Boxed Culture: Gamefest 2016 1

Every year I volunteer for an event called Starfest. I work Hospitality, which is a fancy way of saying”we check wristbands.” The best part for me is when I get stationed to check wristbands in front of the Gamefest room. Gamefest is my favorite part of Starfest. It is all about board gaming! This week I just wanted to recount my experience this year!

One of the first thing that happened was that I met Tawny Fritz, an independent artist who has done work for games such as Pathfinder, A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, and The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. Tawny is not only an amazing artist but a wonderful person to hang out with all weekend at her booth. It was interesting getting insight into the world of card art design and how people are contracted for different games. If you have any interest in seeing her work, she has a Kickstarter running right now for a sketch book of her art, right here.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Mike Fitzgerald, the designer of Diamonds, Mystery Rummy, and Baseball Highlights 2045. We had a wonderful discussion about luck and skill in gaming. Mike posited an imaginary graph with skill on one axis and luck on the other. On the zero point we have a game (which I lost, stupidly) where both players put as many fingers as they want up and the person that puts the most up wins! This game requires no luck or skill as each person logically would put up five fingers and a tie would occur, so not much of a game at all. If we stick with zero luck and go up as far as we can on the skill axis, we will see chess. This is a game where all information and moves are known and skill reigns supreme. If we stick with zero skill and follow the luck axis, we see games like betting on coin flips and dice rolling. These games don’t use any skill and are purely based on luck. If we follow this point up to the point where chess is on the skill access, we get to games like poker.

Mike (and his friend Richard Garfield) agree that poker is one of the best games around. Any good gamer has to learn to navigate luck and use their skill to perform well. A true game is that in which two people are competing against each other in a game of skill. Stereotypical euro board games are not really games at all in the eyes of this view, as they play more like solitaire with minimal player interaction and competition. This view of gaming really made me think about how I game and what games I should give another chance.

To finish up a wonderful weekend I had Mike teach me how to play Mystery Rummy: Escape from Alcatraz. We played a tight game but I came out ahead in the end. I would highly suggest this game for anyone who likes the history of Alcatraz or who likes rummy style games.

I would also like to shout out at Cameron Crawford, the owner of Petrie’s Family Games in Colorado Springs, CO. He sets up and runs Gamefest every year and this year was just as fantastic as ever!

Thanks for reading! Did you go to Starfest or Gamefest this weekend and did you have fun? Tell me in the comments. See ya next week!


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