Table of Contents
Let’s be honest – there is too much happening in board games. There are too many games, too many podcasts, too many blogs. Just too much of everything!
This article series is going to exacerbate that problem by being ‘just one more bloody thing’ that gets published. My hope here is to direct attention to some of the absolutely excellent stuff that’s floating around there. This is stuff that maybe you missed because you blinked at the wrong time as your twitter feed refreshed. This isn’t necessarily the best content from the month, it’s just the most interesting content that I and others actually saw and remembered we’d seen. I stole the idea for this from Keith McLeman over at Cardboard and Coffee, and you should go drop him a follow on his Facebook page for his own monthly digest.
I’m always interested in contributors for this series, although of a necessity the number of slots for this will have to be limited. I don’t want this to end up being so long a list that it doesn’t even serve as a highlight reel. Please drop me a mail if you’re interested in providing your own monthly roundup, with full attribution! For those that would just like to bring occasional attention to especially good work they’ve seen, or even point out something of their own of which they are especially proud, drop a comment under the post. We also have a Meeple Like Us Subreddit, and if you feel happier adding your favourite posts there then there will be a comment thread for this post right there. I promise to remember to check it. Occasionally.
Two podcasts this month (or near enough that it doesn’t matter) addressed the topic of accessibility in games – Greatway Games spoke to John du Bois and the Board Game Design Lab spoke to Brandon Rollins. Ruel Gaviola, via Geek and Sundry, also posted about the topic of colour blind accessibility in tabletop games. Twice! Definitely check these out – it’s great for us to see and hear the topic being discussed without actually being involved. Whenever my students are doing board game accessibility work (and I make them do that a fair bit), inevitably I hear ‘All the resources online are from you!’. That’s never actually been true, but I’m really happy that more and more outlets are giving more and more time over to talking about the issue.
FiveThirtyEight has an interesting look at Gloomhaven’s sudden rise to prominence as the top game on BoardGameGeek – and why we’re running out of space at the top of the board game charts. Soon we’ll need to dial it up to eleven, and what then? These are dark times we contemplate.
Lindsay Miller writing over at the Daily Worker Placement wrote up her experiences with what she’s termed ‘eclectic gaming’ and I think it’s well worth reading. Also, ‘a degree in trend forecasting’? Suddenly I have a new education goal. Lindsay is on something of a roll this month too, having also done a great interview with Michael Fox and Jamey Stegmaier.
Recently declassified documents revealed that the CIA use a number of board-games for teaching their operatives the finer points of – well, I guess playing games that are useful for learning espionage. Vice this month posted a really interesting article where game designers looked at these hitherto secret games and discussed whether they were actually good as games.
Friend of the Show Bez Shahriari wrote up an excellent list of playtesting models in game design, and then in the comments sections of the article added in more. For those looking for some guidance as to how they might find out if their games are actually fun, I’d recommend checking it out.
Nuria Casellas over on Twitter pointed out the existence of this thread on BGG. The tweet says it better than I can:
A beautiful @BoardGameGeek thread about how asking for additional input on a possible "sexist" game design gives you good ideas. Also proves our prejudice of what we consider "historical accuracy". Read the Searchlight Operator bit vs Guardian Angels.https://t.co/SE5ImhnGx0
— Núria Casellas (@nucaica) April 8, 2018
The DIY Crafted Gamer series over at To Play is Human is often inspiring – I love seeing what people are doing to make their games pop even if I don’t have any of the skills or time to do it myself. The latest one is great, but really I just want to call your attention over to this series generally.
It’s not quite Ocean’s Eleven, but this tale of cardboard larceny from Calvin Wong is fascinating. With so much money being locked up in Kickstarters, and the logistics of distribution being so complex, it’s perhaps surprising that we don’t see more of this kind of thing.
On a similar note is this rollicking Reddit thread about Bruno Faidutti’s claim that publisher Wonder Dice has essentially stolen work that a young designer had put in front of them. I’d caution… well, caution I suppose… because only rarely are these kind of things truly open and shut. It’s hard to see though how Wonder Dice can come out of this well given how anemic their own statement on the topic turned out to be.
As a late addition to this roundup, it turns out they have decided to go down the ‘fire is the only cleanser’ route. They released an extraordinary statement that solidifies their position as essentially ‘Perhaps suing the community will make this better. After all, it worked so well for Digital Homicide’
Seriously though, from their statement:
“We of course have already got bailiff’s reports by screenshot capture concerning defamation and insults which unfortunately also indirectly target our partners. We reserve the right to sue those who have participated to this lynching in case we would not have the expected success we forecasted on the market. They will have to personally compensate…”
I mean… okay? Some people will choose to set themselves on fire if they can catch their enemies in the blaze. A company that deals with cardboard should maybe be a little more canny when playing with flames.
