Building Blocks with La Boca

We all loved playing with building blocks as kids, but La Boca, by Z-Man Games (Filosofia in Europe for the French version) or KOSMOS, reintroduces the fun of building blocks in a creative and challenging game that is great for casual gamers of any age. In the game, players create colorful structures resembling the brightly painted houses in La Boca, a neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

La Boca features semi – cooperative gameplay in which players work together with different partners throughout the game, yet score points individual ly to determine a winner. In each round, partners sit across from each other, working as quickly as possible to arrange eleven wooden blocks of various shapes and sizes into a specific three-dimensional structure.

 

The structure is depicted two-dimensionally on cards that represent a different view for each player. Players may not look at the opposite side of the card, but instead must communicate with each other to build a structure that matches both players’ views. What makes the game especially challenging is that all of the blocks must be used, and many of the structures require one or more pieces to be hidden from view, all while fitting within a four-by- four playing grid. Points are scored for the speed with which a structure is correctly constructed.

Each player is partnered with all other players a certain number of times, then the player with the most points wins the game. La Boca is a fascinating, fun, and surprisingly challenging game that stretches spacial reasoning and dexterity skills  like perhaps no other game. By partnering up all players for an equal number of rounds, i t balances out different ski l l levels, making i t a great opt ion for a wide range of players.

 

Upcoming Ice Cool Tournament with support from Atalia

 

With the kind support of the distributor Atalia we will be hosting an Ice Cool tournament on 19 April 2017 at Outpost Gamecenter in Brussels. The winner of the tournament will receive a game box for free ! Head over to our Meetup Group page to register for the tournament (free participation).

 

What is Ice Cool all about ?

The game is published by Brain Games and the author is Brian Gomez and illustrator is Reinis Pētersons. The game has a 7.0 rating on BGG, but after playing this game a couple of times I can tell you this grade goes up easily to an 8 or 9 points.

Ice Cool is a flicking dexterity game for two to four players, although the more people that play the better it is. The game plays out in about 30 minutes, but it’s the kind of game you can dip in and out of and play for as long as you like. It’s fun with adults and kids and revamp the concept of pitching or flicking !

Game Components !

Let’s start with the gamebox who is neatly designed to unfold into the playfield you will use during the game.

These penguins are real rascals: if your flick is good enough, they can slide not only straight, they can make curves and even jump over the walls.

The artwork throughout the game is absolutely gorgeous. The classrooms are beautifully realized and really add to the experience, while the penguins themselves are delightfully dumpy and cute.

The cards are of good quality but I would still advise to sleeve them if you play with kids. The ID cards are especially well designed.

The rulebook is beautifully done and covers all eventualities and in several languages.

How do you play ?

Ice Cool is a flicking game in which each round one of the players takes the role of the Hall Monitor (also called “the Catcher”) – his aim will be to catch each other penguin and get points for that. The others (also known as “Runners”) will try to run through several doors, thus gaining fish (that give them points) on their way.

When either the Hall Monitor has caught each other penguin once or any of the others has gone through all 3 doors that have fish on them, the round is over. Each player will take the role of the Hall Monitor once and at the end of the game the winner will be the one with the most points on their fish cards.

The action is fun and frenetic, and the sliding penguin theme makes sense as well as being cute: the floors of the rooms are even made to look like ice rinks.

A short 2 minutes video is better than words:

If you want another look at this, have a look at the Watch it Played great Youtube video on how this all works.

It doesn’t take long for those good at dexterity games to start to get a hang of the various flicking techniques, but you’ll find even the best players having terrible turns. With a special attention to details from the artwork to component design. I highly recommend the game to any groups that love a clever little dexterity game! I hope to see you on April 19th for our tournament. RSVP now for free on our Meetup group.

 

Discovery of Urbion

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Having very much enjoyed Onirim (second edition) and Sylvion previously I was pleased to try out Urbion the other evening. Unfortunately this trip into the dream world wasn’t as rewarding as my others….

In Urbion you are trying to achieve balance in each of the cities. These four (of twelve total) cards in the middle must have equilibrium (the sum of the cards on either side of it must combine to make zero) in order for it to be claimed and scored. There may not be more than 3 cards on either side of a city. You must score all twelve to win, if you exhaust the deck then it’s a defeat.

