Category Archives: Board Game News

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: 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 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. 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.


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, complete with various computer systems, state of the art technology, and even a Custom gaming mouse pad to add a personal touch. Well, in 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 →


The Marriages of Games Workshop

The game world was shocked by the announcement of Games Workshop signing a multiyear deal with Wizkids Games. The news was shocking because it was only a year ago when Games Workshop cut ties with Fantasy Flight Games. The gaming world assumed Games Workshop was bringing game development in-house. But now we know that wasn’t the case. We will look at the partnerships Games Workshop has had historically. Then we will look at this new marriage with Wizkids and what we might expect from such a partnership.

The Marriages of Games Workshop

TSR proposes to Games Workshop

TSR logo
TSR logo

The first partnership was with Tactical Studies Rules (TSR). TSR made many games in the 70’s and 80’s. But they were known for one game franchise above all others: Dungeons & Dragons. Founder Gary Gygax was getting orders for his popular D&D games in Europe. Opening up a shop there was costly. And distributors of games in the 70’s were hard to come by. Gygax approached Games Workshop about a partnership.

Games Workshop was founded in 1975 as a manufacturer of games like Mancala and checkers. Gygax thought a UK company with some gaming chops would be a good collaborator for its European endeavors. Games Workshop was happy to add D&D to its line up. Due to shipping prices, Games Workshop acutally did some printing and publishing of D&D instead of just importing it.

TSR Games Workshop minis
TSR Games Workshop minis

TSR cut its teeth on making, as you could guess from its name, tactical rules for combat. TSR would publish miniatures to go with these rules. Some of these miniatures would be made at Games Workshop’s Citadel Miniatures. This would give GW some street cred in the world of miniature wargaming.

Gary Gygax filed for divorce from Games Workshop in the 80’s. Gygax tried to buy Games Workshop. Games Workshop declined. Gygax responded by opening up a TSR branch in the UK. With a new branch in Europe, D&D didn’t need Games Workshop.


Games Workshop and Tolkien live happily ever after (2001 – present)

Warg Riders from GW's LotR's Miniatures game
Warg Riders from GW’s LotR’s Miniatures game

Getting the rights to do a game in Middle Earth is difficult these days. The Tolkien estate is weary of doling out its heritage to just any company. Sure, in the 70’s and 80’s there were a slew of Lord of the Rings games. But now the estate of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien won’t give the typical publisher the time of day.

But then Games Workshop isn’t the typical publisher.

"You shall NOT PASS!"
“You shall NOT PASS!”

GW got the rights to make a full line of Lord of the Rings miniatures to accompany the release of Peter Jackson’s movies. Games Workshop had a strong reputation as a miniatures gaming company. They managed to survive for decades. This is probably why GW got the rights to make this game.

This marriage between Tolkien and Games Workshop is still ongoing. The game is still supported by GW even thought they will not be making any more movies (at least I hope they won’t).


Games Workshop’s messy divorce from Fantasy Flight (2008-2016)

Fantasy Flight Games logo
Fantasy Flight Games logo

The marriage between Fantasy Flight and Games Workshop seemed like the perfect arrangement. Games Workshop had lots of IP which needed to be put into board games; Fantasy Flight had lots of in-house design talent to make board games. Games Workshop’s pricing is opulent; Fantasy Flight makes high quality components, necessitating high prices.

Chaos in the Old World
Chaos in the Old World

Fantasy Flight made several new games with the blessing of GW. Chaos in the Old World, Horus Heresy and Blood Bowl Team Manager being a few of them. Fantasy Flight reimplemented several old titles of Games Workshop’s. This included Relic (an updated Talisman) and Fury of Dracula.

Mina Harker from Fury of Dracula
Mina Harker from Fury of Dracula

Games Workshop’s petition for divorce felt very sudden. I covered this in detail about a year ago. But here is an executive summary. Fantasy Flight got the rights to several Star Wars games. Fantasy Flight is making its own miniatures games in the Star Wars universe and the Runebound universe. Asmodee bought Fantasy Flight. Taken together, this was too much for even Games Workshop to handle.

The news took FFG by surprise. That’s how we know GW was the plaintiff in this divorce. What we didn’t know was some other publisher had caught the eye of Games Workshop.


Games Workshop Elopes with Wizkids: 2017

Wizkids Logo
Wizkids Logo

The news was shocking. Games Workshop decided to give Wizkids a multiyear deal to publish games in the Warhammer universe.

This dispelled the notion Games Workshop wanted to bring board game development in-house. When the news of FFG hit the board gaming world, that was among the most speculated conclusions people reached. We now know this is not true.

Marvel X-Men Dice Masters
Marvel X-Men Dice Masters

Wizkids is the publisher of one of my favorite miniatures games, Mage Knight. The game is now defunct but Wizkids still makes Heroclix which is derivative of Mage Knight. My favorite Star Trek game, Star Trek Fleet Captains, is published by Wizkids. And Wizkids is responsible for the Dice Master series, probably their biggest seller right now.

