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2021 in Review

Andrew
United States
Kansas City
Missouri
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Let's Go Chiefs!
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Coração Brasileiro
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Microbadge: 2022 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I'm part of the 2022 Mindful Spending ChallengeMicrobadge: Foster parentMicrobadge: Black Lives MatterMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
It's been a pretty good year for gaming. 2020 saw a major dip (306 logged plays), while this year (455 plays of 144 games) compares favorably to 2019 (453 plays). And hey, there's still a new year's eve party so maybe we'll squeeze in 3 or 4 or 9 more plays before the year is out

Board Game: Candy Land
Board Game: Spot it!
Board Game: Blink
Board Game: Groundhog Day: The Game
Board Game: Scrabble
Board Game: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
Board Game: ICECOOL
Board Game: Fuji Flush
Board Game: Spicy
From gallery of aaj94
Board Game: Escape: The Curse of the Temple
Board Game: Rhino Hero
Board Game: Concordia Venus
Board Game: Hive
Board Game: Onitama
Board Game: Skull
Board Game: Spirits of the Forest
Board Game: Bullet♥︎
Board Game: Fort
Board Game: Obsession
Board Game: The Mind
Board Game: Tumblin-Dice
Board Game: A Fake Artist Goes to New York
From gallery of aaj94
Board Game: Catacombs (Third Edition)
Board Game: Lost Hedgehog
Board Game: The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth
Board Game: Wingspan
Board Game: Baseball Highlights: 2045
Board Game: Beasts of Balance: Battles Edition
Board Game: Beyond the Sun
Board Game: Claim
From gallery of aaj94
Board Game: Dice Forge
Board Game: Fugitive
Board Game: High Society
Board Game: Masons
Board Game: Mysterium
Board Game: Parade
Board Game: The Grizzled
Board Game: The Red Cathedral
Board Game: Tichu
Board Game: Tikal
Board Game: 6 nimmt! 25 Jahre
Board Game: Babylonia
Board Game: Biblios
Board Game: Dixit: Odyssey
Board Game: Dragon Castle
From gallery of aaj94
Board Game: Happy City
Board Game: PARKS
From gallery of aaj94
Board Game: Sheriff of Nottingham
Board Game: Stone Age
Board Game: Tales of the Arabian Nights
Board Game: The Fox in the Forest
Board Game: Trade on the Tigris
Board Game: Village Green
Board Game: Wildlands
Board Game: 7 Wonders (Second Edition)
Board Game: Bananagrams
Board Game: Blokus Duo
Board Game: Codenames: Duet
RPG: Deadlands: The Weird West
Board Game: Jump Drive
Board Game: Kingdom Builder
Board Game: Letter Jam
Board Game: Modern Art
Board Game: Passtally
Board Game: Perudo
Board Game: Project: ELITE
Board Game: Smash Up
Board Game: Space Base
Board Game: Terraforming Mars
Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy
Board Game: The King Is Dead: Second Edition
Board Game: Three Kingdoms Redux
Board Game: Wayfinders
Board Game: We're Doomed!
Board Game: Whistle Mountain
Board Game: Yamataï
Board Game: 1754: Conquest – The French and Indian War
Board Game: Acquire
Board Game: Argent: The Consortium
Board Game: Atlantis Rising
Board Game: Bosk
Board Game: Codenames: Pictures
Board Game: Cosmic Encounter
Board Game: Cubitos
Board Game: Custom Heroes
Board Game: Cyclades
Board Game: Dale of Merchants Collection
Board Game: Disney Villainous
Board Game: Draftosaurus
Board Game: Dragonscales
Board Game: Dragonwood
Board Game: Egyptian Ratscrew
Board Game: Everdell
Board Game: Funfair
Board Game: Great Plains
Board Game: HMS Dolores
Board Game: HeroQuest
Board Game: Hues and Cues
Board Game: Imagine
Board Game: Inkling
Board Game: Irish Gauge
Board Game: Kuhhandel Master
Board Game: Lancaster
Board Game: Lisboa
Board Game: London (Second Edition)
Board Game: Lords of Vegas
Board Game: Matryoshka
Board Game: Mutants
Board Game: Mystic Vale
Board Game: Not Alone
Board Game: Palago
Board Game: Pipeline
Board Game: Qwirkle
Board Game: Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island
Board Game: Safranito
Board Game: Samurai
Board Game: Secret Hitler
Board Game: Seeland
Board Game: Shadows over Camelot
Board Game: Silver & Gold
Board Game: Sleeping Queens
Board Game: Snooker Solitaire
Board Game: Star Trek: Ascendancy
Board Game: Sushi Go Party!
Board Game: T.I.M.E Stories
Board Game: Taco vs. Burrito
Board Game: That's Pretty Clever!
Board Game: The Estates
Board Game: The Manhattan Project
Board Game: The Ravens of Thri Sahashri
Board Game: The Reckoners
Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates
Board Game: Tokaido
Board Game: Twilight Struggle
Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
Board Game: Venture
Board Game: Viticulture Essential Edition
Board Game: Vye: The Card Game of Capture and Control
Board Game: Wits & Wagers: It's Vegas, Baby!


