John OwenUnited States
[I wrote most of this in bits and pieces last week. I've been meaning to come back and edit it for formatting, clarity, tagging games, etc., but I just haven't made the time and don't see myself doing it anytime soon. So I offer this rambling post here as is. Enjoy it, or don't, thanks for reading. A big thanks to Mark and Martin for their conversation that I'm responding to here.]
I wrote up thoughts on 2019 before 2019 was even over. Find them here.
Now, 3+ months later, I’m thinking about the year again since reading this geeklist (and then listening to the associated audio conversation). It’s a fun conversation between two people whose online personas are extremely likeable, with no doubt in my mind that their offline selves are just as likeable. They’ve both got great taste in games and have been important voices each in their own way in the “great conversation” surrounding board games and board game culture. It was pleasant to hear the two talking with each other. I’ll have to track down their earlier conversation from five years ago.
The geeklist (and more so the accompanying podcast episode) is a Year in Review personal awards style show, with both Mark and Martin picking their favorite games in several pre-selected categories.
After reading the list, but before listening to the audio, I reviewed my own data from the year and posted my own choices for each category as a comment on each geeklist item. But that was just a quick exercise to commit myself to coming back and writing more after actually listening to the whole episode. I've listened to the episode.
Here are my selections for each category with some interaction with the conversation as well. It's pretty 'rambly', at least doing a good job of reflecting that I wrote it in bits and pieces during the last couple of very busy days.
Favorite Boardgame you played in 2019
My pick: Pax Pamir 2e
It had to be Pax Pamir 2e. I've written about it before, a non-review, a post that I need to update with a new post because I'd choose a different 10 today.
Brief commentary on Mark’s and Martin’s picks:
I wonder if Babylonia would be on Martin’s 2019 list after more plays (and after his deep digging around with Laszlo). It gets a mention before any of the categories proper, but it sounds like Martin is still figuring out what he thinks of it back when this was recorded. It doesn’t get any love in any of the categories.
Martin’s picks for Favorite Game weren’t all that surprising as I had seen his list back whenever he had posted it. Senators is a game that I picked up largely because he championed it. It’s a great game. I’m glad that Mark brought up Modern Art and his problems with the game. I’ve got a serious love/hate relationship with Modern Art and am still unsure how I feel about many ‘fragile’ games. It does seem like Senators falls into this category, but is more constrained in the ways that Martin mentions.
Northern Pacific is a good game, but I’m not sure if I really think that it’s a great game. Maybe because it’s another ‘fragile’ game, so dependent on player choices. I’m just not sure that I can ever improve at the game. I feel like I’m as good at it now as I’ll ever be. It’s still fun
I was surprised by Mark’s pick of Wingspan. I haven’t played it so I can’t criticize it. The art looks lovely. The theme is fantastic. But everything that I’ve read and seen about the gameplay suggests that I’d find it okay, just fine, but not for me.
Favorite ‘complex’ card game (special powers)
My pick: Chronicle
I don't have a great pick for this category. I need to revisit Chronicle. I think that it's maybe even better than I remember it being. My plays were at the high end of the player count and I thought it was good. I'd like to try it with fewer.
Brief response to Mark and Martin.
I played Res Arcana a few times. It’s definitely a game in which I part ways with Martin. I’ve actually even come around to Demetri’s position, which I had at first thought was too negative. I enjoyed my plays of Res Arcana just fine. My biggest complaint with the game is something that Martin seems to like about it, that the game gives you cool cards to use, then encourages you to ignore them and not use the powers on the card in order to be more efficient.
I haven’t played Mark’s picks. But I have played Keyforge. It sounds like I like it a lot more than he did, though he does respect and like it.
Favorite ‘traditional’ card game (colours and numbers)
My pick: Elements
It's just simple and fun and I have good summer memories of playing this repeatedly outdoors with one of my daughters. Having played LLAMA more since the end of last year, my opinion of it has risen, so it maybe should be my pick, but it took me several months to see it that way.
I haven’t played The Crew. I was tempted to order the German edition late last year and early this year, but had heard pretty early that they were planning on upgrading the card quality in the English release so it was easier to wait. I’ll get my pre-ordered copy whenever my local game store re-opens.
Besides LLAMA, I haven’t played any of the other games mentioned by either of them. I enjoyed the shout out to the trick-taking guild. Hey, I’m a member there now!
Favorite party game
My Pick: Throw Throw Burrito
I've been wanting to buy Throw Throw since I bought it, but I waited to get through the winter because I was afraid of my children destroying the house with thrown burritos.
I haven’t played any of the games that Mark and Martin mention. I taught Stinker to my family and played an example round with them, so it feels like I’ve played it, but I haven’t truly played it. Still, I know my family likes it and it looks great.
Favorite solo game
My pick: Sprawlopolis
So, yeah, I agree with Martin’s pick. I also agree with both Mark and Martin in solitaire gaming not being my hobby. Though I did find it interesting that Mark said this, but then went on later to talk about his own solitaire wargaming. As someone who has played a few solitaire euro-style games and played a few wargames solitaire, I can confirm that there is a difference. The euro-style games tend to be about the puzzle. The wargames tend to be about the narrative. Both involve exploring different systems and strategies, but there is a definite difference in the feel, which probably has a lot to do with wargaming playing both sides (traditionally, before the recent rise of bots) while euro games are typically played for points against the game’s mechanisms.
My pick: Gettysburg
I’ve owned Time of Crisis unplayed for too long. I haven’t played any of the games mentioned besides Gettysburg. Mark does an excellent job describing how fresh and creative the game feels at the same time that it feels traditional and familiar.
Favorite digital game
I’ve got no pick and no real comments here. I don’t think I did any digital gaming in 2019 besides occasional chess.com games.
My pick: Bus
I need to write up some sort of update all-time list for 2020. Whenever I get around to it, Bus will be very high in the rankings. I've got a crush on it, but I also think it's only the beginning of a long relationship.
After listening, it sounds like Martin picked new-to-him games that were older while Mark picked games that he had played in the past that really shined for him for the first time here. I interpreted the category as Martin did and picked the Bus reprint. I hadn’t played it before 2019. But it was love at first play, or at least after a second play that confirmed that the first play wasn’t just a fluke. It’s become one of those games that just makes me want to throw away most of my other games so that I can spend more time playing Bus instead.
I don’t have anything to say about Mark’s and Martin’s picks.
My pick: Chartae
Knizia designed a micro masterpiece. I hope that this one gets more love as it becomes more widely available. I played this right before 2019 ended, so it didn’t get any love in my Year in Review post. But it should get more love.
I’m a fan of Air, Land, and Sea. Since I played it for the first time this year, it’s currently high on my 2020 new-to-me list.
I own a copy of Lincoln but haven’t played it yet. A local friend of mine ran the tournament at Prezcon this year and has played it a lot. It was first my schedule and then his schedule that has kept us from playing together so far (and now the world’s shut down). I also own an unplayed copy of War Chest. Undaunted: Normandy was a nice surprise last year. I haven’t been able to play more than the first intro scenario, so I’m not sure what I really think of it.
Favorite 6+ player
My pick: In Vino Morte
In Vino Morte is one of those brilliant designs that should become a folk game played across college campuses. I'm glad that the designer is known so we can credit him, but he created something that is larger than himself. May this simple game expand and conquer the social gaming world.
