Category Archives: Around the World of Board Gaming

Around the World of Board Gaming April 2018

Welcome to one of my favorite blog columns. Not “board game news” so much as “board games IN the news”. Today’s topics include lots of stuff. You can print and play games the CIA uses to train its agents. Board games help children with autism. Out of the Box in Muskegon has closed its doors. And of course, we talk about the latest happenings at The Gaming Annex.

 

Around the World of Board Gaming April 2018

 

Print & Play CIA Board Games

El Chapo from the C.I.A.
El Chapo from the C.I.A.

The CIA has used board games to train the next generation of agents. Long time readers of this blog already know this. But what you probably didn’t know is that these games are now available for gamers who like to print and play their games.  Two games were unredacted from a recent FOIA (freedom of information act) request.

Rulebook cover for Kingpin
Rulebook cover for Kingpin

The folks at Ars Technica have a lot of the details concerning this. Enough was unredacted to both give you the rules and the necessary information to make the components to play them. The more intriguing of the two games “released” is Kingpin: the Hunt for El Chapo. Two teams spar off in this tense cat and mouse simulation. One team is the cartel which must protect and elude the agency. The other is the agency which hunts the cartel’s leadership across the world.

Collection: a CIA training game
Collection: a CIA training game

The lesser of the two games (at least to me) is Collection! Players must collect cards which have different resources on them. Players must correctly marshal resources in order to put out fires all You cover the world.

The rules were analyzed by famed game designers Jason Matthews and Dominic Crapuchettes. Both designers said these CIA games showed worthy game design elements. Both also said these games seemed to be more focused on training than on fun. The mechanical strength should go without saying. The CIA tapped famed designer Volko Ruhnke, designer of such games as Labyrinth: the War on Terror.

You can download the information here. It’s quite large so be prepared.

 

Board games and autism

Autism Speaks logo
Autism Speaks logo

It’s always heartening to hear news that your favorite hobby has great side effects. I would still play board games even if there wasn’t any unexpected discoveries such as this. But I’m glad news like this involves tabletop gaming!

A recent article at eMax health lists some bullet points regarding board games and autism. Board games can encourage children with autism to be more social, to learn from the visual nature of board games and to follow directions.

 

Hasbro vs. Mattel in the news

  • Vast Salary Differences: $74,000 per year versus $6,300
Mattel
Mattel

The Wall Street Journal had a fascinating piece about the pay gap. And the pay gap in question was not between men and women–it was between Mattel and Hasbro.

Hasbro’s median yearly salary is a handsome $74,000. Mattel’s is a not-so-handsome $6,300. It would be misleading to end the conversation there. Thankfully, the WSJ explains what is probably obvious: Mattel employs 75% of its workforce in China and Malaysia.

One would think Hasbro, the world’s number two toy manufacturer, would also need a hefty Asian workforce too. Not so. Hasbro does not own the manufacturing of its toys–only the design.

Mattel has made the conscience decision to own large portions of its supply base. Executive leadership at Mattel believes this affords them better quality control. Also, the amount of employees varies considerably between the two toy giants: 35,000+ at Mattel versus just over 5,000 at Hasbro. So salary comparisons are really apples to oranges.

It must be the engineer in me that finds technical details like this fascinating. Two companies in the same industry, bitter rivals for years…and their approach to supply chain management and employee compensation vary so drastically.

  • Fallout from Toys ‘R Us is still under way
Hasbro
Hasbro

Both Hasbro and Mattel’s biggest customer is going out of business. This customer, for those who’ve been under a rock for the last six months, is Toys ‘R Us. This will cause lots of ripples in the toy manufacturing world. It will affect Mattel more than Hasbro, however.

Hasbro has better retailer diversification than Mattel. That’s a fancy way of saying Mattel depends on Toys ‘R Us more than Hasbro.

Also, while Mattel is a larger manufacturer, Mattel is lagging behind Hasbro is some key areas. Think board games. When was the last time you bought a Mattel board game? Probably in the 70’s or the 80’s.

Also, Mattel is owed a heap of cash from Toys ‘R Us. $135 Million all told. That’s more than double what Hasbro is owed.

What can the board game hobby expect from this? Not much. Unless the rumors that Hasbro is going to buy Mattel are true, don’t expect any good or bad news from Mattel or Hasbro on the board game front. I do think Mattel is missing the boat on the resurgence of board games as a hobby. Maybe a intrepid marketing person there will stumble upon my humble little blog and steer Mattel in the right direction. Failing that, our hobby will be unscathed from the Toy’s ‘R Us/Mattel/Hasbro woes.

 

Closer to Home

Century Club in Muskegon
Century Club

Out of the Box has officially closed their Muskegon operations. Jeff, the owner, told me he was making a profit at this store. However, the time it took to spruce up the store due to driving to and fro was not worth it. He could better use this time and energy making this Kentwood store better. Maybe in time, a full Out of the Box, not just a satellite store like the one in the Century Club, would be feasible.

Jeff does have some competition in greater GR. The Kentwood Out of the Box is my favorite store in the metro Grand Rapids area. But it is certainly not the only store in metro GR. Jeff, in my estimation, wants to make Kentwood his flagship store. When the time is right, maybe expand. Maybe Muskegon again. We will see.

MuskeCon
MuskeCon

The second annual Muskegon Toy and Comic Convention (MuskeCon for short) was a few weeks ago. I was planning on attending. Due to a last minute cancellation, I was actually given a booth! Kiel over at the Griffin’s Rest gave me a vendor’s badge. I was given a table to demo some games. So I taught passers by how to play King of New York, Codenames and Karuba. After which, I sent these passers by back to Kiel so he could sell them some games.

I had wanted a booth at MuskeCon for The Gaming Annex. But all the booths were already taken. The convention leadership got almost 100% of their vendors from 2017 to return. And the remainders they filled from a long wait list. The last minute cancellation was a godsend for Kiel and us.

The convention leadership has secured a much needed bigger venue for next year. And in 2020, an even bigger venue will host the convention. The exact whereabouts have not been disclosed. As I learn more, I will report this back to you.

851 W. Laketon Avenue 49441 The Gaming Annex
The (New) Gaming Annex

We have ended the “dictator cycle”. On Tuesdays, we had a formal way of selecting which games to play. We went in alphabetical order by player’s name. That player got to pick the games for the evening. This was used in order to put the kibosh on the endlessly hemming and hawing. Unfortunately, it was not successful.

The need for a formal way of selecting games was too officious. People wouldn’t or didn’t respond to it as well as was needed. We have instituted an informal system. It doesn’t have a name yet. But it involves some dry erase boards that Dick Dima installed. We will be using these on Thursdays as well. I’m hoping we will have the bugs worked out of this very soon.

We are also changing the Sunday paradigm. For the longest time, we have been playing games on Sundays. However, our Sunday group is by far the weakest in terms of attendance. We have a few ideas to improve this.

  1. Play games on Sundays at noon instead of 9AM. We will do this about once per month. Many of our attendees are church goers so a 9AM start is, well, a nonstarter.
  2. Play games on Saturdays. We will do this once a month also. This should help build the weekend gamer group.
  3. Start a RPG campaign. We have been ignoring the RPG community for far too long. Why not play RPG’s on Saturdays or Sundays? That would build the community fo sho!

