Category Archives: You Call That a Board Game?

Quote from Timmy: “Oh, so you mean he plays like normal games that like normal people like to play, and not the really cool games that we play, right?”

BLURB: Gaming on a mountain

This is a quick addendum to my report on our 2016 White Mountain Presidential Range traverse.

Anyone who knows me is familiar with my passion for board games (see Games I played in the summer of 2014Games I played in the fall of 2014, etc….) Whenever I go on a trip, I almost always bring a stash of games along with me… even in the White Mountains. My pack was very full and very heavy, but there’s always room for one game, right? I decided to bring Bang!: The Dice Game with me. It’s a small game, and pretty resilient, and can be played with 3 to 8 players. Perfect for a trip in the mountains!


Bang!: The Dice Game
Bang!: The Dice Game


Tim decided to bring a second game in his own pack: No Thanks! This is another good choice since it is small, easy to learn, and very fun.


No Thanks!
No Thanks!


Our first night on the trail, we stayed at Mizpah Spring Hut. Before dinner time, Tim, Mr. Tim, and Stephen were playing a round of Uno while I watched. The other two games were sitting on the table, waiting to be played at some later time.

Then a man sitting at the table beside ours turned around and asked, “Is that Bang!: The Dice Game, and is that No Thanks!?” He introduced himself as Jordan, but said I could call him by his trail name “Optimist”. He was a thru-hiker, hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine. We chatted for a bit, and his wife, “Purple Mist” (who was also hiking the AT with him) came over to say “Hi” as well.

Purple Mist told me a funny anecdote about them building a shelving unit to hold his games and some of her books. Apparently the games took over and left no room for books. Sounds very familiar:


One of my two shelves overflowing with games
One of my two shelves overflowing with games


Optimist played a couple of rounds of Bang with us that night, and we saw the two of them again the next day at Lakes of the Clouds Hut and then again on the summit of Mt. Washington. They didn’t stay at Lakes, though, opting to do the whole Presidential ridge in a single day, and stay at Madison Spring Hut that night. (A very good move, since they avoided the “fun” of hiking the ridge in 80 mph winds.)

So I didn’t have an opportunity to play any more games with Optimist. I very much enjoyed meeting another board gamer in the White Mountain wilderness, though. I’ve been praying for them occasionally over the past couple of months, and several times I have searched Google for any news of them. Well, this morning I was very happy to find this:


Optimist and Purple Mist at the end of the Appalachian Trail
Optimist and Purple Mist at the end of the Appalachian Trail


Congratulations! I am very happy you made it!


They have also created a fantastic video blog of their entire trip on YouTube. Here is the video that spans their Presidential Range hike:


– danBhentschel

Games I played in the first half of 2015

So far in 2015, I have played 28 unique board game titles. Of those, 7 are titles that I previously listed in Games I played in the summer of 2014:

  • 7 Wonders
  • Hanabi
  • Lord of the Rings: The Board Game
  • Love Letter
  • Puerto Rico
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Small World

And 4 are titles that I listed in Games I played in the fall of 2014:

  • Alien Frontiers
  • Bang! The Dice Game
  • Machi Koro
  • Village

New experiences

Of the 17 remaining titles, 6 were new games that I played for the first time this year. They are:

Castles of Mad King Ludwig
  • Castles of Mad King Ludwig – The box has a beautiful picture of Neuschwanstein Castle on it, but this is not indicative of the gameplay. Each player has different requirements for how they build their castle. The better they are able to fulfill these requirements, the more points they will get. Manage your money well by purchasing the rooms that give you the most bang for the buck, and you may have the highest score (if not the most beautiful castle) at the end of the game. A very fun game, though slightly on the long side.
  • Coup – Each player has two cards, indicating what abilities they have in the game. The catch is that you can lie about which cards you have, and perform abilities associated with a card you don’t possess.  If someone challenges you and catches you in a lie, then you lose a card. On the other hand, if you were telling the truth, then the challenger loses one of their cards. Lose both of your cards and you’re out of the game. The last player standing wins. Short and fun, this game is always popular.
Red 7
Red 7
  • Red 7 – Very unique. This game is just numbers and colors, but there’s a ton of strategy. Each color indicates a different win condition. Maybe you need to have the highest card, or maybe you need to have the most of a single number or color. Either play a card or change the goal each turn. If you aren’t winning at the end of your play, then you’re eliminated. If you are the only player left, then you win. This game can be played at various levels of complexity, making it ideal for beginners and experts alike.
  • Suburbia – This is designed by Ted Alspach, who is also the designer of Castles of Mad King Ludwig. While the games are similar, they are certainly not the exactly the same. Buy buildings and other locations with which to build your town. Manage your income and your population well, and you will end up with the highest score at the end of the game.
Ticket to Ride: Team Asia
  • Ticket to Ride: Team Asia – Yes, I have played Ticket to Ride many times, and on many different maps, but this is the first time that I have played with teams. It works surprisingly well. The team that cooperates the best will be triumphant.
Tragedy Looper
Tragedy Looper
  • Tragedy Looper – I am the bad guy, trying to make some tragedy happen. My opponents are the protagonists, trying to prevent the tragedy. I will succeed, and they will fail. The tragedy will occur. However, the protagonists are able to go back in time and try again. Use deductive reasoning to figure out what the tragedy is and how to prevent it. I love this game, but I haven’t yet found anyone else who enjoys it as much as I do.

