• Guest post: Teaching games

    Guest post: Teaching games

    Today's guest post is from game guide Kurt

    I love to teach. Through all the twists and turns my life has taken there has been one thing that has really stayed consistent for me, and that is the fact that I genuinely love sharing the things that I have learned with other people. There is so much joy for me in connecting with the way that other people think and creating a space that gives them access to whole new worlds of things they didn’t know before. I work as a private tutor for a living if you haven’t guessed, and when I do my job right it feels less like study and more like play. Maybe that’s why I spend a good portion of my free time when I’m not teaching playing every game I can get my hands on.

    I met Drew and Courtney about a year ago, and when I learned about their vision for the Bonus Round Game Cafe I was absolutely hooked. These are people that really get what it means to have fun playing games and are so incredibly dedicated to giving everyone access to that experience. I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to help them in that endeavor and I am so excited to see this cafe become a reality. Teaching people how to play board games combines two of the things that I love the most, and helping run Bonus Round pop-up events over this past year has taught me a lot about how to do it well.

    Teaching is an art form, and a good teacher knows that just understanding the material well isn’t enough. To make the experience great for the people you’re teaching you have to be able to connect with the way that they understand things. It’s your job to create an environment that’s friendly and safe so that people feel comfortable playing around and making mistakes. Making learning fun is certainly important when teaching somebody Algebra, but it is absolutely critical when teaching people how to play a game. After all, what’s the point if it isn’t fun.

    At Bonus Round Games we are committing to perfecting the art of teaching. We work tirelessly to make sure that every person that sits down at a table with us is having the best experience possible, because there’s no reason why learning a new game should feel like a chore. I believe that there is a game out there for everyone, and I can’t wait for our doors to open so that we can put that belief into action.

  • Profile : Dingo's Dreams

    Profile : Dingo's Dreams

    “Gateway games” are boardgames that act as a great entry point for folks when they’re just getting in to gaming. While they might still have a lot of strategic depth to them, in general their rules are succinct and straightforward so that there is less set-up and less to keep track of overall. Getting more people to play more games is one of our largest goals as well as being an incredibly rewarding experience, we highly recommend that you make room on your shelf for a couple gateway games.

    This week’s featured gateway game is Dingo's Dreams, designed by Alf Seegert and published by Red Raven Games.

    # of players: 2-4 [5 with KS version]

    Length of game: 20-30 minutes

    Dingo's Dreams is a beautiful, abstract, puzzle game, where you're trying to "lead" your animal through the dream world, back home. We saw this when it was on Kickstarter, but the theme description didn't quite click with us, because at it's core it's an abstract game so using the theme to describe the game left us unsure if we'd like it.

    Thankfully for us, a friend did pick it up, and it was love at first play for us. Each player has a 5 x 5 grid of double sided titles in front of them, the top sides representing the "dream world" with color & location combinations, and the backs representing the animal you're "guiding home", a dingo, koala, kidna or kanga[roo], and a spare named animal tile. A card is revealed from the stack, and each player flips their location tile over that matches it, so it's now animal side face up. The spare tile is then inserted into a row or column of the player's chosing, and the tiles are shifted accordingly, maintaining the orientation of the ousted tile, location or animal side up. The goal is to be the first to arrange your animal sided tiles to match a pattern on a card, shouting your animal's name once it does. Dingo!

    This is quickly becoming one of our favorite starter/filler games because it's simple to teach, has a little luck, a little strategy, and beautiful art. We tend to skip the theme/story when teaching, and just describe it as bingo meets a slide puzzle. We were able to grab a Kickstarter copy at GenCon, which adds a 5th player, and includes new animal tokens for a more challenging variant. One of the great things about this game is it can be really simple, choosing a card that allows for a Bingo style win for children or newer players, or more challenging with interesting goal layouts and a couple variants that require you to meet a second [or third] critieria.

    Bonus points for: the art is really beautiful, have I mentioned that yet?

  • Recap : The Best 4 days in Gaming [it's a long one]

    Recap : The Best 4 days in Gaming [it's a long one]

    Another GenCon has come to a close, and we're left wondering where it went and, especially this year, how we missed so much, and "I swear I took more pictures.." Ah well, here's what we did see and our thoughts on it!

    We got a group of friends together as soon we saw a Pathfinder Adventure Card Game event titled Season of the Goblins, and made it happen. My one regret of GenCon is that we weren't able to play the whole set of scenarios. It was fantastic fun though, and some of us got a little too into goblin character, but it was awesome.

    There were a good number of games played in their prototype stage which is one of my favorite parts of GenCon.

