Crisis

What we’ve been playing: Crisis

Just before Christmas a copy of Crisis and it’s mini expansion The New Economy, landed in our door. When I opened the box I was a little thrown. It had been a while since I’d backed the game on Kickstarter and I couldn’t remember what it was that had drawn me to it.

From a cursory glance at the rules I didn’t expect much, the game is a fairly straight cut worker placement, with a lot of places to, er, place. I wasn’t wowed by it.

What’s more the game is set in the fictional land of Axia; a country ravaged by a deep austerity crisis and economic implosion. It’s clearly a commentary on the Greek debt crisis and the solution to that crisis it seems to purport is that companies will pull the country out of it’s problems. On the surface it’s a very neo-liberal world view, and as an Irish citizen it made me a little uneasy (having lived through our own version of the crisis).

This all meant that I wasn’t enticed to play for over a month and it was only in late January that I created an event on BoardGameNetwork to play it.

When I did I was really pleasantly surprised.

Before I ran my event I watched a review video from No Pun Included and the game’s official rules explanation video. They both reminded me of the mechanic that I bought the game for - the economy tracker.

The economy tracker is really what makes this game interesting. The game is competitive; you’re trying to be the best capitalist and earn the most victory points over seven rounds, however there is a per round points goal that can end the game for everyone. Any players who don’t make the goal at the end of a round have their scores subtracted from the country’s economy. This quickly means that players have to decide between building an engine to win, but at the same time not tanking the entire game economy.

The tracker also adds the counter to the neo-liberal argument the games rules suggests - everyone needs to take actions to benefit the overall the economy or everyone can lose.

I’ve only played two games of Crisis so far, but I’ve organized a game of Crisis for Tuesday if you’re interested and want to play.

I’ve really enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to playing it again.

- Robin

When will they end

It’s been a while since our last bug update, and I felt I should do a post to talk about progress.

The bugs can feel a little endless, but squashing them let’s us double down on new features.

In the last month we’ve made big steps in the right direction. Here’s all the stuff we’ve fixed since our Christmas blitz:

Bugs

  • Fix a bug where password resets were failing
  • Fixed a bug where Gmail was flagging emails as suspicous
  • Notifications not appearing on initial login
  • Fixed Events pagination
  • Fixed notifications broken on iOS
  • Fix user profile overlap
  • Fixed a bug with the invite users by email
  • Fixed a bug where BoardGameGeek links weren’t opening in new tabs
  • Fixed a bug where users overlaped the respond to friend request dialogue
  • Allowed mobile users to see notifications
  • Fixed name entry for locations
  • Fixed a bug where private events weren’t showing in your feed
  • Location picker was broken on chrome
  • Ensured private events don’t send out player finder requests
  • Added a dot to the burger menu for notifications, so mobile users know when they have a new notification
  • Fixed a bug where the attendance dropdown disappeared after RSVPing on a private events

Big thank you to everyone who reported bugs.

If you spot a bug please do let us know about it on our feedback page.

New Shit

In between the bugs we’ve made some major improvements to the site:

  • Improved the site’s SEO and added some site maps for Google
  • Dramatically improved site performance by reducing JS download sizes and caching more requests
  • Put a time-delay on event RSVPs so you aren’t notified every time a user changes their status
  • Added pics to the games dropdown on the Add Event page
  • Added a cache control system to fix some bugs where we were caching over-enthusiastically
  • Improved the player finder to find more players after a number of days
  • Added a hard limit to the number of LookingForPlayerNotificaitons a user can receive in a week
  • Made the player finder use hoard as well as favourites

Next up

The wonderful Alex Malgaroli is working on importing your collections from Board Game Geek - which will make the job of adding your collection even easier.

We’re also going to give the notifications a visual overhaul (a few people have requested the contents of comments in the emails, so we’re adding that).

As always, if there are features you think we should add, feel free to request them in the comments, or get in touch on our feedback page.

- Robin

Happy Christmas!

A quick Christmas update for you all. We’ve been busy squashing bugs and it’s been a while since I talked about what we’ve worked on.

