Wireframe Circus

The official blog of Wireframe Circus design studio.

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Apparently it’s just me

Craig Groff-Folsom
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Grand Rapids
Michigan
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I’m feeling quite proud of my restraint regarding Kickstarter pledges in the last few years. Starting in 2019, I was very strict about backing any projects that were slated to deliver in 2020. Of course, Millennium Blades: Collusion showed up so I backed. Then... 2020 happened.

Coming out the other side, I doubled down on only backing projects that I felt very strongly about. At this point I find myself with only six pending projects. Most of these are moving along normally, and their creators (big and small) have made the necessary adjustments to continue moving forward with fulfillment.

Unfortunately, not everyone has been able to transition back to organizing a cohesive schedule for fulfillment. One such project is Hoop Godz. Update 14 in August closed with
Quote:
Next Update?
*fingers crossed* Manufacturing Begins
It seems, then, that the next update just might have a plan for what to do. It does not.

Instead we received a rambling non-update that started with:
Quote:
Unfortunately, there's a small number of vocal backers who seem to be very unsatisfied with our process.
Not a great start after a near six-month silence. The update meandered through the suggestion that fulfillment would be combined with Critical Care: The Game “which is currently scheduled for a Summer 2022 delivery” but the update two days earlier from that project said they would be delivering in spring. Next up was the suggestion that Hoop Godz might get distribution through a big box store, which is a great maybe but not really expounded on. (Of course, the vague phrasing suggests impending news that might’ve been worth waiting another week for some actual updates, but I am sure we’ll blame the backers for wanting news “now” instead.)

Then we reach the meat of the update. The designer hasn’t finished this fully funded game, but has designed DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince: Summertime, Home Alone: Keep the Change, and the aforementioned Critical Care: The Game. The first two are published and delivered. The third launched a separate Kickstarter campaign, fully funded, and is (or it seems to be) set to fulfill before Hoop Godz. “I’m designing other games” can be a divisive thing to say when backers are given no updates for months, to say the least.

What else can we blame the delay on? Oh, I know, let’s blame Kickstarter itself:
Quote:
This isn't the first campaign update that sounds like this and it certainly wont be the last. It is a little bit frustrating that the culture of Kickstarter has moved in this direction. So quickly the platform designed to help individuals fund their dreams has become less inviting to the smaller creators who struggle to manage the communication to and expectations of backers. That combined with their new trajectory towards Blockchain/NFT platform and infrastructure at the expense of them providing better tools to directly help creators is just too much for me personally to want to continue on the platform. I don't feel good about supporting it anymore so I'm admittedly more disengaged from here recently. Not quite sure where we will be running campaigns after this but that's a problem for another day.
I’d be frustrated with a non-update that essentially has no concrete timeline and blames other design work and Kickstarter’s fascination with NFTs, but that opening sentence continues to really twist the knife.

Quote:
Unfortunately, there's a small number of vocal backers who seem to be very unsatisfied with our process.
Apparently, I am the asshole for wanting to know whether I’ll ever receive this game.

Luckily for the creator, the comments are full of people who will just be happy whenever the game arrives, regardless of whether there are any other updates or if the designer keeps fulfilling other campaigns by aligning with other companies. So maybe I AM the asshole. But I refuse to apologize for wanting to know anything at all about the process that is (allegedly) unfolding to deliver this game, no matter how slowly that process is moving.

Of course, those supporters also say:

Quote:
With so much going on in the world today, just a quick reminder that the majority of us are reasonable, patient, and supportive backers.
...and...

Quote:
There have always been whining, entitled, self important douche holes on KSer who've never seen how the sausage gets made before.

They aren't worth paying attention to, except for the joy of mocking them and watching them froth at the mouth in troll-rage.
...so right now I’m not really feeling the whole charitable sing-Kumbaya-and-roll-the-dice fellowship with other gamers. Because I’m fucking pissed. I WAS irritated, and to be treated as unreasonable by not only the designer but also fellow backers is infuriating.

It is NOT unreasonable to expect an update more frequently than once every six months for a delinquent Kickstarter campaign. Whether the creator is good or bad at providing updates is irrelevant. Whether the creator is really bummed out about blockchain doesn’t excuse the silence.

Maybe I’ll feel better after I post this. Maybe I won’t. But it needed to be said, so I said it.
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Reclamation projects

Craig Groff-Folsom
United States
Grand Rapids
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As mentioned in recent posts, I’ve enjoyed a pattern of pulling something off the shelf and re-visiting (or in some cases, visiting new-to-me aspects) older games. The latest example of this was coming back to Tapestry, both in physical play (with Tapestry: Plans and Ploys) and the excellent BoardGameArena implementation.

I’m only now (after 12 solo and 13 multiplayer plays) starting to fully comprehend some of the subtle nuances of the game. I’m seeing the value in aligning a tapestry card with certain segments of the tracks, or how to best build my capital city mat so it’s actually worth some points at the end. I’m starting to feel more confident in planning an entire era worth of moves, regardless of the roll of conquer or science dice.

Which, I suppose, brings me to lament the impermanence of the “hotness” in the board game industry. Tapestry received no shortage of slings and arrows when it arrived on the scene, and those assailants were often quick to assure us that they had played enough times to pass judgment. I do not claim to be smarter than the average BGG user; in fact, it is possible that I take longer to dissect fine-tuned strategy, especially in games where one can blissfully participate without contending for high scores. (Tapestry is very much this type of game.) However, I do have to wonder whether the so-called experts were able to piece together these themes before dismissing the game as a failure.

On the other hand, I truly don’t care what they think, and I’m glad I ignored them on my way to acquiring a copy. While there was some joy in playing blissfully unaware of how mediocre my performance was, I’m enjoying much more watching my score skyrocket regularly over the 200 mark (even when people manage to steal all the landmarks I was plotting for, as happened yesterday). Play what you love, people!
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Wed Jan 19, 2022 11:51 pm
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That’s no moon

Craig Groff-Folsom
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Grand Rapids
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A well-balanced consumption of creative output in any media (including the smorgasbord of blogs here) should include some international offerings. As such, I’ve already heard quite kind discussion of Welcome to the Moon. Ever since the COO of Deep Water Games pressed a copy of Welcome To... into my grimy con-crud-covered (pre-pandy) hands, the variations thereof have been a mainstay around the table. Seasonal and thematic neighborhoods have been well-loved and make for a nice rotation through the calendar year.

On the other hand, Welcome to New Las Vegas arrived with pomp and circumstance and quickly overwhelmed its audience into promptly closing and shelving the box. Borrow some money, drive a limo, get your hotels open, build new spots for casinos, make sure that limo gets back to the airport, don’t go into debt, manage the inauguration track... it’s all much more than the original’s simplified charm.

With Mr. Turpin leading the charge on the feelings of frustration at The Moon’s absence within the US borders, I decided New Las Vegas deserved another look. After all, the Alexis Solo Mode was built-in (as it is with the new printings of the original game) and the system is exceedingly elegant. So does New Las Vegas deserve another wild weekend, or is it a precursor to a hangover and regret?

