Saturday, January 30, 2016

And now for something completely different... Storytime!

I'm going to do something different again this week. I've been thinking a lot about stories lately; in particular, about how games that involve storytelling (such as Gloom or Fiasco or most tabletop RPGs) are so satisfying because they follow Freytag's Pyramid.

So I thought I'd share one of my favourite stories. This is the story of Alice. I first heard this story when I was in middle school, and a professional storyteller came and told us some stories. So now I will share the story with you.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Board Game Review: Scotland Yard

This week is a review of the family game Scotland Yard. Don't be fooled by the fact that it's a Parker Brothers game marketed at families; despite its simple format and easy rules, it has a lot to offer the serious gamer. So let's get right to it and look at this fun little game.

The five clear, colourless plastic pawns from the Scotland Yard board game, on the game board. The board is a stylised map of London, with various street intersections labelled with a number. These numbers are connected by one or more lines of green, yellow, and/or red. The pawns each have a coloured dot to indicate which player's they are, except the one in the centre, belonging to Mr X, which has a white dot marked with a black X.

In my work at, I have created a new, hopefully easier to read version of the ratings system. Let's put that here to see if it makes things easier:

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Games as social interaction

How much do you know about autism spectrum disorders?

I know this seems a strange question to ask at the opening of an article about games, but bear with me for a moment.

In a sense, the autism spectrum disorders (on which, admittedly, I am no expert either, but my understanding is that it's not really a spectrum, though the various related disorders are still referred to under that umbrella term) are a lack of the normal social hardwiring in the brain that is usual for human beings. Let me explain a bit more in depth:

Whereas most animals developed certain physical or sensory advantages to allow their survival (for example, the web-spinning ability of many spiders, or the echolocation abilities of insectivorous bats, or sharks' teeth, and so on), the trait that allowed humans to survive was their social networks. Like wolves and other pack animals, humans developed an ability to co-operate that increased their chances of survival. Their need for greater inter-dependency developed a feedback loop with their intelligence; they needed to be smarter so they could support larger co-operative social groups, and they needed larger co-operative social groups so they could be smarter.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Why do I like the games I like?

I have joined the writers at I will be posting weekly articles over there as well as what I write here. Some of those articles will be duplicates of what I've written here (sometimes, I'll be writing about a topic I've covered before on this blog, and other times, I may just copy an article directly to that site).

I just submitted my second post to that site. As I was working on it this morning, I was contemplating the question, 'Why do I like the games that I like?' Most of the games I enjoy playing are of what I call the 'thinky-thinky' variety. They involve a lot of careful thought, weighty decisions, deliberate planning, and consideration of the actions of your opponents (and how those actions might totally hose you if you make a mistake!).

But then there are those games I like that do not involve much thought at all. Games like Panic on Wall Street, or The Red Dragon Inn. Why do I like these games that don't require the use of grey matter?

This got me to thinking. So I sat down and made a list of my favourite board games (and one roleplaying game that lasts a few hours at most, because it seems to fit better in this category than with traditional roleplaying games). Then I sorted those games into the different reasons why I like them. Here's what I came up with:

Dominant Species
The Lord of the Rings
Scotland Yard
Settlers of Catan
The Three Musketeers:
The Queen's Pendants
Ghost Stories
Fetish games Balderdash (words)
Bananagrams (words)
Labyrinth (spatial reasoning)
Unknown Fate
Betrayal at House on the Hill
Social Interaction
Resistance (Avalon)
Panic on Wall Street
The Red Dragon Inn
Fandom games Firefly
Order of the Stick
Star Trek Road Trip

The 'Thinky-thinky games' category is obviously the largest, with 12 games. Fetish games (which, by the way, I'm talking about games that appeal to one of my particular fetishes; non-sexual fetishes, obviously) has three games; two that appeal to my lexophilia and one that is fun because it plays with spatial reasoning.

Unknown Fate games are those that include some element of not knowing what's going to happen in the future. For Betrayal at House on the Hill, that means not knowing which scenario you're going to play out until it actually happens. For Citadels, that means not knowing which roles are available to you in any given round until the character cards get to you. I find that sort of anticipation to be enjoyable; What's going to be the objective of the game this time? Which characters will I have to choose from this round? We don't know yet! We won't know until it happens! It could be anything! It's so exciting!

There are actually five games in the Social Interaction games category; The Resistance and The Resistance: Avalon are almost the same game. Aside from the thematic elements, the only difference is the inclusion of Merlin in Avalon. There is no such aspect in The Resistance. But all of these games allow a structured way for me to interact with my friends, which is something that I (being a socially incompetent individual) often find to be very helpful. These games also allow me to behave in a way that I don't always get to do; Panic on Wall Street lets me be very rambunctious and animated, which I don't always enjoy doing, and The Red Dragon Inn is a very humorous game.

Then there are the games that appeal to my specific fandoms. These 'Fandom games' are ones that I might normally not enjoy, but because they're set in a fictional universe that I already enjoy, it makes it much more palatable to me.

And finally, of course, are the storytelling games, those games that are loads of fun to me specifically because I get to be involved in telling amazing stories.

Anyway, those are probably the six primary reasons why I'll likely enjoy a game. I'd love to hear from you; what reasons do you like to play games? Leave your answers in the comments below, and come back next week when I talk about more awesome gaming stuff! Until then,

Game on!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Board Game Review: Star Trek Road Trip

As one of my christmas presents, I received the Star Trek Road Trip board game. When I went to Board Game Geek to update my collection, I discovered that there was virtually nothing in the entry for that game. No photos, no description, and just the tiniest hint of an overview in the text description.

In the course of working to update these shortcomings, I decided to write a review so that I could add it to the entry for this game. So today's post will be a review of Star Trek Road Trip. Activate inertial dampers, we're about to engage the warp engines!

Here's the damage report, captain:
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take.
Strategy: 1
Randomness: 5
Complexity: 1
Humour: Derivative
Attractiveness: Nice
Average Length of Game Play: 1 hour