Dave’s 2016: Board games

“I love board games” is inaccurate because “love” isn’t strong enough a word.

For the past few years, I’ve been getting together with friends every Monday and Thursday night to play tabletop games. Monday is “RPG Night” and Thursday is “Game Night,” where we pull something off the shelves and have at it. It’s my main hobby and I love it.

There’s something about sitting around, laughing, having a couple of beers and playing a game that I truly love. It’s a fantastic way to spend time with friends, make new ones and create lasting stories, especially on RPG night. Like that time with the bear trap, or the grenade in the jail cell. Or the silver letter opener. Trust me, those stories are hilarious.

In 2016 I played a lot of games, and these were some of the standouts.

Concept

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A great party game that’s always good for a few laughs. One person knows a secret word or phrase that he must make there others say. This is done by identifying icons on a board that somehow relate to the target word or saying. You’ve got to get creative and I’ve seen some very clever clue-giving. I’ve witnessed a lot of train wrecks too, and that’s part of the fun.

Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar

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This a worker placement /asset management game that I love to play. It’s got a Mayan calendar theme, so you’ve only got four “seasons” to gather resources, please the gods and earn the most points. Trust me, it’s more fun than it sounds. In fact, this is one game I’m happy to play anytime, over and over. Incidentally, it doesn’t look this nice out of the box. My friend Dave painted this copy, and it’s gorgeous.

A Study in Emerald

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Do you like Neil Gaiman ? Do you like Lovecraftian Elder Gods ? This is the game for you. Close portals and save Earth from insanity-inducing ancient ones. Here’s a little background for you .

Wombat Rescue

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Wombats poop cubes . In this game, you must find the optimal journey between Point A and Point B for your little wombat. How will he find his way back? By pooping, of course. Lay down and follow a clever trial of cube poops.

Ten Candles

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Probably my favorite indie game of 2016, Ten Candles is a nihilist RPG in which all of the characters will die. It’s guaranteed, you won’t survive, don’t try. You will, however, make up a compelling and dark story with your comrades. The mechanic of actually blowing out 10 real candles adds a lot to the tense, somber mood of this very fun game.

There were many, many more of course. These are just highlights. Perhaps I’ll feature RPGs or indie game or something in the future. Until then, pick up anyone of these titles and you’ll have a great time.

daves2016

Wii outsellilng Wii U

williamwiiu

The Wii U is proving to be a disaster for Nintendo. The company shipped just 390,000 units in the  last quarter, and estimates suggest the original Wii has outsold the Wii U.

A part of the reason is price, of course. The Wii is much less expensive. My problem with the Wii U is, what is the gamepad for? When my son and I were at PAX East last March, we demo’d a few Wii U games and he barely used it (you can see it sitting idle on the table above). Perhaps we didn’t play games that take advantage of it, but it seems like this big bulky thing with no purpose.

The gamepad was helpful for typing in Scribblenauts, but he can already do that just as easily on the iPad.

A brief history of click wheel iPod games

Last week, Apple pulled its Texas Hold’em game from the App Store. Ten years after the first iPod game appeared as an Easter Egg on the original 5 GB iPod, Apple has all but stopped producing games for the music devices 1.

As of this writing, Apple has 17 iPod touch/iPhone titles in the App Store, and none of them are games. To think that the App Store we know today started with a nice collection of simple yet fun games for the click wheel iPods. Here’s a look at the history of Apple’s early iPod games, from Brick to Texas Hold’em and everything in between.

Continue reading →

  1. Note: three games still ship with the iPod Classic: iQuiz, Klondike and Vortex. But none are distributed via iTunes any more.

Some Game Center screenshots [Updated]

Just a few hours after iOS 4.1‘s release, Firemint and Secret Exit released Game Center-enalbed versions of their games (Flight Control, Real Racing and Zen Bound 2). I own all three, and spent some time playing with them this evening. Here are some early screenshots and thoughts on Apple’s venture into social gaming.

The Game Center lists the compatible games you’ve got installed, but not until you launch/quit those games. Simply installing them won’t do it. The first time you launch an app, it registers itself with Game Center and drops a little graphic with the icon and your username.

An app’s achievements can be found in two locations: the app itself and with Game Center. Here’s a shot of Flight Control’s achievements list in both places. It’s too bad that the achievement icons are so small, as I bet they’re beautiful and I’d like to get a better look. For example, in the screenshots below, I can’t select the Safety Card achievement to bring up a detail page. It’s simply a part of the list.

Once a game is registered, it appears in Game Center’s list of available games. The “Find Game Center Games” banner launches Safari and points it to apple.com/game-center. Perhaps in the future it will list supported games, but for now it’s just a web link.

Each game gets its own great-looking page. Below are some screenshots of Flight Control in the Game Center. A full-sized icon sits atop the page (again making me wish for large achievement icons), which lists the last time you played, your place on the leaderboard, achievement history and aspect of the game (maps, levels, etc.) you recently played. The leader board is fun because it separates your friends from the global pool of players, and data can be restricted to today, this week or all time.

Just for fun, here are two screenshots from Real Racing.

Of course, the project’s success hinges on the effectiveness of the social aspects. As a gamer, I’m eager to earn achievements and brag to my friends. But will casual gamers be equally motivated? Perhaps. When looking at a friend’s page, you can see what games you have in common. If your good buddy is playing Game X, you’ll probably check it out. Additionally, Apple lets you set your status for all to see. I can already predict using it for trash talk among my friends.

Good luck to Apple and all the developers involved. Again, this was a quick post to share some screen shots and initial thoughts. So far, I’m enthused about Game Center.

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Update: There’s now a dedicated section of the App Store. I wondered how long that would take.

Apple’s Game Center [Updated]

Apple released iOS 4.1 for the iPhone and iPod touch 1 today, and with it the much-anticipated Game Center. Much like OpenFeint, Game Center will let users compete with each other for big points and bragging rights across a number of games.

The oddity is that it launched with no supported games. I suspected that Apple would have worked with hand-selected developers like they did prior to the iPad’s release (Firemint comes to mind). I’m sure Apple is approving an onslaught of submissions right now (Touch Arcade has been keeping tabs on the process) but it’s odd that they launched the service with none.

It wouldn’t be so bad if Apple users weren’t already underwhelmed by Ping.

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Update: This is supposedly the first game with Game Center support, and I’ve played with 3 others and posted screenshots.

  1. iPod touch 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS are supported.