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Aug 2022 - "varied with a short triumph, at one time wrinkled with cunning, at another deadened with despondency, or by accident flushed with rage at the unskilled or unlucky play of a partner." -SJ

Board Game: Babylonia
From gallery of BoardGameGeek
From gallery of BoardGameGeek
Board Game: Great Plains
From gallery of BoardGameGeek
Board Game: Unpublished Prototype
Board Game: KeyForge: Call of the Archons
Board Game: Old Maid
Board Game: Tea for 2
Board Game: Disney's The Jungle Book 2 Animal Noises
Board Game: Go Fish
Board Game: Slap Jack
Board Game: Snap
Board Game: Whist
Board Game: Nein Nimmt!

 10   Babylonia x2 (36 all-time)
 8   Arm's Length NEW!
 8   Eat or Run NEW!
 8   Great Plains x4 (6 all-time)
 8   Short Zoot Suit NEW!
 7   KeyForge: Call of the Archons x2 (21 all-time)
 7   Old Maid (2 all-time)
 7   Tea for 2 (2 all-time)
 6   Disney's The Jungle Book 2 Animal Noises NEW!
 6   Go Fish (3 all-time)
 6   Slap Jack x2 NEW!
 6   Snap NEW!
 6   Whist (2 all-time)
 N/A   Nein Nimmt! (9 all-time)
 N/A   Unpublished Prototype x2 (18 all-time)

I know there's still something like 10 days left in the month, but it's unlikely that I'll play much in the next week. I wanted to get this post done and out there.


Below is a jumble of rambles scratched out at various times in the previous weeks, lightly edited recently, hopefully mostly coherent. Probably any sane blogger would have broken this up into multiple posts.


I made a geeklist earlier this month: Dessert Island. It's just another stupid Top X list with a twist.

I failed in my weak resolve to even temporarily leave BGG. I logged off for 3 days, logged back in for a few days, logged off for a couple of days, logged back in for a few days, etc. It's fine. I'll probably continue something like this, a weird sort of BGG intermittent fasting, two days on, three days off, or whatever. Instead of the drips and drabs, one returns to 70+ notifications, and it is much easier to repeatedly hit that "mark as read" and "unsubscribe" button and focus in on the posts that are really grabbing my attention.

Besides the geeklist, my minor BGG contribution recently was starting a conversation about climbing games in the trick-taking guild, which made clear how truly exciting the recent flurry of climbing designs is in the context of historically very few climbing games, with traditional games dominating in real play, and Tichu dominating the BGG nerd corner for a long time.

On to the main post. With photos!


I’m a sucker.

I had “extra” money in my PayPal account.

I had recently read Ender’s tribute to Will Roya, which got me looking on the PCD site again (yes, I have definitely been tempted in the past. Yes, this was always definitely Ender’s fault).

I was tempted specifically by the "Small Blind Pip Box Playing Card Subscription".

I already loved the idea of getting a “surprise box” in the mail every month. What a delightful treat. I just wasn’t sure if I’d really be happy with whatever decks someone else picked out for me. There have been similar board game subscription services that I've never been tempted by. The idea of someone else picking out a game for me sounds terrible. My tastes are too peculiar and idiosyncratic. A card deck subscription service is not the same thing. A stranger is not picking out a game for me. They are picking out the custom components for games I already know and love.

I figured it'd be fun. The worst case scenario was that I was out $33 and I had learned my lesson.

I hadn't realized that the true "worst" (best?) case scenario was that I would love the box and want to continue the monthly subscription indefinitely! :-D

[I took a great photo of the closed box on a table full of fresh garden vegetables, highlighting how my consumerist hobbyism disrupted Abigail's frugal household economy, but it had my address on it, and I figured it wasn't a great idea to publicly post my address to the internet, though I'm sure it's easily found, and, really, if you want to know it to send me something or to drive here and play games with me, all you have to do is send me a geekmail and ask.]

The box arrived and I got that little thrill of opening a present.

From gallery of trawlerman

I was immediately pleased.

An Elvis deck? I need someone to design me a Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich game right now. My first thought was to play Bacon with it, but I'd need to buy a second Elvis deck. Need to? Dang, this card deck buying just multiplies itself with no effort at all.

Fortunately, Jonathan sent me the rules to his new game just when I needed them most. Eat or Run was just the excuse I needed to open the Elvis deck. Comments on Eat & Run below.

Alright, here's what you want. More unboxing photos.

