GWJ Conference Call Episode 280

Conference Call

Live From rabbitcon!, Artemis Live, Soul Calibur V, Skylanders, Lots of Board Games, Your Live Questions and more!

This week we recorded live at rabbitcon and talk about playing Artemis live, tons of boardgames and more. If you're really not into the board game thing, you've been warned. Back to video games in full force next week. Promise.

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined.

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Tech Thing Daily
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Good Old Games

Artemis Bridge Simulator
Soul Calibur V
Skylanders
Lords of Waterdeep
Wiz-War
Dominant Species
Revolution!
A Few Acres of Snow

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Crowdpleaser - SGX - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 44:49

Comments

I think it's just really hard to make a game that plays as well with 2 players as it does with 5. Larger games also are very hard to make smooth. Games like 7 Wonders are really a rarity, scaling so well from 3 to 7.

rabbit wrote:

I think it's just really hard to make a game that plays as well with 2 players as it does with 5. Larger games also are very hard to make smooth. Games like 7 Wonders are really a rarity, scaling so well from 3 to 7.

6 is the magic number I was thinking of, for three couples. Not really an issue (since we can't get two other couples over at the same time), but it's just something that's always struck me as <sunglasses> odd.

MeatMan wrote:
Certis wrote:

When I'm making comparisons between things like iPads and a Vita, I'm assuming used Apple stuff, not necessarily brand new. That brings you to parity.*

*Bought my iPad used when the iPad2 came out. Works great.

So a used iPad 1 and a brand new Vita = parity?

Sounds like apples and oranges to me.

Parity in cost. Man, you guys are nitpicky lately

Sad to see no one picked up Hollowpoint after my write-up on it last year. Figured it would have been right up RabbitCon's alley.

Great podcast! Twittered this before, but worth stating again...everyone seems like such nice people at RabbitCon. Would love to attend one day. If you'll have an internet friend over.

I have not played Dominant Species, but until hearing you guys discuss it, I really wanted to. Do any of you have any idea why your opinions are so out of step with the Boardgamegeek community? Of the 5000 geeks rating it, about 4000 rate it 8 or higher, generally translating to "I would play it any time." It's "weight" is rated heavy or medium-heavy by over 75%, which is undefined but probably means they consider it complex with deep strategy and lots of decisions.

I find that hard to reconcile with Alan's description (which Julian didn't really refute) that after 2 turns there is nothing but repetitive monotony. If I didn't respect you guys, I would assume the game just went over your heads, but I do, so that doesn't seem likely. Did you just happen to pick a strategic path which painted you into a corner? Did the BGG guys just fall in love with the theme or something like that which dodn't resonate with any of you guys?

Any thoughts?

Well, I pushed back on the idea of the "monotony" on the show but I know sometimes the non-negative view doesn't always resonate as strongly as the contrary one. I think Dominant Species is almost overloaded with interesting decisions to make every round. It's slow to learn and early on you feel like you're picking strategies and actions at random because there's so much to keep in mind.

I really like the concept and once we were rolling I felt like it was coming into focus. I just don't think it's a great pick up and play game in the middle of a big house party where there's a thousand other fun things to be doing and no one who deeply understand the game. Setting aside three hours and playing with people who all understand the game would be a rewarding, heady experience I think.

It might be best to think of our impressions of Dominant Species as a quick-hit. I know a lot of people (like 7inchsplit, for example) who love it. Could have just been the situation we were in while playing it.

As for why we don't line up with BoardGameGeek? I mean, we're four dudes compared to 5000 reviewers. Maybe they know something we don't.

Disclosure: I didn't play DS.

I for sure want to play it again, however I stand by the core issue here. There's essentially no evolution in the gameplay as the game progresses, whcih, for a 2-3 hour game, is a flaw. Yes, the BOARD develops and changes, but every decision you have in front of you in turn 2 is the same as the decisions you have in turn 20.

