5 November 2022

Far beyond the horizon


Setting sail. Like this ship, in early September 2016. That was The Year of the Monkey. A year full of departures into the unknown, breaking with well-established routines.  Changing course, in the book holding the same name, authored by Patti Smith, as in real life.

Setting sail. October 2018. The start of a countdown, which may not have existed without the preceding events. All dots connected. Heading (back) to the land of games. It all started by bringing together words, photos, games, and languages. Things I enjoy. Shaping a blog.  With a vague notion of wanting to be more involved in the world of board games. Without much of a plan. Just wandering around. Craving for the journey. Even with no safe shores in the horizon.

Fast forward to four years later. Things went ways I wouldn’t have dreamed off, when leaving harbour. Looking back at a list of 10, made within this period, in no particular order and selected among many others:

Over 50 rule book translations, increasing accessibility, with a fair number for MasQueOca and for TheGeekyPen, including games such as Concordia and Pavlov’s House. Thank you, José Antonio and Jo Lefebure, for the initial opportunity and the continuous trust!

Interviews with Dávid Turczi, Sabrina Miramon, Sarah Shah, and Don Woods, who so kindly accepted to give some of their time and to share insights on board games with a small audience blog.

Short stories for presenting The Isle of Cats, courtesy of Frank West when kindly reaching out for small content producers, and Welcome to Sysifus Corp., thanks to Wonmin Lee.

The lore for Ynaros Fallin’ main story and scenarios, thanks to the trust and creative freedom provided by Ugo Tomasello, and the very professional way of running his very first game design and production. A game soon hitting Kickstarter.

Judge and coach in The Board Game Workshop Design Contest, aimed at games under development, thanks to all the work of Chris Anderson, and the welcoming environment created.

Learning from Paul Grogan, always welcoming and willing to share his knowledge and approaches, and being able to make some minor contributions in the backstage of Gaming Rules! An invaluable opportunity for someone who loves rulebooks and rulebook-related work in its different forms.

Collaborating with Orlando Sá in the final development stages of Rossio and Pessoa, always open to opinions and to share his vision and expertise, which also lead to other conversations, far beyond games. Thank you for your friendship!

Playtesting games such as The Smoky Valley (Claude Sirois, Spielworxx), Lanzerath Ridge (David Thomson, Dan Verssen Games), and That Others May Live (Brad Smith, Hollandspiele – upcoming), amongst others.

A talk at LeiriaCon, the most international Portuguese boardgame convention, courtesy of Micael Sousa, where I covered over 50 years of (my) games in not much more than 10 minutes!

A board game exhibition, at the University of Aveiro, Portugal, thanks to Margarida Almeida, who made me think about games as a collection and how to display it for benefit of larger audiences. An unexpected and rewarding challenge!

The voyage continues!

29 October 2022

Weekend in Viana do Castelo, Portugal


Friday afternoon, October 21. Time to head north towards Viana do Castelo, for the third convention of the year, after LeiriaCon and RiaCon. This time, finally, for a full stay, to make the most of this opportunity for encounters, re-encounters, and discoveries at the table. 

A road trip in tones of gray, anticipating the contrast with the colours awaiting for us. Arriving just in time for the check-in, a glance at Santa Luzia’s hill, already in the darkness, and a quick dinner in an almost deserted place, where a football match was more discussed than watched.

VianaCon had indeed already begun in the afternoon, with a session addressed to schools. For me, it began in the evening, at the Café Concerto of the Theater Sá de Miranda, a different setting for welcoming participants and occasional visitors. 

Time for the first meetings, a table to avoid the more traditional seats, a quiz about games, what else, and a first prototype to try out. In the company of Pedro Santos and Maria Mota, both very strong in the questions and answers, and André Santos, the author of the game, which follows a Roll'n Write developed in pandemic times, and Neotopia, soon to be published. Serious prototype riding, stretching strategies to the limit, discussing processes, debating fine-tuning.