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

I had been planning on finally playing Mille Fiori that afternoon, so I was already primed for gaming. Getting this box in the mail redirected my priorities back to card play. (Mille Fiori sadly remains unplayed. Why did I bother to import it?)

I let my 16yo pick out which deck we would use. She chose the Crossed Keys. I chose playing David Parlett's most recent game Arm's Length, which turned out to be among the best Parletts I've played so far.

Arm's Length is a 4p partnership game. It's standard must-follow trick-taking with three significant twists. It's not only must-follow but must-always-play-to-win-each-trick. Before a round begins, each set of partners must decide which one of them will play to win as many tricks as possible and which one will play to win as few tricks as possible. As you can probably already tell, it's that delicious tension between one player not wanting to win tricks and being forced to play to win tricks that is the heart of the game. The third "twist" is Mittlere-style trump determination. There is no trump suit at the beginning of a round. Trump is determined during play by the first card that is played off-suit. I love this.

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

I could tell immediately just from the tuckbox that this was likely to be a marked deck, with its primary purpose being magic tricks. Sure enough, it was. I have some guesses about the marking system, but I did not try too hard to puzzle it out and I did not look at the online guide (though I did look to see if there was one and there was).

We played Arm's Length. After that, we still had some time and wanted to continue on in partnerships, so we played Whist, which I've been meaning to do for a while. My first and only play of it has already been two years ago. I was underwhelmed then. I remain underwhelmed. It's fine. I'd play every week if we had a local Whist Club, sure. I'd gladly play if someone wants to, but I don't think I'd likely ever choose it myself again if I'm in charge of picking the game.

I ran out of time to play more, but not before teaching Great Plains to the kids. They went on to play it many more times without me, with winner staying on and facing new challengers, which I loved watching. I'm even more impressed with Great Plains now after this session with the kids, and after a best-of-3 match with Ben. It's up there at Through the Desert level of greatness. I invoke TtD only because Great Plains manages to achieve the same thing that TtD does, somehow winning over players who dislike abstract combinatorial games with its cute components and excellent gameplay.

From gallery of trawlerman

This was the scoring after Ben’s 1st play. He beat me the next game, so this embarrassing photo of him getting destroyed is not representative. Also, his nachos, the remnants of which can be seen here, were delicious.


Here's another photo from another session at Ben's house (that's Ben in the photo). Ben has spent so much money on KeyForge that I felt peer pressured into helping him justify so much expense. (Just kidding, I do also enjoy KeyForge and am always happy to play).
From gallery of trawlerman


Here's a photo from the end of July of some of the younger children playing Knizia's excellent Lord of the Rings
From gallery of trawlerman

My favorite play session in August was a morning teaching these young ones various card games. We played Snap, Old Maid, Go Fish, Slap Jack, and Animal Noises. I'm basically working my way through Gail MacColl's excellent The Book of Cards for Kids with them.

In typical BGG fashion, Animal Noises is not listed in the database. It's considered a Snap variant here (which, admittedly, it is, but it's also distinct enough to be its own game). What is listed in the database is Snorta!, which is a commercial version of Animal Noises with a custom deck. We see once again where BGG's priorities are at.

Slapjack is probably the best game of the bunch, or rather the one that I enjoy the most. Animal Noises is stupid, probably a worse game, but I have to confess that it was the most memorable and fun game of the day. There were moments when all of us were laughing so hard that we couldn't talk properly, let alone make the proper animal noises.

Here's a photo of two Kids of Carc.
From gallery of trawlerman


So, why all the photos? Maybe to distract everyone when I make the following confession.

In the pip box was a card with a discount code for 15% off a future PCD order. I had wanted some deck boxes anyhow. I liked the one that the Elvis deck came in. I figured I'd order some. I went to the site. I put them in my "cart". I went to check out. At checkout, PCD showed a message, something like "add a mystery deck to your order for $6.99?"

I was weak. 12 mystery decks, 14 plastic deck boxes, and a PCD koozie later, I had completed my order.

I've since received that box. I've used that koozie. I've used a few of the deck boxes. I decided to hide the mystery decks on a top shelf and only grab one as a treat every two weeks. I grabbed one deck to open that day. What was it? Another Bicycle Angelarium deck, identical to the one I got in the pip box. Serves me right, I guess. Even so, it made me smile, and I'll be happy to play something with one of the Angel decks and then maybe re-gift the extra one to someone else.

