News from the Bottom Shelf

The pre-Gencon lull may be in full effect, but that doesn't mean that there isn't plenty still out there to catch up on. Cards are ubiquitous in board games, but they are still plenty fun on their own. We've got a couple of card games this installment, one well known and one not so much. More awards come in from Europe and a heartfelt message on the true purpose of gaming.

Another year, another Magic: The Gathering release. I've never been a serious Magic player, but I've sunk my fair share of paychecks into a booster pack or two ... Okay, booster box or two ... or five. I've pretty much stuck to the occasional perusal of the video game version of Magic, Duels of the Planeswalkers for the past few years and it will be interesting how that fares in the light of the success that Hearthstone has been having. As a casual fan, I don't have much analysis to add. Magic is it's own world and one that's nice to visit, but not a place for me to call home.

Since the last installment of News from the Bottom Shelf, a very important board game award was announced: The Spiel der Spiele! Austria's game of the year award may not hold the same international clout it's northerly counterpart, the German Spiel des Jahres, but worth mentioning because the winner is a small card game called Abluxxen. I've only just started to appreciate small card games as a reprieve from the tabletop space gobbling games that dominate my closet. An Austrian game of the year award along with favorable reviews makes this one to look out for when it's released in the US.

And while we're on the subject of awards, it  would behoove me to at least acknowledge the German Spiel des Jarhes award winners. Camel Up took home Spiel des Jarhes, which is aimed at family games. I haven't had a chance to try it because of it's lack of US distribution, but it seems like good, wholesome fun.

Also worth mentioning is the Kennerspiel des Jahres, an award given to games aimed at more discerning and experienced games. Istanbul took home the prize over Concordia and Rococo. I like Isntanbul a lot. A real lot. And as much as I like it, I think I like Concordia even more. Either way, they all seems like worthy games and would be excellent choices for any collection.

I couple of weeks ago I mentioned a story in Grantland about a Diplomacy tournament. It's an excellent story and I still highly recommend you give it a read if you haven't already. But If you'd rather keep your reading to a minimum, first I would wonder why you're reading this, then I'd send you to over to the This American Life archives and listen to the audio version of the story, If you're unfamiliar with This American Life, it's a weekly radio magazine that cover a broad range of topics and this particular episode happened to involve board games.

One of my favorite games from recent years is Trains. I love it for many reasons, but I want more and luckily publisher AEG is willing to oblige. The first major expansion, dubbed Rising Sun, is due out later this fall and AEG posted a teaser image of one of the new cards on its Facebook page. It's a route bonus cards that will award players bonus points is they manage to build a route between specific cities. This is a game change changer! If I had one complaint about Trains it was that that it could have felt more, train-y. This should go a long way to alleviate that.

Loyd Case over on Tested has written an introduction to the Worker Placement games. These are my favorite types of games. Worker placement is an intuitive mechanic that has shown incredibly flexibility over the years. The primer from Loyd may be a bit basic for someone who consumes board game news on the regular, but you might want to pass it along to the emerging gamers that you come across. It should be of great value to them.

I couldn't end without leaving you with a message from Shut Up & Sit Down's Quintin Smith. It's heartfelt message spurred by the recent passing of his father. It can be easy to be distracted by the plastic and paper of board games and not take a moment to reflect on why games are so very important. So check out the video and deepest condolences to you Mr. Smith.

As always, if I've missed something be sure to let everyone know in the comments and if you have any questions drop them in the Mailbag and have them answered later for the world to see!