I don't dislike it -- its a brainburner -- but it seems rife for long plays with lots of analysis paralysis.

All this talk about board games has ballooned my amazon wishlist to 24 games and rising. Really, my wife should never wonder what to ever get me for gifts.

I found the talk about board games being played solo interesting. I find it funny that I would have no problem playing a game like LoTR Living card game in an electronic format. Sitting down and playing it on an iphone app, but there is that barrier to crack open the actual physical media to play. I actually really want to play the living card game, and don't have it yet, but I bet that if I did, I would suffer Cory's problem. I know currently I have wanted to play Arkham Horror by myself in order to learn the rules better, but just can't get past that barrier.

Yoreel wrote:

I actually really want to play the living card game, and don't have it yet, but I bet that if I did, I would suffer Cory's problem. I know currently I have wanted to play Arkham Horror by myself in order to learn the rules better, but just can't get past that barrier.

Which problem is that? I have so many.

One very good solo board game is "Friday": http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardga...

I've never come close to beating it yet, but it's fascinating and fun.. deckbuilding in a very novel way, and it's ONLY solo.

rabbit wrote:

Yes, the BOARD develops and changes, but every decision you have in front of you in turn 2 is the same as the decisions you have in turn 20.

I still can't wrap my head around this. Isn't it the same as Lords of Waterdeep, in that case? Or Revolution?

Demiurge wrote:

As for why we don't line up with BoardGameGeek? I mean, we're four dudes compared to 5000 reviewers. Maybe they know something we

To be clear, I'm not throwing out the BGG stats to try to prove anyone right or wrong, but just to try to understand the criticisms (and ultimately to decide if I want to go through the effort of learning the game. finding people to play with, etc.).

I think I'm getting a better picture that some of you feel that even if there are a lot of decisions to make, they don't change over the course of the game. I'm still not 100% sure if Alan felt that the turn 2 decision locked in his subsequent decisions or if he just independently came to the same decision over and over again.

Regardless, at this point I'm feeling enough encouragement to check it out myself and come to my own conclusions.

Certis wrote:
rabbit wrote:

Yes, the BOARD develops and changes, but every decision you have in front of you in turn 2 is the same as the decisions you have in turn 20.

I still can't wrap my head around this. Isn't it the same as Lords of Waterdeep, in that case? Or Revolution?

Yes, on Revolution, no on LoW. In LoW, the options available to you change every single turn as new intrigue cards are drawn and new buildigns are built. By the endgame, the central choices will be used far less. Your objectives also shift constantly as you aquire new quests.

Revolution actually suffers from the "more of the same" problem, even more than it used to with the expansion. Revolution, however, because of the blind bidding mechanic, at least has some more direct personal interaction going on. I like Revolution with 4 players and 12 spaces. With 6 and 16 it became a bit of a bore.

Makes me wonder if Dominant Species would avoid that if they phased in certain choices over a few rounds rather than having everything available right from the start.

Certis wrote:

Makes me wonder if Dominant Species would avoid that if they phased in certain choices over a few rounds rather than having everything available right from the start.

Wouldn't that just be prolonging the point at which the game becomes a static set of choices? If the issues is a lack of variation in your options from turn to turn, phasing in choices over time would just push back that lack of variation from turn one to turn three or five or fifteen. You'll still hit a point where every turn sees you facing identical decisions, which seems to be what Rabbit's issue is.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Certis wrote:

Makes me wonder if Dominant Species would avoid that if they phased in certain choices over a few rounds rather than having everything available right from the start.

Wouldn't that just be prolonging the point at which the game becomes a static set of choices? If the issues is a lack of variation in your options from turn to turn, phasing in choices over time would just push back that lack of variation from turn one to turn three or five or fifteen. You'll still hit a point where every turn sees you facing identical decisions, which seems to be what Rabbit's issue is.

