Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: 28 Days Until International Tabletop Day - Tsuro & Tsuro of the Seas

Tsuro is a game that has become a staple in so many parts of my life. First, I love to play it. The outcomes are endless, especially depending on the amount of players. Second, it's a game kids in my game club absolutely adore and it is always hitting the table (sometimes I think a little too much when compared to the endless options available). Third, I use it as a research game during my Tabletop Game Unit in my classroom and the kids love it. Every year there is at least one group inspired by the game to implement their tile game. Finally, it is a game I am so excited to teach my daughter, because of the mechanics and thinking ahead strategy. She's 7-years-old and already feels it'd a game that really challenges them.

This is another game we picked up before it aired on Tabletop and it was exciting to see it be played and acknowledged. The episode had 3 games and I later purchased the two, because of seeing it on Tabletop. The one I purchased for my daughter (Get Bit!) and then other (Zombie Dice) I purchased for my club. So the episode itself offered great gaming opportunities

Later in Tabletop, Wheaton introduced Tsuro of the Seas, which added a new mechanic to Tsuro. Again, we purchased a copy and another copy immediately found it's way into our club collection. You roll dice and deal with sea dragons as the monsters. You are ships trying not to be attacked by the dragons or run into each other. These games are family friendly and also elevate the level of gameplay that people are familiar with.

Original Episode

Extended Edition

The Joy of Gaming: Women Game Designers - Conclusion

Women's History Month: 

A Joy of Gaming Tribute to 

Women Game Designers


This entire two-month-long process has been very illuminating for me. Throughout the whole thing, my husband kept saying that designers just aren’t recognized like the games or the publishing companies or even the artists (sometimes). I reminded him over and over that I get it, but having come out of a background in film criticism, it is difficult to wrap your head around not being able to find information on creative people! I could look up all sorts of people who were part of a film and find loads of information. With this series, it turned into detective work. I’d have to crib off of this source or follow this trail down the rabbit’s hole. 

I don’t understand why I feel so strongly about acknowledging designers. Maybe it’s because I want to be acknowledged for the hard work that I do when I create something amazing. Or maybe just when I work hard, period, I thrive on the acknowledgement as confirmation that I am doing a job that is worthy enough in my field. I feel that way about game designers as well. You made this thing that has brought so much joy to people and you should be acknowledged for it. I get that the creation involves so many people, but the idea started somewhere.

As the years progressed, though, it became easier to find information. The rise of the use of the internet with social media and even the popularity of have helped. It was so difficult, though, that I was lucky with some of the designers to even find if they are even married to one of the other game designers, as many of them do not share the same last name. I can understand this particular conundrum as I kept my maiden name due to the timing of my marriage and my post-graduate publications. I now, though, go by my married name since I have settled into my professional career and find my combined last names to be a bit frustrating when working with children. 

I think the whole point of all of this, beyond the scoffing and “who cares what the gender of the designer is,” was to empower future women designers. I want some of my students to go on to create games that inspire and maybe even teach people something. I want them to see that there are so many women out there doing amazing things with games: the mechanics, the art, the vision of something new. We push to inspire and engage girls in the fields of Science and Engineering and Mathematics by showcasing prolific women in those fields, so why not do it for the tabletop gaming community? 

Here's a look back at the women designers who were covered this month:

  1. Laura Robinson - Balderdash (1984)
  2. Eleanor Abbot - Candyland (1949)
  3. Virginia Charves - Inner Circle (1981)
  4. Leslie Scott - Jenga (1983)
  5. Elizabeth J. Magie - Monopoly (1933)
  6. Marsha J. Falco - Set (1988)
  7. Hazel "Skip" Bowman - Skip-Bo (1967)
  8. Suzanne Goldberg - Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective (1982)
  9. Dorothy Garrels - Scotland Yard (1983)
  10. Carol Wiseley - Loopin' Louie (1992)
  11. Sylvie Barc - Elixir (1997)
  12. Kristin Looney - Fluxx (1997)
  13. Doris Matthäus - Frank's Zoo (1999)
  14. Claudia Hely - Santiago (2003)
  15. Rosanna Leocata - Terra Nova (2006)
  16. Susan McKinley Ross - Qwirkle (2006)
  17. Karen Seyfarth - Thurn & Taxis (2006)
  18. Colleen Skadl - Red Dragon Inn (2007)
  19. Inka Brand - Village (2011)
  20. Sydney Engelstein - The Dragon & The Flagon (2016)
  21. Agnieszka Kopera - Exodus: Proxima Centauri (2012)
  22. Dr. Erika Svanoe - Marrying Mr. Darcy (2014)
  23. Judy Martin - Quilt Show (2014)
  24. Carla Hoger - Thunder Alley (2014)
  25. Stefania Niccolini - ZhanGuo (2014)
  26. Liz Spain - Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis (2015)
  27. Anne-Marie De Witt - The Village Crone (2015)
  28. Sophia Wagner - Noria (2018)
  29. Brenda Romero
  30. The Future

