Saturday, July 31, 2010

WBC 2010 Prelude

The 2010 edition of the World Boardgaming Championships starts today with some pre-con events (mostly wargames). I will be spending most of the day in Pounder's car on the 8 hour drive from Toronto to Lancaster, Pennsylvania where there will be no board games played (even wargames) but I imagine there will be lots of board game discussion. One of the things sure to come up is what we intend to do over the course of the next week.

What do I intend to do? Well, it's summarized in a nice little chart below. It's probably too small to read in its embedded state, but I think you can click on it to enlarge it. Chances are I'll end up deviating from this plan a fair bit (Pounder has 8 hours to convince me of something, I'm sure) but here's my preliminary schedule.

Important things to note that went into the creation:

  • Vegas Showdown is my team game, so my number one priority is to try to make the semifinals. There are two heats, so I must go to the first one and if I lose that I have to go to the second one. So, they're both on the schedule.
  • Vegas Showdown round 2 is at 9am. Vegas Showdown semifinals are at 11pm. The same day. I must admit, I'm not a fan of that scheduling quirk. I hate waking up early.
  • I've only scheduled two demos on here. This is my 4th year at WBC so I've attended demos for a lot of the events already so I'm running out of games that look interesting to me and I don't know them already. The two this year should be Merchant of Venus and Factory Manager.
  • If you've read my summaries from previous years you'll know I keep wanting to play Empire Builder but never manage to. It didn't make the cut this year either. I really like crayon rails and I think I'm very good at it, so it seems like something I should really try to make room for. Conflicts this year for the three heats? {Merchant of Venus Demo + Queen's Gambit, Vegas Showdown heat 1, Factory Manager Demo + Factory Manager} Also, the semifinals are at the same time as Vegas Showdown heat 2... I may try to open game Factory Manager so I can squeeze it in.
  • No Titan this year. Normally I try to play 1 game of both 2 and 4 player Titan for a few reasons. I like the game and never get to play it; I want to inflate their attendance numbers so it keeps being two events; I really like the Titan crowd. Alas, 2 player Titan starts with Vegas Showdown heat 1, so it's right out. I may try to squeeze in a 4 player game if something goes awry but it's not in the schedule for now.
  • I put all 3 heats of Stone Age on here. I don't know why. I'll need to look things over and replace at least one of those. Especially if I win the first one!
  • I got cocky and scheduled 4 different finals on here. Vegas Showdown, San Juan, Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation and Le Havre. Le Havre is the biggest stretch but I can't see waking up at 9am on a Saturday so there's no point in scheduling something realistic there.
  • I really, really, really want to be the LIAR'S DICE CHAMPION OF THE WORRRRRRRRLD but I can't this year. It conflicts with the Vegas Showdown final, and I can't imagine not making that...
  • In retrospect, I wish I'd picked Lord of the Rings or San Juan for my team game since it seems Vegas Showdown is just screwing everything up. But it is probably the game I'm best at.
  • Mark my words... If I don't get into a game of Empire Builder this year I'm making it my team game next year. Then I'll feel obligated to play it!
  • Look Mom, I left a hole to eat lunch on Wednesday and supper on Friday. Two whole meals! I feel like such a responsible young man now.
Now, at WBC I tend to have no free time at all for anything but sleeping and eating waffles at 3am, but I've been browbeat by Andrew and Jeff at work to try to make updates about what's going on throughout the week. I make no promises about the quality of the writing (it's likely to happen at 5am after the post-waffles game) but I'll try to get something up every day.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fan eXpo 2010 Costume

Fan eXpo is a huge geek convention that happens in downtown Toronto at the end of August. It’s a combination convention which mashes together Comics, Sci-Fi, Horror, Anime, and Gaming into one large crazy event. I’m intending to attend this year for a few reasons:

  • There’s a cool board game tournament.
  • My sister is flying in from New Brunswick to attend.
  • Awesome celebrity guests. (Spike, Al Calavicci, Batman, CAPTAIN JAMES TIBERIUS KIRK, Worf, Chewbacca, Leslie Nielsen, etc…)
  • An excuse to dress up like an idiot and maybe not look like an idiot!

