Personal circumstance this week has meant that my play opportunities were cancelled and I have had to content myself with punching some of my new games and reading some rule books.
One such game was Luna Capital. I even got in a solo game of it, which was fine, but the most memorable bits of the experience for me were the cardboard bits of bling that they threw in.
The bits are meant to add theme with functionality. You have to punch the, and assemble first but they didn’t require glue, hold together nicely and feel quite sturdy. They even fit snugly back into the box without disassembly. There is also a little diagram that tells me how to stack it in the box. Lovely, Devir clearly know their gamers…
Opening the box you find
Ooh. A card holder, a rocket tile holder and a tile storage solution.
The card holder - completely superfluous but nice. Holds the cards well, acts as a storage tray and generally keeps things neat. Sweet.
The rocket tile holder - incredibly fiddly tile dispenser that requires you to spend too long filling it. Not really sure why you would use this but it looks nice.
And the tile storage…
Oh this is nice. Well specced dimensions that hold the tiles snugly but not too tightly that they are difficult to get out. It has little semicircular cutouts at each end so one can get their fat thumb and finger at either end of the stack to easily remove it. There is even a compartment for the utterly pointless first player marker. The three stacks of tiles (A, B and C tiles) are contained in 3 separate columns. Sounds simple but it is amazing how many inserts would have 5 compartments for 6 different types of things. The whole thing feels well thought through.
Because there is one tiny design flaw.
That’s right, there is no base!!! What?
You might think, that’s ok it is only meant as storage you just utilise those finger cut out thingies and lift the whole stack, when needed, into the fiddly rocket whatsamajig. But I need to remove the whole thing to get at the components stored underneath, which need to be for keeping them flat purposes. It is an incredible feat of digit dexterity to clasp 3 stacks of tiles and the holder and lift them out of the box without dropping anything. Furthermore I don’t want to just lift out the stack and put it in the rocket because I need to remove half the tiles because I am not playing with 4 players and I need to shuffle the tiles.
I just can’t work it out. How can you get this so wrong? What did they think I was going to do with this holder? It would be far easier, quicker, and cheaper to just put the tiles in baggies.
Nice production. Big fail.
When you can't play a game, you might as well talk about them. A collection of my thoughts on various gaming topics. I welcome feedback and comments.
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I wanted to start by saying that I fully expect only 3 of my readers to reach the end of this post. The rest of you will likely switch off from boredom long before the end. However it did provide me with an evening of entertainment in pulling it together.
"You always let me win the last game of the evening" has been the mantra of TNO in recent weeks as he perceives a trend in our plays. So I thought I would take a look at whether this is true or not.
Typically if we play multiple games in a session then the last one is a shorter/filler type game. TNOs hypothesis is that he tends to win those while the more meaty games tend to go my way. Sometimes we play a session of just fillers and sometimes we will fit in a couple of medium length games but on the whole the pattern will be big game followed by something shorter.
I have 343 recorded plays with TNO since 28th April 2015. In that time we have played 271 different games over 178 sessions. I have played more times with TNO but I have restricted this analysis to just our head to head games - other players may influence the outcome too significantly.
Overall I have won 182 of those plays and TNO 166. The sharpest among you will immediately spot that the sums to a total of 348 wins, which is more than the total plays. However there were 5 complete draws in that time that either had no tiebreaker or we were also tied on that/those. I record these as a win for both players. These 5 plays will ripple through this analysis just throwing the numbers off slightly.
So my win percentage is 53.1% to TNOs 48.4%.
On the question of who wins the last game - I have won it 86 times (48.3% of the 178 sessions), whereas TNO has won it 92 times (51.7%). So TNO does perform above his win % in final games.
Given that the hypothesis was around winning the filler games at the end of an evening I think that we should ignore all sessions of just one game, as that was likely to be one lengthy game.
We have 107 sessions where we have played more than one game.
Games in session >> 1 >> 2 >> 3 >> 4+
My wins >> 39 >> 77 >> 37 >> 29
TNO wins >> 33 >> 79 >> 24 >> 30
My win % >> 54.9 >> 50.0 >> 61.7 >> 50.0
TNO win % >> 46.5 >> 51.3 >> 40.0 >> 51.7
I'm not sure what this tells us except that I should try and play more 3-game sessions! I do think it shows that TNO does do better when we play more than just one big game in a session. The 4+ category is made up of 10 sessions with number of plays ranging between 4 and 10 and averaging 5.8 plays per session. The likelihood is that most of these sessions are made up of lots of the filler type games. Or maybe it just shows that if you flip a coin lots you will tend towards 50% heads and 50% tails
Coming back to the 107 sessions with more than one game, during which we have 272 plays. I have won the last game on 48 of those occasions (44.9%) and TNO 59 times (55.1%). I think this futher supports the trend that TNO will do better if there are multiple plays and one is a smaller game.