The only game mentioned that I’ve played is Northern Pacific and I just don’t like it at 6. Part of the reason I haven’t played it in a while is because I was always playing it at the higher player count range. It just felt like there was too little control at that number. I think I prefer it at 4.
My pick: Mutant Crawl Classics
I love the throwback to a variety of 80s fantasy styles. MCC takes the DCC aesthetic and mutates it to 100.
I haven’t played either Maskmen or Parks, but I can obviously look at the artwork here on the ‘geek. I think that the artwork is fine in each, but also just a bit too clean, safe, sterile, digital, for my tastes.
My pick: Push It disc
I guess I just wanted to give Push It some love.
Once again, I haven’t played the games mentioned, but the pictures and descriptions look cool.
Favorite production (anything from minis to box inserts!)
My pick: Irish Gauge
I could have picked Pax Pamir 2e, but I’d already picked it as my game of the year so wanted to give some love to Irish Gauge, that would have easily won in any year that Pax Pamir 2e didn’t exist. There have been very vocal complaints about the Irish Gauge production, so I probably have to defend my pick. Yes, there's a glue problem. Yes, there's a misprint on the dividend track. Yes, my personal pet peeve is that the train pieces are too small. But what Capstone did with Irish Gauge that is IMPORTANT was to make a train game that looks handsome on the shelf. The Ian O'Toole artwork/design is inviting. It's lovely. More importantly, the slim box size is the exact box size that Winsome Games have been waiting to be reprinted in. The Queen monster-sized boxes are monstrosities. The RGG Northen Pacific box is smaller, but somehow takes up more space on the shelf while being mostly air and unused space inside. The thing that proves my case is that RGG changed their own next production, the reprint of GM&O, to match the better Capstone box size instead of their own previous NP box size. And as far as the glue and misprint goes, I've never had anyone notice them until I pointed them out. Not a single person has refused to play because of them or said that they ruined their play experience. They're minor "blemishes" that I actually find kinda charming. I will support Capstone in every single new game in their Iron Rails series.
As for picks from the episode, I haven’t seen Yellow and Yangtze in person, but all of the photos look fantastic. I sorta regret not picking the game up. I need to play it and form my own opinion. I did follow it closely and read all of the reviews and comments. I'm hoping to get it in trade eventually.
Favorite theming (implies it was successful? Or including noble failures?)
My pick: Bull Moose
One of my best plays from last year was a play of Bull Moose in which everyone got very much into the character of the candidate they were playing. I think that the gameplay itself is good. There is a lot of 'take that' and luck involved, very much against pop BGG tastes, but the game is so brisk and breezy that I don't mind at all.
I haven’t played either of the episode picks. Sintra seems like a weird thematic pick, but Mark makes a decent case for it.
Favorite game that you absolutely loved but no one else you know did so you will keep it for years knowing you loved it so so much but will probably never ever play it again because no one else likes it that much and will probably not want to play it with you? (Aka The David)
My pick: Xiangqi
I can get my young son to play, but he's just no challenge. None of the local game group is interested in abstracts. Where is the local Xiangqi society? (It's not Xiangqi, but related, I've been considering starting a local chapter of the US Go Association and maybe host a monthly Go night at the library, hopefully finding someone else even more interested to take over and go to weekly sessions, which I just couldn't manage without giving up the current Tuesday n I night games group.)
Again, I haven’t played the picks, but I do own a copy of the new Grail Games reprint of Stephenson’s Rocket. Martin might find it amusing that I have set it up and read the rules twice and I just can’t bring myself to want to play the game. Even though Jake has repeatedly said that he’s interested to play it and asked to play it. I think that I need to just give the game to him and force him to teach it while I grudgingly play. :-)
My pick: Mancation
There’s crossover here because I played Quacks with premium bits while on Mancation. It was a nice experience.
My pick: Hole in the Sky
Any DCC is good DCC, but a Brendan LaSalle funnel means great DCC.
Last category and I once again do not have any experience with the games mentioned, but I’ve enjoyed listening to the entire conversation. Thanks, guys.
But now I will tell the lineage and the names of the heroes, and of the long sea-paths and the deeds
Just another bgg blog about playing games.
Archive for Ramblish
- [+] Dice rolls
This entire post is a self-indulgent look at how well I'm doing at each of the challenges that I set for myself for this year, all documented on this geeklist: https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/265599/trawlermans-person...
I've also linked all of the headers to the relevant items for all of those who've stumbled on this post who want to know the context:
Online pre-orders, either through KS or direct from publisher:
Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile
Ugly Christmas Sweaters
Ride the Rails
Online retail purchases:
Spies & Lies: A Stratego Story
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
The Fox in the Forest
The Fox in the Forest Duet
Acquired through trade:
13 small games, only 2 of which I've played so far.
-I'm already somewhat regretting Oath, not because I think that it will be a bad game (quite the opposite), but because I don't think that it'll be quite the right fit for me. The more I learn about it, the more I think that it probably won't get the repeated plays it deserves either at game night or at home.
-I'm definitely regretting Ugly Christmas Sweaters, though still hoping to be charmed by it. It was an impulse buy. I'm learning through play that I'd almost always rather play "classic" trick-taking games than modern takes on the genre.
-I'm still excited about Ride the Rails. I was just thinking yesterday that every game should come in the same sized box as Capstone's Bus or Irish Gauge (or a standard GMT box).
-Senators was a great purchase. No regrets.
-I haven't played Spies & Lies yet, but don't regret the purchase.
-I pre-ordered Gulf, Mobile, & Ohio and The Crew through my flgs to support them. It's a bit sad at the moment that my copy of The Crew arrived at the store after the shutdown, but I've got plenty of games to play and no complaints. I'm happy to support the store and am looking forward to their re-opening, even more so now that I know that a copy of The Crew is awaiting me when the re-opening happens! I'm still excited about The Crew in a way that I'm not excited about other new trick-takers, mostly because of the co-op nature of it. Usually that would be a turn-off, but I'm eagerly anticipating some great family gaming with this one.
-Fox in the Forest and Fox Duet were gifts for one of my daughters. We had a great afternoon playing Fox at a coffee shop the day before all restaurants were ordered to cease sit-in service. No regrets.
-I'm not sure about trades anymore. Part of me just doesn't want more unplayed games coming into the house, threatening me with their potential, but another part of me is still happy with this. Of the 13 new games that I got in the January trade, I've only played Potato Man and The Bottle Imp. Both of those are good games (Bottle Imp might be a great game), so maybe I'm happy with trades. It's a legitimate way for me to get games out of the house. I think that I just need to be more picky with what comes in, as several of these card games that I wanted in January just aren't even looking appealing to me now. Eh, I'll get him played or get rid of them.
I've done pretty bad at this one. In my defense, the majority of my gaming so far this year has been with my family. I just haven't been playing the games that they pre-selected. I think that this is mostly because they haven't been asking to play the games that they've pre-selected, but also probably because I'm always pushing new stuff, which lately has been trick-takers and Knizias. Still, all of the games on the pre-selected list are good games. I should make it a priority to play these games with the kids that picked them.
100 Plays of Circle the Wagons
Looking back, this was a silly thing to try to commit to. We haven't played CtW since that initial pleasant morning session. The truth is that I don't really care about CtW. Playing Sprawlopolis a few times also kinda killed CtW as it provides the same puzzle aspect without the fear of analysis paralysis slowing down the game for one's partner. The positive development here is that I've already played 20+ games with Abigail in the first part of 2020, which is probably more games played together than in the past few years combined.
