Jonny and I continue packing pot stickers and munching moo shu, while we blather about the boundries of board games – the mutations of mancala, eccentricities of expansions, the hassle of house rules, and the backlash of balancing. Alliterative allegories all around!

DTD: I had somebody tell me that in modern game design, the perfect game should be one that no matter how you play, everybody does the same. So, it will always be about the same score. Whether you are ridiculously good at it or ridiculously bad at it.

JPC: Skill level wise, or play style wise?

DTD: And this stuck in my head, and I played a couple new games where I am thinking, “That guy is really working hard at this. And that guy over there is almost picking random cards. And the span of the scores is like 3 points.” But this was really fun anyways.

JPC: Yeah, I would call that “on rails”, almost. In that, some people might say the game is playing itself.

DTD: And this is what came up. Then, it’s just a predetermined activity. You’re watching cards show up on rails. And he said, “Yeah, but the secret is not letting it look like it’s on rails.”

JPC: I don’t know. I feel like there’s a minimum score you can’t avoid in some games, which makes sense.

DTD: Sure, the put-your-name-on-it SAT score.

The rumor in school was that you got 200 points on the SAT just for putting your name on it. Makes me feel less proud of my score.

JPC: People talk about playing “7 Blunders”, where you try to get the lowest score possible [playing 7 Wonders]. I don’t know if that’s really a thing, but if you looked at things like that, there’s going to be some floor, some baseline that the game gives you over time as you get income rounds, and points for things that give you points for things that are intrinsic to it. But I feel like the margin should… I mean there’s so much discussion about: like should you crush somebody in a victory? Does that feel like something?

DTD: And that’s the Splotter approach.

Splotter Games, the makers of Food Chain Magnate and Roads and Boats has famously stated that if you cannot lose a game on the first turn, what is the point of having a first turn?

JPC: Yeah, and that can feel OK, but not if you are on the receiving end of it, I suppose. And there’s other ones where no matter what you do, you get 1, 2, or 3 points. And if you imagine in-game scoring on a score track…

DTD: The best you’ll get is triple what the other person got.

JPC: … You get some games where there’s a margin where it’s devastating, then there’s other ones where somebody looks like they’re doing good in-game, but then there’s secretly some guy  [who] has 5 cards that score for this other [end-game] thing.

DTD: Oh, and I’m a huge fan of the secret points. You know, where you really don’t know where your standing is until the end. That’s fantastic.

JPC: Then it sparkles off at the end, and you wrap the board 2 times. And I think the big offender of that would be is… Carcassonne is a great game for making basic evaluations for things you go, “This completed castle is worth these points…”

DTD: Those farmers at the end, man!

JPC: But the farmers at the end. And for those who grasp it, can see what does [in] its main, say, field, and how many places it’s feeding…

DTD: That’s how you win the game.

JPC: That’s how you win the game every single time. And I noticed when Z-Man, they reprinted the game, and they made the farmers an expansion in the back of the book now. And they have you play a base game.

DTD: And I was going to say there’s a lot of people who house rule “no farmers”. Or house rule a scoring for the farmers that’s immediate, right then, done.

JPC: So, there’s that. I think that’s a wise decision on the behalf of Carcassonne publishing, to allow that, too.

DTD: I think the entire essence of Carcassonne is that tension between you’re not allowed to put two guys on the same thing, but you’re allowed to take two things you put guys on and merge them.

JPC: The merge, right.

DTD: And that juxtaposition of cheating to put two guys on the same space is what makes that a game.

JPC: Exactly, and if you can do that merger with the fields, that’s where it gets… You need that linchpin, somebody else puts this [title] thing, and there’s no tile left in the deck to bring it in that way, and you reach around, and you’re trying to beat the clock, which is the tile pallet. There’s some great stuff. I mean, I love Carcassonne, and I like to play it at that level. But on the flip side, I don’t like to play it at that level if I’m teaching somebody who’s a non-gamer, and I say, “Oh, there’s this great game, you’ll have fun with it.”

DTD: But I will destroy you.

