Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of The One-Hundred Torii by Pencil First Games

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of The One-Hundred Torii by Pencil First Games
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Vitals:
Title: The One-Hundred Torii
Designed by: Scott Caputo
Publisher: Pencil First Games
Year Published: 2020
MSRP: $40
1-4p | 45-60 min | 8+

Introduction:
I absolutely love tile-laying games.  Carcassonne is one of my favorite games of all time.  It's the only game I regularly play on my phone when I'm looking for a digital distraction.  So when a new game comes out with some interesting tile-laying mechanics, especially if it has an interesting theme and artwork, I'm excited to play it.  And here we have The One-Hundred Torii, a gorgeous tile-laying game about building paths in a Japanese garden.  I was thrilled to give this one a try, so let's find out if it's a Bud, Bloom, or Thorn!

LIFE’S A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION
Find your path in a beautiful Japanese garden. In the Japanese tradition, the torii gate marks the transition into the sacred. Travel from fountains to flowers to shrines passing through as many torii gates as possible, while meeting vendors, poets, and even Samurai along the way.

The traveler goes
through the ancient torii gate—
Leaf falls in water

OBJECTIVE
Earn the most journey points by expanding the garden and walking through as many torii gates as possible as you move between similar landmarks. Earn additional advantages and points by interacting with characters in the garden such as poets, samurai, gardeners, vendors and geishas. Maybe you will be first to visit each landmark 5 times or maybe you will interact with same character 3 times. Your journey to the most points may lead you down a different path every time!

KEY PLAY
The One Hundred Torii is a tile placing game played over a series of turns. Each turn the board expands and the game ends after the last tile is drawn and each player takes one last turn.

Each Turn, the player takes the following actions (in order):
- Get Help (optional)
- Expand the Garden
- Claim Rewards (if earned)
- Draw Tiles

-description from publisher

Blooms:
Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Gorgeous art and components.
  • Wonderful educational supplement about the theme of the game.
  • Pretty simple mechanics and rules - can be explained in about 5 minutes.
  • Great puzzley moments.
Buds:
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • Solo play!
  • Two mini expansions add variety to keep the game fresh and interesting.
  • Every game presents new puzzles to solve.
Thorns:
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • There are sooo many pieces!  Setup and cleanup take quite a while and the pieces are fiddly.
  • As the garden grows it gets very busy to look at.  
  • Very AP prone gameplay, in part because of the business of the play area.  Some improved graphic design could maybe have alleviated this a little.
  • Solo mode was fun, but not sure if it's worth the setup and cleanup overhead.
Final Thoughts:
In The One-Hundred Torii you'll work with the other players to build a Japanese garden, complete with paths, various landmarks like bridges, statues, wells, ponds, etc., and, of course, the titular torii gates.  Each turn you essentially play a tile and draw a tile, that simple.  However you also have the opportunity to ask for help from several characters.  You'll pay a small fee (from landmark tokens you've collected - these also contribute to your points, so use them wisely) and then gain a special ability.  Once you place your tile you'll gain landmark tokens based on the path from a landmark on the tile you placed to the closest tile with the same landmark on it.  As you pass through the torii gates you'll gain bonus tokens.  As you collect these tokens they'll get converted to points.  The mechanics and rules are simple, but the puzzles the expanding garden presents are fascinating!

There's even a solo mode that presents an interesting puzzle to solve as you compete against the AI character.  Each turn of the solo game you'll draw three tiles.  You'll play one and give two to the AI character, who just places them in a column matching the landmark.  But the AI gets bonuses as it fills columns and if you give it torii tiles.  This was a great puzzle to work through, though it did feel a bit random and luck-based at times.  Sometimes you draw three tiles and none are good to give to the AI.  You can mitigate that a little with the helper characters, but sometimes the solo game feels like it's just playing out and you're just moving pieces around.  The component issue I mention below is also exaggerated even more by making this a solo game.  I do want to explore the solo game a bit more though, especially since I lost my first attempt.

The One-Hundred Torii is a really great game.  It has all sorts of great moments where you are trying to puzzle out a great move.  When you pull off a move where you manage to get 8 tokens while also scoring an enclosure and two bonuses it really feels great.  Combined with the gorgeous artwork, relaxed theme, and straightforward rules, there is so, so much to like about this game.  But, it's not perfect.

