Review – Mali Powstancy (Little Insurgents) by Egmont Poland

Review of Mali Powstancy: Warszawa 1944

By Egmont Polska and designed by Filip Miłuński with art by Maciej Szymanowicz

Please note that a review copy was provided by Egmont Polska

The Warsaw Uprising against the heroism of the Polish resistance against the Nazi oppressors and also a story of betrayal of the Poles by the West. Politics aside though, this is a game dedicated to the courageous Mali Powstancy or “Little Insurgents” of the Polish Scout Association who worked as a couriers delivering letters and orders between squads of rebels, running through the underground sewage canals of Warsaw. Many of them died on that duty. This game was developed in cooperation with Polish Scout Association (ZHP) and the Warsaw Rising Museum.

Gameplay

First and foremost, this is NOT a wargame so you Grognards take note. If you are looking for conflict simulation or military strategy and tactics, look elsewhere.

This is a simple, yet subtle pick up and delivery game for 2-4 players ages 8+ where the pressure is on for the young mail carriers to deliver their messages to the resistance before the Nazi’s cut off their routes. Essentially you have a team of three little insurgents, represented well with cardboard pieces in plastic stands. They move using a set of numbered cards. The mail routes are worth varying amounts of victory points and you gain these as you complete the routes a la Ticket to Ride. Trouble is, it’s a race against the clock as you only have a limited amount of time before the cards representing the routes drop off the active list and the Nazi’s intervene, blocking routes and imprisoning the couriers. So the players need to cooperate to a certain extent or end up having useful routes blocked off and the Nazi’s (run by the game system) will win. Extra advanced rules give the players more options in actions they can take.


Mali Powstancy has very nice components including a very nice map of Warsaw with clear lines of travel using a point to point movement system. English rules come with the game and are also available on Boardgamegeek and makes the game pretty much language independent

Did it work for me?

This is a very strong, effective design all the way through. It is simple yet subtle as you try and figure out the most effective routes. There is a strong emotional element to the game as in a very simple way, you realise just what these kids must have gone through (including prison) and how heroic they indeed were. A nice example of a simple history lesson for the family. I am a real fan of this game and will always be willing to bring it out to the table.

This game deserves wider distribution without a doubt so listen up Rio Grande, FRED, etc…!

Family Friendly?

Absolutely but I would say for at least 8 years old as I think that there is an important history lesson for children to learn in the game.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 9 out of 10


For more information about Mali Potanscy:Warsawa 1944 and other games by Egmont Polska, go to – http://www.egmont.pl/

Review – Those Pesky Humans by Minion Games

Those Pesky Humans Review

By Minion Games and designed by Clay Gardner and James Mathe

Please note that a review copy of this game was generously provided by the folks at Minion Games.

Those Pesky boys at Minion games have produced a dungeon crawler called Those Pesky Humans and since a number of others have had their say, its time for Boardgames in Blighty to toss in a viewpoint.

If you aren’t familiar with dungeon crawlers, in their most simple form, they are games where a group of adventurers (usually a fighter, a magic user, a thief and some kind of spiritual weapon wielding-type) of different races such as humans, dwarves, or elves explore a dungeon or crypt, usually to destroy a big ol baddie and his minions, grabbing whatever treasures, magic potions, weapons they can carry, whilst avoiding traps and other surprises. The baddies are usually ogres, skeletons, goblins, dark elves, wolves, etc.

Its all J.R.R Tolkien’s fault really, what with his Lord of the Rings nonsense and then the likes of Gary Gygax and others coming up with the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. From which a number of dungeon crawler board games spun out over the years. All good fun if you like exploring and bashing creepy enemies with a war hammer and collecting cool treasures.  The problem is though… ITS BEEN SO DONE BEFORE!

So have Minion Games come up with anything new or different enough at least to make you want to play their game? Well let’s see…

Gameplay

Those Pesky Humans is basically a 2-player game for ages 13+ (although I think 10+ would be fine) but can be played by up to 4 with one baddie player and the others managing the humans. It shoots out of the gate from the start with a clear vision of giving us a not so serious take on the dungeon crawler as tends to be the case with a number of others. This is more akin to a silly take on the genre, with brilliant comic book type art on all the pieces. No plastic figures, just silly looking human characters in plastic stands that look really goofy but that’s what its all about. The dungeon is made up with a bunch of interchangeable hexagons which makes for replayability. A real plus.

There are cards with powers, abilities, encounters, and baddie minions, each with a number of hits they can take before they keel over. The usual diet of these types of games is all here for the most part so I won’t waste time describing them other than to say its all very colorful and well produced. The amusing comic book art helps this game to stand by itself compared to other crawlers.

