Feb 1 2015

Gen Con 2014 wrap-up: continued

So last time I talked about Aaron Jenkin’s massive 3D recreation of FFG’s A Game of Throne board game. This time I want to highlight some of the other large scale pimp-outs I saw at the convention.

I’ll start with a favorite area control game of mine, Domaine.


Domaine is the non-auction re-theme of Löwenherz, an interesting area control game where you try to carve out point-scoring areas by walling yourself off and expanding into other players’ territory. Mayfair loves to showcase giant versions of their games at conventions and this one is no exception. I had the chance to play on the map depicted above and found the size adequately pimped to large size but not so cumbersome as to drag the game down.


Unfortunately, since this was just a standard event, the creator of this set wasn’t around to talk about it. The pieces were very well made and had quite a bit of heft. Under one of the pieces, I did see a note saying “Scuplted by Action Terrain,” which I found out is a Vancouver based hobby/modelling store.


In addition to terrain pieces, the game also sported painted knight figures for both player pieces and score tracker. If I had one criticism on the whole set up, it’d be that the trees force the player to put the pieces on top of the sculpt and it makes for a very busy board and breaks the visual aesthetic. I got used to it after a while but I think I’d rather see a better solution for the forest spaces on the board.

My large-sized victory:


As I mentioned, Mayfair likes to bring out their large-sized games to the convention and so they have most of their catalog on display in grand fashion. The biggest was Settlers of America game in the Catan line.


Mayfair isn’t the only company to put out large-sized versions of their games, Catalyst Game Labs brought a massive room-sized version of The Duke.


I did ask a bit more about this version and apparently Catalyst is willing sell a copy of the game at this size but when pushed for a price, the figure was easily in the $3,000.00 range. I think I’ll stick with my regular-sized edition at home.

Companies can afford to make large-sized versions of their games as marketing tool. It’s impressive but they do tend to have the capital and drive to pull off these monsters. Like Jenkin’s Game of Thrones, I find it more impressive to see casual gaming enthusiasts take on the challenge.


This version of 1812: The Invasion of Canada was really impressive. A massive board set in stunning z-scale (1:300) detail. I only got to watch this game for a little bit before being pulled away but I would love to get a game of it in on this epic map.


Another wide view of this great pimp-out of 1812.


Another enthusiast showcased The Battle of Five Armies from Ares Games. The creator of this version was a playtester for the game which explains how he was able to create a large version so quickly after the release. I was actually scheduled to play in this event but a scheduling mix up had me too late to join in. I enjoy War of the Ring so I’d like to try this game out and see how it measures up. I figure playing on this great set up can’t help but improve it’s standings.


So that wraps up some of the “big” pimp items I saw at Gen Con 2014. In a few weeks, the local Genghis Con will be happening in Denver and I’m looking forward to seeing what people pimp out for it this year.

Sep 5 2014

End of Summer: Gen Con 2014 wrap-up

So July and August have come and gone but one of my yearly highlights occurs during summer so I’d like to go show off a game pimper’s view of my favorite gaming convention: Gen Con. For those that don’t know it, Gen Con is one of North America’s largest gaming conventions. This year, it’s attendance topped Essen Germany’s Spiel convention. Since Spiel occurs in November every year, I’ll be interested to see if their numbers improve to edge out Gen Con.

How big is this convention? The latest numbers came in at a staggering 56,614 unique attendees over the 4 days (August 13th-17th). This was my eighth year and it was good to see that the convention still holds its charm and I still find a lot of great things to do.

There are a lot of reports out there on the convention from both a casual observer to a full on game “reporter” so I won’t try to rehash what has already been said about the experience. Instead, I’ll look at it from a game pimper’s perspective and I’ll start with some of the best custom games I saw or experienced.

First, and likely my favorite pimped game, was Aaron Jenkin’s 3D super-sizing of Fantasy Flight Games’ A Game of Thrones: the board game.