It’s the last part that’s of concern here today. I asked for options on Facebook for moustachey costumes I might be able to wear and got a couple responses (all from Tom P). Now, I’m not one to just make a decision, I need to make the right decision. I can’t really use a spreadsheet here, sadly, but I can set out some rules for what I’m looking for, provide the options I’ve found so far, and solicit feedback for better options. There is definitely a front-runner in my mind right now, but I’m open to other suggestions for now. Here's what I look like today:

To start with, what am I looking for? Well…

  • I don’t intend to shave my moustache and don’t really want to trim or dye it. As such, the character should have a handlebar or related moustache.
  • I don’t even have a stapler let alone a sewing machine, so the costume would either have to be readily available for rent/sale at a costume place or be relatively trivial to put together. (Especially since there’s only a month or so to go and I’m spending over a week of that at WBC!)
  • If I’m going to look silly, I want to look good silly. This means it should be something many people would recognize (this is many people AT Fan eXpo, not the general population. I don’t care if people on the subway have no clue what I am) and be a reasonable attempt at a portrayal. Two years ago I wore a Star Trek uniform but didn’t have any Spock ears so I wasn’t really much of anything. That’s not cool and not the goal here.
  • It would be nice if it was a character I actually like.
Snidely Whiplash

The stereotypical moustached villain. When I started posting pictures of my moustache on Facebook I got multiple comments about how I needed a tophat, a cape, and to start tying damsels to train tracks. How does Snidely (the character, not the rogue in my WoW guild) fair?

  • My moustache is pretty much just what I need for this. The colour is wrong since Snidely has pure evil black hair, but that’s not a deal breaker.
  • Top hats are surprisingly hard to find (and NOT cheap) but I’ve always wanted one so it wouldn’t be a waste. Beyond that I need some sort of trench coat or cape. A suit would also work, but I’d need a pitch black tie. I have black pants and black boots, so I’m good there. Nothing to really put together and just a few purchases makes this one very plausible.
  • Does Snidely actually fit any of the Fan eXpo categories? He’s from an American cartoon from the 60s. He’s tangentially related to Comics and Anime I guess… I suspect he’d be recognizable, certainly I’d imagine most people would know who I was after I told them.
  • I don’t really care for or against Snidely as a character. He’s just some guy from a show I kinda watched 20 years ago.

Klingons don’t curve their moustaches upwards, and most of them have beards. But they do tend to have long moustaches waxed to the side, so I think it would look factually correct. (General Chang had a moustache with no beard, for example, but he’s also bald with an eyepatch and grey hair…)

  • Klingons tend to shave right under the nose, and they curl downwards into more of a fu-manchu than a handlebar. Also: black hair again.
  • An awful lot of makeup work goes into becoming a Klingon. Andrew and I found a sci-fi store a while ago that I think sold ridges, so it would be doable. Getting the leather suit/armor would probably be a lot more complicated. It’s certainly possible a costume shop (or the sci-fi store) would have a Klingon suit, but if I couldn’t find one premade I doubt this could be done.
  • Done right, everyone would know what I was. I bet there will be other Klingons there though, so done wrong I’ll just look silly silly instead of good silly. Certainly sci-fi.
  • I am a huge Star Trek fan, but I never really liked the Klingons. Vulcans, Ferengii… Awesome! Klingons… Meh.

Luigi’s arch-nemesis from many Nintendo puzzle/sports games.

  • Waluigi’s moustache takes a near 90 degree turn that’s simply not possible to replicate. I can make my hairs curve, I can’t make them shoot off in a random direction. His moustache is thin and points up though, which are the two things my moustache does well. Also: black hair again.
  • I have pointy ears. Beyond that, I’d need to get a purple hat with a L logo. A purple shirt. Black or deep purple overalls. Orange pointy shoes. White gloves, also with L logos. The shoes I have real doubts about but the rest should be doable with a little effort. Also, bright pink nose? Really?
  • Who doesn’t know who Waluigi is? He definitely fits into the gaming category.
  • Waluigi was introduced to the Mario games after I stopped really playing them, so I never really formed an opinion of him. One thing I can say, though, is I have always hated Luigi with a fiery passion…
The King Of All Cosmos

