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Thinking Out Loud

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I *want* to like Princes of the Renaissance... But it won't let me!

Got in a six-player game of Martin Wallace's Princes of the Renaissance last night. I'm the only one who had played before, so I was tasked with teaching the game. All I can say is thank goodness for the great BGG player aids available. I had played 4 times before, but it was still murky and difficult to explain... Granted, it had been a while, but I was disappointed with myself for how cloodgy the explanation was for the relative simplicity of the rules (only 4 pages).

But there's a heck of a lot going on in PotR. I call it a game of omniscience. You need to know at the very outset the value of virtually every game piece that's going to come into play -- because a big part of the game is auctioning off a variety of tiles. But instead of only a small set of tiles being available, nearly everything is available at the very beginning. Talk about a steep learning curve!

One of the problems I keep running into with PotR is the intimidation factor. There are so many options from the get go that it's hard to know where to begin. All the city, event and troop tiles are available -- so where do you start? Even with 4 previous plays under my belt, I felt I had no better advantage than anyone else going into my 5th game, as the game is so opaque that it's difficult to apply experience from one game to another if too much time passes.

In several games I've played, especially the most recent game, there's a distinct arms race as folks snatch up all the high value troop tiles (especially the ones that also generate influence income). In fact, this often goes on for several rounds in a row... The city tiles start out pretty darn expensive, and locking yourself into one of your three cities doesn't seem all that valuable, except for perhaps a few of the tiles (veto a war, gain +2 influence per turn, etc). So it's hard to decide when to auction them off, and which ones to start with. The event tiles have middling initial power, since the VPs awarded are fairly low... But I suppose you could snatch them for pretty cheap. But are you giving up too much by ignoring something else?

It's incredibly hard to have any basis for your decisions. It gets much easier in the 2nd and 3rd decades, where some game context has developed and you can better evaluate the players' positions and the relative value of auctions based on their more immediate returns... But that first decade is agony -- and invariably takes much longer to play out.

The Bottom Line: 6.5/10 (Was 7.5, with an 8.5/10 rating for "Potential") Despite the deceptively short rules (basically 4 pages), the game demands a lot from first time players. As with any auction game, players need to be able to gauge the relative value and importance of items being offered so they can bid intelligently. When you only have a few items available at a time, or work within a discrete set of items, that can be easily managed.

In Princes of the Renaissance, however, every tile is available from the outset. That means knowing and understanding the relative values of 8 different army tiles and 30 provincial tiles from 5 different regions. You need to know their relative value to yourself, if you want to bid/purchase them, as well as their relative value to each other player, in case you want to auction it off. And the relative value over purchasing/auctioning the tile compared to the value of instigating a war or taking one of the other actions available. This need for omniscience has turned several prospective players from the game. I've only gotten to play five times now, with three aborted attempts once the game was set up, as folks had no idea how to filter all that information.

Despite the frustration, though, I really want to play again to see if we can unlock some deeper sense of strategy and gameplay bred from greater familiarity with the auction elements and the mechanics.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Highlander Collection >> There Can Be Only One!!

(This is a notification of a new GeekList posted over on BGG)

I love seeing hot lists, favorite games and collections over on BoardGameGeek, or the fanciful daydreaming of questions such as "If you were stranded on a desert island with only 10 games...." etc.

So here's my twist on the classic conundrum. For whatever contrivance floats your boat (messy divorce, hot lava death, termites), you need to assemble a gaming collection from scratch -- with one iNsAnE caveat: There Can Be Only One Game Per Designer!!

That's it -- just one Reiner Knizia game... One Sid Sackson game. And so on. The real trick here is that you may not necessarily pick your absolute favorite game from a designer, because you also need a nice, well-rounded collection. If your favorite game from several designers are all auction/bidding games, the collection will become too lopsided.

So please join in and help me decide what the Ultimate Highlander Game Collection would include. One game per designer, as diverse a selection of formats, mechanics, playing times and interests as possible. And just to make it more interesting, only 10 games total can be included in the collection, and only from designers with at least 4 games to their credit.

It's a lot tougher than it sounds, as there are so many great arguments to include certain games, and much tougher arguments for keeping them off the list. So wander on over to BoardGameGeek and read my picks -- and then tell me what you think.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Great Escape >> Why I Game...

There are as many different reasons to get together to game as their are games and players to play them... but there are certainly some common threads -- socialization , creativity outlet, exercise for the brain and the nebulous notion of "fun" seem to top the list.

