The Semi-Amateur Gamer

A blog of a guy that loves simply being involved with board games. Whether it is playing an CCG/LCG competitively, organizing a local convention, running a monthly game day, designing games, playing games with young kids, or going to conventions.

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Best Games from 2002

Adam Daulton
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Time to start the look back blogs. I was tempted to start at 25 years in 1997, but I might start doing that once we get to 2025. For now we'll stick with 20 years ago. The year was 2002 and I was deep into playing The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game, enjoying college, and had left the several board games I owned at home. That said, since then I've played 20 games from 2002 and I got to say, the year overall didn't stand out. All these games are good (one is great), but there wasn't really anything else I would've added and even two of these only have one play of so probably really wrong.

1. Puerto Rico
At one point this was my favorite game ever. I bought it in late 2004 or early 2005 because it was ranked #1 here on BGG and have played it well over 100 times (even though I have less recorded as I didn't record any plays that year and half, but we played it over and over again. Often multiple times in a single night. I still love the game, own two copies of it for now, and have hosted a tournament for 15 years of it.

2. Lord of the Rings: Confrontation
I've only played this one, I think in 2019 or so, but I really enjoyed it. Reminded me of a really good version of Stratego and actually was quite thematic. I'd be happy to play this one again.

3. Keythedral
This is a one of those euro games where you directly mess with your opponents, which is why I like it. It has gone down slightly over the years, it is pretty much just trade this combo of cubes into points, but it is one I'll never get rid of. My favorite Breese game.

4. Age of Steam
Another one I've only played once. I have however played Steam a few times and Railways of the World dozens of times. You might infer, which you should, that I prefer the others to Age of Steam. However, Age of Steam is a really good game. It is just brutal, at least I remember it being so in that one game I played, and as such my group really went with the others.

5. Mexica
A solid area control game. What is most unique about it to me is that you form the areas as you play the game. I don't know of many games like that. So that means setting up your pyramids and trying to know where the areas will end up at (or cutting off others) can be great fun and make things spicey. There has been a new updated edition, which looks really nice, but the one on my shelf remains the 2002 version.

So there you have it - the best games of 2002 from my perspective. What did I miss?
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Mon Jan 10, 2022 2:11 am
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Games Played 2021 - From the Ashes We RISE!

Adam Daulton
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This is another one of my favorite blogs to write each year, because I love stats and data. Often in my day job I am reviewing data on a regular basis and when I get to do that it makes for a fun day. BG Stats is really amazing app - because it does provide so much more than just a play of the game. A couple cool new features are the XxX images, I chose the 5x5 below. Also, a heat map of plays as well! Less total plays than 2020, but still an average of 2+ games a day.

From gallery of ooogene


Total Plays - 853 Plays
Ashes Reborn: Rise of the Phoenixborn - 220 Plays
I haven't been playing an LCG since I gave up Android: Netrunner in 2016. I've loved LCG/CCGs in the past and at least with Netrunner was always competing in local, regional, and national tournaments when I could. Well, I'm back into an LCG and loving it - though most of my play is with same friend. I have been in one tournament that had four players and have played several games with anonymous folks on Ashteki.com. This year though Ashes has gone all the way up to my 4th most played game of all time!

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine - 43 Plays
Just pulled this out at Christmas was the brother-in-law, wife, dad, and oldest daughter. We probably played it 6 times that night alone. I've yet to play only a single game of this and more often than not tend to play 5+ times each time we sit down. We still have 10 scenarios left to beat.

Power Plants - 23 Plays
All these plays have come since the rules were essentially finalized and the game was put in BGG. I can't wait to get my own copy next year, but it was especially fun playing the prototype with folks at Gen Con this year and filming a preview (after some plays) with Man Vs. Meeple!

Locations I Played At - 25
Home - 62%
Down back close to 60% which makes sense once vaccinations became available doing more gaming at restaurants, Gen Con, etc. Still love playing games at my house though, sitting there with a chai, family & friends, and the card board. The vast majority of those games are on my Game Topper playmat which makes it even better.

Online - Real Time - 9%
My online play that started more in 2020 has tapered off slightly, but what I've been playing has changed signficantly. In 2020 I was playing a whole lot on BGA. This year less so, but I have play tested and worked on both Power Plants and Fall of the Mountain King so much on Tabletop Simulator. I've also recently started playing Ashes on Ashteki and so it has kept the online plays about the same.

Yoop Vacation - 7%
For the 2nd year in we had opportunity to go to the upper peninsula Michigan. We go with a gaming family and so when we're not fishing or swimming or eating we're gaming! This year a whole lot of games were played - enough that 7% of ALL the games I played this year where that week in Michigan!