After three days of high-rolling and low-scoring, I’m glad to say this game has been rescued from game shelf purgatory. Yes, there is A LOT here. It’s easy to ignore the consequences of your decisions and be surprised at the end when the second-easiest AI puts up 173 points to your 106, but executing a plan against that same opponent can lead to a 199-75 decisive victory.

Moreso than in the original, the city plans are a useful source of points and an excellent guidepost for your journey through constructing your own Sin City. The solo mode opponents also provide their own restrictions. In my big loss, the first time I checked the opponent’s card to see the impact of improvement symbols was during scoring. Big mistake. I handed them the higher score for every category. Also, my poor management of construction symbols forced me to use inauguration bonuses to change symbols for construction, but at game end they let the solo opponent win the odd/even streak on all four streets. Giving up eight construction symbols gave the opponent 56 points. Two fewer symbols would’ve meant 40 points instead for them, and 12 additional points for me.

This level of precision simply isn’t a deciding factor in regular Welcome To. Keeping everything “between the lines” as it were is a factor that can’t be ignored. Like it’s namesake city, New Las Vegas can pile on the multipliers for extreme results in both directions.

Something that is probably less thematic than the name would suggest is the inauguration track’s role in luck mitigation. Imagine playing original Welcome To with a reserve of options to modify any number by two, change the symbol outright, or copy a value like the highly divisive Bis. If you have the necessary inauguration spaces banked, these tools will let you mitigate bad draws and continue your pursuit of city plans.

New Las Vegas isn’t the game I’ll reach for with the people I play original Welcome To with, but those folks are mostly looking for a lighter game with less management. Instead, it rewards tenacious players who are willing to experiment over a series of plays to feel out various aspects while ascending the learning curve.
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Sun Jan 16, 2022 12:00 pm
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World traveler

Craig Groff-Folsom
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Grand Rapids
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Mrs. G and I have a bit of a joke that our two most common vacation destinations could not be more different. On one hand, we love going to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico (usually Playa Del Carmen) and doing as little as possible. On the other hand, we also love going to a Disney theme park, waking up early, riding as many rides as we can, and returning to the hotel room to fall asleep and do it all again the next day.

Visiting a Disney theme park is something that we first did in 2010. A previous employer needed to go to Los Angeles for work ahead of a trade show in Las Vegas. I was needed for the trade show, but not the Los Angeles stop. He was handling airfare (a private charter), so he invited us to spend a Sunday evening and Monday in LA before we flew to Vegas on Tuesday morning. We had a rental car and a day to fill, so we decided that we would drive to Anaheim and spend a day at Disneyland.

I don’t remember much from that first trip other than what we managed to capture with our digital camera (pre-smartphone), though we somehow “did everything” at both Disneyland and California Adventure in less than eight hours.

A couple years later, we decided to visit Walt Disney World (and MLB spring training) and something just... clicked. I loved this experience. Returning home was the right time to figure out when we could go again. Shmaltzy television specials around the holidays, featuring bittersweet stories of people overcoming poverty/tragedy/etc. to enjoy a big complimentary trip to a Disney park, reliably drew a tear to my eye and made me yearn for that next experience.

In 2019 I “unlocked an achievement”, as the kids would say, when I went twice in one calendar year. First, I used my expertise to guide my mom around three of the parks in March. Then, to celebrate my 40th birthday, I returned with Mrs. G’s family in December.

From gallery of Dave41fan


As we waited for our transfer back to the airport on December 13 2019, I took this photo. We had just wrapped up a six-day trip, and Mrs. G and I were looking ahead to an April 2020 visit to Disneyland Paris. My in-laws were drawing up plans for a “big” trip in October 2020. It looked like my twice-a-year cadence would continue. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

***

762 days later, that remains my last memory from a Disney vacation. While circumstances allowed for two trips to Mexico last year, our October 2020 trip was rescheduled to October 2021 only to be re-rescheduled for October 2022. As much as I love Disney Villainous, Disney: The Haunted Mansion – Call of the Spirits Game, and my unpublished Disney Parks card game, they don’t quite capture the feeling of being there.

Conversation of our house’s travel/vacation budget for the year has begun to suggest that there may be an opportunity for me to visit “the World” in April. While Mrs. G isn’t interested in going twice this year, almost two years of working at home is making a week of the house all to herself sound quite appealing.

As for me, I’m once again nose-deep in research trying to figure out the “best” way to maximize my time at The Most Magical Place on Earth. There are rides and shows I’m interested in trying that no one else I’ve ever visited with have wanted to see. Some rides are simply easier to fit in thanks to the occasional “single rider” line.

There is also, of course, the mental hurdle of a solo vacation. While I have vacationed without Mrs. G a few times in recent years, those trips have included other friends or family members. Thankfully there is also research (and time with my therapist) to properly prepare for that aspect as well. Thirteen years of marriage and two years of “staying home” haven’t done much to hone my social skills while out and about by myself in the world.

Ultimately the memories have a good chance of outweighing the headaches and hassles. Seeing the parks from a unique perspective will likely change how I approach return trips with family, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to actually complete this journey despite the constantly-changing global factors.
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Thu Jan 13, 2022 1:13 pm
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Go play with yourself

Craig Groff-Folsom
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Grand Rapids
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This is the second year I’ve been aware of the Solomode Derby. The thread is available here: 2021 Solomode Derby

It should be clear to regular readers that this blog is very pro-solo gaming. Competing against (or alongside) other human beings is a significant part of board gaming as a culture, but when other people aren’t available (or aren’t interested in the same games) solo gaming can be a nice alternative (or complement) to other entertainment media.

Last year’s Solomode Derby provided an excellent variant for Star Trek: Fleet Captains: [2020 Solomode] A.I. Empires. Instead of seeing opposing empires visibly growing outward, their spheres of influence grow with some ambiguity about where exactly their ships are gathering. This “fog of war” changes the game slightly as a solo experience but adds some nice intrigue. It was without a doubt a highlight for me.

This year, John Kean has submitted [2021 Solomode] Machi Solo - solitaire rules for Machi Koro which I’ve had a chance to try out in a slightly modified ruleset to incorporate the expansions and maintain the unofficial variant of separate stacks for 1-6 activation buildings and 7+ activation buildings. Machi Koro is a chaotic game anyway, but JK’s design seems to advance at the appropriate pace to deliver an interactive solo experience and a respectable opponent.

There is at least one more entry I’m considering at this point, but I’m struggling to make sense of the rules, so I’m not sure whether I’ll be diving in to that or not.

One thing that remains strange to me, although I guess I understand it to a point, is the bevy of regulations involved in the derby. Entrants have to follow a strict set of rules for developing their variants, then they have to earn points through others posting about it in very specific ways. There are categories, and leaderboards, and I suppose this is intended to foster some competition.

In reality, players need to own the physical game to record a play (or use a TTS mod, which seems questionable at best). Maybe if the derby grows into a larger event there will be designs for many games, but as it is many potential players might only have a single physical game to choose from. Even games like Agricola have an entry, despite a portion of its audience already enjoying the official solo mode and series.

