Staying Productive During a Pandemic

Over the last few weeks as I have fully transitioned to the stay at home lifestyle, I came to the realization that my life is somehow different, yet exactly the same. I am blessed to have a job that allows me to work from home, so my Monday through Friday still involves work, just in a different environment. I spend much more time on video conferences and have discussions with my wife about who gets access to the office at what times of the day. Initially I was going to the grocery store once a weekend to stock up on supplies, but have now transitioned to grocery delivery to further avoid interaction with other people. My social life is almost entirely digital now, besides walks with the dog and the occasional conversation with my next door neighbors while separated from our joint fence. In reality, I know I have it much easier than most, and haven’t seen a truly drastic change to my health or happiness.

And then, I saw this post online:

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Suddenly I started really thinking about what I’ve been doing the past few weeks- a lot of TV and video games, the occasional virtual happy hour, a movie marathon where my wife and I watched the full Lord of the Rings trilogy… but nothing really of substance. It made me realize that this was a good time to work harder on my board game design ideas that I’ve had in the works. After all, what would be a better opportunity to try and make progress on my games then when I’m inside for most of the day?

It turns out, things are not as simple as just deciding to be productive and doing it. I am at the point of my games where I am constantly trying to tweak and improve the rules, but in order to do so I need people to playtest. I am also starting to work with a graphic designer, but meeting with her virtually wouldn’t be as effective as an in person discussion. I have an idea for a 2 player game which I tried out with my wife- she gave good feedback, but now I don’t have anybody else to get a second opinion from.  The reality of what I am able to accomplish in this environment is completely different than it was before, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad.

But the difficulty of logistics in the COVID-19 world is not the only problem, it’s also the difficulty of what the world is going through. It feels like every time I check the news or my social media feed I see more bad news. I tend to be a very positive person, but with everything going on it’s hard to not feel down.

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Mental health is extremely important during this time, and so I have realized that some of the things I have been doing outside of work may not be productive, but they do help me feel better, and that’s important too.

I think that during these times we have to remember that everyone has different things they are dealing with- it’s not as black and white as “you now have more time at home and should use that time productively”. I personally would like to try and be productive when I can, but I have also realized that pressuring myself to do something productive will only cause more stress, and I should focus on things that will make me happy along with things that I want to improve or build on when I am motivated to do so.

If any of you are like me and are trying to balance productivity and entertainment, I hope you are able to find the way that works for you. If you find yourself in a funk or an emotional low, I recommend focusing on yourself and doing what you can to feel better. Stay in contact with loved ones, decompress with hobbies you enjoy, and just simply do what you can, not what you feel like you have to do. Stay safe everyone, and here’s hoping that we turn the corner soon.

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Overwhelmed: Committing to Board Game Design

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Hello to everyone who is still following this blog! I have to admit, part of me is surprised that I have kept this page running even after I stopped posting regularly. I suppose part of it is due to laziness, another part stubbornness, but the main reason is that I have always wanted to find the time to build back up to posting about board games on a regular basis. Ultimately, I have had a lot of changes in my life over the last few years that have prevented me from doing that, but I have decided that in 2020 I will give it another shot.

In my first post back, I wanted to highlight something that has been giving me a level of anxiety for quite some time now. As I have written about in previous posts, I came up with an idea for a board game that I have spent multiple years tweaking, play-testing, and trying to mold into something that can be published in the future. Of course, the game is still not perfect- I have had some play-testers help me with tweaks and I made some pretty significant rule changes over the past few months- but I have found myself hitting a wall trying to decide where to go from here.

One thing that I have learned about myself is that I have trouble finishing projects that I start- I have an idea that I love and I work it to the point where I get tired of it and do something else. I have trouble committing to an idea and getting it past the finish line, and in this regard I think that board game design is my nemesis. There is so much that goes into creating a board game: creating the rules, play-testing, graphic design, manufacturing, reviews, funding… it’s all very overwhelming. I see some of the projects on Kickstarter and wonder if I can ever come close to that level of quality with my game. But I also look back at the time I have spent on Star Crashing so far and don’t regret it, because I do believe that this could be a game that is a lot of fun.

