Friday, May 25, 2018

Patrick's top 101 board games

Top 101 game as of May 2018

The ladies over at board game blitz podcast announced they are doing their top 100 board games in video and discussed on the podcast how they did it.  I exported my BGG plays and sorted by number of plays and reduced it down to about 200 then used the Board Game Ranking Engine at Pub Meeple website.  Here it is - I did 101 just to be different.

Rank Item
1 Glory to Rome
2 El Grande
3 Puerto Rico
4 Power Grid
5 Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
6 Advanced Civilization
7 Terraforming Mars
8 Lords of Vegas
9 Empire Builder
10 Cyclades
11 Colosseum
12 Alien Frontiers
13 T.I.M.E Stories
14 Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
15 Flash Point: Fire Rescue
16 Race for the Galaxy
17 Suburbia
18 Iron Dragon
19 Pandemic Legacy: Season 2
20 Ginkgopolis
21 Pandemic
22 The Castles of Burgundy
23 Dominion
24 Concordia
25 Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension
26 Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure
27 Hansa Teutonica
28 Arboretum
29 Carcassonne
30 Caylus
31 Merchant of Venus
32 Cribbage
33 Telestrations
34 Twilight Struggle
35 Shadows over Camelot
36 Akrotiri
37 Tobago
38 Snow Tails
39 The Golden Ages
40 Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn
41 Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island
42 Scrabble
43 Ra
44 Near and Far
45 6 nimmt!
46 To Court the King
47 Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension
48 Bohnanza
49 Metro
50 Stone Age
51 Alhambra
52 Deus
53 Ingenious
54 Lords of Waterdeep
55 Seeland
56 Codenames
57 Junk Art
58 Above and Below
59 Wizard
60 Azul
61 Worfel Bohnanza
62 Copycat
63 Mamma Mia!
64 Barenpark
65 Sagrada
66 Mage Knight Board Game
67 Powerboats
68 The Pillars of the Earth
69 Orleans: Deluxe Edition
70 Targi
71 San Juan
72 Pastiche
73 Mysterium
74 Patchwork
75 Pandemic: The Cure
76 Cleopatra and the Society of Architects
77 First Class
78 Spyrium
79 The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus
80 Roll Player
81 Guillotine
82 Ticket to Ride
83 Acquire
84 No Thanks!
85 Yspahan
86 Kingdom Builder
87 La Boca
88 Hanabi
89 Jaipur
90 The Networks
91 Among the Stars
92 Hostage Negotiator
93 Deep Sea Adventure
94 The Great Heartland Hauling Co.
95 Century: Spice Road
96 Rolling Japan
97 Long Shot
98 The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac
99 Formula D
100 The Grizzled
101 Adrenaline

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Podcasting 101

Podcasting 101:

I'll have to go back an check how long I've been doing audio podcasting. Still it started with me doing a few minutes on my phone and sending it in to What Did You Play This Week as segments somewhere around episode 45 and has grown to regular 10-15 minute segments and a separate hour long 'conversation' show.

Before I start I need to send a thank you out to Gil Hova who is a former sound engineer who edits his own and several other podcasts and gave me a few pointers to get me started.

So how do I do it?

Like most everyone else I use the free Audacity software to do the bulk of my sound editing.  

For purposes of recording my own segments or with guests I use a piece of software called Amolto. This is NOT free but worth it. I use this for two reasons. It 'syncs' with skype and records my calls as they start, it also splits the call into my microphone side and the caller side (everyone on the speakers even if I have multiple callers). If the call quality is good and the recording doesn't need a lot of editing I can often use these files and get things edited quickly.  

For better sound quality we ask everyone on the call to record themselves then send the files to me so I can bring them all into audacity and I can mute dogs in one file or a cough in another, etc. It is important that everyone wear headphones when they record so they only record their voice and keep the volume down on the headphones so sound doesn't 'leak' and get picked up by the recorder.  You can also adjust your gain on your microphone to minimize this.  Everyone should save their files as a WAV or FLAC - these are loss less / uncompressed methods. Yes, they are larger but they will not line up in your audacity if people use different compression methods and you will have an editing nightmare.

Even when guest are recording on their end I run Amolto as a backup recording in case we have a problem with some one's files. This has happens.

If your software doesn't have the option to record in mono I change all the files to mono. It makes the files easier to edit as well as most podcasts are produced in mono.  Also, I tend to listen to podcasts with one ear bud in at work and when they are in stereo with one speaker in one ear and one in the other it sounds weird.

The next step is to run some noise reduction on your files.  I usually run this on each track.  It is helpful to have everyone start with 10 seconds of silence so you have a section of silence to 'grab' as  your baseline.

