Trumps, sheep, and old dice

P.D. Magnus' ruminations on gaming, along with shrill promotion of his own designs.

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Changing of the guard

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Cristyn and I have had several games that we played a lot: games that became our default game to play, that we'd play several times in a session.

The first of these was Dominion, shortly after it came out. We bought Intrigue, but didn't pick up expansions after that.

At some point, we got Race for the Galaxy and stopped playing Dominion. Race had the advantage that there wasn't as much setup for each game, so we could easily play three hands at a sitting.

Later, it was Sentinels of the Multiverse. We started using it as a laundry day game. One game of Sentinels took about as long as a load of laundry, so it filled the dead time in between sorting and served as a kind of timer.

Then we got Spirit Island, which has been our laundry day game pretty much ever since.

Evidence for this progression is my list of most-played games. Spirit Island has nearly caught up to Race for the Galaxy, but it has half as many plays as Sentinels.

Here's the current stats...

Sentinels of the Multiverse: 694 plays
Race for the Galaxy: 352 plays
Spirit Island: 348 plays
Dominion: 259 plays

Other games which we played a ton for a while include Escape: The Curse of the Temple and Altiplano, although we didn't play those to the same extent.
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Mon Sep 21, 2020 12:17 am
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Decktet rankings as of mid-2020

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It's been about a year since I posted current prestige ratings for Decktet games. The only change in the top 20 is that Carvan got a few extra ratings and crept past Colour Bazaar to claim #20.

* * * begin output * * *
game raw rtgs prtg
0 Decktet 7.4 482 46.1
1 Magnate 7.2 200 38.5
2 Emu Ranchers 6.4 100 29.8
3 Jacynth 6.6 74 28.4
4 Adaman 5.9 99 27.5
5 Goblin Market 6.7 44 25.5
6 Quincunx 6.8 39 25.1
7 Bharg 6.0 63 25.0
8 Thricewise 6.6 28 22.2
9 Myrmex 7.4 18 21.3
10 Gongor Whist 6.2 31 21.3
11 Bisque 7.2 17 20.4
12 Quäsenbö 6.1 25 19.8
13 Dectana 7.4 14 19.6
14 Biscuit 6.5 17 18.4
15 Oh Quay 6.4 17 18.2
16 Ace Trump 6.6 14 17.5
17 Frogger 6.8 12 17.0
18 Double Knot 7.0 11 17.0
19 Hermit 6.4 14 16.9
20 Caravan 5.7 17 16.3
* * * end output * * *


The number of logged plays has crept up, but the order is mostly the same. The only change in the top 20 is Myrmex moving up one spot.

* * * begin output * * *
game plays
1 Decktet 2052
2 Adaman 1865
3 Magnate 1804
4 Emu Ranchers 612
5 Myrmex 610
6 Bharg 575
7 Jacynth 547
8 Quäsenbö 384
9 Quincunx 231
10 Oh Quay 188
11 Gongor Whist 181
12 Thricewise 166
13 Goblin Market 143
14 Window 133
15 Biscuit 129
16 Hermit 88
17 Second Story 84
18 Head Solitaire 82
19 Fifth Challenge 70
20 Ivory Tower 68
* * * end output * * *
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Sat Jun 6, 2020 6:32 pm
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Oberon's Pucks: pnp faerie hockey card game

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Quote:
Some foolish yokels think that faeries are timeless, changeless creatures. One can easily find proof to the contrary. Consider, for instance, the fae fascination with hockey. King Oberon observed hockey being played for the first time in December 1873. He wandered for a time before returning behind the veil that separates his world from ours.

That Summer— July or perhaps August 1874— he called together a troop of his kinsmen and had them play this new human game. They played for an endless afternoon, and when they were done they sat down in the failing sunlight. "The puck was too small," a hob insisted, seating himself on a rock. "We're used to a much bigger Puck here."

"No no no!" yelped a pixie, dodging so as not to be sat on. "The puck was too big."

"I don't know about the size," said a nymph. "I just know there was too few of it."

By September 1874, Oberon codified the rules of Faerie Hockey. It is tempting to think that the annual Seelie/Unseelie tournament must have happened since the dawn of time, but it can't have. Faeries change, and hockey proves it.
Oberon's Pucks is a quick playing two-player card game about a hockey tournament between rival courts of faeries.

