Lowell Kempf(Gnomekin)United States
Since I have been reading the Comic Book History of Beer (a fun but clearly biased read), I decided to revisit Six Sided Stout, a solitaire Roll and Write about home brewing.
Six Sided Stout got an honorable mention in the 2017 GenCan’t design contest. That contest jump started my interest in Roll and Write games and made me realize that Roll and Write games could go a lot farther than Yahtzee. And it’s been a fun journey that shows no sign of ending.
But, wow, it’s a surprise to realize that that was five years ago. I didn’t think it had been that long. I’ve tried out a lot of R&Ws in that time.
Anyway. Six Sided Stout. It’s been five years since I last played it. It’s both simpler and more interesting than I remembered it lol
In the game, you take on the role of a home brewer who has ten days to new a stout for a contest. Each day, you either go to the market to get ingredients or roast malt that you gotten on an previous turn.
The actual use of dice comes in getting resources. You roll two dice to see how much you get from the marker. Rarer ingredients involve dividing the number. (Yeast, the rarest ingredient, has you divide by three so snake eyes is a bad roll) You get four dice manipulations to add a third die and take the best two. (One for each ingredient and one wild)
The core of the game is adding ingredients to a grid. It’s a nifty grid, tilted 90 degrees so it forms a diamond. There a big water drop in the middle so there is a jagged inner perimeter.
Coming back to Six Sided Stout after exploring a lot of different R&W ideas, I was surprised at how simple and slight it is. In fact, I suspect that the most reliable way to get a high score is get as much of the darkest roast of malt on the board and add the minimum amount of yeast and hops. In other words, I think you can brute strength your way over the puzzle aspect.
The best part of Six Sided Stout is easily the theme. While just mixing water, malted barley, yeast and hops together is a massive over simplification of beer making, it works for a five minute R&W. I wouldn’t have remembered the game, let alone gone and played it a few more times, if it wasn’t for the theme.
Six Sided Stout is an okay game. The fact that’s it’s free, uses little ink and has a short playing time helps its case but there are a lot of games that fit that bill. The beer brewing theme is what makes it interesting and a game I might play once a year or so.
A Gnome's Ponderings
I'm a gamer. I love me some games and I like to ramble about games and gaming. So, more than anything else, this blog is a place for me to keep track of my ramblings. If anyone finds this helpful or even (good heavens) insightful, so much the better.
Archive for Roll and Write
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Fri Oct 7, 2022 9:15 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
The imperfect world of Micro Space Empire
26 Aug 2022
When I saw that someone had recreated Micro Space Empire as a set of tables, effectively making it a Roll and Write, that was when I decided I needed to try it.
Which is a fascinating statement about me. On the one hand, it speaks to my laziness. Absolutely no construction. I printed off the page and put it into a page protector so I could use a dry erase marker. So I was too lazy to print it off twice. And, on the other hand, I’m also okay with a set of tables instead of illustrated cards. Presentation is a big deal and means a lot but I can accept rough and ready minimalism.
At any rate, it’s a science fiction game about conquering worlds and adding them to your tax base. Or empire.
Each turn consists of 1. Exploration/Conquest 2. Get resources 3. Use them resources 4. Get hit by a random event.
And, here’s what really struck me. The mechanics are very simple, very minimal. Every conflict revolves around rolling one six-sided die. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you’re looking for a coffee break game.
Every meaningful decision that you, the player, make is in the third stage. Building up military. Developing technology. Those are the only way to modify die rolls. In fact, you can pass on exploring and I think a basic strategy is passing early in the game so you can bulk up your military. Losing battles reduces your military so it’s important to bolster your military.
And I love me a tech tree. However, the tech tree in Micro Space Empire is very easy to prioritize. I honestly would say that the decisions you have to make with the tech tree are easy, even obvious.
All of those negatives aside, I enjoyed Micro Space Empire more than I expected to. And, yes, I am more forgiving of free PnP games but that’s not the only reason.