Considering I'm finding Julian's critism to be arbitrary, I figured an arbitrary rule change would be a good fit

Sorry, cheap shot! Really though, I think situationally Dominant Species flows and changes which demands you constantly re-think strategy and make different choices. No new "buildings" or "quests" per say, but circumstance and landmass are in constant flux.

Speaking of Dominant Species, the suggestion that using only half of the cards might make it a better game got me thinking that house rules for boardgames could make a good podcast topic.

In a way, modding video games is a continuation of tweaking boardgames, except that it's still easier to change the rules of a board game than those of a PC or console game.

Or should I wait until right before the next rabbitcon, and then send that suggestion via email?

Valmorian wrote:

One very good solo board game is "Friday": http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardga...

I've never come close to beating it yet, but it's fascinating and fun.. deckbuilding in a very novel way, and it's ONLY solo.

I picked this up last week, and it was very good. I did manage to win my first game, but it has 4 levels, so you can work on beating the game at a harder setting.

The core mechanic is picking one of two challenges that emerge from a deck. Based on the challenge you draw a certain number of cards representing Robinson Crusoe. You can draw more cards using life points (which starts at 20 but fluctuates both up and down during the game). If you win, the challenge is added to your Crusoe deck as a benefit which is printed on the side. If you lose you pay some life points, and then you can chose to remove some Crusoe cards from the game that were used on that challenge. You need to win challenges to get better cards, but also lose challenges to thin out the crap on your deck. Did I mention that every time you cycle thorough your Crusoe deck you get an aging card added(which is always a crap card)? Also, once you get though the challenge deck, you cycle through again, but now the challenges are harder. Eventually you have to fight two bands of pirates to see if you win. If at any time you need to spend life points and you don't have any, you lose.

The game was made by Friedemann Friese (of Power Grid fame), and it is very well produced. Thumbs up.

Also, please try out the Lord of the Rings Card game solo. It works very well (and the play is not like Warhammer card game at all). I've only played it solo, but I keep collecting the cards because they are just so damn nice to look at. Out of the box, the game can only play one or two anyway.

Did I mention that Le Havre is a great solo game too? I'll shut up now

misplacedbravado wrote:

... got me thinking that house rules for boardgames could make a good podcast topic.

In a way, modding video games is a continuation of tweaking boardgames, except that it's still easier to change the rules of a board game than those of a PC or console game.

Seconded!

Especially interesting to me is why you guys choose to play a given game, series, or genre on PC versus consoles when modding is available. Why would someone want to only play shooters/RPGs/action games on PC because of modding (and not controls, physical comfort, or extra polygons), but shooters/RPGs/action games only on consoles, whereas the others on the show differ? What makes you interested in modding one particular game, series, or genre, but not others?

On the tabletop side, how open to house rules are your gaming groups, and are there any patterns to that acceptance? The groups I attend only rarely allow straying from the official rules and errata, probably for consistency and because we all try to play so many, many games. Does one have to become an expert at a particular game to do a reasonable job of changing its mechanics?

Regarding gateway board games:

After years of playing Milton Bradley games, and testing the wargame waters with Heroscape, I was introduced to some games at PAX East:

Munchkin and Carcassonne.

I bought copies of them to introduce to my wife, and we loved them. Then we moved on to Bohnanza. And then on to Dominion. Next is Ticket to Ride (we haven't cracked the cellophane on that one yet.)

Oh, and I preordered a game on Kickstarter that's based on the webcomic Schlock Mercenary. It's due out in March.

No, Carcassonne doesn't introduce new or interesting mechanics-- it's basically dominos with a territory control mechanic-- but it does introduce people to a world of games that don't involve plastic gingerbread men. If you want to introduce someone to grown-up board games that are not charades, Carcassonne is a good place to introduce the possibility of the grown-up-board game.

(The hard part, for me, was finding interesting games that allow for only two players. It's just me and my wife until my kids get a bit older (I've got 4th ed DnD secreted away for when they grow a bit older. If anyone was ever a tank, it's my son.) The only reason I haven't bought Settlers of Cataan is because it says you need at least 3 to 4 players, which I don't have on hand.)

