Geekbuddy Joseph’s top 5

A little while ago, I asked the guys in my gaming group to let me have their thoughts on their personal top 5 games. Knowing that this would be a difficult choice as they all have sizeable game collections, I am looking forward to their responses. To start with, here is the list from Joseph with interesting comments –

Hi Mark
My top 5 games are chosen because they each have distinct game mechanisms and themes that I find engaging. Each gives me the buzz which means that, for the time that I am playing them, I’m drawn into the world of the game and engrossed in the play. Another feature of these games is that I enjoy them when I come last, and not just when I do well. For me, that’s the hallmark of a great game.
I have c600 boardgames so choosing the top 5 is, naturally, pretty tough. By the top 5 I mean my favourite top 5 games, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as asking which 5 games would you own if you were marooned on a desert island.
And so, in ascending order:
5.    Dominion (pref 2 player, max 3)
An innovative ccg system that has so many combinations of cards to play, and, played with the right people, is quick and never outstays its welcome. It is like a cycling race, so knowing when to make the break and go for victory point cards is essential. The strategic choices are also wide: deck thinning or building up a large hand; money rich or cards with coins embedded; attack cards and/or defense cards etc. In short, you get a huge amount of bang for your buck in this game, and the opportunity to expand the decks with the game expansions is huge. I shan’t ever likely tire of this one.

4.    Steam (so-called ‘basic’ game)
This is everything I wanted Age of Steam to be, and I think Steam Basic is its elegantly mature successor. The railway building theme is great fun and it’s an elaborate competitive puzzle at the same time. I especially like the way that different parts of the board become battlegrounds for different players and the action choice mechanism (via the tiles) and the subsequent player order is inspired. Like Dominion, the game is expandable with the different maps and rules amendments, and the decision about when to switch from income to victory points is present as well. Martin Wallace’s best game, although Brass comes very close.

3.    Puerto Rico (any number of players)
The game that gave us role selections, with all players benefitting but the chooser getting that little bit extra. The theme is brilliant, as well as the need to do varied things while keeping your overall goal in mind. I also like the way that the varied end of game conditions allow players to influence the tempo. The different buildings keep the game play from becoming stale and I don’t think there is one obvious strategy – rather, it’s about responding to what others are doing. Last, I enjoy the fact that your role selection is as much about what other players are up to as it is about what you want to do. A brilliant game.

2.    Commands and Colors Ancients (including expansions)
This is the game I’ve played most, about 60 battles to date and still going strong. Card driven wargames, with a decent helping of dice rolling, are enormous fun and the Ancients’ theme is very attractive. I love the way that this game involves nudging the odds in your favour, by keeping your lines and the judicious placement of your leader(s). Even when the cards and dice go against you its at most frustrating rather than dis-spiriting: a battle is over soon enough to try again! It’s also fun to occasionally over-turn history and to see the underdog win. In fact, I love this game so much I even enjoy sticking on all those labels on the blocks!

And finally…
1.    Tigris und Euphrat
If God ever designed a boardgame it would be this good. T&E has it all: placement, strategy, tactics, combat, bluff, calculating the odds and a brilliant scoring system that forces players to diversify. I can’t think of a boardgame that stands head to head with this in the last 30 years. And so, if I could only ever own 1 boardgame, this would be it! I’d make sure it was the HiG version though – how Mayfair ever designed their board is beyond me 😉



Diamant is a great litttle game where the players go into a mine and collect jewels. They vie against each other and try to bluff eac other as the longer you remain in the mine during a round, the greater your chances for higher reward. The push-your-luck mechanic means tht you can risk remaining with the mining party or take a more obvious gain up front. The risk of falling upon hazards increases during the round as does the risk of losing everything you’ve planned to collect during the round. Wonderful game with loads of laughs and tension in equal doses.

Designed by Bruno Faidutti and Alan R. Moon

Published by Schmidt Spiele


Like westerns? See yourself as a mysterious Clint Eastwood type? Then look no further than a fun card game called BANG! Set in the wild west, spaghetti western style, each player takes on a role such as sheriff, deputy, outlaw or renegade  and a person along with a unique special ability and life points. The rest of the cards provide special weapoms for shooting at greater distances, Bang! cards for shooting, Miss cards, Beer cards for restoring life points, Duel cards, Jail cards and more. The object is to shoot the other players and come out on top before they do. Having said that, you can team up with the other goodies or baddies and when as a team. Or if you are the renegade, you are on your own and need to blast everyone to win. What is particularly cool is that you can bluff your opponents and side with them temporarilly and then zap them later if you can fox them enough. All in all, it makes for a fun experience.

If you like BANG!, here are some of the further expansions to add to the fun (a number of which are obvious tilts of the stetson to Hollywood westerns) –

Bang! A fist full of cards

Bang! High Noon

Bang! Dodge City

Designed by Emiliano Sciarra and published by Abacus

Spotlight on: Shaun Derrick of Games for the World

Spotlight on Shaun Derrick of Games for the World

I met up with Shaun at UK Games Expo 2010 where he had a stand promoting his World Cup 2010 Card Game which won the UK Expo award for 2010 Best Card Game of the year. He agreed to answer a few questions for  Boardgames in Blighty.  If you want to meet up with Shaun, he will be at ManorCon July 16/17.

What is your view of boardgaming here in the UK? What would you like to see done which could help board gaming become more mainstream amongst the public? How do we compare to other places you’ve marketed your games?

It’s hard not to be a little pessimistic about board gaming in the UK. Compared to countries like Germany and Netherlands, we have a general disregard for board games as being geeky! The reliance on computer games and TV to satisfy our leisure time highlights the idle minds of the majority. The lack of family and community spirit, particularly in urban areas detracts from the social connections that help board gaming thrive. Of course, there are thousands of people that do play board games in the UK, but it remains a ‘hobby’ rather than part of the social norm.