While these are all well and good, and indeed, I share many of these reasons to game in various intensities, when it comes right down to it, there is one overwhelming reason why I game: escapism.

I game to get away from the real world, get away from my life, and crawl into an alternate dimension where I feel I have far more control over my fate than otherwise. I know it sounds a bit dark and brooding.

Well, it is.

Don't get me wrong, I've got a great life. A wonderful, loving and understanding wife. A bright, energetic and healthy toddler. A roof over my head, clothes on my back and food to eat. When I view my life honestly, I realize that I have an embarrassment of riches. I am grateful for all the wonderful blessings in our life and how much we have to be thankful for.

Unfortunately, for some people, like me, that's just not enough. This stems from the fact that I'm a manic depressive with bipolar disorder. During the upswings, nothing could be finer and the world is bright, shiny and wonderful. During the downswings, no amount of cheer or good fortune can pull me out of the trenches. Except for gaming.

It's the escapist appeal of gaming that helps me deal with my depression more than anything else I've encountered. While it's true that ignoring problems won't make them go away, being able to free yourself of their burden for a while can certainly alter your perspective, or renew your determination and energy to attack them.

When the world has me down, games offer me a means to leave the world for a while, and get a fresh start. Each game is a second chance. Each game is a "do over." Each game is a cathartic expulsion of all that is dreary, listless and depressing.

If I fail miserably in a game, it only lasts as long as the game -- a refreshing change of pace to the compounded problems day to day life can snowball into. On the other hand, if I do well during a game, it offers a much-needed boost of confidence. After all, if I can succeed in this fictitious, artificial setting, what's to say that can't carry over into my normal life?

And further, knowing there's a definite end point is surprisingly reassuring. Knowing that, win or lose, the game is moving ever onward toward its resolution helps instill a sense of planning, encourage efforts to succeed and help deal with the eventual setbacks. It's a microcosm of an idyllic lifestyle, where you can step back and view things from greater perspective, and better accept how this little slice of surreal life unfolds.

The social aspect of gaming is certainly important to me, but this tends to stem from its association to the detachment and escapism from the real world. I don't like bringing real world issues to the game table -- such as talks of religion, politics, terrorism, war... things that can bring out the differences in my friends in stark contrast. I far prefer keeping conversation light, casual, and when possible, game-oriented -- focusing more on our shared passions and interests. That helps embellish the surreal quality of the escapist retreat that gaming provides.

So I game to get away from a dreary, unfulfilling and sometimes painful life. Thankfully, when I return from the table, I can see just how truly fortunate I am to have so many friends and the countless blessings our family enjoys.

Monday, February 20, 2006

"The Source" = The Bomb

I flew up to Minnesota last week for a job interview, and before my trip looked up nearby BoardGameGeek members in the area. Aside from wanting to find some gaming while I was in the frosty north, I also wanted to participate in my favorite travel pastime -- visiting new game stores!

After no less than four people replied that I had to visit this game store called The Source in Minneapolis/St. Paul (in Falcon Heights), my curiousity had been piqued. I was dazzled with comments about it being the best game shop in the world, featuring hundreds of games, tons of space and items for every enthusiast -- comics, anime, RPGs, boardgames, miniatures games, historical wargames. I was excited to visit, but balanced my enthusiasm with a bit of skepticism. I mean, after all, how great can one game store be?

The answer, surprisingly, is AMAZING.

I can now say without reservation that The Source is the best all around game/hobby shop I've ever set foot in. I actually had the taxi take me there straight from the airport, and spent 2 hours just browsing through everything they had.

I'd guesstimate The Source had easily 3-4,000 RPG items in stock -- from the popular D&D, Warhammer, Werewolf and d20 products to tons of small print run, indie published and out of print games. I looked through every rack of RPG games they had, and was amazed to find supplements of obscure games I own which I never realized had spawned any additional material!

They had 5 large tiered shelves bristling with Eurogames and designer games -- Fantasy Flight, Rio Grande, Ravensburger, Mayfair, Queen Games, Days of Wonder, you name it... There were nearly as many racks of grognardian wargames, and an entire back room filled with historical miniatures. Then you get all the Warhammer and fantasy miniatures. Not to mention the comic book and anime section as big as our entire basement.

