Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends . . . playing some games!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Courtier Now Available

My new game Courtier is now available at selected online stores, most notably Amazon. The word is that AEG sold out of them at BGG.Con in Dallas recently! Still plenty of time to get yours shipped before Christmas if you hustle.

If you're still on the fence, check out Tom Vasel's glowing review of the game. It sounds like he really enjoyed it--maybe you will too!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Joy of Innovation

Picture by Ender Wiggins on BGG.
I'm sure that being especially creative or innovative can be a joyful experience. However, this post is about something much more concrete: the game Innovation by Carl Chudyk. I first saw this game being played at local cons. With somewhat clunky and unimaginative artwork/graphic design, I can't say I was very interested in exploring the game further. Soon after, I began hearing reports of the game's highly chaotic tenancies (more about this later). Yuck--moving on.

Fast-forward to just a few weeks ago. I noticed a link on BGN referencing a lengthy and detailed discussion of Innovation on The Long View podcast between Geof Gambil (the host) and W. Eric Martin. I'm not exactly sure what made me download this episode and listen to it, but I had some extra time in the car and decided to give it a go. I am so glad I did.

Eric spoke with energy and passion, claiming that he could play Innovation over and over again without tiring. They began to describe the game and speculate as to why it was such a mesmerizing game. They both noted the chaotic feel of the game, but talked about this being more like riding a roller coaster--a fun sort of chaos, and not without ways to control the flow. By the end of the podcast, I had resolved to give this game a real chance.

Last week I bought the game, and we have been enjoying it ever since. Basically, Innovation follows the rise of a civilization from Stone Age (e.g., The Wheel) to Information Age (e.g., The Internet), featuring over one hundred unique technological advances. Players slowly (sometimes not so slowly) work their way up the ladder of success, gaining achievements along the way. Cards come with a special power and a number of symbols. The symbols in a pile of cards can be spread out to give your civilization an extra boost. Check out Ender's comprehensive pictorial review on BGG for more information about how to play.

The game is chaotic, but it's the absolute best kind of chaos--controlled chaos. This is exactly what I want out of a game. Nearly all the games I have designed (and nearly all I own) feature this entrancing element. The excitement of not knowing what crazy card combination is coming next or what the unforeseen implications of a given strategy are going to be is what keeps me coming back. Carl Chudyk has turned a box with only two decks of cards into an unforgettable gaming experience. I highly recommend Innovation!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Games for Sale!

The time has come once again. Time to thin the herd. Here are some games I currently have up on eBay (for the next seven days, at least):

Hawaii - This is a really nice game with lots of great components and art. I enjoyed the first several plays. I really wanted to like this game, but something twisty happens with the strategy that I just rubs me the wrong way. I end up feeling like I'm moving little bits around to no purpose. No doubt, many people absolutely love this game--I'm just not one of them.

D-Day Dice - This one was the "big" Kickstarter blockbuster back in the day. They hit over $100K! I feel like Dr. Evil asking for "One MILLION Dollars." It arrived to my house in a giant box. And it was pretty fun (see my review) and clever, pushing dice games to the next level. I felt like part of something big. Then I just stopped wanting to play it. The final straw was when my Dad (a big D-Day buff) didn't care for it. I guess I don't either. Maybe it's right for you!

Surf's Up Dude - I got this one "free" at the Origins Board Room (only $20 to get in). The girls liked the playful surfing theme, but there's just not enough there to keep me coming back. If you're looking for a simple, light family game, this may be right up your alley. Fun fact: The publisher and artist for this game are the same people doing Family Vacation.

Kingsburg - This is probably an innovative game--nice use of dice for claiming resource locations. My girls (and even my wife) really enjoyed it (I've had this game for years). I just never quite figured out what the big fuss was all about. It's probably a little better with some of the expansions and add-ons now available. You should at least give it a shot if you haven't already.