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Half of the cards are dark and have negative values (-1 to -3) and half are light with positive values (+1 to +4). Like the other Oniverse games there are also a number of “oh shit” cards which are +/-5 and when drawn must be placed onto the side of a city that has the biggest imbalance. You could also not play these cards but you will have to either lose all cards of a currently balanced city or the top 4 cards of the deck, and if you draw anymore nightmare cards you will still have to resolve them the same! All cards also have icons on that must be matched to the relevant city card be placed.
The gameplay is probably the least fiddly of the 3 that was played so far, there wasn’t a need to keep referring to the rules for what certain cards did, or what the options were for nightmare cards. You simply draw a card and then place a card, or discard one to claim balanced cities (may also shed some cards on cities that sum to zero, a fresh city card is then placed out), or discard one to swap any two cards on the light or dark sides.

Even with it being straightforward I didn’t get on with it at all. The icons seemed to get lost in the artwork, which I found to be much less appealing than the bright colours of Sylvion and the simple and clear style of Onirim.
The game works well and is challenging (I lost 3 straight times) but it just wasn’t really as much fun for me as Onirim (which is a fantastic 10-15 minute solo game) or as intersting as Sylvion (an intruiging tower defence solo game with clever gameplay options).

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Overall it strikes me as a game that could really do with a Second Edition, a few more cards to make some variation to the standard gameplay (there is a mini expansion included, which I didn’t play) and the artwork, whilst not needing changing wholesale, could do with being made brighter (I have used a filter on the photo to enhance the colours) and the icons more distinct so that it “pops”

Gamer fatigue and the growth of the hobby

Formal Ferret Games

In a recent episode of Breaking Into Board Games, we discussed our predictions about 2017. One of my predictions was that we would start seeing a cap on attendance at larger conventions. I wanted to continue on that subject with a wider lens, looking at a possible scenario we may be facing in the coming years.

The board game industry is growing at an explosive rate (revenue from hobby board games grew 56% from 2014 to 2015; I’d expect similar numbers when the numbers come in for 2016), and I’ve heard a few pundits indicate that there’s no end in sight. As an independent board game designer/publisher, I certainly hope that’s the case.

But I always try to plan for contingencies, and part of that is planning for the possibility that this explosive growth slows, stops, or even reverses.

To be honest, I would expect the hobby to continue…

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Game Talks: Dice Forge (Libellud)

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Eric Martin took the 1st pictures at the New York Toy Fair of the upcoming game of Libellud called Dice Forge. First talks about this game are a year old; already in January 2016 the publisher was talking about it. Illustrated by Biboun, from the author of Seasons, Himalaya and Xidit (Regisse Bonnessée) the game will be a 2-4 players with a 40 min playtime due mid of May in stores for an MRSP price of ~40€.

The purpose of the game is to accumulate victory points and becoming half-gods (you start as a human hero) through the course of the game. You can throw your dice to do 2 actions:

  • Give Gold -> When you’re at a sanctuary, making an offer to the God will allow you to improve your sides and collect more and more resources (of that sanctuary type) or glory points.
  • Get Solar or Lunar Fragments -> this is used for achievements who will give you glory points when you accomplish challenges. By standing at the Solar or Lunar Gate you will be able to exchange them for immediate or permanent bonuses. You can also once per turn spend 2x Fragments to perform an extra action.

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Each side of the die will be replaceable, think about the concept of deck-building; everybody starts with the same set of dice which can evolve over the course of the game. You make offerings to the Gods to receive in return new sides to place/replace on your dice.

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Through the boardgame you’ll be able to meet, fight and collect artifacts and pets ! All that in a 10 rounds timing; so things can move along very fast.

 

Games Talks: Measuring Convention Attendance

I stumbled on a very interesting article from Gil Hova on his blog Formal Ferret Games. He is talking about how statistics for conventions come to live and are interpreted.  Original on the link, here is the copy/paste for easier reading:

 

Anyone who follows the board game convention scene knows that there’s two ways to measure the attendance at a convention. But they’re often used interchangeably by accident, which results in a lot of confusion and head-scratching.

