Hot Games

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Five & Dime List 2012

7 Wonders is my most played game for a second year in succession, albeit with many less plays than the previous year.  In fact there were no ‘Dimes’ and a mere seven games were ‘Fives’. 

The common feature of all of these games is that they are ‘super-fillers’, taking 30 minutes or less to play.  Maybe this reflects less time for boardgames or possibly a trend in the industry, time will tell.

Game – 2012 Plays
7 Wonders - 8
King of Tokyo - 7
Tumblin-Dice - 7
Bullenparty - 5
Extra! - 5
Las Vegas (aka Vegas) - 5
Pinguïn Party – 5

Canyon - 4
Kolejka - 4
Pickomino (Heckmeck) - 4

In 2011 7 Wonders got to the table no fewer than 30 times and Pinguïn Party, Dixit and 23 were all ‘Dimes’.

Hopefully 2013 will see many more hours spent gaming with more (longer) strategic games hitting the table.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Podcasts Part 2

[This has been in the can since July …]

So, sat on a plane between New York and Los Angeles I have a choice of watching a movie I have no interest in, playing yet another game of patience on my IPad or continuing this series on the Blog.  The Blog has it, so onwards ...

Into the Gamescape

 A show presented by three chaps from around the Gloucester area.   Although that's only c 25 miles away and we have mutual friends, I've never met them which is kind of weird as I've met several US-based podcasters, but not the ones from down the road.

The presenters break down into a normal chap, a clever clogs and a slightly slower one who the other two take the piss out of (and of course is the one that the listener inevitably likes best). Pretty standard British bloke banter really which is both the best thing about it and also the worst - it's funny but somehow a Glawster accent is somewhat less appealing than an American one.

The show itself appears irregularly but is always worth a listen. It is mostly Euros, but they have also covered war games, Ameritrash and, heaven forbid, even RPGs. 

Board Games To Go

I believe that only Geekspeak (with Aldie and Derk from BoardGameGeek) was earlier than BGTG as I missed the early episodes. This show is presented by Mark Johnson, with guests appearing on some episodes. This is a show that shouldn't work on so many levels, but it totally succeeds and is an absolute "must listen".   Mark's presenting style makes this very easy to listen to and he absolutely has a "radio voice".  Above all though he has interesting opinions and that is an essential ingredient for any good podcast.

Recent episodes include one on playing games outdoors (clearly not aimed at UK listeners!) and one on games themed on a European vacation.  My favourite shows are the ones he does pre-Essen where he speculates on the games announced for the Fair, in much the same way as we all do.  However some of us invariably make the trip and end up with a collection of mediocrity based on a combination of short demos, the "buzz" and ill-advised hunches ... but we never learn!

The Royal Society of Gamers

 A London-based podcast that formerly had 3 presenters and worked quite well.  They consisted of an English guy, an American and a German.  The latter was by far the most entertaining, in one episode stating that Jaipur was "borderline racist" and, following some mild criticism of an abstract game by a co-presenter, saying that his remarks "were offensive to abstract players".  Wonderful stuff!  The interstitial music between segments was also very stirring.

Unfortunately the German and American guys have left leaving the Englishman and several new co-presenters. Sadly the production is lacking and it is difficult to pick out the individual voices - bring back the foreigners!

The Spiel

So we arrive at the Grand-Daddy of them all, at least in my view.  This is the most professionally produced of all the Board Game podcasts and is an audible joy from start to finish. Presented by Stephen Conway and David Coleson from Indianapolis, two very zany characters who are fanatical, and I do mean FANATICAL, about games.

The show is divided into well honed segments, arrives fortnightly and usually runs to well over two hours.  It always includes game reviews, including older titles, game news and competitions plus much else.  The production of the show is absolutely first-class from the overall balance of the content through to the carefully chosen interstitial music.  My only criticism of the show would be that occasionally the reviews are too detailed - sometimes you already have the game or it simply doesn't interest you and you just want to get on with the show.  However as I listen in the car, I cannot skip to the next segment.

