Posted on February 18th, 2014

Over the past few years we’ve seen board games slowly grow in size and price. For hobbyists, this is not such a concern, it is how we decide to spend our luxury funds, and if a more expensive game means a more stunning product, we are generally all for it. But there is a limit, and the number of games with top notch component quality and only mediocre play is on the rise, especially on Kickstarter.

Now I know what you’re thinking, here he goes again trash talking Kickstarter. Well, I’m not. I’m actually going to praise Kickstarter project creators for what I believe is finally a small indie movement. See, Kickstarter has really just been another avenue for publishing games and establishing a publishing company without innovating or offering any real alternatives to what we already have on the shelves. Kickstarter really just offers the same games with prettier bits. So fine, it’s a means for finding investors that is far easier and more reliable than good old fashioned pounding the pavement.

But now the site that typically offers style before substance is flipping the table. Now we are seeing creators attempt the opposite, packing as much game as possible in a small and somewhat flashless package and labeling it as a microgame. It feels a bit like an experimental movement, almost a challenge to designers, which is exactly what we really need crowd funding for. And maybe it will be too extreme, but like any artistic movement, we’ll learn some things from the attempt that should help refine the hobby.

Plenty of small games already exist, but what makes a microgame unique is the amount of strategy or forward planning involved. The designers on Kickstarter did not invent the category but they do seem to have coined the term for the genre. The classic game Citadels by Fantasy Flight was a microgame well before the term existed, and Hisashi Hayashi’s upcoming game through AEG, Sail to India, is an incredible looking microgame that did not need the help of Kickstarter to make its way to shelves. What feels independent and innovative with the current Kickstarter trend is the concerted effort by multiple designers. We’re not just seeing isolated incidents, we’re seeing a cluster of projects. Tasty Minstrel Games, who really sort of coined the term, has their very own cluster of truly microgames already funded on Kickstarter; here, here, and here.

In honor of the microgame movement, and because I detect some level of quality, Cloud Cap Games has officially backed two microgame Kickstarter projects: Tiny Epic Kingdoms and Oddball Aeronauts. Click on their names to give them a gander on the Kickstarter. You can back both of these games through us and receive 20% more in store credit. This means you will receive the fully stretched Kickstarter exclusive copies when they ship, and also get some Cloud Cap Bucks. We are halfway through our lot of Tiny Epic Kingdoms already, but through the month of February you can get the game for $24, with $5 in store credit, while supplies last. Oddball Aeronauts has a few weeks to go before the campaign ends, but we’ll keep our offer open through the month of March: $25 for the game with $5 in store credit.

While the current microgame trend is not entirely innovative, it is a movement that would be tough to push through normal publishing channels, which makes it ideal for Kickstarter. The microgame trend feels like a true indie movement, and I look forward to seeing and supporting even more experimentation in the crowd funding arena. Maybe microgames are just a fad, but I do hope that it helps realign modern game design by encouraging the development of great games in beautiful but affordable packages.

Happy gaming everyone, in whatever size you please!

Posted on February 7th, 2014

As you may expect, we are in no hurry to open the shop today, wait until 2pm if you want to do any shopping. But what perfect gaming weather! If I lived closer to some hills I’d start my day by skinning up and swooshing down, getting a face full of powder. Today though, I’m just gonna play games, and you should too!

Before I sign off to hit the gaming table, I wanted to point out that we have officially backed a board game Kickstarter, Tiny Epic Kingdoms. This cool looking micro-game will not be available to retailers once it is released, so we backed a bundle. This means you can back the game through us, and to entice you to do so, we’ll give you $5 in store credit when you do. The Kickstarter campaign ends today, but you’ll be able to back it with us through February at the regular price: $24 gets you the deluxe version with all the exclusives and stretch goals. This is the year of the micro-game, and Tiny Epic Kingdoms looks like one of the best.

Enjoy the snow!

 

Posted on January 31st, 2014

This weekend we will be running our first ever Magic the Gathering prerelease event. The Born of the Gods set drops next week, but we’ll have the prerelease kits and prizes for a $25 sealed tournament on Saturday at 12:30pm. The grand prize is an entire box of boosters folks! Considering that we’ll be lucky to have even 10 people showing up, winning that box may not be all that tough. We’ll also be running open dueling on Sunday from Noon-2:30pm, $15 gets you the Born of the Gods Theme deck for the duel.