At the end of the day, designing a solo variant is a labor of love not only for the chosen game but also for the community that might get to play it. I don’t think any such effort should be constrained by a contest or judged unfairly by the results of that contest.
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Mon Jan 10, 2022 12:00 pm
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Streaking

Craig Groff-Folsom
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Grand Rapids
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On New Year’s Day, I played the monthly challenge for Bowling Solitaire and then a few rounds of Unsurmountable. On the 2nd, we had friends visit and played two games (one of which being my brilliant Disney Parks game which seems doomed to remain unpublished forever). Monday the 3rd was game night, so Rob and I civved and re-civved in Tapestry until we had no Baymaxes left to give.

By Tuesday, I had noticed that I’d recorded at least two plays each day of the new year. Having just written about how it will be difficult to match my blistering pace of 544 plays in 2021, it struck me that playing twice a day might help toward that goal.

From gallery of Dave41fan


As previously mentioned on this blog, I received Legends of Andor: Journey to the North for Christmas. A cursory flip-through of the rules indicated an exciting adventure starting with Legend 7... which reminded me that I haven’t finished the legends of the main box!

Setting out to rectify that error, I reviewed my logged plays and found that I won my only play of Legend 3 (back in April 2020) so it was time to move on to Legend 4.

I had also recently convinced Rob to give the game a try, as he had never played at all. Our recent plays of Legends 1 and 2 had already refreshed my memory on the finer points of the rules so I felt confident on taking this challenge.

For those who don’t know, Legend 4 uses the back side of the board. Instead of defending the castle, our heroes are delving into the mines to recover gems. Until recently, I knew that much, but nothing more.

In my first play, I stumbled across a stray Gor in the forest which triggered the Alarm and quickly removed my chance of winning. The next night, I suited up with more equipment (a telescope and another bow) and quietly snuck into the mines.

My team of archers (well, an archer and someone else using a bow) struck silently as we gently scooped up gems. The dwarf and wizard cleared the rubble to the treasure room while the archers tried to remove another Gor. A combination of bad rolls meant the heist was blown, and the halls swelled with monsters.

Our heroes grabbed what they could but the numbers weren’t in their favor. When we reached N, the cumulative belongings of the group hadn’t reached the goal of 46 gold let alone had those belongings been placed in the correct space.

Maybe it’s because this game is well past its hype cycle, but Legend 4 is an underrated experience. I’ve played Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure and this mission felt like what I wanted Clank! to be. I do wonder just how many people made it all the way to Legend 4 when Andor was in its prime. As much as I love the way Legend 1 teaches the game and Legends 2 and 3 expand on that information (and the consensus seems to be Legend 3 is the “core” of the game’s replayability), Legend 4 feels like an experience that today would be sold separately as an expansion because it requires different tactics altogether.

Though I haven’t won yet, I’m looking forward to trying again. The high goal of gems/gold doesn’t seem unreachable but it does seem to require specific turns of luck to succeed. Still, the stealth approach is a neat departure from standard Andor (an experience I enjoy on its own) and even in loss I feel compelled to maximize my points before starting over.
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Fri Jan 7, 2022 12:48 pm
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vanishing act

Craig Groff-Folsom
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I know many of us would rather forget March 2020, but I think back on one specific event often.

At the time, I had recently responded to a thread in the Welcome To... forums about a rules question. On March 30, my Geekmail inbox lit up.

The author of the message was “Angelo the Magician”, and he bid me kind regards from Austria while inquiring about “your great game Welcome To”. He had a question about temp agencies that was easy enough to answer when one wasn’t learning the game through multiple translation barriers.

I answered his question warmly, as well as politely clarifying that I had not designed the game. (I’m not certain, but I suspect my peak-hubris “game designer” badge had caused the misunderstanding.)

Just over a week later on April 7, I received another question from Angelo. It was one I felt confident answering because the actual designer Benoit Turpin had answered the question in the forums. I politely explained the Temp Agency scenario where only one player had used Temp Agency spaces. (Strictly speaking using zero spaces can give you second place with rules-as-written, but Benoit had said players needed to have a minimum of one space used to score any points.

Angelo’s response to this message had opened up a friendship like a flower in bloom. He asked another question, as well as sharing a pandemic update from Austria, his personal website that advertised his work as a magician, and his daughter’s YouTube channel of piano performances.

Our conversations from there still included discussion of Welcome To’s finer points (as he continued to explain that the German translation of the rules was not good), but also expanded to our specific tastes in other games. Angelo said he preferred cooperative games, and listed Black Sonata among his favorites. I pre-ordered a copy on his recommendation. We continued to share updates on our lives and how the pandemic was being handled in our respective locations, and he stumped me with a few math riddles. (In addition to being a magician, my new friend Angelo had taught Mathematics for 25 years.)

The conversation ran its course (there’s only so much one can say about their life in April 2020) so the Geekmail inbox stopped lighting up regularly. Sometime in September I thought to check in, so I dropped a line about playing Finished! and waiting for my pre-order of Black Sonata to arrive. Angelo responded, indicating that he was currently enjoying Under Falling Skies and hadn’t found Finished! to be particularly interesting given the game length.

As 2020 came to a close, it was Angelo’s turn to check in. He garnished his message with a math-magical observation:
Quote:
Hi!

The chemical element Technetium is named after the Greek word "technetos", meaning "ARTIFICIAL". In the periodic table its number is 43 whereas SILVER has the atomic number 47.

2021 = 43 x 47

I wish you much more, a NATURAL and GOLDEN glowing year 2021.

Angelo
I responded in kind, thanking him again for turning me on to Black Sonata (which had finally arrived) and his friendship through the year.

Mrs. G and I were supposed to be spending two weeks in Europe in early April 2020, partially inspired by the year she spent living in Germany. (Mrs. G then came back to the states and taught German before moving on to another career, though she keeps her skills up in case we get to return.) We spoke fondly of “when all this is over” and we finally get to take our European vacation, how fun it would be to meet Angelo in person and maybe even share a game of Welcome To.

As the calendar turned to 2022, I realized a full year had passed since Angelo and I discussed, well, anything. I considered sending a message via Geekmail, but first I took a peek at his profile. His last login was in July. This gave me a bad feeling.

I returned to The Magic Castle, his charming website. Hidden at the bottom of the contact page, I found a list of published books and his real name. A quick Google sadly turned up confirmation of my fears:

https://tuformath.at/2021/07/13/michael-engel-angelo-der-mat...

A sudden passing (cause of death not disclosed) has taken Angelo from our world.

While Angelo was not very active in the BGG forums, his presence will be missed. I will remember him fondly each time I play Welcome To or Black Sonata, and maybe I owe it to his memory to learn Under Falling Skies. I regret that I will never be able to be dazzled by his magic act.

Rest In Peace, Angelo.
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Wed Jan 5, 2022 1:20 pm
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December 2021 recap

Craig Groff-Folsom
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December has historically been a fairly active month for my gaming, and this was no exception!

Millennium Blades (9 plays)
If you've been paying attention to my quest to play this 150 times this year, you'd already know I needed a lot of plays to reach that after a fairly soft few months. Nine plays wasn't enough, but it still pushed me to 121 plays which is a single-year record for me (eclipsing 108 plays of Race For the Galaxy in 2018).