    Pinball Showdown - Shoot Again Games, Diane Sauer

    When we started playing pinball semi-regularly after moving to Chicago, almost every time the conversation came around to "man, how can we make a pinball board game?" Diane, who restores pinballs, has had the same question on her mind for a long time too, and nailed it. This card game completely captures the feeling of pinball. It'll be up on Kickstarter later this year/early 2017 and you can bet I'll be telling everyone about it again then too. - Courtney

    The Stygian Society - APE Games, Kevin Wilson

    A wacky co-op dungeon delve that takes place in the tower of an evil wizard. The core mechanic revolves around dropping colored cubes into the tower. What you put in isn't always what you get out but the results determine what abilities you'll have access to and what types of obstacles you'll come up against. Each player had a different class which interacted with the various cubes in their own unique ways. I'm definitely interested to see where this goes since playing with the cubes was very satisfying. - Drew

    Shuffling Horror : Roswell 51 - Gamewick Games

    This was a really fun, light, highly thematic game that plays up to 12 [plus 1 as the "director"]. This is the second game in the Shuffling Horror game system, the first was zombies [Philly '68], and they've got a Lovecraftian one coming up next and a Poe themed one a bit further down the pipeline. It's played across 4 rounds, and the goal is to survive the monsters! Don't fret if your survivor gets killed off though, you'll come back as a monster and make the game harder for the remaining players! I love that it can play so many while being more than a party game.  - Courtney

    Sagrada - Floodgate Games

    This game is Killer! We demo'd the game with a friend and the worst part about it was that it isn't out yet. Floodgate took a pretty light game and theme and then put them together to build what is a deceivingly intricate stained-glass-window-building dice-drafting game. Keep an eye out for this to hit Kickstarter in the next month or so. -Drew

    Drew [not pictured] also helped out local publisher Argyle Games with their prototype game in the First Exposure Playtest hall which was an awesome experience!

    Giant Killer Robots - Cryptozoic & Weta Workshop

    I'd seen this game pop up on my social media feeds a number of times but I couldn't seem to actually find any info about it prior to GenCon. The game gives off a Robot Jox vibe if you're familiar with the film. It is a miniature skirmish game pitting rival mechs against one another for the entertainment of their corporate overlords. The gameplay was pretty simple and overall I'd say this is one of the more approachable mini's games that I've played. With that said I am a little concerned whether the game has enough going on to hold lasting interest. This one ought to be hitting kickstarter in the coming months. - Drew

    We played some complete games too though.

    Dastardly Dirigibles - Fireside Games

    This was a fun set collection kinda game I demoed at their booth, basically because a couple other people were walking up to demo it, and there was an open spot as I walked by. We played the first round to get a feel for it, and I enjoyed it. It was fairly easy to teach, and the player mats have a handy player aid making it a great cafe game. The theme is fun, and it's cool to see what sort of zeppelin you end up with!

    Deepwars - Antimatter Games

    I was taken with these minis last year, I'm a total sucker for ocean themed things. We decided to stop this year after admiring the minis again and play a short demo. It's a neat little skirmish style game [how it was demoed to us at least] that makes me wish we had the resources, time, money & space for these sorts of games. I just want to collect and paint the awesome minis.

    Moonquake Escape - Breaking Games

    Okay, so we didn't actually really play it, the designer, Jeff Johnston ran us through it, but we did walk away with a signed copy of it, so that counts for something right? I also just really liked Jeff's outfit.

    So this doesn't go on forever, here's the rest of the stuff that caught my eye

    Scurvy Dice, Council of Blackthorn

    Ticket to Ride : Rails & Sails, Captain Sonar

    Here Kitty Kitty, 4 the Birds

    That's pretty much the barebones run down of our GenCon, how was yours? What games did you demo, drool over and bring home?

  • List : Great games for a BBQ or beach day!

    List : Great games for a BBQ or beach day!

    Summer is winding down, but there’s still plenty of time for barbeques and beach hang out days with friends and family. We’ve got some game suggestions for you that should fit right in with whatever outdoorsy activities you have planned for the rest of summer and that bittersweet Labor Day weekend.

    Wits & Wagers

    “In what year did Levi’s produce the first pair of denim blue jeans?” Everyone takes their best guess and then after comparing answers they place bets on who had the closest answer. You now know how to play Wits & Wagers! This trivia & gambling hybrid seems to have made a large number of our lists. The main reason is probably that it is so easy to rope people into playing. When we pull out games while spending time with the family there is always that one person who says, “Oh… I’m okay I’ll just sit out and watch.” The beautiful thing with Wits & Wagers is that it usually doesn’t take long for that person to perk up and all the sudden be turning in a few answers of their own. ANYONE can play this game! It might be a trivia game but knowledge about the questions has very little impact on how well you can do.