It's stupid, but this influx of cards has me excited to keep playing traditional card games right when I was almost about to pivot back to commercial boxed games.

At the same time, my Game Nerdz order from July 20th finally got sent out yesterday [8/17]. This was my first time ordering from them. I have not been impressed. Apparently, they are going through a move and some changes at the moment. I placed my order on the 20th. I received no further communication at all. On August 4th, I sent an email asking what was going on. I did get a quick response within the day explaining their situation, but I shouldn't have had to reach out like that. I received no further communication until August 17th, when I received an email that the order had shipped. Almost a month. Again, I'm not impressed.


Short version recap, no photos.

I'm still on BGG. That's okay.

I bought too many playing cards and I'm happy about it. Do I dare sign up for the repeated pip box subscription? At what point is too much too much?

I'm still waiting on a pile of OGs that should get here soon. I'm still excited about most of them, but have since read about legibility issues in Free Ride, which was the one game that I already had my doubts about, being bigger and slightly more complex than the others, competing for attention in a game space where I already have settled preferences and not much room or patience for lesser games.

That's it.

I'll try to remember to take more photos of more things and post them here. Expect more mediocre photography in the future.


In my monthly recap posts, I used to sometimes link to games writing that I had enjoyed recently. Here are a couple of links.

I've been enjoying Bob's blog for a few months now. I know I need to call attention to any time that a fellow blogger here centers an entire post around Chesterton (and Bogost), so I feel compelled to share this with you now: Chesterton, Bogost, and Play

Related to games and rules, I still haven't read Games as Agency, but I have enjoyed listening to many interviews with C. Thi Nguyen:


Do screenshots count as attention-grabbing photos? I broke my long run of not playing online by joining
Taylor Reiner
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Microbadge: I love trick-taking gamesMicrobadge: Platinum Board Game CollectorMicrobadge: Trick-Taking ForeverMicrobadge: Terrific Trick-TakingMicrobadge: '5'
and for a pleasant evening of playtesting.

I love that Taylor has turned to the traditional deck.

In Short Zoot Suit (3p), players are dealt 17 cards. They pick 5 to play face-down to a personal draw deck. The remainder form the starting hand. Play is simple for anyone familiar with trick-taking. It's must follow, no trump. With a twist. Before any current trick, each player has the option to draw from their face-down pile (which has been shuffled). The round is over whenever anyone runs out of cards (so can be variable between 12 and 17). You want to win tricks. You want to find yourself short suited. You want a balance of these things. Your final score for the round is 3 times the highest number of balanced wins and shorts that you've received minus the number that you're imbalanced.
For example, 4 wins and 3 shorts. That's a balanced score of 3, which would be 3x3=9. Minus 1 for being unbalanced by 1 (having 4 wins instead of 3). So, final score is 8. If that seems complicated, it's only because I've done a junk job of explaining it. It's quite simple and becomes almost immediately intuitive.
Is it wrong that I'm immediately tempted to search for great bear decks on PCD more than I'm tempted to back the future kickstarter? (yes, yes, of course I'll do both of those things.)

Vyntoo's intro domino climber was fun to play. I'm just not sure that I need any domino games in my life. That's not a judgment on vyntoo. Like I said, I had fun, and the game was solid. It's probably a judgment on Sean.

I don't know how public Taylor has been about his other game (not Zip and not Zoot), but it's a hoot and a holler, and it adds an innovative twist to a gaming genre that is usually just about rearranging pre-existing pieces. It's something to be excited about. That's all I'll write about it right now.

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

External image


You thought I was done?

I still haven't written about Eat or Run.

In the PGC Discord climbing chat, Jonathan wrote: "Since all 1000 traditional climbing games are basically just house-ruled versions of the same single game, it's the subtle differences in combos and bombs and scoring and hand and deck size that seem to make the difference. (Excluding the Scouts and AA of the world, which are different.)"

Tuhao is great. You should play it now.

Eat or Run is also great. You should play it now.

Tuhao is more cerebral, with some luck, sure, but with many chances to purposefully shape future hands based on present decisions in present circumstances. Eat or Run is more of a push-your-luck game and can be swingy.

Jonathan is deeply informed by traditional games and also influenced by the great David Parlett. Both of those streams are on display here.

Eat or Run is informed by traditional climbing games, but it very much belongs to the "Scouts and AA of the world, which are different." It is in the same space as these other games that are exploring innovative new paths for climbing games. Maybe some of these are gimmicks that will pass. Maybe some of them will have staying power.