"Just My Speed" 5x10 & 10x10
I'm slowly making progress on these. I fully expect to get the lighter 10x10 done even if it means swapping out some of the games on the list. So, no "hardcore". I'm cautiously optimistic about the 5x10 with more medium weight games that I love.
The Great Unplayed
I'm down to less than 70 unplayed games in the house. I know that that number is still larger than some people's large collections. Still, I'm happy with my progress. Less games coming in. More games played and purged. I don't know that I'll really have this number at 0 by the end of the year, but that's the goal. At some point, I think I'm going to finally be willing to just get rid of unplayed games still unplayed. I could make a point to play Hannibal (the poster child for this sort of game), but it's just not something I'm feeling at the moment. I could either convince one of my kids to give me a pity play or I could schedule with a local wargaming friend (though now that would be delayed to post viral crisis). Either way, I'm just not feeling it right now. Maybe in the future, once I've got this collection under control, I can buy it again and play it immediately upon purchase because that's where my priorities are at that point.
I made a little bit of progress with this, but I've mostly been disappointed with pyramids. I'll get back to it eventually. The Pyramid box set will probably always stay in my collection, if only to have all of those pyramids as options for pieces for whatever.
I've had a lot of fun with this one, spending quality time with my family.
Here's my current ranked list:
Tricks played so far in 2020, Ranked:
1. Hearts - 2 plays
2. Duck Soup - 6 plays
3. The Bottle Imp - 1 play
4. Knaves - 1 play
5. Spades - 1 play
6. Whist - 1 play
7. The Fox in the Forest - 2 plays (1 pre-2020 play)
8. Ziegen Kriegen - 1 play (12 pre-2020 plays)
9. Potato Man - 2 plays
What I think I've learned about myself is that I prefer Solo (not solitaire!), though I've also enjoyed partnerships, and I greatly prefer trick avoidance over other types of games. I've been really surprised by how much I've enjoyed my two plays of Hearts. Generally avoiding tricks, but also having the option to go all in to Shoot the Moon (which I've achieved once), is just a delight. The 'take that' of dumping the Queen of Spades on someone who can't avoid it is, you guessed it, a delight. I liked Spades, but my favorite part of it was going for Blind Nil bids (one of which I lost by one won trick, the other of which I achieved). I didn't care about the bidding, but it was interesting, and I could come around to liking it more. I think that various members in my family are split on which games they like more. Of the more modern trick taking games, I enjoyed my 1 play of The Bottle Imp, mostly because of the meanness involved in the 'take that' in the tricky business of avoiding the bottle, or worse, keeping it as long as possible, with the intent of dumping it on someone else at the last moment.
I've been reading Parlett's Penguin book, about 80 or so pages so far, all of the Bridge-Whist section and all of the Solo section. I doubt that I'll ever play Bridge. I get why people like it, but it strikes me as doing a similar thing to what Heavy Euros do, masking what is a simple design with an overlay of complex coding, with much of the difficulty of the game boiling down to learning a new language, then being able to 'speak' it correctly in playing out the game. In looking at geekbuddy ratings/comments, I had to smile when I read my friend N/A's comment: "Always seems like co-ordinated cheating. Why not drop the code and just say what you've got?"
That's all I've got for right now. I know that there's still almost a week left in March, but I was in the mood and had the time to write up this post today. I'll update if I give in to any buying temptations or play any more trick-taking games this weekend. Otherwise, the post stands pretty fine as a true enough quarterly review just as it is.
- [+] Dice rolls
What I remember:
As an adolescent, 1980s...
It's my father that I associate with card games. Also, my maternal grandfather. My fondest memory is of endless games of Uno during the days while on vacation in Florida (followed by rowdy evening plays of trivial pursuit in which the kids would "team up" with the adults). We also played a lot of Uno at home.
I just can't hate Uno after all of that play.
I also have a vivid memory of my father teaching us Rummy (and telling us youngsters why we should avoid rum and gin), but I don't remember actually playing a lot of rummy, so much as playing a lot of Rummikub, which replaced it in our house.
Beyond that, it was "kiddie stuff" most of the time with my younger sister (and also sometimes with parents and friends). War. Old Maid. Go Fish. More stuff like that that I've probably forgotten. The stupid clever feeling of tricking someone into playing "52 Pick-up".
As a teenager, 1990s...
Magic: The Gathering hit and became the obsession of many of us for a couple of years in the mid-90s. Looking back now, I'm glad to have found it when I did, before it became a "Pro" game and before sleeves became a requirement in any official play (truly crazy). I remember opening those first starter packs and playing out game after game with the worst deck with no synergies at all, having an awesome card that required a land card that wouldn't come for another 15 card draws or something. Whatever. It was an amazing feeling, of controlling this deck full of potential power. Back at the beginning, we always played for ante. We were young and stupid and having a blast. I played in multiplayer "Iron Man" formats in which we ripped up cards that left play, with the winner taking whatever cards managed to survive the game.
I tried a bunch of other CCGs, but the only other one that I played a lot was Wyvern. I have fond memories of it and would love to try it again now. I clearly remember giving away all of my MtG cards to a friend in '97. I have no idea what happened to my Wyvern cards.
I remember playing Lunch Money with friends, which was stupid "take that" fun at the time. And Groo: The Game, which we adored as Groo fans.
There was continued Uno playing on Florida vacations, but what I don't remember from this time is any games played with a traditional deck of playing cards (although part of this decade did see me and a few friends learning some card magic).
As a twentysomething, 2000s...
I don't remember any card games in the first half of the decade.
January 2006 was when I connected with other gamers in Buffalo. This meant learning all sorts of new board games. It also meant being introduced to new card games.
Confession: I've never played Poker. I vaguely know how to play. I'm somewhat confident that I know which hands beat which other hands, but I wouldn't bet my life (or even a dollar) on it.
Havoc: The Hundred Years War was my first real exposure to a "poker-style" game. It's been 13 years. I remember liking it. I'd like to try it again.
It was at this time that I was exposed to many of my favorite modern card games, all of which I own: Bohnanza, Lost Cities, Pick Picknic, You're Bluffing, Mamma Mia, Coloretto, 6 nimmt!, No Thanks!
A few of those are all-time favorites. All of them are solid games.
In 2008, I was introduced to two trick takers on the same day, Ziegen Kriegen and Too Many Cooks. I don't remember anything about Too Many Cooks. Ziegen Kriegen became an instant favorite.
As a thirtysomething, 2010s...
I mostly kept playing those games that I liked that I had discovered in the late 2000s, especially enjoying introducing them to my children as they grew old enough to play them.
But this was also the decade of Seiji Kanai for me. My kids love Love Letter. Our copy of BraveRats is in tatters. I like Chronicle and liked Cheaty Mages enough that I'm still considering picking up a copy.
Other card game hits for me, most of them discovered in the past few years, include: Hero Realms, The Mind, The Fox in the Forest, Parade, Abluxxen, Fantasy Realms, Pairs, Elements, Circle the Wagons, Fast Forward: Fear, Absolutely Aces, Tichu.
I'm still not a card play expert, but I've played enough to know that I like card games. I want to dig deeper.
And I've played just a few trick takers, but enough to know that I'm very interested in trying more out. This is spurred on by the fact that a bunch of people I like here on the 'geek are really into trick takers.
