Board Game Review – Food Chain Magnate


Quick Facts

Designer: Jeroen Doumen, Joris Wiersinga
Genre: Economic, Manufacturing
Players: 2-5
Time: ~45 minutes per player

It’s the 1950s, and fast food is the latest craze.  Nothing gets the families of small-town suburbia out of their houses like the promise of hot food and cold drinks, served almost instantly.  You can see this new market starting to form and decide to start up your own restaurant chain, planning on making bank selling to hungry (and lazy) people.  However, you’re not the only one with this brilliant idea, as several other competing chains have started up in your very same small town!  Now, you must out-produce, out-advertise, or out-price your opponents out of the market and make your way to the top of the food chain!

Food Chain Magnate is a very heavy strategic game where players build up a fast food franchise starting with just one restaurant and a CEO.  You will then need to hire more employees to begin producing food and drinks, advertising your products, and selling to the customers in town.  The player who makes the most money by the end of the game can truly call themselves a food chain magnate!

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Culling the Collection: The Whats and Whys

Today I finally got around to updating my Board Game Geek Collection, which basically means that I went to Ethan’s BGG profile and copied the ones I was missing from his to my own.  I paused before I started, staring at the number of games it said was in our collection. “500?!”  I gasped.  “There are five hundred games in our collection!  I tell everyone it’s about 300 or so!”

“Well, the promos and expansion are listed too.  Let me see if I can filter it to just the base games.”

After a few clicks on his computer, Ethan figured out we actually only have 366 (!!!) unique base games.  There was a discussion on the BGG Facebook group a few weeks back on why people have so many games, but I won’t get into all the details here on how and why our collection is this way.  What we have begun doing, however, for the first time ever, is getting rid of games in our collection.

It all started with attending Gaming Hoopla in Gurnee, IL, where Ethan signed up to do a math trade.  How this works was, Ethan put a bunch of games that we’re willing to get rid of on a list.  Then, other people put what they’re willing to trade on a list.  Hey, person B has a game I want, but I don’t have anything they want.  But, I have something that person C wants, and person C has something person B wants, so we go around in a circle.  Do this with a few dozen (or hundred) other people, and we have a math trade!   Doing this allowed us to get some games that we didn’t play out of our collection and gain a few new games and promos we were interested in.

The main factor in doing the math trade was there was games in our collection that we don’t play and didn’t plan on playing again.  We traded off Canterbury, Nightfall and a few expansions to go with it, as there were other games in our collection that filled those needs..  We were able to trade off a few promos as well for games we don’t have and aren’t planning on getting, which was pretty popular with a few people in the trade.  This opened up this thought to us, that our collection doesn’t have to keep growing bigger and bigger; there is opportunity to trade things out!

Moving forward, I see more opportunity to keep doing some exchanging in our collection.  There are games that just aren’t for us or aren’t for us anymore.  What about your collection?  How do you manage the games that you have?  Or does it matter to you at all the number of games in you collection?  Let us know!

International Tabletop Day 2017

Like many gamers around this great, wide world, Ethan and I spent April 29th surrounded by tables, cardboard, and groups of loud, passionate people.  Because yesterday was International Tabletop Day!  Yesterday we travelled to Beloit, WI on the advice of the leader of our Rockford Pegheads Group to a company called Acculynx.  They are a software development company that builds services for other companies (at least, that’s what I figured they do!) who were gracious enough to let a few dozen geeks come hang out and play games for the day.

We started our day off with a bit of Mystic Vale.  It’s a game both Ethan and I had played before, I was personally not super impressed with it the first time we’ve played.  This deck building game has a mechanic where instead of adding more cards to your deck, you build on top of your preexisting cards.  The clear cards required for this mechanic seemed gimmicky at first, but was a bit more enjoyable my second play around, even though I lost terribly.

After a few rounds of ping pong (hey, it was tabletop day!), we played Sagrada, the game of “dice drafting and window crafting.”  We recently received our Kickstarter copy of this game in the mail and needed some time to play it, so we decided to give it a go just the two of us.  The mechanics were fairly simply to pick up on and the game overall was very pretty to look at.  It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays with more people.

Next up was Libertalia.  I’ve played this game on Board Game Arena, so I was slightly familiar with gameplay but needed to have the game I hand in order to really understand what was going on.  With everyone starting off with the same cards, it was interesting to see how everyone played out their cards differently.

Then we decided to do some party games, starting with Two Rooms and a Boom.  This game pits two teams against each other, the red team and the blue team, in a battle of trying to keep the “bomber” away from the “President,” or getting him in the same room as the President depending on what team you’re on.  We’ve played this game before with our home game group, but adding the special roles to the game this time made it much more interesting than just using regular roles.

After that, we continued our hunting adventures with Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, a game we love and have reviewed.  We haven’t played this game with our group as much lately, but it still holds up as a fun deduction game with the Inspectors trying to find the murderer while the Forensic Scientist gives clues.

Next up was Unfair, a TOTALLY FAIR game of building the best amusement park you can.  However, the game isn’t really all that fair.  It starts off pretty nice, but a most businesses come to understand, you have to follow code, get inspections, and may have shut rides down for a turn.  We’ve played our copy just the two of us, so it was nice to be able to try the game with three.

Building amusements parks is hard work, so we needed to cool down with a little Incan Gold, a press-you-luck treasure collecting game.  In this game, you must decide if you will press further into the temple in hopes of collecting more gems and possibly an idol.  But if you press too far and run into the same hazard twice, you leave with no gems.  Press your luck is a mechanic I love for the adrenaline rush of it, so this may have to be a game we add to our collection.  I’ll definitely be adding it to the list of games I play on Board Game Arena!