Lately I've found a few opportunities to recommend Millennium Blades, specifically the full experience with Set Rotation and Collusion. However, Collusion is unavailable (save for a few copies that trickled out during Level 99's Black Friday sale) and the base game and Set Rotation tend to have similar issues.

That's why I was very excited to see yesterday's big announcement about their "projects" that have been in development:
Quote:
Project Magpie
"Magpie" is a reprint of Millennium Blades.
In addition to the base Millennium Blades, we are reworking the product line a bit. The large number of mini-expansions (14 now, wow!) will be condensed down into several new Set Rotation-sized expansions. Collusion's content will also be pruned down and placed into a reasonably-sized expansion.

If you already own all of Millennium Blades, there won't be anything new in this reprint (except the new cover arts). However, if you've been waiting to jump in, this is a great time to start!
The perils of being a Kickstarter early adopter (far too) frequently involve having a "first edition" copy before the game gets patches or revisions that make a later retail version a superior experience. To be clear, that's not what's happening here. However, collecting a full set of the as-noted 14 mini-expansions has become even more challenging than finding a reasonably-priced copy of Collusion. I'm glad to see the product line is getting reworked into a customer-friendly assortment because the product is worth buying and deserves a wider audience.

Kim-Joy's Magic Bakery (7 plays)
I've been patient about not buying Kim-Joy's Magic Bakery ever since preorders went up earlier this year. Mrs. G and I loved her performance on Great British Bake Off, and we've both become fans of her brand and her style. (Neither of us has, as of yet, tried to replicate her recipes, though we both appreciate Nicole Byer's lovely Netflix baking show Nailed It!) The Venn diagram is all lined up here: we love Kim-Joy, cute woodland animals, and cooperative games.

While our experience with the Magic Bakery has been everything we've expected, this game has brought out a bit of a mean streak in our niece (famously a big fan of Welcome To...). The game presents a series of seven orders to fulfill, and a portion of the game revolves around prioritizing which orders to fulfill and which to let go. For the easier scenarios, completing five recipes is a rating which is the maximum score. My niece has yet to accept this, and is constantly trying to over-achieve which includes some significant alpha-gamer quarterbacking. Our friend wanted to join us for a game, but ended up having her turn played for her through the entire game. (Teenagers are exhausting at times.)

Despite this negative experience, the game is wonderful with the right group (which can be said for any shared-information cooperative game). Each game plays quickly, and a full campaign can be completed in about 3-5 hours total. I look forward to playing more of this game.

Unsurmountable (7 plays)
Unsurmountable is Scott Almes' latest solo game for Button Shy. As with many of their solo games, this is a compact puzzle that quietly grows on you as you play through it. I backed it on Kickstarter and when the print-and-play files were released I assembled my copy. I've had wild swings of luck when it comes to Button Shy's Kickstarter fulfillment so rather than growing bitter about being at the end of the fulfillment list I figured a homemade copy would tide me over.

I played once early in the month, and it sat on the table for a few weeks before I surprisingly received one of the first shipping notifications for the project fulfillment. I rushed to play a few more times before my copy arrived on Christmas Eve.

There's a small learning curve to Unsurmountable, because the variety of actions you have access to will dictate your long-term planning as you try to scale the mountain. After winning three of my first five plays, I added the Big Climb expansion and won one of two more games. I haven't incorporated Dual Peaks (which seems like another set of twists that I'm not quite ready for yet) but after two plays with Big Climb I felt like this was just enough design space to feel comfortable without feeling constrained by the small nature of the game.

Between Death Valley and Unsurmountable, my opinion of Button Shy's style is rebounding after being a bit disappointed by Personal Space. Their 2022 Board Game Of The Month Club game that will unfold monthly is Hush (starting in March, for six months) and the publisher description really makes it sound interesting:
Quote:
In Hush, 1+ players will work together to manage a group of commoners that are trying to survive the dangers of each passing night, and ultimately, protect the nocturnal creatures that live on the land. By day they will build resources, shelter, and develop techniques, and by night they will protect each other from the evil spirits that pass through. The goal is survival. How many nights can you make it before the spirits bring you down?
Wildlife Safari (5 plays)
For years I've been trying to drum up support for an American branch of the Botswana Grand Masters Invitational series that remains well-chronicled on the finest blogs here on BGG. Of course because we are a backward civilization our copy uses a completely different name (it's a real soccer-football thing) albeit the rules are a global standard.

I finally wore down my local group and managed to convince them to try a few "friendly" exhibition matches (one round each). This was running concurrently with dinner preparation so a few folks rotated in and out of seats through the five rounds.

Despite hearing traditional reports of "double lion" strategies competing with "double zebra" openings on the international scene, our group of novices explored a variety of other approaches to varying results. We did see someone accomplish the rare "triple elephant" while another competitor made a fatal error by dropping a 4 Elephant card far too late in the contest. We had a few high-scoring rounds (winning score of 25) and one low-scoring round (winning score of 11) and everyone left the table feeling confident that we would be able to drum up support for some ongoing exhibitions.

Legendary Encounters: The X-Files Deck Building Game (4 plays)
This was a long-languishing item on my Amazon wishlist, passed over year after year. In the lead-up to Christmas this year, I utilized the priority option to draw attention to this one (as well as at least one more on my list below) and it arrived beneath the tree last week.

Mrs. G and I sat down to tackle it yesterday, both cautious about our experiences with Marvel Legendary and curious about how it would adapt to the Encounters format. Further ambiguity came from the fact that it seems like the hands-down champion of the Encounters series is the Alien game.

We picked Mulder (me) and Scully (her) and set to work on the Seasons 1-3 suggested setup. We collected one piece of evidence and discovered another before the End Game rampaged across the Shadows. Luckily we were well-equipped to deal damage, and stood victorious. Won over by the game's charms, we decided to turn it into a series and move on.

Our first attempt at Seasons 4-6 did not go nearly as well. The Bureau was swarming with Alien Bounty Hunters and a few bad draws in The Shadows led to a quick death for Mulder. We reset (keeping the same cards) and gave it another try. The cards were still difficult but we had slightly more luck in the order they came out. We managed to defeat the End Game again and moved on to Seasons 7-9 with a revamped Academy. (John Doggett and Monica Reyes are an unfairly underestimated team!) Another thrilling End Game was narrowly defeated. Our series score was 70 total points, which isn't great based on the chart (and we reset from a loss which also inflated our score) but the narrative experience was an absolute blast.

Some of my favorite card games put a focus on sprinkling in some wild rule-breaking effects to break up the game and deliver some "wow" moments. Legendary Encounters: X-Files absolutely does that to deliver thematic experiences that demonstrate a true appreciation for the source material. The whole package comes together to feel like the TV show in a way that I don't think other X-Files games have been able to do.

Similar to Kim-Joy's Magic Bakery above, the whole three-game series feels like a complete campaign that can be worked through in one session. We breezed through it by the end of our fourth game and Mrs. G has remarked about how she's looking forward to playing again soon.

Similo (4 plays)
A copy of Similo: Fables arrived in my stocking, so we played four times. As I suspected after my experience with the History deck, our flawless winning streak came to an end. We won two of the four games, with some tense decisions along the way.

