zwischenzug (ZVI-shen-tsoog) — noun

A chess tactic in which a player, instead of playing the expected move, first interpolates another move, changing the situation to the player's advantage (such as gaining material or avoiding what would otherwise be a strong continuation for the opponent).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Yearly Summary 2012

Last year I posted a sort of "year in the life" post that summarized my gaming.  Now, with the theme from Rent running through my brain, I will do that again for 2012.

The busiest year in gaming gave way to the slowest year.  I stopped this blog in February, moving over to the Father Geek website to blog.  What a great group of gentlemen, but I found that I was missing half my audience.  The guys at Father Geek are focused on family gaming, but I am trying to reach the casual gamer also.  As a result, and also probably because I was one of many writers, I really didn't write much at all.

Another factor in writing: this year was a slow year for actually playing games, both favorites and new games.   It was a very busy year outside of gaming.  Over the course of the year I have played 21 different titles for a total of 59 plays to date.  I am sure I will play a few more times this year.  It will most likely be the same titles, so the count will end up around 21/62.  Of the 21 titles I played, seven were new titles.  All of these numbers are about a third of last year's numbers. 

I did slow down my game acquisition this year - just 47 new games.  One group of games I received were from our neighbors cleaning out their closet.  Quite a few of my new games were acquired in trades, as I realized that those four hour marathon games, no matter how good, just weren't going to be played.  Neither were those extremely complicated games, as they generally don't appeal to my gaming group.  My group falls somewhere between "casual gamers" and "hard-core". 

Best Acquisition of the Year:  Werewolves of Miller's Hollow.  I will review this game at some point, since this is my favorite group game.  All but one of the plays of this game were on my son's 8th Grade trip to Washington DC.  In fact, all of those plays were in five hours on the way home!

Most Played Game of the Year:  Werewolves of Miller's Hollow. Same story.  See how limited my game playing was?

Our gaming group celebrated four years of getting together.  However, we also had our first missed months.  After 3 1/2 years of meeting, we missed roughly four of the next six, for both good and bad reasons.  We really started pulling back together in the fall, after school started back up.

Since there really wasn't a group hit of the year, so I will go with:

Game Group Flop of the Year:  Small World.  After exactly one play, the gaming group suggested I trade it away.  There was no interest in trying it again.  I haven't reviewed it.  I didn't see the magic, but there are so many people who love the game that I figure I must be missing it.  Oh, and I did trade it away in a multi-game trade which netted me Notre Dame and YINSH.

A close runner up to Small World would be Warrior Knights, which is a complicated marathon game that I will keep.  It's a medieval multi-player wargame that is just the kind of thing I love!  I think we played our one and only play of that in the group, too.  But maybe I can sneak it in sometime this coming summer...

What's really remarkable this year are my favorite games that I didn't play, most notably Acquire.  That will certainly be played early in the year in 2013.

Finally, just like last year, I will list my Nickles and Dimes: games played 5 and 10 times respectively.  (Once more I won't count the 100+ games of chess I played online this year.)


Plays / Game
10       Werewolves of Miller's Hollow


Plays / Game
7         Hive
6         Bananagrams
5         Chess (over the board)

Both Pandemic and Carcassonne are likely games to hit the table in the last few days of the year, so I may have a few more nickles yet. 

Here's hoping that 2013 is a better year of gaming - for all of us!

It's Your Move!

Related posts and links:
Yearly Summary 2011 
In the Company of Teen Werewolves (Father Geek)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What is Kickstarter?

In my last post, I mentioned that I had a game on the way that I had purchased through Kickstarter.  Some of you may not be familiar with Kickstarter, and I thought I would give a brief overview for those who are curious. 

Kickstarter is a website which, in their words, "is a funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others."  In short, Kickstarter is a place for projects to look for crowd funding.  This is not just for games, but for all sorts of creative projects.  After talking about how one supports a project, I will discuss my experience with the site, as well as a few thoughts I have on this way of funding or buying the fruits of other's creativity.