After all of the all of the files have been inserted and aligned give it a listen. One way to help get things aligned is for everyone say one-two-three and clap, this shows a spike you can find and align the tracks or everyone say their name so they are all on in about the same spot and not over each other. I mute out sections I do not want to hear, cut out segments that do not work, cut and paste fun parts to the end for a 'blooper' reel, etc.  Sometimes I may need to listen several times to make it work.  There are options for listening at high speed just to listen for those errors then you can pause and fix them. 

Once the overall segment is where I want it - I export it as a .WAV file.  At this point I run it through a program called Levelator.  This sort of balances out the highs and lows of conversation and puts everyone at a relatively same volume.  For a single speaker this is not a big deal but for multiple speakers this important to me although it takes a little while in computer time.  You don't want to do this with any of your music or special effects in - you add those later.  This is a simple program - you just drag the exported .WAV file over the Levelator icon on your desktop and it runs and creates a new file with the word "output" added.

I start a new audacity file and import the output .WAV file back in to audacity and then I add my pre-recorded intro and exit music as separate tracks. I use the fade options to make it fade out as the speaking starts.  I do the same when I want to add some music or sound effects during the discussion.  Example of a levelated track with intro with a little overlap below.

When things sound great then I export to an MP3.  I usually use the highest quality settings to keep the sound quality best over file size issues.  You may need to download some additional MP3 converters in addition to the basic audacity program - it should be outlined on their page where to get the codecs. How do the files get sent to the airwaves?  I'll have to leave that question up to our chief at WDYPTW HQ.

My equipment is an old laptop that we were had replaced but still works for skype chats and editing sound files. After recording a while and realizing I liked it I upgraded to a Blue Yeti microphone on a standard floor microphone stand from a guitar store. It just plugs into your USB port and sounds great.  I also have a pop filer but I'm not sold they are necessary.  I've found adjusting my gain to and keeping my mouth close to the mic keeps extraneous noise out and me sounding good.

Interview tips:
I'm a big fan of being prepared.  We do this with google documents.  This also applies to my recording segments. I have a script of what I plan to talk about in a google document that I can share with my guests and/or co-host. The nice thing about documents is we can work on it at the same time and I can edit it during the show if things come up and everyone sees the new format. Seeing the script in advance gives guests an idea of what you might be asking, and sometimes they have said 'hey don't bring that up' which could have been awkward otherwise. I schedule our calls in advance with a calendar item to make sure everyone is on board and this also helps alleviate time zone issue.  Lastly I try to send out a reminder email/text/DM that day just to make sure everyone is ready.  A web cam is not necessary but I find recording with a camera allows for picking up on nods and other cues to keep the conversation flowing.

Final tips:
Just do it.  Record some things, edit some things.  Send them to friends for feedback or even post them.  They don't have to be perfect. Tell people you are new and ask for comments. This blog is the result of several new pod-casters asking me for tips and me deciding to put them in one spot to share.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Patrick's Top Games of 2017

Over at What Did You Play This Week Podcast they asked us to all submit our top three or so games we played that were published in 2017 - I had a hard time coming up with that list. Per BGStats I played 202 different games in 2017 but BGG will not let you sort by year very easily. I did a quick search and it appears there were 35 published in 2017. I've kind of went away from the "cult of the new" and started to focus on playing some older games and unplayed games in my collection so there are not as many as I'd expect.

None the less I did come up with a list but felt I needed to add some categories first:

Best Expansion: Clank!: Sunken Treasure by Renegade games.
This adds a new board and cards to the base game.
It added cards with a discard function that sort of
acts as a "cull" that many felt were missing from
the base game. The app was quickly updated and
I was able to play it solo with the app many times.

Best Reprint: Notre Dame: 10th Anniversary by Alea/Ravensburger
This is a well loved game by Stephan Feld. I have
heard the stories and seen it played and wanted to
give it a try. The bonus of a mini expansion of
some cards for The Castles of Burgundy was a
bonus that made me decide to get it having never
actually played it. I found the interaction of play
racing your carriages between the neighborhoods
to get the tokens, yet building up your own
buildings and fending off your rat plague an
interesting balance.

Biggest Disappointment: First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet Portal Games
My disappointment mostly lies with a long history of Portal having issued games with no blind play testing and it clearly showing in the final result with dozens of pages of questions on BGG within a few days if it hitting the market. I was very excited about this theme and decided to give them another try and ordered it and was unable to play it from the rules/video and app when it first arrived. They have since updated things but too little to late. The game is also just very negative. You start with everything and the game continually beats you down, it just isn't fun.