Micro Space Empire is a five-minute coffee break of a game. The simplicity in both its mechanics and its decision tree (which are very different things) becomes acceptable, even beneficial, when you only have five minutes to get the job done. I know what I want to do. Now, can I work with the one six-sided die and make it happen?
Yeah, there are a ton of five-minute coffee break games out there. I woke up one day and found I was collecting them. And there are better ones than Micro Space Empire but it does have its own way of being a 3.25X game. (The conquest really isn’t extermination) And I’d probably think even higher of it if I’d actually tried it back in 2011 when it first came out.
(Seriously, solitaire and PnP have really made strides in the last ten years)
I wouldn’t rule out actually make the playmat and the cards someday but I have at least fourteen projects already in the queue.
Fri Aug 26, 2022 2:15 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
A bear of very little brain rolls some dice
12 Aug 2022
Winnie-the-Pooh in the Honey Heist (which I’m just going to call The Honey Heist from now on) is a Print and Play Roll and Write, one of those ones that any number of people can play as long as they have their own play sheet.
And, yes, it’s themed around the Winnie the Pooh with artwork that definitely evokes E. H. Shepherd’s art. Because a certain major corporation has a pack of lawyers that will rip out your throat and leave your pockets empty if you use their trade marked version
The actual board consists of four seven-hex ‘circles’ (is there a proper term for that? Seven hex grid?) The center hex in each grid already has a number in it. You will be filling in numbers in all the other hexes over the course of the game. Also, each grid comes with one honey drop and one bee that can be worth points.
So, here’s the idea: each turn you roll two dice. One of them is Pooh’s die and you just write in that number. But, although he is a bear of very small brains, he is also a bear of huge heart, he gives the other die to one of his friends.
Each pip is a different character from the books and has a different effect. For example, Piglet, the one pip, either copies Pooh’s die or gives you a three. Christopher Robbins , the six pip, let’s you either use a 0 or a 7.
Twelve turns. Twenty-four numbers. And you’re done.
There are four ways of scoring points. You get points for making sets of numbers or runs of numbers. And individual numbers can be part of more than one grouping. You get points for covering honey drops with low numbers and bees with high numbers. And you get points for using the same friend multiple times.
Let me get this out of the way first. The implementation of the theme is half the value of the game. Not only is the idea and art adorable, the mechanics work with the theme. Of course Pooh shares his dice. And some of the pip powers reflect their characters. Eyore subtracts value from dice, for instance.
The mechanics are interesting. Each friend power gives you two options so there are choices. There’s more going on than just rolling two dice and using those numbers. At the same time, the friend powers are specific enough that I do find them limiting.
I do wonder if luck is what really decides any given game of Honey Heist. At the same time, I also don’t think there are obvious choices. The game puzzles with you, not plays itself.
Honestly, at the end of the day, I feel like Honey Heist has decent mechanics. (How much can you really expect from 12 rounds?) But, it doesn’t just have a cute theme, it embraces it.
Sat Aug 13, 2022 3:01 am
- [+] Dice rolls
What made me pull the trigger of Wheat & Ale was that it was by Robin Jarvis. Between the Legends of Dsyx and Paper Pinball, they have given me hours of Roll and Write fun.
Wheat & Ale is billed as a Tiny Civilization Game. It’s not. Civilization games, no matter what size, have to have a big scope of time and space. I also want a tech tree but I’ll listen to arguments. Wheat & Ale is about creating an agricultural village along a river.
It’s a Tiny Arcadia Game. And that’s just fine.
It’s one of the draw things on a grid Roll and Writes. The grid is actually a hex grid, the kind where it’s squares in a brickwork pattern. They may not be hexes but it’s a hex grid. And a line serving as that river I mentioned run through it. There’s actually two different maps and the difference is the path of the river.
The game lasts ten turns. Each turn, you roll three dice. You can do two diffeeent types of actions: build buildings or use buildings. You build by using spending a combination of dice that is equal or greater to the bullring value of the building. (Yes, it could be one die if the building is cheap enough) You activate a building by spending a die that is LESS than its activation number.
