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  • Writer's pictureCraig Norris

Board Game Adventures: Craig Norris Talks with Travis Deverell (Shirtaloon) and Peter Wills about Their Favourite Board Games

Episode 60 - With host Craig Norris, and special guest Travis Deverell (Shirtaloon) and Peter Wills.
First Broadcast on Edge Radio, 10 June 202.


Do you love board games? Do you want to learn more about the different genres, styles and strategies of this hobby? Then tune in to this episode of Boardgaming Bonanza, where host Craig Norris chats with two avid board gamers: Travis Deverell (Shirtaloon) and Peter Wills. They share their passion, insights, and tips on everything in board gaming, from Euro games to Ameritrash, from co-op to competitive, and from classics to new releases. You’ll hear about their personal experiences, challenges and highlights of playing board games, as well as their favourite games and recommendations. You’ll also discover how to improve your skills, what makes a good board game, and how to have fun with your friends and family. Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran, this podcast will entertain and educate you on the wonderful world of board games. Don’t miss it!



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Transcript

Speaker 1

You're about to listen to a blast from the past, a rare gem dug up from the media mothership archives. This episode goes by the shows launch name media tackle, the original air date is in the show notes. But for now, just sit back and enjoy this vintage treat.

CRAIG NORRIS

Hey, alright, you're listening to media tackle with Craig Norris, PhD. PhD. Yes, many years of effort to attain this qualification so I can bring together my academic insights with hopefully topics which which cut through into the everyday and today's topic is going to be about board gaming. We're going into the world not only of what many people will consider. Or gaming, which is probably monopoly, and snakes and. Letters but this. New space is someone reasonably new into the environment of of the revolution, which has happened with board gaming to include things. Like everything from from, I'm going to throw a couple of terms out ameritrash to euro gaming, right? And I'll leave those terms up there because I have invited onto my show, 2 experts, 2, lifelong board game devotees. Sorry, I'm building them up possibly a bit too much. Yeah, hopefully not.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

No, no, that is that is way too much that is a. Bold faced line.

CRAIG NORRIS

Two previous guests actually for the show Peter and Travis, Travis and Peter, thank you very much for coming along and we had you on before as unpacking the publishing success of the fantastic shirt aloon he who fights monsters now, best selling author on Amazon Kindle. Yeah. Yep. And we, we might revisit that in. The in the. Future. But again, one of the things I love about the success. This has afforded you. Is that it's given you discretionary income, yes, to to dive into this world of war gaming. It's only a few months ago that I reconnected with Travis and was amazed at the enormous library of board games he has. So I thought nothing better than to share with the fellow residents of Hobart. And around the World, board gaming as it exists today, because as someone that only grew up on your basic family board games, your monopolies, your snakes. And letters Cluedo. I was truly amazed at the what ball game is today, so before I describe my limited knowledge, Travis and Peter, maybe you could describe your background with board game, how how's board gaming lived in your life.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

OK, I've always been fascinated with board games since I was a kid, but I was not in a great. Sort of board gaming environment. There was lots of monopoly where half the rules were missing and the other half were made up, that sort of thing. So that never really worked out. And that sort of drifted away from me until I was much older. I played sort of some magic the gathering back in the 90s got into that a bit. UM. But then oh. 567 years ago, a friend of ours sort of discovered the Will Wheaton table top web series, which got a lot of people into gaming and he wanted to try that out. So we got a few games and we sort of dabbled with some of the classic Gateway games. Which is sort of the entry level to hobby gaming versus your mass market. Games like monopoly like Settlers of Catan is a very famous one that people may have heard of. You know, small world. We might talk about a bit, but. And then once I actually got my hands on some income when my riding career took off, I got a bit excessive.

PETER WILLS

Amassed all the games. Ohh no. You have all the.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

I don't have all the.

Speaker

Games there are.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Games. There are many, many people with more games.

CRAIG NORRIS

Than can we can we? Let's just put a rough number on it, I. Mean. I think it's it's over.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

100 I it's over 100 on my on my shelf of shame. Which is the games that I haven't got time haven't got around. It's gotten to the table yet because I'm very, very busy, but my total is somewhere over 200.

PETER WILLS

I said all the OK then. No, that's not all the games.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

No, it's not.

PETER WILLS

But I don't want to play the rest. That's enough. You bought. You bought shelves specifically for board games. Then you bought more shelves that were designed to hold board games, to put the board games in. Then we went and we bought two more shelves specifically designed for board games.

Speaker

Yeah, I.

CRAIG NORRIS

And yeah, so look, it just amazes me the space of board gaming. Today, as I mentioned, there's. Of course. Well, maybe it's these two terms like ameritrash. Which would include everything like monopoly two, you know, very successful games today.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Not, not really. So much. Monopoly and. Anything you can buy in like a target.

CRAIG NORRIS

Is a married.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Trash. No, it it more falls. Into the category of like. I mean these are all very fluid terms, but. I'd consider them more like your mass market games, so if we're talking about sort of two different divisions here, so mass market games are the kind of things you can buy. In a target. They may well have the rules printed on the inside of the lid. They're very accessible. They're great for families and some of them are great. Some of them have, let's call them, less than ideal design parameters like lucky dice rolls continually. Lots and lots of luck, that sort of thing. And they take too long. There's player elimination, so people get booted out of the game and they're sitting waiting for half an hour for the next game, that sort of thing. And compared to the mass market games, you've got hobby games generally. You'll need to buy them in a specialty store or online.

CRAIG NORRIS

Kickstarter. Right. I mean, there's a whole phenomena of Kickstarter.

Speaker

Right.