We ended our day at Acculynx with a game of Codenames.  It’s always interesting to play this game with new people, as it’s fun to tap into people’s minds and try to figure out why they gave the clues they did.  Our team had a respectable loss and I can’t wait to get my hands on some of the new Codenames modules that’ll be coming out this year.


Solo Board Game Review – Deep Space D-6


Quick Facts

Designer: Tony Go
Genre: Solitaire, Dice Placement
Players: 1
Time: 30 minutes

Exploring the deepest reaches of space can sometimes be a lonely job, and when a fraudulent distress signal leads your ship into an ambush, you’ll have to survive by yourself until backup arrives!  As the captain, you’ll need to tactfully assign your crew to deal with both internal and external threats, maintain the shields and hull, and take care of crew members that have been put out of commission.  Can you survive all of the threats that will be constantly plaguing your ship?

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Gaming Challenges: 2017 Edition

Hi, Ethan here!  Last year, I posted about some gaming challenges I was participating in, as a way to add some extra fun to my gaming experiences for the year.  Well, a week into this new year, I’m here to report that I’m doing it again this year, and even have Amber trying some new ones out too.  Here’s what I’m challenging myself with this year:

Continue reading “Gaming Challenges: 2017 Edition”

Two Board Meeples’ Top 5 Games of 2016

arkham-horror-lcgWe may not have been writing posts, but we’ve sure been playing games, and 2016 has brought on all kinds of new and exciting gaming experiences.  As we individually rank our top 5 games of 2016, here are some criteria we both followed:

1. The game was released in 2016.  This is according to BGG stats on release date, so we’re relying on their accuracy.  (That means, please don’t blame us if we mess up!)

2. We’ve played this game in 2016.  This may seem like a no brainer, but there are plenty of great games released in 2016 that we unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to play.  So if your favorite from 2016 isn’t on here, it may be because we haven’t played it yet.

From there, we created our own criteria on how we ranked our games.  We look forward to hearing your comments on our top games of 2016, and want to know what was on your top list of last year?

AMBER’S DICLAIMER: I feel as if I need to preface by saying that making a top 5 list was HARD for me. I tend to find good in most games and this was no exception. I began the making this list by figuring out all the games I’ve played that were released in 2016 (according to stats by Board Game Geek) and eliminated ones that I felt “meh” about there. Then, I began ranking the remaining games (18 of them!) against each other with no other criteria other than what I had the most fun playing. The games on my list may not necessarily be the “best games of the year,” but there ones that I enjoy and will continue to enjoy in 2017.


Amber’s Honorable Mention: London Dread

For those who know me, I had this game on my mind since GenCon 2015. I played london-dreadit as a demo there in the Greyfox booth and fell in love with the game pretty hard. I followed the game through BGG and social media and was thrilled to preorder a copy for pick up at GenCon 2016. As much as I loved the game at the preview, I haven’t had a chance to play our copy since we’ve purchased our own copy, hence why it’s not in the top 5 for this year.

Amber’s #5: The Last Friday

Having played Fury of Dracula and Letters from Whitechapel both, this game wasthe-last-friday high on my priority list around GenCon. When it was sold out at the con, I was pretty devastated, but Ethan preordered it for my birthday and we were able to enjoy it with a full group at a game night. One thing that drew me to this game was the theme; I’ve always had a soft spot for horror movies and I finally had the courage to play the killer in one of these games. The game is played in phases, taking you through the story of Camp Apache, and the stages of killing or being killed, making it different than games of the like. I haven’t had a chance to play as the campers quite yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to playing it again.

Ethan’s #5: Salem (2016)

I really like Salem, and not just because it’s the second game called Salem we have in our pic2877079collection (in addition to New Salem, which only adds to the solution).  The 2016 game Salem is a “pure” deduction game, as opposed to the much more common social deduction game, and it gets a lot of points in my book just for that.  In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to think of many other non-social deduction games besides the classic Mastermind.  In Salem, each player controls a group of seven townspeople, three of whom are witches.  The game is set up in such a way that there are three witches in every row (the groups each player controls) and every column, similar to sudoku.  Then, each turn, players reveal information about their townspeople (such as “1 and 2 are different” or “out of 3, 4, and 5, there is one witch”) without giving too much away.  I really like the deduction aspect of this game in trying to piece together the clues you are given with what you already know about your own townspeople to figure out where all the witches are before everyone else.  The one major drawback to this game, and the reason why it isn’t higher on my list is that it really plays best with exactly six people for the basic game and seven for the advanced game.  While you can play with other player counts, it is a lot better at its full complement, which makes it hard to get to t he table.  But, I really enjoyed it a lot, so I hope to be able to continue playing it!

Amber’s #4: Arkham Horror: The Card Game

There’s something to be said about a game that takes just as long to set up and it ah-card-game-header-192703does to play, and Arkham Horror is no exception to that. Arkham Horror: LCG, however, condenses the game into a more playable deck building format while keeping the fun of the original. The game is still pretty brutal, with your modifiers being chosen randomly out of a bag. We fought hard but lost the first scenario because of this, and it can be a frustrating mechanic when you’re consistently making bad draws. Overall, this game is much more approachable than the full Arkham game with the easy to teach deck building mechanic, which made it one of my top picks of the year.