Saturday, the first day at the Cultural and Congress Center, with a cozy interior made of wooden tones, and the Lima River just outside the windows. An excellent venue for this kind of events, with tables of generous dimensions. Maybe a coffee zone was the single item missing, to reset the levels throughout the day!

Meeting people. Marlene and Luís, from Salta da Caixa, and their new projects that will bring more games in Portuguese. Manuel, from the boardgame café A Jogar é que a gente se entende, even when having the youngest family member sleeping in his lap (not yet the opportunity to pay visit to the café…). Luís Baixinho, one of the organizers, with whom we talked about science fiction and teaching (both fans of the brilliant short story Profession, by Isaac Asimov), and from Lego to board games of the 80s. Pedro Kerouac, a familiar partner at these conventions. Hugo, with some games in development, and a play test scheduled for InvictaCon. Nuno Rebelo and the future of the Boardgamers of Aveiro. Among others.

Also a first meeting with João Cotrim, partner in recent translations and proofreading of rule books, for the Belgian company The Geeky Pen.

Then, finally (!), it was time to meet Orlando Sá in person. Our first contacts began, like so many others, in Facebook gaming groups. Later, came an unexpected invitation to try out Rossio, one of his boardgames, then in the near-final development stage, and the fine-tuning of the solo mode. The collaborations went on to the most recent published game of his, Pessoa, and extended to various conversations and ideas, cycling included. It is so great that, in this gaming world, we may use virtual and physical spaces, taking advantage of both!

This time around, even with an added bonus: a very interesting workshop on the creation and development of games, from idea to prototypes, from play tests to rule books, from the home table to pitching to publishers.

Afterwards, it was time to play and to discover new games. If, in Leiria, I almost exclusively played prototypes, in different stages of development, this time around I opted to play games already published, recent ones or not that much. Sharing with Tiago, Sérgio, Eduardo, Filipa, Nuno, Pedro Kerouac and Luís Júnior.

Glory to Rome - Managing characters to rebuild the city 

Parks - Hiking across US National Parks

Sobek - Gathering resources in Ancient Egypt

Abomination - In the footsteps of Frankenstein

Viticulture - Wine making in Tuscany

15 October 2022

I will be King


The Grand Island has lost its King. And, as many stories go, there were the Scots, the Welsh, and the English. You are neither. You are a noble man vying for the throne. But you are not the only one.

You seek to influence the balance of power, in each one of the eight regions, while seeking to get support from the different factions. There is, however, a catch. Each supporter entering your court, is one less counting for faction majority over the land. And do not forget, when a power struggle is settled in a region, its result is carved in stone, no changing allegiances, until the very end.

Plus, you may have far-reaching actions, but the number of choices is limited. No more than eight, each to be used one single time. And you do know your rivals’ hands are just the same. That is why timing becomes so more important. When to wait, observe, and pass. When to act. Which action to select. 

As if this would not be enough, there are the French, those black shadows hovering across the channel, patiently waiting for the void of power, or for mayhem, to invade the island! Even so, that still may play into your hands, not by becoming king, but instead the unifying leader that will fight back the invasion. 

The King is Dead, a fascinating creation by Peer Sylvester, illustrated by Benoit Billion, and published by Osprey Games. Very easy to learn, yet hard to master as each decision is a dilemma, extremely balanced and always tense, appealing both to casual and seasoned players. 

5 October 2022

Summer works

    “In the land of dreams, you may be yourself (…)”, Jorge Palma

Holidays! Synonym for a long-desired pause on the work-work. At home with no schedules. On the road, drawing lines across the country. From north to south, from west to east, and back. Appointments with the blue, the waters, and the skies. Hot afternoons. Warm nights. Family, in larger or smaller numbers.

A word meaning time for games played. But, also, for games-worked on. Collaborations renewing themselves, checking-in without notice. One-off collaborations. New challenges. Projects hovering over the calendar, as in a suspension state. The search for the next to be project.

The agenda, constantly changing, remained filled, demanding time and space. Time, most often nocturnal. The usual space, the cozy living room, the lamp chasing away the dimness, the same desk, the chair, the soft light of a second screen, shelves in the background. All to be replaced for a couple of weeks. Because all it takes is just a laptop connected to the world, a more or less improvised place, a few schedule adjustments, and the work continues.

