GenCon 2014 – Trade Day Thanks

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Will Bain on Aug 13, 2014

A quick shout out to those I talked to on Trade Day. It was great to meet you. Thanks for sharing your ideas and games and time with me.

Kathleen Mercury (www.kathleenmercury.com): great session on teaching game design to middle school students (full semester course in which the students design and build a board game).

Rudolf Kraus (Rhode Island College): great session on teaching game design in an undergraduate, college seminar.

Sean Duncan (Indiana University): Games and education

Chris Hamm (Indianapolis): Game development in Indianapolis & his game Strife.

Beth Koenen-Seelbach (Indianapolis): Games and after-school care programs

Chris Corbett (ACD Distribution): Hospitality room and Meeple Monthly magazine.

Cassidy and Chris (Calliope Games): Nice to meet you in person and lose all your game demos…

Tara (Peaceable Kingdom): With whom it has been proven I have NO telepathic link…

Al and Joe (Out of the Box): Thanks for teaching me a game that had already won a Major Fun Award! Obviously there are too many for me to keep track of…

The folks at Indy Game Developers: Michelle for showing me the story-telling games and the two young folks who taught me Demon Dice. Yours were the only names I did not write down and were therefore forgotten. I will find out when I visit your booth…

Joell Palmer (Amtgard): organized the foam sword fights in Union Station and talked to me as the melee roiled not more than 10 feet away.

 

GenCon 2014 – Set

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Will Bain on Aug 13, 2014

A few more pictures wrapping up Trade Day for GenCon. This is what GenCon looks like in the quiet moments before the storm:Exhibit Hall - Before the Storm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So quiet. So empty. You’ve got to do SOMETHING until those tables fill with goodness.

Playing Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set is one of the earliest winners of the Major Fun Award. It’s a personal favorite and a fantastic game to take when you are waiting around for the festivities to kick into gear. If you don’t know the game you should. Pictured are three gentlemen from our eastern states: (from right to left) Chris and Patrick (Richmond, VA) and Evan (Boston, MA). Thanks, guys, for letting me take your picture. Hope you are having fun.

GenCon 2014 – Strife at Trade Day

Filed Under (Musings and such...) by Will Bain on Aug 13, 2014

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Strife Creator - Chris HammFor those who don’t know, this weekend is GenCon in Indianapolis– one of the largest gatherings of game enthusiasts in the world. Here are some pictures from Trade Day which is the day before the official festivities commence.

I met Chris Hamm at one of the seminars. Chris is from Indianapolis and is the proud creator of the game Strife which he is debuting at GenCon. Strife is being published by V3G Games which is also right here in Indianapolis.

Check out how beautiful this game is!! (my crappy phone camera doesn’t do them justice) Chris demoed Strife for me. I can’t speak for all our game tasters but I would love to see it submitted for a Major Fun Award (I’m talking to YOU V3G!!)

StrifeAlso check out Chris’ blog “Life in Games” for more information about Strife and other games that Chris loves. He’s part of an active game community that was instrumental in bringing this project to life. Chris and Strife will be with V3G (and their game Incredibrawl) at booth 2727. Make sure you say hi.

More pictures and posts from GenCon to come…

 

Blurble

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on Aug 13, 2014

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BlurbleDeluxeBlurble is a game like Anomia that gets a lot of laughs and game-play-mileage out of making you sound stupid.

You aren’t stupid. I know this because you are reading this web post. You also demonstrate great taste and a fine appreciation for the playful side of life. And in that last regard, Blurble is the game for you.

Just be warned: the longer you play the game, the dumber you will sound.

The game consists of a big deck of cards. How many cards, you ask? I’m not quite sure, but at a guess I would say more than 11. Yep, the box lid confirms there are more than 11 cards (489 more to be exact). The cards have pictures on them—illustrations of objects that are easy to identify (although one card had a plate of nachos that I was SURE was a pizza).

The game starts with a person called the “Blurbler.” Say it out loud. GO on. Now say it more than five times in a row. That kind of silly stupid tongue tied feeling is something you are going to have to get used to a lot. The Blurbler turns to the first person clockwise and flips up a card. The two players then races to say a word that begins with the same letter as the object in the picture.