This beautifully crafted board faithfully represented the original 2nd edition game board from Fantasy Flights game in painstaking three-dimensional detail:

The beauty about having this appear at the ‘Con was it wasn’t just eye-candy, Aaron actually hosted multiple events during the convention, allowing up to 6 players play the full game out on this amazing creation. I was lucky enough to have a chance to play on Friday night and it was a great experience. It was my first time ever playing the game and Aaron and the other players were great at teaching me the game. My only issue now is, if I pick up the game, will it ever match the immersion that this custom version created. Maybe I’ll have to try to craft a pimped out version of my own…

Aaron has set that bar exceedingly high though. Not only was his board amazing to behold and fun to play on, but he also had custom miniatures to replace the regular wooden pawns, custom boats to replace the wooden versions in the game, large Game of Throne replicas of key pieces like the Iron Throne, the Raven, and Valyrian Steel. Those game pieces made me not care about the actual game play at times and just had me go nuts and bid on the option just to have those cool set pieces near me.

Aaron has more on the creation of this gem on his blog so definitely check it out.

Next time, I’ll highlight some other gaming experiences at the ‘Con. Super-sizing seems to be all the rage and I’ll jump into some other “giant” versions of games that I saw and played.

Jul 6 2014

Pimpin’ Game Bits

I saw this Kickstarter project the other day (no affiliation) and it looks like a great collection of gaming bits to pimp out some of the dryer Eurogames that use static wooden blocks:

Treasure Chest Kickstarter

Treasure Chest

While Agricola is not a favorite game of mine, I will say that playing with pimped components can make it less dry. Eurogames seem to have this issue more than others where immersing yourself into the story the game develops is harder due to the multiple layers of abstraction and generally dull components. Honestly, Carcassonne came out 14 years ago and at least tried to capture some theme by using Meeples for components. New Eurogames coming out with dull wooden blocks is such a crime.

Lords of Waterdeep is a great game but also came with exceedingly dull pieces. Luckily, a BGG user, Danny Perello, made these awesome bits for the game:

There is a site to pick up official copies of these bits here:

The Broken Token

A friend of mine has the original wooden versions from Danny and they are a great addition to the game. It was interesting how this little change in the game bit affected how our group talked during the game. Previously, we broke into a habit of just asking for “white” or “orange” cubes, thereby killing all sense of theme or story to go with the game. The game because a number crunching game and, while still fun, it didn’t really feel like anything more than a complete abstraction. The addition of DnDeeples, as they are known, started changing the way players were requesting resources. Soon, “I need two white and one purple” became “here are two priests and one wizard.” It didn’t completely replace the vocabulary but even some of the holdout players will ask for a “couple of white dudes and an orange guy.” Baby steps I guess.

Back to the Treasure Chest Kickstarter, I plan on picking up a set for my favorite Euro: Kingsburg. I’ve been looking for a set of nice wooden bits for that game and it looks like this one fits the bill quite nicely. The Kickstarter ends in 3 days so you’ll want to act fast if this is something you’re interested in.

Jun 29 2014

Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary

One of the first hobby board games I came to appreciate was Ticket to Ride by Alan Moon.  Such a simple, yet effective game, I’ve found that very few casual games elicit the nervous end game anxiety that this one can. Being a great game that can be shared with gamers and non-gamers alike, I was happy to see Days of Wonder (DoW) produce an upgraded “Anniversary” edition.  I’ve often wanted to create a larger scaled version of the game and pimp out it’s contents like I’ve seen at GenCon (taken from Tony Hope Romero’s post on io9):

Thanks to DoW, I don’t have to:

The new 10th Anniversary edition has a lot of upgraded components including new card art and a larger board (also with new art) but the most striking upgrade is the new plastic train pieces. DoW provides a new theme to each of the player colors by introducing detailed train cars and holding them all in a thematic tin:
little giraffe heads sticking out? That's pimp
We count only blue cars...
ah, the obligatory coal-train
those were the days, a whole car for the hobos
brown is, and now always will be, the new yellow

Along with a larger board and reworked art, the publisher decided to have a little fun with the new art and put in quite a few easter eggs (I heard rumored to be about 20-25 fun little things on the map). My favorites include the geographical Duluth paradox being acknowledged:
ahhhh so THAT'S where it is...
And the reference to a favorite guilty pleasure movie, Stardust, based on the short story of the same name by Neil Gaiman:
I’m thinking Great English wordsmith, my enemies and crew are thinking Shake! Spear!