Ethan’s #4: Imhotep

Imhotep is a game that certainly doesn’t lack praise, as it was nominated for the imhotepprestigious Spiel des Jahres award for 2016.  Even so, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed its deceptively simple mechanics and gameplay.  In Imhotep, each player has a supply of large wooden cubes (and seriously, these things are huge for board game components) in their color.  Each round, there are a number of variously sized rafts where players take turns placing their cubes.  Instead of placing cubes on a raft, players can use their action to refill their supply of cubes (to a maximum of 5) or sail one of the rafts to one of the available locations.  The locations include the Market, where players can get cards that give extra actions or end-game scoring, or a myriad of ancient Egyptian architectures, such as the Obelisk, Pyramid, and Burial Chamber.  Each of these locations scores points differently, and does so either immediately, at the end of each round, or at the end of the game.  In addition, the order in which cubes are placed out at each location is often important as well, so you want to place your cubes on the rafts strategically.  I was also surprised by just how cutthroat Imhotep can be.  You can sail rafts containing your opponents’ cubes to places they clearly don’t want to go, or prematurely sail to a place they do want to go, blocking it off for that round.  So, this game is definitely not for anyone who doesn’t like cutthroat or “mean” gameplay, but as long as you can get past that, it has a lot of table appeal with the huge cubes and evolving structures, and a lot of strategic fun.

Amber’s #3: Mythos Tales

I’ve always been a fan of mysteries but have not always had success at solving mythostalesthem. We’ve played Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective and while I love the Sherlock Holmes theme, there seemed to be something a bit lacking with it. When Mythos Tales showed up on Kickstarter, I was eager to back it, hoping that the Lovecraftian theme would add that little bit of extra oomph. We cracked this game open and was able to roll right in. We added my newly gamer mom to the second scenario and beyond, and things began to unfold in wonderful and usual ways. Without revealing too much about the specific scenarios, they added new rules to some of the scenarios, including different types of locations and triggering events based on when you visit a location, which allowed them to play a bit differently than just trying to figure out the mystery. I’ll admit that we didn’t get all the way through Sherlock Holmes, it wasn’t really drawing us in, and so if these things happen in that game, we are definitely missing out. But we played multiple scenarios of this game in a row, for multiple days, which makes this one of my most liked games of 2016.

Ethan’s #3: Beyond Baker Street

One of our favorite and most-played games is Hanabi, the co-op game where you don’t beyond-baker-streetknow what’s in your own hand and need to work with the other players to figure it out.  After about 30 plays, Amber and I have the game down almost to a science.  That is why i was so excited to learn about beyond Baker Street, which takes the familiar Hanabi mechanic and adds a Sherlock Holmes theme and some other elements.  In Beyond Baker Street, you are working together as characters in the Sherlock Holmes canon to track down a suspect, motive, and opportunity before Holmes himself does.  Each of those three items has a card in one of four colors and a target number to reach.  Like in Hanabi, players can tell each other the color or value of the cards in their hand, and then use that information to play clues to each of the three areas.  So, instead of Hanabi’s playing 1-5 in each of the 5 colors, now the colors players are aspiring to vary along with the number/value of cards they must play in each.  In addition, Beyond Baker Street introduces characters that each player is assigned, providing a useful (or not so useful, if you’re looking for a challenge) ability.  Finally, the game has several different “cases”, which really are just levels of difficulty, varying the number of clues you can give and cards you can discard to the Impossible.  Altogether, while I don’t think this game will completely replace Hanabi for us, Beyond Baker Street is a great fresh take on a favorite mechanic, and a good way to add some more to one of our most-played games!

Amber’s #2: Dead of Winter: The Long Night

Dead of Winter was a group favorite of ours for a while. Though zombies weredead-of-winter-long-night-300x294 beginning to fade out of popularity, the story driven scenarios and possibility of hidden agendas kept people interested in this game for a long time. While the game is still brought out everyone once in a while, it needed a special something, which I believe The Long Night did. Instead of just bickering amongst ourselves about each other being the problem, there were real problems in the forms of thieves and new, disgusting, radioactive monsters. The Long Night gave a boost to a beloved game from 2014 and added to an already well-established replayability factor, putting this at my #2 favorite game of 2016.

Ethan’s #2: Terraforming Mars

I’ve only gotten to play Terraforming Mars once this year, but even with that one play I terraforming-marsknow that it’s a great game and I can’t wish to play it again.  As may be inferred from the title, in Terraforming Mars, players take on the role of corporations that are trying to make the red planet inhabitable.  Each player gets a corporation with different starting resources and abilities.  Then, each round players acquire new project cards, and take turns playing cards from their hand to make Mars more human-friendly, increase your own resources, build something out on the planet, or various other effects.  The game ends when three conditions have been met: Temperature, Oxygen, and Ocean Coverage.  When these three factors are complete, players calculate their score based on their final Terraform Rating (given when players increase temperature or oxygen levels, or place an ocean) along with Victory Points gained elsewhere.  So Terraforming Mars is a game of resource collection and management, as well as some card drafting (you draw cards and choose which you want to pay to keep in your hand) and tile placement, in a race to be the most prestigious company by the time Mars is fully hospitable.  The best part of the game is by far the high-quality components.  The board and tile artwork is great, and each of the 200+ different cards are all wonderfully illustrated and easy to understand.  The coolest component, though,  are the little metal cubes used to track resources — they are just so much fun to play with.  Terraforming Mars gets two big thumbs up from me after just one play, so again I hope to play it even more in 2017!