Day of the Week & Month of the Year
Saturday still is my number one day, which is probably what many folks experience I'd guess. Also, since we began hosting game days again on Saturdays this re-estblishes it as the day. Then comes Friday, with our dinner & games tradition. Finally, Sunday pops in with 14%. We played a good amount Sunday afternoons as a couple or as a family.

From gallery of ooogene


With no Gen Con in August it once again doesn't get the high marks of plays I often see, but absolutely made up for it in January, July, September, and December. That last month jumped to that space when between online and inperson gaming, Jeremy and I played 19 games of Ashes in last three days. Being off work is nice!

From gallery of ooogene

From gallery of ooogene


Player Count
Ashes, plus Krista being my main board game partner, makes two player games where it is at for me. This jumped that count from 37% last year to 49% this year. Quite a big increase.

Who I Played With
This is the one that really matters, because this is what gaming is about, the people you sit at a table (most of the time) with and laugh, threaten, and enjoy each other's company. The exact same 6 people are at the top of the list and in the same order as last year. My whole family, plus our gaming buddies on Friday nights, Annie & Jeremy.

Wrap Up
Overall, at least 1/2 through 2021, things on the gaming front seemed to get transition from more online plays to some more in person plays with close friends. That and normal life picking up meant that we seemed to play less than we did in 2020 on random week nights. Of course, much of my time was spent working on the development of my two games that came out and also well...Ashes.
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Sat Jan 1, 2022 4:13 pm
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Gaming Goals 2022 & Review of 2021 Goals

Adam Daulton
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Well, the review of my goals last year will be short.

Sell 50 Copies of Fish Flip - Fail
Well, I only sold 29 copies of the game. Still though that is something! I myself have played the game a lot with my wife and that is always a good thing.

Read a Game Design Book - Fail
Nope. See below.

Sign Another Game - Fail
Again, nope. Had three very good leads. Still hoping one pans out. Perhaps this year.

Play All My Top 50 Games - Fail
I honestly forgot I'd had this one. I failed it as well.

Have Pokémon Trading Card Game Tournament with Kids - Fail
Didn't happen. Yet, though I'm thinking maybe this week I could try and do it. I'll update this if it happens.

Go to a Convention - Success
Yes! I got to go to Gen Con in September. Was very different, but I was very glad for the opportunity.

Now for the 2022 Goals
Read a Game Design Book - I'm putting this one out again.

Release Another Antlered Designs Product
I have a 2-4 player card game about making runs and balancing how many cards you take on a turn and has a fun circus theme. It is called Balancing Act. It should be a perfect one (unless it gets picked up) to release as a print-on-demand game. Thinking I'll do this in the June/July time frame!

Play in an Ashes Reborn: Rise of the Phoenixborn Tournament That I Don't Organize
There is going to be an Ashes tournament in January, but like many things in my life I tend to be the catalyst in organizing things. I hoping to get one to one I don't organize perhaps in Ohio, maybe Gen Con, just to play!

Play My Top 25 Games
This year I'll start with my current Top 25. This time I'll put it in my BG Stats and track it there as a challenge. I'll make it happen!

Play 75 Games with My Kids
I just looked and I've played 70 games with each of the kids this year. I think we can bump that up one and get to 75 games with each of them. Sounds like a fun goal.

What gaming goals do you have for next year? How'd you do on your 2021 goals?
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Tue Dec 28, 2021 4:23 am
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Best Games of 2021

Adam Daulton
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I've played 60 new to me games this year! Which is back up to my to about my normal amount in a year. While I wouldn't say this year was an amazing year for me (not sure any but my #1 will make my Top 50 when I do that list next year) there really isn't a bad year in board games anymore. Just so many fun games coming out! Here are a few that I've enjoyed quite a bit, but just didn't make my top 10 due to only a single play or maybe just not quite in my personal wheelhouse:

Bites - getting rid of Tutankhamen now that we have this)
Brian Boru - Feels like a classic game from 20 years ago!
Architects of the West Kingdom - Only a single play, early in the year, but really liked how the worker placement happened and would be happy to play again.
Empire of the Stars - Great battle system & action selection!
Kombo Klash - Felt like the type of game I would design. Quick fun!
The Game of 49 - Auctions and more auctions. Again a hit with the family. Rquested even just tonight.
Radioactive Bees- Very solid abstract I want to play with only 2 players.

Board Game: Ankh: Gods of Egypt


1. Ankh: Gods of Egypt
What can I say? I have a type. While I'm for sure an omni-gamer overall, my favorite games tend to have maps, units, and conflict with strategy that can play in the 2 hour or so mark. Blood Rage is my favorite game of all time. Rising Sun has been in my Top 50 since it's release. Ankh joins them as one of my favorites! I like the more Chess-like play of this game, specific spots for units, and all information known to all. There is of course a crap ton of variability in the game as well with the different scenarios, guardians, and gods. I've played it 12 times this year and so have gotten my money out of the game I spent the most on ever upfront. A fitting end to the Monsters & Myths Trilogy. I know it'll be asked - so Blood Rage>Ankh>Risking Sun.

