Eat Board Games, Sleep Board Games and Embrace Opinion

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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The most useless piece of game bling ever? Luna Capital

David Hytch
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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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

From gallery of campanadave


Ooh. A card holder, a rocket tile holder and a tile storage solution.
Closer inspection

From gallery of campanadave


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…

From gallery of campanadave


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.

Feels

Because there is one tiny design flaw.

From gallery of campanadave


That’s right, there is no base!!! What?shake

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.
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Wed Jan 26, 2022 6:00 am
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You always let me win the last game of the evening

David Hytch
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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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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Wed Jan 19, 2022 6:00 am
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Eila and Something Shiny - a cute solo adventure (no spoilers)

David Hytch
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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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.

Board Game: Eila and Something Shiny

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.

Board Game: Eila and Something Shiny

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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Wed Jan 12, 2022 6:00 am
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Gaming challenges for 2022

David Hytch
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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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:

1 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.

2 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.

3 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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Wed Jan 5, 2022 6:00 am
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Christmas gaming report

David Hytch
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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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.

QE
Board Game: Q.E.
I think this one was generally enjoyed as it was very easy to pick up and plays quickly. I do have to content with my sister who will do odd things in games for reasons. Often this is to the detriment of the game. In this particular game she decided to start an auction at a stupidly low price, which allowed me to get the vital winning tile far below market value because the others bid zero. I think the tense fun of this was missing in a family setting because they couldn't easily see the value of tiles and how to use bids to gather information, nevertheless people had fun.


Wingspan
Board Game: Wingspan
Turns out that this isn't the all conquering attract-people-to-the-hobby game that everyone says it is. Concepts were far more difficult to grasp than we gamers realise. There are 4 actions, 3 of which work in the same way but the 4th doesn't and this really confused for a lot of the game. The end of round objectives are longer term planning that doesn't come naturally and my sister ignored end game objectives entirely. She does tend to focus on one thing in games and cares little about points. In Wingspan she decided to collect a lot of food but did it in an infuratingly inefficient manner. At 5-players Wingspan is excruciatingly slow and the only meaningful interaction is whether or not someone accidentally improves or worsens the dice in the bird feeder for you. I think Wingspan has its merits but I don't understand why it gets the plaudits it does, the game is very average.


Streets
Board Game: Streets
This was a surprise as I got 2 plays of this largely because it was requested by my 6-year-old. While I don't think Streets is the most amazing game it does have an amazing production and it is decent enough to engage. The basic rules also work well for family, easy to understand and pick up. My kids weren't really able to plan for good scoring by understanding how each tile scored but they were very happy to sit and go through the motions for the whole game and they knew what they were doing rulewise. Turns are fast and the game keeps moving. I don't think it will win loads of awards and become an all time classic but definitely worth having on this trip and two enjoyable games were had.


The Isle of Cats
Board Game: The Isle of Cats
I love The Isle of Cats, I have no idea why - my family think it might be because of the tessellating, maybe they are right. People did enjoy this game. My brother thought that Wingspan was a little better but my sister and my wife preferred The Isle of Cats. There is enough happening that my sister could do her usual and ignore vast parts of the game (ie the points scoring lessons) and still have fun with her own objectives. Overall it was thought as easier to understand than Wingspan too. My sister commented on the new card passing mechanism, which she liked . I would say this one was approved of, if not a hit.

Automania
Board Game: Automania
This wasn't on my preview list but somehow made it into my bag whistle as I had been wanting to get another 'do I want to keep it?' play of it. My mum had no idea what was happening for pretty much the entire game. I couldn't quite see what the confusion was but maybe it was the abstract action selection mechanism that she was struggling with. Overall I think people thought it was average. For my part I still enjoy the game and this is my first play with more than 2 players, which does improve the game. I like the action selection mechanism and the speed of the game is nice. I do think it is a good game, but it is not one I need to keep. These days a game that doesn't look great, plays pretty much the same way each game, and doesn't excel at anything shoudln't stick around. Good game but good isn't always enough.


Herrlof
Board Game: Herrlof
I took a couple of two-player filler games in case there was an opportunity, and there was one. I played this with my sister. Our family grew up on card games and whist games so actually explaining how to play was really simple. Herrlof mixes Fox in the Forest with Contract Whist. This was my second play and I found that my suspicions from the first play were confirmed. The special powers put on the numbered cards and the special cards just aren't that interesting. In Fox in the Forest they add in some tactics, here they just add randomness and the void trick cards, while handy, always get played at the same time in the same way. Generally the abilities didn't improve the game and I would rather play Fox in the Forest or Contract Whist.