 7.0   Candy Land x20 NEW! - ALL of these plays have come since Christmas, with K. Then again, a game rarely takes longer than 3 minutes so that's no surprise. I'll take whatever I can get to pad the stats!
 7.0   Spot it! x18 NEW! - A lot of plays with K, but also one we taught to M when she was here, and one that Alisha and I have played a couple times on our own too.
 6.0   Blink x14 NEW! - Many plays with K, and one or two between me and Alisha.
 8.0   Groundhog Day: The Game x14 NEW! - Possibly my game of the year, certainly by amount of enjoyment gotten vs. price paid. My coworker Vinnie taught me this while I was visiting, and I immediately bought a copy for myself. Delightful, silly co-operative fun
 8.0   Scrabble x14 (147 all-time) - Plays on the app with my mom. In 2020, over 100 of my recorded plays were actually scrabble! The stats would have been even bleaker without it.
 8.0   The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine x12 NEW! - OK, this deserves the crown above Groundhog Day. I gave two copies of this for Christmas presents.
 8.0   ICECOOL x10 (13 all-time) - Loads of fun with kids and adults alike, no surprise it's seen a lot of play.
 8.0   Fuji Flush x9 (16 all-time)
 9.0   Spicy x9 NEW! - A standard game night opener. This actually replaced Cockroach Poker for me
 8.0   YINSH x9 (13 all-time) - This is the year I fell in love with the GIPF system.
 9.0   Escape: The Curse of the Temple x8 (78 all-time) - A venerable classic in our family. One of the few games that's received plays every single year for the past six years (possibly the only game in that category!) It was a seed of the collection and still one of my crown jewels
 7.0   Rhino Hero x8 NEW!
 10.   Concordia Venus x7 (14 all-time) - I finally broke down and rated this a 10. My favorite modern Euro game and it's not even close.
 9.0   Hive x7 (46 all-time)
 7.0   Onitama x7 (17 all-time)
 9.0   Skull x7 (44 all-time)
 10.   Spirits of the Forest x7 NEW! - This wins the prize for my favorite 'opener' game of 2021. It's simply delightful, the Michael Schacht gameplay is difficult and pits everyone against each other in a sweet 20-minute playtime.
 7.0   Bullet♥︎ x6 NEW! - My favorite gaming experience this year that I don't own. It's lovely, I still prefer Escape for real-time games, but this is competitive.
 8.0   Fort x6 (16 all-time)
 9.0   Obsession x6 NEW! - I quite enjoyed this. A game not without its warts, and a game where style and sensibility trump pure mechanical brilliance, but all the same, it's a delightful time playing it, especially when it doesn't stretch too long.
 9.0   The Mind x6 (53 all-time)
 7.0   Tumblin-Dice x6 (23 all-time)
 8.0   A Fake Artist Goes to New York x5 (52 all-time)
 8.0   Carcassonne x5 (43 all-time) - Rediscovered this one after a long pause. 10-12 year olds are the perfect audience for this game, and they're not afraid to play it mean.
 8.0   Catacombs (Third Edition) x5 (8 all-time) - I don't remember playing this 5 times this year, but all the same, I downsized to Catacombs and Castles to save shelf space.
 7.0   Lost Hedgehog x5 (25 all-time)
 5.0   The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth x5 (7 all-time) - So horrible. I don't feel it really deserves a 5, even. What a disappointing campaign.
 7.0   Wingspan x5 NEW! - Solid engine-builder in the Everdell territory.
 8.0   Baseball Highlights: 2045 x4 NEW! - I take back what I said about Bullet Heart: this is my favorite game played this year that I don't own. I got this for J's birthday, and we've played a few times through the year. Tense and excellent for fans of baseball, which we both are.
 8.0   Beasts of Balance: Battles Edition x4 (8 all-time)
 5.0   Beyond the Sun x4 NEW! - Played, loved, cooled, sold. I don't think it has staying power.
 5.0   Claim x4 NEW! - All four plays in the context of the last days of my wife's grandfather. My father-in-law and I played this at 2 am while sitting vigil over his father's bedside. Kind of has a weird, mystical tinge to it as a result.
 7.0   DVONN x4 NEW! - See YINSH.
 7.0   Dice Forge x4 (9 all-time) - Better on BGA than in real life. You'd think the tactility would be great, but it kind of is just fiddly.
 6.0   Fugitive x4 NEW!
 10.   High Society x4 (37 all-time) - Suffered a bit with Spirits of the Forest around. Still a huge classic.
 7.0   Masons x4 NEW! - For $9 I found this a big hit. Tim didn't like it nearly as much, though. I love the simple rules and board interactions. Also it's rather pretty once all built out.
 9.0   Mysterium x4 (26 all-time)
 7.0   Parade x4 (7 all-time) - A fun but unexceptional filler card game.
 8.0   The Grizzled x4 (15 all-time) - One of my favorite co-ops of all time. It's brutally difficult with a simple rule set.
 6.0   The Red Cathedral x4 NEW! - Interesting, but I far prefer Tzolkin to it. You'd think the player interaction here would spur me on but I don't think I've had a memorable play of this game yet.
 8.0   Tichu x4 (8 all-time)
 N/A   Tikal x4 NEW! - Absolutely love this game and everything about it. Tikal marks my descent into the OG Guild this year.
 7.0   6 nimmt! 25 Jahre x3 (14 all-time) - Played, enjoyed, but am ready to move on from now. Some games are like that and that's OK. The randomness at higher play counts is a big detractor.
 6.0   Babylonia x3 NEW! - I think Babs suffers in comparison to Samurai. I don't like the addition of victory points and I still find Samurai quicker and more scrutable.
 7.0   Biblios x3 NEW! - An excellent light filler auction game that I'm very high on and still haven't managed to play much. Compares much more favorably than Claim.
 10.   Dixit: Odyssey x3 (53 all-time) - The other game besides Escape that gets consistent play every year.
 6.0   Dragon Castle x3 NEW!
 10.   Glory to Rome x3 (48 all-time) - Weird to see my #1 game so far down the list, but I think Fort cannibalized several of its plays this year.
 3.0   Happy City x3 NEW! - Played and hated (on BGA). Way way too short and random.
 7.0   PARKS x3 (4 all-time) - Another game in the Wingspan/Everdell triumvirate of casual yet 'complex' board games.
 9.0   Ra x3 (15 all-time) - I think my top auction Knizia. No wait, maybe High Society. No wait, maybe Modern Art. Argh! Knizia is great.
 7.0   Sheriff of Nottingham x3 (25 all-time) - Taught to some family friends' kids and saw the allure again as well as the flaws. One of our starter games in the collection, but doesn't offer too much special anymore.
 N/A   Stone Age x3 NEW! - Played on BGA. This was fine when it came out but isn't great now.
 9.0   Tales of the Arabian Nights x3 NEW! - I waxed eloquent on why this game is so great, here. That said, it still is a game from the 80s, and with kids, Alisha and I don't get many chances to play. Listed for sale on the ridiculous aftermarket
 8.0   The Fox in the Forest x3 (12 all-time)
 8.0   Trade on the Tigris x3 NEW! - Impossible that I only just discovered this game this year. It's so good as a trading/victory point track game. It's very baroque and could be simplified but that would detract from the charm. Completely kills any desire I haev to try Sidereal Confluence.
 7.0   Village Green x3 NEW! - My favorite Peer Sylvester I've tried yet.
 6.0   Wildlands x3 (5 all-time) - Meh, just not my thing. I want to like it but I hate it. I can completely believe that the same guy who designed London designed this, it's just as brutal and punishing, with none of the upsides of London.
 8.0   7 Wonders (Second Edition) x2 (39 all-time) - A mid-weight classic that hasn't seen much play lately. I wonder if Everdell et al are less opaque midweight games, and that's why pepole are drawn to them.
 6.0   Bananagrams x2 (22 all-time)
 7.0   Blokus Duo x2 (5 all-time)
 9.0   Codenames: Duet x2 (69 all-time)
 N/A   Deadlands: The Weird West x2 NEW! - Really interesting RPG. My second introduction to RPGs this year Prefer Savage Worlds to DND.
 7.0   Jump Drive x2 NEW! - Fine, forgettable, will probably keep because I have RftG stored in the same box. Actually, for the length, I don't have an engine builder that does quite this. Worth hanging on to.
 8.0   Kingdom Builder x2 (15 all-time) - Interesting. Only played on BGA, but it was enough to remind me why I like this game and re-acquire it physically.
 N/A   Letter Jam x2 NEW!
 9.0   Modern Art x2 (7 all-time) - Delightful but difficult to get to the table. At least I have the tiny Oink games edition.
 5.0   Passtally x2 NEW! - Way too brain-burnery. On the sell block.
 6.0   Perudo x2 (4 all-time)
 6.0   Project: ELITE x2 (7 all-time)
 6.0   Smash Up x2 (50 all-time)
 N/A   Space Base x2 NEW!
 6.0   Terraforming Mars x2 (3 all-time) - The engine-building is alluring but I would so much rather play Race or London.
 6.0   The Castles of Burgundy x2 (5 all-time) - I like this, even though it's Feld. I think the only Feld game I've enjoyed, has a really nice pace to it and good mitigation on the dice rolls, as you'd expect.
 6.0   The King Is Dead: Second Edition x2 NEW! - Way too opaque, felt too swingy on the last turn. Listed for sale but I'd like to get just one more play in. I admire how few rules it has and how svelte the whole game space is while still being really tense and difficult .
 7.0   Three Kingdoms Redux x2 (4 all-time) - Already sold as of this writing. Harder than my actual job.
 5.0   Wayfinders x2 NEW! - Unremarkable.
 N/A   We're Doomed! x2 NEW! - Actively bad?
 6.0   Whistle Mountain x2 NEW! - Hard to wrap my brain around. I enjoy the creative twist on worker plaement. I think I preferred Tzolkin.
 8.0   Yamataï x2 (15 all-time) - Re-acquired after a long absence. And I still love this game. It's beautiful, and the twist on ownership is really compelling to me.
 N/A   1754: Conquest – The French and Indian War NEW! - Best played with phony french accents and a glass of wine in hand -- which is exactly what I did. We played 5 player for maximum enjoyment, would recommend.
 10.   Acquire (15 all-time) - Classic.
 3.0   Argent: The Consortium NEW! - Bleck. So complex. I didn't click with this at all. The guessing objectives thing was kinda interesting but it was wrapped up in 12 pages of rules and mechanisms I didn't care about.
 N/A   Atlantis Rising NEW! - Decent co-op. I tend to like co-ops when they're shorter, though.
 N/A   Bosk NEW! - Deterministic. Sold.
 5.0   Codenames: Pictures (2 all-time)
 N/A   Cosmic Encounter (6 all-time) - I enjoy this game, not sure why GCL ranked it N/A. I always try to get a play in if I can. It's space munchkin but I still enjoy it.
 N/A   Cubitos NEW!
 6.0   Custom Heroes (3 all-time) - Too random, sold.
 7.0   Cyclades (3 all-time) - I enjoy this game but not enough to own it. Also, it is the best SU&SD review of all time. Cyclades is a very tactical, skin-of-your-teeth type of area control, which is my kind of game.
 N/A   Dale of Merchants Collection NEW! - Now this was a deck builder I really, really liked. Right up there with Arctic Scavengers and Baseball Highlights.
 4.0   Disney Villainous NEW! - Pass. I don't see what everyone else sees in this. Take-that game that's otherwise completely heads down.
 4.0   Draftosaurus NEW!
 4.0   Dragonscales (2 all-time) - Ew. I don't remember playing this the first time and actively disliked my second play. And I won!
 6.0   Dragonwood NEW! - Good game for kids.
 N/A   Egyptian Ratscrew NEW!
 7.0   Everdell (14 all-time) - Solid game, but I'm not as high on it as I once thought.
 6.0   Funfair NEW! - Pale imitation of Unfair. It drove me to re-acquire Unfair.
 N/A   Great Plains NEW! - Excellent 2 player game that will probably struggle to get played alongside the GIPF collection. Feels like a lighter take on Kingdom Builder.
 6.0   HMS Dolores (3 all-time) - Ended up selling.
 N/A   HeroQuest NEW! - Hehe, this was great. Played with similar expectations as Tales of the Arabian Nights.
 N/A   Hues and Cues NEW! - OK, this was kind of awesome. Super subjective which is what makes it work as a game.
 4.0   Imagine (22 all-time)
 N/A   Inkling NEW!
 8.0   Irish Gauge (11 all-time) - I like this game but struggle to get it to the table Maybe I'll bring it to New Year's tonight.
 8.0   Kuhhandel Master (11 all-time) - Not as good as the Knizia auctions.
 8.0   Lancaster (11 all-time) - One 5-player game after a long dusty time, and was underwhelmed with the game. Need to remember it's best at 3-4 and try to get it to the table again.
 8.0   Lisboa (7 all-time) - At 2-player, this is not that long or overwhelming. Just need to keep brain space for it.
 8.0   London (Second Edition) (7 all-time) - I love this game. My favorite engine-building city game, and one of my favorite tableau builders.
 9.0   Lords of Vegas (13 all-time) - Suffered at 6. Best with 3-4, too.
 6.0   Matryoshka (14 all-time)
 N/A   Mutants NEW! - Bleck. I hated this.
 N/A   Mystic Vale NEW! - Fine, but super heads-down. Much rather play Dale of Merchants.
 7.0   Not Alone (10 all-time) - Excellent game I love one-vs-many, they're so much richer than pure co-ops.
 8.0   Palago (38 all-time) - Reacquired. Quick and fast abstract that's beautiful to boot.
 N/A   Pipeline NEW! - Pass. Of the heavy Euros Tim taught me, this was my least favorite. I liked the pipe design part, which reminds me of Passtally.
 7.0   Qwirkle (8 all-time)
 N/A   Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island NEW! - Too complex. I preferred Atlantis Rising for a long co-op.
 9.0   Safranito (17 all-time) - So good. Replaced with Hibachi which is the same game
 9.0   Samurai (16 all-time) - A classic.
 2.0   Secret Hitler (9 all-time) - Bleck.
 5.0   Seeland NEW! - Pretty forgettable. I prefer Babylonia
 7.0   Shadows over Camelot (17 all-time)
 4.0   Silver & Gold (11 all-time)
 N/A   Sleeping Queens NEW!
 7.0   Snooker Solitaire (28 all-time)
 N/A   Star Trek: Ascendancy (2 all-time) - Always good if you can make the time for it. I'd still rather play Xia though.
 10.   Sushi Go Party! (24 all-time)
 7.0   T.I.M.E Stories NEW! - Too complex. Not an ideal 2p experience for me and Alisha.
 N/A   Taco vs. Burrito NEW!
 5.0   That's Pretty Clever! (23 all-time)
 N/A   The Estates NEW! - Love this game, but too brutal for anyone to play with me.
 N/A   The Manhattan Project NEW!
 6.0   The Ravens of Thri Sahashri (8 all-time)
 N/A   The Reckoners NEW!
 10.   Tigris & Euphrates (9 all-time) - Tim and I only got to this once this year, but it was a reminder of just how good this game is. I love the rise and fall of multiple civilizations condensed into a 2-hour scrum. Todo: find better friends that want to play my favorite games more often
 6.0   Tokaido (27 all-time)
 9.0   Twilight Struggle (6 all-time)
 N/A   Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar NEW! - I really enjoyed this, and the concept of 'investing' workers on gears. Super great, would love to try again.
 N/A   Venture NEW! - Meh, they can't all be Acquire.
 6.0   Viticulture Essential Edition (3 all-time) - Played, but ended up selling. If I want a smooth-playing euro, I'll play Wingspan or Everdell.
 7.0   Vye: The Card Game of Capture and Control (18 all-time) - On the selling block, just too random.
 7.0   Wits & Wagers: It's Vegas, Baby! (6 all-time)

It was a good year! My Collection Recollection continues apace, we'll see if I can knock out 86 more games in 52 more weeks! Keep gaming!
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Fri Dec 31, 2021 7:52 pm
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New to Me, November 2021

Andrew
United States
Kansas City
Missouri
flag msg tools
Let's Go Chiefs!
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Coração Brasileiro
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Microbadge: 2022 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I'm part of the 2022 Mindful Spending ChallengeMicrobadge: Foster parentMicrobadge: Black Lives MatterMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
My collection recollection challenge is moving along quite nicely. I'm starting in November to better give myself a chance to get 112 games played in 12 14 months. That's still one game every 3.8 days for over a year surprise

Anyhow, the point of this post is not the old favorites I'm re-playing, but new to me games I tried out this month, of which there are several

Mystic Vale - 1 play -  N/A 
Board Game: Mystic Vale

Tim taught me this quick deck builder on Thanksgiving. I enjoyed it, but the rule that you can start working on your next turn while the other player is still taking theirs is one that I absolutely despise in games -- Dice City is similar. The effect is heads-down calculating without a second glance at what others are doing.

