Archive for Minimalish

 Thumb up

Updates on Cards & Crates

I wrote a post at the very beginning of this year about my history with playing cards: A Personal History of Naked Card Playing (Death to Sleeves)

I've written multiple posts over the course of the year directly or indirectly about "minimalism" and the not-so-good feeling of having too many unplayed games. Here's the current list of unplayed games in the house:

I was looking at a stack of copies of unplayed games this morning, thinking to myself that I just don't have the desire right now to play many of these games at this moment. I know that these things come in waves so I'm not really worried. There's a good chance that I'll be playing half a dozen of these unplayed games this very weekend. It's good for me to get these games played. I think that the last time that I lived in a place with zero unplayed games was probably 2005. I've actually begun to cull books as well, but that's its own separate challenge. I'm on something like the Kondo 20-year plan.

So, if I'm not so excited about the unplayed, what games have I been thinking about and/or playing?

I was inspired by bootleby's My Expertise III geeklist to create my own similar list. My list includes a running joke (hey, aren't jokes supposed to be funny?) about playing all of the games mentioned immediately. I didn't actually play more than a few games that day (Duell, King's Valley, Chartae), but I did get every one of those games out of the cabinet and stacked them together, impressed by what a great small collection they made. I could be happy with just this pile of games.

There was another geeklist on the front page dashboard about modern 2p abstracts that led me to the Connect6 page which led me to russ' review of Connect6 which led me to all of russ' reviews which led me to his review of Mini Shogi, a Shogi variant I was aware of, but wasn't high on my "radar", which I am now hoping to play soon. Part of me is excited to play Mini Shogi. Another part of me is screaming, YOU MUST FINISH PLAYING ALL OF THOSE UNPLAYED GAMES, and that's really the problem; not the unplayed games themselves, but the feeling of having some obligation to unburden myself.

The simplest way to destroy that feeling is to get through the unplayed games and continue to stay firm in my new policy to play every incoming game within two weeks of receiving it. The acquisition itself isn't the problem (though sometimes it is). It's the acquisition without playing that is problematic.

What have I acquired in the past couple of weeks? A few things.

I have purchased two different decks of playing cards, 2 copies of each deck, one for me and one for the Secret Joker Exchange. I would post pictures here, but won't for fear of lurking Jokers.

I purchased a copy of Qwixx while at Target. This was an impulse buy, but I knew that it would go over well with the kids. I taught it to three of them the day after purchasing it. They have since gone on to play it more without me, which is always the best sign that a game belongs in the house.

Another trade happened. My copy of Meltwater: A Game of Tactical Starvation for Formosa Flowers and Secret Moon. Those two games should be arriving today or tomorrow. Getting rid of Meltwater was another tough decision that many here may think was the wrong decision. It is undoubtedly a good game, maybe even a great game. It is rare that a game can successfully make an argument through gameplay, through mechanisms. Meltwater succeeds in its evocation of a shrinking world and the despair of mutual destruction, the meaninglessness of any sort of "win" under these circumstances. It really is brilliant. And the gameplay is strong enough for the game to be an interesting challenge apart from the theme (as if this were possible). After all that praise, though, I just didn't find myself wanting to play it. It's a bit of a bummer. If I wanted a 2p head-to-head game, I was always going to pick another game, or at least in practice I always did pick another game. So it left the collection.

I exchanged a few very pleasant messages with Daniel Zinn, the person behind The Blue Rings Custom Skat Deck. It was immediately apparent that this deck is a true labor of love for him. His love of Skat and his wanting to share that love with the largest possible audience is really infectious. Daniel recognized my own enthusiasm for custom decks and my interest in learning Skat and offered to send me a Blue Rings deck that he already had printed and laying around. He did not expect a review or ask for any publicity (and I'm not kidding myself that I really have any influence here). He just saw that I was excited and wanted to share something that he loves with me. I happily accepted his kind offer.

