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April '20 - "and the youths marvelled to behold the mighty fleece, which gleamed like the lightning of Zeus."

Board Game: Air, Land, & Sea
Board Game: Hierarchy
Board Game: Yōkaï no Mori
From gallery of BoardGameGeek
Board Game: Chartae
Board Game: Condottiere
Board Game: Elements
Board Game: Greedy Kingdoms
Board Game: Heul doch! Mau Mau
Board Game: Push It
Board Game: Schotten Totten
Board Game: Scopa
Board Game: Chain Mail: Adventures of Earthshine
Board Game: The Mind
Board Game: UNO
Board Game: Unpublished Prototype
Board Game: Onitama
Board Game: Lockpicks
Board Game: Rummy

 8   Air, Land & Sea (3 all-time)
 8   Hierarchy x10 NEW!
 8   Yōkaï no Mori x2 (21 all-time)
 7   Adder x3 NEW!
 7   Chartae x3 (13 all-time)
 7   Condottiere x2 (3 all-time)
 7   Elements x4 (6 all-time)
 7   Greedy Kingdoms x2 NEW!
 7   Heul doch! Mau Mau x5 NEW!
 7   Push It x3 (20 all-time)
 7   Schotten Totten x4 (6 all-time)
 7   Scopa x2 NEW!
 6   Chain Mail NEW!
 6   The Mind (13 all-time)
 6   UNO x3 (9 all-time)
 6   Unpublished Prototype x11 (18 all-time)
(This is for 3 different Button Shy games that don't have BGG entries yet: Cityline x2, EarthShine x4, Royale x5)
 5   Onitama (8 all-time)
 4   Lockpicks NEW!
 4   Rummy x2 NEW!

61 plays. Almost entirely lighter family stuff.


Hierarchy is my new-to-me Game of the Month. I played it ten times in one day. That was only yesterday. I expect it to get more plays immediately, then it will probably become a game that gets sporadic plays, but when it does, it will always be 'best of 5' or 'best of 7' matches. The heart of the game is 14 double-sided cards, 7 dealt to each player. You take turns playing a card to the center in ascending numerical order, subject to changes in rules modified by text on the cards played. Each hand dealt feels like a fresh new puzzle. And what's significant is that when dealt what feels like a bad hand, the game is still fun because then it becomes a struggle to make that hand work. Whether it does or not, the game is over in a flash, so instead of getting worked up about a bum hand, it's fun to just deal out another immediately. I didn't time how long our games were lasting, but I'd guess that each play was less than 10 minutes, most less than 5 minutes. The game is definitely an odd duck, a perfect information "abstract" "micro" card game. It's not for everyone, for sure, but it's definitely for me.

I wrote about Adder: Realtime Chase System in my recent Button Shy post. I was planning on writing up a new post about the January and February packages that have since arrived (including Hierarchy praised above). Maybe I still will. I haven't played Adder since that initial day of play, but I have great, fond memories of it and would be happy to pull it out again right now. One common refrain in my praise for Button Shy is that they make games that make me smile, make me laugh, make memories.

Greedy Kingdoms and Heul doch! Mau Mau were both acquired in trades, influenced by comments that hanibalicious and others have made 'round the 'geek. I don't know that I really care about Greedy Kingdoms, though I did have fun teaching it to two of my kids. It's pretty much a basic "resource conversion engine building" game with a neat bluffing attack mechanism that brings it into a sort of 2-player duel feel without quite as much direct nastiness (though there is still some of that). I liked it, but didn't love it. Heul doch, on the other hand, was an instant hit, and will probably remain in the family collection until it's worn to bits (and it's already getting pretty ragged after less than a month). It is casual, but fun, inevitably leading to silly outrage, which inevitably leads to charitable offers of a napkin to cry into.

Scopa is the last new-to-me card game on the list (I've played Rummy before; it's just my first time logging a play on BGG). It was relaxing and fun to play, and I'd happily play it again on any lazy afternoon. Any game that has survived as long as it has is worthy of anyone's attention. It's a simple "fishing" game in which each player is making simple decisions each turn, but it all adds up to something satisfying, with luck being present, plenty of it, but not necessarily decisive. I'm pretty sure that there are levels of play here beyond my rudimentary beginner play. Anyhow, I enjoyed it.

I already wrote about Chainmail. Fun enough solo game, which I'll be happy to play again on those rare days when my family leaves me all alone at home. I also already wrote about Lockpicks. It passed the time when I played it, but it didn't leave me ever wanting to play it again.

Finally, the three currently logged as "unpublished prototype."

Cityline was a much more enjoyable Roll & Write for me than Lockpicks. There's still a puzzle element to it, but the joy of the game is in building your own skyline with your own little doodle icons in the buildings. It's like any game you've played in which you've lost, but you're still satisfied because you've built up something nice in front of you. I played it twice and almost played it again this morning (but played a different new BS solitaire game instead).

EarthShine is a stripped down Push Your Luck Joy Machine. It's probably best with 2 or 3, but it was also good with 4. I wouldn't play it with any more than that. The game involves rolling the D20 polyhedral 'dice chain' (to steal a descriptor from DCC). Start with the d20 attempting for a roll of 12 or less, then d12 rolling for the d10, d8 for d6, d6 for d4, d4 for d2 (coin), d2 flip for beautiful shiny Moon. At any time you can stop rolling for new dice and instead use the dice you have to attempt to meet a set number to win gems. Gain 4 gems and you win. Or. Gain the Moon and you win. It was a delight.

We played the rules wrong to Royale. They're not that difficult. I just accidentally added my own rule that made the game worse. We still had a ton of fun. I'm on the fence as far as how much I like this one, but I'll report back once I've played it a few more times with the correct rules. I think that a lot of people would like this one if it got a wider audience. It's essentially a *fun* version of Sheriff of Nottingham (a game that I've always liked the idea of more than the actual play).

I didn't log a play of it, but I also putzed around with my copy of A Bridge Too Far: Arnhem for a couple of hours. I set it up and read through the rules, then played through the first turn solo. It was... fine? I appreciate the system. It's clean and simple, though it has some chrome (mostly the barrage and bridge destruction rules). I definitely enjoyed the low counter density and zero stacking. It's the type of wargame that appeals to me. And yet this time, this one didn't. I didn't feel the need to keep playing it. I didn't think that I'd have any more fun than I'd already had setting it up and learning it (and I did have a good time doing such). I didn't think that I'd learn anything new about this historical situation through any further play. So that was that. I cleaned it up and put it away. If anyone wants a copy, let me know and I'll send it in the mail to you for free. (Claimed!)

That was a lot of rambling text block. Next month, I need to remember to take more photos.


Air, Land, and Sea continues to get more love from me. Yokai no Mori as well. Chartae is becoming a staple as well and might get a bump up to an '8' next time because it deserves it. Condottiere is a game that I once owned and sold. I got a new (old Eurogames) copy in a trade. I like it better this time. :-) Schotten Totten got dusted off and given some love. It fell flat last time I tried to play it, but this time we saw it shine. I'm glad to give it some more plays and expect that its rating may also rise. I think that it is at least as good as Lost Cities, playing in a very similar tension space, but playing out so differently.

Other Stuff
I bought a new simple boombox with a cassette tape deck, which made me happy.
I made my first 90 minute cassette tape mix for the first time in a long time. That was nice. The real benefit of cassette (and vinyl, of course) is that there is no possibility of a "shuffle" mode. Order and sequence become important again. Even if it's the whim of a certain moment on a certain day, there was this specific connection between these two songs in this order and now, through the mix, they become more permanently bonded together, a synthesis of connections between seemingly distinct things.

Is there any interest in a BGG Snail Mail Cassette Mix Club? If even one person responds yes, then I'm creating a new guild. I'd also be interested in swapping out mix cds (obviously easier and more affordable than cassettes right now) or just swapping playlist mixes regularly. Some sort of music club sounds fun right now. We can call it the BGG Snail Mail Cassette Mix Club even if no cassettes ever get made or shared.

I love Jason and the Argonauts. I hadn't seen it in many years. It was a joy to share it with my kids. If you can believe it, Apollonius of Rhodes' original work is even better than the (very loose) film adaptation, but I won't recommend that right now because it's been a while since I've read it. I do recommend this film. Make some popcorn. Grab some good beer (stout for yourself, root for the young'uns). Have a good time.
From gallery of trawlerman

I read a lot.