Board Game: Maracaibo
2. Maracaibo
I don't know that this would've been on this list (or at least this high) even after 3 plays. However, we kept playing it, and kept playing it, and kept playing it. Now at a full 10 plays (8 into the campaign)! The more I've played it the more I've enjoyed it, the tension of your opponent finishing the round and thus forcing you to miss spots you want to stop at. The cards creating some combos that you can utilize to the greatest extent and try to take advantage of just a little more than your opponent. I've only played this at two player and not really sure I have any interest at playing with more.

3. Red Rising
It seems like I'm in the minority preferring Red Rising to
Board Game: Red Rising
Fantasy Realms. Maybe it is the theme (I loved the books), but I think it feels more strategic than Fantasy Realms. That said I only want to play it with 2-4 players at most. I'm also very disappointed in the color of the metal tokens and the flimsy card holders. Playing it more and more though has allowed me to see a lot of combos, I love seeing Darrow and Mustang connect or any other situation that brings the book out to me.

Board Game: Q.E.
4. Q.E.
After playing well over a 1,000 games the next two games on this list still feel very unique. Q.E. is a game I heard about when it was an all wooden pieces game. I never had the opportunity to play it, but when Krista and I played it at Gen Con we bought it and have had several chances to play it since. It is so crazy just paying whatever you want to pay for an item which then gets crazier depending on what group you play with. One group we spent only thousands of dollars. Another group billions. Such fun!

5. Cosmic Frog
Again, another one I've added to my collection from Gen Con, and again
Board Game: Cosmic Frog
because it is just different than everything I have. I'm not sure I'd say this is a well designed game, but man is it an enjoyable game! Random as all get out, but it fits the game and craziness of playing as a 2 mile tall frog. This is the most Ameritrash game in my collection and all my plays have been in the 60-75 minute range which is perfect for it.

Board Game: Whistle Mountain
6. Whistle Mountain
Well, straight from the most Ameritrash game to the most Euro game. I hesitated to put this on my list, because I've only had a single play of it. However, I REALLY enjoyed that play. I'd like to play it more and perhaps own it as I think it'll go over well with Krista and the game group. The combination of worker placement, polyominoes, and the rising water just hit with me.

7. Ruination
As I talked about with Ankh above - Ruination is my type of game.
Board Game: Ruination
About 2 hours and lots of fighting. This one is a whole lot of fighting. Everything is close, you score by fighting, and even get resources by fighting. I really love the look of the art and the setting this game has been put in. If you want a game that requires doesn't allow turtling, in the vein of Kemet then you should check out Ruination. For the Khan!

Board Game: Dice Miner
8. Dice Miner
I love drafting dice and that was this is all about with a fun gimmick that allows gravity to feed the dice on the side of the mountain. I bought it for myself, but I've got to say it has been more popular with my wife Krista and our kids. They've played it more than I have! For sure deserves a spot in this top 10 just because of all the times it has been played in the past few months.

9. Ten
Everything about this game is all about the number 10, everything except the place I put it on this list.
Board Game: TEN
This isn't as simple as I thought it would be and as such I'm not sure it is the family push your luck game of choice - however for me as a filler at game day or with friends that are just quite not there yet in the group - this game sings! I like how if you bust, not only do you get a little something, but you often give your opponents a little something. The team from Flatout Games continue to impress me with what they put out - while yet to be my absolute favorite because they tend to be light - they are for sure excellent games.

Board Game: Almanac: The Dragon Road
10. Almanac: The Dragon Road
I passed on this game when it was on Kickstarter. For some reason, though I know I'm in the minority by far, Scott Almes' games have not been ones I've enjoyed greatly. In February/March I got a chance to play this one though and you know what? It is just fun! There are points to go around for everyone, each little mini worker placement game is great. Changing things up from round to round. Perhaps it won't hold up to a ton of repeat plays - but for now I'm glad that I ended up receiving it for my birthday.

Every year I give out my Dust award to the game I like the least. When I first started these lists Dust was a game I was so excited about, but failed so miserably for me. This year it is Exit: The Game – The Haunted Roller Coaster. Honestly, in this case, it wasn't because I had high expectations. I've played several of these escape room games and just do not enjoy them at all. So it really didn't have a chance with me from the beginning.

What was your favorite game from the year?
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Wed Dec 22, 2021 1:51 am
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Favorite Gaming Experiences 2021

Adam Daulton
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I didn't do this write up last year, just really wasn't feeling it, but this year I'm back baby! Granted with less conventions as both IndyCon and Geekway were cancelled this year. However, that doesn't mean less great gaming experiences, just means different gaming experiences.