Blurble cardsBUT (and notice it is a big but…) there are legal words and there are illegal words. Words cannot be proper nouns, numbers, contractions, or contain fewer than 3 letters (when we played we misread the rules and so disallowed anything with less than 4 letters—harder but still tons of fun). Words may never be used more than once in a game. Finally, the word cannot name the image. For instance, if a picture of a cat comes up you cannot say cat nor can you say catatonic nor can you say vacation (va CAT ion). That last one you might be able to slip by the other players (who act as judges) but they could call you out for illegal Blurbling.

01 AwardAs the game goes on you do tend to get faster but you also tend to run into words that have already been used. You will find yourself tripping over some of the most basic words because you just can’t remember if the word has been used before.

One thing we really liked about Blurble is that you are not penalized for saying an illegal word. If you say an illegal word you just have to keep trying. Players just keep shouting out words (and a lot of gibberish) until they say a legal one.

Major Fun for lots of ages and big groups of people.

2-12 players. Ages 8+

Blurble was designed by Grant Bernard and is © 2011 by Bernard Games.

Rumble in the House / Rumble in the Dungeon

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on Aug 11, 2014

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Rumble in the houseA while back we awarded King of Tokyo with a Major Fun Award. Giant monsters rampaging their way through a major metropolitan city. What isn’t there to like?

Well, Flatlined Games has lowered the stakes a little (you are fighting over a house instead of a city) but kicked the rampaging into overdrive.

Rumble in the House (and it’s virtually identical twin Rumble in the Dungeon) distills the fighting game down to its most basic core: move monsters, remove monsters. Cram a bunch of hare-trigger psychopaths (like Cthulhu, a Chicken Man superhero, and a penguin packing dynamite) into a single flat and watch the furniture fly.

For all its parts, the game is beautifully simple. There are twelve room tiles that make up the board. Arrange these as you like. There are twelve monsters on little plastic stands. Place one in each room. There are 12 monster tokens. Each player chooses 2 at random. Keep yours hidden! These are the monsters you are trying to protect as long as you can.

Rumble ComponentsOn your turn you can do one of two things: move one monster (if it is alone) OR “pick a fight.” If there are two or more monsters in a room, you get to remove one from the game. Fights in the house are very fast and very decisive!

As monsters are eliminated from the house, you must place them in a line. Play until only one character remains. Points are determined by the place of your monsters in the line. The first two monsters score nothing. Zero. After that each monster scores points by their position in line starting with one point for the third monster and going up to ten points for the one who walked out of the house. You take the score of your last monster.

The game is played over three rounds. Each time, you build the house, draw new secret monsters, and then RUUUUMMMMMMBLE!!

01 AwardRumble in the Dungeon is the successor to Rumble in the House. The location and characters have changed and a treasure chest has been added to the basic mechanics. Moving and fighting are still the main actions, but if you can get one of your characters to carry the treasure chest to the dungeon’s entrance, that character can leave and earn 10 points. Moving and fighting continue even if someone succeeds in removing the treasure (instead of fighting for the treasure you are now fighting over who let someone else abscond with it).

Rumble in the dungeonYour first game is the longest and that’s only because you have to punch out the pieces and glance through the rules. The artwork on the pieces, the box, and the rules by Kwanchai Moriya is fun and colorful. We loved looking at the pieces and making up stories about how one character defeated the other. It’s a very light game but it lends itself to lots of replay. I also appreciated that even when your monsters have been eliminated you still get to influence the game.

Spite becomes a powerful force for Major Fun.

2-6 players. Ages 8+

Rumble in the House was designed by Olivier Saffre and is © 2011 by Flatlined Games. Rumble in the Dungeon is © 2012. Worldwide distribution is being handled by the good people at Iello.

Battle Sheep Instruction Video

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Will Bain on Aug 6, 2014

Major Fun presents my first attempt at a gameplay / instruction video. Still working through the whole video and audio editing learning curve but here it is in all its YouTube glory:

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Let me know what you think!!

Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty is a Keeper

Filed Under (Keeper, Toys) by Bernie DeKoven on Aug 6, 2014

Production guys with Crazy Aaron

I’ve been playing with, exploring, thinking about, o, all right, playing with Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty since I realized that it was, in deed, a toy worthy of Major Fun recognition. Today, I encountered an inescapable conclusion: this stuff is a Keeper. I mean, I can barely keep my hands off of it.