Highly recommended if you're aching for a savage alternative to LotR that rivals it in sad beauty (which things like AGoT just don't achieve, but this book does):
The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson

Highly recommended if you're looking for great new fiction that puts the speculative back in SF (what if our Artificial Intelligence machines are more interested in their creators' stories than their logic puzzles? where is meaning and self-understanding found?):
Anthropocene Rag by Alex Irvine

Highly recommended if you want to read (or re-read) one of the all-time greats of AmLit, a canonical book that you can cross off your to-read list (in order to put it on your evergreen re-read list) and it only takes a couple of hours to read instead of a couple of weeks:
"Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street" by Herman Melville
You should pick up the lovely print edition from MHP: (go ahead and buy a dozen copies and just start throwing them at people from six feet away)

One More Thing
Crazy times, huh?
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Fri May 1, 2020 7:52 pm
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March '20 - “You wake up and dive immediately into the flow of images, numbers, and rhetoric. 'Social distancing' means being online."

Board Game: Babylonia
Board Game: Duck Soup
Board Game: Hearts
Board Game: Lord of the Rings
Board Game: Lost Cities
Board Game: Senators
Board Game: Air, Land, & Sea
Board Game: Chartae
RPG Item: Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set
Board Game: Hex
Board Game: High Society
Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
Board Game: Spades
Board Game: The Bottle Imp
Board Game: Whist
Board Game: Aristocracy
Board Game: Cheeky Monkey
Board Game: Hero Realms
Board Game: Ingenious: Travel Edition
Board Game: L.L.A.M.A.
Board Game: Potato Man
Board Game: Splendor
Board Game: The Fox in the Forest
Board Game: Ziegen Kriegen
Board Game: Brainwaves: The Astute Goose
Board Game: Penny Rails
RPG Item: Dungeon Crawl Classics Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure (Free RPG Day 2017)

 9   Babylonia x4 NEW!
 8   Duck Soup x5 (6 all-time)
 8   Hearts x2 NEW!
 8   Lord of the Rings (9 all-time)
 8   Lost Cities x3 (16 all-time)
 8   Senators NEW!
 7   Air, Land & Sea (2 all-time)
 7   Chartae x4 (10 all-time)
 7   Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set (3 all-time)
 7   Hex x3 NEW!
 7   High Society x2 (4 all-time)
 7   Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation x3 (12 all-time)
 7   Spades NEW!
 7   The Bottle Imp NEW!
 7   Whist NEW!
 6   Aristocracy NEW!
 6   Cheeky Monkey (11 all-time)
 6   Hero Realms x2 (27 all-time)
 6   Ingenious: Travel Edition (9 all-time)
 6   L.L.A.M.A. (3 all-time)
 6   Potato Man (2 all-time)
 6   Splendor (12 all-time)
 6   The Fox in the Forest x2 (3 all-time)
 6   Ziegen Kriegen (13 all-time)
 5   Brainwaves: The Astute Goose x2 NEW!
 5   Penny Rails NEW!
 N/A   Portal Under the Stars NEW!


“More and more often over the last few years I find myself sitting in front of my computer, having brought up a blank browser tab, trying to do something between remembering and anticipating. Was there a piece of information that some other piece of information had reminded me I wanted to check on? Or is there some new thing to find, some new chain whose links might lead to something unexpected? I sit there with my fingers hovering over the keyboard, Ouija-like, waiting to be moved by an impulse, or an algorithm. Now entire days seem to vanish into that waiting room. People compare the internet to a drug, but this is worse, or weirder: it’s like spending all day preparing your kit in case the desire for a fix were to hit you. It’s like wanting to kill time and being unable to find it.”
-from “Killing Time“ by James Duesterberg

I guess I've just embraced the irony (hypocrisy?) of active and regular posting while sporting a snazzy "Offline from the Geek for a while" microbadge.

I'm tired of being logged in, tuned in, socially distant. And of course I'm talking about the state of affairs before our current state of affairs.

"It was the last step between us and happiness anyway, were people." -Norm Macdonald

(I've watched this several times over the last couple of weeks. Two weeks ago, live standup was still happening.)

Something between remembering and anticipating.

I'm posting today because it's become a habit, reporting here about a previous month at the start of a new one. I couldn't leave it alone. I didn't want to not do it even as I considered that I couldn't muster up the caring to do it properly.

Yesterday, I posted about Button Shy, and that wasn't so hard because I had something to say. I was also in a great mood after an afternoon of peaceful, relaxing, and fulfilling gaming. I had waffled between annoyance (maybe even mild anger) at the Board Game of the Month delays and some sort of attempt at loyalty to a brand that I was pretty sure of, but not entirely sure of. My patience, my loyalty, was rewarded, and I was happy, wanting to share that feeling with others.

What do I want to share with others today? The feeling of not wanting to share feelings with Internet friendlies and Internet strangers? The feeling of being exhausted by infinite content? Wallace's Everything And More? I don't even really like Arcade Fire, right?, so why is "Everything Now" the album that I return to repeatedly, over and over again since its release?

Do I have anything to say about the games that I played last month?

No, not really.

I've written about many of them already, either in earlier posts here or in scattered places across the 'geek.

Looking at the list of games played, I'm happy that much of my gaming was with my family. I've tried to make that a priority this year. So far, so good.

I guess what I'd like to focus on in future lists is generating less of the shiny red "new", instead effortlessly achieving more double digits in the all-time play numbers in the parentheses.

New-to-me games have been nearly half the games I've played so far this year. And while maybe I can pat myself on the back for getting my "Great Unplayed" tally down, it also still feels like I'm chasing that fleeting feeling of everything now, all at once.

What with there being no public gaming, maybe I should do something crazy and just pick one or two (or realistically three to deal with age ranges) games and only play those few games for the next month. Maybe.

I guess I won't finish with an "Other Stuff" section as this has all pretty much been "Other Stuff". Do my work for me and pretend that all of the following is somehow about board games.

I'm bummed that my favorite local family-owned second-run cinema is closed down. I made it out to see The Gentlemen on the 12th before the shutdown order. The film was better than I had expected (I'm not a Ritchie fan), but really it was the experience that I loved. It's one of the things that I miss most right now. I don't care if every airport in the country shuts down permanently. I will grieve deeply if my favorite cinema is unable to survive this.

At home, I'm up-to-date with Better Call Saul, which is better than ever, outrageously good.

I've been reading a lot, most notably probably a re-read of Beowulf, which felt relevant. Also a lot of comics, a trashy Western, and Cal Newport's book on Digital Minimalism, which is relevant to all of my mad ranting, but which I found shallow and ultimately disappointing.

I don't know about music. I'm stupidly infatuated with this song, and am still surprised that it hasn't gone "viral" yet:

Otherwise, it's mostly been listening to newer country. The Western AF Cabin Sessions have been a stable joy:

And here's a final song to say goodbye:
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Thu Apr 2, 2020 2:34 pm
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Feb '20 - "Let me live in greatness / And courage, or here in this hall welcome / My death!"

Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates
Board Game: Pax Pamir: Second Edition
Board Game: Bus
Board Game: In Vino Morte
Board Game: Irish Gauge
Board Game: Air, Land, & Sea
Board Game: Chartae
Board Game: High Society
Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
Board Game: Potato Man
Board Game: Aargh!
Board Game: Bible Trivia
Board Game: BraveRats
Board Game: Kalah
Board Game: L.L.A.M.A.
Board Game: Meow
Board Game: Qwixx
Board Game: Rhino Hero: Super Battle
Board Game: Sprawlopolis
Board Game: Wig Out!
Board Game: Brains Family: Burgen & Drachen
Board Game: Fiery Dragons
Board Game: Lost Cities: To Go

 10   Tigris & Euphrates (19 all-time)
 9   Pax Pamir (Second Edition) (10 all-time)
 8   Bus (4 all-time)
 8   In Vino Morte x2 (7 all-time)
 8   Irish Gauge (4 all-time)
 7   Air, Land & Sea NEW!
 7   Chartae x3 (6 all-time)
 7   High Society x2 NEW!
 7   Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation x9 NEW!
 7   Potato Man NEW!
 6   Aargh! (3 all-time)
 6   Bible Trivia (3 all-time)
 6   BraveRats x4 (13 all-time)
 6   Kalah x2
 6   L.L.A.M.A. (2 all-time)
 6   Meow x10 (31 all-time)
 6   Qwixx NEW!
 6   Rhino Hero: Super Battle x4 NEW!
 6   Sprawlopolis x3 (8 all-time)
 6   Wig Out! NEW!
 5   Brains Family: Burgen & Drachen NEW!
 5   Fiery Dragons (6 all-time)
 4   Lost Cities: To Go NEW!