CRAIG NORRIS

And for this, I don't know, Kickstarter is a kind of crowd subsidised form of doing things where someone might get a project up and ask for people to back them. And in board gaming that has become. A really prominent way of distributing and. Creating hype around.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Games. Yeah. At this point, it's actually less common for some sort of independent creator trying to get their game funded. And so they. Can make it. Which was sort of the original intended Kickstarter. Nowadays it's much more common for. Basically, larger game companies to essentially use Kickstarter like a pre order system, but one of the things that allows is you can have deluxo fried board games where you can have your basic version that you buy in a game shop, but then you can have the fancy bits instead of cardboard coins. You've got metal coins instead of little tokens or standees. You've got a giant plastic mini.

PETER WILLS

It is. It is truly bizarre. The amount of joy and just how much easier and nicer the game is to play when you go from these little cardboard things to just some plastic and wood things it you think it should make no difference. They're just little tokens, but just handling them the the the niceness of it. But even the sound it's like poker chips for for when you when you throw them on just it truly does make the game experience better. I know why people do it. It is not Aw.

CRAIG NORRIS

List if you.

PETER WILLS

Want like that experience?

CRAIG NORRIS

Yeah. It's like going to a movie and coming away with a discussion about how nice the popcorn was. Yeah, then.

PETER WILLS

The move it is it. Truly is the difference between going to like the the bargain basement cinema or going to gold class depending on how far you. Go. I mean, yeah, there's a reason you go to IMAX. It is a better experience with nicer seats. And you can sit anywhere and watch a movie, but it is better to sit in a nice seat. And watch a nice movie. Watch a big movie.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

There are there. There are some significant problems with that model, though. The most prominent being the price factor in that you can spend a vast quantity of money on these upgraded Kickstarter games and quite often like if these games are going to retail. If you're at all concerned about money, then you're generally better waiting for them to come out and shops. But some of them don't, and generally. They're full of. Kickstarter exclusives to incentivise people jumping on board as well as you know all the fancy you know bits and bobs.

PETER WILLS

And as with anything, once you get differentiated levels, you get snobs. So if you're going into the the differentiated gaming and we're learning to gain are the people that you interact with who have the better versions of it, I suppose it can be a bit like wine snobs, you. Don't get them everywhere. They're exactly the same number of mixes anywhere else.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

I don't see that being a huge problem. I think it's a pretty friendly hobby because people are. Quite, you know, always. Looking to welcome new people to the public?

PETER WILLS

Happily, it is a very interactive and social hobby, so the more social than interactive you are, the better your experience will be.

CRAIG NORRIS

And I think that that sets us up very nicely to the topic. I wanna kind of tackle head on which is. I it's not really a myth, but it's the. Idea that that. You know, board games are. All about just having fun, and we should just have fun and you know. It's not about winning or losing, and I, and I think within that is a it it kind of this is one of the really surprising phenomena of playing board games, which is the kind of emotional humanity. Of it that you realise. While there's a magic circle, we're all part. Of where the rules of the. Board game are kind of making sense and we don't need to be the people where we are outside like in this game. I'm playing as a kind of. A cowboy or something? But but nevertheless there is this design that I find picks up halfway through a. Game or at the end of the game. Where you realise you've lost and it's suddenly this, this, this, this emotion wells up that you remember from maybe playing sport and like I really wanted to win. I didn't know I wanted to win that badly, but I really do. And as someone that's been playing with you guys who have. Quite a light. Nice history in gaming. It is interesting to think of, OK?

Speaker

How can I?

CRAIG NORRIS

Win the next board game.

PETER WILLS

Well, to go back right to the start, my gaming history is different because I have brothers I played with. And so we started getting into things like the the true tabletop gaming like Warhammer 40,000 and various games. One of the first games, tabletop games that were that I ever bought was something called Hero Quest. Going way back. And so in that one person controls all the bad guys and the other two control the the good guys. Like in my case the other two, my two brothers. And all the good guys as they sort of compete against each other. So it was a cooperative experience and then we'd go on to other games where it was competitive experience where you know, two armies would fight and things. And you talk about the emotions. Yeah, the emotions well up. It's like, I really want to win. It's like he's. My brother and you fight with your brothers all the time. It's it's. It's a common, you know that that's out there in the zeitgeist of the world. You fight with your brothers, and this way you can do it. Specifically. Your mum doesn't yell at you if you're talking about. I'm going to kill all your units because it's just a game. That's what I gotta do. Ohh OK. Carry on. Yes, you're dead. You're all dead. Yeah, the emotions really go up. Go up there. So I approached it from that. I I knew that was going in. And then to the experience of all the the truly balanced truly thought about games that that Travis bought. Allowed some truly memorable experiences as friends. And you talked about that emotion. There used to be three of us playing and it would be a case of you. You talked about the guy who's going to lose the thing for me was if you're going to lose. And you have the opportunity to sabotage. Who's going to win? So that, that, that emotional Touchstone is, is quite real too, so.

Speaker 5

Yes, that that's actually a frowned upon habit that.

CRAIG NORRIS

That's called king making. Yeah. King making king. Making. So that's where you're playing the game and when. But you can make.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

And you're not going to win. By committee, you can choose who does.

CRAIG NORRIS

Someone else the king? Yeah, and and and. That, yeah, so. Look, I I think one of the wonderful thing to explore here is how obviously there's a. The idea here around how board games can be a microcosm of quite significant political concepts and social concepts around how you deal with. Obviously these feelings, you know, competitiveness and so forth. But then how you deal with politics of, of how you can leverage your losing hand, still lose at the end. But nevertheless, then you know benefits someone else. And what kind of strategies around that? So what I wanna do is when I was looking on the Internet about how to be a better board. There are all these lists which people have put out there to say. Well, here's here's ten ways to be a better board game and what I want to do. Is just take us. Through this list, this is a list. Of 39. Ways, I doubt we'll get to probably even half that. But what I do want? To do is just start off.

PETER WILLS

With the some of.

