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posted by martyb on Tuesday November 07 2017, @10:46AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the how-big-is-the-biggest-board-game,-anyway? dept.

Board gamers take note:

Every October, the German city of Essen becomes the epicenter of tabletop gaming geekdom. Tens of thousands of visitors descend on the International Spieltage fair, where publishers from around the world debut their up-and-coming releases over four frantic days of dice chucking, card shuffling, and cube pushing.

For gamers, it’s an enthralling, bewildering, almost intimidating spectacle. Where gaming events in other countries, like Gen Con in the US or the UK Games Expo, incorporate celebrity guests, panel discussions, and side attractions, Essen is focused squarely on the games—everything from light and fluffy family favourites to impenetrable brain-melters.

Given that it’s the highlight of the global gaming calendar, I headed along for a barrage of board games and bratwurst. Here are the best new games I saw.

A Pandemic sequel is among the reviewer's favorites.

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The Game Mastermind Turns 50 this Year 12 comments

The simple codebreaking game Mastermind turns 50 this year. Vice goes into some background regarding the now classical game and its heyday.

If you only know Mastermind as a well-worn and underplayed fixture of living room closets and nursing home common areas, you may have no idea just how big this thing was in its early years. Invented in 1970, Mastermind would sell 30 million copies before that decade was up, and boast a national championship at the Playboy Club, a fan in Muhammed Ali, official use by the Australian military for training, and 80% ownership amongst the population of Denmark. "I never thought a game would be invented again," marvelled the manager of a Missouri toy store in 1977. "A real classic like Monopoly."

[...] If you don't know Mastermind at all, i.e. you never lived in Denmark, it's played over a board with a codemaker who creates a sequence of four different colored pegs, and a codebreaker who must replicate that exact pattern within a certain number of tries. With each guess, the codemaker can only advise whether the codebreaker has placed a peg in its correct position, or a peg that is in the sequence but incorrectly placed. According to the game's creators, an answer in five tries is "better than average"; two or fewer is pure luck. In 1978, a British teenager, John Searjeant, dominated the Mastermind World Championship by solving a code with just three guesses in 19 seconds. (In second place was Cindy Forth, 18, of Canada; she remembers being awarded a trophy and copies of Mastermind.)

Mordechai Meirowitz, an Israeli telephone technician, developed Mastermind in 1970 from an existing game of apocryphal origin, Bulls and Cows, which used numbers instead of colored pegs. Nobody, by the way, knows where Bulls and Cows came from. Computer scientists who adapted the first known versions in the 1960s variously remembered the game to me as one hundred and one thousand years old. Whatever its age, it's clear nobody ever did as well out of Bulls and Cows as Meirowitz, who retired from game development and lived comfortably off royalties not long after selling the Mastermind prototype to Invicta, a British plastics firm expanding from industrial parts and window shutters into games and toys.

The story relates a couple of tales of intrigue related to the game.

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  • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Tuesday November 07 2017, @01:46PM (1 child)

    by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday November 07 2017, @01:46PM (#593630) Journal

    BGG Con is a huge board gaming convention, perhaps the biggest, held in Dallas/Ft. Worth Texas every November. It's coming up in just a few days. Often sells out months beforehand: [] . So they started running it twice a year.

    BGG maintains rankings for thousands of board games: [] Chess is currently ranked #401.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 07 2017, @02:24PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 07 2017, @02:24PM (#593641)

      is the only board game I own; I found it in a dumpster (perfect condition, no missing pieces).
      I use the front cover as visual room decoration by standing the box upright near my computer.

      Screenshot of the cover []
      Review []

  • (Score: 2) by looorg on Tuesday November 07 2017, @06:25PM

    by looorg (578) on Tuesday November 07 2017, @06:25PM (#593756)

    Essen during the fair is one of those things I always want to visit but I just never get around to do it. Silly work schedule always comes in the way somehow. Me and the people I play boardgames with usually keep saying 'next year' but then we sort of forget about it until it has already passed.

    Anyway. It's kind sad if Pandemic Legacy Season 2 is the best or most interesting game this year. It seems to be just more of Pandemic (legacy). Pandemic Legacy was a runner up (or nominated) for Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2016. Kenner is the more adult category with more complex games, spiel is just normal games and then there are kinderspiel which is kids specific games. This year Season 2 didn't even make that cut. So if it was the most interesting thing this year that seems quite sad. While Pandemic is a good game it has never even won the prize, it was nominated in 2009 but lost to Dominion.

    The winner of Spiel des Jahres 2017 was Kingdomino, in the article they mention QueenDomino which is an enhanced version of said game. I have not had much time to play Queendomino yet but it seems that just a few additions made the game a lot more interesting.

    Beyond that I can't really recall a game this year that I was particularly excited about. br

  • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday November 08 2017, @06:28AM

    by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday November 08 2017, @06:28AM (#593975) Journal

    The fair is called "Internationale Spieltage" (which an "e" at the end of the first word).

    It's simply German for "international game days".

    The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.