Eat or Run is a climbing/shedding game. It's light and it's simple (but not simplistic). There's a push-your-luck aspect and there's more than a little luck involved. That's ok. That's part of its charm. Remember, it's very quick. It's a 2p game (I didn't even read the variants for 3 or 4). It's nearly impossible to card count as so much is unknown. I suppose a really observant player could track what has already been played and so is not currently available (until the reshuffle). One can only keep pushing and hope that one's own hand is stronger than the opponent's hand when the time comes to compete. That timing issue is the heart of the game. Do I go now? Now? Now? Do I keep building for something better, hoping for the right draw right now?

Combos are simple. Singles. Pairs. Trios. Sequences of 3-7. Bombs are Quads beat by 5 card flushes beat by a pair of Jokers. There's some funny business with 2 and 4 rankings.

Dealer has lead and chooses to either eat or run. Eat means an invitation to the other player to discard any number of cards and draw new cards, followed by dealer doing the same. Run means begin the climbing/shedding competition. For each run, points are awarded for going out and for number of cards left in opponent's hand. There are a few more wrinkles, but those are the basics.

Bottom line, it's fun. It is also so far the best game to play with an Elvis deck. I highly recommend Eat or Run. As of right now, it's my top pick for the 2023 Ambiente Abissal Award.

I didn't get any photos of play, but here are some photos of the Elvis deck for those who need to see them (all of you).

From gallery of trawlerman


Quick off-topic section:

Best new-to-me book of the month: Homegoing
Best new-to-me film of the month: Nope
Satisfying conclusion to a beloved TV series: Better Call Saul
Not-new-to-me song, but one that hit in a way that it never has, and now won't let go:

Old-old-to-me song that reminded me how important Elvis Costello's album Spike was to me as a child. What kind of 10-year-old child thinks that this album is a masterpiece? That was me.

Thanks to the DJs (Ron and Chris) who played those tracks this past Saturday on WHRW while I was driving around town. It's nice to have at least one good local radio station left to tune in to.
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Mon Aug 22, 2022 3:06 pm
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Like a bird without a beak - thoughts on game design/production/copyright/whatever.

"If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."

That's one of my favorite Chesterton lines. It comes from part of an essay that I'd argue with to some extent (all worthy writers inspire deep and critical thinking), but that zinger, quoted above, stands on its own, and I've used it numerous contexts.

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

Most of us have heard that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well. If you're going to do something, do it to the best of your ability. Fair enough, and agreed. Yet most of us know that our best falls far short of the best, the ideal, whether that ideal is objective or of our own making. We fail to live up to the ideal.

Chesterton's insight is to tap into the fact that so many of us are ready to make excuses and not do a thing if we even suspect that we will not do that thing perfectly. We don't like failure. We don't like to be humiliated. We don't want to be associated with something that is not good. But in doing so, sometimes we're then not associated with anything at all, or we're only associated with the achievements of others. "He's a Reiner Knizia fan.", etc.

I used to be a RAW guy.

Rules as written.

I still kinda am, but...

Playing cards changed me.

I've always hated copyright. I've always loved remix culture.

Prior to copyright, stories were told. They were even written down. See Beowulf. See any number of Robin Hood ballads. See the 1001 Nights. See Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur as a culmination of Arthurian folk tradition. Take a look at just about anything prior to the printing press.

Authorship was attributed when it was known because authors were respected. Augustine did not need to copyright his Confessions. As far I can tell, no one ever tried to erase his name and pass the work off for their own.

Copying text was hard work. It was time and labor intensive. The major way to get more people to read your work was to have more copies made. But since this involved effort, it had to be worth it. Your text needed to deserve to be copied.

Then, the printing press. Gradually, then all of a sudden, text became (relatively) easy to copy. It was still more work than any of us could be bothered to do today, but once the initial material was set up, you could make as many copies as you thought you could sell. Money was involved. Sometimes lots of it. Money for the author. Money for the printer. Exclusivity contracts were made and gained and eventually were enforced by the state. Primarily, these protected the printers more than the authors. Eventually, this would flip-flop and authors were given the primary copyright. Initially, this was for 14 years, with an optional 14 year renewal.

That's sketchy history based on long ago reading, but mostly accurate, I think.

I don't even like 14 years, but it's fairly reasonable.