Since the last dev update in September we’ve worked on all of these:

Bugs

  • Uploading a photo from mobile clipped the photo
  • Users were receiving reminder notifications for cancelled events
  • We made the fonts consistent cross-browser
  • Fixed the bell alert-dot position
  • Fixed overlarge friend request approval
  • Friend listings were breaking at small sizes
  • Fixed event images
  • Fixed profile icon position
  • Fixed empty location
  • Games / favourites broke at small sizes
  • Fixed track plays task
  • Fixed profile pic in chrome
  • Fixed hoard in chrome
  • Fixed user menu placement
  • Fixed logo width on mobile
  • Save buttons when editing profiles gave no success feedback
  • Fixed a location bug preventing some users setting location
  • Changing event attendance wasn’t providing feedback
  • Fixed notification pagination
  • Host wasn’t receiving event reminders
  • User profile pics were varying sizes on mobile
  • Notifications were using wrong sized event image

Big thank you to everyone who reported bugs.

If you spot a bug please do let us know about it on our feedback page.

Enhancements

That’s not all we’ve worked on though. We’ve also added all these too:

  • Improve pop-over menus
  • Cap event invitees to max players
  • Add newsletter opt-in to registeration page
  • Add encouragement to add location
  • Send email to event creators when user joins event
  • Added subscriptions / notification settings page
  • Added unsubscribe / notifications settings link in notification emails
  • Make user’s hoards look nicer on their profile pages
  • Made modals responsive

- Robin

Exciting news this week!

Our ambitions for BoardGameNetwork came a step closer this week as, at long last, we’re launching our player finder.

From Wednesday 5th of December onwards you can find players for your events just by ticking a box in the interface.

How will it work?

When a user creates a public event on BoardGameNetwork they’ll have the option of letting the system find players for the event. When a user checks the box our algorithm will match their event to the players near them and recommend the event to the best matches with a notification.

Why does it work that way?

Using notifications to drive the system was just the simplest way to get it operational.

We’re also considering having a search feature where a user who creates an event can select players to invite from a list of recommendations. We may well look to add that to in the new year.

Feedback

As always we want to hear what you think. Do you like the system? Does it find the right players for your event?

Comment here, on our facebook or twitter pages, or contact us through our feedback page.

What’s up next

In the run up to Christmas we’re going to focus on performance, bug fixes and possibly re-designing the ‘Add Event’ page to make it easier to use.

- Robin

We were at Spiel in Essen last weekend, so progress on the app has been slow. Spiel is the world’s largest board game convention with 190 thousand visitors coming through the doors and we had an absolute blast.

I met loads of new people and BoardGameNetwork had a great response from board game fans.

I also got to play 20 new games over the four days, here are some of the highlights:


Ragusa

Ragusa from Fabio Lopiano

Ragusa was my find of the convention. Ragusa is a worker placement game from Fabio Lopiano (Calimala) which is coming to kickstarter next month. We were really lucky to get to play it, as Fabio only had one (very polished looking) copy of it that he was play testing.

The game’s mechanic involves placing only 8 workers (houses) over the course of the game, which really limits the options and makes every move feel like it matters. The strategy develops because players will get to re-take any action they previously took any time any player (including themselves) subsequently uses it.

The game was fast paced but felt very deep.

We’re taking a break from backing games on kickstarter at the moment, but we’ll be making a rare exception for Ragusa.


Reykholt

Reykholt by Uwe Rosenberg

A game about growing vegeatables in Iceland by veteran worker placement designer Uwe Rosenberg; Reykholt was Spiel’s second most mispronounced game (try saying Teotihuacan 10 times fast).

Reykholt may well be Uwe Rosenerg’s masterpiece. The mechanics are familiar to anyone who has played any of Rosenberg’s previous worker placement farming simulators (Agricola, Caverna) but they’ve been pared back and tightened up. The game plays impressively quickly and didn’t need a lengthy rules explanation.

This game is so good I had to pick it up.