To change it would need a fundamental change in social attitudes as it is a cultural malaise rather than preferential decision making process on an individual basis. We live in a celebrity culture so getting ‘celebrities’ to play games and publicize would be a start! How about a few national powers cuts to extract people from electronic media!?

How did you get into game design/publishing?

I have loved board games since I was about 5 years old and won a game of Buccaneer against my parents at Christmas. I am not sure why I have such a fascination for cardboard and counters! I have always tinkered with game design from an early age so it has been an aspect of my life for as long as I can remember. Publication of my World Cup Game was a snap decision after the playtesting went so well.

What has been your most successful design/published game so far?

The World Cup Game and the Card Game for 2010 have both been successful. I have now almost sold out of the board game. I would say that The World Cup Game is the best football game of all as it is quite unique, covering the complete history of the World Cup with all the expansion sets.

Can you tell us about the process you went through to arrive at the finished product?

It all started with a wall chart – the type you fill in as a tournament progresses. I have always thought it would be good to be able to complete one of these in a few hours by playing through the games. Of course, it could not be played match by match so all matches in each phase had to be played simultaneously. Once the playtesting had been done and I had decided to publish the game I searched for graphic designers and manufacturers which took a lot of time. My wife helped me out by doing a lot of ringing round, getting quotes and visiting potential suppliers. Markus Welbourne of JKLM Games was a helpful source of information and it was through him that I looked abroad for the manufacturing side. The graphic design was done by Martin Whelan, a local football fan. Quite a lot of hours spent with Martin in front of his Mac, creating the designs. I decided to get the game manufactured by Ludofact in Germany as their price was reasonable and the quality good.

Any words of advice for others interested in design/publishing?

You need a lot of time and money. If you want your design to be published by a larger company, be prepared for a lot of negative comments. If you self publish you will need plenty of cash and you quickly need to find someone to distribute your game as internet sales alone will not be enough.

What project(s) are you currently working on and can you give us a sense of what the theme, mechanics, etc. and when we should be able to purchase the game(s)?

Four current projects.

1. The Rugby World Cup Game – similar mechanics to the World Cup football game but the scoring in Rugby is much harder to simulate. A few playtests have revealed a few problems but I am sure these will be overcome.

2. Imperialism: The zenith of Empires – a game covering the period from 1880 to 1920. It will be 5 to 7 players each taking the role of one of the imperialist powers of the time. The game will be card driven, similar to the GMT style of games e.g. Here I Stand, Napoleonic Wars. Lots of work to do on this one.

3. Tribes and Kingdoms – a history of Spain from the end of the Roman period to the creation of modern Spain in the early 16th century. A blind bidding style of game with appearance an disappearance of the various factions that conquered parts of the Iberian peninsula over the 100 years covered.

4. The Rugby World Cup Card Game – especially for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Not even started looking at this yet but it is likely to be released early next year.

What type of games do you like to play? Do you have any particular favourites? Are there any games that you just hate?

I enjoy all kinds of games. I love Diplomacy for its simplicity and sheer tension. I also like the Ticket to Ride series of games and its prequel, Union Pacific. My current favourite game is Here I Stand, a fabulous card-driven game covering the Renaissance period in Europe for 6 players. This is just so historically intense and very engaging. For more serious wargames I really liked ADG’s World in Flames – hardly get to play it as it is just so long! At the other end of the scale my favourite all time oldie is Buccaneer – the 6 player version which was so ahead of its time!

I really don’t like Railway Rivals any more. I used to play it a lot but it really is so tedious once the track laying is over.

What are your likes and dislikes in regards to mechanics?

Any dexterity games are off the play list. Merchants of Amsterdam is an example of game I just don’t like for the mechanics. Card driven games and games with a little luck I do like. However, there are so many economic games of buying commodities to sell to buy more to get a bigger commodity that they all seem to merge into one – there are too many of them. Once neat mechanic I did like was the dice tower in Wallenstein and Shogun.

Will you be attending any upcoming public demos, conventions?

ManorCon on 16/17 July weekend. I may have to miss Essen this year. I have been for the last 4 years, but I will not have a new game out for October, so no real need to go.

Forbidden Island

Hot off the press, I was particularly looking forward to this new cooperative game by Matt Leacock of Pandemic fame (one of my favorites). I really like the growth in cooperative games which adds another dimension to the social aspect of board gaming. This is another step and geared towards families.

Forbidden Island has the players as adventurers on an island and they need to collect 4 treasures whilst the island is sinking. The players each have a special ability which can hel to stave off the island sinking before they can collect the artiacts and escape via helicopter so the players need to talk to each other to make the best decisions to help the group.

Simpler than Pandemic, this is a very easy game to learn and teach others so ideal for families. The components and artwork are nice although the cards are slightly too thin but otherwise a first rate game. Loads of replay value due to the island setup being different each time you play. At 30 minutes once you are familiar with the rules, and at an affordable price, this game is a winner.

Produced by Gamewright.

Days of Steam

I picked up a copy of Days of Steam at last week’s UK Games Expo 2010. This is a very nice tile laying train game where players build routes between cities, completing circuits and shipping goods to capture victory points. Players need to build up steam to travel as terrain over which tracks are laid can impact how far you can travel in a turn.

This is a simple little game, great for families, which plays fast, is pretty easy to understand and is plain fun. Compared to the Age of Steam brain burners which I won’t even go near for fear my head would explode, this game is just right and let’s you play rather than work at it. This is a good gateway game to the world of train games. High replay value as no 2 games will be the same due to the variety of train layouts which randomly are chosen by the players.

Published by Stratamax games and re-published by Valley Games, designed by Aaron Lauster.