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: 29 Days Until International Tabletop Day - Settlers of Catan

Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! Settlers of Catan is THE game that changed everything! Our friend Jim broke out this game one day while we were hanging out and it was all over from there. I was hooked. I was addicted. It was one of my absolute gateway games to realizing this is a whole new way of gaming! I always loved playing games, but this was something that just enthralled me.

The jokes that go with the game have littered my life since I first learned this game. Wood for Sheep... oh my goodness... I always had an agenda. This was where the first color-wars happened over pieces. 

It has become a staple game that continues to enamor people. I don't play it as much anymore, but that well-worn box still finds it's place in my heart. So much so that I wanted to get Catan Junior for my daughter, but my husband put the breaks on that. I still disagree to this day that it would be good to have, because I could even use it in my classroom, but it is what it is. Granted, my daughter is playing some pretty advanced games at this point. La Isla? And she teaches games really well, too. I love it!

So I still haven't gotten to play Catan Junior, but my game club was invited to Khaos-Kon to teach the junior games to families! Also, the older kids can run some of their own and I even have some of my older kids running the Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle game. So while I'm at the con, I intend to fully verse myself in the Junior game series.

As a final note, I thought I'd just throw out there at the Green Bay Packers LOVE Settlers of Catan. I wouldn't be a proper Cheesehead if I didn't. Thanks Wheaton for sharing this truly gateway game to part of my own adult successes.  

The Joy of Gaming: Women Game Designers - Tween Game Designers

Women's History Month: 

A Joy of Gaming Tribute to 

Women Game Designers


Every year I run a Tabletop Game Unit in my Literacy class. We focus on the writing and creating process of game design. Components are a print-n-play style production. Students are asked to write a narrative to accompany their game, write a directions booklet, and then create a presentation selling their game. These three things reflect the three major units of writing we do throughout the year. The directions booklet aligns with our informational writing unit. The unit is couched in the Lucy Calkins Writing Curriculum, using the rubrics and other reference information to help support the students’ writing.

From a game design perspective, the students conduct research by playing various types of games. They choose a style of game that appeals to them and then they develop a game using that style. My husband comes in to help them streamline their game concept. This becomes their game booklet. They need the basics of a game, but need to explain the objective, the end game conditions, steps, etc. The booklet also needs to include text-features, such as photos of game setup or explanations of what symbols mean. Overall it’s an amazing unit. Since building confidence enough to do it, I’ve been presenting my unit at GenCon.

What I’ve observed with the unit is the game development style of the girls and boys. As with most things, groups typically end up being Girl/Girl and Boy/Boy. Rarely do I have a team of mixed genders. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen (one group was a budding romance and actually created one of the top games that year), but they are few and far between. 

The boy groups, I’ve noticed, have a tendency to lean more towards one of two game types: cards, cards, and more cards that usually reflect a dueling nature or overly complex board games that start the drawing board ambitious but usually become a mess when they realize how much work that ambitious vision calls for. Don't get me wrong. Some of these games are successful in varying degrees, but it's a sure bet that the 100 deck card games and Munchkin clones are going to be the bottom of the barrel each year. They also mostly include clipart for production with very little custom artwork or graphic design. With some of the groups, there is also often a need to be silly or over-the-top.  (Again, there are always exceptions to this rule. I had a boy group one year have their game professionally printed and they had a massively long and complicated directions book. It was totally Euro, and even though the game still needed work and development, it was nonetheless impressive.)