So I guess, I am writing this post for a few reasons. First and foremost, if any of you are feeling overwhelmed with a project or a goal, I hope you know that you’re not alone. Everyone struggles in life and things that are worth working hard for don’t come easy. Second, I am hoping that fellow board game designers, or aspiring designers, see this and feel compelled to offer their advice in the comments below. And finally, this is a long-winded way of saying that I am going to get back in the blog posting game! Hopefully you will all be reading a lot more from me as I try to get back to my reviews, musings, and board game development updates. So Happy 2020 everyone, let’s get to it!

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Back In Action

Hey everyone, long time no post! I’ve been putting this blog on hold for a very long time (almost a year to be exact) for a number of reasons. Work has been crazy, I’m getting ready for a wedding, and while my love of board games hasn’t diminished I find myself with less time to dedicate to finding and playing new games. All of that being said, I’ve decided to pick this blog back up for one major reason: I am currently in the process of designing my own game!

I’ve had this idea for a game for at least a year now, but I have finally started dedicating time to it and it’s turning into something really cool. I have recently ordered prototypes to use for play testing, and I am hosting a game night next weekend. If all goes well, I should be sending out the game to other bloggers for reviews, and getting a Kickstarter campaign up and running!

I will be setting up a separate page on this site to dedicate to the new game- it will have a basic rundown of the gameplay, some pictures, and an option to sign up to be a play tester yourself. If you have any interest in playing the game and letting me know your thoughts, or if you have any game design experience and are interested in working with me (I have minimal Photoshop experience and need a good designer/manufacturer), send me a message and I’ll follow up as soon as possible!

 

Board Game of the Week- Bang!

Bang! Full Set

  • Game Title: Bang!
  • Release Date: 2002
  • Number of Players: 4-7
  • Average Game Time: 20-40 mins
  • Game Publisher: dv Giochi
  • Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/3955/bang/
  • Game Designer: Emiliano Sciarra
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

Bang! is a game that was recommended by one of my coworkers, who got it for me in an office Secret Santa. It’s taken me some time to play it, but I finally was able to bust out the western-style card game this Cinco de Mayo. After playing two rounds of the game, it was easy to see why it is a regular for my coworker: the game is easy enough to learn, involves enough strategy to keep you engaged but not too much to over-complicate things, and overall was a great way to spend an hour with my friends.

Bang! splits up each player into a number of different roles based on the main players of a classic Wild West showdown. Each role has a different objective as they play the game, and roles are distributed randomly so that nobody knows who is who (minus the Sheriff). The roles and their objectives are listed below:

Role

Objective

Sheriff

Must eliminate all the Outlaws and the Renegade, to protect law and order
Outlaw They would like to kill the Sheriff, but they have no scruples about eliminating each other to gain rewards!
Deputy They help and protect the Sheriff, and share his same goal, at all costs!
Renegade

He wants to be the new Sheriff; his goal is to be the last character in play.

Because nothing says Wild Wild West like a good chart…

The number of roles differs based on the number of players, so the game scales in intensity based on how many people are playing. There are also character cards that give each player specific traits and skills that help them reach their objective.

Once both roles and characters are dealt out, the game starts with the Sheriff and goes clockwise. Each turn consists of three actions: drawing 2 cards, playing cards from your hand, and discarding cards until your number of cards match your current hit points. Bang! LogoPlaying cards is the majority of the turn, and there are a number of different cards with varying immediate and long term effects. The most crucial cards are Bang! cards, which allow you to shoot anybody within range. Once you declare who you shoot, that player has the opportunity to play a Missed card, which lets them avoid taking damage. If a Missed card isn’t played, that player loses one hit point. Lose all of your hit points, and you are out of the game. The game ends when either the Sheriff is killed, or all Outlaws and Renegades are killed.

