The Ramble Repository

The home of the Cardboard Diogenes Club, in which I consume as little as possible and write as much as possible. Opinions and strong takes abound!

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The Cardboard Diogenes Club - Let Me Back Up

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Two in one day? Yep! I'm feeling particularly self indulgent at the moment.

You all might remember that I allowed myself to consider exactly one Kickstarter for this year. It was the one for Testament:

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Long story short, it ain't happenin'.

I didn't miss the KS, far from it. I had it set to alert me when it launched and at the 48 hr window. Just didn't feel the need despite the game looking good. Kickstarter is kind of an exhausting thing from a consumer perspective. At least when you buy a thing the normal way you only have to wait as long as it takes to ship and show up. KS leads to a year of updates, delays, news, delays, art teases, delays, etc. By the time it shows up it can sometimes feel better that it's over than exciting that it's here. That's no way to approach anything that's meant to be fun.

The reason I waited to talk about this for so long was that I wasn't sure how to address it. Should I bank the single KS for later? Consider Testament some kind of special case when it comes out? But then I realized: the entire point of this exercise is freedom through restriction, satisfaction through lack of need. So I'm just gonna not. I let myself have the option and I abstained. No board game KS for me this year.

Does that mean I'm never using KS again? Nah, I can't go that far. If someone I know launches a project that I want in on I'll be there to support 'em. Like it or not, the platform is the best way to crowdfund stuff that otherwise wouldn't exist. But I'm increasingly uninterested in engaging with publishers on these terms when there's no real benefit to it for the backers beyond maybe getting the thing early. Why engage with it when the tried and true retail model, be it brick and mortar or online, is so much better?

Plus on a much more pragmatic note, I find myself a lot more interested in the puzzle Unicornus Knights offers than what Testament seems to be about. That's already a pretty big box for a niche game that only comes out once in a blue moon. Probably don't need another one. Though now that I'm thinking on it, being stuck indoors with few players makes it a pretty good choice to kill a few hours...

I think I'm gonna go be mad at escort missions later.
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Fri Mar 20, 2020 7:34 pm
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The Cardboard Diogenes Club - Place Your Bets

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This was almost a moment of weakness. Almost.

For context: I love me some Dragon Quest. My wife enjoys it as well, in particular Builders. Since I'm weird about objects collecting dust I don't own any collectables, but the aesthetic of DQ has always been one of my favorites in any video game franchise.

But a board game though? A board game has uses. Applications. Enter Dragon Quest: Slime Race.

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This is essentially a card-driven horse race that substitutes the horses for slimes and the bettors for monsters that are still bettors. Pretty straightforward stuff. We happened to see 1 remaining copy of it on an import shop's site. I threw my hands in the air because, alas, I am tapped for the month. Such is life in the CDC - the fun one, anyway. I may not be able to play Ettin much right now on account of the virus but I am still happy with my selection. Content.

And then Cindy demanded that she own it and bought it.

This in and of itself is not an issue but I feel some amount of culpability here as I was present for the decision. I want to be clear - I do not intend to use my wife as a board game mule. She wouldn't let me even if I wanted to; she's fiercely independent and very aware of my commitment to the Club despite not being allowed membership. She's also incredibly picky as to which games she selects and tends to have a better hit:miss ratio than I do as a result, so the last thing she wants is for my bad taste to affect her directly.

I just wanted to post this in the interest of full transparency/disclosure, lest it suddenly appear in my writeups and cause confusion. Let it be known: we are expecting another game at our residence, but my hands and conscience are clear.
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Fri Mar 20, 2020 2:16 pm
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Getting Down with the Sickness - The State of the Repository

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It should surprise no one that I am not publishing a GotM this bi-week. What may surprise you all is that it's not actually due to COVID! The bat-flu will absolutely take its toll on all of our gatherings going forward and has in fact already led to cancellation of several events, but my lack of plays is due to totally unrelated maladies that I've been suffering from for the last week and a half! Hooray! For those who are concerned don't be, I'm mostly better now.

But what is a regular blog about board games to do without board game plays to talk about? It's a challenging topic, like a zen koan for nerds. I will attempt, however poorly, to address this and other developments here. Consider this a sort of state-of-the-blog I guess, like I did the last time I completely ran out of material because BGG ate the post. But first, plugs!