The press release from Wizkids says Games Workshop is interested in a Dice Masters-like game. The Dice Masters series is collectible and has lots of expansions. Both of these facts drive up sales if the game is supported by local stores.

Fury of Dracula 3rd Edition
Fury of Dracula 3rd Edition

The press release also says Wizkids will be republishing games like Fury of Dracula and Relic. Additionally, the press release says WK will be publishing “two new board games”.

BGG, Dice Tower and other sites are in a bit of a furor about the news. But little else is available on the subject outside the press release. So here we will speculate about what the fruit this marriage will bear.

Wizkids will publish all the strong sellers

Fury of Dracula and Relic were specifically mentioned because these were strong sellers. But Wizkids will publish any GW game that will make money. A reskin of Warhammer Conquest or Forbidden Stars is not out of the question.

Wizkids will publish a Warhammer Dice Masters

This was noted in the press release. The price point is low enough to get people hooked. The game play can easily be supported by stores. This will give GW an in-road for their Warhammer miniatures games.

Wizkids will probably reskin their existing games

Wizkids’ most critically acclaimed game is Mage Knight the board game (different from the miniatures game I mentioned earlier). Wizkids reskinned this a year ago in the form of a Star Trek game, Star Trek Frontiers. What’s to stop Wizkids from doing the same again? Remove the Star Trek figures and replace them with Space Marines.

Wizkids will probably not be able to support its Star Trek line of games

Star Trek Heroclix, Star Trek Attack Wing and Star Trek Fleet Captains may not get any more love from Wizkids. When FFG gave Star Wars too much love, Games Workshop noticed. Will GW do the same if Wizkids develops Star Trek games instead of Space Marine games? Probably.

Wizkids may not be able to support its Dungeons & Dragons games

Star Trek has always been a hit-or-miss IP when it comes to tabletop gaming. But not so with Dungeons & Dragons. And Wizkids makes some D&D games. And these are some big box games like Assault of the Giants and Temple of Elemental Evil. Will Games Workshop allow Wizkids to develop more D&D games when the Warhammer Fantasy universe could be further developed? We will see. I suspect not.

Wizkids will be making brand new games

This is the best news in the whole press release. What is it that Wizkids and Games Workshop wanted to do so darn bad? The games must be in early development. But there is no further news about them. When I know something, I’ll blog about it here.



Why Games Workshop sucks
Space Marine Terminator Squad

Only time will tell if my speculations are proven correct. I hope I am incorrect in some cases, especially about Star Trek Fleet Captains, a game that needs a Borg expansion desperately.

And of course, we never know if Asmodee will simply buy Wizkids. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

-Chris, on behalf of the Muskegon Area Gamers


Who owns the rights to Twixt?

A fascinating conversation on boardgamegeek has inspired me to write this post. Most of what I’m writing here is covered in the 6+ pages on BGG. However, I would like the story to be read more generally than on the Twixt “news” forum on BGG.

Who owns the rights to Twixt?


What is Twixt?

The fences and posts of Twixt
The fences and posts of Twixt

Twixt is an abstract game where players place posts and fences in an effort to connect their pieces from one side of the board to the other. The board is a 24×24 grid of peg holes. You place one post in the grid on your turn. If you have posts on the opposite ends of a 6 peg rectangle (a 2×3 rectangle) then you may connect your posts with a fence. Fences may not cross over other fences–they must go around,. You are free to rearrange your fences on your turn so long as you follow the rules above. If you connect your pieces across the game board, you are the winner.

Twixt holds a solid 6.6 game rating on BGG. Considering it’s an abstract from the 1960’s, this is high praise. I find copies at thrift stores and I always pick them up. I haven’t played Twixt yet but by all accounts I am doing myself a disservice by not giving it a whirl.


Background with 3M

3M logo
3M logo

In 1961, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) added a board game division to their line of consumer products. In addition to making Scotch™ tape, 3M would make Mr. President, Stocks & Bonds and Acquire. The decision to add a board game division to their company required them to find game design talent. They added Sid Sackson and Alex Randolph to their line up.

Sid Sackson has a plethora of games under his belt. The aforementioned Acquire but also Sleuth and Can’t Stop. When you think of Sackson you should think of him as the 1960’s version of Reiner Knizia.

Enchanted Forest from Ravensburger
Enchanted Forest from Ravensburger

Czech born Alex Randolph was also a notable game designer. While not as prolific as Sackson, Randolph has some nice credits under his belt. Enchanted Forest comes to mind.

And so does Twixt.

Copyright entry
Copyright entry

Randolph created a pencil and paper version of his posts and fences game and brought it to Minnesota. 3M bought the rights to it and made it into a mass market game in 1962. 3M made a few changes to the rules but overall the game was what Randolph had intended. The 1962 Copyright Catalog shows 3M as the copyright owner. This would cover all the printed material such as the wording of the rules and the artwork. This would  not cover the mechanics or the name.