(One rule question I have is if you just get one action per turn or use all three dice as a pool for multiple actions. I prefer to the latter because it gives you more options. And makes the just build strategy I mention later less optimal)
Anything built on the river gets plus two to its production ability, tripling it. So the river is going to be central to the development of your tiny Arcadia.
And, as the title suggests, you are growing wheat and turning it into ale. That is how you turn an empty river valley into a community.
Okay, I have to admit the game does have a potential degenerate strategy. Ignore wheat and production and just build big buildings since they are worth points. It does depend on you rolling highish numbers but beating the goal of twenty points isn’t unreasonable.
But playing that way isn’t fun or interesting. I know people who will latch onto that strategy to prove the game is ‘broken’ and, more importantly, they are smarter than the designer. But that’s not my idea of fun.
You could just ignore that strategy. (It’s a solitaire game, after all) You could house rule it that you need to build the buildings in order. Houses need farms and so on. (And I’ve kind of just added a tech tree with that suggestion) OR you keep a tally of how much you’d earn in just buildings and try to beat that (I like that one)
Wheat & Ale is a very short and simple game. It’s no Roll Through the Ages and it’s not like that game is any kind of heavy. The strategies are pretty obvious and the entire game is setting yourself up for one, maybe two, big moves.
All the same, I do like Ale & Wheat. I like that you aren’t just jotting down symbols one a grid but they actually do something. However, what really makes the game click is that it honestly is a coffee break game. Very little time, very little thought and I feel refreshed.
I think that Wheat & Ale is a game that could be built on, room to be developed to be deeper and more complicated game, possibly even multiplayer. But it works well for a quick coffee break.
Sat Aug 6, 2022 12:14 am
- [+] Dice rolls
My July Gaming
03 Aug 2022
When I actually looked at how many games I tried out in July, I was surprised. It wasn’t a crazy amount but it was a crazy month. (To be fair, I have a lot of crazy months)
Aquaducts was the only Print and Play game I put together in July. It’s also the only game I learned that I couldn’t play on a clipboard.
I have been playing a lot of In Hand games and Roll and Write games. And I love both those genres. But playing a tile-laying game for the first time in ages was very refreshing. I downright binged the game.
I also tried out a lot of games from Chris Anderson’s Tempus system. I am pretty sure that Tempus Infinitum is still in the prototype phase (and might not go beyond that) and was interesting but had issues. You could have setups that just don’t work.
I also played the first eight Tempus Quest episodes. Almost entirely on airplanes. The Tempus system games work well in limited spaces. No dice or cards. Just a pencil and a watch. The Tempus Quest games were better balanced than Tempus Imperium and explored what you could do when the system.
I didn’t think I was going to actually learn a Roll and Write game that actually used dice during July. Than I tried out Wheat & Ale and Rallytaire.
Wheat & Ale is about building an Arcadian community in a river valley. Very simple but I like how it isn’t just drawing stuff on a grid. There is actually a bit of engine building going on.
And I finally have tried Rallytaire. It is like someone decided to remake Formula De as a Roll and Write that uses regular six-sided dice. For one player. I think there’s limited replay value but I love that it exists.
(I also wonder if you could revise it for multiplayer if you lived in a place where shipping for Formula De would be an issue)
I have no idea what August holds.
Wed Aug 3, 2022 4:42 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
Rallytaire is Formula De built in a cave with a box of scraps
29 Jul 2022
A game from the first Solitaire Design Contest
A Roll and Write game
A Roll and Move game
The closest thing I’ve seen to a one-page Formula De
Honestly, Rallytaire feels like a game that designed on a bet. Can you make a race car game that just uses a piece of paper, a pencil and some dice? Oh, can you make it for one person and make it interesting?
(While I have also seen people compare Rallytaire to Rallyman, I haven’t played that game. (But it is available on Board Game Arena so now I’m interested) So Formula De is really what Rallytaire reminds me of and what I’ll keep referencing)
There are three different sets of race tracks, each with three to four individual tracks. The number of turns it takes, plus how fast you go through the finish line, determine your time and the only challenge is beating your old times.