Citadels - I was intrigued by this game, as several people said Revolution! reminded them of this game a little. It sounded like a nice friendly card game my family would enjoy. Turns out, it's got a lot of semi-random backstabbing (okay, I see the resemblance!), something my kids don't like without some serious mitigation. Your group might be different.

So there you have it. Click on any of the names above to see the eBay auction. Happy bidding!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Play Courtier Lite Free!

With Essen quickly approaching, AEG just released a sneak preview of my new game, Courtier, part of the Tempest series (actally #1 in that series . . .). Anyway, it's a lite version available for print-and-play. It contains something like just over half of the content of the full game, but it looks to be enough to help you get a feel for the game. Still on the fence? Well, try it out for yourself!

September was a crazy month. While I did manage to get some good design work in (I made an entire card game from scratch), I had no time of blogging about it. To make up for it, I'll offer you a quick look at some unfinished art from my upcoming Family Vacation. Progress is finally being made!

Finally, if you've read this far, you deserve to see one more little tidbit--more of a rumor really. Keep your fingers crossed for more news on this front . . .

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dominion Box Covered

As I mentioned in my last post (Making a Box for Dominion), my wife suggested that I use her Mod Podge and the labels from my leftover Dominion boxes to decorate the large box I constructed. Tonight, I did just that.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Making a Box for Dominion

Dominion is pretty much my favorite game. With the release of Prosperity I began to store all the cards in one box. Then came Hinterlands and, most recently the seventh expansion, Dark Ages. With the series winding down (only one expansion to go?), this was the time to build a new, more durable box. The following is a tutorial for building your own version.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

GenCon 2012 Lightning Trip

GenCon 2012 went very quickly for me this year. I was only able to make it for Thursday. Even so, I had a nice time and got several items checked off my to-do list. As you can see in the picture above, the place was PACKED. I'm guessing even more people came for Friday and Saturday. Everyone I talked to said sales were doing very well.

I spent the morning chatting with the AEG folks and pitching a new game to them. I would say it went pretty well, but we'll have to see how it turns out later. I understand that a few copies of Courtier got played at the big shindig Friday night.

Next, I tried to buy 7 Wonders: Cities, but the 200 (!) copies had gone in a matter of minutes after the doors opened. I did buy a copy of Dominion: Dark Ages, which was in adequate supply. So far, I've managed to play four games of this--I like the new cards! Lots of room to explore.

FFG had Star Wars out the wazoo this year. I snapped a pic of their surface of the Death Star setup for X-Wing/Tie Fighter game. Looks pretty snazzy. And, of course, lots of Star Wars costumes:

Some balloon artists decided to make a dragon during the con this year. Wow.

I'm not sure what game this is, but what a setup!

Kingdom of Solomon had a pretty low profile at the show. James didn't get a booth, but he did demos in the gaming hall. Hope we sold a few of these . . .

Later in the day, I shuffled around behind Dan from Game Salute as we searched for card sleeves to complete a playable prototype of the upcoming Skyway Robbery (more about this in the weeks to come). We cut the cards and chatted about future plans. I got to demo this once for some friends--it's really starting to come together.

I got to see the Steve Jackson Games people for a few minutes. Andrew Hackard has become quite the celebrity these days, doing a big signing at the booth. Once Ogre clears the docket, perhaps there will be a bit of focus to spare on Revolution!-related products. I've been mentioning this possibility to lots of people in the hopes of creating a groundswell of demand. We'll see . . .

I took a nice break in the afternoon for an early dinner with the couple who backed KoS on Kickstarter at the top level last year. It was great hanging out with them again!

After a few more demos, handshaking and chatting, I headed back to Cincinnati, arriving home about midnight. All in all, it was a worthwhile trip.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Preparing for GenCon 2012

GenCon 2012 will be here in less than a week! Unfortunately, I will only be able to attend the show on Thursday--busy times at the house of duBarry. Even so, I am looking forward to cramming in as much as possible into that short time. Here are my plans:

1. Try to find copies of Dominion: Dark Ages and 7 Wonders: Cities to purchase. I've been very stoked reading the new card previews by DXV the last few days.