King from the Katamari Damacy series. He’s a little over the top…

  • As a cartoon his moustache looks painted on, but it definitely is a handlebar. Downside, the Knig also has a soul patch and mutton chops which I can’t feasible get so I’d either need to go with fake beard/real moustache or be a little unauthentic with just the moustache. Also: black hair.
  • Wow, there’s a lot going on here. The second image above is from a couple that actually made their own costumes well in advance with actual sewing and such. (Aside: I really wish I had a Queen Of All Cosmos…) I’d need to build a gigantic coloured tube to attach to my head, and find a really flamboyant collar. Speaking of flamboyant, that shirt and those pants are so far over the top they’ve circled all the way around. I might be able to find pastel coloured shirts and spandex at some thrift store that would be half-decent, but I have real doubts about getting authentic enough.
  • Fortunately, as long as the tube is good enough and the rest is close I have no doubts anyone who’d played a game in the series would know who I was. (And random people on the subway would have NO chance, which is sweet in its own way.) I’m not actually sure I’d be comfortable enough to wear spandex pants in public, but I could see being willing to try.
  • Katamari Damacy is an amazing game. In every sense of the word. The King of All Cosmos is awesome. Playing in the board game tournament with a gigantic tube on my head might be hard, though, and if I took it off I’d just be a dude in pastel tights…
Don Paolo

The bad guy from the Professor Layton series of Nintendo DS puzzle games.

  • He’s from the DS, so he’s not in a lot of detail. Most importantly, he has the handlebar moustache. Less good, he has a soul patch and a really insane hair style that would be hard to replicate without a wig. The only option that doesn’t demand black hair, but it’s still darker than my hair.
  • Black gloves, shirt and tie, purple overcoat, orange pants… All things I can probably buy pretty much anywhere. The lack of detail from the DS means I can probably get a way with a lot of things as long as I have the broad strokes right. Unfortunately, one of those strokes is that crazy hair! Without the hair, I just wouldn’t be Don Paolo.
  • I have doubts that even people who have played the first game would know who I was. Definitely obscure, but the people who would get it would probably think it was awesome. I’m just not sure how many people that would be. A failure to get the broad strokes right would really relegate me to silly silly land.
  • I’ve only played the first game and didn’t really remember he was in it. I really liked the game (it was a little easy) but not so much the bad guy.

Any opinions or other suggestions? I’m open to ideas here!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Getting Started With Brettspielwelt: Part 3

As a word of warning here, I’ve never actually used the Spielpartner function in BSW because it was added in after I joined. I already knew how to find games, so why would I worry about learning a new and admittedly scary looking tool? Well, it does do some things you can’t do in any other way, so it’s probably worth learning. I’m going to try to explore what it can do and explain it here. (It doesn’t help that the English help file on the website is half in German…)

Click the Spielpartner button in the menu to open up the window that should look like the screenshot above. In the upper right hand corner is a “Game Manager” button. Clicking this closes the Spielpartner and takes you to the manager. (They really have a lot of ways to get to the manager, eh?) Also of note, there are 4 tabs near the top of the window.

The leftmost one, “Player calls”, shows all the game yells that have been sent out recently. Remember how when you were starting a game you could type in a message and click ok to broadcast it? This is one of the places those messages go. Clicking on a message in this window warps you to that game room. The rectangles themselves seem to contain the same sort of info as the manager, only in a more compressed format. The message entered appears at the bottom of the rectangle. In the case of the screenshot above, the Settlers game at the top entered no message but sent a blank yell to get on this list. Tichu has the message “one more”. Pretty straightforward stuff. The only odd thing here, I think, is that the messages populate at the bottom and scroll upwards. At least I think that’s odd…

The second tab “Game rooms” is blank by default.