Amber’s #1: Secret Hitler

Social games are a hit or a miss in our group, with favorites established pretty secret-hitlerquickly and misses promptly being pushed to the side. When Secret Hitler was released on Kickstarter, we knew that if nothing else, we’d get a few fun plays out of the game. But this game is a bit different than a normal social deduction game where you have a to figure out “who-dun-it.” Unlike Resistance where you simply choose pass or fail, the President is given three choices of cards. Are they all Fascist policies, giving the President no choice to pass along two of the policies to the Chancellor? Or was there a choice of policies, and someone made a suspicious choice? This added element of decision making creates an extra level of deduction, of causing chaos, shouting and a lot of fun within our gaming group. Because of the more mature theme of the game, we don’t play this at game night, but anytime we have guests in the privacy of our home, someone inevitably wants to play, making this my top game of 2016.

Ethan’s #1: Mythos Tales

Interestingly, while I gave my #3 game, Beyond Baker Street, praise for adding a Sherlock mythostalesHolmes theme to a game I previously liked, this game does the opposite.  The previous game in this case was Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, and this game, Mythos Tales, takes that game’s mechanics and replaces the Sherlock Holmes theme with Cthulhu (and adds some other things in the progress).  If you’ve ever played SHCD, you’re already pretty familiar with how this game works, but if not, I’ll introduce it to you.  It is a lot more like a choose your own adventure book than a game, because there isn’t a board, pieces, cards, or anything like that.  Instead, players are given a map, a newspaper, and a casebook with numbered entries corresponding to the different locations on the map.  Players are given a mystery to solve and then proceed to the locations around the city, reading each corresponding passage and taking notes of clues they uncover and leads as to where else to investigate.  Then, at the end of each case, there is a list of questions players attempt to answer using the knowledge they’ve gathered, and based on points gained from the answers (minus penalties from visiting too many locations), they can compare their scores to Sherlock’s, who almost invariably does much better than the players.  Mythos Tales takes this gameplay formula, and moves it from 19th century London to Arkham, Massachusetts in the late 1920s.  Professor Henry Armitage takes the role of Holmes in this game, and while slightly more amiable can still be fairly demanding of the players, his assistants.  There is a new cast of recurring characters you can visit in each investigation, such as police Inspector Garrison and the eccentric occultist Pasquale Fenton.  In addition, the mysteries players encounter are a lot less mundane and have you encounter strange happenings and horrors directly from the Cthulhu Mythos.  Mythos Tales also adds a few new elements — some of which I won’t spoil, but I’ll touch on those that are detailed in the rulebook.  The first is the Time Track.  In the beginning of each case, Armitage gives the players a deadline as to when the investigation must be wrapped up.  Each day is divided into morning, afternoon, and evening, so the deadline will be something like “Day 5, Afternoon”.  Every location visited, even if revisiting a place or if there is no information there, uses up a unit of time.  So, this track really gives players the feeling that they are up against the clock and really need to make their investigations count.  The second new mechanic is the Requirement Cards.  Starting in Case 2, players may be instructed to take one of the game’s 19 numbered cards during the course of their investigation.  This can correspond to receiving an item, like a key, or information that may be used later.  Then, other locations may provide a supplemental encounter if players have the necessary requirement card(s).  With this, the order of locations visited and clues gathered really comes into play more so than this game’s predecessor, where you could visit anywhere at any time (but where the encounter might not necessarily make sense if you don’t know exactly why you’re there).  These two mechanics put together make Mythos Tales feel a lot like T.I.M.E. Stories to me, another game that I really like where you’re against the clock and need to gather items and clues to further your investigation.  While there are a few typos and issues in Mythos Tales (which I think is understandable given a game so text-heavy), the designers have been good about publishing errata on BGG that should be kept handy when going through the cases.  With that in mind, Mythos Tales has been an amazing adventure through the first half of the game, and I can’t wait to finish up the last four cases and see what new expansions and mysteries are in store!

Board Game Review -Fisticuffs!

Disclaimer: We were provided a review copy of this game by The Nerdalogues.  This has not influenced our review.


Quick Facts

Designer: The Nerdalogues
Genre: Take That
Players: 4-6
Time: 1530 minutes

In the 20s, an eccentric billionaire flies his airship around the world in search of pugilists willing to fight each other in order to claim the incredible prize of any wish granted.  You are one of the eight participants in this year’s bout, ready to take on your opponents one-by-one in a gentlemanly sporting match.  What you discover, however, that these Fisticuffs bouts are free-for-all brawls where almost anything goes: from the simple jabs and kicks to uppercuts and haymakers, and even spitting on your opponents is allowed in the ring!  Do you still think you have what it takes to knock out all of your opponents and claim the title?

Fisticuffs is a veritable free-for-all of a Take That game, where each turn players will instigate combat against another participant, who can block and counter, or throw in the towel and allow others to tag in and join the fray.

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As we mentioned in a recent post, we’ve updated our review scoring system to be a bit more objective and meaningful.  Well, today we went back and updated all of our reviews to use this system!  From our first review (…and then we held hands) to the latest before the switch (The Red Dragon Inn), everything is up-to-date!  So if you want to check out all of our past reviews, click on the Reviews category and dive right in!

Board Game Review – Tides of Madness


Quick Facts

Designer: Kristian Čurla
Genre: Card Drafting
Players: 2
Time: 20 minutes

The sky have begun to darken; waves continue to lap on the shore, crashing harder and harder as time passes.  Collecting the artifact will bring you closer to the great Old Ones, but send you spiraling slowly into madness.  The chanting begins to fill your head and you began to chuckle against your control.  Will you be able to find the most artifacts before your foes?  Or will you descend into madness long before then?

Tides of Madness is a sequel to the 2015 game Tides of Time.  Like its predecessor, Tides of Madnessis a quick 2-player card drafting microgame, consisting of 18 cards and three short rounds.  However, it adds a new element, Madness (it is a Cthulhu game, after all), and some additional ways to score.

