Trumps, sheep, and old dice

P.D. Magnus' ruminations on gaming, along with shrill promotion of his own designs.

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Game plays in 2019

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445 plays of 84 different games last year. That's less than 2018, but more than 2017.

Here's the list of everything I played five or more times.

Spirit Island x119 (252 all-time)
Still enjoying this as a laundry-day game. Looking forward to the expansion.

Sentinels of the Multiverse x48 (688 all-time)
It's fallen into being the second-string laundry-day game. Because of very late Kickstarter campaigns, I guess there's still more content for this on the way.

Unpublished Prototype x25 (304 all-time)
Various prototypes and experiments.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King x16 (54 all-time)
I still don't feel like I've played this out. Always a good time.

Tiny Towns x13 NEW!
Second Story x12 (50 all-time)
Decktet x9 (240 all-time)
There was a while when John, Chris, and I were getting together for weekly Decktet nights. Some of the games are ones that I haven't played in a while, and they've held up well.

Five Tribes x9 (31 all-time)
This is my favourite game that I don't own.

Perudo x9 (46 all-time)
Sluff Off! x9 (58 all-time)
Cardline: Globetrotter x8 (52 all-time)

Draftosaurus x8 NEW!
I added origami boxes (so you don't have to hold all the pieces in your hand) and invented a variant. Together, these small changes take it from good to great. Tied with Tonari for best new-to-me game of the year.

Kingdom Builder x8 (146 all-time)
The Mind x7 (23 all-time)
Sorcerous Futures x6 (14 all-time)
Chicane x5 (17 all-time)

Modern Art x5 (20 all-time)
Starting bringing this old classic along on friday nights. I've learned some new strategies, too.

No Thanks! x5 (51 all-time)

Tonari x5 NEW!
Less chaotic than I expect from a Bruno Faidutti game, but subtle and fun.
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Wed Jan 8, 2020 12:18 am
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Expansions yay, expansions nay

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I have at least one expansion on the shelf that's still in shrink, which I bought as the second half of a buy-one-get-one deal when buying a game I really wanted, but this post is about expansions for games I love to play.

Yay

I bought Isle of Skye: Journeyman with trepidation. Nobody else in my play group had gotten a copy, and I really wanted to try it. It sounded like a hot mess, though. It takes the base Isle of Skye and adds a whole extra game on top of it, with route finding, pattern matching, and tech tracks.

The first play with the expansion was rough but fun. Further plays have been rewarding. Some others in the game group prefer Journeyman to the base game, and one guy who'd been lukewarm on Isle of Skye decided to buy it just so that he could also buy the expansion. Yes, it adds a new game on top of the original-- but the new game is also pretty fun.

Since getting Journeyman, I've also played many games with players who were new to Isle of Skye. We played the base game. Because it's a different experience, I still enjoy the base game.

I also bought the Druids expansion. It takes the core game and adds more of the same. You get more tiles. Most of the new ones have banners, so you get more scoring. It also makes it harder to block other players, so the game becomes looser.

Last week, three of us played with both expansions. To my surprise, that was also fun. So, depending on who I'm playing with, I'm happy to play with no expansions, with either, or with both. Combinatorics means that I have 4 different ways to play a game I love.

Nay

Kingdom Builder is one of my favorite games, and I own all of the expansions. Each expansion adds new boards and new goal cards. Along with the new boards come different powers and different special buildings.

The first two expansions were good. The maps in Nomads added new powers and also swapped castles for nomad camps, but the nomad camps didn't change the game too much.

The last two expansions introduce new powers on each board, new terrain types (marshes and farm lands), and new special buildings (palaces and silos). Any of the changes separately are interesting, but they all come locked together.

If you want to try the new kind of power that appears in the Marshlands, you also have to play with the maps that have marshes. Conversely, if you want to have marshes on the maps, you have to play with those powers.

If you want to play with farm lands, you have to also play with the new powers on the Harvest maps.

So I face a dilemma:
If I want to play a game that focuses on a particular element, like farm lands, then I have to play with the powers from the Harvest set and with the silos.
With a random set up, teaching the game to new players (or brushing up the rules for players who haven't played in a while) is kind of a mess. And they spend a lot of their time just getting the rules straight, rather than strategizing.

After the first play or two with the expansions, I'm not satisfied with either way of playing. The dilemma means that Kingdom Builder doesn't get to the table as much as I'd like.

They could have made the options modular. Putting base set powers on a Harvest map with castles in the special building spots would add just farm lands. With the amount of card board in the game, just a difference in graphic design would have made this possible.

The upshot

I have a love-hate relationship with expansions. The best of them allow me new ways to play a game I love in new ways. Others, not so much.
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Fri May 10, 2019 7:08 pm
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A sneak peek and doggerel

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Jeff Warrender is running a play-by-forum playtest of his Decktet poetry game. I know Jeff through Spielbany, and I've helped a bit with the development of the game.

He's using a tarot-sized Decktet which includes illustrations from both the classic and the capital deck. So the pictures may includes, just by chance, some as-yet-unrevealed cards.

bacon Links to threads about the poetry game:
Poetica: A Decktet poetry game
Seeking playtests/PBF for Decktet poetry game -- GG reward (No poetry skill required!)
Decktet poetry PBF Game #1
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Thu Jun 21, 2018 4:32 pm
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Decktet playtesting

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After my earlier post, I'm happy to be able to post about Series: Decktet Games that have been getting played. Yesterday was laundry day, which also meant that it was games day.

meeple Battle of the Bards is a two-player game by Adam Blinkinsop about telling epic stories.

When telling the story of how the Diplomat and the Huntress were swept away to a far off land where their spirits dwelled in clockwork bodies, you usually take your time elaborating their escape from the capital. The audience seems restless, though, so maybe you'll just jump to the bit when the monster attacks.

It feels pretty well refined to me, and I'd be glad for comments -- especially if you get a chance to try it.

meeple The Young Queen's Palimpsest is another Adam Blinkinsop jam. I posted a two-player session report that's still winding its way through GeekMod.

From gallery of pmagnus

meeple Flower Carpet is a game by Andvaranaut in which suit chips become dominos. Cool idea.

meeple Foolish Mortals is a story-telling game that Cristyn devised to use the oracle aspect of the cards in a game. The scoring is of the Apples-to-Apples variety, so it teeters on the boundary between game and pastime.

We tried one round, each playing two seats to simulate a four-player game.

meeple I haven't played Christopher Menart's Sunset Poker, but I noticed when he posted rules at the Decktet Wiki. Given the credits, it looks like it's been playtested.

I'm always pleased to see people posting new games at the Wiki, but I'm especially pleased when it's clear they've been playing games. I know in an indefinite way that there are people out in the world using the Decktet, but it's nice to see definite reminders.
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Mon Jul 24, 2017 9:58 pm
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What Decktet games should I be thinking about?

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Continuing progress on the counterpart Decktet project has me mulling over how to make it available when it's done.

Should there be a new, larger Decktet Book to go with the new, larger deck?

The revised and expanded edition of the book was released in 2011, so there's lots that isn't in it.

Myrmex was actually invented before the current edition of the Decktet Book was released but after everything was put together, but it could be added now. Cristyn and I have been playing recently, mostly using M.C. DeMarco's Myrmex webapp on our tablets. I'm terrible at it, but I never played much Spider solitaire either. Cristyn has and regularly wins at Myrmex.

The aim of the book is to be a curated collection, rather than an info dump of everything ever. Some games, even ones I've spent time trying to develop, are still decidedly half-baked.

One example: The Young Queen's Palimpsest has an awesome mechanism at the core of it. Playtesters always enjoy it, but it requires some indulgence from them to get through it. It's almost but not quite a game that works.

So Myrmex would be in a new edition but, absent some breakthrough, YQ's Palimpsest would not.

What other games should I be thinking about?

Oh, and some games require exotic components well outside the Decktet game system. For example, Ziggurat Demolition Throwdown and Dectana require pyramids.

Should the book include games that require extra equipment like that?

Comments welcome.
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Fri Jun 30, 2017 2:52 am
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The Liberty Squad

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Although I don't blog much, this is the third post in a row about Sentinels support decks.

I made an illustrated PDF version of Phantaskippy's Liberty Squad WWII support deck. With his permission, I've posted it -- and at his request, you'll have to click over to the discussion thread for the link to the PDF.

robot I've added a Support Deck button to my Sentinels Randomizer web app. It won't suggest one on its own, but hitting S! will make it replace the first hero with a randomly selected support deck.
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Wed Aug 10, 2016 11:29 pm
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More support decks for Sentinels

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Last month I posted about the LEASH support deck for Sentinels of the Multiverse. The idea was to have a deck which mostly ran itself and which could take the seat of one of the heroes. That one suggested ideas for others, and now we have three.

This allows two players to play one hero each, and all the decks have been playtested a decent amount in that format. They could also be used as an extra H with three or four players, although that hasn't really been tested.

So the design challenge was to come up with something which does interesting things but without requiring a lot of choices. If it's going to take attention and decision-making, then you might as well just run an additional hero deck.

L.E.A.S.H.
In the Criminal Justice System, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: The police who investigate crime and the Superheroes who fight villains across space and time. These are their stories.
No... Wait...
The L.E.A.S.H. organization brings together paramedics, police, and crowd-control drones to help superheroes in times of crisis. This is their story.


The theme here is pretty straightforward, like SHIELD when they're being good guys. The cards are meant to do a lot of different support work, like taking out ongoings and mitigating the environment.

discussion: L*E*A*S*H, a support deck (with art)
download: PDF of LEASH

The Stone Moot
Standing stones emerge mysteriously from the mystic mists, watched over by two inscrutable emissaries from the fairy court.
Maybe the villain poses a threat to their interests, maybe the heroes are calling in a favor, or maybe by accepting the help they are incurring a debt.
Questions can be answered later. Now, the Stone Moot comes to order!


The original idea was to have relics that were targets. I made them monoliths once I started doing art, because I was having fun drawing them.

discussion: The Stone Moot, a support deck (with art)
download: PDF of The Stone Moot

The Collectors
The Collectors are an order of scholars and antiquarians who monitor superhumans, acquire items of superhuman importance, store them, and keep them safe.
The order works in secret, as it has for centuries.
When a threat is dire enough or when the Collectors themselves are in danger, however, they have have been known to share some of the collection.


This is a riff on the inevitable stuffy order of people who watch supernatural events but don't get involved; see the Watchers (in Buffy) or the Watchers (in Highlander). The mechanical wrinkle is that the deck doesn't have any targets in it, so it doesn't draw any damage away from the hero characters. Instead, it amplifies all the things that the heroes can do.

Although it's been tested, it doesn't have art yet.

discussion: The Collectors, a support deck
download: PDF of The Collectors


Comments on the rules

The basic idea for a support deck was to play the top card of its deck every turn. In early playtesting with LEASH, this was underwhelming. The support deck is supposed to more-or-less carry the weight of a hero, but one card a turn meant that it developed too slowly.

Ultimately, we gave each support deck a different rule to step up its tempo just a bit.

d10-1 At the end of the LEASH turn, one player may discard a card to play the top card of the LEASH deck.

This is more interesting than just playing two LEASH cards a turn, because there's some sacrifice involved. The LEASH cards are all pretty good, so you always want the second card play. But with just two heroes you sometimes really need those cards. It's an interesting choice.

d10-2 When a Menhir is destroyed, one player may draw a card.

The Stone Moot can be powerful if it gets lots of monoliths out on the table, and its Cairning card can potentially jumpstart that. But there were some games where the villain would be damaging everyone and the stones wouldn't last long enough to have any real effect. This rule compensates players in that latter case.

d10-3 The first time each turn that a Collectors card would enter play, you may discard the card instead and play the top card of the Collectors deck.

The Collectors one-shot cards depend on the size of their discard pile. If those come out early, you can discard them. This puts one more card in the trash and gives you another card.

It also gives you a bit of choice. The Collectors cards can be situational. If the first one isn't going help any, you can take a blind chance on the second one.
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Wed Apr 13, 2016 4:23 pm
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L.E.A.S.H., a support deck for Sentinels of the Multiverse

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This is a support deck for Sentinels of the Multiverse. It takes the place of one hero and pretty much runs itself. So you can play with two players and just run one hero each, or you can add it as some extra power when playing with three of four heroes.

L.E.A.S.H.
Law Enforcement Assisting Super Heroes
E LEASH is a kind of automated hero deck that takes the place of one hero.
E On each LEASH turn, play the top card of the LEASH deck. If any decisions are required, players together decide what to do.
E At the end of the LEASH turn, one player may discard a card to play the top card of the LEASH deck.
E If LEASH would draw a card, put a card in its hand, or discard a card, there is no effect.

From gallery of pmagnus
From gallery of pmagnus


Paramedics
5 HP
civilian
E At the end of the LEASH turn, all hero targets recover 1 HP.

SWAT Team
6 HP
police
E At the end of the LEASH turn, the SWAT Team does X melee damage to the Villain target with the highest HP where X = the number of Police cards in play.

B*R*U*T*E
10 HP
robot
E Damage dealt to hero targets by Environment cards may be redirected to this card.
E Damage dealt to this card is reduced by 1.

D*E*C*O*Y x2
1 HP
robot
E When this card is destroyed, you may destroy one ongoing or environment card.

Sniper
4 HP
police, agent
E The first time each turn that a Villain target enters play, the Sniper deals it 2 projectile damage.

Ambulance
one-shot
E If the card Paramedics is in play, restore it to full HP and each other hero may draw a card.
E If not, search the deck and discard pile for Paramedics and put it into play; if you searched the deck, reshuffle the deck.

Longterm Storage x2
one-shot
E You may take one non-character card in play and shuffle it into the corresponding deck.

Local Police x3
ongoing, police
E At the end of the LEASH turn, this card deals 1 projectile damage to the Villain target with the highest HP.
E If another hero would discard or destroy a card for any reason, they may destroy this card instead.

Super Computer x 2
equipment
E When this card enters play, each other hero may either use a power or play a card.
E At the start of the LEASH turn, destroy this card.

Detailed Surveillance
equipment
E At the end of the LEASH turn, reveal the top two cards of the Villain deck. Put one on the top and one on the bottom.
E At the start of the LEASH turn, if there are 4 or more Police cards in play, then destroy this card.
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Sun Mar 6, 2016 11:06 pm
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The year in gaming

P.D. Magnus
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I wrote the following answers in response to some questions on Facebook. I'm crossposting here.

1. Best new-to-me surprise of 2015: China. I was taught Web of Power in June. That prompted me to get a copy of China, which replaced WoP. I've now played 16 times. It is highly strategic, but simple and quick to play. I can almost never tell who's won until we tally it up. Before learning Web of Power, I don't think I'd even heard of it.

2. Biggest new-to-me disappointment of 2015: Suburbia 5★. It makes the set-up more complicated and has a few overly complicated rules. I'm honestly unsure how Alien Mountain would work, but luckily nobody's ever bought it. To be clear, it's not the worst thing I played this year. It's just the biggest disappointment. I fear this has killed Suburbia at Zombie Planet (the venue where I play), which is a shame because Suburbia's still among my favorite games.

3. Most-played game of 2015: Far and away, Sentinels of the Multiverse. My wife and I play several games every laundry day to fill time while waiting for machines.
Second-most was Roll for the Galaxy, again mostly 2-player with Cristyn.
Nearly tied for third-most are Bandu and Kingdom Builder, predominantly at Zombie Planet. I'm glad we have been getting Kingdom Builder to the table more.
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Thu Dec 31, 2015 6:37 pm
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The Spiel des Jahres and me

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Zombie Planet got copies of Camel Up in time for Tabletop Day, so I bought a copy. I ended up playing four times, both before and after some meatier games. It is wild fun which invites the careful gamer to hilariously overthink their strategy while still giving some reward to that thinking.

I definitely think it deserved the game of the year win over Splendor, which I have always found to be enjoyable but unexceptional.

This got me thinking about the Spiel des Jahres over the long run. I looked them up, checked which I'd played, and tallied the results.

I've played 16 of 36 winners of the main prize. If we add in the Kennerspiel winners and winners of the other relevant special prizes, it goes to 22 out of 45.

thumbsup means I've played it, and X means I haven't. I really should have played Hare & Tortoise. I traded for a copy a while ago but didn't get around to playing it. Now it's packed in a box until we move. I should play it in June, after the move, which will pull me up to just more than half.

thumbsupthumbsup 2014: Camel Up, Istanbul
thumbsupX 2013: Hanabi, Legends of Andor
thumbsupthumbsup 2012: Kingdom Builder, Village
Xthumbsup 2011: Qwirkle, 7 Wonders
thumbsup 2010: Dixit
thumbsupthumbsup 2009: Dominion, Space Alert
Xthumbsup 2008: Keltis, Agricola
thumbsup 2007: Zooloretto
XXX 2006: Thurn and Taxis, Caylus, Shadows Over Camelot
X 2005: Niagara
thumbsup 2004: Ticket to Ride
thumbsup 2003: Alhambra
X 2002: Villa Paletti
thumbsupXthumbsup 2001: Carcassonne, Troia, Lord of the Rings
X 2000: Torres
thumbsup 1999: Tikal
X 1998: Elfenland
X 1997: Mississippi Queen
thumbsup 1996: El Grande
thumbsup 1995: The Settlers of Catan
X 1994: Manhattan
thumbsup 1993: Liar's Dice
X 1992: Um Reifenbreite
X 1991: Drunter und Druber
X 1990: Hoity Toity
X 1989: Cafe International
X 1988: Barbarossa
X 1987: Auf Achse
X 1986: Heimlich & Co.
thumbsup 1985: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
X 1984: Railway Rivals
thumbsup 1983: Scotland Yard
X 1982: Enchanted Forest
X 1981: Focus
thumbsup 1980: Rummikub
X 1979: Hare and Tortoise
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Mon Apr 13, 2015 1:32 am
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