I want other peoples' turns to matter to me, not be an annoyance until I get to take my own turn. As it is, the game was fine, but I'd much rather play Dale of Merchants or Arctic Scavengers because of the interaction they provoke.

Only one play so MV is still unrated, but I'd hazard a guess that this fits into the 4-5 range. 6 only if something crazy and novel comes up in a second play.

Great Plains - 1 play -  N/A 
Board Game: Great Plains

I responded by teaching Tim Great Plains, which I bought on the recommendation of the OG games guild. It's pretty good -- very evocative of Kingdom Builder. I love the special piece placement rules, they keep the game interesting. Plays quickly and rather interesting -- I suspect I'll play about 10 times and then move on.

Need another play to rate, but I'd guess at the 6-7 range for me. Unfortunately, not a 2-player Alisha will play with me which really keeps it from rising higher

Village Green - 3 plays -  7 
Board Game: Village Green

Stephen and I have played this a few times, and Alisha and I even played it once. I can't imagine this game will be excellent with three or four -- there's certainly the most strategy at 2. That said, there's not really room for hate drafting in such a short game: each player is just focused on their own green.

Stephen felt there was too much luck in the card draw, but it's just right for me. For what it is, Village Garden is a relaxing and quick ramble through a British garden, and that's plenty good enough for me. Plus, it's a rare competitive 2-player that Alisha will play!

DVONN - 4 plays -  7 
From gallery of aaj94

J and I learned DVONN in about ten minutes, and I later taught Tim how to play, too. I may even like this game more than YINSH. It's got a great rhythm and flow to it, and the possibility of cutting off your opponent is great. I also love how the movement considerations change as you build your stacks higher.

Eventually a stack is high enough it's no longer a mobile threat, so the game has a nice pace to it as the board shrinks and you end up consolidating your holdings. In four plays, we've seen wildly different outcomes happen -- including a shameful defeat against Tim where I trimmed nearly half his pieces off the board and still lost the game because I failed to take control of the biggest stack!

Whistle Mountain - 2 plays -  6 
Board Game: Whistle Mountain

The first time I tried this, nothing clicked and I wished to be doing anything else. Not what you typically want from a new game introduction But Tim and I later played a quick 2p match, and everything suddenly made sense for me.

I think with 3 players I was overwhelmed by how quickly the board state of the structure could change -- 4 would be even worse.

At 2, playing in under an hour, this comes out of heavy Euro territory, which is necessary for me to really have opportunity to play it. I really liked this on balance, though I still feel it has a few too many rough edges that could have been sanded off in development (do we really need starting abilities, and cog/gear upgrades, and development card upgrades, and one-time trophy redemptions? It's just different flavors of the same thing!)

The second play still greatly improved my opinion of the game -- I'd wager this is a 6 with room to move upwards.

The King Is Dead: Second Edition - 2 plays -  6 
Board Game: The King Is Dead: Second Edition

What an odd duck. November was "Peer Pressure Sylvester" month as I got 2 of 3 games played that I own by this designer. King is Dead was a title that I wanted to like far more than I actually did.

The game seems rather reductive: there's a lot of threat of action that results in very little action. It's really more of a microgame than a big box anything. I'm not sure how I feel about it, but I would like to play more to find out. It's possible we're just not playing smartly and better play will emerge over time.

Disney Villainous - 1 play -  4 
Board Game: Disney Villainous

Tim and Evan taught me and Stephen Villainous, which is a finely-produced game I found sort of boring. I won with Prince John, and as soon as I won everyone started explaining why Prince John was so overpowered, and why it was so simple and boring -- so why did you give him to me to play, ya dinguses?

There are ten gajillion expansions for this game so that you can play as all the different Disney villains. Many well-known villains are packaged with unknowns so that you buy more packs. Super commercialized, and like any game with asymmetric factions, you're being asked to balance the game yourself with the villains you select.

Anyhow, the game is take-that to the nth-degree but in all other ways completely and absolutely solitary. I would rather come up with a smart 'conveyor belt' of fate cards rather than sit heads-down next to three other people and play completely different games next to each other.

Hard pass for me. The only thing I'll say in its favor is that it is beautifully produced.

-

On my wishlist to get played in December: Iwari, definitely; Some one of the GIPF games in my set; Polynesia (completing the Peer Sylvester trifecta); Flourish (really think the BGG 'strategy games' crowd is giving this game short shrift, though that's just my first impression); and some Knizia (Medici or Stephenson's Rocket, both are awaiting me). We'll see how close I get!
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Wed Dec 1, 2021 3:16 pm
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The Nearly-Ultimate GIPF Craft Project

Andrew
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Microbadge: 2022 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I'm part of the 2022 Mindful Spending ChallengeMicrobadge: Foster parentMicrobadge: Black Lives MatterMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
YINSH is an abstract game I've encountered obliquely several times. I first played it in August of 2017, thanks to my father-in-law, Tim. It picked up a handful more plays in 2017 and 2018, one single play against Evan in 2019, and there it sat until I found a copy of YINSH for myself at a Half Price Books this September.

This reignited my love for the game, and got me eyeing the other games in the series. Specifically, I started snooping around Matthew Ross' Ultimate Gipf Board project. Matthew's Ultimate GIPF Board:

From gallery of mtross


His board is ingenious, but I wanted to tweak a few things. First off, I wanted to downplay TZAAR as it's easily the least appealing of the remaining games for me. I also wanted to make YINSH more prominent as it was what started this whole ordeal.

* When I say Ultimate, I'm excluding the following GIPF project games: PÜNCT (un-craftable playing pieces and a non-standard board), ZÈRTZ (possibly craftable, but with no real link to the other games I've made), and TAMSK (in addition to being exiled from the project, it's got a non-standard board too).

Eventually, I came up with the following:

From gallery of aaj94


This made every game playable, gave Dvonn and Tzaar a little less visual emphasis, and sort of balanced everything. Tzaar is barely visible on the printed mat (below), but I'm sort of OK with that. I don't currently have the pieces made for Tzaar, it's just nice to know that I could play if I really wanted to.

From gallery of aaj94


So the next step were the pieces. I already had wood in mind as I'm not too fond of the finish of 3d-printed pieces, and I couldn't use the original pieces as I was sizing up the board to be more dramatic (if you've got neoprene, flaunt it, is what my mom always taught me).

The playmat was ordered in early September, by the way. While it shipped (very slowly), I worried about everything else. It finally arrived a few days ago and the pieces were ready to go.

From gallery of aaj94
From gallery of aaj94
From gallery of aaj94

For YINSH, I ordered some wooden teething rings, and one-inch discs that would fit inside the ring centers. I planned to stain half the discs, and glue two together to make the double-sided playing pieces. For all the other games, I bought 1.5" discs (sized to match the rings), so that everything looked proportionate on the playing board.

From gallery of aaj94

Staining the pieces was easier than I thought. I bought some wood dye, and it turns out that to make wood dye all you need is warm water and powder. One evening of dying was pretty much all it took to get everything ready.

A few things I learned: pre-sanding the pieces would have been ideal, particularly for the black pieces. They're more of a dark grey at best. That said, they're distinct enough from everything else that I don't really mind.

The next day, once I had let the dye sit overnight, I sprayed the pieces with some clear coat to make sure the dye wouldn't bleed out onto the playmat (which arrived the next day).

DVONN requires the most black and white pieces: 23 of each. Within those 23 are the 9 required to play LYNGK, as well as the 18 each to play GIPF.

There are also 9 discs each of red, blue, and green to play LYNGK. 3 red are used for DVONN, and the 3 yellow are a substitute for the 'speckled' pieces in LYNGK.

From gallery of aaj94

YINSH is unique: its 51 double-sided pieces and ten rings aren't used for any of the other games. But, I enjoy YINSH so much I didn't mind making special pieces for it. The rings are the size of the other games' playing pieces, and then these othello-esque discs go in the center of the rings and flip accordingly. Simply stain, glue together, then spray everything with a bit of clear coat. Voila!

Now, Tzaar did not get all its playing pieces. If I marked some of the DVONN pieces, I could come up with the 6 Tzarras and 15 (blank) Totts, but the 9 Tzaars are still MIA at that point. It is possible to play with the colored pieces (say, one player takes red, one takes blue), but I would rather have purpose-made, marked black and white pieces. So, we'll see when I get tired of the other 5 games and feel the need to try out Tzaar In any case, it's possible and the mat supports it if I get to feeling crafty again.

All that was left was to play it!

From gallery of aaj94

Rebekah and J playing Yinsh The mat has a great table presence, the wooden pieces look great, and I'm very happy with the purchase/craft project all around. One YINSH disc popped unglued while they were playing. Whoops!


From gallery of aaj94

A sample DVONN game set up (though J and I [played 3 times, I neglected to take any pictures!) I'm very pleased with how legible the game board is for a chosen variation when playing.

(As an aside, I may wind up liking this game even more than YINSH. It's got a great rhythm and flow to it, and the possibility of cutting your opponent off is great. I also love how the movement considerations change as you build your stacks higher. Eventually a stack is high enough it's no longer a mobile threat, so the game has a nice pace to it as the board shrinks and you end up consolidating your holdings. J and I saw three completely different scenarios play out in our best-of-three matchup).

And there you have it -- 5 games in one! We still have yet to try GIPF and LYNGK, though I read the rules to both. Once we exhaust those, there's still TZAAR to try out, so I think I've got my abstract gaming sorted for 2022! Thanks for reading.
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Mon Nov 22, 2021 4:44 pm
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On rediscovering favorites, slow months, and OG games

Andrew
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In August this year, I picked up my blog after a long absence, having decided that it was worth it to try to tackle writing regularly about games again. Though I'm not a writer by trade, I have always enjoyed writing (fiction or otherwise), and something feels a little empty inside when there's nothing to scribble onto a page.

In August we were in the middle of our first foster care placement (now ended), life was in a solid routine, and things were as simple as I could have imagined them to be. But, life has a habit of sneaking up on you, and things unraveled quickly. That's all personal nonsense I don't need to get into, but it's certainly had an impact on the gaming I've been able to do.

While June, July, and August all saw 50+ plays of games, September and October barely creaked past 30. There has been some quality over quantity there, but there's definitely been a lot of missed opportunities to game. People get busy, drift out of your life, we cancelled a few game nights ourselves, and here we are. It's rainy and drizzly on November 1, like it's been for the last week, and I'm huddled inside staring at a wall of games that I would like to be playing more than I have been.