2. Check in with AEG and help out with demoing. They were kind enough to spring for my badge this year, so I hope I can be of enough service to justify the expense. I will be bringing my copy of Courtier, so maybe I can provide some sneak peeks. Also, I have a new game to pitch them . . .

3. Spend some time at the Game Salute booth. My latest game, called Skyway Robbery, should have a nice new prototype for us to begin playtesting seriously. Maybe you can try it out!

4. Catch up with Steve Jackson Games and Minion Games. I'm still pushing SJG to get working on the next bit of Revolution! content. Feel free to ask them about it demand this new content.

5. See some old friends, shoot the breeze and enjoy the day.

6. Finish up by finding the Unpub area and get in a game of Courtier, Skyway Robbery and/or Family Vacation. This area may not be fully operational until Friday, but I'm guessing someone will be around. If there is no blue noodle, I'll just try to hang out with the rest of the Game Salute people.

So that's just about everything. That sounds like a lot to do in one day. I'll let you know how successful I was after the show. Two more bits of news:

The Cardboard Jungle podcast released an episode today featuring AEG games and designers . . . and me! I haven't quite figured out how to actually download it, but you can listen to it online.

Also, MeepleTown posted an interview with me today. He asks some great questions, so you might learn something new!

See you after GenCon!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

D-Day Dice Has Arrived!

 Sorry for the lapse in posting. Church camp for the teenagers was last week, and church camp for the middle-age kids is next week. Busy times! So wouldn't you know it--D-Day Dice arrives during the week in-between my camps. This was both devastating (time-management-wise) and really awesome! I had almost forgotten it was even coming, but then I found a giant package on my porch. Only as I opened it did the truth dawn on me--D-Day Dice had arrived!

It took a while to unpack all the loads of stuff and packaging in the box. I didn't even take a picture of the nifty messenger bag. Everything is pure quality. The game and the expansion come in sturdy, cardboard boxes, but everything fits pretty well inside the collector's tin. So how is the game itself?

The gameplay is clever and engaging. You begin your turn by rolling six dice: two red, two white, two blue. The dice all have the same six symbols which determine what resources you get. You lock two or more dice and roll the rest. Then you lock more, if desired, and roll one more time, Yatzee-style. Because of the three colors, you can make several different combinations. Add in all the special cards and you can manipulate the dice even more.

The main resources are troops (needed to survive the beach), stars (to recruit specialists with abilities), courage (to move up the beach) and tool points (to buy various one-off bonuses). Everything can be neatly recorded on the handy dial-based device.

And then there's all the cool items and map symbols to jazz everything up. Then you can add in one of the many expansions and additional card sets. You can even play the Germans instead of going coop.

The whole experience has been fun, tense, challenging and rewarding. My daughters have also had a blast playing it. Well done, Valley Games!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Exploring Games Podcast

Recently two of my games were discussed in great detail on a new podcast by Chris Norwood called Exploring Games. You should give it a listen!

New Logo!

I've got a new logo! duBarry Games will now become Phantasio Games. Phantasio means "to imagine" in Latin. My future releases with Game Salute will feature this logo. Can you help me think of a good tag line for my new name?

Thanks for your patience as we continue to tweak the site and complete the transition!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Finally Winning Hawaii

I mentioned previously that I purchased Hawaii, by Greg Daigle, at Origins (my only game purchase there). Since then, Isabel and I have played three times. Until today she had reigned supreme, nudging me out in the first and blowing me away in the second. Today was different--final score, Isabel - 100 and Philip - 149. So how is the game? Really fun!

The basic idea is that you have ten areas on the main island and a number of available activities on the beach. Your job as chief of a neighboring island is to establish villages and build them up (and create nice scoring combos in the process). This game only has three resources: shells (to buy stuff), feet (to move and paddle a boat) and fruit (to stand in for either shells of feet).

