December 31, 2011

The Best of Exiled Here 2011

The vast majority of the things I write on this blog can be summarized as "Grant describes at length why his new game is bad." However, every so often I write what I believe is a worthwhile contribution to the Internet. I was thinking about the year on my morning run and thought it'd be nice to present a Best of Exiled Here styled post.

I wrote 63 posts in 2011. These are the ones I think you should read. (Note: Though some of these are about board games, not all of them are!)

Converting the Heathen
I don't write enough humor posts for my tastes anymore. Perhaps it's because I'm simply not funny or maybe it's that I have my head so deep in board game mechanics that I'm failing to notice the hilarity exploding all around me. This is one of the few humor posts I wrote this year about one of the more hilarious episodes in my life.

I brought home a girlfriend in college who was, among other things, a vegetarian. This is the story about what happened when I brought her to Texas for Thanksgiving.

At the very end of 2010 I left my great job of 5 years to venture forth to the land of start ups. 2 companies later I went full circle and arrived back at my old job, though with a new title and role that excited me. Though it's fair to say I ultimately failed, I learned an immense amount about being a designer, designing and building mobile games, working with new people, being a leader and manager, and I'm far better for it. I wouldn't change the experience, hard though it was.

Ultimately, success in your creative and professional endeavors is the result of primarily hard work, being good at your job, and maximizing your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses. We all have some of each. The sooner you admit this and acknowledge it, the better you will be.

This post is a fairly concise recollection of some of the lessons I learned.

One of my favorite aspects of the Twitter board game community is that I'm often asked to review the rules of other designers. I love doing this. Love it. Professionally, I'm a producer by trade, which is essentially a design editor for the game industry. I'm also a designer, but at the end of the day I have to admit I'm a better producer/editor than I am a designer. Sad, but true.

I wrote this post about some of the principles on rule writing. I think it's a worthwhile read. I was doubly pleased that one of my design mentors, Ray Mazza (@raymazza) chimed in as well. 

San Francisco is one of the food (foodie?) capitals of the world. We have astounding restaurants that delight their patrons with cuisine from every corner of the globe. It is one of my favorite things about this city.

Lazy Bear is a bizarre and unique entry to this landscape. The chef/owner is a former lawyer who now runs an infrequent "underground restaurant." He, along with his wife and friends, rent a space in the Mission and serve a prix fixe menu that is absurdly delicious. 

Quick rewind. For a time at university I was doubling as a professional writing major. I ultimately dropped this because I wanted to graduate in four years and I doubted my ability to earn a living as a writer. But, I always wanted to write big features for a magazine that went beyond just what was happening, but focused on the experience.

I feel like this piece is somewhat that. As a side note, we have since dined with Lazy Bear again at his inaugural brunch. It was delicious.

My Thoughts on Kickstarter
The most read post that I wrote in 2011 was by far My Thoughts on Kickstarter. My twitter feed is jam packed with game designers and publishers, many of whom have put a game up on Kickstarter in hopes of it being backed. Those who haven't personally used Kickstarter have spent money on it or observed its impact on the board game space. It's impossible to ignore.

The problem for me, was that every few days the same argument would reignite about Kickstarter. Many of the same entrenched foes would do battle with the same arguments. 140 characters is an impossibly short space to compose a well-written argument and I was tired of it. I decided, with some prompting by folks on Twitter, to put down my thoughts permanently in blog form.

I'm glad I did.

Interestingly enough, I feel that many of the people who came to the post didn't actually read it. Based on their comments to me afterwards in my feed or via email, it felt as if they got snagged on a buzzword and just activated their auto-pilot. What have we always been told? Oh yes, don't get into arguments on the Internet. I should know better!

If you want to skip the long article, here are my thoughts. I still fervently believe them today.

Any creative and entrepreneurial atmosphere in which you have:
  1. No (or relatively no) barrier to entry
  2. Greatly reduced or entirely reduced financial risk 
Can lead to a terrible experience for customers in the short run and bad tidings for our industry in the long run. Just because you can release your game doesn't mean you should. The book industry has similar issues with e-Books.

