Real Neat Blog Award Nomination

real-neat-blog-award

I recently was nominated by The Geek Couple for the Real Neat blog award. Thanks for the nomination guys! For any readers who haven’t yet, please check out their awesome blog! The Geek Couple asked me some pretty tough questions, so I hope I can do them justice in this post. Here are my answers:

  1. If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and why? Starting off with an almost impossible question for me to answer… as a lover of movies, TV, comic books, regular books, and video games, the number of fictional characters I adore and would love to meet is practically unlimited. I think for this question I’ll have to go with my favorite superhero, Green Lantern, specifically Hal Jordan. Not the normal answer for a favorite superhero I know, but the Lantern Corps has always fascinated me and Hal Jordan was the very first human to take up the mantle so he holds a special place in my heart. His willpower, determination, and kindness make him a good person, and his wit and dry humor match mine very well so the conversation wouldn’t get dull after I got over the “holy crap I’m meeting a superhero” moment.
  2. What’s the most memorable place you’ve ever traveled too? I went to Scotland with my family when I was in High School. I remember stepping off of the airplane and feeling a cool breeze, and taking in a deep breath of the cleanest air I’ve ever breathed. The views were amazing, and while we didn’t go to any fancy events or places we took walks and spent time outdoors as a family, and it felt great.
  3. What’s your favorite board/card/video game? Another tough question, I’m going to give one answer for each category. My favorite board game right now has to be Ticket to Ride, though Settlers of Catan is a close second. As for card games, I would say Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens are tied for the top spot. Finally there’s video games- Witcher 3 is my favorite “new” game while Super Smash Bros. would be my favorite “classic” game. I know I was supposed to pick one and ended up choosing 6, but that’s what happens when you’re a fan of all things nerdy.
  4. Describe your perfect weekend? It would start off with drinks and board games with good friends on Friday, followed by a Saturday out with my girlfriend doing any number of different things (movies, skiing, museums, laser tag, the list goes on). Then on Sunday I would get up and go to church, come home after and watch football all day. Doesn’t get any better than that.
  5. Why did you want to start blogging in the first place? I think the main reason I started blogging is because I wanted a creative outlet for myself. I’ve always had a passion for board games, even so much that I’ve considered opening up a board game shop at some point in my life. I talked with some friends and family about it and decided that I needed to immerse myself in the world before I made a leap like that. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and while I wasn’t sure what it would be like to write a blog I have enjoyed it immensely and hope to continue it for many years to come.

Now it’s my chance to nominate some other cool blogs for the Real Neat Blog award. There are so many great blogs out there and great writers that I enjoy, but here are the 5 that stand out to me (in no particular order):

If you run one of these blogs and are interested in participating, write up a post and answer the following questions for me:

  1. What is your favorite book series?
  2. If you could learn one new skill in life, what would it be and why?
  3. Have you ever considered writing a blog about something other than your usual topics? If so, what about?
  4. What is your favorite type of game, between board game/card game/video game?
  5. Who is your favorite superhero and why?

I look forward to reading your answers!

 

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Monopoly Rules- the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Monopoly-rules

As I said in my recent blog post In Defense of Monopoly, one of the major advantages to the game Monopoly is its malleability. There are a number of “house rules” that are used as if they are a part of the game, while other rules are ignored completely. Sometimes it seems like everywhere you look, a different set of rules is being used when playing this classic game. A lot of the rules that are added (or scrapped) add to the fun of the game, but there are also rules that can directly result in the game being drawn-out and less enjoyable overall. After having some experience playing numerous different types of Monopoly boards and implementing all sorts of different rules, I have come up with some observations on the best way to ensure your Monopoly game is played with rules that will enhance the game rather than drag it down. I’ve split the types of rules up into three sections: official rules, house rules, and new rule suggestions.