There are advanced rules where you manage brakes and tires and engine. Effectively ways of fine tuning your play. These are simple enough additions that you should really just play use them.
Okay, like Formula De, Rallytaire is all about managing gears and corners. In Formula De, each gear is a different speciality die and each corner has a set number of times you have to stop on it.
In Rallytaire, each gear has an automatic distance you move and a number of standard six-sided dice you roll. You get an extra space of movement for each 4, 5 or 6 you roll. As for corners, each corner has a maximum gear you can be in. You can drift to be in one higher gear but corners are grouped together and you can only drift once per group.
It has been a long time since I’ve played Formula De or any of its descendants. I understand there are groups that would actually not just play it but run tournaments or seasons or whatever you would call a whole bunch of races in a row. I still keep a copy of Formula De Mini in the closet. The formula of Formula De is a solid one. You don’t push your luck or hope that you have luck. You manage your luck.
And while Rallytaire doesn’t perfectly capture that, it does a remarkably good job of it with a minimalist production. (In fact, I wonder if you could use its rules on a Formula De track. Fan made tracks are out there and this might work if you don’t have the speciality dice. Which I do so I don’t have any reason to try it)
Which actually highlights the biggest drawback of Rallytaire. A race with no competition lacks something. I’ve played a lot of solitaire games at this point and I’m no stranger to trying to beat your own score. But games about race cars cry out for competition and interaction.
Rallytaire is not a substitute or replacement for Formula De. It is methadone for Formula De.
I am going to note that, while I appreciate how little ink the minimalist line art uses, you could skip a copy of the game into a business report and no one would notice. Published racing games tend to be flashy and Rallytaire is anything but. I’m fine with that but I can see that being an issue.
Rallytaire isn’t a game I’m gojng to play dozens of times. The lack of competition and interaction takes the edge off the genre. But I think the game does an amazing job mechanically and I’m sure it will get at least _a_ dozen plays out of me. If you have any interest in racing games, you should make the tiny ink investment and try it out.
Fri Jul 29, 2022 5:30 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
Part of my preparation for a trip, I printed off the first few episodes of Tempus Quest. It uses the same Tempus System as Tempus Imperium, where the time and date are used to set up the board and actions.
I’d already played episode 0, the tutorial, but I decided to play it again so I could embrace the whole business of Tempus Quest being a campaign.
I had been playing Tempus Infinitum, a prototype for another Tempus system game. And that gave me appreciation for a couple of design choices on Tempus Quest. One, the Tempus Quest games are more goal focused. That means fewer paths to victory but you know exactly what to plan for if you get a bad number string. And the Tempus Quest game gives you more starting ‘money’ resource to change actions, which also helps compensate for a bad number.
Okay, here’s some more specific thoughts:
Episode 0 - Some Re-Assembly Required
Where you rebuild the spaceship Tempus.
My original impression was Episode 0 was that it was a tutorial that was so basic that it would be hard to fail. The ‘money’ is such a big supply, you can do any action at will. More than that, the Use action is very minimal, installing components as opposed to doing something.
Still, all it is is a tutorial. It teaches you how the date stamp mechanic works. But if this was it, Tempus Quest would get boring quick.
Episode 1 - Uninvited Guests
Where you fight robots and recharge the Tempus engine
And, bam, things get interesting.
It uses a hex grid. The use action makes the things you build actually do something. You have to actually manage the money resource and make more of it. There’s a form of combat.
Episode 0, you had to actually have to intentionally make bad choices to lose. Episode 1 isn’t that hard but you have to put in some effort to play.
I played it and knew I was going to keep going.
Episode 2 - The Dust Farmers
Where you help irrigate farms.
Episode Two breaks less new ground. It’s all about infrastructure development. I still liked it and you actually have to generate two resources, water AND food. (Are these farmers doing anything?)
