Teams. Three.

It's no secret that (most of the boardgaming world and) I love the party card game Codenames. A well worded review by ShutUpandSitDown on how to play and why it's amazing can be found here.  And while I love the game to death, seeing it convert so many of my non-gaming friends into board gamers for a night, the game designer and me likes to tinker away at how to modify the game for different contexts.

On multiple occasions, including a recent weekend retreat with some of my colleagues, Codenames was a classic crowd favorite. However, once more than eight people want to play, the teams start to feel a little bulky. That is probably why on the box it says "2-8+" players and not "2-infinite". And so a problem presents itself: sometimes more than eight people want to play Codenames, but the recommended player range doesn't fit the group size. Thus we can

1. Play with a suboptimal player range and have bulky teams

2. Have players rotate in on different teams

OR

3. Try Codenames with THREE teams.

I am sure there are other possible solutions to rectifying the above problem, but I have found playing Codenames with three teams to be a fairly successful strategy. The three team strategy is easily implemented into a standard game of Codenames. Set up is exactly the same, except that now there is a red team, a blue team, and a beige team, each with a codemaster and field agents. The beige team should either go last and/or have their first turn skipped as they have the fewest clues (7) as opposed to the normal 8 or 9. The first team to identify all of their cards wins.

There are a number of reasons I like to use the three team strategy for groups of nine players or more:

1. Three Codemasters. While I certainly enjoy being a field agent guessing the cards, no game of Codenames that I play feels complete until I have had a chance to be the Codemaster. If I stick to a two team format with nine players, the opportunity to be Codemaster can be rather slim depending on how many games we end up playing. In a three team format with nine players, the odds to be codemaster improve substantially.

2. Quicker Games. While I like the normal length of a Codenames game, some of less passionate board gaming friends comment that the length of a Codenames game can run a bit long. The three team format leads to faster games as everyone incorrect guess pushes another team closer to victory instead of just hitting an innocent bystander. Ultimately, faster games means the other players are happier with the game, which usually leads to playing more Codenames.

3. Epic Finishes. This past weekend we had a three team format of Codenames go down to the wire. Every team had one card left to guess and the assassin. This meant that whatever card the current team guessed would basically decide the game. Everyone was on pins and needles-a crazy mixture of glee, excitement, fear, and anticipation, all rolled into one. These same emotions exist in the two team format as well, but the outcome is binary. In this particular instance, adding a third team/dimension to the game provided a very unique experience. 

New Year's Resolutions for 2018

I hope everyone had a great end to 2017! Those last couple weeks of December are always filled family, fun, and eggnog, but not necessarily in that order, haha. One thing that my family usually does (but we completely missed this year) is sharing our New Year's Resolutions with each other. I like the tradition because 1) my family definitely holds me accountable, 2) it helps put my year in perspective, and 3) it is a great opportunity to tell jokes . Fortunately, this blog can help achieve those very same outcomes,  so without further ado....

 

Resolution #1: Publish My Paper

This isn't a game related resolution, but nevertheless a very important one. I am in the final stages of writing a manuscript (about neutrophil migration during S. pneumoniae infection) with my advisor and can hopefully we submit after a couple more rounds of revision. Yes, it has taken longer than we anticipated, but now that the end is in sight, it is all the more exciting. As far as game resolutions are concerned...

 

Resolution #2: Launch the Gut Instinct Kickstarter

Yes, I know, a big surprise. However, considering it was a (very ambitious resolution) New Year's Resolution last year, I am excited to have it back on my list with a far more feasible schedule. The Kickstarter campaign is currently slated to start in late April, however Kickstarter Guru Jeremy Stonemaier advices against holding yourself to artificial deadlines if the project is not ready. Either way, I am confident I am checking this one off the list this year as long as I properly execute my Kickstarter prep, which includes...

 

Resolution #3: Updating this Blog a minimum of once a week

This resolution will really push me. Setting up this website (another 2017 resolution) was a big step forward, but unfortunately I was not ready for regular blog posts. I have spent some time reflecting on how to make sure I do consistent, regular updates and think following three basic steps will be a huge help:

1. Do not be too ambitious with post length (i.e. max 5 paragraphs) or with post schedule (i.e. the reason this resolution is not "Update this Blog 3 times a week")

2. Write posts at home. This is tricky because sometimes I am en route to meet friends or at lab late, but establishing a firm division between social life, my work, and my blog, will be very helpful in getting me in the "blog writing zone".

3. Make THIS a game. I love games. This seems so obvious now. Post once a week for 50/52 weeks to win. Let's Do This. 

BostonFIG 2017: Top 5 Lessons Learned

BostonFIG 2017 was my first board game festival ever and I absolutely loved it. I met tons of great people, saw a lot of amazing booths, and got to introduce the Boston gaming community to the latest Gut Instinct prototype. All in all, it was an incredible experience and I have every intention of bringing Best Coast Games being back to it next year.

While I never expected everything to go smoothly for the event, I also hoped to not have a disastrous first show. While we certainly had a few hiccups, we still had a relatively good debut. After reflecting a lot about what went well and what...could have been better, I have come up with my Top 5 Lessons Learned from Boston FIG 2017. Below I will briefly summarize each lesson and expand on them in later posts.

 

5. Preparation X 3

Two weeks prior to Boston FIG I was slightly stressed about having enough time to prepare everything. Two days prior, I felt like the world was going to explode. However long you think you need to prepare for your first board game festival, triple it. Had I built in 3X the amount of prep time, the experience would have been dramatically less stressful and we would have had an even better booth.  

