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Thursday, June 30, 2005

BGTG - June 30, 2005 (All about Entdecker)

I've been wanting to do this for a while, talk for an entire show about one game. And now I've done it, about one of my very favorite games Entdecker. I suppose this kind of show is really something of an audio game review, though I didn't plan it that way when I started talking. Entdecker is a game that's been published in two separate versions, has a well-known variant, another I prefer, and most recently its little brother Oceania showed up. I get to talk about all of them. In fact, I like all of them (well, I'm cool on New Entdecker--but I like several of its ideas).

The show ended up a bit longer than expected, at around 45 minutes with no time spent reading feedback. But hey, that only balances the previous smaller show. :)


New Entdecker
The "Manu variant" for Entdecker
My own Old-New Entdecker hybrid
Steffan O'Sullivan's tips for playing Old with the New

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Welcome, iTunes users!

Now iTunes supports podcasting, and shows like mine saw an immediate surge in listeners. Boardgames To Go was one of the shows included in iTunes' initial podcast directory. So welcome, iTunes users! Go ahead and start downloading whatever you like, though if you're new to podcasting or new to strategy boardgames you might consider one of the intro shows permanently linked at the top of my right sidebar.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

BGTG - June 28, 2005 (Boardgame resolutions)

A quick little show, the shortest I've done in a while. Mostly I just struck while the iron was hot, but with a surge in subscribers due to podcast support in iTunes, it's proven to be timely. Welcome new listeners! As I say in the little audio aside, I encourage the new folks to check out the permanently linked shows at the top of the right sidebar: intro shows about podcasting and also strategy boardgames.

This is also the first time I pasted a photo in here. That's me in the center of the photo, during a game of Oltremare. Normally I smile . . . I must be deep in concentration. :-) Those are some of the Santa Clarita Boardgamers around me: Greg Wizbach (my logo designer!) on the right , Erin Wheeler across from him, and our other Ryan (not Erin's husband!) in the foreground.


My 2004 Year-end report, with Gaming "Resolutions"
Peter Sarrett's Review Manifesto
My Boulder Game Notes reviews of Wildlife and Die Fugger
My tag-team reviews with Kevin Whitmore at The Games Journal (for Carcassonne:Hunters & Gatherers and Hellas)


Monday, June 27, 2005

Tip Jar

The show I just uploaded marks my need to bump up my podcast hosting subscription plan one level. I'm just recording too much! Even at the 32kbps (sound ok, by the way?), I'm running smack into the 100MB monthly storage limit. Now I've more than doubled that to 250, which should do me until I go to videocasts. (That's a joke, people--remember I'm motivated by podcasts you can safely appreciate during your commute?) With the upgraded subscription comes some increased fees. Nothing I can't handle, but I've added one of those voluntary PayPal donation buttons. A "tip jar," I think they call it, right? It's way down at the bottom of the right sidebar. A buck or two or five would be appreciated, but the show is free whether you donate or not. :-)



BGTG - June 27, 2005 SR: Grand Canyon, Victory & Honor, Tonga Bonga, Pylos

I wonder how long it will be until I feel like I know what I'm doing?! Seems like every podcast I learn a little something new. This time it's as simple as making the podcast and blog post title with the games listed NOT in the order we played them. Otherwise, Tonga Bonga leads every audio SR this month, and at first glance it looks like I'm podcasting about the same thing. In a way, I guess I am. But now you know why my show titles may not list the games in the order played--just an order that might catch your eye.

This entire podcast (except the canned intro/outro music) was recorded on a portable device, my Treo running Personal Audio Recorder. I tried that once before, but this time I had the recording settings adjusted correctly. I think it worked much better. You can hear some background noise (cars, skateboarders, even crickets and wind near the end), which is only natural considering I recorded this while at a park! Sam was inside the rec center for his karate class while Molly and I were outside. I recorded the podcast, and she played at the playground. Life in the 21st century...

I even remembered to paste in and answer the audio feedback question submitted by "William in Japan." (Sorry I didn't remember your name during the podcast!) Later I realized I didn't even answer William's question entirely appropriately--his example of a light miniatures game does use discrete movement on a mapboard, not the traditional freeform movement of minis. (I think that's right, anyway--his example was Blood Bowl.) So, more like Memoir '44/Battle Cry as miniatures games go. Well, the answer still works--I haven't played those and don't have much desire. But thanks for the feedback.