Keyflow

Keyflow by Sebastian Bleasdale and Richard Breese

I never got the chance to play Keyflower, the well regarded tile placement game from Sebastian Bleasdale (Leminge, Black Fleet) and Richard Breese (Fowl Play, Reef Encounter), when it was released all the way back in 2012. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to play Keyflow while I was at Spiel this year and I’m glad I got to play it because this is a great game.

Keyflow uses some of the same mechanics as Keyflower but this time players are building their individual villages with cards they draft in a similar style to Sushi-Go or 7 Wonders. I’ve heard from players that have tried both that by simplifying the concepts in Keyflower, Keyflow has improved on the original.

While the rules were tricky to pick up on, once the game got under way I found Keyflow to be very intuitive and great fun.


Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem by Stefan Feld

Sold out at Spiel long before I sat down to play it, this one is going straight to the top of my wish list.

Carpe Diem from veteran designer Stephan Feld (Castles of Burgundy, Trajan) is a tile placement game for two to four players. The game play centers on a circle of 7 pools that players must move a piece between, selecting tiles from each pool they visit.

The mechanic works in a similar way to Trajan. Once a player chooses a tile they add it to their own tableau.

The real meat of the game are the randomly selected victory point condition cards which players must choose two of at the end of each round. If players can’t complete a condition they lose points, making the game a real battle to identify conditions other players aren’t going for and working out an optimum strategy for later in the game.


The Estates

The Estates by Klaus Zoch

Far and away the most cut-throat game I played at Essen, The Estates is an auction game by Klaus Zoch. Best played with four or five people (and not worth attempting with two, regardless of what it says on the box) The Estates is very simple and very clever.

On their turn a player takes on the role of auctioneer, choosing a block, roof or building permit to put up for auction. All other players then get to make a single bid. The auctioneer chooses whether to take the highest bid from the player who made it in exchange for the component, or take the component and pay the highest bidder their bid.

Purchased components are added to one of 3 streets, with blocks placed highest to lowest. Buildings must be capped with a roof to be considered complete and the game ends when two streets are finished or no more streets can be completed due to lack of components.

Players don’t start the game with a player colour and instead the first player to build a block of a colour will score points for that colour.

At the end of the game a player scores points for each completed building they own the highest block in, but only if that building is on a completed street. In the same fashion players lose points for all their buildings on uncompleted streets.

As the combination of stealing buildings to gain points and forcing streets to be uncompletable are both essential parts of the game, there’s a definite cruel streak to The Estates. If you can handle that then there’s a rich meta-game in this one, and I highly recommend it.


Keyforge

Keyforge by Richard Garfield

While all the playable decks at Spiel were in German I was fortunate enough to be invited to the lobby of the Atlantic hotel to try an english review copy out.

Keyforge: Call of the Archons is a really interesting game. I found it quite long (we only got through 2 keys in an hour and a quarter) but the random decks make for some fascinating game play.

Keyforge, if you haven’t yet heard of it, is Fantasy Flights newest card game. Unusually there’s no collection aspect to it as each deck is unique and you can’t mix cards from different decks.

The game was designed by Richard Garfield (Magic: The Gathering, Netrunner) and I suspect this game is going to be huge. Rumour has it that each of the 36 card decks will be very reasonably priced encouraging random deck play like how sealed Magic is played.

I suspect I’ll pick up a deck when the game is released later this month and BoardGameNetwork can help find Keyforge players in Dublin.


Food Chain Magnate

Food Chain Magnate by  Jeroen Doumen and Joris Wiersinga

This was my favourite game at Spiel this year and I was delighted to pick up a copy. Food Chain Magnate was released in 2015, but the game is as rare as a board-game fan who hasn’t played Ticket to Ride or Catan and copies are very hard to come by.

The game sees players running 50’s era fast-food outlets in a heavy strategy game of supply and demand economics. Players must create demand with marketing and build a corporate hierarchy of burger flippers and cart operators to supply a single town with an abundance of booze, burgers, pizza and lemonade.

I was delighted to play test the expansion Joris Wiersinga is working on, and if the coffee mechanic makes it into the game I think they’re on to another winner.


You can find players for all of these games and thousands more on BoardGameNetwork and as always we’re working to add more features so you can find players for your favourite games.