Go to Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty site. Look around. Look at all the different kinds, the properties (glow in the dark, light sensitive, heat sensitive, magnetic), the colors (Electric, Metallic, Primary) – there’s even a colorless called Liquid Glass (which is so surprisingly, uh, surprisning that you have to see it in action to appreciate it’s crystalline wonders)

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And it’s therapeutic, too. Not just emotionally, but physically

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Now take a look at Crazy Aaron (in the middle of the photo at the beginning of this post) with some of the more than 500 people in his staff. Not only is he constantly experimenting, continuously providing us with new putty marvels to soothe our senses and tease our intellect, but he is employing people, many of whom, because of one label or another, wouldn’t have a way to make anything close to a living.

So this Keeper award is in recognition of his deeply playworthy accomplishments, but also of Aaron himself, and his genuine devotion to making the world a little more fun for all playkind.

Major Fun Keeper Award

 

Five Games for Teachers (Part 1): Reverse Charades / Rollick

Filed Under (Musings and such...) by Will Bain on Jul 30, 2014

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reverse-charadesWith the school year about to start, I got to thinking about the games I always had with me in my class room. After 18 years of teaching, these were the ones I found myself going to over and over again. Over the next week or so I will be sharing my top 5…

The Game: Reverse Charades or Rollick

These games, Reverse Charades and Rollick are virtually identical owing to a split between the creators. Both won the Major Fun Award and they are both excellent choices. I tend to refer to the games interchangeably as Reverse Charades because the game of charades is recognized by my students. I’ll continue to do so here.

Reverse Charades is my go-to game for those unexpected deviations in the schedule: those times when your class is waiting to be called down for pictures or waiting for a speaker to show up or just when your lesson or class activity ended earlier than expected. I tend to introduce it early in the semester as a way to relax a bit with my students and let them perform. I have it on my phone, but I also keep several copies of Rollick in my room. The app version is well worth the investment.

The Set-up:

Rollick_Spread1Reverse Charades is just like the classic game Charades except that the group does the acting and an individual does the guessing. For the past several years my class size was around 20 so splitting the class in half was doable. A class much bigger than 20 and you will probably need to make at least 3 teams. With teams of 10 I will have 7 actors and 3 guessers. The guessers always rotate out, and a student can’t become a guesser again until everyone on the team has been one.

You will also need to arrange a space between the actors and the guessers. A row of desks or a table or lines of tape on the floor will do. Over the course of the game, especially as the tension and excitement mount, there is a very strong tendency for the actors and guessers to move toward each other as if they will attack one another. I suggest keeping a space of 6 or 8 feet between the two groups—you can even deduct points if they violate the “neutral zone.”

Maybe it goes without saying but I will mention it anyways: this game is loud. There is no way to make it quiet without straight-jacketing the whole affair. Consider the classes around you, and be prepared to accept a certain degree of exuberance and chaos into your life.

When it is time to start, bring one group of actors up to the front. If you are playing with the physical game, give the timer to a student on the other team. Show the clues to the actors and then listen for the guessers to answer. Make sure the guessers say the answer and not the actors. You’ll also need to watch so that the actors aren’t mouthing words or using letters and numbers. Usually this is done accidentally or in the heat of the moment. A reminder usually works but subtracting a point can drive the point home if someone seems to be “forgetting” too much.

The Value:

At the risk of raising a gasp of astonishment from legislators and gasp of mock astonishment from everyone else, there are moments of “down time” in school. So far, it has proven impossible to structure each and every moment of each and every day. For which I say, “Thank goodness.”

Being playful is a hallmark of intelligence. It is one of the traits of our remarkable neural architecture. Not a by-product. Not a happy accident. Playfulness is not a product of intelligence so much as an aspect of it—much like the relationship between magnetism and electricity. Reverse Charades provides a lightly competitive way for my students to play with words and ideas and communication in a way that brings all of us closer together. Sure we all like scoring and winning, but we absolutely love laughing and acting and guessing. The important thing here is play and the engagement that occurs in its pursuit.

Now, maybe you need something a bit more academic—a justification that fits better with state standards. If that’s the case then consider the thinking and communication skills that are involved in a game of charades. The actor needs to understand the target word or phrase, in many cases must break the clue into discrete parts, and then must decide on the best physical clues to give in order for the guessers to get to the target. The guessers must attend to the physical actions of the pantomime as well as the actions that show them where to focus their attention. They must come up with multiple ways of expressing the actions and in most cases must then come up with synonyms in order to get to the exact wording. Indiana has the following standard for 11th and 12th graders:

Indiana Standard (Speaking and Listening) 11-12.SL.3.1: Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems…

This is a very basic standard that exists in almost all disciplines and across all grades. My guess is that your state has a standard that reads like this one (maybe even word for word given the way these standards often come to be written).

