The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Hints from Hell, Louise

Ray Smith

May, 2001

This is a first entry into what I hope will be many future contributions from all who are reading this. These are fixes and tips to use for gaming in general or for specific games. I'm not talking about errata, rules changes, strategy hints, or player aids. These are physical additions to a game or gameplay that can make valuable gaming time a tad easier. For example, you all have used the good ol' clear plastic sheet overlay to eliminate the ornery warp factor of some mapboards, or some form of dice cup, or used an old moth eaten wool blanket as a table cloth to prevent the sliding of large tile placement games (Settlers, etc.). Well, here are a few more tidbits that I have found helpful.

  • Die Oster Insel, by Blatz, is slightly marred by the fact that the trap doors at the bottom of the giant Moai playing pieces easily fall open. It becomes annoying in an otherwise quick and fun game to worry about your collected stones falling out. After trying various unsuccessful fixes, I discovered that a paper clip pulled open sideways at ninety degrees fits perfectly as a nice spring clip over the trap door! It holds snugly, and is easily removable when it's time to dump your load for scoring. I have also replaced the dusty real stones with glass gaming stones. This is not only cleaner, but spruces up a rather drab presentation.

  • Twilight, by Bambus, is a fabulous four player card game, but confusion sometimes arises concerning who played what card (since you may select any player to play a card for your turn). After many rounds of, "Who's card is that?", it dawned upon us to place each players played card in front of the player instead of tossing them into the middle of the table. Duh.

  • For those of us approaching or beyond the mid-century mark in age, identification of playing pieces is not as easy as it used to be. The cool vehicle pieces in Edison & Co., although unique, still can become metallic blobs for some of us. So I painted the Propeller Roller green, the Steam Rocket white, the Turbine Yacht red, and the Zeppelin Car yellow. This matching of their representation on the cards greatly eases play.

  • Ziploc bagsHave you ever gone and dusted off one of your venerated games containing a deck of cards only to find that the rubber band previously holding them together has deteriorated into a worthless brittle sticky rock glob, and stained some cards! One of my best investments was to make a bulk order of 4x6 zip-lock bags. Not only for the usual little bits, but they keep cards pristine forever.

  • For the Empire Builder series of railroad games, instead of using the nondescript white chips provided for the commodity stickers, I purchased a variety of small colored poker chips. I separated the commodities roughly into animal, mineral, and vegetable to make it faster to locate the one I needed.

Any other game/play enhancements out there?

- Ray Smith

GGA - My own short contributions to this list;

  • "30" added with rub on numbers.Rub On Numbers - I've always been somewhat annoyed that some scoretracks don't include numbering so I always add my own. As I want them to look as nice as possible I use "dry transfer decals". These are available in a wide variety of colors and fonts at office supply stores or model shops.

  • Whenever I host a game night I bring out my groovy set of 1960s glass coasters. Why? They're individually colored and so we use them to indicate player color.

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