 

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Hits & Flops April 2018

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog. I apologize for that. I’m going to renew my commitment to adding good content to this blog. While I’m at it, I’m going to go over my recent hits and flops. There’s been some doozies! Let’s have a look…

Hits & Flops April 2018

Welcome to Centerville

Welcome to Centerville from GMT Games
Welcome to Centerville from GMT Games

Welcome to Centerville is a bit of a departure from GMT’s normal offerings. You would expect some white-knuckled card-driven game about the Roman Empire or World War I. However, you would be mistaken.

Welcome to Centerville is a city building game from Chad Jensen. Jensen is the designer of two other GMT games: Urban Sprawl and Dominant Species. Both are heavy. So when GMT agreed to publish his next game, no one was surprised.

Welcome to Centerville is a dice game. You roll custom six siders. Keep the ones you want and reroll the rest. Then reroll again. Then spend your dice performing one or more actions. As Nick Sima says, it’s like King of New York on crack. This is mostly true. It’s actually Roll through the Ages on crack. Or some other narcotic.

Game board for Welcome to Centerville
Game board for Welcome to Centerville

You can spend your dice to place your cubes on the board. This represents urban development. You can spend your dice to claim vocation tiles. The more of the same type or the more of different types you collect, the more points you earn. Or you can spend dice to obtain public office which gives you a benefit.

The game is heavier than King of New York or Roll through the Ages. But the game is also longer. It has the same failings of these games without the virtues. This game lacks any player interaction which is problematic in a 1.5 to 2 hour long game. When it’s not your turn, there is nothing but downtime. I thought the game was mediocre with 3 players. It was interminable with 4. As such, it’s a flop.

Verdict: flop.

 

Gaia Project

Gaia Project
Gaia Project

Gaia Project is a par excellent example of a Dr. Steve game. It’s a heavy, math crunchy Euro. It’s a reimplementation of the insanely popular Terra Mystica (currently sitting at 8 on BGG).  Gaia Project tweaks some stuff from its predecessor. But overall, if you like or dislike one, your opinion of the other will follow.

In Gaia Project, players will marshal several different resource types in order to build or upgrade their structures. To build the basic structure will require you to terraform the planet. But after that, you will only have to upgrade your structures to better ones. The different structures give you more resources, better technologies or more points.

Special buildings in Gaia Project
Special buildings in Gaia Project

Gaia Project, like most Euros, is all about timing. You take one action on your turn. Then your opponent takes an action. And so on until no one has any actions left to take. There are times when you want to wait to take an action. And other times when you want to seize the moment and take the action now.

This works very well for Gaia Project. You have tons of different ways you can affect the game slightly. But which slight effect will give you an advantage over your foes? This is the tension Gaia Project creates. In addition, the components are cool. Cute little structures that you place on your planets is alright in my book. And the theme works way better in Gaia Project than in Terra Mystica.

Gaia Project is a definite hit for me. I had Griffin’s Rest order me a copy 😀

Verdict: HIT!

 

Cosmocracy

Cosmocracy from Red Shift Games
Cosmocracy from Red Shift Games

When I learned what Cosmocracy was all about, I was not impressed. A party game with play acting? Count me out. I picked the game up last year for our Extra Life event. It was a leftover prize from our swag bags. I relegated it to the Shelf of Misfit Games.

The game kept catching Nick Sima’s eye. He harangued me to let him open it and read the rules. I acquiesced after months of badgering. Then he scrounged a group to play it. I played at the other table so as to not be subjected to a Cosmocracy debacle.

But the other table did not hate Cosmocracy. And Nick Sima kept mentioning Cosmocracy as a filler option over the next few weeks. I acquiesced again, agreeing to at least try it.

Issues & Matters
Issues & Matters

In Cosmocracy, everyone is dealt an alien race. The race has a few characteristics which you are supposed to role play. Then an issue card is flipped over. Two players debate the issue: one is PRO and the other is CON. The issues are always hilarious parodies of common contemporary political tropes. Both players have 30 seconds to state their case. Then there is a brief Q & A for the rest of the players. Then players vote on which person made their case best. Think Apples to Apples meets Twilight Imperium.

And it works. I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed it a fair amount. It moved me out of my comfort zone and forced me to play a role and do improv. It’s a game that can be a filler to cap off the night when you want share a laugh. It could also be a decent tool for theater students to practice their improv. The game had its critics in our group (Bruce and myself, namely). But both us liked it more than we should have.

Verdict: HIT!

 

13 Clues

13 Clues from CMON
13 Clues from CMON

I saw 13 Clues at Out of the Box recently. I was intrigued. A deduction game? Check. Plays quickly? Check. Accommodates up to six people? Check. I decided against buying, however. I have some reservations about quick deduction games. I’ve been burned in the past.

A couple of Saturdays ago our group had an outing at Out of the Box for their Conspiracy Room. We perused the game shelves after our escape room ended. Nick Sima bought the new game 13 Clues from Cool Minis or Not.

Everyone is dealt some cards. You place some on the front of your shield without looking at them. This is the solution to your mystery. You will also have two additional cards which you store behind your shield. You can thus see all the cards on the outside of everyone’s shield along with the cards on the inside of yours. Now you must use this information to ask questions to figure out your solution.

Cards from 13 Clues
Cards from 13 Clues

The cards have different suits and different types. You can ask someone a question about how many of suit or type they see. Everyone gets to hear the response. This could be very useful to someone, hopefully to you.

If it’s your turn, you may ask a question or make an accusation. If you make a successful accusation, you win. Otherwise, play continues. Unlike Clue, where you are eliminated if you make a wrong accusation, in 13 Clues you are not eliminated. Since everyone knows your solution, it doesn’t matter if you are wrong.

Despite the game checking several of my boxes, this game was a flop. My reservations about buying this were warranted. We played this twice now. Once with a full six players and once with five players. The rules a little bit different for 5 or 6 players. Since I played the game with different players and different amounts of players, my verdict will likely go unchanged. So why did I dislike it?

13 Clues isn’t much of a game. There are a few decision points in the game. The rest of the game is downtime. Maybe on your opponents’ turns they will ask a question that has significance to you. Otherwise it’s just downtime. It’s odd that a filler (13 Clues takes 30 minutes to play) could have downtime but here we are.

In addition to the high downtime to decision points in the game, 13 Clues often boils down to pure chance. Who happened to ask the right questions will win. But you cannot really improve upon your question asking skills because the questions you are allowed to ask are rote. Indeed, the questions you should ask on your turn are largely obvious. It’s just a question of whether the answer to your question will be useful. And since you have not control over whether the answers to your question are useful, 13 Clues is not much of a game.

Verdict: flop.

 

If you are interested in learning more about us, visit our meetup group.

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
211 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

Next Meetup

Thursday night games

Thursday, Apr 12, 2018, 6:00 PM
7 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

 

Board Game News

An ancient board game was unearthed in Slovakia. The Peter Principle can be applied to the game of poker. An extravagant airbnb caters to gamers. All of these topics and more will be discussed in this month’s installments of…

Around the World of Board Gaming: February 2018

1. Mainstream media is still catching up

Wall Street Journal logo
Wall Street Journal logo

Newsflash: board games are popular! This may not be the lede for long time members of the Muskegon Area Gamers. But we are on the cutting edge. Some mainstream media are still catching up. I’ll give them a pass because they are covering our beloved hobby.

A couple of recent articles drew my attention. The first is from the Wall Street Journal. The Daily Diary of the American Dream wrote about five games which you should seriously consider as alternatives to Monopoly. The list includes 13 Minutes. This is a slimmed down version of 13 Days which is a slimmed down version of Twilight Struggle. They also mentioned Memoir ’44, 1960: the Making of the President and Freedom: the Underground Railroad. That’s a nice cache of games!

