Friday, 25 January 2013

You're next...

I don’t think I’m alone when I suggest that many gamers, when lured into the hobby of gaming, tend to outpace their ability to play games with their rate of purchase.  Perhaps I’m one of the few, but I’ve always seemed to own more games than I have played, and therefore have a collection of games on my shelves that have yet to see the light of day (or at least the glow of the light above the game table).

There are many reasons why this ends up happening, the most common for me being opportunity - I just haven’t had the opportunity to bring some of these games to the table.

In any case - with all that said and done, these are the top 5 of my unplayed games that I want to play:

Song of Blades and Heroes

In one sense I feel like I’m being inconsistent when I add this - given I have played it, and it’s in my top ten favourite games.  What I really mean when I add Song of Blades and Heroes is that I would love to play this including rules from the supplements - Song of Gold and Darkness adds some extra rules, Song of Wind and Water adds plenty of rules for terrain and weather conditions, and Song of Deeds and Glory adds a campaign system.

I really want to make an opportunity this year to get this game to the table enough to play through a short campaign (or several), that utilises the ‘full’ rule set.  I think it would be a huge amount of fun.

Dystopian Wars

My brother and I have invested in some fleets for Dystopian Wars - a miniatures game set in a 19th century steam-punk uchronia with a fun back story and absolutely wonderful miniatures.  From what I’ve read and seen of the rules it seems an interesting system with plenty of opportunity for story, and most importantly, fun.  I'll be playing the Covenant of Antarctica by the way, and my brother the mighty Russian Coalition...

Flashing Steel/Song of Arthur and Merlin

Song of Arthur and Merlin is a spin off game from the Song of Blades and Heroes rules.  It has three modes of play, which cover a historical version of the Arthur story, the Welsh version of the Arthur story, and a cinematic version.  Sounds fun, a theme I like and a rule set that is light and enjoyable!

Flashing Steel is also a spin off of the Song of Blades and Heroes system, this time accommodating the black powder era, swashbuckling, treasure finding, and Cardinal defying action.  What has really got me excited about this game is an upcoming supplement dealing with the Scarlet Pimpernel... promises to be immeasurable fun, what!

Pax Porfiriana

The latest from the Sierra Madre stable.  A historical epic set during the ‘peace’ of Porfirio Diaz and the mexican revolution.  Not a subject I’d ever considered particularly interesting, but that was broadly because of ignorance rather than it being innately uninteresting.  Eklund manages to make some wonderful games that drip with narrative.  I’m looking forward to getting the opportunity of playing this!

Dux Britanniarum

A miniatures wargame set during the early Dark Ages and designed and published by Too Fat Lardies.  It reads like a wonderfully epic campaign system with a rules set attached, just the sort of thing I love.  Stories leap from the pages of the rules, and that's without even playing.  Very much looking forward to getting this to the table - I just need to get some miniatures first... (I'm looking at you Pendraken...)

These are the games I already own, that I’m looking most forward to getting to the table... and hopefully reducing the number of unplayed games in the process!


Sunday, 20 January 2013


Everywhere in the wonderful world of board games we are accosted by lists, the top 10, the top 100... I sat down tonight to run through my game collection and work out what my favourite games were, so I could write this post.  One thing is abundantly clear, this list is good for right now.  Not the right now of you reading this, but the right now of me writing this.  By the time you read this I may have picked up a book on the Middle Ages, watched an action movie where Arnie avenges a lost friend/family member/pet or pondered the wonder of our solar system, and my favourite games, the games I want to play right now, may have changed radically.  

Small things combine, like the rings that summon Captain Planet, to impart some momentum on the direction of my thoughts, likes, dislikes and interests (and I say me, but I doubt I am in the minority).  My favourite game? To play with whom? How long have we got to play? How many players? What theme is radiating magnetic lines attractively in my direction this fine evening?

And what do we mean by best? The objectively better game designs? But by what metric would such a thing be measured and would this be accurate? To keep things simple, I’m running with a loose definition - what games do I want to play the most... as in right now, if it were possible...

To try and anatomise the sum of my experiences with different games and provide a subjective ranking is obviously going to result in a ridiculous caricature.  It’s not completely pointless of course - the games that make the list are definitely games that number among my favourites.  

