Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The best games I wished I had played in 2016

Happy (almost) New Year!

While I own several board games, I don't often get many chances to play them. Rather than post yet another "best of the year" list, here are the 10 games I wished I had gotten a chance to play in 2016.

NOTE: Most of these games on this list are still sitting on my shelf in shrink wrap.  So, these are my ill-informed impressions of what may or may not be the best games of 2016.

10. Star Wars Clue

I don't care how hokey the original game is, I still really like Clue. I have a few versions of it (still need to get the Dungeons and Dragons version) and when I took one look at that 3D model of the Death Star I had to have it! I mean, look at this thing!

I already have some cool Star Wars Command figures and that Death Star is going to double as a rad playset for them! My lovely wife got this for me for Christmas but when I asked my family if they wanted to play, they all watched "It's a Wonderful Life" instead. Maybe I'll get it out of shrink-wrap before 2017 is over.

9. Star Trek Panic

Let's get this straight. I am a Star Wars fan. Star Trek was always 2nd (actually 4th or 5th) down the line in my favorite space-centric franchises, but there is something about that cardboard Enterprise that you can attach explosions to that is just so cool!

2016 is going to go down in my book as the "year of the rad cardboard 3D models in board games" (see other entries below). I have always loved the "toyetic" nature of games and that is what drew me to Star Trek Panic. I had played the original Castle Panic (meh but my son likes it) I resisted buying this at Gen-Con because I was already lugging enough games back to California as it was. So I waited until to buy it when came out in stores. Now I am waiting to actually play this game with someone.

8. Raptor

First of all, Raptor is designed by two guys named Bruno. And they're really good game designers too. Secondly, I was working on my own "dinosaur island" themed board game (It's called "Diamonds and Dinosaurs" - I'd keep the name but the D&D acronym is already taken. Who knew?) and wanted to see how this one played. Thirdly, take a look at this game! Miniature Dinosaurs and 3D mountains!? It's like Jurassic Park in a box!

In Raptor (according to the back of the box) you are a pissed-off Mamma Raptor defending her adorable little babies from tranquilizer dart gun wielding scientists! It's actually an asymmetrical game that looks like it could be really viscous and a lot of fun, but I wouldn't know because I haven't played it yet.

7. Above and Below

I had the pleasure meeting Ryan Laukat at Gen-Con this year and he was a very nice guy. That's why I bought "Above and Below." In addition to being a nice guy, his games are beautiful (he does all of the art himself) and I hear they are fun to play. They look nice in the pictures.

I wanted to check this one out because I had been working on a design about a village that lived above a dungeon and heard "Above and Below" was essentially the same idea.I wouldn't know if it is any good however, because I haven't played it yet. One day. One day...

6. Zombie Tower 3D

Look at this thing! It is a thing of beauty! Who cares if it is yet another Zombie game? It has a 3D building!! And this is what I was thinking when I backed Zombie Tower 3D when it was on Kickstarter  Right after I backed it, I just missed demoing the game at Strategicon (they were packing it up as I got there) but once again, I am a sucker for a 3D board. It might have something to do with playing Voice of the Mummy as a kid.

 Zombie Tower 3D is a cooperative game where you avoid getting eaten by Zombies as you pass items through cracks in the building. The only thing that would make it better, would be miniatures. Maybe in an expansion. I can't wait to try it out. Maybe in 2017?

5. Orcs Must Die the board game

I've called the video game of Orcs Must Die the game that "I wish I made." The video game plays like "Tecmo's Deception" and the main character even looks a bit like Maximo. This is another game I backed on Kickstarter and it took FOREVER to arrive. I had actually forgotten that I had backed it when it showed up at my door late this year.

As far as I can tell, it's a tower-defense style game (like the video game) but in board game form. You set up traps and fight against waves of orcs with your heroes. All I know is it has a modular board and lots of miniatures - two other things I am a sucker for. But will it be any fun to play? I'll let you know when I actually play it!

4. Vast - the Crystal Caverns

This was another game I backed on Kickstarter - twice. Once for the game and a second time for really cool miniatures that the game didn't intially come with. The art on this game is stellar and the concept - a dungeon crawl (again love) where you can either play the knight, the goblin horde, the thief, a dragon or... the cave itself!! So great.

Now I've heard the game itself is a little arcane. I tried to figure out the rules to no avail - but that might have been because I was trying to read them at 2 am after a full day of attending Gen-Con. Maybe I'll get a chance to play the game before Gen-Con 2017.

3. Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space

I have heard that Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is the "scariest board game ever" and the concept sounds like something straight out of the original Alien film. In it, players attempt to reach the airlock of a space ship (or space station) while being stalked by a horrible alien which will take over take them and turn them into aliens as well.

The challenge is that the player can't see where they are going. There is no shared board - only a battleship style map that each player use to plot the last known locations of their fellow players. Everyone is stumbling around blind until they escape or run into an alien. It sounds amazing. I hope to play it soon.

2. Pandemic Legacy Season 1

Guess who has two thumbs and still hasn't played the "best game of 2015"? I don't know much about Pandemic Legacy since I didn't want to spoil the game for myself. All I know about it that it plays like Pandemic, it is really good, it finally bumped Twilight Struggle out of the #1 spot on BGG and has some huge plot twists in it. Oh, and that there is no difference between the red box and the blue box. I heard that one straight from the designers themselves.

But if getting people to play Pandemic Legacy is as hard as it was to get people to commit to playing the also-awesome Risk Legacy, then I probably won't be playing Pandemic Legacy until 2018.

1. Star Wars Rebellion - Fantasy Flight Games

Dice Tower reviewer Tom Vasel calls this game "Star Wars in a box" Considering that we have already gotten Star Wars in a box several times over, this seems like a pretty bold claim. What Rebellion appears to be is a galaxy-spanning strategy game that features all of the heroes and villains of the original trilogy (sans Rogue One - perhaps in an update?) and lots of gorgeous and tiny miniatures of stormtroopers and rebel troopers and x-wings and TIE fighters.

The game even comes with three models of the Death Star - two built and one under-construction! This game has been topping many list of "the best of 2016" and I guess my list is no different. I look forward to spending a little time in a galaxy far, far away very soon.

UPDATE: Just as I wrote this entry, I was invited over to a friend's to play Rebellion. However, I had other obligations and had to decline. I can't wait for this year to be over.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

2016 Board Game Gift Guide

I was putting together a holiday tabletop gaming gift guide, but it was starting to feel like every other list on the internet: Ticket to Ride, Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Qwixx, Pandemic Legacy Season 1. All great games you should play. You probably already own them all. I do.

So then I thought about making a gift guide based on some of the great new games that came out in 2016: Scythe, Vast, Secret Hitler, World of Yo-Ho, The Last Friday. But I realized I haven't played too many games that came out in 2016. And many of these are still hard to find or not available to the average consumer.


So I decided I would highlight games that were made by board game designer friends of mine. These are all great games but more importantly, great games made by great people. If you want them to keep making games, please buy a copy or two.

Designer: Rob Davieau
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

Rob Daviaeu is best known for designing the game-changing Risk Legacy. If you don't know what a Legacy game is, it's where the game reflects the evolving state of the ongoing game each time you play. Rob describes this game as "Indiana Jones on the high seas" which sounds pretty cool to me.

Buy Seafall at

Designers: Sen-Foong Lim and Jay Cormier
Publisher: Pretzel Games

Sen-Foong and Jay are the dynamic duo of board game design. They've released several games this year, but Junk Art is their most intriguing. Don't be fooled by how simple it looks. It may resemble Jenga, but it has 50 different game variants.

Buy Junk Art at

Designer: Gil Hova
Publisher: Formal Ferret Games

Gil's The Networks was the surprise hit of this year. I'm not surprised as it is a clever idea that lends itself naturally to a board game. In the Networks, you run your own TV station. You start with three awful public access programs and snatch up new shows, stars and advertisements. You start to assemble blocks of programming and  determine how long the shows run for as they gain viewers. The game is filled with lots of fun parodies of TV shows.

You can get a print and play version at Formal Ferret's website
Get the expansion at

Designer: Geoff, Sydney and Brian Engelstein
Publisher: Stronghold Games

The Engelsteins are some of my favorite people in board gaming and their Dragon and Flagon is a great family game about a bar fight. D&F is boisterous pre-programmed bar brawling game has fantasy archetypes (wizards, fighters, monks, pirates, etc.) battling it out for a magical brew that bestows super-powers. Chairs are thrown, chandeliers are swung from and there's lots of chaotic silliness. Plus if you are a fan of HeroQuest's tiny furniture, then this game is for you.

Buy the Dragon and Flagon on
Designer: Kevin Wilson
Publisher: IDW Games

This game kills two birds with one stone for me. The publisher, IDW Games, has picked up my own game Rayguns and Rocketships (coming soon!), and Erik Burnham, my old Shooting Star Comics buddy who sometimes writes the current TMNT comic book. The minis are gorgeous in this campaign-style skirmish game and if you like games like Descent or Star Wars Imperial Assault, then you will like TMNT:SOTP

Buy TMNT: SOTP at the IDW Store

Designer: NA
Publisher: Steve Jackson Games

My pals over at Steve Jackson Games have been making great games for a long time. Even if you don't like Munchkin, I suggest giving their new Marvel version a try. It uses some great Marvel art and it somehow feels a more appropriate use of the Munchkin play system than even the original game. Plus there is already one expansion out featuring Marvel Knights heroes Luke Cage and Dr. Strange.

Buy Marvel Munchkin at
Designer: Mike Selinker and friends
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

Mike was the lead developer of BAHOTH - which happens to be one of my all-time favorite games. When he announced that an expansion was coming out, us fans of the original were justifiably excited. The new set features a few new room, omens, items and 50 new haunts written by a who's who of game designers and a few creatives from other mediums. Keep in mind that you need the base game to play it.

Buy Widow's Walk Expansion on

Designer: Adam Poots
Publisher: Kingdom Death

I don't know Adam Poots personally, but I could not leave this game off this list. His Kingdom Death: Monster is called a "boutique cooperative nightmare horror game" and everything about it definitely fits that description. The miniatures are of amazing detail and the game play is strong (I played a demo at Gen-Con this year) Everything I've heard and read and seen about this game is the highest quality. Beware, this game is not for everyone - the subject matter is extremely dark, mature and even sexual - but you cannot deny it is extremely captivating.

I missed the original Kickstarter in 2013 (pesky cancer) but followed it's rise ever since it raised over 2 million dollars. It has some of the highest ratings of any game on Boardgamegeek. The only way to buy the base game was through the gray market (where it was selling for over $1000 on ebay) but Poots has created a second chance Kickstarter campaign - a 1.5 version with some new rules updates but essentially a second edition - which as of his writing has 33 days to go and has raised over $7 Million dollars. It will probably end up being the highest grossing Kickstarter in history. The game itself is very expensive ($350 for the Gold Lantern Level which includes the base game and the "Gambler's box" add-on) but it is, as some have called it, the "Ferrari of board games." If you have the means, I highly recommend it.

Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5 Kickstarter (live now!)
Kingdom Death website (which sell some minis and expansions)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Six Publisher Speed Dating Tips

Let's talk about an interesting event that is happening within the board gaming industry: Publisher Speed Dating. These are events where about 15 game designers meet with 15 tabletop game publishers and have five minutes to pitch them each of them their board games. It's been a very popular event held at many gaming conventions around the country.

