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Top 5 Dudes-on-a-Map Games

“Dudes on a map” always struck me as a rather odd description for a boardgame genre, but it actually encapsulates the essence of the genre while allowing for the many variations that exist.

What is a dudes-on-a-map game? Essentially, it’s a combat game where you take a faction of “dudes” and run around the map trying to conquer as much territory as you can. Risk might not quite have been the first, but it’s certainly the most famous example of this type of game.

These games differ from traditional war games insomuch as they have ideal player counts in the 4 – 6 range and tend to be significantly simpler. In many ways, games of this type defined the Ameritrash label pre-2000.

They have been one of my favourite genres, but they haven’t been without their issues (player elimination and long play times, for instance). Fortunately, game design has improved significantly in recent years and this genre just keeps getting stronger and stronger.

So which ones are currently vying for the top spots? Let me tell you about my top 5 dudes-on-a-map games…

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Should Reviewers Be Paid?

Last week we talked about the difference between previews and reviews, and what place opinions have. This week we’re looking at another hot potato: money.

Just to be up-front before we start, I am a reviewer and I don’t take money for reviews. Lots of reviewers do though. And those that don’t will almost certainly accept free games (for review) from publishers.

Opinions can get pretty heated on both sides of this one. Money can have a distorting effect on many things and the crux of the issue is whether you can trust a review from someone who has been paid. Let’s look at the issues…

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Reviews vs Previews

Kickstarter previews are pretty common these days. Prospective creators will send prototype copies of their game (often with very high quality components for a prototype!) to boardgame media channels for review. Or rather, for preview.

I’m a member of a very helpful Facebook group for reviewers and this point came up in a discussion recently about how much people charge for previews/reviews (which was an interesting discussion in its own right).

One of the participants of this discussion asserted very strongly that previews should only showcase the game for people to see what it’s like and should not contain any opinions (and should be paid for). Whereas reviews should only be done after playing the final product and should contain opinions (and be free).

I’m not sure I agree with this. Reviews and previews obviously perform different functions, but what place should opinions have? Let’s take a look…

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Proofreading

Have you ever shown someone something you’ve created, only for them to tear it to shreds? You put your heart and soul into something and instead of praising the good, they pick fault with every little thing. Don’t you hate those people? Well I love them.

Now there’s obviously a time and a place for everything and they should perhaps reign in detailed criticism more often than not. However, there’s one area where you really want someone to be as picky as possible: proofreading.

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UBOOT

Captain Sonar is one of my favourite games. I love team games and the idea of sailing around in a submarine and trying to blow up the enemy’s submarine really appeals.

It’s very light-hearted though (and pretty frantic!), with crew activities having little to do with actual submarines. So when I heard about UBOOT (pronounced U-Boat), a gritty, realistic take on submarine warfare using an app, I was more than intrigued!

It was on Kickstarter last year and I backed it immediately. It arrived a couple of weeks ago, but much to everyone’s dismay, the app wasn’t ready yet! So we waited and waited, until finally the Android version became available last weekend (the iOS version still isn’t available at the time of writing, but hopefully that will be fixed soon).

I set it up and played it solo as soon as I could. Then I played it some more. Then I played it with my son. Then I played it at my weekly game night. I’ve played it every chance I could get. And you know which game I want to play more than any other right now? UBOOT. Let me tell you why…

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When Kickstarters Cancel

A significant percentage of Kickstarters fail to reach their funding goal. Based on past campaigns, which tend to follow a fairly typical funding cycle, sites like Kicktraq are able to predict whether or not a campaign is likely to reach its funding goal.

So creators can see after a couple of weeks of the campaign, how likely they are to fund by the end. If it looks like they’re not going to make it, many of them will cancel gracefully instead of fighting a losing battle.

However, occasionally you get a project that cancels, even though it has reached its funding goal. Why would they do that? Let me introduce you to the murky world of Kickstarter funding…

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Unlock: Exotic Adventures

*Spoiler Free*

I love escape-room games. There are lots to choose from now, but the two series that have risen to the top are the Exit games and the Unlock adventures. The key difference between the two is that the Exit games are destructible (you cut, fold and draw on the components), whereas the Unlock games use an app.

They’ve been vying with each other for supremacy over the past few years and while some games have been better than others within both series, overall the Exit series seems to have just had the edge. The Unlock games seem to have waned particularly over the last year.

That was, until the latest installment of Unlock: Exotic Adventures. The Unlock series is back on form – with a vengeance! I’ll tell you right now, I think the Exotic Adventures are the best set of escape-room games I’ve ever played! Why? Let me explain (without spoiling anything!)…

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Top 5 Community Games

Playing 2 – 5 player games regularly with the same group is a great way of building friendships. However, it can be rather insular. Even meeting up at my local boardgame cafe (The Dice Cup), it can be all too easy to end up playing with a similar group of people each week.

How do you branch out from your immediate circle of friends? How do you encourage people to play games with people they’ve not met before? Community games!

Essentially, what I mean by this is games that play a lot of people. We were discussing games that play 10 (or more) players the other day. There aren’t many of them! Certainly not many that are highly rated on BoardGameGeek.

These games can be great for bringing people together, making new friends and building a sense of community around your local gaming establishment. So here are my top 5 recommendations for community games…

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Theme Attracts You, But Mechanics Keep You

I was discussing the age-old hot potato of theme vs mechanics the other day with the Boardgame Opinions team.  The question had been phrased as, “Which is more important: theme or mechanics?”  Not surprisingly, opinion was divided on the subject.

I feel like I’ve heard most of the arguments on this topic before, but then Amy, our community manager, made a great point.

She said, “Theme attracts you, but mechanics keep you.”

I had to stop and think about it for a minute.  Is it always theme that draws me into a game?  Am I never attracted by mechanics?  Let’s investigate…

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Top 10 Anticipated Games of 2019 – Part 2

I don’t tend to follow games once a Kickstarter project has finished, particularly because I back so many; it can be hard to keep track.  Every now and then an update comes through for a game I backed months ago and I go, “Oh yeah!  I’d forgotten about that one!”

So going through all the Kickstarters I backed last year and picking out my most anticipated 10 games has been an enjoyable experience.  I keep being reminded of great games that will be coming later this year!

Last week we looked at the bottom half, numbers 10 through 6, so today we’re looking at the best of the bunch (in my opinion!).  Here are the top 5 games I’m looking forward to this year…

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