2016 Year in Review Mailbag – The Return of the Mailbag

Written by Alex Harkey

As the clock struck midnight and we transition into an exciting new year of board games, there is something unsettling abound. True, I’m still writing 2016 on every document, but no, that isn’t it…
“I’d like to collect on a debt on behalf of your readers. You’re overdue for a mailbag.”
As I’m still trying to settle on a New Year’s Resolution, I take a moment to catch up on some email…
“If you’re looking for something to do over the holidays, maybe you could get around to publishing some of those emails.”
-Alex’s To-Do List
Out of no where, a crowd suddenly forms; torches and pitchforks in hand. The chant begins:
“Mailbag, Mailbag, Mailbag”

Okay, okay. I’m overdue on writing a lot of things. We spent a tremendous amount of time in 2016 designing games and I’m looking forward to getting back to writing in 2017. Let’s see what we have in our mailbox…
“While visiting my parents over the holidays, I spent a considerable amount of time trying to wrangle together a game of my new copy of Terraforming Mars. Finally, we sat down to play after dinner one evening.
I loved every second of it. Sadly, nobody else enjoyed it and they’ll likely never want to play again.
I’m thankful I was raised by non-gamers, but what is the best way to break the news to my parents that I was adopted?”

Games Precipice: There is always one of these in every batch of emails we get.

BFIG! I didn’t make it this year but I went in 2014 and 2015. Most of the games I’ve seen in the past were fun lighter family games and party games instead of the mid-heavy Euro [that you’re designing]. What was it like exhibiting for that audience?
GP: We want to thank the Boston Festival of Indie Games for putting on such a huge event and for giving us the opportunity to exhibit our prototype there. There’s nothing more fulfilling than finally putting down your game in front of complete strangers after you’ve been working on it for months or years, and BFIG gives us and dozens of other designers the chance to do that.
We are preparing to launch a series of Design Diary articles in 2017 as we get closer to finishing Unification of China. Be sure to look out for these, where we’ll explain more about the ideas, design, and mechanical evolution of the game.
For now, we’ll say that we were blown away by the quality of the prototypes at BFIG, many of which were already market-ready. Our physical design wasn’t as far along as many games were, though we think the greatest challenge was setting up the play test in a way that was accessible and exciting but didn’t overwhelm and didn’t require vast knowledge of the rules beforehand.
It was exciting and hectic at times, but we were able to discuss Unification of China with everyone from Euro-enthusiast parents (who don’t get much of a chance to play heavier games these days) to history buffs who happen to love the Warring States period, and we were thrilled with the opportunity.
A short mailbag this time, but we received a couple emails about legacy games and mechanics and I think that would be a fun topic to hold onto for a special edition mailbag in the near future (a solution that will admittedly also let me finish Seafall).
Do you have a fun or interesting design question that might help others? We want to entertain your thoughts here. Send us a message: mailbag “at” gamesprecipice.com.

Our Favorite Articles of 2016

Worker Placement – Observations & Innovations
Mid-Game Structures – Player Interaction
Mechanic Archetypes – Pool Builders
Pool Builders – The Algae of Game Mechanics
Game Design Analysis – Keyflower

Top 3 “New to Us” Games of 2016

Alex: 1. Mississippi Queen, 2. Lifeboats, 3. Tobago

Alex: To add some context, I probably played more new games in 2016 than any of the last ten years. I was fortunate to be able to try out many of the popular 2016 titles and I think it was very strong year. Despite that, 2016 was a year where revisiting the past was a top priority and two of my top three were a blast from the past.

My favorite gaming moments of 2016 were the opportunities to catch-up on my list of elusive games that “I’ve always wanted to play, that got away”. Tobago was a game that I almost added to my collection after it came out probably two dozen times (but never did) and now is hard to track down almost eight years later. I think it’s an incredibly clever design with an unusual set of mechanics that players use to reach an interesting objective.

Mississippi Queen and Lifeboats were two of the last few games from the 90’s on that list. Mississippi Queen has such a wonderfully nostalgic feel to racing games that has aged very well. Lifeboats falls into one of my favorite styles of negotiation games – where extremely dire circumstances dictate fascinating social dynamics.


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