Very autumnal

It’s starting to feel very autumnal in Dublin. The leaves are down, the weather is taking a gentle turn for the worse and we’re resigned to not seeing sunshine until next June. Still, the cooler time of the year is perfect to curl up with a board-game in front of the fire.

I’ve been busy in the weeks since my last post. As I teased in that post, I’ve been working on adding an ‘Request a Game’ feature. Delighted to say that work is complete and you can now ask to play games that your friends have in their hoards.

Just visit their profile, hover over the game you want to play and click on the button:

Ask to play a friend's game

It’ll create an event with both the game you’ve selected added and the person whose profile you selected it from invited. They’ll also receive a notification telling them you want to play their game.

Bugs

We’ve also made progress on bug fixes too. Since the last update we’ve patched all of these:

  • Added feedback to the event-attendance dropdown (Thanks to Mike for reporting)
  • Fixed notification pagination
  • Added event reminders for the host of an event
  • Made profile pics consistent across the site
  • Fixed a bug where empty comments could be submitted (Thanks Robin for reporting)
  • Fixed a bug where profile pics weren’t showing up on devices with high pixel densities
  • Invested time on build / deploy and config; fixing a number of bugs in the process
  • Fixed a bug where events hosts would receive duplicate comment notifications.
  • Rebuilt profile pages after a bug was found where scrolling was failing on mobile devices (Thanks Mike for reporting)
  • Fixed a bug where you couldn’t set your attendance
  • Added better feedback to the attendance dropdown (Thanks to Mike for reporting)

Big thank you to Robin (the other Robin) and Mike for reporting bugs.

If you spot a bug please do let us know about it on our feedback page.

Next up

This week we begin testing our player matcher which let’s you find players for your games at the click of a button. We’ll keep you posted on how it progresses.

As always, if there are features you think we should add, feel free to request them in the comments, or get in touch on our feedback page.

- Robin

We've found lots of bugs

It’s been a few weeks now since we went into beta and I’ve been a little uncommunicative about what’s been going on. I’ve started this blog to keep you up to date about what I’ve worked on, and what I’m planning to do next.

A lot of my time since the beta launch has been spent on bug fixes:

  • Fixed attendance drop-down not changing
  • Fixed broken notifications
  • Fixed a bug where updating events cleared selected games
  • Removed gender from registration (Thanks Hector and Eva for reporting)
  • Changed “reset password” to “can’t login”
  • Fixed missing invitees and games on event pages
  • Fixed game image not being used as default for event
  • Made form validation errors much more obvious
  • Fixed events carousel on profile page
  • Fixed a bug where users over-lapped the respond to friend request section (Thanks for reporting Cian)
  • Fixed user profile overlap (Thanks to Mario for reporting)
  • Fixed a bug where an event’s start time was reset on update
  • Fixed a bug where events couldn’t be updated (Thanks to Maria for reporting)
  • Added missing empty states (Thanks Alex for reporting)
  • Made BGG links open in a new tab on chrome (Thanks Alex for reporting)
  • Fixed registration on mobile (Thanks Ben and Robin for reporting)
  • Added RSVP notifications so you’d be told when someone says they’ll attend your event

Whew. That’s a long list. Huge thanks to Alex, Ben, Cian, Dominick, Ed, Eva, Hector, Maria, Mario, Mike, Robin, and Sherif for reporting bugs, and apologies if I haven’t gotten to yours yet.

However, I have found a little time to add a major new feature, namely comments!

Yes, that’s right. You can now communicate with each other on events - arrange a better time, tell someone you’re running late, or organize who’ll bring what games.

As you can tell, I’ve also started this blog, and it has comments too! Sadly, it’s using a separate, disqus comments system for the moment. I’ll look to swap to the app’s comments at some point down the line when I’ve overcome a few technical discrepancies between the blog and the app.

What’s next?

The next feature I’m hoping to build out is a way to request a play of a game one of your friends has. It was suggested by Maria and I think it’ll make it easier to play the games you want to.

Let me know in the comments what you think of that feature and if there are other features you think I should add.

- Robin

Image: Ladybird by tom_bullock

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