My theory up to now has been that each deck can deliver an easier or more challenging experience depending on the subject matter. History is an easy deck to apply filters to each group of cards for comparison (gender, nationality, status, profession, etc.) so our nine game win streak there makes a lot of sense. Fables brings a different set of filters (gender, alignment, species, and status stand out) but the mix can be trickier to navigate. Certain cards will naturally trigger the players to think of certain attributes and focus on those. For example, one of our losses came in a round where there were six cards left and I was trying to clue Mad Hatter but I also wanted to eliminate some of the non-human characters. I could've gone with "unlike Cheshire Cat" as a clue but the artwork of the Mad Hatter has similar large eyes so being forced to remove four cards in that round could've ended up taking him out. I went a different direction with my clue but Mad Hatter ended up removed because I couldn't distinguish him from the rest of the six so it was a tougher game than our experiences with the History deck.

Regardless, Similo remains a fun game for a big group to discuss and cooperate on. It's superior to any cooperative version of Codenames in my book, to be sure. I look forward to trying the two-deck variant (grid from one deck, clues from another) to see which Fables cards are like or unlike the historical figures in the History deck.

Star Realms (3 plays)
I had the urge to play a few quick Boss challenges but couldn't sell anyone else on a cooperative game so I dealt myself a few hands of solo play. I took on the Automatons with three different Command decks and won one of the three games.

Star Realms is a swingy game, but it plays quickly and feels fun when you pull of a big turn so it's still quite enjoyable. I'm less into games where two players blast each other into oblivion so blasting a faceless bad guy into oblivion together appeals to me more. It's a constant goal of mine to sell other folks on playing the Frontiers scenarios so this will stay in rotation for a while.

Star Wars: Rebellion (2 plays)
Another Amazon wishlist game that languished for years before a nudge to "high priority" pushed it from a warehouse to beneath my tree! While it seems like there's still a dearth of solo variants (and playing is a 3-4 hour affair at that), and I already have Star Wars: Imperial Assault (a full collection, thank you very much) and Star Wars: Outer Rim, Rebellion's critical acclaim and grand scope still sounded appealing to me.

I used the Probe Deck web app to hide the Rebel Base and set up to play both sides against each other as a learning game. I was pleased to discover that many of the Rebel missions revolve around moving to or from the "Rebel Base" without adjacency so the Rebel player truly not knowing where the base is isn't an obstacle to playing competently. While the Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire set out on expanding their loyalties and dividing the galaxy, a few epic moments unfolded. General Veers led a blind strike which revealed the Rebel Base on Mygeeto! Turning away the Imperial forces, the Rebel leaders set out to relocate their base and fled across the galaxy. Meanwhile, Leia sought the instruction of the reclusive Master Yoda. The Empire stymied the Rebellion's guerilla tactics by capturing Lando Calrissian but a daring rescue freed him. The Death Star roamed the outer reaches and blindly destroyed two planets while hoping for another stroke of blind luck. Obi Wan Kenobi also took a wrong turn and found himself captured, with the cruel fate of being subjected to carbon freezing at the hands of Darth Vader. It became evident that the heart of the Rebellion outposts probably housed the new base. Undeterred, the Empire commissioned a second Death Star in the skies above Tatooine while Leia's forces assembled a squadron of fighters to prepare a climactic attack on the vicious war machine. As the tension ramped up and the final act approached... the round marker reached the Rebel influence marker and the game was over.

After a satisfying game led to a premature end, I reset the game the following evening and explored the "full" rules (including variable setup and action cards). This time, a patchwork map of outposts set a much less defined battlefront. The Rebels emphasized sabotage, causing a conservation of military resources as both sides struggled to field new units. An Imperial squadron combed the edge of the galaxy, occupying Bespin and sending scouting expeditions to Hoth and Endor to confirm the Rebel Base wasn't nearby. Han Solo placed a visit to recruit his old friend Lando while Chewbacca ran constant disruptive actions within the Empire's supply lines. The Empire coughed up some credits for the services of Boba Fett, and an aggressive strategy was unfolding in the skill sets of leaders on both sides of the conflict. Mon Mothma and her protocol droid assistant C-3PO still operated on a diplomatic tack but this was to be a bloody, violent conflict. Organized uprisings were put down as the Empire's tactics proved superior on the planetary surface. A patrol to the far reaches of Utapau once again held a fateful twist as Emperor Palpantine's detachment discovered the Rebel Base. Lando Calrissian's ground forces fell at the feet of an AT-ST but the skies were still controlled by a Rebel fleet. Once again the Rebel Alliance leaders scrambled to find a new home, but the speckled galaxy map held few havens. Relocated, the Rebellion once again set to work on defeating the Death Star while Grand Moff Tarkin obliterated planets on the opposite edge of the galaxy. Remember that squadron occupying Bespin? Acting on a hunch they returned to Endor and found a hastily-reassembled Rebel Base. The few troops and meager shield generator was no match for the Empire's ground assault and the Rebellion was squashed once and for all.

When people describe Star Wars Rebellion as cinematic, it's almost an understatement. Watching a game unfold is arguably more rewarding than leading a successful campaign to occupy a system, especially given the Ameritrashy nature of the battles. I felt playing both sides with a hidden Rebel Base was a perfect experience. I'd program the mission assignments with an authentic sense of purpose, then randomize their order of resolution. Seeing characters undergo the events of the original trilogy was very exciting. It's likely this one will get a shot with some other players, but even if they don't like it this will still be a fun solo experience.

Of course, my acquisition syndrome (colloquially known as "gotta catch 'em all") has already prompted me to research the Rise of the Empire expansion. While it seems to be critically acclaimed, I don't yet feel the urge to add it to the box. More units and more dice seem overcomplicated. More leaders seem unnecessary. I don't dislike the base game's combat system nearly as much as others do. Maybe my opinion will change with more experience but for now I'm satisfied with the base game only.

Legends of Andor (2 plays)
With a copy of Legends of Andor: Journey to the North beneath the tree, I convinced Rob to finally learn the base game. We successfully navigated Legend 1 but a few bad luck moments in Legend 2 sunk our chances of advancing. The witch was far up the river, and our attacks on the castle featured bad rolls for us and doubles for the enemy. Nevertheless I see this continuing on our Monday night sessions which should lead us to the north sooner rather than later.

Having spent far too much time in 2021 trying to "make Gloomhaven Jaws of the Lion happen", I'm satisfied that Legends of Andor is the cardboard two-dimensional fantasy game I actually wanted the whole time. It's nice to be playing my well-loved copy instead of adding box wear without looking inside.

Sentinels of the Multiverse (2 plays)
I try not to overuse the phrase "back on my bullshit" but here we are, once again trying to make Sentinels of the Multiverse work. I *want* it to work for me, but either I have rotten luck (likely) or I'm bad at the game in general (also likely, to be honest). But wouldn't it be nice to have a satisfying play of a game? Isn't that THE WHOLE POINT?

But first, I had recently picked up four of the mini-expansion characters (Guise, Benchmark, Stuntman, and Unity) so I randomized an opponent (Iron Legacy) and set out to play. Bad luck (or bad play) ensured I'd lose again.