The girl groups, though, have a tendency to go all out. They invest themselves in every aspect of the game - from the art to the mechanics to the various writing pieces. Some go a bit crazier than others, but year-to-year girls have made some of the best games.  They deliver on a level I never imagined I would get from my kids when I first envisioned the unit.

One duo of girls made a roller-coaster themed puzzle game that, to this day, my husband is obsessed with. He genuinely thinks it could be developed into a professionally publishable game. Sure, some of the ideas utilized in it came from his input, but what amazed him at the time was how they took his advice and criticism and ran with it and executed it with such care. Sadly, many of the students leave their games with me, never to claim them again. I have a pile of well-made, well-designed games that I show off every year to each incoming class, but it breaks my heart to know that these were just a pffft in the wind to them. I wish I understood what it was about girls in middle school that pushes them away from things like this. I mean, I get it, there's a whole Breakfast Club vibe... which label are you going to get... the Brain, the Athlete, the Princess, the Basketcase, the Criminal. Do you want to be social in a large group or a small group? This matters so much more to girls at this age and it's really all in the roll of the dice where they land.

I try to model being a positive nerd. When I developed the game unit, I became an amateur designer and I went through the same process I was asking my students to go through. This way I understood their struggles first hand and could troubleshoot what they were going through. I took a mentor game, Dragon Slayer, and I made some changes to it, but I used the basic mechanics of the competitive, press-your-luck game. I wrote a story, designed components, developed a directions booklet, and even created a presentation to try to sell the game. I fail to look at myself as a designer, because it wasn't purely original, but at the same time it is a really unique game. I did, though, create a game that I made myself and I'm proud of it! (My husband only gave tips, so he doesn't get the credit. Ha!)

My modeling doesn't go unnoticed, though. I had the pleasure of listening to a couple of my game club girls talking about making a game similar to Betrayal at House on the Hill. They started working out how they would change this or that and how they would implement this kind of strategy or variable player power. I was legitimately excited about what they were coming up with. I threw in my own two-cents. It did my heart proud and I have hope for what these girls will go on to do. They’re my 8th graders who have been with me all three years of Middle School. I know they know their futures are bright.

On the other hand, I have students who make amazing games, but then never want to take them further. I am a limited person and can only get them so far with their games, but I want them to keep their passion going. I want them to be proud of what they've done.

To some of these girls maybe it's just about getting that A in class. I wish, though, that they saw in themselves the smart, talented and inventive creators I see in them. I know when they leave my class those aspects of them will be broken down by everything and everybody that believes girls have no place in that realm. I try to make them see through that lie before it's too late. I can only hope I get through to some of them.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: 30 Days Until International Tabletop Day - Small World

Small World is a game I was playing before Tabletop ever aired with it. Our friend Jim introduced us to several games before the hobby took off and became a way of life for so many. What I loved about Small World was this interesting way of dominating a board in order to get points. You spread yourself out and have variable character powers, but you also have to be willing to put your civilization in decline and let them be wiped out so that you can move on to bigger, better, newer civilizations! I liked the interesting dynamic of area control, a common mechanic in games but not one I have ever experienced personally before.

I introduced this game to my game club and every time we break it out, the kids get all giddy about what races to take and what combo might come up. I love this game so much, my husband has been continually purchasing expansions. Having so many variations makes it even more enjoyable.

I chose Small World for this article, because it is a game that was part of my initial introduction to Tabletop Games. According to my husband it was the eighth game we ever owned because he's weird and tracks that sort of thing. As I mentioned, it was long before Tabletop aired, so when I saw it was the first game on the show, I was thrilled, already acknowledging it as one of my favorites. The episode of Tabletop also helped with teaching the kids the game in a quick way. I was still learning, at the time, how to teach these long and complicated games in a succinct way. Plus it introduced the kids to the show, even though I always had the disclaimer of language. We even joked about starting a running tally on the blackboard in the back room for wins and losses on games that were played. These were in the early days of the club, so we were still trying to figure out who we were. We did not, though, do that. Now I'm wondering if we should do something a bit more interesting with the gameplay. Hmmm.... the idea is reintroduced.

See, even now the show is still inspiring me! So enjoy the first episode of Tabletop!