UPDATE:

I just wanted to add an aside that congratulates the members of the conference call for talking mostly about games that are actually purchasable, or will be in the near future.

Seems like every other time you've gotten into board games you get me absolutely sold on something that went out of print three years ago and now costs $400. *cough*War of the Ring*cough* *hack*Space Hulk*hack*

@Aristophan: Planning on trying it Saturday morning. I'll follow up.

@doubtingthomas396: War of the Ring just got reprinted. It's affordable again. Highly recommended.

mwdowns wrote:

Sad to see no one picked up Hollowpoint after my write-up on it last year. Figured it would have been right up RabbitCon's alley.

Great podcast! Twittered this before, but worth stating again...everyone seems like such nice people at RabbitCon. Would love to attend one day. If you'll have an internet friend over. ;)

The way things work out, there are generally only 2-4 people running games over the weekend, though they may run those games multiple times. I wouldn't be surprised to see Hollowpoint show up eventually, though--the style matches some of the things the rabbittears tend to enjoy.

Certis wrote:
ClockworkHouse wrote:
Certis wrote:

Makes me wonder if Dominant Species would avoid that if they phased in certain choices over a few rounds rather than having everything available right from the start.

Wouldn't that just be prolonging the point at which the game becomes a static set of choices? If the issues is a lack of variation in your options from turn to turn, phasing in choices over time would just push back that lack of variation from turn one to turn three or five or fifteen. You'll still hit a point where every turn sees you facing identical decisions, which seems to be what Rabbit's issue is.

Considering I'm finding Julian's critism to be arbitrary, I figured an arbitrary rule change would be a good fit

Sorry, cheap shot! Really though, I think situationally Dominant Species flows and changes which demands you constantly re-think strategy and make different choices. No new "buildings" or "quests" per say, but circumstance and landmass are in constant flux.

It may well have been that we were in a house full of other fun things, but about halfway through the card deck we were all visibly antsy. If the card deck had been 30% shorter, I think we would have stuck it out, but as it was, we were all ready for a break. I think that's when food was starting to get served, too.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

(The hard part, for me, was finding interesting games that allow for only two players. It's just me and my wife until my kids get a bit older (I've got 4th ed DnD secreted away for when they grow a bit older. If anyone was ever a tank, it's my son.) The only reason I haven't bought Settlers of Cataan is because it says you need at least 3 to 4 players, which I don't have on hand.)

I STRONGLY suggest Lord of the Rings:The Confrontation. Fantasy Flight Games has a "deluxe" version available now. Probably the best 2 player game I've played in a long time..

Also Innovation is very good, if a bit chaotic.

Valmorian wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

(The hard part, for me, was finding interesting games that allow for only two players. It's just me and my wife until my kids get a bit older (I've got 4th ed DnD secreted away for when they grow a bit older. If anyone was ever a tank, it's my son.) The only reason I haven't bought Settlers of Cataan is because it says you need at least 3 to 4 players, which I don't have on hand.)

I STRONGLY suggest Lord of the Rings:The Confrontation. Fantasy Flight Games has a "deluxe" version available now. Probably the best 2 player game I've played in a long time..

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation is GREAT. One of my favorites with two players.

I personally do not care for Catan at all, but friends of mine (husband and wife) play Catan with just themselves quite frequently, and they enjoy it.

There are plenty of other games out there that play well with two.

I sometimes (rarely) play with a group, and mostly with my fiance, so the majority of games in my collection can handle 4-8, but also play very well with two. If you want some suggestions, let me know.

Certis wrote:

Really though, I think situationally Dominant Species flows and changes which demands you constantly re-think strategy and make different choices. No new "buildings" or "quests" per say, but circumstance and landmass are in constant flux.