The highlight of the year is the Spiel's coverage of the annual Spiel Des Jahres award. They play all of the short-listed games for the 3 awards over several episodes (usually including difficult to get hold of games) and forecast the winners and their favourite game in each category.   The Spiel have also migrated to video production and their coverage of major events is excellent (Gencon and Essen last year). If you look closely at their Essen coverage you might even spot yours truly!

I was lucky enough to meet up for Dinner with David and Stephen last year at Essen and they are as charming and interesting in the flesh as they come across on the podcast. If you only have time to listen to one podcast, this should be the one!

Of course there are other podcasts, and some of these may be very good indeed, but there are only so many one can keep up with. Of the others, I listen to Board Game Babylon with Eric Burgess if the subject matter is of interest (which it often is). I also listen to The State of Games: the content is not particularly of interest, but the female co-presenter sounds gorgeous!!

Gone, but not forgotten ...

It must take an incredible amount of effort to produce a regular gaming podcast, time that could be spent gaming. Several shows have fallen by the wayside and this is the pick of the best ...

Game On! With Cody and John

Presented out of Indianapolis, the Gaming Capital of the world, by John Richard and Cody Jones. This one ran for 84 episodes and I listened to every one. Early episodes were very much Ameritrash and RPG focused gravitating more towards Euros by the end. The show worked brilliantly because it came across as two very good friends who were also game fanatics, which, of course, was totally the case.

The Little Wooden Cubist

 A short-lived podcast that was a delight to listen to. Presented by Charlie Eastwood, a US-based priest who really was an enthusiast rather than someone who was particularly knowledgeable about games. Charlie had a very easy going manner and a radio-friendly voice that worked perfectly for this format.

The Happy Happy Board Game Love-in

Presented by the incomparable Luke Morris, this is the only podcast that has made me both cringe with embarrassment and laugh out loud. It may have been terribly produced, but it was absolutely inspired. More episodes please Luke!

Non gaming podcasts


A weekly podcast on Geocaching, produced by Sonny and Sandy from Sunny San Diego.  This is a superb, very professionally produced podcast that covers everything about caching, including events, Groundspeak announcements, tips & tricks, caching stories and much more besides.

One very impressive aspect of the show is that it is truly international.  This show is both entertaining and is also a great resource for anyone interested in the hobby.  It is hugely impressive that Sonny and Sandy produce a high quality show week after week without fail.

The Wrong Bed

You didn't think there could be a podcast about darts, well think again ...  Presented by Justin Irwin (The Bachelor of Darts) and Tricky D, this podcast has now seen several seasons.    Covering both the PDC and the BDO, it features coverage of events, interviews with the dartists, and features such as Darts tweet of the week (drollest twitter offering from a darts player) to Darts on the Telly (spotting darts boards on television programmes). Irreverent, fun and unmissable if, like me, you love your 'arras.

Friday Night Comedy from Radio 4

Basically either The News Quiz (with Sandi Toksvig) or The NOW Show (Punt & Dennis) from the previous Friday. A good way to ensure that you don't miss the best comedies on British Radio.

That concludes my journey through the world of podcasting, at least for now.

2012 - A Summary


A combination of missing the normal cons, plus extended periods of working away, meant that I only played approximately half the number of games I played in 2011.  However my choices for this year are:

Game of the Year

Kolejka – aka the Polish queuing game.

Great theme, simple to play, slightly ‘thinky’ but not too much, a bit of ‘take that’ and good fun.  Not strictly released in 2012, I first played it at Midcon in 2011 but the international edition came out this year.


King of Tokyo – glorious dice-throwing monster-fighting game

Tumblin’ Dice – yet more dice!  (Tumblin’ to be exact)

Bullfrog Goldfield – brain-bustin’.