The staff was incredibly helpful, and I was able to track down some small indie press run RPGs from the Forge.net forums, as well as a variety of obscure Call of Cthulhu/Lovecraftian bits -- the Call of Cthulhu soundtrack (from the indie Lovecraft Society production) and Cool Air, an amazing Lovecraft Society DVD featuring several short films inspired by HPL.

I was overwhelmed, and could have easily spent 2-3 more hours there shuffling through the different games, books and bits they had. The Source is amazing, and I'm looking forward to another trip to Minnesota just to visit that store again!!

So what's the most amazing game store you've ever been to?

Battlestations >> Fielding Questions

Since I'm such a big fan of the boardgame Battlestations (Gorilla Games) and have been a vocal advocate for the game in forums and GeekLists over on BoardGameGeek.com, I've had quite a few of my fellow geeks drop me a line asking for more information about the game. How difficult is it to learn? How long does it take to teach new players? Is there a lot of replay value?

I've written so many responses, that I had started to save snippets and repost them to various users. It's a long enough series of responses, though, that I thought it would make good sense to post it here, as well... Enjoy/ignore at your leisure.

Is Battlestations hard? Is it a "light" game? Heavy game?

I'd say Battlestations is light-to-medium mechanically for the players, but medium-to-heavy for the gamemaster running the missions. While the players only need to be familiar with a fairly small ruleset (such as the skills of their character and a rough idea of the skills of their comrades), ideally the gamemaster will have a better understanding of the overall system so he can answer questions as well as handle the bad guys.

How hard is it to learn? Can we get started with a game in 15 minutes? I'm concerned my gaming buddies might be intimidated.

I think it's realistic to get a group of new players up and running in 15 minutes or so, but the gamemaster will need to invest far more time for the first mission. I'd strongly recommend playing with pre-generated characters the first time, so you save time answering questions about character generation or asking players to make decisions without knowing the system...
There's a great introductory mission named "Boot Camp" in the core rules that helps players run through most of the mechanics during the course of a mission. It's a great way to introduce a lot of the elements in an organized, structured setting rather than trying to cover everything at the outset. All players really need to know to start is what the different ship modules do and how to resolve skill checks.

Then, once you get underway for the first mission, you can offer suggestions to the players for the first round or two to encourage participation. Soon, most groups will pick up on this and start taking the initiative, planning together and otherwise getting into the flow of the game.

How much replay value is there? Do all the sessions/missions start to feel the same after a while? How repetitive is the gameply?

The game has incredible replay value. The core boxed set alone has 36 different missions, with a wide variety of puzzles, conflicts and encounters to keep players on their toes. And as players improve their skills, expand their ship or possibly gain/lose new crew members, it doesn't take much to shake things up so each session feels fresh and new.

I'd say the majority of the missions don't "replay" well based on the fact that the core mission might revolve around a puzzle or mystery (which, once revealed, isn't always easy to mask). But that doesn't mean there's little replay value.

Many of the missions are fairly simple to modify -- change the number of enemy ships, face a different type of alien race, clutter the board with more asteroids, introduce a small hiccup or wrinkle to spice things up... And suddenly, some of these missions feel very, very different despite a relatively minor change.

And who's to say you can't revisit one of the puzzle missions several sessions later -- after going up in rank and flying a larger ship, the mission might play out differently when you're facing a massive Silicoid warship armed with veterans than that teeny Xeloxian ship manned by some space cadet wannabes.

Is the Galactic Civil War expansion necessary? Is it worth adding?

Oh yeah. The Galactic Civil War expansion introduces 36 more missions, again, many of which can be replayed numerous times with minor tweaks. GCW also adds tons of new options to customize missions to your liking -- recurring villains and personalities, a very neat campaign system to link larger story arcs together, new skills, items and even some new modules to kit out your space ship with. It's an incredible value and can dramatically extend the life of the game.

Yeah, but... is Battlestations worth it?

I can't recommend the game strongly enough. It fills such a novel niche that no other game comes close to filling for me. A quasi Star Trek: Next Generation/Paranoia sci-fi setting, incredibly neat "dual action" system with the onboard ship actions on the one hand and the space map with ship-to-ship conflict on the other, it's got character advancement/development, lots of neat customization options and most important of all -- it's a heckuva lot of fun to play!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Geekway to the West 2006 >> It's Official

Geekway to the West 2006 is now OFFICIAL! We have a date, a venue and are planning a variety of events. Thanks to my Geekbuddies here in St. Louis for all their help in coordinating this year's event. This year's Geekway will be bigger and better than ever (even though we only have one previous year for comparison). We're really excited about doubling or tripling our attendance.

