this again. I already love Burgenland (and Battle Line and Sorry ;-)) so I think these will be hits.

6:13 PM  

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