Meepleonboard

When I am not putting notes on paper I like to play. Here are my scribblings.

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23rd June 2018 - Overabundance?

meepleonboard
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It feels positively luxurious to get up in the morning, make a cup of tea without having to fight through the crickets, flies and dead moths, make some toast without potential risk to one's life from faulty wiring, and then to switch on the computer, hook up immediately to the internet, and get one's blogging done for the day. The south of France has quite a lot going for it, I will admit, but a long-closed house takes a while to get up to the standards of hospitality that greet me every morning at home.

What little blogging I did when out there in the wide open spaces of the Tarn was done on my phone, so apologies for any spalling mistaks that may have crept in along the way. I did also keep my eye on the new releases that dropped into the gaming world this week.

Very, very nearly I ordered a copy of the new Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small Big Box, for it made its way into my Cart and, but for a last minute stop and think about my resolution to buy fewer games this year, would likely already be winging its way to me. The devil on my shoulder has his head in his hands at the moment, while the angel is whispering sweet nothings into the ear on my other side.

The thing is, I have played Big And Small once, quite enjoyed it, but while it has as a tempting facet that it is designed for two players, I still cannot get quite over the notion that it does away with the ploughing and the vegetables of Agricola. This may be a delightful advantage for some, but the ploughing and the vegetables (especially) are among my favourite bits of the bigger box.

Also, I already own Agricola, and I cannot shake the feeling that for all the set up and the tokens falling off the table, Big And Small would have to be seriously good to sit next to it, let alone replace it, and I was not hugely impressed with my plays of Caverna: Cave vs Cave (you can find out why in my review). For now it remains better one play of Agricola than (say) three of Big And Small, another incentive to explore what I have rather than to add to my pile of shame, and a pat on the back for resisting temptation, for the moment at least.

Happy gaming!
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22nd June 2018 - Back

meepleonboard
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It was a shame that my brother and I did not quite get around to playing Tigris & Euphrates during our time away, but there was simply too much other stuff to be getting on with. A thirteen hour journey has brought me home now and back to my main collection.

Thirteen hours in a car gives plenty of time for reflection, of course, and a decent percentage of that was spent thinking about gaming. Once more I was drawn inexorably to the idea that playing a lean collection in great depth is the way to go.

In the spirit of this thought, and with the second half of the year hoving into view, I might well tinker a little further with the metrics of my collection and see where it gets me. For now, though, sleep beckons, cardboard dreams too with a bit of luck, and then that rarest of things, a free weekend.

Happy gaming!
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Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:45 pm
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21st June 2018 - Into the night

meepleonboard
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After the excitement of our brief visit to Caylus yesterday my brother and I stopped off at St Antonin Noble du Val for a drink in one of the squares there and then came back to the house to continue clearing. I have found three dice in one of the drawers and a chess board (but no pieces), and while I would have loved to play games with my father, be able to put my experiences into a Geeklist, the simple truth is that he just did not play games.

I would have been very happy to have squared off over a bout of Manoeuvre, for example, he being a military man, but in the end I just let it go, allowed him to do his crosswords while I got on with other matters. My brother is a different animal, however, and we stayed up far too late last night, drank far too much red wine, and played three games.

We began with Arena: Roma II, which I have technically not played yet, although I have had a couple of goes at Roma which lives in the same box. Something about this game really grabs me, probably a combination of the head to head card play, the dice activation and the clever ways that the win can be achieved, the last of these catching me by surprise as my brother won 18 points to 15.

After that we played a single round of Star Realms, which we kind of enjoyed, much in the way that I have liked rather than loved most of my recent plays of this. It is the swift move from paper cuts to massive smackdowns that irks me most, I think, also the way that it can be very hard to catch up to an early leader, although maybe I am just playing it wrong. Whatever the reason, I ran out the winner, though I'll be interested to get Shards of Infinity to the table at some point and see how that compares, given that most people have said that it plays in a similar fashion.

