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The results are in!

A few weeks ago, I launched a survey to my mailing list of users.  Of the 2,479 invitations sent out, there were 655 responses – 512 were complete responses and 143 were partial.   Here’s a quick take on what was most interesting.

 

Let’s start with the Holy Crap observation – Look how many folks have more than 100 games!

 

More than half of those responded have more than 100 games.  No wonder the game hobby is expanding so quickly!   In the future, I’ll need to up the scale to find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes…

The next question was about how often people visit boardgamegeek.com.  About 60 % either daily or a few times a week.

Favorite Game Designer?  A word cloud to highlight the top responses.  Not too surprising, except I didn’t expect Steve Jackson to make the list.

 

 

Where do most folks who visit GameKnight.com live?

and finally….the favorite board games of those who participated in the survey!

Thank you to all who took the time to participate in the survey.

 

 

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Can you believe how big this version of Bruges is?

Giant Bruge

After playing a few ‘giant’ games at Origins last year, it became clear that playing a game on a large scale version was a lot of fun.  On the drive back to New York, it occurred to me in a moment of utter clarityGiant Bruges!  Immediately, the idea started to take hold, and I began brainstorming on how to upsize my favorite game of all time.

I thought it would be good to share my experience with this project, in the hopes that it might inspire others to transform their favorite game into a giant sized masterpiece of gaming goodness.

The project by making a list of all of the components, and jotting down notes about suitable large size replacements. Logically, determining how large the board should be is one of the first decisions to make as it guides many of the other decisions that will follow.

The Board

One of the considerations for board size is picking one that will fit on a table.   Using measurements from the table in my Game Room, I determined the largest board that would fit.

Once I knew roughly how big I wanted to make it, I started looking into how I might go about getting the game board printed and mounted.  After some research, I found a company called Print & Play Productions.  They specialize in game parts, custom prototypes, and print & play games.   I ended up ordering a 2 piece board.  Each 13″ x 9″ section would fold 4 times.  Resulting in an overall board size of 35 1\2″ by 49 1\2″.  The cost of the board was about 50 bucks.

The next step was to figure out how to transform the small board into the right size.  My initial attempt was to try to obtain a high resolution file from the publisher (Z-Man), but as I suspected that didn’t happen.  My fallback was to scan the board using a scanner.   In order to keep the graphics looking good when upscaled, I decided to scan at 600 dpi. Fair Warning – scanning at 600 DPI will produce some pretty big files.

Since the board would not fit on my small home scanner, I ended up scanning it twice and then merged the two images together using Photoshop.   While in Photoshop, I adjusted the size as needed to fit the board size available at the printing site.

Here’s a image showing the regular size board and my oversized version.

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Workers

After finding a good solution for the game board, I decided to tackle replacing the workers component. In the box, these are just your basic meeples in the 5 colors used throughout Bruges (yellow, brown, blue, purple, and red).   I created a template to make these about 3″ tall.  I decided to make these about 5\8″ thick so that they will easily stand on their own. Eventually, I’d love to have someone paint the meeples with faces and clothes to make them look like different types of workers.  For now, they are simply spray painted with a coat of matte clear finish.  Lucky for me, my father is pretty handy with a scroll saw and the only cost was spray paint in the appropriate colors.

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Threat markers

The game includes a bunch of pie wedge shaped threat markers.   If during the game a player receives the 3rd marker of one type (completing the pie), the threat triggers and the player suffers the negative consequence.  In Bruge, there are 5 different types of threats. Figuring out how to represent these in my giant version was difficult.  I wanted to maintain consistency with the colors of the threats, but find something more fun to represent them.   For consistency, I wanted to find replacement items that were in the 2-3 inch size if possible.

Let’s start with Plague which seemed to be the easiest.  Since this component has a picture of a rat, I did some shopping online for small plastic rats.  These were pretty easy to find.   The trade-off is that the plastic rats are black, but the actual threat marker is brown.  A small trade-off that I decided I would accept.  Cost: $13

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The next threat marker was a bit more complicated to decide on.  What item would be good to represent a flood?  I pondered this for a while, and eventually decided on small watering cans.  I found these at a site that specializes in wedding favors.   They were blue in color, so that would work pretty well.    Cost: $11

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For the Raid markers (lose all your guilders), I found something that would work perfectly – an Angry Mob Playset – but unfortunately it is no longer being produced and the prices were more than I was willing to spend.  Eventually I ended up picking up some pirates.  I found these were available from Toobs.   They even happened to have a yellow(ish) base, so they would work well. Cost: $21

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The fire markers were also a challenge. I spent time searching for miniature campfire figures, torches, and other things. Not having luck, I landed on cutting these out of wood. Lucky for me my father is a pro with his scroll saw, so making these was not a big effort.  My first attempt was to create them about 1\2″ thick, but they didn’t stand up very well.  To address this problem, I decided to make them thinner and include a slotted base to hold them upright.  This worked very well.  A bit of hot glue in the bottom of the base did the trick. Cost:  The only cost involved was some spray paint from the Home Depot.

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After finding success with the fire threat markers, I decided to use the same approach for the Intrique threat markers.  With some image searching on the web, I found a good drawing of a hand holding a dagger.   Again, created a slotted based to hold the 1/4″ thick cutout. Cost:  The only cost involved was some spray paint from the Home Depot.

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Canal Tokens:

Since the canal tokens must fit in specific spaces on the board, I measured the spaces on the board, and found that these should be 1″ x 2″ .  To replace these components, my approach was to custom create wooden tokens, but I decided to use a router to add a wave-like design on the top. Cost:  The only cost involved was some spray paint from the Home Depot.

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Score\Influence track markers

The player markers used on the score track & influence track were a pretty simple decision.  I upsized these using the markers that came in the box, just scaled them to fit appropriately on the larger game board. Cost:  The only cost involved was some spray paint from the Home Depot.

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Money (guilders)

There really wasn’t much of a decision to make on this one – I decided to use GameChips.  Maybe in the future, I’ll work on getting custom chips made to match the color and designs of the guilders, but for now I’m more than happy to use these.

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Majority markers

For the Majority markers, I wanted something very visible from across the table.  I landed on making wooden cutouts to represent each of the majorities (influence, people, and canals).  The cutouts fit into a slotted wooden holder.

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Giant Dice

When I went to Origin’s 2015, I found some giant sized dice to use.  Cost: ~50.00

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Statue Tokens: 

My initial concept for Statue tokens was to order trophies engraved with the value of points awarded.   While I still think I may eventually take this direction, but in the short term,  I once again ended up solving this component with a scroll saw.  I found a nice silhouette of an oscar statue to use.   Cost:  The only cost involved was some spray paint from the Home Depot.

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What about the cards?

Bruges uses cards as a main element of game play. I had considered making larger card versions, but ultimately, it came down to playability. Holding, shuffling, and having room to place the cards on the table were the main reason I decided to stick with using the cards that came with the game. At some point, perhaps I’ll try making some jumbo cards to see if it would improve or detract from the game play.

The Wrap up:

The first play of the new set occurred at Origin’s 2015.  It look about a full year from idea to completion of the set.  With all expenses factored in, I believe the cost of making this set was about $165, and a fair amount of labor. If you are thinking about making an upsized version of your game, it’s a fun project that needs a fair amount of planning especially if you are picking a game with many different components.

If you have questions or comments, please feel free to post them below!

 

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Great games in disguise

Did you ever see or hear about a game that and think that the game has no appeal, but after playing it, you found it to be a great game?

I was recently listening to an episode of the Secret Cabal Podcast recently, and one of the hosts explained how he had avoided Concordia for a long time.  After playing it, he realized how great the game was.

I have felt the same about many games over the years, so I thought I’d make a list. Feel free to let me know about others that you encountered that ended up being a great game despite your initial judgment.

 

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Concordia – So many gamers have probably backed away from this one just due to the box art. The artwork does this fine game injustice.  With a geek rating of 7.84 (at the time of this writing), the game is very highly rated.

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Coal Baron – “has players sending meeple miners underground to dig tunnels and acquire coal, which comes in four levels of quality and which is used to fulfill contracts.”   Oh my – that doesn’t sound good.  Luckily the game play is much better than it’s there.  The theme of running a mining operation wasn’t one that I would have expected to like, but after a few plays I found this game to be a great medium weight euro with a strong worker placement mechanic.

 goaGOA  – ” a strategy game of auctions and resource management, is set at the start of the 16th century: beautiful beaches, a mild climate, and one of the most important trading centers in the world. Competing companies deal in spices, send ships and colonists into the world, and invest money. Are you on top or at the bottom? It depends on how you invest your profits. Will you make your ships more efficient? Enhance your plantations? Recruit more colonists? Only a steady hand in business will help.”  If that’s not bad enough, the box art is very bland too.   As it turns out, the game is actually a great auction game.

Agricola – “In Agricola, you’re a farmer in a wooden shack with your spouse and little else. Onagicola a turn, you get to take only two actions, one for you and one for the spouse, from all the possibilities you’ll find on a farm: collecting clay, wood, or stone; building fences; and so on“.   Surprising, the theme absolutely works for this game, and eventually you’ll find yourself proud of how you scrapped by and built a fine little farm.   Agricola is one of the top rated board games on BGG.   As a gamer, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try.

endeavorEndeavor by Z-Man Games is a game that looks bland based on the board design and components.  When one of my gaming group set the game up to play, I thought to myself here comes another dry euro – I was pleasantly surprised to find such a great game.   This one is currently out of print, so might be hard to find, but worth a play if you have the chance.

hoity toityHoity Toity – possibly the worst named game of this list.  I’m guessing it was somehow a translation issue.   Hoity Toity is a fairly simple game about set collecting sets of old ‘junk’ that you players will be showing off.   If you can get past the unfortunate name, the game is pretty fun, especially with larger player counts.
It’s a game designed by Klaus Teuber of “Settlers of Catan” fame.

The next great game in disguise is my favorite game, Bruges.  When a friend picked this up a brugesOrigin’s a few years back, I took one look at the dour looking folks on the box and thought “Oh No…this looks awful”.  After a play or two, I realized that this was such an amazing game.  In fact, I’m hoping to visit the city of Bruges at some point based on how much I have enjoyed this game.
The moral of the story, is look beyond the art and components before throwing a game aside.
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8 of the Worst Gaming Kickstarters…EVER

kickstarter-logo-k-colorInspired by a recent thread that I found on the ‘geek.  I started compiling a list of the worst Kickstarters.   I’ve mostly limited this to Kickstarters that have videos, as that increases the entertainment value, but there are many horrific projects that don’t even take the time to post a video.

Before we start – these projects are so awful that you’ll probably hate yourself for even looking at them.  You have been warned.

First up is one called “Get in The Chase” – apparently looking for $250,000 dollars, but only finding 3 backers chipping in a total of 7 dollars towards this disaster of a project.

#2 on this list of the bottom of the Kickstarter barrel is one named Heaven.  Needing $46,500 but finding only 4 backers and $381 dollars.  The video is 40 seconds long and must be seen to be believed.  I’m still trying to remove this from my memory.

#3 is called “The ‘Planet Kit‘ and it’s very deserving of a spot on this list. Falling far short of it’s goal of $88,000.

#4 must have been inspired by the Jump to Conclusions mat, this one is called “The Push“.  This one only found a single backer willing to support it.

#5 was cancelled – “20th Century @ War” –   it feel short of it’s target of 1.745 million dollars to make a massive 3′ x 7′ game.

#6 – “Pegasus : The Next Generation In Abstract Strategy Games” – found 14 backers, but the $38 dollars pledged fell far short of the 300k needed to produce this.   The music in the video will make you press the stop button long before you reach the end of this.

#7 – “Let’s Go Crabbing” – Looking for 35k, backed by 5 backers for $81.    The video is cringeworthy.

#8 – “CENTERPIECE small box holds a full sized board game” – Might be my favorite video – WTF is happening in this one… surprisingly it found $615 of funding.

 

 

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Building the Ultimate Game Room – Part 5: Done?

finished room 417

It’s been awhile since the last Ultimate Game Room post.   After about a 6 week build, the room is now complete.

This picture shows the before and after taken from roughly the same vantage point. The oak beam in the after picture is in the location of the removed wall.

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For game shelving I opted for the Ikea Kallax shelves.   There are 3 of the 4×4 cube units, and 2  of the 2×4 cube units.

This next picture shows the room from the opposite side.   This was were the original garage area was.

The last remaining thing I’d like to do is to get different chairs.  The rolling chairs were Staples specials from about 5 years ago and they are quite worn.

I’d love to get some of the matching Geek Chic chairs, but at $800 per chair I need to explore more cost effective options.

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Innovation in Gaming

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By Dave Breen

What’s next in gaming innovation?

I’m a big fan of mobile technology like smartphones and tablets.  I frequently watch heated debates about innovation versus copying on tech blog sites like Engadget and Gizmodo.  These discussions got me wondering about innovation in gaming.  My main focus was on ” What were the major innovations in the past, and what might we expect in the future?”

My first stop was at Wikipedia to find a definition of innovation.  I found that innovation is “the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulate needs, or existing market needs.”

Given this broad definition, I believe it would be fair to say that innovation can range from minor refinements of an existing idea to ground-breaking revolutionary ideas.  It’s also important to consider another factor, the adoption rate for the new idea.  Critical mass is the word commonly used to describe the point at which an innovation achieves a rate of adoption that is self-sustaining and will continue to grow.

In tabletop gaming, there have been a few major innovations in the past 50 years that were so impactful that they changed the hobby.

Revolutionary Innovations:

2013 10 11 GK_innovation_post 2361Dungeon’s & Dragons® – The invention of the Role-Playing Game would be considered a revolutionary innovation.  Gary Gygax’s inspiration inventing D&D was his fondness for the Medieval period coupled with this interest in wargaming and miniatures.  It spawned an entire new game genre and likely was the event that led to the development of  computer based RPGs, and MMOs.

Magic: the Gathering® – The invention of the Collectable Card Game (CCG) was another example of a major innovation in gaming. Richard Garfield pointed to Cosmic Encounter as one of the primary sources of inspiration that led to the creation of MTG.

Evolutionary Innovations:

Not every innovation is ground-breaking.  Here are some examples of ideas that more evolutionary than revolutionary.

Cooperative games– likely have their roots in the Role Playing Games where players had to work2013 10 11 GK_innovation_post 2360together a team.  Pandemic is often cited as the game that has spread the virus (yes I went there) for the cooperative game genre.

Deck-building games – emerged as a refinement of Collectable Card Games – the grand-daddy of the deck building genre, Dominion, is credited for launching this innovative design.

Worker Placement – a novel game mechanic that became widely adopted.  Caylus is frequently cited as the first game to incorporate the worker placement mechanic.

Next?

I believe that there are some innovations that are getting close to mass adoption, but just need the right game to attract the attention needed for critical mass.

Physical\Digital Hybrid games – a game that uses both physical components and digital hardware and  software.  A good use case would be to have individual player boards using tablets while the main board is physical.  Many attempts have been made, but none seem to have found the right blend of traits to launch this genre to mass adoption.

The Lenovo Table PC is a prime example of the efforts to bridge the gap between physical and digital game play.

Another example is the accessories such Dice Plus that Tom Vasel recently covered is a great example of the move towards physical\digital hybrid games.

Campaign and legacy games – games that change and adjust over time like Risk Legacy and Pathfinder Adventure Card Game are gaining in popularity.     These games combine the short play time of a board game, with the thrill of an epic campaign.   Some of these games already exist, examples are Descent and Mice & Mystics have incorporated a campaign driven design.

Physical gaming using mobile devices – These are games where the players are actually part of the game.  Some use player movement  and performing actions that form the game.   The initial innovation was created by handheld GPS, and led to geo-caching. Google is working on a game called Ingress that is a good example of this genre.  Another example of this type of game is Shadow Cities.

Of course the strange thing about innovation is how hard it is to predict.

Hopefully, the next big thing is right around the corner.   Please feel free to leave your predictions on the next big thing in innovation in the comments section.

One more thing…

In case you somehow missed, it GameKnight has a contest running for a set of VictoryChips.
Details can be found here.  Even if you aren’t interested in winning some chips, please help us out by liking our page on Facebook.

 

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Belgian Themed Game Night

Last night the GameKnight group convened for our 1st Belgian themed game night.

Belgian Flag

Why you might ask?  We’re not sure…but let’s move on anyway.

We kicked off the evening with a game of Bruges.  This is a game about 15th century merchants who are vying for power in the Belgian city of Bruges.   In the near future, we  will put together an actual review of the game, but for now, let’s just say this is an amazing game.  After capturing a rare win – my normal game group has some real sharks – we moved on to main course.

Bruges box

The main event game for the night was Agricola using the recently released Belgium deck.   While I found the cards in the deck a bit underwhelming, Agricola always stands out as a masterpiece game.

Plus it gave me the opportunity to break out my fun polymer clay upgrades.

For beverages, of course we consumed Stella Artois which is a tasty Belgian beer.

One of our regular gamers, Joel, even brought a pound of Belgian chocolate to further the immersion in the Belgium theme.

Themed gaming is a great for a change of pace….feel free to post in the comments about  your best themed gaming experience!

 

 

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Building the Ultimate Game Room – Part 2

This is part two of a multi-part post chronicle my quest to have the ultimate board gaming man-cave.   If you are looking for part 1 try here.

One of the problems with having a dedicated LAN room was heat.  Having a room full of computers and gamers generates a huge amount of heat.  Originally, I had tried a window unit AC.  The AC unit size was limited by the basement window, so I tried the largest unit I could find for that window, but it wasn’t nearly powerful enough to keep the room comfortable in the summer months.  To solve this problem, ended up having a mini-split ductless AC system installed with a massive 24k BTU of cooling goodness.

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Now that the room has been converted into a game room, having that powerful AC unit is still a great thing to keep gamers from overheating during a marathon game of Twilight Imperium.  I would say one of the most important things about making a game room is to ensure you have good climate control.

  • TIP 1 – get a Air Conditioning unit big enough to keep the room cool

After taking out the MDF desks and putting away all of the PC components (storing them for a future project of course)…I started planning what changes would need to be made to make this into a board gaming nirvana.

I decided to forgo any type of major revisions to the space, and decided to change the color.  The dark blue worked well for the LAN room, but For board gaming, having a bright room would be better.  I ended up with a green color (looks like the color of money to my eyes).   In hind sight, an even lighter color would have been better.

Since the room relatively small, I decided to try to make the most of the wall space.  Here’s some examples:

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I ordered a magnetic whiteboard.  I thought this would be handy for a variety of purposes while gaming.  Creating maps for RPGs, score keeping, and if necessary just a place to hang reference materials using magnets.  It has turned out to be a very useful item in the game room.

Games that are hard to store such as Crokinole and Tumblin’ Dice also found space on my walls.  For Tumblin’ Dice, I used a hot glue gun to permanently assemble the board.  For Father’s Day I received a nice vertical chess set.  While it doesn’t actually get much play time, it is a great decorative item.

Stay tuned for our next article about building the ultimate game room!

 

 

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Building the Ultimate Game Room – Part 1

This multi-part post chronicle my quest to have the ultimate board gaming man-cave.   Before we get into the details, here’s a bit of the history of the space that I’m working with.

About 5 years ago, one of my friends mentioned the idea of creating a dedicated space for LAN gaming.  While I wasn’t a hardcore video gamer, the idea of networked PC’s playing some old school games seemed like a fun project to work on.  After a bit of deliberation, I decided to make it happen.   Since my goal was old-school PC gaming, I wouldn’t need start of the art PC’s.  I  ended up deciding on some low profile Dell computers and ordered 4 PC’s and 6 monitors.  I suspect that the UPS driver was wondering what was happening in my house after dropping off all those boxes.

I built long shelves along the walls to function as desks for the PCs.  For chairs, I decided on some low priced rolling chairs form Staples.

After a couple of months, I had put together a respectable space for gaming.

In the picture  below you can see the home-built MAME machine which was one of my earlier projects.

I had the room setup like this for a few years.  It was a fun space for playing Left 4 Dead with my friends, but ultimately it really didn’t get that much use.  I grew tired of constantly running updates to keep the PC’s up to date with patches and virus programs.   I was feeling a bit like a PC tech in my own home.

The room was also used for board gaming by dropping a banquet table in the middle of the room.

A couple years ago I made the decision to dismantle the LAN room and shift the focus to board gaming.

The next posts will continue the story as I have worked to build the ultimate board gaming room.   The biggest challenge was how to work within such a small space.  The room is about 12×12′ which really isn’t a huge area to work with.

The LAN Room