Old favorites

The other games I have had in my collection for a while, and keep coming back to. They are:

Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge
Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge
  • Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge – Roll the die to pick an animal to add to the pile. Get three specific animals together to win. This game works great for adults and children alike.
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Tales of the Arabian Nights
  • Tales of the Arabian Nights – This is more of a shared experience than a game. Winning or losing is almost completely meaningless. It’s the journey that makes this game fun. Draw a card and consult the manual to determine your foe. Decide your response to the challenge, and discover the results. It’s almost always a surprise. This is somewhat like a Choose Your Own Adventure book that you all experience together as a group, and it’s Nora’s favorite game.
Defenders of the Realm
Defenders of the Realm
  • Defenders of the Realm – This game isn’t mine. It belongs to my sister, Laurel, and I’m always excited to play it with her. All the players work together to defeat the evil hordes plaguing our realm. It’s a difficult task. So difficult, in fact, that after several plays, I still have never won the game once. I have fun trying, though.
duck! duck! SAFARI!
  • duck! duck! SAFARI! – This box has several games in it, and several rubber ducks as well. Each duck is a different animal: Elephant Duck, Zebra Duck, Monkey Duck, and so on. My favorite game is a race that has surprisingly deep strategy, despite the cute trappings.
A Few Acres of Snow
A Few Acres of Snow
  • A Few Acres of Snow – This game is a recreation of the French and Indian War of the 18th century. One player controls the French troops while the other controls the British. Ally with the Indians and raid or attack your opponent. Each side has different goals, and different means to those goals. A Few Acres of Snow is a complicated but rewarding game.
Nuns on the Run
Nuns on the Run
  • Nuns on the Run – Another many-against-one game, Nuns on the Run is very different from Tragedy Looper in both mechanics and theme. One player controls the older nuns: the Prioress and the Abbess. The other players are novices, trying to sneak through the abbey on various missions without getting caught. I absolutely adore this game, but because of the complexity involved, there are very few people that I am willing to play it with.
The Resistance: Avalon
The Resistance: Avalon
  • The Resistance: Avalon – Each player is a knight and is either loyal to King Arthur or a follower of the evil Mordred. All the knights go on quests, and the evil knights secretly subvert the purposes of the good. If the good guys can ferret out the evil spies, then they will succeed in their quests. Otherwise, evil will triumph. This is a very short and fun game, but it requires a minimum of five players, so I don’t get it to the table too often.
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Sentinels of the Multiverse
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse – Each player is a different comic book hero, and all the heroes work together to defeat the evil villain. Strategies vary greatly from one hero character to another, and also from one villain to another. The heroic team that can best work together, making use of the strengths and abilities of each member, will successfully defeat the enemy.
Space Cadets
Space Cadets
  • Space Cadets – You are all cadets, learning the ins and outs of controlling an intergalactic space ship. Unfortunately, your services are required well before any of you have achieved competency. You are to be sent, wholly unprepared, on a deadly mission. Each player has a role: Engineering, Weapons, Sensors, Helm, etc. All the roles must cooperate to be successful. This game does an excellent job of making you feel like an incompetent fool who is in way over your head.
  • Timbuktu – Lead your caravan of camels through the desert, avoiding thieves along the way, to deliver goods at your destination. Use deductive reasoning to determine when and where the thieves will strike. The player who ends the game with the most valuable cargo of goods will win.
  • Whist – This is a classic Bridge-like, partner-based game for four players. I have consistently played Whist with my family since I was a child. I have never met anyone else who knows how to play, but whenever Marlene and I get together with my parents, it is one of our favorite activities.

