A later post than usual, the dust has settled after a weekend of CanCon, spending too much money and gaming in between said spending sprees…but more of that later.
Friday night we decided to stick to known games for a more relaxing evening - Hadara, The Crew and Dealt!
Hadara has some similarities to 7 Wonders…I think…actually I don’t know as I’ve never played 7 Wonders but it matches my ‘picture’ of the flavour of gameplay in that classic. You take turns moving around a circle of card piles, draft (buy) or discard (sell) one card and place the other into a communal auction that will be drafted in the second phase. Cards provide symbols, cards make other cards cheaper, symbols move up tracks and everything gives you points!
Simultaneous actions mean the game is really quick. It is bright and colourful and provides a fairly satisfying solitaire puzzle as you try to cross certain thresholds on each track that in turn score MORE points.
Fee loves it. I find it a pleasant and inoffensive experience, and that might seem faint praise but sometimes ‘pleasant’ suits the mood.
buy those gold medals early!
We smashed through three challenges from The Crew, I think we are somewhere in the 30’s and so over half-way. We were feeling very in-tune and clever as well, as each player lay down just the right card, despite the challenges requiring us to win 6-7 tricks with specific values AND specific sequencing.
Finally, Dealt! finished the night and had us puzzling through playing out cards that then allow the other cards in your hand to become multiples and sequences.
I really love fixed hands of cards, it is excellent in Bonnanza and is incredibly effective in this trick-taker as well.
As I mentioned Sos and I attended Cancon, and spent some time in the convention library playing their games. We started with Luxor, a relatively light game that piqued both our interest and could be learnt in fifteen minutes.
Luxor also uses a fixed card order system that allows you ‘see’ your movement options up to two turns away. You are essentially racing to the tomb in the middle of the board, but you are also trying to pick up treasure tiles along the way as well as acquiring new and more powerful cards. You don’t get to keep these cards however, once used they go to a common trash pile and are eventually shuffled together to create a new draw pile.
All players draw from the same pile - a communal deck-builder!
It also means you cannot really predict which cards you will draw each turn, so there is a lot of tactical decision-making (albeit fairly light fare).
Despite me bolting to the finish to get the bigger bonuses, Sos was like a savant in creating the perfect move sequences that meant he was collecting a huge number of treasure tiles. His mammoth set-collection points were impossible to catch.
on your marks
We also played Nidavellir, another enjoyable set-collection game. I really enjoyed the bidding system and the coin upgrade mechanism, trying to leave higher-valued coins out of the bidding to get a better upgrade yet missing out on a key draws card was always a bittersweet decision.
The game itself is surprisingly quick but the coin rack can make setup a little fiddly. It is an over-produced game for sure, but thankfully also cleverly designed.
Next I decided to teach Sos Marvel Champions, one of my favourites and a rare chance to play non-solo! It was just the base game, so I selected Spider-man and Sos opted for Iron Man.
Sos took to the game like a duck to water, and he got really invested in building Iron Man’s armour whilst still providing some heavy smack-down. I felt surprisingly ineffective, and really flubbed some turns when I should have been doing a much better job managing the scheming, but we pulled through with a win against Rhino probably one round before he completed the main scheme.
It was so much fun making sound effect noises for Iron Man’s repulsors, and generally nerding out with laughs, cheers and air-punching when it was working for us - and heckling when it didn’t. Super-fun.
We saved the heaviest for last, playing Viscounts of the West Kingdom on Sunday morning. I arrived earlier than Sos just so I could run through the rules and set up the game. There are a LOT of interlocking systems, and I am still unclear whether it is better to specialise in one scoring objective (i.e. buildings) rather than diversify.
I think this game took as long to teach as it did to play, as the end-game trigger is surprisingly easy to achieve. We got caught off-guard by the oh-so-clever prosperity/poverty card system, whereby if one stack is exhausted it will cause the other to score. So if I empty the prosperity card stack, whoever has the majority of poverty cards will score big points. All players are forced to constantly keeping each other in check re majorities in the two areas.
Sos’s building points gave him the victory this time, but I am keen to give this one another go.
look at that castle!
Too many games to list here, so I’ll cover them slowly over the coming weeks.
Each year CanCon hosts an incredible dinged and dented sale. You can find anything at this stall, no game is too old or too out of print. The prices range from reasonable to incredible. My mate Sos picked up Caverna and the expansion to Food Chain Magnate - $10 each!
Each year I go a bit shopping crazy, but try to find a couple of items that I can also sell that then fund my excess, and if my mojo is working I can actually sometimes break even and just be left with a ‘free’ pile of games that I need to stack, store and (eventually) play. It’s heaven.
So what did I get? I’ll only mention one this post, it was a copy of Red Alert: Space Fleet Warfare. This game only hit my radar recently when I saw a review of all of the games that use the Commands and Colours system. “There’s a space version?” I thought, and was immediately intrigued…and then immediately disappointed to see it was out of stock or hugely expensive.
Thank you CanCon! Now I have a brand new copy just bursting with possibility.
I was looking through one of Fuse’s latest modular books when I came across a lovely stellated design that needed 15 two-sided sheets of origami paper to complete.
Now this a surprisingly tricky combination to find in commercial paper packets. Often there will be more colour options but less numbers in each colour. To my surprise, I had a packet with floral patterns on one side, solid colour on the reverse, and exactly 15 sheets per pattern!
It seemed fate, so I decided to fold the model - twice! I reversed the rose units for the second one, I’ll let you decide which you prefer.