I also like that it offers two paths. If you can expand lakes, you build pumps and get tons of water. If you don’t get the lake expansion option, you can dig wells. Not as efficient but a viable option. And you aren’t gojng to mix and max those options.
Episode 2 is the closest thing to Tempus Imperium and a Euro game. Not sure why some mercenaries are better at agriculture than farmers though.
Episode 3 - Decision at Degma
Where you you use social networking to get a job
Episode 3 is where I feel Tempus Quest stepped away from from Tempus Imperium and did it’s own thing. Changing to developing social networks and connections isn’t mechanically different than other resources but it felt like it.
And the enemy action, instead of hitting your money resources, is enemies spreading over the board. That is a lot more aggressive. The challenge was definitely there.
This is also where the campaign feel for stronger since it sets up the next episode.
Episode 4 - The Degma Job
Where you actually do the job
While you could pick any of the three jobs, if you are playing the game as a campaign, you use the one you gained in the last episode. It is your choice if you want to treat the series as a campaign but it is a choice.
This was fun. It took the elements that made Episode 3 interesting and harder and made it even more difficult. In particular, there wasn’t any kind of attack action so you just had to manage the enemy spread as best you could. (Of course, you also had to use the enemy as a resource lol)
I actually had to use every turn to complete Episode 4.
I kept hoping that someone would ask me on the airplane what I was doing so I could tell them it was a cross between Catan and a Crossword Puzzle. And that really does describe the experience.
There are definitely better R&Ws that use dice or cards. They just provide a wider range of options. But Tempus Quest was very good for the limited space of an airplane.
Mon Jul 18, 2022 4:20 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
The fascinating but flawed Tempus Infinitum
15 Jul 2022
Last year, I finally tried out Tempus Imperium. It is a Roll and Write that doesn’t actually use dice or even cards. Instead, it uses a date stamp.
You create a ten-digit number with the year-month-day-hour-minute. You use that number to set up the board and it then serves as the order of actions for the actual game play. Said gameplay is building up a generic medieval kingdom.
I like Tempus Imperium but there are some limitations baked into the core concept. After you generate the ten-digit number, the game is a perfect information solitaire. I don’t think that’s a flaw but that is a core element of the game.
I also became aware that the designer had refined the concept in Tempus Quest and Tempus Infinitum, which is a more streamlined and refined version of Tempus Imperium.
The biggest difference between Imperium and Infinitum is that, like Tempus Quest, you only create a six-digit number using the day, hour and minute. This doesn’t mean just fewer actions per turn. It also means a less static number.
In Tempus Imperium, the first two numbers were going to be the for an entire year and each month would be the same. Removing them means a lot more variety in a game whose only ‘random’ element is the setup.
And after the or six plays, I can see how this is both cool and bad. On the one hand, between multiple seed maps and the higher variance in the digits, there is a lot more variety compared to Tempus Imperium.
On the other hand, you can generate games that, as near as I can tell, aren’t viable. Players have to help balance the game but I am pretty sure some setups are too unbalanced to ‘work’.
There are four actions: build roads, expand lakes, build buildings and use buildings. You can spend two gold to do a different action than the one assigned by the number. There are also enemies that steal gold until you destroy them with a specific building action.
So this is what I ran into: almost all the buildings require gold and the only way to generate gold is through building actions. I’ve had number strings with no use actions and my economy completely dried up. Almost immediately. Once I was able to compensate by making a huge lake for points but when I haven’t had that action either, I was left drawing roads and skipping turns.
And, yes, the easy answer is to fudge the digit, either by waiting a few minutes or just fudging the number. Which feels like cheating but it might just be balancing the game.
I have notified that Tempus Infinitum seems to no longer being tested. Instead, there is now a game called Tempus Imperium Aeternum which looks more intricate. I’ll have to try it out.
(I’ve also been playing through Tempus Quest. A couple of design choices help deal with some of my issues. But that will be another blog)
Fri Jul 15, 2022 4:05 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
For the first time since the initial lockdown, I’m going to be doing some honest to goodness long distance traveling.