I went to the Sentinels randomizer on mindwanderer.net and manipulated the selections until I buried the needle on a high-probability win percentage. Fanatic, Tempest, Haka, and Visionary took on Ambuscade on the Wagner Mars Base. Finally, I was able to get over the hump and break a three-game losing streak with a nice win.

I'm not ashamed of my focus on high-probability wins for Sentinels of the Multiverse, because it's a fun game to win and it's not always a fun game to lose. Maybe as I get more plays under my belt I'll get a little better and ramp up to harder levels.

Doomtown: Reloaded (2 plays)
I delved into the Wyatt solo mode with my core set premade decks to get a taste for playing Doomtown (again, after playing the CCG decades ago). My Law Dogs defeated the Outlaws but my Entrepreneurs lost some gunfights to the Fearmongers for a split.

I am happy that I like the Wyatt solo mode, and I look forward to when the Weird West Edition Kickstarter delivers a whole new stack of cards for me to play with. I'm less happy about the latest developments of the campaign, as the PDFs of the rulebook and cards were released without a full accounting of what exactly the solo mode will entail. (The update says that part of the solo mode rules will be housed on an as-yet-unveiled website.) I expect that the official solo mode will look a lot like Wyatt, but I'd have really preferred to have an all-physical version rather than being beholden to a website. We'll see how that all unfolds as we get deeper into 2022.

Tapestry (1 play)
The Tapestry: Plans and Ploys expansion arrived in my holiday haul so I talked Rob and our visiting friend Jerrad into a three-player game. My Aliens jumped out to a nice lead and a big footprint, but Jerrad's Recyclers leveraged a myriad of tech cards to keep pace and eventually overtake me. Rob's Islanders built a decent empire but scored pretty low early on. By the time the fifth income phase came to a close, his additional civilizations gave him 179 to my 176 points so I fell into third place. The Recyclers' army of inventions led to a score of 227.

It was a stark reminder of how enjoyable Tapestry is, and Rob remarked as such. This will probably stay on the Monday game night radar. I'm also considering the solo campaign introduced by the expansion although the discourse about this game makes me fret that I really don't play "well" in a critical sense. (Then again, Tapestry absolutely falls into the trap of "theoretical" gameplay that poisons the online discourse for many such games; to hear it told, if your score is anything less than 300 regardless of any of the card draws or die rolls, you're doing it wrong and should be ashamed.)

Imperium: Classics (1 play)
With Jerrad back in town, I wanted to make sure he experienced what has become our Monday game night breakout of the year. Rob's Carthaginians did the things properly to the tune of 77 points. My Vikings almost figured it out, and scored 45. Jerrad's Macedonians eventually converted their territories into points but scored only 44 points.

I suspect this will continue showing up, though I'm starting to see more of a division between "happy to be here" card-flopping and actually trying to squeeze efficient gameplay from the mechanics themselves. I hope our early enjoyment of both Classics and Legends continues into the new year.

Rallyman: GT (1 play)
Returning to my delayed campaign, our cars descended on track 4. I turned up the difficulty to maximum on the Driverless Cars, and went from last to first in about a lap and a half to win the race. Through six races I have a 33-point lead over the second place AI car. The scoring difference between first and sixth place in any given race is 17 points, so this specific AI would need to win both of the final two races and I would have to finish sixth in both of those races for me to not win the full campaign.

To be fair, I didn't play the full campaign with the maximum difficulty on the AI cars. My skills have seemingly increased to a level where I need to turn it up for the full campaign in order to have a more compelling challenge. This is where I'll end up going in 2022, and hopefully I'll finally see a copy of World Tour so I can add a few more tracks to my collection as well.

Exhibition: 20th Century (1 play)
Following an excellent introduction in November, Exhibition hit the table once in December. Our one play ended in a four-way tie for 20 points, with my own feeble collection yielding only 15 points (this is why I'll never be in charge of a Board Game Museum, unlike some other bloggers). The 1950 tie-break went to Rob's Mrs. G for a win in her first play.

This is bound to be another light casual game for large groups, which seems fine for exactly what it is. I do hope that familiarity with the mechanics might open the door to playing Habitats but we'll see if that pans out.

The Crew: Mission Deep Sea (1 play)
One of our weekly game nights saw us try to continue our excellent run on Mission Deep Sea, but the infusion of a certain teenaged niece did not bode well for our session. We managed to win missions 28 and 29, but only after a lot of swearing and heightened emotions. Maybe it was the five-player count instead of our usual four. Maybe it was a stubborn teenager claiming missions that were only possible in a very specific series of circumstances she just assumed would happen (and when they didn't, she blamed us). As a general rule I try not to swear at children but that simply was not possible based on the absolute trainwreck that was this game.
(It has also given us a particularly enjoyable anecdote, though: As our friend Dan was clearing objectives, my niece turned to him and threatened "this is where you lose!" which was a startling development for a game that, last I checked, was cooperative.)

Black Sonata (1 play)
With a disgruntled teenager on her way home, and our friend's Mrs. M quite angry about having her hand played for her by her husband, the remaining three of us tried to cleanse our palette with some Black Sonata. It did not go well.

A crucial logic flaw led to us believing we had a cakewalk and an easy determination of the dark lady's attributes. We confidently revealed the card, and three jaws hit the floor when the symbols were NOT what we predicted. (I think Mrs. M enjoyed a chuckle at the three of us being demolished by our collective hubris, and I can't blame her.)

Despite the mood being sour, Black Sonata is still a big hit with our group. We might not return to Mission Deep Sea anytime soon but our pursuit of the dark lady seems more likely to resume in a week or two.

Bowling Solitaire (1 play)
There's a monthly solo challenge starting for this clever Sid Sackson game! I scored 124 points, or at least I thought I did, but I definitely played at least one round incorrectly (picking up non-adjacent pins on a split with a single card) so my score was voided. I expect that there will be another monthly challenge and I look forward to rebounding in the new year.

Love Letter Premium (1 play)
My prized acquisition of 2021 finally hit the physical table rather than the virtual copy on BoardGameArena. Mrs. G claimed her second affection token as the table of seven had hit their collective limit, so she was declared the winner on a half-game score.

It's truly a shame that this version of the game is out of print! It's a great 5-8 player experience with the additional cards. Someday when larger game days return to our lives I hope to keep playing my copy.

Welcome To... (1 play)
A nice six-player session saw me push for validating all three plans, but my 84 points wasn't enough to overtake Rob's big-park strategy which paid 101 points.

(Did you know there are many turn-based tournaments occurring on BoardGameArena? Not to brag, but I've made it to the final four in the 1 Player Guild's current event. Wish me luck!)

Just One (1 play)
At my family's collective Christmas, we decided that our favorite games of the year would make a good gift. We handed out gifts of Just One, Gudetama: The Tricky Egg Card Game, Endangered, Welcome To..., and Starving Artists. After most of the elder generation went home, my cousin invited me to stay so I could teach the remaining family how to play Just One. We learned a lot, including that my aunt does NOT like cooperative games ("Can I write something to mess him up?" "I should be able to keep track of the points that I scored." "You could play this with two people against each other."). Despite those protestations, we scored a respectable eight points for an extended family. After I went home, my cousin texted me to let me know they had regrouped for a future play and scored a perfect 13. It was nice to see that our gift selection was appreciated and we had spread the love of new games to another household!

