Thursday, November 10, 2016

Board Games that Tell Refugees' Stories

The refugee crisis in the Middle East is no game. There are no clear rules, the information is untrackable, there are hidden variables that lead to utter chaos, and there is no endgame in site.

And yet, tens of thousands of refugees were welcomed into Berlin—my adopted home city—during the past year. As they have taken up residence in makeshift shelters and previously abandoned buildings all over Berlin, I find myself connecting with many of them through the shared language and experience of playing board games.

When we play games with anyone, we share each other’s stories.  The game itself is not required to tell a story, it simply sets up the beginning, and determines when it will end.  My already multicultural game nights are only the beginning to ongoing stories—relationships that go beyond meeting up to play games.

As I have volunteered at the refugee shelters near my home and the church where I work, it has been a privilege to play games with them, and through this shared language, learn their stories and begin relationships that have now gone beyond playing games together.

These are their stories, told through the games that made this possible.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

With Tile-Laying Games, The Sky's the Limit: The Making of Skyways

Tile-laying games have always held a special place in both my gaming life and my game design career. It was Carcassonne, one of the best tile-laying games ever made, that first introduced my wife and me to the board gaming hobby in Germany in 2001. Five years later, it was a tile-laying prototype of my own called Heartland that impressed my group of established Berlin game designers enough to encourage me to show it to publishers, and it was that game that garnered my first contract. I returned to the genre a few years ago with Citrus, another tile-laying game that has proved to be my most favorite recent game.