Game Day Achievements

March 25, 2010

Previously, I wrote about introducing achievements to our Metro Game Day. I’m pleased to report, the reception was great. Even among those who aren’t video gamers and the concept was new to them got into the fun of trying to earn achievements and making sure their achievement list was up to date.

Karate Kid Achievement

The Karate Kid Achievement

The achievements were created using the using the website The website works rather well, but there are a few limitation. There is no ability to upload and use your own images and use of the site is throttled. In the middle of some achievement making marathons, I was forced to take a break and let the bandwidth limit refresh.

The achievements created were designed to reward play, embarrass, and give people something to brag about. The complete list of achievements is as follows:

  • A Dish Best Served Cold – Beat someone who beat you
  • A Series of Tubes – Reference the internet for more information on a game
  • And So It Begins… – Play the first game of the game day
  • Boom, Headshot – Make a video game reference
  • Card Shark – Play and win a card game
  • Cobra’s Worst Enemy – Roll “snake eyes” twice
  • Cornucopia – Bring food to the game day
  • Do Not Go In There – Hold up a game for a bathroom break
  • Do Or Do Not – Learn a new game at the game day and win at that game
  • Don’t Get Cocky, Kid – Win three games
  • Got Me Some Edjukashun – Learn a new game
  • Film Buff – Quote a line from a movie
  • Grain Sales to Soviets – Make a “Twilight Struggle” joke
  • Heartbroken – Fail to win a single game
  • Hobo – Roll “boxcars” twice
  • It’s a Trap! – Lose a game by being betrayed
  • Karate Kid – Knock, spill, or otherwise disrupt the game board due to animated movements
  • Life of the Party – Bring three or more games to the game day
  • Long Haul – Play in a game that lasts over two hours
  • Lush – Bring alcohol to the game day
  • Ninja – Win three games in a row
  • No One Suspects the Spanish Inquisition – Make a “Here I Stand” joke
  • Pity the Fool – Win every game played
  • Power to the People – Teach a game to someone
  • Return to Sender – RSVP for the game day
  • Rival – Beat or be beaten by the same person twice
  • Sonic – Finish an entire game in less than 15 minutes
  • The Hoff – Play a board game that won German award
  • There’s No I In Team – Play a cooperative board game
  • Those Things Cause Cancer – Hold up a game for a phone call
  • War Monger – Play and win a war game
  • Zombie – Stick around to play the last game of the game day

The original idea was to print all these out and have a large board where we could write everyone’s name and tape the achievements underneath. But time was short and arts and crafts isn’t my forte. So, instead I created a TiddlyWiki with tiddlers for each player and linked the achievement images into their tiddler. This was all displayed on a 23 inch monitor.

Long Haul Achievement

The Long Haul Achievement

The TiddlyWiki worked, but because so many people were unfamiliar with wiki editing and how I was linking the images, it ended up be a user unfriendly situation. In the future, I’d either go with the low tech solution and print everything off or go even more high tech with a custom written application and a 42 inch HDTV display.

So, for next time, TiddlyWiki is out and a custom built Flex app is in. The goal will be to have check boxes to easily update and unlock achievements and statistical view where you can compare two player’s achievements or see how many people have unlocked each achievement. Maybe by Game Day IX I’ll figure out how to get social network integration working so everyone can log in with their facebook account and we can embarrass them in front of their friends by posting their board game achievements.

Small World – My Top Race Picks

March 24, 2010

I’ve played Small World a few dozen times with anywhere from 2 to 5 players. Most of the time I pick the special power and race combination to get me the most points or give my opponent the fewest. However, I do like to experiment with the other races just to see how they play out. Below is a list of some of the Races I find myself gravitating towards every time I play. Feel free to comment on my choices.

Ghouls (5) Your Ghoul tokens all stay on the map when going into Decline, instead of the usual 1 token per Region. In addition, unlike other Races, once In Decline, your Ghouls can continue to conquer new Regions in the following turns, playing exactly as if they were still Active tokens.

How can you not like these guys? If Ghouls are available in the early game I will choose them. Having two ‘active’ races on the board attacking each turn will help eliminate your opponents quickly. You don’t lose any tokens so they also have a good defensive bonus while in decline. If Ghouls get paired up with the Stout, Wealthy or Spirit special powers they can be deadly.