Thanks for reading.
A regular discussion of my plays, opinions, fun facts, and maybe some origami.
24 Jan 2022
- [+] Dice rolls
16 Jan 2022
Life can get gritty at times, an I certainly feel like I am chewing my way through some dry-ass ‘muesli’ at the moment.
But there are gifts too, such as a lovely guided night-walk through Mulligan’s Flat where they are trying to re-introduce a number of species to Mainland Australia, such as the quoll and bettong. Thank you gift!
We saw a number of bettongs, no quolls
This week I found myself returning to Lost Cities, playing through the various app challenges. I do miss a real opponent in this game however, it is so tension-filled and has a great meta-game as you try and puzzle out your opponent’s strategy and the contents of their hand. So tight, so sweet.
I also tried a new one, Fallout: The Board Game. What a fascinating system of ‘quests’ emulating the board game by creating a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ experience through a sequence of numbered cards. Do you want to investigate the missing girl, or try and rob the locals? Make a choice then try and travel to the appropriate location and roll for success.
I was pretty excited to begin, and thought I would enjoy some combat to start…and I died on the first roll. Ok, pretty brutal, maybe I need to spend some time exploring first, collect some gear. Great, a companion and an item that lets me re-roll, I’ll try that easier bad guy…and I died again! So let’s just say it is pretty brutal, those dice are mean, and I need to work out whether a single character is too tough for solo and I need to buff the party.
Friday game night ending up being a last-minute affair as it didn’t look like any would be be available, but other plans cancelled and Sos and Fee made good time travelling back from their holiday, so we got two games in - Keyflower and Roll for the Galaxy.
Keyflower is one of my favourite games and I couldn’t wait to introduce it to the group. There’s bidding, worker placement, route-building, kinda-sorta pick-up and deliver, but underpinning it all is this fabulous coloured meeple system that provides a bidding/bluffing puzzle as the first to bid sets the colour that all must follow on any particular tile.
They hated it!
That was back in 2017, and I figured it was pretty early in their gaming life and we had played much more complicated rules, so I thought it might be safe to suggest it again after five years…but no, Sos still hated it.
I think Fee had a good time, and I continue to love the interplay of mechanics, but it is hard to enjoy a game you recommend when an opponent is clearly having a terrible time. Alack and alas…
Next up was Roll for the Galaxy, and now it was my turn to feel (and prove) ineffective. I get the roll selection mechanic, I get the dice allocation, but I struggle continually struggle to remember how to generate money, and create an engine that can pivot to become a point-generator. By the time I’ve cleared much of the mental cobwebs and anxiety associated with this game it’s over, and then the fog quickly descends again. Phew! An oddly-deflating night in some ways, but still a highlight of the week.
I am not one for resolutions, preferring action over promises, but I did want to seriously curb the collection growth this year. But one did sneak under the wire in the sense that I pre-ordered it last year and it arrived this week - Blitzkrieg!: World War Two in 20 Minutes.
Next weekend is CanCon however, and I always find some amazing stuff in the dinged and dented sale, so who knows what I will need to confess to buying next entry?
I really enjoyed reading John Shepherd’sJohn Shepherd(MrShep)United Kingdom
size reference - as long as my thumb
This one is by Hideo Komatsu, and involves such an amazing folding sequence. I literally don’t know where I am headed when I start the model, which is no small achievement given how familiar and common many folding sequences underpin most designs.
It is also a great two-tone model, utilising both sides of the paper as part of the design. Why green? Well there is a famous children’s book in Australia called Where is the Green Sheep? A double-homage.
Thanks for reading.
- [+] Dice rolls
09 Jan 2022
Eats, shoots & leaves. I always loved this example of grammatical manipulation, how simple modifications in punctuation can affect great change and create such a different meaning.
the panda did it!
It seems that changing my normal schedule in writing about my year in review on New Years Eve afforded me a slightly longer break from blogging, and as often happens I needed the time to respond to some serious man-made and natural disasters befalling the JG family. I decided to give up my holiday to stay back and see if I could find some solutions, but I did make sure the rest of the fam got away and at least got to enjoy sun and surf at the coast.
taking time to admire the flora
So what did I do with four days alone, some without power? As expected I imagined 24 hr gaming, I would plough through some neglected favourites and learn a new game or two. The reality however is that I only played one game…but I did get to leave it set up on the table for a number of those days!
Brook City is by the Sadler Brothers. It uses a Modular Deck System, though despite the acronym nomenclature it seems to be a fairly common approach to game design (Sentinels anyone?). I do really appreciate this style of system however - grab three or four separate decks and combine them to create a unique game experience full of rich story-telling soil that collects in the furrows between the card affects and game mechanics - that is, what the player creates.
I had a hard time getting past the rules to this one, despite my experience with Warhammer Quest. Brook City adds a spatial element with the board as well as a few more wrinkles in the card resolution, enough that apparently my brain couldn’t cope too well with something that was same, but different. Thanks to an online play-through I could at least get going, then it all clicked (somewhat) and I could shamble through the scenario over the next few days.
My hot take? The dice feel a lot kinder in Brook City, though there is less chance to roll large fistfuls of bones to succeed at checks, forcing a slower approach to building a case and ‘busting’ criminals which feels quite thematic. The spatial element of a board also gives a ‘pandemic’ feel to managing threats in disparate parts of the city.