Avalon Hill

Avalon Hill logo
Avalon Hill logo

Avalon Hill was a publisher of high-end strategy games. In 1976 AH acquired the rights to 3M’s board game division. Avalon Hill got the rights to Twixt along with a host of other classics.

It’s long been believed that Randolph made a deal with Avalon Hill buy his designs back. Randolph’s estate has always believed the rights to his games were passed on to his heirs after his death.

No such record in the U.S. record has been found however. A failure to reapply for a copyright is quite common. It’s also a bit unfortunate in this case for the estate of Alex Randolph.




Hasbro bought Avalon Hill lock, stock and barrel in the 1990’s. I remember this dark day because I knew I would never see a reprint of any AH games. I was mostly right.

Hasbro had a trademark on Twixt, part of their agreement with Avalon Hill. This mark was cancelled in 2003 because Hasbro did not renew. The trademark only allowed Hasbro to the name Twixt, not necessarily the wording or the artwork (which would be protected by copyright law) or the game mechanics (which would be protected by patent law).


So where are we at now?

3M's Twixt version
3M’s Twixt version

The copyright has expired on Twixt. This hardly matters since if anyone who wants to publish the game would rewrite the rules in their own words and modify the artwork along with it.

Any patentable mechanics are long expired. The game was published by 3M in 1962 and designed in large part in 1957. Patent protection does not extend that far back.

Trademarks, however, can offer protection. Trademarks are for commercial names like “Coca-Cola” or “Vaseline”. You can make a soda pop. But you cannot call it “Coca-Cola” because there would be public confusion with your product and Coca-Cola’s flagship product. You can make a petroleum jelly but Vaseline is a name brand.

The name “Twixt” does not have anyone who owns it. At least not until this past summer. One Wayne Dolezal bought the trademark. After studious researching the game, Dolezal found that Randolph and his estate had made the common mistake of not renewing their trademark. Dolezal filed an application in July to secure the rights to the name.

What does this mean?

The mechanics of Twixt are more or less in the public domain. So anyone could publish a game of “fences and posts” just like anyone could publish a chutes and ladders aka snakes and ladders et. al. But the eponymous name of Twixt would only be allowed to be published under the authorization of Dolezal.

Twixt and Schlitz
Twixt and Schlitz

Mr. Dolezal mentioned this long winded but fascinating history recently on BGG. Many in the BGG community were not pleased with him or his tactics. I do not share the community’s contempt–mostly because Dolezal has been very congenial in his discussions. The link I provided shows an outstanding example of an internet argument that is actually constructive.

Dolezal says he plans to republish the game. He will put Randolph’s name on the cover. But he is reluctant to share royalties with the Randolph estate at this point.

The story is ongoing. I will blog again about this as new developments break.


Until then, follow us here…



Runewars Minis versus A Song of Ice and Fire Minis

When Fantasy Flight announced their intentions to publish a fantasy miniatures game supported by ongoing expansions, I was a bit skeptical. The hobby already has Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Can the hobby seriously support a second such game? Then Cool Minis or Not got the rights to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. They too announced they would be mining this fantasy setting in order to publish an ongoing, expandable game. Can the hobby support three such games? Let’s take a closer look and see…


Runewars Minis versus A Song of Ice and Fire Minis


In this corner: Runewars Miniatures Game

Fantasy Flight announced the release of Runewars Miniatures Game about a year ago. I hypothesized that it was one of the reasons for Games Workshop’s decision to split with its former North American partner. Runewars Miniatures Game represents a direct competition between the Minnesota based Fantasy Flight and the Nottingham, UK based Games Workshop. Very specifically, direct competition against Games Workshop’s primary IP: the Warhammer universe.

Muskegon loves Runewars
Runewars Miniatures Game from Fantasy Flight Games

The base game for Runewars is now available along with several expansion packs. We can take a critical look at the game.

The base set of Runewars comes with 48 unpainted miniatures. The miniatures, unlike Games Workshop’s Citadel minis, are preassembled. The miniatures are molded plastic in light to dark greys.

The game also comes with the several tokens, dials and other necessary accoutrements. As is standard operating procedure at Fantasy Flight, the game comes with two rule books: a learning to play book and a rules reference.

Runewars Miniatures
Runewars Miniatures

Runewars takes place in a setting created and owned entirely by Fantasy Flight. The universe is called Terrinoth. It is the setting for several FFG games including Runewars the board game, Battlelore 2nd Edition, Descent and Runebound. It is your standard issue fantasy setting with elves, undead and humans struggling for supremacy. The base set comes with a smattering of humans (called the Daquan Lords) and undead (called Waiqar).