The basic premise or mission is for the adventurers to grab 3 jewels and then retreat out of the dungeon with them. This differs from other crawlers where the body count matters as well as zapping the big boss at the end. In this game, these are basically a bunch of thieving scallywags who want to grab the jewels without so much as a “by your leave” from the Ogre Lord who never caused them any trouble. Some people!  So this is quiet a simple straightforward bash with the Ogre player sending his minions forward while the thieving adventures try to get away with the jewels. I actually have more sympathy for the Ogre.

Overall the game works well, and the best part of all is that it is relatively short compared to other crawlers. This makes it more likely to hit the gaming table as the set-up is easy and fast, and the gameplay simple and fast. If you don’t want to mess with stats and building up characters, just get in there and start swinging a sword or sending magic against the baddies… or if you want to cackle with glee as you keep sending your minions charging through the dungeon with a promise of fresh meat without worrying about alignment… this is a good choice to hit the table. The humor works and keeps it all lighthearted and you can get stuck into the enemy, no muss, no fuss. One thing it could use is a table showing the various key rules in a cheat sheet form to save time going into the rulebook to find odd bits and pieces.

What you don’t get is a storyline, an experience of any kind. So it depends what you are looking for. If you want a lot of depth and storyline, and to gt a bit into character or at least have characters you can have empathy for. This isn’t the game. This is all about smack, crunch, thwack. etc…… and that’s about it. short and simple.

Did it work for me?

On the level that it is pitched at, Those Pesky Humans works well. If you want a short amusing dungeon bash, this a good choice. If you feel the need to be immersed in a story and and more role-playing aspects, you will need to look elsewhere.

Family Friendly?

Absolutely as its simple to get into, provide some laughs and  is very playable.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 6.5 out of 10

For more information about Those Pesky Humans and other games by Minion Games, go to – http://www.miniongames.com/

Review – Rattus by White Goblin Games

Rattus Review

By White Goblin Games and designed by Henrik Berg and Ase Berg

Rattus is a game for 2-4 player aged 10+ about a grim topic: the spread of the plague or the “black death” in Europe and the players are tasked with building and protecting as much of your population as possible to achieve victory.

Gameplay

Ah but things are never quite that simple as you are also able to place the spreading carriers of the plague, the rats, in different areas on the map of Europe but depending on the impact of the rat population and the number of population, your own people may get wiped out! You can take on different roles such as King, Peasant, Witch etc. each of which allows you to do certain things which can help you and hinder the other players.

Each turn you need to move the plague piece to a new area and you will need to consider where that placement will do the least damage to you and most damage to your opponents. A very nice mechanic is that there is limited knowledge about the rats that you place as one side of the rats disc just has a picture of a rat and their impact is only known when you reveal the other side of the disc. When you do, icons and letters indicate who may catch the plague.

Also, you have to think about where to place your population as the more people that are in the same area, the more likely the plague will take hold. We found ourselves taking the King role often to save our people within the walls of our castle but another nice mechanism is that you can steal a role from other players and use it immediately. You can also have as many roles as you want until someone steals them. However, the more roles you have, the more chance of the plague destroying your population. This makes for some tense choices. having said that, we mainly just kept taking the King role from each other so I’m not quite sure of the value of the other roles. As we played a 2-player game, I would expect the other roles to have more of an impact in a game with more players. here are expansion roles available as well which I think will add a bit of fun to the proceedings as they include Merlin, Robin Hood and the Pied Piper.

The game comes with adequate components. The map of Europe is rather bland. The obligatory cubes are functional and the Plague piece is, eh… bland. Kinda seen it all before. The rat pieces and role cards have nice artwork though.

Did it work for me?

Yes, Rattus is a fun, fast-moving game, with just the right level of mechanics to make for an interesting situation. The 2-player version worked very well and I look  forward to playing with more players with more role choices. A straightforward design with a couple of nice features that keep things challenging. Having said that, the look and feel of the game is generally bland. One recommendation I would have would be to have a “grim reaper” piece to represent the plague. Perhaps a more detailed, oldy-worldy map of Europe would be more appealing.

Family Friendly?

Well yes in terms of ease of play and short game time but, I would have thought there are other games that would be more fun and appealing.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 6 out of 10

For more information about Rattus and other games from White Goblin Games go to –

http://www.whitegoblingames.nl/

Review – Masters of Venice by R&R Games

Masters of Venice Review

By R&R Games and designed by Frank DiLorenzo

Please note that a review copy of this game was generously provided by the folks at R&R Games.

Masters of Venice is a game for 2-5 players ages 15+ where the players are seeking to make their fortune in the trading arena of 1400’s Venice.

When I first received delivery and had a look at Masters of Venice, I was very impressed with the high quality of the production which is very stylish. The Board, although small, is just the center of the action as your table will also take on cards representing stock shares in different resources sold in shops such as fabric, gems, lumber, etc. You also have small boards with pegs to track the current cost of resources as well as share values and orders which allow you to sell resources and build your pile of ducats.