THINGS I'VE WRITTEN RECENTLY


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Did a couple pieces over at PixelDie! The first is a review of Little Town, the CDC pick for January. I intend to review every CDC selection as the goal is to focus on games in depth rather than the shallow shotgun approach I normally use. I found it to be really solid in unexpected ways, but it's not going to be for everyone as a result: https://pixeldie.com/2020/03/06/little-town-review/

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The other is a numbered list. Kyle and I got together and did our top 5s to give folks an idea as to our tastes, then commented on each other's. He's not as steeped in the cardboard kool-aid as I am despite frequently serving as my guinea pig so his picks are, in my opinion, more interesting. Bada bing: https://pixeldie.com/2020/03/02/roll-for-discussion-our-top-...

THINGS I'M WRITING NOW


I have several projects at multiple stages. In the interest of accountability I'll list them here, with the proviso that some of them are WAY closer to done than others.

- Top 5 video games collab for PixelDie. Since we cover both on the site it only makes sense. That's a bit outside of what you all might be into but I'll toss a link here after it goes up regardless in case you want to check it out.

- Never Bring a Knife review. Unfortunately it seems like getting that 8 player game in will take longer than anticipated on account of, y'know, the pandemic. But the game deserves to be played at the high end if I'm going to review it, so that's where that's at.

- Krass Kariert and Ettin reviews. I'm lumping these together because both of them haven't been played nearly enough yet, but blah blah CDC obligations blah blah due diligence blah blah standards in critical work blah.

- A different video game joint for PixelDie in which I purchase a mystery bundle of steam codes and play all of them, no matter how horrible they are. Stay tuned for Bundle Hell.

- The piece about cosmic horror and failure that I keep refocusing/restarting. It'll probably exist eventually. Maybe. Once I figure out what I'm really trying to say.

If you all have any article ideas for me by all means suggest away. I'm open to it. My approach to writing is weird; I make notes, have them marinate in my brain for a while, then do all of the word vomit in one go and edit afterwards. As a result pieces jump the queue when they reach peak mental marinade. Could mean your idea will get done before these depending!

THINGS I WILL WRITE


So besides the obvious answer of "depends on when quarantine ends hurr hurr", what else do I intend to do?

More CDC blurbs as relevant. There have been fewer of those as I'm more or less in the groove now, though I will not lie - temptations still tempt. Level99 (one of the only companies I'm still subscribed to updates for) just sent out a coupon for their shop and are doing a charity drive with the proceeds. Do I want to pick up one of their lovely boxes and feel like a slightly better person for doing so? Goodness yes. But will I? No. Did I look at their offerings regardless despite this? I...yes. I did. Window shopping is free. That said I'm terrified at the very sight of Empyreal - it's got more iconography than a pharaoh's tomb and the box is the size of a sarcophagus. Professor Treasure looks like my kinda thing though.

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GotM will continue as long as I have games to play. You all already know that I don't do it EVERY bi-week. Sometimes I just haven't played enough games/games enough times to really make one that I'm happy with, so I do other stuff. This being a good example.

PixelDie will continue to host the kind of stuff I wouldn't post here anyway. In the past I generally made a habit of posting full reviews elsewhere and linking here when complete unless I needed it up for a deadline ASAP, so that'll continue to be the plan. I'm really happy to have a site that isn't subject to other people's whims/moderation. Don't worry though, the blog isn't moving there. It ain't that kind of place. I need a spot where I can get thoughts to digital paper and this will continue to be that.

THE LAST BIT


I appear to have defeated my writer's block, at least for the time being. Words come to me easier now than they used to. It really is like a workout, only it's arguably worse for your health. Posting just becomes the norm. Like breathing, or eating, or other assorted bodily functions.

Thanks for reading, as always. I'm not quite sure what the blog will look like in 2 weeks given the current situation, but you can bet there'll be SOMETHING here. If a week and a half of illness couldn't stop me what's a little pandemic gonna do?
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Sat Mar 14, 2020 3:32 pm
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The Cardboard Diogenes Club - March's Game

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This is essentially the opposite of last month's game. Where that was sudden and unplanned because it won me over at a game night, this was planned well in advance and I haven't actually played it yet. It just came out, after all.