The third tab “Filter” allows you to populate the first and second tabs, but it seems to have limited use for the second tab as shown below:

I filtered it to show only San Juan and Puerto Rico, but the problem is the “Game rooms” tab only has room for 9 rectangles and has no scroll bar. So, while the filter is useful in showing me some of the rooms, it can’t show me more than 9. The filter has 3 different things you can filter by and a pretty basic AND/OR/NOT system so you can do some complicated things with it if you’re really versed in it. For example, you can filter by the city the table is in (means nothing to you now, but means a lot to some people) and you can also filter by sets of people you’ve set up. So, you could set the filter up to show people on your friends list for example, and then you’d see at a glance what all your friends were playing. Assuming they’re only playing in at most 9 different games, anyway…

It can certainly help with the “Player Calls” tab, especially when combined with the 4th tab below. If you don’t care about Tichu, for example, you’ll really want to set your filter up to exclude it from the “Player calls” tab. Otherwise half your game yells will be for Tichu which will waste the limited space in the tool.

Best of all, you can save up to 9 different filters with the green boxes on the filter screen, so you can quickly see where your friends are, and who’s in your town, and then fall back to your no-Tichu filter.

The fourth tab “SpielList” is used to toggle what games you want to see the game yells for. At least, that’s what it says when you click the boxes, but that’s not exactly what it means. You see, one of the options on the filter tab is “BSW-AnderesinSpielList” which basically lets you add a whole bunch of games at once to your filter. This definitely has some uses when combined with some of the other options.

Finally, down at the very bottom is a quick game yell window. Toggling the sound button gives you an audible clue when your game is ready to start, I think, which could be useful. Beyond that it seems like it just duplicates the functionality inside the game start tool.

Spielpartner is an intimidating looking tool that I can definitely see some uses for now. I don’t think you need to know how to use it to get by since the manager is pretty good but the “Player calls” tab has potential. Join us next time for a discussion of the “meta-game” of BSW.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

FMB Artifact Thoughts

Fantasy Monster Beatdown is a game currently being designed/developed by my friend Sky. I was over at his place on the weekend to test the 4 player version of the game with Pounder and Aidan with a lot of good testing related results coming from it. This post is not about those.

As some of you may be aware, I'm a big fan of perfection. When I have a choice to make I want to figure out the optimal thing to do. Even if the choices are close, I want to crunch the numbers and decide the 'best' one. I don't need to do this at the time, of course, but I want to justify my spur of the moment choice. Or, if it's wrong, I want to know why so I can make better spur of the moment choices in the future.

One of the game mechanics of FMB has it so you get a powerful artifact every 3 turns. When you do you get to choose between 3 different artifacts drawn off of a shuffled deck. Ostensibly all these artifacts are the same power level despite doing drastically different things. Balancing the artifacts given they do very different things is not a trivial task, and a lot of artifacts have seen hefty changes over different iterations of the game. My contention has always been that a certain mechanic on artifacts is 'best' (and as such always take those ones when given the choice) but it's hard to really justify that stance. I don't play enough to have more than a gut feeling here (this effect is doubled since I like to win and therefore the few times I do play, I go for the throat with what I think is best).

On the weekend, however, I had a choice between 3 very similar artifacts. I want to compare the effects each will have on a game and then compare them to the artifact I think is the best in the deck. Some of this will be hand-wavy, so it's not meant to be a definitive proof across all situations in all games. I will spell out my assumptions in advance, however, to allow you to draw your own conclusions.