There have been some memorable moments sprinkled in amongst the lull, of course. I found Spirits of the Forest at a thrift store, and it's become one of my favorite openers at game night: such a delightful blend of tactical play mixed with short game length. Tikal is every bit as good as the Spiel des Jahres award on its box portended. Masons was a throw-in on an auction item where I really wanted Fugitive, and while both are great I think Masons really ended up being the centerpiece of that auction! We've dipped a toe back into some of our original favorites: Carcassonne, Samurai, and Sheriff of Nottingham, just to name a few. It feels silly to waste digital ink bemoaning the lack of opportunity to game when the list of games played looks that solid!

From gallery of aaj94
My phone sincerely apologizes for not capturing the beauty of Tikal fully, thanks to a dimly lit dining room.

Board Game Geek has a way of amplifying this discontent, in a strange way. As great as the discussion has been at the Old-school German-style Games guild, for instance, it has turned me on to bunches of games I have "got to try." My own wall of "got to trys" that I already own has grown: 27 games that I've played fewer than 5 times. There's not really a point to be buying more, but even with old games, the FOMO is real.

(I haven't tried Peer Sylvester's The King is Dead or Village Green but I've heard such interesting things about his game Polynesia that I nearly picked up a third game by a designer I have yet to even play. This feels intuitively foolish to me, perilously close to owning cardboard for the sake of owning cardboard).

First and foremost, I want my collection of games to be a collection that is played. This is why I taught the kids in our house how to play Carcassonne, and Sheriff of Nottingham, and Fuji Flush, even if they make me wince when they handle cards, or bend a box, or tear a rulebook by mistake. But how will they learn unless someone takes a chance with them?

I'm waiting for just the right time to introduce Shadows over Camelot, or Smash Up. These games are made to be enjoyed: these are games that got me into this hobby. Maybe I can spark that same experience in my friends' kids, or my own foster kids down the road. After all, it's just bits of cardboard and plastic and paper at the end of the day. We're all kidding ourselves if we think this stuff is going to last forever, anyways!

So when we have had chances to play games, I've found myself gravitating towards 'heads-up' games, where you take notice of the people around the table, and the experience is tied to that moment with those particular players. Memorable gaming moments is what I'm after.

The thrill of learning and mastering a new system is all well and good, but man, why risk the chance that we learn a clunker, when there are dozens of favorites gathering dust on my shelf? These are favorites that we know are good. Even if we're in the mood for something novel (and all humans are, it's why we seek out new games in the first place),
think back to what I said earlier: 27 games I haven't played enough of, including 11 that I haven't played at all. Why buy the next thrill when there are many waiting to be discovered on my shelf already?

All of this is a roundabout way of admitting that I'm embarking on a personal challenge in 2022. I call it 'collection recollection' (or SPRP if you want the catchy acronym)

- STOP buying new games in 2022.
- PLAY every game I own in 2022.
- REASSESS my impressions of my collection after 7 years of gaming.
- PURGE the games which no longer have a place in my collection.

I'm hoping this will help us to double-down on good experiences we already know are good, and build quality time with family, friends, and acquaintances at our game nights. The size of my collection seems ridiculous when I consider that to get 104 games played, I will need to average exactly 2 new games a week, 52 weeks in a row! I can't just spring this on folks: it will need to be a challenge that we embark on together. I've already mentioned this goal to several of the regular gamers in our home.

I'd love to get other people excited about working through the collection: learning new games, picking up games we haven't played in years, and investing more hours into old favorites that we know are going to be great because we've had great experiences with them dozens of times before.

We'll see how it goes This isn't a challenge to pointlessly keep the collection 'minimal' or anything like that. This is an attempt to enrich the experiences we're sharing around the table, to deepen friendships as we retrawl games from the last 7 years of running weekly game nights, and to continue having and hosting friends in our home for another 7 years After all, that's what gaming's all about for me.

From gallery of aaj94
The collection as it stands, November 1. I'm not getting rid of anything before I start the challenge, and I have a couple more games on preorder that will trickle in when they trickle in, but this is substantially "it," so to speak.

I'll be cataloging this challenge on an eventual geeklist, and also hopefully through blog posts right here. I hope I'll be able to tell stories, share raucous session reports, and spark a love for some of my favorite games in the minds of people in my home, and maybe in your mind as well, kind reader. We'll see how it goes next year
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Mon Nov 1, 2021 8:28 pm
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Q3 Review (2021)

Andrew
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Microbadge: 2022 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I'm part of the 2022 Mindful Spending ChallengeMicrobadge: Foster parentMicrobadge: Black Lives MatterMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
Board Game: Spot it!
Board Game: Groundhog Day: The Game
Board Game: Fuji Flush
Board Game: Spicy
Board Game: Hive
Board Game: ICECOOL
Board Game: Blink
Board Game: Concordia Venus
Board Game: Skull
Board Game: Baseball Highlights: 2045
Board Game: Beasts of Balance: Battles Edition
Board Game: Biblios
Board Game: Lost Hedgehog
Board Game: Spirits of the Forest
Board Game: The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth
Board Game: The Red Cathedral
Board Game: 7 Wonders (Second Edition)
Board Game: Blokus Duo
Board Game: Bullet♥︎
From gallery of aaj94
Board Game: Fort
From gallery of aaj94
Board Game: Jump Drive
Board Game: Letter Jam
Board Game: Mysterium
Board Game: Obsession
Board Game: PARKS
Board Game: Parade
From gallery of aaj94
Board Game: Rhino Hero
Board Game: Sheriff of Nottingham
Board Game: Stone Age
Board Game: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
Board Game: The Fox in the Forest
Board Game: The Grizzled
Board Game: The Mind
Board Game: Trade on the Tigris
Board Game: Tumblin-Dice
Board Game: YINSH
Board Game: 1754: Conquest – The French and Indian War
Board Game: A Fake Artist Goes to New York
Board Game: Acquire
Board Game: Atlantis Rising
Board Game: Beyond the Sun
Board Game: Bosk
Board Game: Catacombs (Third Edition)
Board Game: Custom Heroes
Board Game: Cyclades
Board Game: Dice Forge
Board Game: Dixit: Odyssey
Board Game: Egyptian Ratscrew
Board Game: High Society
Board Game: Lisboa
Board Game: Lords of Vegas
Board Game: Matryoshka
Board Game: Mutants
Board Game: Not Alone
Board Game: Passtally
Board Game: Pipeline
Board Game: Qwirkle
Board Game: Safranito
Board Game: Scrabble
Board Game: Silver & Gold
Board Game: Smash Up
Board Game: Taco vs. Burrito
Board Game: Tales of the Arabian Nights
Board Game: The Estates
Board Game: The Ravens of Thri Sahashri
Board Game: Tichu
Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates
Board Game: Tokaido
Board Game: Wits & Wagers: It's Vegas, Baby!


Most Played: The Quick Ones
 7.0   Spot it! x15 (16 all-time)
 8.0   Groundhog Day: The Game x9 (12 all-time)
 8.0   Fuji Flush x8 (16 all-time)
 8.0   ICECOOL x5 (11 all-time)
 5.0   Blink x4 NEW!
Unsurprisingly the fillers dominated the most-played list. All of these are newer games but have been seeing a lot of play. I was especially impressed with Groundhog Day's simple premise and fun execution. Fuji Flush is 'UNO but good,' and it's a fun 15 minutes for adults and kids gaming together. It's almost unfair to call ICECOOL a filler, but it's definitely the top dexterity game we've been playing. I bought ICECOOL2, as well.

Top Favorites:
 9.0   Concordia Venus x4 (13 all-time)
Our most-played full-length game of the quarter, which feels about right. I would've gotten this to the table 2-3 times more if I could've. I'm in love with this game: it's the perfect hybrid between modern Euro and OG classic, it's just so smooth, and every game is tense in a completely different way.
 8.0   Beasts of Balance: Battles Edition x3 (7 all-time) - Delightful and attractive -- I bought the playmat so that falling pieces don't dent my table -- Alisha and I play this two player sometimes.
 8.0   7 Wonders (Second Edition) x2 (39 all-time) - A brief reminder that the 2nd edition is gorgeous, a big upgrade, and well worth it if you've played the game very much.
 9.0   Obsession x2 (6 all-time).- I've wrapped my head around what this game is supposed to be, and it's solidified my high opinion of it. Don't play with gamers who abhor luck in their games, play with someone who can burst out laughing at being forced to feed an American heiress who has the audacity to show up on your doorstep with a thousand pounds and absolutely no clue how to behave at a formal dinner. There's story in this game, and it's rich and well-developed if you care to explore it.
 8.0   Trade on the Tigris x2 (3 all-time) - This game might could climb to a 9 on my scale. It's that clever. I love trading games, and this one is set in real-time without being overburdening. I love engine-building track-climbing games, and this one gives you a few different ways to specialize. Even when I lose I feel like I had a shot at it, and you have only yourself to blame for making bad trades! The special cards that the owner can't use, but only trade, are genius! This game is a hidden gem for sure.
 10.   Acquire (15 all-time) - I never regret getting this one to the table. It was worth every penny to get the old 3M wooden tiles edition, too!