I had some trouble deciding how to structure this list, should I list them 1-10, should I list them 10-1... The real reason I had trouble with this is because all of these games are favourites, giving them some arbitrary ranking seems somehow dishonest.  So take the numbers with a pinch of salt - these ten are all my number one games.

So without further adieu, and with no more circular logic and pointless arm waving, here it is:

10 - Sorry Sliders

Sorry Sliders is a simple game, a poor man’s shuffle board or Crokinole.  Players slide their pieces (which have ball-bearings inside them) down a track and onto a scoring board.  It’s simple, but it’s also a lot of fun.  This is one of those games that is easy to get out and play many many times in a row.  Plain and simple - it’s fun.

9 - Carrom

Carrom is like billiards, but instead of poking balls around a table, you are flicking disks around a board.  It is a dexterity game, like Crokinole, and like Sorry Sliders, but it is difficult.  There is real skill involved in getting the deflections, rebounds and angles just right.  It’s a wonderful game, and I’m very glad to own a board - however poorly I play it.

8 - Fairy Tale

Fairy Tale is a game where players try and build a collection of 12 cards in front of them that will combine to score the most points.  The key to achieving this is in the drafting, which happens every turn.  It’s a wonderful game, and my absolute go-to filler, as it plays in around 10-15 minutes.  I’ve played it literally hundreds of times, and haven’t tired of it yet.  A game that is much bigger than what you get in the box.

7 - Stone Age

Stone Age is a worker placement game, players roll dice, collect resources and generally try to balance improving their ability to do things, with doing the things that will score them points.  It’s easy to play and is simply an enjoyable ride.  Great game.

6 - 7 Wonders

Like Fairy Tale (above), this is a game about building combinations and drafting cards.  It plays with a large number of people, but manages to do so in a neat package and reasonable play time.  It is an easy to game to play (though difficult to teach), and feels like a really neatly designed system.  An excellent game.

5 - Kingdom Builder

Kingdom Builder is a game I was prepared to dislike based solely on the hype it was getting (like 7 Wonders), however, upon playing I found a very simple and yet highly enjoyable game.  I really like the flexibility of the system, the variety of goals and objectives that subtly change the way players approach their turns.  A very solid game that is highly enjoyable.

4 - Neuroshima Hex

Neuroshima Hex has probably been best described as a knife fight in a phone booth.  Players are laying attack tiles on the board to create a network of attack and defense, but it’s not clear exactly when the whole intricate network will simple explode, and there are casualties galore.  This is one of the best games I have ever played, and I needn’t say more than that.

3 - Rivals of Catan

A two player spin-off of the powerhouse Settlers of Catan, and a revisioning of the older Settlers of Catan the Card game.  It is a highly enjoyable and very well structured two-player game.  The theme decks that come with the game give it a real flavour, and manage to emphasize different aspects of game-play, whether peaceful building, trading, racing for x, y, or z, or outright aggression, the theme decks add a huge amount to the game.  This is a very good little game, and one that my wife and I enjoy a huge amount!

2 - Agricola

Agricola is a game that needs no introduction, you are a family of farmers building up your farm holding, growing crops, extending your family and home and breeding animals.  I was prepared not to enjoy this game particularly much, but this is a game that my wife and I absolutely love playing together.  The only downside is typical of these games - just as you feel you are getting everything sorted out the game ends.  Agricola is a very good game that plays well with two.

1 - Song of Blades and Heroes

My flavour of the month, so to speak.  How can I not add this game - after spending so many hours putting together terrain and painting figures...?  Well truth be told, it’s also here because the game is simple, and yet engaging enough to remain highly enjoyable.  It’s a skirmish game - meaning only a a small number of miniatures per side are required.  Scenario play adds a whole other dimension to the game - and brings it from being an interesting 40 minutes, to a tense and enjoyable romp.  I can’t wait to play with the supplemental rules...

Well, that’s a brief overview of my top 10... and as I wrote earlier, these are really all my top ones.  I found it very difficult giving them a ranking, and I’m not happy with it - but it will suffice for now.  All these games are favourites, and all are, in my view, excellent and fun games.