The Original

The Extended Release

The Joy of Gaming: Women Game Designers - Brenda Romero

Women's History Month: 

A Joy of Gaming Tribute to 

Women Game Designers


I suppose it might be strange that I include a designer who is heavily invested in digital games, but Brenda Romero changed my understanding of what tabletop games could do for the player. I was scroll through something or researching something and I came upon her TEDTalk, which ended up changing my life in a way that still is in effect to this day.

a unit in my 

Watching this made me think deeper about what games could do. I was in the throws of a unit in my classroom dealing with Human Rights and this video just spoke to me. Granted, her games were considered more art installations and never saw publication for a greater audience, but I thought... what if I have students create games that have a deeper message than just playing the game for fun!

From this video my Tabletop Game Unit was born. The students made some incredibly interesting games. Some bordered on... well... insensitive to a subject, while others really took it to the next level. They're sixth graders... what did I really expect from that situation! But these students tackled these topics with passion and understanding. Therefore creating games for understanding. 

Brenda Romero is a woman that I continue to go back to and every time I watch this video, I feel inspired and I feel invigorated. Even on my hardest days when working with my students to create games, I go back to her. I remember that what I'm doing isn't just to make something fun, it's to help develop an understanding. I have, since, moved away from focusing on a Human Rights subject. I've had to tailor my unit to fit our new writing curriculum, but seeing Romero's games reminds me of the limitless possibilities available for creative endeavors.

She took games to the artistic and social commentary realm on a real level that then shocks a player. I love that and I couldn't pass up singing her praises for this TEDTalk and the games that she created.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Countdown to International Tabletop Day 2018

I love that there is a day in the year dedicated to Tabletop Gaming. Sure there are Cons all over the place that dedicate days upon days to gaming, but I am fond of there being a "holiday" for gaming.

I remember the very first International Tabletop Day (ITTD) on March 30, 2013. My middle school game club hosted our first spring  event on that day. I'll be honest... there weren't a great many participants, but we all had fun gaming. Since then we've hosted our Spring event on International Tabletop Day, until last year when it fell at a very bad time in the school year: Spring Break. But when my students first found out about International Tabletop Day, they thought it was so cool and since then it has been something special that my veteran club kids have come to appreciate.

The day sprung out of the viral sensation of the Geek & Sundry show Tabletop hosted by Wil Wheaton. Tabletop has become iconic for thrusting tabletop gaming into the spotlight and, while I was a gamer before the show, the show itself has a special place in my heart. We even backed their Season 3 and had our name on the wall on the set. I am very proud of that. Myself and my students love Tabletop so much, at GenCon in 2016 my students asked me to give him a shirt, a letter, a picture, and our club pin, inducting him as a member of our club. I didn't get to meet him myself, but he gladly accepted our invitation. I also felt embarrassed, though, that I gave him the wrong size shirt. Have I mentioned how much I suck at guessing shirt sizes? I made sure to give all my students a copy of his acceptance and it's something my club treasures very much.

So International Tabletop Day is near and dear to my heart. I wanted to share a whole history of the day here, but really there isn't much to share. As I dug around for historical information, I learned that someone who had a falling out with the show is the one who was able to really get the day out there, which made me mildly disappointed, but at least it started something that has lasted 6 years. On the International Tabletop Day site, it says this day has been around for 7 years, but I think that might be incorrect considering all other sources indicate 2013 as being the first International Tabletop Day. It was in the works, according to Wheaton's blog, prior to 2013, but 2013 was the first official year that they hosted the event. Regardless, the event has had staying power and I love it.

The day is not only for gamers to get together with friends or to play at home, but it's something to build a community. Geek & Sundry has live-streamed their events and now you can watch them on Twitch. Game stores and cafes host events. My local store one year hosted the Exploding Kittens event. The stores also get promos to hand out to people who attend. I love the promos, but at a certain point had trouble getting them and it made me sad. We hosted events, but due to not being a retailer, we were not able to get swag for those who attended our event (it was a community event).

Since my local store, which I love and adore, will probably be celebrating the day this year, I thought that I would change things up for my students and we're going to be hosting one of our club lock-ins that night. Well... the Friday night leading into Saturday so that at midnight we can ring in the holiday with bells and whistles. I ordered a promotions kit so I can get the kids super psyched about the event. I'll definitely be blogging about that, because it should be a pretty big deal... well... if the kids remembered to notify their parents of the date before a week before the event. Kids... sheesh.

