Administrative note – changes to comments on the blog

We’ve noticed a serious uptick in the number of spam comments coming through the blog – in an attempt to reduce this, I am making a few changes to the comment options… Namely:

  • Comment author must fill out name and e-mail
  • Users must be registered and logged in to comment
  • Automatically close comments on articles older than days

We apologize for the spam that you may have received from subscribing to older posts but hopefully this will curb that a bit.  If the 14 day restriction seems to tight, we’ll move it back a bit.

Thanks for reading the blog!  If you come here regularly and want to comment, please sign up for a free account.


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Ben McJunkin – A Peek Behind the Curtain: The Gathering of Friends Prototypes (Part 1)

Welcome loyal readers!  I just returned home from my first-ever trip to The Gathering of Friends, an invite-only gaming convention held annually in scenic Niagara Falls, NY.  I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts and experiences as a first-time attendee, but, unlike our fearless leader Dale Yu, I do not have the skill to simultaneously live-blog and play games.  Instead, this will be the first a series of posts recapping some of my gaming experiences over the past week.  (Don’t worry: also unlike our fearless leader, I promise not to inundate you with pictures of my food while taunting you with oblique references to prototypes I can’t talk about.)

However, I may inundate you with pictures of my dog.

Today’s post will focus on a couple of my very favorite prototypes.  Perhaps in part because this was my first time attending the Gathering of Friends, I was very pleasantly surprised by the number and the quality of playable prototypes.  The three games detailed below are all on my “must-buy” list as soon as they are released (provided that they are not subject to radical changes between now and the date of publication). Given that I tend to only keep about 45 games on my shelf at any one time – and after my disappointment with last year’s crop of Essen releases – I consider a stable of three  shelf-worthy games to be a very positive development.  In truth, nearly all of the forthcoming games shown at the Gathering were very polished and rather enjoyable in their current state. In subsequent posts, I intend to cover a number of other promising designs I tried, as well as to provide my impressions of several newly released games (many that are not yet widely available here in the United States).

Without further ado, let’s get to the games!  (As always, please keep in mind that these are prototypes, so the names, mechanics, and graphics are all subject to change.)



Alchemists will be the newest big-box release from Czech Games Edition.  It was the longest and meatiest game I played during the week, and (not surprisingly) my personal favorite.  In terms of length and complexity, I think the game falls right in line with one of CGE’s previous offerings, Dungeon Lords (though I should note that Alchemists is not a Vlaada Chvátil design).  It was also by far the most interesting and innovative thing I encountered.  Despite plays that clocked in at around 3 hours – teaching included – I made three different trips to the table to play this splendidly refreshing title.

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Game Design: gioco e giocare tra teoria e progetto

Dear Gamers

I’m proud to announce one of the novelty presented during the last edition of PLAY: The Games Festival. It is a book about Game Design I have contributed to realize inserting quotes from our The Art of Design: interviews to games designers. The authors are Maresa Bertolo (teacher of Games Design at Politecnico di Milano) and her Ph.D student Ilaria Mariani. Inside the book contributions of many other person including games designers Marco Valtriani and Spartaco Albertarelli.

It is a small piece of our web-site inside a great accademic publication about games design and I really hope will got an english edition in the future.


With contributions from: Spartaco Albertarelli, Francesca Antonacci, Ennio Bilancini, Leonardo Boncinelli, Francesca Corrado, Gabriele Ferri, Enrico Gandolfi, Andrea Ligabue, Dario Maggiorini, Laura A. Ripamonti, Marco Valtriani, VIGAMUS

Why do we play?
What are games, really?
How to design games?

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The Art of Design: interviews to game designers #25 – Paolo Mori

PaoloMoriHere I’m again after a long stop. Organizing PLAY: The Games Festival becomes years after years more time demanding and dry up all my free time.

I hope to be able to start post again with regularity on Opinionated Gamers. Here my interview to Paolo Mori, a friend and on of the most interesting Italian designers. Paolo ha designed more than 10 games starting with UR in 2006. The three best rated Mori’s games are Vasco da Gama, Libertalia and Augustus, that got a nomination in the 2013 Spiele de Jahres.

Paolo is an Italian designer colleccting ispiration both from German and American designing school. I’m not sure hot to collocate Paolo, he told me “while a great mechanic can stand and live without a good theme, the opposite is not true” but also “there are several themes I really like, so as soon as I have a mechanic in mind, I try to match it with one of these themes I would love to dive into“.

Here my interview to discover Paolo Mori’s designing style!
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Driving home from the Gathering

It’s Tuesday, and we’re taking turns driving.

Here is the list of games that I played this week. I am about 85 percent sure that I have accurately recorded the games that I played.

Dale’s 2014 GoF games

Gib gas
Flizz & miez
Flash 10 x 2
Ted’s party game proto
Flizz & miez

Start frei
Qwixx the card game
Geister Geister Schatzsuchmeister

7 wonders Babel
Flizz & miez
Gib gas
Start frei
Time Stories x 4
Black Fleet
Leg los
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Good night gathering

Last post from Niagara. 

After the low fat lunch, back for more games. Took another group through Start Frei.  The two lap beginning track is taking about 45 minutes now which is just right for me given the weight of the game. 

After that more Splendor. Still fun and easy. I have started to reserve more tiles. It’s a powerful strategy.
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Monday morning. Last full day!

Started off with a new game, Baseball Highlights 2045.


It’s an interesting card game where each player is playing both offense and defense at the same time. 

It’s a cute 2 player game that captures the flavor of baseball with a nice bit of deck building thrown in.

The box says 4p but that seems to just be two simultaneous 2p games in a “tournament”…
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Sunday night.

Istanbul might be one of my favorites of the new games thus far (well at least among the games that I’m not involved with) . Played it twice, and want to play it more…

We played the second time with a random setup and it plays much more interestingly than the first time setup recommended for your first play in the rules. 

Admittedly. I’ve played it twice with awesome groups both times, and that certainly colors how I might like a game.

Now, another try at abluxxen. Eric Martin has become the local GoF cheerleader for the game. I have already had this at home once (bought it in Essen) and we were nonplussed by it.


I was worried that I had played by the wrong rules given that many other people here love it. However, were able to read the translation correctly and the game isn’t any different. 

It is still mostly harmless. But I don’t see the reason for the love.  Nothing here to make me want to kick something else out of the oversized card game drawer.
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Sunday afternoon

I realized that I didn’t actually show you the sub…


16″ steak and cheese sub.
Probably about 400 calories

After lunch, a potential Essen 14 release, Spike from R&R games and Stephen Glenn.

Here is a picture of the board. Can you figure out what we’re doing?

It’s a quick game, about 45 minutes long for 4p. Lots of competition on the map while you try to build your network.


It’s really good and I had an interesting conversation with the designer about the way the game works.  This already goes on my Anticipated at Essen list.
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Sunday morning

Knock down barns was the first game played Sunday (I stayed up pretty late)

A game I’m happy that Adam owns but that I got to play here. You build a wood tower and then try to knock it down with foam marshmallows. 
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