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Interview with Jamey Stegmaier

One thing that I love about Ethan is that he always finds great opportunities for us to do things that are fun and exciting.  So as we were preparing for GenCon 2016, Ethan found this great opportunity for us to sit down with Jamey Stegmaier from Stonemaier Games.  We were able to ask him some questions and get to know him a bit better!

A: So we’re on Sunday at GenCon . . . .what has been your favorite part about GenCon this year?

J:  Really it’s seeing people face-to-face.  Meeting you guys is great, seeing . . . the many faces of people . . . or face that I’m putting names of people that I’ve seen online, that I’ve chatted with, or who are backers whose names that I did or didn’t know.  It’s neat to see those people face to face and make those connections.

A: Yeah, I’m sure that’s . . . .it’s been good for us even to be able to say, “Oh, that’s what Jayme is in real life!”  .  . . Where do you draw inspiration from when designing, especially games like Euphoria, which is another that we own and love, and Scythe where they’re a more Sci-Fi/Fantasy theme?

J: For Euphoria, I love dystopian fiction in all forms; I love reading it, I love . . .there are a couple TV shows, a lot of movies, and so . . . I paired that with an idea that I had during Viticulture . . . it was . . . you know in worker placement games you’re putting workers on the board and they never question you, right?  The workers always go where you tell them to go.  And so I was trying to think of pure game where the workers would question you or a game where thematically it would make sense that they wouldn’t question you.  And so a dystopia made sense for that.  So I combined that one theme that I liked with a question that I thought of.

E: So the workers abandoning mechanic was the central focus and then built a game?

J: Yep, exactly. And then for Scythe it was . . . Scythe started with the art.  I found the art about two years ago; Jacob had been working on the world and the art for a few months at that point and I  . . . just immediately drew me in and captured my imagination. And I just wanted to design a game in that world.

A:  Awesome.  So, what is your favorite dystopian fiction world, book, show? *laughs*

J: I do love the Hunger Games, I know many people do . . . I loves Fringe, as a TV show, which wasn’t quite dystopian but there was certain dystopian . . . I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it!

A: No I haven’t! *laughs*

J: And then I love . . . uh . . . what is . . . there’s a movie where people stop having babies . . . what’s the name of it . . . like the world’s population is dying because no one can have babies anymore . . . “Children,” “No Children” . . . I should know the title of my favorite movie.

A: *laughs*

J: “Children of Men!”  Children of Men.  It’s just a beautiful dystopian style movie.

A:  Cool.  Umm, what are your current favorite games to play?

J: Yes!  Uh, I’ve been having a lot of fun . . . so there are a few games that have gotten into my top 10 list this year, because I do the top 10 list every 6 months.  T.I.M.E Stories is one of them.  I love T.I.M.E Stories

A: Oh my god, we love that game.  We love it.

J: How many modules have you done so far?

A: We’re all the way . . . we’re current.  We’re waiting for Expeditions to come out.

J: Awesome.  That’s exactly where we’re at. I love that experience. Umm, Isle of Skye is another . . . a Euro Game, but I really, really love Isle of Skye.  Yeah, those are the two newest entrants on my list. What about you two, what are the two newest entrants on your list?

A: Oh gosh.  T.I.M.E Stories is definitely up there.  Umm, one game that I personally love, umm, is Jaipur. That’s probably . . . my friend is actually working on . . . he’s got a kind of algorithm  that he’s working on where he can figure out what people’s top 100 games are based on question that they asks . . . he asks about them and I’m sure Jaipur will be in my top 5 if not number 1.

E:  Uhh, we just played Food Chain Magnate the other day.

J: Yes!

A: Whoo!  Yeah!  We’re, uh, chomping at the bit to play it again.  Yeah, that one was really REALLY heavy.  A really thinky one.  I really liked that the luck level being at zero . . . was really . . . was really good.  I liked that about it.

J: Yeah!

A: Yeah.  Umm, okay.  So you’ve been hearing a lot of pitches for game idea, I’m sure. Umm, what makes an idea an instant no?

J:  That’s a good question.  When it’s just an idea.  We’ve had a few pitches where . . . very enthusiastic, creative people with something that’s got no . . .  it hasn’t gone past the idea stage yet.  So I’m looking for something that is at least somewhat developed and play tested.  If they have a prototype to show me that can actually play right here, if even for a few minutes.  So that’s the only . . . that’s really the only instant no – WELL, the one other category, we’ve had it before, is if people come in and pitch RPGs to us? Which is, again, I love to see the creativity . . . one guy brought in a fully fledged Dungeons and Dragons sort of world that’s just beautiful; I don’t play Dungeons and Dragons and we don’t publish RPGs.  So, it’s been interesting to talk to those people and get their perspectives and see another world, but it isn’t, that’s not what we publish.

A: So how do people the the idea stage . . . what’s their next step after that?  Like, what should they do after that to get their process moving along?

J:  Well for me, and I think for many designers, it goes from idea to . . . ideas are brainstorming, thinking of what the game could be and translating that to an actual prototype and rules, something that you can actually play with and then actually playing it.  That’s the key stage.  Getting it to the table, even just once, to see if there’s anything there.  If it can possibly be something more than just an idea.

A:  Awesome.  What thing makes an instant good impression when somebody’s pitching a game to you?

