Sunday, July 3, 2011


First, apologies for the delay; the last two weeks of June are killer for teachers.  Second, I've passed 5000 pageviews! Yay! 

And now, on with the B's!

BANG! is the only game I know which has cards in Italian with English subtitles. 

Of course, this meshes perfectly with its theme, which is the Spaghetti Western genre pioneered by Sergio Leone starting in 1964 with A Fistful of Dollars, which made a movie star out of Clint Eastwood (who up til that point had been known mainly as the studly wrangler Rowdy Yates on the TV western Rawhide (1959 - 1965). The movies were made in Spain on the cheap and made a splash with their long Zen-like silences punctuated by explicit and unabashed violence. Naturally, they spawned many imitators and spoofs. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011


It is impossible to talk about Axis & Allies: D-Day (AA:DD hereinafter) without talking about Axis & Allies (A&A), its spiritual and thematic ancestor. By the time A&A had come out, in 1981, I was well and truly launched with wargames such as PanzerLeader and Third Reich, and so turned my nose up at what was obviously (to me, at the time) an attempt by Milton Bradley to cash in to the burgeoning wargame scene with a simplistic Risk clone that had toy tanks, for heavens' sake! I mean, I only ever played Risk once, fer chrissakes! (Even at 14, I was a game snob.)

Sunday, June 5, 2011


I first met The Awful Green Things From Outer Space (AGT hereinafter) in the game review section of GAMES Magazine. As I've said before, GAMES is where I've discovered so many games over the last thirty years, from Ace of Aces to Evo to Settlers of Catan to Puerto Rico.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Jules Verne was arguably the first modern s.f. writer, with books like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Centre of the Earth (both of which have been made into games, if you pursue the links). The book this week's game is based on was more of a travelogue-thriller, but remains one of Verne's most popular.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Operation Market Garden was the most ambitious paradrop campaign of WWII. It inspired the 1977 movie A Bridge Too Far, directed by Richard Attenborough and with a star-studded cast that included Denhom Elliot, Dirk Bogarde, and Sir Laurence Olivier. And because of its mixture of parachutes, gliders, tanks, engineers, and against-the-odds heroism, it's a favorite with wargamers as well.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011


After last week's foray into Looney Labs' Aquarius, it's back to the battle-board with this 1977 Avalon Hill title, which I haven't played in--easily--twenty years.

Few parts of the world are more contentious than the Middle East, and few states are subject to as much scrutiny as Israel--although the recent Arab Spring has drawn the spotlight away somewhat, for the moment. There are two major narratives about Israel, one in which its establishment and existence is a heroic act, and another in which Israel is an agent of colonial (or post-colonial) imperialism and repression. I grew up attending a Hebrew parochial school submersed in the first narrative; I've spent the rest of my life negotiating the perilous ideological terrain between the two. I highly recommend the books 1967, by Tom Segev, and How Israel Lost, by Richard Ben Cramer, for their attempts to tease out the many complex strands in this conflict.

Monday, April 25, 2011


And now, for something completely different...

I love Looney Labs. On one hand they are unabashedly goofy--witness the line of Fluxx games and the time-travel wackiness of Chrononauts. On the other hand they are endlessly inventive; the Icehouse pieces invented by Andrew Looney have been spun out into dozens of permutations.

And on the third hand we have the 'cosmic' side of Looney Labs--and Aquarius is the epitome of cosmic.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


No entry last week: birthdays (mine; child’s) and school deadlines intervened. On the upside, I have a week and a half off for Passover and hope to more than make up for the gap.

As I showed last time, the Italian Campaign 1943-4 is better represented in the wargaming canon than the Allied landings in the South of France, but still nowhere nearly as much as the Normandy landings. On the other hand, one of the most beloved of Avalon Hill designs from the 1969 was Anzio.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Why are the landings on the Cote d'Azure in the late summer of 1944 so unheralded in wargaming?

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Originality is as hard to come by in boardgames as it is in any other realm. Antike was the first game to feature a “rondel”:

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I was introduced to wargaming at summer (day) camp, in the late 1970’s. My counsellor was in charge of one of the “Hobby Hub” activities which made up the schedule of our week. The game was PanzerLeader. I was hooked. Almost immediately I started buying games, in the hope I would find someone to play them with. But I soon found out: wargaming is a solitairy pursuit. The rulebooks are long—and playing times are even longer. By default, then, I often ended up playing alone: first playing as the Germans (say) and then clamping down my amnesia-hat and switching over to the British. This was somewhat satisfying but definitely easier to do for some games than others. I spent countless hours in “multiple-personality mode”.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, some games had already been published which were specifically for the solitaire wargamer—I found out about them later. Fortunately, for me, Victory Games was founded a few years after I started wargaming, and in their short but brief existence they released two of the most innovative and enjoyable solitaire wargames ever (in my opinion). One was Ambush (and its sequels); the other was Mosby’s Raiders—but the discussion of that game will have to wait quite a while.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


This game is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. It remains in the top 50 of Children's games on BoardGameGeek; it is also the oldest game on the list to that point. The game's continuing success can also be measured by its many spinoffs, including: several "Master" Versions; a card-based version; a 3-D set.