I do feel like the statement loses a bit of meaning "you always let me win the last game" if you actually won all of the games in that session. So if we look at the number of times each of us won the last game having also lost in the same session then we get - overall me 92 wins (50%) and TNO 92 wins (50%) and winning the last game me 24 times (38.1%) and TNO 39 times, a whopping 61.9%.
So coming up two-thirds of the time, if we play multiple games and we both have wins in that session TNO will win the last game, wow!
Further to this, it feels that the statement works at its ultimate if you lose every other game in the session and only win the last game. In this scenario I won the last game on 17 occasions (27.0% of the 63 sessions where both players have won and lost) and TNO has won it 26 times (41.3%).
When I have looked at stats like this in the past to test fun statements that people make it generally ends up being that there is no statistical evidence to back up the statement. In this case, could it possibly be that TNO is on to something?
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Eila and Something Shiny - a game designed to play with the younger ones in your family. Even the name creates images of inquisitive and playful children. But this is not a kids game, merely one you can play with kids as a fund thing to do together. And I played it all by myself.
image by golonko
I backed Eila and Something Shiny as a replacement for 7th Continent. Not that I am comparing these games, just that my use of 7th Continent was as a multi-session solo adventure that I could get into the story of. I have previously talked about all the pros and cons of 7th Continent but my main misgivings about the game were all the administrative faff you had to do to play the game and how all interesting decisions resulted in negative activity and results. E&SS (I really can't be bothered to keep typing the whole thing out) promised to fill the same hole in some of my evenings but in a much smoother play experience.
And indeed it achieved this. You play as Eila, setting off on an adventure, driven by a need to find out what that shiny thing is that you can see in the distance. The system is very simple - flip a card, choose an option on the card (usually 1, 2, or 3 choices), (often) spend/gain resources depending on the option, maybe introduce new cards that you will encounter at some point in the future, then place the card you flipped into the past (you will not see this event again) or the future (you will see it again). The system is brilliant. Very simple and quick to administer and allows the game to tell a story in a simple but effective way while giving space for the mechanisms to work. The rulebook is small, but it has everything you need (bar one small omission that has been rectified in FAQ), yet you learn the game through one or two introductory scenarios that fit the story very well. I would have preferred that the game ramped up a little faster as these early chapters were very simple, but I can see why they are there if you are playing with younger ones.
image by Ice Makes
E&SS is very cute. The artwork, characters, and world are portrayed in a very cutesy way although this hides a dark and mean streak in the situations you find yourself in. I defnitely enjoyed the game more because of this presentation. The story is told through the pictures on the cards, a few bits of flavour text, and the mini comic book that introduces and rounds off each chapter. It is very minimalist but I was absorbed by it. I wasn't flipping the card and paying 3 coins - I was flipping the card and buying a crucial piece of equipment from the travelling salesperson, whom I would now never see again. This is unusual for me as my main problem with card games is that the art just fades into the background when all you need are the icons. Not so here.
I very much enjoyed my adventure and played through it very quickly. This is both a positive and a negative. I played it quickly because I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next and I wanted to open the new chapters and develop the story. But it is a shame that the whole thing is over so soon, there doesn't feel like enough content (timewise) in the box. This is partly because it is easy. I don't mind easy coop/solo games, I dislike being constantly beaten up by a game but I feel the challenge needed to be a bit higher (again perhaps it is perfect for playing with younger ones). In fairness there are a set of advanced cards that you can substitute in to increase the difficulty but I didn't want to play through it again.
E&SS is completely replayable but not for me. That isn't a knock against the game it is just that for me the fun was in the discovery, finding out the story and in seeing what was to come. You could play the game again, make some different decisions and probably see some different cards (different equipment, skills etc) but essentially you will play the same story, with the same chapters and go through the world in the same fairly linear fashion. I can see that that may appeal to some but not me.
So I completed the game and having decided that I didn't want to do it again I looked at the alternative endings and how you would achieve those. E&SS may be cute but it delivers a serious message, some may find that a bit corny but I appreciated it.