Brook City seems to fare poorly in comparison to the other Sadler games, but I had a lot of fun and definitely want to dive back in. I have no interest in the vehicle minis or other figurines so a lot of the component window dressing is lost on me, but the graphic design and thematic flavour on the cards and in the manual is excellent. I wonder whether the extra chrome in the card system hurts the game in the longer term, but will keep you posted.
Friday game night went back to remote play, in large part to my lack of transport at present, so we dipped into some favourite BGA games - Voyages of Marco Polo, Abandon All Artichokes and Can’t Stop.
I selected Matteo Polo, awarding me an extra white die and a free contract at the start of every round. I decided to ditch my secret goals at the beginning, concentrating on finding good bonuses among the available cities and just fulfilling high-scoring contracts. It worked! I got lucky with some high-value triple dice that allowed me to grab gold and fulfil some big contracts early on, and the white die meant I was never left too short to do other things. Fee did some crazy travel and met all her secret goals, scoring 29 points from cards and outposts alone, and Sos was doing a great balancing act fulfilling lots of contracts AND travelling everywhere with his teleporting monk, but it wasn’t enough to catch my huge lead.
yo yo yo, Mat-e-o!
Abandon All Artichokes already has more plays than I expected, we played twice so I got to try two opposing strategies. First run I tried to flood my deck with new vegetable cards, hoping to ‘drown out’ the artichokes and draw a clean hand. Unfortunately I mistakenly thought the corns were composting (trashing) the artichokes when there were merely discarding them from hand, so I had a lot of artichokes still cycling through my pile and little chance of a win.
In the second game I went in the opposite direction, trashing down to only five cards (only one of which was an artichoke) and hoping for an onion in the market - which I got and then won.
While a physical copy of the game would allow a better sense of cards and keeping track of trashed artichokes, I don’t enjoy it enough to want to own it, and I think the game only has a limited number of plays full stop. BGA seems the perfect compromise in providing some short-term fun.
gimme that onion
Just a quick game of Can’t Stop to end the night. Everyone was playing quite a conservative game for a change, and we were neck and neck on one column each when Fee suddenly surged ahead with some spectacular rolling and took two more columns in quick succession. This game is an excellent ending to the night, it always revitalises us when we are feeling tired from the late hour.
another home-brew beauty
Twenty odd years ago I ran a small origami website, hosted out of the back of the university server where I worked at the time. It was ridiculously time-consuming and needed to be hand-coded (so it was ridiculously basic as well), but I loved sharing it with my online origami community (both folders and designers).
One time I decided to do a feature on origami pandas, folding and photographing as many designs as I could find at the time. Sy Chen, a fabulous designer with a quirky sense of style, was inspired by the gallery to create a new panda design using ‘pureland’ folding.
Pureland folding is a self-imposed design restriction of only using mountain or valley folds - you can fold the paper towards yourself, or away from yourself, but you can’t reverse folds or use any other modern techniques that change crease direction once folded. It is incredibly restraining and often results in highly abstract designs, but I think Sy’s Panda is amazing.
I was pretty chuffed to see Sy still credits my gallery as his inspiration, you can see more of his designs on his webpage.
Thanks for reading.
- [+] Dice rolls
30 Dec 2021
A garden marker that tells me the calendar year is drawing to an end.
Good morning sunshine
Browsing through the insights offered by my BGStats app is one of my favourite idle activities, sorting data by changing the filters in number of players, location etc. Noting game score averages and giving a nod to the semi-serious rivalry in my game group as we vie for most wins.
And then there is the yearly summation, a picture of exactly what I did with my gaming time in the calendar year, but more importantly it is like an olfactory-induced memory, a trigger to remembering those specific plays and that particular game - the stories.
This year I recorded 523 plays with 174 different games - just shy of half of those games were new to me. Here are my thoughts/awards.
Best new Family Game (or, the only one they agreed to play more than once)
Azul - lockdown and family dinners meant I could sneak out a game before all left the table and guilt them into playing. For a few nights this was to go-to, and it really hit the mark in terms of puzzle, meanness and shortness of play.
Runner-up: L.L.A.M.A. - a better UNO.
Best new Card Game (or, which game gave legitimacy to screwing over my friends)
Dealt!/Startups - this one had to be a tie, I am happy to finish any gaming night with either, and both give me a similar sense of glee and pain.
Runner up: Fantasy Realms - combo goodness, but needs more card familiarity to quell the AP.
Best new Euro (or, sudoku the game)
Grand Austria Hotel/Voyages of Marco Polo/Lost Ruins of Arnak - These three just really worked for me, I enjoy the theme and mechanisms in each and how they mesh to create a satisfying experience. These are also ordered according to how much I suck at each one, worse to less-worse.
Runner up - Rajas of the Ganges, this just needs more plays but have enjoyed what I have experienced so far.
Best new Legacy (or, how to play a game to death and never want to play it again).
My City - so clean! Played in sets of three, I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing this game, working with the varying rules and managing my polyomino tiles. I was deeply lacking when it came to competitiveness in the overall campaign, but I loved my sense of ownership over my board and often making decisions that were deleterious to my score but felt ‘right’ for my story.
Runner Up: Clank Legacy! So much to like here, but crippled by an interrupting story that continually paused play while you updated the board, rulebook, card-stack etc.
Best new Dungeon Goodness (or, how to legitimise murder)
Cthulhu: Death May Die - maybe it doesn’t fit the category exactly, but I found this game a blast to play, fighting baddies and getting super powerful the more insane you become…until you - or they - die.
Runner Up: Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game, an excellent implementation of a deck system that provides a challenge to your adventuring party.