Bang! CardsThe strategy involved with this game took some getting used to, but once you get the hang of things it becomes fun and engaging. Knowing who the Sheriff is gives him/her a disadvantage, but the Sheriff also gets an additional hit point, gets to go first, and in certain instances has deputies to help. In addition, the Renegade only wins if the outlaws are killed before the Sheriff, so the player who is the Renegade has to work to harm the Sheriff without them dying and take out the rest of the characters first. The outlaws seem to have the easiest job, but with a number of other characters having different  motivations sometimes tipping your hat too early and going straight for the Sheriff can make things difficult for you. Overall it feels like you are able to win as any of the characters (in our first round the Sheriff won and then in round two the Outlaws won), so there’s a good sense of balance that some competitive games lack. Another fun aspect of the game is the shooting distance- shooting distance is based on who you are sitting next to, meaning it is easier to shoot someone next to you than someone with multiple people in between. There are weapons and abilities to enhance your ability to shoot, but there are certainly times when you are restricted in your ability to use Bang! cards on people.

The only real negative I saw in this game is that it seems to be tailored more towards larger groups. The first time I played with 4 people, the minimum number for a game, and because of that we had fewer roles to choose from in the game. We only had one Sheriff, two Outlaws, and one Renegade, meaning no Deputies were included. This made the game less strategic and I found myself wanting to see how the Deputies affected the outcome. In addition, the distance restriction is very low for 4 players because you can always hit two players and then you only need a slight boost to get to the fourth player. I found myself enjoying the game a lot more the next time I played it, when we had 6 people. The game included a Deputy which added strategy to who the Sheriff shot, and the ability to shoot everybody in the game was much more limited.

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Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this game: it’s engaging, the style is cool, the cards are all useful to the game and the character abilities add a nice bit of extra flair as well. I recommend the game for anybody who likes mid-level strategy games and the ability to shoot your friends in the face… metaphorically, of course.

Jack’s rating: 4.5/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- Joking Hazard (for players 18+)

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  • Game Title: Joking Hazard
  • Release Date: 2016
  • Number of Players: 3-10
  • Average Game Time: 30-90 mins
  • Game Publisher: Breaking Games
  • Website: jokinghazardgame.com
  • Game Designer: N/A
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

Disclaimer: This game has adult themes and is meant for players 18 and up. Do not buy this game for children and then get mad at me that it is inappropriate. Please and thank you.

Another Kickstarter funded game that takes a popular comic series and warps it into a fun, ridiculous, and inappropriate game came into my life last week. Joking Hazard is a card game based on the comic Cyanide and Happiness, which you’ve probably heard of if you’ve spent more than five minutes browsing the Internet. In case you haven’t, Cyanide and Happiness focuses on awkward and inappropriate reactions to situations and condenses them into a three-strip comic panel. Joking Hazard takes these elements and turns them into an extremely clever, wild, and raunchy game with Cards Against Humanity-esque decisions and a feeling of depravity that just can’t be beat.

The game is very similar in gameplay to Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples. You have a set of 7 cards, there is a judge that rotates clockwise every round, you play a card facedown and the judge chooses which card is the winner. The differences are fairly straightforward, but are important to the flow and style of the game. For starters, the cards are all single panels of a comic that you use to form a complete strip with two other
panels. The first panel is drawn from the draw pile, the judge places the second panel either before or after the first one, and then each player other than the judge chooses a panel to place at the end, completing the strip. This means that there is only one deck of cards, rather than two like in CAH and Apples to Apples, and each one is meant to be paired with other cards to form the final joke. The person who played the card that the judge picks keep their card to tally the score, and then play continues until you decide it’s time to stop.

The positives in the game come from the amount of creative ways you can play the cards and the game’s ability to keep you on your toes. Because each card is suited for a different situation, there joking hazard wife left meare a huge number of possibilities and directions you can take when playing a card. At first when I read my cards I assumed there was no way I would be able to use some of them, but sure enough a round came along where they were the perfect fit. In addition, the fact that the judge gets to play one of the cards is a huge positive in comparison to CAH and Apples to Apples. The judge actually gets to shape the story the way they see fit, which can very quickly add to the hilarity.

One downside to the game that I saw was that there are definitely times that your cards aren’t a good fit to the panels that have currently been played. This is an issue that comes up with any of these games, but the times when everything is a dud seems more noticeable when shown in comic style. This was rare when I played, but after a few more run-throughs I wouldn’t be surprised if it became more noticeable. In addition, the game seems to be a lot better in small groups. I’ve played once with 4 players and once with 10, and ultimately the game with 10 was still fun but it took longer and felt like some good cards got lost in the shuffle.