And, while things like wardrobe and making sure my tablet has several hours worth of Disney to keep our son occupied on the plane, that also means packing some games. Because traveling without games is like traveling without books.
And I’m not going to be going to any conventions or gaming events or even planning on specifically seeing any gaming buddies. So games are going to be a tiny percentage of stuff packed and they will be focused on solitaire games.
I am mentally breaking my packing into three categories:
PnP In Hand Games. Since I keep a copy of Down and Flipword in my wallet, it’s not like I ever leave the house without some. But between potentially minimal time and minimum space for gaming, those are the games I’m most likely to actually play.
Pack O Game games. I don’t know if I’m going to play any multiplayer games but packing two or three of those is the best return of minimal space for maximum gaming. (HUE, LIE and GEM are what made the cut. The first two are very solid and very easy to teach while GEM is a strong game with a ‘full size’ feel)
Both of those are tried and true options for me. I don’t think I’ve left the state without a Pack O Game since they came out. But I think I’m going to add a third category: date-stamp-and-write games.
I’m planning on printing out some Tempus Quest and Tempus Infinitum sheets. I don’t need any dice, just my watch and pencil to play them. That’s about as minimal as you can get before you reach charades. And solitaire charades is about as boring as solitaire hide-and-seek. I have a feeling those will be my plane activity.
Honestly, everything I’m taking could fit into a coat pocket. If I was traveling with gaming my mind, I’d have a much bigger library. But this covers what I’ll need.
Mon Jul 11, 2022 4:49 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
My June Gaming
04 Jul 2022
Okay, somehow in June, I ended up trying a decent number of games. Itty bitty games, really, but more than I’ve played in a while.
Two of the games were from the first (and possibly annual) In Hand Design Contest: Brave the Book and Coffee Zombies. I am pretty sure I am not done with that contest’s entries either.
Brave the Book is a bookmark as a game and an exercise in counting words. I’ve already written about it. As a game, it almost felt like a modern veneer over a Victorian parlor game. I found it so-so at best as a game or activity but I really appreciate it as a mad experiment. One of the things I love about PnP and design contests is that they are safe places for crazy ideas.
Coffee Zombies may end up getting a full blog. It’s about using cupcakes to cure folks who have been turned into zombies by coffee. It has a bit of a Palm Island feel since you are rotating and flipping cards. It has one very interesting design choice. It is a separate action to put a card at the end of the deck. So you can keep developing the same card and some zombies don’t let you have the option of putting the card in the back.
I feel like Coffee Zombies could be solved. However, the designer added a special action card and an advanced deck which can be either played on its own or added to the regular deck. There’s more play out of it and, like so many contest entries, I have to wonder if this is the final version.
On the Roll and Write side, I tried out a few games.
I’ve already written about Goblins, Guns and Grog but my opinion of the game has actually gotten worse since then. The theme is good but the actual mechanics are weak. It has become my least favorite Legends of Dsyx game and it likely to stay that way.
However, I tried another of RobinJarvis’s games, one of the paper pinball games Goblin Circus. The last one from the first season I hadn’t tried. The paper pinball series aren’t very much like pinball but they are fun dice chuckers. Goblin Circus has a reroll mechanic, as well as a nifty jackpot goal.
Comparing the two games was interesting. Goblins, Guns and Grog is more ambitious but falls short. Goblin Circus is much simpler but it works and is fun.
I also played a game from an early R&W contest, Babhan. It’s a mixture of Roll and Write and Roll and Move as a solitaire. I’ve written about it, about how it makes several design choices to not make or a luck fest. It still is but I appreciate the effort.
Looking at ‘earlier’ design contests, I feel like design contests are becoming more and more testing grounds for prototypes with an aim for publication. Which is cool but there’s still room for madness like Brave the Book
I also actually bought a couple of games (Forbidden Desert and CYOA: War With The Evil Power Master) but haven’t had a a chance to play them yet.
Mon Jul 4, 2022 10:23 pm
- [+] Dice rolls