Best new-to-me solo (or, how to have fun without friends)
I found much to enjoy solo this year:
Patchwork Automa - allowed me to return to playing the physical game
Cascadia - calm, simple and very satisfying to collect and position your various animals and biomes.
Too Many Bones - epic!! But very long and hard to grok all the rules, so has some barriers to entry.
Gloom of Kilforth - looks beautiful, great stories emerge naturally, but a bit samey after a number of plays so you have to be in the mood for this specific experience.
Circle the Wagons - simple and rewarding, the Lone Cowboy variant offers a neat challenge
Regicide - should replace Solitaire for everyone as a solo game with a regular deck of cards. Brutal.
Best new Clever Game (or, games that make me feel dumb)
Hansa Teutonica/Brass - these both require a brain elasticity and zig-zag so often in their play style that I am left reeling, but despite the beating I received I am keen to head back into the proverbial ring.
Furnace - excellent bidding system coupled with a fairly isolating activation system that feels like busywork.
Marvel United - I really tried, but this one just doesn’t have enough variety in the base box and the buy-in to get the variety is based on an all-or-nothing model for such simple fare.
The Crew - I should love this game - trick-taking, lots of twists on traditional rules…but too often it feels like oddly unsatisfying to churn through the 50 mini puzzles.
Sagrada - love the idea, though was not satisfied by gameplay.
The Old Goldies
Castles of Burgundy - comfort food, it plays well and feels interesting every single time. 11 more plays this year.
Santorini - had the great pleasure of playing this one back-to-back for 18 consecutive games (online) with Sos, swapping powers each game and just loving this tactical experience.
Clans of Caledonia - played this both in person and online, solo and against opponents. I really love this game, and I am yet to win. 5 more plays this year.
I was wandering through the bookstore and saw a new Tuttle origami book - Origami Pets and Other Animals.
I didn’t know the designer Muneji Fuchimoto, but I like supporting the publisher as they pretty singular in bringing Japanese origami books to English speakers (though I do NOT like the move to photographic steps over drawn diagrams).
Leafing through the models, I had the sense that I was meeting a fairly new designer with old design sensibilities, but it took a little longer to work out what my eye had picked up that my brain hadn’t caught onto yet - their backs!
Most older animal designs had open backs, a by-product of following traditional bases with fixed flap length that invariably get folded in half at some point in the process to produce a symmetrical animal. More recent designs opt for a closed back in their designs, eschewing the flatter 2D look for the ability to shape the body into a three dimensional form (much like many of the more complex animals I have featured in past entries).
bad news bear
It feels a tad weird to suggest ‘old’ designs in a modern context, but when origami design hit its renaissance period in the 1970s, technique development has been exponential. And with technicality has come distillation and refinement.
Is it a ‘bad’ design? Of course not, but the reliance on these old tropes and lack of elegance in the folding sequence certainly doesn’t give me the same satisfaction when folding. It lacks the divine in the ordinary.
Thanks for reading.
- [+] Dice rolls
26 Dec 2021
A shorter post this week, I’ve just returned from visiting family at the coast for Christmas, the first visit all together for a couple of years because of you-know-what. I am tired but grateful for a couple of days of laughter, backyard cricket and card games, but let’s start at the very beginning…
Christmas started with a simple brekkie:
ricotta, mango, pomegranate and fruit toast with a drizzle of honey
and some wonderful gift-giving where my daughter surprised us with anniversary editions of a couple of family favourites:
Next we all work together to prepare our traditional Christmas meal (with obligatory dance-party):
Then jumped into the car to drive a couple of hrs to the coast, relishing that first swim in the ocean before anything else.
Happy holidays all, take care of yourself and your families and enjoy your ‘gifts’ in whatever form they take.
a kusudama, for good health
Thanks for reading.
- [+] Dice rolls
19 Dec 2021
Ah the days are so long! Without the distraction of work I can fit in a jog, some laps at the pool, a visit to bi-annual book fair, some gardening between rainfall and a game night. I finished up on Wednesday at school, rescued this little cicada from the classroom before I locked it up, and walked into a realm of possibilities that are the Christmas holidays.
a wee baby
Game group has been letting the Advent Challenge categories dictate our gaming choices. This time it was ‘back-stabbing games’
On Friday night all the games had a little ‘take-that’ flavour, though first up was a game that has actual back-stabbing - Royals.
Royals is area control and set-collection, Ticket to Ride with knives. Over three rounds you go from playing nice and grabbing nobles in different areas/countries, then start plotting to assassinate your opponent’s nobles and replacing them with your own, all the while fighting for majority in both countries and nobles. Is one of Fee’s absolute favourites, I love it too, Sos is more tepid, but it is a fun and quick game that doesn’t outstay its welcome.
a tie for first - so I’m the only loser?
Next was Animal Kingdoms, another majority battle with lots of crucial timing choices as going out ‘early’ can earn you the deciding points in a win. There is also a simple battle system to determine who wins a tie for majorities. The game is really fast once you are familiar with the mechanics, with players laying down cards on the different areas yet trying to leave the final space in each area as by taking it you are also exiting the round.
As I was packing it up I also noticed it had a solo option, I hope to get to that soon.
Last two games were Batman Love Letter and Startups. Batman Love Letter was a gift for Sos, Fee had picked him up a second-hand copy. It’s major change to the formula is that you can get Batman tokens for correctly identifying and eliminating other players (Batman is the No. 1 card) as well as being the round winner. As a result the win objective is increased to 7 tokens.