This year's Geekway will indeed be the best of both worlds. Based on feedback from last year's event by the 2005 Geekway Attendees, and some new ideas for the 2006 Geekway, this year will actually feature two different events:

KICKING IT OLD SCHOOL: First, there will be a small, informal "Old School" get together on FRIDAY APRIL 28th at my house (where last year's entire event was held). Due to the limited space available, Friday's event will be reserved for this year's Geekway Volunteers and last year's attendees -- or long distance out of towners.

THE NEW WORLD ORDER: This year's main event will be held on SATURDAY APRIL 29th at a nearby community center in St. Charles (about 15 minutes from Ynnen's house). Doors will open at 10 AM sharp, and we'll need to wrap up our festivities and be out of there by 11 PM. Several local gamers have expressed willingness to have folks over after the center closes for even more gaming goodness.

This year we'll be featuring a few organized events, too -- such as a huge game of Werewolf, a life-size/live action Mall of Horror game, some Boardgame Trivia and a few other tricks we've got up our sleeves. Once we have the details nailed down and volunteers in place to help manage some of these events, we'll ask folks to SIGN UP online or by email.

If you'd like to suggest a certain event, please let me know and I'll discuss it with our other volunteers.

In order to ensure we have enough room available to accomodate everyone, we're asking folks to PLEASE PRE-REGISTER if they plan on attending the Geekway to the West 2006 Main Event on Saturday, April 29th. Last year, with barely a month of planning, we were able to get 22 people together to game.

This year, by spreading the word earlier and opening up the event to our local boardgame meetup community, we think it's realistic to draw anywhere from 50-70 people for Saturday, April 29th -- possibly even more! The more gamers, the merrier, but we need to keep close tabs on attendee registration to manage costs and coordinate events.

To cover the costs involved with the Geekway (building reservation, refreshments, supplies and incidental costs for managing the event) we're asking attendees to please consider donating to the cause. If everyone attending were able to donate $10-15, we'll have more than enough to cover our core costs, as well as supplement the event with bonus goodies. 100% of all donations will be applied toward the convention. Any donations in excess of the facility and supply costs will be used to purchase snacks, beverages and PRIZES for the attendees. Huzzah!

Here's to some great gaming in 2006! Hopefully you'll be able to join us in St. Louis this April for the Geekway -- but if not, all the best to you and yours!

If you have any questions or are interested in attending, feel free to contact me via GeekMail (from my BoardGameGeek profile) or email.

Monday, February 13, 2006

High on Life >> The Prototype Buzz...

Ahh, nothing fill me with more pride, energy or zest for life than watching our three-year-old son blossom and grow before our eyes -- but having a successful session playtesting one of my prototypes is the closest thing to come in second.

After all, in a way these are my little babies, too. I feed them ideas, nurture them with creative input and try to pass along what I've learned about game design. But sooner or later, if I ever want them to succeed in life, I have to send them off into the world and just hope that I've prepared them well for what may come.

It can be a nervewracking experience to ask folks to playtest a prototype. Like sending a child off to school on his first day -- Will the other kids like me? What if they all think I look funny? What if nobody wants to play with me?

I invest a lot of time and energy into game designs. Many of them I know will never see the light of day, but that doesn't make me love them any less. There are several designs in my growing portfolio of prototypes, though, that I sincerely believe are "good enough" right now to make it in the big, bustling world of the gaming hobby.

I have a great group of gaming buddies here in the St. Louis area and abroad (via BGG and online communications) who have been very supportive and helpful in my quest to see my fledgling designs grow up big and strong.

While I appreciate the positive feedback (as any proud parent does), I'm equally grateful for the constructive criticisms and disagreements. I know everyone has different parenting skills, but I try to keep an open mind. Even though these are my babies, other people have experience in a broad range of skills and disciplines far wider than my own. By embracing this feedback and helping provide a better environment and framework for my children, they can only benefit in the long run.

But sometimes the short run can be harrowing. Like having your child sent home from school with a note from the teacher, I can't help but cringe and prepare for the worst when someone starts saying "It was okay, but..."