  • You know enough about FMB that I don't need to describe mechanics in huge detail. If this isn't true, you may want to click the link above and read Sky's blog. Alternatively you can ask a question in the comments.
  • This is the first artifact you're going to take. By making this assumption I can avoid dealing with artifact combos which can certainly increase individual power levels.
  • You're playing a 1v1 game, so there are 7 units per side.
  • Both teams have an even split between 1 and 2 power units. (Not realistically possible since we have an odd number of units, but I want to simplify the math a little.)
  • As such, any given attack has a 25% chance of being 1v1, 25% of being 1v2, 25% of being 2v1, 25% of being 2v2.
  • Both teams have an even split of melee/ranged and of slow/fast. They have en even split between the two types as well, so there's a 25% change of being slow/melee, 25% slow/ranged, 25% fast/melee, 25% fast/ranged.
  • The first 'hit' of a turn will negate an incoming attack. So will every other odd hit. (This is from stunning a unit, preventing it from attacking.)
  • If a slow/melee guy is killed he loses an extra 2 turns. (Sometimes he'll only lose 1 if the opponents are deep into your territory but sometimes he'll lose 3 if you control the middle node.)
  • If a slow/ranged guy is killed he loses an extra 1.4 turns. (Similar arguments as above, but he can hit people in the 7-8 range on turn 2.)
  • If a fast/melee guy is killed he loses an extra 1 turn. (He can pretty much always find a guy to hit on turn 2, but can only hit on turn 1 if you've lost a back node. In that case they're apt to try for a perma-stun instead of a kill on the fast/melee guy.)
  • If a fast/ranged guy is killed he loses an extra .5 turns. (He can attack anyone threatening your back nodes on his first turn back.)
  • Now, you could just stun an extra guy instead of killing the fast/ranged guy, but a lot of the time he's going to be in a dangerous position and you want to kill him for positional reasons and not just to prevent incoming attacks. As such, I think there's value in keeping that number at .5 instead of bumping it to 1 and assuming mass stuns.
  • The second hit (and all subsequent even hits) therefore negates (2+1.4+1+.5)/4 = 1.225 attacks.
  • The formula for attacks negated, on average, given the above is n = h + (floor(h/2)+floor(h)mod2*(h-floor(h)))*.225
  • I set up a circular reference formula in Excel and iterated it a couple hundred times. It looks like the equilibrium point for balanced armies given all of the above is ~4.5 attacks per round giving ~2.25 hits per round.
Default with no artifacts, what is the outcome of my turn going to be? (I know, I spoiled it above, but bear with me here. The method used here will be reused.) Basically what we want to do is build a 3 dimensional truth table showing all possibly outcomes along with their weights and then we can sum up the expected values.

I hope that ends up legible and sensible to everyone. The numbers down the left correspond to the cards in your deck of dice. The numbers at the very top are the attacker's strength. The numbers in the next row are the defender's strength. The third row is the relative odds of that attacker-defender matchup occuring and should sum to 1. Then the truth table has a 0 if that card would be a miss for that attacker-defender matchup and a 1 if it's a hit. The EV column on the right works out the relative worth of a given card. As you can see, the -2 and -1 always have no value in the default setup. 2 and 3 always hit. The 0 and the 1 care about the difference in strengths. The most important number is the one in the lower right hand corner, which indicates the average chance to hit long-term. As expected, it's 50% with no artifacts in play.

Artifact A - Remove all -2's from your deck.

Our average hit chance on an attack goes from 50% to 60%.

Artifact B - Remove all 3's from your opponent's deck.

Here we're looking at what the opponent's hit table becomes. He goes from hitting 50% of the time to hitting 40% of the time.

Artifact C - Once per turn, reflip one of your attacks.

Initially my idea was to build out a huge truth table trying to take into account order of attacks and when you might miss and such, but in addition to being very time consuming I'm not even sure that's a good way to try to model this effect. Thinking about the card logically, all it does is give you an extra attack every turn, with the caveat that you have to have missed at least once. So, in the final analysis, I can model this artifact by adding in an extra percentage of a swing. The question then becomes how big a percentage? What are the odds that I'm going to hit on every attack I make in a turn? Unfortunately this question is non-trivial. To work out a good estimate you'd need to build out the odds of each number of attacks on a turn and handle the different attack strengths and such. Worse, you need to account for the deck of dice mechanic. (Deck of dice approximates rolling an actual die perfectly on a single attack. Long-term it models average dice. But short-term, looking at a small number of consecutive swings it can get wonky.)

What I decided to do was just look at a few numbers and then make a reasonable guess. In particular, you'd get at least one miss 99.8% of the time with 5 1v2 attacks, 89.7% of the time with 5 2v1 attacks, 98.1% of the time with 5 2v2 attacks, and 89.1% of the time with 3 2v2 attacks. Something around 95% is about right, so that's what I used.