CRAIG NORRIS

These ways, this author on the website. My kind of Maple.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Actually, before we get started, I'd. Just like to say one more thing. It's a hobby where you have to come to. Terms with losing. Like you have to be able to accept that if you're playing, I guess four would be sort of the standard size. For a gaming group. People are at a table, and if you're playing a competitive game, that means three people are going to lose. 75% of the table are going to lose a game every single time. Right. So you have to come to grips with that and there is actually a danger in getting good at board games because just say you've got a board game and you and your friends play it and you love it. So you play it a lot, but you lose every single time. You've never have won this damn board game. So you go online. You start looking up strategy guides and you start playing the app version and you do everything you can to get better at this. Game until you're amazing. At this game and then you go and you play with your friends and you grind them into the dirt and then the next week you grind them into the dirt. Third week, you grind them into the.

PETER WILLS

Dirt. I don't think it gets to a fourth week cause they stop playing.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Yes, and and and there is the problem like it was a game that everyone was having fun, and now suddenly nobody's. Having fun so. They're getting better at the game is great, but getting too good. There is a danger of actually just destroying. The fun that.

CRAIG NORRIS

You're having and I agree entirely it it does. It does reveal a certain psychology around what your purpose is of being better at the game. If your purpose of being better at a game is to. Almost take revenge upon others for a feeling you've been left with a failure. Then I think that's a really well that can be an. Unhealthy way of doing because yes, what? That results in as a. Points is is you want not only to beat people but to really beat people and forget how how it felt yourself to be in that space. So yeah, it can be a really unhealthy space.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Cause 11 dominating victory is fine. One of our favourite games is Great Western Trail and not that long ago we played a game and Pete. The biggest both I.

PETER WILLS

But I think not all the points I think. Would be the term.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Yeah, I I think he actually. Beat the combined score first with the.

CRAIG NORRIS

The Great Western Trail. Is a game where you play as a. 1918 hundreds America.

PETER WILLS

Yeah, it's, it's.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

It's Cowboys driving cattle across the country to be shipped on a train. And and so. Got off.

PETER WILLS

And everything I did was just right. Sometimes through luck, so often through good management. But I just had the opportunity to everything costs a certain amount or takes a certain amount of resources. And I always had exactly what I needed to do the thing and that's unusual. Yeah. And the thing that I did got me the resources to do the next thing and the next thing. It just snowballed up quite nicely, so it was sort of the perfect game that nobody interrupted.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

But the point is. There's one game where you know one person has this massive runaway. Victory is fine, but if they're doing it every single time, it's time to find a new game like.

PETER WILLS

That that was weeks ago, and since then, I think I've won two, maybe three of the many, many games we've played, and that's a good thing. It means other people are winning and will keep playing.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

But that being said, there. There is that feeling of. Losing repeatedly can hurt. I think I read something like 13 weeks where we were playing two or three games every week without winning a single. One, and that was only. Three, so you know. That that was actually kind of where I learned my equanimity with losing.

CRAIG NORRIS

Look and. And and ultimately I I think where this journey will take us is the feeling that, you know, really this question of winning or losing is. A personal struggle, yes. Which says more about. You than it does about the. Team, you're playing with the.

PETER WILLS

Group of people you're playing with.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Hopefully it'll lead to Peru. Your growth, rather than doubling down on your own bad habits and we and eating all your friends.

CRAIG NORRIS

All right. So we'll get nice and close to our mics to dive down deep into possibly a few. Of the ways. This list has suggested. And then, you know, compared to our own. Experiences so the. 1st way of being better at a tabletop board. Game is to focus on the game and and again the description that's given here is you know how many times have you played a game on Autopilot? Maybe it's a game you know really well and not paying attention. Maybe it's because you're talking with friends you. Haven't seen in. A while instead of what's looking at going on in the game, chatting and having fun. 114 games with us, but if you wanna get better at the game you need to pay attention to it and analyse what is happening and what you are going to do. Train your brain to focus on the game and not get distracted, at least until you know what you're going to do your. Turn is that is that an issue, people? Have faced in terms of distraction.

PETER WILLS

Oh, oh, I've. I've got this one. There's a pace to games like it's not the same. That's why you're better at some games than others. But there's a pace you want to achieve, a thing that will grant you victory. Sometimes you need to do it twice 3 * 4 times however many times, but if you get a plan to achieve the thing.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

And do.

PETER WILLS

And then repeat, you will win and training your brain to know how many times you can. Do that so. You're not halfway through a plan at the. End of the. Game really really matters, and so if you you find a game whose pace just makes inherent sense to you, you're more likely to win. That's just something I have found playing many, many games. And sometimes you wanna if you keep playing the same game, you find the pace that you need. You also find the pace that other people are playing at and either mess with them or know how many times you need to do it to win. So yeah, that's absolutely true. But some of the funnest experiences we've had, and you've been there for it when you're learning your game. And you go. Like you realise you could do this. To the other person see. Or or we could do this. Ohh that got you more points than me. Damn it. But I I had fun figuring out your turn so the talking can be.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Good in terms of focus versus playing around and having fun, I think it it'll absolutely make you better at board games, but then there's a question of. What are you giving up for that? And it comes down to what is your objective in playing a board game? If your objective is to win a board game, then absolutely. And if you're in like a a gaming group playing like a broad gaming group playing with strangers, you're probably gonna focus more. But if you're, you know, with your friends. Round a table, you know, having fun. For me, that is the objective. I want to be around a table with my friends having fun, you know, winning the board game is very secondary to that. And so to me, the idea of focusing on the game, at the cost of enjoying the company. Is less appealing.

CRAIG NORRIS

It is an interesting question almost of that multitasking brain you need to bring to. A A non video game based space. I mean in a video game I find you can you can avoid distractions a little better when you're in a social setting with others you are needing to multitask a little around. You know setting up your turn and then it's not your turn. And you're not. Waiting for a computer to finish the turn in nearly seconds. You're waiting for another human being to go through. It could be their procrastination, but sometimes can. Take a long. Time and all. Of a sudden you forget you're playing a game and you slip into a social discourse and then it comes back around to your turn. And it feels like. An hour or two has passed. It's only probably been less, but nevertheless, ohh that's right. I'm playing a game and it is interesting that that social media that you can get into.