The game lasts only five rounds, so you definitely feel pressured to get a lot done quickly. Another source of pressure is a target spending goal each round (which gets higher as you go). You have to spend X shells (or, specifically, claim that value in price tokens) to get a significant scoring boost at the end of each round.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Origins 2012 Recap (Part 2 of 2)

Thursday had been a good beginning. Friday morning, I awoke refreshed and ready for the day. First up, a roll of the Lucky Dice (score=80, putting me on the leader board for nearly half the day) at the Dice Hate Me booth (see his pictures here). I spent the morning running a demo of my soon-to-be-Kickstarted Family Vacation from Jolly Roger Games. Jacob Walker, the artist, was at the booth and had brought a shiny new version of the board. I took this to the Board Room and quickly found five willing players. The game went extremely well--everyone had a great time!

After lunch, I ran another demo of Family Vacation with an actual family (boy, girl and mom). They really got into the spirit of the thing--the boy made some very humorous comments about his "mom" during the game.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Origins 2012 Recap (Part 1 of 2)

I've been so busy with post-Origins stuff that I almost forgot to blog about it. Wow, Origins 2012. What an amazing experience! I set out early Thursday morning with a backpack of prototypes and more games in my suitcase. And enough underwear and socks to make it till Saturday. This year I was flying solo--I've had a copilot nearly every other year. I planned to share a room with John Moller (of CarTrunk and UnPub fame), Darrell Louder (of Compounded fame) and Ian Rosenthaler (of Legend of the Lost Dutchman art fame). This worked out very well.

Thursday I made the rounds, scheduled some meetings and played some Lucky Dice (score=20). John already had the UnPub area going with Brian Lewis and his Titans of Industry. I didn't get to play, but I watched for a good while. Minion Games was a sponsor of the show and had lots of great posters everywhere. James Mathe did lots of demos in the Board Room (mostly Kingdom of Solomon and Manhattan Project--currently ranked 424!). As you might have heard, the crowd was a bit sparse that day. Here's Corey Young's now infamous picture of that sparseness (posted to BGGN). Traffic would increase over the next couple of days.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Preparing For Origins 2012

Origins 2012 is right around the corner--just two weeks away! This year I'll be there from Thursday until Saturday. I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and making some new ones. Here's my to-do list for the con:

Objective #1 - Talk to publishers about my current prototypes. I will be bringing 4-5 unpublished games with me this year. I just had a nice session playing one of them tonight.

Objective #2 - Spend some time at the Jolly Roger Games booth showing off Family Vacation. The art continues to lag on this one. The working prototype will look very similar to the one I had displayed last year. Maybe next year we'll have it printed and available for purchase . . .

Objective #3 - Spend a bit of time at the Minion Games booth talking about Kingdom of Solomon. We got another nice review today.

Objective #4 - Meet other designers and cross-pollinate. The less said about this the better . . .

Objective #5 - Meet Wil Wheaton! He is supposed to be at the con and he likes Revolution! We'll see how it turns out.

Objective #6 - Buy one or two new games. Play two or three new games.

If you are heading to Origins, let me know. For sure, stop by the Board Room and say hi. It should be a great time!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Gaming with Introverts

Wait--isn't that redundant? Who else plays board games except introverts? Good point. I believe that extroverts (and plenty of introverts masquerading as extroverts) play games, too. The obnoxiously loud table of chuckle-headed fist-pounders ruining your quiet, thoughtful game of Puerto Rico has become almost a cliche. A recent criticism of some modern games is that they are nothing more that multiplayer solitaire. Yet quite a few people seem to really enjoy these games. How does being an introvert or an extrovert play into the world of board games?

I just finished reading a great book on this subject called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.The author delves into the current scientific literature, mostly neurobiology and psychology, to explore the upside of being an introvert (or learning from them if you're not one). By the way, yes, I am an introvert. I'll pause for your to recover and compose yourself after reading such a shocking revelation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Catching Up

Last week was an absolute blur. We got an offer on our house, looked at houses, put in a new kitchen floor, had the offer retracted and have now been working through additional logistics and house-prepping. What a nerve-racking process!