Not to be outdone, The Atlantic also covered board games in their business section. This article is a good history of modern board games. The 1,700 word article discusses several themes: Eurogames, Ameritrash, and Spiel des Jahres. The article also drops many names: El Grande, Power Grid, Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan. This is a very good (and thorough) article for the uninitiated. It’s satisfying to see our hobby get the positive news coverage it deserves.

2. Ancient board game fascinates archeologists

Ancient Roman board game
Ancient Roman board game

An excavation of a 4th Century tomb in Slovakia has yielded an incomplete board game. And it’s the subject of an actual archaeology review.  In order to better understand the subject, archaeologists turned to a board game expert from Switzerland.

Ulrich Schädler is a curator of a board game museum and an editor of Board Game Studies, a peer reviewed journal. He was tapped by the archaeology community to reveal the game’s secrets. Figuring out how to play a game when you have the English rules in hand is often a struggle. Imagine how difficult it is to piece the rules together when there are no rules, no mention of the game in the historic record and the game is missing pieces. Mr. Schädler is the best person for this Herculean task. As his research is published, I’ll post about here in this blog.

3. Bed & Breakfast & Board Games

Great Escape Lakeside AirBnB
Great Escape Lakeside AirBnB

The Gaming Annex crew rents a cabin once a year and has a mini game convention. Dubbed “CabinCon”, our budding group is boasting almost a dozen gamers for this 4 day extravaganza.

It seems our idea has been stolen by some industrious folks in Clermont, Florida. Named the Great Escape Lakeside, this mansion could house several of our CabinCons. It’s 13 bedrooms in size, sleeps a staggering 43 people and has a different board game theme in each room.

Monopoly room
Monopoly room

The amenities include 10 acres of gaming fun. Video games, billiards, foosball and as many board games as you imagine. The price is as exorbitant as the amenities: $1,400 a night.

The likelihood our crew will make it to this gaming Mecca is quite small. But I’m going to add it to my Holy Grail list.

4. Interesting article about Poker

Muskegon loves itself some Poker, especially Texas Hold 'em tourneys.
Poker

Poker got a huge boon in the early 2000’s. With the advent of the internet and the broadcasting of the World Series of Poker, suddenly everyone and their brother thought he could play poker. The fad has died down a bit because it takes some serious chops to play poker professionally.

There are echelons of poker playing. The low limit or small blind games. And from there you can go to $100 or even $1,000 blind games. A recent article looked at these echelons as “work place promotions”. You start at one level, an entry level poker player. Then move up from there. And if you look at it from this point of view, the Peter Principle applies.

The Peter Principle states that employees will be promoted until they have reached a level of incompetence–and then they will stay at that incompetent level. Stated another way, employees are evaluated based upon their current position instead of the promoted position. And based on this criteria, the Peter Principle applies to poker.

Many poker players would win at a low level and then promote themselves to the next level. As the stakes increased, the competition improved from amateur to professional and eventually to world class. If you are good at the amateur level, you might believe you can compete at a professional level. If you cannot, human psychology might make you dig in your heels and stick it out instead of demoting yourself to your actual level of competence.

The author’s epilogue is cautionary:

Poker isn’t a lot of fun for any of us when the Peter Principle kicks in. We’re taking our licks and losing our money — neither of which is very much fun. So keep a good log of your wins and losses so you can find that sweet spot that’s just right for you.

Closer to Home

Out of the Box Games in Zeeland
Out of the Box Games in Zeeland

Out of the Box is starting their 2018 membership drive. You buy $150 worth of games and you get your full discount on the purchase and you get your $25/year membership fee waived. The drive will be continuing for several weeks so you still have time to make a trip. I know I’ll be making the Out of the Box hajj soon.

Scythe from Ghenos Games
Scythe from Ghenos Games

Our Nick Sima went to Griffin’s Rest recently to hold a Scythe Demo. This was our 2nd joint event with the cool new store on 3rd Street. To his amazement, Nick Sima discovered someone other than he owned a copy of the game! On a related note, our next joint venture will be in late February, probably on a Thursday. Check local listings for dates and times.

851 W. Laketon Avenue 49441 The Gaming Annex
The (New) Gaming Annex

Meanwhile, back at The Gaming Annex
Our advisory board* is working on a few long term policy projects. We need a better way to evaluate candidates. Our current method leaves a lot to be desired. We’ve been using a “30 game gauntlet” along with an arbitrary attendance record. But a better codified system would remove much of the current subjectivity. Newbie Abby was a bit critical of a new system but maybe we’ll grandfather her in with our old system 😉

The other topic is how to better plan our Tuesday and Thursday game nights. We often have late comers and we are overbooked for one table. There isn’t enough communication ahead of time so we often hem and haw over how to handle this problem. Normally, everyone is amenable to a solution. But there have been a couple of times where feelings were hurt because we couldn’t accommodate everyone. This may seem like a easy problem to solve. It hasn’t proven to be.

*We are still looking for a better name. 

 

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Around the World of Board Gaming December 2017

It’s time for one of my favorite columns: Around the World of Board Gaming. Several mainstream media have covered the topic of board games. NBC wrote about how board games bring out the worst in us. The Economist wrote about the growth of our hobby in Nigeria. ABC had a write up about how messy children’s games can be. And Cosmo of all places had several articles about our favorite pastime*.  Each put their own spin on how they covered our beloved hobby. I’ll go over each article. Also, Hasborg is conquering Mattel. And we will wrap up with our close to home section.

*Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about board games.

Around the World of Board Gaming December 2017

Cosmopolitan has some write ups about…board games?

Cosmopolitan
Cosmopolitan: fun, fearless, female…board games?

Cosmopolitan, that liberating magazine, has been giving women advice on fashion and sex since 1965. In recent weeks, they’ve also been giving women advice about our other favorite pastime: board games. The articles range from gift giving ideas for this Christmas season to the latest adult party games.

Cosmo (UK) gave us this advice for Christmas shopping: the top board game sellers on Amazon this season. As you might expect, various editions of Monopoly top the list because top selling does not equal top quality. But the advice isn’t horrible if you don’t know much about the hobby. Oddly, A Game of Thrones edition of Monopoly is one of this season’s top sellers. Prediction: I will find copies of this game at thrift stores in 2018.

Earlier in December, Cosmo published an article worthy of boardgamegeek.com. The article, entitled “All the different types of board game players that are sure to ruin your Christmas” is a geeklist waiting to happen. The list includes many family game tropes such as the family member who turns every board game into a drinking game. Or the sore loser who flips the table. Of all the articles I critique in this post, this one is the best. Read it. It’s cute.

Cosmo also did a review of a game. The adult board game, Pick Your Poison, is a “would you rather” game. Place two unappealing (and often raunchy) scenarios in front of your friends. Make them choose which one they would prefer. While this game isn’t the highest rating game on BGG, it is definitely in Cosmo’s wheelhouse.

And I am glad to see Cosmo giving love to my hobby.

 

NBC tells us why board games bring out the worst in people

NBC News
NBC News

NBC News has a pop culture section. Earlier this week they published a piece called, “Why board games bring out the worst in us“. The article, which is also a geeklist-waiting-to-happen, tells us why, in a pop psychology way, board games can make us behave badly.

It seems these are not “just games”. Our brains cannot tell the difference between a board game loss and an actual real world loss.  From the article: “…imagined situations activates the same brain regions as the actual experience”. This might explain Dusty’s typical disposition at The Gaming Annex.

