Boing Boing 

Jon Seagull

Jon Seagull is an illustrator based in Philadelphia who plays rather a lot of games.

Suburbia board game: a simple, subtle economic simulation

Suburbia is a technocrat’s take on urban planning. The art is streamlined to the point of austerity, there is almost no luck, and the game is unashamed to show off its mathematical guts. At heart, Suburbia is a simple, subtle economic simulation with three moving parts. Players take turns buying hexagonal tiles from an ever-changing market and placing them in their town to develop their city in ways that affect its population, income, and reputation.

The population tally (which serves as the game’s scoring mechanism) models the disadvantages of urban growth in a very clever and elegant way – every so often on the track there’s a red line, and when your population surpasses it you lose one point of income (more expensive municipal services) and one point of reputation (more density/pollution/crime/whatever). This simple mechanism creates delightfully rich feedback loops that take a number of plays to fully appreciate – grow too quickly without an economic base and your town stagnates, unable to afford the development you need to serve your population; but bring in too much business or industry and nobody will want to live there.

Buying tiles for your city isn’t just an exercise in math, though – building your city is a spatial and temporal puzzle, with a limited ability to impact the other players’ cities as well. Some of the tiles’ effects work spatially (placing residential areas next to a highway hurts your town’s reputation while placing businesses there makes them more profitable), others work based on what else is in your city (building schools helps your reputation based on how many residential areas you have), and some affect other players’ cities. Once the market is emptied out, the game ends and players score based on population, plus additional public and secret individual scoring goals that you draw at the start of each game.

This game seems to lean heavily toward being a muliplayer solitaire puzzle at first glance, but once everyone is familiar with managing the feedback loops between reputation, population, and income, and with the scoring goals that are available, denying other players what you think they need becomes pretty competitive. Another nice mechanism is that tiles from the market can be played upside down as small lakes, which provides a cash infusion but also allows you to take a tile out of the game that’s useless to you but helpful to an opponent.

Where the game can bog down a bit is in keeping track of the interdependent effects of some of the tiles, particularly the ones that affect other players’ towns, but after a few plays we got familiar enough with the tiles’ effects that it was manageable. It bears mentioning that Suburbia has one of the best app implementations (both Android and iOS) of a board game I’ve seen, with smooth design, interesting single player puzzles, and local and online multiplayer.

See more photos at Wink Fun.

Game of Thrones board game offers diplomacy, intrigue, and betrayal

Fans looking to get their off-season fix could do worse than setting aside a snowy Saturday for A Game of Thrones: The Board GameRead the rest

Cube Quest

Imagine Crossbows and Catapults—but with meaningful rules rather than excuses for a demolition session. Jon Seagull reviews Cube Quest.Read the rest

High Society: take on the role of nouveau-riche twits attempting to out-ostentate each other

Jon Seagull reviews a classic auction game. Buy castles, jewelry, precious artwork. The person who dies with the most toys wins.Read the rest

Hanabi: card game with the goal to launch a spectacular firework display

In this immediately enjoyable card game players take on the role of Japanese pyrotechnicians with a shed full of unlabeled fireworks that they must assemble correctly before the show begins. By Jon SeagullRead the rest

Mice and Mystics: awesome dungeoncrawler board game for all ages

Mice and Mystics is a beautifully-produced board game that creates a relatively all-ages-friendly dungeon crawl RPG experience without need for a dungeon master. "My kids went absolutely bananas over this game in a way I haven't seen before," says Jon SeagullRead the rest

Coup: a delightfully vicious little card game set in a futuristic dystopia

Coup blends the bluff and uncertainty of Hold 'Em with the aggressive calling-out of Bullshit and a touch of deeper strategy, says Jon Seagull. Read the rest

Tzolk'in: a competitive resource-gathering-and-conversion puzzle

The genius of this game's design is in the simplicity of what you are allowed to do on a turn, the intricate and divergent results those actions can achieve; and the way the physical design of the game board makes it all work automatically. Jon Seagull reviews.Read the rest

Coconuts game has no business being as much fun as it is

Coconuts is a goofy dexterity game from South Korea that has no business being as much fun as it is. Jon Seagull says its appeal is a testament to the power of great product design.Read the rest

A better version of Werewolf

The original game of Werewolf, also known as Mafia, is a party game of bluffing, paranoia, and wild accusations invented (appropriately enough) in Soviet Russia in the 1980s. It pits a small number of Werewolves (who know each others' identities) against a larger group of Villagers who have no information; the Werewolves select a Villager to kill each “night” (while everyone's eyes are closed), and the entire group votes on a player to lynch as a werewolf each “day” until one team or the other prevails. Jon Seagull reviews a much-improved version.Read the rest

Flash Point: Fire Rescue - a game of high-stakes trade-offs

Flash Point: Fire Rescue is a co-operative game about firefighting for 1-6 players. Both its difficulty and its complexity are hugely adjustable, such that it's suitable for anyone from families with elementary-age children to groups of adult gamers. Where Escape: Curse of the Temple is frantic and breathless, Flash Point is deliberate and tense. Jon Seagull reviews.Read the rest

Escape: The Curse of the Temple (game review)

Jon Seagull reviews a board game in which players must team up in a race against time to escape a cursed temple, grabbing as much treasure as they can along the way.Read the rest