The current U.S. copyright law is automatic copyright from date of creation to 70 years after the death of the author.

That's insane. That's death of culture insane. It's a recipe for Big Mammon to buy and control it all, giving you options to buy in for access to the things that you've already been told you ought to love through repeated exposure.

Back to games.

There is no copyright on a game. Only for the rules. But in some sense the rules are the game.

Let's say Reiner lives to 2050. The rules to Tigris & Euphrates will enter the public domain in 2120. Now, RK is savvy enough that he probably has some plan drafted for after his death, but there is also the real potential that he could go rogue and publicly will that none of his games ever be reprinted. There would be no new legal T&E until 2120. It could have been influencing games for all that time. Instead, it was remembered by a small cult of weirdos.

One thing I love about "the hobby" is this lack of copyright. In the event of Rogue Reiner, fans simply rewrite the rules and publish a new edition by Pseudo-Reiner.

This could happen today. There is nothing stopping you from publishing a copy of Tigers & Youfraidy.

Except there is. The hobby protects its own. There is a culture of respect for the work. There is a culture of respect for the designers. If someone tried to make this obvious clone today, there would be an organized campaign to shame and stop them. Rightfully so.

But within this respect, there is also freedom because of the lack of copyright. "Deckbuilding" cannot be copyrighted, etc. You or I or anyone could make anything new out of already existing parts and ideas.

That is glorious. I'd argue that this is one of the driving reasons behind innovation in the gaming hobby. WotC can stick their Tapping Trademark up their magical wazoos. No one can stop you from turning your cards sideways to make game effects happen. Nothing in this hobby besides the order of words on a page belongs to anyone.

Okay, your physically manufactured objects belong to you. The entire hobby right now is devoted to mass production, the excess of the industrial age. We're so wealthy that not only can we afford lots of food, lots of clothing, lots of shelter, but we can afford lots of luxury items. Buildings full of people and machines work to create custom objects that someone dreamt up.

As long as someone is willing to pay, these industries will respond by making you many, many copies of your dream.

That's the standard model right now. It's one of abundance.

And it has lead to a certain amount of standardization, which has led to print-on-demand services like Game Crafter and many others. Even if you only want a few copies of whatever you've crazily made, you can do it.

And so we're in an era of super-abundance and no material lack.

In the past, this was not so. Paper playing cards were easily manufactured. Standardized chess and checker sets could be manufactured and mass produced (and a culture of creative custom versions flourished). Even post-Industrial Rev., the other mass-produced board games tended to be paper and more paper products.

Morris games were popular because you could scratch the board onto a rock and use other rocks as your pieces.

I could be wrong, but I don't think it was until at least the 70s that we started to see some plastic, some wood, some anything other than paper in board game production.

I don't know of any serious histories of commercial board games of the 19th and 20th centuries, but whenever someone gets around to writing one, they will need to take into account that design ideas followed production capabilities.

Back to Chesterton. Back to me.

If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly.

Designing games seems like something worth doing.

I never thought that I had a game in me. I don't know if any of you have had this happen to you, but over the years of being a board game geek, I've had non-gamers ask me if I wanted to design my own games. I always answered 'no', that I had no ambition to do such a thing and had no good ideas.

As an aside, this also happens with books/stories, with non-"literate" friends asking for the stories that they assume you have written to be published. For the record, I wrote a lot of bad stories in elementary school. As an adult, I've tried once to write a serious story, a science fiction story titled "The Knights of Infinity are Dancers," a sort of Kierkegaardian eucatastrophe that I never finished.

Back to games.

It was only recently, organically, almost accidentally, that I designed a few games.

My game design "career" began the day I received a photo from my friend Mike. See here:

My first "design" was "bowling in a desk drawer". Out Rolled. Appropriately, it received no thumbs, no approval from my peers. It sucked.

But I kept thinking about it.

And I "designed" another game. Against the Council of 5.

And I was happy with it. And that's it. Throwing out ideas. Making games. Designing. That's what it is.

It turns out that I needed limitations. The idea of mass production, the idea of thinking something up that could be molded and shaped and mass produced in a factory had prevented me from thinking of myself as someone capable of design. It was all too open, too much, what could I possibly have to add?

But the imposition of limits, the idea that this is what you have, make a game of it, that freed me from the limitless pseudo-freedom of the mass production model.

Back to playing cards. Playing cards were one of the historic imposition of limits. As an average person, you could not afford to create some new game with whatever you wanted, but you did have access to 13 cards in 4 suits. Limitations. That you could do whatever you wanted with.