Runewars contents
Runewars contents

The game comes with a staggering price tag: $100 MSRP. This price point is comparable to other lifestyle games from FFG like Star Wars Armada and Twilight Imperium. And Runewars Miniatures Game does bear several similarities to the former. Both Armada and Runewars are miniatures games and not board games. Both use custom 8 sided dice. And both use a very similar measuring system instead of a tape measure.

Custom dice are awesome. Muskegon Area Gamers
Custom dice from Runewars

I love custom dice. I prefer them to normal dice which normally require a spreadsheet to add/subtract all your modifiers. Custom dice such as Runewars let you intuitively add or subtract your modifiers. Also, I prefer 8 sided dice to 6 sided dice. You get more results and can more easily tweak your modifiers with 8 siders than 6. Don’t believe me? Play X-wing or Star Wars Armada; then play any miniatures war game from the 80’s or 90’s; then report back to me which you prefer.

A game of Runewars is based around building a 200 point army. Each figure or unit has a point value. The stronger the figure or unit, the more points it costs. Your opponent will do the same with a different army. Each unit (a unit is a group of figures), sits in a tray. These trays are made to be easy to move. You can move an entire unit quickly. Gone are the days where you had to move individual 15mm Grande Army figures.

Unit dial from Runewars Miniatures Game
Unit dial from Runewars Miniatures Game

The game comes with dials for each unit. This is the true innovation of Runewars. These dials are free-standing so you can place them facing you and not your opponent. You select an action from the left side and a bonus modifier from the right side. The actions are all icons so you will need to familiarize yourself with the rules reference. When you select an action, you can select a bonus modifier. The modifier must match the color of the action. White is a wild modifier so it can be used with any action.

See the white number above the action icons? That is the initiative number. When selecting an action you also must select your initiative. The red crossed swords icon is a melee attack. It is slower (initiative 7) than the orange crossed swords (3). But the slower attack has a damage modifier on the right dial–the orange attack does not. Pretty innovative. But you would expect nothing less from Fantasy Flight.

And in this corner: A Song of Ice and Fire: Tabletop Miniatures Game

Muskegon loves A Game of Thrones
A Song of Ice and Fire Tabletop Miniatures Game from CMON

Cool Minis or Not uses Kickstarter to fund all its games. They announced recently the launch of a new project: a miniatures game in the Game of Thrones universe. The project is already full funded with a couple of weeks to spare. It’s now just a matter of the game going to the printers.

Cool Minis or Not has made many cool games with awesome minis. Blood Rage is a perennial favorite. Its sequel, Rising Sun, broke Kickstarter with the amount of internet traffic clamoring to back it.

The Hand of the King pledge is the highest backing level for this project. Its cost is an exorbitant $150. It comes with 103 assembled but unpainted miniatures, several tokens and decks of cards and special rulers for measuring.

A tray of Umbar berzerkers
A tray of Umbar berzerkers

Like Runewars, ASOIAF also has trays that the minis sit in. Again, this is a nice improvement over the games of yesteryear. Figures can be placed into a slot to make your armies. Casualties can easily be removed.

ASOIAF comes with standard 6 sided dice. Players will be doing mental arithmetic all game long as they add or subtract various modifiers. The lack of innovation here will have to be compensated for in other areas of game play.

Political board in ASOIAF
Political board in ASOIAF

There are three innovations in ASOIAF worthy of discussion. The first is: the game is ready to be played immediately after opening. Each army is uniquely colored. Lannister is red and Stark is light grey. This allows you to play the game weeks or months before your army is painted.

The next innovation is the political board. The combat in the fields are often subject to intrigues in the backrooms. And ASOIAF takes care of this with a political action system. You will have a non-combat related character (Tyrion, Cersei, or Catelyn for example). Your action can be to activate these characters instead of activating a military unit. In so doing, you will get some advantage such as drawing tactics cards or healing units. Each space on the political track will hold only one figure so if you choose a political action first, you will get to pick whichever one you want.

Tactics cards from ASOIAF
Tactics cards from ASOIAF

The last innovation is the tactics cards. Players have a hand of three. Each round you will fill your hand back up. These are surprises you can keep from your opponent. This allows for some fog of war since you don’t know what your opponent is packing. You develop your deck along with your army ahead of time so you will tweak your army and strategy to match the cards in your deck.

A Song of Ice of Fire the Miniatures Game is really a streamlining of Warhammer Fantasy Battles 8th edition with some gotcha cards.



Runewars Miniatures
Runewars Miniatures (courtesy of Fantasy Flight Games)

ASOIAF hasn’t been released yet. Also, I have not played either game. I’ve watched some play videos and studied some reviews about these games. So we will have to do some conjecture here.

As far as cost goes, Runewars gets a slight advantage. However, ASOIAF gets the advantage for value. You get much more with your $150 spent on ASOIAF than you do for $100 on Runewars.

The quality of the components will probably be comparable. Runewars looks awesome. And CMON has a good track record for quality.

The real question will come down to two aspects: game play and theme. And here is where the two games diverge completely.

