In this series of articles we are taking a look at the ABCs… Of board games! An opportunity to explore random corners of the board game hobby, to highlight influential games, designers, concepts, and maybe to dig up the odd surprise here and there. This time we are bouncing our way through the Bs! You can find the As in our first article, here.
And no, I have not put ‘Board Game’ in this list. That would just be way too meta!
Battlestar Galactica – Game
First thing on the list and it’s a licensed game! That might come as something of a surprise if you are not familiar with what is something of a foundational game in the hobby. Battlestar Galactica explores one of the great genres of board gaming: the hidden role game. It pitches desperate humans against the insidious Cylons and they look just like you. In fact, there will almost certainly be one or two sat around the table with you! Later games like The Resistance or Secret Hitler simplified the labyrinthine systems running Battlestar Galactica but there is little that compares to its epic nature and spot on combination of mechanic and setting.
Antoine Bauza – Designer
Antoine Bauza is an incredibly versatile designer who has created a broad collection of successful games. The punishing cooperative game Ghost Stories, the hugely successful 7 Wonders and the stunningly beautiful Tokaido are 3 of his stand out titles, but it was for the stupidly clever twist of just holding your cards the other way around in Hanabi that he won the Spiel des Jahres award. Ok, there was more to it than that but the hook is what grabs your attention!
Betting – Mechanism
Betting as a game mechanic works exactly as you would expect: putting forth some resource for the chance of gaining big, but at the risk of losing what you wagered. Yet outside of gambling circles and party games, it is a mechanic rarely used in modern board games! It can be found as a supplement to racing games in Camel Up!, The Hare and Tortoise and Downforce, and in trivia games like Wits and Wagers and America. There might be a design space worth exploring here!
Biboun – Artist
Biboun, an artist with no other names, apparently, has worked on a good number of tabletop games in only a few years. His style is unreservedly bright, cartoony and colourful and really catches the eye. You might have seen his work on Dice Forge, Nyet, Sensei, or the recent Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time.
Bidding (Auctions) – Mechanism
Bidding and auction mechanics come in surprisingly many forms, just play Modern Art to get a taste of them! At their core they are all about working out how much you are willing to pay for something relative to the other players at your table. They are inherently interactive elements to add to a game (or build a game around), and are also cunning ways of allowing players to determine the value of game elements. Great examples of auction mechanics can be found in Ra, Medici, Power Grid and Keyflower.
John Blanche – Artist
A legend amongst those of us with a miniatures gaming background. John Blanche is the central figure behind the aesthetics of Games Workshop’s Warhammer universes. He created much of the grim dark artwork that would go on to form the basis of 30 years of miniature gaming law. I spent a lot of time in these universes growing up and if you grew up as a nerd in the UK, chances are you did too!
Blood Rage – Game
The highest ranked board game beginning with B is the relatively fresh-faced Blood Rage. A grand area control game of angry vikings raging over the 9 realms as Ragnarok tears the world asunder. It is a remorselessly eccentric game with dozens of miniatures, glorious combats, vast monsters, yet all coached within modern European game mechanics. Draft cards to prepare for an age, then play them in the best way possible to score points, in general, by smashing your opponent’s minis into cardboard Valhalla. It truly attempts to unify those two broad genres of board gaming: Ameritrash and Euro.
Blue Orange – Publisher
Blue Orange Games was a family/kids/toy publisher more than a hobby market contributor until two years ago and the release of New York 1901, firmly placing a fruity foot into our sphere of interest. This move is one that marks the growing importance of the hobby games market to the larger toy industry that we are only a small part of. Blue Orange have followed up with the Spiel des Jahres winning Kingdomino and the recent (and wonderful to look at) Photosynthesis.
Bluffing – Mechanism
That skill so important to Battlestar Galactica above, Bluffing mechanics test you on your ability to lie to your friends, and detect such lies. It is integral to most games involving hidden roles and, to an extent, negotiation games. But there is also a core of games that test bluffing in its purest form, games like Coup, Skull, or Cockroach Poker. Or hell, just plain Poker! But we tend to focus on the fun modern alternatives here.
Board Game Geek – Citadel of Cardboard
A list of the Bs in board gaming cannot ignore the greatest Internet repository of tabletop knowledge that is Board Game Geek. For its flaws *cough* UI *cough* BGG is an astonishingly useful resource for anything from news, rules queries, or simply chatting about your favourite games. Hidden behind it’s arcane interface lies a near comprehensive collection of human knowledge regarding near any board game ever created. And it’s through the hard work and dedication of its multitudinous users that BGG has achieved the status that it has.
Richard Borg – Designer
Legendary war game designer Richard Borg is most famous for the Command & Colours series, a collection of accessible war games (eg Memoir 44) that use cards to control troop movement, that are tied to specific flanks to simulate the difficulties of communication on the battlefield. While there have been many iterations of the series, from historical to fantasy, the core remains fascinating. Richard is also responsible for Liar’s Dice (in its modern form) and numerous other designs.
Inka & Marcus Brand – Designers
The husband and wife design team of Marcus & Inka Brand exploded into my awareness this year with the Exit series of escape room games, Word Slam and the slightly older but fantastically clever Village. They actually predominantly release family style games, which is one reason why they weren’t on my radar sooner, but their hobby releases have put them firmly on the list of designers that sell games by reputation alone.
Burgle Bros – Game
Burgle Bros is a great co-op. Think Oceans 11, but where you’ll bungle as often as you’ll burgle! It should be easy right, sneak into the tower block, crack the safes, dodge the guards, and escape from the roof. But each step only increases the guards’ awareness and you’ll be desperately fighting to stay alive! The beautiful graphic design, the way the box acts as the tower you are trying to escape, all adds up to a product that showcases what modern board gaming can produce. A real treat!
Stephen Buonocore – Podfather
The man. The Legend. The Podfather himself. Mr Stephen Buonocore is quite the media personality! He is first and foremost the owner of Stronghold Games, a publisher responsible for a huge number of great titled every year. But you can’t go far in board gaming, especially if you start following the many excellent board gaming podcasts, without hearing his name. He is such a regular guest on such a mix of shows that earned the nickname ‘The Podfather’ and as such, we must give him his due!
Join me again at some point in the future for article C! And meanwhile, let me know of important ‘B’s that should have been on this list.