All the tiles have at least one landmark symbol on them and many have two.  Many of the tiles also have one or two torii gates on them.  As the garden expands it gets busier and busier, making discerning the shortest paths between various landmark symbols and the possible places to add your garden tile more and more difficult.  This can really push those prone to analysis paralysis (AP) over the edge.  It's not really because the final decision on where to place a tile is difficult, but more that figuring out exactly what your options are is a visual challenge.  For a game that has such a relaxing theme, the visual chaos that the board presents later in the game is anything but relaxing.

I think some modified graphic design could possibly help with this.  The way the tiles are currently designed there are small icons of each landmark on the path they belong to and then a zoomed version of the icon in the green space of the garden so you can see it easier.  The problem is this larger icon is difficult to discern at a glance which path segment the landmark is on.  So you find yourself reexamining each path multiple times, trying to figure out the best route to take through the maze of paths that the garden becomes.  A single, medium sized icon, right on the path, might be easier and less chaotic.  Or bigger tiles, though that would cause the play area to grow significantly (and it's not small by the end of the game at all, especially with all the other components laid out).  I'm not sure if there's a good solution to the problem, but it ends up being a big detractor from the game's experience.

The other issue I have with the game is just the sheer quantity of bits.  For a fast game like this, there are a ton of components to take out and sort.  20 each of six different landmark tokens, plus four bonus tokens for each landmark.  But that's not all.  There are also eight coins, five points tiles for each of the five helper characters and five more for the the enclosures bonuses, plus four more bonus tiles, a reference tile (two if you include the one for other languages), two gorgeous screen printed meeples, a board for solo games, and a stack of 43 garden tiles (including the start tile).  That's over 230 components!  Pencil First Games does include a guide on how to put all the pieces back into the box, but I didn't really find that helpful.  The box is absolutely packed with components any way you pack them in.  But setup takes almost 10 minutes, even with everything pre-sorted and bagged, and cleanup takes even longer.  For a 45 minute game almost 20 minutes of setup and cleanup is a lot.  A custom tray to keep everything organized and ready to play right out of the box would have helped this a ton.

So, while I absolutely love the gameplay of The One-Hundred Torii, I'm not sure it'll hit the table very often simply because of the component overhead and visual chaos of the garden after a few turns.  Once the components are out I didn't find the quantity too fiddly or overwhelming, just during setup and cleanup.  Gameplay gets a Bloom for me, but the components and visual chaos are big thorns, so The One-Hundred Torii ends up as a Bud.  If these are things you can overlook then you'll find an amazing game here.

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Bud!  This game definitely has some
great moments.  It's good for several plays
and should appeal to most gamers, especially
if you enjoy other games like this.

Pictures:

























Did you like this review?  Show your support: Support me on Patreon! Also, click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.


GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 222: Mikael Lyck

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples. Support me on Patreon!


Name:Mikael Lyck
Email:info@gamesbylyck.com
Location:Sweden
Day Job:Developer
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:gamesbylyck.com
BGG:Mikael Lyck
Facebook:Phan Card Game/
Instagram:@thephantomthecardgame
Other:https://kickstarter.com/projects/gamesbylyck/the-phantom-the-card-game
Find my games at:https://gamesbylyck.com/print-and-play/
Today's Interview is with:

Mikael Lyck
Interviewed on: 2/17/2020

This week's interview is with Mikael Lyck, who is planning on Kickstarting his card game based on the comic book hero The Phantom this week! He has a number of other projects in the works as well. Keep reading to learn more about Mikael!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Two to five years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
It started with a thought about how I would do a game if I got the chance, I could not get the thought out of my head so I had to write the rules and a deck of cards. I realized that I love the process of designing games and figuring out how to do things in the best possible way.

What game or games are you currently working on?
The Phantom the Card Game

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet

What is your day job?
Developer

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
At home or flgs

Who do you normally game with?
Friends and family

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Dominion, 7 wonders and lately these exit games have been a blast.