Family dynamics is also a reason why board games can bring out the worst in us. Kids want a crack at beating their old man. Siblings want to take down their older brother. The ugly ramifications from this are obvious.

The article gives some half-hearted advice about how to fix this. You can really just skip that part. Overall the article is a bit weak in the science department. I guess that’s what you get from a pop culture section piece. But to its credit, the author did name drop “Settlers of Catan”.

 

ABC gets all wet with board games

ABC News
ABC News

ABC wrote a hit piece about board games. Their article Board games get messy with squirting toilets, soggy dogs discusses how modern children’s games are trending towards getting players wet.

Hasbro re-released their “classic” game Pie Face. Long time readers may recall my dismissal of this “game”. While Pie Face will never be a Spiel de Jahres winner, its re-release was still a commercial success. Hasbro followed up this success with Toilet Trouble–a game where players huddle around a water filled basin shaped like a commode.

The article rambles on without much point. Overall, the tone is negative which seems odd for a lifestyle piece about board games. The one positive note is that parents find their kids are enjoying the wet and messy games more than traditional games like Candy Land.

 

Hasbro will dominate Mattel in 2018

Hasbro
Hasbro

Hasbro. Hasborg. I’ve written about them extensively. I have a love/hate relationship with this we-could-be-great-but-let’s-settle-for-mediocrity company. Despite my strident feelings, Hasbro is slated to hammer Mattel in 2018.

2017 was not kind to toy makers. Toys ‘R Us announced bankruptcy. Tons of competition from the digital side. But Hasbro has making it work anyway. They have a monthly board game subscription. They have the rights to Star Wars toys. And Monopoly sales are strong.

Mattel
Mattel

Compare with Mattel. Mattel has lost its Christmas magic. Barbie and Fisher Price are performing weakly. And don’t get me started on Mattel’s board game line. It makes Hasbro look like Fantasy Flight.

If you are an investor, my recommendation is to buy Bitcoin. But if you insist on investing in a toy/game maker: you should consider Hasbro over Mattel.

 

The Economist reports that Nigerians got game

The Economist
The Economist

Yesterday the Economist published a story about the popularity of board games in Africa’s most populated nation. Nigerians love board games. Our favorite hobby is the preferred past time of Nigeria’s budding middle class.

Nigeria boasts more Scrabble clubs than the US and Canada combined. And the game of Monopoly was made an official sport in the west African country in 2016. There are national circuits for games like chess and Monopoly with cash and scholarship prizes.

I’m pleased to hear our hobby has made it to the shores of the Niger Delta. I’d love to come back to this subject in a year from now and be able to tell you that Nigerians have a Twilight Imperium national circuit and that Clash of Cultures is a national sport.

Closer to Home

851 W. Laketon Avenue 49441 The Gaming Annex
The (New) Gaming Annex

I’d like to welcome Brian to our inner circle. Brian was promoted to Tier 1 recently. Brian has made The Gaming Annex his gaming home. Well, at least one of his gaming homes.

Brian has an impressive game collection. He brings over a new game every Thursday. And that is not an exaggeration. He is also our host for the podcast. With his camera and computer equipment, I’ve made him our A/V guy.

He also runs a similar website to this one: Iggy Games. Because of his knowledge of computers, programming and such, I’ve discussed some strategy with him about our group. Which brings us to the next topic: The Gaming Annex versus the Muskegon Area Gamers.

Michigan Gamers
Michigan Gamers

The Gaming Annex is part of the Muskegon Area Gamers. But only a part. There are several other groups, stores, etc that are gamers in the Muskegon area. While I try my best to make us the best club out there, The Gaming Annex is not the best fit for everyone in the universe. But that doesn’t mean I can’t help find the right group for you.

After discussing this with Brian, he bought a website called, “Michigan Gamers“. You can go on there and post your gaming events. There’s a map so you can search by location. The website is designed to be used by anyone in Michigan. But obviously all the stuff on it right now is close to Muskegon.

Timeless Treasures
Timeless Treasures

The Gaming Annex has a satellite store! Sort of. We have a presence at Timeless Treasures. You may recall Timeless Treasures is the thrift store that was located at the west end of our old location at 1976-1996 W Sherman Blvd. When we moved to 851 W Laketon, they moved to 1447 W Sherman Blvd, the corner of Sherman and Glenside.

This new location is big. We’re talking 3,000 ft². And the place is full of vendor. We have one game shelf there with about 50 games. We decided to move into this location because we were constantly inundated by people dropping by looking to buy games. I thought I would sell my extra games at Timeless Treasures, put some business cards on the games and get the word out that way.

This is a trial basis. But so far the sales have been surprisingly strong. Don’t tell Debbie. If she gets wind of it, she may try to get into Timeless Treasures herself so she can sell furniture 😉

 

Where the fun never stops

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
207 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

Next Meetup

Saturday gaming

Saturday, Dec 23, 2017, 9:00 AM
2 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

Around the world of board gaming November 2017

There’s been a lot going on in the world of board gaming. This month I’ll cover how Twitter now lets you tweet board games, a lawsuit over who owns the rights to The Game of Life and, of course, all the happenings close to home. Many exciting things have been happening locally. Read on…

Around the World of Board Gaming November 2017

NPR’s Market place does board games

NPR Marketplace
NPR Marketplace

NPR Marketplace had a spot about board games recently. Their November 22 broadcast had an interview with Mike Sellers, professor of game design at Indiana University.

Prof. Sellers tells his students, “Movies will make you famous, television will make you rich and theatre will make you good.” He compares board games to theatre because you have to be good to design a good board game. There is nothing hidden in theatre with special effects or editing just like there is nothing hidden in board games.

The good professor makes a few insightful comments in the brief (six minute) interview. He said designers are tasked with making board games for vary different experiences. Some people need games they can play with children who cannot read, others want highly interactive and complex games. And people who play board games often need several of these various categories.

Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go

New games will undoubtedly go the direction of augmented reality. Augmented reality is where you play in real life but your tablet/device will allow you to interact within a virtual environment. Think Pokémon Go. This was the first example but will not be the last.

Game designers are working on other games which will use this idea. Hopefully making a more compelling game than Pokémon. With board game sales reaching a fever pitch, this seems rather likely.

When Twitter increased its character limit to 280…they allowed you to play board games

On November 7th, Twitter doubled its character limits. The new limit allows you to tweet your unsupported political views in 280 characters instead of 140. While that is mildly interesting, what concerns us here is: can you play board games on Twitter now?

Twitter Connect 4
Twitter Connect 4

And the answer is yes.

People are able to play chess, Connect 4 and Go. I guess if you’re bored and have access to Twitter, you can find a game.

I imagine other games will follow these. And, God willing, more games will be possible when Twitter decides to bump their character limit to 560. Maybe then you can play Terra Mystica?

 

Lawsuit will decide who invented Milton Bradley’s The Game of Life

Game of Life 3D board
Game of Life 3D board

Followers of my blog know I like both board games and legal proceedings extending from them. Recently I blogged about who has the rights to Twixt? It’s only natural to bring up the same topic as it applies to a household name like The Game of Life.

A federal court is hearing arguments about who owns the rights to Milton Bradley’s The Game of Life. The Game of Life was first published in 1960 as a 100 year anniversary to Milton Bradley. And now the authorship of said game is being disputed.