I originally designed the game and drew all the line art in 2003, before the Decktet. I remember playing game after game of it in a laundromat in Maine. Fun times.

I dangled it in front of a few publishers. None bit, and I got distracted by other things. I pulled it out again in 2015 and made some small changes. Then, back in a box.

Now I'm offering it as a print-and-play game, because it seems like time. Printing and playing are two things we can still do.

Download the print-and-play file

There are 12 pages of cards, illustrated in glorious colour. You could print them in black and white to save on printing costs, and the game would work just fine.

If you make a build of it, post a picture!

EDIT TO ADD: And now it's in the BGG database.
Board Game: Oberon's Pucks
Board Game: Oberon's Pucks
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Sat Apr 11, 2020 1:02 am
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Questing Nonesuch

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Cooperative trick-taking games have recently become a thing; see The Crew and The Fox in the Forest Duet.

I have in my notes rules for a cooperative Decktet trick-taking game. It's totally untested, and there are definitely some points at which the design could work differently. Comments are welcome-- what do you think?

Questing Nonesuch
a coop trick-taker for 3-4 players

You are your companions are silent adventuring monks, embarking on epic adventures to bring glory to your order. Vanquish enough foes and gather enough treasure, you'll be celebrated in tale and song. Fail enough, and little kids will throw rotten vegetables at you.

Prepare a scoresheet with three lines, each with three check boxes, like so--

blank blank blank Big Hero
blank blank blank Hidden Dragon
blank blank blank Relic Fragments

Put the Excuse in front of a random player; that player is the Party Leader for the first hand.

Shuffle the basic deck. Deal one card per player face-up to the middle of the table, and evenly deal the remaining cards face-down to players.

You may not communicate about the cards in your hand, about what you plan to do, or about what you think other people should be doing. (Depending on how it works in actual play, this could be relaxed. Maybe broad plans can be discussed? In any case, you can't say what's in your hand.)

Without input from the other players, the Party Leader declares which of the three quests will be attempted this hand. They then give each player one of the face up cards from the middle of the table; these cards are added to players' hands.

The Leader picks a trump suit from the suits on the card that they take for themself. (If the quest is Treasure Vault, the card that the Leader takes for themself will also play into whether the quest succeeds.)

The Party Leader leads the first trick. Card play follows the standard rules for Nonesuch. (link: Nonesuch at the Decktet wiki)

If the Leader selected Big Hero, one player must take most of the tricks. The quest fails if any other player takes more than one trick. Note that the Leader who decides does not need to declare who the big hero will be; the quest succeeds if anyone meets the condition at the end of the hand.

If the Leader selected Hidden Dragon, one players must take no tricks. If more than one players takes zero tricks or if every player takes at least one trick, then the quest fails.

If the Leader selected Relic Fragments, one player must win tricks containing the card which the Leader took for their own hand and all of the other cards of the same rank.

If the party succeeds at the quest, check off up to two boxes on that line.

If the party fails at the quest, X out one box on that line.

If there are six or more checked boxes in total, the players win: The party brings fame and fortune to the order. If there are four Xes, the players lose: The party disbands in ignominy. Otherwise, pass the Excuse clockwise around the table and play another hand.

If all of the boxes on a line have been filled in (either checked or Xed out) then that quest cannot be selected again.
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Wed Mar 25, 2020 8:25 pm
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Game plays in 2019

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445 plays of 84 different games last year. That's less than 2018, but more than 2017.

Here's the list of everything I played five or more times.

Spirit Island x119 (252 all-time)
Still enjoying this as a laundry-day game. Looking forward to the expansion.

Sentinels of the Multiverse x48 (688 all-time)
It's fallen into being the second-string laundry-day game. Because of very late Kickstarter campaigns, I guess there's still more content for this on the way.

Unpublished Prototype x25 (304 all-time)
Various prototypes and experiments.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King x16 (54 all-time)
I still don't feel like I've played this out. Always a good time.

Tiny Towns x13 NEW!
Second Story x12 (50 all-time)
Decktet x9 (240 all-time)
There was a while when John, Chris, and I were getting together for weekly Decktet nights. Some of the games are ones that I haven't played in a while, and they've held up well.

Five Tribes x9 (31 all-time)
This is my favourite game that I don't own.

Perudo x9 (46 all-time)
Sluff Off! x9 (58 all-time)
Cardline: Globetrotter x8 (52 all-time)

Draftosaurus x8 NEW!
I added origami boxes (so you don't have to hold all the pieces in your hand) and invented a variant. Together, these small changes take it from good to great. Tied with Tonari for best new-to-me game of the year.

Kingdom Builder x8 (146 all-time)
The Mind x7 (23 all-time)
Sorcerous Futures x6 (14 all-time)
Chicane x5 (17 all-time)

Modern Art x5 (20 all-time)
Starting bringing this old classic along on friday nights. I've learned some new strategies, too.

No Thanks! x5 (51 all-time)

Tonari x5 NEW!
Less chaotic than I expect from a Bruno Faidutti game, but subtle and fun.
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Wed Jan 8, 2020 12:18 am
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More Decktet stats

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More trivial numbers!

I posted recently about the prestige ranking of Decktet games. That was easy to compile using the BGG API. My old Perl scripts also used to tabulate the number of logged plays for each game, but that's not readily available in the XML files.

With a little extra jiggery-pokery, I now have a Python script which loads a bunch of web pages to find the relevant information. The output for every game with at least one logged play is below.

At a glance, the ordering looks a lot like the prestige ranking. Solo games tend to be a bit higher. That seems natural enough. I suspect if I dug in and looked at the number of distinct players who logged plays, solitaire games wouldn't get as much of a bump.

There are some games which are in the top 20 by prestige but not by plays: Dectana, Frogger, Double Knot, and Colour Bazaar. I don't know what to make of that. Surely there are people who rank games but don't log plays, and there are probably a few who log plays but don't rank games. Maybe that interacts with particular types of games?

* * * begin output * * *
game plays
1 Decktet 1979
2 Adaman 1784
3 Magnate 1705
4 Myrmex 606
5 Emu Ranchers 602
6 Bharg 569
7 Jacynth 532
8 Quäsenbö 380
9 Quincunx 216
10 Oh Quay 188
11 Gongor Whist 181
12 Thricewise 165
13 Goblin Market 141
14 Window 133
15 Biscuit 129
16 Hermit 88
17 Head Solitaire 82
18 Second Story 81
19 Fifth Challenge 70
20 Ivory Tower 68
21 Aucteraden 65
22 Nonesuch 61
23 Blulu 58
24 Dectana 53
25 Gasp! 52
26 Bisque 45
27 Solo Hex 43
28 Chancellors 39
29 Chicane 39
30 Colour Bazaar 38
31 Frogger 38
32 Caravan 32
33 Double Knot 32
34 Ascend 31
35 Shed 28
36 Ace Trump 27
37 Wyvern Pass Not 26
38 Emissary: The.. 23
39 Tinker, Sailo.. 22
40 Suzerain 21
41 Terrapin 21
42 Dueling Runes 20
43 Fifes & Drums 19
44 Beluga Cup 18
45 Varg Bid 18
46 Corundum Conu.. 17
47 If Badger was.. 16
48 The Wall 16
49 Snakebit 15
50 Sorcerous Fut.. 15
51 Monster Day 13
52 Hexaract 12
53 Pauntel's Got.. 12
54 Pepper. Corn! 12
55 Centrifuge 11
56 Boojum 10
57 The Four Courts 10
58 The Young Que.. 10
59 The Curious C.. 8
60 Old Janx Spirit 8
61 Turtle Soup 8
62 Kingpins 7
63 Revelation 7
64 Ruta 7
65 Brigand Kings 4
66 Jigger 4
67 Ransom Trump 3
68 Election Day 2
69 Mountebank 1
70 Reino de Ambar 1
71 Ziggurat Demo.. 1
* * * end output * * *
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Tue Jun 25, 2019 5:57 pm
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Carousel Nonesuch

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Here's a Nonesuch variant, which has been tried once.

Comments are welcome.

caravan

Shuffle the basic deck and the Excuse. Each player needs a pawn, meeple, or counter to serve as their scoring piece.

Deal cards face up in the middle of the table until there are several different ranks: four cards in a three-player game, five cards in a four-player game. If you deal out the Excuse or a card that matches rank with a card already on the table, set it aside and shuffle it back into the deck after you have dealt four cards.

Arrange the four cards in a circle, in the order that they were dealt.

The player who has the Excuse reveals it and exchanges it for the lowest-ranked face-up card. If the card that the player takes is an Ace, then the suit of that Ace is trump for this hand. If the card is a number rank card, then the player picks one of its two suits to be trump.

The face-up cards form the carousel. All the scoring piece start on the Excuse. You advance your piece around the carousel each time you win a trick, and your score for the hand is the rank of the card that your piece occupies when the hand ends.

Game play follows the regular rules for Nonesuch.

After the last trick, each player scores points based on the rank of the carousel card that their piece occupies: the Excuse scores zero, a number card scores its rank, and a Crown scores ten.

If any player has cumulative score of 33 points or more, the game ends and the player with the highest score wins. Otherwise, play another hand.
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Fri Jun 14, 2019 10:35 pm
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Decktet prestige rankings

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Long ago, I reported the Decktet family prestige rankings. The Perl script I used stopped working, and it wasn't worth tallying by hand.

Today, I bodged together a Python script which plays with the newer API. Here are the top 20 as of today, with the Decktet itself for comparison:

* * * begin output * * *
game raw rtgs prtg
0 Decktet 7.5 464 46.0
1 Magnate 7.2 198 38.5
2 Emu Ranchers 6.5 97 30.0
3 Jacynth 6.6 69 28.0
4 Adaman 6.0 98 27.6
5 Goblin Market 6.7 42 25.1
6 Quincunx 6.9 38 25.1
7 Bharg 6.0 63 25.0
8 Thricewise 6.6 27 22.0
9 Myrmex 7.4 18 21.3
10 Gongor Whist 6.1 29 20.8
11 Bisque 7.1 18 20.6
12 Quäsenbö 6.2 25 20.1
13 Dectana 7.5 13 19.4
14 Biscuit 6.5 17 18.4
15 Oh Quay 6.5 17 18.4
16 Ace Trump 6.6 14 17.5
17 Frogger 6.8 12 17.0
18 Double Knot 7.0 11 17.0
19 Hermit 6.4 14 16.9
20 Colour Bazaar 6.6 12 16.4
* * * end output * * *


Despite being more than six years since I last tabulated the prestige rankings, the top 20 hasn't changed much. There's been some movement up and down, but most of the Decktet games which were in the top 20 back then still are.

Bisque, Dectana, and Double Knot have moved into the top 20.

Caravan, Ascend, and Varg Bid have all been nudged out. They're now at 21, 24, and 30 in the rankings (respectively).

meeple Looking back further, it's been about nine years since the first time I calculated prestige rankings.

All I recorded back then were the top 8, and today's top 8 is almost the same. The only game to have moved out is Varg Bid. Goblin Market has moved in.
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Thu Jun 13, 2019 2:59 am
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Wildcat Chicane

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John, Chris, and I have been met up several times recently for a Decktet games night. Tonight we tried this new Chicane variant.

Rather than having BOTTOM or TOP called for the whole hand, each player makes a separate call. This makes the card play kind of mind boggling. The suit of each number-rank card will depend on whether the person holding it called BOTTOM or TOP, which means that the number of cards in each suit will depend on who has which cards.

SETUP

Shuffle the Aces and Crowns. Deal them out evenly among the players.

Shuffle the number-rank cards. Deal them out.

You may look at all of the cards that you were dealt. Select an Ace or Crown to be your ruling card.

If your ruling card is an Ace, then you will play BOTTOM (that is, the suit for number cards from your hand will be the bottom of the two suits). If your ruling card is a Crown, you will play TOP (that is, the suit for your number cards will be the top of the two suits).

Example: Suppose you have the 8 WYRMS-KNOTS. If your ruling card is a Crown, it's a WYRM. If your ruling card is an Ace, it's a KNOT.

The suit of your ruling card determines what the trump will be for you.

Players simultaneously reveal their ruling cards.