And what snacks would you eat?
Potato crisps and loose candy

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Depends on the game, fantasy games are ok with some ambient music, but I prefer no music since it can be distracting.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Dragons Lair here in Stockholm

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Dominion has been my favorite for years that gets played, I might love Hansa Teutonica more, but have a hard time convincing people to play it with me… The worst game for me is Uno and memory, I didn’t enjoy them that much a few years ago and after that my kids have made me play them quite more than I like.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Love drafting and my least favourite must be rolling dice, it can be so frustrating. It works in some games but kill other games for me, like x-wing

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Oh that would be Hansa Teutonica that I mentioned earlier.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, Video Games

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
No

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
It is either theme or mechanic first, but it is important to me that they work together.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Haven't entered but looked at a few and gotten inspiration on design ideas from the different rules.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
A few, nobody mentioned, nobody forgotten.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
When I try to sleep is most common, that and in the shower.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Start out with close friends and family, after that with a great game design community in my hometown. First tests can be a disaster, where I look for what is fun and memorable in the game, usually I have over designed and need to cut away a lot of things after each playtests.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I have help from a few great friends, Dejan have done the wonderful graphical design and Johan have helps me with contracts and deals

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Second guessing myself about most of the steps I take.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
The IP that my game already is. If I get the chance my next IP would be Masters of the Universe.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
That I should reach out more online. There are so many nice people that are willing to help, and it is great. It also works both ways, it is quite fun to help others too!

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Have fun! And focus on the fun things in game. Even if the fun part of the game you are designing is backstabbing or getting thinking so hard your brain hurts.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
I'm planning to crowdfund: The Phantom the Card Game
Games that I'm playtesting are: Craft a Raft
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Do My Bidding, Roll and Paint
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Motu fighting game, King of the Junk Hill

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yes on most I can find, with my personal account

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
I am both a trekkie and a Star wars nerd, but if I had to choose it would be Star wars, named my kids Lucas and Leia after the Star wars characters. Pepsi max, I drink it too much… Growing up we had both, but haven't used a betamax for over 30 years.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Video games, movies and comic books

What is something you learned in the last week?
I learn stuff all the time, last week I learned how to play wingspan

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Listen to all kinds of music, punk, classic rock, pop mostly though. Am a sucker for Young adult books, fantasy and science fiction. I love the pretentious stuff, like Oscars winners.

What was the last book you read?
The latest book in the Magic 2.0 series, Out of sight out of mind if I recall correctly

Do you play any musical instruments?
The latest book in the Magic 2.0 series, "Out of Sight Out of Mind" if I recall correctly

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I am quite a good chef and enjoy making advanced dishes

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Quit my job to live on playing poker.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Some old fungus was left unattended and antibiotics were discovered.

Who is your idol?
I try to not idolize people. But there are a lot of great people that I respect very much.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I wouldn’t use it, it seems very dangerous in the Back to the Future movies.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Depending on the day

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Easy, The Phantom of course

Have any pets?
Nope, I am allergic to all cute furry animals.

When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
I hope compassion and love survives and hate and wars would be wiped out. “violins playing”

If you’d like to send a shout out to anyone, anyone at all, here’s your chance (I can’t guarantee they’ll read this though):
Hi kids, hi wife and hi mom!


Thanks for answering all my crazy questions!




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Please show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 221: Kenny Schumacher

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples. Support me on Patreon!


Name:Kenny Schumacher
Email:kenny&364;ohsheepcards.com
Location:San Jose, CA
Day Job:Entrepreneur. I run Delesign (www.delesign.com) and am always working on a few side projects.
Designing:Less than six months.
Webpage:www.ohsheepcards.com
Blog:ohsheepcards.com/blog
BGG:Oh Sheep
Facebook:facebook.com/ohsheepcards
Twitter:@ohsheepcards
YouTube:Oh Sheep
Instagram:@ohsheepcards
Find my games at:https://ohsheepcards.com/print-and-play/
Today's Interview is with:

Kenny Schumacher
Interviewed on: 3/25/2020

This week's interview is with Kenny Schumacher, a newer designer from California who has been working on a game called Oh Sheep with his friends. They're planning on Kickstarting the game soon, so keep your eye out for it! Click through to learn more about Kenny, Oh Sheep, and more!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Less than six months.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
My best friends and I met and bonded over 10 years ago through board and card games. These games sparked our friendship, and even when we all moved away from each other (location) our friendship stayed close (one in Guam, Germany, southern California). We're now all living in San Jose again and have been able to spend much more time together and play games once more. Board and card games sparked our friendship, and we wanted to share this with others by creating our own game.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Oh, Sheep! (www.ohsheepcards.com)

Have you designed any games that have been published?
No

What is your day job?
Entrepreneur. I run Delesign (www.delesign.com) and am always working on a few side projects.