Stephenson's Rocket
Board Game: Stephenson's Rocket
I really enjoyed my game of this. My sister liked it, she only moved one colour of train and surprisingly came in a useful second. My mum thought is was ok. Unfortunately in Stephenson's Rocket you really need to understand how scoring works, and scoring is actually quite complicated to a non-gamer. So it was a bit of an easy victory for me. Worse was that my wife really didn't like the game. I veto'd a couple of her moves to force some shares out of her and then ran 'her' line into isolation. A perfectly valid strategy that works well with gamers, but when your family players don't really understand the value or point of vetos, they don't do them. So when I made my moves on my wife it felt to her very mean and unfair. I get that. In a game where everybody is doing it to everybody it is fun, but here it sapped her enjoyment because people, naturally, felt that they owned certain railways. The concept of not owning anything the things that you are placing and moving on the map is quite foreign and caused the game to fall a little flat.


Nidavellir
Board Game: Nidavellir
To make up for that we played an extra game of Nidavellir. Everyone enoyed this. Positive comments were made as I got the components out of the box and everyone could understand what was going on. I even got to explain how everything scored because you can make that really easy. The only complications are the heroes and the half way bonuses. Well I just didn't mention the latter and the complicated heroes just don't get picked. It all worked very nicely. Only two issues - firstly my mum and sister both decided to just randomly place their coins each round, thus taking away half of the decision making fun and also adversely affecting the game for other players who couldn't rely on logical decisions. And secondly I don't think the game will stay in my collection. I like it, but I find that it plays very similarly each time and crucially I find that the tension of really wanting to bid for something in a particular tavern just isn't there, nothing is really bad and so I don't care enough which cards I get. Yes some are better than others but the differentiation is not enough for me to agonise over where to put my coins. That means the whole point of the game is lost for me.
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Wed Dec 29, 2021 9:24 pm
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Annual Christmas gaming decisions

David Hytch
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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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
Board Game: The Isle of Cats
I think this one will appeal to that second sister. The theme is fun, it is positive about saving cats and has an evil pirate. Surely a role play gamer will like that? On top of that the cat art is cute and once you are going I think it is simple enough. I won't need to explain all rules up front. From my perspective I really want to try this with more players so hoping to get this played.


Kokopelli
Board Game: Kokopelli
I have already played this with my mum (not that she would remember) and my wife and I did not win. This is always a good start for getting it played again. I also want to test whether this is a good enough gateway game to keep. As it is a Feld the lack of theme description could be a problem but will give it a go hopefully.


Minigolf Designer
Board Game: Minigolf Designer
Another game where I don't have to explain the rules up front. Make a golf course, lay tiles. I am a bit worried about some of the complexities of scoring and selling it to my sister could be tricky. But it has already been a relative success with the wife and I think it could be more interesting drafting and turn order selection with more. Also if I play it at Christmas it will please TNO, so he doesn't have to play it.


Nidavellir
Board Game: Nidavellir
You can almost start playing this without any explanation, you may not do well but it could be easy to get to the table and the dwarf theme could appeal. The wife has already played and won it so I can see this being played. I want to check if it is any good as a gateway game at higher player count, if not I may let it go.


QE
Board Game: Q.E.
This I got in on the recent math trade purely with the intention of Christmas gaming. So simple to explain and if I can make it sound exciting should be a lot of fun. My fear about this sort of game is that sometimes when you play auction games with non-gamers they are so afraid of correctly valuing things that it can fall flat. We shall see.


Stephenson's Rocket
Board Game: Stephenson's Rocket
What could be more family friendly than the simplistic depth of Reiner Knizia? It might take a bit more explaining than I hope and some of the strategy is quite hidden so I do worry a bit. I doubt anyone will be excited by a train theme. This may not make it to the table but that would be a shame.


Wingspan
Board Game: Wingspan
Another one that was recently acquired for Christmas play. I don't think I need to say much about this, Wingspan is well known for attracting non-gamers to play. The action mechanisms are pretty straight forward but card anatomy and end of round scoring may take a bit of learning. I'm sure I can get this played though, it will be interesting to test the theory on actual non-gamers.
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Wed Dec 22, 2021 6:00 am
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Family gaming from the 80s

David Hytch
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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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
Board Game: The Business Game

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.


Totopoly
Board Game: Totopoly

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.


Flutter
Board Game: Flutter

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.

Elixir
Board Game: Elixir

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
Board Game: Rubik's Flip

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
Board Game: 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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Wed Dec 15, 2021 6:00 am
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A gaming weekend with new to me and trips down memory lane

David Hytch
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level I - One small step for geek... One giant leap for geek-kind!Microbadge: 5 Year Geek VeteranMicrobadge: Wind power fanMicrobadge: Dicey Euros fanMicrobadge: Worker placement fan
"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.

Black Angel
Board Game: Black Angel
First up was a game that I know I like but yet still manages to always make me it enjoy it more than I am expecting. I am still discovering new ways to play the game and indeed in this play managed a narrow victory by taking a route I had not done before. Both Legend and I are getting better at the game and the days of failing miserably to reach Spes are long behind us. Excellent tension in a closely fought game.


Imperial Steam
Board Game: Imperial Steam
New to both of us and one I had been very excited to get to the table. I enjoyed this a lot but that is probably because I was significantly helped by my half play two-handed to try and nail the rules. There is a lot going on in this game but boy is the economy tight. You never have enough workers, money, goods, or income to achieve anything you want and as a result the play can be quite tough. Constantly fighting the game and having to take 3 or 4 actions to take a small step forward is not always fun. What I am not sure about is how much that will change with better experience. It could be possible that, despite the plethora of options available, the early game becomes quite scripted as you have to get workers and you have to find some way of getting more money. One other thing that I wasn't sure about, it felt like there ought to be a strategy of not completing contracts and playing not to reach Trieste, but that would require quite some groupthink. You can't really prevent someone reaching Trieste if they want to, so if they are playing for that then it rules out the 'not doing contracts' route, felt a bit wonky but that was only one play. Maybe the variable set up will change things - at the moment I am happy to try and find out.


The Godfather: Corleone's Empire
Board Game: The Godfather: Corleone's Empire
I have never seen The Godfather, nor am I particularly fussed about ever doing so. The good news is that knowledge of the film is not necessary for this game. I'll come straight out and say that I have never been a fan of take-that. The impact of its negative feeling is lessened in a 2-player game because it is much more acceptable to attack your opponent. Nevertheless I did enjoy this game mainly because of the very close ending (loss $76-$75) from two completely different approaches. I like how approachable the game is; for a seasoned gamer it is very basic worker placement, yet there is enough intertwined consequences of those actions to make for some very interesting placement and timing considerations. I can really see how the very limited set up variability could lead to quite a different play also. Certainly not my type of game but one I would happily play again and I think likely to enjoy.


Grand Austria Hotel: Lets Waltz
Board Game: Grand Austria Hotel: Let's Waltz!
I played GAH a long time ago and remember enjoying it so I backed the reprint and expansion Kickstarter. It wasn't cheap so I ummed and ahhed for a while but upon receiving the game I was very pleased with the quality and just sheer amount of stuff in the boxes. For this play we threw everything in except for the 'start player' module as I felt probably not needed at 2-player. The game was very enjoyable and I would guess Legend's favourite of the weekend. The expansions really elevate the experience and make for interesting choices. Unfortunately the rules haste led to one crucial error that meant we were keeping the celebrities instead of discarding them each round. About two-thirds of the way through the game it became very obvious that everything was a bit too easy so we corrected. Sadly for me my game came to a crashing halt now that I wasn't allowed to inadvertently cheat and things were difficult all of a sudden. Despite clearly benefiting far more than Legend from the error I still managed to lose badly. The game was soured by that mistake but I was having so much fun until then that I really want to play it again and get it right.


The Networks
Board Game: The Networks
It has been a while since I last played this and to spice things up with played with The Executives expansion. I remember liking the humour and theming in the shows but unfortunately this game was too serious to take that in, and it was a bit of a shame. The game was enjoyable apart from one very significant take-that moment where Legend forced me to lose 14 points. I think it is the psychology of the attack that I don't like, if he had played a card that gained him 14 points, it is the same thing but the feeling of having something forcibly taken from you isn't nice. In my view the interaction is in the card drafting, it doesn't need these sorts of cards. Otherwise the game was enjoyable but I think the game is better without the expansion, my variable player power actually made the game less interesting as it removed things to strive for and otherwise the changes didn't feel impactful... not to mention the dreaded starting draft, we know that I hate those!


Awkward Guests
Board Game: Awkward Guests
I've spoken about Awkward Guests a few times before and always happy to get it out again. This was my first time ratcheting up the difficulty to Hard, although this actually felt like one of the easiest cases I've had. Both Legend and I solved it on the same turn and pretty quickly. Am I getting better, or was it just that play? I've previously said how impressed I am at how well this works 2-player, and that hasn't changed, but I do wonder if it just becomes a game of luck at that player count. Two capable logical people will solve the case and it just might be down to card draws about who does it first. Don't get me wrong, it is a fun puzzle to do along the way but without more players to strategically manage to bids, trading and hand with it might lose just a little something.


Galaxy Trucker
Board Game: Galaxy Trucker
I don't know when my last play of Galaxy Trucker was, only that it was well before I started recording plays. I remember finding it very frustrating at random chance in the form of meteors tore my ships apart. This time I went into the game saying it is just silly fun. And it is a good job I did. I watched as Legend made 3 perfect ships across the 3 rounds - no open ends and filling his boards. Of course, I was somewhat less perfect. My idiotic building in the third and final round meant that when the admiralty order a dreadnought and gave me dreadnought blueprints they were very disappointed when I built them something resembling a 5-year-old's attempt at a tiny lego scooter. At least this time I had made it with no open ends.... until part way through our flight Legend noticed an incorrect connection. I lost a piece, and wouldn't you know it the very next meteor bee-lined for the gap and shredded my scooter. By the end of the meteor pinball I had 2 crew members floating about unpowered, without weapons or cargo on a mere 4 tiles. It was disastrous, once it goes wrong in this game it goes very wrong. That aside though there were some great highs all created by the game's silliness. I'm not going to rush back to it but if you are in the mood for something daft then you can't go far wrong with Galaxy Trucker.


Lignum
Board Game: Lignum (Second Edition)
I had been trying to get this to the table for ages but wanted to experience it with more than 2-players. Unfortunately we had a couple of drop-outs and 2-players it was. I was pleasantly surprised that it works better than I expected at that player count but I still think it missed the tension of competition for the cutting zones and the game needs tightening, there are too many bearers and woodcutters available. You need to be worried about getting enough to incentivise jumping ahead on the one-way-street. The game is very solid and rewards planning. I think improvements in play would definitely happen with subsequent plays but I am not sure how different the game would feel. The rounds are very procedural and other than minor variances in how you move wood around I can't see you aiming to do different things or the value of things changing much. I still want to see it at 4 players and it is good, but the jury is still out on whether it is great.


Alchemists
Board Game: Alchemists
This was a game I really wanted to get in Essen 2014 but Legend elbowed me out of the way and flopped his cash on the counter before I could get a look in. Back in that day there wasn't any point in the two of us owning the same game, so I conceded the defeat - how times have changed when now we look to have overlapping collections. My last play was in 2017 and I wanted to play it to see if I still liked it and if the game had aged well. The mid 2010s was the best stuff from CGE and I'm pleased to report that Alchemists is still very good. We had a lot of laughs playing this and that despite me being completely out of the game by turn 2, which can be traced back to going 2nd in the very first turn. This wasn't the game's fault just a freak of a sequence of very specific events and a function of 2-player rules. I still think its app integration ideas are ahead of its time and the theme just works well. Great game.


Glory to Rome
Board Game: Glory to Rome
Another one that I hadn't played for years. I remember really liking it but was convinced that my tastes would have changed to it being good but nothing special. I was wrong again. I very much enjoyed my play, it was close and interesting and quite fun at 2-player because you can react specifically to the direction your opponent goes in and build your buildings to combat theirs. It was a very close run thing until Legend flopped out the 'you win if you build this card' card. We discussed this afterwards and I can see why that card is in there from a design perspective - there needs to be some way to combat a runaway leader, and I think the game could lead to that - but it felt a bit anticlimactic as there is no way of preventing them from building a building, only delaying it. And delay doesn't help because it doesn't matter how many points I score while they are waiting to finish their 'you win' card. Even after this, I want to play it again.
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Wed Dec 8, 2021 6:00 am
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Aqua Garden - one and done

David Hytch
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level I - One small step for geek... One giant leap for geek-kind!Microbadge: 5 Year Geek VeteranMicrobadge: Wind power fanMicrobadge: Dicey Euros fanMicrobadge: Worker placement fan
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.

Board Game: Aqua Garden

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.

From gallery of campanadave

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.

From gallery of campanadave

image by TNO
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Wed Dec 1, 2021 6:00 am
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Pulsar 2849 is a dead game

David Hytch
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Godalming
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Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level I - One small step for geek... One giant leap for geek-kind!Microbadge: 5 Year Geek VeteranMicrobadge: Wind power fanMicrobadge: Dicey Euros fanMicrobadge: Worker placement fan
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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Wed Nov 24, 2021 6:00 am
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