Speaking of feedback, I'm going to try reading/replying to only a few select comments on a subsequent podcast. The rest of them I'll answer via email or the comment forms on this website, as appropriate. As much as I enjoy reading the feedback, I think it went a bit too long the last couple times. This should be a good middle ground.


Tonga Bonga
Grand Canyon
Victory & Honor

Friday, June 24, 2005

BGTG - June 24, 2005 (Boardgames and the Internet)

After a trio of shows sharing the microphone with someone else, Iím back to doing my solo show. That will still be what I do most of the time, I think. Itís back to a theme show, too, focusing on the history of Internet communication on our hobby. Mailing lists, newsgroups, websites, that sort of thing. I didnít really get to all of the websites I wanted to coveróguess Iíll have to have a part 2 show on that subject sometime later.

Once again I read a variety of feedback to head up the show. Too much? I enjoy reading all of it, but feedback definitely adds some to the length of the show. The craziest thing is that I forgot to include my first audio feedback comment! Rats, Iíll have to include that next time. Iíd still enjoy receiving more of those, and that should be even easier now that Iíve set up a voicemail comment line: 1-206-888-BGTG (1-206-888-2484).

My learning curve for podcasting continues: Iíve heard a good technique on other podcasts to announce the show number and title right at the start, before I even go into the intro music. That lets you scan through the shows just by listening to the opening seconds. Iíll do that from now on.


Links newsgroup
Spielfrieks mailing list
The Gamewire at

Monday, June 20, 2005

Upcoming shows

As expected, my flurry of podcasting last week is being followed by 7-10 days of no podcasting at all. Was I right in deciding to just shoot those previous shows out as quickly as I recorded them? Or would you prefer that I dribble them out at a more steady pace...even though that means holding some back? (It's more hassle for me to work to a regular schedule, so I don't expect to do it. Just curious what my listeners think.)

I have some website maintenance to do around here, too. That web-poll has been up forever. Time to tidy that up. Some links need updating, too. I've got a friend working on a logo right now, and I might even go for some wallpaper around here. Who knows?

As for upcoming shows, here's the long-threatened list of ideas. Any feedback on these? Of course the audio session reports will be sprinkle in amongst these theme shows. I'm also going to get Mike Mayer and some other people on the air for some back-n-forth review/opinion shows.

  • History of the hobby through the Internet (including the secret mailing list)
  • German/Designer/Family Strategy/TGOO . . . what to call them
  • Microgames
  • My mostly nongamer wife (and the few games she likes)
  • Lite wargames pt. 1 (wargaming intro for eurogamers)
  • Lite wargames pt. 2 (the ones I like best, others I wish I could find)
  • My CCG experiences (Magic, some Netrunner, even less Jyhad)
  • Steve Jackson Games (my time there, why they aren't clicking with me anymore)
  • What the *&%$ do I--does anybody--mean by game theme?
  • My gaming resolutions revisited
  • Game curmudgeon--the oldies I'd still rather play than something new
  • Curmudgeon pt. 2 --New games with buzz...and little else. (Or no appeal to me.)
  • Not the curmudgeon--The handful of new games that made the cut with me.
  • Checking back in with the kids (games we missed last time, anything new we're playing)
  • My PWAs (pretty wooden abstracts--I only like some of them)
  • Game designer wannabe--the ideas in my head
  • Why I don't like most game reviews (but hardly do any myself)
  • Geek in Denial (self-explanatory)
  • Update of my how-to-podcast show (after I learn a little more)
  • Session reports aren't for everyone else--they're for your game group
  • When I met Ken Tidwell at a Wendy's to sell him Cosmic Encounter (true, but not yet enough for a show)
  • Meeting distant gamers on business trips

And here's Mike Mayer's huge list of ideas for me. First for little segments in the show...

  • Mark's top five list of the day. (Today, best five abstract strategy games)
  • Mark's missed rule of the day. (brief discussion follows)
  • Mark's select odd rule I found in a game.
  • Mark's advice of what game you should buy this week
  • Marks favorite component of the day
  • Mark reads email comments
  • Mark's quiz: read a rule from a game and have listener guess what its from,then give answer at the end of the show.
  • Mark's favorite BBG comment of the day

...and then he adds some "favorite games geek topics." Things like :

  • games you might have missed
  • games I'll never play again (and why)
  • games for your family (non-gamer)
  • games that won't embarrass you to play work
  • holy grail games for you
  • games as an art form
  • earliest game memory
  • games that make me go "wow!"
  • german games in the eyes of a newbie.
  • german games then and now
  • crokinole boards
  • theme vs. no theme
  • how to teach rules (Yeah, right. I should describe how NOT to teach them!)
  • how to decided what games to keep, what to trade
  • strategy vs. tactics
  • games that should be reprinted
  • how to trade games
  • how to buy from overseas
  • how to put together a games day
  • conflict and good sportsmanship
  • Playing in restaurants, around non-gamers

Has anyone been keeping track of the future shows I say I'm going to do? Usually with something like, "Oh, I'll have to talk about XYZ in a future show..." but haven't done so yet.