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Ettin is, in a word, ambitious. The attribute list is all over the place:

- dedicated team game that plays up to 8
- at odd numbers, includes a friendly bot to team up with the odd one out
- alternates drafting between your adjacent ally and enemy
- asymmetric factions with unique decks, the cards from which can be drafted with said ally or stolen by said enemy
- location-grabber inspired card combat
- you can add more copies to play a whole damn crowd

I'm not bothering with that last one as it's a bit too gonzo for my needs, but woah. WOAH. The dynamic of switching between drafting with a friend and then yanking stuff from an enemy, then using those tools to take them on? That sounds fascinating. When I read the rulebook and found out what this game was trying to accomplish I knew I had to play it, and no one else in any of my groups takes Wizkids seriously (despite Zev being at the helm now!) so I went for it.

Now of course, everything I've mentioned here is subject to change once I actually table the thing. Another critic informed me that the game can take a few plays to really get its hooks in. That's unsurprising for a drafting game with this many types of cards. I think this'll end up being a slow burner as my access to large groups that don't immediately split into 2 smaller groups to play heavier games is spotty. Hopefully I can convince them to give it a go.
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Fri Mar 6, 2020 12:35 pm
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Games of the Moment 38

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Hey all! Before we get rolling I have a quick announcement: I have a website now!

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https://pixeldie.com/ is a colab between me and a friend. We're using it as a repository, if you will, for our game writing. It's gonna have board and video game content released whenever we feel like. No hard schedule, no ads, no shenanigans, just writing about games however we want. I'll still be blogging here as I've promised in the past, don't worry! Just wanted to let you all know there's going to be even more stuff to read there.

Cool? Cool! Games now.

COMMENCE GAMES




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Downforce is one of Cindy's favorite games. We're kind of committed to this one - between the two of us we've taught it to dozens of people and even demoed at a RG event. I've always been really keen on it, but not necessarily loved it, y'know? The bidding often felt like an exercise in seeing how little you could pay for a car, and fighting to see who got Determined could feel a bit repetitive. You know what fixes that? Expansions! We've had Danger Circuit for a while but not played it much until recently and let me tell you, it's quality.

Danger Circuit is exactly the kind of expansion I like - more stuff. No added gimmicks beyond 1 rule for rough terrain on the cliff map, just variety for the game you already like. Full disclosure: we tested early versions of these boards before these came out, and RG's process clearly works because they came out great. I think I like both of the maps here more than the base game's. The loop is a great variation on chokepoints that gives everyone more interesting decisions to wrestle with, and the rough terrain that allows you to cut around leaders is brilliant. That coupled with 6 new powers makes Downforce feel a lot more fleshed out than it did in its base form. Are all the cards balanced? Probably not, but it's an auction game! Who cares?



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Atlas Games very kindly sent this my way for review. This is not that review. I'm not quite ready to give it a full treatment yet for reasons that I'll get into, but I want to share some early impressions.

NBaK is a social deduction game, but not so much from the Resistance school. Instead of being a game focused on over-analyzing tiny nuggets of information it offers you multiple ways to get concrete info on the other players and find your enemies/teammates for certain. This works, and works well, because you use that information to play a card game.

Most of your time in NBaK is spent managing a hand of 4 cards, all of which need to be played, and probably not on who you want to. Again NBaK is generous with its info, forcing the first play on each player to be public in order to make intent known. There aren't that many card types to worry about - hurting people, blocking that hurt, making money that can be spent on heals or even more information, you get the idea. But it isn't so much about what the cards do as much as the actual play of the cards. Sure I tossed you some body armor and chose to do so publicly, but is that because we're friends or because I'd like you to THINK we're friends? That kind of thing. Very engaging.

The reason I can't properly review this right now is that I need to play it at the high end of its player count first (7-8), and that opportunity hasn't presented itself yet. I will say that I'm shocked the game functions at its low end; games of this nature typically don't but NBaK being more focused on the card game works to its benefit. Thus far I find what's going on here really interesting - a distilled version of games like Dȗhr: The Lesser Houses or Exodus Paris Nouveau that loses none of its teeth for the clearer rules. Very strong impressions thus far, looking forward to completing the obligation. Stay tuned!



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I've played TIoC's family mode 5-6 times over the last week. It slaps.