An advanced search on BGG for trick taking games that I've played reveals this meager list:
Frank's Zoo (1999)(It's been over a decade since I played this so I'm not sure, but I'm crossing it off this list because I think it's more "climbing game" than trick taker)
Five Cucumbers (2013)
The Fox in the Forest (2017)
Too Many Cooks (2002)
Ziegen Kriegen (2007)
This is my experience with trick taking games. Six games.
As noted above, I played Ziegen Kriegen and Too Many Cooks on the same day in April, 2008. Perhaps unfairly, I never played Too Many Cooks again. Ziegen Kriegen has become a favorite that will never leave my collection, but it's only been played 12 times in 10+ years.
Chronicle was played twice this year, once with my family and once at game night. I liked it a lot and can see further plays happening.
Fox in the Forest was played once in '18 with my friend Parthe. I liked it. I didn't love it. That was the morning after we played Five Cucumbers, which none of us really cared for. It was a big disappointment.
Sticheln was played once in '16 with Yams and Mike and a friend of theirs at Hoptron in Patchogue. I remember having fun, but I also remember that the friend was having trouble with the rules. I never returned to it.
As a fortysomething, 2020s...
That's it. I know that I do like card games. I'm pretty sure that I like trick taking games. I'm at the point where I'd consider myself some sort of "trick taking fan" but also still feel overwhelmingly inexperienced. I'd like to explore the genre more, but also don't want to keep playing modern riffs without having some sort of introduction to the best of what has come before that laid the foundation for these modern riffs.
And that's why I asked for help in the Deep Cuts guild (one of my favorite corners of the 'geek; it should be one of yours too).
Check out all of the excellent suggestions in the comments here:
Request - Deep Cats Trick Taker Primer
Seriously, the suggestions there are incredible. I'm excited to have an entirely new aspect of gaming open up to me.
If you've made it this far, it's probably because I tagged a game you love, which brought you here, and you're waiting for some sort of payoff. That Deep Cuts link to the excellent content provided by others was the payoff. Everything following is more rambling. But maybe you're a regular reader of my ramblings (thank you). If you're a regular reader, you probably know that I've struggled with finding a balance between playing the games that I know and love and playing new stuff.
It's tough, right?
I could have played no new games in 2019. But then I would have missed out on Pax Pamir 2e, Bus, and Irish Gauge, all of which have become all-time favorites that I believe will settle someplace in any Top 20 (possibly Top 10) that I make in the future. Finding new Great Games is probably the only argument for continuing to wade through the CotN sewer system.
(In '96, our LI cable company picked up MuchMusic for some reason. My friend Garrett watched a lifetime of bad music videos in the hopes of finding something great. This song, a MM find in '96, always reminds me of the search for gems in any trash heap.)
So, I would have missed a few gems and a handful of nice rocks. But I also would have missed out on the dozens of games that I didn't care about enough to play more than once, the constant rules learning, and the cost of the games that I purchased myself. Maybe that trade-off would be worth it.
I've been culling my collection for a decade now. The true crazy purchasing period probably lasted from about 2006-2011. Since then, I've still purchased too much, but there has been a slow refinement and understanding of what type of gamer I am, what type of games I really like, and, maybe most importantly, what type of games will actually get played in my personal life setting.
I've given away over a hundred games in the past couple of years. I've sold and traded others. I've continued to accumulate more. :-(
I've already made a "mindful spending" plan for 2019. I think I'm in a good mental space for tackling this properly.
I'm also determined to either play or get rid of all of the unplayed games I own. Yes, I've wanted to play Paths of Glory and Hannibal for a long time now, but do I really have a place in my life right now for 5+ hour 2-player wargames? I already know the answer to that question. I also know my own tastes well enough right now to suspect that I'll like both of these games, but not love them. The part of me that still wants to play them isn't looking for love, but another notch on the club, to be able to say that I've played something, but knowing that there's no way that I'm going to give either the repeated plays to really start to know the games beyond the superficial "having played once" level. Is this me giving myself permission to just let these go? I hope so.
Can I be disciplined enough to just let go of these games *gasp* unplayed?
All of these thoughts are related to Demetri's Cardboard Diogenes Club, of which I'm not a member, and wouldn't be, even if they changed their membership rules to let me in.
I am a member of the BGG Minimalist Guild, which I guess is close to a Diogenes Club (with less public defecation).
I've felt shame that my "K-Index" isn't anywhere close to being out of the negative. And my H-Index largely consists of quick-playing games that I haven't played in a long time.
So, I'm taking steps to get to some sort of balance. A perfectly curated "minimal" personal collection that "brings me joy" (Kondo might be all sorts of crazy, but *joy sparks* are real). But I'm still allowed to buy stuff within the limits of what I already know about myself. This includes the limits of time and place that I find myself in. Yes, I really enjoyed that ONE PLAY of 1846, but that does not mean that I need to buy ten 18xx titles this year. I did only play it ONCE. I'm still not even sure that 18xx is for me. Instead of buying more 18xx, I've already gone ahead and scheduled another session of '46 for later this month (and hopefully more throughout this year). If our group continues to enjoy '46, then maybe, maybe, maybe, it might make sense to buy a different 18xx title. Then again, and this is a real shocker, it might just make sense to keep playing '46 more and never even wade any further into those trainyards of yesteryear.
So, in 2020, I'll keep playing the games I love. I'll keep trying new games, but I won't be buying too many new games. I'll keep playing "heavy stuff" that Jake brings to game night. Maybe I'll become a Lacerda convert (doubtful). I'll keep playing new midweight Euros that Kevin brings. But the new stuff that I play at home and that I bring to game night will be the unplayed stuff in my basement or the few new releases that I do allow myself to buy because I'm actually excited about them and will play them as soon as I buy them (Ride the Rails, Oath, etc.).
All of which brings me back to card games, and particularly trick taking games.
Bootleby's blog is one of my favorites. Besides tipping his hat at the occasional train game, we all know that his blog is really about Sheepshead, Piquet, Schnapsen, etc.
He's almost convinced me at times to give up on any kind of chasing of new board games, to just settle down to half a dozen chosen traditional card games. A couple of $5 decks of cards will provide enough gaming satisfaction for the entire year. If you wear a deck out, you buy a new $5 deck.
I'm almost convinced.
I want to be convinced.
And I want to be firm in that convinction.
I'm not there yet, but maybe I'm on the road there.
After reading through the responses on the Deep Cuts thread, I spent a lot of time looking through David Parlett's website. I don't know how I didn't know his name before right now. I guess I was vaguely aware of him. I at least knew of Hare & Tortoise. But I didn't really have any sense of Parlett. Now I do, and now I think his name should be as widely known in gaming circles as Reiner Knizia, Richard Garfield, etc.
I do already own a decent $5 deck of cards. I'm probably going to order a few more nice (though still very affordable, about $5/piece) German, Swiss, French decks from TaroBear's Lair. It's possible that this is just my skuzzy self finding a way to buy new stuff when I've committed to not buying stuff, but I hope that it's really my better self making a small investment in actually buying less in the future.
I'm going to pick half a dozen card games from the recommendations in that Deep Cuts thread, introduce them to my family, and get them played often. I encourage you all to do the same.
(me, about 100 pounds thinner, striking my best wannabe Diogenes pose, deck of cards hiding behind my bum, waiting for friends to come over and play)
- [+] Dice rolls
Indonesia has probably done more harm to my lungs than any other country on earth.