This year, though, I thought, in honor of this year's International Tabletop Day and also my return to the world of gaming, I would participate in a countdown to International Tabletop Day. After 4 seasons of Tabletop, I reflected on how much it has affected me as a gamer. As I went through the list of episodes from the four seasons, I had these little reflections about several of the games and how they have meaning for me, beyond just it being a good game. So I've decided to do a countdown to International Tabletop Day by posting about games that have been on Tabletop that I have a personal connection to. This is not a list of my favorite games or a list of ranks, just games that have a personal story to go along with them.

So here's to International Tabletop Day 2018 and the legacy of Tabletop!

The Joy of Gaming - Ray's Rate a Shelf #7

At the beginning of this year, my husband started a Twitter feed, posting a different part of our game shelves and rating the games that are on them. I was so impressed by this activity, I thought it would be great to share it on my blog.

Click the Tweet to see the rankings and the games.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Women Game Designers - The Village Crone

Women's History Month: 

A Joy of Gaming Tribute to 

Women Game Designers


In The Village Crone, from designer Anne-Marie De Witt, players are witches manipulating the lives of the residents of their small village, making them fall in love, turning troublesome ones into toads, drawing them to and from locations to make certain events occur. The witches send out their familiars to gather ingredients for their spells and try to fulfill "scheme" cards.

It's fundamentally a light game with a simple charm. Players are suppose to cast their spells through little rhyming chants as flavor and while the witches are clearly troublemakers and can deal out some wicked punishment to villagers they apparently have beef with, your goal is more to stake your claim as The Village Crone -- or the witch the villagers want kept around!

Anne-Marie De Witt is the sole credit on The Village Crone. She is also credited with a couple other games (Bloodsuckers and the Munchkin edition of Castle Panic appropriately titled Munchkin Panic). Sole credit or not, she does still have a fellow designer as her husband: Justin De Witt, designer of the original Castle Panic and several of its other iterations.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Women Game Designers - Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis

Women's History Month: 

A Joy of Gaming Tribute to 

Women Game Designers


Liz Spain (solo)

In Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis players either compete or work together to discover the lost city of Atlantis buried deep beneath arctic ice. Players take on the role of adventurers in command of a steampunk flying ship heading from a port city through several strange, wondrous and dangerous in order to wend their way finally to Atlantis. Along the way the encounter any number of terrifying beasts and scenarios from otherworldly monsters and undead to unstable explosives and unexpected hull breaches. Players attempt to overcome these adversities through skill and skulduggery (two of the game's 3 primary resources). If they can, they may press on. If they cannot, there are often grim consequences leading to major setbacks in your progress (and in the co-operative game an even more dire fate as the Peril Track climbs up).

Players accomplish their task by hiring crew for their ship which go directly onto their player board and by buying cards through a deckbuilding mechanic. Each of your crew can be "exhausted" either for their special ability or to add their skill and skulduggery to tests (or their money resource to your purchases). Your draw deck offers you quick temporary gains in resources, resource tokens you can spend later, or other very helpful effects.  As the game progresses round by round you will spend your turn either resting-- wherein you can refresh all your exhausted crew and buy new cards-- or venturing forth to encounter whatever hellish thing lies waiting for you over the next horizon.

Incredible Expeditions is a solid and entertaining game, especially for folks who are fans of the likes of Fortune & Glory and other grandiose adventure games. It's not without its flaws, but it's an ambitious game for a first time designer.

Liz Spain's entry into the creative space of game design started outside the confines of cardboard with live action role play and escape room organizing.  Incredible Expeditions was her first foray into board game design and it while it was an incredibly ambitious project, it was a very bumpy entry point. IE was plagued with production problems, causing both serious delays and component quality issues with the game. That said, her inexperience on the business and manufacturer sourcing end of things was a difficult lesson I'm sure, but her passion and creativity shines through in the game. Despite its component flaws, IE features a gorgeous graphic design and art production and the game itself is fun and rich in theme.