I've always liked the idea of polyomino games more than the execution. Patchwork was fiiiine, Barenpark really wasn't, the various heavy euros with a polyomino element were ok I guess but felt overwrought. But Isle of Cats? Isle of Cats delivers, and a big part of that is how it spits in the face of perfection.

The first lesson you need to learn when playing this game is that you can't complete your board. Don't try. You'll fail, score badly, and be sad. Aim to chain families, complete your score conditions, and know when to let a room go. After a game or two you'll find your footing and can start hate drafting. Then you're in for some of the best polyomino gameplay in all of cardboarddom packed into 30 minutes.

What makes the family mode work so well is its simple ruleset. Draft a cat, place a cat, maybe get a bonus tile, pass turn. That's all you do! But it produces agonizing decisions in the 90's euro kind of way, where all the choices hurt and you get to choose which band-aid you rip off. I almost feel like calling it family mode undersells it because familiar players can and will absolutely spike newbies. The game's incredibly tightly wound. 5 rounds may seem like a lot but I assure you, it ain't. Don't write this mode off just because its rules are a single sheet front and back. It's wickedly clever.



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We needed a no-more-than-10 minute filler before breaking into groups and I knew exactly what to do. Original Winsome ruleset, no big cubes, no rounds. Just cube or train. CUBE OR TRAIN.

Only one of our players was new, which meant everyone else got to enjoy the lightbulb moment that usually hits around the first payout. "Oh! Oh, I get it. I like this." Every time. Better writers than me have broken down why NorPac works. To my simple mind it's just a weird kind of magic. I like the magic game.



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WOAH.

In case you missed it this was a last-minute Cardboard Diogenes selection in a month that was otherwise going to be skipped. KK knocked my socks off. Like all the way across the room. PROPELLED those socks. I never found the left one.

It's the puzzle of KK that elevates it. You're playing a weird hybrid of trick taking and card shedding, but having to manage a Bohnanza-style locked hand in order to do so? Now we're cooking with gas. This game is proof that you don't need to invent a new mechanism in order to innovate, just use the parts you have better!

The special cards are pretty spicy too. Xs for wilds lend power and flexibility, the Stop lets you snag the lead at a key moment, and the Draw 3 is a double edged sword that can save or doom you depending. Sure there's some luck there, but it's a card game. If that's a barrier for you I don't know why you're reading this entry in the first place.



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Ok, lemme level with you. Intrigue is a classic. I am aware of this. I've only played it like, twice. Keep that in mind. Here we go:

I think it's pretty good but we have games that do Intrigue's tricks better at this point.

Not the spiciest take, I know, but that's really it! I like Intrigue's luckless savagery, I like the wonky incentives, I like that it's as mentally strenuous as you want it to be. But would I play it over the likes of Tiefe Taschen? Probably not, unless I really thought the game would fit that specific table better. You kind of have to -allow- Intrigue to be good, otherwise it can be a little limp and procedural. And it's especially fragile if you play it with math-oriented folks who take their time and throw hard numbers at the problem.

My god though, the brutality of this one. It really wants you to get the knife in your friends to the hilt and twist. I could see myself warming up to it even more over time just because of that alone. What a wonderfully nasty thing. Just not entirely convinced there aren't similar games that I prefer at this point.

THE LAST BIT


A nice normal blog entry is a balm for the soul. Since I got my announcement out of the way up top I don't really have a ton else to say here. I've got a game of Root scheduled next week with the expansion stuff, so that's exciting! Messed around with the moles in a two-handed game so I'd understand what they were about, and I intend to do the same for the crows too. Gotta do my due diligence, you know how it is.

I'm slowly working on reviewing Little Town as well, which will likely be a PixelDie joint. Only seems right to give my CDC picks a proper writeup. Spoilers: I quite like it, but I feel it'll end up divisive among euro fans.

Oh, and I guessed I pissed off a bunch of career designers on Twitter the other day? But that's not an accomplishment, it's pretty easy to do. In summary - I want to see more original ideas and risks taken in new games as the baseline for game quality has been raised quite a bit. "Good" is no longer good enough, unless of course you're trying to fill slots in a publication schedule. That last part ruffled some feathers among folks you wouldn't be surprised to see ruffled.

Thanks for reading, as always! See you all in 14.
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Sat Feb 29, 2020 3:33 pm
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The Cardboard Diogenes Club - February's Game

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Oh. Hm. This was unexpected. I'll explain.