Finding Kickstarter projects is a matter of either directly searching by name, or clicking on "Discover Projects" and picking from a list of project categories on the right side of the page.  Either will result in a list of projects grouped by popularity, staff picks, projects that are recently fully funded, or the highest funded projects in that category.  I am not particularly fond of this part of the interface, since where to find a project that doesn't fit any of those criteria isn't obvious.  (I believe you will see everything in that category by clicking on the "see more Popular projects" link on the page.)  After getting to the project you are considering, there will be a description as well as images that describe the project.  Often there is a YouTube video to go along with it.  This allows you to decide.  On the right there will be a listing of funding levels at which you may pledge.  Each of these levels also lists the rewards that come with funding the project at that level.  It works much like a PBS pledge drive, with one big exception.  At the top of the page, listed below the total amount of pledges received to day, is the pledge goal, as well as the number of days left in the drive.  The important thing to know is that your money doesn't leave your hands until after the drive is over, and only if the project is fully funded.  If the time on the drive expires without the project meeting its goal, the project is cancelled and your money stays with you.  Honestly, participating as a supporter is pretty straight forward.

               I strongly considered VivaJava.               (Promotional image from GameSalute.)
I have been a "backer" on six different Kickstarter projects.  Two of these were card games, one was a game expansion, two were gaming accessories, and one was a camera mount.  All of them, except the camera mount, reached their goals.  At that point my card was charged.  The money was used to finish the development of the projects, and I have received all but one.  That one project is being shipped to me now.  I have been happy with each of the projects, and I personally have no misgivings about supporting them.  I am a little picky, which is why I haven't backed more than six in a year and a half.  (Well, that and my needing to slow down a little on game acquisition after last year!)

I am picky because this certainly isn't a perfect system.  There are those who are worried about someone taking their funding and skipping town, so to speak, but I am not one of them.  In general, I think that people who are creative enough to scam us in this manner will probably have bigger targets in mind, and its far too much hassle for petty thieves.  Someone could use their money to finish their product development and fail, but that's a risk I am willing to take.  In fact, that's the whole point of crowd funding; the consumer is also an investor.  In my case, the return on investment is a game related product.  However, like investors in other endeavors, my return may be zero.  I accept that.  However, I have never heard of that happening.  I have heard of entrepreneurs losing money on the their ventures because they underestimated development costs.  In those cases, though, they still fulfilled their obligations to their consumer/investors.

My only concern is the quality of the product: the game. I don't mean the quality of the components; there is often a company behind the physical production, and that will reliably indicate the component quality.  I am actually referring to the quality of the gameplay, since even a great company can produce a dud.  If I had unlimited funds and storage space, I probably wouldn't care.  However, Kickstarter is allowing many more people to publish a game with out the full development of the gameplay or ruleset.  With Kickstarter, it is possible to contract with a fulfillment company to handle production and distribution, but without anyone to thoroughly playtest the game and finish the gameplay development.  Because of this, I tend to be a little more careful about a game I buy on Kickstarter versus a game traditionally published by Days of Wonder or Z-man Games.

Alien Frontiers is arguably the first and most successful of all Kickstarter games.  (Image by CleverMojo Games.)
I will continue to use Kickstarter.  It has a place in the boardgaming world.  It reminds me of eBay, in that it has been met with suspicion and speculation.  Like eBay, I think it will continue to thrive.  Without it, there are games that would never see the light of day, such as the hugely successful Alien Frontiers.  There are amazing game accessories that I think will only be developed this way.  Kickstarter has found its place amongst my gaming sources, amongst the local game store in my area, online gaming stores, eBay, and game trading through BoardGameGeek.  Take a look; there is something that will draw your interest.  Whether your interest is gaming, performing arts, or supporting a podcast, there is a project that you can help bring to life. 

It's Your Move!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gaming with Santa: Christmas Games

Everyone loves to give Santa a break on Christmas Eve, leaving cookies, milk, and perhaps a few carrots for the reindeer.  What if Santa needed a REAL break, taking a little bit of time to relax and play a game.  Let's say he stops buy Christmas night after delivering presents and a much needed nap.  What would you play with him?  Somehow, I think, wargames are out.  Games with a lot of negotiation, like Settlers of Catan, are probably out too...