The first thing that I ever smoked was an unfiltered Djarum clove cigarette. It's only been downhill since then. I've developed a love/hate relationship with tobacco. I would love to talk to any of you about dozens of varieties of pipe tobacco. I'd love to talk with you about hand-rolled latakia cigarettes, snuff, chew, and high-end cigars. It's unpopular to be a tobacco lover today. I'm a tobacco lover, even though I'm supposed to be quit (so what if I smoked too many American Spirits on Mancation and am now struggling in finding some sort of cigarette-free balance).
But I digress.
Indonesia. I'm supposed to be focusing on the Splotter game.
I played it for the first time this week.
You know what? It is a great game.
But I didn't like it.
It could have been twenty different reasons why I didn't like it.
I didn't sleep well the night before.
I was grumpy about other things.
My lunch didn't settle well.
Plus seventeen more excuses.
The fact is that I didn't "have fun" while playing it.
First things first, I ought to admit that I played poorly. 4 out of the 5 of us were new to the game. It's likely that we all played pretty poorly. There were also a couple of rules gaffs. But, yeah, I played poorly. Part of it was the weird way that we had laid out cities, but it resulted in one part of the board being immediately more valuable than any other part of the board. I undervalued the initial bid, going last, and getting stuck with real estate far from any action, effectively losing a few turns of building any sort of engine. I was making no money.
So, I played poorly from the first turn. I was punished for that for the next 3+ hours.
Fine. So be it. I think that I was a good sport. I knew what I was in for and I played it out. But I think that I'm fundamentally opposed to such games. I don't mind games in which you can screw up any chance of winning on the first turn. What I don't like is when those games then last another 3+ hours. In a 2 player game, one player could just call it, all is good, reset, play again. In a 3+ player game, that just doesn't happen. The fall-behinds are stuck in it to the end. I've found this first turn problem true of rail cubes games, but I don't mind it there because the games last less than an hour. My biggest problem with Indonesia is its length.
Beyond that, my problem with the game is that there is no drama. There is no narrative arc. If I'm going to be spending 4 hours on a game, why am I not just playing a DCC funnel? The only time I laughed when I played Indonesia was when Oksana pointed out how pained my own face looked to her. After that, the most exciting moment of the game was when Madden and I realized that we were only 4 bucks away from each other for losing place. Not every game needs to make me laugh or have some great narrative arc, but I think I do need those things if I'm going to sit in the same spot for so long.
So why do I love Age of Steam when I'm crapping on Indonesia? Well, to be honest, I think that the train theme helps a lot. I love trains. I don't care what I'm shipping as long as I'm doing it on a railroad. Spices and rices and fajitas? Meh.
[I wrote all of the above ten days ago and never came back to it to finish it. I'm posting it now as-is, with an unfinished attempt at comparing AoS to Indonesia, because otherwise I'd just delete it and never post it. Since I already told Jake I wrote it, I figured I may as well post.]
- [+] Dice rolls
I have logged 134 plays of 33 unique Knizia designs. That's not a lot by the standards of the most ardent Kniziaphiles, but I figure that it's enough for me to have graduated from Neophyte to low-level Acolyte. You can argue with me, you can definitely berate me for not being worthy, but I'm definitely in the Knizia Kult, and I'm not going anywhere.
Here are some thoughts on the games that I've played:
Tigris & Euphrates (1997)
# of plays: 16
First play: 2006-05-17
Last play: 2019-04-26
I'm convinced that Tigris & Euphrates is one of the greatest games of all time. The play rewards skill, but there can be so much direct (and indirect) conflict that it often feels like the skill needed is something like surfing a chaos wave. You want to stay on and pull off that perfect ride, but it always feels like you might lose the board from under you!
Lost Cities (1999)
# of plays: 13 (always play 3 rounds, total score)
First play: 2006-01-03
Last play: 2015-10-18
Through the Desert (1998)
# of plays: 12
First play: 2006-01-12
Last play: 2018-06-16
Lord of the Rings (2003)
# of plays: 8
First play: 2008-04-26
Last play: 2016-11-19
I recently posted about the difference between a '7' and an '8' rating. I do think that that's the huge dividing line. The line between '8' and '9' seems fuzzier. Lost Cities was a '9' for a long time. It's dropped simply because it hasn't been played recently. Same with Through the Desert. When TtD got played last year, I wasn't excited about it mostly because the other players weren't as excited about it. I still love the game, but I think that it's a bit out of step with what other gamers want right now.
Lost Cities was the first game that I logged a play of on BGG, January 3rd, 2006, after having been on the site for a couple of months. I'd have a soft spot for it even if it were a terrible game, which it most certainly is not!
I purchased T&E, Through the Desert, and Lost Cities in early December '05 through Thought Hammer, one of my earliest "modern games" orders from an online retailer. (That order also included Gulo Gulo, Hammer of the Scots, and Bohnanza, all of which have followed me through several moves and are still in my house to this day, with HotS being an all-time favorite; the order also contained War of the Ring, which I sold or traded unplayed, and Pass the Pigs, the pigs of which have long since run away. All things considered, this was probably my best games order ever in terms of Hits to Misses!)
Lost Cities has delicious tension, featuring sometimes agonizing decisions in such a simple little design space.
Through the Desert is a rare 3+ abstract game that plays really well at every player count. Plus it has cute pastel camels.
Lord of the Rings is the perfect "Overland Adventure Game." It's a luckfest. It even has a spinner!!!! Thematically, it doesn't make any sense that the different hobbits are competing with one another and actively trying to stop the others winning. Sure, the co-op makes more sense, but this one is soooo much more fun, pretty much the perfect kid game.
Ingenious: Travel Edition (2006)
# of plays: 8
First play: 2007-12-09
Last play: 2019-06-06
# of plays: 6
First play: 2006-12-14
Last play: 2015-12-11
Schotten Totten (1999)
# of plays: 2
First play: 2016-10-11
Last play: 2016-10-11
Medici vs Strozzi (2006)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2018-04-06
Last play: 2018-04-06
Times Square (2006)
# of plays: 4
First play: 2018-04-06
Last play: 2018-04-06
Cheeky Monkey (2007)
# of plays: 9
First play: 2008-04-07
Last play: 2018-03-05
The Quest for El Dorado (2017)
# of plays: 2
First play: 2018-03-12
Last play: 2018-07-21
# of plays: 3
First play: 2006-05-27
Last play: 2017-12-22
# of plays: 1
First play: 2019-08-18
Last play: 2019-08-18
# of plays: 2
First play: 2019-05-05
Last play: 2019-05-05
Blue Moon City (2006)
# of plays: 5
First play: 2006-10-19
Last play: 2007-12-27
# of plays: 1
First play: 2007-08-23
Last play: 2007-08-23
Most Knizia games fall into this category for me. Solidly Good games that I enjoy playing, but that I haven't felt the need to push on other people to play. That said, I can see any of these moving up to an '8' given more plays.
I really like Ingenious (and prefer Travel as a 2-player option) as a relaxing game. Schotten Totten is a game that I really need to try again as I think that it has the potential to reach Lost Cities heights. The two times that I played it with my wife, I stupidly messed up the special power cards rules. I need to try it again without those cards in the mix at all.