One way is “unique attendance.” This is the number of different people a convention has sold tickets to. So if I buy a ticket to your convention, I count as one unique attendee. Simple enough.

But the more common way conventions report attendance is by “turnstile attendance.” This counts how many people attended the convention each day. So if I attend your convention on three different days, I count as three different attendees.

Conventions love to report their attendance as turnstile, because the number is significantly bigger. For example, if I wanted to misrepresent the difference between Origins and Gen Con, I could report that Origins drew 52,561 people in 2016, while Gen Con narrowly beat them with 60,819. But that statistic is a distortion; the figure for Origins is turnstiles, while the figure for origins is uniques. An apples-to-apples comparison would either report both unique figures (Origins drawing 15,479 to Gen Con’s 60,819) or both turnstile figures (Origins drawing 25,149 to Gen Con’s 201,852).

So let’s take a second and disclaim: none of this is to measure the relative worth of these conventions. I’m not arguing for a moment that Gen Con is almost 10 times better than Origins, since their turnstile attendance is almost 10x greater. Far from it! I’ve had amazing times at smaller conventions, and not-so-great times at larger conventions. Size will change the feel of a convention, but it should never, ever be a sole determining factor in judging one show’s worth versus another’s.

Also, I’ve helped run the board game track at a 300-person convention years ago, and even that is a backbreaking amount of work. All of these conventions require an amount of labor that would make anyone’s hair fall out. Smaller shows usually get by with smaller crews, so I tip my cap to people who run conventions of any size.

That said, it would be useful to have a single metric to measure attendance at these shows. So why not just use unique attendees and ignore turnstiles?

There’s a couple of issues there. It’s rare that a statistic is always useful or never useful. Statistics provide a window into our understanding of an event, but they will usually miss a bit of the picture.

For example, it’s tough to compare conventions using turnstile attendance because not all conventions run the same length. Two conventions may draw about the same crowd per day, but if one convention is 5 days long and the other 3 days, comparing turnstiles will be extremely misleading; the first show will seem significantly larger.

Uniques would seem to be better-suited to compare conventions with, but they can be problematic too. First off, lots of European shows (especially Essen SPIEL) do not release unique attendance figures. Second off, not all shows count uniques the same way. I’ve noticed some shows only count event-long badges as uniques, ignoring day badges.

Third off, if one show has different attendees each day versus another show where the same people return each day, the first show’s unique figures will be much higher, even if both shows draw in roughly the same number of people per day. That’s not to say that uniques are a useless statistic in that situation, but they will not help you judge the relative scale of each event.

So how about another way to calculate attendance? Let’s take a look at convention attendance using this simple formula: turnstile attendance ➗ days.

This gives us a unique window into the scale of a show. It lets us compare conventions that don’t provide unique attendance against shows that do, regardless of the number of days it runs. We don’t have to worry how the show calculates uniques, as turnstile will include all kinds of badges, not just full-event badges.

And as an exhibitor, it gives me a valuable data point: it tells me what the scale of the show is, and how big the crowd should be on an average day. Sure, it’s not going to tell me how large the attendance swings are; if the last day of a show is particularly slow, that will be represented as a dip in the overall statistic. But that’s the risk of summing everything up in a single number (and anyway, most shows do not release daily turnstile figures).

So with that, let’s look at some TPD (turnstile per day) figures! I’ve taken 9 of the largest international conventions with at least some significant board game attendance, with the largest turnstile figures for each individual show. Some shows are board game or tabletop-only (Gen Con, SPIEL), while others are comic book or video game conventions with a fairly good board game board game/tabletop presence (Lucca, PAX, Emerald City). I’ll also opine, when I can, on whether I expect each show to grow significantly or not.

One more thing: convention attendance figures are notoriously unreliable. All of these figures must be taken with quite a few grains of salt, if not the entire shaker!

Convention Year Turnstile Attendence Length (days) TPD
Lucca Comics & Games 2016 271,208 5 54,242
Gen Con 2016 201,852 4 50,463
Festival des Jeux 2014 150,000 3 50,000
SPIEL 2016 174,000 4 43,500
Emerald City Comic Con 2015 80,000 3 26,667
PAX East 2017 80,000 3 26,667
PAX West 2015 70,000 4 17,500
Origins 2016 52,561 5 10,512
UKGE 2016 25,149 3 8,383

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Lucca turns out to be the largest show by this metric, even larger than SPIEL in Essen. That’s a bit surprising, but not hugely so; everything I’ve read about Lucca tells me that it’s a madhouse. Keep in mind that it is not exclusively a game convention, so there will be a significant percentage of attendees attending only for comics and/or cosplay.