All of these exploit humankind's fascination with mazes and labyrinths.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Nine weeks in and I falter for the first time. I could neither find time to play Alexandros with anyone, nor could I muster the enthusiasm to cram the rules into my increasingly-limited memory buffer for one play. Luckily having left myself a back-door solution to keep me moving forward (see Week 1), I pressed forward to an easier game to bring to table: Alhambra.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


(First: an explanation: when I started this blog I said I would fold expansions into the base game—this so I wouldn’t have to spend week after week playing variations of the same thing. In the case of the Bohnanza series, however, each game has such a different feel that I thought each merited its own post.)

Uwe Rosenberg seems to be fond of two things: farming; and puns. He is the designer of Agricola, one of the most popular games of recent memory (and the subject of last week’s blogpost). The Gates of Loyang, his last game but one, also involved planting and harvesting.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


In my second blogpost I talked about hot games and classic games. Agricola was released in 2007 accompanied by a huge amount of buzz, quickly rose up the ranks of games to become the third-highest rated game on BoardGameGeek, and is now regularly name-checked by both newcomers and longtime gamers. It has a nickname (The Gric—as in “Get him to The Gric” ), a Java implementation,  and a fanmade yahtzee-style spinoff (Agricola Express).

Saturday, February 12, 2011


2008 Edition
 Well, dagnabit, I done gone ahead and run ahead of myself—just finished the blog for next week’s game (The Age of Exploration) only to realize that I had yet to write up this week’s game. So I’m going to turn back on myself and then publish both at once. Lucky you!

Acquire was first published in 1962. Some have called it a classic. Certainly, being almost continuously in print for almost 50 years makes a good case. So does being in GAMES Magazine’s Hall of Fame (along with universally beloved games like Scrabble and Risk).

WEEK 6B: The Age of Exploration, 1492 - 1543

Let me start with two admissions: (1) I have only ever played this game solitaire; (2) this past week I opened the box in good faith, looked through the rules, and couldn’t face playing it again. Realizing that the time has come to sell or trade it is one of the benefits of this exercise. The other benefit is thinking about the game and what it represents to me. So read on and find out, already!

Saturday, February 5, 2011


In my Sackson-fired enthusiasm last week I erred in thinking the next game on my list was his classic Acquire—that will have to wait until next week. It is, in fact, Aces of Aces’ turn.

Ace of Aces is one of the first games I remember reading about in GAMES Magazine, which means I must have bought it in the spring or summer of 1980. I distinctly remember my first encounter with GAMES. I was having lunch with my family at one of the Hungarian restaurants that at that time dominated the stretch of Bloor Street between Spadina and Bathurst. (There is now only one left, the others having made way mainly for sushi places.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Sid Sackson is one of my wannabe uncles. (Martin Gardner is another, but that will have to wait.) Growing up reading GAMES magazine, it seemed like every other issue there was either a review of a new Sid Sackson game or (even better) an actual game in the magazine designed by Sid which you could learn, set up, and play in minutes and spend days (or weeks, or months) trying to master. (An example is Mini-Golf.)

I spent many hours with coloured pencils marking up his books Calculate, Beyond Solitaire and Beyond Competition (each of which had half a dozen original designs)—rendering these now heavily-sought out-of-print books totally unsellable but what did my ten-year-old self know? And since I wouldn’t sell them now for any price anyway, who cares?

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I call 7 Wonders “Draft Through the Bronze Ages” in reference to a game called Roll Through the Ages, which in turn references a game called Through the Ages. All three are descended in theme from Civilization, the classic Avalon Hill boardgame which takes forever to play but is very satisfying if you have the time and the right players for it. In these games each player is a civilization (or ‘civ’) and the object is to win by having the “best” civ (however that is defined) by the end of the game.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Week 2: 221B Baker Street

As a child I got hooked by Sherlock Holmes quite young. I can’t recall exactly when I first starting reading the Conan Doyle stories, but definitely had read them all by the time I hit junior high. I was drawn by the scientific method of the man and the riddles of the mysteries. Over the years I have also seen various Sherlock movies. I never saw the Basil Rathbone b&w classics. Instead, my two favourites are both from the 70s/early 80s, and are very different in their approaches.