There are lots of bits to this game and a very handy diagram and instructions for setting up the game. There is even a gondola piece for tracking each turn! You can easily feel a bit overwhelmed with the amount of bits and it took us a while to get our heads around what they all were meant to do but to be honest, it all seemed pretty logical and came together well eventually. The components are consistently very nice and all serve their purposes well.

Gameplay

I was quite keen to play and got stuck in. The rules, although logical, took a little while to work out in relation to the game flow. At first MOV gives the appearance of a very complex game but actually, once you work through the rules and learn the variety of functions of the various locations, as well as the impact of various roles like the Harbor Master, Guild Master, Thief, etc. it becomes clear that this is not that complex of a game.

The object of the game is to earn the most victory points by building wealth. The core flow has the players bidding for who goes first and to take on a role which lasts a few turns, and then bidding again which may mean a different turn order and role. The different roles each provide certain advantages which impacts your choices as to what resources to buy and sell, which shares you may choose to buy, where to travel in Venice to take specific actions to your benefit or perhaps to prevent other players from gaining too much wealth. R&R Games took the very wise step to provide brief player guides with a grid which lays out the various locations and impact of the actions taken in each such as impact on share value, resource price and availability. This game would be much less enjoyable without the aid.

The process all follows a very streamlined set of steps – move – take actions – collect dividends. Whilst doing this, you are adjusting prices, share values, and stock of resources. The choices get tougher as the games goes on as you need to make some hard decisions as to which role would help most. We wondered whether certain roles were more beneficial such as the Thief and Trader but more plays may even this out. Also the expansion that came out at Essen 2010 may make things even more interesting.

I’m not a big fan of economic games and at first I was concerned that there would be too much to think about and that the financial world would not interest me but the rules are reasonable and actually once I recognised that the choices are all about deciding which actions would help me to deliver on jobs for the Guilds, it all clicked. The key to the game is that winning is all about satisfying and delivering on jobs for the guilds. I got a bit caught up in trying a variety of actions and lost focus on this. But by the end of the game I could really see that when I play again, and I will, I must focus on the Guilds first, last and always and everything else is secondary.

Did it work for me?

Generally, MOV worked for me which I find surprising as I’m usually not a great fan of these types of games. It is a very tactile game with loads of things to touch and move around. It is a very interesting game and doesn’t bury you in the detail of financial trading. The level is just about right. I felt involved throughout and those player aids made a huge difference. I liked the bidding mechanism which got you to think about whether or not it was worth trying to go for the first player or not. Yes, the rules could be a bit cleaner but they are not bad. The physical and side of this game takes it up a notch for me. A visual and tactile splendour worth experiencing for sure! Not a lot of interaction between players but lots of conversation as to the various choices and understanding the value of different actions and roles. Masters of Venice is a refreshing take on the economic genre and a very creative physical game.

Family Friendly?

I must say that this is not a game for families unless they are hobby gamers. It is not light although the rules are reasonable to understand. More for the hobby gamer.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 7 out of 10

For more information about Masters of Venice and other games by R&R games go to – http://www.rnrgames.com/

There and back again… A one day road trip to Spiel at Essen 2010…

Last year, I joined friends for a 1-day road trip for my first Essen experience and I decided to have another go this year. It was a tough day in the sense that it was a long drive and the physicality of dealing with the crowds was  tiring as well, adding to this I have a bad back which can only handle so much. But it was an AWESOME experience and although I was a little wary about doing it all again this year… as they say, if you snooze, you lose!

So onward and upward, we Merry Men, we Band of Brothers, Forward the Light Brigade!

So I planned a 1-day roadtrip with Tony and Alan from West Sussex to Essen for the 2010 Spiel. Getting to bed early for a few hours sleep was a good idea and very helpful. We set off a bit after 2am (I drove…) for the EuroTunnel station at Folkestone, Kent for the 5am crossing. Then it was across a piece of Northern France from Calais past Dunkirk, into Belgium, hanging a right at Antwerp, into Holland past Eindhoven and on into the Ruhr area of  Germany and got to Essen by 11:00 Germany time. The drive was long but uneventful other than a little traffic at Antwerp and a little satnav confusion.

We planned to stay until about 4pm and had our work before us. Thankfully, we all had sifted through the new release lists on the Spiel website and had a plan of attack. This was Alan’s first trip to Spiele and my second. Tony is a more seasoned veteran.  We had told Alan that it was impossible to really understand what Spiel is like unless he experienced it himself. This is an ADULT DOSE for sure. The crowds were there but apparently not quite as many as Thursday and Friday thank goodness as it was pretty crowded already. No surprise as apparently something like 130,000 were expected over the 4 days. Thankfully, gaming buddy Joseph had picked up our entry tickets and met us outside so we didn’t have to queue!