I thought the thematic tie worked really well, Batman is knocking out the baddies and scoring extra points, Robin ‘protects’ as No. 4 but doesn’t earn Batman extra points if correctly identified etc.
We also had a hoot mispronouncing “I’m Batman” every time we played the card, the result of listening to a skit comedy sketch earlier by The Listies.
Startups is getting really clever and tactical, I am thoroughly enjoying our repeated plays. The scores were 17,18,19 and the decisions are super-tight. My favourite move this game was playing a card to the centre, which means each subsequent player has to pay to pass ala No Thanks, then picking the card back up after a complete round and pocketing the earnings. Fee was so indignant!…then pulled the exact same move two turns later.
EMT - the pachy-friendly way
Two other games worth mentioning that I got to table, Maeshowe: The Orkney Saga and Regicide.
On first play Maeshowe makes you feel powerful and in control. Four Excavate Passage cards in a row - easy! Same colour for double clearing - sure! Each time you are playing a card and discarding a card, all the while wondering if that heart or food card discarded is going to bite you in the arse down the track when you trying for a streak of rubble-clearing goodness. But you win! And with two same coloured streaks you realised you could have beaten the game on ‘normal’ instead of ‘easy’ and feel pretty chuffed…and then you realise this is the vanilla baby’s-first training wheels training version of the game, and the real sense of survival, the real game in fact is waiting in the those expansion cards (which aren’t really expansion cards, they were just removed to sucker you into the pride before the fall).
Regicide doesn’t bother with training wheels, it just beats you harder and harder until you arrive bloody at the feet of the first King (card) and realise you have no way of surviving even a single round. But don’t trust me, grab a set of regular playing cards and the rules and just go for it. This is more accessible than a pnp, fabulous as a solo and destined to prove to me that I am not as smart as I thought when solving puzzles.
couple of jokers...
See, this is what happens when I practise abstinence! I did some spending this last week, or prior spending came to fruition. Either way, I felt a bit overwhelmed with the number of new titles that came through the door.
Maquis and CoraQuest arrived from Kickstarter, full of possibilities and stories. I just love the conceit of Coraquest, dad and daughter working on a dungeon crawler together during lock-down and then out-sourcing all of the art to children around the world. Regardless of what I think once played, I will happily support the existence of such a project.
Retail-wise I picked up Railroad Ink Lush Green, the Legendary Champions expansion and a couple of Exit games.
The second-hand market has some great things available at the moment as people start clearing shelves prior to Christmas. I bought Hit Z Road and Claim 1&2, the first because those aesthetics are so stunning and clever, and the latter because Alex really talked it up on his blog Browsing Games.
I mentioned the Lifeline book fair earlier in my post, it is clearly great for books (it’s in the name!) but there is a growing second-hand board game market hiding among the tomes. Someone must have tipped them off that they were selling games far too cheaply because the prices were triple the usual asking, but the bonus was that they decided to ‘hide’ a bunch of the good stuff among the sci-fi and fantasy books. I have never seen so much good stuff! I picked up Clockwork Wars with the Sentience expansion, and Battlelore 1st ed. with the Call to Arms expansion for $15 each (thats about a buck twenty five for those trying to do the conversion).
Finally, I got a few free (box damaged) games from an anonymous donor - MicroMacro Crime City, Brass Birmingham and Marvel Champions: Mad Titan’s Shadow. Holy Moly! I passed Brass (amazing game!) onto a fellow gamer as that one is already in Sos’s library, but the others were serendipitously perfect.
I was lucky enough to find a copy of Paper Animals by Robert Lang at the book fair. This was the first origami book that taught me that origami could be more complex than the paper crane, so much so that I couldn’t complete the models towards the end of the book!
curse you lion, you stumped me for years
Robert Lang has a real soft spot for this book, he often cites it as his favourite publication despite many other books to his name with infinitely more complex content. It doesn’t help that this is the only Lang book that has ever gone out of print. In fact I found my original copy in a remainder sale about 19 years ago, wish I’d bought more copies so I could gift them now.
I always liked this model, it emphasises certain details of the Ibex to convey the ‘feel’ of the subject matter without being overly complex.
Ibex you got it right
Lastly, a big thank you to the kind and generous individual who nominated me for a geek citizenship badge. So humbling and touching, I feel pretty darn special.
Thanks for reading.
- [+] Dice rolls
12 Dec 2021
My last week of teaching for the year, and it was full of farewells. On Monday night I was invited to the Yr 10 Graduation Dinner for my previous class cohort. After teaching many of them for seven years (Steiner School) it is in a large part like reuniting with family, and I am very proud of the young adults that carried themselves so beautifully on the night.
I also said goodbye to a couple of students from my current class, and I was reminded how intertwined endings and beginnings become in life, two sides of the same coin. As a big ole’ phlegmatic though, I am not a fan of change despite its inevitability.
Speaking of change, they have installed a Muttaburrasaurus skeleton in the foyer of the National Museum, our local dinosaur with a name that couldn't sound more Aussie.
Merry Christmas Muttaburra!
I have played a game each day as part of the 2021 Advent Challenge, it is exactly the kind of challenge that suits my nature. I don’t like declaring what I will play and then working towards that goal - 10x10 challenges for example just feel like stressful work - but matching games to categories provides me the right kind of flexibility and enjoyment. You can see all my entries over here:
On Friday night we played Red Cathedral, and from here on out if the gaming industry could provide this much ‘game’ in such a small box I could reclaim half my storage space!
