Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Best Board Games of 2017

2017, what a year, huh?

Well, despite everything else that happened, 2017 was an amazing year for board gaming. There were so many great games that debuted this year. I haven't gotten around to playing all of them but here are the top ten board game new games from 2017 that I played in 2017. (Click on the title of the game for their link to their listing on

Meeple Circus
What do you think of when you read the name "Meeple Circus"? This game lives up to that expectation and more. This meeple stacking game is easily the most charming board game I've played in a long time and every game will have you simultaneously thrilled and laughing out loud.

Dice games are very popular in my household and Sagrada manages to turn a dice builder into a challenging Sudoku-style game. Sagrada is quick playing, easy to learn and beautiful on the table.

I used to call "Formula D" the best use of polyhedral dice, but Unearth is challenging that title. The clever dice system matched with some lovely graphics makes for an engaging game.

2017 was a great year for worker placement games and Legacy-style games but Charterstone gives players the best of both worlds. It starts a little slow, but after a game or two, you be looking forward to leveling up your guild and find yourself hungry for more. 

Massive Darkness
IMHO, Massive Darkness is the spiritual successor to HeroQuest we've all been waiting for. Simple to learn, but it's campaign system will give you hours of play. It sports a clever leveling system, wildly flexible character creation and some of the coolest miniatures around. And what's a good dungeon crawler without lots of combat!?

Heaven and Ale
Do you like your strategy games heavy? In this game about beer-brewing monks, Heaven and Ale's unique combination of "do I go fast or slow" choice-making paired with "where do I put it" game play makes for a heady (pun intended) combination.

Mesmerizingly beautiful and mind-bendingly challenging, this shape-stacking game is easy to play and tricky to master. 

Dark is the Night
 An intriguing two-player game of cat-and-mouse where one player is the hunter and the other is the monster in the dark. For such a small and simple game, it packs a pretty big punch!

A social game that doesn't rely on profanity to be fun! The evil Sparkle Kitty has imprisoned Princesses in their towers but these Princesses aren't going to wait for anyone to rescue them! By saying magic phrases, the players can rescue themselves! Sparkle*Kitty is fast, fun and friendly for the entire family.

Einstein: His Amazing Life and Incomparable Science
This charming pattern building game is the first in an intriguing new concept: the biography-based board game. It's a great way to learn more about the man who we have all heard of, but could always learn more about. The possibilities of games based on the famous figures of history is mind-boggling...

Rayguns and Rocketships 
Special mention: 2017 is especially important to me because it is the year my own board game Rayguns and Rocketships was successfully Kickstarted and released! If you love the golden-age of science fiction, skirmish action and lots of great miniatures in your board games, then please check it out!

 Have your own recommendations for the best game of 2017? Add them to the comments below!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

"A game by Scott Rogers"

Like most of you, I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Rayguns and Rocketships. I have been hearing reports of the game showing up in Australia, New South Wales and even one store in Seattle. It's been very exciting to track the game as it is released around the world.

The day has finally arrived and my copies of the game were delivered from IDW games. I came home to a huge stack of games. Needless to say, IDW did a beautiful job not only producing the game, but shipping it and it was very exciting to receive my shipment.

Receiving the final retail version of Rayguns and Rocketships marks a milestone for me. You see, for 22 years, I've been fortunate enough to say that my career is "game designer". I've helped design more than 50 published games and have been involved making even more that were never published.

But Rayguns and Rocketships is the first game I've created that has my name on the cover. Outside of the board gaming world, it's actually a very rare thing for a game designer to receive this honor. I can only think of a handful of video game creators who have earned this honor.

It is far more common in the board gaming industry and while it might not seem like a huge thing, it represents something all game designers deserve - credit for their hard work.

There have been too many moments over my career where I have seen other people take credit for someone else's work or someone has tried to take credit for my work. Once a game looks like it is going to be successful, people get weird and start trying to "credit grab" - as if having their name on a box cover or on the game screen will justify their involvement - no matter how slight it was.

The "problem" is that credit does have power.  A credit isn't about ego or bragging rights, well, not for everyone. What it represent, to me, is proof to the world that this specific creator is responsible for the work. Names become a "proof of quality". Walt Disney. Stephen King. Oprah Winfrey. David Bowie. People buy their products because they recognize the names and associate the names with good work. There is a saying in the entertainment industry: "you are only as good as your last credit" and kids, credits are everything in this business.