J: An instant good impression . . . yeah. I always, well, the first part is they have an actual game on the table, that is great to see.  Honestly, in the environment of GenCon, like this in an event, it’s nice to see someone who’s relatable.  I wanna see if I can work with this person for 6 months, or 2 years, or 5 years.  Can I have fun working with them?  So that makes a nice impression.  And then, for any game it’s nice if we can just start playing the game without, because they only have thirty minutes to pitch, if it takes 30 minutes, and I know many games take 30 minutes to actually learn the rules, but if we can at least start playing and learn the rules on the fly . . . my favorite thing is when designers come in and give us a 2 minute spiel about the theme of the game, and some core ideas, and then we just start playing.  Even if they’re directing my turn and Alan’s turn and whoever is playing the first few turns and then we get into the swing of it.  That’s . . . I love doing that.  That way I really get to get the feel of what the game is.

E:  So a good thing for a designer to do would be to probably go through the vendor hall at like GenCon and see how people pitch their games?  Especially games that would be similar weight . . .

J: Yeah, that’s a big part of it.  Definitely helps.

A:  What theme do you think is currently overrepresented?

J:  An overrepresented theme . . . a few years ago I would have said like, Zombies . . . and Trains . . .

A: *laughs* Yes!

J: And those are still, there are more games that are coming out, but it doesn’t feel like quite the level of oversaturation.  I think that people maybe have realized how saturated it was.  Right now . . . umm . . . I don’t know if there is one that jumps out.  You guys have had more time in the hall, what do you think?  Have you seen anything?

A:  Yeah.  I feel like it’s pretty diverse.  This year, I uh.  I mean, the top games that are popping out right now are  Scythe, obviously, Cry Havoc (gone), Seafall (gone).  Last Friday is another one that we actually didn’t expect to be gone that is gone that I’m very disappointed that it is.  But yeah, it’s not really honed into . . . like, this year it’s all about serial killers or something like that.  There is a lot of sci fi/fantasy this year but yeah.  There doesn’t seem to be like a big, you know.  Yeah.  Do you think there’s anything that can use more exploring?

J:  Oh yeah.  Many themes.  Umm, I’m still looking for a really wonderful time travel game.  I guess time stories kind of does that, but that’s more like you’re escaping to a world for a while.  There are some decent time travel games out there but I want something . . . nothing has really captured my imagination.  Do you have anything that comes to mind in the time travel genre?

A: You know, TIME Stories really . . . I’m trying to think of any . . .

E:  I know there’s Loop Inc.

J: Yeah.

A:  What’s the other one?  Tragedy Looper?  Tragedy Looper kind of does that, but it’s . . . it’s . . . you’re travelling to the same points, you know what I mean?  You’re just repeating a point instead of . . . so I think that would probably, in my opinion, be the most successful one at doing that?  Because you’re resetting yourself, so . . .  okay, yeah, that’s interesting.  Okay, our friend Christy wants to know what you can tell us about Charterstone.

J: Yeah, yeah!

A:  I’m pumped about that!

J:  Did you see the box over there?

A: Oh, I’ve been checking it out.  I’ve been watching it.

J:  Charterstone, I mean what you probably already know is, it’s a village-building legacy game, it’s 1-6 players, so you’re building a village together with other players, and then whenever you build a new building in the village, in your own designated area that you’re building it, but it’s shared village.  Anyone can place their worker on that building, you can place it there or you can place workers on other building.  There are . . . basically when you open the Charterstone box, there will be . . . you won’t see much of anything.  Everything will be enclosed in envelopes and tuck boxes . . .

A:  Is it modules like Pandemic Legacy where you need to open certain things?

J:  There’s a lot of things.  Pandemic Legacy, it had those 8 packets that you punch open and open but that deck of cards were that . . . oh!  They had . . . I guess there were a lot of things to open.  Similar thing.  There’s like, 50 or 60 different tuck boxes in there to open . . .

A:  Wow!  That’s a lot!

J: Yeah, I love that experience of opening something that is secret and hidden and, yeah.

A:  So do you have any nasty, “do not open, please don’t get to this box” box? *laughs*

J:  Not yet, many I’ll throw something in there for . . . maybe there will be something in there that will have a little surprise, but Charterstone is a much more constructive game.  It’s a game of progression, it’s not as much of a game of struggling against something like Pandemic Legacy is.  Thematically.

A:  Awesome.  Umm, our friend Rob wanted us to ask, we have . . . we’re part of and help run a fairly successful meetup group.  We are currently at about 300 members in our meetup group.  We do meetups about 2-4 times a month.  And we cap our meetups at about 20 people and they’re been full for about the past 6 months.  What do you think we could do to help ensure the success of our meetup group?

J:  That’s a good question.  Is it not considered a success as is?

A:  I think he’s just a little . . . he gets worried.  *laughs*  We had an article in our local paper newspaper about it, I think that helped really spike the success of it.  I personally feel like the word of mouth has been good, I mean people are adding and adding and adding to our group. Umm . . . I don’t really know why he wanted to know that! That’s a good question.

J:  One thing we look for in our group and the groups I play with is that we’re not clique-ish.  We don’t end up excluding others just because we’re comfortable with each other. So, this might tie to his question, but the key for growth and making sure it’s sustained is making sure that people feel welcomed.  If people come many times, they continue to feel welcomed, or that new people feel welcomed to join in.  If they’re new to games or experienced with games, different types of personality types . . .

A: And I know that’s something that he’s really worked on, we . . .there’s five of us that we consider the leadership team, and we all have very different ways that we game. And I think that that has definitely helped us, like, take new people. We have a, we have our designated euro gamer. We have . . .we [Amber and Ethan] pretty much, we can float pretty much to any other kind of games. We have someone who is like our designated “new gamer” person. And then we have a family friendly, like, a 1 hour game, so the 1 hour gamer. *laughs*

E: Yeah, so we always watch for new people and make sure to have intro-level stuff, like, I know that there’s going to be people at our . . .new to our group or new to games.