As far as game play goes, Runewars looks like the winner hands down. The unit dials offers enough fog of war so you can outplay your opponent. The dice are innovative so you don’t get brain burn from all the modifier computations. Fantasy Flight has already made two similar games (X-Wing and Armada) so we should expect Runewars to be mechanically as sound as its two predecessors. The tactics cards in ASOIAF look like they add zaniness to the game instead of tactical surprise. For all the tactical maneuvering you do on the field can be undone by your opponents hand of cards. This would make me feel very unsatisfied.

As far as theme goes, A Song of Ice and Fire is the winner all day long. Who in the heck hasn’t heard of A Game of Thrones? Who in the heck has heard of Terrinoth? For fans of the books or the show, this game is a no-brainer. The game will attract collectors as well since the components will be beautiful.



ASOIAF Lannister unit
ASOIAF Lannister unit

So can the hobby support both of these games and Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy Battles? Probably not. WHFB isn’t going anywhere, despite me loathing  it. So these two games will be competing for customers who don’t want to play WHFB. It’s possibly that some game groups or communities will play both games of these games; my prediction below is based upon this being highly unlikely.

My prediction: Runewars will last longer than ASOIAF. I believe the superior mechanics along with a massive parent company (Asmodee) will help Runewars Miniatures Game survive longer. I do reserve the right to revisit this topic after ASOIAF is released. I’ll post another blog about this if I’m proven right or wrong. Stay tuned.


In the meantime, you can go here to argue with me…


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 г158 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


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. Putting together a subscription and recurring payment service for a well-known business such as this with companies like FastSpring can help with the revenue they receive.


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.





Who we are…




What is “The Griffin’s Rest” and why should I care?

[Editor’s note: I’d like to introduce Kiel Reid to everyone. Kiel Reid was born and raised in Muskegon. He’s been involved in the gaming hobby for many years, much of it in convention sales. He has some exciting for us. The rest of this post is his announcement.]

What is “The Griffin’s Rest” and why should I care?

Griffins Rest logo
Griffins Rest logo

The Griffin’s Rest is a new gaming store opening in downtown Muskegon in Spring of 2017. That’s great but honestly…Why should you care?

That question became pivotal in how we decided to go about this endeavor. In order to really bring something awesome to the table, we asked ourselves this question every time we made a decision on how this store would operate.

For us, a key aspect of what we do revolves around this concept. Being a place where you can buy AND play games is what really separates us from our online and big box competitors. Honestly…Why shop with us if you can get it a few bucks cheaper online, avoid a trip and save money on gas? Being “local” isn’t enough. Our geographic proximity to you does not entitle us to your business.

With that in mind here are the key things that we feel will make it worth the trip and a couple extra dollars.


A Great Place to Play

1121 3rd Street 49441
1121 3rd Street 49441

When you enter The Griffin’s Rest, one of the first things you will notice is our play areas. Clean tables and comfortable padded chairs can be found in our retail area and our dedicated play area upstairs. Our free wi-fi will ensure you are able to connect any of your mobile devices such as a phone or laptop. We will have a small library of games you can play at no cost.

You’ll also find a lounge area where you can sit and socialize for a bit. Beverages and snacks for sale when you’re getting into a long gaming session. Private rooms for your regular gaming groups. There will even be smart TV’s that can display information for your tournaments or campaign information like maps and such.


The Ideal Customer Experience

It’s great to have neat toys and comfy chairs but at the end of the day this is a store. We need to be able to provide you with an awesome experience. At The Griffin’s Rest we don’t just stand behind the counter, we are your concierge. We want to hear about what kind of games YOU like and help make a recommendation based on that.

Know what you want and just need to grab it and go? No problem! We’ll get you squared away real quick so you can continue on with your day and look forward to seeing you next time. Don’t have what you need? We will give you a realistic time frame as to when it will arrive if you order it from us and let you decide if that meets your needs.

When you visit us you can always count on us to be professional, knowledgeable and accommodating.


Fun Events

Events are what we think will really make things special. Every month we are going to hold a specialty event that revolves around a concept. This event could revolve around Star Wars, Game of Thrones or any other multitude of things. Along with a gang of games that are free to play that revolve around the theme, you will find people in costume running demonstrations. There will be light music, giveaways and special discounts on themed games.

Magic: the Gathering
Magic: the Gathering

Don’t worry tournament players! We love you too! We will be doing our best to ensure we have awesome weekends and whatever games you guys want us to run. Friday Night Magic be a big part of what we do as well as other competitive play options. What other games? Well…It would be pretentious of us to assume we know the will of the people. You guys are gonna have to come in and let us know so we can make it happen.


A Safe, Inviting and Inclusive Community

Kiel Reid giving his 5x5 presentation
Kiel Reid giving his 5×5 presentation

Another thing we think is really important is being stewards of the local gaming community and that means spreading the love of the hobby. The way we plan to do this is by sponsoring gaming clubs at the schools in the Muskegon area. This helps the next generation of gamers start enjoying the hobby earlier.