Brandon Rollins is another Friend of the Show, and his recent Kickstarter campaign for Highways and Byways was cancelled early. He talks about why in this frank and honest post, and I think it’s must-reading for anyone considering crowdfunding. On a similar note, there is a very informative post on Reddit from someone reflecting on sixty projects as a backer.
With the UKGE fast approaching, my thoughts are once again on the stresses and tensions that come along with being a hardcore introvert thrown into a bubbling sea of people and sights and sounds. Marc Davis over at the thoughtful gamer has put up a nice post about how to survive a gaming convention and there’s a lot of good advice in there.
Last month I put the spotlight on Ben Eddings and his Cast the Bones series, lamenting a little that this lovely narrative review show was only available via a Patreon. That’s not because I begrudge the funding, because I don’t even a a tiny little bit. It’s just because it is so hard to get people excited about something that’s hidden behind a paywall (c.f. Academic Publishing). However, Ben has now started putting these episodes out on Youtube and to reiterate – you need to be watching this. It is getting Real Good.
Tiffany Caires over on Twitter has a great thread about the cost of board-games and it’s well worth checking out. It’s also available here in a handy-dandy article format that’s easier to read than Twitter’s erratic and huffy threading.
A topic close to my own heart this month is this great list of creators on Patreon. It’s from Cardboard Republic and it’s a lovely thing you should keep your eye on. It’s likely to grow as more Patreon accounts get added, but if you think you might have a dollar or more you could spare from your monthly boardgaming budget you might perhaps consider pinging it to your favourite content creators.
The ‘one from the archives’ post this week isn’t actually about board games but it is from Shut Up and Sit Down’s Paul Dean so you know… it’s probably in scope?
Anyway, Paul is a remarkable writer as I’ve already expressed in a number of other posts on this site. His post On Poverty though is incredibly powerful. I have read and thought about thousands of times since I first enountered it. Paul doesn’t need any signal boosting from this site – as part of SU&SD he could buy and sell us with spare traffic he leaves in his trousers to go through the washing machine. That doesn’t change the fact that this is an amazing post and I’d love more people to read it.
Alex Ava has recently started writing a board game blog, Tactics and Tactility. I used to be in a writing group with them and have completely fallen in love with their way of talking about games. They talk about emotional play, which is something I think about a lot with tabletop games. This includes talk about the moment of anticipation before rolling dice, or most recently, about how Sherlock Holmes is a dick. Read that article here: https://tacticsandtactility.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/on-not-knowing-unravelling-mysteries-with-sherlock-holmes/
I love the idea of experimenting with drama and conflict in RPGs, so I’m fascinated by the idea of non-challenge-based role-play. This is why I’m eager to see Journey Away get funded. Check it out here:
My FLGS, Dice Saloon, recently changed venues and have been testing the water with new events. They’re in a larger, more accessible space which they’re excavating out into new game rooms like a much happier game of This War of Mine. Recently they held a bring & buy and will hopefully be holding more events soon. Check them out here:
I’ve been loving https://twitter.com/hashtag/AprilTTRPGMaker & https://plus.google.com/u/0/s/%23AprilTTRPGMaker/posts, prompted by Kira Magrann (https://twitter.com/Kiranansi). The format has been a daily question for RPG designers of all stripes. People who have worked on D&D, on story games, on the Gauntlet community and who haven’t even published their games yet have answered. I was impressed at the wide diversity of people who have been popping up on Twitter and brought even more designers to my attention. A lot of the answers have been fun and informative, especially to someone who wants to make their own games.
More Seats at the Table is a Patreon-supported email newsletter about highlighting games made by marginalised creators with the aim of raising more attention to the brilliant and diverse designers of games. Sign up to their newsletter and support them if you can. https://www.patreon.com/moreseatsrpg
This Month’s Spotlight
One of the things I like to see in the boardgame media space is originality – things that you don’t see an awful lot of elsewhere. This month’s spotlight is on two creators that absolutely fill that role – they make webcomics about tabletop games! The first of these is Semi Co-Op, and the second is Up To Four Players. I’m always immensely pleased when I find sites that have a focus that isn’t easily replicable and my word, both of these accomplish that and more. The easiest way to get me interested in whatever you’re doing is to blend an interesting skill or perspective with a focus on board games. Since I myself cannot draw worth a lick I consider those that can to be indistinguishable from sorcerers. Definitely check out both of these!
I’m also going to be cheeky here and add in ANOTHER site to the spotlight this month because More Games Please did an interview with Semi Co-Op that is well worth reading. All of the interviews on More Games Please are worth your time, and Ross Connell is super nice to boot.