In 1860, Milton Bradley himself created The Checkered Game of Life. He was inspired by European board games of the day. He applied what he learned and put a game on a checker board. When you moved onto a white space, something good happened to you. When you moved onto a black space, something bad happened. From this game was inspired the modern Game of Life.

Game of Life 2D
Game of Life 2D

The estate of Bill Markham is suing for lost royalties. The estate, led by his widow, Lorraine Markham, claim Markham made the game but was never given proper credit for it–not in 1960 nor anytime since.

Hasbro, the current owner of the entity, along with collaborator Reuben Klamer, argue otherwise. The defense argues Bill Markham was a hired gun. He was hired to make a prototype and paid for his work. The prototype underwent substantial revisions before it was released to the public.

The pre-trial hearings have begun the week before Thanksgiving. The judge is allowing a partial bench trial due to the age of the participants. I’ll keep you posted about any changes to this as they arise.

 

Closer to Home

Christmas time at The Gaming Annex
Christmas time at The Gaming Annex

Our staff* did some Christmas decorating. The Gaming Annex has its first ever Christmas tree. The walls are covered in holiday cheer. The place is actually looking respectable. The staff also did some rearranging. Our space utilization has improved markedly. So if you see our staff, be sure to give our gratitude.

Business cards for The Gaming Annex
Business cards for The Gaming Annex

We also got some new business cards. The old ones were, well, old. They had our old address on them. I opted for a new design altogether. First: we needed a logo. The logo was added to the front along with our pertinent contact information. I also wanted a catchy back side. I decided on a Catan and Magic: the Gathering design, not because we play these games often but because these games are so common, it could draw people to us. You can stop by and get some cards (and check out the Xmas decorations) anytime.

*Holly, Nick Sima, Brandi and Kevin.

Black Friday

Around the World of Board Gaming November 2017
Black Friday at Out of the Box

Out of the Box had their Black Friday sale last week. Like previous years, there was a line in front of the store before 6am. And like previous years, there was some great deals to be had. I picked up Legacy of Dragonholt because Nick Sima was yearning for it. Viticulture was on sale for 60% off. But the game I was most interested in was War of Kings. Long time readers may recall my excitement about this game’s upcoming release. Well, the release is finally here. Now I have to get this game into [name redacted]’s hands so [pronoun redacted] can read the rules.

Griffin's Rest play area
Griffin’s Rest play area                               (credit: Griffin’s Rest Facebook page)

Last, but definitely not least: Griffin’s Rest (finally) opened their doors. Their first day of operation was on Black Friday, a test by fire as Kiel put it. The store was well attended by the gaming community. Many in our little club were able to make it there for their inaugural day. All of us were impressed.

The store had a nice collection of gaming titles. But the full inventory build out has not yet happened. Kiel said the next wave of inventory was arriving imminently. They have many of the games our group would play like Star Wars Imperial Assault and Betrayal at House on the Hill. They also had some department store games at the front such as Operation and Monopoly.

But the most impressive part of the store was their upstairs play area. The upstairs has several public tables, several televisions, a separate restroom and one private game room. The televisions were playing Dice Tower reviews but could be turned to a gaming instruction video. The private room was available for rent. The public tables are free. Some people were playing X-Wing fighter. People at another table were playing Runebound.

I wish Griffin’s Rest all the luck in their new enterprise. And as a bonus: Kiel wants to work with us to do some joint events. I do believe this is the start of a beautiful relationship.

 

Want to know more about the Muskegon Area Gamers?

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
201 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

Next Meetup

Ave Jon, our Counsel for Tuesday

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2017, 6:00 PM
6 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

 

 

Around the World of Board Gaming October 2017

One of our ongoing columns, Around the World of Board Gaming, is quickly becoming one of my favorites. In this month’s installment, we will be looking at the Magic: the Gathering class action suit, the upcoming Catan movie, and Toys R’ Us’ bankruptcy and how that will affect our hobby. We will wrap it up with our Closer to Home section. Enjoy!

Around the World of Board Gaming October 2017

 

Judge in California throws out class action suit regarding lost wages to M:TG judges

Around the World of Board Gaming October 2017
Magic: the Gathering

 

In October 2015,  a group of judges for Magic: the Gathering filed a class action suit against Wizards of the Coast. The judges claimed they were employees of Wizards of the Coast and thus should be paid for their services. A second class action suit was filed in April 2017.

Wizards of the Coast claims the judges are more or less volunteers who take on these roles because of their love of the hobby. Because the term “volunteer” has legal meaning, WotC doesn’t actually use it. A volunteer is someone who works for civic, charitable or humanitarian endeavors, and God knows Hasbro, Wizard’s parent company, is none of those things. But still, the judges agree to the terms of service which is a pittance of compensation.

Judge Edward Davila threw the case out. He said the terms are voluntary and no mention of compensation was ever made. He sympathized with the amount of time the M:tG judges had to undergo to become certified but said the plaintiffs could not adequately show how many “hours” they had worked, among other deficiencies in their case.

The second class action suit, which is likely to have a greater impact, is still working its way through the court system. I’ll keep you posted with any developments.

 

Sony is producing a Settlers of Catan movie

Settlers of Catan is a classic board game that Muskegon still enjoys.
Settlers of Catan

The Hollywood Reporter said Sony is making a Catan movie. Sony is hoping this will be a franchise starter. With all the flops coming out of Hollywood, maybe a movie adaptation about a board game will be successful.

Sony is lining up some decent talent behind the project. Gail Katz, who produced Air Force One and Dan Lin who produced The Lego Movie, are being tapped to produce the flick. Gail Katz currently owns the rights to the film (long time followers of this blog know Asmodee owns the board game rights). Sony is aggressively pursuing the rights.

Normally, board games use movies as inspiration for their themes. It’s unusual for a movie to use a board game as its inspiration. There are two notable examples: 1985’s Clue and 2012’s Battleship. This author hopes the move is more like Clue than Battleship.

 

Toys “R” Us files for bankruptcy protection

Toys "R" Us in Muskegon
Toys “R” Us in Muskegon

The largest toy retailer in the US, Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy protection under chapter 11. To read the story in CNBC versus the New York Times would make the casual reader think two different events were occurring. CNBC said the filing was good news for Toys “R” Us since it allowed them to leverage their debt and remain prosperous. The Times said Toys “R” Us was crippled by online competition.

But our focus here isn’t on bias in journalism. It’s how will this bankruptcy affect our hobby. The answer is: not much. Toys “R” Us will not be shuttering any stores. The company has said they will be working closely with Hasbro and Mattel to ensure a smooth holiday sales. With the new Star Wars movie coming out this Christmas along with strong consumer confidence in the economy, gamers shouldn’t fear this news.

 

Closer to home

The Griffin's Rest
The Griffin’s Rest

The folks at Griffin’s Rest Games are making progress. The upcoming store has turned the hull of its 3rd Street location into a beauty. The floors are getting worked on this week.

There is still no firm date of when the store will be opening. As soon as I know something, I’ll pass it on to all three of  my readers.

Because they haven’t been able to firm up the date of their grand opening, the Extra Life event  probably can’t be held there. We’ve reached the make-or-break point so The Gaming Annex will be hosting an Extra Life event on November 4th.

Extra Life logo
Extra Life logo

We will be having our 24 hour event starting at 8am. The event will cost $35 per person. All proceeds will go to Helen DeVos charity. Your $35 will include three meals, a goody bag and as much gaming as you can pack into that time period.