We also want to ensure our players know we are dedicated to ensuring all visitors are held to a simple yet firm standard.

– Maintain your personal hygiene before coming to the store. It’s not our goal to single anyone out but we want to make sure EVERYONE has a great shopping and entertainment experience. If it happens, we will ask you to leave for the day. If it is a reoccurring problem, you will be asked to leave and not return.

– Loud or consistent profanity are not allowed. We understand people are human but this is an all ages store. We don’t need little Timmy telling his parents about all the profanities he learned at The Griffin’s Rest because you play a loud drunken pirate in your Dungeons & Dragons game.

– Be courteous to your fellow players. We are all passionate about the games we play but it never gives us an excuse to be mean or rude to each other. Do onto others as you would have done onto yourself and when in doubt if something is OK, don’t do the thing.

– You are the eyes and ears. If you see any of the above occurring we ask that you let us know so we can ensure the standard we have set is maintained. Don’t suffer in silence.

Pretty simple right?


Big Promises

It does sound like a lot right? I agree. So when we open this spring, come check us out.

As progress continues on the renovation of the building we will keep you informed, get you pictures of the progress, and the date for the grand opening. We’re looking forward to our opportunity to earn your business and provide you with an awesome gaming experience.


More information here:


Board games in the News

Our favorite hobby has been making the rounds. Board games have been part of the news cycle for the past couple of weeks. I thought I would pull the links and the headlines and give our faithful followers in Muskegon and beyond a look at…

Board games in the News


A surveillance camera captures an SUV demolishing a local game store

The Deep in Huntsville, AL
The Deep in Huntsville, AL

A local comic and game store in Huntsville, Alabama was the scene of a rather horrific car accident. An SUV plowed through the glass doors of The Deep Comics and Game Store on Memorial Parkway. The vehicle did not stop until it was completely within the building.

The employees and patrons in building were miraculously uninjured. The driver of the vehicle, whose identity was not released, did sustain non-life threatening injuries.

The best part of this story is: the owner is having the world’s largest ding & dent sale.

Click the link to see the video from WHNT, the local TV station in Huntsville.


Hasbro has a big day

Risk: Star Wars Episode VI
Risk: Star Wars Episode VI

I’ve had many negative things to say about Hasbro on this blog: see here, for example. Today, I finally have something positive to say: Hasbro’s stock prices are surging.

Hasbro saw an unusually high jump in its value today, reaching +15% by late morning trading. The current valuation of $94 is the highest Hasbro has ever seen. Hasbro, the world’s second largest toy producer, is the publisher of many board games: everything that was once Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley or Avalon Hill was assimilated into Hasborg.

Hasbro’s success stems from high earnings in the fourth quarter of 2016. The Frozen movie licensing went to Hasbro, edging out their biggest competitor, Mattel. The link below has more details. But this amateur stock market speculator believes its Star Wars Risk, not Frozen, that has Hasbro seeing black.


PETA has completely jumped the shark

Space Wolves from Games Workshop
Space Wolves from Games Workshop

PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is trying desperately to stay relevant. And the battle ground they’ve chosen to make their stand is Games Workshop’s Warhammer universe.

It seems Games Workshop makes plastic models that are fur clad. And this will not stand. PETA has started a petition to urge Games Workshop to remove fur from its line of miniatures.

This may seem like an article from the Onion but I can assure you it is real. And the board game community is having a field day:

Faux fur on Citadel Miniatures
Faux fur on Citadel Miniatures

In the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, it would appear that fur is still murder. I’m sure GW doesn’t want their models representing 10,000 year old pure-evil hybrids of demon and humanity to appear IMMORAL.

And speaking of an article from the Onion…

Explanation of board game rules peppered with reassurances


I think I might make this a long running column.



Muskegon Area Gamers: Latest News

Iggy Games
Iggy Games

There has been many things taking place in the past few months. You might not know this from my sparse bloggings in recent weeks. But there is much to bring the public up-to-speed on.

Latest News from The Gaming Annex and the Muskegon Area Gamers


The Gaming Annex

Board games 1976 W. Sherman Blvd 49441
The Gaming Annex

We mentioned a few months ago that ownership of the building was changing. It wasn’t clear then what this meant for “the only game in town”. Now it is clear. Sort of.

The current home of the Muskegon Area Gamers is and shall remain 1976 W Sherman Boulevard, affectionately called The Gaming Annex. The adjacent suite, 1980 W Sherman will be added to our current space, giving us about 60% more floor space. This will give us the floor space we need to warehouse all of our games, bestow us with a full kitchen and afford us valuable distance between tables.

We will be taking over the space this summer. The current resident is occupying it short term. I estimate we will have possession by July. Repairs and renovations will be ongoing through the summer and fall of 2017. Any members or readers of this blog that would like to help, please let me know!


