Board Game Review: Steve Jackson Triple Threat!

A photo of the outer wall of the Steve Jackson Games booth at Gen Con 2016, with the mural consisting of a banner for the Simon's Cat Card Game.For my last entry about Gen Con, I’m going to do three board game reviews in one article. Why? Partly because the games are all short and simple. Partly because they’re all from Steve Jackson Games. Partly because it’s time to finish up the Gen Con posts and get on to something else! So we’re going to look at the three games they demoed at their ‘Play New Releases’ table: Simon’s Cat Card Game, I Hate Zombies, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Board Game.
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Board Game Review: Oceanos

A game of Oceanos in progress at Gen Con. Four people sitting around a table with their first row of ocean cards in front of them, and their modular submarine tiles nearby.One of the great things about attending Gen Con was getting to play new releases, or preview games that were about to be released. Oceanos is one of those games. It’s a new release from Iello, the company that publishes the King of Tokyo line. In this game, players control whimsical submarines exploring the depths of the ocean to collect animals for their aquariums. You also gain points for other items, such as treasure chests and coral reefs.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning, by looking at the numbers for Oceanos. Continue Reading →

Board Game Review: Between Two Cities

A game of Between Two Cities in progress: the scoring board is in the centre, with the square tiles that form the cities in groups around the edge of the playing area. Stacks of unused tiles, marked with player pieces, sit nearby.We have come to the time in which I review yet another board game. This time around, we will look at a very enjoyable game called Between Two Cities. This city-building game has elements of both co-operative and competitive games, using a hand turning mechanism like 7 Wonders or Sushi Go. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves… we’ll look at the numbers first, and go from there.

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Creativity: The Driving Force in Games?

A photo of a sunset being painted by a hand holding an artist's paintbrush, symbolising the creativity of painting the world.The Oatmeal recently released a comic about creativity. In a nutshell, it points out that creativity is like breathing. You have to breathe in before you can breathe out. In this analogy, you can’t produce creative content if you don’t also consume creative content. Creativity is an energy, like electricity or heat; in order to use that energy, you have to get it from somewhere. This can come in the form of reading, watching TV or movies, listening to music, looking at visual arts, and many other forms besides. But in consuming the creativity of others, one becomes more able to create works of one’s own.

This is in part because ideas don’t spring fully formed into a creative person’s head. They are reworkings of things these people have seen or heard or felt or experienced. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, ‘Good artists borrow. Great artists steal!‘ Which is a valid, if somewhat flippant, way of saying that consuming the creative works of others is the essential fuel for one’s own creativity.

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Player Agency – To Play or to Observe

The boards for the games Candy Land and Snakes and Ladders, overlapping on a table, with the boxes for both games stacked on them. These are two of the worst examples of games with no player agency.Many people had their first experience with games playing things like Candy Land or Snakes and Ladders (the latter being known in the United States, for some reason, as Chutes and Ladders). Other examples may include Hi Ho Cherry-O! and Cootie. What I find interesting about these games is that they are pretty much the perfect examples of games that have no player agency at all.

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