 

4. Ten Minute Tour

While I enjoyed many aspects of Boston FIG, one of my personal favorites was around 5:10PM. Things were finally starting to wind down, but most of the booths were still up and running. I had been running playtests of Gut Instinct almost non-stop and was completely exhausted. However, this was my first chance to walk around the festival floor and check out the other games. This brief ten minute stroll was refreshing and inspiring to see the diversity and passion of so many other tabletop game designers at the festival.

 

3. Less Is More

I had drawn various floor plans of my 10'x10' booth to make sure I used the space optimally and so I could answer such exciting questions as: How many chairs? How many tables? How many storage cubes? The answers: 14, 3, 11. Aka: wrong, wrong, wrong. You can draw floor plans all day, but if you have never been to a convention before or physically recreated your actual booth space, you will probably be off. We ended up using 12 chairs, 2 tables, and 2 storages cubes....and even that felt crowded at times. Floor plans help, but they are not a substitute for the real thing.  

 

2. Less Is More, Unless It Isn’t - 

In preparation for Boston FIG, I talked to friends who had attended the festival in previous years. One of the best suggestions I received was to have a dedicated team member running each playtest session. My team consisted my girlfriend, two good friends, and myself, all of whom were (conveniently) expert playtesters of Gut Instinct. Together, the four of us were able to run two simultaneous playtests of Gut Instinct, pitch the game, give interviews, get food, and have restroom breaks. If I had run this solo or with just my girlfriend, my fate would probably be akin to a character in Ten Candles, whose booth was right next to ours (so cool!). I may be a very social and outgoing person, but that energy is still all contained in one person. Figure out how much help you need and plan accordingly.

 

1. Funtense

Funtense - /fəntens/ - adjective

i. Something that is simultaneously extremely fun and extremely intense.

Example: I played Game of Thrones the Board Game 2nd Edition and it was one of the most Funtense experiences I have ever had.

Yes, I know Funtense is not a real word, but that's exactly how I would describe Boston FIG. It is not that I expected to have a boring time at Boston FIG. Rather, I was surprised by how dramatic the epicness of it all was. If my boss told me my job was to explain a game to people, I would describe the experience as pretty fun. If my boss turned out to be a powerful wizard and said I had to explain it all day nonstop, I would call that experience pretty intense. Somehow, Boston FIG combines both of those experiences and amplifies the result. To be fair, I am leaving out a lot of other aspects, but if you are showing a game at Boston FIG, that's its beating heart. If that sounds like something you would enjoy, then I highly recommend showing a game at Boston FIG and I may even see you next year! 

BostonFIG 2017: Booth Preparation

Boston FIG 2017 will be my first board gaming convention and I have a fluctuating amount of excitement, nerves, and anticipation for the event. While I expect this will be a truly new and unique experience for me, I am eager to see how this event will compare to many of the science conferences I have attended. Whether preparing a prototype for a game festival or a poster for a science conference, serious preparation is key. This blog entry will focus on several areas of focus for BostonFIG 2017 all centered around…

Booth Preparation

Tackling all of the preparations necessary for a successful booth at a Game Festival can seem (and may very well be) daunting. Conveniently, BostonFIG 2017 has a pretty comprehensive 2017 Exhibitor Kit that provides lots of valuable information on the festival booth preparation, logistics, facilities, etc. Regardless of your festival/conference, be sure to inquire about any documents/materials that can assist you in preparing appropriately. After reading through the Exhibitor Kit I was able to organize my booth preparation into discrete subcategories with brief descriptions and corresponding action items. Below I discuss the subcategories for: Game, Poster, and Newsletter Subscription.

Game

Description: The most important part of your booth at a game festival is…your game. This may seem obvious at first, but when you start to think about all the other things your booth should or could have, it can very quickly become lost in the shuffle. For example, when I first organized this list of subcategories, my game was listed…last. Do not lose sight of what is the most important part of your booth.

Action Items:

-Make six individual prototypes of my game.

-Organize all six prototypes with ziplock bags and rubber bands.

-Make six card boxes for the prototypes labeled with the Gut Instinct logo.  

 

Poster

Description: This will be the key visual and info graphic for my booth. The goal of the poster is to provide the most essential information about my company and game to festival attendees in 30 seconds or less. It will contain the logo for Best Coast Games, the logo for Gut Instinct, my website, and possibly how to play my game in three bullet points. As for the poster material itself, I highly recommend ordering a fabric poster instead of a conventional paper one. Fabric posters are just (if not more) affordable, are washable, easier to transport, and best of all…can be worn as a cape after the festival #capes.

Action Items:

-Make a fabric poster with the most essential company and game information.

-Add creative and fun graphics.

-Order a fabric poster. I use SpoonFlower.com, but there are many options out there.

 

Newsletter Subscription

Description: One of the key goals of attending BostonFIG 2017 is to create community for Gut Instinct and Best Coast Games. To ensure interested attendees can stay engaged days, weeks, and months after the conference, having a streamlined process for joining the newsletter is crucial. I will have one to two computers available for easy subscription access at the booth.

Action Items:

-Bring one to two computers and their power cords.

-Set-up an excel doc with first name, last name, and e-mail.

-Offer Mail Chimp subscription as backup option only (festival wifi may be unreliable).