Congratulations! You've found my nerd blog, Dragons in the Dark! This is my personal repository of...
- History Book Notes
- Wargame AARs
- RPG Sessions
But wait, there's more! There are also reviews of film/fiction/TV... along with thoughts on game design, storytelling, and miscellaneous geekery!
My Life Through Board Games
I was a sore loser when I was five. I remember crying over a game of Don't Talk to Strangers (1984). It's hilarious if you think about it.
My earliest boardgame memories include playing a lot of Mastermind (1971), Chinese Checkers (1893), Chinese Chess (762), Cribbage (1630) and Animal Chess with a family friend. I distinctly remember my father breaking open a copy of Monopoly (1935) at some house party, not explaining the rules well, and me refusing to buy anything except railroads. I lost, obvs.
My first wargame wasn't chess. It was Lu Zhan Jun Qi, a Stratego-like game. My brother sucked at it because I lied better. Oh and Battleship (1931) too. I guess that's why I'm in marketing and advertising now.
The first game changer (pun intended) for me, though... like many kids that grew up in the 80s, was Milton Bradley's HeroQuest (1989). I spent more time designing dungeons than playing. It was also my first taste as a dungeon master. Never split the party!
November 2002 was when I discovered modern designer board games. Forgot why I was in North Vancouver, but wandered into Checkpoint Charlie's Games on 2nd Street E, and got a copy of Carcassonne (2000). After that, Settlers of Catan (1995), Puerto Rico (2002), El Grande (1995), Tigris & Euphrates (1997), Traders of Genoa (2001), Acquire (1964) and Fluxx (1997) went into heavy rotation. There was also that one New Year's Eve we played Illuminati: New World Order (1994) and never again. (Don't ask). These games were all we had in the early-aughts.
I've Seen This Niche Hobby Explode For 20+ Years
It is unrecognizable. Y'all buncha spoiled kids with your Kickstarters, miniatures, expensive luxury tables, and a BGG database with 100,000+ games.
BGG, incidentally, is my 2nd oldest online account I still have access to (Dec. 15, 2002). Here's my profile.
Took a hiatus 2007-2014. Marriage, mortgage, kids, laid off in '09 from eBay, launched my freelancing career. Came back in 2015 to see the hobby expand even further.
The Heavy Board Game Club + BGG 100
Between 2016-2020, my brother and I ran a monthly "Heavy Board Game Club". We had two concurrent tables and at its peak, up to twelve attendees in a townhouse. If you want to do this yourself, you can steal my "constitution" here. Running a club like this requires a lot of rules and logistics.
Made a concerted effort to play the top 100 games on BGG despite the fact it updates all the time. Think I got to 62 or 64 at one point. It's down to 50 now. I refuse to play Gloomhaven (2017) and Pandemic Legacy (2015). First off, co-op. What's that? I want to beat my opponents into mush, not make friends with them. Secondly, salty they knocked Twilight Struggle (2005) off its throne. That's a real game. (Yes, I gatekeep).
My favorite games during this "renaissance/2015 return": Through the Ages (2015), Food Chain Magnate (2015), Gaia Project (2017), Terraforming Mars (2016), The Gallerist (2015), Orléans (2015), Grand Austria Hotel (2015), Five Tribes (2014), Alchemists (2014), Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar (2012), and Teotihaucan (2018).
Looking back -- I'm realizing 2015 was an inflection point in this niche hobby. Not unlike what 1999 was for the film world.
My pandemic games were Castles of Burgundy (2011) and Potion Explosion (2015) with 80 games logged from June-October 2020 on Board Game Arena. lol. My second most logged game is Pax Pamir: 2E (2019). Hurray for Tor at Rally the Troops!
Hex & Counters + Historical Wargames
More and more, I'm moving away from Euros that are basically "simultaneous solitaire". I think I've had my share of worker placement as a mechanic. There's just been too many games where I ignored everyone, focused on my own engine, and won the game. I prefer interaction, and head-to-head conflict. Asymmetrical? Even better.
So it shouldn't surprise you, these days -- I'm getting into the highest level of boardgame nerdom... hex-and-counters (and historical wargames)... games with 40+ page rule books, hundreds of components, and "weight scores" of 4.00+.
It helps these games are based on actual battles in history, an interest of mine I've put off for too long until now. And that's what you'll mostly see on this blog: wargame after-action-reports (AARs) along with notes from history books I'm reading.
Why "Dragons in the Dark"?
I blitzed through countless RPG rulesets in 2016 and if there's one that stuck out more than any other, it's Blades in the Dark. I have read and reread this book at least five times. It is, to me, a triumph in game design, with fluid play structure and concepts that just make sense. It treats HP as "stress" (as it should!). It has clear faction play. And headquarters for your party with its own skill tree! At one point, I considered (and developed quite a bit) on a fantasy setting for Blades under the "Forged in the Dark" license, hence the name "Dragons in the Dark".
About My Other Life
I am co-founder of Plural Inc., a marketing consulting agency in the DR/DTC space. We are also partners and co-founders of Plural Healthcare, a mental health IOP based in St. Louis. Finally, we publish online courses. Our current projects include: Osmosis, The Salt Letter Files, and Crash Copy.
On the personal side, I'm a father of three monsters in Vancouver. The real one, in Canada. Not the fake one next to PDX in Washington State.
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