New and Notable
 9.0   Spicy x6 NEW!
Another lighter card game, I think I prefer this one to Cockroach Poker, actually! Hard to call it a filler because it's full of tense, delicious decisions!
 N/A   Baseball Highlights: 2045 x3 NEW! - A deck-builder I enjoyed. I'm a huge baseball fan, and this is 'baseball in a box.' Highly recommend! I should rate this. . .
 7.0   Biblios x3 NEW! - What a clever little auction game. Thanks to Charlotte of 'That's what she said' for turning me on to this one. Incredible emergent gameplay and possibilities to read your neighbors to wile your way to victory. My kinda game.
 8.0   Spirits of the Forest x3 NEW! - What a clever little abstract, and it looks beautiful to boot! I bought this on a whim from HPB, and later found out it was a Schacht game, and a veritable OG classic! Big hit, I would love to play more.
 6.0   The Red Cathedral x3 NEW! - Rare that I've played a game 3 times and can't quite work out how I feel about it. I love the idea of the game, and the window dressing certainly is appealing (having lived in Russia and been to St. Basils many times), but at the same time I wonder if the game has much of a soul. We'll have to try again and see, it's unique in my collection in being a rondel game, so there's that.
 7.0   Bullet♥︎ x2 (6 all-time) - Funky little realtime game. I'm happy to play but don't really feel a need to own.
 7.0   Jump Drive x2 NEW! - Nice fast take on Race for the Galaxy. But I wonder, isn't Race fast enough as it is? I think this is most successful as a best-of-three kind of thing on lunch break with one other person.
 N/A   Letter Jam x2 NEW!  - Thought provoking, but maybe too difficult for casual play? I'd try it again.
 N/A   1754: Conquest – The French and Indian War NEW! - See what I said about Obsession, above. This game was enjoyed in a session with beers, fake French accents for the duration of the game, and raucous laughter over the results of die rolls. This is the way a game with random chance built into the design is best played! Your mileage may vary, of course, but this was just my sort of wargame. Happy to play and not own it, though, as it will rarely make it to the table.
 N/A   Atlantis Rising NEW! - A great co-op game I'd actually be interested in owning. Felt tense, but what we were doing was very interesting. I need to play again to solidify my opinion.
 8.0   Lisboa (7 all-time) - One more play to remind me that, yes, this game is mechanically brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed a 2p match. That said, should I own this game? Are the rare times I'll get it to the table worth the space it takes up otherwise? Put another way, couldn't I have just as much fun using a Lisboa night to play a round of Pax Pamir, or even a Concordia + something else? Hmm.
 N/A   Tales of the Arabian Nights NEW! - This was a blast, but I'd only play it with perhaps 2 or 3 close friends including my wife. There just isn't much room at game night for a game from the 80s with no mechanics where it's possible you'll become a sex-changed toad. That said, 2p against Alisha it was loads of fun, and we had a great time reading the book entries to each other. It was a fun novelty but I doubt one that would hold up. Your turn is basically just flip a card, see what happens. It's funny, but less funny when you are hit with five cards in a row of obstacles and bad events. That happened to Alisha -- and yet, she still won the game. Unsure how I feel about this one but the resale rates on ebay sure have me tempted. . .
 N/A   The Estates NEW! - Have been trying to check out more of the OG classics, and this one is by Klaus Zoch himself. In the words of a Geekbuddy, "Holy emergent gameplay, Batman." Everything in this game is communal, and that can lead to some very slow-paced AP turns where a lot of math is done. It can also lead to certain players being absolutely skewered by the group dynamic. I don't think I've played a game this mean since Tammany Hall, although that game at least gives you the illusion of control over your own playing pieces! The Estates was exhausting but invigorating. One other player at the table really loved it, while another was meh on it, and a third greatly disliked playing it, but recognized the quality of the game. It just wasn't for him. I'd love to get it to the table again with a slightly more favorable crew and see how things go. Man, what a game!

Flops
 5.0   The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth x3 (7 all-time) - Later plays of this campaign were so dissatisfying we just called it off. We're all huge LotR fans and we couldn't even maintain interest in it to finish the base game campaign. I've written about this bad experience at length and don't feel like giving it any more air time.
 N/A   Stone Age x2 (3 all-time) - I wouldn't play this offline. BGA makes it easy enough to just have a game running, but the decisions aren't here. Some spaces are clearly better than others, especially in 2-player. Fine.
 7.0   Beyond the Sun (4 all-time) - Played, loved, bought, sold. It didn't help that I was introduced to this game on BGA which covers over a lot of the fiddly card draw and annoyances in this game. And, the promise of 'build your own tech tree' in practice turns into a game that feels very similar every time you play, no matter what you do. Tim still owns a copy so I'd happily play it and give it another chance. But, I have no need to own it.
 N/A   Bosk NEW! - Bleck. We played two player so this one could be salvaged at higher play counts, but this was a clever premise with wooden gameplay. Could be really good at >2, but compared to Spirits of the Forest (and would be great with two!) which I tried at a similar time, this one fell really flat.
 6.0   Custom Heroes (3 all-time) - One very favorable play three years ago, finally bought it, played again, and wondered what I ever saw in the game. It's got Fuji Flush level of randomness with far more complexity and worse, a much longer playtime. Was agonizing with 5. Sold it.
 N/A   Mutants NEW! - Not that interesting deck builder. I don't think I'd play again. Someone convince me there's something good here, my co-players seemed to really enjoy it!


Other Plays
 9.0   Hive x5 (46 all-time)
 9.0   Skull x4 (43 all-time)
 7.0   Lost Hedgehog x3 (25 all-time)
 7.0   Blokus Duo x2 (5 all-time) - This one had been dusty for a while.
 7.0   Carcassonne x2 (40 all-time) - This one had been dusty for a long time, too.
 7.0   Fort x2 (14 all-time)
 10.   Glory to Rome x2 (47 all-time) - Glad we got my #1 game of all time played at least a few times.
 9.0 Mysterium x2 (26 all-time)
 7.0   PARKS x2 (3 all-time) - Like Tokaido, good without being exciting. It will always slowly rack up plays.
 7.0   Parade x2 (6 all-time) - Always better than I remember it being.
 9.0   Ra x2 (15 all-time)
 7.0   Rhino Hero x2 NEW!
 7.0   Sheriff of Nottingham x2 (24 all-time)
 9.0   The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine x2 (8 all-time)
 8.0   The Fox in the Forest x2 (11 all-time)
 8.0   The Grizzled x2 (14 all-time)
 9.0   The Mind x2 (53 all-time)
 7.0   Tumblin-Dice x2 (23 all-time)
 8.0   YINSH x2 (6 all-time) - Liked it so much I am building a homemade ultimate GIPF set. Post incoming. . .
 8.0   A Fake Artist Goes to New York (51 all-time)
 9.0   Catacombs (Third Edition) (8 all-time)
 7.0   Cyclades (3 all-time)
 7.0   Dice Forge (9 all-time) - Way better in person than on BGA. Tactile dice!!
 10.   Dixit: Odyssey (52 all-time)
 N/A   Egyptian Ratscrew NEW!
 10.   High Society (36 all-time) - Odd we haven't played this one more than once.
 9.0   Lords of Vegas (13 all-time) - This game might be a ten. Raucous 6-player game that ended in a 4-way sprint to the finish line. Sadly, I was not one of those close to victory and finished 5/6.
 6.0   Matryoshka (14 all-time)
 7.0   Not Alone (10 all-time)
 N/A   Passtally NEW!
 N/A   Pipeline NEW!
 7.0   Qwirkle (8 all-time)
 9.0   Safranito (17 all-time)
 8.0   Scrabble (147 all-time) - Returned to playing async online matches against my Mom. She still beats me 2:1.
 4.0   Silver & Gold (11 all-time)
 6.0   Smash Up (49 all-time)
 N/A   Taco vs. Burrito NEW! - Forgettable card game.
 6.0   The Ravens of Thri Sahashri (8 all-time)
 8.0   Tichu (8 all-time)
 10.   Tigris & Euphrates (9 all-time) - 2p match just to keep this one fresh in my head. It's still an easy 10 for me.
 6.0   Tokaido (27 all-time)
 7.0   Wits & Wagers: It's Vegas, Baby! (6 all-time)
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Fri Oct 1, 2021 4:00 pm
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Redesigning Prosperity (Step 1/?)

Andrew
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Microbadge: 2022 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I'm part of the 2022 Mindful Spending ChallengeMicrobadge: Foster parentMicrobadge: Black Lives MatterMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
I'm a big Reiner Knizia fan, and his game Prosperity has really flown under the radar. It's sitting just outside the top 2,000, and sort of reminds me of a more puzzley Quadropolis (though it lacks the puzzley tile selection of that game, the placement and management of your city evokes a similar feeling). It's also a different style of game for Knizia: dare I say, less interactive than his usual games?

That said, it's a great game that I just picked up at Miniature Market for a grand total of $15. I have to fault Ystari on the packaging of this one. It just all looks so uninspiring!

Redesigning: Why?
I mean, isn't it obvious? whistle

Board Game: Prosperity

(The only thing that would have made this cornier would have been a $ in place of the S. Also, apparently in the future we all live on Venus, which is the only way I can explain the yellow skies -- that or pollution! shake )

I have this same beef with Ystari about Spyrium which is another at-least-solid game that is haunted by a brutally uninspiring art direction (I have a redesign for this game in the oven, too). The two games, as published, look like cousins.

A big part of my gaming philosophy is that a pretty package will go a long way in getting people to try a game. Sure, mechanics are important, but especially with the more casual set that frequents our game nights, having a nice coat of paint on the whole affair helps the game go down easier, if you will.

It's far more likely that a pretty, colorful game like Wingspan or Fort will be suggested than The Castles of Burgundy (even if this game is mechanically excellent). I think the industry has responded to this, too, which is why Ian O'Toole is in such high demand, and Stonemaier Games typically does so well. Wingspan will get picked up in Target, while Castles of Burgundy would probably be passed over. Call me shallow, but this is one of the priorities I use for assessing which games stay on my shelf!

Redesigning: Inspiration
So what to target in a redesign of Prosperity? Certainly, a less dour color scheme would go a long way. I started by looking at other city-building-adjacent games I've run across.

Quadropolis has a nice cover, but that actual presentation is not too terribly much better than Prosperity, in my opinion. It's very serviceable, but also feels like '2008-era mobile game' which is not a vibe I really like.

I'm a big fan of the Glory to Rome black box, and I like the handsome, minimal cards:
Board Game: Glory to Rome

My very first board game redesign project was redrawing all of Heiko's cards for the black box (available in low-res proofs on the files page), and getting them printed myself at a print-on-demand studio. This is my #1 game of all time, and I only discovered it because I happened to stumble across the gorgeous cards in 2015.

Other minimal games that (indirectly) inspired me would have to be Acquire and Venture (the gamette version). Nothing wrong with that 1960s minimalism that prioritized clear presentation of information!

Though I despised the gameplay, I also liked the cute artwork of Happy City in my few plays on Board Game Arena.
Board Game: Happy City

I didn't want to go quite this cute, but the clear iconography is a big plus. Maybe I'm shooting to go cute-adjacent.

Redesign: the components
Prosperity has three key areas of redesign (four, if you count the rulebook, which I usually do):
- The Tiles (this is the big one)
- The Player Boards (tbd)
- The Central Board (tbd)

I started with the tiles, since I've found the tightest constraints usually provoke the best design. The tiles had a decent layout already, and every tile is conveniently listed in the rulebook to boot, so that I could make a start on redesigning before I'd even received my copy of the game.

Here is a closeup of a few tiles:
Board Game: Prosperity


Like I said, the design is decent. You have Eco (positive or negative) on the right, and Power (positive or negative) on the left. You have a set of scoring icons (Search, Prosperity, or Income) in the middle bottom. You have the side of the board that the tile is laid: blue number on left, or green number on right. The 'theme' behind those numbers is so thin I can't even remember what green and blue stand for, and I've been staring at the game tiles for a week now! Finally, you have the tile color, which is either blue (infrastructure), green (transport), yellow (supply), or pink (power).

So first things first, we need a color scheme. I decided to base the color scheme around those four tile classes. If I could find a scheme that was distinct enough, I think we could get away with not providing a tile type icon on the main tile.

From gallery of aaj94


I don't actually have anyone color-blind in my group, but I can't not design for this consideration -- it's been beaten into me so strongly as a web designer that I can't help but at least make a cursory check. This scheme does well: although the blue and the green both appear similar to some people, they have different enough values that the green appears noticeably darker in almost all simulations I conducted.