Her talents caught the attention of some notable names in the industry, however, not the least of which is the brilliant Mike Selinker. Since Incredible Expeditions, she has worked on teams with Selinker and co. on the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Selinker's ambitious Apocrypha Adventure Card Game, and the long anticipated expansion to Betrayal at House on the Hill.

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Women Game Designers - ZhanGuo

Women's History Month: 

A Joy of Gaming Tribute to 

Women Game Designers


Stefania Niccolini (with  partner...spouse?)

ZhanGuo (2014)

ZhanGuo is a worker placement and hand management game. ZhanGuo means "Warring States" (at least according to the game), but what I loved was that Drive Thru Review called it "Mandarin for Brain Fry." It is in fact, a very thinky (Euro) game that will challenge your mind as you develop strategies and build up regions on the board. You're playing one of Emperor Ying Zheng's emissaries and you are supposed to unify the empire. Through five rounds players use their hand of cards to develop that peace and prosperity. By the end you want to have earned the emperor's favor and whoever makes the most contributions to the emperor's cause of forging a lasting peace will be the winner of the game and the emperor's most appreciated emissary.  

Stefania Niccolini is an Italian game designer who focuses on designing fairly heavy euros. She has several games to her co-designing credit. What I thought was interesting was that it seemed like she was going around the world with her game themes, but that just might be me looking for creative connections. I couldn't find much on her as a designer. I found a Vimeo run through of the game in French, but my background in language is a bit more on the German and Spanish side. I am going out on a limb here, after looking extensively into what I can access on her, and say that she is married to Marco Canetta. At the very least they seem to be partnered beyond the realm of game design. Marco Canetta is the co-designer on all of her games. Either way, Niccolini is a designer to keep an eye on for those thematically interesting Euro games that cause the gears in your mind to grind.

If you want to see more about the game, Joel Eddy's walk-through is, as they tend to be, excellent.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Women Game Designers - Thunder Alley

Women's History Month: 

A Joy of Gaming Tribute to 

Women Game Designers


Carla Hoger (with spouse)

Thunder Alley (2014)

Thunder Alley is a stock car racing game, complete with little cardboard cars and a track to race them around. The game, published by war game masters GMT, attempts to realistically simulate stock car racing with relatively streamlined rules, and it's marginally less dangerous than getting behind the wheel of one of these vehicles in real life! In the game you control a team of cars and while you use hand management to get the best position, your car deals with the wear and tear of the road, as well as potential damage from other racers. Go solo or stay with your team, you have to think ahead to get ahead in Thunder Alley.

Carla Hoger is a veteran game designer. Herself and her husband, Jeff, started Labortory H. this March (2018) with their own art designer. The couple is responsible for Thunder Alley, Grand Prix, and, their newest game, Apocalypse Road. Despite being active game designers, Carla Hoger seems a bit less involved in the game community than her husband, but she is an avid gamer and keeps abreast of what is going on.  I really enjoyed reading her Top 10 Games on Laboratory H.'s website. As with most couples, they are clearly in-sync and the design lines are somewhat blurred. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Joy of Gaming - Ray's Rate A Shelf #6

At the beginning of this year, my husband started a Twitter feed, posting a different part of our game shelves and rating the games that are on them. I was so impressed by this activity, I thought it would be great to share it on my blog.

Click the Tweet to see the rankings and the games.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Women Game Designers - Quilt Show

Women's History Month: 

A Joy of Gaming Tribute to 

Women Game Designers


Judy Martin (with spouse)

Quilt Show (2014)

In Quilt Show you have to sew the best quilts and earn the most prize money at the end of three rounds to be the grand champion. Each round you collect different patches for your quilt. You can construct different types of quilts, such as a 1x3 table runner of a 4x3 King Quilt. These quilts can be made either of all the same color patches or all the same design patches. Each patch tile is a different value and you need to collect colored swatches in the form of cards and turn them in to get the tile. The value on the tile will be helpful when you put up your quilt to compete at the end of each round. It's pretty much Ticket to Ride meets quilting. An interesting and inventive strategy game and it definitely challenges you to think ahead due to the randomness of the quilt patches that appear each round. 

Judy Martin and her husband, Steven Bennett, won the 2009 Rio Grande Games Design Contest, which then allowed for the game to be developed and released in 2014 at Origins. 

