The Museumsquartier is a large area of museums, cafés and cultural institutions in the center of Vienna. Three years ago, the group ZAMspielen together with the art communication agency esel.at started to host a semi-regular board and video gaming event there. ‘Zamspielen’ is Austrian dialect and means ‘playing together’, so the idea behind the event is to host a low-threshold opportunity for people to drop by and play games.
Last week, I finally had the opportunity to visit and join the fun.
The available board games were mainly family games, some older titles and some new ones. I started with Suleika, a rather nicely made tile placement game – I especially liked the small carpets made from real fibre.
We then had a go at Ice Cool, which recently won the Children’s Game of the Year award. I’m not normally a fan of dexterity games, but this one is quite fun – you have to snip the penguins with your finger, one player taking on the role of the hunter trying to catch the others. It’s quick and simple and I can understand why kids like it.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Anita Landgraf of White Castle, a Viennese company that examines and brokers game ideas – so if you invent a game, you can come to them, they check it and then try to sell it to a publisher. I had the opportunity to test the prototype of a strategy game with an interesting movement mechanics. We also played a round of Elk Fest, another dexterity game that is being re-published by White Castle.
There were also a couple of video games from Viennese publishers on display, one of them a very nice looking adventure game called Old Man’s Journey.
The event was small, but had a very welcoming and friendly atmosphere. It was a bit too much geared towards family games for my taste, but I guess this is easily remedied as everyone can bring what he or she wants to play. Let’s see, perhaps next time, I’ll bring one of my favorites.
About four months ago, I discovered the joys of BoardGameGeek. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s a huge database of board games (including miniature wargames), allowing you to rate games, search for specific mechanics etc. You can also enter your own collection and even the dates of games played. It’s a fun tool and it produces some interesting statistics.
Let’s start with my collection. I’ve entered everything I own at the moment as well as everything I can remember playing back to my childhood. This makes 93 entries; however, they do contain a couple of items I put on my wishlist, so those are games I’ve never played.
Also, role-playing games are not in the database; there is a separate site, RPGGeek, for those. I’m not registered there because I only play D&Dat the moment and also because one bureaucratic obsession is enough.
I rated all the games I have played according to the 1-10 scale BGG provides, 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest. I tried to be true to the wording, which is quite interesting, because it does not only ask how good you think a game is, but also how much you are prepared to actually play it. This is an important distinction for me, because there are games which I think are good but I’m still not really keen to play them (such as Chain of Command, because I’ve no interest in WW2), and there are games that I don’t find very good but will play because the family enjoys them (e.g. the kid’s game Drecksau).
This is my average rating:
Most of my games are rated a 6 or 7, meaning “Ok – will play if in the mood” and “Good – usually willing to play”. Those would be the games that most of the time are not my first choice when it comes to discussing what to play, but I will happily agree to playing them if the others want to. For board games, Colt Express, Small Worldand King of Tokyoare among them, for miniature wargames, there are DBA, Hail Caesarand SAGA.
I was rather surprised at the high number of games I’ve rated a 9. The singular 10 (“Outstanding – will always enjoy playing”) is not surprising and you will have guessed it by now: It’s my all time favourite Sharp Practice. The 9s (“Excellent – very much enjoy playing”) are board games like Zombicide, Battlecryand Empires in Americaand miniature wargames like Flashing Steeland Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes. I’m pretty glad I’ve got so many games with such a high rating, meaning my collection is not flooded with stuff I won’t play anyway.
Let’s compare this with actual gameplay. I’ve logged the games played since beginning of May, so there are now over four full months of data.
I’ve logged 37 gameplays. The most played games are Battlecry and Sharp Practice (both 8 times), followed by Zombicide (6 times). This is good, because it means the games I enjoy the most also get to the table most often. I’ve also played Mice & Mysticsquite often (5 times), but this is a bit of a special case because although I enjoy it, I do it with and for the kids. The rest of the numbers are made up of games I’ve played twice or once. Most of those are games I don’t own myself and have played at a friend’s place.
Another fun statistics are the “Largest Disparities in Ratings” – where do my ratings differ from the community? Sharp Practice is again on top of this list, as on average, it is a meager 5.574 (“Mediocre – take it or leave it”). The same is true for Advanced Song of Blades andHeroes and Empires in America. On the other hand, many people are really keen on Carcassonne, which has an average rating of 7.334 from the community and an almost embarrassing 4 (“Not so good – but could play again”) from me. I really find it rather boring.
BoardGameGeek is a fun tool. It’s interesting to compare your ratings with the community and logging game play is a good way to remember yourself what you played – and what you’d like to play more often. They also have a lively forum and a friendly marketplace. Highly recommended!
When this game was mentioned on the Meeples & Miniatures podcast, I immediately pricked up my ears. I’ve been interested in the Wars of the Roses for a long time and I like innovative games that can be played in a short time. The Cousins’ War, published by Surprise Stare Games, promises just that at a rather low price.
The game comes in a sturdy and small cardboard box. In fact, the box easily fits into my bag, making this a perfect game for travel and holidays. Nevertheless, the production value is high: The board is made of very sturdy cardboard and the gaming pieces are made of wood. You also get a deck of cards and three dice.
The game has a built-in turn limit: It will end after turn 5. The objective is to control all areas of England, or, when the turn limit is reached, to control more areas than your opponent. This is done by placing wooden cubes, which can be moved by playing action cards. Each turn, there is also a battle, the winner being allowed to place his surviving cubes onto the board.
Battles are resolved by a clever bluffing mechanics which introduces suspicion and second-guessing – very thematic for a war in which commanders did occasionally change sides right on the battlefield.
Action cards can be played for the specific action that is stated on them or for their Command Points, which enables the player to do different things, such as move his or her cubes to the battlefield or to a region of the board, or even to try to remove the opponents cubes.
Action cards also have secondary actions which may benefit your opponent, so it is important to watch which card to play at which moment. A surprisingly large number of actions and combinations of actions are possible. This enables strategic planning, but also introduces an element of uncertainty and even chaos, because the other player will do something completely unexpected. Again, all this makes the game very thematic – the Wars of the Roses were full of surprising turns and double-crossing.
Normally, K. doesn’t like bluffing, but in this game, it is only a small part and it feels right. We are both not used to it, though, so lots of grinning and giggling ensued. We both enjoyed our first game very much. The nasty Lancasterians won after turn 2, but I’m looking forward to a rematch.
Highly recommended if you fancy a quick and portable game that nevertheless has a strong theme and feels like you are playing out an epic conflict.
Last Saturday, we hosted another gaming salon at the ADA gallery in Vienna. Under the headline ‘Hunting Humans’, the evening was dedicated to monsters. We had two games for the visitors to play. The first was a pen-and-paper RPG ran by Alex. He used D&D and had prepared a couple of characters to choose from. The twist was that this time, the players were the bad guys: As a small band of Orcs, they had to help their tribe to raid a human settlement.
Unfortunately, we made a scheduling mistake, as we completely missed that there were two other events on that day which drew off potential visitors. We only had a handful of attendants, but at least we got in a couple of games ourselves. And those people who came were quite enthusiastic to play. Zombicide was a smash. We played three missions, each one with different players, but only succeeded in winning one of them.
The RPG also sounded like a lot of fun. K. joined in and told me she had enjoyed herself playing a tough female Orc, the leader of the raiding party consisting of another Orc, a goblin and an Ogre called Einstein (armed with a stone in a sack).
Even though it was quieter than last time, it was a fun and inspiring evening. Hopefully, we’ll have another one soon!