For some additional interest, here’s how my list looks expanded out to 30:

11 - Condottiere
12 - Castle
13 - Erosion
14 - Animalia
15 - Starfarers of Catan
16 - China
17 - Chaos in the Old World
18 - Nexus Ops
19 - War of the Ring
20 - Runewars
21 - Formula D
22 - Ra: The Dice Game
23 - Battlelore
24 - Taluva
25 - Pandemic
26 - American Megafauna
27 - Origins How We Became Human
28 - Court of the Medici
29 - Duel of Ages
30 - Manoeuvre


Friday, 18 January 2013

Games, Goals, and 2013...

I’m a little late on the trend of blogging about what we plan to do with our spare time in the coming year; and my blog today is really a way for me to consolidate some disparate ideas into one fixed location.

My key goals for 2013 all revolve around a resurgence of interest I’ve had over the last 12 months in miniatures gaming.  There are some projects here I want to finish, and some I want to begin.

Family game time:

Now my son is getting older he is more ready to be able to sit and play some basic games with y wife and I, hopefully we’ll be able to provide plenty such opportunities for this in 2013.  My wife and I are also hoping to be able to make a regular games night, something that had fallen by the wayside with our second child.  Such times are wonderful ways to while away an evening.

For myself...

Song of Blades and Heroes, Dux Britanniarum, & Dux Bellorum:

This is a small skirmish game by Ganesha Games, the PDF is available for a small price online at Ganesha’s website, and is an excellent, short and highly enjoyable little game.  Some of the things I really like about it are that it requires only a small number of figures per side, that the rules are simple but both efficient and flexible, and that it plays in a short amount of time.  The game is also a vastly improved experience with scenarios, plenty of which are available online, and many more are easily created through the application of some imagination.

I still have my Splintered Light miniatures to finish off, so a key goal for me is to get those painted.  I also have additional Song of Blades and Heroes spin-off rules: Arthur and Merlin (exactly as it sounds), and Flashing Steel (musketeers, pirates and the like).  I’d love to collect a small force for each of these as well.  

For the Song of Arthur and Merlin rules I’d love to get some 10mm figures that could also be used, at a pinch, for other dark age games I have, such as Dux Britanniarum and Dux Bellorum.

Dux Britanniarum is especially appealing because of the inbuilt campaign system that looks like an immense amount of fun.  10mm figures have the advantage of being quicker to paint, easier to store, and cheaper - so for me they seem a good scale choice that will allow me to play multiple dark age games.  We shall see.

Dystopian Wars:

From the Spartan Games website...

My brother and I have decided to grab some fleets for Dystopian Wars, a steam punk combined arms (naval, aerial and ground) miniatures wargame by Spartan Games.  The models look absolutely fantastic; I’ll be collecting some stuff for the Covenant of Antarctica, while he’ll be playing the Russian Coalition.  Getting the opportunity to play the game, as well as painting up the models, will be a key goal for the coming year.  One I might add that I’m much looking forward to - Dystopian Wars seems a really interesting, tactical and fun game.


I have some more terrain I want to build, I have some forest and hill pieces waiting to be put together, and wouldn’t mind making up some islands and other terrain pieces for Dystopian Wars.  Another key factor in regards to terrain is finding some form of storage solution that manages to leave as small a footprint on our house as possible!

The playing of games:

The key games I am particularly keen to get to the table at the moment are Song of Blades and Heroes, Dux Britanniarum and, of course, Dystopian Wars.  I’d to design and play a couple of campaigns for Song of Blades and Heroes, and have the Song of Deeds and Glory supplement that provides some rules for campaign play, so we’ll see how that goes.  Of course, I’d also love to get Dystopian Wars to the table - this is the ‘hot’ game at the moment, the one that is bouncing most noisily around inside my mind and screeching for attention.

In any case, these are some of the goals I have for 2013 in terms of gaming.  Here’s looking forward to much more table time as a family!  2013 also represents something of a shift in my gaming focus, so I hope to get a lot more painting, modeling and table top gaming in this year - we shall see!