Unmatched Tourney with the Kids
This year four of us adults got together with four of our kids aged 9-12 and played an Unmatched tournament. It was so awesome! Each of us chose a character to play throughout the tournament - the younger kids having chosen early in the week - so that we could play several games with them leading up to the tournament. That helped them know exactly what they were doing, the games to go faster, etc. We then played three rounds of Unmatched - which is probably my favorite tactical miniatures game. I don't remember everything exactly, but I do know Bigfoot won the whole thing (an adult), but 2nd place was the 2nd youngest kid! I really want to do this again.

Games on Kickstarter & The Game Crafter
That is right! 2021 was a crazy year for me with crowdfunding my games. First, through my own print-on-demand "company" Antlered Designs I released Fish Flip in January. Then in May Fall of the Mountain King came out on Kickstarter gaining over 4,000 backers. Then to put icing on the cake Power Plants had over 2,500 people put trust in us to bring fun to their table. I'm so blessed to have worked with the Cappels & Sean this year on these games - that is where a lot of the fun came from creating something together. There is no doubt in my mind that in 2022 my favorite experiences will include seeing these games being played.

IndyCan't
I know a lot of people have had some kind of cabin con where you rent an airbb and play some games. We're no different and got a small group of us together to rent an amazing cabin (seriously was a cabin) and played some games! Maybe this is my favorite convention of the future. Enough people you can usually play what you want and not get stuck in a game you don't want, trading who is responsible for meals/clean up, and just good fun all the way around!

Game Group Starting Back Up
After vaccinations became readily available here in the U.S. we started up game group again once a month! It was so great after 16 months of not meeting. Yes, the group isn't near as big as it was pre-pandemic, which is understandable and maybe preferable. However, just seeing each other again face to face makes each month better.

Ashes Reborn: Rise of the Phoenixborn
I've not played a CCG/LCG/ECG since I got out of Netrunner in 2015/2016 time frame. However, I've owned Ashes about that long. Last year when I heard they were updating it - I decided I'd jump in. Talked to some three friends, two quickly decided no, but my buddy Jeremy went all with me! We've had such a great time this year playing it, the vast majority of the time just the two of us, though we do have a once a month meet up with a couple others. Just this year alone I've played the game 185 times! We have the latest expansions coming today - so hopefully we'll maybe have opportunity to play more and get that to 200 before the end of the year.

What was your favorite gaming experience in 2021? Any of you do a "cabin con" like I've heard many others do as well? Any pointers to make next one more successful?
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Sat Dec 18, 2021 4:20 pm
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The Best Games I've Only Played Once

Adam Daulton
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I have 13 pages of plays on BGG. Of those 13 pages games I've only played once start at page 7! So that is a lot of pages of games I've never been back to! There are just too many games and not enough time! So after just a single play - what ones am I most excited to go back to? Usually I would do a list like this in rank order, but this time just going with alphabetical.

878 Vikings: Invasions of England
I remember playing this at Geekway with my friend Patrick. Over the past 5-10 years I've become more interested in this time in history and that is a big reason this is on the list. I like the system and this one with the individual armies is cool.

Architects of the West Kingdom
A more recent play at my friend's Matt's house. Only played it two player, but enjoyed the grouping of workers. The West Kingdom & North Sea games that I have played have just been "ok" but this is the best of them for me.

Ascending Empires
I played this one at Gen Con. Haven't had the chance since and absolutely would. It is weird flicking and serious euro game. I remember puzzle board being kind of annoying and suspect if it'd come out today it'd be a playmat.

Blackout: Hong Kong
Played this with the Man Vs. Meeple crew. Remember the look of ti being terrible. However, made sense from the theme stand point. I really did like the card play in it though and want to try it two player. For awhile it was at discount prices so maybe I'll have the opportunity again.

Carnagie
My only play with this was with my friend Sean on his birthday this past year via BGA. I liked it, especially by the end, but I'm pretty sure it isn't out yet in physical form and I have not played any games on BGA for quite awhile now. Perhaps I should do an asychronos game of this one.

Copycat
Speaking of Sean I played this with him before an Invasion tournament in Louisville. We had stayed the night in a hotel and had time in the morning and so he pulled this out. I remember enjoying it a lot, the mash up of a lot of games, but I've never had the opportunity to get a play of it again.

Fleet
This is starting to be a pattern, because I know Sean taught me this one as well at Gen Con I believe. I like fishing, this has fishing, I liked the card play as well. I remember thinking perhaps it lasted slightly longer than it should - but I would still like to have another chance at it.

Keyflower
Three 2012 games in a row! I really liked the worker placement in this one and getting your own village built. This was again a BGA play in 2020 and haven't gone back yet. Absolutely, should do this one again. Don't know if I've ever seen it in real life though.