Four new Knizias, ranging from the Very Good to Oh So Disappointing.
First, the Very Good.
I greatly enjoyed both Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation and High Society. Stratego was one of the formative games of my childhood, so it's probably no surprise that I like Knizia's confrontational take on the genre. It captures the best of that "poking around looking for a decisive win moment" feel while also delivering a fairly well-developed LotR theme. I also love how quick it is, which is praise that I'll also give to High Society. In "classic Knizia" fashion, HS is intensely player-driven, with an almost "chicken" vibe to it, due to the balancing of care for VPs and care for not going broke. Sure, it's probably not "as good" as Modern Art, but MA is a main course that I like but I'm not fond enough of to have often, while HS is an appetizer or dessert that I think I could enjoy often with most anything else. Last week's game night was two plays of HS followed by a play of Bus. That's pretty perfect for weeknight gaming as far as I'm concerned.
Then, the Not So Good
Burgen & Drachen is a decent game. I didn't hate it. It's really just a shared puzzle race with a neat handicapping mechanism that keeps one player from running away with the win. It's a good family game. I guess I'm just not into speed puzzling.
Lost Cities To Go was my biggest disappointment of the month. The game itself is pretty good, an interesting push-your-luck take on the original Lost Cities, with some interesting decisions related to when to take tiles and when to leave them available to your opponent. But I didn't think that it was interesting enough, and I'd just always rather play Lost Cities. I also absolutely HATED the mini tiles, and not just because the color shading on them was awful. We pulled them from a bag instead of sorting and shuffling them down on the table, but I still just had a visceral distaste for the handling of these mini tiles, which is the real reason why I dislike this game. Weird, I guess, but it is what it is. I even recognize that the game would not work as well with cards because of the way that all of the untaken drawn cards would need to be face-up on the table, hogging space. I get it. I just don't like it.

Air, Land, and Sea and Potato Man were the best new non-Knizias of the month. Both need more plays. I want to play both more, which is a good sign.

Any month that sees plays of T&E, PP2e, Bus, In Vino Morte, and Irish Gauge is a very good month of gaming. That list is almost a perfect description of the regular contents of my game night carry bag right now. Throw in Chartae, LotR:Confrontation, and AL&S for some quick 2 player match-ups, and Potato Man and High Society for some 4 player card fun. That's a great little portable collection right there.

Other Stuff
I've been surfing the Acclaimed Music website and listening to "Acclaimed" playlists on Spotify. But none of it has been as satisfying as just re-listening to this Six Organs of Admittance track.

I watched a couple of things for my ongoing project of watching everything on the TSPDT 1000. I watched a few new things. I watched a few random things. I watched too many stupid Youtube videos. Of all of that, my favorite new-to-me "movie" of the month was easily Goldman v Silverman. I think it's worth your time. Check it out.

Probably the only book worth mentioning here is Ann Leckie's The Raven Tower. I read it based on Mark's recommendation from last month. I agree that it is unique and intriguing. I'm not sorry that I read it. But, I didn't quite like it. :-(
Spoiler (click to reveal)
I didn't mind the "second person" narration directed at one of the book's characters. I was surprised by how well Leckie pulled it off, though I'm not sure why we're supposed to believe that an ancient god would be performing some sort of attempted thought-broadcast of its selected "greatest hits" biography at this one human character. I did think that the book dragged a bit in the middle. The villains (a set of twins and an uncle) are kinda boring and one-dimensional. For that matter, there's not much personality to any of the heroes either. All that said, my biggest complaint is that the end is a giant cheat. Why would Mawat sacrifice to "the god of Vastai" instead of to the Raven? We've been told that words and names are important. All along, the "god of Vastai" is specifically named and invoked as the Raven. Very specifically and not in generalities. The only reason for the switch to generalities at the end is to make the big reveal work, allowing our Patient narrator a big surprise win.

One More Thing
How does one spend less time on BGG? I'm not sure. I logged out and spent this past Friday and Saturday without checking BGG even once on those days. It was... fine. I didn't miss anything, though I did occasionally feel that restless itch, that dull feeling that there was something really important that I usually do that I wasn't doing. Yet I was able to log in on Sunday morning for half an hour and catch up without feeling like I had been left out of something grandly important. I doubt anyone knew I was gone. Right now, I think I'm going to see if I can develop a weekly habit of checking BGG Sundays through Tuesdays, in some controlled limited use, then logging off and staying logged off the rest of the week. I love the community. I love chatting about games and other things. I'm just not so sure that I love that dopamine hit of checking and re-checking the site, always engaged, which keeps me from using that same time to do something like, you know, read a book. I'm not on the Big Two social media sites, so BGG really is my online "social" fix. It's a bit funny, too, because lately my favorite "content" on BGG is all about culling collections and playing loved games more, which is really all about choosing to spend your time more wisely. I'd definitely like to spend my time more wisely, which ironically means doing less reading of posts about spending my time more wisely. Also, posts like that (like this one) start to get preachy and boring. As a reader of them, you realize while you're reading them that you've failed again because you're spending your time reading a post about doing great things instead of doing great things yourself. It could be worse. You could be spending your free time writing your own post about how you've failed to do great things while reading about efforts to do great things.

So it goes.
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Mon Mar 2, 2020 4:43 pm
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January '20 - "All our disease / Of longing, all hopes we fabled of, / Fortunate islands or Hesperian seas / Or woods beyond the West, were but the breeze / That blew from off those shores"

Board Game: Shogi
Board Game: Tikal
Board Game: Pax Pamir: Second Edition
Board Game: DVONN
Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest
Board Game: Bitskrieg
Board Game: Duck Soup
Board Game: Giro Galoppo
Board Game: Knaves
Board Game: YINSH
Board Game: 5211
Board Game: Bucket Brigade
Board Game: Color Wheel
Board Game: Hero Realms
Board Game: Kleiner Spatz
Board Game: Meow
Board Game: Monster Chase
Board Game: Sprawlopolis
Board Game: Axio Rota
Board Game: Pink Hijinks

 10   Shogi (8 all-time)
 10   Tikal (14 all-time)
 9   Pax Pamir (Second Edition) (9 all-time)
 8   DVONN x3 (45 all-time)
 7   1846: The Race for the Midwest (2 all-time)
 7   Bitskrieg x2 (3 all-time)
 7   Duck Soup NEW!
 7   Giro Galoppo x3 (8 all-time)
 7   Knaves NEW!
 7   YINSH x2 (29 all-time)
 6   5211 x2 NEW!
 6   Bucket Brigade x3 NEW!
 6   Color Wheel x2 NEW!
 6   Hero Realms (25 all-time)
 6   Kleiner Spatz (13 all-time)
 6   Meow x4 (21 all-time)
 6   Monster Chase (6 all-time)
 6   Sprawlopolis (5 all-time)
 5   Axio Rota x2 NEW!
 5   Pink Hijinks NEW!

Duck Soup
The best thing that I did all month on BGG was ask for help in finding trick taking games in the Deep Cuts guild. So many great responses. These two were the two that I chose to start off the year. I wanted to get in more plays, but the Plague running through my house cut down on gaming at home this month (though I still got a decent amount of home gaming in). I'd recommend both Duck Soup and Knaves to anyone looking to try out trick taking games. Both only need a traditional card deck, and both were more fun than some other commercial trick taking games that I've played. I thought that Knaves ran a little long for what it was, but I did have fun playing it and will play again.
Bucket Brigade
I don't know about BB. I played three times. I think it's just okay. I was going to get rid of it, but my kids convinced me to hold on to it a little bit longer.
I liked BB more than I liked 5211, but my kids adored 5211. I always know a game is a hit when my kids go on to play it with each other repeatedly without me. 5211 is a keeper because the kids have adopted it. It's the first card game they've really loved since LLAMA, which I also didn't really care about. So what do I know about fun card games?
Color Wheel
This was a decently fun solo puzzle exercise. I don't know if it's a game. What's a game?
Axio Rota
Definitely my biggest disappointment of the month. I don't know what I was expecting, but it was something a little bit more substantial than this slight little thing. But, once again, my kids, especially a few of the younger ones, 7yo, 9yo, 11yo, insisted on keeping it. I think that this is maybe the target audience for this game.
Pink Hijinks

I don't have much to say here except that it's very nice to play a game and not learn any new rules. I also love that there are enough people in my local group who are willing to play PP2e that it's going to keep seeing regular play. It only keeps getting better.