Gen Con comes in second, and that’s not a massive surprise. Gen Con is not purely board gaming; it has a significant RPG and CCG presence. But board games seem to have grown lately, and I’d imagine that most exhibitors and floor space is dedicated to board games at this point.

Regarding the future, I can’t imagine Gen Con growing significantly larger. Both floor space and hotel room stock are maxed out, and yet they’re locked into their current location for the next few years. (Of course, bigger is not necessarily better, and a show can easily get worse if it doesn’t manage growth well.)

You may not have heard of the Festival des Jeux. It’s the largest board game convention in France, held in Cannes (yes, the same city as the well-known film festival). In fact, some people will call it “Cannes” the same way SPIEL is referred to as “Essen.” What makes the FdJ notable here is that, according to TPD, it is the largest board game-only convention in the world.

How come so many geeks haven’t heard of it? Probably because it’s very heavily French-speaking. Most attendees and publishers at SPIEL speak English, but FdJ is meant to be a show for France, not so much an international show, at least as it stands right now. Still, if you’re a publisher with a French game, or if your game is language-independent, you have a French rulebook, and you parlez-vous français, it seems a must-attend.

Note that I was only able to find attendance figures for 2014, and that nice round number tells me it’s an estimate, so who knows what the real attendance was? I hear that this year’s show had a turnstile attendance of 200,000, but I couldn’t find any articles to substantiate that. If anyone can point me to a more reliable attendance number for FdJ, I’d hugely appreciate it.

Speaking of SPIEL… who’d have thought it’d place fourth? It’s one of the most highly-regarded shows in the world, after all. But keep in mind: SPIEL is still the second-largest board game-only show in the world (well, mostly board games, but board games make up such an overwhelming percentage of the show that we’ll go ahead and grant it). Also, the fact that it’s very friendly to English speakers means that it has much more of an international flavor, and is much more appealing to people from English-speaking countries. (But I wouldn’t suggest planning to make a ton of money selling a game at SPIEL that’s exclusively English-dependent. This might be experience talking here.)

It’s a shame SPIEL doesn’t present unique attendance figures. I think they’d be fascinating. Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that Essen would have a surprisingly high unique attendance figure; there are many attendees that attend just for a single day. I would love to compare uniques to TPD, to figure out how much turnover there is from day to day.

As for growth, it’s not unreasonable to imagine SPIEL growing even larger. There’s still about 1-2 empty halls in the Messe, and Essen has a good amount of hotel stock. Assuming the hobby continues to grow, I would expect it to overtake Gen Con soon.

Then we return US soil, with both Emerald City Comic Con and PAX East. Be warned that both these attendance figures are fraught with peril. First off, neither show is exclusively for board games. I’ve never been to ECCC, and while I hear its board game scene is pretty healthy (rare for most comic conventions!), I don’t have any firsthand evidence to back it up.

PAX East, meanwhile, is a video game convention that happens to have a decently-sized board game convention neatly nested within. But PAX is notoriously tight-lipped about its attendance figures, and normally doesn’t even release turnstile statistics. I found these attendance figures on Wikipedia, without citations. Caveat emptor!

With all that said, I was surprised that PAX East’s number was so low. I was expecting it to be on the same scale as Gen Con, but its TPD is about half the size. Once again, that’s not to say that PAX East is an objectively worse show than Gen Con, but I expected its numbers to be a bit larger.

I wish we could have numbers for how many people attend the PAX East tabletop area, which is larger than a lot of entire regional conventions. Just from my experience, I’d peg its TPD at about 5,000, give or take 2,000 people. As Father Guido Sarducci once said, “That’s nothing to sneeze your nose at.”

Immediately after PAX East is PAX West (formerly PAX Prime). The fact that it’s a little smaller isn’t a huge surprise, although it’s tough to get a sense of PAX West’s size just by being there. The Washington State Convention Center is split into several floors, instead of being one or two giant rooms, so you can never get a sense of how large the overall show is.