Skeletons (6) During your Troop Redeployment take 1 new Skeleton token from the storage tray for every 2 non-empty Regions you conquered this turn, and add it to the troops you redeploy at the end of your turn.

These sword-wielding cowboys start with a decent size and convert their conquered foes into an even bigger force. Skeletons are a lot of fun to play with and the fact that you can actually gain tokens each turn make them a worthy choice. I also think the Skeletons have the edge over the Sorcerers due to the defend-ability against the Sorcerers power. Commando or Marauding Skeletons can quickly multiply and eliminate opponents. While a Ransacking or Pillaging Skeleton can score big.

Goblins (6) You may conquer any In Decline Region at a cost of 1 less Goblin token than normal. A minimum of 1 token is still required.

The Clean-up Crew. Goblins are a good late-game pick when a good chunk of the board is occupied by what were once great civilizations. Look for the same special powers for Skeletons to make them even more effective.

Wizards (5) Each Magic Region your Wizards occupy is worth 1 bonus Victory coin, at the end of your turn.

Who knew magic could be so financially rewarding? Every game I play that the Wizards show up they seem to score a ton of points. Their ability is similar to the Humans but they seem to do a little better. They may not be able to conquer regions as well, but scoring coins is what is ultimately important. The bottom of the 2 player map is well-suited towards Swamp Wizards.

Kobolds (11) You may never occupy (nor conquer) a Region with less than two Kobold tokens. When going In Decline however, keep a single token in each Region, as normal.

You start with 11+ tokens… what more do I need to say?

Gypsies (6) Place 1 bonus Victory coin (taken from the Victory stash) in each Region you abandon. You cannot conquer these Regions again this turn, but you receive the coins they hold as a bonus at turn’s end.

I don’t know if they are really one of the best, but I think the Gypsies are my favorite race to play with. Abandoning regions each turn is usually a tough strategic move that must be considered with any other race: You get more tokens, but lose the region(s) and – more importantly – coin(s). Gypsies make that decision a lot easier. You get to make use of their little throwing knives by hopping around the board with reckless abandon. They can get paired with just about any special power to enhance their deadliness and coin generating ability. I’ve even played with Fortified Gypsies and had fun.

What races do you like to pick?

Metro Game Day II: In Honor of Saint Patrick

March 16, 2010

This past Saturday, 25 people gathered at my home in St. Paul for Metro Game Day II, a quarterly event that we host at various places around the Twin Cities. Russ already mentioned the sweet achievement system that he put in place, which was a huge hit. He ran the tally off of a LCD monitor on the mantle top so people could easily check it out throughout the day.

The event started at 10 AM. As people arrived throughout the day, they were greeted by the sight of a huge stack of games on the front porch. There was a  two-player game going on in the living room, multiplayer games in the dining room, two multiplayer games upstairs, and a two-player game in the basement. The event went for ten hours straight, with things wrapping up around 8:30 PM.

The most fun thing about hosting Metro Game Day is watching people you care about discover a new game that they like–the quick grasp of rules and strategy, followed by the smiles, jokes, and cries of victory and defeat. We were fortunate to have several people stop by who are complete strangers to board games outside of those found at Walmart, and a common question I heard was “Where can I get this game?” Those of us who are well-versed in various games and have experience at teaching them became little focal points for strangers to meet and enjoy each other’s company.

The other cool thing about Metro Game Day is the way it has become a true community event. People are encouraged to contribute to dinner by bringing a side dish, and they were very generous! My wife cooked Sloppy Joes (or “barbecues” in her parlance) and others brought fruit, chips, salads, pies, cakes, and cookies. It was also an excuse to celebrate the feast of Saint Patrick, and green was in abundance. (Around 8 PM, we seamlessly transitioned into a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.) Here’s a short list of my personal highlights from the day:

  • Five of us sitting down at 10:10 AM to play Carcassonne just so Russ couldn’t get the “And So It Begins” achievement by playing the first game.
  • Beating a table of three women at Martinis and Men.
  • Watching Russ and Will emerge from the basement after three hours of Twilight Struggle (Will had never played before) only to discover that Russ, the teacher, had accidentally triggered global thermonuclear war and incinerated the globe.
  • Sitting down to play games with two friends from college who I haven’t seen in five years.
  • Seeing my dad finally win a game of Ticket to Ride after two and a half years of trying.
  • Playing the first three games of the day with my wife.
  • Hearing Rick insist loudly that “You don’t get points if you don’t play cards!” as I was contemplating whether or not to discard yet another hand in Pacific Typhoon.
  • Passing through the living room over the course of two hours and watching a pile of Apples to Apples discards get bigger…and bigger…and bigger…

Thanks to all for making Metro Game Day II a success. If you want an invite to Metro Game Day III in June, please let us know in the comments and we’ll be sure to find a way to get you the info!

"This end table is just big enough for Stratego..."

Small World + plate of BBQ weenies = bliss.

"Hey, you took my route!"

Two dudes put on their "thinking faces." It didn't matter; my dad (clenching the Coke can in anticipation) won.

Another thinking face. Again, this didn't work either.

Actual (not posed) thinking face. This time, it worked!

Achievement Unlocked

March 12, 2010

Tomorrow is Metro Game Day II, as opposed to Rural Game Day I which is what it would be if I hosted. The game day was created to share our love of gaming with friends and acquaintances; a chance to try to new games, get people excited about gaming, and flaunt our vast collection of games that aren’t found on the shelves of Walmart.

At the inaugural game day, a rudimentary scoring system was introduced at the last minute. You earn a number of points equal to the number of people you beat. So, first place in a four player game gets three points, second place get two, and third gets one. It was simple enough, but deeply flawed. A two hour slug-fest of a Twilight Struggle game would only get you one point. In that same amount of time, another player could play a variety of party games and rack up a double-digit score.

For Game Day II, we went to work trying to develop a new scoring system. While a system that takes into account complexity, time, and number of players is very much possible, the tracking would have had to be done on a spreadsheet and arbitrary decisions to create weighted values for complexity would only lead to problems.

Borderlands: My Muse

Borderlands: My Muse

But in every dark situation, great men shine. I thought back to how I kept jumping off of cliffs trying to land on an enemy in the video game Borderlands just to get an achievement. (Let me tell you, it’s harder than you’d think, especially when you are targeting midget bandit ravagers.) But, if a little meta game reward could keep me doing stupid stuff like this, just imagine what I could instill in my friends!

That’s right, Metro Game Day II brings achievements! Perform certain tasks at the game day and participants will earn achievements.

Here’s a complete list of achievements. Except for the embedded examples, how to earn them will be kept secret until after the game day.

  • A Dish Best Served Cold
  • A Series of Tubes
  • And So It Begins…
  • Boom, Headshot
  • Card Shark
  • Cobra’s Worst Enemy
  • Cornucopia
  • Do Not Go In There
  • Do Or Do Not
  • Don't Get Cocky, Kid 1/3 Achievement

    The Don't Get Cocky, Kid Achievement With Partial Credit

  • Don’t Get Cocky, Kid
  • Got Me Some Edjukashun
  • Film Buff
  • Grain Sales to Soviets
  • Heartbroken
  • Hobo
  • It’s a Trap!
  • Karate Kid
  • Life of the Party
  • Long Haul
  • Lush
  • Ninja
  • No One Suspects the Spanish Inquisition
  • Pity the Fool
  • Power to the People Achievement

    The Power to the People Achievement

  • Power to the People
  • Return to Sender
  • Rival
  • Sonic
  • The Hoff
  • There’s No I In Team
  • Those Things Cause Cancer
  • War Monger
  • Zombie

Next week, I’ll describe how I made the achievements, how we gave them out, and the lessons learned from the game day.  In the mean time, feel free to speculate on how they are earned.

Inside the Box: Leonardo da Vinci

March 3, 2010

Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.

The MSRP for Leonardo da Vinci is $45 but it was on sale for $10 !? I went to BoardGameGeek to check this game out. Leonardo da Vinci is a worker placement game where you compete with others to be the first to finish certain invetnions. The reviews were mostly favorable. The game images also looked interesting so I had to pick up a copy and check it out. It certainly wouldn’t be the worst $10 I’ve ever spent…

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

There’s an illustrated drawing of an inventor with some of Leonardo da Vinci’s more famous works on the front cover. The artwork catches the eye, but doesn’t offer any clues as to what the game is about. The back gives a brief description of the game and lists the game components. The box is a bit flimsy, not as thick as some of the other games I own, but adequate.