Now, if you just read that opening paragraph and have no idea what sealed and open dueling are, sorry, we had to have the obligatory prerelease details front and center for those reaching our website through the Magic Play Network. For you non-magicians out there, here’s some board game chatter.

First off, we will be closing at 3pm on Sunday since the big game is on and even those who don’t care about it are at a party. This means our normal Sunday game demo is cancelled. Next Sunday though, at 1pm, gamehead Ben will be running a demo of Steam Park, a new game about building an amusement park for robots. This is a light, fun, and relatively fast game. If the child in you has been ruthlessly battered by years of reality, this is not a game you will enjoy. If a trip to Disneyland on Super Bowl Sunday sounds enticing, you’ll love Steam Park. Head on over to our meetup group to reserve a seat.

New games: Tokaido, Crossroads and the Belfort Expansion Expansion.

Newish games well worth playing: Nations and Russian Railroads.

Nations is a civilization game that I’ve talked a bit about before. Well I recently played two amazing back-to-back 2-player games, 2 hours for each game. Both games were intense battles, no solitaire here. We each had to constantly reassign workers to adapt to each others actions and to the events on offer. The tension remained throughout the game, and with each player taking only one action per turn, the games hummed along. I highly recommend this game to anyone interested in heavier and somewhat abstract strategy games.

Russian Railroads turned out to be a whole different beast than I expected. Based on the name and artwork, I was prepared for a long and heady experience. Well, 4 of us learned it and played it in about 2 hours. The choices were heady, but not overwhelming, and the need to pay close attention to your opponents was ever present. This game felt a bit like Lords of Waterdeep in terms of weight and length, though it is much more abstract, so it can feel a bit weightier. Of the crop of games out of Essen, Russian Railroads and Nations are top on my list. Both are on the rental shelf as well, no excuse not to try them out.

I should be getting in a round of Terra Mystica tonight, an excellent heavier weight euro-game that I have not played in a while but do really enjoy. I’ll try and tweet some photos of my gorgeous Yellow civilization once it develops. My goal tonight is to try and cross every river on the board. For those who have played games with me, I often pursue some ridiculously random goal that generally has nothing to do with winning the game. Winning is so overrated.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Posted on January 24th, 2014

Finally, no new games this week. The crop of hot Essen games has hit the shelves, now we can just sit back and blissfully play them without worrying about what’s next. Honestly, I could happily spend the rest of the year playing just the games released in the last few months. I won’t of course, because there are also so many fantastic games to play from the past 10.

One thing seems clear: 2014 will be the year of ‘enough is enough’. We can stop the presses and flip the switch on kickstarter, and the hobby will not suffer one bit. Growth in the brick and mortar board game hobby is not happening in the new release section, its happening in the Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Pandemic sections. Those titles continue to far outsell front list items nationwide. Growth is happening because of folks who are wading into the part of the pool that a lot of us swam into 5-7 years ago. This means that brick and mortar retailers can worry less about the latest and greatest, most of which are simply purchased online anyway, and focus more on presenting the amazing backlist to the hungry acolytes. And boy do they have some great stuff to experience.

This weekend we’ve got a number of events at the shop that celebrate both the old and the new. First off, we’ll be hosting an appreciation night for one my favorite designers, Uwe Rosenberg. Besides the fact that I’ve always wanted a head of hair like his, one that looks good in any configuration, Rosenberg has a small but significant set of games under his belt. He is also one of the founders of the European game publisher, Lookout Games, whose games always have a pleasing bucolic air about them. If you are a punchcard holder, or want to be, stop on by Saturday night starting at 6pm for some Rosenberg action. If you are not a fan of the Uwe, by all means still show up and play some games, just don’t harass us Rosenberg players, we’ll be deep in peaceful rural thought.

On Sunday, both the old and the new will be happening in the shop. At 1pm, Ben O. will be teaching a round of Russian Railroads, one of the darlings from Essen, and what looks to be a sweet worker placement game. Starting at 2pm, Joshua will again be hosting his 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons campaign, just in case you want to feel heroic.