PETER WILLS

Making of video games. There's a lot of video game adaptations of the the more popular board games, and having played some of them I can tell you that that is a entirely true because when you're sitting alone at your computer, even if you're connected up through discord or whatever, voice chat when we play the games on computer, we tend. To just be quiet. And have our turn. Maybe we'll alt tab and do something else and that's what will distract us. But you won't talk. You won't have the social experience. You'll play the game.

CRAIG NORRIS

Hmm and yes.

PETER WILLS

Like that's lesser, we still arrive, but despite the fact we could just stay at home where all our stuff is and play computer games on the play, the board games on computer, we don't because the experience is so much better sitting around a table.

CRAIG NORRIS

With friends, look and for me. That's one of the. Really fascinating concepts to challenge a a big theory in gaming, which is the magic circle. You know when you're into, when you're engaging in a board game or a video game, you're basically obeying the rules that are there in that game and you escape or leave behind the salary person. You were the job person you were, and you become, you know, the soccer player on the soccer field. You become the, the, the cowboy. Noting his his his cow. But not 100%. You're still that person and that that, that comes about through the discussions, right you'll be. Playing the game. And then it will remind you of some TV show you've seen and all of a sudden you've you've gone, you know, 5 minutes into a TV show and derailed part of the game that's come. From the game, but. But that that magic circle idea isn't 100% right. It's not. It's this weird hybrid person you become in that space. Part of it is, you know, yes, we're all in this game playing by those rules. But I'm also gonna bring in my my real life into.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

It. Yeah, but I think group dynamics. Plays a huge role, like who you're playing with will really matter. Like you're going to have more focus on the game if you're playing with strangers at a game night. UM versus friends and even within a group of friends, you're going to have some people who are much more interested in, you know, focusing on the game and and drilling down and and not taking too long. And then you'll have other groups. And I think ours falls quite firmly.

Speaker 5

Into this group, which is.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Where it is a more social experience. And you know, we will, you know, pause and have a conversation for 10 minutes because we're just having a good time.

PETER WILLS

If you've ever wondered why our other flatmate doesn't join us in games, it's because he's the person who wants to win. Yes, regardless of anything else ever, to the point of I'm not sure we should have sharp objects around the table when when he plays just in case he figures that's the option he needs to go with the win.

CRAIG NORRIS

Perfect segue because the second point is play to win, not for fun. And the explanation is this sounds pretty obvious. But there are plenty of times I've played for fun not to win. When you play to win every turn you take is focused on getting closer to winning every single turn. By playing the win, you don't need to turn into an alpha gamer and dominate the group. You can play a win and not be a jerk. So can you play the win but not?

Speaker

Be a jerk, yes.

PETER WILLS

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Although if you wanna truly find out who you are. Be explaining a game to somebody that you know. And have like. The best card or the best token or the best thing come? Out and it's best for them and it's best for you and it's their turn first. Do you tell them that they need to take that because it's best, or do you shut up and take it yourself? Now, there's a moral quandary that gets you.

CRAIG NORRIS

Yeah, look, and I think there's also aspect of improving your gaming by teaching people how to game. Yeah. And as you're teaching, people have the game. It's a good experience because it places you in that moral quandary. Of of what is my purpose of teaching this game? Is it to, you know, win as the game Magic Circle is defined by I? It's a it's a competitive game I can. Win or is it? To share something you like with someone else and. Keep doing it with them because.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Because if if you're teaching. Someone a game you shouldn't be playing to win. You should be playing to maximise the fun. That everyone is having. As well as make sure they understand game.

CRAIG NORRIS

Fully. In fact, it's interesting. There are some games I've heard I've watched on YouTube. Explanations of route actually was one where it's an asymmetrical game that which means each team has different strengths and weaknesses and abilities to the other team. And and you're almost learning four different games in that.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Yeah, something very different like root essentially has a different rule set for each. Yeah, which can make it a little hard.

CRAIG NORRIS

To take. Yeah, which meaning on YouTube the guy was saying. Normally I'll play the game with the people I'm teaching, but with a game like Rude, I'll I'll I won't play the game and I'll just be almost a referee judge instructor looking at everyone's cards and and helping each player out. Which is. Yeah, this this. Dilemma, because if you're playing the game. An asymmetrical game in particular, it can mean that you know you're you're not able to help that other person because your rule set won't map over easily onto their rule sets.

Speaker

The Third Point.

PETER WILLS

And yeah, and if you're playing to win, well, I suppose it it like most in life, comes down to your reaction to it. They say that the only thing worse than a sore loser is a sore winner. And so there you go, where you. Nice about your victory and the things. You do or. Were you terrible? And obviously your friends? Interactions come into this. If people watched from the outside of friends interactions, they would be thoroughly convinced that you know we hate each other at some points because we say terrible things to each. Other completely completely. Out of the realm of of proportion, it's like you got my token. I wanted that token you are literally. The worst person on.

CRAIG NORRIS

And your mother hates you.

Speaker

This is.

PETER WILLS

Sort of a statement, and as long as that's done jokingly, you're just having fun. But.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

I would never do.

PETER WILLS

That no, of course not. But it it. It's part of being, like playing to win, yet not being a terrible person. Well.

CRAIG NORRIS

Again, a great segue. Thank you. Piece because the Third Point.

Speaker

I'm great.