I have to say, that although I think DS is much too long for what it is (just like Chad's follow up - Urban Sprawl), I wonder what you guys meant when you said unlike Caylus or Agricola, nothing was changing. Yes, you conceded that the board and populations were in constant flux, but the Domination cards are the backbone of that game, and they are always changing. I'm failing to see how those are different from new buildings in Caylus or new cards in 'gric.

And regarding "gateway" games. I think that 7 Wonders is an OK choice. It has some great things going for it, but it also has some real obstacles.

Its great that you pay the cost to build things, and those building give you either immediate or long term benefits, but its totally wonky that players don't actually receive any resources, and that even if you produce 1 wood each turn, you can use 1 and so can both of your neighbors.

Some of my favorite gateway games?
Stone Age, Airlines Europe, Kingsburg, Airships, Thurn and Taxis, Thebes, and almost anything from the Kosmos Two Player line.

doubtingthomas,

My favorite two-player game? Quarto! It's an abstract strategy game that is is an excellent three-moves-ahead game, it only takes 10 minutes per game, and it's very inexpensive. You give your opponent his/her piece to place, then they give you your next piece! Intrigued?

If you're looking for a two-player game that is co-op instead of 1v1, maybe look into Forbidden Island, which is like Pandemic but only takes a short time to learn and play. I'm not sure how well it plays with just two, anyone? The BGG forums seem to show that it certainly can be a worthwhile time doing so.

Also on the co-op front, (only) if you are not afraid to play console games like Dark Souls and Ninja Gaiden, I might recommend you try playing Ghost Stories. I've played the crap out of the excellent iPad version. Victory percent? 10-20%

Good luck!

Regarding gateway games: while 7 Wonders is easy to play, the scoring system is pretty complicated. I'm not sure it's a great choice for introducing people to board games because it's easy to play the game and feel like you're doing well, only to get completely destroyed in the final scoring because some other player got some good guilds or built all the science - nasty surprises like that can end up souring new players on a game, and once they've had a bad experience like that they might be more reluctant to try other games.

There's also very little direct interaction between players.

I think a good gateway game is one with:
- a simple scoring mechanic that provides immediate feedback, e.g. something with point tokens or a scoring track.
- lots of player interaction. The social element is an integral part of board gaming, and it's good to highlight that.

I think that's one of the reasons Catan is so popular as a gateway game; it's really easy to count cities and settlements to see who's winning, and the trading mechanic adds a lot of social interaction and gives players something to do even when it's not their turn. It may not be the greatest board game for experienced gamers, but for introducing new players to the genre it works pretty well.

Bought Wiz-War based on the talk on the Conference call as a backup game for times when we end up with fewer people. Took it with me tonight.

Got there and we ended up playing Dominion and nothing else.

Was a blast though, so I really can't complain

Hi guys --

Great podcast - love rabbitcon episodes, since i love hearing alcohol-infused love of gaming (esp. boardgaming) in adults.

Few comments:

1. Thanks for the Lords of Waterdeep recommendation. My gaming buddies and I actually love the adventure system (Ashardalon), and I'm kinda digging where WoTC has been taking their boardgame design. Even Conquest of Nerath is a good time, if you like the dudes-on-a-map thing. This new game sounds great.

2. Random game recommendation for newbies: Fresco. A light Eurogame that looks fantastic and has a theme that especially appeals to women and non-geeks.

3. Playing solitaire. I do it a lot, and I don't feel guilty saying so. Right now, I'm pretty obsessed with the LoTR LCG that was mentioned. It's actually a great solo-game. Also recommend Ghost Stories and Pandemic (both coop games that I actually think play better with one vs. many).

Late listening to this but Demyx and I are delightfully addicted to Quarriors which came up in the discussion. I agree it's a little tricky to explain to non-gamers due to the fiddly rules (in particular the M:tG-esque combat) but the big expansion coming in June has revised rules which I think are available online.

Also, Cash n' Guns is a lot of fun with the right crew. Had a great time playing that at one of the KoL mini-cons a few years back.