Are You Coming to GenCon 2009?

If you plan to be there, don’t forget to look for Best Dang Games! We will be wandering the floor enjoying the event. However, we want to meet you!

If you see us, come up and say hello. We will have BDG shirts on with our logo.

If you give us your e-mail address for our mailing list, we will share a 20% coupon with everyone that signs up at GenCon. How sweet is that?

But wait, there’s more! By getting on our mailing list, you automatically qualify for the 10% off coupon all registrants get. Yes, 20% off one order and 10% off a second order.

But wait, we aren’t done yet! We will also have a drawing from the registered names. FOUR lucky gamers will get their pick of a game that is $50 or less (including shipping) for FREE! Yes, FREE!

So, is it worth your effort to say hello?
1) Free newsletter
2) 20% off one order
3) 10% off a second order
4) Potential to win one of four games (your choice under $50 with shipping)

Happy Gaming and we hope to see you at GenCon!

August 11, 2009 at 1:49 am 1 comment

New Race For The Galaxy Card Game Expansion Videos Posted

Cory Duplantis has hooked us up again with some more review and overview videos. We focused on Race For The Galaxy again, but this time, we dove into the two expansions, The Gathering Storm and Rebel Vs. Imperium.

If you are curious about this game, hopefully these will help you get a better feel for them.

August 7, 2009 at 3:17 am Leave a comment

New Race For The Galaxy Card Game Video Posted

We have the first in a multi-video series posted about the Rio Grande Games card game, Race For The Galaxy.

This game is an advanced version of Puerto Rico and San Juan, but with a science-fiction theme.

In this first video, of three, Cory Duplantis introduces the concepts of the game and how the basic flow of the game works.

July 29, 2009 at 2:48 am 1 comment

New Catan Card Game Video Posted

If you like Settlers of Catan, Card Games, and portability, you should check this video out. Cory Duplantis provides you with an overview of how to play the game, as well as a bit of strategy and a review.

Enjoy!

July 29, 2009 at 2:40 am Leave a comment

Luck in Board Games: How Much Should There Be?

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

–Seneca

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

–Thomas Jefferson

Most board games contain a combination of skill and luck, and this is no accident. Without some element of skill, some ability for players to influence the outcome of the game, there would be no need for players at all. The children’s game, Candyland, works exactly the same regardless of who is playing, because the players are irrelevant: They have absolutely no volition or ability to affect the game.

Without some luck, however, many games would lose a lot of their replayability. Even a small element of randomness can change a game from something where there is a single best strategy all the time, into a dynamic game where players must constantly adapt their strategies to the random circumstances of each particular play session.

Naturally, each person has their own sweet spot for combinations of luck and skill in a game. Some gamers dislike luck and randomness because they feel it dilutes the pure match of minds that a luckless strategy game offers. Other gamers don’t like thinking about infinite complex strategies, and enjoy games that offer something random and fun every time. Personally, I tend to feel that the longer a game is, the less randomness I want it to have.

There’s no right answer. The real question to ask is, how much luck do *you* want? Here are some games that span the full luck axis:

No Luck

Generally speaking, abstract strategy games have no luck. This makes them ideal for people who hate the idea of random chance affecting their game, and like to play the same game many times in order to master it. Chess is obviously the best example of this, and has players who have played literally thousands of games.

However, in any multi-player game, such as a four-player game of Blokus, there can be a sense of randomness based on what pieces your opponents place. There’s no real luck involved, since everything is pure strategic choice, but the seeming randomness can keep the game feeling new each time.

Slight Luck

Most eurogames have a slight degree of luck and randomness. Ideally, this should be an amount sufficient to force players to adapt their strategies to each instance of the game, but not so much luck that an obviously inferior strategy can result in victory. A great example of this is Puerto Rico, where the single random element is the stock of available plantations. This is only a tiny part of the game, but players must consider it carefully when planning their strategies.

Medium Luck

Medium luck games often seem to be high luck games, until you realize that the luck always seems to favor the same players. Re-read the quotes at the top of the article – they apply especially to medium-luck games. Kingsburg and BattleLore may both have you rolling dice every turn, but it’s the strategic use of these dice, and positioning before rolling these dice, that often carries the day. Yes, a long series of bad rolls can lose the game for even the best player, but more often than not, a superior strategy will lead to victory. In a medium-luck game, smart play often means setting yourself up so that most rolls would still benefit you.

High Luck

Generally speaking, high luck games tend to be fairly quick. Consequently, they make good fillers when people are too mentally tired to play a low-luck game that requires lots of strategic thinking. Fluxx is a good example of a high luck game, where the random draw of a new goal card can swiftly change which player is likely to win, regardless of strategic play up to that point.

Entirely Luck

No games worth playing are entirely luck. A few kids’ games like Life and Candyland fall in this category, but give your kids some credit and try a game that gives them some volition. They’ll learn more, and probably enjoy it more too.

July 21, 2009 at 2:10 am 1 comment

Factors of Gaming

Author: J. Alexander (tankexmortis@gmail.com)

Recently I’ve become aware of a sinister subculture of individuals, each one intelligent, tactically-minded, and bent on global domination.

Okay, I’m a liar. They’re not sinister, for one; and they’re not so much after global domination as global acknowledgement. I’m sure they’d take domination if they could get it, though.

I’m speaking of people who, in this modern age of cell phones, internets, and video games so advanced they have entire economies of their own, still play board games. Yes, board games are still being developed, and they’ve been advancing just the same as any other form of entertainment. These boardgamers laugh at such tripe as Monopoly or Risk; those games are ancient in their eyes. Our eyes, I should say, because I’ve fallen into the world of boardgaming as well, and fallen hard.