The one play of 1846 was nice, a long Saturday hosted at Madden's house. Even though we had played before, it had been several months, so Jake (with assist from Kevin) re-taught the game. But it didn't feel like learning something new, only a refresher and a reminder. We should play again sooner rather than later so that the rules cement themselves in my head. After set-up and the rules refresher, it took us about 5.5hrs, which is maybe too long for 1846 according to some, but it's what it took us. Before the game was even halfway over, we pretty much knew that Kevin was going to win, but we played it out. The end scores were closer than we had anticipated. I was only about a thousand behind and Jake had managed to scramble to within a few hundred of Kevin. If I had made a few different decisions (mostly I would have bought another share of NY earlier and dumped the B&O instead of stubbornly believing that Madden was going to turn that failing company around).

I'm still enjoying the game. I rarely felt the time drag. Things mostly moved right along, always engaging. But... I'm still not sure about it long term. I'm a Humanities guy down to the bones. Number crunching does not come easy to me. Madden finally broke down and started using the calculator on his phone. I might have to do that next time.

And even though the time flew right by, I just don't see my life having room for any game that's even longer than this. The 8+ hour 18xx games just aren't for me right now. 1846 is almost too long, but I think that we could probably get it to the sub-5hr sweet spot to get it played on a Tuesday night.

Finally, playing Giro Galoppo again for the first time in years reminded me of what a great game it is. I'm going to play it a lot more this year.

Here's a photo of my oldest daughter (now 17) playing GG with me almost 12 years ago!

Board Game: Giro Galoppo

Other Stuff
I'm not feeling it this month, but here are some quick takes...

I went down a few YouTube rabbit holes. Apparently "reaction videos" of people watching old music videos is a thing. After a few of those, I just started watching the original videos instead. I listened to a lot of British folk this month, some 60s/70s stuff, and some recent stuff (mostly following things that Alasdair Roberts has been involved in). Listened to a few albums on the Punching Cardboard Best of Year lists that I hadn't heard yet. Listened to new Will Oldham. Listened to old Dirty Three favorites. Had an evening of nostalgic Primus listening. Sailing the Seas of Cheese was one of the first cassette albums that I bought with my own money. 91? 92?

I didn't watch many movies. What I did watch was mostly garbage. I liked The Best Years of Our Lives, and I liked A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I keep thinking about taking my wife to A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood/Uncut Gems double feature while they're both still playing locally.

Franny and Zooey re-read confirmed its greatness. It's not for everyone, but if you've avoided further Salinger because you were underwhelmed by Catcher, then you should give F&Z a try.
Also confirmed: I am not at all an Ian M. Banks fan. This was my second Culture novel (though the one I read is first in the series) and maybe I'm done with Banks.
And I read other stuff. It was a good month of reading.

One More Thing
I don't really have one more thing. I'm done.
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Sat Feb 1, 2020 2:50 pm
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"not quite ready" was the working title while I was writing and editing this thing (you edited this? we couldn't tell)

November 2019 Review

 10   Chess (48 all-time)
 10   Tigris & Euphrates (18 all-time)
 9   Pax Pamir (Second Edition) (6 all-time)
 8   Northern Pacific (8 all-time)
 8   Xiangqi x2 NEW!
 7   BraveRats (9 all-time)
 7   KLASK x2 (7 all-time)
 7   Love Letter (6 all-time)
 7   Modern Art (3 all-time)
 7   Parade x3 NEW!
 7   Splendor (11 all-time)
 7   Tichu NEW!
 7   TransAmerica (8 all-time)
 6   Madeira NEW!
 6   Puerto Rico (2 all-time)

(Copied and pasted from here)

Xiangqi - 2 plays -  8 
First Published 762
Board Game: Xiangqi

I played Shogi for the first time last year. This year, I finally got around to Xianqi. It's pretty great, and I expect my rating to go up. Right now, I've only played twice. Both plays were with my 7 year old son!

The weirdest rule, and the one that leads to the most interesting change in play from either chess or shogi, is the "staredown" rule (I don't remember what it's actually called), in which the two "generals" are never allowed to look directly at one another across the board, leading to situations in which minor pieces can pin major ones, shaking up relative piece power. I find it fascinating.

I do admit that it's probably the weakest of the Chess-Shogi-Xiangqi family in that, right now, to me, it seems the least dynamic, with many pieces having extremely limited mobility. Still, I'm excited to keep exploring it.

Tichu - 1 play -  7 
First Published 1991
Board Game: Tichu

Jake taught Tichu at game night. I liked it a lot, but the two others at the table were not as impressed, which means that it's that much less likely to make a repeat appearance, though I think we can make it happen with others. Lining up exactly the right interested player count for what's not a "main event" sort of game isn't all that easy to do. But it definitely seems like the sort of game that rewards repeated play. Maybe I'll get a regular Tichu night going at home.

Parade - 3 plays -  7 
First Published 2007
Board Game: Parade

Parade is the opposite of Tichu in that it seems that everyone at game night appreciates it, meaning that it should continue to see regular play.

Madeira - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2013
Board Game: Madeira

Madeira is very good at being the sort of interconnected mechanisms game that it is, a sort of game that I like but don't love. The more distance that I have from this play, though, the more that I've just been focusing on the dice aspect that I didn't like! I wrote a little more about Madeira in this post.


I got in one play of Chess with my 7yo in addition to the Xiangqi plays. He's no prodigy. He plays exactly how you'd imagine a 7yo would play Chess. He's got a solid grasp of the rules, but has plenty of learning left to do in strategy and tactics. What makes playing with him great is how much he loves chess, the obvious joy he has while playing it. None of his older siblings ever got as excited about the game as he does.

We played back-to-back Knizias during a Tuesday night game night. Jake had been threatening to buy Modern Art for the past couple of months. I responded by repeatedly telling him how awful my last play of it was, then encouraging him to go ahead and buy a copy already so that we could have a miserable time together. I'm of course glad that he did. Even though I've been angry at the game for over a decade, I've always known deep down in my bowels (where all true gaming knowledge resides) that it's one of the Great Games.

This play of Modern Art, I think I mostly faked my way to victory, coming out on top only because I was more conservative overall in my buying while playing the bumbling art speculating fool (okay, maybe I fell naturally into this role). I may have been faking it to make it, but I wasn't faking my support of Rafael's art career. That man is going places. I'm glad to have been an early investor in his work before he made it big. Go Big Orange.

Tigris & Euphrates is always satisfying. This play was no exception. I decided about a month ago that I'm going to throw T&E in my bag every week for game night, suggesting it as an option. It's what Kevin does with Puerto Rico and Great Western Trail, always bringing those games while other newer games rotate in and out.

And, yes, that was a natural segue, because after a year and a half of playing games with Kevin, I finally broke down and said 'yes' to a PR session.

Previously, I had only played PR once. I didn't love it. I don't have a clear memory of why I didn't like it, just remembering that I found it tedious and ugly (in the sense of inelegant, I guess, not really having to do with the art so much as the play). I couldn't see the "drama" in it that I was looking for in multi-opponent games at the time (and still look for).

All of that background to say: I really enjoyed this play. I upped my rating to a '6' and could see it easily reaching a '7'. If I enjoy another play, then I think I would be "usually willing to play" after that. I still don't think I'd be requesting or suggesting it, but would be happy to play it as a compromise title.

I think that after all of these years of seeing so much Euro-bloat, PR felt fresher now, more clean and streamlined than so much that has come after it.

Finally, the last notable play of the month was Pax Pamir 2e (I'm kinda tired of adding that 2e, since this version of Pax Pamir just IS Pax Pamir to me, but I've got to respect the 1e enthusiasts). My 6th play, and the first play in which there were no new players and everyone at the table had about the same number of plays and experience. As I'd expected, like all great games PP2e really shines once everyone has fully internalized all of the rules. The game flies along, always engaging. I'm excited that at least a couple others in our group (George and Madden) both really love the game, so it's sure to see continued plays into the future. I don't even bring my copy anymore because Madden always brings his.