I think the goody bags alone will be worth the price of admission. But there will be a raffle too. There are five games up for grabs including Sword & Sorcery, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past and Tiny Epic Quest.

Sword & Sorcery
Sword & Sorcery

I couldn’t do this alone. Brandi has been a great help. So much so I gave her the honorific “Special Event Coordinator”. She’s taken the title to heart too. She went to extravagant lengths to help make our recent “Death Wears White” game work so well. And she’s planning our Kids’ Gala V which is this coming Saturday.

In other club news, Nick Sima is now one of the official key members of The Gaming Annex. What is a key member? It is literally a member who has a key to the door. He joins Dusty, [name redacted] and yours truly. Nick Sima will be in charge of maintaining the facility–a task he won’t know he’s been charged with unless he reads this blog.

If you want to keep up with us, follow us here…

 

Around the World of Board Gaming

Welcome to the another installment of Around the World of Board Gaming. This is a quasi-monthly column where we look not at board game news but rather board games in the news. We will look at a horrible story of a stabbing that took place over a Magic: The Gathering game, the advent of 3D printer technology and how it affects our hobby and we will wrap up with some news that is close to home. But we will lead off with a story about the publisher-we-love-to-hate: Games Workshop.

Around the World of Board Gaming August 2017

 

Game Store Sues Games Workshop

Games Workshop
Games Workshop

Long time readers know my proclivity to denounce Games Workshop. It hasn’t been all negative press for the UK based game company. I did mention in a previous iteration of this column how GW was making tons money on a weak GB pound. But the news today is not favorable for beleaguered Games Workshop.

A store owner named David Moore is suing GW for $62.5 million. Moore, who also is a lawyer, is representing himself in an anti-trust suit. Moore alleges that Games Workshop’s practices are destroying the retailer and amount to theft.

H.R. Giger's alien concept
H.R. Giger’s alien concept

But Moore dredges up some of the other anti-GW talking points people have historically made. Moore alleges that the idea for the tyranids in general and the genestealers specifically were lifted by Games Workshop from the artwork of Swiss painter H. R. Giger.

Genestealer from Space Hulk 3rd Edition
Genestealer from Space Hulk 3rd Edition

I admit there is more than a passing similarity between the bug in Ridley Scott’s classic and the vanguard of the tyranid army.

Mr. Moore goes on to allege that GW also took the name “space marine” from Robert Heinlein. The term first appeared in Heinlein’s 1939 work, “The Misfits”. Games Workshop has worked tirelessly to claim the trademark of the term for over a decade now.

Imperial Space Marine 2016
Imperial Space Marine 2016

Moore also found some records about the manufacturing cost of some of Games Workshop’s merchandise. The Imperial Space Marine 2016 retailed for $30 USD. But according to Moore’s sources, the figure cost $.06 to make. This comes to a mere 50,000% mark up.

Martin Shkreli
Martin Shkreli
(photo credit: New York Times)

Recall in September 2015 when one Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of the HIV/AIDS medicine Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 a pill. This was all over the news. And it was only a 5,000% mark up.

The lawsuit is still underway. It’s too soon to tell how it will pan out. I’ll be sure to keep an eye on this story. And I’ll keep you updated with any news.

 

Man gets stabbed seven times over a Magic: the Gathering Game

Magic: the Gathering
Magic: the Gathering

There are people who take their Magic: the Gathering very seriously. And then there is Elija Creech of St. Cloud, Minnesota. Creech was playing Magic on Friday, July 28th in the early morning when he got into a rules argument with his opponent.

According to reports, the argument escalated to the point where Creech smacked his opponent with a mallet and then stabbed the victim seven times for good measure. Creech made the 911 call and turned himself in. He is in Benton County Jail as of this writing.

This is the second time in this column that I’ve blogged about violence breaking out in a tabletop game. The vast majority of our hobby enthusiasts are able to find a peaceful way to settle rules disputes*. It is unfortunate when incidents like this happen and cast shade on our hobby.

*Dusty has gotten a lot better.

 

Game Theory and Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey and Houston
Hurricane Harvey and Houston
(photo credit NY Mag)

The amount of damage Hurricane Harvey has inflicted has not yet been tallied. There have been a few dozens deaths and billions of dollars lost. The final figures will not be firmed up for some time.

The relief efforts will be continuing for several weeks if not the rest of 2017. There are numerous logistical issues in performing a relief effort. And game theory has been underused in improving this. Several recent articles have discussed this.

One of the key takeaways from these articles is that 60% of all donations to relief efforts are non-priority items. A deluge of non-priority items congests the ports. Using game theory can predict the “players'” motives and help optimize relief efforts.

This article on The Conversation is fount of information on game theory as it relates to natural disasters.

 

The Impact of 3D Printers on Tabletop Gaming

Port for Merchants & Marauders
Port for Merchants & Marauders
(photo credit: Shapeways)

The use of 3D printers has greatly enhanced the ability of industry to create prototypes and meet short term demands. But 3D printers are also being used in board game piece crafting as well. And it’s having a impact.

According to Machine Design, making game pieces is $135 million industry yearly. And low-cost machines coupled with high detailed miniatures are natural fit for gamers. Coupled with the fact that many gamers have a penchant for engineering or CAD, 3D printers will continue to rise in game piece manufacturing.

3D printing typically gives a cost advantage over buying replacement pieces (or worse: buying an entire game!) 3D printing has also been used to pimp out games. Shapeways is a notable manufacturer that exists only to make game pieces for tabletop gamers.

The analysis of Machine Design concluded that the rise of 3D printers will not eclipse the board game market; it will augment it. People who use 3D printers would not have bought the game pieces otherwise. Thus, the publishers are not losing money.

 

Close to Home

Nerd Chapel is interviewed by Contact 29.18

Eric, a local gamer, has founded an organization called Nerd Chapel. He mixes his fandom with his Christian fellowship. He was interviewed by Contact 29.18 last month. He gave an impassioned case for what he does.

The Gaming Annex

851 W. Laketon Avenue 49441 The Gaming Annex
The (New) Gaming Annex

Brandi has agreed to be our Special Events Coordinator. Brandi has been with the group for over a year. She has grown to be a valuable gamer in that time. She also is passionate about our hobby and making it better. Brandi will be the point person for all our Saturday events and any non-standard game event. She was honored to take on this new role. And we are honored to have her as a member of our group.

Muskegon loves Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition from Fantasy Flight Games

Kudos to Dr. Steve. He stood in line at GenCon to buy Twilight Imperium for us. Not just one copy but two! And we played both copies simultaneous when Ben was AWOL last weekend. The differences between TI4 and TI3 are still too fresh to explain here. But you can be sure the Muskegon Area Gamers will be publishing tons of blogs about this game.

 

Until next month, follow us here…

 

 

Around the world of board gaming July 2017

Lots of news to cover around the world of board gaming. We will talk about GenCon, game theory, the market outlook for Hasbro and, of course, The (New) Gaming Annex. Hope you enjoy it!

Around the World of Board Gaming July 2017

GenCon 4 day badges are sold out

GenCon logo
GenCon logo

What happens when 60,000 of your closest gaming buddies all sign up for GenCon? If you said, “GenCon sells out for the first time in its history”, you’d be correct. There are no more 4 day passes for 2017. The badges, which sell for $90, sold out this month.

This is the 50th anniversary of GenCon. To commemorate this, the officials at GenCon wanted to top all their previous attendance goals. They pulled out all the stops.

They Might Be Giants
They Might Be Giants

They even have a concert.