In the early 90's, many of my peers were getting their names on the covers of their games. You probably have heard of some of them: Sid Meier, Tim Schafer, Will Wright, Chris Roberts, Chris Taylor. While literally thousands of people have toiled away on games, almost none of them get the credit they deserve. Did you know that Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of Mario and creator of the platfoming genre, who has made some of the best selling games ever made, has NEVER has his name on the cover of any of his games? Would a screenplay writer or a novelist put up with that? No way.  I can tell people that I've worked on this AAA game or that top-selling game, but if my name ain't in the credits, there's no way to prove that I was even involved.

Personally, I think it's time to correct this injustice. I've always said that if there were a reason for the video game industry to unionize, it would be for credit arbitration - something that's a big deal in the movie industry. I've left jobs before over this issue; it's that important to me.

So, this one is for you, my fellow game designers, wherever you are. May you share the same good fortune as I have had and get the credit you finally deserve.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Jack Vasel Memorial Auction

The Jack Vasel Memorial Auction is a great annual event that raises fund for the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund. From the website:

One tragic event and two acts of generosity brought the BGG community together: the result was the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund. In January 2011, Cate Pfeifer (Cate108) posted an auction for Tom Vasel and his family to help with the financial hardship related to the unfortunate loss of his son, Jack. The generosity of the BGG community was amazing. Tom was touched and wanted to pay the kindness forward so he created the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund. He used some of the money that BGGers donated and spent to build this fund. The fund is a not-for-profit with a simple goal: raising and distributing funds to help gamers in their hour of need.

This year, I've contributed a premium copy of Rayguns and Rocketships to the auction. One lucky bidder will win all of the following:

1. Signed and Illustrated copy of the retail gameThe auction includes an autographed copy of the retail version of the game. Designer Scott Rogers will also draw the Rayguns and Rocketships character of your choice on the interior box lid!

2. Plastic tokens and bag
Plastic Blast token and Action token add-ons plus cloth bag (with design voted upon by the Kickstarter backers)

3. Dice and cards
Kickstarter exclusive secret mission cards (12) and four faction dice

4. Cards and raygunsConvention-Only Exclusive demo four card set and twenty-four plastic raygun add-ons

5. Exclusive minisA full set of eight Kickstarter Mercenary miniatures and captain cards

Starting bid is at $70 (the cost of the Early Bird Galactic Adventurer pledge) Condition is brand new. Worldwide shipping will be added at the end of the auction.

Expected delivery date - January 2018

Auction ends November 16th! Thanks for bidding and good luck!!

Link to bidding is here:

Friday, October 6, 2017

Music to shoot rayguns to: The unofficial Rayguns and Rocketships playlist

As we rocket towards the release of Rayguns and Rocketships, I created a play-list of thematic music that is great to play the game to. Enjoy!

Mars - Bringer of War (Gustav Holst) (7:21)

Zathura Soundtrack: Zorgon's Return (John Debney) (1:07)

Flash Gordon Soundtrack: Vultan's Theme (Queen) (1:13)

Flash Gordon Soundtrack: The Battle (Queen) (2:18)

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Soundtrack: Robot Army (Edward Shearmur) (3:01)

Sky Captain and World of Tomorrow Soundtrack: The Flying Wings Attack (Edward Shearmur) (6:31)

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Soundtrack: Manta Squadron (Edward Shearmur) (6:33)

Zathura Soundtrack: They Aren't Friendly (John Debney) (2:25)

Star Wars Return of the Jedi Soundtrack: Sail Barge Assault (Alternate) (John Williams) (5:06)

 Starship Troopers: Klendathu Drop (Basil Poledouris) (4:32)

Star Wars Return of the Jedi Soundtrack: Battle of Endor I (John Williams) (11:50)

Rocketeer Soundtrack: The Flying Circus (James Horner) (6:30)

 Captain America: Captain America March (Alan Silvestri) (2:35)

 Star Wars The Force Awakens: The Resistance March (John Williams) (2:37)

Zathura Soundtrack: Main Theme (John Debney) (2:23)

Starship Troopers: Destruction of the Rodger Young (Basil Poledouris) (3.28)

Zathura Soundtrack: Zathura is a Black Hole (John Debney) (1:20)

 Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: Main Title (Edward Shearmur) (1:07)

Some advice to new designers

Recently on a board game design forum, a first time designer expressed concern that their design didn't have deep enough strategy. As someone who deals with first time designers (in my board game design class) I thought I might be able to help. This is the advice I gave him and I thought others could benefit from it as well:

An exercise I like to give to first time designers is to review all of the actions that the player can do and all the affordances the components provide.