Con of the Year

This year I managed to miss Manorcon, Midcon and Essen.  But of the ones I did attend, it had to be:

The Cast are Dice – great venue, good food, great people, crap hotel (well 3 out of 4 can’t be bad)


Again about 50% down on 2011, mainly due to the crap weather that dominated the year.  However we did add Gibraltar, Morocco, Jersey and Norway to the countries we have cached in.  So to the awards:

Cache of the Year

 Well it had to be  GC3Q9RE – Caching Heroes Number 1: Slogger007

Placed by Team PDB&G in my honour.  Many thanks to Matthew and family.  Of course I claimed the FTF on it!

Caching Event of the Year

Easy: the Geolympix in Oxford in July.  11 icons in 11 hours including our first Wherigo and first CITO.

Caching Day of the Year

15th July – 136 caches found in the Nevada desert.  Epic!


I’ve read 17 books this year which must be my adult record.  The best ones being:

Best non-fiction reads

Cider With Roadies – Stuart Maconie
CAMRA's Good Beer Guide 2013 – Roger Protz

Best fiction (in reading order)

Roman: The Fall of Britannia – KM Ashman
Hereward: The Devil’s Army – James Wilde
The Leopard Sword – Anthony Riches
Spartacus: Rebellion – Ben Kane
1356 – Bernard Cornwell
The Wolf’s Gold – Anthony Riches
The Bourne Identity – Robert Ludlum
Roman II: The Rise of Caratacus - KM Ashman


 Rich Hall in Cirencester & Simon Evans at the Arts Centre


Best Live gig

  1. John Otway at the Vic
  2. Jack White at the Ally Pally
  3. From the Jam & the Blockheads at the O2 Academy Bristol

Best Album

  1. England keep my bones – Frank Turner [OK I know it was 2011]
  2. Boys & Girls – Alabama Shakes
  3. Blunderbuss – Jack White

Tech of the Year

Kindle Paperwhite – goodbye paper!

Year as a whole

 Overall 2012 will be remembered as the year of sport:
  • London 2012
  • Chelsea winning the Champions League
  • Swindon winning League 2
  • Glaws continuing to dominate Barf
  • The Ryder Cup triumph
  • England beating India in the test series in India
  • Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France.

 Not that I voted for the SPOTY, but if I had done it would have been:
  1. Bradley Wiggins
  2. Mo Farah
  3. Sarah Storey
  4. Alistair Brownlee

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Podcasts Part I

I drive a lot of miles in an average year: typically 30-40,000 and so have a lot of time to listen to music in the car. For the last 4-5 years, in fact ever since I've had the ability to connect my IPod to the car stereo, 90% of my car journeys are spent listening to podcasts. This is my view on the best I've come across.  Part 1 starts with a few Board Game podcasts, with more to follow in (surprisingly!) Part 2.
The Dice Tower
Let's start with perhaps the most popular.  The Dice Tower is presented by long-time host (and ubiquitous reviewer) Tom Vasel and co-host Eric Summerer.  Tom is widely regarded as one of the most knowledgeable personalities in the hobby and it comes across in the show. His personal tastes tend to the Ameritrash, but he likes his fair share of Euros as well. He does sometimes come across as quite arrogant, although he seems aware of this and this has diminished more recently. 
I met Eric Summerer at Origins a couple of years ago and taught him Nimmt 11. He is a smashing fella and, although still the junior presenter on the show, his contribution to the show is significant. An important part of the show's appeal in the past has been it's rota of guest contributors. This is one area that is in need of refresh, the current irregular crop of contributors is somewhat lacking, save for the excellent Geoff Engelstein and very occasional visits from the entertaining Moritz Eggert.
Overall, the Dice Tower remains absolutely essential listening. 
Garrett's Games & Geekiness
Mostly games, unless you count drinking wine as geekiness!  (now real ale might just count!).  Anyway back to the podcast ...
The weekly show is presented by Doug Garrett, usually accompanied by his wife Shelley. I met them briefly at Essen a few years ago and they are as nice in person as they come across on the podcast.  Their taste is primarily Euro in nature (special favourites being Michael Schacht & Stefan Feld) and they tend towards the "Cult of the new", although they have just started re-reviewing old games recently.
The show occasionally has round-tables with industry veterans recorded at cons. An excellent recent episode featured Susan McKinley Ross (designer of SdJ winner Qwirkle) and our very own Martin Wallace together with Aldie from BGG. What the American audience made of Martin's dry English humour would be interesting. 
I enjoy Garrett's Games because it's a very easy show to listen to and, by and large, there is a large overlap between my taste in games and that of the presenters. Overall, a highly recommended podcast.