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
Every weekend (prior to COVID-19) we would meet at a friend's house and play board and card games all day/night.

Who do you normally game with?
I game with my group of friends, most of whom I've been friends with for 10+ years.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
That's tough, as there's always so many I want to play that we don't have time for. My favorites would include Dominion, Shadow Hunters, and Exploding Kittens for a fun casual game. I've also recently played Monopoly Deal as well as 5 Minute Dungeon and have been having a lot of fun with them!

And what snacks would you eat?
Oh boy, I'm a big eater as all my friends know. Pizza is my go to for before/after the game night, but really anything salty that I can munch on I'm all for (popcorn, chips, frozen burritos ...).

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I've never paid too much attention to this. Thinking back, the majority of the time no, but if anyone wants to play music they're always welcomed.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Isle of Gamers (Santa Clara, CA)

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Dominion is my favorite. I love the concept of building a deck through shared resources. Least favorite would likely be 5 Minute Dungeon as some of the cards really annoy me (like a curse that results in you only being able to say the word 'waffles'), it can get a little too chaotic, and with the skills like freezing time and some combos we've discovered, it's pretty difficult to lose unless you're extremely unlucky, but overall it's been a fun game for the <10 times I've played. I don't know if I can really pinpoint a worst game easily. I suppose that I don't really like Monopoly that much :).

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Any mechanic that involves drafting or deck building I love. I'm not a big fan of game mechanics that are based entirely on luck such as dice rolling. That's not to say that dice rolling can't be used effectively to make a great game, as chaos mechanics can be , or that I don't enjoy games that involve dice rolling, but in general I'd like to keep the luck mechanic to a minimal level.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Exploding Kittens! Most in my friend group are more 'serious' gamers so we really will only play this game when we have a lot of other casual players, or people who don't play games, with us.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games, Video Games

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Card Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Yes

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
When creating Oh, Sheep! we started off knowing that we wanted to build a casual game in which all players needed to be engaged (and one where players were encouraged to be engaged). We didn't want a game in which you could go on your phone when it wasn't your turn. We knew we wanted to have a simple battle mechanic of attacking and defending. From there, we then created the theme of the game knowing we wanted a good representation of attacking and defending. In our case, we figured sheep and wolves would be perfect for that.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
No.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I don't know if this can really count, but I'm a huge fan of Matthew Inman of the Oatmeal. I love his creation of Exploding Kittens, and think it's genius. I love his art style, and the simplicity, replayability, and excitement of his game.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I get my best ideas bouncing thoughts and ideas with my friends. We'll spend the whole day bouncing back ideas, playtesting them, revising them, and then getting feedback from others in our group.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
We will generally playtest internally within our team (3 of us), and after confirming that ideas are viable, we'll test them with our group of friends who range from more serious gamers to casual players. After that, we'll ask those in our game's Facebook group to try out the new features, as well as reach out to the online community. We recently released our print and play and have received a great personal success of around 60 downloads in the past 24 hours (which is a huge win for us): https://ohsheepcards.com/print-and-play-download/.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Team. It's me and 2 other creators and our designer.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
We plan on launching our game on Kickstarter. The biggest challenge is ensuring we are able to build a community big enough to ensure our game's successful launch on Kickstarter. We understand the importance of not only creating a great game, but in marketing it effectively. As such, we're focusing just as much time, if not more, on ensuring our game reaches its target audience.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I would love to create an expansion pack for Exploding Kittens. It would be 'Exploding Sheep' and could see fun cards like "Go Baaack In Time" that can result in any previous player having to take their turn again (like a "Slap" card). I think the game and the artwork of Exploding Kittens is just so fun.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
I've been fortunate enough to have connected with a lot of creators from the community who have shared with me many things they wished they knew before designing a game. Some of them include:
-Spend just as much time as you do building the game, if not more, on marketing the game. You should not count on growing your following through Kickstarter.
-Get feedback as early on as possible. If you're not a little embarrassed by your game before asking others for feedback, you're sharing it with them too late.
-When sharing your game with reviewers, make sure to give them ample time (at least 1-2 months to review your game).
-Mechanics that let you reuse already used mechanics are easy to exploit and can break the game
There will probably be many lessons that I will learn as I go through this process though :D.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
I would like to share the above advice.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that will soon be published are: Oh, Sheep!
I'm planning to crowdfund: Oh, Sheep!
Games that I'm playtesting are: Oh, Sheep!