Lastly we tried The Office Job in Burgle Bros., which was fun, as always. I dealt with the safe on the lower floor, getting lumped with the Persian Kitty, while my brother found the safe immediately on the upper floor. Unfortunately I ran out of stealth tokens and the guard found me after taking an unexpected turn. It was a sudden end to what had initially seemed to be a promising heist, so we called it a night at that point, the clock not far off three o'clock in the morning.

Happy gaming!
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Thu Jun 21, 2018 2:44 pm
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20th June 2018 - Caylus baby..!

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So I am out in France with my brother, dealing with the legal issues around the sale of what used to be our father's house. This afternoon we had an appointment with the notaire in a nearby location.

It turned out that the location was Caylus, no less, and mightily impressive it is too. The church is particularly impressive, but its cardboard importance gives it extra gravitas.

I wonder if I should do a tour of the local area, maybe take in Carcassonne (nearby) and Troyes. Maybe some Castles Of Burgundy on the way home...

Happy gaming!
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Thu Jun 21, 2018 1:56 am
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19th June 2018 - Reprint of article for WDYPTW blog

meepleonboard
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This article is also available, with pictures, at the WDYPTW Blog webpage: https://www.wdyptw.com/blog/2018/6/5/out-the-other-side-by-n...

Something very strange happened to this gamer in the month of April, and it crept up on me slowly, stealthily, and when my attention was pointed in a totally different direction – I went an entire evening without once thinking of board games. To be more precise, I went an entire evening without getting onto the internet and looking mindlessly at BGG for a bit, which is what I tend to do when I probably should at least be thinking about board games, but it still came to me as quite a shock when I finally remembered to load up, log in and mark all those subscriptions threads as read. It feels as if I have come out of the other side of a long gaming tunnel, as if that briefest of times away from the core of our addiction – barely six hours – has given me the freshest of glimpses of the hobby from without rather than within.

I joined BGG in 2004, and it seems almost a lifetime away now as relationships, jobs and houses have come and gone, and the site was, by its current standards, a niche construct, catering to a small community of hobby gamers. Nearly fifteen years later and the site has millions of members and generates untold hits and views per day. Those of us of long standing see the same things crop up time and time again, to the extent that there are even now Geeklists to channel all those repeated questions into some kind of communal well. Apart from all the recommendation threads, there are the plaintive “How do I cull?” questions, balanced out by the “What size is a realistic collection?” and all sorts of other things. Those with collections of 1000+ are admired, while those with collections of 25 or so are...well, they also seem to be admired, which is a little strange. And then there is the Pile Of Shame, or the Shelf Of Opportunity (for glass half empty/glass half full types), the H-Index chasers, the 10x10ers, all of us seeking measurements to show us that we are getting value out of our collections, that we are distributing love to these boxes as evenly and as fairly as possible, all the while inhabiting a site that screams in so many corners how great the current hotness is. Look! More minis! More stretch goals! More funding more quickly! You'll play this some day! With some notable exceptions happiness, it seems, is elsewhere.

And yet my favourite plays of April were of trusty old crusty old Dominion, a game that has lain unplayed for so long that I had to get no fewer than thirteen boxes off the top of it in order to get it to the table. It had been sitting there with its two expansions and remained unloved for nigh on two years, hovering so close to that cutoff line where it gets ejected from the collection that it had nearly found its way out of the door on several occasions. Maybe those thirteen boxes and the effort of having to move them saved it from the chop, but that moment came when it seemed like the perfect game for the occasion, so out, blinking, it came into the light.

In those “How shall I cull?” threads we are often advised not to keep unplayed games hanging around on the off chance that the stars align and the right conditions occur for them to get played, yet that is exactly what happened with Dominion when our new neighbour, interested in gaming but still, in the parlance of our house, a “pre-farmer” (when it comes to the rules of Carcassonne) came round to explore some of what the hobby has to offer. We set up the basic market as described in the rules for the base game, got him playing in short order, watched while the gears and cogs meshed in his brain...and had midnight not intervened and an early start the following morning we would probably still be playing now.