Homesteaders
That single play the year it came out and nothing since! I remember an auction I really liked, I tend to like old western theme games, and this was even reprinted. I guess I just wasn't impressed enough to take the plunge and purchase or play again though I have had the opportunities. With TMG gone - maybe I missed my chance.

Lisboa
Maybe the heaviest game I've ever played. Played it with my pal Cameron two player one night when nobody else showed up to game day. For some reason I think my wife Krista would like the deep thinkyness of the game. I should borrow Cameron's copy and leave it set up and play a few times in a row to really dig into this one.

Lords of Vegas
I remember playing this first thing at one of our first gaming extravaganza weekends. I remember REALLY liking it! Then it disapeared. I've never seen it again in person and despite reprints not purchased it. Probably should search this one out, because I remember enough interaction that it wasn't the dry euro I'm less impressed with these days.

Orléans
If I was ranking this list, I think this would be in the top three of want to play again. I played it at IndyCon, pretty close to when it came out, but never since. I think I've had opportunities, but ended up teaching other games when groups split. Again, TMG is gone, I think I remember someone picking this game up though? I do think this would be a good two player game with Krista and my monthly group probably would enjoy as well.

The Networks
I liked the theme. I could play a few more times and still get some laughs out of it as well. I could do without the artwork though - which has kept me from it. However, if I do get opportunity to play this again I absoltutely will do so!

Vindication
This also came out at one of my game days. We played just the very basic game which left me wanting to add a bit more into it. What surprised me the most about it though was how short the game was which was nice! It comes across with all the stuff as super complicated, but played so easy. Fun theme on a euro too!

Whistle Mountain
Played a full game at Gen Con this year and really want to play again! I really liked the tile laying, the flooding, worker placement, just about everything about the game. Honestly, probably #1 on this list if I ranked and I really should purchase this one. Reminds me of when I played the other game in the "Whistle Universe" Whistle Stop. I also played that just once at a Gen Con and about a year later got it, it is still in my collection, and has seen several plays. I think this would be the same.

König von Siam
I think it was Jeff Curtis (been a long time since we've played a game together!) taught this to me. It is a brilliant three player only game where if I remember correctly you get a hand of cards at beginning of the game and you will play each once for the whole game. That is it. I wonder if this would work now with Krista and my oldest daughter. Should look into it.

There you go...17 games that I'd love to go back to again out of hundreds I've only played once. Any of these you've played a lot and would especially encourage me to go back to? What about you - got any games you've only played once you really want more plays of?
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Sat Dec 4, 2021 3:50 pm
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Don't Forget Our Roots

Adam Daulton
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Every year our community group at church rents a house and just hangs out for the weekend. We enjoy meals together, fishing, disc golf, hiking, whatever happens to be around the house we rented, and we play games! Now usually this also means games! When one family joined our group about 7 years ago they brought with them a love of 7 Wonders and have everything for the game. I was excited about this as it was already one of my favorites. The third family picked it up well and we played on our retreats. However, that doesn't mean it always goes well.

As communities tend to do - families move in and out do to jobs, time constraints, moves, etc. So while our group has had the core three families over the past 7 years we've had four other families come and go which means when retreat time comes around we're teaching 7 Wonders again often with 7 Wonders: Cities to allow that 8th player. I'd say most of the time it ends with over 50% of the new players just as confused as they were in the beginning of the game. This last time our friend won the game, thanks to some great advice from his neighbors he'd say, however still felt like he didn't know how to play the game. 7 Wonders specifically seems to be a game that I've found doesn't translate well to the non-gamer crowd as I remember holidays with my family and utter confusion in the game.

I'm picking on 7 Wonders here, but I think there are plenty of game that might fit in that category. Some simpler even than 7 Wonders - Tichu comes to mind. People who are extremely smart, engineers, doctors, electricians, professors, plumbers, etc. People who make strategic decisions every day of their life, learn new skills, figure out challenging problems, both mental and physical (how do I get that pipe to fit in that space and still do the job), lock up when icons, trick-taking, auctions, etc. come into play.

I think it is so easy to forget after playing thousands of games how many layers of gaming knowledge I have to build on. I think 7 Wonders is simple it'll go over great and then they are confused on what a resource icon can do. This isn't a bad thing - I'd be confused on how to repair a BMX bike where someone seeped in that hobby would do it quickly and almost without thinking!

I guess this has come to mind as the retreat is now over and while I can see us continuing to play it each year (hopefully the new family who just learned it will be with us again next year and it'll continue to get easier) just because I "get" it doesn't mean others will. It can take time and like a lot of things in life repeat plays. Two days ago it was Thanksgiving and we played my parent's copy of Sagrada. You read that right. My PARENT'S copy of Sagrada. 15 years ago my mom wouldn't even sit down to play a game of No Thanks! as she thought it was too complicated. Over the years though the intimidation of games and the learning of games has grown enough they own and play Sagrada.