Cheers everyone and game on!

Posted on January 17th, 2014

The big news this week is the re-release of Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island. That gives us a total of 5 new Z-Man Games releases this month. We’ll be running a demo of this puppy on Saturday if anyone is interested in seeing how she handles.

The other new title this week is Steam Park, an amusement park building game using a real-time dice rolling mechanic that determines the building actions you’ll be able to perform. We’re working on getting a rental of this up and running soon. Tom Vasel of the Dice Tower is calling this one for a Spiel nominee, so we’re looking forward to trying it out.

Now, while all of these new games are flooding the shelves, many of our tried and true titles are having trouble finding their way through the pipeline. This is always a strange time of year for us when it comes to stocking the shelves. We’re emptied out after the holidays, and so are most of the hobby game publishers. On top of that, our non-hobby products come from over 20 different suppliers who require that you purchase products in larger quantities and they often make you pay for shipping. Now these guys do offer sweet deals at the beginning of the year, problem is, those deals are usually only available during 1st quarter trade shows.

So we spend the first month of the new year waiting, staring at bare shelves, and watching our special order list grow and grow. Thankfully, we’ll be travelling to a local show next week to check out new products and take advantage of some specials. Still, all the orders we place at that time will take at least 2 weeks to arrive, so by mid-February the shelves will be full.

Ah well, all this waiting is a perfect excuse to play more games. With so many new ones lately it is tough to choose what will hit the table though. I did get to play a very enjoyable round of Nations, and I started it all off by building Stonehenge. What’s the deal with Stonehenge anyway? (careful, that link leads to lots of silliness and some explicitness).

Seriously though, Nations is a great civilization-building game that easily makes into my top 5 games to have when stranded with Robinson on a cursed island. And yes, Through the Ages is on that list too. I’d love to just spend my time on the island playing each game and fully analyzing which is better, only to come to the conclusion that they are both great fun, but one is a lot shorter.

Alright, I better stop before things get really out of control. Oh, speaking of out of control, check out these fun facts.

Happy gaming everyone!

Posted on January 9th, 2014

Happy 2014 everyone, it has taken me a bit of time to recover from the holidays and get my fingers working on a blog post. But here I am, with a few very exciting changes to announce, one sad on though.

Our awesome employee and friend Chris has left his post at the shop for the alluring city of Los Angeles, and for love. He will be missed of course, but he has also already been replaced. My lovely wife Kirsten was gunning for his job for years, so I guess he’s lucky he got out with both knees intact (last time we went to the beach she was practicing some one-legged kick moves on derelict pier pillars). Anyway, she is now with us full-time, so next time you’re in, ask her what her favorite Stefan Feld game is.

Now before I discuss the other major change for the new year, I want to mention that one of the biggest US publishers of European strategy games dropped multiple titles on us this week, titles that originally debuted at one of the largest tabletop gaming expos in the world, the Spiel in Essen, Germany. So far we have only had the chance to play one of them, Tash-Kalar, another fun one from Vlaada Chvatil, but we are working diligently to get rental/demo copies ready for play. Also dropped this week were the expansions for the Firefly board game and the Pathfinder Card Game. Here are the new Z-Man releases in no particular order:

  • Russian Railroads
  • Bruxelles 1893
  • Tash-Kalar
  • Carcassonne South Seas
  • Glass Road

Whew, lots of great stuff to play, they will definitely be hitting tables at our game nights.

And, speaking of game nights, it is finally time to announce phase 2 of our Punchcard system. As many of you know, we initiated a pay-to-play system back in June of 2013 to help us control the overcrowding on game nights. Well, it has worked, and most folks we talk to appreciate the change.

For Phase 2, we’ll be doing something far less contentious than Phase 1: punchcard holders will now enjoy 20% off the purchase of a single new game while attending the game nights. That’s right folks, it is time to up the ante, level the Portland game-shop playing field, and offer our community of players a perk for getting punched. And yes, your game night punchcard credit can be used toward the purchase.

So get your lists ready folks as we enter a new era.

Cheers everyone, time to prep some new rentals.