ones upon a game

I am almost exclusively a solo gamer and look at the gaming scene seen through those eyes. I also literally like alliteration. TWITTER: @onesuponagame

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Mythbusting: "Cooperative Games Are NOT ALL Solo Friendly"

Kevin L. Kitchens
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This comes up from time to time and did yesterday on the Facebook Solo BoardGamers group... Fortunately this time the presentation was factual:


Meme shared by Glen Telfer


I've said this for several years and am happy to see there are clearly other right thinking people in the gaming world.

The reality is that all cooperative board games are solo-friendly. But then you have to look deeper at what a cooperative game truly is. Simply put, it's a game where the players fully cooperate to achieve the game's winning condition. Period. The key word being fully.

But what about Hanabi?

If they cannot cooperate fully, then we have another category for that: semi-cooperative. In semi-cooperative games, the cooperation between the players is limited or hindered in some way. Thus they cannot fully cooperate. Some information might be hidden. Communication might be restricted. Each player might have different, personal winning conditions that might impede another player's winning condition.

Because of those limitations semi-cooperative games are certainly not soloable (normally). But semi-cooperative and cooperative are two completely different categories of games.

But what about Hanabi?!

In cooperative games, a single player (true solo) can very easily play the game with one or more hands or characters as nothing is kept secret between the characters. Managing the actions of all hands or characters can actually make the game more fun because you alone get to be the alpha player and control yourself alone. No more talking back from other players who just don't understand your genius strategy! And if you do talk back to yourself...

But what about Hanabi!!!

Hanabi? Glad you asked.


photo by Club Amatent


For some reason Hanabi is the game that it seems everyone runs to as ABSOLUTE PROOF to try and dispel the truth that all cooperatives games are solo friendly. In reality, BGG classification error aside, the only myth here is that Hanabi is a cooperative game.

Even the designers of the game perpetuated this myth in the rules (as translated from German): "Hanabi is a cooperative game, meaning all players play together as a team." Except of course, all players being on the same team is not what makes a game cooperative. There are many other games, like Hanabi, where players are on the same team, yet cooperation is limited. That intro should be written as "Hanabi is a team game, meaning all players play together as a team." but then that would be redundant, so that erroneous piece of fluff text should probably just have been removed altogether.

Hanabi, as described above, is a semi-cooperative game, or as I prefer to call them: "common goal" games. The players are all trying to achieve the same goal, but they are not doing so in a fully cooperative manner. They are assisting each other, but cooperation is limited in what they can say to the player. Each player has some information hidden to them (their own cards or tiles). Semi-cooperative.

So the reality is, that in all cooperative games are completely solo friendly.

Disagree? Better yet, agree? Comment or feedback? Please send a GeekMail with your thoughts or opinions on the matter. Respectful comments for and against will be presented in a later post.
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Tue Jul 9, 2019 3:32 pm
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It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World...

Kevin L. Kitchens
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... and there's also a movie by that name.
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Mon Jan 7, 2019 8:28 pm
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But What About Socialization???

Kevin L. Kitchens
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When we experimented with homeschooling our kids, the biggest protest from those who didn't understand the need or desire was "What about socialization???"

Saw this over on the 1 Player guild, Do you never miss the social aspect in solo gaming?

Dummiz wrote:
One thing in this hobby i really Like is the social aspect of gaming. I really miss that thing when i solo.

Do you ever miss the social aspect when you play solo?


Not really, no. While I enjoy playing some games with family from time to time, solo gaming is just a different beast entirely. They aren't really a comparable experience. Some like one or the other. Some of us like both.

Some of the Highlights...

1. I can play WHAT I want. No "ok, you get to choose that dull game" or "no, I cannot play that game for personal reasons but seriously, I'll just take a break, you go on without me." to deal with.

2. I can play WHEN I want. Late at night. Early in the morning. Whenever. if I need to stop for hours or days I'm not holding up anyone else.

3. I'm free to QUIT/RESTART when I want. Game not going well? Game just plain bad? You're not obligated to suffer through it. Start over. Trade it. Whatever.

4. Cooperative and Single Player Only games are awesome. Many games now are designed for single players. Sophisticated AIs, clever puzzles, and game systems provide an experience that sometimes is better to manage and enjoy alone.

5. I am the boss of me! Well, excluding God of course. But the point is I can be the alpha gamer and not offend anyone.

Since the start of my solo gaming resurgence I have grown a little sour on the forced solo experience, especially the me vs. me of most wargames. While some titles like Combat Commander: Europe provide such a wonderful solo experience (the cards are VERY minor issue) they provide a unique and dynamic narrative, even for the lone wolf -- most become a rote activity where the only variability is the roll of the dice. I never found any satisfaction in playing both sides of a standard boardgame or eurogame (except once with This Game is Bonkers!, that was a blast!), I'm not sure why I fell prey to the idea that wargames would be any different. Not faulting anyone who DOES like playing both sides to explore the history, but without mitigating factors like chit pulls or cards limited actions, I just cannot do it anymore.

And fortunately, I don't have to anymore. There's so many good solo systems for wargames now as well. But I do recognize that some of those would be better against another player of course.

As for some of the cons of solo gaming though I discussed those here in 2015: Gaming is Social, Games Need Not Be - The Cons of Solitaire Gaming

So I can enjoy a frozen pizza as well as a trip to Mellow Mushroom (mushrooms in name only!!!). Two different experiences.
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Wed Dec 5, 2018 7:35 pm
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Solo Gaming: A Niche Worth Scratching

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Not sure I've ever made it through a FULL 14 3+ hour episode of The Secret Cabal podcast, but had a little extra driving the last couple of days and managed to stay interested and resume play each time I got in the car. I do like their show in general, apart from occasional -- thankfully rare -- profanity and affected inflections in their speech (are they all Monster Truck announcers in real life?). However, I just usually listen to any podcasts in smaller chunks of time and move on to something else the next session.

I was listening to their latest episode mainly because of the post-GenCon information and their review of The Reckoners, but as I said, I made it to the end of this one and near the conclusion they do a short answer type session dealing with questions from listeners...

The first question (http://traffic.libsyn.com/thesecretcabalgamingpodcast/165Sec... at the 03:11:00 mark) concerned solo gaming and solo variants becoming a trend in Kickstarters and board gaming in general. I found their answers interesting and a little misinformed.

Especially calling soloists a "niche" market.

It shouldn't bother me that we're a niche market. Of course we are.

niche - denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population.

So then, by definition...

* all of BGG is a "niche" of the boardgaming community.
* Fans of Gloomhaven or Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 are a "niche" market.
* Those who like playing two player are a "niche" group as well.
* Same with three or four or five.

"Niche" here is being used to minimize the impact of solo gaming. And while they didn't mean it as an insult exactly, from their perspective (as co-dependent "gaming is made to be social" players), solo gaming is a insignificant speck in the gaming community and of very limited value.

Of course this is completely wrong.

For companies, soloists are a perfect "niche" target market. Many times on the Secret Cabal, you'll hear one or more of the team state they would like to play a certain game, but would not buy it. This makes sense if someone in your group buys it, you get to try it and move on. If the average group size is three, a publisher could potentially sell to every third gamer. For soloists however, if you want to play it, then short of borrowing it from someone else, you have to have your own copy. Therefore, more gamers in the "niche" have to buy it.

Of course those who solo game are not exclusively solo either. Each gamer should make their own choices of how they play games. Solo. In groups. Some combination of the two. But solo gaming is no longer a negative identification at all. And it is growing as seen by the wisdom of many companies now to include solo variants, wonderful and intelligent AI and Automa, and of course cooperative games (not semi-coop or common goal games) which are always soloable.

As for some "niche" numbers, let's look at some data for a couple of podcast guilds here on BGG (as of this post).

The The Secret Cabal, created on September 23, 2011 has 4,674 members. Very nice.

The 1 Player guild, nearly seven months YOUNGER, created on April 12, 2012, has 9,724 or over twice as many members. And at last check it was the second largest guild in all of BGG, just falling short of the The Dice Tower which has 10,334 members (and of course has been around nearly five years longer!).

On the 1-Player Guild, there were 30 threads that were last active on August 15 or later. For the Secret Cabal, that number was FOUR (Dice Tower guild was eight by comparison).

Solo gaming is real. Solo gamers are active. And Soloists are definitely one of the more significant "niches" of the BGG and boardgaming communities.
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Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:47 pm
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Profanity in Boardgames: Even Sarge and Beetle Bailey Would be Shocked!

Kevin L. Kitchens
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Recently became aware of Ignacy Trzewiczek's new game Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game and it seemed pretty darn interesting. Except for the app requirement, those things always stink. Not the apps themselves, but the requirement. Anyway, someone recently asked about the graphic content in the game and in reply, someone hinted that there was some profanity. I did a quick followup, because this looks pretty interesting and sure enough, it was confirmed that some of the characters use off color language.

Disappointing.

I work in the IT industry. I hear swearing all the time. Unfortunately. One guy thinks "F" is a verb, noun, adjective and adverb and daily uses it every other word in a sentence almost. Thank goodness for headphones.

So yeah, profanity is used in the world and yeah it's realistic.

Yada, yada, yada. Blah blah blah.

It's used routinely in books, movies, television... and now it's creeping into boardgames. But just because something is "realistic" doesn't make it right. There are all sorts of realistic content and themes in the world that writers, directors, producers and board game designers filter from their creations all the time. Why is the bar set so low for civilized writing and dialogue? So many good looking shows on Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu and oops, nope. TV-MA.

MA is supposed to stand for "mature audiences", but that's clearly tongue in cheek. "Mature" has nothing to do with profanity. In fact, getting your point across without gutter talk is more an indication of a mature person than otherwise. MA makes it sound like as you get older you're supposed to be able to responsibly "handle" foul language like you can driving a car. But the opposite of course is true. Now there is incessant potty mouth in the normal day to day events. I've been to ballgames where I've had to hush college kids who seem they cannot speak beyond grunting if they don't swear. I've sadly even seen many bloggers right here on BGG who use words formerly attributed to sailors in not only their content, but their titles. So right there on BGGs front page visitors are greeted to the worst we have to offer before the best.

People slip all the time of course, especially when stressed and in America it's pretty common. Doesn't make it right of course. I used to when I was a teen and twenty, but outgrew it. Still, I do, albeit rarely, slip up too However content producers made a deliberate choice to add it to their work. Yes, it makes it "realistic", but it's never "necessary". That movie, song, book, um game, whatever would be 100% as good (in my mind better) without it.

No one watches a Hitchcock thriller and decries the lack of swearing (or nudity for that matter). They just watch and see an excellent, well told story. No comedian is funny because of his (or her!) profanity. Until now, no one thought "man... Catan's great, but a little bit of cursing would make it so much better."



Back to games, the designers have choices. High road or low road. When the Kickstarter for This War of Mine: The Board Game was happening, I was worried the game's text would also include profanity. After all, on the very first screen of the video game version, there it was. I asked them specifically about this and fortunately (and wisely), the designers and publishers decided not to include that completely unnecessary angle to the game text. I've not heard a single person complain about it missing (and a quick search of the game's forum shows this as well: Look Ma! No 'Profanity'!).

Soon we'll need content stickers or warnings on games just to allow gamers to make informed choices. And the age rating along doesn't cover it. That could mean anything and just because someone is 14+, 17+ or whatever doesn't give the publisher the right to decide what content is acceptable or appreciated. So like movies began doing 15 or so years ago, content warnings will become necessary to warn of content that is unnecessary.

And while I don't care for apps required with games, at least in this case Portal Games had the option to include a filter (as video games did originally when this nonsense started creeping into that realm) so that you could turn on or off the misnamed "adult" content. Somehow that extra effort of being polite and civil faded away in video games and now you just get it shoved at you because, well, it's "realistic". Portal, apparently, did not choose to implement such an noble feature either.

Disappointing.

I blame Canada.

Yes, I know I'm old fashioned. Yes, I know 99.999999% will be cursing at this post as you read it. And that's fine. But if no one says anything, then nothing gets said.

And sometimes, like now. It needs to be.

And all without a single curse word.

Thanks for reading.
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Thu Jul 26, 2018 7:09 pm
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"Gateway Games" are NOT insulting

Kevin L. Kitchens
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(a COUNTERPOINT response to Gateway games are insulting.)

The article starts with the false notion that the term "Gateway Game" is insulting and then once off the rails, stays off them.

"Gateway Game" is not an insult in any way, shape or form. It simply describes a type of game that while lighter on the rules overload, does present a fun experience and challenging game that us "real" gamers would not be embarrassed by. You may have some friends that have never played a modern board game in their life and are capable of going from Netflix binging to a deeply complex tabletop experience in a single step. Those people are rare.

More often than not, like I was, "civilians" are unaware this stuff even exists and when they hear "board games" they assume (eyeroll) Risk, Monopoly, or Scattergories. When you wake them up from that (or worse, calm down their excitement at playing the dog vs. the shoe), a gateway game is the perfect solution to show them that there is better stuff out there, introduce them to modern designer board games and for you as their gaming buddy, to gauge their interest in going further in the hobby, or sticking to the fun and simple mechanics of a gateway game.

If they are interested and "hooked" as we all became, THEN you can introduce them to games that are tailored to their interests. But there are also so many gateway games that you can probably start close to their interest as well. Someone interested in WW2 military history can tackle a Memoir '44 or even Tide of Iron before taking on the more meatier, rules-heavy games.

Also, there is a difference in a one-on-one gaming session vs. gaming with a group of newcomers. Introducing a new gateway at a party instead of playing Apples to Apples again is a logical and correct step bound to reveal the ones in the group who want to go for more and those who are content to stay at the intro level (and those who are disinterested, which is also ok).

But no, don't belittle the very positive term "Gateway Games" and its benefit to growing this hobby we enjoy so much. Without them, many of us would not be here playing. Were it not for a co-worker teaching me Carcassonne and Lost Cities before we stepped it up to Pandemic, I might never have rediscovered the joy I had boardgaming as a kid.
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Mon Jul 2, 2018 3:20 pm
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All Good Things Got to Come to an End...pause

Kevin L. Kitchens
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All good things got to come to an end
The thrills have to fade
Before they come 'round again

All good times, all good friends
All good things got to come to an end

~ Jackson Browne


I am writing this post to share that effective immediately I am "cancelling" suspending my blog and YouTube channel "ones upon a game".

While I appreciate greatly all the support my readers and viewers have given me over these several years, as with all projects there comes a time to reconcile costs and benefit. While running "ones upon a game" has not cost much in terms of money, it has cost in time, energy, and effort. Unfortunately in the final analysis I don't see where the total expense justifies the results.

This is not a sudden decision, and I've debated with myself on it and kept the channels going on life support for nearly a year now.

I have other projects that have been neglected for this passion of mine, but the time has come to let those children get a little attention from me as well. And so with bittersweet head and heart, I will cease production of new videos and new blog content and simply revert to being a "civilian" and regular gamer. I won't be going anywhere or leaving BGG certainly, you'll probably see me around forums and game pages.

All content on the channel and blog will remain for posterity, so video links and posts etc. will remain intact.

Thank you again. It's been a wonderful journey.

All the best and may God bless you greatly.

Kevin

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Wed Feb 7, 2018 4:08 pm
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Ain't Too Proud to Beg -- Need YouTube Subscribers!

Kevin L. Kitchens
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If you're like me, you watch a lot of YouTube content. Content you like and want to see more of.

And then you forget to subscribe.

I know I do!

Last night I received notification that YouTube is tightening up on who can and cannot be "monetized" on their service. Not sure why this matters, content is content, but the bottom line is that if I want to continue to earn the pittance for my videos on YouTube, I need more subscribers to my channel. I already meet the minimum requirement for viewing time, just not actual subscriptions (1000 is the new threshold).

That said, if you like my videos, would you consider visiting the link below and subscribe? I certainly don't want folks to just pad up the numbers for my sake, but perhaps you've forgotten to and meant to, or simply didn't understand how those subscriptions can affect content producers.

SUBSCRIBE HERE

To be honest, this is not about the actual money I earn (that's only about $5 per month), it's more about keeping the channel "real" and the feeling of belonging with the "big boys" in the field.

For those of you who already have supported me on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and here on good old BGG, THANK YOU!

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Wed Jan 17, 2018 6:19 pm
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"'C' is for Christ, who was born in a manger, to Mary and Joseph"

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"'C' is for Christ, who was born in a manger, to Mary and Joseph"


Many years ago, when I was in public school kindergarten (yep public school) that was my line in the school Christmas play. Nine of us had sandwich board like signs with tissue paper letters forming the word CHRISTMAS on stage and we with the rest of the class all sang carols (sacred and profane) to celebrate the holiday season.

Good times.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas this day. May it be filled with much joy, love, happiness and peace. And may the true reason for this observance (though probably not in the right time of year of course) be on your mind and in your heart.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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Mon Dec 25, 2017 3:57 pm
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Star Wars: The Dark Side and the Light Side of Recent Releases

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Been an eventful past several weeks in the world of Star Wars. We've had the movie, a video game, and a companion app all released -- but sadly no novelization.

The Last Jedi

First off, since it's the most recent, the movie The Last Jedi opened this weekend. I saw an early show on Thursday night and overall it was a good movie. Not Empire Strikes Back greatness, but not Jar Jar Binks painful. Though there were a few dreadful aspects and it was too long (one section could have been completely cut or reduced easily), in total it did what it was supposed to do. Oddly it resolves a couple of questions in ways that were pleasing and displeasing at the same time.

As for plotholes, my son pointed out something truly flawed:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
During the slow motion fleet chase (ugh), why didn't a few of the Star Destroyers light speed in front and to the side of the Rebels to cut them off? I expect "How It Should Have Ended" (HISHE) on YouTube to catch this for sure.

Also, rather than let all the ships die, transfer everyone and the fuel to the main ship so they could stay around longer.


Probably worth seeing again just to catch some of the things that went by too fast for analysis.

Downside for me is that Disney in their lunacy blocked the novelization of the book from being released. Since Empire Strikes Back, I've read every movie book (of the main storyline) before seeing the film. In the pre-internet-mania days the books were out a week or two early. With The Force Awakens, then released it digitally at midnight (with the hard copy to follow the next month). This was to prevent spoilers before the film was released. Getting books into stores for the same day requires they actually be in stores weeks before (in the backroom) where stock clerks would sneak read and release spoilers way early. So that plan made sense. This time around Disney has held the digital AND physical copies until March 2018. This clearly isn't related to spoilers as the film is out and you can if you choose (or via rude folks) find out everything online.

Reading a book is a more engaging and savoring journey through the story. It's like studying a roller coaster before you ride it. You'll still ride it, but the anticipation is so much stronger seeing that which you've read and imagined. I'd planned to wait until March to see the movie and keep my streak alive, but in the end I gave in and saw it. Now I'll probably never read the book (the book never ruins the movie, the movie ruins the book), but alas...

Another note is that I saw in the 3D, my first full length foray into modern 3D presentation (I'd seen some test Tron: Legacy footage years ago). Have to say it was amazingly good. I liked that most of the previews were also in 3D. Gone are the too obvious IN YOUR FACE 3D moments of the past and it is simply a realistic depth of field presentation. Very nice. My wife was bugged more by wearing the glasses, but as I wear them anyway, I didn't notice the discomfort. Highly recommended.


Battlefront II

One reason I gave in and saw the movie prematurely was that I'd picked up Electronic Arts Star Wars: Battlefront II (2017) and already played through the pretty good single-player mission. They just released content related to The Last Jedi (somewhat) and I figured I wouldn't avoid that content for long.

The game itself is excellent and the dogfights are everything we filled in the blanks for with Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter back in the day. I'd love to see more Wing Commander (1990) type campaigns with that engine though. Some odd choices however. I understand some people like 3rd person views and were happy they weren't completely replaced with first person. But since the game has first person characters, it seems odd they chose not to allow all characters to be played first person. It's a bit (jar)jarring to play a feature character (Han, Leia, etc.) and be forced into 3rd person for no real reason, when the other main characters give you a choice.


Legends of the Force

The companion app for Star Wars: Imperial Assault was finally released last month and despite not fulfilling implied promises to let you play the real game coop/solo, I've been pleased with what they do offer. Not being a fan of the fantasy title on which SW:IA is based, I had no experience with that app and that it too failed to allow the base game campaigns to be played. So when Fantasy Flight Games announced they were releasing an app to allow SW:IA to be played cooperatively, I (to my shame) took them literally.

So while the base game campaign is not compatible with the app (yet, one can hope), it does allow you to use the components and play a third variation of the game. In addition to skirmish mode and physical campaign mode, you can play special Legends of the Force missions that are mostly the same rules as campaign mode, but with some necessary modifications to let the AI control the Imperials.

And it does that well!

Not since Too Many Bones have I been so hesitant to remove a game from my table. I'm having that much fun with it. Of course some of it has to do with owning it for three years and buying expansions galore (in hopes of using them with the app) and finally getting to play it.



Fortunately too for those who want to play the base game campaigns solo, there are a few different options.

Redjaks' Automated Emperor Variant (v2): RedJak's Automated Emperor Variant V2 (no longer being updated)

Redjaks' Automated Imperial Variant: RedJak's Automated Imperial Variant (RAIV) V1 - Under new management (more streamlined, still being updated)

Imperial Directive app: Imperial Directive, a solo/co-op campaign web app

So lots of Star Wars lightness (amid a little darkness) for fans of the franchise.
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Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:32 pm
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