    Spyfall is a hidden identity game where amongst the group there is one spy and the remaining players must determine who that spy is. The spy is randomly determined by dealing out one card to each player, one of these cards says spy and the rest all depict the same location (like cruise ship). Players take turns asking open-ended questions to uncover the spy while the spy tries to figure out where the rest of the players might be without giving themself away. Whether you’re huddled around a table or lounging around the pool, Spyfall is a game you can play just about anywhere. There can be a little bit of a hurdle at first while explaining the game as some people just won’t get what you’re trying to describe. Our best advice though is to just try to get a quick round in and then answer any questions afterward as this is a game best learned by playing.

    Knock Down Barns

    KDB is a game of building a sturdy structure with wooden blocks and then demolishing the one made by your opponent. It is played on top of a bamboo surface the size of a kitchen cutting board and players take turns flicking foam pieces to try and knock all of the opposing blocks off of the play field. It is really satisfying to obliterate the opposing tower while yours withstands everything your opponent can throw at it. Knock Down Barns is made locally and is an absolute blast to play. The craftsmanship on this handmade game is pretty outstanding and game definitely stands out while being played. There isn’t a whole lot else out there like it.

    Geek Out

    Game of trivia best played with your nerdy pals! The die is rolled and one of five nerdy categories on each prompt card is chosen, say games. The prompt is read aloud, example, “four board games with a non-fictional war theem” and the first person decides if they can meet or beat the number of titles the card is looking for. Players take turns increasing how many they can name until all but one player has dropped off, at which point they have to name the number of titles they claimed to know for the prompt. If they can’t, they lose a point, but if they can they gain a point! We honestly hardly play with a points system, and just play until everyone is brain dead, but the point system can keep people from being too bold with their bluffing of knowledge to egg others on. We love it as a filler or travel activity, and tend to just carry cards around with us.

    Cat Tower

    Jenga and cats combine in this game of feline card stacking. As a quick and easy game that can be played in about 15 minutes, Cat Tower makes for a good way to fill some time while waiting for burgers to come off the grill. A die is rolled to determine how many cats you place on the tower [or that you make someone else place for you!] but be careful! If you topple the tower you have to take up to 2 cats back into your hand. The goal is to get rid of the 7 cat cards you start with, so taking 2 back can really set you back. It’s another easy game for people to flow in and out of, but it’s also fairly quick so no one is left out for too long.

  • Profile : Splendor

    Profile : Splendor

    “Gateway games” are boardgames that act as a great entry point for folks when they’re just getting in to gaming. While they might still have a lot of strategic depth to them, in general their rules are succinct and straightforward so that there is less set-up and less to keep track of overall. Getting more people to play more games is one of our largest goals as well as being an incredibly rewarding experience, we highly recommend that you make room on your shelf for a couple gateway games.

    This week’s featured gateway game is Splendor, designed by Marc Andre and published by Asmodee.

    # of players: 2-4

    Length of game: 15 minutes per player.

    Splendor is a game of mining, collecting and refining gems so that you can turn around and sell them allowing you to invest in your gem-bound empire even further. The theme in this game is extremely light and not particularly necessary but having some gorgeous artwork certainly helps draw people in. The gems are all represented by poker chips which adds a very tactile element to an otherwise dry game. It is pretty entertaining to just play with the chips while waiting for others to make their decision.

    Gameplay is where Splendor truly shines! Each player is racing to acquire 15 points and once someone does the game will end within a couple turns. On a player’s turn they choose to take one of three different actions:

    1. Take some gems: either two from the same color, or one each from three different colors.
    2. Purchase a card: there are a variety of cards and by cashing in some of your gems you can acquire one. The game revolves around purchasing these cards because having them means that you get a permanent discount on the gem cost of all future cards you might take. The cards come in 3 tiers, with the lower tiers requiring fewer gems to purchase and the higher tiers being worth more points!
    3. Reserve a card: sometimes you’re worried that someone might grab the card you’re working on before you are ready to purchase it. In those instances you can reserve a card so that you alone are able to complete it on a future turn. As a consolation for spending your turn reserving, you are also able to take a gold (poker chip) which counts as a wild of any color!

    In addition to taking those actions players are working to gain the favor of nobles. The nobles each want you to collect a specific number and color of gem, the first player to do so is able to claim the noble which is worth 3 points.

    Nobles and cards are the only source of points, so working on each is important if you want to claim victory!

    Splendor is a game that is hard to turn down the opportunity to play, it plays so quickly and the balancing is so tight that we’re always down for another round. As a gateway game, you should bring this to the table for folks that might enjoy set collection / strategy / math / planning. Additionally, the game plays well whether you’re playing with 2-3-4 players and slightly alters the setup for each accordingly. Splendor’s simplicity means that it works well across all ages, but despite its simplicity it retains a lot of strategic thinking which is what makes it such a great game.

    Bonus points for: great components, the chips really bring it all together!