I'm repeatedly amazed at how robust and rewarding the traditional deck is.

I don't remember the details behind Nein Nimmt!. I had been playing a lot of traditional games. I had been playing Knizia's poker games. I was thinking of 2p dueling games. I think I was trying to figure out some 'kopf' game. But I had been playing Jass games and had jass on the brain and for some reason which I can't remember now, I was convinced that I needed to make a 2p version of 6 nimmt!

I designed that game. I played it a few times with family members. I introduced it to a couple of friends. I had fun while playing it.

It's still possible that the game is crap. It went through no development. It has almost entirely been played by people who love me, so how are they going to hate it?

Before it got its own BGG page but after I had posted the rules to the blog, I got some great geekmail feedback, which I'll keep anonymous, but quote here:

I gave Nein Nimmt a go this weekend. I am usually willing to try two player (only) standard deck card games.

I want to make sure I played it correctly. The 8 cards that are dealt face down are unknown to both players, correct?

My thoughts on the fun value of the game. I didn't feel much tension. I could begin to see some strategy developing but it would take a few plays before I could be sure that there truly were interesting choices.

I suppose in a game like Gin Rummy or Cribbage there is plenty of tension. Those are the primary competitors in the field of 2 player standard deck games.

For whatever reason the game felt a bit flat and I can't really tell you why. Maybe varying the point values so that each pile of cards had some variation in value that had significant impact on the game. Something to create the tension found in 6 nimmt.

If I were giving it a BGG rating right now, I would give it a 5.
A 5! A 5! I've designed a game and it got a 5!

That's actually how I kinda felt after getting the feedback. I was happy.

Someone had played something that I had created. They had taken the time to play it and then they had taken the time to give me feedback. It didn't matter to me that they thought it was mediocre. I was happy that they were willing to engage and to give me feedback.

Since then, I've seen feedback from Don that his wife greatly enjoyed their plays, that she liked it better than he did! Who cares what he thinks! She's obviously the brilliant one!!!

But it didn't really matter that they liked it or didn't like it. Knowing that someone else had played it was the great feeling. Getting any feedback at all felt good.

And none of this is in any way written to push you towards playing Nein Nimmt!

I haven't even played it myself in many months. I think it's good, but it might also be crap. It might be fatally flawed, and someone might point out what that flaw is. I'm okay with that.

I write this to chronicle my own experience and my own feelings.

I was happy for it to be a "prototype", but I submitted the game to BGG, to make it a "real game", for a couple of reasons.

1. I wanted to send a message to myself and to others that it's okay to design bad games. If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly. Do it. Take a risk. Expose yourself to shame.

2. I wanted to challenge BGG's policy that rejects adding any new public domain games. This is a stupid policy and the clearest, most f'd-up example of BGG's doubling down on commercial interests over against being a useful database of all games for all users. The rules to my game clearly state that the game is in the public domain. BGG accepted it because it is a "designer game" and not another notch on Uncredited's belt. Stupid.

Moving on, I made another game:

Again, because of artificial limitations.

And I had a great time playing my game and the other games that were contributed to that thread.

It turns out that designing is fun. But for me, it is only fun within limits.

I don't consider myself a game designer. Maybe you don't consider yourself a game designer. But maybe that's the point of this whole post. I'm not a game designer. I designed a game. Maybe this is also true of you.


I've written this disjointedly in spare moments across two days. I hope it's somewhat coherent. I've had maybe a few too many beers for a Thursday night while I'm finishing this up and posting it. Ramblish indeed. And all of this was because I had the idea for this post and requested my official designer badge just so that I could post something about me being a fake designer that made it to the BGG big time. I've got a designer page here:
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Fri Jul 22, 2022 2:25 am
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Lamentations of the Folk Poseur

I've written about folk games. Traditional games, whatever. How I long for an active tradition, a living, organic culture of play, with everyone knowing and playing the same games. I like the idea of Whist drives. I don't think that's crazy. And why is it that only the senior centers around here have shuffle boards?

I've also made clear my increasing disgust with Big Ludo (Big Ludo doesn't sound menacing enough, does it?). How can a thousand new games be released every year and so very few of them matter at all?

Wouldn't we all be better off figuring out how to have fun with a plank of wood and a ball of twine?

I've expressed my desire for deeper repeated plays of the same games.

I already have games that I love, that I'd be happy to play repeatedly.

Yet, in my own home, I'm constantly introducing new games instead of playing the old ones. I'm the source of the churn. I'm the reason that the same games don't get played repeatedly.

Outside of my home, there is no folk gaming community.

There is the public game group that I created a few years ago.

They have resumed meeting in public without me, which has my blessing. I haven't gone back to the group. Not because I'm overly cautious about small public activities. It's because I've lost all interest and motivation to play the compromise game. I no longer feel compelled to be the one holding a community together by playing the least offensive euro game that we can all agree on. I'm glad that the community continues to exist without me. Seriously, that's the best thing I could have hoped for.

I've been satisfied with gaming at home.

I was satisfied with the (not-quite-)weekly Wednesday night 3p gaming.

2p gaming with Ben should resume, but we've had some scheduling conflicts.

It's not even that I don't want public gaming any longer.

It's that I want public gaming that is centered on repeated play of the same game. Or maybe the same handful of games.

I'm still tempted to start a local chapter of the U.S. Go Association. It has been too long since I've played Go, which means that it has been too long since I've lost at Go, which is something I greatly enjoy.

I wouldn't mind going to a local Sheepshead night. Of course nothing like that exists around here for a thousand miles.

Surprisingly, there is a local Bridge club. I respect Bridge, but it doesn't appeal to me at all.

There used to be a Chess club in the area. I knew a couple of people in the club, but never made it out to any meetings because it conflicted with my work schedule at the time. They don't meet any more. I do know that there are scattered pockets of Chess players around.

I've been invited to poker nights in the past and declined. I'm at the point now where a regular poker game with a small handful of friends sounds much better to me than it ever did.

Really, I want limits imposed on me from outside of myself. We are all spoiled for choice. Then again...

When I'm faced with a poker night, the game of choice for real people I know and like in my community, my response is, "nah, I'd rather play coiffeur-jass", a game that even if there were two Swiss people anywhere in my county, would still be shrugged off as an idiosyncratic choice when the Swiss want to be playing Schieber.

I've played and rated 850+ games since being on BGG. Isn't that weird?

I know that others here have played that many and much more. Again, isn't that weird?

Maybe it's not weird. I've read hundreds of new books and countless essays/articles/blog posts in the same time while only re-reading a handful of favorites.

I say I want to re-read more. I say I should re-read more. With a few exceptions, I rarely do it.

Maybe I think it's normal to want to experience everything. What is abnormal about our current situation is that "everything" is available to be experienced all the time, everything pressing in on everyone. Or at least the promise of everything.

This is the internet. Everything now.

I'm deliberately not on Facebook. I don't check news sites. I try to stay away from the Cult of the Now (very much related to our hobby's Cult of the New).


BGG notifications give us a hit of "news", that update that something new exists in the world that requires our attention. Requires? I don't know. Why else do I click on that red circle so many times each day?

I'm here on BGG. I'm not so sure that BGG is good for me or anyone. I'm very much aware that I'm using BGG to broadcast this message to the handful of friendly fellow-users that I enjoy interacting with here. Is my discontent with BGG unusual? Have you all found the balance in use that I just can't find? Is it not a thing that bothers you at all?

I submit this post to the world, causing the notifications of a few others to increase. Instead of doing something better, I'll refresh BGG throughout the day, looking for my own notifications to increase, feeling a little bit sick about it. I'll read something new, then move on to the next something new. Dis-eased.

This rambling post was inspired by reading a paragraph in Wes Jackson's Becoming Native to This Place.

"A necessary part of our intelligence is on the line as the oral tradition becomes less and less important. There was a time throughout our land when it was common for stories to be told and retold, a most valuable exercise, for the story retold is the story reexamined over and over again at different levels of intellectual and emotional growth. Huck Finn read at the fifth-grade level is different from Huck Finn read in high school or college or as a young parent or grandparent. That is true with almost any story. But "news" as displayed on television appears once only, unlike the story in the oral tradition with its many levels of meaning."

I started writing something else, deleted it, and the above is what spewed forth. This post originally started with the following sentence:
It was probably when I got rid of Buddel-Wuddel.

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Thu Oct 21, 2021 12:14 pm
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2019 Revisited

[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.]

2019 Revisited

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.

Favorite wargame

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 games.

Favorite “oldie”

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.

Favorite 2-player

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.

Favorite artwork

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.