I just need to remain confident that I've shown my children the love, dedication, support and positive reinforcement necessary to become strong, responsible and solid citizens. And if my game designs never reach that stage, that's ok. I know one day our three-year old will!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

[Review] Minion Hunter >> One of My All-Time Favorites

I finally was prodded (guilted?) into writing a full blown review for Minion Hunter, one of my all-time favorite boardgames. The full review details the components, gameplay, core mechanics as well as highlights the main pros and cons of the game. You can read the full review over at BoardGameGeek, but here's the main op-ed piece to whet the appetite.

OVERVIEW: Minion Hunter is a cooperative board game for 1-6 players, published in 1992 by Games Designer Workshop. The game is set in GDW's "Dark Conspiracy" setting, a dark, gritty futuristic setting of the world gone to hell. Into this cheerful setting step the players, working together to fend off the forces of evil from destroying the world -- or at the least messing it up worse than it already is. The players will succeed or fail based on their teamwork, risk management and (admittedly) more than a few die rolls.

Minion Hunter is far more than the sum of its parts, and remains one of my favorite games. It is a "classic" game with novel gameplay and fun cooperative elements. Despite showing its age in terms of production quality, Minion Hunter still delivers an overall gameplay experience that other cooperative games fail to live up to.

I first played Minion Hunter back in college, and keep pulling it out. Its blend of luck, odds stacked against you and the component quality (compared to snazzier modern games) may not be for everyone -- but it offers a rich, rewarding experience for the right group, and is at least worth a shot for anyone at least moderately interested... I've played 20+ times, and still enjoy playing Minion Hunter.

There is an excellent expansion, titled Minion Nation, which offers new twists to add even more replay value (so you can't just memorize the Plot deck to know which events occur in which regions) as well as nicely summarizes all the charts and tables (with a few new options) that are occassionally referenced during the game. I'd rate this expansion as "must have" for anyone who enjoys Minion Hunter, or wants to get the most out of what this system can provide.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Minion Hunter is still one of my All-Time favorites, and I don't see that changing any time soon. It is one of the best cooperative games out there. Yes, there is a lot of luck involved, but clever groups with good teamwork can overcome luck and will be rewarded with a wonderful gaming experience. One of the most often played games I own. A social, outgoing and talkative group will get the most out of this game.

A recent replay confirmed just how much I love this game. It is indeed an "experience" game moreso than a "strategy" game, but for what it does, and the niche it fills, there is none finer. If the current version of Minion Hunter mechanically stayed intact but benefited from the excellent production quality and marketing that someone like Fantasy Flight Games is able to apply to a game, it would easily be among their top rated games, quickly outdistancing Lord of the Rings, Fury of Dracula and Arkham Horror as the best cooperative game in their library.

9.0 Base rating
+ .5 Nostalgia bias (still have warm fuzzies recalling previous plays)
+ .5 Best In Show bias (best cooperative game I've played)
- .5 For Components (especially the money)


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Hype About Skype >> As Good As It Sounds

I recently read a post on BoardGameGeek discussing something called "Skype." I had never heard of it before, and had no idea what it was, but I am so glad I asked! Skype is a free download software package that allows for voice conversation over your standard internet connection -- think if it as internet phone service, but instead of dialing a phone number, you're "dialing" another user via their online connection.

I was skeptical at first, after having shaky results from voice chat over AIM, MSN Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger. But after trying it out, I have to say, the sound quality on Skype is incredible. It's better than our cell phones, better than our land line -- the best online voice chat I've used.

And Skype is incredibly easy to use. It took less than five minutes to download, and installed quickly -- you don't need to fill out any technical information about your computer settings to set it up. Once installed, just plug in a microphone or headset/microphone combo and you're ready to go. There's a quick "test" call you can use to make sure everything is set up properly -- then you're ready to roll!

It sounds so simple, but given the fact that Skype works so well and is completely free (both to download and to use) it offers some delicious gaming applications.

I've already used Skype to chat with several of my GeekBuddies -- literally from coast-to-coast -- while playing games at BrettSpielWelt, and have to say, it is a phenomenal resource. Especially for two player games. The ability to chat freely over Skype offers an unmatched means to teach a new player how to play a game online, answer quick questions about the user interface and discuss the game events -- things that may be too clumsy or time-consuming to adequately do by typing mid-game.

I have not yet tried a larger "chat" with 3 or more people on Skype, but I would certainly give it a try. More voices may be a bit distracting, especially without the visual cues you use during normal conversation to pick up on nonverbal context (even for things as basic as "who is talking? whose voice is that?"). But with the right group of people and the right game, I think Skype can richly enhance a variety of online gaming experiences!