An excellent package that I would totally recommend, if not a little short.
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05 Jan 2022
I wanted to set myself some gaming challenges this year and after thinking long and hard about something that might be realistic, but achievable, I realised that playing challenges weren't the answer. 5x5 or 10x10 challenges are never going to happen. Targeting a certain number of plays just adds pressure to prescious time and may be achieved throught lots of plays of 5 minute solo games and I don't want to sap the fun out. So my three challenges are:
Have a net reduction in my collection of 50 items.
I want to play new stuff and I want to play the really great older stuff more often. Too often am I playing average things because I need to play it to get it out of the collection. Now the new stuff might be average but it still has discovery to it. There will be some catching up to do as I play through a bunch of things I want to clear out so that I can get my play of it, or my last play of it, or because TNO wants to play it. The challenge will be difficult as I have nearly 30 items that I know will be entering my collection so some drastic culling is needed. I would love to have my collection on one set of shelves but that may be a longer term challenge.
This will be measured by the number that BGG says you have in your collection with baseline of 217. Incoming kickstarters could be a problem if they have built in expansions etc which will add multiple items to the list.
Purchase fewer than 10 games on crowdfunding this year.
In 2021 I halved the number I bought on Kickstarter compared with 2020 and I was much better for it. My collection didn't fill with games that were ultimately average and needed moving on. My wallet was healthier. I got much better at identifying things I knew I wasn't going to like in games and how to dismiss them. I haven't missed any of the games that I might have purchased in 2020 and didn't in 2021. There are a few that I am sure I will back already, such as the new version of La Granja for example, but I think this one might be easier than before as Kickstarter is increasingly not offering good value for money when shipping is counted in.
By the end of the year have no games on the shelf of opportunity.
There may be some reasonable exceptions to this depending on when games arrive into the house and if, or how many, opportunities there have been to actually play them. However, if going back to the first challenge, I want to play new games, then there is no point in acquiring them only for them to sit for ages waiting while I play a bunch of average stuff and then not be new when I finally get to them. I think this one could be tricky as my queue of games to play is already very long and seemingly growing quicker than I can play them so I may have to combine this with culling to achieve it.
I will most likely fail at these but I think they are worthy goals.
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29 Dec 2021
I am late with my post this week. This is partly because Christmas festivities mean that usual routines are all out of kilter but also because I wanted to finish the family gaming before reporting on it.
Below is what I managed to get to the table, all at 4 or 5 player, with the exception of Herrlof. Bear in mind that typically I get to explain the theme of the game (which I am told I have to do), possibly the objective and anything past that and people have had enough of the rules. They can't cope with an up front teach, so I always play first and teach as I go. Sometimes this means I do suboptimal stuff so that I can demonstrate certain actions, but generally they pick things up.
The Isle of Cats
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22 Dec 2021
The time has come again when I must decide which games to take to make my mum, wife and siblings play over Christmas.
One sister won't play any games, so she is easily satisfied. My mum is generally asleep by the time games come out, so I have to contend with someone not able to learn rules, my wife won't do rules teaches, my brother will ably play anything, and my other sister is a role player so will only play things if I manage to sell the theme to her.
I have plumped for:
The Isle of Cats
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15 Dec 2021
The story of many a gamer is that they used to play board games as a kid, lapsed for a bit, and then rediscovered modern board gaming with x gateway game. Mine is not too disimilar except that where many tell this story the games they played as a kid were Monopoly, Scrabble, Cluedo, Connect 4, Game of Life etc. While we did have those game in our family we also had a bunch of niche things as well. I guess this will be a boring post for most but I was going to highlight a few games that I grew up on that still have interesting elements for today. I am going to focus on the family games, I did have my time with Games Workshop, MB kids games, Hero Quest, Space Crusade and the like but those were just me and my friends. What got us around the table as parents and kids?
The Business Game / aka Mine a Million
You are extracting product from your mine, transporting it via road or canal to Newport to be sold for a profit. Eventually you will earn enough cash to take the perilous journey across the sea in ship or barge to sell your wares in America. First to $1m wins.
This game has infuriating swingy luck, crazy output randomness and ultimately a very set play pattern. But it is an economic simulation with nice, if not fiddly, bits. There is a really smooth transition from road era to canal era to overseas shipping that is dynamic and natural. None of this board reset nonsense that has to be deployed in Brass. And player interaction is quite high, with the ability to force opponents to pay you to carry their goods, or blocking, or simply trying to force the dreaded earthquake at Newport card on them when they have so many goods there. As a child it really helped me to learn about investing for later profit and how to weigh up risk for those overseas voyages.