CRAIG NORRIS

On this list. You you. I think you may have written this list is don't cut your friends any. Slack and this is something that I. Had to be. Told when I was playing, I think the same. Of the game because a. Move came up. Where I I thought, well, I don't want to be the game. That's the player that supposed this other. Plays game no, you have to. Be yeah, and the instruction is if you're best next move is to go after your best friend's territory, then go for. It do not. Cut your friend or partner any slack. Because of your relationship with them, it's a game. And you wanna win? But I think this is that magic circle idea that you've got to enter into the game with a shared contract that that this is just the rules of the game. It's a competitive. Game. Therefore, it entitles me to compete, to compete.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Also, if you're not doing. What the premise of the game? Then you that's it. Might feel like a cruelty, but to actually not do it in a way as a cruelty, it's like. You know when your dad lets you win at something and you know, then you realise your dad's been letting you win this whole time and suddenly all.

CRAIG NORRIS

Cause yes, maybe you've played it with another person.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

The all the all the accomplishment, you.

CRAIG NORRIS

Felt suddenly vanishes, and also one of the things that I have found playing with you guys is that sometimes the ecology and and careful beta testing of a game has been so finely tuned that if one player isn't playing up to the expectations, that's not kind of like an Uber gamer. But just not playing in terms of what the mechanics needs that play to do. It throws out a whack. The whole system of the game. Suddenly the player after them is benefiting and and.

PETER WILLS

The guy's hobby gaming is very like you say, very finely tuned. That's a great term for. They play test the hell out of it to. Make sure that. It so if the game says it's meant to take, you know, the the book will say ohh this game generally takes 12 to 15 turns, it really means it. So if you do something and you keep not doing the right thing in turn three and four, that suddenly affects turn 10 and you don't know that. But they did designing it, so yeah.

CRAIG NORRIS

And remember, playing a game of. Azul, which it seems like a very simple game in terms of Azul, is basically a colour tile collecting game. It's not requiring any. A bit of maths crunching, but not too much and and it does have this feeling like OK, you can pick it up really quickly, but I remember kind of reluctantly picking up one colour or not getting the mechanic that you know, if you if you keep allowing, if you're if you're. Playing risk averse. Right. If you're just not wanting to take risks and just play it really carefully each time. Then the player next to you will. Benefit from that risk averseness there's always.

PETER WILLS

And the other players will it'll be to their detriment severely to their.

Speaker

Yeah, it was.

PETER WILLS

So you're talking about Kingmaker. You were sort of being we were talking about kingmaking. You were sort of being a kingmaker without. Doing that just by accident.

CRAIG NORRIS

And here we have again a great segue. For the fourth point, which is know how? You can win. Right. If you're playing a game and again it says your games have multiple ways you can win. Be clear on all of them, then figure out the steps you need to take to get the long term game goals. These steps can include short term games and so. Forth, but that idea of. Well, sometimes you get the rules of a game and there'll be a learning curve and you'll forget the wind mechanic and certainly there's been games where someone will just say, OK, so looks like going by their game we've only got one round left. And So what, what? That country, right.

Speaker

I've got at least 10 more. Tests was just.

PETER WILLS

Well, I I I talked about pace of a game earlier, like one of my first points was that learn the pace of the game and yeah, that's the. Same thing we. Were playing scythe. And the inside one of the very, very many rules is the end of the game is when you get 6 stars. Down and I was on my way to get the 5th and I saw you had two. I'm like. OK, got time. And then the next turn came round and you did something I I didn't know about, cause I hadn't played the size. And you put 2. Down on. The one turn and. I'm like, oh, well, this that's it for me. Then I was working on #5. You got number six. That's it. And yeah, so. Learn the pace and know the pace of the game. Know the victory conditions very.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Important. Yeah. And there are a lot of games are very complex, especially when you get into the sort of heavy economic simulating kind of euro ones. But there are some like I I believe we've told you at least once or twice when we're teaching you a new game that you're not gonna win the. First game. It's a, you know, cause it'll be a game where you just need to play it multiple times to sort of get your head around all of the potential ways to get points or make wind conditions. Whatever it might be.

CRAIG NORRIS

Yeah, look, and certainly I found that with terraforming Mars. I know that was a game in particular. You kind of help. Calibrate a new players. Introduction to it just in terms of saying you know, don't even think. Win because yeah, again knowing. What those wind conditions are? On the way to get to them.

PETER WILLS

And and once again the whole don't play the first game to win, play it to teach, because frequently the new player won't know and you will. So it's like, oh, by the way, you know, do you keep quiet and just crush? Or do you go? By the way, you've only got about four. Turns to do stuff. So don't be planning a long game here this. Is gonna end soon.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

And and and teaching a game can be. Great. In terms of getting a chance to maybe explore playing a game in a way that you haven't done before, like you play a game and you do play to wins and you figured out what the best strategies are. So it when you're teaching, it might be a good time to employ to be a less optimal strategy and see what you can do with it. And that will in turn increase your understanding of the game.

CRAIG NORRIS

Yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah. And this jumping forward a bit, I want to go to .7, which is watch the other players, especially the best player. Right. And. And. And it's interesting. So it goes, you know, pay attention to what everyone's doing. There are two main reasons for watching other players. Right. The. The first one is. You know your position in the game. So again I. Guess that idea of you know when an end game is coming because you're paying attention to everyone else's position. And the second one is you can learn from them. How does that mechanic?

PETER WILLS

I find there's two distinct phases well, three or four, but the the first two distinct phases in learning a board game is learning yourself. Like what you can do and then learning what the other person has to do and whether you can stop it. We play with Travis mentioned ages ago, again called small world, which is by far and away the game we've played the most. And before he got a collection of hundreds of board games, we would get slowly getting through. And so we played that a lot and we went from what's the best turn we can do right now to get points to what's the best turn in terms of getting me points and denying them points. Because if you get 10 and they get 11, you're still behind. If you get 9 but you deny them five, you're way better.