Official Rules

1) Auctioning Property- The official rules in the Monopoly rulebook state that, “Whenever you land on an unowned property you may buy that property from the Bank at its printed price… If you do not wish to buy the property, the Bank sells it at auction to the highest bidder. The high bidder pays the Bank the amount of the bid in cash and receives the Title Deed card for that property. Any player, including the one who declined the option to buy it at the printed price, may bid. Bidding may start at any time.”  I can’t tell you how often this rule gets overlooked or ignored when I’m playing with friends, but truth be told this is an extremely important rule to utilize if you want your game to start off fast. Auctions aren’t necessary to play the game, but they do drive it forward at a faster pace and they also require a significant amount of strategy. Auctions are a good way to keep the game fair too- someone could have few properties but a large amount of money, and the ability to auction will help them get back in the game. Ultimately the start of a game of Monopoly without auctioning is fairly dull and can allow a player to pull ahead early, so the ability to auction helps balance the scales and keep things moving.

2) Mortgages- Mortgaging a property can seem like a pain, but it is a good way to ensure that you are not eliminated from a game. One of the paramount strategies of Monopoly is to keep your monopolies intact to increase your odds of a big payout. But if you land on someone’s property and have to pay up, it’s difficult to keep your houses/hotels on the board in order to do some real damage. The ability to mortgage should be used when possible, but should also not be taken lightly. I’ve seen people disregard the 10% interest rule when mortgaging; ultimately that seems like a good way to keep players who got hit hard in the game, but it also gives people an opportunity to mortgage cards early for short term gains without penalties when they want to un-mortgage the property. This is one of those rules you should keep intact.

3) Buying and selling houses/hotels- As I’ve said before, building on monopolies is a big part of success in a game. However, there should also be a cost if you try to expand too quickly and it backfires. The official rules state that if you have to sell back a house or hotel, you only get half of the money you originally paid for it. This rule is extremely important to ensure that players do not spend all of their money on hotels at once- a gradual pace for hotel building is a good way to keep things more evenly matched. Selling houses and hotels should be considered a last resort, and being able to get your full money back diminishes the risks of investing in your monopolies.

House Rules

1) Free Parking Money- This is the most wildly-contested rule out there; is there supposed to be money in free parking? If so, how much? Do you add money from income taxes to the free parking “pot”? Ultimately this iFree Parkings not an official rule to Monopoly, but it’s an extremely popular one and is used in a variety of different ways. I personally believe that this is a good rule because it has the ability to provide alittle extra respite to players down on their luck. The ideal scenario in my opinion is to add $500 to the free parking pot at the beginning of the game, and then once somebody
lands on it, you refill it by that same amount. No income tax or Chance/Community chest money should go into the pot, so that it acts solely as some additional funds rather than a complete game changer.

2) Landing on Go- This rule revolves around the idea of “Passing” go and collecting $200. This is what the board and the rules say, but what happens if you land on Go? Officially, nothing would happen, because your piece has to pass the space before you receive the money. However, there is a house rule some people use to provide an extra reward for landing on Go. In this scenario, you actually receive $400 if you land on go as opposed to pass it. I have no issue with this rule, but I do recommend setting it up with a slight addendum; when you land on Go you receive $200, then get the extra $200 on the next turn after you’ve passed the space. That way a player isn’t automatically flush with $400 cash in one turn, but still gets the extra award for landing on Go.

3) Trading properties- Trading properties is an essential part of Monopoly. The ability to trade for monopolies is an important way to ensure that you can advance the game, but it is not officially stated in the original rules that trades are allowed. While trading is necessary to create a more fun game, it also has the ability to cause skewed games from lopsided trades. Because of this, I have a slight alteration on the standard trading process that I recommend. Rather than trading at any point in the game, a player can only propose trades on their turn. Trades are completed before any dice are rolled, and if the trade created a Monopoly that player can’t add houses or hotels to the new monopoly until his/her next turn. Finally, if there are more than 4 players playing the game and at least 3 people consider the trade to be unfair, they can reject it (this is not something I’ve ever practiced myself, but I think it would be more likely to ensure a single player doesn’t run away with the game).