Red Cathedral obviously needs a bunch of plays to get a rounded sense, but my hot take is that is a tense little race game full of area control wrestles and opportunistic resource collection. So in other words Sos and Fee killed it and I chased along behind. The game is quite transparent and quick, so you can easily see how badly you are doing at any given point. The point system is fascinating - there are two tiers, one that counts points normally and the other hops five points at a time, then four, then three…until eventually at the higher scores the two systems align 1:1. While you predominantly score points on then’ slow’ track, your end score is based on the ‘fast’ track, and there are some nifty things you can do to gain or give up points on the fast track to gain benefits or resources.
Despite coming third I could have happily reset the game and played again and want to try the solo mode. Instead we played The Crew.
tis the seasons
Only three missions this time, we blitzed through the ‘win with ones’ that plagued last session, sailed through the next two and then got stuck again. I have decided to forgo flavour text completely, and it was a decision met with relief rather than disappointment. Let’s just stick to the puzzles.
We have passed the halfway mark in the number of missions, though poses a unique quandary for the stats minded like myself - do I count every play? Session? The whole thing as just one? Hmmm…
win with a one!
I was invited to Wade’s house to christen his new gaming table today, though I could only stay for a few hours. We played three games, two new to me, and despite good company and fun I can’t say I enjoyed any of them for various reasons.
Bang! The Dice Game has always suffered from being too random. Perhaps it is only suited to the really high play counts because with four people you can be wiped out in three lucky rolls, and with the sheriff it is an obvious target for every other player. My students always loved it on camp, but again it might be the high number count.
The other two were Incan Gold and Flick ‘em Up. They both suffered the same problem - too much administration that got in the way of the fun. In Incan Gold I just want to keep flipping cards until I win or bust, but waiting for everyone to select their ‘in’ or ‘out’ card disrupted any tension you would normally feel from pushing your luck.
Flick ‘em Up was the same, constant interruptions to flip hats and check play order dampened all enthusiasm I had for wanting to ping ping those bullets across the table. Despite how amazing this game looks on the table, a good ole game of marbles would be more fun.
Two new book purchases arrived at the beginning of December (in ebook form at least), Comic Origami and Nativity.
Comic Origami by Li Jiahui takes a novel approach to design, creating ‘cartoon' versions of animals:
Whilst the Nativity by Peter Buchan-Symons recreates the iconic scene in two levels of difficulty/realism:
Thanks for reading.
- [+] Dice rolls
05 Dec 2021
Bread-making! We spent some time in the kitchen this week at school, here is the best kind of ‘screen time’ - watching dough rise and brown.
Our theme is ‘working in the world’, and these practical and useful activities help us remember to trust ourselves in uncertain times.
On Friday night we played Gugong, Living Forest and Railroad Ink.
In an effort to play games twice before the rules drain away from our brains, Gugong hit the table again. As we are spoilt for choice for gaming these days and can often flit from experience to experience, taking the time to bed down a set of rules dramatically changes the tone of the table. Players are actively trying strategies and setting goals rather than pushing buttons and pulling levers.
I knew we were playing at a different level when all three of us spied the most useful ongoing power to claim before round one and it was a fight to get it (I lost). Gugong is an interesting efficiency game, four cards in hand means four turns, but those turns aren’t guaranteed as you need higher numbered cards than those on the board AND workers available to spend/use. I got myself in a pickle very early on and feared I would effectively be ‘out’ for the rest of the game, but although it cost me precious turns I could navigate a return to functionality and was able to keep going. I didn’t make it to the fabled ‘other side’ of the score-track (Sos and Fee both did), but I had fun building walls and travelling the countryside nonetheless.
Another second-run with Living Forest, Sos is convinced the ‘tree strategy’ is too powerful and instead decided to chase the lotus win. It seems the most difficult of the the three as it is dependent on the cards available AND laying them out in a run without busting.
I managed a win with 12 lotuses one round before Fee was about to claim a tree victory.
Sos is still not convinced however, he wants to focus on trees for our third play and see if he can beat us again.
the spirits of the seasons
Lastly we played Railway Ink: Deep Blue Edition, including the lake dice. It has been years since I played the physical version, though I have enjoyed it online a few times. It is a puzzle for sure and can induce a fair amount of AP. Pro tip: get good sharpies, the ones supplied are sub-par and make lines look more like Rorschach blots rather than roads and rails. This game also satisfied the Advent Challenge of the day, but more of that to follow.
It is the Advent Challenge time of year again! I have been participating in this challenge for a number of years now, it is a great way to build up to the holidays. There is a theme challenge set each day, you find a game to match and play and then post about the experience.
Many of the same ‘faces’ turn up each year, so it becomes quite a social experience as you catch up with relative strangers and vicariously enjoy a snippet of their lives - much like many family gatherings. I love it!
Maeshowe: An Orkney Saga turned up this week ready for some solo goodness. I am really enjoying the play reports I have read to date, the art is great too.
Returning to the lion this week, I finally completed this 250+ step beast. Many hours have been sunk into the model, but it was utterly captivating as a folding sequence.
we're both proud
As an extra, here is a tiny Yule Goat. The first gaming challenge for Advent mentioned this Christmas character of Northern Europe, and I was instantly intrigued. The goat model is from the late Peter Paul Forcher, a German designer with a strong sense of mathematics and geometry.
Thanks for reading.