Despite all this, I've managed a little game-related activity. Isabel and I attended the Axis & Allies Spring Gathering here in Cincinnati. Usually this venue features other games besides Axis & Allies. And other people who are between games and want to play something shorter. Not so much this time. I showed some prototypes around and snagged another playtester, but I didn't actually get anything played except 7 Wonders and a poorly-explained game of Munchkin--my first and probably last time playing it.

In other news, I've been seeing bits and pieces from my upcoming AEG release, Courtier. Go to the BGG entry and become a fan today! Here is a sneak peek at the board, posted on Twitter by Todd Rowland:

Also, I've just heard about an interesting deal involving Kingdom of Solomon and possible foreign language versions/distribution. It will be really cool to finally turn a profit on that one . . .

FYI, I'm still finalizing plans for Origins. Anyone have half a hotel room to spare?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

WARNING: This post does not contain any game-related content. Since it's Easter, I thought I'd post something concerning the Resurrection for those who may be curious.

Five Reasons to Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

1. The Roman executioners certified His death. His friends also agreed that He was dead. Jesus was buried in a sealed tomb guarded by soldiers.

2. The empty tomb was discovered by women. This fact would have been embarrassing to the patriarchal culture of the day and would have been changed/skipped in a fictional version.

3. The disciples went from hiding behind a locked door to openly and boldly proclaiming the risen Messiah, eventually suffering death for their belief in Jesus.

4. The Jewish authorities could have squelched the fledgeling Christian movement by producing the body of Jesus. They do not even attempt to produce a fake body, let alone the real one. They did pay the soldiers to lie about falling asleep at the tomb.

5. Over 500 people saw the risen Jesus. The earliest manuscripts of the Gospels date back to within 30-50 years of Jesus' crucifixion. Eye-witnesses were still living at this time and could have corrected a false version of events. Non-biblical historians from that time verify much of the factual information found in the Gospel accounts.

Those are just a few reasons why I believe in the Resurrection. Thanks for taking the time to read them! Game-related posts will resume shortly.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tempest Revealed

Finally I can talk about one of my secrets: Tempest from AEG. My new game (tentatively called Courtier at the moment) was mentioned on BGN today along with the other two more finished games in the series. I'm actually supposed to be writing some articles about the design process, so lots more on this later. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


 In case you missed it, I was recently on The Little Metal Dog Show talking about games. I thought it turned out very well. My only regret was that I never got to mention the time my wife and I got to visit the UK a few years ago. Best. Vacation. Ever.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Secrets . . .

As I mentioned on Twitter this morning, I am currently in possession of a number of cool secrets about upcoming games. I will now attempt to discuss these secrets without revealing them. :)

1. I recently worked on some new Wizkids projects, some of which made me very excited. Unfortunately, my designs were not selected. :( But it was still a positive experience and lots of fun. Also, the NDA agreement I signed with them would diminish my fortunes significantly (something approximating indentured servitude) if I spilled any of their beans.

2. I recently signed a new contract with AEG. It turns out that one of my games fits their upcoming product line. If you've ever played my game called Henry the Great, that will give you a good idea of what's coming. Except the theme has changed somewhat and the mechanics have been super-charged. If you don't recognize that game, you'll have to wait until the announcement and my series of articles on the subject! The final testing should be happening sometime in the near future on the secret AEG playtesting forums. Also, I might actually get paid for this one . . .

3. The art for Family Vacation is coming along very slowly. But what I've seen looks really good! Maybe I'll post some of these sketches in a few weeks . . . if more art gets finished. Jacob Walker is the artist for this project. We're currently aiming to have a finished (or nearly finished), fully-playable prototype on display at Origins. We will be launching the Kickstarter for this game around this time, if not sooner.