This leaves us quite clearly with Green for transport, Blue for infrastructure, Red for power (I love this sharp, bold red), and Tan for supply (there are only six supply tiles in the entire game, so though the tan is 'boring' I don't think it will harsh up the vibe of the game too much. That leaves the dark charcoal for accent colors, and I also took the liberty of making some additional greys that are lighter/darker than the grey in the scheme. This left us with the following 'full' color palette in Photoshop:

From gallery of aaj94


I extrapolated some additional colors, and also came up with colors for the Prosperity, Search, and Income tiles that coordinated with our main scheme. I also riffed on the blue, green, and red to come up with positive/negative colors, and blue-left/green-right colors. Great! Now let's design some tiles.

My main goals when redesigning the tiles were, again, to inject some color in the game, and also to clarify and improve the iconography of the game. It's a little thing, but adding explicit '+' and '-' symbols to the icons, instead of just relying on color, will make sure that this is playable by the broadest possible audience.

From gallery of aaj94


A lot has changed! wow I relied on iconography for the central card art, just like Glory to Rome. This is from Iconcheese on Noun Project, and I colored in the icon according to our color scheme.

(Unfortunately, while I have a noun project license, I don't believe it releases me to make the files available to others -- and I'd have to get through Ystari too at that point, so I'm not sure if this redesign will be share-able).

I needed to fit up to four power or eco icons, and up to three scoring icons, so this sample tile will accommodate those (there is one tile that has five power, and one tile that has four scoring, but I made an exception on my padding rules to fit both of those in. It didn't seem right to cramp the other tiles because of minor exceptions). We're also making the positive/negative effects explicit, and also using background color and foreground color to reinforce that difference.

There's plenty of room for the background to shine, and there's also a tile name on the tile! For some reason, these tiles are named in the rulebook but not on the actual tiles -- this will help during gameplay because we can call specific tiles out by name.

Finally, I wanted to make the left/right emphasis explicit by adding arrows and not just relying on blue/green and the placement of the number on the tile.

There was one more piece of heavy lifting the tiles had to accomplish, and that was the one-time scoring effects. In the real game, these are noted by a tiny thin border, and we often forgot to note them when playing because they are so easily missed. I wanted to do more here, but couldn't come up with anything that was a slam dunk.

From gallery of aaj94
From gallery of aaj94


If a power or eco icon scores, it gets a white outer glow and the whole color of the icon changes to white. You can still differentiate positive/negative by the icon, so hopefully this is 'enough' to remind players to score. On the bottom bar, I did something similar by changing the icon to white, and adding an outer glow in the color of the holding shape. 'White icons mean scoring' is what I tried to be consistent with, for ease of explanation during the game

Having worked out the design template, there was nothing left but to hash out some icons!

From gallery of aaj94

There are a lot of infrastructure icons. I'm less than halfway through.

From gallery of aaj94

Power plants look awesome, though the red background was the hardest to design off of

From gallery of aaj94

There aren't many supply tiles but I tried to make them at least sort of interesting!

Yet to do: the rest of the infrastructure tiles, all of the transit tiles, the event tiles, and of course, the tile backs.

I really enjoy working on board game redesign projects because they harmonize my day job with my favorite hobby. It's so relaxing to design something not for work, just for fun, that will have a direct impact on my enjoyment of a game in the future.

Stay tuned for more design work -- I've still got to tackle the boards (those may get significantly redesigned), the rulebook (of course), and maybe even the box, if I get super ambitious.
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Fri Aug 27, 2021 3:00 pm
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Fun-gible -- Games that are accessible and low cost

Andrew
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Microbadge: 2022 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I'm part of the 2022 Mindful Spending ChallengeMicrobadge: Foster parentMicrobadge: Black Lives MatterMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
Let's say you were starting a game night to make friends (I highly recommend it, for what it's worth). Maybe not all of them have played games before. Maybe you're a starving college student and can't afford a giant game collection. Maybe if someone spilled a drink on the table it needed to be 'not-the-end-of-the-world' (my father-in-law always says: "People, or things? Choose one to be more important to you). Maybe these are not hypotheticals and things that actually happened to me

Anyhow, I wanted to figure out where I've gotten the most bang for my buck, which sort of favors small card games anyways, so we're going to limit this to card games for the sake of argument.

Without further ado:
Top 5 cheap card games that can be replaced guilt-free if someone spills a Coke on them, but are still fun, can accommodate a wide range of players, and are easy to teach and learn
(Being a sort of arbitrary set of parameters to feature some of my crowd favorites)


Board Game: Codenames: Duet

Codenames Duet
My third-most played game of all time (behind Scrabble and Escape). I don't care for the large-group version of this, but Duet is a great exercise to play with a more reticent/introverted guest, or a good game to play with your spouse. The system is so interesting, but Codenames the basegame devolves into "everyone be the clue-giver once (or, God forbid, twice)" which turns a fun 15-minute activity into an interminable 2-hour Codenames-a-thon, which saps my enthusiasm for the game quite a bit. Codenames Duet gives both players a chance to do the fun part, that is, come up with hints.
Price paid: $15.95
Plays: 67
Price per play: $0.23
Price per play per player: $0.12 (average of 2.0 players)


Board Game: The Mind

The Mind
Like I said last week, every so often a game comes across my radar that's completely fresh. The Mind is that game: I've played this at tables where people have so much synergy and connection that we are silently beating the table in jubilation at playing a seemingly impossible sequence of numbers correctly. And we've still never won!
Price paid: $8.22
Plays: 51
Price per play: $0.16
Price per play per player: $0.05 (average of 3.4 players)


Board Game: Skull

Skull
My quintessential bluffing game. Plays 4-6, so it's great for the larger groups. I have seen a gleam in the least-likely person's eye when they realize just how much room to be devious there is here.
Price paid: $20.73
Plays: 43
Price per play: $0.48
Price per play per player: $0.10 (average of 4.8 players)


Board Game: High Society

High Society
HS is our standard "closer" game, that we usually use to wrap up game night. 3-5 is a decently flexible player count, and playing it last leaves room for folks to be silly and crazy together. It's shocking how broken the ice usually is by the time we get to the end of a game night, haha.
Price paid: $19.95 (acquired in a trade, but this is its current value)
Plays: 36
Price per play: $0.55
Price per play per player: $0.10 (average of 4.2 players)


Board Game: Sushi Go Party!

Sushi Go Party
Sushi Go is a killer drafting game that takes about 3 minutes to explain. The fact that this plays with 8 makes it very versatile, especially for medium-sized nights where 'everyone wants to play one thing.'
Price paid: $21.76 (got as a gift, but this is its current value)
Plays: 24
Price per play: $0.90
Price per play per player: $0.14 (average of 6.5 players)


Honorable Mentions:
Glory to Rome is my #1 game of all time, and certainly a card game, but it's not generally available and thus would be cheating. All the same:
Price per play per player: $0.36 (average of 3.6 players)

Cockroach Poker is 3 plays short of hitting my completely-arbitrary 20-play threshold, but it's a fantastic bluffing game, and is a nice alternative to Skull. The 'one-loser' thing is a nice way to ease people into card games.
Price per play per player: $0.21 (average of 4.9 players)

Lost Hedgehog is not that meaningfully different from Spot It! or Blink, but it's got cute little illustrations and it functions as a great icebreaker. It doesn't make my main list because it's not available outside of Russia
Price per play per player: ∞ (got for free just for fun, it has an average of 2.95 players on 24 plays)

Other card games that don't have enough plays yet to begin to qualify but might make it eventually:
Matryoshka (14 plays), Fuji Flush (14 plays), Fort (13 plays), 6 nimmt! (13 plays), The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine (8 plays -- just give it a year), Bohnanza (7 plays)
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Fri Aug 20, 2021 1:00 pm
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Dog Days of Summer: my hot games in 2021

Andrew
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Microbadge: 2022 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I'm part of the 2022 Mindful Spending ChallengeMicrobadge: Foster parentMicrobadge: Black Lives MatterMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
I just looked it up and apparently the expression "dog days" has an official start and end, and the end is officially August 11. So what will we call these -- the cat days, perhaps? It has been HOT here as is typical for August in Missouri. At the moment we're getting a great summer thundershower that will hopefully bring down the temps, but 'dog days' sure seems to still be appropriate.

Last year I wrote "Games that have captured my emotions for 2020" and it was pretty well-received. I thought I'd do a similar thing for 2021, even though we're halfways through the year. I make the rules here!

But first, a brief check-in on the games I listed last year.

Pax Pamir - still a masterpiece, I'd say my #3 game of all time. Hard to find a good group for! This style of emergent politics and machinations requires a group willing to play hard, but leave it all on the field. A few hurt feelings (Stephen, Evan), and Tim said it's too random for his tastes. I disagree heartily, but I don't have a good group for this one right now. Total plays: 8

Three Kingdoms Redux - sold, actually. I still love the historical setting, but the game felt more like work than my actual job does. Total plays: 4

Lisboa - I feel like the theme of rebuilding really comes through here. I often think of an old Ludology episode that talks about 'tight coupling' -- the idea that mechanisms in a game inform each other, such that player decisions cascade over into other areas of the game. I love this concept, and Lisboa has that sort of tight connection between the mechanics. The result is a very complex game that just all makes sense together in my head. Tim and I just played this one again last week after a long break! Total plays: 7

Masque of Red Death - Haven't played again since my first two plays. Would still be up for it. Total plays: 2

Black Sonata - Just traded away my PNP copy, but with an eye towards buying the published version + expansion. Still a fantastic hidden movement game, and probably my single favorite solo game in terms of mechanics. Total plays: 8

Sherlock Holmes - I love the premise of these games, but no one around me seemed to as much. That, tied with some awful writing in a few cases, kind of soured me to the concept. I guess you could say the novelty wore off. Total plays: 10 (from two boxes)

Irish Gauge - Excellent player-driven brinksmanship coupled with a <1 hour playtime. This is a top 10 game for me, I think, though of course it depends on the play group.

Tigris & Euphrates - You're never out of it, you just have to be slipperier. Emergent board state dependent on the other players. Still brilliant: my #2 game of all time. We just played two weeks ago

Cosmic Encounter - It was a bit deflating to realize that this is basically 'bash the leader: the game,' but this game really resonates with the DND types I run across. There's a lot of opportunity to be silver-tongued and really hone your diplomacy skills (as well as your alien-voice-roleplaying skills)

Twilight Struggle - A top ten game for me that I don't have much opportunity to play, although J did learn it. This interplay of cards and momentum shifting between the two of us is so fascinating, I could play forever. Maybe a good candidate for us to play 'analogue asynchronously' aka leaving the game set up on the basement table.




And now, six more games I'm looking at this year, want to get to the table, and suggest that you check out

Board Game: Trade on the Tigris

Trade on the Tigris
I think we're at the point where we can call this a 'hidden gem.' It's 3 years old, hasn't cracked the top 2,500, and doesn't really stand out in the looks department. The 'trading in the Mediterranean' joke theme unfortunately made it through to production so this is a game that certainly doesn't look very interesting.