"Santa, you can't just give the sheep away, you have to trade for it."

"Yes, I know you're the Santa Claus.  Still, in this game, it's the law."

"Yes, Santa, I know that even the Law of Gravity doesn't apply to you.  Hey, have you ever played Pandemic?"

"No, I don't suppose you ever get sick, either..."  [Sigh]

Finding good Christmas themed games to play is a little more difficult than giving games at Christmas.  Don't worry, I will find a few for you.

Promotional image by USAopoly
There are games that have a Christmas theme that don't work.  Many of them have movie or TV tie-ins, which is always a cautionary flag.  There are multiple games for Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, A Christmas Story, and Nightmare Before Christmas.   In fact, there is a version of Monopoly for each of these movies, and at least Monopoly is a decent game as I have mentioned before, particularly if you play with the only good house rule: the game is over when the first player is eliminated.

There are better games, though, if you are willing to think a little outside the box, so to speak.  These may not have a Christmas theme per se, but certainly would be Chrismas-y enough to pass muster for most people.

Starting with the least thematic, I would suggest that a quick game to be played on the holiday would be Hey! That's my Fish.  This game has the additional benefit of being easily playable by little ones, and that's important since people on Christmas Day, and Santa himself, are so focused on the children.  Players are penguins trying to grab as many fish as the can as the iceberg they are on slowly sinks, piece by piece, into the water.  I won't go into details, (I have a full review available,) but suffice it to say this is a great game.  It's a little more cutthroat when its just adults, which may not be quite as giving on Christmas, but its so fun!  Penguins implies the South Pole, but since I think that's Santa's summer home, it's okay.  For Christmas, it does offer:

  • Snow! (well, ice)
An older version of the game in play.  Newer versions have better figurines.  Image by Chris Norwood

Promotional Image
Next, I would offer up Snow Tails, which is a dog sled racing game.  This is a game for up to five players, and is recommended by the publisher for ages 10 and up.  This game gets great reviews, and is sitting on my gaming table waiting for the Big Day.  Compared to Hey! That's My Fish, this game will be a little less, well, dog eat dog, since there really isn't as much direct interaction.  It takes a little longer at 45 minutes.  For Christmas, it offers:
  • Snow
  • Snow sleds
  • Evergreen trees
  • Puppies! (well, they might be full-grown)
Promotional Image

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries is another in the Ticket to Ride franchise.  This game is noted for being just a little more confrontational, since there are a few key train routes to control, but I suspect that's going to depend on your style of play.  At our house, no flavor of Ticket to Ride is ever terribly confrontational.  Of course, since this part of the franchise, you know it's going to be good!  This also plays in 45 minutes, but Days of Wonder suggests players as young as 8 years old, so it's another great option for the kids.  But is it Christmas?  We have:

Finally, I do have one more game that definitely is Christmas: 12 Days, now being published by Gamesmith, LLC.  This is a game funded through Kickstarter, and it should be in the mail to me today.  I have read the rules online, and I am sure that it will be a good game.  Take that to the bank - I slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  This is a light and quick game, recommended for kids 8 and up, and playing in about 15 minutes.  This will fill the time that is too short for the above games.  I don't know when this will become more generally available, but probably not until after Christmas, so it may have to wait until next year.

It's Your Move!


Related Posts:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review: Pizza Box Football

Pizza Box Football is a great game to play with kids young and old, so I posted my review on Father Geek.  This is a particularly good game for a Christmas gift, since gridiron football is ramping up for college bowl games and pro playoffs!

It's Your Move

Monday, December 3, 2012

Father Geek Article on Buying Chess Sets as Gifts

Last year I wrote this post about buying chess sets for the Holidays.  I covered the topic again over at  Father Geek.  If you read last year's post you won't find this one that different.  Whichever version you read, it makes sense to buy a child a good chess set that will last for years.

It's Your Move!