Leonardo da Vinci

A mistake? Nope, just the designers being clever.

After opening the box and pulling out some components I notice a manufacturing error… oops! Or so I thought. It seems the designers cleverly added a molding of the name “Leonardo” into the insert in mirror writing – just the way Leo would have actually signed it. Besides being clever, the insert does a good job of holding all of the components with a larger area to store all of the bits. Included are plastic bags to hold them, but only 3 bags. I added a few more to make 6: 1 each for the five player colors and 1 for the other bits used during play.

The game board is illustrated in the a similar style to the box cover and is interesting to look at. Unfortunately, all of the artwork is covered by boxes that hold the invention cards, resource cards, money cards (florins, of course), and other components. While playing the game you never get to look at the artwork. I’m sure the artist was a bit disappointed all his hard work would just be covered up.

The player tokens are fun. Each player gets one Master token and 9 Apprentices. The 9 apprentices remind me of meeples from Carcassonne, but with more pleasing, human-like proportions. The Master dwarfs his apprentices in size and wears a hat and robe. They are wood bits painted red, green, yellow, blue and purple. Not my ideal choice of colors, but they aren’t too difficult to distinguish. There are also some other plain cylindrical tokens (in the player colors and brown) for keeping track of things on the board.

The cardboard components are heavy duty – as thick as the game board. There are two laboratories for each player, two invention player aids, some mechanical men tokens, arrows markers, and a Leonardo token and a Lord of the City token with plastic stands. Each of these look nice and are very durable. The Leonardo token is held by the player that acts first each round and the Lord of the City token… well it isn’t mentioned other than in the set-up. An actual error. The token is supposed to be used to highlight which area of the board is being resolved.

The game also comes with 3 decks of cards: two mini-European sized decks that make up the money and resources and one standard-American sized deck for the inventions.

Leonardo da Vinci

Resource and Florin Cards

The resource cards are color coded and have symbols on them so they are easy to read. The Florin cards are adequate, but color coding these would have added a little more appeal to them. They did color code the 5 zero florin cards – one for each player to use for bluffing – so they had the ability and chose not to do the rest of the cards. The backs of both sets of cards have a self portrait of Leonardo, a nice touch.
Leonardo da Vinci

Invention Cards

The invention cards contain all the important information needed for the players: how many weeks it takes to invent, what resources are needed, the invention type and the value of the invention. I really like these cards. The backs have a sketch of Leo’s Vitruvian Man. Sketches of each invention on the card fronts are made to look like they were done by Leonardo. The name of the invention, which really isn’t important to game play, is written on the card in Italian. But I’m happy to say they have a list of the invention names in English in the instructions. I generally look these up so I can proudly announce when I’ve just finished work on the Automatic Hammer (top right) or Burning Mirror (bottom left).

Speaking of the instructions, I’m not sure if they were written poorly to begin with or much was lost in translation or some of both. I will give them credit for the illustrations and examples in the instructions as these which definitely helped my understanding of the game. However, it took me a couple of read throughs and a solo play to figure out the basic game play. After I played, I hit up Board Game Geek to find the answer to a couple of questions and found out I played incorrectly. The game is actually fairly straightforward, but the instructions just don’t quite convey the simple mechanic.

For example, in the Worker Rules in the Assignment Phase section, the rules state:

Your mechanical men can only be placed in the designate spaces of your laboratories

But in the Employment Phase:

Important: you cannot take a mechanical man and save it to place later!

So one section seems to imply the mechanical man is placed like a worker and another states the opposite. Fortunately the designers put out an FAQ which addresses this and other issues.

Overall, I felt like they paid extra attention to detail in some areas: insert, invention cards and card board quality, but missed the target on others: art on the game board, box quality and rules. However, I think the pros out weigh the cons for the components. Leonardo da Vinci is well worth the $10 I spent and not only for the components; the game is enjoyable too.