New Rule Suggestions

1) Jail- I can’t even describe how infuriating it is to watch someone get carted off to jail (metaphorically of course) right before landing in my monopoly area, and then have myself land on their property and lose everything while they sit pretty for 3 turns. Because of this, I recommend a rule variant that isn’t used by many but should be a positive change to the game. If a player is put into jail, they are then officially unable to collect payment from a player landing on their properties, and also cannot buy hoMonopoly Jailuses or hotels until they are released. The player can buy out of jail at any time in the 3 turn stint, but ultimately if the player stays in jail no players landing on his/her properties will have to pay the fees associated. This will cause players to want to leave jail earlier, which will speed up the game and make sure that each player has greater chances of landing on an opponent’s space.

2) Starting Game, Property Buying Delay- This is a rule I’ve played with my friends in the past to varying success. The concept is that you have to pass all the way around the board once before you are allowed to buy any properties. The rule is supposed to promote fairness since generally speaking the player who goes first in traditional Monopoly has a higher chance of winning properties. However, if a player lands in jail or rolls poorly during the first few turns, he/she becomes crippled by the rule and it makes it that much harder to get back into it. Ultimately there are pros and cons to this rule, so there’s no harm in trying it yourself but I would not recommend it as a must-rule to improve the game.

Ultimately these rules are about creating the best experience you can when playing Monopoly. This means that if you don’t like one of the rules, you shouldn’t use it, and instead use whatever rules you find to be the most fun. There are also rule variants out there for intentionally shortened games, so if time is the major concern there are options for fixing that. If you have any other cool ideas (I know that Past Go’s writer Geoffrey Greer was looking into a variant that could break apart an opponent’s monopolies mid-game) then send me a comment about it!

Board Game of the Week- NFL 1998 Monopoly

IMG_2712Blog #14- Board Game of the Week- NFL 1998 Monopoly

  • Game Title: Monopoly: NFL Official (1998)
  • Release Date: 1998
  • Number of Players: 2-8
  • Average Game Time: 60 Minutes
  • Game Publisher: Parker Brothers
  • Website: http://monopoly.wikia.com/wiki/NFL_Official_Limited_Collector’s_Edition
  • Game Designer: Uncredited
  • Expansions/Alternates: None (unless you count all other Monopoly games, ever)
  • Available in Stores: No (available online)

For those of you who don’t know much about me, I am a big NFL fan. On any given Sunday during football season odds are astronomically high that I’m spending the day sitting on the couch watching NFL Redzone all day and checking my fantasy football scores. So when I say that my favorite type of Monopoly board is based on the NFL, that fact should not be surprising to you. What might be surprising is the fact that the game I am playing is from 1998. This is actually the very first non-traditional Monopoly board that I played, and it was the beginning of a growing collection of different types of Monopoly boards.

The similarities of NFL Collector’s Edition Monopoly are fairly obvious- the number of properties, players, and board are all the same setup as a regular Monopoly board. You still have Jail and Free Parking and you still pass go and collect $200. The important rules and regulations of the game all mirror the Monopoly everyone has grown up playing. So what’s the difference? It’s all in the aesthetics. The properties, rather than being locations, are NFL teams. All 31 NFL teams are represented either as their own property, or in groups of teams listed as the “railroads”. Rather than houses and hotels, you buy sections and stadiums. Instead of Chance and Community Chest, the card selections are from AFC and NFC to represent the NFL’s two divisions. Even the dice and tokens are different, with custom football-shaped dice and NFL themed silver tokens. The gameplay is almost identical to your average game, yet the feel is totally different because of the different look.

IMG_2711

I think my favorite part of this game is about the nostalgia. For any football fans over the age of 25, you will love seeing where all of the NFL teams are on the board. A few prime examples: The Jaguars are the 5th most expensive team on the board, and the Cardinals and Colts are the two least expensive. It’s just wild to look back at how different the NFL was only 17 years ago- there weren’t even 32 teams at the time! But nostalgia isn’t the only fun aspect of the game- Parker Brothers took this theme and made the most of it, and it makes it a lot of fun. The NFC and AFC cards are all football-related events, with pictures of the Monopoly Man in football gear being traded or fighting off injury. On top of all that, the game runs like standard Monopoly, so the different theme doesn’t affect gameplay.