Jumping into the fray, I was off to see  a few specific people to pick up some great games, including Joanne Soued of FRED Distribution to pick up a copy of Defenders of the Realm. Nothing like a weighty game to start off! Then across the hall was the tiny Boardgamegeek booth where I met up with Doug and Shelley Garrett of Garrett’s Games and Geekiness podcast. They were there meeting with loads of game company reps who were demoing their new releases over the 4 days. We had a good laugh as they told me about their roadtrip from Paris through Belgium without a satnav (not for the faint hearted!). I must commend the BGG folks for providing such a great service allowing as many board game companies to demo their games via web streaming so that we could all see and hear all about their new games. This was particularly useful as there were a LOT of new releases!

Later I popped by to see Phil Eklund of Sierra Madre Games. What a nice guy! Loved his crazy hat! Clearly very passionate about science (he is, after all, a rocket scientist) it is hard not to catch the vision of his High Frontier game and I look forward to playing and reviewing it. The game board is awesome and listening to a demo, it sounds just so interesting. Apparently the Red Chinese player can get up to to nice back-stabbing stuff if you like that sort of thing 😉

I finally caught up with Bart Nijssen and the guys from White Goblin games and they were plenty busy! They had 4 new releases and I picked up Inca Empire. I think that it is great to see small companies sprouting up, even in the current world economic situation. It bodes well for our wonderful hobby. There was a good buzz around their stand and loads of other new and small company stands.

The big boys were out in force including Rio Grande and Days of Wonder and their stands, of course were heaving. Huge stands for HABA and others were filled with families playing together. Lots of excitement and fun pervaded the atmosphere. Family gaming is the key to the future of the hobby so start em young I say!

Essen can be overwhelming and it is very easy to get lost. Having a plan as to must haves and nice-to haves is really helpful and it surely helped me stick to my budget and stay focused as to where I needed to go and who I wanted to see. The huge halls, teeming with people is quite amazing. The best thing for me is seeing so many families out for a day of board game goodness. Also, I borrowed a luggage trolley from another good gaming buddy, Mike which made life a lot easier on my back. Note to self – THIS IS A MUST on any future visits!

It was so great to meet such nice people. I particularly enjoyed meeting so many entrepreneurs in start up game companies plying their wares including and not limited to the good folks of – FRED Distribution, Mayday Games, Kuznia Gier, Prime Games, Gen X and Cranio Creations.

Essen is a great opportunity for them to get a toehold and position themselves as they seek to raise awareness of their creative work. Really nice to see a wider variety of companies from different countries which all helps to internationalize our hobby. They aren’t all producing games of high quality that you would expect from the big boys but that doesn’t matter much to me. They are learning and the more we all support the smaller companies, the more of them will survive and produce great games. The law of abundance says there should be plenty of opportunity for everyone if they have the smarts and creativity and so it should be.  This also means we will have more choice and as the hobby becomes more mainstream, the prices should come down as well. All good news in my book.

So all in all, a great day with great company, meeting great people producing great games! My haul is a pretty good spread amongst the smaller companies and you will be seeing reviews on them all here.

Here is my list on BGG – http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/60161/1-day-road-trip-to-essen-from-england-and-my-haul-

Tony the veteran’s view-

Huh? What? That can’t be the alarm clock already! Oh yes it is: it’s 1am and I’m off to Essen for a day trip from Sussex!

I did this long day before (in 2006) and told myself then I wouldn’t do it again, yet here I am….

There’s clearly a lot of adrenalin pumping, as I hop straight out of bed when the alarm goes off (not something I can manage on a normal day nowadays!), and I’m all set to go 20 minutes later. To pass the time until Alan comes to pick me up, I switch the TV on, and Saving Private Ryan has just started: it’s right on the famous D-Day beach landing scene, and it seems oddly symbolic as we are about to set off on our own little invasion of Europe!

Alan and I have fun finding Mark’s house in the slightly odd layout off his road, but we’re all on the road shortly after 2am, and get to the Channel Tunnel terminal in very good time. Fill the waiting time listening to Mumford and Sons on the iPhone and reading through Mark’s printed off list of everyone who has a stall at Essen and what they wil have with them. Drooling…..

On the train, we realised no-one had even brought a deck of normal cards – and we call ourselves gamers?!?! Fortunately, the iPhone came to the rescue again, and we battled (with moderate success) the AI opponents in a 5-player games of the Carcassonne app (albeit only the easy ones!)

The drive the other side is pleasant enough. It really gives me an odd feeling watching the sun come up, as it happens so rarely that you actually get the chance to watch it happening. The beginning of the drive seems to go quickly, but the latter part seems to stretch on, and we finally reach the Messe about 11am, but by this time have to park quite a long way out. Fortunately Joseph has queued and bought our tickets for us, so we can go straight in.