4. Yesterday I got some Revolution!-related news. I sent them a few new ideas and one is currently being explored. I think it could be very awesome! If you were at the Revolution! tournament the other night, you might have gotten a little sneak peek. So just pretend you didn't see that. :)

5. Finally, I'm currently in the final stages of development for a new game that's been cooking since the summer of 2010. It's really starting to take shape and come together. Rough edges are being smoothed and shine is being applied. To assist me with this crucial phase, I've been quietly recruiting a team of elite playtesters and set up my own super-secret forum. If you would like to be considered for this team (to work on this and future projects in exchange for glory and swag), sent me an email.

One last bit of non-secret news. The next big shipment of Kingdom of Solomon should be in transit and arrive sometime in March. We've had some really good reviews so far. This one by Ender on BGG is probably the best. Happy gaming!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The First Revolution! Tournament

Last Saturday evening, I was on hand for the first (to my knowledge) Revolution! tournament at Gateway Games on the Eastside of Cincinnati. There were eight participants fighting to snag the title of Most Notorious Revolutionary and a signed copy of my new Kingdom of Solomon. We randomly assigned teams (mixing up players for the second game) and took the best score from both. You also got 20 bonus points for winning. All the games were surprisingly close, but in the end, the guy in the brown shirt (below) (sorry, I don't recall his name) was the only person to win both games and become the champion. Well done!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Hardest Game

. . . is Time Management. Before you rush off to look that up on BGG, don't bother. I mean, it may be a game listed on there, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about actually figuring out how your day is going to be spent and then executing that plan. (That laughing sound you hear is my wife reading those words on this page.)

These past two weeks, I've been redesigning a game, organizing playtesters, thinking about this other game I need to redesign, contacting various people about various, non-related projects, answering rules questions about Kingdom of Solomon, finishing a proposal for another game, teaching a class, tutoring, taking an online class in math education, preparing lessons for church, reading, getting things packed up to move later this year (house needs to be ready by March), all while helping to babysit my very active nephew and my four daughters. I'm really glad my wife does 99% of the homeschooling. And I'm also glad I make enough money from all this to survive, because it would stink to have to WORK in addition to all this stuff!

I'm not terrible at this important skill, but I'm also easily distracted. I've noticed a correlation between my strong inclination to switch strategies halfway through a game and my knack for starting a new project at exactly the halfway point of the old project. This is a recipe for lots of projects. Which is good for a game designer, I think. Keeps us sharp.

This is that part of the post were I explain my secret technique for managing my time. Except . . . I don't really have one. I only started writing this entry because I was waiting for something to upload for a different project I'm supposed to be working on. !!! That's what I'm dealing with here! Again, I don't have a magic formula, but I can at least give you my (non-original, captain-obvious) steps:

1. Write stuff down. Before you go to bed or when you get up. What do you need to do tomorrow? What do you want to get done if you have extra time?
2. Spend a few minutes every month/two weeks to sit and think about what you want long-term. Write this down, too. Sometimes you have to break these up into smaller bites to get them to fit on your day-to-day list.
3. If you're not getting stuff done, re-evaluate. Do you really need/want to get it done? If so, then you may have to go to step 4.
4. Do that really hard/boring thing you wrote down for today. Ouch.

I guess that's how I juggle all my many responsibilities (occasionally dropping something) and still keep my head screwed on.

Oh, and I'm going to be attending a Revolution! tournament a week from Saturday. Should be a blast!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winning the Revolution

Just the other day, Phil Reed of SJG asked me to write a short article on Revolution! strategy. Of course, I jumped at the chance--it's one of my favorite topics! Now that I've had some time to really reflect on the game and read various theories on BGG, it was nice to tie it all together into a little package. The article is called Winning the Revolution. What do you think? What's your favorite strategy? Got any good tips or tricks? And let me again thank you all for being such great fans of the game--you guys have helped the revolution swell to unforeseen heights of chaos and glory!