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
I'm a part of many FB groups, such as: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1212875912074863 https://www.facebook.com/groups/840061516035389 https://www.facebook.com/groups/630412297019422 https://www.facebook.com/groups/281973812325263 and many others.

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Star Trek. Coke. VHS (I never experienced Betamax)

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I love staying active with playing sports and exercising. I enjoy going on hikes and being outdoors. Anything related to water I love - whether that be watersports, the beach, lakes, etc. I have a parrot named Mango I spend a majority of my time with. I also love RPG video games, like Fire Emblem (been playing since FE 6).

What is something you learned in the last week?
I should be more careful when shorting stocks.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Honestly I'm not a huge music guy. Whenever I'd be in a situation where I can listen to music (mostly driving or at the gym) I'll just listen to an audio book. I spend a lot of time listening to business-related audio books, but for recreation I love sci-fi books, with a guilty pleasure being the Red Rising series. When it comes to movies, I love anything sci-fi or thriller with a good twist. I'm on the AMC A-List which lets me watch up to 3 movies a week, which I definitely abuse.

What was the last book you read?
I listen to a lot of audio books, with the last book I listened to being Untethered Soul. The last book I physically read is likely the Maze Runner series.

Do you play any musical instruments?
No

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I live in San Jose, CA and own a property in Alabama.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I decided to quit my full time job out of college a month before it started and pursue my entrepreneurial passion.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
I'm not sure if it can be considered an accident, but there was a certain college that I had no desire to attend, but my mom forced me to at least apply (she may or may not have applied for me). Through a series of events, I ended up attending the college, met so many amazing and lifelong friends, and am so thankful.

Who is your idol?
I really like Michael A Singer.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Something to get rich lol, like buy a lot of Bitcoin, buy lots of stocks with leverage before huge spikes, and things of that nature. I'd like to believe I'd do something noble too if I had a time machine.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I'd love to be any hero that can fly - anything else would just be an added benefit. The idea of being able to fly high into the sky and see everything below me, to fly up into mountains and see the scenery, to feel the wind, all of that sounds so amazing to me. Having laser eyes would be pretty neat too, so I guess I'd say Superman.

Have any pets?
Mango, my sun conure.

When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
Hopefully the asteroid doesn't result in the breakdown of the internet so that we can still have everything! It would be nice if COVID-19 could somehow be wiped out by that asteroid.

If you’d like to send a shout out to anyone, anyone at all, here’s your chance (I can’t guarantee they’ll read this though):
Shout out to Mango!

Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

I would love to connect with anyone, whether you be a creator or just a lover of games. Feel free to connect with me via email or social and I'd love to chat.




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Please show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

GJJ Games featured on TTKB's Wisdom Check show!

Earlier this week I was asked to appear on Wisdom Check, a weekly Twitch livestream from TT2KB (Tabletop To Keyboard).  The channel usually discusses role playing games, DMing, story development, and more.  I was their first guest that was brought on to specifically talk about board games and board game design!

Over the course of two hours we covered a whole slew of topics, ranging from the role of randomness in games, how to use dice and other components in novel ways, how to enhance the game experience, what board games and TTRPGs have in common, adding story and flavor to games, my game designs, tons of other board games, and more!  I really had a great time and hope to be back on their show in the future to continue our discussion about game design and more!

You can watch the video below (note, there is a bit of language in the introduction and once or twice in the show), and be sure to subscribe to their show over on Twitch!




Did you like this article?  Show your support: Support me on Patreon! Also, click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.



Tuesday, April 14, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 220: Callan Davis

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples. Support me on Patreon!