What to say about the 5 hours we were in the halls themselves? Well, even though I’d been twice before, I was still really hyped up. As Alan said, it was like the feeling children have at Christmas! I was pretty organised this year, and had a pretty clear list of things I was interested in, with the stand location of the relevant publisher listed next to each. I have 3 or 4 pre-orders than needed collection before noon, so zoomed off to get those first, and had a very nice conversation with the chap on the Ascora stand whilst picking up my copy of Kaigan.

Come noon there was a meet-up with Joseph, Mike, and Garry, who had been out there since Wednesday evening. After a brief chat to compare notes, pick up the latest tips, and get a group photo, we all split up and it was off into the throng again. Saturday is probably the hardest day: even though the children apparently were off both the previous days as well, and both those days were therefore busy, it is still Saturday that is the biggest crush. There were quite a few times when the inevitably crushed thin alleyways between stalls just seemed to grind to a halt. And even on my third trip, and with a good floorplan from the freebie handed out on the door, I still found myself disoriented quite often when trying to get from one hall to another. But it’s all really part of the experience.

Weirdly enough, having taken 300 Euros, I got to 3pm and still had 100 left, with no strong desire to buy anything else. Most unlike me, as on previous trips I’ve blown the lot and even had to borrow a bit to get that last bargain, but I was no doubt helped by the non-appearance of a couple of games I’d hoped would be there (The Tenno’s Court expansion for Shogun, and Cadwallon – City of Thieves). I was still on the lookout for a game that I could specifically get to play with my kids, but I didn’t really want to get anything that was specifically a children’s game, as they’re really getting to the age where I’d like to get them into the more meaty games if I can. So I swung by the AEG stand and plumped for a copy of The Adventurers, based on some great fun we’ve had in my gaming groups with this, the very easy rules, and the fact I know the kids love the Indiana Jones films. I also got Thunderstone, which I have been wanting to try for some time (and suspect I will prefer to Dominion), plus an interesting-looking card game that was only 10 Euros – then they threw in another card game for free!

Met up with Mark and Alan around 3.30, then each of us nipped off to get a last item unencumbered, whilst the others watched the bags. Unfortunately, in my case that involved a trek to the diametrically opposite corner of the Messe to scan the second hand stalls for a second-hand copy of Ra! Not a one to be found, despite there being half a dozen new copies still in shrink and accordingly full whack. However, I did manage to scoop a copy of the new Hive Carbon (that includes the Mosquito and Ladybird expansions) for 19 Euros. It’s definitely always worth checking out the Spiel Offensive stall for real bargains.

That long last trek across the still-crowded halls meant we were quite late getting away from Essen in the end, but Mark managed to get us to the Tunnel terminal with precision (4 minutes to spare until the check-in closed to be exact!), but without having us end up like one of the two nasty accidents we saw on the motorway back, and despite the absolutely torrential rain we had for part of it as well!

Sad to say, I was really struggling to keep my eyes open by this point, and I caught myself nodding off once or twice, but Alan did sterling work in chatting to Mark to help him stay awake. Oddly enough, the trip back to the Tunnel seemed the opposite of the one in: Germany and Holland seemed to go quickly, but then Belgium and France seemed much slower….

A decidely bumpy train ride back, then Mark ate up the miles on the last stretch back to his house. We collected Alan’s car, and despite an initial worry that we might grind to a halt due to a lack of fuel, I made it back home just before 10pm. It was, as always, a great day with great people, and well worth the effort, but by the end of it you really know why you wouldn’t want to do it any more often than once a year! Massive thanks to Alan and Mark for the great company on the day, and Mark especially for the sterling job with that long old drive!

The final haul: Kaigan (inc. Tiger’s Eye token); The Adventurers; 7 Wonders (inc. 8th Wonder, ex-ludis, and T-shirt); Nobunaga; R-Eco Recycle; Triumvirate; Haggis; The Resistance; Thunderstone; Conflict of Heroes – Price of Honour; Myth Pantheons; The Isle of Doctor Necreaux; Hive Carbon; Jean-Claude van Rice card for Ghost Stories (thanks Joseph!); Russia & Japan expansion maps for Power Grid; Yin Yang; Paul the Octopus expansion for Zooloretto; Be Not Afraid and Necromancer Island expansions for Small World.

Alan the Spiel newbie’s view…

My first Essen trip.

Wow what a day; my first ever trip to Essen and a road trip with the boys. What more could a geek boy ask for… don’t answer that.

So it was with a bleary eye and a yawn that we hit the road at 2am Saturday morning and didn’t look back; we hit Essen at about 10.30am, continental time, and on entering the hall for the first time – wow again and again. It’s very big, which may be obvious to you veterans, but cast your mind back to that first time if you can; I know, take that grin of your face, I could feel my wallet getting lighter by the second as I pushed my way through that first hall.