Saturday, 12 January 2013

Science and Technology Podcasts

Science and Technology Podcasts:

The last of the three broad categories which fill up my podcast queue is science and technology.  This is really a rather loose descriptor, but will have to suffice for the sake of this post.

When I use the term ‘science’, readers might find that rather than covering a range of different scientific topics, most of the podcasts relate to astronomy, and that technology is relegated to a single show.  These are just the podcasts that I currently subscribe to, there are, of course, a great many more, and if there are any stand out exceptions, I’d love to read about them!

All in the Mind

All in the mind is a podcast covering a rather eclectic mix of topics to do with psychology and neuroscience.  The show is well presented, and each episode deals with a specific topic, such as shared memory, or the science of compassion.  All in the Mind is an enjoyable and interesting listen.

Dr Karl’s Great Moments in Science

A very brief podcast, with each episode featuring Dr Karl discussing some tidbit, whether from current scientific research or an important breakthrough or discovery in the history of science.  It’s an extremely quick glance at each topic, but rather engaging nonetheless.

The Infinite Monkey Cage

The two hosts, Robin Ince and Brian Cox are usually joined by a panel of 3 others to discuss a topic.  The show manages to encapsulate a lively, interesting and humourous discussion within a relatively short time-frame.  The Infinite Monkey Cage is recorded in series, and episodes are highly enjoyable.  This is probably one of my favourite podcasts, not just of this category, but of all the podcasts I listen to.  It manages to maintain both a humourous approach to discussion, as well as covering some fascinating areas for discussion.  Brian and Robin work well together to provide a witty and intelligent banter, and their guests are a mix of experts and comedians/non-experts, and the mix works very well.

A thoroughly excellent show; not for those who avidly follow their star sign, or suspect their might be fairies at the bottom of their garden, but a wonderful podcast.

Planetary Radio

A podcast hosted by Matt Caplan of the Planetary Society.  Planetary Radio discusses the news and goings on in the world of space exploration, with a variety of segments from other members of the Planetary Society.  It’s an interesting, and each episode is a light and enjoyable listen.

StarStuff with Stuart Gary

Probably my favourite podcast that relates to astronomy, and I’ve listened to a few.  Stuart manages to cover the news of what’s going on in space exploration and astronomy mixing a good deal of information into a digestible and enjoyable package.  All in all it’s a fantastic show for those with an interest in the world of space exploration or the scientific discoveries that relate to our universe.  Well recommended.

StarTalk Radio Show

StarTalk Radio is the question time section of the StarTalk radio show with Neil deGrasse Tyson.  This show is both about the information it presents, and the personality of it’s main host - Neil deGrasse Tyson.  Neil manages to cover his topics extremely well, with a good dose of humour and flair.  Highly enjoyable.

This Week in Tech

This Week in Tech, with Leo LaPorte and a variety of guest panelists, is a podcast covering all the news of the tech world, from start ups to the big companies.  The discussion is lively and enjoyable.  The mixture of expert panelists makes for some interesting discussion, insights and analysis of the goings-on in the world of technology.  It’s a longer show, but nonetheless, very enjoyable to listen to.

So these are the main podcasts I listen to that fit beneath the banner of science and technology, they are certainly not the only podcasts, or even the best, but they are the ones I subscribe to at the moment.

One of the topics I’d love to find a podcast covering is the world of paleontology, search as I might I can’t seem to find anything that covers this area.  If anyone knows of such a show - I’d love to hear about it!


Saturday, 5 January 2013

History Podcasts...

Last blog I wrote about the gaming podcasts I listen to, today I’m writing about the history podcasts I enjoy:

12 Byzantine Rulers

A podcast by Lars Brownworth, each episode covers the reign of various Byzantine monarchs, and from beginning to end manages to neatly encapsulate the history of the fascinating Byzantine empire.  Lars Brownworth presents his podcast well, it is obviously well scripted and listens much like a documentary series.  I understand it draws strongly on the book by John Julius Norwich, but 12 Byzantine Rulers also manages to stand on its own as a fascinating ride through the history of one of the great empires of antiquity.