A: Yeah, we actually meet in a public space. Our . . .the game store that we meet at is in a mall, and it’s split between a game store and, it’s like a sports memorabilia [store]. So we have lots of different people that wander around our tables *laughs*.

E: We did get one person that joined from just seeing us, by wandering around.

A: Yeah, so . . .awesome. I think that answered Rob’s questions. Rob wanted to ask on behalf of us: We’re still pretty new for reviewing games; we had the idea in 2015, so this is something we wanted to do for fun. We started in January 2016. We’ve got, oh, up to, I think we’re up to 40 posts now.

J: Awesome.

A: We get at least a few hits every day on the blog. What can we continue to do to be more accessible and give more exposure for our reviews?

J: That’s a good question. In terms of exposure, whenever you write a review, do you let the publisher know that you posted it?

A: We’ve been working (well, I’ve been working *laughs*) a little on trying to establish a Facebook and a Twitter presence. We do have a Facebook page. I was told by someone else who does reviews that it’s very hard to get likes on a Facebook page, just from their personal experience. Twitter seems to have been a little easier, maybe because it’s limited to the 140 characters, and it’s really easy to press the retweet button.

J: Sure.

A: But we try to, I should say.

J: Because I think one of your best assets . . .I love it when someone posts a review and sends me the link, because I’m not . . .I subscribe to a lot of blogs, and I use Mention – do you know Mention?

A: No.

J: It’s . . .if someone posts, like, the words “Stonemaier Games” on the Internet, anywhere, I get an alert from Mention telling me that someone did that. It doesn’t always work; if they misspell the name, I never see it.

A: I’m sure you get that. *laughs*

J: Yeah. Well, if they just mention “Stonemaier”, it doesn’t come up, or if they misspell it – yeah, any slight misspelling. So I love it when a reviewer will send us, “Hey, I reviewed your game.” Whether it’s good or bad, I love to hear about it. That way I can put it on my website; I can share it if I want. I don’t like when – and this might be just personal preference – but I don’t like when a reviewer reviews a game and then says, “Hey, I—“ it depends on how they ask me to post it. I think the best way is just to give me that information that it’s out there, and then let them [the publisher] do with it—

A: And do what you will, yeah.

J: Right. But some say, “Hey, I’d like you to retweet it, I’d like you to put it on Facebook, I want. . .” and I’m like, why do I have this list of, like, I just sent you a free game, or I didn’t send you a free game, and I still appreciate it, but . . .yeah, they’re commands.

A: Or they command you to send them a free game because they didn’t like your game? *laughs*

J: Yeah. So, those things definitely. Because your publishers are your biggest asset if you write a review, and really I think it’s whether it’s good or bad. I’m sure in many of your reviews you have a few good things and a few bad things to say, and publishers really—

A: Yeah, we do have pros and cons of each game, and I mean, we haven’t reviewed anything that we thought was completely terrible; every game we’ve reviewed has been in our collection, so there must have been something that we liked about it? Except for, Quantum, but that’s just my personal preference.

J: Can I tell you another thing there too?

A: Yeah!

J: On Facebook, or on Board Game Geek, I’ve found that . . .so I do a video series every week on game design; I don’t know if you’re familiar with it?

A: Yep!

J: And so, whenever I do that – and I’m not trying to market that at all, but it really, it’s just for fun. Whenever I do it, I put it on Board Game Geek, and I link the – you know, you can tag the game or the designer; I usually do that. Not necessarily for the person that published it, but for anyone who follows that game, so they can see it come up on their subscribe feed.

A: And I know we’ve done a few . . .putting our photographs on, you know, for the games, linking them [our reviews] in the Reviews section, so yeah, we’ll just need to keep on top of that a little more.

J: Yeah.

A: Yeah. So, this is something that’s coming from my heart. I’m currently waiting on a Kickstarter that’s two months behind. People have started to get their Kickstarters while we’re here at Gen Con, and the people are upset about how they’re arriving. As a consumer I’m mad about that, because I know I’m going to be going home now, and my game’s going to be destroyed. As you, who is somebody who produces Kickstarters, what should I know as the consumer that can help me ease my mind a little bit about things like that? What’s something that I should know that would maybe make me sympathize a little bit more with – when bad things are happening during a Kickstarter?

J: Ooh, that’s a good question. Sympathize with the creator?

A: Yes.

J: Do you feel like you have that expectation to sympathize with them?

A: I . . .I guess I kind of hope that I do, because the games are arriving in pretty bad shape, and I think kind of there’s a little bit of mob mentality that’s going on with this game right now, in that, like, more than half the people are getting their games destroyed.

J: That’s a lot.

A: Yeah. And, I mean . . .and the company has – it’s trying to take care of it, but it’s started to kind of be – they’re saying the same kinds of things to everybody, but not really saying any really new updates about things that are happening, and it’s . . .I think everybody’s starting to get a little frustrated. And so, me personally, I want to find a reason that – ok, this is happening and I can feel a little bit better about why this is happening.

J: Well, I can speak to that, personally, a little bit. We just delivered Scythe around the world, and we had two fulfillment companies that I had, I gave them very specific instructions on how they should pack it. And they have not followed those instructions at all, and that was a company in Australia and a company in Europe. And Europe – Australia was pretty good – but Europe was around 6000 packages they were sending out. And they were terribly packaged.

A: That’s interesting.