CRAIG NORRIS

Off and fear. That's a fascinating strategy in terms of seeing in a couple of games where again thinking of. It's there's a point tracker, and if you play really well at the start of the game, you're in a bad spot in a way, because then the other players see that OK, one guy's gone. Really out of head already this is. What we need? To to bring. Him back. We need to to kind of. Spoil his game and so. It is that kind of human psychology thing you want to time your win at a point which is. Kind of under the. Radar. So you're not gonna get ganged up on by the other players.

PETER WILLS

Ohh that that's absolutely a thing to the point where we change the way we play depending on how. People, when there was just the three of us. It would be. Like Ohh, there's a thing where we can not just compete but conflict. Ah, I won't start my conflict with him, because then he'll conflict on to me. And they'll put. So everybody, would you delay the fight, delay the flight until they're like, oh, oh, I've gotta be fighting now. But that's OK, because I can win in one round sort of thing. And then the next game of the.

CRAIG NORRIS

Right.

PETER WILLS

Like he delayed until he won in one round. Let's fight on. Him now that.

CRAIG NORRIS

Mechanics so interesting because it is again.

Speaker

We was on.

CRAIG NORRIS

The really fast over me only because of. Looking at a lot. Of the YouTube. Reviews of it and and routes, one that on the surface you guys described to me is looking really cute because basically you're in a A. The board game is is a woodland setting. And yeah.

PETER WILLS

Beautiful pastel pictures. They're lovely.

CRAIG NORRIS

Kind of children's illustration book level, I mean in terms of the the wondrous childhood imagination. Of of of. Of a bird race. Raccoon type of race uh.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Kitty cat race.

CRAIG NORRIS

Kitty cat race. Yeah, and. They're all done, you know? Really, adorably. But they're also. All kind of armed and weaponised and.

PETER WILLS

Savage, savage killers.

CRAIG NORRIS

And it's basically a military aspects of it are are are a kind of war game with an incredible mechanic. And part of what's interesting in that is, is this dilemma around. You know people. Reviewing it and saying, you know, there's there's that ganging up dynamic within it where everyone's really enjoying the game. They're all wanting to. Paints and sometimes you can be left really unsatisfied because you've all put in a huge effort and you've all been looking at these other terms and then suddenly the end. Game happens and. It feels like, oh, that's that, that, that, that that mapped out. In a way which you know it wasn't expecting. All or it's. Because of a weakness that came up from from one person that rippled through the rest of the game.

PETER WILLS

On the other hand, just to monopolise this. We've played other games, one that we've played called the Foothills. I think it is, which is a an advanced game, but no means the most advanced game we could play, but it's an advanced one and being able to see the end coming and knowing you're going to lose like seven or eight or nine turns in advance isn't much better than somebody pulling out a card. We didn't expect in losing in one turn. So you talk about psychology. That's a great one where it it requires some games require a lot of planning.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

I'm just saying, if you've got eight times left, you could probably do something. I'm just saying.

PETER WILLS

Yeah, but how many times have you said I'm losing this game? And we said no, no, you're fine and you've got no, I'm losing this game. And then lo and behold, about an hour later you lost the game. Because you knew. Yeah, but.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Yeah, but I tried, yeah.

PETER WILLS

Legally, the.

CRAIG NORRIS

And equally, there are times where, yeah.

PETER WILLS

And again, psychology, you, you, you tried. What sort of person are you? Are you the person that accepts the victory or are you the person that strives, hoping they'll make a mistake?

Speaker

And always.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

And and I've done that and I've been wrong. I've managed to pull it out. I mean, we all have but you.

PETER WILLS

Yeah. Yes.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Know I'm very self centred.

PETER WILLS

And those are some of the best experiences when I didn't think you had a. Chance and you still won. Which I suppose brings you into another psychology. Are you happy that your friend won and pulled out the underground victory? Or are you, like, really disappointed that you didn't win so?

CRAIG NORRIS

Look and and the the next point is an interesting one in terms of that trying to step back from a a, a single experience to see a bigger experience, which is the idea that you should play many different. Types of board. And then there were two reasons that's provided here. One is, it's easier to learn new board games, right? So if you've played a lot of different types of board games, while there are a lot of variations, there are some dominant genres, I guess, of gaining. And you can use some of those skills you've got from. I think the. Description The one example that I read was sushi go to seven wonders. Yeah, because it's can't draught and.

PETER WILLS

Yeah, drafting. Yeah.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

It's it's not. It's about not so much about genres, mechanisms. So with sushi go and seven wonders, that's about card drafting. So you learn about you know how to get the best handed cards, how to hate.

CRAIG NORRIS

Draught. What does heat drafting?

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Hate drafting is when you get OK. Exist line drafting. First drafting is where everyone gets a set of cards and they'll pick one or. Two and then. They'll pass the rest on to the person to their left or right, and then you'll go around the table until everyone has basically picked a selection from the hands passing around. And if you know what the person you're about to pass cards to wants, then you can go. That card would be amazing for them. Doesn't help me. But I'm going to take. It that's height draught.

CRAIG NORRIS

Yeah, you know, someone's, like, collecting all the green cards and you ohh. OK, so I've just been passed a green card here. I don't need a ring card, but I know the next player does. I'll keep that one and just discard, yeah.

PETER WILLS

Yeah, especially if the rest of it. If you're after red and the rest of your hand doesn't have any red and you're like, well, what do I take? It's a. Waste taking anything there's no red. Ohh, but the green.

CRAIG NORRIS

And you gotta keep a. Blank face. Yeah, of course. So again, we've described one type of like it's it's good to play different types of ball games. So one type is card drafting, yeah.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

There's plenty of mechanisms that are very popular, like worker placement, which is about you've got a series of workers and you put them in a spot and you do the thing that's attached to that spot. And that's wildly common. Yeah. It's one of the very common. Mechanisms, at least in board games, and there are variants like sometimes that means no one else can take that spot. Sometimes they have to pay extra, but once you've liked card drafting, you've learned worker placement. You start getting a handle on these mechanisms, so when you start seeing. Them more and. More and more, then, that's one less thing to learn, which means you'll, you know, grasp the game.