Final Thoughts
57 plays in December brought me to 544 for the year, which feels like a wonderful accomplishment. BG Stats estimates that is about 400 hours of gameplay, which is another nice number to see. Games are enjoyable, especially when you learn to move away from games that others tell you that you should like and embrace the ones that you do like. Even moreso, they're rewarding when you play in a manner that brings you joy (high-percentage matchups in Sentinels of the Multiverse, solo Millennium Blades, cooperative Star Realms) regardless of whether it is objectively considered a challenge or accomplishment. As a wise patron of BGG often says, play what you love. Happy new year, everyone. Let's enjoy more games in 2022.
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Sat Jan 1, 2022 6:34 pm
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That new cardboard smell

Craig Groff-Folsom
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Grand Rapids
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Scene: Your local blogger leaps from his bed and rushes to the window. Due to the arrangement of his condominium, a confused flock of turkeys wanders casually beneath his window.)

“You there! What day is it?”

(Assorted gobbling)*
*”It’s almost the new year, you dork! Christmas has already passed! Don’t you have a month-end gaming recap to write?”

***

Well, that month sure flew by, didn't it? A week in Mexico, a birthday, five straight days of Christmas and Christmas-adjacent festivities, and all the preparation and recovery therein have really derailed my (already inconsistent) blogging.

It's the perfect time for a resolution, of course, so why not try again on more regular blogging?

After a month plus of "behaving" (read: not buying games for myself off my wish list and instead waiting patiently to see what the holiday gifts would bring) there's some fresh cardboard in my collection and it's quite exciting.

More about that in (I assume) a couple days when I recap my plays, though it's looking unlikely I'll get a play with Legends of Andor: Journey to the North today.

In non-board gaming news, the big present for our household was a second Nintendo Switch. Mrs. G has been enjoying Animal Crossing: New Horizons since February, but she was looking forward to not having to share an island with someone who had (*ahem*) my taste in decoration. Now, she has additional space to repurpose and I have the quest of setting up my own island from scratch to my own satisfaction.

The promise of the new year also brings with it the ever-escalating bar of increasing recorded plays. Last year's high mark of 420 was passed in October this year, and now I'm well over 500. It's a tough bar to reach, though I felt that way about 400+ last year.
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Fri Dec 31, 2021 12:00 pm
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November 2021 recap

Craig Groff-Folsom
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Grand Rapids
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That month flew by, and I’m not sure how. Also, I played a lot of games a few times, which isn’t my preferred approach, but here we are.

Imperium: Legends (5 plays)
Rob tracked down a copy to pair with his copy of Classics, so we spent most Mondays diving into these more complex civilizations. I won with the Qin and the Atlanteans, and lost with the Arthurians, Minoans, and Olmecs. Rob’s wins were with the Utopians, Arthurians, and Mauryans.

I’m still loving the engine and the general mechanical concept of these games. I think in some ways playing the Legends is helping me parse more information about variations to the game state and how to play better.

Epic Card Game (5 plays)
I’ve been alternating between dark draft and random 30 formats for my solo plays against the Epic Nemesis solo/co-op opponent (I suppose it might count as an Automa?). I won four of my five plays but in the last game my random 30 was heavy on fluff event cards and the Nemesis had some big Sage champions giving me headaches.

This month I also added some clearance expansions which have deepened the card pool significantly for my games. It’s interesting to me that the base game is (arguably) too keyword-heavy but to make up for it the expansions don’t add any major new effects. It’s still a fun solo game although I’m starting to see some flaws in the Nemesis system that might require patching up with some house rules or modifications.

Exhibition: 20th Century (4 plays)
This little box made its way across the ocean, completing fulfillment on a Kickstarter that I had almost completely written off. While my primary motivation for backing the campaign was to receive the Habitats: Double Expansion I’m pleasantly surprised at how well-received Exhibition has been.

The designer’s signature style of limiting a draft pool based on token position is present here, but implemented differently from Habitats. The differentiation feels clearer, I think, as when you’d move into a column you already know who will get to pick before you.

As for the player boards, it reminds me of Welcome To... (play in ascending order in multiple rows) but I’ve also heard multiple family members compare it to the 10 Days series. As the spots begin to fill up, strategy starts to horn its way in and tough decisions start to be made.

I played the solo game twice which was good for getting the feel of the game’s cadence but I doubt I’ll be returning to it as beat-your-own-score just isn’t my style. Also, the variability of available cards means that a score fluctuation can be chalked up to the luck of the draw which seems to clash with the notion of recording a high score in solo.

Luckily, it has been favorably received in multiple circles of family and friends. There’s minimal grousing about people taking cards that other people want (again, because you know someone is ahead of you when you decide to go to that column) so the interaction is mostly indirect on the draft board. Boards fill up and the game comes to a natural conclusion in the right amount of time. Hopefully this stays in the casual/social game rotation for a while because it’s a fun diversion.

Black Sonata (3 plays)
I’ve been meaning to dust this one off for a while now. I played solo on easy and technically won, though my score was -10. There were a lot of missed guesses on the lady’s position. I then taught Rob how to play as a cooperative game and we scored 28. We then went to our friends’ house for another round and won with 25 points. It received high marks all around which means this one might’ve found a new life as a cooperative experience for our group. I’m very excited!

Endangered (2 plays)
The “Guildmaster” of Grand Gamers Guild is a friend of mine, stretching back to when my game store hosted his Small World tournament many years ago. This means when it came time for Endangered: New Species to be delivered, it was a short drive across town for me instead of waiting by the mailbox.

I’ve only made it through two of the expansion scenarios thus far. I had a cascading failure with the Sea Turtles that blew everything to hell. My time with the California Condors was more successful, but I failed to get support from the ambassadors at the end of the game.

Endangered is incredibly clever. It’s fun to roll dice, manage the placements and card play, as well as wrangling the spatial puzzle of the animals on the board. However, I am not good at this game at all. It doesn’t hinder my enjoyment, but it does make it hard to sell others on joining me for the game. (Mrs. G in particular would be negatively affected by removing animals from the board for effects that are heavily implied to be killing them.)

The variability brought on by New Species (and additional ambassador options) really makes the game’s replayability shine. I’m looking forward to setting aside some time to explore the four other expansion scenarios as well as the campaign mode.

Rallyman: GT (2 plays)
Back in July I started a campaign, completed three races, then walked away from it. Wanting to revisit a game that I really enjoy, I picked up where I left off. A race on Track 2 was a tricky one, and I was able to finish strongly in 2nd place with a shrewd last-turn move. Then we went to Track 18 (Championship expansion) where I went last to first for the win.

It seems that this one’s just not exciting for my friends. Luckily, I enjoy the solo campaign (with ODaly’s Driverless Cars) so I’ll be content to continue with this. I may need to turn up the difficulty again to keep up the challenge. I tend to have issues with games where “fun play” and “good play” diverge, but thankfully Rallyman isn’t that type of game. There’s a lot of room for fun even when you’re optimizing your performance.