Other Stuff

It's been a little while since I've gone off-topic with non-boardgame-stuff. Well, by no one's request, here's the return of Other Stuff.


I've mostly been listening to older stuff, an eclectic mix, little bits of 70s, 90s, 00s, Waylon Jennings, Olivia Tremor Control, Six Organs of Admittance, Aesop Rock, Gza, Animal Collective.

I've listened to the new Nick Cave (& the Bad Seeds) album a couple of times, and it deserves more listens, but the best couple of new-to-me albums have been the new Kanye West album, Jesus is King (I'm in the minority that liked Ye and Kids See Ghosts and am generally pleased with the seemingly half-finished, unpolished trajectory), and a Willi Carlisle album from last year, To Tell You the Truth.


I celebrated Noirvember for the first time. You can read about it here:

I still need to get over there and finish up writing about the last week of the month, in which I did nothing but binge watch Ozark, a Netflix show that I'm not even sure that I'd recommend, but that I spent way too much time watching.

I think that I'm afraid to go back to the list because I think that hanibalicious will virtually beat me up for never getting around to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (for what it's worth, I've got a copy currently and hope to get to it this month, Denoirmber).

The highlight of the month was a re-watch of The Maltese Falcon. Some day I should write an essay on how much John Huston has meant to me over the decades. I love many individual films more than any film in his filmography, but his overall oeuvre is stronger than anyone else's, at least in the sense that it satisfies me exactly right more than anyone else's.

From gallery of trawlerman


I just haven't been reading much. Sigh. Too much time on BGG and binge-watching trashy TV in the free time that's not work and family time. I'm going to make reading a priority soon.

The only full book that I finished during the month was Two Gentleman of Verona, an early Shakespeare play that some consider to be his first. It's laugh-out-loud funny at times, and even though it's slight, it's slight in a good way. I think I might even like it more than some of the later comedies, which I'm hoping to re-read in the coming months.

I've also read a handful of poetry, some essays and articles, and skim-read the beginning of The Dark Side of the Enlightment and a few books on film noir. Scattershot reading. I've been slowly reading an introduction by Balzac to his own La Comédie humaine, some of which is great that I'd like to quote for the 2 of you who might care, but I'm feeling too lazy to find it, since, honestly, this post is over. Right. Now.

One More Thing

Based on what I know from the profiles of those who've interacted with me here, the majority (of the small handful) of you reading this are either West of the Mississippi or not in the U.S. at all. But if any of you do find yourselves at Pax Unplugged this weekend, send me a message. I'd be happy to underwhelm you with my live presence. Seriously, I'd love to play games with any of you and/or grab drinks somewhere in town. It'll be my first year at Unplugged. My only plans right now are to play as many new-to-me games as possible in the open gaming room, hang out in the indie RPG room a little bit, maybe play in a Tak tournament on Saturday, check out ALL the vendors without spending ANY money, and that's it. Should be pretty relaxed busyness.
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Thu Dec 5, 2019 12:15 am
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September '19

 9   Hole In The Sky NEW!
 8   Elements x2 NEW!
 8   Irish Gauge x3 NEW!
 8   KeyForge: Call of the Archons x2 (18 all-time)
 8   No Thanks! x2 (46 all-time)
 8   Northern Pacific x2 (6 all-time)
 8   Pax Pamir (Second Edition) x2 (4 all-time)
 8   Undaunted: Normandy NEW!
 7   Cyclades (2 all-time)
 7   Gùgōng NEW!
 7   Push It x17 NEW!
 7   Res Arcana x4 NEW!
 7   The Mind x2 (12 all-time)
 7   The Quacks of Quedlinburg NEW!
 7   Throw Throw Burrito Original Edition x3 NEW!
 6   CLACK! (8 all-time)
 6   Champions of Midgard NEW!
 6   Kleiner Spatz x2 (12 all-time)
 6   Marco Polo Expedition NEW!
 6   Meeple War NEW!
 6   Meow (17 all-time)
 6   My First Carcassonne (7 all-time)
 6   Patchwork (3 all-time)
 6   Tapestry NEW!
 6   Yogi x4 (12 all-time)
 6   Zimby Mojo (2 all-time)


DCC #086: Hole In The Sky was another excellent DCC funnel. My goal for next year is to move beyond Level 0 and run (and/or play) some higher level DCC.

Elements is a brilliant head-to-head microgame. I'm hoping to play it more soon.

Irish Gauge is a great twist on the rails cube "system." Surprisingly, I love the random draws for dividends, as it introduces some drama and uncertainty to what is usually a deterministic part of rail games. The simple point build system is nice. The ascending minimum auction bids give nice guidance to new players in what could otherwise be overwhelming. Happily, I played one of these sessions of Irish Gauge with my three teenage daughters. I came in 3rd place. :-)

Undaunted: Normandy is probably my Game of the Month. It's certainly the game that I most want to play again soon. The small decks mean that you'll always get back around to using the cards (that activate your squads on the board) soon enough, while the ability to craft your deck introduces further nice tension as you commit to certain units over others. I've only played the first scenario (and we even played a couple of things wrong despite the rules being so simple), but I'm looking forward to adding in more elements in the future scenarios.

[Another unfinished post from the beginning of the month.]
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Fri Oct 11, 2019 9:38 pm
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Aww, guts.

Board Game: Cockroach Poker Royal
Board Game: Scythe
Board Game: Loot
Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe
Board Game: Bullfrog Goldfield
Board Game: Pairs
Board Game: The Soo Line
Board Game: Zimby Mojo
Board Game: Pickomino

 8   Kakerlakenpoker Royal x2 NEW!
 8   Scythe (11 all-time)
 7   Loot NEW!
 7   The Great Zimbabwe NEW!
 6   Bullfrog Goldfield NEW!
 6   Pairs x11 (13 all-time)
 6   The Soo Line NEW!
 6   Zimby Mojo NEW!
 4   Pickomino NEW!

Only 9 games played. 7 of them new to me. It was a slow month. It wasn't a great month, but it was definitely an interesting month.

Previously played:

Scythe continues to be comfort food for me. I don't know if I'm really good at it, but I have won a lot. My strategy is always dependent on faction/set-up, but it's usually some variant of turtling for most of the game, spawning workers/max resources, attempting to get the bottom row actions as often as possible, building up an engine, then endgame forcing some combat. This admittedly kinda lame trajectory should not be as good as it is, but it gets me every time. It's just *nice* to try to get in that groove and build something up through so many microtransactions.

I wasn't all that impressed with Pairs when I first played it several years ago. But I think that I've finally found the perfect use for it, as a family game, with the Loser getting to do some unpopular chore in the house, something that no one wants to do, but that only takes a few minutes. I had a blast playing this with my kids. Lots of laughs. Good fun.

Kakerlakenpoker Royal is technically new to me, but, really, it's just regular Kakerlaken Poker with two special cards added into the mix. It was a great time at game night, reminding me that we've been a bit too serious lately. It's very good to get in some silliness like this in between and around the serious stuff.


I wrote it above. It has been an interesting month.

Loot was the most normal of the games played. It is very simple. I played one round with a lot of the kids (and my wife, which is always a win), then they played several more without me. Everyone had a lot of fun, and the kids have played this on their own without me since learning it, which means that it's definitely a keeper in the family collection.

The other new family/kid game was Pickomino, which I did not care for at all. I had fun playing it with my younger children, but it also dragged and felt like a chore. I was enjoying them enjoying it more than I was enjoying it myself. I won't play this again unless one of the kids specifically asks me to. I have seen them go on to play this on their own without me, so for now it's in the family collection, and I hope that the kids get plenty of plays out of it.

Probably my new-to-me Game of the Month is The Great Zimbabwe. It's laid out like an abstract, and even plays like one. None of the theme really matters. But the theme is there, and it is integrated in interesting ways, with the gods changing play significantly (at the cost of VPs!!!!). The way that players have to exploit the work of other players was not all that clear at first, but was obvious by the end of our first play. It's almost a game of trying not to do any work that you can have someone else do for you. The fluid VP target is really innovative. It shines here.