Downsides are the normal downsides that come with Monopoly- longer game times, slower pace of play, and a possibility of players to run away with the game if luck is on their side. Ultimately my enjoyment of Monopoly is higher than most, so I understand that I do have a bit of a bias here. Still, the NFL edition of this game is just as good as the standard version of Monopoly, so feel free to take that however you would like. It’s a great game to add to the collection for any sports fan looking for a reminder of the good ‘ol days.

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

In Defense of Monopoly

Monopoly Boards

I can’t tell you how many people I know that have a burning hatred towards Monopoly. It honestly surprises me that whenever someone sees my Monopoly board collection for the first time, they almost always talk about what an annoying/long/tiresome game it is. Sure, the average game of Monopoly can definitely take longer than other board games, but it’s no longer than Risk, Axis and Allies, or even Munchkin. And yet of all of the games that are on the market today, Monopoly is one of the most successful and long-lasting but also one of the most criticized. Any time I browse the Internet I randomly see memes or pictures like this sprinkled around:

monopoly ruining friendships

Personally, I’ve been a fan of the game Monopoly ever since I was young. I played it with friends through high school and still play it with my roommates every once in a while when we’re all in the mood. I have 12 different Monopoly boards and have fond memories of playing all of them at different times in my life. So in honor of one of the most iconic games created in the 20th century, I’m going to explain why I believe that Monopoly is actually a great game to play and should always be a staple of your board game nights. Here are my top 5 reasons why Monopoly should be celebrated in the board game industry:

1) Easy to learn, but hard to master

One thing that can always be frustrating about board games is the time it takes to pick up on how to play. A game that is easy to learn quickly is one that will grab your attention faster and will be more likely to keep you playing, provided it stays interesting over time. When you look at Monopoly at first it may seem more complicated, but the concept is straightforward enough to pick up fairly quickly and not be far behind people who have played the game before. On the flipside of that, the game is actually surprisingly tough to master in certain ways. Sure, everyone can play the game without much strategy involved, but when you get into a group of competitors you start analyzing every move you make, every trade you attempt, every time you buy a hotel, to the point where you have to be very knowledgeable about the game itself to be an expert at it. The game allows for novices to play and have fun, but can also bring a significant amount of challenge to it when the setting is right.

2) Quick changes to the “Leader Board”

Sometimes when you play a board game, a single person will start off strong and you just won’t be able to keep up. That’s not the case when you play Monopoly- in fact, lead changes are fairly frequent once you get into the later stages of the game. Generally speaking there is a point of Monopoly where everyone has one or two monopolies and is working to build houses/hotels on them. One bad move or bad roll during this time can completely change the dynamic of the game. Someone with houses littered across the board will suddenly have to sell them all back, and maybe even mortgage or trade properties to stay afloat. Fortune can change in the blink of an eye, and while it’s true that if a player gets very unlucky and has to mortgage most of their properties he/she will most likely be stuck in that hole, the truth is that there is a lot more variety in the game standings than people give it credit for.

3) Ability to make custom rules

If you were to take out any board game you’ve played before right now, odds are high that you would know a majority of the rules of said game and you would stick to them no matter what. That’s not the case with Monopoly. Monopoly is a game with more “house-rules” than I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s because of how long its in production, but it seems like every time I play with different people I have to be prepared for a different set of rules. Rules like free parking, mortgaging, auctioning spaces, landing on Go, and many more are all up for debate, and so before the game is started you may have to suddenly adjust to the new rules that your friends/family have put in place.