For example in your game you have:

The 5 different classes of gems
The tiles with 2 different types of gems
The hand of cards
Drawing a card from the deck
The numbers 1-5 on cards
The card attributes - just dirt, +1, -1, mine closed, steal card, etc.
The action of revealing the cards
The action of collecting the gems

You want to think of all of the things you can do with these components and actions and what other things the players can do with them. For example, you could have a tile with 3 types of gems, the gems could have different values or allow the player to buy certain actions, there could be a restriction or method to how the cards are drawn (draw 2 and keep 1 and discard 1 or draw 2 and give 1 to another player, or draw 2 cards and keep 1 and place the other on the top of the deck) or how the gems are collected - the gems are of limited supply and you can choose whatever color you'd like or the gems must be taken in a certain order that causes actions to happen when taken (for example, a cave in) or that the gems must be thrown into a bag and selected blindly but they can be stolen or traded between players. As you can see, with just the elements you have you have lots of options.

So, what is a designer to do? Which are the best choices? First, I would say use these choices to make the player play the game you want them to play. What is the "primary action" of the game? Collecting gems? Playing cards? Something else? What type of game is it? Blind bidding? Push your luck? Screw your neighbor? Make EVERYTHING in the game move the player towards this type of game play. If it conflicts with this, then it probably shouldn't be in the game.

Also consider another (at least two) ways for the player to win the game. It might be "get points by collecting gems" or it might be "play sets of cards and get points for those" - I like to make games that you can get points during the gameplay and points at the end of the game. This is often called "points salad" in Eurogaming and it can get out of control in heavier Euros - but lightly done, I find it interesting. It obfuscates the answer to "who is winning this game" until the very end (and you always want to end with an exciting finish)

Finally, I designed a "make a value go up or down by making it +1/-1 game" and when I shopped it around, I was politely told by publishers that they weren't interested in that type of game. That it was too basic and not engaging and they see a millions of these types of games. The game now lives on my shelf. I merely mention this so you might benefit from my own experience.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

New games for 2017!

I am bringing the following games to Gen-Con and would love to talk to you about them. I have a wide a wide variety of games set in a wide variety of genres.


Diamonds and Dinosaurs is a miniatures and card-based action game for young and old. Intrepid explorers have landed on Dinosaur Island in search of fabulous diamonds! Setting out from their base camp, the explorers hack their way into the jungle in search of the lost gems but will they get attacked by vicious dinosaurs first?

BGG link:

The Magician's Club is a "trick-making" card game. The year is 1921 and the Academy of Magicians has gathered once again at their swanky club to perform their greatest stage tricks. The competition to win the title of World’s Greatest Magician brings out the worst in these rivals who won’t hesitate at a chance to ruin each other’s act. Fortunately, a good magician always has an assistant by their side and a trick up their sleeve…

BGG Link here:

Scram! is an abstract strategy game for the whole family. In SCRAM! up to 4 players are represented by a color on the game board. Players share from a common pool of tokens - each with their own special ability. Players take turns placing tokens to create chain-reactions that move their tokens into scoring position and send opponent's tokens scrambling away... or make their token SCRAM! by driving it off the game board! The player with the highest value tokens on their own color at the end of the game wins!

BGG link:

Seance is a card game where players are spiritualists trying to make contact with "good spirits" while dispelling "bad spirits" from the mystic circle. Play cards onto the séance circle to “make contact” with Spirits – contact your spirit by matching its incantation or steal another player's spirit by spelling out the word “Séance”. Use special chain cards to "lock" incantation cards in place or scare the other players silly with game-changing "fright" cards. Collect Spirit cards for points.

BGG link:

Spinnenweben is a family game where players are spiders who move around a colorful web eating delicious flies for points. Roll the die to determine the number of action points and play cards to gain advantages and increase movement. The player who has eaten the most flies at the end of the game wins!

A Town Called 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. Players are dealt a hand of cards and each turn, advance down the street, increasing the street's tension level. 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.

You can watch a how to play video of the game here:
BGG link here:

Who’s Hue? Is a party game for 3 or more player who guess colorful characters created from colored cards and clever clues. Once all of the players have created a character, the player with the most points wins! It's who you know that matters!

You can watch a how to play video of the game here:
BGG link here:

Thursday, March 30, 2017


I have been sitting on this news since last year and thought I was going to explode!

 I am so proud to finally announce that Rayguns and Rocketships is heading to Kickstarter this April!! Please spread the word to all of your gaming frienda and hang on tight, as I will be sharing much more about the game right here and how you too can join the ranks of the Planeteers!

Here we go!!!