So, the effect of this artifact on hits is to add an extra .95 swings per turn.

Artifact D - Free strength 3 attack during spell phase

Having one of your attacks each turn be at strength 3 changes the weighted odds a little. As such, your chance to hit over all of your attacks long-term goes up to 54.5%. In addition, you get an extra attack every round.

Now, what do these things actually do from a hits standpoint? There are two ways to look at it. One is to just take the expected swings and apply the new hit chances to see the net difference. The second is to rerun the iterative relation to work out the overall impact on the game if it continued into infinity with you having the artifact as the only change. (Hitting him more means he swings at you less which means he hits you less which means you swing more...)

As well, there are two ways to look at the change. (Needed because one is a 'defensive' artifact.) You can look at net change, or as a ratio of your hits to his hits.

Simple one first:
A - +.45 hits for
B - -.45 hits against
C - +.475 hits for
D - +.75 hits for

A - +20% hits
B - +25% hits
C - +21% hits
D - +33% hits

Complicated one next:
A - +.99 hits for
B - -.91 hits against
C - +.96 hits for
D - +1.65 hits for

A - +51% hits
B - +54% hits
C - +50% hits
D - +98% hits


From a strict hits standpoint the first 3 artifacts are all very comparable. B rates to be a little better, but on the whole they're all in the same ballpark. D is way out in left field. Depending on how you look at it it could be worth twice as much as the others or merely 50% more. From a sheer hits standpoint, I take D every day over these options.

Hits aren't the only thing that matters in the game, though. It's not a game of just rushing the middle and fighting for no reason... There are positional parts to the game that take serious consideration as well. Weighting which is important between power and position is not something I'm really equipped to do and is really where the interesting strategies occur in the game. Passing on an attack to get better position on a node is strictly wrong from a hits standpoint but can be the way to win the actual game. But what we can try to do is rank the artifacts on a positional impact as well. We can't compare power to position, but we can order them in both respects.

It should be clear A and B have no positional impact. Everything they deliver they deliver through sheer power. There's no choices involved, they just happen.

C has positional impact. Generally speaking you get to choose the order of your attacks, so if you do them in descending order of importance you rate to get your free attack on a good target. Re-roll the first miss! C is approximately as powerful as A and B in terms of hits but it gives you some ability to aim the hit. If attacks ever have varying importance then C is better than either A or B.

What about D? Well, you get to point that extra swing anywhere you want. You can aim it at a unit you can't even realistically get at, allowing you to stun a unit in a very dangerous position. C gives you .95 of an extra attack at strength 1.5 probably somewhere good. D gives you a full extra attack at strength 3 anywhere you want. Power-wise this is just better. Positionally this is just better.

So, given a choice between just these 4 artifacts as my first artifact I'd choose them in order D->C->(A or B). The choice would be made between A or B based on how far through the decks of dice the players are, to see if I couldn't squeeze some edge out between them that way.

For the record, I chose C at the time. Vindicated!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Getting Started With Brettspielwelt: Part 2

One thing you'll notice if you spend some time in the BSW manager is there are a few games that launch all the time and a lot of games that rarely ever start up. If you want to play Dominion, Tichu, or San Juan you'll find an open game up almost all the time. For some of the longer or more complicated game you're going to be waiting around a while if you're just joining from the "players needed" section of the manager. You also have little to no control over the game options this way, so if you really wanted to play a game of Puerto Rico with the expansion buildings you're probably going to be out of luck waiting for someone else to start it up.

There are two solutions to this problem and both are solved the exact same way. Solution one is to just find an empty room and start your own game. Solution two is to find a room with a game you like in progress, go to the room and watch the game and ask to get in on the next game should one happen.

The screenshot below indicates where you need to click to get where you're going here. It's a little small, but you're looking for the phrase 'Alle Spiele'. Click that phrase and the menu will expand and show every game in this manager. (Many other games are in the archive manager, found by clicking the lobby button up at the top.)

Find the game you want in the big list (you may need to scroll a bit) and click on it. This will populate the manager with every table for that game in the world. The tables and colours here are the same as those in the previous post, with one new background: A game with a blue background is a game in progress. The screenshot below shows all the San Juan tables. Second from the top is a game in progress, every other table is one where you can start up your own game.