Played but Missing, games that you will likely see on others' top list but not mine:
  • Spirit Island: by Greater Than Games - Fabled Nexus line
    • I went into this soured by the delayed Kickstarter delivery - maybe this clouding my thoughts also. I enjoy this game, but do not love it. I've played it solo a few times and felt it needed more players to have the powers to react to each other.  The only time I played as a group was with four and it took too long.  Maybe 2-3 is the sweet spot.  It is solid but just not grabbing me to push to play it more.
  • Wasteland Express Delivery Service: By Pandasuarus Games.  
    • I enjoy a good pick up and delivery game. The play length, some confusing play - why do I need to wait a turn to do this or why are there cards that effectively make me "miss a turn". These make this less fun that it could be. Amazing art and game production.
  • Gloomhaven:
    • I jumped on the second wave kickstarter bandwagon thinking I'd play this solo. Too much going on for my brain to keep track of solo. I've played it once two player and I see the interest but due to the size and complexity it can't really travel well and set up/tear down is complex so it just doesn't get played very often.
Haven't Played yet, but want to try:
  • The 7th Continent - rave reviews but the huge size and repeat nature scared me off.
  • Charterstone - normally I'd like this but some of the reviews I've heard have me concerned.  
  • Lisboa - I'm sure I'll try it but unlikely to want to own it.
Honorable mention:
  • Azul - I really enjoy this tile game with gorgeous bits. There can be some "take that" with how you draft the tiles. I definitely want to play it more than I have so far.
  • Sagrada - I think I'm just burnt out on this. Played it a lot early in the year but moved on. This is how I am - not necessarily a reflection of the game.
  • The Fox & the Forest - amazing two player trick taking game.  I've just not played it much but I wanted to mention it.
Ok, here is the final list, the one you have been waiting for....

My top games published in 2017:

#3 Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn by Fantasy Flight Games

A relatively new to me game with only two plays. I'm a long time civilization builder game player, but with board games and digitally. This game claims to fit that bill in 1.5-2 hours and seems to work. Starting with one city and limited tech and you expand your civilization, growing out, learning tech, fighting off barbarians, and building wonders - all the things I like to do in these types of games.

A fairly abstract tile building game. All players have to stack roughly number shaped based on the card drawn if they can or put them on the lowest level that scores nothing. Although there are other similar game the third - vertical dimension is what sets this one apart for me.

#1 Near and Far - Red Raven Games
The next story telling game in the Above and Below universe. This adds a bit more game and a little less story telling. The addition of a campaign mode with multiple maps along with the arcade mode for single play games adds more variety and long term interest. The usual fantastic art from Ryan and great kickstarter coins and bit are added plus.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


I guess it is official - I have epilepsy.

I had my first seizure when I was 18ish - my first college break after a term of heavy drinking and all-nighters for my school work pumping my self full of massive doses of caffeine. I don't remember much of it other than feeling chest pains afterward because my dad did the Heimlich maneuver on me thinking I was choking.  I remember waking up in the ambulance and the driver asking me who was president - I was hoping to vote for Gary Hart at that time and considered telling him Gary but figured then wasn't the time for a joke.

My second was Fall 2013 - I had been up late the night before at a Halloween event, up early to do some household shopping then off to an all day gaming event at a buddies.  I recall sitting down to play a game and feeling a bit odd.  Next thing I knew I was in an exam room at the local hospital.  I followed up this seizure with a visit with a neurologist.  We did brain cap tests, flashing lights, scans, etc. Nothing was determined to be the cause other than maybe exhaustion, energy drinks and junk food.

I just had another - October 2017. This one was under less stressful conditions. I had been cleaning house waiting my sisters arrival. I had a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast with some coffee. I had a bowl of cereal before she arrived.  She asked about a beauty store so we went there.  After that I had the idea to visit a local Halloween store since she and I both like holiday.  I felt a little weird when we arrived, maybe my blood sugar was low, so I grabbed protein bar from my trunk.  We split up in the store and the next thing I knew I was in an ambulance being asked some questions.  I faded out and came to in the E.R. gain with my wife and sister.  They did a CT and blood work and didn't see anything.

Here I am again unable to drive for 6 mos. The doctor upped my medication for now - its going to take me a while to get used to this. It has also taken several days for me to get better physically and mentally.  I may go in for more tests - not sure.

Not sure what this means for my job or life in the short term - long term. I'm going to have to assume it is going to happen again sometime...

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Mille Bornes Story….

The Mille Bornes Story….

This has a humorous ending - really.  If you’ve not played the game Miles Borne do not bother reading.