Email Mark Johnson

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

BGTG - June 14, 2005 (My daughter's take on boardgames)

Anyone who's a parent of multiple kids knows this rule: be fair to all of them. So after Sam got a chance to be on my podcast, talking about the games he likes, I knew that Molly deserved a turn. Actually, she had wanted to do it first! Molly just finished third grade, and was my little boardgame player even before her older brother. Although she plays the occasional video game, she's not into them very much, and doesn't talk about them on the podcast. I do my best to steer the conversation toward some games we didn't mention on the earlier kid show--not hard because Molly honestly prefers some different games. Although she didn't specifically ask for it, I bet Molly would enjoy feedback just as much as Sam has (thanks for that!). There must be some parents of young girls out there that can relate!

Molly pointed out later that we forgot to talk about domino games like chickenfoot, but that can be in a future show.

Email Mark Johnson

Mall Madness
Roller Coaster Tycoon
Apples to Apples, Jr.
Fish Eat Fish
War, Go Fish (worth following the links to
Through the Desert (panned again!)

Sunday, June 12, 2005

BGTG - June 11, 2005 (My son's take on board and video games)

Here's another show where I have someone else recording with me. Only this time it's my son Sam, and he's plugged in locally to the same laptop. (Technical aside: this was incredibly easy, just patching in a second microphone/headset using a five-dollar audio jack splitter! I need to do more of this with local friends.) Besides hearing from the horse's mouth about a 5th/6th grader's attitudes about board & video games, I wanted to contrast the two Star Wars battles we played against each other. First it was Battlefront on his Xbox system, and later we played Queen's Gambit, a boardgame.

Sam does his best to explain why he likes some games more than others, and I think I manage to miss his point. Considering I'm his father, eager to get him to play more board and card games with me, I could use a little help here!

Sam told me later that he really enjoyed doing this, and wants to do some more over the summer. I'll be sure to label those shows clearly, so grumpy gamers with no use for kids can skip them if desired.

I'll add that Sam is especially hoping for some feedback on this show, so now's the time for it. Thanks!

Email Mark Johnson

Queen's Gambit
Epic Duels
Clash of the Lightsabers
Attack of the Clones card game
Battlefront (videogame for Xbox/PC/PS2)
St. Petersburg
Star Munchkin
Through the Desert
Drunter und DrŁber
Kapitšn Wackelpudding
Ticket to Ride

Saturday, June 11, 2005

BGTG - June 11, 2005 (Mike Mayer and Robo Rally)

You asked for a second voice on Boardgames To Go? You got it!

Ok, only some of you asked for a second voice. And ok, I won't have someone like Mike Mayer joining me on the podcast regularly. In fact, right now I think I'll still do the majority of the shows solo. But now that I've figured out how to patch in a remote collaborator for the show, I will do more of this in the future. I want to get Mike back on the show, and I've got some other friends to include, too.

After getting a little of Mike's own background, we launched into an unannounced theme show about a single game: Robo Rally. Mike is someone that really enjoys the game, while I just think it's ok. We do our best to talk about that, and include the little bits we know about the upcoming new release (hint: we're no Rick Thornquist of the Gamewire...we don't know any more than anyone else). Most of all, we had fun.

Email Mark Johnson

Robo Rally (and's listing)

Mike Mayer's profile on Boardgamegeek
Wilmington Board Games
Robo Runner (play-by-web clone of Robo Rally)
Robo Rally Editor

BGTG - June 11, 2005 (SR: Tonga Bonga, Crokinole, Fairy Tale)

Last week I joked that Tonga Bonga would be our Game of the Month. Here we were, playing it again--by request! Maybe it's meant to be. This time was different in that it was a 3-player game, and I won big instead of losing big. Then I got to try Ryan & Erin's new Crokinole board. It's not theirs, really--they bought it as a graduation gift for Erin's cousin. This board is from Crokinole World, namely Stan and Carl Hilinski. I purchased one of their boards a year ago for my brother, but I've yet to see it myself. In fact, I'd never seen or played on a Hilinski board in person. Now I can confidently say that they're of great quality.