Assuming you're starting your own game, when you get in the following window will pop up. (You can click and drag the floating window and pull it outside the main BSW window to make it a floating window like I have here.) Most of this is pretty straightforward (click join to join, click an option to toggle it on or off) but there are a couple interesting parts.

The invisible option prevents the game from showing in the manager. You can use this if you're feeling antisocial and just want to play with people who are already in the room. Chances are you don't want to do this.

At the bottom is an edit box, you can type a message in here. When you click the OK button the system will broadcast your message to everyone who cares about the game you're in. It also makes the message appear in the manager.

So, basically, just go to an empty room, join the game, set a brief message, and hit ok. You should have opponents in a reasonable amount of time if there's any interest in the game you chose.

Next time I'll go into more details about what I meant when I said 'everyone who cares about the game'. (Preview: It uses the Spielpartner button!)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Getting Started With Brettspielwelt: Part 1

Brettspielwelt is an incredible gaming portal that has 78 multiplayer board games and a few single player ones available for play. It initially started up as a way for some German guys to play games with each other online and has evolved over the years into a great site. It’s entirely free to use and I actually mean that. A lot of game sites nowadays are ‘free’ but you can spend money to gain advantages. Not so here. I’m not aware of any way to spend money at all through the game client, and the only things for sale on the website are actual board games and accessories.

Unfortunately since it’s a hobby site and not a huge corporation trying to make a ton of money off of you the interface and setup is a little less than stellar. It’s easy to get started and playing games if you already know what you’re doing. It’s a lot murkier if you’re just starting out. So, my intention here is to write a small series on getting started to ease the transition and help people get going.

First off, you need to head to the community page and create an account. It’s possible you’ll be shown a page in German, if so click on the UK flag in the upper right hand corner to change the site language.

I already have an account so I’m not sure what sort of email related confirmation hoops you may have to jump through (let me know if it’s complex!) After you have an account you need to download the client, which you can do through the “Download online game client” link at the top of the same page. Download the exe, run it, click the image. The installer is in German, but is pretty straightforward. Pick a directory to install into, and click Installieren. Then click Fertig stellen when that finishes. (Appropriately, that seems to translate into Finish. Or into Viimeistely in Finnish!)

There’s no customization here, it just creates a program in your start menu. Find Brettspielwelt there and click on the Brettspielwelt program. This will launch the launcher which should say ‘Click on picture to start…’ Maybe if your client things you’re German it will say something else. Regardless, click the picture. This will start a fairly short patching process. This is a onetime issue, afterwards it will only need to patch when they put out a big update. A log-in screen should pop up, go ahead and log in.

By default (on my computer at least) the window is too small to display the whole menu. Click and drag the borders to make the window bigger so you can see more stuff. You may be tempted to just maximize the window but trust me when I say this can be a mistake. (The client auto-sizes different aspects of games depending on your window dimensions, and I’ve found the chat box can get unreasonably big or small depending on my resolution.)

After you’re logged in you should see something like the screenshot above. You’ll note my menu by default is a rather eclectic mix of German and English. You can build your own menu in a property file which I will do by the time this series is completed and upload it. For now, though, we’re just trying to get into a game. By default you load into what they call the ‘Manager’. (You can always get back to this screen by typing in /manager, or by clicking the Lobby button in the menu, or by clicking Menu->MultiUserSpiele->Manager.) Clicking the Lobby button a second time will take you to the archive manager, which is the same thing but with older games.

The manager has a few parts. Way down at the bottom is the chat window for the room. Don’t expect a lot of intelligent chat in the main manager, but you can probably find someone willing to help if you ask a question there. Just above the chat window and on the right is a cube with a question mark and a set of gears. Hover over the question mark to get a brief summary of some of the buttons on the screen. Click the gear to get a window filtering the games being shown in the middle. The default is to only have ‘Learning Game’, ‘Novices Welcome’, and ‘Social Game’ turned on and the ‘Fast Game’ and ‘Expert Game’ turned off. This is exactly how you want it to start, so don’t fiddle with it. On the upper left are filters that allow you to filter by game genre or game title. Useful if you have a specific game in mind, but for now we just want to find something and the default is to show every game that hasn’t started and has people.