My grandmother died in February about 2004 - she lived in Soo Saint Marie, Ontario - Canada.  We live in Dayton, OH.  We got a flight from Dayton to northern Michigan with a layover in Detroit.  It was cold and rainy in Dayton and our flight was late in arriving from Detroit and therefore late in returning us back. We arrived into Detroit in mix of ice and snow.  We soon learned that the flights were all canceled and found a hotel.  We got a roll-a-way for our son and went to bed hoping to fly out in the morning.  Our son woke up in the middle of the night with some sort of stomach flu and was sick every hour or two.  We had no luggage - it went on without us.  My wife dealt with our sick son while I tried find out what was going on with the tickets.  Found out we were unlikely to fly out anytime soon.  My wife turned to me and said “you can drive in this right?” - I grew up in - upper upper Michigan - driving in snow was nothing to me.  We scrapped the flight and rented a car.  It took an extra hour or two get out of metro Detroit but after that the sun was out and the roads were clear.  We pressed on with little sleep and a little one still getting sick on the clock.  We found a toddler clothes store and got him some clothes and made our way up.  We called my mom and found out she had picked up our luggage and it was in the room.  We finally made it the Canada/US border and I saw the Stop/ArrĂȘte sign and turned to my wife and yelled “coup-fourrĂ©”!  Made for a funny end to an otherwise long arduous trip.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Trees in games


What appears to be a maple see in Photosynthesis but more of a weeping willow shape

Red Maple - my yard

We assume is a Blue Spruce with a pine cone in Photosynthesis

Pine of some sort - my yard

Clearly an Oak and acorn in Photosynthesis

Giant Oak in my front yard

This one is not as clear in Photosynthesis - some guess the seed is a Linden

Some similar trees on our street

Another tree in our neighborhood with similar seeds.


Ginkgopolis leaves - real, across the street and in the game.


Jacaranda tree

Royal Poinciana - a southern tree


Most of our Lilac's are more of a bush

 2014-10-30 11 09 40 Red Maple during autumn on Lower Ferry Road in Ewing, New Jersey.JPG

Maple Tree - See above in Photosynthesis section

 Salix alba Morton.jpg

We had these in upper Michigan where I grew up


A typically southern tree


A Mediterranean tree - I saw some in Italy 

Bgbo cornus kousa var chinensis ies.jpg

Dogwood - known for being a southern tree

Oak Tree - See above in Photosynthesis section


Cassia Trees - Found is south Florida

Friday, August 4, 2017

Terrarolling Mars

Before the notice went out for the Gen Can't roll and write contest I really had no interest in designing a game.  I play games, and I talk about games on a lot of podcasts and social medial.  When I saw that one of the judges was my buddy Mason Weaver, who hates puns, as well as Suzanne Sheldon, the host of the contest, who also hates puns - I started thinking of ideas for a pun based roll and write.

My initial thoughts were to create a roll and write version of an existing game - Daniel Newman had just done this with Rolled West. 

Mason had introduced me to Kapitan Wackelpudding at BGG - a crazy dexterity based roll and move game where you stack pieces and push them around a map, when something falls it impacts the game. 

kapitan wackelpudding bgg

I tired to come up with a game with stacking dice but I was able to stack 6,7,8 dice and push them around my map quite easily without dice falling.  I then started looking a something that started to feel like a roll and move with spaces and finally gave up.

I switched over to Terraforming Mars.  I created a version with a basic concept of rolling two dice and picking one for the player and one for the dummy player.  I received some feedback that there was no tension and no engine building.

I looked retooled it to include cards.  I sorted through all the cards and came up with a selection of cards for each die roll.  I also added some tension by adding the generations track - every time you rolled doubles you marked off a generation that would speed up one of the end game conditions.  This also was a response to a "too many dice rolls" comments.  I tried to balance the card costs with making things hard to buy with out making you need too many dice rolls to get something.

The early version of the cards were actual photos of the cards.  Since the rules required no copyrighted material I decided to make the cards more generic boxes with text.  This also gave me a opportunity to rewrite the cards with puns and other silliness.  One of the card rows was city cards - I created a city card based on the home location of each of the judges.
Jr is from Dallas, Mandy is from Ottowa, Nicole from Toronto, Edo from Mt. View, and Mason from Oklahoma City.  Cupola City became Couple of Cities.

I also created some specific cards - like Nicole always calls dogs pics on twitters "pupper" and there is a pets card in the inspiration game.


This one is just silly...

The original has a card called Lake Mariners.  My buddy Nick Mariner has a twitter account called I call Yellow so I made this as a homage to him.

I actually kind of gave up on it.  I didn't get many more play testers and wasn't finding the time to do much of my own as Origins approached.  Then after Origins I got really sick and ended up in the hospital.  My son brought me my laptop after I started feeling better but was still waiting to get released so I decided to at least wrap up what I had done and get it submitted.  It definitely needs some balancing and revisions but overall I guess as my first attempt at a game at all it isn't so bad.

The final submitted version of the game can be found here.