My last game was Fairy Tale, a "German" game from Japan that mixes CCG-style card booster drafting with a straightforward scoring system and comfortable theme. The rest of the group went on to play Princes of Florence, but I knocked off early. Still have a couple comments about that game, though.

I started this show by reading from quite a lot of feedback. I'm still reading on the podcast just about everything that's emailed to me about it. That will probably taper off someday, but for now I'm having fun with it. Keep those cards & letters coming. :-)

Email Mark Johnson

Tonga Bonga
Fairy Tale
Princes of Florence

Crokinole World (Brandywine and Viking boards)
Chris Brooks' boardgame blog

Here they come

The pattern continues--I don't have time to work on the podcast much during the week, and so it all piles up on the weekend. I actually recorded three new shows today. Partly that's because I'm still pretty excited about this thing, partly it's taking advantage of the time I've got (knowing it will evaporate later). I could hang onto these things and post one every few days, but I don't see much point in that. I'll just post them in clumps as I record them. The flip side is that someday I'll go through a two week dry spell--that's just the way it goes.

I also finally started replacing a half-dozen recent shows with 32 kbps encoded ones. That means the MP3 files are smaller, at what should be a trivial decrease in audio quality. Maybe you won't be able to tell at all. I've heard that 32 should be just fine for speech.

Email Mark Johnson

Monday, June 06, 2005

Get 'em while you can

Am I posting too many shows? Can you keep up? You don't have to, of course, but I understand the desire to stay up-to-date with a website or podcast you follow. Turns out I've been uploading a little too much for me podcast host. That's no big deal--I can just lay low for about a week (the usual interval between shows that I record on the weekend anyway). Or, I can replace some of the existing shows with a same recording of smaller filesize. This comes from changing the bit rate of the exported MP3 file. From what I understand, dropping from 48 bit to 32 bit won't make much or any difference in the audio quality. So why not?

If it matters to you, get the current files now. During the week I'll replace them with 32-bit versions. If someone wants to help me out, save the original, 48-bit recordings in one folder, and re-download them in their leaner 32-bit versions. Then listen to both and let me know if you detect a difference. The changeout of the recordings won't happen until the middle of the week--I'll let everyone know.

And for anyone afraid of the techno-speak above, just remember that everything will still play just fine on your computer, MP3 player, or iPod. It's seamless and painless for you--don't do anything different!

Email Mark Johnson

Sunday, June 05, 2005

BGTG - June 5, 2005 (SR: Tonga Bonga, David & Goliath, Oltremare, Tichu, Oceania)

A nice, big session report. Last week's session wasn't any longer than the previous one, but instead of playing one big game (Struggle of Empires), this time we played several shorter games. These are always my favorite game nights, though I can handle a longer game once in a while.

I also was able to open with several listener comments, which was fun. Keep 'em coming.

Email Mark Johnson

Tonga Bonga
David & Goliath

Saturday, June 04, 2005

BGTG - June 4, 2005 (Mark's boardgaming biography)

A show all about me. I hope this is still of interest to everyone--I figure it's important to know where your writer/podcaster is coming from. Once you're calibrated on who I am, you can interpret my reactions to different games a bit better. I start at the games I played as a kid, but then move through the microgames and roleplaying games that dominated high school and college. The boardgaming we now enjoy didn't come around until the late 90's, and it was Magic: The Gathering that showed the way--I'm not one of those guys that played Acquire and Civilization back in the old days. (In fact, I forgot to tell the story of how Acquire completely bombed with my roleplaying games--and me--when we tried it. So did Cosmic Encounter.)

I've been involved with three boardgame groups over the past near-decade, and I spend a little time discussing how they all started. First the Tri-Valley Boardgamers, then the Left Coast Gamers, and now the Santa Clarita Boardgamers.

I didn't wrap up the show with a teaser for what the next theme show will be. I haven't quite decided. Figure I ought to post those ideas here on the blog like I've been threatening to see what piques interest.

Email Mark Johnson

Magic: The Gathering
Air Baron
Settlers of Catan

Microgame mailing list, website
My GURPS books (Super Scum, Supertemps, others)
Michael Dean's Fine Games
Tri-Valley Boardgamers (then and now)