– danBhentschel

My life, a game

Gamification is huge. Corporations have found that people respond well to (i.e. can be somewhat controlled through) games. Is this good or bad?

A generation of gamers

Right now there is a conjunction of two factors in our society unique in the history of humanity.

Raised on video games

The majority of the population in the United States was raised in a post-video game era. Pong was released in 1972. The Atari 2600 home game system was released in 1977. I propose that anyone born in the USA on or after the year 1970 is likely to consider video games to have influenced their development. According to US census data, that is well over 50% of the populous.

Availability of games

The abundance of games available today is staggering. The Android Play store is full of thousands upon thousands of games, and a huge percent of them are even free! We could debate how many of those games are actually worth playing, but I assert that even the worst games (for the most part) would have been considered great fun when I was a child. Handheld electronic football anyone?

Ignoring video games for a minute, there’s also been a huge explosion in my own hobby of choice: board games. According to Board Game Geek, there were more than 700 board games released in the year 1985. Jump to the year 2000 and that number increases to just shy of 1,200 games released that year. But last year, in 2014, there were apparently more than 2,800 board games released.

Conditioned to play

The verdict is still out on specifically what impact games have on our society, though there are plenty of opinions ranging from more scientific studies to pure speculation. I, backed by the full authority of my superior speculative abilities, assert that games have conditioned our society to seek play. I recognize and freely admit that I am personally more motivated to do something when there is a game involved.

You know, there’s a game for that

In my third article on losing weight, I talked about the phone app, Noom, which takes a weight loss program and turns it into a game, complete with points and levels. There are countless apps available to transform just about any task into a game, including household chores such as sweeping the floor and doing your laundry!

Not only are there apps designed to make your life more fun, but there are games built into many applications that are ostensibly for a completely different purpose. When my company, Windstream, recently rolled out a new social media site for their employees, based on the Jive platform,  I could earn points, badges and levels for doing things such as telling my coworkers how I’m feeling right now.

Another example is the Audible app on my phone. In a recent update, it added statistics and achievements. If I listen for another 121 hours, I will level-up from Scholar to Master! I have earned 9 out of 15 badges (4 at the gold level), the most recent being Mount Everest, which I earned for listening to a book that is longer than 20 hours. Yay! Go me!

The reputation game

A situation where I have found gamification to be quite helpful is when it is used to build a reputation. A good example of this is the website Stack Exchange.

Stack Exchange is a vehicle for answering questions. You can ask for “expert” advice on various topics including computer programming, cooking, politics, and Japanese anime. Most questions that I have asked receive an answer within a couple of hours. But how trustworthy is that answer?

The solution comes from gamification, in the form of points and badges awarded to Stack Exchange members who have answered questions correctly in the past. If a user is active on the site, and people find their contributions useful, then they will have a high score.

Am I playing, or am I being played?

If a company can get you to use their product more by making a game out of it, then who benefits? The company or the consumer?

It doesn’t really need to be an either/or question. As long as you are aware of the tactic, and its effects on you, then you are in control. Keep some guiding principles in mind:

  • Is the game motivating me to do more of something that I want to do anyway, or am I letting it dictate how I spend my time?
  • Is the game tempting me to spend money that I would not otherwise spend?
  • If the only benefit from the game is entertainment value, would my time and / or money be better spent on another option that better fulfills that role?

Gamification success stories

I’m not going to start listening to more audio books just to earn badges in my Audible app, but I can relate some instances where I have greatly appreciated the practice. As mentioned before, I lost over 80 lbs using Noom, and I attribute much of my success to the gamification provided by the app.

Another example of beneficial gamification is the website CodinGame. I have been spending a good amount of time on CodinGame recently, trying to solve computer programming puzzles to improve my rank.

As of this writing, I have 1890 points, have earned 72 out of 156 achievements, am classified as a “Guru”, and am ranked number 718 out of 66,285 members on the site. While the accomplishments and accolades are fun, the time spent at CodinGame is more than just entertainment. It’s also good practice for my job at Windstream.

Care to share?

Do you think that gamification is beneficial, just an annoyance, or outright manipulative? Have you had any good experiences with gamification? Any bad experiences? Feel free to share in the comments below this article.


– danBhentschel