Ancient Warfare Magazine podcast

A conversational podcast where a group of experts talk about specific events or subjects, whether it be the Summerian military, or the disaster of the Teutoburg forest.  The Ancient Warfare magazine podcast occasionally meander off into the realms of minutia, but is an interesting if infrequent listen in its own right.

The History of the World in 100 Objects

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum gives a glimpse into the history of humanity via the intermediaries of the objects they left behind.  Each episode covers a single object, and gives a brief glimpse of the culture and world that was its context.  An interesting podcast, and Neil’s style is certainly enjoyable and idiosyncratic, but too often it is but a shallow glance - episodes are short and sweet.

In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg

Probably one of my favourite podcasts of this category, Melvyn can ride the direction of the conversation too hard at times; there are moments when listening that I would love to stop the panel and ask them to give a bit more detail.  Despite this mild criticism In Our Time is a highly enjoyable podcast covering an eclectic mix of topics, events, personalities and circumstances in history.  Well worth a listen.  I downloaded the back catalogue and this managed to keep my mind occupied while I painted our son’s room - very much recommended.

Norman Centuries

Norman Centuries is the second series of history podcasts by Lars Brownworth.  Again following the trail of John Julius Norwich, Lars this time tackles the history of the Normans.  Each episode is centered around one ruler, but may cover more than their single rule.  It is an excellent and highly enjoyable listen about a time and a culture that I find quite interesting.  Lars, as in 12 Byzantine Rulers, is a solid presenter, and his scripting for each episode engaging and interesting.  One of my favourites - if only there were more such podcast series!

This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a list of those I have found and enjoyed.  No doubt there are others, in fact - if you listen to a history podcast that is excellent, I'd love to find out about it!


Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Gaming Podcasts...

There are currently about 16 podcasts that I subscribe to, some are as regular as clockwork, others are irregular, aside from those 16 there are a litany of others I have listened to.  

Podcasts are a fantastic medium, with the variety available they provide the opportunity to listen to discussion of a wide range of topics.  I listen to podcasts as I drive to and from work, when I’m working in the garden, and any other opportunity I get.  Broadly speaking the podcasts I listen to at the moment fall into four broad categories, gaming podcasts, history podcasts, science podcasts and technology podcasts.

Over the last 10 years or so I have listened to a great many more podcasts than the 15 I subscribe to at the moment, it is a simple fact that there are simply so many, on such a variety of topics, that I could easily add another 50 or more to my listening queue - but I would never get around to them all.  Those listed here are simply the ones that I enjoy at the moment, they are by no means the only, nor even necessarily the best of their type.

Gaming Podcasts (in alphabetical order):

A podcast by Mark Jackson and a variety of co-hosts.  Boardgames to Go is an irregular podcast which manages to cover a range of interesting topics and ideas and does so intelligently and engagingly.  Mark tends to favour euro-games, but it is the different topics discussed that makes this a podcast I enjoy listening to.  

Probably the podcast for the board gaming hobby, Tom Vasel and Eric Summerer are the inestimable hosts of this evergreen show.  In fact the Dice Tower, with its litany of video reviews, its network which seems to be bent on taking over the world (in a good way) and general steadfastness is probably more of an institution than a simple show.  Truth be told I don’t watch video reviews, and I only listen to a handful of the shows on the Dice Tower network (not because they lack quality, but simply because I lack time), but nonetheless The Dice Tower stands tall as the triumphant monolith whose shadow touches all other gaming podcasts.

The Dice Tower is more of a variety show than most others, with a range of contributors from around the world (myself an occasional example).  This variety, along with their focus on what’s happening in the world of gaming and the weekly Top Ten lists, make for an excellent show.  Tom and Eric are affable and enjoyable hosts, and it’s all around an excellent look at the world of board games.

How can I not list my own humble podcast in amongst this list of gaming podcasts?  Donald Dennis and I discuss gaming from the point of view of the classroom and the library.  I’ll leave it to any listeners to pass judgement on whether we do any good, but we try.

A thoroughly engaging and in-depth discussion on some very interesting topics by the ever amazing Geoff Engelstein and ever popular Ryan Sturm.  Topics are discussed in some depth, with plenty of math and science thrown in to back it all up.  A very interesting listen!