Newly promoted members

Mural at The Gaming Annex
Mural at The Gaming Annex

We’ve bumped up a couple of candidates to full Tier 1 members. One is Brandi. She’s been a real trooper.  Normally we have a 30 Game Gauntlet. She has long since surpassed this, reaching Herculean levels: over 100 new games and going strong.

The other new promotion is Joe. Joe has been a strong find as well. As Nick Sima put it: Joe is a gaming savant. Joe doesn’t just play games like Twilight Imperium well, he often outfoxes long time veterans.

We are glad you both have made us your gaming home!


Change in Schedule?

The Gaming Annex 2016 year in review
2016 Attendance by gamer

For the longest time, The Muskegon Area Gamers played games on Wednesday nights and on Sunday afternoons. Wednesday nights have since moved to Tuesday nights. But Sunday afternoons have persisted.

It used to be that we didn’t have an Annex. We would game in Plunkett’s basement. For those who are new to the group, can you imagine Dusty, Mongo and myself traipsing to Plunkett’s house to play games in his basement? That was what we used to do in our pre-Annex. days.

But attendance on Sundays has dropped precipitously. Many who wanted to game on Sundays cannot make it anymore. In the past few months, we’ve had Sunday meetups of 2 or 3 players several times. The only solution I could come up with is to move it to Saturdays.

The vote to move games to Saturdays was not unanimous. Indeed, there were some hard “No” votes. So if we have poor attendance on Sundays and we have hard No’s for Saturdays, what’s a poor gamer to do?

The solution I’ve come up with is the most complicated but ultimately the best for our group at this time: we will schedule events on Saturdays occasionally and on Sundays occasionally. If we play on Sundays, it will be an early start: like 9AM. If we play on Saturdays, it will be later, like noon. I don’t have all the details worked out yet. Check the website or facebook for more details.


Partnership with Iggy Games

Iggy Games
Iggy Games

If you’ve been around on Thursdays, you probably have noticed Brian. He’s been a fixture for the past several months. He is an avid gamer and has an impressive game collection. He has been making us his gaming home, a decision we are very grateful for.

Brian has a substantial presence on the world wide web. He owns and admins several websites. is one such website. Brian often captures our gaming escapades and blogs about them on his own site.

Brian approached me about doing a podcast. How could I turn him down? A podcast is the next step in our gaming exploration. There’s plenty to cover in a podcast. And many topics make better podcasts than blog posts.

Brian has procured the hardware we will need to begin. He is a professional IT dude so he will also handle the software. He is looking to me to handle some of the creative end.

Look for our first podcast installment soon. I believe it will be live in March. And if you have any ideas about topics for us to cover, by all means, speak up.


New gaming center for Muskegon? Maybe!

Downtown gaming center for Muskegon
Downtown gaming center for Muskegon

A couple of months ago, I got a “ding” on facebook. This happens when someone tags me or one of my facebook pages. This ding was because someone tagged The Gaming Annex.

Someone I had never met was mentioning us in a post about a new gaming center in downtown Muskegon. It seems a friend of a friend of Nick Sima’s is considering moving back to our beloved town. And he will move back if he can get a grant to open a game store. Specifically on 3rd Street, where a lot of the renaissance in Muskegon is taking place.

The gentleman’s name is Kiel. He picked my brain about what Muskegon needs and about what I could contribute to the effort. Kiel then dropped by the Annex and met Brandi, Professor Mike and myself a few Sundays back. Kiel said he was in Muskegon looking at real estate to move his game store project forward. He even applied for a grant.

If his game store does launch, Kiel said he would have a membership program for his loyal customers. He would have a large area for gaming tables. Due to his background in convention sales, Kiel would support many events: Star Wars game days, pirate game days, etc.

As of this blog, Kiel is awaiting disposition of grant money. When I know more, I will blog about it here.


Where to keep abreast of new developments…


Trump: the Game

This blog is purposely apolitical. I don’t waste time here discussing the ongoing presidential election cycle, who’s a demagogue or who’s facing imminent indictment. But the recent news that Donald Trump is the defacto GOP candidate does afford me a rare opportunity: a timely look at a classic board game. The classic board game? Parker Brothers’ Trump: the game.


1. It’s not whether you win or lose…it’s whether you win

In the late 80’s, people knew of Donal Trump. This, despite the fact he was not yet a reality TV star. He was promoting himself in various financial articles in Time or Newsweek. He sat down and did interviews with many in the news agencies or talk shows. (Not much has changed). When not promoting his image or his business ventures, the tabloids would hound him. I remember hearing about him and his then wife Ivanka even when I was in high school.

In 1989, a man named Jeffrey Breslow approached The Donald about a board game. Jeffrey Breslow has several game titles under his belt

Jaws from Ideal
Jaws from Ideal

including Jaws (Ideal) and Guesstures. Breslow had an idea for a bidding/auction game. With the name TRUMP attached to it, the game stood a greater chance of getting picked up by Parker Brothers or Milton Bradley.

Trump agreed. Not because he loved our hobby but because he is a shameless self-promoter. Some stars get action figures. Some get candy bars. And a rare few get board games.

With Trump’s name, Parker Brothers agreed to publish the game. Trump starred in the commercial for the game. The tag line was quite memorable: “It’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!”

But is the game itself memorable?


2. Overview of the rules: the goal

Trump: the Game 1st Edition
Trump: the Game 1st Edition

The goal of Trump is to end the game with the most money. Players take on the role of a real estate mogul. Both these things are in line with a game based upon Donald Trump. +1 for theme!

There are eight properties that go up for sale. Each property has a cartridge (because it was the 80’s). Inside the cartridge is the value of the property. As the game progresses, unowned properties gather more income, simulating their accrued value. Eventually players will land on the property (like in Monopoly) and the property goes up for auction. High bidder spends his bid and claims the property. The money inside the cartridge is his. Hopefully he invested wisely.

There are two editions of the Trump game. And the rules have several differences. But in both games, the game clock is when all eight properties are owned by the players. The last phase of the game happens when the last property is bought. When the last phase is complete, players tally their money. The most money is the winner.


3. Action choices

Trump: the game board
Trump: the game board

Players have a choice of actions on their turn. After drawing a Trump card, the active player chooses to either roll the dice and move his pawn or play a Trump card.

Playing Trump cards, generally gives you money. The Trump cards will give

Trump Cards (1st edition)
Trump Cards (1st edition)

you money if you own a specific property. This gives players secret goals. If you draw a couple of Casino cards, you have more incentive to buy the Casino than other players.

Moving around the board is how you force certain auctions to take place. It’s also a way to add money to the cartridges of unowned properties, making their upcoming auctions juicier.

The auction mechanism in Trump is…unique. It’s a two phase auction. The first phase is closed and the second phase is open. Players secretly select how much they are going to bid on a property. Players simultaneously reveal their totals. Players who bid nothing are not allowed to participate in the second phase of bidding. During the second phase, players in turn order will bid on the property or pass. Players who pass may jump back in later. The auction ends when all players pass in a row. The winner claims the property and spends his money. All other players keep their bids.


4. What’s memorable about Trump: the Game

Trump: Property cartridges
Trump: Property cartridges

The auction mechanic is definitely unique. Reiner Knizia has not even designed that into one of his games. And he designed Modern Art which is nothing but different styles of auctions.

The game also has a game end that is player provoked. Players can try to force the end of the game by trying to get the last property auctioned. Games where players force the end of the game are usually more satisfying than games with a hard limit of turns.

The property cartridges were a cool component. They look pretty cool (for a 1980’s game). And they allow for secret information.

And speaking of secret information: the Trump cards are just that. You have a hand of action cards that you can use to gain some money or to slow down a runaway opponent.

All of these aspects make Trump: the Game more memorable than its closest living relative: Monopoly. And the play time is around an hour so it’s got Monopoly beat there as well.


5. Trump: the Game 2nd edition

Trump: the Game (2nd Edition)
Trump: the Game (2nd Edition)

Donald Trump’s empire suffered a blow in the 90’s. He filed bankruptcy and went through a messy divorce. I thought I had heard the last of him. But he somehow managed to rebuild his wealth.

And he landed a reality TV show. Since the world was being subjected to Donald Trump: the 2nd Edition, why not subject us to Trump: the Game (2nd edition) as well?

Trump: 2nd edition has several differences over its 1st edition. There is an additional action choice. Players may wheel and deal their Trump cards. Got an Airline card that’s worth $50 million to me? We can work out a deal.

You're Fired!
“You’re Fired” cards knock other players out of the bidding on a property. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Nicole Crowder

Donald Trump’s reality show coined the phrase, “You’re fired!” So the 2nd edition added several “You’re fired!” cards to the deck. These allow you to eliminate someone from an auction.

The newer edition also doesn’t allow you to buy owned properties. The original edition allowed you to “force” the sale of a property, even a property someone already owns. If you sell your property you collected the sale price. They took this mechanic out in the new edition. I think that was a mistake. I kinda like that mechanic.


6. Final Thoughts

2008: Campaign Manager
2008: Campaign Manager

Trump: the Game is one of the better Monopoly clones. This makes it a mediocre game. It has some kinda good ideas. Those ideas would need more work to make it a good game.

The Trump cards are a good idea. But they need more polish. The roll-and-move aspect of the game is just bad. And lazy. There are so many other ways to address this instead. Fix these issues and you would have a pretty good game.

This election cycle, like it or not, has been fascinating. Wouldn’t it be great if the design team that brought us 1960: the Making of the President and 2008: Campaign Manager were to give us a 2016 version? No matter the winner: I would buy that game!