You can check out Skype here. If you decide to download Skype and want to give it a try some time and play something online at BSW, drop me a line -- or give me a quick e-call!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Chester "Iron Cornjob" Ogborn >> The Gaming Equivalent of the '85 Bears... At least for one night...

Well, I'm (sometimes) man enough to know when I've been whupped. And last night was one of those times. I haven't seen such a dominating performance since the 1985 Chicago Bears. Chester "Iron Cornjob" Ogborn schooled four of us repeatedly all night long...

Sure, it started out with a simple three player game of Ra, in which my third period score was actually higher than either other player's Final Score... Chester placed second as the scores rolled in 49, 32, 2... But that was just the pre-season, and as we all know, the pre-season don't mean Ditka.

Once our fourth player, Phil, showed up, the regular season kicked into gear, and Chester put his game plan into overdrive.

Keythedral came up first, and despite some rules ambiguities about some of the Law Cards, upon further review, there was insufficient contextual evidence to overturn the call we made on the field. The on-spot rulings benefited Chester in the long run, but even without those interpretations, he played a dazzling game with stellar defense and a coordinated offensive assault on adjacent resources. Chester reeled in 63 pts, with Chris and Jay tying for 2nd with 52... Poor Phil, the latecomer, wobbled in with 45 pts.

A brief but bloody game of Mall of Horror ensued. Rather than mix it up, Chester let everyone else duke it out for victim votes and goods from the truck out in the parking lot, and he "evaded" his way to a solid victory, scoring 8 points, while Chris and Phil -- rather than kill one of Chester's pieces and create a closer game *and* a 3-way tie for 2nd -- opted to kill Jay's last character on the final game, figuring a 2-way tie for second felt a lot better than a 3-way tie for Not First.

Next up, we decided to put Chester's steel like nerves and coordination to the test with some competitive Hamsterolle, which went over surprisingly well. With surgical precision, Chester carried Phil into a joint team victory. Chris and Jay quickly called for a rematch and won the second game, which was the only thing that kept Chester undefeated (hence the comparison to the Bears and not the Dolphins).

Switching gears to see how well Chester would adapt to relentless assaults from all sides, we moved on to El Grande. Despite an early scoring drive, Jay quickly fell by the wayside as Chester and Phil crushed everyone in their way. Chris and I thought the team/coop game was over once we finished Hamsterolle, but apparently they didn't get the message. The final scores were an amazing Chester/Phil tied for 1st with 117, Chris in 3rd with 86 and me dragging ass with 85. And up until the 7th round, I actually thought I was doing well!

Hoping to exact a bit of revenge, I called for a game fix, pulling out the real ringer in my collection -- X-Bugs. Phil tried to warn the others I was pretty good, but considering his usual blowhard comments, they figured it was all a setup to highlight even more of my ineptitude. Chester and I were teamed up together, and a few well-placed shots by my Flyborgs quickly drove Phil out of the game... Then Chester and I double-teamed Chris until we finally cracked his tough defense and destroyed the final base needed for victory. I can't help but wonder -- did Chester win this final game because he was on my team, or did I only win because I was paired up with Chester? Analysts unanimously felt it was the latter.

Regardless, it was an amazing display of gamesmanship, strategy, derring-do and other superlatives. Look for the "Cornjob Shuffle" coming soon to an ESPN near you.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Caught Off Guard >> Humor from a Fellow Geek

I was just reading a GeekList from fellow BGGer Eric Mowrer (ejmowrer) about Tired Old Themes for boardgames. Most are pretty much what you'd expect... Too many games about the Renaissance and princes vying for influence. Too many wargames focused on WWII instead of other conflicts. A zillion-and-one Catan's and -opoly games.

But I was a bit surprised to see Lord of the Rings/Middle Earth as an overdone theme. Mostly because I'm surprised someone else agrees with me that LotR is getting long in the tooth. It wouldn't be so bad if there were more great LotR games -- but with so many mediocre games bearing that license (LotR: The Search, I'm talking to you), it cheapens the overall theme.

But Eric Mowrer's comment about it cracked me up. In fact, I'm still chuckling about it now as I re-read this:

Ok, Frodo took the One Ring to Mt. Doom and destroyed it. It was very very hard. There were elves. I get it.

Thanks Eric, for the best out-loud laugh I've had in a loooong time. I needed that. :)