I was very grateful to my friend Joe who guided me to my first pre-order in hall 4, Basilica and K2 from Rebel.pl. Cash exchanged hands and so it started. Back through room 6, very scary, a very nice lady I’m sure, in chain mail with her battleaxe wielding troll friend neatly side stepped and we were off, Caravelas, then De Vulgari Eloqentia, back through room 6, my gaze averted, and it was time to meet up again. Then the afternoon to wander on my own and I have to say the whole experience was fantastic if a little bewildering. I picked up some new and older games in the afternoon the highlights being the prototype of Kings Vineyard, The Climbers from Chili Spiele and a small abstract game called Splits, which I got the chance to play, as well as a few older games picked up very cheap.

The thing I liked about Essen was the amount of families out and playing games, there was even a mass memory game competition going on, played by kids and adults alike. Everyone was really friendly and welcoming and apart from some confusion over German Sausages we coped well with the different languages from all over the world; the whole day had a very international feel. A great day out, good friends and I even kept within budget, but only because I could never find my way back to the same stall twice. Anyway off now to my first solo climb of K2, wish me luck.

Doug and Shelley Garrett                                                       High Frontier

…….

Spolight on – Lorien Green and Going Cardboard, A Board Game Documentary

In case you haven’t heard, Lorien Green is making a documentary about our favourite hobby!

It’s entitled – Going Cardboard, A Board Game Documentary. It will hopefully be ready during the first quarter of 2011 and from the look of Lorien’s website, this is going to be a wonderful advertisement for board gaming.

From the website –

Going Cardboard is a film about the new board gaming, a phenomenon going on right under your nose, probably in your very community! This film will take you into that world to meet the players and designers responsible for this radical departure from technology. And you just might discover it’s the hobby for you.

So let’s talk to Lorien and find out something about her and the coo documentary about our world!

So Lorien you’ve been a gamer for a few years. Tell us about how you got into board games and your progression as a gamer since the day you caught the bug.

My husband introduced me to designer board games after he fell in with a local game group.  Not that I was critical of his growing collection, but I was curious.  He was a tournament-level Magic: the Gathering player years before that, good at explaining and retaining rules, and with a very competitive streak.  We’re sort of opposites that way, I’m not as good at retaining rules, and mostly play for fun vs. winning, but I still manage to win a good amount of the time when we game.

What was your gateway game?

It’s really hard to remember, but I don’t think it was Catan, really.  For group games, I think Bohnanza captured my attention with its goofy art, and I remember playing Lost Cities and Balloon Cup early-on.  San Juan was also one I liked a lot.

Any particularly memorable gaming moments?

There was one time playing Battlestar Galactica with my husband (Adam), his good friend, Chris, and Chris’ wife, Mindy.  Nobody had been revealed to be a cylon, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t Mindy.  Adam and Chris got into such an animated and heated bout of accusing one another, and did it so well, that they had me completely freaked out, and I just threw up my hands in frustration and exclaimed, “I can’t trust either one of you!”  And I didn’t, I really felt a hint of how it would feel to be in the BSG world.  That was truly awesome, that a game could elicit that.

And then there was my first time playing Small World where I crushed everyone with my Pillaging Tritons.  I’ll always have fond memories of those little guys…

What are your favorite games?

I’ve enjoyed every single game of Goa and Power Grid we ever played.  I’ve only played Munchkin once, but I loved it.  Oh, and Ticket to Ride Europe.  I would say for the most part, I lean very much toward the casual side of the spectrum, but there are still some more complex ones that I like.  If I could go home tonight and play any game at all, I would probably pick Goa or Puerto Rico.  I’m not sure why. J  Puerto Rico, maybe because there is coffee involved.  Like that one Bohnanza expansion… uh… coffee may have something to do with it.

Tell us about your personal game collection

We don’t have a ton of games at the moment, say 100 or so probably, but I’m certainly not opposed to amassing a larger collection, and I suspect we will when we start playing more frequently again.  We’re fairly behind, and a lot of recent releases haven’t found their way to our collection yet.  And need to.

Who do you play games with?

Mainly I game with my husband and another couple we’re friends with right now.  I’ve played some Catan recently with some friends from work, and that was a lot of fun.  There is a game group we play with in Concord, NH, but haven’t been up there for a good game session in a while.  For the most part, we sneak in 2-player games when we can.

Do you have much time to game nowadays?

Before our kids came along, we played a lot more.  Then it got harder to work game nights in (2 couples we normally game with also had kids around then).  And once I decided to do the documentary, my gaming went down to almost nothing.   I have a one-track mind, and if I’m around games right now, I constantly feel like I should be filming, not playing, like playing them would be slacking in some way.  It’s been that way for a couple years now, but I have been able to get some gaming, especially on the iPhone.  When my free time is my own again, though, I expect to start playing more again, and it’s only a matter of time before the kids get old enough to give us a full in-house set of 4 players every single night.

