John Shepherd(MrShep)United Kingdom
Does a thing that you really bought with the intention of playing with multiple players still, spiritually, sit on your shelf of shame if you’ve only ever managed to play the solo version?
Maybe. I got a copy of Petrichor back in a sale, in mid-2019 … and although it then went into my game bag for a couple of trips to Newcastle Gamers, I could never raise enough enthusiasm amongst the crowd there to get it played. So -- apart from a short dalliance with the solo version -- it’s stayed on the shelf.
...Until yesterday, that is. When Mrs Shep spotted it on said shelf, and expressed an interest. (“Nature” boardgames definitely seem to be a thing that appeals to Mrs Shep at the moment). And… well… it doesn’t take much to goad me into playing a game when somebody expresses a random interest in something in my collection. Especially if it’s been sitting on the shelf-of-almost-shame for so many months
For those of you who haven’t encountered Petrichor before… it’s a bit of an odd one. You play cards from your hand which depict an assortment of weather conditions (which I didn’t really manage to get into the photos here, oops!) … which allow you to load raindrops into little cardboard “clouds”, nudge them around a modular board depicting various types of crop, and then rain your drops down on the aforementioned crops to score points. There are some clever thematic things about two clouds merging into one whenever they collide — often increasing the payload of the “merged” cloud to a point where they’re likely to burst and instantly disgorge their entire contents onto the land below … and all the different crops have their own quirky rules on how scoring works and how and when it would be advantageous to have your particular raindrops sitting on them. Plus, there’s a sort of meta-game that you play each round where every card played allows to you to vote for bigger, significantly-game-state-influencing weather effect at the end of the round, and some clever risk/reward pacing stuff which allows you to play 2 moves a turn, but only by burning through your hand at a faster rate … which cranks up the thinkiness by an order of magnitude.
It was good fun. It is, fundamentally, area-control-with-all-that-that-entails (a core mechanism which can be a bit hit or miss for me!) … but done in a very unique way … and a bit less mean than I was expecting from the rules read-through and the solo game. I hadn't anticipated the way that many of the opportunities that you get to mess with your opponent tend to play out in a tit-for-tat sort of way -- if I do something super-mean to you, then you can often instantly revert that super-mean-ness on your next move -- unless I've put in some solid groundwork to cover myself. Which is, really, just as it should be in a game like this.
It’s a shame that I never got to play this with the Newcastle crowd; it doesn’t run for too long, and I think they would’ve liked it. But sadly… I’ve got some real corkers sitting on my shelf-of-opportunity for when we do get back to face-to-face gaming … and, although Petrichor ‘aint a bad game at all … there’s the cream of a year-and-a-half of other acquisitions that I’m way more eager to put in front of those folks first. And their appetite for learning new stuff only stretches so far …so it’s likely going back onto a shelf-of-something-or-other for at least a little bit longer.
But… one day…
It's a blog on a board-gaming site. Pretty safe bet it'll be about board games then...
Archive for The Shelf of Shame
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Back in November 2018, I bought a copy of Concordia. I didn’t have a compellingly-desperate need to buy Concordia …because Owain owns a copy (along with all the maps, add-ons, bells and whistles) and it gets relatively frequent plays amongst our regular group. But a bunch of cheap copies of the game washed up on Amazon around the time of Concordia Venus’s release (hopefully because PD Verlag were repositioning Venus as the intended jumping-on point for folks, and NOT because it was an early example of amazon-distributed forgeries!), so I thought I might as well seize the opportunity, and get myself one of those. Because Concordia is — I think — an extremely solid design, and likely to be one of the enduring euro game releases of the last decade … definitely worth a spot in any “collector’s” collection.
So I bought it. And it arrived. And it went in a cupboard… as games often do. And although I’ve played Concordia umpteen times since November 2018, it would appear that none of those plays have involved my own copy. ...As proven when I spotted the box sitting on the shelf, popped it open (out of curiosity) …and discovered that I hadn’t even punched it out yet!
Naturally, a piece-sorting, punching-out and bagging session quickly ensued … drawing the attention of Mrs Shep.
“Is that new?”
“….urm… not really. It came out nearly a decade ago. And this copy has been sitting in my cupboard for a couple of years, ‘cos we usually play Owain’s copy. It’s an excellent game though. Bit of a classic. You should definitely try it at some point”
Well… one thing led to another, and…
…Concordia got a played on Saturday
You can see from the board that it very much wasn’t a high-interaction game; Mrs Shep went off in one direction, and — since it was a learning game for her — I thought I’d head off in the other direction and not interfere too much. But she very much enjoyed the experience, and is extremely keen to play again. Happy days!
The Italy map feels way too loose for 2 players though (albeit good for teaching the game on) — and since it looks like further domestic plays of Concordia are now very much on the cards, perhaps this would be a good opportunity (/excuse) to go shopping for one of the more constrained expansions…
Britannia perhaps? Or Aegyptus/Creta? … decisions decisions!
Postscript: I just found this post in the archives. Check out that first comment.
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As mooted, my almost-a-year-old copy of Age of Steam: Hawaiian Islands got an inaugural play yesterday! And while it might’ve taken me slightly over a year to get it played … I’m pretty sure that I at least put the board onto the table before the 1-year period was over (i.e. the day before I played it). So that’s a slightly lesser degree of shelf-of-shame shame that might’ve otherwise been appropriate. Urm. Isn’t it?
This one is definitely a bit of an oddity. Firstly: it’s a train game without railway tracks. And, for that matter, a train game without any actual trains either. So instead of the track-building phase of your typical AoS game, you claim one (or — if you take the more expensive, limited-availability engineering action: “two”) of the pre-defined transport routes between the various islands, which then becomes yours to use.
Secondly: winning the game isn’t specifically about getting blocks delivered to destinations and earning pots of cash through doing so. (Well… it kind of is… but only as a means to an end). Instead, it’s all about using specific routes to convey specific colours.
How? Well... at the start of the game — as depicted above — each route has a number of random blocks attached to it. So, for example, that route heading westward out of the Big Island, and then curving north has 3 cubes on it … blue, red and red. Each time you use this route to shift a block that matches one of these colours, you move the corresponding block from the route. So if I shipped the red block from the Big Island up to the north-west end of the board, taking this route, I would also clear the first red block from that route. But then I've got to find a way to steer a different red (and a blue) consignment through that same route to clear the remaining blocks away.
Your objective is to remove every block from every route. Within 10 rounds. Using only-slightly-changed-from-normal Age of Steam rules. And with the colours that each island accepts denoted by the (initially-randomly-seeded) coloured discs.
If you thought that this sounds a bit like a mind-bendingly-difficult logic puzzle … you’d not be wrong. It might even be an unsolvable mind-bendingly-difficult logic puzzle with certain configurations -- I’m convinced that the cubes which came out for my configuration were particularly awkward. To an extent where I had 4 or 5 false starts before I made an opening move that I was even vaguely happy with ...and then had SEVERAL rewinds during the course of the game to avoid a death-spiral into bankruptcy.
It’s hard. Very hard.
For all the fudging and rewinds, I still didn’t win — there were several cubes left on routes by the time I finished my 10th turn. (And, truth be told, with all the rewinding and replays, I’m more than a little bit suspicious that I totally failed to advance the round counter at one point… which would make this an even bigger loss than it looks here!)
I can’t honestly say that I’m raring to go back and try this one again; I’ve enjoyed the Cuba and Barbados solo maps an awful lot more than this one. Hawaii maybe veers a little bit too far towards the hardcore-logic-puzzle / not-really-the-same-game end of the scale for me. But still … there’s one fewer item taunting me from the shelf of shame this morning. So I’m feeling like I at least accomplished something here.
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Sunday brought the promised follow-up game of Russian Railroads with Mrs Shep. A slightly experimental play for me, as I decided to hammer the industrialisation track for points rather than invest particularly heavily in any of the aforementioned Russian railroads… a tactic which didn’t quite pay off … although it kept me in the lead for much of the game, Mrs Shep leapt ahead in the final round, securing the victory by a convincing 38 points.
In truth… I’m kind of glad that this tactic was thwarted, as it wasn’t, perhaps, the most exciting way to play. Though Mrs Shep’s victory has helped to cement this game is one of her current euro-favourites, so I’m sure it’ll be getting another outing before too long.
And then something completely different: a new escapee from the shelf of shame! — Button Shy’s Ahead in the Clouds.
I’ve had a copy of this for quite some time now (since my very first consignment of purchases from Button Shy, to be precise!) … but having read the rules and looked over the pieces when I first got it, it kind of fell to the back of the things-to-be-played queue, as it seemed to lack a certain… something. But anyway… the title had popped up in the Button Shy “Reprint” Kickstarter last month — apparently by popular demand — which reminded me that we’d never actually got around to playing my copy. So yesterday… we did!
“The Citizens of the Empacta Skies long for the days where everyone, not just the wealthy, can ditch their masks and breathe the precious air that they call their home. As an industrialist, you will collect dust particles from the air and water vapor from the clouds to convert to hydrogen and oxygen. By collecting, converting and selling these precious resources, you can provide your family with the breathing room that you need to keep your business afloat and go home at night knowing you made a difference to the world with fresh air”
It’s an odd one this… it follows the usual 18 card Button Shy template, but the majority of those 18 cards are used for book-keeping tasks (tracking player resources, round number, and contracts/score). The remaining 7 cards are where the game actually happens, and depict an odd assortment of cloud-borne flying industrial buildings. Your turn involves manoeuvring clusters of these “floating” buildings and disconnecting/re-connecting the pathways between them in ways which facilitate resource production to your best advantage …primarily by parking the buildings that you want to use closer to your home. A kind of “resource-generation-through-map-manipulation” game, if you will.
And… well…. it certainly feels unique to play. And it … sort of works. But the execution feels VERY dry, and the production chains in the game aren’t in the slightest bit relatable. OK, I can remember that the Hydrogen Splitter will convert 1 water into 1 hydrogen and 2 oxygen (cute!). But a “bank” that converts 1 stone + 1 oxygen into 1 water + 1 hydrogen, and then flips over so that the NEXT time its used it’ll convert 2 water + 1 stone into 3 oxygen just seems … completely opaque and obtusely-mathsy to me. Ugh.
We weren’t massively impressed. I mean… I’ve got no doubt that somebody will find joy in calculating the optimal way to stringing all those seemingly-abstract equations together in a more efficient manner than their opponent does. But not us. I doubt we’ll be playing that one again
Nevertheless… another victory has been recorded in the ongoing battle against the shelf of shame!
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Like many other BGG users, I habitually catalogue all of my purchases and acquisitions into my BGG Collection listing page. And while doing so with my new copy of Euphoria: Ignorance Is Bliss, I noticed the following curiosity in the database…
The title of this promo rang dim and distant bells. Bells about a mysterious shrink-wrapped bundle of cards that came in the Viticulture Tuscany box, way back when I acquired the original release of that game. Which I’d looked at, scratched my head over, and then put back in the box for later investigation. Could it be that I owned this particular promo already, and that my BGG collection listing has been woefully inaccurate* for all of these years?
An investigation was in order!
Popping the box open -- and guiltily digging through the MANY viticulture modules and components in this box that I’ve never got around to playing with — my eyes fell upon the object of my quest:
Behold! A still-in-shrinkwrap copy of the Tuscany/Euphoria crossover deck!
I have to admit… I had a sudden thought along the lines of: hey, this might actually be valuable! Or valuable, at least, to some kind of viticulture compulsive collector completist type person. Which I'm sure must exist. Somewhere.
There aren’t any copies listed for sale on the BGG page (or any sale history). And information on the contents of the deck seem a little bit scant. So should I break the seal and damage its unsullied, pristine, new-in-shrink status?
Well… yeah. Of course I should. I’m far too lazy to go through the hassle of selling and shipping this to anybody who happens to have more money than sense. And as long as I own a copy of Tuscany …then the rightful place for this is inside that copy of Tuscany!
So, for anybody who’s curious (there seems to be scant information or photos about this item, even on the BGG listing … which seems a bit unusual for a Stonemaier thing) … here’s what I found inside:
18 building cards -- depicting various Euphoria-related dystopian locations (such as the Center for Reduced Literacy, the Friendly Local Game Bonfire and The Cafeteria of Nameless Meat). Each of which you can potentially add to your idyllic Tuscan vinyard to make it …urm…slightly less idyllic?
Rules-wise, building these locations gives you a residual VP point, but carries the penalty of a permanent thematic handicap of some sort. It’s actually quite a clever way of bringing a Euphoria mechanism into Viticulture (Well… a vaguley Euphoria-ish mechanism, at the very least). But is also… thematically… absolutely stark raving bonkers!
I guess it’s a bit of an Agricola X-Deck/Legen*dairy Forest deck sort of thing.
(Except I still harbour vague hopes of actually playing my copies of those. One day…)
I wonder if anybody has ever, actually, seriously, used this promo…?
*To be honest... I'm forever finding things that I forgot to list. So the answer to this question is usually "Yes" anyway
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There aren’t many games in my collection for which I can remember the exact time and place that I was standing when the were dropped off at my local parcel collection depot. But A Feast for Odin — The Norwegians, is one of them. By odd co-incidence, I was standing in the ruins of a genuine Viking longhouse, on the Shetland Islands, at the very second that the delivery notification pinged up on my phone. (If you’re curious, you can read about that adventure here).
It happened just under a year ago, in the first week of February. I remember, at the time, coronavirus was just starting to become a thing that people were getting a little bit nervous about …but we really had no idea what was about to come. I likely expected I’d have a good chance to get this played over the course of the next few weeks… perhaps at one of the dozens of Newcastle Gamers sessions that I’d be attending over the course of 2020….
So, urm, yeah. That turned out well, didn’t it? And — possibly to the wailing and gnashing of teeth of Feast for Odin fans who have been trying to get their own copy of this very-out-of-print expansion for a good chunk of last year — the box has stayed on my shelf of shame, completely unplayed, ever since.
Unplayed, at least, until this week… when I was driven to it …by the drink!
First thing’s first… it’s quite some time since I last played Odin … and I’ve nearly always played it with a full complement of 4 players, and NEVER in solo mode …so if you’re looking for a sharp, analytical comparison of Norwegians vs base game or a deep-dive into how it affects the solo game …then this maybe isn’t going to be it. But hey… I rarely promise you anything more than first impressions here anyway, do I?
So… what’s different in The Norwegians?
Well… the big change is the central board. The original action-laden board is out, and a new one comes in. It’s modular — with flippable-segments for different player counts, and evidence of a lot of fine-tuning of actions going on. A glance at the relevant BGG forum suggests that a broad rebalancing to make farming strategies more viable has taken place … which seems like a good thing … and to trim away some of the action spots which were (essentially) just there as a “get out of jail free” option for newbie players who had backed themselves into a poor position, but which experienced players wouldn’t EVER go near. So: training wheels off, sharp edges exposed. Again, that’s something that I’m perfectly fine with. Plus… there’s in interesting new “5th column” on the board … worker placement spots (powered by one or two workers) that you can only take with your final action of the round. These tend to give you a bit more bang for the buck (or bang for the worker) than you’d usually get from a placement … but, obviously, taking one of those ends your turn. Playing solo, I didn’t get the contention pressure on those spaces that you’d get from a multi-player game … but I can imagine those being very interesting in the multi-player set-up; especially when (for example) you have the inevitable last-round make-or-break push for emigration actions.
Setting aside the 5th column — which definitely feels like expansion content … I guess there’s two ways you can look at this new board. A more cynical kind of person might say … well, this is what the game would’ve been if it had spent a bit longer in development; there’s a lot of patching going on here, and the new board is essentially a stealth mode fix pack.
And the other viewpoint might be: well, this is a board with a bit more expert-level tuning applied; base “feast” is for the newbies + casuals, and this is an expansion to tighten the worker-placement aspect up a bit for players who want a bit more out of it.
I suspect the truth might lie somewhere between the two.
What else do you get? Well… there’s a bunch of “special” shed boards — one dealt randomly to each player at the start of the game — which gives you some new, asymmetric, early-game goals to work to (I really like these; they give you a thematic bootstrap in the same way that your starting occupation is clearly intended — but often fails — to do). There’s some new islands to invade (which I guess we can expect to be the bread-and-butter of most AFFO expansions). And there’s a small set of new goods + loot tiles to fill your various boards with. Including new animals, like pigs... which feed into THIS somewhat-thematically-odd action space:
What exactly is going on here? Your pig magically sheds a bacon joint when you take this action (much like his sheepy friend provides wool)…and then runs back to his stye unharmed, and will be capable of magically emitting further processed meat products in a future round?
Hmmmm. Meat definitely worked differently in the old days.
Anyway… I had a good time with AFFO + The Norwegions. Though perhaps not as compelling a time as I’ve had with a few other solo games lately. Even with the tightening up of the actions board, AFFO still seems a bit sandboxy and wide-open to me … or, at least in solo mode it does; nobody (else) is going to block your actions, and you’ve essentially just got this big, delicious menu-of-opportunity to choose from every turn. Yeah… there’s a certain pleasure to wanting to wallow in the systems of this particular sandbox, and chase after a target score … but — despite the tiny bit of risk connected with the dice rolling and card drawing of the hunting actions — there’s just not quite enough jeopardy or pressure in the solo game to make it massively compelling for me and — especially with the hassle of set-up and tear-down — there are several other solo games that I’d put in my gaming queue before this one.
…I’m really looking forward to playing it in multi-player mode though; I suspect that The Norwegians has improved the “regular” game quite a bit.
- [+] Dice rolls
The Lonely Tree has been taunting me for most of this year. It’s probably a sign of the times that it doesn’t feel like a massively long time since I glued it together … but then I recall that I made a lame joke here on the blog about building it as a Christmas Tree, and that must mean that it’s been the best part of a year since I began this particular KDM project. So my morning turned into a bit of a painting morning, rather than a blogging morning.
A little little bit more shading work this afternoon, and it should be table-ready enough to torment our erstwhile survivors.
And THEN I get to decide which expansion to build next. Though hopefully I’ll polish the next build off a little bit quicker than I did this one.
Hmmm. That’s a lot of boxes, isn’t it? Every time I sit down to do a bit of KDM model building/painting I’m reminded how restful I find the experience, and how I always promise myself that I’ll find the time to do it a bit more regularly. (Then inevitably fail).
But I definitely see this as a shelf opportunity, rather than a shelf of shame
- [+] Dice rolls
Odd. I distinctly remember entering this in the blog post scheduler last night, but this morning there's no sign of it. I must've pressed the wrong button. Fortunately, I always keeep a back-up.
Of all the things that might’ve got stuck on my shelf of shame, I would never have guessed that the Wingspan European Expansion would be amongst them. And yet… these are the strangest of days; prior to yesterday, I hadn’t touched my copy of Wingspan (OR the expansion) for the best part of a year!
Mrs Shep had previously only played Wingspan once, and it didn’t make a particularly strong impression. I’ve been urging her to give it another try for quite some time now, as it’s always struck me as being exactly the kind of game that she’d really like, and suspected that it must’ve just been a bit of an “off game” the one time she tried it … but, for one reason or another, we’ve never really got around to it.
I’d shuffled my copy of the expansion straight into the base game back in late 2019, and really didn’t fancy picking all the new cards out … so there wasn’t any debate over whether we’d stick with the base game, or jump straight into the expansion. Expanded game it was!
The expansion is… pretty much what you’d expect it to be. More objective tiles. More bonus cards. And more birds. More birds which do… more stuff. So… basically a box full of components which amp up the variety/re-playability a bit without making earth-shattering changes to the core game. Which is a good thing.
Well… there is a completely new kind of action card; teal-coloured cards which provide an end-of-round effect to their owner …but they feel like such a natural inclusion in the game that you could easily imagine that they were there since the very beginning. But beyond that… it’s basically all new birds that do new and varied things. Look at that blackbird for example… you can play it SIDEWAYS to occupy two spaces! Exciting new consequences and combos abound!
OK, I expect that anybody who is particularly into Wingspan has already got this expansion by now, so I’m likely preaching to the already-converted … but, yeah, I’m glad that I’ve finally got this out of the box; it was fun to see some entirely new (to me) elements and effects impacting the game.
…so much fun, in fact, that I didn’t really pay sufficient attention to my overarching strategy… and lost. By quite some margin. Oops
Still, Mrs Shep had a blinder of a game… nabbing a whole bunch of neat little combos which really showed the game at its best. So much so, that by the half-way point she was really sold on it. “Why haven’t we played this more often?” she asked.
I suspect we will now…
- [+] Dice rolls
I was poking around inside the game cupboard this evening, trying to find a small game or two to take on a night away form home in the none-too-distant future (Oh yes! I might actually be leaving my house for more than a few hours. Take THAT, 2020!) when my eyes fell upon a copy of Caverna: Cave vs Cave – Era II … and I thought to myself: have I ever actually played that expansion?
A quick glance inside the box revealed everything to be pristine and un-punched. Suggesting that no, I most certainly haven’t played it. In fact, it appears that I hadn't even added it to my collection records here on BGG, which was very lax of me. I can only assume that there was a bunch of stuff distracting me at the time it arrived: late 2019. Shortly after spotting it in an online sale for an irresistibly-bargainous £7.
Anyway, Cave vs Cave is a game that plays solo, and I didn't have much to do yesterday evening… so why not give it a shot?* * * * * * *
The expansion takes a slightly unusual (albeit very "pure") approach to extending the basic game ...though only unusual, I guess, because we’re so used to expansions adding breadth to a game, rather than length.
You begin a dual-era game by playing a completely standard version of the basic game, with all of the regular components, and then score it in the normal way…
(this is me, racking up a very respectable 55 points in the first era. 50 points is regarded as a win in the solo version)
…but THEN you strap a couple of extensions on to your player board, add 4 new resource markers to your supply (ore, iron, donkeys and weapons), deal out a whole bunch of brand new building tiles … and continue for an additional 4 rounds of cave-furnishing antics!
Interestingly, at the end of this phase of “extra time”, you’ll score ALL of your building tiles again …so, the stuff that you build in the early game will effectively earn you double points — but gold (which you’re also scoring again at the very end of the game) is only worth half a point per nugget in the final reckoning … so there’s a big incentive to convert the horde of gold that you accumulated (and scored for) in the first era of the game into something more valuable. It’s interesting to cope with this very fundamental economic shift half way through the game.
I enjoyed this. As I played my way through the first part of the game I was reminded that Era 1 of Cave vs Cave is a game which plays very briskly, but doesn’t really feel like it’s got a proper beginning, middle, and end to it. Era 2 gives you a VERY distinct end-game experience. Admittedly it’s been attached in an extremely blunt-instrument sort of way … but it’s a gear-shift that brings interesting gameplay consequences, and makes a significant improvement to how Cave vs Cave feels to play. (albeit at the cost of pretty much doubling the playing time!)
My final score was 173. That’s 7 points short of the target score of 180. I would’ve been a bit concerned if I’d got a solo win on this attempt; 55 points was a very strong score for the first part, and I got a couple of lucky tile draws … but I know full well that I wasn’t utilising the new resource engines in anything like an optimal manner.
Maybe I’ll slip this one into my bag for the aforementioned trip
- [+] Dice rolls
I’ve had a few board game kickstarters arrive — or received notice of imminent board game kickstarter arrivals (“lock down your address, It’s finally on the boat!”) — over the last few weeks. And they’ve all pretty much triggered the same thought: “Well… I guess I had no idea the world would be the way it is now, back in the day when I backed that, and I’m really not as excited about getting it now”. Because the shift in my everyday gaming opportunities, between me backing these things (in simpler times), and receiving these things (in the era of covid-19), means that they’re probably going to sit on the shelf of
shameopportunity for quite a bit.
But Jagged Earth — the expansion to Spirit Island — turned up this week. And, weirdly, it’s actually proven to be a rare case of the exact opposite of the above.
I remember struggling a bit over whether or not I wanted to pledge for this, when the campaign launched in 2018. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the base game — on the contrary, I think it’s very good... but I just didn’t see myself getting many potential plays out of an expansion for it. A complicated, long-duration, heavy co-op game is a bit of a hard sell to many of my gaming friends, so I’ve mostly only ever played Spirit Island solo ...and back in the carefree 2010s, solo gaming wasn't quite as high on my agenda as it is now. I think, at the time of backing, I was mostly driven through a sense of completeness … wanting to have “all the stuff” … rather than seriously expecting that this expansion would get an awful lot of play.
Fast forward a couple of years … and suddenly I’m much more excited about this landing on my doorstep than I initially anticipated. It's almost like 2018-me had the foresight to send present-day-me a humongous, complexity-increasing, content-rich expansion for a game that is held in particularly high regard as a heavy solo game.
Good call, 2018-me! I don’t know how you saw this coming… but, all the same, good call 2018-me!
Though perhaps this is the part where I should admit that I haven’t even got around to punching out Branch and Claw yet...
- [+] Dice rolls