After that comes the venerable Origins Game Fair. It’s not a massive show, but it’s large enough to boast a 5-figure TPD, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Its size relative to Gen Con is not a surprise either, as both shows are very good about releasing both turnstile and unique attendance.

Origins’ unique attendance dropped a bit in 2016 relative to 2015, but that was mostly because of a CCG tournament that’s no longer held at the show. The TPD shows significant growth, up from 7,843 in 2014 and 8,758 in 2015. I’d expect the show to grow for the next year or two, possibly hitting a floor space limit within the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

The last entry, and one of the most intriguing shows for me, is UK Games Expo. I’d suspected that its size put it on par with Origins, and these numbers seem to back that observation up. One thing to keep in mind is that UKGE is growing like crazy. I expect it to easily shatter the 10,000 TPD barrier this year, and it’s not unrealistic to expect the show to get to 15,000 or even 20,000 in the next few years, if the growth of the hobby keeps up. That’s because the convention is only taking up a couple of halls of an enormous convention center. In terms of floor size, they could get much larger without having to move locations. Their biggest gating factor is hotel stock; rooms sell out faster each year.

And that’s about it! I don’t pretend that this metric is a be-all end-all statistic that replaces both turnstiles and uniques. As a vendor, I do want to know how many total unique attendees there are, and therefore how many potential customers I have. But I think TPD gives the best idea of the scale of a convention, and roughly how many people you can expect at the show on an average day.

Incidentally, I’d love to see turnstile figures for BGG.CON, Dice Tower Con, UnPub, and Geekway to the West. As those shows grow (and all those shows are growing – even BGG.CON is moving to a larger location in a couple of years), I’d be interested to see how close they get to Origins and UKGE in terms of scale.

 

 

Reminder on Painting Miniatures

Try to hold the miniature with the most touchpoints possible (like here 3 fingers = 3 touchpoints). Alternative is to glue them (I use Pritt poster buddies) on an empty medicine bottle or cork !

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Try to rest your forearm and holding hand on the table in order to limit your movement. Rest your arm holding the brush also on the table, if needed, even your painting hand holding the brush on the table so that only your fingers are doing the brush movements.

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It’s hard to paint details when your paint is “thick” so always water down your paint so that it’s easier to apply on your details. You can make a wet palette (see tutorial from Guslado’s Games) or buy one like I did; the Privateer Press P3 Wet Palette Model Kit (it has refill kits) that works great. Here’s how to work with it efficiently.

 

2017 Anticipation

Boards and Bees

In my last post, I looked back at 2016.  In this one, I look ahead to 2017.  But not before I look back and see what I was looking forward to last year:

  • Back to the Future: An Adventure Through Time – It came out to some pretty meh reviews.  I haven’t played, and am not as eager as I was.
  • Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks – Not out yet, but I hear it’s close.
  • The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game – Now scheduled for Summer 2017.
  • Gloomhaven – Should be out early 2017.
  • Millennium Blades – A big hit.  Everyone who has played this seems to love it.  I still haven’t gotten to.  Sadness.
  • The Networks – I demoed it at Gen Con, and really enjoyed it.  Hope for a full play sometime.
  • Quadropolis – Days of Wonder’s release for the year was pretty well received, though not…

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Game Buzz: Yamataï

Boards and Bees

Today’s preview covers a game that should be coming out in May called

image by BGG user W Eric Martin image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Yamataï is a new game by designers Bruno Cathala and Marc Paquien that is going to be published by Days of Wonder.  It’s for 2-4 players and takes between 40 and 80 minutes to complete.  Every builder in the kingdom of Yamataï has been charged by Queen Himiko to build up the kingdom into the jewel of the archipelago.  Your goal is to be the best builder.

The game comes with a board, four player mats, six turn order meeples, 80 wooden boats, 10 fleet tiles, 28 building tiles, 7 mountain tiles, 34 culture tokens, 8 sacred ground tiles, 73 coins, 24 prestige point tokens, and 18 specialist tiles.  To set up, five specialist tiles are revealed, as well as five fleet tiles.  Culture tokens are randomly distributed across the board…

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