I don't think that I saw all of the potential of Bullfrog Goldfield. It's an 18xx-lite with a heaping dollop of randomness. From the logo on the box, I could tell that it was the same company that had done Bull Moose, which I had played recently, which also "suffered" from some crazy randomness. Realizing this connection actually made me like both games a little bit more and like the company a lot more. There is an obvious stamp to their games, a healthy dose of chaos reminding us that even when we make our best decisions, events are out of our puny hands. I do think that one of the reasons that I play board games is precisely to experience a little bit of control in a controlled environment, knowing that my moves matter, that I win or lose based on my own actions. But sometimes I do enjoy a game that comes along and says, "You know what? Great job running your business, but you're frakked anyhow because your boomin' mine unexpectedly went dry." I came in a close second in the game. I think that I might have liked it even a little bit more if my mine had exploded in my face at the end.

The Soo Line isn't so random. It almost feels like all that matters is the opening auction! Though that's not entirely fair. I made a few interesting decisions the first couple of turns. But then it happened that the turn order determined much of the rest. The person to my left passed first at least twice, and the person two spots to the left of me passed first at least once. So I was almost always going last, or next to last. I made the obvious decisions, the best ones that I could, but it wasn't enough. I guess that I could have passed to seize the initiative for the next turn, but that never seemed like the right thing to do. What irked me was that the person second to my left (yes, you, Jake) always benefitted from the person to the left of me passing (Madden!!!). I never got such a great 2nd spot benefit for doing nothing. This is the turn order problem that made me hate Railroad Tycoon (I think I still have it rated a 2). The AoS turn order auction rules really are the best. Any other sort of rules that allow you to skate along in a 2nd spot freebie just feels bleh to me. All of that complaining aside, I did like Soo Line and I will play it again.

Zimby Mojo really deserves to be my overall Game of the Month if only because it surprised me in being both more and less than I had hoped for.

I never seem to have the time to really deep dive into rules and set games up solo to learn them. I used to do that. I haven't done it in a while. I did re-read the rules before trying to teach it, but there are enough little not-quite-exception questions that it was still a bit of a pain. Overall, though, I think that it went pretty smoothly, considering.

In play, I tried to get in for a quick "steal the crown and get out based on charm and good looks." It didn't work. There was plenty of fighting. It outstayed its welcome just a little bit. There was a moment in which it seemed like the game might go on forever. 2 players wanted to call the game right there. John Madden argued passionately for continued play. I sided with him, as it is my general policy to never quit a game unless everyone at the table agrees to end it. He didn't want to end it. So we didn't. The game ended in a decisive victory the next round. So it didn't go on for even close to forever, despite what it had felt like the previous round. I had more fun than not, and I'd definitely play it again. I'm planning on playing it at my upcoming "Mancation," which ought to be an even better time, when the teenage boys dormant inside of us are let loose.

Really, I ended up loving this play of the game because John Madden loved it and argued for its merits when everyone else had given up on it. I don't know if Zimby Mojo will grow on me or not, but right now I'm ready to give it more chances, if for no other reason than to give John a break from learning any new Train games or midweight Euros (I wonder how he'll react to me trying to teach Irish Gauge on Tuesday night?!?). :-)



I listened to a lot of new music. Pop and indie stuff. Nothing highbrow.

2019 Serious Top 10 Contenders:

Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains
Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride
Bill Callahan - Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest

The Purple Mountains album has me feeling all of the emotions. Sometimes it makes me happy. Sometimes it makes me sad. Sometimes it makes me angry. Sometimes those feelings will fluctuate throughout a single song. It's probably my favorite album of 2019 right now.

I could never pass as a huge fan of Vampire Weekend, but they've always been on my radar, and I've always kinda liked what they do. This year's album, Father of the Bride, is just a joy to listen to so far (two listens), the only thing to really make we want to drop it all and dance.

Callahan's Shepherd is more comfort food than revelation. I want to like it more than I do. I think that it will grow on me with more listens, but there are no standout tracks right now (well, besides The Ballad of the Hulk, which appeals to me as a lifelong Hulk fan).

2019 Out of Contention (but often something worthwhile there just the same).
Hayes Carll - What It Is
Lil Nas X - 7 EP
Caroline Spence - Mint Condition
Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising
The National - I am Easy to Find
Little Simz - Grey Area
Thom Yorke - Anima
Billie Eilish - When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Daniel Norgren - Wooh Dang
Tyler, the Creator - Igor
Shannon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow

Older Stuff Re-Listened because I can:
Danzig - Danzig
Cocteau Twins - Head Over Heels
Cocteau Twins - Garlands
Peter Murphy - Bare-Boned and Sacred


Reading suffered in August.


Viewing also suffered in August. No real standouts, but I enjoyed a re-watch of Harold & Maude, an important film from my childhood, and I enjoyed the Aladdin re-make much more than I thought I would. (Confession: I've always hated Robin Williams in original Aladdin.)
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Mon Sep 2, 2019 1:17 am
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June '19 - "Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds / To blazon broad emongst her learned throng:" -ES

Board Game: Carcassonne
Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest
Board Game: Hnefatafl
Board Game: KeyForge: Call of the Archons
Board Game: Pax Pamir: Second Edition
Board Game: Bull Moose
Board Game: Chicago Express
Board Game: Hellapagos
Board Game: Ingenious: Travel Edition
Board Game: Northern Pacific
Board Game: Pipeline
Board Game: Saint Petersburg
Board Game: Splendor
Board Game: The Mind
Board Game: Trade on the Tigris
Board Game: CLACK!
Board Game: Kleiner Spatz
Board Game: Monster Chase
Board Game: Onitama
Board Game: Tiny Towns

 9   Carcassonne (22 all-time)
 8   1846: The Race for the Midwest NEW!
 8   Hnefatafl x3 (5 all-time)
 8   KeyForge: Call of the Archons (16 all-time)
 8   Pax Pamir (Second Edition) NEW!
 7   Bull Moose NEW!
 7   Chicago Express (4 all-time)
 7   Hellapagos (3 all-time)
 7   Ingenious: Travel Edition x2 (8 all-time)
 7   Northern Pacific x2 (4 all-time)
 7   Pipeline NEW!
 7   Saint Petersburg (7 all-time)
 7   Splendor (9 all-time)
 7   The Mind x2 (10 all-time)
 7   Trade on the Tigris NEW!
 6   CLACK! x7 NEW!
 6   Kleiner Spatz (10 all-time)
 6   Monster Chase x3 NEW!
 6   Onitama (7 all-time)
 6   Tiny Towns (2 all-time)

June was a very good month of gaming. I got in some extra family gaming with my kids while on vacation, I had a great time at Billapalooza, and Tuesday nights were very satisfying.

New-to-me games:

I played seven new games.

1846: The Race for the Midwest and Pax Pamir: Second Edition were very clearly the best of the bunch.

I'm very glad to have finally played my first 18xx game. I've known for over a decade that I really should play one, especially considering that I love Age of Steam, and that I've enjoyed every Winsome title that I've tried. And, because, trains. I'm still the boy who grew up in the house in front of the train station, who heard the trains coming and going throughout the night, who walked the tracks almost every day, and rode the trains. But of course those are the romantic associations with trains that the ruthless rail barons want us to have as they disrupt local communities with their "progress" as they line their pockets with cash gathered through the callous exploitation of a desperate workforce (yes, the other half of my romantic train ideas comes from hundreds of Westerns, in which the train guys aren't usually the good guys).

What does 1846 do that's so great? It's the sheer amount of interconnectedness between the players. What I do with my track inevitably affects what anyone else will do. Which shares I issue and when matters for everyone else. Which shares I buy and from whom makes a difference. When players buy trains matters. This web of "co-opetition" means always balancing what is in your own best interest while also caring very much about what is in the best interest of other players, because if you can jump in on their plans after they've done much of the work for you, well, ain't that nice?

My only complaint against 1846 is that it pushes the limits of what I'm willing to do for a game. I'm a Humanities guy. I'm the sort of person who scored perfect on verbal portions of tests while just doing "okay" on the maths portions. I like poetry. Accounting not so much. It's always been a bit of a surprise to me that I like any economic games at all. I'm slow at doing calculations and usually have to do them over and over again instead of being able to always hold values in my head. It would be interesting to poll regular 18xx players. I suspect that one will find more calculating types (engineers, programmers, accountants) in the overall fan base than one will find lovers, dreamers, and frogs. Come on, can you picture Kermit playing this game? And I'm not even Kermit. I'm more of a Fozzy.

(What kind of 18xx player interrupts his comments to post Muppet videos? This one does.)

The length of 1846 is also slightly an issue for me, only in that it limits how often I can get this played. Realistically, right now in my life, it's just harder to get longer games played. That's really just a minor gripe, though, because the game never felt like it was dragging, and it was consistently engaging.

So, my initial opinion on 1846 is very positive. I'm definitely willing to play it more often. We played it on a weeknight at the store and had to call the game because we ran out of time (the store was closing and kicking us out), but that was a first game of any sort of 18xx game for two of us and we also had taken the time for a full rules teach. I do think that it would be possible for us to finish on Tuesdays (which is 4.5 hours if we start right at 5 and go all the way to 9:30), but it's a tight fit, and my general preference for Tuesday nights is a 2-3 hour game followed by something short, followed by me going home early so that I can go to bed early so that I'm not cranky the next day when I don't get enough sleep.

Pax Pamir 2e has a similar web of interconnectedness, but there's also definitely more of a cuthroat "take-that" element to the game, which can be more or less appealing depending on what you like in a game.

I was already pretty much convinced after reading the rules that I would greatly enjoy the game. After one play, I was pretty much confirmed in that opinion, though my appreciation was somewhat mellowed by the fact that the other three players at the table were underwhelmed by the game. My own enthusiasm was a bit muted at the end of that play because of this, but even so I kept thinking about the game for the next 24 hours and found myself wanting to play it again soon.

I've already written about Pamir 2 a little bit, connecting its specific charms to elements of some of my favorite games. If somehow you're reading this, but haven't read that yet and you're interested, you can find it here:

The second tier of new-to-me games consists of Pipeline and Bull Moose.

I liked Pipeline a lot. I liked it enough to buy my own copy when I got an email from Capstone last week stating that there were still KS copies available. (I had also just sold some RPG books on ebay for a profit and felt flush with cash so made an impulse buy!)

Pipeline definitely fits into that medium to medium-heavy Euro zone. It also seems just a little meaner and more unforgiving than some others of the same weight, which had me. Time is tight, always marching on with each turn. There's never enough time to be as efficient as you'd like to be. There's some player interaction in the competition over resources. There never seems to be enough of anything. I do wonder why BGG users currently think that the game is best with 2. I played it once at 4 and thought that it played very well at that count.

We made a couple of rules mistakes, including one major one, but even with the mistake, I wanted to play the game again. Finding out the correct rules only reinforced for me that I want to play this more. The few things about the game that were bugging me disappeared.

I wasn't really expecting to like the game. I had seen the Kickstarter and heard some buzz, and nothing about the game had grabbed me. I would have never played this if someone else hadn't bought a copy and suggested it. I need to get in more plays, but after 1 play, I think that Pipeline may be my favorite new medium to medium-heavy Euro-style game that I've played since Great Western Trail. It could still disappoint me and maybe I'll get tired of it, but right now I'm excited to play it again and expect my rating to go up if I keep wanting to play it more.

Then, there's Bull Moose. Bull Moose is an Odd Duck. It's got an Ameritrash sentiment to it, but you're placing cubes in regions as if you're playing an area control Euro, and those cubes come out on the board as a result of CDG-style card play. It's a fun and tense game of maneuvering around your opponents to gain influence while negating theirs. Then, at the end, the game's winner is determined by drawing cubes from a cup. I'm not even joking. It's a bit more complicated than that, in that there are ways to increase your odds of having a good draw in these final moments, but really it comes down to that final draw. In a 5 player game, at least 3 of us could have won the game if those random draws had swung differently than they had. Yet the game was still very satisfying and I'd be happy to play it again. It was probably the most straight-up fun I had playing a game all month. Thanks, Bill.

Finally, there's Trade on the Tigris, which doesn't feel new to me because I had played a nearly finished prototype of it already at NBW in 2017. There weren't really any changes (besides the significant cosmetic upgrade) that I could tell between the game I played and this final version. Trade on the Tigris can be pretty lucky in the card draw, but that doesn't matter because the trading works and that's the heart of this game. It's not a serious game. Probably the best moments of the game are in the satisfaction of sticking someone else with a bad card. So played in the right spirit, this one is a fun one.

Also new to me were CLACK! and Monster Chase, both of which are excellent as children's games, but not so interesting apart from playing with young children.


Game Purchases

Monster Chase
I bought both of those for my son's birthday.

Vikings: Scourge of the North
Hawaii 1795: Kamehameha's War of Unification
Two Decision Games micro-games. Pretty much an impulse buy. Shame on me.

I had already played Pipeline so knew what I was getting. I think that my oldest daughter will like it. Maybe. Bus was a stupid splurge. I preordered the limited edition. My only justification is that I'm fairly confident that if I don't like it, I'm sure that I can sell it for what I spent on it, if not more.



I bought a new turntable after not having a working one for years. So I've been listening to a lot of older stuff.

It had been a long time since I had listened to Robyn Hitchcock's I Often Dream of Trains. Hitchcock isn't quite to my tastes anymore, but I've held onto this album for a long time. It always reminds me of a dead friend. I was also listening to Smiths albums this month, reminding me of another dead friend. Maybe that's why I wasn't in any rush to get the new record player. Musical memories.

The best thing I read this past month was R.A. Lafferty's The Flame is Green. My friend Daniel wrote a good review here.
I also found myself enjoying a Discworld novel, but maybe more on that in the future.

I've always been pretty mixed on the 70s. I don't like and/or am usually underwhelmed by a lot of the celebrated stuff by the Film Brats. I hate exploitation films (I haven't found any exceptions yet). When films were bad in the 70s, they just seemed extra bad (though I guess that the 80s did their worst to challenge this). All that said, some of my favorite films are from the 70s. Two of my favorite directors (both very different from each other), Andrei Tarkovsky and John Cassavetes, did their best work in the 70s. It also seems like I'm always finding a trickle of true gems from the decade, incredible films that have been largely forgotten.

Scarecrow is one of those gems. Starring Gene Hackman and Al Pacino near the beginnings of their careers. The film received an overwhelmingly positive critical reception at the time, but it did not connect with audiences, resulting in it being forgotten at best, purposely buried at worst. It had been very difficult to find for many years, but it's now available through Warner Archive and easy to find in whatever format you prefer.

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Tue Jul 2, 2019 12:38 am
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May '19 Review

I'm behind on doing one of these monthly recaps. Here's what I wrote for the Deep Cuts guild:

 9   No Thanks! x2 (44 all-time)
 8   Gizmos x3 NEW!
 8   Great Western Trail (10 all-time)
 7   Chicago Express (3 all-time)
 7   Desperados x3 NEW!
 7   Hellapagos x2 NEW!
 7   Tiny Towns NEW!
 6   Blue Lagoon NEW!
 6   Chronicle (2 all-time)
 6   Quo Vadis? NEW!
 6   Reiner Knizia's Decathlon x4 NEW!
 5   Age of War x2 NEW!
 5   Maus nach Haus x2 (12 all-time)
 4   Gold Digger NEW!

There isn't anything particularly "deep" on my list of plays for last month. And, no, I didn't get Time of Crisis played. :-(

Gizmos was the biggest surprise to me. I thought that I'd hate it, but it ended up really pleasing me. It's nothing but an efficiency engine building game with no direct player interaction, but it is quick and it is satisfying, and the marbles provide a nice tactile element.

Hellapagos is probably the other winner. It's a light party game and the best cooperative game I've ever played, because it's the only cooperative game I've ever played in which you can shoot another player in the face, eliminating them from the game!

I didn't love Tiny Towns, but I enjoyed it as a nice puzzle game, mostly because it plays so quickly. Like Gizmos, it seems to fit nicely into that 30m filler spot.

I played a handful of new-to-me Knizia games, bumping my total number of different Knizia games played into the 30s: Desperados, Blue Lagoon, Quo Vadis, Decathlon, Age of War, and Gold Digger.