And yet, this is one of the most satisfying wheeling/dealing games I've found yet (Though I haven't yet played Sidereal Confluence which I think is the other contender here). Everything is up for grabs, and your tableau of cards in front of you is constantly expanding to give you more and more options. This game reminds me of Pit with some Eurogame sensibilities, and hearty dose of that player interaction that I'm so fond of (really, how can you NOT interact in a trading game?)

Plays: 2 (End of year goal: 5)

Board Game: Obsession

Obsession
Obsession doesn't sit well with the 'heavy Euro' gamers in my crowd (read: Tim). He doesn't like the randomness of the gentry decks, and though he can appreciate the game for (most of) the mechanics, he's totally indifferent to how well-connected those mechanics are to the theme of the game.

My lighter/social gamers (read: Ashley, for instance), could get into this game, but aren't interested in the theme of noble families down on their luck trying to ingratiate themselves to polite society by holding tea parties on the lawn.

And finally, anyone I know who is interested in the broader theme of Regency/Victorian England (say, Carrie or Alexa or Grace -- why are more guys not into this? ) is not up for a game with this many rules/components/time commitment.

Thus, Obsession sits in the middle of a tri-circled venn diagram, and it seems like I'm the only one who really thrives in the middle there. J has learned it and likes it, so maybe the future for this game rests in two-player play.

Plays: 6 (End of year goal: 10, and learn the expansion)

Board Game: London (Second Edition)

London
I've actually had London on my shelf for quite a while, but it hasn't been played since December 2020. It's not exactly dusty, but I would have expected it to have gotten more plays since I bought it, which just reminds me how hard it is to get longer games up there in play counts.

Anyhow, I use London as my security blanket to talk me out of buying Furnace, as I already have one Dickensian London industrial hellscape of a game on my shelves. Seriously, I wouldn't want to live in the world that London creates, though the puzzle inside the box is deliciously brutal. Sure, it's essentially an optimization puzzle, but Wallace is so good at creating excellent optimization puzzles -- I need one in my collection (just as The Castles of Burgundy is my token Feld).

All that said, I'm not holding my breath that too many other people will want to jump into this meat grinder of a card game, but at the very least, I'd settle for a re-introductory play to knock the rust off before the year is out.

Plays: 6 (End of year goal: 7)

Board Game: Babylonia

Babylonia
Much hullabaloo has been made by my Geekbuddies about how 'Reiner's back,' and this game definitely feels like a return to form. Discounting his card games for a second, my favorite Knizias would have to be Samurai and Tigris & Euphrates, and Babylonia somehow feels like a hybrid of both of those.

Fighting for control of the tokens is very Samurai-esque, and yet the possibility of explosive chains of farmers feels very much like the wars in T&E, that can drastically change the board placement in a single turn. I need more plays to really cement my opinion (and it's unlikely Babylonia surpasses either of those two games unless I really find an extra gear in my playtimes), but it's a solid shelf addition for sure. I love discovering and exploring a new-to-me and new-to-everyone Knizia!

Plays: 2 (End of year goal: 5)

Board Game: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine

The Crew
Some games come along and they just feel entirely fresh and new as a concept. The last time this happened to me, The Mind was challenging the blurry line between game and activity (who cares, it's a load of fun either way!), and we've racked up nearly fifty plays of that card game even as we've still never won.

I have a sense that the Crew will be similar: a lot of plays throughout various missions, and we'll have a fun time never winning the game for hours on end in years to come

What really cemented this game's appeal in my mind was when I took it to our 4th of July gathering, and half a dozen people (most of them not 'gamers') cycled in and out to learn the game and play a hand. Most notably, my sister-in-law Rebekah -- who will play some games if the game takes less than 20 minutes -- played for an hour and a half because she felt like she could dip out at any new mission and not hurt the group. Now that's a game with 'just-one-more' appeal.

Plays: 8 (End of year goal: 15 -- easily my most ambitious goal as I count sittings, not missions )

Board Game: Concordia Venus

Concordia (Venus)
When Quinns of SU&SD reviewed this game, he said "I want to run away with this game and never play another game." Concordia has really ruined me for most modern Euros (Lisboa and a few other heavy ones being the exceptions), because all of the systems inside are so taut and self-contained that the box veritably explodes onto the table in a tapestry of tense decisions. I never finish a game of this without cursing my untaken possibilities, vowing to play better the next time, and ready to take it on sometimes even right after we've finished a match.

It is just a polished gem of a game, and really hearkens back to the Germany family euros that got me loving this hobby to begin with. You wouldn't mistake it for a Knizia, but it certainly has more in common with those games than it does the latest overwrought rules-fest Euro.

One last note, I'm actually really eager to try this in partnership mode. Seems like it could be really interesting, and a six-player game sounds like something I've gotta try at least once!

Plays: 13 (End of year goal: 20 -- to really cement this as my top Eurogame of all time -- weirdly we really don't play the longer, heavier Euros nearly as often as the small, fun, card games and interactive family games. Gee, I wonder why )




So there you have it -- a list for the dog days right after the dog days have concluded
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Thu Aug 12, 2021 11:36 pm
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A life lived board gaming

Andrew
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Microbadge: 2022 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I'm part of the 2022 Mindful Spending ChallengeMicrobadge: Foster parentMicrobadge: Black Lives MatterMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
It was a long, winding road to get me to this point.

Growing up, we played the typical games. In Brazil, we had Taboo, Rook, Pit, Chutes and Ladders, Settlers of Catan (it will always be 'Settlers' to me, rather than 'Catan.' We even bought the expansion -- back in 2003!) On visits home to the US with the family, we played more standard fare: Careers, Guesstures, Apples to Apples, even Game of the States. I played all of these games, and still think of some of them fondly. Rook and Pit are probably better games than most card games that released this year.

Board Game: Canasta Caliente

Someone well-meaning had bought us Canasta Caliente because 'we lived in South America,' forgetting the fact that we lived in the one Portuguese-speaking country in South America, rather than Spanish As far as I know, we never played this game, but it sat in the closet with the others. I still remember how that closet (a converted wine closet -- my parents were teetotallers) smelled of cardboard, old grapes, and dim lighting.

I was certainly not a board game geek: I was just a kid.

As a teenager, I got sick of games. To be fair, the sorts of party games our extended family played together were raucous and noisy, and I hated the 'popularity contest' style of Apples to Apples and the like (spoiler alert: I still do). They were annoying exercises at boisterous family gatherings, and that was all there was to it. So I swore off board games. I became the boy who hated board games. I was happy to continue that way for years.

It was my father-in-law-to-be who shook me out of this. My wife and I were high school sweethearts, at a small private school in Moscow, Russia. My first time visiting their house, we watched a movie, and then he pulled out a board game. Poor me, of the board-game-swearing-off-ness, was subjected to a game of Power Grid. I can't imagine why he thought it was a good choice for a non-gamer!

All that said, I had fun playing it, and I liked her family. We both left for college, and when back visiting our respective families in 2013, I took the chance to propose. The proposal would definitely be what I remember most from this visit, but second to that would be the game that Tim taught me on the trip: Smash Up.

I was totally and completely hooked on Smash Up. There are likely three dozen plays of this game that I never logged because I wasn't a board-gamer: I was a Smash Up player. Fast forward a year and a half, and Alisha and I were married, and brand new in Kansas City.

"Why not have a game night?" Alisha suggests, and I didn't realize how much those words would change our lives. I didn't know a soul in town, but Alisha was still in college at the time, and maybe, with a game night, we could meet and make some friends. At the time, she had more experience with games, growing up in Tim's house, though ironically, my enthusiasm would soon far outstrip hers!

Our first game night, I'm not positive, but I think I had two or three games. I had purchased my own copy of Smash Up, and we had bought Alisha's favorite game, Dixit. I believe Sushi Go! and Shadows over Camelot, wedding presents from Tim, rounded out the collection. It wasn't much!

From gallery of aaj94

A few people came, but Alisha realized we could get more people out each week if we harmonized her hobby in with mine: cooking. A free meal and some games was enough to get a couple of folks out each week. I can only find one picture of an early game night, because we had no idea they'd come to be so significant in our lives. You can see the nascent game shelf in the background.

From gallery of aaj94

Our rental house, after the apartment, was a little tiny 800sq.ft. house, but we once crammed 25 people into this house for a game night. Note my game shelf that has room on it for other things! This would soon change. Potato quality, but the collection consisted of something like: Shadows over Camelot, Small World, Ticket to Ride, Escape (still one of our favorite games), Mission Red Planet, Sheriff, Acquire, Tokaido, King of Tokyo, Carcassonne, Dixit, Smash Up, Glory to Rome, Guesstures, Sushi Go!, Spot it!, Hanabi, Axis & Allies, and then a bunch of games I can't identify. We were definitely under two-dozen games, though that would change. What's crazy is that a solid 8-10 of these are still cornerstones of the collection.

As a sign of how much things had changed from my teen years, Guesstures got a lot of play in the early days. We always played guys-girls, and wrote the wins on the trophy (a prototypical play logging, perhaps? ) Last I checked, the girls were ahead, and I still kind of regret selling that box. Maybe gaming for me is more about having fun with people than playing games with the zomg best mechanics.




All this is just a means of introduction. The reason I fell in love with board games again was that they answered my initial problem. I swore off board gaming because I didn't understand the social side of it. As an awkward teenager, board games made me uncomfortable: they pushed me out of my introverted patterns and forced me to interact with people. Now, that's exactly what I love about them.

Board games are a framework for social interaction. In short, they bring people together.

This is what ended up happening to our weekly game nights. Grace and Stephen (pictured), later married and now have a family. They still come every week. Josh and Alexa are dear friends that we met at the first game night. Josh brought a taco bell burrito and was the main impetus towards Alisha cooking every week. We've forged our roots in Kansas City by means of games.

When we moved to a new church, we started inviting church friends to game night. We've invited game night friends to church. Everyone who comes knows that it's an open house. Bring your friends: there will be enough food for everybody, and all are welcome, unconditionally. We've watched people get engaged and married through game night. Now, our kids are growing up with one another and the familiar routine of a weekly time together at our house.

At this point, it's not about the games anymore. Board games are a convenient way to interact with the people we meet through game night: a framework for social interaction.

Sure, I like gaming more than I ever have, but I actually scratch my 'gaming itch' through other, smaller gatherings throughout the week. Game night isn't the chance to play the latest kickstarter mini-stravaganza of the week: it's a place to make friends. We started it because we needed friends, and we continue it because everyone needs friends in their life. Everyone needs a place to go where they will be welcomed and appreciated.