That's right, not Monopoly but Totopoly. This game is split into two halves. First you need to auction off (or deal out) a bunch of horses and roles - such as tote, stable owners etc. Then you train your horses. Money will flow from those that own horses to those that supply food and stabling. Then you flip the board for the big race day, better quality/trained horses have more advantages on the track to advance. Prize money for those that finish in the top 3, but you also get to bet and winning the race doesn't necessarily mean you will win the game. Of course the tote takes their cut and overall most money wins. This game comes with metal horse pieces with printed numbers on, sounds like some sort of Kickstarter addon or stretch goal but there they were in 1938. It also scales nicely as each player just takes on fewer roles or owns fwere horses as the player count increases. Totopoly introduced me to that idea of asymmetric player powers, longer term planning and balancing of your portfolio.
The modern day equivalent of Flutter would be Stockpile. You buy and sell shares. Roll the dice and see which share 'traveller peg' moves up the board, but be careful of those slump spaces. When one reaches the top it is the end of the round and depending on traveller peg performance the company's stock value increases or decreases. The first to double their starting capital wins. Flutter is a lot about luck, a little about good timing of decisions, and nothing about strategy. I would hate this game today but I have many a fond memory of playing it, and I played it a lot. Easy to set up, quick to play, simple to pick up. It teaches you about speculation, that there is a penatly to just making a transaction, and about push your luck.
Such a fun theme to this game. You are a wizard search for the elixir of life. Travel around the village purchasing ingredients from the different shops, when ready go back to your lab and brew a potion. If you are successful you get to find out what you have made. Find the 3 parts of the elixir of life and you are the winner. The game was ahead of its time in some respects; incredible variability as the potions are randomly laid out on a grid each game. The cross section of ingredients that will make that potion this game. It also had movement based on action points rather than roll and move. I am convinced there is a decent modern game in that brewing system too. There is some unfair take that and output randomness in this game but some of it can be mitigated, which is a good game learning point.
Rubiks Magic Strategy Game
Or better named by my parents Rubiks flip flop because that is what you do on your turn; flip an opponents piece and the flop one of yours down. First person to get three of their own symbols in a row of the same colour wins. This is a fine example of abstract strategy, easy to learn but hidden depth. It is what I call a 'breakfast game' as that is when my parents would play each other. Each round is very quick but that is usually followed by another or a best of 5 scenario. This definitely taught advanced planning and mental spatial maniuplation.
Formula Motor Racing
image by DaveD
Now this one is a bit of a cheat as it is a 90s game. However when looking up titles for this post something very intersting caught my eye with this one. The designer is credited as a certain Reiner Knizia!! Lots of fun in this neatly abstracted race game. No circuit, no laps just a line of cars indicating position. You get a hand of cards and play one on your turn that will influce the relative position of one or more cars. The key to the game is that most cards perform and overtake action which advances a car of a certain colour a few spaces forward, but because of slipstreaming it also takes the car directly behind it. Lots of laugh out loud moments as your carefully crafted plans are destroyed by opponents. There is a lot of meanness and temporary alliances and the game teaches hand management and timing. I reckon I'd still have a good time with this game today as a fun filler.
I did title this as family gaming from the 80s, while it is true that I played these at that time (with the exception of the last one), it is suprising that the pulication dates on some of these are much earlier. I think I have always been a hobby gamer.
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"I'll see you in 6 months for your next appointment" is what the dentist said to me when I last saw her. That was over 2 years ago. A lot has happened in the mean time.
My dentist isn't very close to where I live, but it is an excellent excuse to visit Legend, who still lives where I used to, see his new house, and of course play many games.
The Godfather: Corleone's Empire
Grand Austria Hotel: Lets Waltz
Glory to Rome
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01 Dec 2021
I was looking forward to receiving my copy of Aqua Garden, which I kickstarted as it was a bit of a curio item, coming from a Japanese publisher and designer and it was definitely in the 'cute' and 'pretty' category with all of those screen printed fisheeples.
image by W Eric Martin
Unfortunately after one game (plus a two-handed solo game to get the rules straight) it has left my collection. I don't think it is a bad game, just that it was nothing special and it left me with no desire to come back and see what else it had to offer.