Unfortunately, none of those really grabbed mme. I liked Desperados as a light family partnership game. Blue Lagoon frustrated me with its point salad and scorepad approach to scoring, a bit of inelegance from the usually elegant Knizia. Quo Vadis was neat, but also not as lively as a negotiation game should be. It seemed too abstract for a negotiation game. Decathlon was a silly diversion. I can see myself playing once a month as a fun activity, but it's not a serious game, and should be treated as the light dice game that it is. I've actually considered starting a geeklist hosting a recurring BGG Decathlon since no one is doing that right now. Age of War was too light, but my kids liked it. Gold Digger seemed to be way too heavily determined by luck of the draw, but my rating of it also suffers because I played it with adults and not with kids.

June goals:
I'd still like to get Time of Crisis played, but summer has arrived and I haven't felt like reading rules books and setting up games solo to learn rules. I got copies of German Railways, Taj Mahal, and Stephenson's Rocket in a trade and would like to see those get played. Maybe I'll try to get a wargame played. I've been itching for some hex and counter or area and block action lately.

One of the guys in the local game group has been asking for 1846 repeatedly, so that's a good possibility. But that would involve me buckling down and learning the rules well enough to teach them... but the sun is out and the birds are singing.... I don't know if I have the patience right now to do it...

-Shallow Summer Cat
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Wed Jun 5, 2019 4:13 am
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April '19 Review - "Already a nonchalant breed, silently emerging, appears on the streets," -WW

Games Played

 10   Tigris & Euphrates (16 all-time)
 9   KeyForge: Call of the Archons (15 all-time)
 9   Mutant Crawl Classics Role Playing Game NEW!
 9   Root (8 all-time)
 8   Scythe (9 all-time)
 8   Xcrawl NEW!
 7   Kanban: Driver's Edition NEW!
 7   Mombasa (2 all-time)
 7   Northern Pacific (2 all-time)
 6   Battleball (7 all-time)
 6   BraveRats x2 (6 all-time)
 6   Chronicle NEW!
 6   Meow x7 (16 all-time)
 6   Rhino Hero x2 (7 all-time)
 4   The Dragon & Flagon NEW!


I had meant to write up a separate post about Mepacon, but never got around to it.

The only board game I played while at Mepacon was The Dragon & Flagon. I had a good time, and was glad to get the chance to try the game, but I wouldn't play it again unless someone else was begging for it. The biggest problem with the game is that it takes longer than a bar fight to simulate a bar fight (the sort of criticism that I've heard of the game Gunslinger, and the same problem that I eventually had with Worthington's Cowboys game). What should be fast and wooly and wild becomes programmatic and highly procedural. The shifting and emerging "chaos" caused by the programmed movement doesn't amuse me here any more than it ever did in RoboRally. D&F is a good design, but it's not for me.

The big reason that I drove down to the con was to get a chance to play DCC-ish games with Brendan LaSalle.

Saturday morning, 9a-1p, was a session of Mutant Crawl Classics, an adventure that Brandon was playtesting called "Canyon City Rain."

I could recount the plot for you here, but you wouldn't find it all that compelling. I'll tell you that the most memorable moments were the player-driven ones. One sentient bush attempting a peace talk with another sentient bush. A character charging down a hill into combat only to stumble and roll further down the hill, becoming the laughingstock of the adventuring party. Following a mind map. Hurling rocks into combat. Stepping on giant faces. Negotiating through pantomime across a language/culture barrier. Just good times.

Saturday, 2p-6p, was a session of Xcrawl, Brendan's own baby. This newest version of XCrawl also used the DCC system, which was satisfying.

The Xcrawl setting is a ton of fun:
"In Xcrawl, the players are superstar athletes taking their chances in a live-on-pay-per-view death sport. It’s a modern-day world with a fantasy twist, and the game is simple: the Dungeon Judge, or DJ, creates an artificial dungeon under controlled – but lethal – conditions. He designs the maze, and stocks it with monsters, secret doors, magical traps, treasure and prizes. The players must go through the dungeon and fulfill whatever conditions the DJ puts forth in order to win."

This session of Xcrawl was a little less satisfying than the MCC session. It was another playtest (this time an adventure written by a friend of Brendan's) which had a couple of really great moments, but also had some snags, elements that didn't quite work for any of us as players. Still, it was fun, and these combined plays of MCC and XCrawl are among my favorite gaming moments of 2019 so far.


Tuesday nights continue to be my primary gaming fix. More often than not, I find something satisfying to play with people that I like. April was a good month.

We played a 6 player game of Scythe a couple of new players, which was probably a mistake, since the game dragged on longer than it should have, but it was still fun. The other John bought a copy of Rise of Fenris, so there will probably be much more Scythe this year.

This was my second play of Mombasa. It's a good game, and I'll play it whenever anyone wants to.

As expected, I liked Northern Pacific more with 5 than with 6. I'm excited to try it with 3 and 4.

This play was my first time playing Root with 6 players, so also my first time playing with the Lizards and the Otters. I played the Lizards. It took me a few turns to get a handle on what I should be doing with them, then I experienced a few turns during which my plans got shut down by the movement of other players. So it goes. The final turn was very close. It could have been anyone's game....except my Lizards, which weren't in the running. The Eyrie player took the win.

One of the newest members to our group has a taste for The Heavy. This was my first Vital game. I was not disappointed. I confess that I was turned off by the busyness of the board and the generally large amount of different tokens, the sorts of things that will sometimes turn me off to Euro games. Well, my fears were unfounded. All of those things were true (the busyness, crowdedness, etc), but the game played ever so smoothly. There were moving parts that I forgot about that affected my end score, but overall I wouldn't say that the rules were more complex than any other midweight Euro with an iconography learning curve. I actually think that it was easier to learn the "language" of the game here than in something like Great Western Trail. The decision space was comparable to the Pfister games that I've played, maybe deeper. I'm not sure. I'd definitely play it again.

Loser's Club

After missing a couple of sessions, I made it out to Mark's house for an evening of good food and good games.

I got in a great play of Tigris & Euphrates with Brice and Eric. Lots of conflict, lots of dramatic swings and reversals. The game was close, with me winning the tie breaker by a point.


At home, there wasn't much gaming, but what gaming that did happen with the kids was fun.

Rhino Hero

Of note here are the plays of Battleball and Chronicle.

I played Battleball with my 7yo son. This was the first time that I had played the game in 12 years. I had held onto it because I had great memories of playing it with my wife when it first came out, in my pre-BGG days. Battleball was significant for being a really fun game available in wide release through mainstream channels. It awakened in me a desire to get back into seeing what was happening in the hobby market, which led to discovering so many other games.

I played Chronicle with the five oldest children. It's a good design. I appreciated it, but it went a little bit longer than I would have liked, I think partially because of the higher (maximum) player count, and partly because I was playing with kids (the two youngest in particular) who were pretty new to trick taking games generally and were learning this new system in particular. So, I think that the game has potential, and I expect my rating to rise.

Favorite Game-Related Writing of the Month:

Blades in the Dark - A Minor Complication, Pt. 3 - Why our dumb, beautiful stories matter.

I used to think roleplaying games were a form of escape, an acquired entertainment taste that, despite its idiosyncrasies, served basically the same function as TV—a way to step outside yourself for a while before being sucked back into our everyday drudgery. Now, though, I think they serve a higher, more essential function, but this cognitive shift could only happen once I began rethinking the terms of my own failure.

Looking back at my Blades in the Dark group and our little three-month jaunt, I don’t think we told any sort of exceptional story. If I tried to recap the characters and the plot for someone else, it sure wouldn’t come out like a literary masterpiece—it would sound like blithering nonsense from a second-rate hack. But of course, that’s not the point. When I think on my time with Anatoly, Dr. Blebton Lucius Mooney, Orlan “Daddy” Skelkallan, Bogsworth Vein, Abbascu, Cass, and the other peripheral members of our badass gang, the Friends in the Dark, I think about the weird and beautiful alchemy that happens when you and your friends smash your brains together to come up with something that is only yours. A story that can’t be marketed, resold, submitted, evaluated, broadcast, or otherwise eaten up by the economic machinery that can feel like it is sucking us dry.
The whole thing is worth reading.



I've still been avoiding new stuff, mostly listening to Will Oldham's Merle Haggard cover album on repeat:


I was reading a lot, but not finishing a lot. My re-read of Lafferty's It's Down the Slippery Cellar Stairs was easily the book of the month. My bathroom reading has been the Goodman Games 2015 GenCon book, which I'd highly recommend for your bathroom, too, if you need a book in your bathroom, which of course you do.

Motion Pictures

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Wed May 1, 2019 10:53 am
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