JPC: And they grasp everything, but you do this weird thing at the end and you go around the [scoring] board 3 times. [laughs]

DTD: Well, the way this discussion came up originally is, they were talking about modern board gaming, and whether the design of modern board games is geared towards people who buy a game, play it once, and then forget it. Whereas the structure of 70s board games, the design was made for people who buy this game, it’s the only one they own, and they play it 100,000 times. And it’s a very different thing to design for.

JPC: It is.

DTD: So, it’s essentially designing the board game that can be picked up relatively quickly, people can feel they’ve done well on their first play with minimal rule reading, minimal rule understanding. And that lends itself to everybody doing about the same. No matter how good they are.

JPC: Sure, I mean, that’s totally valid. What’s funny is you get consumers that are noisy, saying, “What’s the replay value, what’s the replay value?”

DTD: And then they never replay it.

JPC: And the expansions don’t get played. So, you add an expansion, which doesn’t add to the value, because they’re actually paying as much for the expansion as you are for the [base] board game.

DTD: I think the whole idea of expansions is to recall nostalgia. People love what they already know, but they are bored with what they already know. So, if you make an expansion, it makes them rekindle a game they haven’t played in a while. And they will play it more.

JPC: Could be, but what about these expansions that are coming out concurrently with the base game, like Barrage? I haven’t even played it yet, but the FOMO in me was like, “Oh, I better get the expansion too!”

DTD: And Fast Sloths came with an expansion on day one. I think that’s a way of doing microtransactions. “I have designed this game, why don’t we split it and we will sell it in two pieces? And then we can mark up each piece a little bit more.”

JPC: Sure. That’s an interesting one. Some games I think justify it, because they are so simple in their core, that they become a console to plug in more things or are even modular by default. Like Dominion is just, the concept is a mix and match.

DTD: And a new expansion just got announced this week. Menagerie.

JPC: Sure, and I haven’t played every single card in Dominion, although I own 13 boxes of the thing. More is always welcome, because that’s the spirit of the game for me. And Quacks of Quedlinburg – cool, you get a whole bunch more books you can flip upside down and back and forward.

DTD: Actually, that expansion I’m excited about; I just got it.

JPC: It’s great.

DTD: And there’s not as many new books as I thought. It’s mostly this new mechanism and the witches and the once a game superpower. Neat stuff.

JPC: Yeah, I actually played it for the first time last week. And I’ve said this multiple times, I will never play the game without it. Going forward, even with new players.

DTD: Good. That’s a good expansion, if it doesn’t take that much more explanation, but adds some wondrous elements.

JPC: There’s different books. They do things that are as complex as the original books. You have these one-time special powers, that are all scratching an itch that you already had. And it’s like, “Do something I always wanted to do this in this game.” Well, here’s your chance; you’ve got one token and you can do it once. And you are like, “Oh cool, thanks!” And it’s great for 5 players, because it’s a fast game with a lot of simultaneous play.

DTD: Yes, it just lends itself to having that many players.

JPC: And they took the most mundane token, the pumpkin, and made it into the most incredibly potent pumpkin, that costs a whole bunch of money. So every once in a while you can bounce out and get this pumpkin that does 6 [spaces]. So, pumpkins are the worst or the best. It’s kind of cool.

Just like life – pumpkins are either the best or the worst.

DTD: That is a very, very cool game. It deserved the win.

Quacks of Quedlinburg by Wolfgang Warsch was the winner of the Spiel des Jahres Kennerspiel award in 2018.

JPC: Yeah, I think it fires on all cylinders personally. It scratches so many itches. I haven’t heard people complain. You could say if you are making a brew or something like that, why are you pulling ingredients out of a bag? But…

DTD: It’s not a thematic game. The art is cute, and everything looks great, and you don’t think about it too much. I think if you are going to complain about it, it has that annoying element with bag builders that you can lose on the first turn. But you still don’t feel bad about it, because early on, you don’t really care if you bust or not, because the points are not all that much, so you just go for the money. So, I almost always bust on the first couple turns.

Normally in Quacks, each round your cauldron will earn you victory points and new ingredients. When you bust, you only receive one of these – the points or the purchase power. So not a total loss.

JPC: Me too. I do it on purpose. You just go get money, build your bag and do it.

DTD: It’s a great game. You have the plastic bits?

JPC: I do.

DTD: They are so nice. I love those stupid things.

JPC: I don’t go crazy with aftermarket parts for a lot of games, but that one… That one warrants it.

DTD: I loved those plastic bits so much that I bought the same plastic bits for almost every game they made them for. Like Le Havre, they made it for. So good.

JPC: I bought them for Altiplano.

DTD: Yup, bag builders. I’ve got the wooden bits special Orléans, so I’m leery about getting the plastic bits as well. It’s a little much.

JPC: Me too. I got the wooden bits and spent a lot of time putting the stickers on them and making them cool.

DTD: Oh, there’s a couple games… I just got Consumption.

JPC: Oh yeah, Karen’s game.

DTD: It’s neat, but it’s right on that edge of having too many resources. And there’s a couple of games out there that are neat resource collection games, with just way too many resources. The classic blunder there is What’s He Building in There? Do you remember that one?

JPC: No [laughs].

DTD: There’s not enough games about evil villains, evil geniuses in their lairs taking over the world. There’s a few. I think I have them all. But What’s He Building in There is you are an evil genius in your lair, threatening the world, and you are going to take over the world. But you have this complicated recipe of some big evil device to build, and there’s a gillion resources. So, it’s almost like a random collection thing.

JPC: I haven’t heard about that. Because a couple games that I find interesting. Actually, I have mixed feelings about Oh My Goods, because it has a…

DTD: New rules or old rules? Because that’s always the big question.

JPC: Oh, with the mulligan hand rules?

DTD: There was a couple changes from version 1 to version 2; it really got significantly better. Version 1 was broken.

JPC: One, you could do a mulligan, throw away your hand and redraw. Otherwise you were stuck with your hand, and it was chunky and old time. It’s just the synergies and secondary goods. If you lay out how many goods are in Oh My Goods, there’s quite a few. And a lot of them, there’s a very linear path to synthesize those [goods], but it’s dependent on finding that path and constructing it in a decent amount of time.

DTD: But I think they did the multiple goods well, in Oh My Goods.

JPC: I think it’s in the forefront of the game, and it’s what they’re going for.

DTD: Like Le Havre, even, has a gillion goods. But I think it’s done well.

JPC: Altiplano has a considerable amount of goods, too. And you can’t really have an engine for all of them, so it’s interesting, somebody’s doing llamas over here, and …

DTD: And the mechanics are wonderful because you’re buying goods with goods and keeping all the goods, so you just exponentially build up how much stuff you have. So, you actually need that scoring mechanic with the barn to cull your deck out.

JPC: Yeah, that’s such a good game.

DTD: Those play so well together, that’s a neat, neat idea. And when that clicks in, you know the third turn or so, you go, “I’m never losing anything. I’m buying this with this but keeping it all!”

JPC: Yeah, the need to cull in deck builders is such a thing, and you get that, “Oh I’ll just throw it away, I don’t need it anymore.”

DTD: The big deck builder players are really into the culling. I’m still waiting for more games that are all about the culling.

JPC: Oh, Rune Stones. That’s all about the culling.

DTD: Well, Rune Stones, I don’t know. Rune Stones I think is one of these games with this arc – that you spend a while building, and then at some point you go, “Now is when I lead.” You just cull everything out and score it all, man.

JPC: I’ve got to try that strategy. See I would kind of build up a little bit then grab stuff, then go for broke. Because I wanted to get the Rune Stones to get the special abilities. You can’t just sandbag forever, because those are getting picked off.

DTD: But you only get 4 of them. And really, you want to get the one that lets you play 3 cards, but you lose everything. So, you build your deck, get the one that has the 3, then you just destroy that deck down. And the other big one that I love is Dale of Merchants, that follows that arc.

JPC: I don’t know that one.

DTD: Dale of Merchants, it’s a card game, independent publisher [Snowdale Design], Finland. Gorgeous art. There’s cards, and you buy cards with cards. So, this card is value 5, so I’ll buy that card there, I have 3 ones and a two, so I’ll buy that. And you are buying cards and building up your deck, and it’s a deck builder of sorts. But then, the only way to score points is putting a card aside; this is now points, it’s no longer part of my deck. It’s one of those.

JPC: Oh sure, sure.

DTD: The cards are in suits and each suit is a different animal. So, you have to make “stalls”, and you have to make 8 stalls. And each stall has to have its value in cards. So, stall one needs to have a value one card. And stall two has to have a total of two value, and they all have to be the same suit, the same animal.

JPC: Same animal. So, you are melding them in a sense.

DTD: And you have to go in order, and you have to go up to 8. And then you win. So, you build, build, build. But then you are culling out your deck like crazy, building your stalls. And you see someone else starting to do this, and it’s like, “Oh crap. Now I need to go.”

JPC: It’s time to do it.

DTD: And you can get lost in all the neat functions. The cards do all sorts of neat actions. And It’s very…. It’s one of these games that’s thematic almost effortlessly. So, every suit has a different animal. You only play with 3 or 4 suits, but there’s 20 in the box.

JPC: Oh nice.

DTD: And they work with the kind of animal. So, one of the suits is slots, and those cards have delayed actions. So, you play them out and they stay out and next turn they do something. There are squirrels, and their action is they can mix different kinds of cards together and collect the garbage cards, that are junk. And all of it works. So, there’s all these neat things. And they use really weird animals too. So, there’s a pangolin. Oh yeah, there’s tons of animals and they all have these weird descriptors too. They use weird adjectives. They like big fancy words and it works. So, there are Systematic Eurasian Beavers. These long names, that’s one of the suits. I can’t remember all of them, but they use much better words than I can remember. It’s a cool game. They did Dale of Merchants, which was a little box game from an independent publisher, and it had 6 or 8 animals. Then they put out Dale of Merchants 2, which was exactly the same game, but 6 or 8 different animals. And then they just recently did a big box, which has everything plus space for the third one, which will just have 8 more animals. And they all do neat things. There’s some bats that are nocturnal, so it introduced this little clock, and every time somebody plays a card you click the little clock. And the cards work better at night than they do during the day.

JPC: I was actually curious about exploring a day/night cycle.

DTD: It’s hot now. There’s a lot of games with rotating day/night or shadowing or sun going around. They’ve all been really cool.

JPC: Yeah, I’ve played a couple of them. Of course, Photosynthesis, the famous one. And then Northwest Passage was another game where half the board freezes if you get stuck in it and pause out. Kind of cool.

DTD: Antarctica.

JPC: I love Antarctica.

DTD: We talked about it. That is a fantastic game, where between the two of us, we own half the world’s copies.

JPC: Yeah, even when I mentioned it to Charles [Chevallier], he was like, “You know that game?” I was like “Yeah, I love that game.”

DTD: It’s great! Penguins, man! It’s awesome. And it’s got the little sun thing, which is just terrific.

JPC: And the strange player order mechanism. Where you can go for a long time on your turn.

DTD: They tried to do that same thing with Kami-Sama, you remember that one?

JPC: Yeah, sure.

DTD: Round board, rotate­-y stuff. It had a really neat interplay between which round it was with the board, which player started. And when the two crossed each other, really cool. I thought it just missed, but it was really cool.

JPC: Yeah, I played that. I met AJ [Lambeth] before I played the game. I think he’s with Kolossal permanently, but he also designed that game, which was a sophomore release. He is a nice guy. I remember, he was at BGG Con looking at Sierra West, because they were interested in it, and they had some feedback that they gave me that I thought was very potent.

DTD: Sierra West: I could see it being a Kolossal Game. Their games have a certain feel to them.

JPC: They said, “Hey, can we take this with us?” And I was like, “You know what, I really like the feedback you gave me. I actually want to take this and work on it.”

DTD: Play with it a bit.

JPC: And by the time I had reworked on it, I had gone and pitched it at GAMA, and signed with Board & Dice.

DTD: Yeah, Kolossal is really steaming ahead hard for a while there.

JPC: Final Frontier’s plan is: typically they don’t want to go too far past that speed limit, and play within that…

DTD: I think it’s good to have reins. The biggest problem with most of the companies is too many games.

JPC: I admire the companies that have purposely slowed down, and the games get done when they get done, and they make them as good as they are supposed to be.

DTD: Yeah, that’s the way we should all be.

JPC: Yeah, John Zinser has been pretty vocal about the changes at AEG in their pace of putting things out; the type of development care they are putting into their products. And I think that’s a really cool thing. I don’t know if reading, I think the numbers didn’t shake out that they just splash and put a bunch of stuff out.

DTD: I think the quality went up. But the numbers might not have dropped. You can see the effort.

JPC: They have a handful of games come out, and those handful of games are all highly anticipated and well loved, so that’s a good thing.

DTD: Actually, some of the publishers are approaching me now, and want to do [gesturing around]…

JPC: Your little sit down? Yeah, you should get John Zinser to sit down. He’s a lot of fun.

DTD: That would be cool. I know him. That would be cool.

JPC: He’s one of those guys, that you know, kind of runs a high-octane awesome company, but you see him on some place and he’s just the nicest guy. He’ll say, “Hey, I’m heading to the bar, having a burger. Sit down.”

DTD: [Stephen] Buonocore wrote me. And he wants to do a sit down.

Tom says not to speak to Stephen, but it could be fun anyway. Only a pandemic can stop me now.

JPC: That would be fun.

DTD: And he talks a mean game. Actually, he leaked a lot of the stuff about Terraforming Mars: Turmoil to me before it was public. For Dice Tower News; he knew I was writing for news. He was pretty good about that. He’s a neat guy, I’ve known him for a while.

JPC: Yeah, I’ve shook his hand, said hey a couple times, but I don’t think he remembers me as more than the guy in the cowboy hat, that’s it.

DTD: Well, he talks to me about the guy in the cowboy hat.

JPC: That’s what Tom Vasel said, “That guy knows how to wear a hat!” The famous corduroy cowboy hat. You know what, maybe that’s how Tom should know me. Not the guy who designs games, or you know…

DTD: The cowboy hat guy. [laughs] He’s a good guy. I’m trying to think what other exciting things have crossed by recently. I am still kind of in the lull after ShilohCon and a couple other get togethers I was at.

JPC: That was fun. That was a fun time. Looking forward to getting to hang out with Geoff Engelstein at RAGECON. I think that will be very cool.

DTD: He’s very fun to talk to. I played a prototype with him for Genius Games. They are a great group of guys. I really like them a lot. They were doing Genotype, which is a Mendelian Genetics as a board game. Really cool design. The old pea plants.

JPC: Sure, sure. That’s neat.

DTD: And me and Geoff and John Coveyou. That was really fun, it was really cool. I was a PhD Cell Biologist for a while, so the Cell Biology game really struck a nerve, so I was talking to John about that for a long old time. Nice group, they’re doing well, they’ve been acquiring other game companies that are kind of in that academic games area. They got the Tesla vs Edison games. It’s all good stuff for them, they’re doing great.

JPC: I was talking to them at GenCon, and they had just acquired Artana Games, which had Tesla [vs. Edison] and all that.

DTD: Yeah, I couldn’t remember the name of the company.

JPC: Einstein, maybe they picked that up too. I finished Geoff’s new book, the big encyclopedia of mechanisms. And that was great, just to see all that stuff there. It was cool that BGG adopted anything that was in that book.

DTD: I think they went kind of concurrently, because Geoff was working on recategorizing stuff for BGG, and I think that went into the book.

JPC: OK, I wasn’t sure if it was Chicken or the Egg, what happened there. There was a moment where they had the weird acronyms at the front of every BGG listing of whether this was “MOV-6: Mancala” or whatever. Then they just stripped it down to just saying “Mancala”, because not everybody knew…

DTD: For a while it was nuts, it was complete chaos on BGG about the mechanisms. Friedemann Friese was very proud of the fact that he had proved to whomever that their trivia games, Terra and Fauna and those, were worker placement. And he got them changed to worker placement on BGG; he was very proud of that.