Aqua Garden is a one-way-street game. I'm not sure if that is a recognised term but think the resource collection mechanisms of Francis Drake or Heaven and Ale. In fact, the game was heavily inspired by the latter and Heaven and Ale is one I have wanted to try for a while so it helped to see Aqua Garden to me.
Basically you go around this one way street collecting fish and then put them into one of 6 tanks in your aquarium. There is a secondary employee meeple that goes around your aquarium in a rondel style and you can only place your acquired fish into tanks next to that employee. So there is a nice puzzle in lining things up. You have some limitations on what combinations of fish can go into a tank based on oxygen limits and predatory instincts and you are trying to get certain combinations into particular tanks for either income (generated every lap that employee does of your aquarium) or victory points (objective cards). Other than that you get points for the fish that you have at the end of the game and, if playing with some expansions and advanced rules, particular player objectives or special fish that you might have acquired.
image by me (hence the terrible lighting and shadow)
It all sounds quite interesting. Unfortunately it all falls apart around one simple thing for me. There is very little (if any) incentive to jump ahead on the one way street, meaning that the game becomes very scripted. This issue is exacerbated in the two-player game because of some wonky third player bot rules that definitely mean there is no benefit in jumping ahead as you just hand a whole bunch of stuff to your opponent. There are only marginally different point values for fish at the end of the game and since all fish in your aquarium reward you with points, ultimately it doesn't really matter which fish you acquire, just make sure you get lots of them.
Further to this, since you aren't jumping ahead then you can pretty much achieve everything you want to in the game - all the objectives, filling all your tanks, getting all types of fish, getting the special fish. If you are achieving everything and plodding around in a scripted way I can't see why the next game is going to feel any different from the first. Maybe I am wrong, but, certainly at 2p, I can't see it.
It is all a bit of a shame really, the game components were certainly lovely and the concept is different and all in a small package. While the game hangs together it just doesn't excite.
image by TNO
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24 Nov 2021
I was watching some board game media recently about Messina 1347 a game that is high on my anticipation list. The comments turned towards questioning what the game did that was special. One reply compared it to Pulsar 2849 by the same designer* that also didn't do anything special but it was the combination of things that made that game good. The original questioner responded with something along the lines of "Pulsar 2849 isn't in anyones top 50s, no one is talking about it any more and it didn't influence the industry. It is a dead game and therefore no good comparison to suggest that Messina 1347 will be any good."
This got me thinking. Isn't that pretty much a description of most games of a few years old? Just how many games truly influence the industry anyway? and what did come out in 2017 that people are still talking about?
Pulsar 2849 has 6700 ratings on BGG and an average rating of 7.7. It has an overall rank of 223 out of more than 20,000 ranked games. Based on that I would say most would recognise it as a very good game. Yet I think to a certain extent the questioner is right. You don't hear people talking about it much any more.
When it comes to influence. I would argue that its only really one game every few years that influences the industry. Influence - the capacity of have an effect on the development of something. If we are talking about a whole industry then I think we are looking at games that set trends. So maybe we are talking about games that popularised the hobby or were genre defining, things like; Catan, Carcassonne, Dominion, Love Letter and of course Monopoly.
Looking over 2017 it appears to be a good year. We had Gloomhaven, Spirit Island, Gaia Project, Azul, Anachrony, Dinosaur Island, Pandemic Legacy Season 2 and many other hits. How many of those were truly influential? One... maybe two? I think you'd be hard pressed to say that Gloomhaven wasn't influential. It shot to number 1 and succeeded where all pointers said it shouldn't - cost, components, length of play, storytelling, and so on. The other one that I could argue was industry influential was Azul a game that succeeded in no small part to the tactility of its components. All the others, while being good games haven't influenced the industry in my view and many of these are not talked about, not in 'top 50s'
So I guess it is a bit harsh to call Pulsar 2849 a dead game but maybe you only have funds or space for very few games and you want to ensure that you get only the absolute creme de la creme. Maybe. If you are looking for that type of gaming. But also maybe you are bypassing many many a very good game with this approach.
*People tend to talk about Messina 1347 as the new Suchy and compare it with his other designs. This is natural as he is the major name on the box and it is his company that is publishing it but I think that is unfair to forget Raul Fernandez Aparicio, whose original design the game is. I don't know how much input Suchy had and it is definitely a collaboration but to completely lose sight of one of the designers is unjust.
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