Tell us about your background as a filmmaker. Where did you develop your craft? What have you worked on previously?

My entire film background consists of being a fan of documentaries (and my brother having gone to film school).  It started with stuff like the Ken Burns Civil War set, but a turning point came when I saw The King of Kong.  I have always loved classic arcade gaming, so this film really hit me.  I started digging into the world of “geekumentaries” and finding loads of them.  In the course of doing this, I came across a documentary filmmaker, Jason Scott, who lived nearby.  I had sort of started toying with the idea of making my own indie documentary by then, so I emailed him for advice.  From there on, he was my mentor in this endeavor.

I for one am VERY excited to see your upcoming documentary about board gaming. Tell us the story about Going Cardboard: a Board Game Documentary . How did you come up with the idea? Tell us about how you got started, the ups and downs, the challenges, the surprises. Anyone working with you? How long have you been working on it?

I just thought that there were so many hobbies that had documentaries about them, but none to be found about designer gaming.  And the more I found out about how big it really is outside the US, the more alluring it seemed as a documentary subject. The movie talks about the hobby, the players, and the designers.  It covers all the events from having a couple friends over for game night to the Spiel fair at Essen, with over 150,000 attendees.  I feel like it’s a decent cross-section of the hobby and many of the elements that make people love designer board gaming so much.

Actual filming really started at Unity Games in February of 2009.  That’s a local gaming event with a few hundred attendees.  I met a good number of people there, including Derk from boardgamegeek.com, he was one of my first interviews (I must have seemed like quite the noob!).  Plans started to coalesce from there, and it was sounding like I should go to the Gathering of Friends, and Essen.  I figured I’d do one that year, and one the following year.  My mentor, Jason, said, “Do whatever you have to do to make them both happen this year.  Trust me.  Just do it.”  I thought he was CRAZY, that there was no way I could, but I made it happen, and I see now why he was right about that.  Because the filming is probably the easiest part of it all.  The hard part is putting it together…

Ups and downs of the whole thing, well, when Klaus Teuber, designer of The Settlers of Catan, agreed to an interview, I was ecstatic.  All the wonderful people I’ve met, and the things I’ve discovered make it a ridiculously enriching experience all around.  It’s been almost completely “up” moments, but there are a couple distinct moments of panic I can remember.  First was at the Gathering of Friends, when I couldn’t find a place I was really happy with for my interviews.  The hotel staff were wonderful and showed me every open conference room they had, but they were all empty an echoey, and had completely bare white walls.  I was by myself, first big trip for the film, loads of very important interviews about to happen, and I just sat down on the bed in my hotel room and almost cried.  Then I told myself to suck it up and figure it out.  I ended up filming about half the interviews in my hotel room, and about half in the big room where everyone was gaming.  I was SO paranoid about background noise, but those interviews are fine.

The second time was at Essen, when I was setting up to film Reiner Knizia’s interview, in my hotel room about two hours after having gotten off the plane.  I plugged the lighting equipment in… and immediately blew out all the power in the room.  Even though I’d brought power conversion adapters, it was just too much juice I guess.  This time I only panicked for a few seconds, though, and after apologizing and asking the hotel staff to restore power to our hotel room, I just used the lights available in the room.  Not ideal, but I’d learned by then that these situations very rarely are; you just have to adapt, constantly.

Can you take us through the steps you have had to take to produce the documentary?

First step was, get a camera, which I didn’t have before this.  The prosumer HD cameras they have now are great.  I was able to borrow a lot of the other gear for most of the time I was filming.  My formal education consisted of two books, “The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide” by Anthony Q. Artis, and “Documentary Storytelling” by Sheila Curran Bernard.

Even though it’s a documentary, you still need to tell a story, and that second book was great about explaining the traditional 3 Act format, story trains, and so forth.   I filled many pages of my notebook with different outlines of the film.  The more people I talked to, the more I learned, and the more the story surfaced.  It’s really organic in that way.  Before I started filming, I had very little notion of what “Essen” even WAS, and that was as somebody somewhat familiar with designer board games.

As the interviews progressed, I was loading the footage onto a couple 1TB external hard drives, and editing with Sony Vegas.  I’m in the editing phase right now, of course, and have been doing that hard-core, 20 – 30 hours/month for a couple months.  It seems like a never-ending process, but after each session it gets a little closer to being a completed story.  The intro and the closing are pretty complete.

Who are the principle interviewees? Tell us about what you found particularly interesting and/or surprising.  What have you learned about the industry? Gamers?