CRAIG NORRIS

Yeah, look, and I and I do enjoy that idea of of kind of levelling up as you're getting a familiarity with certain mechanisms and then being able to see the cleverness of some game designers being able to meld certain mechanics together in really interesting ways. It's. It's it's quite a fascinating.

PETER WILLS

Yeah, matrix. You you truly learn to appreciate. You mentioned Settlers of Catan. Settlers of Catan is a very classic game in that it's well, at least one of them has popularised one that's kind of at its base all about maths. Because it's all about rolling two dice and then the number that's rolled. People on that number get things so.

CRAIG NORRIS

I've heard these games referred to as crunchy games or crunch. Not really.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Crunchier games. Crunchy games generally means one that takes a lot of thinking to sort of work your way around.

PETER WILLS

You gotta crunch a lot of numbers to do it at base board games about numbers.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

It. Yeah, well, it doesn't. It doesn't always have to be numbers. It might be strategy. It might, but generally crunchy games are ones that require a lot of thinking. But yeah, maths is quite often heavy because they're generally. Going to the sort of economic simulator.

CRAIG NORRIS

Euro games like the suburbia game to a degree.

PETER WILLS

Ohh, that was about money more than anything else. No. Think Concordia that we played right? Five different resources. You have to have a specific mix of each one to do each thing you want. So when you get the opportunity to get that resource. How many do you?

Speaker

Need the one.

CRAIG NORRIS

And Concordia?

PETER WILLS

That you need to do the next thing or three because you got a few things down the road.

CRAIG NORRIS

That you need and this. Is a great game. You're playing in ancient room. In part of the trade. Empire. Yeah, so you're. You're a you're a trader and you're collecting and and. And focusing on like silk and wine and grapes. Yeah. So again, it's it's it's I love describing some of the game stories like. Yeah. And in this game you play as a as A1 butterfly going from Mexico to Canada. And what mechanic is that?

Speaker

In fact.

CRAIG NORRIS

Is that an engine build?

TRAVIS DEVERELL

No, that's 'cause. That's that's mariposas you're talking about.

CRAIG NORRIS

Mayor poses yes.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

I guess that's hand management because because because it's all it's, but it's all about the cards you've got.

PETER WILLS

Yeah. And yeah, also strategy, but yeah.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

And using them effectively.

CRAIG NORRIS

So yeah, there's that not.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Every game falls into like neat categorization of patterns. I mean you you will Start learning all the terminology once you start getting lots and lots of games, you know you just start talking about hand management action points. You know, deck building all of. That stuff and you don't need to know. The terms but. But there is a lot of jargon that can come along with it.

PETER WILLS

Well, you know, it's a hobby. SFPS's and RPG's and MMO's are are all computer game terms. If you don't play them, they mean nothing to you, but if you do play them, you know exactly what you're. Talking about just with.

CRAIG NORRIS

A few letters talking of interesting mechanics. The next one is one that I've been really interested in. Terms of being surprised by. This mechanic which is. When when they say, play an asymmetrical game in the minority role and they define this idea of the minority role as in games like Mysterium. And never alone have the role of the one person that takes on the ghost or the planet respectively, and take that role for yourself. A key part of that role is to analyse the terms of the other players to either help or hinder them. It's a fantastic way to. Make you better. At those games and sharpen your ability to analyse. But players I've never taken on that role, it always strikes me as an intimidating one, like in Mysterium to players. The ghost, I mean. What's? The the plot of Mysterium.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

OK, so the idea in Mysterium is that one person plays a go. First, who? The victim of a murder victim and they're and a bunch of psychics have shown up, and that's all the other players, and you're trying to communicate to the psychics through visions who has murdered you so they can figure it out. But you can only give them very bizarre and vague visions as depicted on.

PETER WILLS

Or the murder.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

These very weird. Pieces of art on the cards. So you're trying to give them specific clues. So they're looking for a location or a murder weapon, and the options are on the table, and they have to. And you're sort of assigning them these bizarre visions, and they have to link the strange vision you've given them. To the specific murder weapon or the specific location.

PETER WILLS

And by strange visions, he means strange. He means like Paris in the 1920s, in the background, with a blimp floating above it, with a unicycle rider on the gondola sort of thing.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Very surreal. Yeah, it's very surreal.

PETER WILLS

Yeah. And you? Know yes. So the location would be like.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

You've got to somehow try and connect that to. Very nice.

PETER WILLS

Yeah. No, for for that one, I was thinking that you were hung. And so you're like, ohh, I'll use this card because there's a lot of ropes on that gondola. That sort of thing. And and so that's the bizarreness, it's. Not like hey. I I have a vision of a knife that's dripping blood. Here you go. No, no, no, that would. Be simple.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

I would point out that everyone I know is a terrible. Ghost, yes.

PETER WILLS

I am. I am awful as a ghost. The game the game keeps tricking me. I keep like the couple of times I've played it. Especially the second time. My my brain said.

Speaker

And this is yes.

PETER WILLS

No, you'll be good. Hey, it again. You'll enjoy the role this time the cards. Will be nice. The players will understand what you're trying to. Tell them no. No, no, no, it's a trap.

CRAIG NORRIS

Because I guess the. Challenge of a game like that. And and taking on the that that. Role is really you're working with the players. But you're you're. You're also trying. It requires a lot of of care to understand what a play is going through and put yourself. In their shoes. Is Dracula like this the? Fear of Dracula game in a way.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Yeah, it's, it's it's a similar kind of thing, except, whereas Mysterium is everyone working together. Fury of Dracula is a all versus one game, so one person is playing Dracula and everyone else is trying to hunt down Dracula, so there's still a similar thing where you're trying to see through what they're going to do and how they're going to do it. And then you choose accordingly. And if they make. All insane choices that make no sense. Hypothetically. Then you know your your choices will accordingly be wrong.