JPC: Semantic debates is something I don’t like in general because I think context is [key], and if people know what you mean then get over it. And I think that sometimes people are barking, “It’s not technically a rondel if you can skip a space and…”, turning red in the face. If you are trying to communicate that there’s a round thing with a bunch of actions and some piece going around, it’s a rondel.

DTD: You need to find the middle ground between every game having its own category, and one category for every game. Because if you start arguing the semantics out, everything is action selection. I mean, worker placement is just specialized action selection. Rondel is just specialized worker placement. [laughs] So you need to find the middle ground that makes people happy. It’s minimalism vs. generalization.

All games are action selection.

JPC: If it helps you find the things that you are looking for, then you have done your job.

DTD: It’s all about the consumer. You’ve got Bob, who has decided for whatever reason that he hates worker placement games. He has played some, he despises them, he wants to know if this game is a worker placement game.

JPC: Istanbul is an interesting one, because in the definition that Engelstein gives mancala, [it] is more or less that the starting pit, or location of the things, [that] determines, effectively, the distance and magnitude of how far that thing is going to go. So, if there’s 4 things in this pit, it’s going to go 4.

DTD: So, Five Tribes, Istanbul.

JPC: Right, all that. So, by that definition, Istanbul falls into that category. Now without that strict definition, does it still feel like a mancala-esque breadcrumb dropping thing? And I would say “yes”.

DTD: Yeah, it does to me; it does.

JPC: And so, you can look at something like Gold West, where there’s not so much of a round [board] thing, but you’re dropping little cubes until they fall out the end of the conveyor belt. That sort of thing, that’s the feel, and that’s what it’s trying to communicate. If you like doing something like that, you’re likely to like this too. So you go, “OK, if you like Istanbul, and doing that, you might like Finca. You might like Fistful of Meeples. You might like Gold West. You might like Five Tribes.” There might be things about these games you don’t like, like people say [about] Five Tribes: You can’t know what you’re going to do until it’s your turn because the board state is just so chaotic.

DTD: And it will absolutely crash min-max’ers. It will just destroy their brains. You play by gut and have fun with it.

JPC: If you play by gut and have fun with it, it’s great. And if you don’t, then I can see where it’s…

DTD: It’s an 18-hour game.

If you have ever played Five Tribes against someone blessed with an overabundance of A.P., you understand.

JPC: When I was making Fistful, some people say the same thing happens in Fistful with 4 players, but it doesn’t. The difference is that the distance you can go with any given pit isn’t… The thing with Five Tribes, is you start sometimes and it’s exactly the right length of rope to get to this [target] spot. One more and you overshoot it, and there’s no way you can get back in there. One less isn’t going to happen. But in Fistful…

DTD: You’ve got this freedom of any direction you want to go in Five Tribes. In Fistful it’s still a loop, you can go left or right.

JPC: In Five Tribes you just can’t. If you overshoot something by one, there’s no snaking back in, or getting back to it.

DTD: Unless you have 4 more. [laughs]

JPC: Exactly. And so, it becomes a thing where it’s like… That might happen because somebody went this way across your path. [They] Didn’t necessarily take the move you wanted to make, they just did something else that served them.

DTD: Which added to your pit.

JPC: Added to yours, and now you overshot your goal, and so…

DTD: And then you start second guessing where you want to drop everyone of these guys and then it just…

JPC: That’s the problem. Where Fistful, because you activate every single guy in the row, if somebody adds one more dude to your starting spot, you’re just going to get more mileage for your buck; You get to go one space further, and you get more variety of guys.

DTD: I gotta tell you the absolute best, most brilliant thing with Fistful, is that there’s a little spot to put every dude that’s not the “pit”. So, when you get these over-thinky people, they can reverse their turn. It’s the layout of the board, is just perfect for that.

JPC: That was an early [design] thing there. So, similar… I want to say there’s some games that [I] play and house rule sometimes, where: if you put things out on the board, you lay them down: like if it’s a meeple you lay them down.

DTD: That’s most house rules for Five Tribes. Is standing vs laying meeples.