J: *laughs* And it’s the type of thing where, as the creator, I feel somewhat helpless, because I had given them very specific instructions; this is a company I had worked with before, and they’d done well in the past, and they just didn’t do it this time. And even throughout the process, when the first game arrived, we realized it was a problem, and we told them to fix it for everyone, for all the other games, because they don’t ship them all in one day; it took them three weeks to ship all of them. And yet, despite almost daily instructions to fix it, fix it, fix it, they didn’t. So, if you want to sympathize with the creator, you can do it for that reason. It is kind of out of their control. At the same time, it’s still our responsibility to get your game to you untarnished and perfect. And so, I don’t think we deserve the sympathy for that, if your game doesn’t . . .I consider it, even though this shipping company in Europe is the one messing up, I still consider it my responsibility. If the game is damaged . . .If it’s only got a dent on the corner, ideally I would just give them a partial reimbursement, a partial refund. If it’s mangled, or the box is unusable, or there’s a big dent, then we have the customer send it back to the fulfillment center, and the fulfiullment center sends them a better-packaged, mint condition . . .So it’s my responsibility to manage that communication, make them feel secure. So I try to be very active on social media to make sure – social media and personal e-mails – to make sure customers know that I’m there helping out the facility, and so if a creator’s not doing that I don’t think they deserve your sympathy.

A: Interesting.

J: Because even if it’s out of their control, they can try to be there for backers, to show they’re doing something. So I can’t speak to this issue you’re having, if that deserves your sympathy or not, but it’s nice of you to be compassionate towards creators. But you give them money for something, than you want it in perfect condition.

A: The wait has been killing me. *laughs*

J: Yeah, I’d bet.

A: Especially when they sell it at Gen Con.

E: And at UK Expo.

A: And at UK Expo, months before it was even . . .but nevermind. Ok, so, at a panel that Ethan attended on Thursday, Rodney from Watch it Played suggested that when referring to people who troll or make mean comments . . .That, remember there’s always a person behind the computer and kindness is always the answer. I’ve seen you personally respond to some people who were not very kind, and took it a little bit further than that, I would say. What is your process to, like, deal with people like that?

J: My process is probably a little different from Rodney’s, but I love that mentality that he expressed, and I. . .

A: It’s ‘cause he’s Canadian. *laughs*

J: Yeah. My process differs. Depending on the day that I’m having, and ideally regardless of my mood I would treat someone with respect and kindness, and try to put myself in their shoes. Some days it’s easier to do that than others, especially if it’s a lot of things like that. For me, I draw the line if someone is really insulting or bringing . . .They’re just trying to disrupt and hate. And I . . .whether it’s against a game, or against a person, or against all the other backers . . .That I don’t have much patience for. I understand that it’s still a person behind the computer, and face-to-face at Gen Con we’d probably have a very different interaction. But I don’t think that’s an excuse for spreading hate in any form. And so that’s kind of where I have a hard time drawing, or where I do draw that line, and I don’t have a hard time removing them from the Facebook group, or removing them from our e-newsletter. But what I’ve struggled with, and what I think is great about that message that you said with Rodney is that, sometimes it’s not a message of hate. Sometimes it’s an expression of passion that comes out in an ineffective way, and so I try as hard as possible to differentiate the two, and to create a connection with those people, and maybe give them a chance to say it in a different way; have them be more constructive, so that they can benefit the conversation and be a part of that conversation. But it’s hard sometimes. Have you seen that on your blog; have you had trolls?

A: We actually released a survey, and this is the only time we’ve ever received this, and like I said, most of the people who read our blog are out friends, so I know they would support things a little more kindly. But we posted a survey on what people think that we should review next, and that’s something that I really – I want to be able to review things that people are interested in. And we got, we had an option at the bottom to write, you know, something in. And somebody wrote, “Maybe you should just stop.” That’s like, oh, and I think I took a day . . .And it was anonymous, so I mean, there’s nothing really I could do about it. So I kind of just had to stew about it, and say why would somebody say things like that? It’s the Internet, I mean . . .people are going to do things like that, but that’s . . .I kind of remember that’s not why we’re doing it, you know what I mean? We started it because it’s fun, we started it because we want to do it for our friends who know we have a 300 game collection and want to know which ones to pick, you know what I mean? So I guess that helped a little.

J: So did you leave the comment?

A: No, I kind of just let it be. I didn’t even acknowledge it, because we had posted it in our friends group, but we had also posted it on the BGG Facebook group, so it wasn’t worth my time.

J: That’s a good way to . . .yeah.

A: It wasn’t worth my time.

J: But I can understand that’s tough to read. It doesn’t move the conversation forward in any way. I’m sorry someone wrote that.

A: No, it’s ok. It’s over; we’re over it.

E: Unless it was you.

A: “Jamey wrote something nasty. . .” No, I’m just kidding. What is your starting player color?

J: I’m always . . . I like to be red.

A: Oooh. *laughs* We have a friend that’s always red. What do you do to relax?

J: To relax? The main thing I do, I play soccer, which I love to play pickup soccer. And then every night, my thing to turn off my brain so I can actually fall asleep is to read fiction. I love, especially sci-fi and fantasy fiction, but all types of fiction. And that’s able to, like, switch off my work brain, because I basically . . .I wake up and start working. I work from home, and so I’m at my office in two seconds, and then I work all the way through until about midnight when I go to bed, and so just switching off a little bit and just reading is . . .That relaxes me.

A: Perfect, and that kind of tied into our last question so I don’t have any other questions, [to Ethan] do you have any other questions?

E: No, I don’t think so.

A: No, I think we covered everything that we frantically added in at the end of this, so I just wanted to say thank you again. This has been a lot of fun. You’re the first person that we’ve actually been able to interview in person, so this is really exciting.

Jamey was a great first interview for us, I hope you enjoyed our question and answer session!  We hope to get to speak with him again at other Cons.