I played Medici v Strozzi and Times Square with Matt (user=Pintsizepete; how does one insert a BGG user avatar into a post? that seems like something I should know how to do!) on a Friday night, which was a blast, and something that we should do again. One is a 2-player auction game, something which shouldn't work, but does work perfectly. The other is a marvelous push and pull dueling game, which I now like better than Duell (see below).
Cheeky Monkey is one of the best simple push-your-luck games that I've played, and push-your-luck style games should be simple.
The Quest for El Dorado is better than most deck-builders and better than most race games. I'd never say 'no' to it, but I did give away my copy because I found that I just wasn't itching to play it at all. Medici might be my favorite auction game, and I love that it works so well at 6, which is sometimes a tough player count to fill with a serious game. I think that it's just a little bit too crunchy/fiddly in the board aspect, which is what keeps me from bringing it out as often as I would otherwise.
Loot and Desperados were both a ton of fun to play as family games. They would probably both have suffered in the ratings if I had first played them with serious gamers instead. Silly, but true. Since they got played first with family, they're keepers. I only played Loot once when I taught my kids, and they've gone on to play it a lot without me, which is always good to see.
Blue Moon City was probably my favorite light game of 2007. It was our go-to agreed-upon game when no one could decide what to play at Mark's game nights (username bob_the_goon; how do you do that inline avatar thing?).
It's weird that I don't really remember much about Ra besides that I had a pretty good time. Someone please invite me over to play it again!
# of plays: 8
First play: 2006-07-28
Last play: 2013-11-29
Looting London (2008)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2009-02-07
Last play: 2009-02-07
Blue Lagoon (2018)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2019-05-28
Last play: 2019-05-28
Quo Vadis? (1999)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2019-05-07
Last play: 2019-05-07
Reiner Knizia's Decathlon (2003)
# of plays: 4
First play: 2019-05-23
Last play: 2019-05-23
# of plays: 1
First play: 2016-10-21
Last play: 2016-10-21
Most of these fall into the "one and done" category. Play once, not impressed, meh, not so excited, but I'd like to try again to see what I'm missing.
The exception here is Duell, which is a game that I loved, and which I still remember fondly, to the point that I've almost bought it again. It was a favorite over a decade+ ago, but I played it again in '13 and was underwhelmed, so got rid of it. Now, looking back, I'm regretting that, and wonder why I really dropped my rating. Maybe I was just having a cranky day and hated everything that day!
I have no memory of Looting London (I do remember the guys from Maryland that I played it with at NBW, but I don't remember anything about the game itself!). Blue Lagoon was a horrible disappointment. I enjoyed the play, but hated the point salad scoring complete with scorepad. Ugh. Quo Vadis was good, but suffered from one player who didn't understand the relative value of things, so kinda wrecked the game (in my favor) which always sours me a little bit. That and the drab design just made it so that I didn't really want to play the game again. I traded away both Blue Lagoon and Quo Vadis. Probably unfair, as I should have given each a few more plays, but the truth is that I didn't want to play them, and even now I think I may have been too generous with a '6' rating.
I need to play Qin again. I remember liking it, but not feeling any need to rush out and buy it or play it again.
Blue Moon (2004)
# of plays: 4
First play: 2006-10-05
Last play: 2013-08-19
# of plays: 3
First play: 2006-05-03
Last play: 2018-04-09
Too Many Cooks (2002)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2008-04-11
Last play: 2008-04-11
Age of War (2014)
# of plays: 2
First play: 2019-05-23
Last play: 2019-05-23
Tower of Babel (2005)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2006-04-12
Last play: 2006-04-12
Blue Moon and Samurai are both favorites of friends and fellow Knizia admirers. I want to like them more than I do. I want to be astounded by them. But Blue Moon always underwhelms me by not being a Richard Garfield game, and Samurai usually disappoints by just not being Through the Desert. Completely unfair, but I can't help it.
I don't remember anything about Too Many Cooks besides that Jenna taught it to me at The Gathering (the only year that I went), which was overall an extremely positive experience. I'm sure that I was being unfair to Cooks. I know that I was harsher on more traditional card games at the time. Looking at this one now, I'd love to try it with my kids.
Age of War went over well with my children, but it's really just a dice rolling luckfest, fine to pass the time, but nothing special.
I don't remember much about Tower of Babel besides that Joe taught it (and again I would tag Joe and Jenna, and Ben, whom I haven't mentioned yet, but can't do it!). I actually played it the same night that I played LotR (see below). Joe was (and is, though i hardly ever see him!) one of my favorite people to play games with, and he introduced me to Age of Steam, so I can't begrudge him introducing me to a couple of so-so Knizias!
Lord of the Rings (2000)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2006-04-12
Last play: 2006-04-12
Modern Art (2017)
# of plays: 2
First play: 2006-01-11
Last play: 2006-12-28
# of plays: 1
First play: 2019-08-14
Last play: 2019-08-14
Gold Digger (1990)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2019-05-14
Last play: 2019-05-14
Monkey Madness (2001)
# of plays: 6
First play: 2007-01-08
Last play: 2008-01-09
Mago Magino (2004)
# of plays: 2
First play: 2008-02-23
Last play: 2015-06-09
A '4' definitely seems harsh for any Knizia game. Just remember that a '4' means "but could play again." I want to be convinced that I'm wrong about these games. I'm waiting for the right person to come along and show me how terribly wrong I am.
Lord of the Rings was my first co-op experience and the game that convinced me that I hate co-ops (I've made my peace with a few of them since, but this is still generally true). It felt very mechanical at the time with the theme feeling like it was only there as much as you wanted it to be.
Modern Art might be my most controversial rating. The first time I played it, I thought that it was one of the greatest games of all time. The second time I played it, with a different group, I swore that I would never play it again. I hated it. I've found that I'm pretty sensitive to these fragile 'closed economy' games that depend on everyone at the table fully understanding what it going on at all times. All games are group-dependent, but these types of games seem to shine or suffer better/worse than others.
Pickomino is my most recently played Knizia. It was pretty disappointing. I had fun with my younger kids, but I don't want to play it again.
Gold Digger suffered from being played at game night. I still haven't played it at home.
Monkey Madness is a game that I sort of have a soft spot for and wish that I hadn't traded it away. There's really no game to it at all. No decisions. But it was great for very young children and it was stupid goofy fun for an adult if you're willing to submit to it.
Mago Magino is another one that I have a soft spot for, even though I don't want to actually play it again. It's still in the family collection. I feel like I've played it more than twice, but that could be because of times that I've watched the kids or helped with rules, but wasn't actually playing. It's a beautifully produced game and it does provide a specific sort of board game adventure. Getting turned into a frog feels appropriately terrible!
Unplayed Knizia Games on my Shelf of Shame:
Great Wall of China
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
Lost Cities: To Go
(Lots of good stuff on this shameful list. I'll get to it. I'll get to it.)
Okay, this is already a long post, but I just looked up how to do the avatar thing. Here are some of the people on BGG who have been important in playing Knizias with me over the years:Jenna Sunderlin(meej)United States
New Yorkmark campUnited States
Lesser Binghamton Area
New YorkBenjamin LainhartUnited States
Thanks to each of you!
And I just added some inline images to make this whole thing a little prettier. I'm done. Now it's your turn to tell me why my 4s should be 8s and 7s should be 5s and/or whatever. It is pretty great that we can all love Knizia and all have completely different favorite games!