- [+] Dice rolls
28 Nov 2021
One of my ex-students came to see me on Friday morning to say farewell, she is changing schools for Year 11 & 12. Jay only joined my class in Year 7, but she made a real connection with the curriculum and my approach to teaching. Ever since Jay has been a regular helper with my new class and enjoyed the simpler world and positivity that can come from working with younger children. It has been a soothing balm to the rocky experience of teen years. When she left I found these lovely paintings on my desk. All the best Jay.
Whooeee what a weekend of gaming! As well as Friday night Sos, Fee and I got together for our annual MFS Unplugged gaming day on Saturday. Let’s just say there is a lot to talk about!
We played catch-up on Friday night, games that had slipped off the playlist of previous Fridays usually because of time. First we dived into The Quest for El Dorado: Golden Temples, then Wyatt Earp, and finished the night with a few sessions of The Crew.
Golden Temples is a stand-alone game/expansion to Quest for El Dorado. Rather than all starting n the same place and racing for the finish line, you instead have to visit three temples to collect jewels and then return home. A market of cards and deck-building/pruning gives you both money and movement points through different terrains - grass, water, sand, and in this game a new terrain inside the temple needing torch icons.
Suddenly you have a lot more choice in direction in this game, so blocking is less of a strategy unless you happen to chose the same temple as another player at the same time. There are also temples, where if you end your card’s movement next to one will benefit the other players (like trashing cards).
The game feels more open and random giving the illusion that you are ‘in the race’ for longer, as opposed to the original where the game is clearly over if one player streaks ahead, but I did miss the opportunities to block and mess with my opponent’s plans.
Wyatt Earp is part of the Mystery Rummy series despite not sharing the nomenclature and is possibly my favourite version. As deputies you are collecting evidence on the outlaws (melds), and building the reward amounts on the respective outlaw poster. Photographs and bank robberies all add ‘capture points’ and cash to each outlaw, and if one deputy manages to outscore their opponents by at least 5 pts, they collect the whole reward. Otherwise it is split between players with an investment in that outlaw.
Two things hold this game back for me, the book-keeping required to constantly remember to add money to outlaws as they are played (the game almost warrants a banker) and the colour palette. Three of the outlaw cards are shades of brown…
Finally we got to The Crew after quite a hiatus. The first two missions were a breeze, but we got stuck on the one that requires two tricks to be won with a value 1 card. Highly situational and dependent on the distribution of cards, but fun nonetheless.
I really appreciate Sos constantly policing the chatter in our group, it makes the puzzles really difficult yet oh-so satisfying when we are successful.
Yep, that’s a made-up name of our initials that was off-handedly suggested this year, we got together Saturday ready for a day of gaming goodness. The criteria is that the game needs to be published this year or last and perhaps featured at Essen this year. The other criteria is that criteria aren’t super important. We each volunteer to learn the rules of a game or two prior to the day.
First up was Living Forest, a very beautiful race game that can end once one of three conditions care met - 12 unique trees, 12 lotus flowers or 12 flame tokens. It involves deck-building with zero hand-limit, you simply keep playing cards in a sequence until you decided to stop (earning you two actions) or you bust (restricting you to one action). Fire looked to be a run-away strategy at first, but is also easier to mitigate and block each others’ collection of tokens. Trees on the other hand, hmmm…we all agreed that we can’t wait to play it again (next Friday in fact), and I am really hoping to discover the play becomes dynamic and tactical with our increased familiarity.
my highland goat-e-oat-e-oat
Hansa Teutonica Big Box was next, a game that only recently hit Australian shores. The maps have a strong Thurn & Taxis vibe with their beige tones, but holy moly this game is a crazy beast. Build tracks, block others, lift entire sets of cubes and relocate them to the other side of the map, unlock abilities. Phew. This game made me feel pretty useless actually, Sos and Fee just zipped all over the board and I kept missing opportunities to follow suit.
Afterwards I realised that I had missed the point, the game is so open that you can easily pivot in your strategy and pursue other options. Are your opponents fighting over a particular power unlock? Drop a cube there to mess with their plans and then go and establish trade routes instead. See that they are heading for a track connection? Race ahead and fill the trading house with your own cubes so they are forced to take the long route or upgrade their privilegium.
So while I really didn’t enjoy this experience I loved the game for what it offers and I am looking forward to more plays (and despite my whining I came in second).
After a lovely lunch together we played Furnace. This one fell flat for me. I loved the auction mechanic, where you play your bidding tokens (value 1-4) one at a time. Majority wins the card for your engine, but there is a compensatory resource or conversion option for the unsuccessful bidders up to the value of their bid. So the bids are very tactical, and because they are resolved in order you can sometimes just want a card for its three iron, not for your engine per se.
Beyond that though I found the engine-running aspect of the game solitaire-fare and quite dull, and the dry puzzle of optimising your card activation order less satisfying as the number of cards increase. It didn’t wow any of us, and I have little interest to return to Furnace any time soon.
brown’s cousin - beige
Lastly was Animal Kingdoms, a bit of a ring-in. Red Cathedral was on the pile and the original list, but Sos simply ran out of time to imbibe all the rules properly, so we plan to play it in a couple of weeks. Animal Kingdoms is an area-control game played over three rounds. Each area has a different rule associated that changes every round, and you play cards from your hand that match each rule and gain you majority. At any point you can ‘withdraw’ from the round and take some secret bonus points, and ties are resolved with a simple ‘highest card wins’ action but with a looped ranking, i.e. a 1 (lowest) beats an 8 (highest).
The game is super-beautiful, and a fun tactical experience. Another highlight for the day.
*gasp* - colour!
