San Marcos Board Gamers More fun than you can shake a meeple at


Is Lanterns a Carcassonne Killer?

Posted by Chris Aylott

Lanterns has made a splash over the last year, earning plenty of great reviews and awards nominations. It's a "lay tiles for points" game that looks a lot like Carcassonne, but is Lanterns likely to dethrone that classic game?


6 Months, 50 Members, 8 Meetups, Not Bad!

Posted by Chris Aylott

Exactly 6 months ago, I hit the "go" button and launched the Meetup group for the San Marcos Board Gamers. How have things stacked up in this time? Well, the headline says it all: "Not bad."

A few days ago, we passed the 50 member mark -- thanks for joining, Stephanie! We've met at least once a month, usually at the San Marcos Public Library. We've played a lot of great games from a lot of different styles and eras, including:

There are also a few things that haven't been accomplished yet, mostly because this has been a very busy winter for me at work. The Facebook page I've wanted to do hasn't happened yet, and I haven't been able to do much other promotion. Attendance is good, but it hasn't settled down to a steady, self-sustaining group of regulars, and we haven't had much chance to play outside of the library meetups. I would love to get together for an evening-long game like Battlestar Galactica or a full campaign of Risk Legacy, but it just hasn't happened yet.

Overall, though, it's been a good first 6 months. There is a lot of work to do yet, but we've met regularly and enjoyed games.

And really, that's what it's all about.

And really, that's what it's all about.



December Meetup Roundup

Posted by Chris Aylott

Happy New Year! The San Marcos Board Gamers closed the year out in style at our favorite public library, with a good-sized crowd and a lot of games old and new.

Carcassonne was first on the docket, and a popular choice with two people bringing copies. I brought mine because I hadn't played it in a while and I was reminded of how much I love it by Wil Wheaton's recent Tabletop episode, but I forgot to ask if the second copy came for the same reason. In any case, the game was as always easy to teach and fun for players of all ages.

Carcassonne at its multigenerational finest.

Carcassonne at its multigenerational finest.

Other games played at the December meetup included Jungle Speed, Love Letter, Bears!, and Dungeonquest. However, the hits of the afternoon had to be Quelf and Perpetual Commotion.

Quelf is silly even for a party game, and the players were merrily barking at each other like drill sergeants and acting out life as a dog. I was also rather taken with Perpetual Commotion, which is a fast-moving multiplayer version of solitaire that up to eight people can play at once. There's so much going on at once that the game becomes both challenging and highly interactive.

Busy hands cause a commotion at the December meetup.

Busy hands cause a commotion
at the December meetup.

All and all, it was a good outing, and everyone is looking forward to playing more in 2014. Our next library meetup is Sunday, January 26 at 1:00 p.m. -- see you there!



Pandemic and the Perils of Pass and Play

Posted by Chris Aylott

Pandemic is one of my favorite games, and for good reason. It's one of the first and best cooperative games, with a strong theme that puts you in the role of fearless scientists trying to save the world from horrible diseases. It's easy to learn, hard to beat, and has brought more than its share of new gamers into the hobby.

Nice app, but I'd rather have cardboard.

Nice app, but I'd rather have cardboard.

So I should be thrilled that F2Z Media has put out a Pandemic iOS app, right? Well, not so much.

There's nothing wrong with the app itself. It's a solid translation of the game, and it seems to have been well-received in the iTunes app store. There's just one fly in the ointment: the only multiplayer component is "pass and play."

Pass and play is the multiplayer you build when you can't build a real multiplayer game. Board games are about connecting with other people, and the best computer adaptations of board games -- games like Ticket to Ride, Ascension and Carcassonne -- make it easy to play with old and new friends, whether they're across the street or on the other side of the world. The best apps give you more people to play with; pass and play does nothing but provide a small convenience when playing with the people you already know.

I can't completely discount that convenience, especially since it's a lot easier to go on vacation with an iPad than with a stack of board games. But I can't shake the feeling that the coders of Pandemic missed an opportunity here. Give me a great game and the ability to connect online and I'm the happiest gamer in the world. But in person, I'd rather have cardboard.


Alert! September Library Meetup Roundup!

Posted by Chris Aylott

Things got a little raucous at yesterday's September Library Meetup! One of our members brought a copy of Space Alert, the real-time cooperative survival game of sailing through space while a CD soundtrack warns you that you're about to get blown up by aliens. Each game runs about ten minutes, and while I didn't get the details, it sounds like the intrepid space explorers did pretty well.

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I didn't get a picture of the Space Alert game, but I did get this Star Munchkin picture instead. That's in space too!

Turnout was excellent, with about fifteen players and lot of classic games on the table. One group took on the Africa board for Ticket to Ride, while I found out just how successful a no-brick strategy is in Settlers of Catan. (Answer: not very.)

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Intrepidly exploring Africa, which is not in Space.

Other games played included 7 Wonders, Carcassonne, Dominion, Star Munchkin, and Zombie Dice. A good time was (hopefully) had by all, and our next library meetup is just a few weeks away on October 27! Spooky games, anyone?

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My kingdom for some bricks. Seriously, what's a guy gotta do to get some bricks around here?!?!?


Last Night Was a New Thing

Posted by Chris Aylott

Last night's meetup at Mochas and Javas was a big success! Ten members showed up, and we had a good time getting to know each other over coffee and gelato.

Our first meetup included coffee and delicious brains.

Our first meetup included coffee and delicious brains.

We also played a few games. Tsuro came out first, and everybody quickly learned how hard it is to keep from zooming off the board, especially when there are six or more players throwing down tiles and making things complicated. By the time the second game of Tsuro was done, we had enough players to split the party and take on games of Zombie Dice and Carcassonne. I had to leave after that, but I'm told that there were also games of Bang! and 1945 (a small press game created by one of our own members).

One thing I was excited to see was how the meetup gave people an opportunity to try out some new games. Most of what we played hit the table because someone said, "I want to try that out." It's good sign to see a group full of people who are up for trying new things.

Then again, perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised. This club is a new thing, and everyone who showed up did so because they were ready to take a step into the unknown. I don't do that nearly often enough, but I'm glad I have this time, and I'm even gladder that others seem to be taking the plunge too.

More New Things Tomorrow

But that's yesterday. We actually have another meetup scheduled for tomorrow, July 28 at 1 p.m. at the San Marcos Public Library. I'm looking forward to seeing some newly familiar faces and meeting others for the first time. And maybe this time I'll even remember to take some pictures...