They Might Be Giants is playing at the stadium adjacent to GenCon. And GenCon goers have access to ticketing.

We should conclude that 4 day passes for next year’s GenCon will sell quickly; everyone who missed out this year will want to buy their badge early in 2018.

 

Hasbro is not a good buy

Hasbro
Hasbro

I rough up Hasbro a lot on this blog. But there is no denying that they make lots of money publishing toys and games. This is due to Hasbro’s strong performance in the market place and Mattel’s missteps.

But Hasbro reported their smallest sales in 1.5 years. This past quarter was not kind to the publisher-we-love-to-hate. Hasbro had to rely on Transformers: The Last Knight toys and Spider-Man: Homecoming action figures. And these two franchises were not up to the task. Hasbro gets 50% of its revenue from overseas. Sales in Brazil and the UK were lower than expected this quarter.

But there is no cause for long term concern. Hasbro has the rights to the new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. Hasbro is the publisher of choice for many Disney IP toys. Hasbro is also launching a board game delivery service this fall. So don’t panic. We will be able to use Hasbro as a punching bag for many years to come.

Game Theory in Geopolitics

North Korean military prowess
North Korean military prowess

The situation in the Korean peninsula is heating up. It’s not bad enough that the Korean War ended in 1953 with a stalemate. But 64 years later the situation is deteriorating.

The regime is run by the grandson of the dictator who precipitated the first conflict there. This new dictator, Kim Jong Un, seems insistent on demonstrating his ability to launch rockets against the US.

While this is a topic of importance, what we focus on here is gaming. And the strategists working for the defense of the USA are using game theory to flesh out a course of action. Game theory is about playing the player along with playing the game. The game here is geopolitics in the Korean peninsula. The players are North Korea, South Korea, China and the USA. And game theory assumes rational actors.

Along with NPR’s article on the subject, Project Syndicate has a good background on the subject here. The use of game theory in geopolitics is not new. The Kennedy’s used it to game out a scenario to “win” the Cuban Missile Crisis. Our current administration is doing the same with North Korea.

 

Close to Home

851 W. Laketon Avenue 49441 The Gaming Annex
The (New) Gaming Annex

So we moved.

Our new location is at 851 W. Laketon Avenue Suite A. This is near Henry Street in the city of Muskegon. The building is an office/retail site along with some industrial warehousing in the rear.

We moved from 1976 W. Sherman Boulevard due to a change in ownership in the strip mall we were renting. We were there just under five years. After a tearful goodbye, we have moved to some new digs. We had over 10 people in our group helping out moving, loading and even renting trucks to aid the move. I was overwhelmed. I’m very grateful for this gaming community.

Our new place is about 50% bigger than the old place. We now have 1,300 square feet, compared to about 800 before. We have three separate rooms which helps keep noise and distractions down. There are a two annoying things about the new place. The first is the air conditioning. The A/C is a work in process. I’m hoping that the climate will be under more control this Tuesday. The second is parking. Just ask Brandi.

Muskegon Watch Us Go
Muskegon Watch Us Go

I’m confident we can work out these bugs. I’m hopeful this new location will work out long term. The location should be conducive to recruiting too. Lots of foot traffic. And Rick Jima, one of our misanthropes, is working on getting a new $20 awning. Expect big things!

 

Byte Club Gaming of North Muskegon
Byte Club Gaming of North Muskegon

Speaking of new locations, our former partners, Byte Club Gaming, moved. Abruptly. Like, no fanfare or anything.

Byte Club Gaming of North Muskegon is now Byte Club Gaming of Pentwater. Per their facebook and website, they are offering the same services as before, just in northern Oceana County.

We wish them the best of luck in their new location. Their new location will put them outside the scope of the Muskegon Area Gamers. But with little luck and a lot of hard work, they turn that resort town into a thriving gaming community.

Extra Life logo
Extra Life logo

I guess that makes more room for Griffin’s Rest. Speaking of which, I had the pleasure of meeting with Kiel and his partner, Dan, this month. We discussed our plans for this November’s Extra Life event. Griffin’s Rest will be having an event at their two story retail outlet on 3rd Street.

Kiel said final preparations for his store are under way. He should be open in August.

And we will be there to support!

 

To follow local news, check us out here:

 

Around the World of Board Gaming June 2017

Here’s this month’s installment of Around the World of Board Games. For those that are new to the website, this is a monthly column where we look at news coverage of our hobby. Note: this is different than board game news where you learn about upcoming releases and such. Feel free to send me a link of your favorite news sites that cover topics related to board gaming.

Around the World of Board Gaming June 2017

 

A Weak British Pound Means Strong Profits for GW

Games Workshop
Games Workshop

I’ve blogged about Games Workshop several times here. Maybe not most recently but definitely most importantly was when I covered GW’s divorce with Fantasy Flight Games. The decision to do so was underpinned by Games Workshop’s long term desire to stay profitable. So how’s that workin’ out?

Turns out: pretty dog gone good. The UK pound is dropping in value compared to other currencies. This making Games Workshop’s exorbitantly priced games and accessories semi-affordable in the US and Canada. The publicly traded company is reporting revenue of £158 million. This is a massive amount of revenue for a company that only makes designer games. Maybe Hasbro can take note.

 

Hasbro launches a monthly game crate subscription service

Hasbro
Hasbro

Speaking of Hasbro. Hasbro wants to cash in on the board game craze. And their idea is to compete with Game Bento and Game Box Monthly, i.e., ship games to you for a $50 per month subscription.

The subscription service is slated for a fall 2017 release. Hasbro is offering two options: family games or party games.

The debut offering for the family subscription will be Mask of the Pharaoh, a release of the Mask of Anubis. This is going to be an app driven VR game fused with a board game. The party games will include some offerings in the vein of Cards Against Humanity.

While this author will not be partaking of Hasbro’s subscription (nor most of Hasbro’s game releases for that matter), I will stipulate that Hasbro is gaining on Mattel. Hasbro’s game division is growing, fueling Hasbro’s stock value increase over by 30% over the past 12 months. Over the same period, Mattel has dropped 35%. At this rate, Hasbro will surpass Mattel as the world’s largest toy manufacturer in a few years.

 

NPR does a write up about Cthulhu board games

Cthulhu Wars will fit in perfectly at The Gaming Annex.
Close up of Cthulhu Wars

Way back in February 2015, I wrote about the upcoming release of Cthulhu Wars from Green Eye Games. Well someone at NPR, probably Peter Sagal, was most certainly reading this blog for material for their recent article: H.P. Lovecraft’s Monster Is Wrapping Family Game Night Up In Tentacles.

The article is a decent background as to why Cthulhu games are so popular recently. Since all of HP Lovecraft’s works are now in the public domain, publishers and gamers are mining the mythos for inspiration. The article does make an insightful remark: the rise of Cthulhu games is due in part to the rise of cooperative games. This is probably true since fighting Cthulhu requires a team effort.

The article includes art from the game Cthulhu Wars, a game with the most obnoxious flair in modern board games.

Board game session ends with two players arrested and one hospitalized

Muskegon supports family board game groups.
Family Game Group

An dispute took place during a board game in Washington Parish, LA, about 70 miles north of New Orleans. The dispute was between a Venus Vanessa Camacho and her boyfriend’s mother. The boyfriend, one Kurtis Strong, intervened on behalf of his girlfriend, allegedly striking his mother with a frying pan and then choking her. The couple were arrested. The mother was hospitalized.