I was pretty worried this wouldn’t show before December 1st:
Daughter-the-elder is super keen to join me on this one, looking forward to our adventure together.
Another “blame the solo top 200 list” and “can’t resist a great bargain” I purchased I snapped up a copy of Fallout on the local markets. The only problem with the game was my shock at seeing the previous owner had bundled the cards with elastic bands! Who was this monster!?!
This week I decided to revisit the works of Hideo Komatsu. Early in my folding journey I discovered this designer through a Japanese convention book. At the time these were hard to get outside of Japan. I used to buy actual US dollars (still not sure why), put them in an envelope and send the letter with my address and book request to a publishing company called Gallery Origami House - and then cross my fingers.
A couple of weeks later a book would arrive, and I would pore over the designs and diagrams. One artist constantly surprised me, not only with his unique models but with his unique sequence of folds. They were difficult, yet logical and had a beautiful flow.
This is his lion model, or at least step 100 of his lion model (with a few ‘repeat x to y steps’ thrown in). It has taken 2 hours to get this far. There are 130 more steps to completion…perhaps I bit off more than I could chew this week?
Of course I will finish and photograph the model, but for now you too can consider how this rather random shape could possibly turn into a lion. If I can do the model justice, it is definitely worth the wait.
A few years ago I got to visit Japan with my daughter, and I visited the *tiny* shop that is Gallery Origami House. It was such a highlight of the trip, and I bought their most recent book - The Collected Works of Video Komatsu!
Thanks for reading.
- [+] Dice rolls
21 Nov 2021
I am far from a green thumb, particularly with indoor plants, but we have two specimens that seem to love our neglect. In particular there is a palm in the kitchen, and has done so well that it had become an expedition just to get to the sink. We engaged in some fancy repotting shenanigans, and I can now step under the forest and enjoy its green dappled shade rather than getting a mouthful of frond if I turn too quickly.
where’s my machete…
On Friday I emerged from quarantine and we got to play in-person again, including Caverna and Dealt!
Caverna has been a mixed bag for me to date. I thought it a watered down shadow of Agricola on my first play, but managed to put aside the comparisons and enjoy my second play. Third play and I was back to finding it overlong lacking tension for what it offered.
Yet the mixed experience means it is still in the collection, and I thought the Forgotten Folk might offer some interesting directions game-wise.
I played the humans, who can effectively ignore the cave excavation and just (over)farm the land, Sos took the Dark Elves and played a very balanced game with some gem mining, and Fee played the Silicoids and munched her way through rocks instead of food.
I was particularly keen to enjoy the story this play, and really invested in breeding and collecting an overwhelming number of donkeys as well as harvesting mountains of wheat and veggies. I also never took the family growth, so played with two workers for the entire game while Fee and Sos had full houses.
I always knew I was going to come last, but surprisingly I ended up within 10 points of the winner, and more than that I thoroughly enjoyed crafting a personalised story in my time with Caverna.
I have talked about Dealt! many a time, this session was equally tense and fun and full of table-talk. Given the number of new games constantly vying for our attention, and the subsequent first plays full of questions and doubts as you wrestle with the various ingredients, these internalised gems offer pure fun. Rae actively avoids learning new games, and in these moments I can fully appreciate why.
It was a late night in the end, but we spent some time deciding what will be included in our MFS Unplugged. A few years back we enjoyed attending a local Essen event, where you had access to the new hotness - so new you were often removing shrink and punching components.
For obvious reasons the event has struggled recently, so last year the three of us decided to create our own event. We each buy a couple of recent games, then clear a Sunday to be together and play our way through them. So far there is Hansa Teutonica Big Box, Red Cathedral, Living Forest and Animal Kingdoms.
I got to play Patchwork and Circle the Wagons with their respective solo options.
I know I can play Patchwork as an app, and on BGA, but I do love the tactile pieces in this game so I wasn keen to try the automa. It does a great job simulating an opponent, and lost by a lot, but they are two positives as far as I’m concerned and I am keen to try the alternate deck as well.
Circle the Wagons offers such a simple conceit, but I find it very difficult to beat the ‘opponent’. After four games on two different Lone Cowboy scenarios I managed one win by one point. *air punch*
Brook City continues to haunt me, I have noodled around the manual on and off and even started a video play-through, but I am yet to play. I am not suggesting it is a difficult game, I am unfortunately being stalled by something much more rudimentary - space. In a house of four with varying demands space is a premium, and in recent weeks I cannot seem to score the table for any length of time - oh the humanity! I feel like a Bond villain scheming in the corner, coming up with various plans to seize control…
I was pretty joyful last night, Rae agreed to play one game with me, and proceeded to crush me in Azul. After playing on BGA I discovered a rule I had wrong that of course changes everything. I thought you couldn’t have the same colour in different lines in the same round…yeah I know, suddenly scoring 10 pts for all of one colour is easily achievable rather than impossible as I originally assumed. Does anyone else have this experience, labouring under false pretences rule-wise in a particular game?
all the tiles
No purchases this week, AND I sold a few games to boot…so already part of my mind is thinking I deserve a reward and reaching for my Amazon wish-list. Resist!
Flowers are super-common in origami - houseplants, not so much. There are designers who specialise in flowers and plants, and some who create astonishing arrangements to look like potted plants. Here is one of my future projects by Isamu Asahi, published in an old origami magazine series called Oru
And a much simpler style can be seen in this small cactus plant designed by Gay Merrill Gross
needs even less water
Thanks for reading.
- [+] Dice rolls