Summer brushstrokes, wandering in the land of games, crossing time-zones.

The Board Game Workshop (United States of America). Juror and Mentor. These are the roles I've been taking on since 2019 in the contest for games in development, run every year by Chris Anderson. The main objective is not to award notes and rank. The underlying intention is to make a contribution to the improvement of games yet to be, by commenting and discussing. I especially enjoy the mentor role, let us call it this way, for games that have been selected in first stage of the contest. A unique opportunity to meet new authors and have a first in-depth look at ongoing projects, to better understand motivations and choices, to enter that space beyond the curtains.

In this year's edition I followed two completely different projects. One abstract in essence, another with surfing as the theme. The first, with some complexity, calling for thought ad reflection. The second, for more relaxed moments, in a group-play, suitable for various audiences. Originating from very different geographies, Canada, and Australia. Conversations at a distance, five time zones back, ten forward. Sharing opinions, discussing processes, debating options, commenting, questioning suggesting. About the game itself, about writing rules, about presentation videos. On the way to the third stage of the competition, who knows, or on a route of its own, already beyond the contest. 

Want to try it? As authors or as jurors? 2023 is just around the corner, and registration is always open to everyone.

The Geeky Pen (Bélgica). (Belgium). Translate. Play with words and phrases. Sense, style, accuracy. Learning new terms. Looking for solutions. Imagining alternatives. Increasing the accessibility of games. In Portuguese.

The collaboration with this translation company, created in 2015 by Jo Lefebure, and specialized in games, is already one of my most regular ones, almost reaching two dozen of titles translated to Portuguese, in as many months. Regular, but always unpredictable, as it is the norm in this line of work.

This time, two messages arriving in the middle of August. One of them for a much longer rulebook than has been usual to date, suitable for a game of medium complexity, and requiring some thematic research work. Let's see if it's a new trend, or just an isolated event.

Gold Mountain Games (United Kingdom). Editing, reviewing. Seizing the meaning, verifying the consistency, questioning, suggesting, rectifying, preserving the authors' voice. Descriptions of continents, islands, and seas. Fauna and flora. Villages and cities. Multiple races and monsters aplenty. With history and stories. Cultures. Personalities. Skills. A world in creation, coming to life through texts, illustrations, and music. To be inhabited by adventurous players. To inspire the Game Master.

This is a company creating content for role playing games, narrative games, 5th edition compatible. And it is one of the brand-new projects and collaborations, as part of the team in charge of editing the texts. Together with people from different geographies. Right in the core of the narrative. Giving use to many years of editing and reviewing, in the most varied contexts and with the most varied themes.

August 2022. And so, it started!

Hollandspiele (United States of America). Playing, testing, reporting, detailing results, describing experiences, commenting. Repeating. Test, report, evolve. Test, report, evolve. Essential parts of game development. Always with an eye on the rules, of course, just because I do love those manuals that draw us into the gaming experience.

Testing through digital platforms, convenient, cost-effective, allowing to overcome distances and bypass time zones. Granted, they don't convey the same sensations as the real thing, at least for me. But they are the ones making these interactions possible and widespread! 

That Others May Live is a solo game about aerial search and rescue operations, in the Vietnam War. Tense, with the pressure of time draining away, and with the uncertainty of the positioning and behaviour of enemy forces. A creation by Brad Smith, about which you may read here, with development of Ryan Heilman, for Hollandspiele, an original publisher, who does not blink when engaging with sensitive topics, be it the politics of slavery, conflicts, or the challenges of rehabilitation following a brain injury!

1 May 2022

LEIRIA CON 2022, Portugal – Part 3: Wandering

I always seek for time, at these meetings, to just wander about, from table to table, listening, observing, in search for people, game boards, and tokens, the right angles or uncertain ones, of light and shadow. Keeping images. Freezing moments.