I, personally, have submitted to two speed dating events so far. My games haven't been picked for either of them, but I have come away with some valuable lessons I'd like to share with you:

1) Your sell-sheet matters. A sell-sheet is a single sheet designed to get publishers interested in your game. It should have the name of your game and a brief description of your game play, a list of components, the age, playing time and # of players and several reasons why your game is so great (I find bullet-points work best) - a compelling image to convey your theme and an image of your game "in action" also help. Contact info should always be on a sell-sheet. My first sell-sheet was light on the game play elements and I believe they are the most important. Don't worry about story or your finely crafted universe. Concentrate on the game play. Also, even though I didn't get in to the event, I did have a sell-sheet that I could show to other publishers and get them interested in my game.
 This Rayguns and Rocketships sell-sheet didn't have enough information on it about the game, the components or anything to get the publisher excited about my game.

2) The type of game matters. The last time I submitted to a speed dating event, I was told my game didn't get picked was because it was a two-player game and publishers weren't interested in two-player games. Therefore, find out what people are publishing and cater to that. I have been told that Deck-builders aren't very popular any more and it feels like the average consumer is getting burnt out on social deduction games. Miniature games can be very expensive to produce. Now,  I'm not saying don't make a game you aren't interested in, but it's always better to do your homework and find out what is appealing to the market.

While I feel this sell-sheet is much better than the previous one, the selection committee didn't want to see a two-player game

3) Your game is look and feel complete. A speed dating event is the "last stop" for the game designer. The game you be presenting should be polished, play tested and (in my humble opinion) look great on the table. I know many game designers and publishers have different opinions on how polished a prototype game should look, but from my experience, the publisher wants to see something they can visual as being a final product. The less work they have to do to get it out the door, the better. In reality, your games may still require final art, a better rule book, graphically designed cards, components, etc. but the impression you want to give is of a finished game.

4) Know your pitch and keep it short. See if you can make your game seem exciting even without the game being there. If you can get people to say "Oooh! That sounds like a game I want to play" even without showing them the game, then you have a strong start. The more you know about your game, the better, but you don't have to tell your audience everything about your game. Keep it short and sweet. There's a reason they call it an "elevator pitch" because you only have the time of an elevator ride to make it. You only get 5 minutes at a speed dating event. Make them count!

5) There are no guarantees. Even if you get in, it doesn't guarantee you'll get published. I have had several friends get into a speed dating event and meet interested publishers and others who have not. Don't get discouraged if you don't come away with a signed contract, because odds are, that won't happen. The best thing IMHO about the speed dating event is that it gets your face in front of a lot of publishers at once who recognize that you have a game good enough to be one of the finalists for the event. Sometimes it's an honor to just be nominated! Use this opportunity to make new contacts and keep in touch with them even if they don't want your game. This industry (hell, all industries) are about who you know.

6) Don't give up! I haven't gotten into two events but that isn't going to stop me from applying next year. I will have a new game and all of these lessons under my belt. Good luck with your own pitches and I hope to see you at the next publisher speed dating event!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Town Called Showdown How to Play video

Howdy Gunslingers!

Hankerin' to learn how to play "A Town Called Showdown"? Here's an instructional video to whet your appetite!

See you on the street!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Town Named Showdown

The wild-west town of Showdown holds an annual shootist competition; luring the fastest guns in the west. A crowd of bystanders line the dusty street as two mysterious strangers face off in the blazing sun. When the six-shooters go off, which gunslinger will be left standing?

A Town Named Showdown is a card and dice game for two players. Steeped in theme, tension builds as the gunslingers pace their way down the street each turn. Bystanders gather in anticipation of the shoot-out; some are there to help the gunslingers, others to hinder. Gear up with weapons and health modifier cards to give your gunslinger the edge when the shoot-out happens.

When both gunslingers reach the end of the street they "shoot" using their pool of six-sided shooters - adding and subtracting for bonuses from bystanders and modifiers. Hit your opponent enough times to remove him from the competition.

The player with the most victory stars at the end of three shoot-outs is the winner!