In general, I found that the more I got my students to just play with ideas in ways that made them laugh, the more likely they were to play and engage with the “serious” curricular materials.

Aztack

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Thinking Games) by Will Bain on Jul 28, 2014

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aztack_gamerNow that all those Mayan and Aztec apocalypses are over, we can get back to building pyramids for recreation instead of in an attempt to stave off the end of life as we know it.

Whew!

An early adopter of this new recreational approach to Mesoamerican architecture is Blue Orange Games and their fantastic stacking/tiling game Aztack.

The game consists of 60 rectangular tiles that resemble dominoes. Instead of pips on each side of the tile, there are Aztec glyphs—images that represent important symbols in Aztec culture. The four glyphs (flower, water, deer, and flint) are combined in many ways and in five different colors: green, orange, grey, blue, and burgundy.

To start play, 12 tiles are arranged in a 2×6 rectangle in the middle of the table. Each player draws 12 tiles. On your turn, you place one of your tiles on the base of the pyramid or pass if there is no space for a legal move. If you pass, you can jump in later. Play proceeds clockwise until everyone must pass. The winner is the one with the fewest remaining tiles.

The rules for placing the tiles are simple and well-illustrated by the rules. You must place your tile so that it bridges two tiles beneath it. The tile you place must also match both of the glyphs OR both of the colors. If it matches all colors and glyphs you get to discard an additional tile from your hand.

01 AwardThe simplicity of the rules belies a wonderfully complex and shifting matrix of choices. There is a great balance between making moves that will limit the choices of your opponents and those that will keep the board open for your future placements. Luck plays a sizable role but there is enough choice to develop strategies in order to manage the random elements.

Aztack is well made and beautifully illustrated. It is fascinating to watch as the pyramid rises from the base. Each one is unique and really very beautiful.

And Major Fun…

2-4 players. Ages 7+

Aztack was designed by Brad Ross & Jim Winslow and is © 2014 by Blue Orange Games.

Battle Sheep

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Thinking Games) by Will Bain on Jul 26, 2014

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battlesheep_gamerA bucolic scene. Technicolor sheep grazing in a green pasture. They look up every few moments, amble over to another patch of grass and clover. Quiet except for the sound of chewing and the occasional bleat as one of the sheep gets boxed in.

The horrors of war!

The pasture is a battleground. The sheep scan the field with steely eyes, looking for weakness in the enemy lines. A scream of defeat.

Welcome to the vicious world of Battle Sheep.

Blue Orange has brought us another great strategy game. Battle Sheep combines an area capture mechanic with a variable board that changes the contested pasture every time you play. As is the hallmark of most Blue Orange Games, the pieces are of the highest quality and the art is fun. The rules fit on a tiny slip of paper and once you have read them you will never need them again.

The game starts with the construction of the pasture. Players take turns placing the pasture tiles so that they connect. The combinations are practically infinite and you can construct some truly bizarre playing areas.

Once the pasture is set, the players take their 16 sheep tokens and place them in a single stack at the edge of the pasture. Each turn after the initial placement, each player must move at least one of their sheep tokens in a straight line until they have to stop—either by running into the edge of the pasture or by bumping into another sheep. A player can move a single sheep or a stack of sheep as long as at least one sheep is left behind. As the game progresses, there are generally several smaller stacks of sheep of each color. Players with multiple stacks may only move from one of the stacks.

The idea is to control as many hex spaces as you can and block your opponents so they can’t move. The game ends when only one player can make a legal move. At that point, players count how many pasture hexes they control.

01 AwardThere is a lot to think about here, starting with your initial placement. It is entirely possible to get shut down early in the game if you choose poorly. Each move involves a reassessment of the pasture and the possible moves of your opponents. And of course there is the great satisfaction that comes when you can box your opponent in to a small corner.

Baa Ram Ewe, buddy. Baa Ram Ewe.

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2-4 players. Ages 7+

Battle Sheep was designed by Francesco Rotta and is © 2014 by Blue Orange Games.