4) Teaches kids basic business lessons

I remember playing Monopoly Junior when I was a kid, and spending a lot of time counting up my money and making sure I had enough to buy a hotel or a new property. Learning the value of trading,monopoly money understanding basic math and business, and figuring out when and when not to invest are just a few of the business skills you learn from playing Monopoly. Obviously in no way does Monopoly dir
ectly translate to the business world (if it did I would be rich by now) but you can’t discount its uses in teaching youth the value of fake pink colored money.

5) Different types of boards/games

When a game has been around for over 100 years, odds are high that gaming publishers will take advantage of its popularity by creating different versions of the game. While some people find this unnecessary, I find it one of the best parts about older games. You can find a Monopoly board with pretty much any theme you can think of: Doctor Who, Legend of Zelda, Family Guy, Disney Villains, even Elvis-Opoly is a thing. For these types of games the rules don’t vary much, but the properties, cards, and pieces are all based around the theme. The aesthetics are the important part, which makes having multiple boards unnecessary but ultimately a lot of fun. In addition to the Hasbro Monopoly alternative, there are some non-affiliated third party companies that created Monopoly-esque games with similar themes but slightly different rules and procedures. Games like Wine-opoly, Princess Bride-opoly, and even Create-your-own-Opoly fit into this mold.

So the next time someone invites you to play a game with them, I hope you consider the classic business game as a potential option. Monopoly has stuck around for a reason, and that’s because it’s a fun game that people enjoy playing no matter how many jokes are made at its expense. The next few articles I’ll be writing this week are all going to be Monopoly-based, so I hope you enjoyed this one and will enjoy the others too!

Monopoly Week

 

Board Game of the Week- The a MAZE ing Labyrinth

  • Game Title: The a MAZE ing Labyrinth
  • Release Date: 1986
  • Number of Players: 1-4
  • Average Game Time: 20 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Discovery Toys, Elmark, Estrala, Grow Jogos e Brinquedos, MoBi, Otto Maier Verlag, Ravensburger, Ronda
  • Website: No official site
  • Game Designer: Max J. Kobbert
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: No (available online)

Time for a blast from the past- my board game of the week this week is from the 80’s and is one of my favorites from my childhood. The game is a strategy game called Labyrinth, though when I was a kid they called it The a MAZE ing Labyrinth (puns are fun!). For those of you who don’t have David Bowie singing in your head right now, you need to watch this move ASAP:

labyrinth David Bowie

Now the game doesn’t have any official affiliation with the movie Labyrinth, but it does have the same quirky feel to it. The game includes a board with tiles glued to it along with multiple “free” tiLabyrinth 1les that are placed in empty slots along the board. There is also a set of cards with pictures on them and four game pieces. To start the game, everyone chooses a piece and puts it on the designated starting square of that color, around the 4 corners of the board. The free tiles are placed randomly around the board, with all but one being added to the empty slots available (we’ll get to the leftover tile soon). Finally, all of the cards are dealt out evenly to the players and placed face down. Nobody looks at the cards, and you will only look at one card at a time.

To start the game, everybody draws a card without showing the other players and looks at the picture. That picture corresponds with one of the tiles of the labyrinth. The object of the game is to navigate through the labyrinth and land on the tile with the picture of your card, and then move on to the next card, etc. until you have landed on every card in your deck. Seems simple enough, right? Well the tricky part of the game lLabyrinth 2ies in the extra tile I mentioned earlier. The board is designed so that every other row is moveable by taking the free tile and pushing it onto the board, pushing off another tile in the process. Every time you take a turn you have to add the free tile to the board before your turn can end (you can do this at any point in your turn). This makes the game much more complex, because not only do you have to plan your route based on where you add the tile but you also have to take into account your opponent’s moves, all the while not knowing what picture they are trying to reach.

The best part about this game is the strategy involved- everyone has his or her own ideas for how to get to the correct picture, and everyone has to plan far in advance sometimes to get to the destination while also being flexible when someone moves the labyrinth in a direction you weren’t expecting. There are also a number of alternative strategies to the game, such as intentioLabyrinth 3nally pushing the tile you are trying to reach off the board or even pushing other players off the board (this takes the player back to where he or she started the game). It’s a fast-paced, easy to learn game that is great for a small group of friends or family game night.