Favorite component

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. :-)

Favorite experience

My pick: Mancation

There’s crossover here because I played Quacks with premium bits while on Mancation. It was a nice experience.

Favourite expansion

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.
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Mon Apr 13, 2020 4:20 pm
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2020 Challenges - 1st Quarter Review

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:
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:

Mindful Spending
Games Purchased:
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
FLGS pre-orders:
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
FLGS purchases:
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.

Family Choice
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.

Pyramid Play
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.

New Tricks
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.
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Wed Mar 25, 2020 5:18 pm
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A Personal History of Naked Card Playing (Death to Sleeves)

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)

Chronicle (2009)
Five Cucumbers (2013)
The Fox in the Forest (2017)
Sticheln (1993)
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.

From gallery of trawlerman

(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)
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Sun Jan 5, 2020 7:18 pm
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On not liking great games

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.]
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Fri Oct 11, 2019 9:35 pm
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Ranking the Good Doctor's Games

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:

Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates

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!

Board Game: Lost Cities
Board Game: Through the Desert
Board Game: Lord of the Rings

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.

Board Game: Ingenious: Travel Edition
Board Game: Ingenious
Board Game: Schotten Totten
Board Game: Medici vs Strozzi
Board Game: Royal Visit
Board Game: Cheeky Monkey
Board Game: The Quest for El Dorado
Board Game: Medici
Board Game: Loot
Board Game: Desperados
Board Game: Ra

Ingenious: Travel Edition (2006)
# of plays: 8
First play: 2007-12-09
Last play: 2019-06-06

Ingenious (2004)
# 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

Medici (1995)
# of plays: 3
First play: 2006-05-27
Last play: 2017-12-22

Loot (1992)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2019-08-18
Last play: 2019-08-18

Desperados (1990)
# 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

Ra (1999)
# 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!

Board Game: Duell
Board Game: Looting London
Board Game: Blue Lagoon
Board Game: Quo Vadis?
Board Game: Reiner Knizia's Decathlon
Board Game: Qin

Duell (2004)
# 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

Qin (2012)
# 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.

Board Game: Blue Moon
Board Game: Samurai
Board Game: Foodie Forest
Board Game: Age of War
Board Game: Tower of Babel

Blue Moon (2004)
# of plays: 4
First play: 2006-10-05
Last play: 2013-08-19

Samurai (1998)
# 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!

Board Game: The Lord of the Rings
Board Game: Modern Art
Board Game: Pickomino
Board Game: Gold Digger
Board Game: Monkey Madness
Board Game: Mago Magino

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

Pickomino (2005)
# 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:
Bucket Brigade
Great Wall of China
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
Lost Cities: To Go
Res Publica
Stephenson's Rocket
Taj Mahal
(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:

Joe Geerkin
United States
New York
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Microbadge: Age of Steam fanMicrobadge: Buffalo Bills fanMicrobadge: Buffalo Sabres fanMicrobadge: I was here for BGG's Twentieth Anniversary!Microbadge: Ice hockey player
Jenna Sunderlin
United States
Niagara Falls
New York
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Microbadge: Road Trip fanMicrobadge: Night OwlMicrobadge: PhotographerMicrobadge: Calvin and Hobbes fanMicrobadge: I sleep in whatever corner the dog leaves for me
mark camp
United States
Lesser Binghamton Area
New York
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Microbadge: Ameritrash fanMicrobadge: Wraith: The Oblivion fanMicrobadge: Platinum Board Game CollectorMicrobadge: Changeling the Lost RPG fanMicrobadge: Platinum RPG Collector
Benjamin Lainhart
United States
New York
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Matt Connellan
United States
New York
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I am the white void. I am the cold steel. I am the just sword.
Microbadge: Coheed and Cambria fanMicrobadge: Sirlin Games Yomi Contest participantMicrobadge: Girl Power!Microbadge: Mmmph!Microbadge: Chaos in the Old World fan

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!
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Sat Aug 24, 2019 6:25 pm
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What's the difference between a '7' and an '8'?

Here are the official BGG guidelines:

Every registered user can rate any game in the BGG database. Although these ratings are entirely subjective, here are the suggested guidelines:

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.
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."

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:
Bucket Brigade
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."
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Tue Aug 20, 2019 6:51 pm
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The One Game --> Ramblin' 10 Games Exercise --> Pax Pamir 2e Non-Review

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
Combat Commander
Blood Rage
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.
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Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:05 am
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