We must ONLY deliver high quality experiences. 

One opinion of mine did change after hearing Richard Bliss (@gamewhisperer) discuss it on The State of Games. I used to be on the fence/negative side regarding established publishers or even independent publishers using or re-using Kickstarter. The truth is, it's a great marketing opportunity, or as its detractors note, merely a "pre-order tool." I absolutely agree this isn't Kickstarter's intent, but I can't say I mind it personally.

I cannot leave you fine folks without a fun pet story! Here's a fairly short, simple, and amusing post that I think all pet owners will enjoy. It's about my beloved Peaches and my beloved Beth and how their paths disgustingly collided one January evening.

Thanks for reading. If you have a blog and you have something you're proud of, post it in the comments! Have a great 2012 folks.

December 29, 2011

The Rocky, Rough Road to Home Ownership

My home!
I consider home ownership a part of the American dream and an indicator of one's hard work and success. I worked really hard in college and at my job so that I could one day point at something and say "there, that's mine, I worked for that."

Home ownership eluded me longer than I hoped due to the fact that the cost of living and home prices in northern California are astronomical. After years of looking at homes, only to watch our jaws subsequently slam the floor due to sticker shock, we decided to look outside the city of San Francisco, away from the suburbs of the peninsula, and into the grape growing countryside of Napa valley. Interestingly enough, the cost of homes dropped in half. After a bit of difficulty and a hearty struggle, we are now proud home owners. For now it's a weekend/vacation home as it's too far from our jobs to be a feasible permanent residence, but one day I hope to move there permanently.

I wanted to share my experiences for other potential home buyers. Perhaps there's something you can glean from my difficulties so that if and when you purchase a home for yourself, you can be more prepared.

Try Me! An Update on my Witch Trial Themed DBG

Last night's design/prototype efforts, brought to you by Crayola.
I've made some interesting progress on Try Me! lately, so I wanted to put my thoughts down to see if others had insight or thoughts to guide me further. I'm referring to Witch Trial as Try Me! because Witch Trial is already taken. Obviously, the name still needs work.

Initially, Try Me! was a deckbuilding game based on a witch trial in colonial Salem. It's a two player game with the players comprising the roles of the defense attorney and the prosecuting attorney. I love the deckbuilding game mechanic and the theme has been a huge hit with everyone who hears it, so the two seemed like a natural pairing. Plus, I've wanted to design a more focused two player experience.

December 22, 2011

My Favorite Games for the year 2011

Like most nerd inclined folk, I write a post most years about my favorite games that I played. Typically, these are video games, and typically, they are mostly in line with common sentiment, with the exception of Red Dead Redemption, which was and is total garbage.

Interestingly enough, I didn't really play that many video games this year. Instead, my focus and interests shifted 200% (that's not possible!) to mobile games and my new love, board games. Below is my list of my favorite games for 2011. Note that not all of the games I mention came out in 2011. Board gaming is a fairly new hobby of mine, so I had some catching up to do.

Read on to see my favorite mobile, board, and electronic games of the year.

December 12, 2011

Holiday Family Game Recommendations: Crowd Sourced Edition

This morning I asked my twitter feed to provide recommendations for games to play with the family. I had so many great responses I decided to share them here, as well as my own at the bottom. Games that received multiple recommendations were highlighted a bit. All have links to their Board Game Geek entries.

I've actually played the majority of the games on this list and I think it's an excellent list. What do you think?

Say Anything (multiple recommendations)

Flash Point

King of Tokyo (multiple recommendations)

7 Wonders (multiple recommendations)

For Sale

Incan Gold (multiple recommendations)


Wits and Wagers (multiple recommendations)

Can't Stop

Ticket to Ride (multiple recommendations)

Box of Things
Nobody But us Chickens
City Square Off
Forbidden Island
Archaeology: The Card Game
Farmageddon (somebody else said it, not me!)

My personal recommendations were...
Drop Site
Dragonheart (super nerdy theme but the game is perfect)
Forbidden Island

I focused on games I actually own for my personal recommendations. I tried to pick the ones I have that are super light or quick to play.

Any others? What did we miss?