Despite having become a little stale for us in two, at a player count of three, and with accessibility such an important consideration, Dominion was exactly the right game for that time and place, the perfect fit to that evening. Our neighbour loved it, giddy with the excitement of discovery of something that to us was also once fresh and new, and I have to admit that it was instructive to leave the market as it was from game to game, genuinely to explore the various possibilities suggested by those cards. We played it the next week again, with an extra player at the table as well, and I have a feeling that it will probably become something of a staple of our gaming evenings together with him next door.

Of course, we all know that the round the table experience, the joy and repartee of company, is at least as important as what happens on the board, but when both those elements coincide at the right moment the hobby fizzes and crackles with life, even for somebody who has been around the gaming block a few times, for whom the seismic moments of new ideas and fresh discoveries come fewer and further between. Playing an old game several times in succession, almost the opposite of what most of the hobby seems to want to be for us Geeks, was simply joyous.

As a result of our experiences a couple of months ago, May turned out to be something quite different from what it might otherwise have been, seeing only one new game come to the table (which was really playtesting), as we tried our best to blow some of the long-settled dust off the boxes in our collection and to get them back into play. 7 Wonders: Duel emerged after nearly a year away, a game so tight and enjoyable that I wonder how on earth it had stayed away from our gaming focus for so long. Also, base game Pandemic, although ratcheted up to Legendary level by the extra Epidemic card to be found in the On The Brink expansion, providing a challenge so intense and yet so enjoyable that once more I wonder why I spend my time glancing at The Hotness at all. Then there was Mr. Jack, Agricola, Seasons – the list goes on, and the beginning of June has already seen Potion Explosion came back to the table for a long-overdue play, so long overdue that I somehow contrived to come up with my worst score ever, so much have I forgotten what it takes to be successful at the game.

The proof of this particular gamer's pudding is that the past few months have been so enjoyable, so unencumbered with the perpetual learning of new rules and the hope that the next game might just be great, that I have enjoyed my table time much more than earlier in the year, freed of the strains and stresses and pressures of trying to cram things in that (whisper it) I actually do not want to play as much as something else. In my case the problem is perhaps exacerbated because of the fact that my reviewing means that I simply must keep a decent turnover of new games coming to the table, but even that is now subject to strict limits, and that certainly feels like a good thing.

It is also important to keep my gaming groups in mind, which normally means my partner, but now includes our new neighbour and other innocents susceptible to the gravitational pull of cardboard. My partner is much more likely to want to play if it is a game that we know and both enjoy, more ready to find the whole experience disconcerting and overwhelming if it is something complicated and new, and possibly it is for that reason that games overburdened with mechanisms and exceptions tend to have very short shrift in our house. Give us something with rules that can be simply explained and understood, and where the complexity and interest in the game comes from how simple choices can provide difficult decisions, and we will most likely find something that sits fairly and squarely in our sweet spot. The longtime keepers in our collection have already proven their worth to us.

It should also be obvious that every play of a new game steals a play from a box that is already in the collection, even if it bears repeating, and while the thrill of discovery may be all well and good, I find it difficult to ignore that much new cardboard simply does more of the same in a just about adequate manner, and that moments of genuine greatness are few and far between. A risky punt on something new that is likely to be more or less average, therefore, takes a play away from something I know I will enjoy, and it is probably this realisation that, at the core of it all, has changed my view on gaming in the past few weeks.

I should point out that I have recently imposed numerical limits on various aspects of my play, including a limit to the number of new games I would be comfortable to learn and acquire this year. At the time of writing I sit comfortably close to where I should be on both measurements, this year being one of transition in order to clear my backlog of unplayed games in expectation of calmer times ahead. It also means that I am (slightly) less likely to do that annoying thing of going mad in some online retailer's sale, just because. Each acquisition and each new play now has to count as part of a strictly limited total, which makes it much more likely that I will have a higher strike rate of games that will appeal to us and earn their place in our collection.

Get a new game to the table now and it is probable that it will be the product of research that has led me to believe that it will maintain a permanent presence on our shelves, rather than a knee-jerk reaction to something I might have seen in a positive light many moons ago, but about which I had totally forgotten until seeing it in a maths trade or some online sale. By making my table time a more valuable commodity I may just end up spending it a little more wisely.