Overall, the quality is great and the reworked art, detailed trains, and larger board size make the anniversary edition a great addition to my game collection. There are a few weird production missteps like the omission of the 1910 expansion rules when they included all the 1910 game components, the mismatched color of the “yellow” player and the corresponding Brown train cars, and the box insert not being able to accommodate sleeved cards. Since I’ve played Ticket to Ride with the 1910 expansion in upwards of 50 times, the rules omission doesn’t bother me. The Yellow score tracker not matching the brown train cars is funny but will give me something to quick pimp soon. The insert not accommodating sleeved cards is pretty annoying though. I’m not a compulsive card sleever but for a board game that has an MSRP of $100, I’d like to make sure I keep the cards in good condition (especially a game that has seen as much play as my previous version of Ticket to Ride). Looks like I’ll have another game in needing of some pimping soon.

Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary edition
$100.00 (US MSRP)
Available: Now
Pro: great new components, awesome new card and board art, larger game board
Con: rules omissions, non-sleevable insert

Pimpin’?: 4.5/5   Outtasight!

Jun 25 2014

In the beginning

When I first got into the hobby of board games, I had virtually no game collection to speak of and so I was more into the “playing and acquiring of new games” aspect of the hobby. Too busy with the enjoyment of experiencing all the classics for the first time, I had no real reason to pimp out games. I had played role-playing games (RPGs) and Magic: the Gathering growing up but never did any modifications.  RPGs always had a heavy modification component as you built your own adventures or painted minis but it seemed to be so tied into the overall game experience that it was hard to have one without the other. In a way, an RPG background helped me most with future pimping projects.

The first game I ever knowingly pimped out was Last Night on Earth. This zombie apocalypse game from Flying Frog Productions was a favorite of mine and the more my game group played it, the more the theme and atmosphere really came through and engaged us. I was researching more information on the game on Boardgamegeek.com (BGG) and saw a lot of players painting up their miniatures. I am by no means a professional minis painter so, while the images looked great, I largely skipped them and looked deeper into the BGG entry for interesting discussions on the game. That all changed when I came across David Bezio’s painting article on BoardGameGeek.

In David’s article, it detailed how, with a little bit of time, some cheap paints and equipment, any schmuck (like me) could paint up some average “board game” quality minis. I was a little skeptical at first as I’ve seen what some professional painters considered “easy” and knew the results they would eventually show would amount to some Herculean paint effort on my part to achieve a similar result. This article, however, was not like previous entries I’d seen. The author wasn’t joking. This technique was easy.  It did look great on the tabletop. It really opened the door on what I thought I was capable of.  Read the article if you get a chance because all my painting really started with his advice and it really is as easy as he describes.

lnoe detail example

After reading his painting article, I set out and picked up some cheap acrylic hobby paints, a primer, some cheap brushes, and a small tin of MinWax for dipping. I worked on the base game’s minis over a few weekends as time allowed and was able to knock out the project in a couple of weekends, usually painting during a baseball game or during the missus’ favorite TV show. The results were great, the project was easy, and it was a big hit with my game group. I’ll go over what I’ve done to Last Night on Earth in more detail later when I showcase it in a post but I wanted to discuss how some well developed post on some guy’s attempt to better his gaming experience caused me and likely a whole host of other gamers to follow in his footsteps. Instantly, this caused me to look at the board gaming hobby in a whole new light.
lnoe full shot

Jun 22 2014

Welcome to Pimp My Board Game…

I buy games.  I play games. And then I find it’s not enough.  Not enough to spend hours on board game hobby sites reading about them. Not enough to come up with variants and rules tweaks. No. I have to go the extra mile and modify the game’s very core- its components.  I pimp games.

Not long after I started collecting and playing board games away from your mainstream titles, I started tinkering with the game bits of my favorite games to make the game uniquely my own. Sometimes these tinkerings were to enhance the experience by cosmetically improving the game while other times I would strive to improve the functionality of the game. I found this niche aspect of the board gaming hobby highly appealing, sometimes as much as actually playing the games themselves. The more I looked into “pimping” my board games, the more I found others doing the same thing.

In this blog series, I aim to explore the board gaming hobby through the pimping aspect of the industry. I will show various techniques I use to pimp out games in my collection as well as highlight past, present, and future work I’ve done or will be doing. I will also discuss the reasons why we feel the need to spend so much extra time and money improving a game beyond what a professional publisher has already developed for market release. I encourage you to comment on anything posted, sharing insight into your reasons or techniques when pimping out a favorite game or asking questions on anything you see.  Enjoy!