PETER WILLS

And and so once again, you get to the the thing this this list is talking about knowing the other players and knowing what the. So what are the other players options in the game and what are their options because you know them as a person. Are they aggressive? Are they passive? Will they like, will they, for example say well, we have train tickets and can? Get anywhere, let's. Just sit here in Paris, like in same people and have a cat and.

CRAIG NORRIS

Have I I do like that look and and. The minority, yeah. In, but the minority role is interesting cause sometimes it's not one you choose, it's in a game like. Bang Bang the one right bang the.

PETER WILLS

Bang the dice game, yeah.

CRAIG NORRIS

Dice game where?

PETER WILLS

You are randomly chosen by cards.

CRAIG NORRIS

Right. That's right. And and one. Person will be a sheriff who we know. From the start, but then someone will be a.

PETER WILLS

Outlawed deputy renegade.

CRAIG NORRIS

Yeah. And those characters, we don't know who holds them. And so there's an element of of kind of bluffing there that's required. And again, at that point you're say. You know, knowing the game convention, but then also reading that person and knowing well, they're just really hopeless at bluffing so.

PETER WILLS

In in in my case, yeah, in my case, being a very straightforward person, it's like, hey, to win the game, I have to kill the sheriff. So I attack the sheriff. But what do you do? This then attack the sheriff. OK. What?

CRAIG NORRIS

If I ask the right questions.

PETER WILLS

Do you do this? Then attack the sheriff. I was like, would it be possible? That you're the guy that needs to kill the. Sheriff. No, no, no, I'm not.

CRAIG NORRIS

But a more difficult game I found. Was the the Hong Kong detective.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Deception. Murder in.

CRAIG NORRIS

Hong Kong, which was fantastic in terms of. Thinking I had a good strategy as the murderer. Mm-hmm. And then everyone being very clear.

PETER WILLS

Being so wrong.

Speaker

When I was.

CRAIG NORRIS

The man like I, I thought. I'd kind of like. I played the first game this way as. A police officer. So I played exactly the same, but slightly down. To 11 or 12.

PETER WILLS

I I'm I'm thinking.

Speaker 5

Yeah, you would.

PETER WILLS

Of a Shakespeare quote? Yeah, but methinks he protesteth too much. Yeah, like, no, I'm innocent.

Speaker 5

Yes, when you when you leap up and you start marching around the board pointing out to everyone else and like, oh, it could be that could be that. Could be that could be that.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Mine. No, no. Yeah. I mean, yes. It yes, it says.

Speaker 5

Explicitly that it's my thing, but I don't.

Speaker

Think that's that's what we're.

CRAIG NORRIS

Because that's also.

Speaker

Looking at.

CRAIG NORRIS

One of these minority roles where one of the other players was the French tights.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Forensic scientists who's disseminating clues.

CRAIG NORRIS

But can only do it suddenly.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Yeah, like I I. You can only sort of point people indirectly towards certain things within certain opportunities, because otherwise you know I. Could just go ohh it's great.

CRAIG NORRIS

Although I do remember I I know in that game I made a a mistake in the magics in in kind of the the limitations of.

PETER WILLS

The physicality that you tried to convince. Us that a plastic bag could make somebody bleed as opposed to a knife. I think they were pushing things up. Hill, where it was.

CRAIG NORRIS

Difficult. It was difficult. I'm looking forward to playing. Yeah, but. I think we're pretty much at time are there. Are there any things that that, yeah. This is remind you of all that the last point you'd like to mention.

PETER WILLS

I think the just we, we were discussing this at the start. The ultimate thing you can do to be better at board gaming is practise something called compersion which is like compassion. Only instead of feeling the feeling of the person's pain, you feel another person's joy. If you can get joy out of the other person winning almost as much as you can out of yourself winning, that's pretty much the balance you're looking for, because if if you hate losing, you're gonna hate games 75% of the.

CRAIG NORRIS

Time. Yeah. And even if it's through gritted teeth, I think fake it till you feel it. Right. If if you are driven to win. And you're going to feel complete hatred. And everybody in control of that emotion. Fake it, see. Well, well done. That was really well. Played. I really admired that move.

Speaker

Or or or or.

PETER WILLS

It will be me next.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

You could go the other way and spew.

Speaker 5

Wildly exaggerated.

PETER WILLS

Vile hypothetically, yes. But. But you know that's the point. The amount of wild exaggeration shows that you're not being serious. I I think the worst thing that you can possibly do is like be serious and downplay like.

CRAIG NORRIS

It's cathartically.

PETER WILLS

I hate you. You shouldn't have won that should. Have been me, you. Got lucky. That's that's it, that's that's.

CRAIG NORRIS

Well that. Kind of, yeah. The table.

PETER WILLS

Terrible thing. Yeah, like flipping the table is once again an exaggeration. You can do that for comedic effect, but just looking. At somebody's. Like Nah, you got lucky. Is it is a terrible way to react to.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Yeah, yeah.

PETER WILLS

But even if it's true, I mean sometimes you will. Sometimes.

Speaker

You get like.

TRAVIS DEVERELL

Having a post game discussion like about strategies like. I love what? You did there. Here's where I messed up that. Sort of thing that. That can also foster a sense of. Kim Rodery because even if it was a competitive thing, that discussion is sort of getting you to all get better at the game collectively. And I think that is the key thing to remember, because if you're playing competitive games versus cooperative games, then most of the people at the table are going to lose. And at some point you have to, you know, you're going to. Have to accept.

CRAIG NORRIS

I agree. Look, and I think that brings back to me. I think the really profound idea of not taking it personally, right.

 

 

 

 


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