So, I received the Blue Rings deck. I watched Daniel's videos, which are quite good (and the reference cards included are also nice), but I still struggled with the bidding rules. I read Parlett on Skat, but that didn't help so much. Finally, I broke down and turned to a Skat iPhone app and just played repeatedly. I had seen both bootleby and Sean mention playing card game apps to learn games and figured it was worth a try. You know what? It worked. Not only did I learn the bidding rules to Skat, it helped break down the barrier I had in considering the Jacks (the Rings in the custom deck) as the highest part of a named trump suit and helped in cementing the Ace-Ten-King ranking.

I felt good with the rules myself, but still felt overwhelmed teaching the game to my family. The truth is that I still haven't done so.

What I did do was use the Blue Rings deck to play Officers' Skat with my 10yo daughter. This helped to teach her the rankings of the cards. There is a lot more luck in Officers' Skat than in true Skat, but it was still plenty of fun and worked as it should. We played with a simplified scoring system, just 2 points awarded per won game, which is one of the variants listed on that wiki. I added in "ramsch" and "kontra" and "re" as she became more confident.

Daniel recommended playing the game with my family without bidding at all for a while. It seems counter intuitive as a gamer to do this, because bidding is the very heart of the game, but it really does make sense to do this to teach the game. Introducing a complicated bidding system on top of a complicated ranking system is just too much. It was too much for me, as I've already noted. I had to use repeated play against an AI to understand it myself and I did so because I was determined to learn the game. Someone without that desire and determination would just give up.

The good news is that the Blue Rings deck really does make the ranking much easier to learn, eliminating that barrier. The toughest part of the design must have been the Rings, which are (almost) always trump, but malleable in their suit. This was the only thing that my daughter struggled with. I had to remind her a few times that her rings were actually the trump suit color. That said, I think that the Rings design as-is is about as good as they possibly could be. I'm really impressed by the design.

So, here's that Kickstarter link again. There are only a few days left. Pick up a copy for yourself if you have any interest at all in Skat.

My copy of Doublehead Kids hasn't arrived yet, but it's good to see that others have started to receive copies in the States.

I do absolutely love this "trend" of updating traditional games with more functional aesthetic designs. Boon is another one that I love, maybe my favorite in terms of aesthetics, but to be fair this is a simpler game to update since there is a fixed trump suit. I've given myself a free pass to purchase any of these sorts of updates, which is why I didn't feel at all guilty when I just recently purchased a copy of Vivaldi after seeing Rob comment on it. These decks may not be finding a huge audience, but they are at least succeeding in easing me into further exploration of traditional games. I'm personally glad for this.

I'm painfully aware that this is already a long post. It's a giant wall of text without any pretty pictures to break things up. I had taken photos of my 10yo playing Officers' Skat with the Blue Rings deck with me, but I accidentally deleted them, because, well, technology. I guess I'm going "all in" now and just committing to the wall of text.

Here's an update on the card games that I have played so far this year. I won't even comment on these as I've already done so throughout the year. All I'm doing here is listing them all in my current order of preference, splitting the games into two lists, Modern and Traditional. Here we go.

New-To-Me Modern Card Games Played in 2020 Ranked
1. Schotten Totten
Modern Art Card Game
Heul doch! Mau Mau
Air, Land & Sea
The Bottle Imp
Marshmallow Test
Duck Soup
Ugly Christmas Sweaters
Zero Down
Nytelyfe Solitaire
Potato Man
Wig Out!
Greedy Kingdoms
Bucket Brigade
Familiar's Trouble
Bargain Hunter

Knizia is still king.

New-To-Me Traditional Card Games Played in 2020 Ranked
1. Hearts
Oh Hell!
Sheepshead (Boon)
Skat (The Blue Rings)
Poker (Follow the Queen)

Hearts still has my heart. I greatly enjoy trick avoidance.
Twitter Facebook
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:30 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
 Thumb up

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."
Twitter Facebook
Tue Aug 20, 2019 6:51 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls