P.D. Magnus(pmagnus)United States
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 * * *
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 * * *
P.D. Magnus' ruminations on gaming, along with shrill promotion of his own designs.
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Here's a Nonesuch variant, which has been tried once.
Comments are welcome.
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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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).
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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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.
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.
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.
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?
Of course, any comments are welcome.
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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.
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.
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.
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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In Goblin Market, you’re buying something at a particular bid may give a small fixed amount to another player. (This was inspired by a Michael Schacht game, except in Schacht's game you give your whole bid over to opponents who hold the right cards.) This infusion of Sisterhood Money is part of what keeps the economy moving.
The rule has been through multiple versions.
An early version of the game just paid out to players who held exactly the right rank of card. For example: If you bid 7, 17, or 27, then each other player gets a fixed amount for every 7-rank card they have.
With the earliest playtest group, this meant that players would always nudge their bid up by a bit to avoid a rank at which anyone would get Sisterhood Money. This meant that the rule didn't put new money into the economy. Quite the opposite, most auctions removed a coin or two more than they would have without the rule.
My fix for this was to have a kind of dragging window for payouts. For example: If you bid 7, 17, or 27, then each other player gets $3 for every 7 they have, $2 for every 6 they have, and $1 for every 5 they have.
This fixes the problem, because nudging your bid up won't totally nullify payment. In the example, nudging your bid up to 8 means a player with 7s will get a bit less rather than nothing.
This was the rule published in The Decktet Book. It worked but was fiddly and hard to remember. Nate Straight played it entirely backwards and then complained about how wonky it was.
In recent playtesting, we simplified the old rule by making it symmetrical. For example: If you bid 7, 17, or 27, then each other player gets $2 for every 6 they have, $2 for every 7 they have, and $2 for every 8 they have.
This is less fiddly and easier to remember. You can't play it backwards.
Still, smearing out the payment means that most players don't pay attention to it when bidding. This makes it effectively random. Any amount of fiddliness is too much if it's just random bonus money.
So now I'm tempted to go back to the original rule, but that will bring with it the original problems.
Here's a totally untested possibility: If you bid 7, 17, or 27, then each other player gets $3 for every 7-rank card they have (just like the original rule). If nobody has a 7, though, other players get $3 for each 6 they have. And if nobody has a 6, then other players get $3 for each 5... and so on. (If nobody has an Ace, then circle back around to Crowns.)
The upshot is that some rank always pays out with Sisterhood Money. Nudging your bid around might make a big different as to where it goes, but you can't nudge it into a void so that nobody gets money.
Thoughts? Spielbany is coming up next weekend, so maybe I'll try this out.
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I mentioned in my previous post that I've been tested revisions to Goblin Market. The playtest thread lags behind the current tests, so I'm writing this post to explain where the revisions are at.
Why change it?
Although the old Goblin Market had its fans, there were several serious problems with it.
About a third of the cards were thrown out. You could be hosed if you committed to suits that just happened to be set aside.
The game ended too early.
Some people used a double deck to fix these first two problems, but it's not a perfect solution. And I've figured out how to do it with a single deck.
Players ended up being indifferent to lots of cards. If a card had one suit you liked and one you didn't, taking it was just a break-even proposition. This drained potential tension out of many choices, especially when deciding to take one or all of the cards from a large lot.
Changes that have tested well
The deck: Shuffle the Pawns and Courts into the deck at the beginning of the game.
Determine the size of each auction by flipping over the top card of the deck and discarding it. The auction will have one card for each suit on the discarded card: if it's an Ace or Crown, one card; if it's a number-ranked card, two cards; if it's a Pawn or Court, three cards.
When the deck is exhausted the first time, shuffle the discard pile to make a new deck. When the deck is down to three or fewer cards for a second time, those cards comprise the final auction.
Goblin Money: Since the Pawns and Courts are in the deck now, they can't be used as a separate mechanism for determining income. So the new rule is that a player who passes during an auction gets one coin for each card in the auction (that is, they get coins equal to the size of the auction).
Sisterhood Money: Considering the last digit of the winning high bid, players who don't get cards from an auction earn two coins for each card they hold of the rank below, of that rank, and of the rank above. (This just simplifies the old rule.)
Scoring: At the end of the game, consider your holdings in all six suits.
For the suit you have the most of, each card is worth +1
For the suit you have the second-most of, each card is worth +2
For the suit you have the third-most of, each card is worth +3
For the suit you have the fourth-most of, each card is worth -1
For the suit you have the fifth-most of, each card is worth -2
For the suit you have the six-most of, each card is worth -3
This works best with suit chips. When you get cards, take chips corresponding to those suits. Then you can put your stacks of chips in order from most to least, pushing them around if one stack outgrows the one next to it.
Changes that are more speculative
Bid lockout: Players can't make a bid with a last digit that matches the rank of a card they own. For example: If you have a 3, then you can't bid 3, 13, 23, ...
With constrained bidding, the rule for Sisterhood Money becomes three coins for each card exactly matching the last digit of the winning high bid.
This avoids a problem which could arise depending on the group. Some players would get into bidding wars in which they'd increase the bid by 1 many times, while talking a long time to think about each little increase. The rule makes bids jump more.
Mostly it works to increase the painfulness of auctions. In our playtest, the grip of it tightens over the course of the game and the game ends before any player is totally locked out.
Zero bids: Especially with three players, there can be several auctions that nobody wants to bid on. A possible fix for this is that the first bidder (the player who won the previous auction) must bid, although they are allowed to bid zero. This would mean that every auction results in somebody getting a card.
This is totally untested, but I'll try it next time I play. I suspect that it will create more painful but funny situations. Whether it's a good idea depends on whether or not those amuse you.
How to play it now
The changes to the deck and payments have worked well. I suggest playing with those even if you like the old game. They make sure more cards are in play, streamline payment while giving everybody about the same amount of money as before, and make the game a more satisfying length.
The change to scoring has also worked well. Playtesters enjoy it. It is heavier than the old version, though, and it wouldn't work if you didn't have suit chips.
The bid lockout rule works OK. Try it if it sounds fun to you.
The zero bids rule might not be a good idea, but it won't break the game completely. Try it if you want to experiment.
If you play with any of these rules, please report back.
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I've listed my much-played games from the previous year, like you do. I recently discovered Robin Levins' GCL games-played formatting tool which did most of the work.
Spirit Island x133 NEW!
We got this over the summer, and it has become our go-to laundry day game. We can play 4-6 games on a Sunday while waiting for the washer and dryer.
It scales well, both in terms of size and in terms of difficulty. We have played two spirits each a few times, when we wanted a giant event, but mostly we play with one each on a smaller island. The different adversaries and variants provide lots of ways to change to ratchet up the difficulty.
It is an impressive design, definitely my game of the year, and something I know we'll be playing more of in 2019.
Sentinels of the Multiverse x40 (640 all-time)
We got back into playing Sentinels at the beginning of the year. Once the long-delayed Oblivaeon set finally arrived, however, we'd moved on to other things. So we've only played the Oblivaeon scenario once (a win! on New Year's Eve!) and we haven't tried any of the new environments or heroes from the set.
Unpublished Prototype x27 (279 all-time)
As always, this is a catch-all for playtesting rather than any specific game. As an index of how much better 2018 was than 2017, I had more plays of Unpublished Prototype last year than I had of any game the year before.
Scrutineyes x25 (68 all-time)
10 Days in the USA x24 (39 all-time)
Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King x20 (38 all-time)
Isle of Skye is a game I still enjoy playing, with or without expansions. It is great for game night, because it is simple enough to teach but rich enough that it rewards repeated play.
Altiplano x19 NEW!
Altiplano was our laundry day game for a while, before we got Spirit Island.
I have the expansion, but I haven't opened it yet.
Kingdom Builder x17 (138 all-time)
I always enjoy Kingdom Builder and would love to play it more often. The last two expansions are bit frustrating, though, because their complexity makes them hard to teach (especially to new players).
The Mind x16 NEW!
The Mind is surprisingly fun. It creates uncanny moments when you feel like you're on the same wave length as someone else, but it's not clear whether it was just chance.
Through the Desert x15 NEW!
This is a classic that I wanted to try, but nobody in my group owned a copy. So I bought to recent reprint, and was really happy with it. It's medium-short, and it's fun even with players who wouldn't ordinarily go in for an abstract.
Codenames: Pictures x14 (68 all-time)
Liar's Dice x14 (37 all-time)
A standard for game night, either before, after, or in between heavier fare.
High Society x10 (62 all-time)
10 Days in Europe x9 NEW!
Escape: The Curse of the Temple x9 (87 all-time)
Coloretto x8 (54 all-time)
Five Tribes x8 (22 all-time)
This is perhaps my favorite game that I don't own. Asaf regularly brings his copy to game night, though, and that's where I play it.
Kingdomino x8 (21 all-time)
I played less of this than I expected to. It may have been eclipsed by other things.
Zendo x8 (58 all-time)
Codenames Duet x6 (18 all-time)
Goblin Market x6 NEW!
This year I've been working on revised rules which take the tensions and action at the core of Goblin Market and crank them up to 11. So I've played it several times and gotten other people to play it a few more times than that.
The script flags Goblin Market as new, but it's not really. All of my old plays were before it had its own entry, so they're listed as plays of the Decktet.
Sluff Off! x6 (49 all-time)
One of the cards in my french copy (Les 7 Sceaux) got bent in a way that marks it, so I ended up buying a copy of the english language release (Sluff Off!). Regardless of the name, it's a great game. Possibly the only thing on the list that I regret not playing more in 2018.
Bärenpark x5 (6 all-time)
Glass Road x5 (10 all-time)
Some other enjoyable games that I'd think about buying, except that Asaf brings them to game night.
The games I've listed comprised almost 80% of my total plays in 2018. I played 72 other games, too, but I'm cutting the list off at ones that I played five times or more.
There were 45 games that I played only once, some with good reason and some just because there are so many games. El Grande, Mombasa, and Notre Dame (to name a few) are all things I'd happily have played more. But that would have meant playing something else less, and I've got not regrets.
2018 was a good year overall for games.
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I had planned to release the Capital Decktet before the end of October. Some people had indicated interest in giving it as a holiday gift, and I wanted to give them ample time to order it, receive it, wrap it, and give it away. Some people have holiday parties early, you know?
Other demands on my time have precluded a big flashy release in that time frame. I don't have time to turn the crank on the big promotional machine. I have made it available, and I'm letting you guys in on it now.
The Double Decktet at DriveThru Cards, a double-deck that includes both the classic and capital decks
I've also made the Decktet suit cards public. They're an optional accessory, used in place of suit tokens or colored cubes.
If you are especially fond of the firmament card back, maybe pick up a regular copy of the Decktet too. I haven't decided what the card back will be for single decks going forward, but I plan to stop offering the firmament card back after the 1st of the year.
EDIT: As of Dec 2, it's actually really released.
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The proof copy of the Capital Decktet should arrive early this week.
While I'm waiting, I've been revising the rules documents that are offered as a PDF download along with purchases of the deck. It has an all-new 'about the Decktet' page along with rules for Adaman, Emu Ranchers, Jacynth, Nonesuch, and Thricewise.
Here's a link to the current draft of the new rules. It's still a work in progress, so comments are welcome.
LINK: Decktet Rules [pdf]
While I'm at it, here's another sneak peek at the new cards--
EDIT to add another linky sneak peek:
LINK: Info cards that will come with the Capital Decktet [pdf]
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