The biggest drawback of the game is one that plagues many board games, and that is the luck of the draw. Ultimately where your tiles end up in the beginning of the game and what cards you were dealt are a huge factor in your success. This is not an uncommon thing in games, but there is something particularly frustrating about someone drawing three pictures, all of which they can get to within a turn, while you’ve been stuck on the opposite side of the board all game. Still, the ability to manipulate the board to your favor ends up being more important than where you are in relation to your tiles, so in most cases the games tend to be fairly even.

Overall the game takes the strategy of a game like chess or backgammon, the movement of a game like Monopoly or Sorry, and the added twist of a constantly changing board, and throws it into a fun and interesting theme. I would recommend the game to anyone, especially kids since it was one of my favorite games growing up.

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 Stars

Why the Internet has revitalized Board Games

http://www.boardgamegeek.com With the ever-changing technology that is the Internet, it’s no surprise how much it affects everything in our lives. This blog is just as much proof of that as anything; I can reach other board game enthusiasts from around the world in the comfort of my own home. As Bill Gates once said, “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” So with this evolving landscape that the whole world is shaping, it’s no surprise that it is a force that influences the board game industry as well. What is surprising is that rather than diminishing the value of the board game, the Internet has actually helped improve the board game industry.

It seems sort of contradictory in a way; after all, board games are considered outdated by many people, so how has technology revitalized something so archaic? There are four major factors revolving around Internet usage that have helped the board game industry improve over the years: online purchasing, media and communication, online gameplay, and greater access to funding.

Online purchasing- the most obvious of the advantages of the Internet, being able to purchase a game online is making it exponentially easier to find all types of board games. Board game shops are becoming less common, and superstores such as Target and Wal-Mart have a limited supply of tabletop games in stock. In contrast, there are hundreds of online board game stores out there and ready to be used. Whether you buy online directly through a manufacturer, through a third party, or off of a secondhand/used game site, the ability to buy games online provides easy access to a desired commodity.

Media and Communication- Whether it’s through blogs, articles, or social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, online communication helps spread awareness of board games and allows for easier access to reviews and opinions about specific bgggames. The best example of this is the website www.boardgamegeek.com which has data on thousands of different games and includes a forum to ask questions to other board game lovers. Unlike TV where it is a one-sided conversation, the Internet gives game publishers a chance to advertise games and also allows customers to enjoy an open dialogue.

Online Gameplay- As I said before, board games can be considered archaic at times in comparison to video games or other types of games. So what’s a good way to make boar games more modern? Put them online to play! You can find games like Uno, Monopoly, Scrabble, and Risk online through various means. Flash games on Facebook also are a part of the craze, with games like Words With Friends and Trivia Crack channeling aspects of the popular board games on the market into an online equivalent to a board game.online monopoly

Greater Access to Funding- Let’s say you have an amazing idea for a board game, but can’t get a publisher to fund the game and don’t have enough money to start it yourself. What do you dokickstarter-logo? In the past you would have to take out a loan and risk your financial future for the chance of the game taking off. But now there’s a better way, and that way is the Internet. Advertising for funding from strangers may seem like an unlikely prospect, but it has started to take off in a way nobody would expect. www.kickstarter.com is the premier site for funding these kinds of projects, and there is an entire section of the site dedicated to tabletop gaming. Some notable board games funded by Kickstarter campaigns include Exploding Kittens, Scythe, and Zombicide: Black Plague. The fact that you can work for your game to be funded by people on the Internet is a huge boost to game designers all over the world.

The Internet took the world by storm, so sometimes it’s difficult to remember how new it really is. Board games have been around forever and the Internet is still just beginning. The fact that board games have not simply faded into the shadows, but rather took advantage of the new technology, says a lot about the industry and what it is working towards. If we’re lucky, board games will continue to grow and evolve while still keeping the aspects that we all love about them intact.