So bottom line - as we gamers get together this year with family and friends to celebrate the holidays it is ok to play nothing, it is ok to play No Thanks, it is ok to play Sagrada, and maybe even it is okay to play 7 Wonders - but whatever we are playing we (I especially) need to remember what I think of as simple often isn't.

P.S. This might directly correlate to the weight of a game or it might not - but I'm thinking my next blog post might be on that as we had a lot of discussion the other night on the weight of the games on my shelves.

P.P.S. What game is your 7 Wonders? The game you have always thought as easy for folks to get into, but it seems everytime you try it there is confusion the whole time?
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Sat Nov 27, 2021 3:53 pm
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Best Games of 2020 Revisited

Adam Daulton
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Each year in November I like to look back at my favorite games from the previous year and see how they've held up, if I've played them more, and if I'd change anything now. You can see last year's post here: The Best Games of 2020. Here are my updated thoughts on them, if I think they'd stay in their position, and how many plays I've had of them since I wrote the blog last year.

Fort - 5 Plays
I still really love Fort and honestly haven't missed SPQF since because of the theme it is much easier to teach and get people into Fort. Overall, I think it has gone over well, but both my wife and oldest daughter seem to be lukewarm on it at best. If I was making the list now it'd drop, not because it is less enjoyed by me, but because of a high-riser we'll get to below.

Lost Ruins of Arnak - 9 Plays
I got this right around Christmas of last year as a gift and nine plays is a solid amount for the year. I'm still very much enjoying this one, especially for the way you start with so little and yet somehow do so much each round. The art and presentation of the game are great and really there isn't a lot you can go wrong with this game. I'd recommend it to just about any gamer.

Heaven & Ale - 5 Plays
This one might drop slightly for me, not that it isn't amazing, just that I might've played it out a bit in the early parts of 2020. This one really hit well with my wife, who often suggests it with the game group or with just the two of us.

Arboretum - 19 Plays
This is the game that I think would jump over Heaven & Ale for me, just because I do think I like it better at the 2 player count which is basically the only way I've played it (one single 3 player game). Sometimes you play games where you have to make important decisions all the time, but sometimes you play a game where you have to make important and ridiculously TOUGH decisions on ever turn and that is this game! Very much in our "couples game" rotation.

The Voyages of Marco Polo - 11 Plays
It has been fun exploring this game more. Especially the player powers. I'm still thinking they aren't balanced, but then at the same time feels like they are equally unbalanced. However, it has lost some of its shine for my wife over the year, but our main game opponents still seem to be enjoying it. I'd not take it off the list.

Coimbra - 4 Plays
Not a ton of plays, but granted it is the first game on this list I do not own. It has been played a lot though at my game days, I've just not been in it, however I'd like to be. Krista has been saying we should buy it, just because of the two player game, and even though we have access to it with our closest gaming friends we just might do so.

Clank!: Legacy – Acquisitions Incorporated - 0 Plays
With a Legacy game like this, not surprised no plays and probably will never be in the future. Still though had such a wonderful time with the game and with the people I played it with. This is the best competitive legacy game I've ever played.

Argent: The Consortium - 2 Plays
This is such a hate it or love it game. There is so much going on in it (which is why I do like it so much), but that can be a problem to for some. It can be really mean (another reason I like it), but it can also be so lopsided. Krista HATES this game which does limit it's ability to hit the table and honestly drops it a bit for me, because I want games that are easier to get to the table for me. Still though if you want Harry Potter Board Game don't look at the branded ones, this is really it.

Dune: Imperium - 8 Plays
The biggest riser. If I was making this list today, this would be number one! I received this for Christmas, two days after getting Arnak. Last year I obviously put Arnak above it, but after more plays I'm just seeing more and more that I like in Dune. The intrigue card plays, the give and take of the conflict, the race for factions. Perhaps the movie and the IP (reading book for 4th time) has helped it as well. Also, when I wrote that last year, I think I'd only played a single 4 player game. All my plays since then have been 4 players and that is where it is at!

Smartphone Inc. - 2 Plays
Another one I do not own. I'm not sure how good it would be at 2 players which is why I haven't purchased it yet, but my limited play of it have been so great. Probably the thing I like best about it is how fast it plays, but feels so big! My games have been about 60-75 minutes which just seems so quick for this type of game. This game feels like it is what Power Grid wants to be. Perhaps that is what I do - get this and get rid of Power Grid.

What about you? What was your favorite game you played for the first time last year and have your thoughts changed on it since then?
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Tue Nov 9, 2021 1:31 am
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Designer Diary - Power Plants

Adam Daulton
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Board Game: Power Plants


Let's Start from the End
For those of you that don't like all the background of where it started, how the publisher found it, what theme it had, etc. and just want to know what the game is about we'll start with that.

