Aside from my day job documenting the cutting-edge finance technology at Ripple, I've been fortunate enough to be contracted by Fantasy Flight Games as a contributor for several books in their Star Wars role-playing line. Working with them has been an absolute pleasure, so I figured I'd share some of the writing and development credits I've earned.
I've previously discussed the excellent board game 7 Wonders, and my thoughts on the game's strategy. As part of that post, I asserted that the various Wonder boards, while they do make an impact on the game, are usually not the determining factor in who wins or loses. That said, in any game with variable player powers, there are bound to be inequalities, and a tier listing is inevitable. Thus, in this post I present my take on the different Wonder boards, discussing each side individually, and create a general tier listing out of all of them. My list includes all the boards released up to this point including the base set, Leaders and Cities expansions, the official Wonder Pack, and the promotional Catan wonder. I do not rate the promo version of Mannekin Pis, since the version contained in the Wonder Pack is a very similar, rebalanced version.
7 Wonders is a wonderful game, a civilization builder set in ancient times powered by a drafting mechanic that's elegant but extremely deep. Best of all, it plays quickly with anywhere from three to a whopping seven players, thanks to the powers of simultaneous play. The expansions, Leaders and Cities, and the Wonder Pack mini-expansion, add more variety while not changing the game much — something that sits well with me since it keeps the game fresh but keeps the burden on new players relatively low. It also means that the expansions haven't (thus far) revolutionized the game strategy, which is nice for experienced players and strategy bloggers (ha!). Hence, it's something I've played plenty, and I'm excited to discuss my strategies for the game and thoughts on how to play well. For clarity's sake: I will not be addressing the 2-player variant, nor the team variant introduced by the Cities expansion, since I have not played enough of either.
I play a lot of board games, especially Eurogames, and one thing that grinds my gears (no, not Tzolk'in gears) is that too many people don't know how to make effective decisions for playing to win. That's why I'm starting this series on how to play board games (and card games) well. In doing so, I hope to pin down and share some of the patterns that help me decide what to do. There's always the possibility that this will just lead to more analysis paralysis as people consider every move thoroughly, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.
For the first installment, I'm going to cover basic principles and ideas. Not all of these will apply to every game, but I'll try to strike a balance where they're specific enough to use in some games, but not limited to a single game.
Today I introduce my first Greasemonkey script for public consumption: Technika ScoreSeeker. This script is meant for users of DJ Max Technika 3's International version website, djmaxcrew.com. It provides a new "All" page in the POP Mixing Performance area, displaying all1 your results (NM, HD, and MX charts) on one page, in a sortable table, with scores highlighted according to how well you did.
Note: This post retreads some of the same thoughts as an earlier one in a slightly different light.
I've passingly mentioned that I'm currently playing StarCraft II. But I don't mean that in the same way I meant it when, for example, I said I was playing Metroid: Other M recently. No, I'm playing StarCraft II in a sense that perhaps more closely resembles if an athlete were playing football this fall, or a more intellectually-inclined individual might say he were playing chess. In other words, I'm not approaching it as a work to be completed, I'm approaching it as an activity to compete in and get better at. The distinction may seem academic, but there's a pretty different attitude involved and, to be honest, it's taken me by surprise that I'm interested in this sort of thing.