Joking Hazard 1

Ultimately this is the type of game you want to have for get-togethers, parties, and alcohol related shenanigans (if you are the type for that). I once again want to stress that this game is not one you want to be playing with or around your kids, but when you have a group of fun loving adults it is a great game to have in your collection.

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Who Plays Catan Anymore?

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For what felt like my entire childhood, Settlers of Catan was a staple of my game nights. My High School friends wanted to play any time we hung out, and it felt like I would be trying to conquer the resource island weekly. The first article I ever read about board games online was about how Settlers of Catan started the board game revolution and brought about a “golden age” in board gaming. I was under the impression that the game settlers-boxwould never get old… but I have started to realize that the Mayfair Games classic may not be as bullet proof as I previously thought. The reason that this idea popped in to my head was simple: over the past few weeks I played a few rounds of Settlers with two different groups of friends. After the last time I played, I randomly started thinking about how long it was since I had played and I couldn’t even remember how long ago it was. I’ve had so many other games to play, and it seems like Catan always finds its way onto the bottom of the pile. If I ever recommend it to my friends they usually say that they like the game, but would rather play something different. So I started to think about why I’ve been seeing this trend over the past few years. What makes Settlers the less popular choice nowadays? I think this is due to three big factors.

The first reason why Settlers isn’t as popular nowadays is the amount of games that are available to people now. Back ten years ago it felt like the only new game people had on their shelves was Settlers of Catan. I know from personal experience that if I wanted to board-game-shelfplay a board game, I would either be playing an old school game my parents bought me or I would be playing Catan. Games like Pandemic and Ticket to Ride started to catch on in the early 2000’s, and slowly but surely game shelves started to grow and grow with new, exciting games. Fast forward to the present, and it feels like there’s no end to the amount of game options available to the average gamer, making Settlers a secondary option.

The second reason for the decline in the play of Settlers is tied directly to the first reason- a lot of people don’t play Catan anymore because of overplay in the past. As good as any board game is, there is a limit to the amount of times you can play it before you need a settlers-boardbreak. Collectively as a community, board gamers almost all played Settlers religiously for years after it came out, to the point where it feels like a drop-off was inevitable. I know from personal experience that I played the game so much in High School and College that I was practically begging for a change, not because I disliked the game but because overuse breeds disinterest. That, coupled with the bevy of new games that arrived on the scene, meant that everyone’s favorite game became just another one of many great options.

The third and final reason for Catan seeing a drop in play is because of the continuing emergence of technology. While video games have been around for a while, the accessibility of smart phones and the mobile app explosion has certainly created a dip in a number of areas, including board game play. While board games are continuing to increase in popularity, a lot of that success is attributed to the game industry adjusting and adding technology into their games. Settlers is a more traditional game, and although it has embraced technology by creating an online game (you can find it here if you’re interested) ultimately when you think Settlers of Catan, you don’t think high tech.

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I firmly believe that Settlers of Catan is a game that will be around for years to come. It’s still one of the most sold games in existence and is considered a top 10 game by multiple different sources. Still, it’s important to realize that no matter how successful a game is, eventually its popularity will wane. And even though Settlers isn’t as popular as it was before, the positives that come with this change are apparent. So when I look at my game shelf and realize that Settlers hasn’t been played in some time, I like to think that it just means there are more and more great options out there to enjoy.

 

My board game New Year’s Resolution, 2017

I have a number of New Year’s Resolutions that I’m working on this year: get in shape, eat better, save some money, all the usual ideas are on my list much like plenty of people going into 2017. Sometimes resolutions get thrown away by the end of the month, but I’m feeling confident that I can follow up with a number of the ones on my list if I work hard and stay focused. Ultimately I feel like 2017 is a great year for me to grow, and I’m hoping this growth will come in a number of different areas.