In the middle is a listing of those active games. Each rectangle represents a game table where the game is set up but hasn’t started yet. On the left is a picture of the game box. Then in text it will give you the game name, any game options in brackets, and then a listing of the people in the game. Below that text is a box indicating experience type. (Here the N is for new players and the question marks mean no type selected.) After that is a code indicating where the table is located in the game world (you can completely ignore this for now) followed by the name of the table. (Chances are better that your opponents will speak English if this name is in English, but it’s not a guarantee.) After that is potentially another list of players. These players are standing around the table watching but have not sat down to play. Finally, the background of the game indicates if you can sit down from the manager or if you have to stand at the table and ask to join or not. Green means you’re good to go. Brown means you need to go ask.

For example, the top game on the list is for a game of Dominion. The only option the host turned on for that game is randomset:SeaIntrigue which I believe means the cards used in the game will be randomly pulled from the core game, the Seaside expansion, and the Intrigue expansion. There are 3 people currently sitting down to play the game: ridic, Chalkbot, and plushbandit. All are male, if that matters to you. The game has no experience setting, is named Domcartes, and has no watchers. The background is brown so you can’t sit down to play, you need to pop in and ask if you can join. (This tends to be the polite thing to do anyway.)

The next game is a game of Settlers of Catan. This game has the options drawseat, host, and TURNIER turned on. Drawseat means the seating order is scrambled before the game starts. Host means that only the first person who sat down can change the options. (Those two options tend to be possible on all games.) TURNIER is a Settlers specific option and means you start the game with a settlement, a city, and 3 roads instead of 2 settlements and 2 roads. This game has two people currently sitting down, and you can join it right from the manager if you want by double clicking on it.

The 5th game on the list has a circle as the gender of the watcher. This means that person is actually a bot, likely there to parse the log for interesting stats of some kind.

Now, let's say there’s a game on the list we want to play. Right click on the game box to get a nice info bar down at the bottom describing a lot of what I just described along with two flashing buttons: Join Game and Enter Room. (Join Game only exists on green backgrounds.) In this case I clicked on the San Juan game 5th from the top, and then on Enter Room. When you’re first getting started you should always click on Enter Room first for one main reason: the game files aren’t on your computer yet. The art and sounds that make up the game need to get downloaded the first time you look at the game. Depending on the complexity of the game you can expect to stare at a blank screen for a fair chunk of time the first time you enter a game’s room. You can still read the chat in the room, but you’ll need to wait for the files to download before you can actually play the game.

While the art for San Juan was loading (and while I was taking the screenshot) the user Sporran asked me to join the game. San Juan doesn’t have much to download so I didn’t have to wait long, if it was a longer wait I’d have told him I was loading to explain why I wasn’t joining. You can also notice the game control console which popped up when I joined the table. This window is where you can choose the different options for the game to appear in the manager. It’s also how you join the games (though you can type /join to join as well) and how games are started (or /start). I clicked join, Sporran started the game, and away we went.

Individual games have vastly different methods of controlling the game. The main website tries to explain the interface for the individual games with varying levels of success. Generally speaking just ask your opponent how to do something if you can’t figure it out and they’ll try to help as best they can. A lot is intuitive (click the prospector button to call prospector) but some is very unintuitive (hover over the very corner of someone’s play mat to see how many cards they have in their hand). If there’s a specific game anyone wants to know the interface for let me know and I’ll try to explain it. (Or you could just go ahead and try it! As long as you’re not in an Expert Only game no one will really mind.)

As you can see, Sporran destroyed me in this game. Look at that board! (He’s the upper left one, with all the good buildings. I’m the right one with just a ZUMFT HALL and nothing else. (Guild Hall))

With that you should be good to at least get started with playing on Brettspielwelt. Tomorrow should see a post regarding starting your own games instead of just joining one that’s up and looking for players.