So was I unhappy with my place in the hobby? It may sound as if I was, but really I think I just needed to be more aware of where my own place happened to be. There is and always will be a place for new games in my collection, because the delight of discovery of something genuinely surprising is not a feeling I want to lose, and it would be hard to lose forever that visceral thrill of ripping off the wrapping and punching out the cardboard, but reckon that I need to be much more selective about what makes its way through the battlements. Let the others get their Goliath pledges from Kickstarter and then just possibly put them up for sale on the very day that they arrive - I'll sit at the bottom of the gaming pool and wait for the durable, good stuff to filter down. In the meantime you'll find me here cuddling up to my copy of Tigris & Euphrates. Anyone want to play?
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Tue Jun 19, 2018 8:05 am
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18th June 2018 - That was the week that was

meepleonboard
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It was an entirely solitary week of gaming for me, thanks to an overabundance of work and time away from home. When KT and I were together, for some reason there always seemed something else to do, but we have some time off booked later on this month, which should help us to get those pesky Euros back to the table.

Most plays for the week went to Orchard: A 9 card solitaire game, whose brevity of play and extreme portability counts in its favour, as well as the happy fact that it is a pretty decent game. A top score of 37 for now as I begin to understand how it works and lose myself in the decisions a little more luxuriously.

A single play also for After The Virus, which I think is going to pick up some more goes this week as well. Still very, very difficult, but still enough fun to let me look past that and enjoy the game beneath.

Tomorrow I am off to France for a few days, so the travel bag is packed and ready to go with Tigris & Euphrates, Rallyman, Arena: Roma II and Burgle Bros., and a couple of solo options too. Heaven knows how much time there will or will not be for playing, but best to be prepared.

As ever, I am hopeful of more gaming this week, and am optimistic of that happening. Perhaps my collection is skewed a little too heavily in favour of longer plays, but it is difficult to purge them when I enjoy them so much on the occasions they do get to the table.

Happy gaming!
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Mon Jun 18, 2018 9:37 am
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17th June 2018 - Take me with you

meepleonboard
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The trip to France hoves into view, and I need to deal with the important packing, namely which games my brother and I are going to use to destress and unwind after what we have to do out there. Tigris & Euphrates is obviously (obviously!) going into the box, but what else have I decided upon?

We'll need some head to head fightiness, I think, and this could be an opportunity to get Arena: Roma II played in earnest. I played Roma with KT last year when I first acquired it, and she was mildly interested, but the cards and the use of the dice have really captured my imagination, and I want to find out whether it matches up to those expectations.

Something cooperative needs to come down as well, and for reasons of space as well as fun I do not think it can be anything other than Burgle Bros.. This game is just such a joy to play, and, better still, you can learn it as you go along - into the box it goes.

My brother and I spent our younger years running seasons of Formula-1, and we've occasionally squared up over other racing games in the past, notably Bolide, so despite the fact that it will take up some space, I think that Rallyman needs to come down, although I'll leave the expansion at home. I seem to recall that there is a new edition on the way with hexes instead of boards, but I need to see how that works before I get rid of my lovely 4th edition, because it just works so well as it is.

Lastly I need something to solo, and that slot is still up for grabs. It would be good to take something that could be opened up to another player, but I think I need to be a good boy and use to opportunity to get a few more test plays in of the Unpublished Prototype, so here's hoping that all the stuff we need to do will not get into the way of the stuff we want to do.

Happy gaming!
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Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:00 am
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16th June 2018 - More Orchard

meepleonboard
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A brief breakfast play of Orchard: A 9 card solitaire game yesterday morning took my tally of plays for the game to three, a score of 30, one shy of my previous best. I think that this neat little game is going to be a decent fit for a spare ten minutes here and there, so I am expecting to knock up further plays in a fairly short space of time.

Some of the niceties of the design are becoming apparent, such as the limited number of dice, the incremental scoring system, and the way that spoiled fruit can be use to free up a die or two. There is certainly more to it than initially meets the eye, and I am interested to find out how many plays I can get in before I become tired of it.

