Hump Day Dump: Better themes, Train dreams, and the only True Co-op?

Dice Sixes
Guaranteed Fab!

Awesome week for thoughtful writing. Download these to your platform of choice and bring the tabletop to the beach.

Here are 4 fab blog posts from the past week, ranked in order of enjoyment.

1. The Makings of a Better Theme (Across the Boardgames)
2. I Often Dream of Trains (Every Man Needs a Shed)
3. Is Hanabi the only true co-op board game in the world? (Playtesting)
4. The Foundations of Gaming: Classic Fiction and its Influence on Early Role-Playing Games (Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog)


The Makings of a Better Theme, by Luke Turpeinen
Across the Boardgames, June 30

Theme is in gameplay, not artwork. Luke is fed-up with games that overlay a fantasy element on a standard game. He shows how game designers have successfully used theme in storytelling. According to Luke, great themes explore ideas, not just mechanics. This is another one of those meaty articles that I won’t try to summarize. Just read it, if you’re a fan of Theme games.


I Often Dream of Trains, by Tony Boydell
Every Man Needs a Shed, July 7

Trainspotting is one of the more popular hobbies in England. In 1984, alt-folk singer Robyn Hitchcock wrote “I Often Dream of Trains” about a railway trip he took. But Tony co-opts the song to good effect, writing about his love of trains.

What’s intriguing to read about is how a veteran trainspotter views all the tabletop train games that have been published. His love for railroading found expression in cardboard with 2012’s Snowdonia, about building a mountain railway.

Is Hanabi the only true co-op board game in the world?, by Filip W.
Playtesting, July 7

Leave it to a game designer–in this case, Filip W.–to ask such a question. Filip breaks down exactly what a cooperative game is, creating various subcategories like ‘solitaire-enabled co-ops’ and ‘traitor co-ops.’ A horde of commenters pick up the discussion. With 3 pages of comments and counting, this is what you call a provocative article.

The Foundations of Gaming: Classic Fiction and its Influence on Early Role Playing Games, by Jeff Johnson
Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog, July 8

Jeff is posting thoughtful analyses of great science fiction/fantasy over at Finnish publisher Castalia House. So, he’s been neglecting his own blog. Thankfully, he cross posted some links to great RPG-related posts he’s been writing, including a fascinating review of a Poul Anderson novel that provided the basis for Dungeon & Dragons’ moral triumvirate of Lawful-Neutral-Chaotic.

(The above four blogs earn consideration for the BGA Blog of the Year Award. One point is awarded for inclusion, with an extra point given to the Post of the Week.)

HONORABLE MENTION (in chronological order)

Downsize Your Hobby (the case for the small and micro), by Joshua De Wolfe
The Frugal Hobbyist, July 3

He’s a model railroader, specifically, and a scaled-down kind of guy in general. He’s a lover of micro-games.

NOTE: There was another Fab post from the Frugal Hobbyist last week (“Some thoughts on why I craft”), but I only include one per blog. However, if a writer is putting out two good posts in a week, you should be subscribing to his blog anyway!

The grand strategies of Firaxis, Christian Donlan
Eurogamer, July 6

Subtitled “What does a strategy designer think about,” this generous post clocks in at 2,645 words, three times the length of an average blog.

Firaxis is a game design studio in Baltimore that created Sid Meier’s Civilization, a game that has enjoyed a long life in both digital and cardboard formats. The author had a long chat with the designers about the difference between creating strategy games for both formats.

I’m not even going to try to summarize this meaty article. If you’re interested in how designers develop and integrate strategy into a game, this is a must-read.

7 Storage Solutions for Board Game Pieces, Matt M. Casey
Clever Move, July 7

I’ll tell you right off the bat: Ziptop bags, Jewelry bags, Elastic bands, Reusable tape, Card boxes, Plastic storage boxes, and Box inserts. You’ll still have to check out the post (and photos) to see how Matt uses them for various games.

BTW, he missed one: little plastic specimen bottles. … Yep. …

Me in heaven again, by Ignacy Trzewiczek
Boardgames That Tell Stories, July 7

Session reports are usually either dry or over-enthusiastic. Ignacy, a fan of storytelling in games, tells a great story of friends who kept trying to improve their results in Robinson Crusoe. Even though he remains an observer, Ignacy’s writing gets you caught up in his friends’ efforts.

Which was your favorite post of the week? Did I forget to include it here? Tell us in the Comments section and we’ll compare notes!

  • Drew is a contributor to the Board Gamers Anonymous podcast. He's a curator by nature, compulsively reading and obsessively organizing what he's read. He's also been a gamer since the age of 3, which means he's been playing board games for... let's just say more than 40 years, and leave it at that...

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