The local ABC affiliate in New Orleans didn’t say what game the family was playing.

 

Close to Home

The Burrow in Grand Haven
The Burrow in Grand Haven

The Burrow in Grand Haven has closed down. I’m not sure when they closed down (last week or  6 months ago…) I only recently found out about their closing. This is the second straight month I’ve had the unfortunate duty of reporting on a local establishment closing their doors.

The Muskegon Area Gamers had a crossover event with The Burrow. This was in February 2016 when we did A Game of Thrones demo for their regulars. This also marks another unfortunate pattern: another local establishment closed down after the Muskegon Area Gamers had an event there. The first two times were with the Brew House and Shoreline Minis.

Certainly the cause for these closures is not related to our beloved group (at least I hope not). Still, I’d like to hear from The Burrow’s owner, David, about what the reasons were for his closing and what his plans are for the future.

Board games 1976 W. Sherman Blvd 49441
The Gaming Annex

The Gaming Annex might be moving. I know, I know. You’ve heard this before. But the circumstances are again such that we may move. The owner of the building 1976-1996 W. Sherman Blvd has evicted everyone but us. He wants The Gaming Annex to stay because we are a long term tenant (going on 5 years) and thinks that will help him sell the building to a prospective buyer.

The uncertainty of the situation has caused me to look again at commercial property. Ideally I’d like to stay in the lakeside area of Muskegon. We will remain at our current location into July if not through July.

Muskegon Area Gamers love Into the Woods Retreat
Into the Woods Retreat

We had our fourth gaming retreat. Called CabinCon IV, this event was biggest yet. It was also our first coed CabinCon. The shindig was an unmitigated success. A shout out to Dusty for putting it together. And another shout out to all the Muskegon Area Gamers who attended. It’s been a great year!

Around the World of Board Games May 2017

I’m looking forward to making this a long running column. This month’s Around the World of Board Games will look at the recent United Airline debacle, legacy mechanics, a horrible break-in caught on camera and of course, news regarding the Muskegon Area gamers.

 

Around the World of Board Games May 2017

 

Legacy mechanics in the news

Risk Legacy
Risk Legacy

If you’ve been part of the gaming hobby for the past few years, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Rob Daviau or at least heard of his games. Rob Daviau is the creator of the legacy mechanic. He designed Risk Legacy, Pandemic Legacy and SeaFall. With all of these games having a high rating on BGG with Pandemic Legacy currently at #1, Daviau is ubiquitous to those of us in the hobby.

But he’s also gaining notoriety from the main stream press as well. A recent article in Slate had a write up about Daviau. The article explains the legacy mechanic for those in the main stream who are not board game geeks. The fact that Slate would touch the topic of board games is news in and of itself.

Muskegon Masonic Temple
Muskegon Masonic Temple

What I got out of the article was that there is a super secret cabal for game designers. Alan Moon hosts this yearly game convention for designers and publishers only. And the bash has the rather Spartan name of “Gathering of Friends”.

It was here that the Slate author met Daviau and tried out SeaFall.

The UK’s Guardian also had an article about Daviau as well. It covers much of the same ground as Slate’s article. Both articles are an interesting read from a designer’s note point of view. And both show that our hobby is getting some attention from at least the Tier 2 main stream media.

 

United Airlines debacle and game theory

On Sunday, April 9th, United Airlines forcibly removed a passenger from one of its connector planes. The removal was captured on several cell phone videos and uploaded to social media. The videos and story went viral. This debacle could only have been worse if United had actually conducted the removal while the plane was in flight. Luckily for the doctor who was victimized by the Chicago Aviation Police, the plane was still at the terminal.

Around the World of Board Games May 2017
Game Theory infographic

While this story has been reported on much more thoroughly and professionally than by me here, this story does have a board game angle. NPR did a write up about the incident and how game theory applies to it. Game Theory is the mathematical modeling of rational, intelligent decision makers in a given situation. Game Theory applies to board games at the meta level. And per NPR, it offers a solution to United Airlines to fix its PR problem.

All airlines overbook flights. They got to. They need to fill seats to make money. They overbook because often enough some passengers will back out at the last second. But what happens when this is not the case? If you treat the situation as a game, you could have a win-win situation.

Around the World of Board Games May 2017
Stryker! Stryker! Strike her!

First, you do not allow passengers onto the plane when you are overbooked. People become emotionally attached to things they believe they own. United could pay someone $400 to skip a flight if the passenger is at the gate but might have to pay $2,000 once the person is already on the plane.

Next, you use technology. Passengers get updates about late flights. Why not have updates about overbookings? Offer them $2,000 to sit out a flight. If you have more people taking the $2,000 than needed, reduce it to $1,500. Use this auction system to find the minimal cost it takes to reach equilibrium.

Once the airlines have done this several times, they can start to analyze their data and find trends. They can anticipate which passengers will be willing to take a voucher and which won’t. And they can accommodate all their customers better.

The NPR article is a read for the board game community. It shows how our approach to gaming strategy can be applied to real life situations. Give it a read and comment below with your thoughts.

 

A game store in Mansfield, Ohio has a break in

Sunday morning of April 23rd was not a good day for Brian and James Mann. The brothers own the game store in Mansfield, Ohio called The Realm. The store specializes in Magic: the Gathering, selling singles and boosters and also supporting tournaments locally. But on April 23rd, the brothers found their store was the site of a break-in.

Magic: the Gathering
Magic: the Gathering

The store sports numerous security cameras. The thieves can be clearly seen breaking into the store. The images are some of the crispest ones I’ve seen of security footage of a crime. The culprits’ faces and general appearance should be completely recognizable should the videos be watched by anyone familiar with the hoodlums.

Store owner Brian Mann said he lost about $8,000 in cards. Mann also said, curiously, that the thieves were probably not familiar with Magic as they took flashy cards instead of expensive cards. While I don’t doubt Mann’s expertise on the subject, one must wonder what would make two thieves strike a game store and take cards when they don’t know the value? Why wouldn’t they just knock over a liquor store or a jewelry store?

As of this blog, the culprits are at large. I will update you if there is a break in the case.

 

Close to home

Board games 1976 W. Sherman Blvd 49441
The Gaming Annex

Our group had its second foray into Twilight Imperium: the Long War. And like our first foray, Jon was the big winner. I’ve tapped Jon to do a write up about our session. Look for it on this blog later this week.

Muskegon Area Gamers love Into the Woods Retreat
Into the Woods Retreat

CabinCon IV is right around the corner. This will be our biggest event yet: 12 have signed up. Last minute details are still being ironed out. I’ll keep you posted as the date gets closer.

Scattershot Hobbies in Montague
Scattershot Hobbies in Montague

Scattershot Hobbies in Montague has closed their operations. And the closure seems a bit…abrupt. Customers were surprised to see the notice on the door that the locks were changed due to noncompliance.

The store was first noted to be closed for good in April although I cannot confirm this with the owner. The store opened last July amidst some fanfare from the local press. I’ve heard rumors as to why the store closed. When I get a few sources to go on the record, I’ll publish that information here. As of now, the Griffin’s Rest has only one competitor: Byte Club Gaming in North Muskegon.

The Griffin's Rest
The Griffin’s Rest

And speaking of the Griffin’s Rest, the store’s facebook page says it’s slated for an early June opening. The Muskegon Area Gamers are looking forward to working with Kiel and his crew. I’ve got a feeling our relationship with the Griffin’s Rest will be far more beneficial than our previous sorties with local game stores.

 

 

 

 

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