I am often impressed by what game designers can get out of a minimum of components, and am going to have to pay more attention to these nanogames in future. Having been pointed to the Geeklist for the nanogame competition there are already a couple of others I would like to try.

It took me all of five minutes to knock up the components needed for Orchard, and I would recommend that anybody looking for a quick but interesting solo game give it a go. You'll need dice of three different types as well, and a couple of tokens, but it is easy enough to improvise the things that are needed.

I'll be doing a fair amount of travelling over the next week, so portable games that are quick to play are going to come strongly into focus, and Orchard has definitely earned a place in my travel bag, probably my pocket too. Now I need to see if I can get my score up above 35.

Happy gaming!
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Sun Jun 17, 2018 12:30 am
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15th June 2018 - After The Virus

meepleonboard
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I am still enjoying After The Virus despite a frankly terrible win rate, and much of that enjoyment comes down to the gentle humour on the cards and the way that they act in a pretty thematic fashion. There are also some serious choices to be made in the game that make this a deck of cards worth thinking about in more depth than most.

At the moment (and for the foreseeable future) I am stuck on the first mission of the second campaign, in which one needs to save five survivors, but, critically, can only do so one at a time and by sacrificing a weapon for each one. In other words, you need to go hunting aggressively through the deck for weapons in order to get them into play, all the while fending off the advancing zombie hordes.

The four characters in the box all play quite differently, with starting decks with unique angles to them, and yesterday I began the game with Adam, who handily starts with a weapon in play and a couple of other useful abilities. I had managed to save two survivors fairly quickly, but was trounced by the draw deck, unable to dig out the weapons that I needed.


Need weapons!


Although After The Virus seems to be beating me over the head with as much predictability as used to happen with The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game there are a couple of crucial differences in the way I feel about Fryxelius's game, most importantly that I always feel that a decent rub of the green will see me able to sneak out a win next time through. Allied to that is the fact that pre-game choices, while meaningful, are pretty much limited to choosing which character to play.

I have too many games and not enough time left in my life to indulge in that kind of intensive deck construction that something like Lord Of The Rings demands, neither the kind of money needed to buy the expansions that will enable me to beat even the third scenario in the base game. Those kind of lifestyle games are all well and good, but they belong to the category of plays that, were I younger and with more time on my hands, I would enjoy immensely, while After The Virus chimes much more with where I am now.

Happy gaming!
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Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:14 am
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14th June 2018 - Orchard

meepleonboard
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Following on from yesterday's post I went hunting for solitaire games that play in fifteen minutes or so, and happened upon the listing for Orchard: A 9 card solitaire game. I don't have a colour printer, but I do have some blank cards sitting around, a few felt tip pens, and it happens that the cards do not need to be double sided.

A few minutes later and my crudely rudely drawn cards were ready to be lovingly tended into a higgledy-piggledy orchard replete with apples, pears and plums, or at least that was the intention. The rules seem easy enough, so I grabbed a few dice (which can easily be replaced by tokens, if necessary) that were lying around and off I went a-cultivating.


Have cards, will plant!


Despite getting even these simple rules wrong first time through I had a couple of decent games, my second scoring a more representative figure than my first one, 36 to 19, and revealing some of the niceties of Orchard's play. There's certainly enough to be thinking about here, even in a game that lasts under ten minutes.

I've watched many other bloggers have fun with relatively simple solo games, and my experience tells me that when one of these hits the spot it tends to come back to the table again and again. For me Hostage Negotiator is the sun around which the others travel, although After The Virus, despite its difficulty, is giving it a decent run for its money.

It is early days still for determining whether Orchard has the legs (or branches) to make it to the long run, but it has portability and brevity of play on its side, and that makes it a decent candidate for several plays when other games cannot quite fit the bill. For now it is enough to have it with me, and I'll be giving it several runs on my travels over the coming weeks.

Happy gaming!
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Thu Jun 14, 2018 8:00 am
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