One of the most principle interviewees is Jay Tummelson of Rio Grande games, partly because I think I ended up interviewing him on 3 separate occasions, he knows the history of this industry very well, and also happened to be the producer and publisher for Dominion, the game that won Game of the Year the year I went to Essen.  I was lucky enough to get interviews with a lot of very well-known participants in the designer board gaming scene; Reiner Knizia, Klaus and Guido Teuber, Alan Moon, Donald X. Vaccarino, Friedemann Friese, Derk Solko, Eric Martin, and Tom Vasel, but there are a great many more than I can list, and the designers I didn’t know about before starting this are some of the most interesting.  There were a few interviews I did with two people at once, and I think that is a fun dynamic.  Both the Geek Nights podcasters, Rym and Scott, and the Lamont brothers had me laughing out loud with their discussions.  Cutting the film DOWN is a real challenge, and thank GOODNESS for DVD Bonus Material!

One big thing I’ve learned about the industry is how accessible it is to a first-time designer.  In most entertainment industries, it’s very hard to break in.  At this point in time, at least, it is very possible for someone with a game design (a good game design, of course) to connect with a publisher and actually see their game get published.  Or, just to publish it themselves, the micro-publisher option seems to be quite viable right now.

A lot of these designers, and even the publishers, are passionate gamers themselves.  The down-side to this is that sometimes these enterprises are being powered more by heart and a love of the hobby than business experience.  There are certainly pitfalls to that approach.  It’s kind of a wild west of game design right now, though, and that’s exciting!

What is your own view of the hobby and where its going?

I have the impression that this hobby is in its infancy in many countries, including the United States, the UK, Scotland, Australia, and China (from what I recall of my interviews), but possibly maturing in other parts of the world such as Germany, where this has been going on for 30 years or so.  It was the opinion of several of my interview subjects that there are simply too many games coming out, and that it just can’t continue like this, that there will be kind of a market fatigue point.  But for a lot of people, we’re still in the age of discovery, so it’s bound to grow from here for a while yet.

What would you like to see done which could help board gaming become more mainstream amongst the public?

One of my interviewees, Nick Kellet, designer of GiftTRAP, made a very good point when he asked, “When is Oprah going to talk about these games?”  It’s a matter of waiting impatiently for the mainstream media to decide this stuff has a wide enough reach that it deserves coverage.  It will happen, but for those of us already immersed in the hobby, I mean everyone wants to have the things they care about acknowledged and validated, it can’t happen soon enough.

OK so what needs to be done before the dvd release?

At this point, I need to finish pulling together the rough cut of the story, and determine which parts that don’t fit into the main film are still just too good to skip, and put them in the bonus section.  I’ve got an animator and a composer on the project, so their stuff is also being integrated at this point.

Once the rough cut is done to my liking, I’m hoping to hand it off to a professional production facility to do all the polish and audio/video correction that will need to be done.  This will be the biggest single cost, so I plan to do a Kickstarter fundraiser in the near future to try and cover that.  So far, this project’s been entirely self-funded, but there’s only so much I can convince my husband to put up with, and really the film deserves professional treatment at this stage.  If I tried to do this last part myself, it’d probably add another year to the timeline!

When are you planning to release and where will it be available? Downloadable on itunes?

I have been really fighting to finish by the end of the year, but I don’t see that happening.  I’ve been moving pretty fast, mind you, but it’s already mid-October.  More likely we’re looking now at Q1 2011.  I would rather keep working on it until it’s something I’m proud of, and not release it too soon just because of the idea of a deadline.  That being said, I want it done ASAP.

The film will absolutely be available on DVD.  Most likely, I will self-publish, but there are some great options available for that, so it should be easy to get, and I do intend to put it on iTunes, yes.

Any words of advice for others interested in producing documentaries?

The average documentary takes 4 years to complete.  Don’t underestimate that, it’s a real number, and a huge commitment.  The other thing is, start editing as soon as you have footage.  Editing is the hardest part, and the sooner you dive in, the better an idea you’ll have of the direction you want to go, and therefore, questions you’ll want to ask.

Don’t let a lack of experience stop you, though.  If you have a story to tell, and you’re passionate about it, you can make it happen.  And people seem to be very willing to help each other in the indie film community.

What are your plans for professional life after this project?

I have 2 or 3 other ideas for things that would make good documentaries, but we’ll see.  I can’t say I see indie documentary as a job that would pay the bills in most cases, and certainly money isn’t the reason I’m doing this one.  The whole experience has been a wonderful adventure, though, and I’ll probably miss it the moment it’s done!  Maybe after a bit of a break and a couple board game nights…

Tell us where we can meet you this year. Attending any upcoming conventions like ESSEN?

I wish I could get back to Essen this year, and I will go back there again sometime.  Until then, I will likely pop in at the next Unity Games event in Massachusetts, and PAX East, for sure!  Beyond that, whatever travel my schedule will allow, I would love to get out to GenCon next year with the GameSalute.com team, and BGGCon would be fantastic.

For more information about Lorien Green and Going Cardboard, A Board Game Documentary, go to http://www.boardgamemovie.com/