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine (2 plays)
Shout-out to cousin Seth, who we were able to visit in early November. I wanted his opinion on The Crew so I picked this for our game night. We blew through the first 22 missions with only minimal losses, which felt refreshing.

Returning home, we pivoted to missions 23 through 26 with our friends. It was fine, but those friends have already completed the campaign once so it was time to move on to...

The Crew: Mission Deep Sea (2 plays)
...and my goodness what a move it was. In our first session we walked the first 16 missions with no losses. Saved by the clock, we held off on mission 17 until the following week. A few setbacks occurred (we embraced the logbook’s verbiage “let’s ask ourselves how we ended up in this situation”) but we still charted strong progress through mission 27.

Look, I love the original The Crew. But Mission Deep Sea’s variable objectives are way more fun. Period. Even when we are losing a mission, there’s a feeling that throwing out the objectives and re-dealing them has changed the mission enough to avoid the stagnant feeling that can occur on tough missions in the original. I also expect that the fatigue that occurs when players try to replay the original campaign won’t be nearly as severe if/when we get to the Mission Deep Sea replay.

Regicide (2 plays)
Sadly I think the appeal of Regicide is starting to fade already. Rob and I navigated an actual, legitimate win with only two players. We taught some family members later in the month on a four-player game but things fell apart quickly. Rob and I might still come back to this for a filler on our Monday sessions but it’s far from a guarantee.

Imperium: Classics (1 play)
During our visit with Seth, we mixed it up with a three-player game of Classics. Rob’s Vikings finished well ahead of my Greeks, and Seth’s Celts suffered from the beginner mistake of not getting any cards or points.

I’ve been very methodical when it comes to logging plays under one specific place in the past, but at this point it feels right to keep the Imperium plays separate. Similarly I keep various Pathfinder adventure paths separate when I log those. So as much as it might cause me grief in the future I’m going to keep on with this approach... for now.

Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Set (1 play)
An overdue return for this one. Rob and I ran up Mount Snowdon in fair-to-great weather. His 89 beat my 82 and we generally kept the events at bay.

I’m hoping to push for more of this as our regular game days continue. Maybe we can get to some of the scenarios that aren’t solo-friendly. It’s a lovely experience.

Burgle Bros 2: The Casino Capers (1 play)
I hope we’re past spoilers for this game? Okay, cool.

Mrs. G and I gave this a go with another couple on a Sunday brunch-and-games. The gimmick of the package drew everyone in, of course, and the novelty of the second floor had the other couple worrying about knocking things over but it all went well. We played with the much-discussed “casing the joint” variant which in hindsight definitely felt like an improvement. We found the car in the safe but an overzealous bouncer on the ground floor was making things difficult. Eventually we maneuvered our escape plan into action and pulled off the win.

I always leave a game of Burgle Bros (either version) feeling warm and fuzzy about the experience but neither of them particularly call to me in a purely solo sense. There’s more fun in watching the game unfold and worrying about a single character than there is in trying to quarterback a team through the game.

Fantastic Factories (1 play)
Although this was carried to a number of get-togethers this month it only hit the table once. My niece (formerly obsessed with Welcome To) finally won her first game with a 26. I had 25, and Rob scored 23.

We are getting to the point where the folks I’d be playing this with are familiar with the rules, which makes it much easier to turn everyone loose and enjoy your own tableau. I’ll keep carrying it in the hopes it’ll keep getting played.

Disney Villainous (1 play)
During our couples brunch, it was mentioned by our friends that they knew someone who had a copy of Villainous but it was a more casual game group so it didn’t feel like a real opportunity to play. They assumed I owned it (guilty as charged) so they were looking forward to playing with us.

I took Dr. Facilier while Mrs. G jumped in with Mother Gothel. Our friends took Evil Queen and Yzma (the latter of which didn’t seem like a good choice in hindsight). The Evil Queen was stymied by Doc, and my fortune pile was a bit overcrowded. Yzma just kept finding Kuzco right next to Wrong Lever, which causes a lot of problems. This paved the way for Mrs. G, who started strong and kept up the pace with her trust count. She reached 10 and nothing the rest of us could stop it.

The game was a hit with our friends, and I always appreciate a chance to play an interesting villain.

Wavelength (1 play)
Finally, we were able to have an enjoyable game of Wavelength! At a family dinner we divided into teams. Instead of playing to 10 we played one time around the board (eight players) and our side won 12-8.

I suspect that if we were playing this more, I’d have some thoughts about how the random categories might impact each team’s win probability, but at the end of the day the game isn’t much about winning and losing.

Doomtown: Reloaded (1 play)
As discussed previously this month, I found a copy for $5. The box was opened but the cards were not. I played through the introductory mission, then rebuilt the decks into the four from the rulebook. I’m looking forward to trying the Wyatt solo Automa posted here, and hoping the PnP/rulebook for the forthcoming Kickstarter allow me to use this set as a jumpstart on playing the new official solo rules as well.

Gudetama: The Tricky Egg Card Game (1 play)
At the end of a Monday gameday, four of us played a quick round of Gudetama. Since we were at our friends’ house, the cards were swept up quickly after the end of the last hand and I didn’t get a chance to record any game data. (Their preference is to designate a single loser instead of declaring a winner, which I disagree with but I abide by their house rules.)

Just One (1 play)
At the family dinner, eight of us (passing the seven whiteboards and markers) delivered a very good score of 10 points. Despite having seven words in play, we had very few duplicates.

Just One is still a family favorite and will likely remain so. Those that care about keeping score (me) can do so while everyone else can just try their best and enjoy the time.

Similo (1 play)
Another family dinner game, as discussed in prior posts my niece loves being the clue-giver but we cannot trust her to be honest with which card is the objective. We made her take a photo of the objective card. The first round went fine, but somewhere in the second round she used a clue that was almost completely opposed to her first round clue. Despite her not considering how we would interpret her clues, we eventually reached the correct conclusion.

Rob recently picked up the Myths deck, which should be a fun contrast to my History deck. I’m really looking forward to the two-deck game (where one deck is used for clues and the other deck is the grid).

Agropolis (1 play)
If you’ve read all this, bless you and thank you for bearing with this. It’s a long blog. Also, if you’ve made it this far, I strongly encourage you to join the monthly Agropolis challenge! This month there weren’t many participants, but it’s a fun experience (at least as fun as the Sprawlopolis one). The puzzle this month was 14/16/17 which is a high target. I scored 42 against the goal of 47, but I felt pretty good about my play nonetheless.

Sprawlopolis (1 play)
I also played in the (better-attended) Sprawlopolis challenge. 5/6/10 is a really appealing challenge, and I scored 24 for a win.

Final Thoughts
November was a bit of a downturn but it was bound to be after the big month of October. December has also traditionally become a bigger month for plays, though I’ll be heading to Mexico for a week which will eat into playtime a bit.

To those of you who keep coming back, thank you for your continued support of my rambling. I hope the end of the year finds you all well as the holidays approach and we turn the calendar to 2022.
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Sat Dec 4, 2021 12:17 am
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