In Power Plants you are wizards fighting of a magical garden to get gain gems. That is the setting that drives the tile-laying gameplay where on your turn you play out a hex-shaped tile and either trigger a powerful sprout ability of that type of plant or trigger multiple grow abilities of all the two, three, or sometimes four tiles around it it. These abilities add sprites to the game (your agents of strength in the garden used to control patches (tiles) and fields (multiple adjacent tiles of the same type), move patches, gain gems, and several other such things.

Once again working with Helaina, Josh, and Sean has been a treat. We went straight from fighting of gnomes in another of my designs Fall of the Mountain King to cultivating magical plants. Through that work together and the further development of the game there have been three key changes to the game from the prototype I submitted back in 2019 that I think are worthwhile talking about.

From gallery of ooogene
Picture: Play testing with the kids early on in the design.


The area control changed from being simply the most sprites in a field to controlling the most patches in a field - regardless of your total number of sprites. This was a change that we went back and forth on a bit, but in the end I think it has been a good decision to have it be number of patches. If not only for that is a unique way of doing area control in a game like this. This also means you can't just stack up in a single patch and count on winning that field. You must spread out, dink and dunk and really watch out for those lower numbered patches as they are the tie-breaker!

From gallery of ooogene
Picture: Late play testing at Gen Con 2021 with Paul who I met from New York.


Another key area has been the adding of the Sprout power of each patch. Originally, only the Grow powers were in the game and the Grow power became stronger if you played the patch next to the same type of patch. However, players kept wanting to use the power of the tile they played. This led to just allowing it to happen (the Sprout ability), but not allowing them to use the Grow ability if you did. This added another nice decision of not only determining where you wanted to place a patch - but if you wanted to get the big Sprout power or perhaps multiple, albeit smaller, grow powers! This also has allowed for a great solution of "training mode" for playing with younger players where you only use the Sprout powers to simplify how the game plays.

Finally, which happens in a lot of games that have such variety like this one, the changing/tweaking/editing of the the powers! I submitted the game with many different powers, a core set, and others that I loved but knew would be likely be developed further after KTBG picked it up. While the types of powers remain very similar they've been tweaked slightly. For example, many of the plant types now come with a sprite on them. The Emberwood adds a sprite to help protect the gems you place, before it didn't. The Wingbean now not only moves a patch, but also destroys sprites and has end game scoring (personally my favorite plant in the base game!). The Snapjaw now can capture sprites in adjacent fields (and add a sprite) where before it was only adjacent patches. There is SO MUCH design space with these powers (and other additions) that we have a lot of plans for if the Kickstarter does well!

From gallery of ooogene
Picture: A Tabletop Simulator screen shot of the way the game looks now. I can't wait to play a physical copy!


All games change as they go through development and Power Plants 2+ years of development after KTGB signed it is no exception. However, thanks to all the play testers, the work and dedication of the KTBG team, the amazing art of Apolline Etienne, and a little bit of patience the idea I had at lunch one day will come to fruition! Please consider backing the game on Kickstarter October 26th! You can sign up to be notified when it goes live here: https://www.kidstablebg.com/power-plants. I'll also come back and edit and comment on this blog post with link to Kickstarter when it goes live.

From gallery of ooogene
Picture: A nice 3D rendering of the base game.


Please consider backing the game onKickstarter October 26th!: http://kck.st/3jEbOYu

The Journey

For those of you who want more detail on how we are at the beautiful finished product.

An often used query of game designers is "Theme or mechanics first?" - for Power Plants the answer is...components! I had recently purchased Anachrony: Exosuit Commander Pack which replaced the cardboard hexes in the base game with some cool minis. This meant I had 30 hexes in five different colors that I could use in game design. This was in the fall of 2017 I believe.

In late 2017 or early 2018 (I don't quite remember) while at work I was thinking about those hexes and at lunch I sat down with a piece of paper and started writing ideas down how to use the five tiles. The idea I had was what if the tiles powers were different based not on what they were, but rather on what tiles they were placed next to on the "board". I ran with that getting more and more excited as I came up with powers for each of the tiles. I called my wife and said I'd be coming home early and we needed to play right away!

From gallery of ooogene
Picture: Earliest prototype picture I found still using the Anachrony tiles.


Well, that first play went really well! Enough that I said confidently "someone is going to pick this game up in the next year. I know it." (Little did I know it'd until the summer of 2019 before it was) I then set out to make it better by balancing it out and finding the sweet spot for the game. There were really three things that sweet spot needed to be found: more tile powers, more tiles for larger player counts, and how the area control scoring would work. I themed it with a magical architecture theme, called it Hexcellent (because you wanted to make the warlock you were designing it for to say "Hexcellent" to you), and got work.