Judy Martin is more well-known for her dedication to the quilting community. She's an incredibly respected quilt designer and has even published numerous books on the subject. Clearly she had some very personal inspiration for the game that she developed with her husband. Another designer who worked seamlessly (pun intended) with her husband to create an interesting and unique game.

Learn more about Judy Martin at her website.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Women Game Designers - Marrying Mr. Darcy

Women's History Month: 

A Joy of Gaming Tribute to 

Women Game Designers


I have to eat crow a bit here, because in February I said, "Not my thing, but I have to admit, it hits all those adorable, girly-squealing, Austen Buttons." Yet, here I am writing about the game in March instead of February when I was working on my Valentine's Day list.  I thought, at first, that the premise behind the game was a bit silly, but once I played it... oh my... I am in love and it's not even Friday. 

You play one of the ladies from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and you need to, by the end of the game, fulfill the requirements of one of the male suitors and then roll a die to see if you get a proposal. If you choose not the marry the suitor or they do not propose to you, you move on down the line to the better suitors you meet requirements for. If you cannot attain ANY suitor, you will become an old maid, which offers a wide range of possible outcomes, from a short and bitter life to a thriving successful one. During your turn, you draw event cards that have objectives to complete and give you directions for drawing and playing cards. There are parties to could attend, where you roll a die to see what your outcome is. There are situations that allow you to play cards to build up your character stats to be appealing to your suitors (beauty, wit, friendliness, reputation). There are scandals that set you our your competition back. On the back of each character card is a points list of which suitors will give you the most points if you end up with them. Also, the ladies come with certain attributes already and some have special abilities based on who they are. The game ends when the Event Deck runs out and then you go through the proposals and whoever has the most points at the end wins. Really quite a nice game that I am really glad I finally purchased. It is very light, yes, but fun and quite cutthroat with a higher player count. Bonus fun for using British accents while playing.  (I would love to be meta and play this in Bath in England....)

Erika Svanoe has the most informing biography of all the women designers, so far. She actually has one written on Board Game Geek that isn't just one sentence. Prior to being a game designer, she was a musician and conductor and taught music courses in the University setting. Her biography lists some of wonderfully geeky fandoms, but the most noteworthy one is, of course, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. As with many female designers, and designers in general, she tapped into to the fountain of money that is crowdfunding and Marrying Mr. Darcy took off.  As of July 2015, Svanoe was interested in targeting other Austen works to create other games from. After playing this one, I am excited to see what else she might be cooking up. And, as with many married women game designers, she teamed up with her husband. Erik Evensen is Svanoe's husband and he provided the artwork for the game. It's really quite lovely. My husband found the one of the Scandal card's artwork to be quite hilarious.

Svanoe currently is the director of the Augsburg Concert and Band at Augsburg University in Minnesota. Learn more about Svanoe on her website.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Women Game Designers - Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Women's History Month: 

A Joy of Gaming Tribute to 

Women Game Designers


Agnieszka Kopera (with partner)

Exodus: Proxima Centauri is a Sci-Fi 4X game. 4X are known by that term because they feature exploration, expansion, exploitation, and extermination to varying degrees and importance.  (Back in 2014, I wrote an article for Sci-Fi November about 4X games if you'd like to learn more.) These games are typically grandiose in scale and have many, many, many pieces. Exodus uses hexagonal tiles as its field of play and players have individual player boards and you use cubes and counters and.... you know what? The Starlit Citadel ladies have an amazing explanation of the game, which also provides you videos. Bonus for it being ladies! So if you want to know what the game is all about, check out this video. There are also a few expansions and it's a popular game with a few awards to boast.

Exodus is Agnieszka Kopera's breakout game. I know her partner and her also crowdfunded the party game Wild Fun West (2013), as well as Progress: Evolution of Technology (2014), but Exodus is Kopera's claim to fame. She has been given indirect credit for her work on Warriors and Traders (2012), but primary credit was given to her partner Andrei Novac. Kopera used to be an engineer who threw herself into gaming and game development. Currently Kopera is the Creative Director at NSKN games in Poland, so she continues to work in the field. There are several great interviews online with her where she talks about the games, their creation, and the difficulties involved in such pursuits.