- [+] Dice rolls
Here are the official BGG guidelines:Quote:Every registered user can rate any game in the BGG database. Although these ratings are entirely subjective, here are the suggested guidelines:So, what's the difference between 'Good' and 'Very Good' according to these guidelines? It's that tiny bit at the end: "and would suggest it."
10 - Outstanding - will always enjoy playing and expect this will never change.
9 - Excellent - always enjoy playing it
8 - Very good - enjoy playing and would suggest it.
7 - Good - usually willing to play.
6 - Ok - will play if in the mood.
5 - Average - Slightly boring, take it or leave it.
4 - Not so good - but could play again.
3 - Bad - likely won't play this again.
2 - Very bad - won't play ever again.
1 - Awful - defies game description.
That's huge. It's not even that you always enjoy playing the game. That's a '9' An '8' could be a game that you've had some miserable experiences with, yet you still mostly enjoy, and you doggedly still insist on suggesting that everyone play again.
I find this very helpful in trying to find a low end parameter for what games I should keep in my collection as I attempt to be ruthless in culling. If I wouldn't suggest the game, why should I hold onto it?
This has led me to re-evaluate many ratings (and I still need to continue the process), but three candidates in my collection were most obvious. In the past year, I purchased copies of Great Western Trail, Transatlantic, and Pipeline (the most recent acquisition), because I had played someone else's copy and had a great time. At game night, if they suggested the game, I'd be happy to go along with the suggestion. I thought for sure that I'd want to play the games at home, trying to get my older daughters to play (and they've been happy to try out any medium weight Euro in the past), but what happened was that these games just sat on the shelf instead. It turns out that given the option, I wouldn't "suggest" to play these games. I'd always choose others. The same is true of game nights. If it were up to me, I have suggested Age of Steam and Pax Pamir 2e and trying out new Knizias. I'm always happy to play Great Western Trail (and the others I mentioned above that I've played less), but it's not what I would suggest.
Objectively, these games are Very Good to Outstanding, but they don't need to be in my collection if the truth is that I'd always rather play Tigris & Euphrates and Tikal instead.
Back to my somewhat rhetorical question above: If I wouldn't suggest a game, why should I hold onto it? The biggest exception that I can see is someone holding onto a game for the sake of others. If your regular guests adore Splendor, then you should keep Splendor whether you would personally suggest it or not in any other context.
I've gotten around this exception by "giving away" all of my family games to my family. That may sound a little weird, and maybe it is, but basically I took all of "my" games (those rated 8 or higher) and put them on a dedicated shelf in my bedroom. I left all of the rest of the games in the main gaming closet (a beautiful standing wardrobe with shelves located in our living room) and told the kids that they are now responsible for all of them. I'd be okay with about 90% of that closet disappearing. It's kinda cheating because I get to keep the games without keeping the games (or get rid of the games without getting rid of the games, I guess), but the truth is that I always held onto those games for the kids. If the kids weren't in the house any longer, most of the games wouldn't be in the house any longer.
So, getting rid of that huge chunk of family games slims down my "core" collection a lot.
Before the end of the year, I'm sure that I'll have another list, some sort of "ESSENTIALS" list, maybe even with photos of my various collection spaces (the Core Games Shelf, the Family Games Wardrobe, and the Unplayed Shelf of Shame).
I'm enough of some sort of idealist minimalist that I'd like to be able to identify the core games (and core books and core films, etc..) that I would buy again if I lost everything, the core STUFF (and I love STUFF) that I would take with me in any move or any adventure in "Tiny Living" or whatever. I'm blessed to have a Big House and a Big Family, but that BIGNESS is another thing convincing me that STUFF doesn't matter (and again I repeat that I love STUFF).
Right now, the distinction between a '7' and an '8' is helping me distinguish between what I should and should not keep. If I'm going to suggest something, I should probably own a copy so that I can follow through on the suggestion. If I'm not going to suggest playing something, then why bother holding onto it?
I gave away dozens of games at the beginning of the year to a friend. I gave away dozens of games to local friends and strangers at Christmas time last year. I've dropped off games at the thrift store. But I've also been trading a lot more games to get new games, which kinda defeats the culling process (at least slows it down).
Here's the new stuff that I just received in a big trade:
The Creature That Ate Sheboygan
Battles of the Bulge: Celles
Great Wall of China
Lost Cities: To Go
Cosmic Encounter w/ Conflict, Dominion, Alliance, Incursion expansions
The nice things about new games is that they always start with an initial '8' baseline rating because if it's new-to-me and I'm interested in it, then I "would suggest it."
- [+] Dice rolls
26 Jun 2019
Long post. You've been warned.
I've always been a little bit envious of those who have found their game.
The Chess and Go players. The ASL players. The Magic and Warhammer players. The D&D and Powered by the Apocalypse players.
You know who they are. The people devoted to One Game. The people who meet regularly with other people to play their One Game.
They might dabble in other games, but their heart belongs to the One Game. The majority of whatever spare "hobby time" they have set apart is set apart to that One Game.
I don't have One Game.
If you're here on BGG, I suspect that you don't either.
I like learning new games with new rules. I am (perhaps cursed to be) always interested in the Next Game.
But I also do have definite tastes, my own tastes, that are not identical to the tastes of the gamers around me. One purpose of this ramblish post is to begin to attempt to identify just what sort of gamer I am with what sort of taste.
Can I sum up my tastes in one sentence?
I'll give it a go.
I love deep games with simple rules that provide for direct player interaction and reward repeated play.
This morning I worked my way through a "you can only keep ten games-- what are they?" exercise. I went with my gut.
Here's the list of Ten.
Magic: The Gathering
Dungeon Crawl Classics
Tigris & Euphrates
Age of Steam
What do all of these titles have in common?
That's right. Direct player interaction. Deep with simple rules. They encourage and reward repeated plays.
The 2 player games are obvious. Your moves in Shogi and Go directly influence my moves. Likewise with Magic and CC. The difference in the former two and the latter two is obviously the luck element. Shogi and Go are perfect information games with no luck element. Magic and CC both depend on the draw of the card. Because of this, there is uncertainty, which can create swinginess, but uncertainty is also the magic ingredient in great narrative moments, which the latter two provide in ways that the former do not. The key, though, is that what I do always affects what you do, and what you do always affects what I do. Sometimes I crave the Narrative, sometimes I don't need it at all, but I always want the direct player interaction.
Dungeon Crawl Classics majors in narrative swinginess, embracing both the messy chaos of player agency and the unbendable decision of the dice. Player choices matter. A lot. So do the dice rolls. A lot. Importantly, the game does not exist at all without high level player interaction.
Tigris & Euphrates is my favorite "German Game" (back when "Euros" were, wait for it..... Elegant), followed closely by Tikal. What do these games have in common? Player interaction. A shared board that players are creating and fighting over. T&E has that feeling of riding the chaos, surfing through other's actions, trying to survive into the future, not as any particular Civilization, but as the Spirit of Civ that can succeed through rises and falls and more rises and more falls. Tikal has a vicious opportunistic streak, as one acts to build and control something worthwhile, or maybe even better, muscle one's way into someone else's work and make it one's own, regardless of the feelings of the original occupant. It's all about maneuvering and counter-maneuvering. Direct interaction.