I came up with several tile powers that simple, some aggressive, some odd and made the game even more variable as even at the early stage the game still had you only using five powers in any given game. I made a Game Crafter order to get a set of 64 tiles made to increase the number of turns players get in multiplayer games. Then I kept switching back and forth on how end game area control scored number of tiles in a group, each tile, number of tiles plus points, multiplying by number of tiles and sprites. By the time I began pitching the game it was still in flux.

From gallery of ooogene
Picture: You gotta find play testers out for blood!


That first year I pitched the game to a few companies and despite how sure I was to the game's quality, I didn't get any takers, with the exception of one company who took the prototype, but then I didn't hear from them again, so I put it on the shelf and saved it for convention season 2019. When Origins 2019 rolled around I thought I'd try again and this time around thought of Kids Table BG because I'd met Helaina and Josh the previous year and bought Haunt the House enjoying playing it and thinking my little tile laying game would fit well in their line up. We met and I showed them the game. I could tell Josh was digging it, but I couldn't read Helaina for anything. I'm never going to play poker with her, because a few weeks later she reached out and said they'd loved it and would bring a contract to Gen Con!

Well, the week before Gen Con the company I'd given my prototype too the previous year asked to meet about the game as well. They ended up offering me a contract as well (which was crazy!), but after much consideration I wanted to go with Kids Table - because I knew they'd care about the game and me, and had been so responsive, open, and quick to respond. Such a good decision!

From gallery of ooogene
Picture: This was play testing at the Gen Con where I made the decision to go with KTBG!


The KTBG team continued to work on and develop the game and then 2020 hit. They got behind schedule a bit on the planned release date (who didn't get behind?) and about that time I showed them the Fall of the Mountain King prototype their sister company Burnt Island games. The decision was made to push that up in the release schedule and drop Power Plants to the fall of '21.

I has been great working on the game for the past 4 months once again. I'm really excited about some of the stretch goals we have planned, but honestly what I'm most excited about is the nice, chunky tiles that KTBG has chosen to use! I'd always hoped the game would have tiles like Hive and now that it'll have something similar I'm ecstatic! Add in the fun organic look that Josh has given the tiles, the production values that KTBG brings, Power Plants is turning into more than I imagined.

If you've stuck with me this long - thank you! Power Plants will be my 4th professionally published game and I'm very proud of it. Once again, patience and flexibility, are the keys to working with publishers and improving designs. Please come help make Power Plants a reality on Kickstarter October 26th!

If you haven't had enough you can see some previous design posts here:
Playing, Demoing, and Pitching Games at Origins 2019
Game Design - IT WON'T LET ME GO!
Things I've Learned This Summer About Pitching Games
Hexcellent!

P.S. I'd love to answer any questions you might have about the game or the design process or give you my Wingbean soup recipe which just flies out of the bowl!
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Mon Oct 25, 2021 1:00 pm
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Games My Wife Is Better Than Me At (But Only When We Play Two Player)

Adam Daulton
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This week I've lost games two games of The Castles of Burgundy to my wife Krista. Usually I'd say we are pretty evenly matched in whatever game we're playing, if not me having the edge if it has a lot of cards with text, but there some games, where she is just better than me at the two player match. However, when we've played with more players I am the one that does better.

The Castles of Burgundy
When playing at two players (since I began tracking wins/losses in 2016) Krista has won 10 of the 17 games we've played. If however we bump it up to all player counts I've one I've one 12 games and she has won 11. This includes our two player games, so that means of those extra 7 games with other people I've won 5 of them and she has won just 1 of them.

Terraforming Mars
Probably our favorite two player game to play together, Terraforming Mars is one that I've always felt confident in. At least I tend to do better games with lots of cards. However, once again Krista is winning the series between the two of us 10 games to 9. However, add in other players to our games, and my wins increase to 17 and Krista's only increase to 13. So once again I do better when you add the chaos of other human life to the mix.

Caverna: The Cave Farmers
Caverna is yet another one! Though I feel like I'm less good in general at this game, I KNOW it at the two player game against Krista. She has beat me 5 to 1 in our two player matches. Go to our multi player games and I've won 10 total to her 8. So a huge difference in this one. Even looking at average scores go from 54 in the two player games to 72 in the multi-player game.

Heaven & Ale
One other example. When playing this two player Krista has won 7 games to my 4 games. However, when we switch over to the multi-player matches she hasn't won a single additional game. Granted - I've only won 1 additional game - so maybe this is a case where we both aren't great at the game. shake

It is awesome to have a partner, friend, and wife to play so many two player games with each week. Have you noticed games that you are better at in a multi-player format or multi-player format? Apparently, at least with these games, I need other humans to bring a little chaos and throw Krista off her game. We haven't noticed this same phenomenon the opposite way, but I should look to see if I can find it in BG Stats.
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Sat Oct 16, 2021 2:20 am
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