So it's not just about the cardboard anymore. We have nearly every dixit card that's ever been printed, and I still remember specific hints that specific people have given for certain cards. Some favorite games are just being rediscovered now by a new generation of gamers: pre-teens figuring out how to lie to their friends in Sheriff, or learning multiplication with Tumbling Dice. When I sit down with old friends to play a hand of Glory to Rome, what we experience there transcends the mechanics of an out-of-print Chudyk game.

Perhaps I'm rambling, but after all, that's my right at this point: it's my blog. And that's why I sat down to explain all this: I renamed the blog.

From gallery of aaj94

"Cara a Cara" was a Brazilian version of Guess Who that I grew up with. Translated, it means 'face to face,' which actually is far more clever than 'Guess Who,' and feels appropriate to describe a hobby that's meant so much to me. When I think of it, I still think of playing with my Dad at a very young age.

And that's the point: what is board gaming but face to face time with friends and family? The pandemic has dealt us a massive blow, but game night persists after a year-long break. Who knows what Delta holds for us, but as long as it's possible, we're going to continue welcoming people into our home, Saturday after Saturday. Game night is the highlight of each week for me.

Even as we've welcomed kids into our house, and our friends' families grow, and new people continue to discover the craziness, we all keep showing up to spend a couple hours playing games together. We frequently span three generations under one roof, and a couple cats for good measure. Game night is one of the most beautiful things that's happened to me and Alisha in six years of marriage, and I wouldn't trade it for a million bucks.

If you're ever in Kansas City, come on by on a Saturday evening. Alisha will have a pot of something going on the stove -- enough to feed an army -- and we'll crack out an old favorite to make new friends over cards and cardboard scattered across the table. I hope to see you there.
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Mon Aug 9, 2021 8:33 pm
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Some Spoiler-Free Musings on Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 and Legacy Games in General

Andrew
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Microbadge: 2022 Copper SupporterMicrobadge: I'm part of the 2022 Mindful Spending ChallengeMicrobadge: Foster parentMicrobadge: Black Lives MatterMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
The Pandemic Legacy games have always been polarizing. To some, they are the best games ever made: a masterclass in game design, an innovation in the field, and a shining example of the future of board game design. To others, Legacy games are indicative of the excess in game design today, they're no repayable, and they're overrated pieces of garbage that should be boycotted.

The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle. I played Pandemic Legacy: season 1 with my wife and her parents. Our four-player sessions were some of my favorite gaming sessions. We finished the game in satisfying fashion, enjoyed the story twists and mechanical twists, and finished the game pumped and ready to play another campaign together.

The Allure of Legacy
Legacy games are a little bit different than a simple campaign game. What a legacy game promises is a mutable experience with every play. While a campaign game may offer new story elements, or new character abilities, a legacy game unlocks new story elements, new character abilities, new game mechanics (this is a big one), new map locations, and more. The entire character of the game changes over your plays, such that your game at the end is unrecognizable from your starting game. It's possible that some campaign games do this, but the promise of legacy games is obvious: your decisions have consequence. Your decision may be putting a sticker on the board permanently, or destroying a powerful card, or crossing off a previously accessible road.

Permanence. Truly weighty decisions. Unhinged from the single-play structure, in a legacy game your decisions will affect future you (some people would argue that a game could accomplish this without the environmental impact i.e. stickers and marking cards, but that's a discussion for another time). This is what drew me to legacy games: because my choices affect our future games and our chance at winning, the impact of my choices is doubled, tripled, or quadrupled, even (this is also why a competitive legacy game must address a runaway leader problem).

Definitely our fault
This can go off the rails when you make a mistake that affects your gameplay adversely. At worst, you could screw up a game so badly that it's impossible to win the game by the end of the legacy campaign. This happened to us in season 2. A simple mistake, overlooked in the doldrums of the middle months, condemned us to play the game on a brutal difficulty for the rest of the campaign. Ten games, over which we went 4 and 6, were missing the one piece we should have had. We played on insane mode.

Not surprisingly, I hated the experience of playing. It felt like everything about the game was slanted against us, and our wins only brought us mercifully closer to the end of the campaign. We kept going, but only because my wife and in-laws are all so stubborn that we couldn't quit the game. So, in fits and starts, we stumbled through our months towards the end. By the last month, we resolved to 'cheat' and use the rule we thought we hadn't unlocked, making the game possible to complete. Only after we completed it, and 'won' the campaign, did we find out that we should have had the rule unlocked months ago.

This isn't the game's fault, and I have to uncouple my own bad impressions of the losses from the merits of Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 as a whole. Clearly, it's not the game's fault that we missed this, and an inert board game box can't rise up and order us to play without mistakes.

Also, the way we structured our gameplay sessions was deeply flawed. While we cruised through Season 1 with regular weekly plays and finished in 17 games, we had long gaps in our Season 2 plays, and often returned to the game after a three month hiatus. Some of this was unavoidable with life-craziness, but in hindsight, we should have invested more in our sessions, maybe playing two or three games in a sitting instead of just one. A lot of this was my fault: I was never up for a second game after we'd taken a particularly bad loss. Playing more often, and more games per sitting, could have kept us immersed in the story.

I was definitely guilty of falling out of the immersion that the game painted, and by the end I just didn't care what we did, or what happened. That's a death knell for a legacy game built on story and attention to detail.

The game's fault?
Buta successful legacy game can't get too cute. Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 offered so many mechanical additions, so many abilities and sub-abilities and actions available to take, that we were often overwhelmed by the choice and the options. It's no wonder we missed a crucial unlock at a point when we were unlocking five or six new abilities and rules per game.

A Legacy game should offer new mechanics and interesting innovations -- that is, after all, the main raison d'être for a legacy game is the ability to add and unlock new mechanics as you progress through the game. But a legacy game shouldn't add so many new mechanisms that it exhausts and puts off the players.

Significantly, Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 put a much larger emphasis on reading the flavor text than Season 1 did. In Season 1, the story mainly happened, and there weren't too many clues or hints to be gained from the text: it was purely information. By contrast, Season 2 was much more akin to T.I.M.E. Stories or Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. I realized, looking through our unlocked cards later, that we'd missed a litany of tiny in-game hints that could have nudged us to play better throughout the campaign.

The idea is, the nudges would have pointed us to some direction on the mechanics of what to do in the campaign. Why not only add the mechanics that are necessary? But I guess that would minimize the sandboxy nature of the game. A particularly cutting moment was looking at a particular card we'd unlocked, and reading direct foreshadowing for our final month's challenge: things we could have done to lay the groundwork for the end. Somewhere in the fluster of the gameplay, we missed it.

So I'm unsure as to how hard I should come down on Pandemic Legacy: Season 2. The game was absolutely a frustrating experience at times: how much of that was our own fault for playing the game slowly, and how much of that is a flaw in the game (especially as compared to Season 1), I can't really say. I wanted more story and mechanical exploration after Season 1: and Season 2 delivered that. And after reading through many of the game threads here on BGG, I think that the game had enough balance and nudging to push players to the right conclusions in the end. For all of our struggles, we did win the game, with a middle-of-the-road final score to boot.

I was left wanting more, "Aha, we brilliantly figured this out!" Moments, and fewer "No matter what we do, we are playing from behind." Again, as a huge caveat, we missed a crucial rule that made the game brutally difficult. So I can't really blame Pandemic Legacy for my own human nature. I wish we'd caught the oversight, and I wish we'd played some important swathes of the game more effectively. I'm leaving the campaign a little exhausted with Pandemic's game structure (which, for all its innovations, Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 is still defined by the player deck, the in-game epidemics, and the card distributions). I would probably give Season 3 a try, but I would rather play it straight through, in no more than eight real-life weeks, with several plays per session. It's also probably essential to have some sort of in-game journal with notes and observations to work through.

What to do about it
Where does this leave the genre of Legacy games, though, or at the very least, the Pandemic Legacy series specifically?

It's clear they haven't been as big of a success as some of their fans might have hoped. While we've had a steady trickle of new legacy games, the floodgates have never really opened. Some games -- notably Charterstone and especially Seafall -- have been commercial failures (both are competitive, which I think is telling). There are already more legacy games than I can personally play (Aeon's End Legacy, Machi Koro Legacy, Betrayal Legacy, Risk Legacy, Legacy of Dragonholt, Werewolf Legacy, and probably more that I'm not even aware of).

With such a huge inherent time commitment, I'm only going to play legacy games that I can evaluate and assess to be worth my time. Pandemic Legacy, for all its flaws, has been worth my time both times we've played it. I held off on Season 2 for so long because there's no "play a demo game" when a legacy game is involved. I'm left looking at the spoiler-free reviews of others before I take the plunge.

So before I play Season 3, these are the things I want to make sure of before I jump into yet another time-consuming legacy campaign:

- Lean into story. If this is a story-telling based game, I need to know that going in. Season 2 flipped from Season 1 -- story elements now left clues to help us forward, but we weren't primed to look at the game that way. Specifically with Season 2, a small nudge in the rulebook would have been nice. In fact, I love the storytelling potential of legacy games, and I would relish a game that leans even harder into the story than Seasons 1 and 2 did.

- Respect my decisions. In the end, my own decisions screwed me on Season 2. As much as that annoys me, I'd rather that than the game artificially railroad me to the right solution. If I play poorly, I deserve to lose. This is both the good and the bad of a legacy game with permanent consequences, and both Season 1 and 2 did this well. Keep it up!

- Better ways to catch up. This isn't contradicting my above point. Part of the inherent nature of a sandbox game is that we are free to ignore the story elements at our own peril. We don't have all the information, and sometimes we'll choose wrong. But you do need to get through the story, at the end of the day. Both seasons have handled this pretty well. For example when we missed a key objective in Season 2 April, the game force-fed it to us, but with permanent consequences that made our path forward harder. I just need more of the same for Season 3.

- Give me highs to accompany the lows. Season 1 had a few instances when we felt absolutely brilliant. It also packaged a few twists in the story (and the mechanics) that felt absolutely gutting. I loved these high and low swings in emotion. Season 2 had one -- only one instance -- that made my jaw fall open. Part of what made Season 1 so satisfying was both the high and low peaks. For better or for worse, Season 2 was much more uniform -- it was brutal and hard for twelve months straight. I'd love a Season 3 that tacks back towards Season 1's highs and lows.

- Minimize the upkeep and bookkeeping. Season 2 often felt like 45 minutes of setup for 30 minutes of gameplay. That is way out of proportion, and it's no wonder we missed stuff when we were taking 30 minutes to set up, and sometimes 20-30 minutes to tear-down (the game often required additional player actions and decisions after we'd finished the game!) Trim down this bookkeeping a little bit, and I think the game (or its hypothetical sequel) would be improved.

Maybe none of this makes sense, but I enjoyed playing both seasons thus far, and I'll give Season 3 a try when it comes out. I'm still kicking myself for our stupid mistake in Season 2, but I can't blame the game for that! Here's to an even better Season 3.

Final rating:
Season 1 (8/10)
Season 2 (7/10)
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Sun Jan 5, 2020 10:28 pm
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