Name:Callan Davis
Email:callan@halfmonstergames.com
Location:Brisbane, Australia
Day Job:Board Game company director (also research assistant...)
Designing:Five to ten years.
Webpage:halfmonstergames.com
BGG:Half Monster Games
Facebook:Half Monster Games
Twitter:@davis_callan
Instagram:@halfmonstergames
Other:https://twitter.com/halfmonstergame - Also, we recently started a discord server, anyone is welcome, here is the link: https://discord.gg/xB6Bj9
Find my games at:Our Website, Meeples and Dragons, The Game Crafter, BGG, Dice Box
Today's Interview is with:

Callan Davis
Interviewed on: 3/8/2020

This week's interview is with Australian designer and publisher Callan Davis. Callan has designed several games that he's self-published through his company, Half Monster Games. He recently ran a successful Kickstarter for Trust Me I'm A Doctor and has a number of other titles on the horizon. Read on to learn more about Callan and his current projects!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Five to ten years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I like design, I love the board game industry and I like the puzzle of figuring out interactions

What game or games are you currently working on?
Starblammo, Trust Me I'm A Doctor and Terrible Superheroes

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I have been one of the designers on Terrible Candidates and Animal Empire. Trust Me I’m A Doctor recently funded on Kickstarter, so it’ll be published soon!

What is your day job?
Board Game company director (also research assistant...)

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
At a cafe or pub event

Who do you normally game with?
My friends and people who come to board game events

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Animal Empire, Love Letter, Goo Nebula PANIC

And what snacks would you eat?
Whatever I feel like on the day, usually corn chips and dip or chocolate

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I don't think about it much

What’s your favorite FLGS?
I’d rather play games at cafes and usually buy online through KS or direct from the designer

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current Favourite: Starblammo, Least Favourite that I enjoy: Space Hulk, Worst game ever: Starblammo (It needs a lot of work....)

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favourite Mechanic: Hidden goals/Limited resources, Least Favourite: Pausing or skipping turns

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Talisman (I enjoy it! whatever haters...)

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games, Video Games

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
The mechanic is great, the themes and stereotypes are wrong. Bringing board games into the social era of 2000s is important

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
I usually come up with mechanics first, the mechanics are then changed by necessity to fit the theme

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Never won, entered a few

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
James Introcaso and Jack Ford Morgan

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
After spending a lot of time talking to myself in the car

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I run regular game events through my company

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Definitely as part of a team. I struggle to come up with anything alone

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Looking at a blank page and filling it up

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Elder Scrolls or Star Wars. Secretly huge worldbuilding

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Once you've got something on the page, each next step is much easier.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Don't be afraid to release something that isn't perfect. Actually getting a game to a point where it sells proves a whole host of skills and tenacity that will come in useful for making the next one bigger and better.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Goo Nebula PANIC!, Still in Business, Terrible Candidates, Animal Empire Board Game, Animal Empire RPG
Games that will soon be published are: Trust Me I'm A Doctor
Currently looking for a publisher I have: In America or Europe? Absolutely
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Animal World War
Games that I'm playtesting are: Terrible Superheroes
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Starblammo
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Sunfall

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Tabletop Game Designers Australia, BP Boardgames & RPG, Board Game Design Lab Community,TIGDA

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Star Wars, Coke, VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Australian Football, Snowboarding, Playing with my son.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Plan your week

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I love the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

What was the last book you read?
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Do you play any musical instruments?
None Well

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I spent 5 years teaching Kindergarten in Japan (not Eikaiwa)

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Organised 3 events in one day including a convention game and art heist game

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Co-Founding a board game company

Who is your idol?
Harry Dresden

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go 50 years into the future to see how they've solved the problems we've created, then come back and try to implement them

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Extrovert in the streets, introvert in the sheets

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Shazam

Have any pets?
None

When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
Board Games (or some rudimentary form of that) and also storytelling will survive

If you’d like to send a shout out to anyone, anyone at all, here’s your chance (I can’t guarantee they’ll read this though):
Jack Ford Morgan is the best game designer ever. Check out our company Half-Monster Games. I love my son Alex

Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

Please support your local indie designers or developers. Even if you just give them a moment of time or feedback but especially if you buy one game of them and tell them you're really excited to play it

I hope you guys are having an awesome week!