It started innocently, with a few luck based card games. Soon, I was standing around the local comic shop, browsing their selection of small-print games. I picked one up. Then, another. I discovered the gigantic online community. I discovered the local game groups, and started attending their meetings. I expanded my collection with the help of online stores like Best Dang Games. Then, I expanded it some more. Then, more. I set up my own game group so I could introduce my friends to the games I found myself accumulating. To put it mildly, I was hooked.

So what is it that’s so appealing about board games in a digital age? It’s hard to pin down. There’s the fantasy factor – the same thing that makes Dungeons and Dragons still sell after all these years is part of what makes dungeon-crawling games, like Descent fun. Raiding dungeons for loot and fighting terrifying monsters is escapism at its finest.

There’s also the brain factor. A lot of these games are intellectually stimulating in the extreme. Ask one of the hundreds of people who have dedicated their lives to mastering the ancient Japanese game of Go – there’s a unique joy to exercising and stretching one’s brain in new and exciting ways. Board games offer that in spades.

There’s the social factor. Board games are intrinsically social – sure, you could play against yourself, but you’d always rather have a real opponent. Someone to judge yourself against, someone to congratulate you when you do well, someone to tease you when you do poorly, and someone for you to do the same. For many people, this is the most important factor.

So what is it for me? It’s a mixture of these factors, as I suspect it is for everyone. While everyone enjoys different games for different reasons, we all play, and we all have fun. And that’s the most important factor.

July 21, 2009 at 1:55 am Leave a comment

Pillars of the Earth – An Introduction

Builders and Cathedrals – Carcassonne This Is Not

Author – Tristan Angeles

It is the middle of the 12th century, and England is in anarchy, brigands prowl the countryside waiting for undefended travelers to victimize, while in the towns and villages, greedy lords rule over their subjects for their own gain. It is also a time of religion. Europe is in great upheaval as another crusade is sent to the holy lands to retake it in the name of God, while monuments are built for his glory. This is the setting for Mayfair games’ Pillars of the Earth board game, based on the book of the same title by acclaimed author Ken Follett.

Although the story is set in a bloody period of history, the Pillars of the Earth board game downplays the battles, and instead opted for another form of conflict. The game puts the players in the role of master builders looking for favor by contributing to the construction of Kingsbridge Cathedral. The players do this several ways, but it all comes down to efficient management of resources.

Is it a game or Is it Art?

Upon opening the box, you can say both of Pillars of the Earth. Inside is a beautiful board that can probably be mistaken for a painting ( and hey if you get tired of the game why not frame it!), by Michael Menzel. There are also a lot wooden blocks, which is the trademark of German games, for you to use as resources and player pieces. The game also includes cards for craftsmen, resources, events, and privileges etc. The included rulebook is well written, you can understand it easily, and beginners can get into the game by following the rulebook from cover to cover. Lastly, the game includes a six piece wooden cathedral you use as a turn marker.

The Politics of Scarcity

Pillars of the Earth is an easy game you can play upon set up while following the rulebook.  At the beginning, play time will most likely last two hours, but this will be cut short once you and the other players learn the game. Also due to the theme of the game, the game is suitable as a gateway game for friends, and family members who are new to gaming.

Players win the game through efficient resource management and strategically placeing builders through the course of the game. Planning moves is extremely important since a mistake in one turn may set back a player and haunt him for the following turns.

Phases of Play

A turn in Pillars of the Earth basically follows three phases.

In the first phase, players take turns choosing resource cards set up near the board. There are only a few resources, and they are: wood (brown), stone (gray), sand (cream), and metal. Only the first three resources are available in this phase of the turn. You can acquire metal, which is important in the last few turns, later on through builder placement. Aside from the resource cards, there are two random craftsmen cards available for the players choosing. To get a resource, you must allocate a number of workers equal to the number indicated on the card in the forest, quarry, and gravel pit parts of the board. In this part of the game, especially during the first turn, the players must have an idea of what resources and craftsmen they will be using.

The second phase of the turn gives the players the chance to place builders on the board to get several advantages. This is a bit complicated since the turn order is determined by drawing the player’s builders from a bag, which adds a bit of randomness to the game. When a player’s builder is drawn, he may either play it, in which case he/she will pay a cost, or pass and put down the builder on the board and wait for its turn to come up.

In the last phase of the turn, the player’s builders and workers are resolved in order of the numbers in the board. Depending on where the player has placed his builder, he may get several advantages. Placing a builder on the king’s court for example, will exempt him from taxes, and if he is the first player there will also reward him with one metal. On the other hand, placing a builder in Shiring gives the player whichever craftsman card is on the space. At the end of the turn, players have the option of converting the resources they have gathered to points by using their craftsmen.

Rinse and Repeat!

Place a piece of the cathedral on the board after the last phase of the turn. This signifies the end of the turn and the beginning of a new one. Shuffle and randomly place the resource cards on the board and the builders are placed inside the bag. At the end of the sixth turn, the player with the most points wins the game.

Conclusion

Pillars of the Earth is a great game for two to four players, although there has been reviews that say it plays well with two, and some with four. We think the game plays best with three. With four persons, there are not enough spaces on the board and is a little bit crowded, while for two persons there is not enough conflict. Get this game if you want a light strategy, with a little bit of randomness, and short game play.

Check out Pillars of the Earth

July 12, 2009 at 4:41 pm Leave a comment

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