He too, wandering, pensive, in The Grizzled

The appealing aesthetics of Pax Pamir

At the North Sea, Attention All Shipping

Tony Boydell, with Attention All Shipping

Other pilgrimages, in Pilgrim

Nica Case, and Pilgrim

In need of room, for The Clash of Cultures

And plenty of spatial-temporal room, for Twilight Imperium

People gathering

The time has come to close the gate

28 April 2022

LEIRIA CON 2022, Portugal – Part 2: At the table


The tables were calling for me.

And there I went, to try out some games.

All of them, except one, games in development, at different stages.

An opportunity to talk, before, during, and after playing.

About games, themes, mechanisms, and sensations.

With Citie Lo ...

... and its Zoo, in a 3 player test

With Uli Blennemann, teaching the new La Granja ...

...now bearing the name El Burro

Placing parasols in Copacabana, by Bruno Ribeiro

Meeple Land, the only non-protoype played

And, in the last day, I finally found an empty spot at Mac Gerdts table, ...

... for an experimental voyage on board of Transatlantic II

All this with the sea, the sand, and the wind, just across the road

25 April 2022

LEIRIA CON 2022, Portugal – Part 1: We meet again

April 1st. Early morning. This Friday wouldn't be a work-work day, as usual. The backpack was ready. Camera, the indispensable notebooks, pen, and pencil, some brand-new business cards, water, and a couple of snacks. The car was sitting by the sidewalk, waiting. The road, further ahead. Destination Vieira Beach. Goal: LeiriaCon. It was April 1st. But this was not an April’s Fool joke!

The last LeiriaCon which I attended, also the first, was held back in 2019. At the time, I was still in the process of rediscovering the world of boardgames and the gaming industry, in its 21st century version. This blog has been started in 2018, collaborations for translations shortly ensued, as well as participation in various forums, and all the while the collection of games continued to grow. 

One year later, expectations were high. Contacts had been multiplying, so many names became familiar ones, and my boardgame-focused activity had widened. The anticipated menu for that year included a participation in LeiriaTalks, a session on demonstration and game teaching conducted by Paul Grogan, experimenting with prototypes, playing, and of course meeting the people behind the games, and sharing tables with them.

But then, the pandemic struck. Everything was suspended, postponed, cancelled, confined. Well, not truly everything, because the virtual dimension allowed this area to keep running. And those secluded times included games played in family, the most frequent way around here, after all. But it just wasn't the same. And two years have passed... Three doses of vaccine later, things finally started to change.

The reunion was then scheduled for April 2022! The plan was set. I would miss Thursday, the start-up day. Friday, typically a day with fewer visitors, would be the perfect opportunity to meet, for the first time in person, so many of "those people". Plus, it would be a good day to try out some prototypes, those games yet to be, in the presence of their creator. For Saturday, a fifty-year journey with “my games” at LeiriaTalks and, most likely, a full afternoon of playing. At some point, a visit to the games-sales room, to check some used games, an irresistible temptation. Sunday would be mainly unplanned for. Three days, always starting in Aveiro, in the morning, and driving back home by the sunset, with the radio turned on, on an almost deserted road.

And so it was!

Three intense days, filled-in with so many nice conversations, some longer, other shorter, around tables with boards and tokens, or a mere cup of coffee. Talking about games, naturally, past, present, and future, creations, and projects, possible collaborations. Reunions and new acquaintances. From the digital world to the physical one. From the written words to the spoken ones. From emojis to laughter. With that prevailing feeling that, after all, we've known each other for a long time!

A few are likely to be missing here, but it's worth taking the risk. Thanks Bruno Ribeiro, Pedro Kerouac, João Pimentel, Micael Sousa, João Neves, Uli Blennemann, Citie Lo, Karthik Setty, Marc Gerdts, Carlos e Sónia Sousa, Manuel e Dina Silva, Mariano Inannelli, Rodolfo Gomes, Hugo Marinho e Rita Jesus, Carlos Ramos, Carlos Martinho, Luís Costa, Carlos Santos, Pedro Silva, André Santos, Paulo Soledade, Nuno Santos.

Plan for 2023: the complete experience, with night-time games and overnight included!