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Please show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of The Little Firefighters by Advance Games / FoxMind

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of The Little Firefighters by Advance Games / FoxMind
Disclaimer Support me on Patreon!
Vitals:
Title: The Little Firefighters
Designed by: Inon Kohn
Publisher: Advance Games / FoxMind
Year Published: 2013
MSRP: $20
1-6p | 15 min | 4+

Introduction:
It's been a while since I played games that were geared toward very little kids, but now that my youngest is a bit over 2.5 years old he's starting to get interested in games.  He watches me play games with his older brothers and my game group occasionally (he even had his own pieces out on the board for Scythe and helped out in a game of Zombiecide by rolling dice and moving his character, Clovis, around the board).  So now he's asking to play his own games.  He really loves the silly action of games like Hungry, Hungry Hippos and Kerplunk, but doesn't quite get the idea of trying to win yet.  So that's where cooperative games come in.  He has a few Haba games, like Hanna Honeybee and First Orchard, but when The Little Firefighters came from Advance Games he was really excited to try the game because of the theme alone.

The Little Firefighters is a cooperative game where each turn someone draws a tile randomly.  The tiles have either 1, 2, or 3 items related to firefighting on them, or between 1 and 5 fire icons.  Depending on the icons on the tile, either firefighter 1, 2, or 3, or the fire will advance along a track toward a house.  As firefighters reach the house they'll drive back the fire when their number comes up.  If the firefighters push the fire all the way back to its starting space before the fire reaches the house, you win!  If the fire reaches the house, you lose. 

Blooms:
Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Adorable theme that young kids love.
  • Great, clunky components perfect for little hands.
  • Bright and colorful.
  • Super simple rules that even the youngest players can understand.
Buds:
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • There seems to be a pretty good balance between winning and losing.
  • He keeps wanting to play again and again!
  • Supports solo play, so he can play on his own when he's a bit older.
Thorns:
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • There are no choices to be made, so it's not very engaging for parents or older kids.
Final Thoughts:
This game reminds me a lot of Peaceable Kingdom's Race for the Treasure, where you also simply draw a tile and do what it tells you to each turn, but The Little Firefighters is even simpler.  There really aren't any choices at all in The Little Firefighters, just move the piece the tile tells you to.  In Race for the Treasure at least you have to decide on the orientation of some of the path tiles.  But that's ok for the most part.  The Little Firefighters is really geared toward the youngest players and it teaches taking turns, incremental movement, and counting up to 5.  That's enough to keep my 2.5 year old engaged for the 10-15 minutes a game takes.

That said, I wish there was a way to play with a slightly more advanced variant that did introduce some choice.  The game is so simple that I'm not sure how to add any meaningful choices in the game, but as it is, the game will likely only keep his interest for a couple of years.  Maybe that's enough, but I feel like it won't be long before he outgrows the game.  It's simple enough that he should be able to play on his own in a year or two though, so maybe it'll keep him occupied when I have bigger games out.

Overall though, I like the game for its simplicity and my son loves the firefighting theme.  It's a game that he pulls out on his own asking me, "you play my game?"  He even gets it all set up on his own.  We are missing one of the firefighters already though, since he sometimes plays with the pieces on their own (I'm sure it's under the couch or buried in his blocks).  In the meantime we've been using a stormtrooper as a stand-in.  Maybe that's why we've lost the last couple of games...

For $20 this is well worth it as a gift for a young gamer.  The quality of the components is great, the theme and artwork are attractive, and it's fun for little ones.  It's not a game for everyone, but it knows its audience and does a great job for them.  I'd rank it right up there with the high quality games for youngsters from Haba or Peaceable Kingdom, though many of those games also cover the same or similar mechanics and concepts for teaching kids gaming basics.  If your kid will like the firefighter theme, get this game.  If a Haba or Peaceable Kingdom game has a more attractive theme for your kiddo, get one of those.  They're all excellent and will be cherished by a budding gamer.

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Bud!  This game definitely has some
great moments.  It's good for several plays
and should appeal to most gamers, especially
if you enjoy other games like this.

Pictures:














Did you like this review?  Show your support: Support me on Patreon! Also, click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.


GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.