On Board Games
This slightly irregularly appearing show is primarily presented by Don Dennis, Erik Dewey and Scott Nicholson (yes he of the excellent Board Games with Scott video series).   The format of the show is generally a round-table discussion followed by a series of game reviews. 
The industry round-table discussions are usually excellent and sometimes entertaining. They are definitely the best regular such spot on any podcast and, alone, ensure that this podcast is well worth a listen. They also cover a strange selection of games in their reviews which is very different from all of the other podcasts listed here.
One warning about the show is that Giles Pritchard is a fairly regular guest presenter.  Quite possibly a very nice guy, but his abrasive Aussie accent simply grates and I immediately switch off when his contributions pop up.
Overall another podcast that is well worth a listen.
Part II
To come, a selection of other podcasts, including:
  • Boardgames to go
  • Into the Gamescape
  • The Spiel

UK Games Expo 2012 - still disappointing ...

Over-priced food, inadequate parking, grown (!?) men dressing up as Star Wars stormtroopers and games not turning up - yes it must be the UK Games Expo once again!
We've been along every year and in recent years we (well at least me anyway) have said "never again". This year will almost  definitely be the last. So what is most wrong about the Expo:
  1. It just hasn't grown appreciably - the number of exhibitors is still minimal. 
  2. There were no major game releases this year, even worse the one key new game that even graced the Expo's programme failed to appear. 
  3. There are not enough retailers there to generate any price competition between vendors.
So, enough of the negativity, what was good about the Expo:
  • There is plenty of space to play games - we had enjoyable games of Anchorage and Extra!
  • I got to see the Going Cardboard film which was very good
  • We used the trip to visit Imrans on Ladypool Road for an excellent Balti
The future of the Expo seems to be in creating a UK equivalent of Origins at the NEC Metropole. Currently the Expo exhibitor space is around a third of the size of the Origins Dealer Room and considerably less interesting.
I hope the Expo grows and thrives - maybe I'll check it out in a few years time. In the meantime, roll on Essen!

Monday, 9 April 2012

A-Z of Games, Caches & Songs – ‘A’

A weekly A-Z of Games, Caches & Songs through the alphabet. 5 games, 3 caches and 10 songs. This week it’s ‘A’.


  • Acquire – Sid Sackson
  • Agricola – Uwe Rosenberg
  • Airlines Europe – Alan R. Moon
  • American Rails – Tim Harrison
  • Automobile – Martin Wallace


  • Aladdins Cave - Northking
  • A(queduct) Ray of Hope - Roobydoo
  • Are you game enough? - Hanando


  • 'A' Bomb In Wardour Street - The Jam
  • Absolute Beginners - The Jam
  • Acquiesce - Oasis
  • Action Packed - Jonathan Richman
  • Alison - Elvis Costello
  • All Around The World - Lisa Stansfield
  • All the Same to You - Laura Cantrell
  • All The Young Dudes - Mott The Hoople
  • All Woman - Lisa Stansfield
  • Alright - Supergrass
  • Anarchy In The U.K. - Sex Pistols
  • (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes - Elvis Costello
  • Away From The Numbers - The Jam
And in more detail ...


My 2 favourite games and 3 other very strong ones.


I’ve only recently discovered this classic Sid Sackson title, originally published in 1962. It is basically a stock trading game against a backdrop of hotel growth and takeovers. It plays like a new Euro and I’m looking forward to lots more plays of it.


Whoever thought faming could be fun? An ‘event’ game – the experience being more important than the winning. The sheer number of cards means that each game will be fresh for years to come. My second favourite game after Automobile.