Neil Shuck is the usual voice on Meeples and Miniatures, though for the last little while he’s also been joined by some regular-ish co-hosts in Rich Jones and Mike Hobbs.  Neil also regularly interviews publishers (predominantly of miniatures wargames), and has in-depth discussions on the games they are releasing.

Meeples and Miniatures is one of the only podcasts that manages to cover both the world of board gaming and the world of miniatures gaming.  In fact, Neil’s sultry tones are probably one of the reasons I’ve got back into collecting and painting miniatures at all.  Discussions are usually long and in-depth, but the banter keeps everything light and enjoyable.  Not a podcast for everybody perhaps, but I certainly look forward to each episode.  I like the fact Meeples and Miniatures covers a range of rules sets and game types, too many podcast on miniatures gaming tend to focus on one or two games, but Neil does a great job of discussing a breadth.  Well worth a listen.

Probably a personal favourite, and not because I am an occasional contributor.  Donald Dennis and Erik Dewey (along with a rotating third chair in Scott Nicholson’s absence) manage to cover a range of interesting topics to a good depth.  Don and Erik are industry veterans, who know of of what they speak, so to say.  This provides some experience and perspective that is rich, layered and different from most of the other podcasts out there.

Each episode is characterised by a ‘round table’ discussion on a particular topic, and followed by a variety of game reviews.  In my opinion it is one of the very best gaming podcasts out there - and yes I am biased.  Nonetheless, the discussions on this podcast, surrounding the round table topic, are some of the best and most interesting topical discussions on any gaming podcast I’ve listened to - well worth subscribing in my view.

View from the Veranda is a spin off series from the Meeples and Miniatures podcast, it’s a very occasional conversation between Neil Shuck and Henry Hyde.  This podcast is most certainly not one for everybody, but Neil and Henry manage to take a topic, veer off course, sometimes wildly, and keep it interesting and enjoyable.  This podcast really is topical, and always centered around miniatures gaming.  Long, occasionally rambling (in a good way), and something that almost touches on boutique - if such a term could be applied to a podcast.  Nonetheless I like the general light humour and personalities of the two hosts, and their discussions are interesting and enjoyable.

Over the years I've subscribed to a great many more gaming podcasts than the humble and short list that is here.  These are simply the ones I subscribe to at the moment - and since I change my subscriptions regularly, one or two may disappear, one or two may be added...

Other great gaming podcasts: The D6 Generation, The Spiel, Garett's Games and Geekiness, Happy Happy Board Game Love In (amusing but defunct), Into the Gamescape, The Little Metal Dog Show, and too many more to mention!



December was meant to be a bumper month for Castle by Moonlight, I was quickly off the starting blocks with a couple of posts, with the full intentions of continuing the run, and then life intervened.  It was a wonderful end to 2012, plenty of family, friends and food - all the things that characterise a good time.

With the possibilities of a big blogging December now well and truly passed, I’ll start out on a project I’ve been meaning to begin for some time.  Many blogs have a blog roll, a set of links to those blogs they like, their friends, things that interest them and so forth.  A couple of episodes ago on a podcast called Boardgames to Go, Mark and Jeff were discussing board game blogs, one of the discussion points made me stop and think.  Jeff, of the GameGuyThinks blog mentioned the idea of adding a ‘resources’ page to his blog - a place where various miscellany of interest could be placed for permanent reference, something potentially useful to perusers of his blog.  It was a great idea, and something I’d love to do - a write-up of the blogs, podcasts, game stores, publishers and additional things I like or find interesting.  If I appreciate a podcast or blog, the service of a particular favourite store, or the games of a publisher or two, I’d like to be able to show that appreciation in some small way, and a link with a little more than a single line of underlined blue text seems an appropriate way of doing things for a blog.

This is likely to be an ongoing project, I want to be able to have a short write-up and link for a variety of things, for blogs I read and enjoy, for podcasts I like listening to, for publishers, miniatures manufacturers, game stores and so on I have good experiences with.  I plan it to be something like an extended blog-roll, and perhaps the readers of this blog might occasionally find something of interest there too.  We shall see...


Oh - and a Happy New Years to all - though significantly lacking in Mayan apocalypses, 2013 still looks to be another wonderful year!