Category: Reviews

The Finest… Boardgame Artists

The Finest… Boardgame Artists

Boardgames don’t generally have a great reputation when it comes to art. Some of the most critically acclaimed and most popular hobby boardgames have been adorned in some particularly horrible clothes. That doesn’t matter, we tell ourselves, because we’re in it for the mechanisms. However, in the automated, Twitter linked, high-definition, push-notification lifestyle of a boardgame fanatic… just having great mechanisms isn’t necessarily enough to capture the attention of the crowd any more. In a world that has over 2,000 new boardgames released every year… it’s no wonder art and design are taking on increased importance, even if many boardgamers can’t necessarily name the artists who are responsible for their favourite game.

Artists don’t just paint pretty pictures for the box lid (okay, some do), but every card, board, and rulebook also need artists to help put it all together, and when they do a good job, you might not even recognize that they’re there. This list examines artists who do it all, and do it with flair.

So, let’s take a minute to appreciate some of the finest in the industry. These are some of my favourite boardgame artists. They may not be the same as yours, but that’s not because you’re wrong… it’s probably just because… you know what? Let’s just jump in.

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The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43

The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43

Designed by Gregory M. Smith and published by Consim Press and distributed by GMT Games. I bought a copy of The Hunters on a whim back in 2013 during the later days of my wife’s pregnancy. I was starting to feel my gaming opportunities slip away, so solo gaming was a thing I began investigating. Nevertheless, The Hunters sat on my shelf for a couple of years before I finally tore off the shrink wrap and dove in (or under).

When opening up the box, my initial impression was that this didn’t look exactly like a wargame. There is no board or map in the box. There is a 24 page rulebook, some player boards that track the status of your U-boat (double-sided boards for different U-boat models), and about three double-sided charts that contain tables for you to roll against when performing actions and looking up results. There are also a variety of very nice counters to track torpedos, deck gun ammunition, damage, crew status, targets and escorts, etc, and a half dozen dice. It almost looks… like a roleplaying game.

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The Fall of Avalon Hill

180px-logo-avalon-hillI came across this fantastic article about the history of Avalon Hill, published on a small Earthlink site called the Academic Gaming Review, by Peter L. de Rosa. By all accounts, this was originally written in 1998 and published here in 2002 (seemingly with some updates). It doesn’t appear to have been updated since then, so some of the information in the essay is aged. I reached out to Peter to find out if he could write an update and to get his permission to repost it… but I didn’t receive anything back. I hope he doesn’t mind my reposting it here, though if I hear he does, I will certainly take it down.

In the subsequent 15 years since the article, boardgaming has blown up. Ticket To Ride, Puerto Rico, Agricola, Dominion, Pandemic… all released after this was written. Comparing the boardgame industry/hobby from 2002 to 2017 is like comparing the airline industry in 1950 to today. There are now over a thousand new games coming out every year, from both major and minor publishers and through self-publishing channels. GMT has grown into the premiere wargame publisher, flanked by companies like Consim Press, MMP, Legion Wargames, Compass Games, and Osprey Games. Decision Games and Flying Buffalo, noted  within the article as some of the stronger players in 2002, are also still active.

The story of Avalon Hill, which published a lot of important titles in the 70’s and 80’s, is a good one for interested gamers to know. Peter gives a thorough account of the messy details of what happened to the giant, as well as a bit of conjecture about the future.

Enjoy!

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Essen Spiel 2016

Essen Spiel 2016

One of these days I’m going to make it to Essen to see Spiel first hand. Heck, one of these days I’m going to make it to any boardgame convention. What I’ll do in the meantime is continue my Naked Anticipation geeklist over at BGG, which is a reminder list of all the cool looking games coming out at Essen and beyond, into 2017.

There’s a lot of stuff on the list. Not all of it is coming out at Essen, and I’m obviously not going to add all these titles to my collection. I’ve become a lot more discerning about what goes in my collection, since games that enter it are usually slow to get played. Notable games premiering at Spiel are Guilds Of London, A Feast For Odin, The Colonists, and Great Western Trail. These are the perhaps the big boys of the con.

Lesser known, perhaps “fly under the radar” titles are Potions Brew, Railroad Revolution, Sagrada, and Tallinn. This is stuff I hope to see more of during the con via Twitter, BGG Live Stream, etc.

Check out the geeklist above and let me know what you think of some of these games, and let me know if there’s anything I missed over at Twitter.

A solo spin of the COINs

A solo spin of the COINs


I have a bit of gaming problem. I’m starting to fall in love with some pretty heavy games, and I don’t have anyone to play them with.

I won’t bore you with the details. It’s enough to know that I’m kind of low on free time and on accessible friends who are also fans of heavy games. If I want to play, I’m playing on my own. Yeah, I’m working on fixing this, but for now, that’s my sob story. The reality is that this doesn’t both me too terribly much. I view solo gaming much the same way as reading a good book or playing a video game. It’s just another single-person activity, but while there are a lot of great books and video games out there, I’ve had trouble finding many great solitaire boardgames with depth. I’ve pined for something to sink my teeth into, that would transport me to a new world and let me struggle through it, alone.

This is when I discovered the series of COIN games from GMT. I’d encountered the term “COIN” before. I’d heard whispers about the system, but I didn’t know much about the games themselves. I had them pegged as “just another type of wargame”. As a euro gamer, and even as a euro gamer who enjoys heavy games, I didn’t want to get myself mired in the thick porridge of wargaming. Too long. Too complex. Not especially fun. Right?

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