JPC: Sure, then you go back and you back-track, and you do that. And I think that works, but the difference is [that] picking something up and laying something down isn’t very fun, or thematic. And I like the idea of the guy standing in the doorway, with the swinging doors. And you push him in there, and the doors swing open, and then all of a sudden…!

DTD: [RAAAH] He’s going to rob! He’s going to arrest! And he’s going to shop!

I make a lot of noises when I speak. They look pretty dumb when I write them out. This one was a fearsome aggressive roar. Trust me.

JPC: And watching people push with their finger to see the resolution, it feels good. To me it was a feel-good thing on top of a “allows for take backsies”.

DTD: That’s awesome.

JPC: The Cantin family is a bunch of gamers, and we have this rule in tile placement games and stuff, “A tile laid is a tile played”. And so, we got this habit where when you place a tile in Carcassonne, you don’t take your finger off of it. You hold it, … you keep your fingers on cards, and whatever else. You keep your hand on it, and you don’t let go of that, because if you blunder in the Cantin family, it’s like, “Nope. You live with it.” You get so mad over that…

I still remember Chess Club, where players would keep that one finger on the piece, agonizing for ages. One the finger left, the move was final. Interestingly, its the opposite with finger food – once the finger hits, its yours.

DTD: [laughs] I think that games need, not… They need a defining rule. So, you need to easily be able to tell when someone’s turn is done, you need to easily be able to tell what’s working, and what’s not. And the finger on it works well.

JPC: That works. And in this sense, you can take your fingers off of it because it’s not until all the meeples are pushed in, that somebody is effectively done. Other games have a good signifier, like at the end of your turn draw your hand back to your X amount of cards. It’s a beautiful way just to show that you’re done with your turn. Same guy that did Hadara did Palaces of… No, I’m going to get it wrong. Emara. He did Crown of Emara.

Benjamin Schwer. Interestingly, he also did Livingstone and quite a few HABA games.

DTD: Yeah, I’ve played it a couple of times.

JPC: The double rondel game. And very cool game, but there’s three bonus actions you can do at the end of any given turn. People do what they’re going to do, do what they’re going to do, and they feel like they just need to double check: can they do this bonus action now? Can I do that? And there’s no physical thing. And usually somebody’s looking over two, three, four times, and they say, “Nope. Nope. Nope. OK.” And then you can go. And there’s this weird lull, and that is almost a game killer for me. I think if I play that game going forward, it’s gotta be one of those things, there has to be a convention or something just to say, “Are you done?” Or maybe some sort of heuristic going, “Look, there’s no way you can do this particular thing unless you have this linchpin thing, so instead of looking at the whole board to see if you can do it, start here; And if you can’t, say you are done.”

DTD: I remember not loving that game but being into it when I was playing it. And immediately forgetting every rule of how to play it when I walked away. [laughs] But it was really hot at the Dice Tower conventions. People were always grabbing it. I never ended up picking up Emara.

JPC: Yeah, it’s got a lot of things in it that are right up my alley, and it’s just that one order of operations…

DTD: I tend to like the crunchy euros. And the two rondels was neat. And I remember one rondel had kind of simpler stuff, and one rondel had kind of secondary stuff. Which worked. But it didn’t grab me hard.

JPC: And the card placement thing was fascinating too, because you had the “1”, “2”, “3” slots, and it’s going to compound the action. Like Underwater Cities, you have got the card but then you’ve got the spot. And how those work with each other.

DTD: I really dig that. The other one I like that isn’t used too much is there’s a lot of games that have you lay down cards, and you are limited, there’s a card to pick up all your cards. But the later you lay the cards, the more powerful the action is. So, they had it in the, oh what was it called, something of giants. It was short lived game that had all the different kinds of giants in it. Assault of the Giants, it was a D&D WizKids game. It’s like your first card did a little bit, and your second card did a little better. And the third card had it better, and it just kept getting better.

JPC: That’s pretty cool.

Next time, Jonny and I discuss the business of developing board games, flow state and the cornucopia that is auction games.

%d bloggers like this: