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

Saturday, July 16, 2011

BGTG 115 - Spiel des Jahres, Then & Now

The recent announcement of the Spiel des Jahres winner, Qwirkle, gave me the good idea to play that game well as the excuse to talk about a handful of other SdJ winners I've played "recently." Ok, not really that recent, but there was a game party last year when I specifically wanted to concentrate on games from 1999 or earlier. Quite by accident, I found myself concentrating on some SdJ winners from that earlier decade. It shouldn't have been a surprise, I suppose--the Spiel des Jahres jury is very deliberate in its selection of games it thinks will be modern classics, good for pleasant experiences around a game table for family & friends. That focus runs counter to what some gamers want in a deeper, strategic challenge, but it happens to line up nicely with what I like in a game. For me, I've got enough mental challenge in my day job. I don't need my fun & relaxation to be brainless, just a little less taxing than my workweek. The SdJ winners do that for me.

Games like Settlers of Catan, Mississippi Queen, and Drunter & Druber (Wacky Wacky West) were like revisiting favorite books or familiar movies, while Cafe International was an old classic I no longer care for. Torres is a more complex SdJ winner than others liked more than me, but I still enjoy playing it once in a great while. I cheat a little and consider Bohnanza an honorary SdJ game, since it was an unusual card game that made the nomination list.

Even now, the SdJ jury is making selections that rub some gamers the wrong way, but I think time will show the value of their choices. Qwirkle is light & pleasant--a common reaction is surprise that no one thought of it before! But it took Susan McKinley Ross to do that, and now we've got a game I could see playing in 20 years, unlike many others on my shelf. Time may pass those titles by. For the brand, new Kennerspiel, I agree that 7 Wonders is lighter than expected for new prize, but I also agree that it's a landmark game. We felt that way when Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, and Dominion appeared on the scene. They were so good, they just had to be picked to win an award.


Monday, July 04, 2011

BGTG 114 - Party Games for Shy Boardgamers (with David Gullett)

You may think it's odd or ridiculous that a guy who hosts a boardgame podcast feels uncomfortable in some social party games due to the putting-yourself-out-there part of them. But that's exactly how I feel, and my suspicion is that other boardgamers may feel the same. Meanwhile, there are clearly a bunch of other people--including boardgamers--who really enjoy the fun, laughs, and camaraderie that party games deliver. In fact, they do a lot better delivering that payoff than a euro about banking in Renaissance Italy ever could! :-)

For this discussion, I brought one of those party+boardgame enthusiasts on the program--frequent guest David Gullett. Besides our general discussion about what makes party games tick, we debate a bunch of party game types, and spend most of the show talking about some specific titles like Times Up, Telestrations, and Wits & Wagers.Along the way, I discover that I like some types considerably more than others, and the stumbling block with some appears to be performance anxiety (of the "stage fright" variety--not the other kind!).


Fine print: Thanks to Northstar Games for a review copy of Say Anything Family.