Looking back on 2016, one of the things I am most proud of is the expansion of theboardwalkgames.com. I realized how different my blog has become since the beginning of last year, and have seen the ebbs and flows of my ability to post along with more and more people beginning to read what I write. I then began to think about 2017 and what it had in store for me and my board gaming adventures. I decided that the best way to move forward into the New Year was to create a separate New Year’s Resolution dedicated to my blog and my goals surrounding board games. I came up with what I believe to be 4 great resolutions that I am hoping to follow through on in 2017:

  • Play a new board game at least once a month- I’ve found that recently I have gotten myself into a pattern with playing board games. I find myself focusing on games that I’ve already played before more often than not, because it is easy to play a game that is familiar rather than try something new. I will usually try out new games in bursts, where I try out 3 or 4 new games over the course of a month and then add the ones I like into my routine. While having a group of games that I can bring out for game night is never a bad thing, I’ve realized that trying out new games consistently will help me learn more about the games my friends and I like and also help me make sure I have new material for blogging. Because of this, I plan on trying out at least one new board game each month this year, and hopefully try even more than that.
  • Buy 5 new board games I’ve had my eye on- I realized recently that for whatever reason (time commitment, cost, convenience) I have had a few board games on my “need to play” list for quite some time without ever trying the games out. I have either heard about these games through a friend, a Kickstarter Campaign, or my own research, but however I found out about the games I am going to make it my goal to play them in 2017:
    1. Pandemic Legacy– I have heard nothing but amazing things about Pandemic pandemic-legacyLegacy since the game first came out. While at first the idea of a game board permanently changing based on your play made me nervous I would screw it up, more and more I have thought of it as an exciting and bold style of game. After playing a Pandemic marathon over Christmas I have decided that Legacy is a game I have to try soon.
    2. Arkham Horror– I received a copy of Arkham Horror a long time ago. Known to be one of the most lengthy and brutal board games out there, I haven’t been able to find the right group of people or a good time to play the game yet. I’m hoping that 2017 will finally be the year that I am able to try it out and understand why it is, as the title suggests, a “Horror”. P.S. Everyone should fear Cthulhu.arkham-horror
    3. Firefly the Game– This game goes on my list mostly because I loved the showfirefly-the-game Firefly and the movie Serenity, and I also heard that the gameplay is quite good. I recently gave this board game as a gift to my fiancée for Christmas, so I am looking forward to trying it out with her sometime soon!
    4. Carcassonne– Known as one of the best board games in carcassonne-gameexistence, Carcassonne is up there with Settlers of Catan as one of the board games that drove the recent board game resurgence. I am sad to say that I have never had the opportunity to play Carcassonne, and I am hoping that in 2017 I am able to remedy that. The game is easy enough to find, so hopefully in the near future I will be writing a review of it.
    5. Zephyr: Winds of Change- This game is probably the most obscure one on my list, mostly because the game is still in development. I donated money to the Zephyr: Winds of Change Kickstarter a while back, and I am a huge fan of the look of the game and the demos of gameplay I have seen online. I am extremely hopeful that the game will finish development this year, and if it does I am looking forward to being one of the first people to try it out.zephyr-winds-of-change
  • Write a blog post once every 2 weeks- I wrote recently about one year of blogging, and I noted that my posting frequency started to go down over the last few months. While I do believe that you shouldn’t force yourself to blog to the point of overexertion, I also feel like I have a lot more content to write about and I want to motivate myself to follow up on that. Because of this, my plan is to try and publish a post at least once every two weeks. I feel like this is a good middle ground between posting too frequently and not posting enough. I won’t be too upset if I miss a week here or there, but if I can keep up a consistent schedule of posts I think it will take The Boardwalk Games to the next level!
  • Create a test copy of my new board game- For those of you who weren’t aware, last year I came up with an idea for a board game and have been diligently working on the game mechanics and playtesting for a while now. I have refined the rules multiple times and gotten feedback from my friends who have tried the game out. I believe that I am ready to make a legitimate copy of the game and start having people outside of my inner circle try it out. Hopefully within the next few months you will be hearing a lot more about it. In the meantime, if you have any recommendations for good board game designers or if you want to try the game out yourself, feel free to contact me!