Airlines Europe

Acquire meets Ticket to Ride? Well almost – stock-holding certainly meets route-building but this is a very strong game in its own right. This is Alan R. Moon’s latest re-working of Airlines and Union Pacific and therefore has a pedigree dating back to 1990.

American Rails

Another stock-holding and route-building game – a theme seems to be emerging here. Similar to both Chicago Express and Steel Driver, but superior to both.


Martin Wallace’s finest moment and my favourite game. Excellent theme and straight-forward gameplay. Often wrongly dismissed as overly maths-heavy, it contains many of Martin’s favoured mechanics and can be wonderfully confrontational. As Kenny Rogers sang in The Gambleryou got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. Except in this case, it’s all about car manufacturing …


Aladdins Cave

Sadly recently archived. This was a simple puzzle cache in central Nottingham with the final in a large ammo can in an army surplus store! The reasons why the cache was outstanding was the enthusiasm of the store owner who we discussed caching with for more than 30 minutes and also the store itself – the best army surplus store I’ve ever been in (“hey make sure that you give a discount to my geocaching buddies”).

A(queduct) Ray of Hope

The primary reason why caching in Swindon is in such good shape is one man – Roobydoo (Keith Shailes). He has placed more than 200 local caches (at the time of writing I’ve found 199 of them) and really gave the hobby a boost. This is one of his best – the cache was placed in a pipe with a hidden entrance so that you are literally standing on top of the cache but can’t understand why you can’t find it. The other end of the pipe is close by though so you can use this as a guide to discover the main entrance.

Are you game enough?

A fun local puzzle cache that combines Euro gaming with caching, how can it not be on the list?


A distinctly punky edge to this first batch. There are also 13 tracks – I was unable to pick out a favourite ten.

'A' Bomb In Wardour Street - The Jam

A song that captured the mood at the time. One of the stand-outs on All Mod Cons. I first heard it at the Brunel Rooms on a mini-tour to promote the forthcoming album.

Absolute Beginners - The Jam

With its soaring brass, this was a forerunner of the direction for Weller post-Jam. Also a great book by Colin MacInnes.

Acquiesce – Oasis

Superior ‘B’ side of Some Might Say.

Action Packed - Jonathan Richman

From the 1989 Jonathan Richman album. Recorded some great stuff around this time.

Alison - Elvis Costello

Seminal single from first album.

All Around The World - Lisa Stansfield

I’ve always had a soft spot for Rochdale’s finest. #1 hit in 1989.

All the Same to You - Laura Cantrell

Along with Jonathan Richman and Erin McKeown, Laura Cantrell is one of my favourite singers. Taken from the 2002 album When The Roses Bloom Again, the album that got me into her work.

All The Young Dudes - Mott The Hoople

Bowie written song from 1972. One I remember from the youth club, still sounds great today.

All Woman - Lisa Stansfield

Incredibly just a minor hit in 1991.

Alright – Supergrass

The feel-good summer track of choice.

Anarchy In The U.K. - Sex Pistols

I first heard (and saw) this on an EMI promo video in Harrods Music Department in December 1976. Great sneering vocal, although it sounds a bit twee now.

(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes - Elvis Costello

From a time when EC was routinely churning out fantastic pop songs. I love the lyric Oh, I said "I’m so happy, I could die”, she said "drop dead," then left with another guy.

Away From The Numbers - The Jam

Apart from In the City, the standout song from the first Jam album.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Book Review

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book would be a 4.5 star if that were allowable. In fact as a first novel, it is really deserving of 5 stars.

Not quite as polished as a Cornwell, Scarrow or Kristian, but nevertheless a good paced and very readable book right from the start. I finished it in 3 - 4 days and it was a book where just one more chapter was required to be read every time I picked it up.

I knew about the central events of 1066, but not too much else about this period. I cannot vouch for the historical accuracy of the book, but it is a very enjoyable read and I have a new name in my list of 'must-read' authors. I am looking forward to the follow-up later this year and have already pre-ordered it.