Starting with the player on the dealer's left, each player bids the number of tricks they think that they will be able to take. (With 3 players, there will be 11 tricks; with 4 players, 8.)

Once all players' bids have been recorded, the player who bid first selects a card from their hand to lead the first trick.

GAME PLAY

You may not lead a card of your trump suit unless you have no other suits in your hand.

After a card is led, clockwise around the table, each other player plays a card with the same suit as the card that was led. Players who have no cards of the named suit may play any card from their hand. (Remember that the suit of a number card is determined by a player's own ruling card, regardless of whether they are leading or following.)

If no trump cards were played, then the highest card that follows suit wins the trick. If any trumps were played, then the highest-ranked trump card wins the trick. (Remember that the suit which counts as trump for each player is determined by their ruling card. So a suit may be trump when played by one player but not when played by another. If two trump of the same rank are played in a trick, the one played earlier beats the one played later.)

The winner of the trick leads the next trick.

Play continues until there are no cards remaining.

SCORING

We just used the standard scoring rule from Chicane: If you win exactly the number of tricks than you bid, then you score four times your bid; if you win one trick more or less than you bid, then you score two times your bid; if they score two tricks more or less than you bid, then you score points equal to your bid.

The player on the dealer's left deals the next hand.

Play until someone reaches a target score. 40-ish, maybe?

meeple Of course, any comments are welcome.
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Fri Jun 7, 2019 5:07 am
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Expansions yay, expansions nay

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I have at least one expansion on the shelf that's still in shrink, which I bought as the second half of a buy-one-get-one deal when buying a game I really wanted, but this post is about expansions for games I love to play.

Yay

I bought Isle of Skye: Journeyman with trepidation. Nobody else in my play group had gotten a copy, and I really wanted to try it. It sounded like a hot mess, though. It takes the base Isle of Skye and adds a whole extra game on top of it, with route finding, pattern matching, and tech tracks.

The first play with the expansion was rough but fun. Further plays have been rewarding. Some others in the game group prefer Journeyman to the base game, and one guy who'd been lukewarm on Isle of Skye decided to buy it just so that he could also buy the expansion. Yes, it adds a new game on top of the original-- but the new game is also pretty fun.

Since getting Journeyman, I've also played many games with players who were new to Isle of Skye. We played the base game. Because it's a different experience, I still enjoy the base game.

I also bought the Druids expansion. It takes the core game and adds more of the same. You get more tiles. Most of the new ones have banners, so you get more scoring. It also makes it harder to block other players, so the game becomes looser.

Last week, three of us played with both expansions. To my surprise, that was also fun. So, depending on who I'm playing with, I'm happy to play with no expansions, with either, or with both. Combinatorics means that I have 4 different ways to play a game I love.

Nay

Kingdom Builder is one of my favorite games, and I own all of the expansions. Each expansion adds new boards and new goal cards. Along with the new boards come different powers and different special buildings.

The first two expansions were good. The maps in Nomads added new powers and also swapped castles for nomad camps, but the nomad camps didn't change the game too much.

The last two expansions introduce new powers on each board, new terrain types (marshes and farm lands), and new special buildings (palaces and silos). Any of the changes separately are interesting, but they all come locked together.

If you want to try the new kind of power that appears in the Marshlands, you also have to play with the maps that have marshes. Conversely, if you want to have marshes on the maps, you have to play with those powers.

If you want to play with farm lands, you have to also play with the new powers on the Harvest maps.

So I face a dilemma:
If I want to play a game that focuses on a particular element, like farm lands, then I have to play with the powers from the Harvest set and with the silos.
With a random set up, teaching the game to new players (or brushing up the rules for players who haven't played in a while) is kind of a mess. And they spend a lot of their time just getting the rules straight, rather than strategizing.

After the first play or two with the expansions, I'm not satisfied with either way of playing. The dilemma means that Kingdom Builder doesn't get to the table as much as I'd like.

They could have made the options modular. Putting base set powers on a Harvest map with castles in the special building spots would add just farm lands. With the amount of card board in the game, just a difference in graphic design would have made this possible.

The upshot

I have a love-hate relationship with expansions. The best of them allow me new ways to play a game I love in new ways. Others, not so much.
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Fri May 10, 2019 7:08 pm
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