Blood Rage and Root are each variations of Dudes on a Map. Dudes on a Map pretty much means Direct Player Interaction. Your Dudes have something that I want. I send in my Dudes to try to take that something from you so that it's now mine. Root is better at the deliciously shifting emergent alliances. Blood Rage is better in its impressive Thereness. Maybe the miniatures shouldn't matter, but they do. The gameplay is strong. The Toy Factor is just as strong. Root is cute and aesthetically pleasing, but Vikings and Monsters win when I want to send in my toys to bash your toys. The interaction in the draft is more subtle than other direct player interaction, but the interaction is definitely there, and what was indirect and subtle in the draft becomes direct and explicit in the following turn.
Finally, Age of Steam. AoS is the outlier here, and I haven't played it enough to know if it's truly a favorite, though I have enjoyed each play. Maybe the main thing is that right now I want to spend a lot of time exploring it. But it's definitely the outlier. In all of the other games above, there are rules in place that allow me to use my pieces to harm your pieces. There are no rules in AoS for blowing up your opponents' trains or rail network. There's no way to steal their money. I admit it. There is no strict player interaction in the sense of destroying the opponent. But even so, AoS has some of the meanest, nastiest indirect player interaction possible. The auctions can be brutal. The track building can easily shut someone out of what they have been working on.
So, yeah. Direct player interaction. I love it.
But interaction isn't the only shared attribute of these games. Another one is a simple, elegant set of rules. CC probably has the most "fiddliness" in some little exceptions depending on scenario, but the core rules are fairly simple.
It's pretty obvious to me that I like games with a fairly low rules overhead, games in which the complexity emerges from the gameplay and not from conquering the rules. Each of these games demand MEANINGFUL decisions that matter Right Away, but also have lasting consequences into the future of that game play. Some choices are more important than others, but every choice always matters. This element distinguishes these games that I adore from simple "take-that" style games with obvious choices and dull gameplay.
Another common attribute is playtime. I do enjoy some long and epic games, but my normal time preference is between fifteen minutes and four hours, with an average of 1.5 to 2.5 really being the sweet spot for any game for me.
One last common attribute that I'll identify is that all of these games provide me with some sort of clear identity with pieces belonging to me that represent my control on the shared board and my influence over the board and over other players. (The one almost exception to this is DCC, which is "theater of the mind" with no real board or pieces except as occasional visual aids; but this being noted, it is very clear in everyone's shared "theater" that each player controls a distinct character -or group of characters- that takes up space and exerts real influence in its imagined world.)
The "Ten Games Exercise" was inspired by a thread on the BGG Minimalism Guild which was in turn inspired by geeklists of the same idea, which can chase their inspiration back to ancient campfire listmakers.
Ten games is too few for me. But, somewhat surprisingly to me right now, not by much. I could be very happy with only the above ten games and, importantly, willing opponents, even if it meant never playing another game besides these ever again in my lifetime, which it wouldn't. The biggest omission in the list is the lack of card games. If I could cheat and add a #11, it would be a deck of playing cards (If I could cheat further than that, it'd be a board game sized box full of several different types of decks).
What's my personal Minimalism Threshold, the cap on the collection that would be "Just Right"? I'm not sure, but I suspect that it's less than or around 50 games. When I made my Top 50 list earlier this year, I already knew that it included games that I could live without owning, games that I like but that I'm okay with the idea of never playing again. The 50 list had plenty of fluff in it. But I think that something like 20 or 30 would still be too few. I need a couple dozen spots for the heavy hitters, but I also need a couple dozen spots for filler card games and other important family games.
I currently own 180+ games (which number includes my kids' games, which I have mostly for them, not me). I'd like to get that number down below 100 by the end of the year. No more purchases. Cull more games. Play what I love.
Which brings me to the true topic of this post.
Pax Pamir 2nd Edition.
It's a new game. I shouldn't have bought a new game.
What's worse, I'm going to keep it. I should be culling games instead of keeping games. I should be playing games that I already love instead of chasing the Next Thing. And yet.....
I wrote all of the above as a sort of oblique defense of Pax Pamir 2e. Because I think I kinda love it.
I still need to explore it much more, but it seems to be the type of game that fits right in with all of the "keep only Ten" list of games above.
I haven't played PP 2-player yet, but I suspect that it will play well at 2. Like Shogi and Go, there is no luck involved. Like Magic and Combat Commander, there is the random input of the cards, in which you need to re-assess the board state and respond appropriately. There is also the similarity of building for card synergy and exploiting powerful card combinations. There isn't the freedom of improv of DCC, but there is a strong narrative that is developed in PP, which to a large extent is crafted entirely by player choices. Like T&E, the board state can change drastically from turn to turn. It's about anticipating and outmaneuvering other players, constantly reading the board state while also reading the mental state of the other players. Like Tikal, PP is about taking several turns of positioning for a decisive move that will lock in points for you alone. Short of that decisive move, it's at least about maximizing your own position while doing your best to harm your opponents. Like in Blood Rage, PP is about gaining cards that work well with other cards to execute a plan that affects the board state. Like Root, PP encourages emergent alliances, but only to a certain extent, with betrayal in the near future always a safe assumption. Like AoS, PP can be as much about blocking your opponents actions, with your optimal action sometimes being the slightly suboptimal action that hurts your opponent while doing something to help yourself.
I've only played Pax Pamir 2e once. That was just last night. I've been thinking about it ever since. Unfortunately, the regulars at my weekly gaming group didn't care for the game as much as I did. And they are the three guys in the group MOST likely to enjoy the game. So it goes.
The game doesn't stand a chance with too many others locally (with one exception, another local gaming friend that I'm currently trying to schedule a session of PP with; also, maybe it's weird, but I think that I may get the privilege of being the first dad to write a session report of playing Pax Pamir with his three teenage daughters if all goes well and work in the garden gets finished soon--it'll happen sooner or later, but the summer is tough).
So, that's it. I definitely haven't reviewed Pax Pamir 2e. I haven't really told you anything about it at all. What I have told you is that I like certain games and I like Pax Pamir 2e. Pax Pamir has a reputation as a "heavy game," which it is, but it's heavy in the same way that Tigris & Euphrates is heavy. It's not an efficiency exercise. It doesn't feel like work. Once you've got the rules down well after a couple of plays, it feels very much like a rowdy game that you can play with your friends while drinking beer (which is an important attribute that I enjoy in games that I didn't mention above)!
If you like any of the ten games that I've mentioned, give Pamir 2 a chance.
If you like direct player interaction, give Pamir 2 a chance.
If you like meaningful decisions, give Pamir 2 a chance.
If you don't mind the tactical nature of responding to a whirlwind of cascading chaos (such as the external conflicts in T&E), indeed if you actually enjoy it, give Pamir 2 a chance.
If you like a rich background setting and don't mind contributing some shape to a developing narrative, give Pamir 2 a chance. (It can be played abstractly without any attention to the theme, but the theme is perfectly achieved.)
If you like a simple set of rules which lead to complex game depth, give Pamir 2 a chance.
If you like emerging alliances or you just like screwing over your friends and gaming buddies, give Pamir 2 a chance.
Finally, and this is no small thing, if you appreciate a well-produced game, in which the components are lovely to look at and to handle, functional and beautiful, give Pamir 2 a chance.
After one play, Pax Pamir is not my One Game.
It didn't make its way into my "only Ten games to keep" list.
But, significantly, after only one play, it has wormed its way into my ongoing "50 to Keep List". It's not leaving my collection any time soon and I'm eager for repeated plays, soon and often.
It has all of the marks of a game that I'm likely to fall in love with.
I'm already falling for it.
- [+] Dice rolls