As I mentioned in my previous entry I was willing to let February go un-gamed. Truly I was. But I played something recently that shook me to my very core. Something so impressive that, despite the shipping estimate being about a month away due to imports being slow, I made it happen.

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Krass Kariert is a cards and numbers dynamo that's as fun as it is subversive. A trick taker where the tricks don't matter. A card shedding game where you can win without going out. A hand management game in a very literal sense. It borrows concepts from just about everywhere - Bohnanza's rigid hand, Landlord's combos, Pairs/Cockroach Poker's single loser and no winners, absolute madness. Solving the puzzle each hand presents while trying to find the balance between going out and just not dying is a tightrope act on razor wire. I really, really liked it is what I'm saying.

What pushed me from merely enjoying it into actually wanting to own it was Cindy. After a maximum-length-9-hand-4p-session she declared it as a trick taking game she actually liked. This is a coveted title that only one other game - The Dwarf King - has earned until now. She likes cards and numbers but typically bounces off of any game where the words "lead" and "follow" are uttered. For a game to not only overcome that barrier but transcend it? Brilliant. Could I proxy a deck? Absolutely. But this is worthy of having. And I will.

As I mentioned up top, this won't be arriving any time soon per shipping estimates. It's coming from Germany after all. Us cards and numbers aficionados are used to this kind of thing. It'll get here when it gets here. Regardless it is a purchase, and as such I will hold myself accountable. KK is February's game and I couldn't be more excited for it to get here.
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Tue Feb 25, 2020 1:19 pm
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The Cardboard Diogenes Club - Begone, Box

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This isn't going to be a particularly interesting post. Just accountability.

I mentioned in previous entries that I was attending a local buy/sell/trade event. That was today. Sold just shy of 30 boxes, which was about 2/3 of what we brought. Overall quite happy with having less stuff.

Towards the end of the event a friend at a nearby table gifted us a copy of Intrigue. I asked if he wanted anything for it as I would have been fine with it being my acquisition for the month. He said no for two reasons: the game was responsible for a decade-long grudge held by someone he betrayed once, and he wanted to hear how badly it affected the people I play it with. I agreed. This thing is going to tear my work group asunder, I can feel it.

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So what'd I buy for the month? This was the reason I'd waited, surely I picked something cool?

Nah. Nothing.

I expected to at least trade for something but I just wasn't feeling it. Considered grabbing Gloomy Graves as it was in stock and still might at some point in the future, but for now I'm ok. May skip February entirely. We'll see.

In other CDC news, the kickstarter for Testament went up. Per the rules it's the only KS I allowed myself to throw in for (barring stuff made by people I know, which is rare). While I'd still like to play it, I'm thinking I may just wait for it to come out. Don't need to bother with the platform when there are so many good games that already exist.

That's it. That's all I've got. I said up top this wasn't interesting!
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Sun Feb 23, 2020 12:21 am
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The Cardboard Diogenes Club - Help Me Make Mistakes

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Folks, I'm at an impasse.

I've barely played any games for the last 2 weeks. Due to a combination of life commitments and norovirus cutting a swath through my house getting folks around the table just hasn't been an option. I want to put my standard bi-weekly entry in but just don't have much to talk about. So I'm going to do handle this the best way I know how - outsourcing! To YOU!

Is this community engagement? Woah there. Look, I only know you all so well and that's a big commitment. Let's take it slow, maybe start with me pointing at games that I haven't played and you letting me know if I should peruse playing them or not. Additionally, if you're interested in seeing particular games covered maybe lemme know? I've been paying less attention to releases so I'm not even sure what the people want at this point. Anyway, let's give it a shot.

VENTURE FORTH




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Of course we're starting with weird indie Japanese stuff. Whose blog did you think you were reading?

Rumble Nation is a mechanical golem. Something cobbled together from parts not its own, turned into something wholly unique. It's an area control game with dice allocation, single-use powers, Pandemic style unit spreading, and a really neat tie breaking mechanism. That sounds like a lot, but it also plays in 20 minutes. Maybe that's still a lot? I dunno anymore. Board games are weird.

I really dig the way this works. You're mostly playing a dice-driven area control game, like a really simple riff on El Grande, until everyone runs out of units. Then there's a big climactic hands-off resolution phase where winning low value territories allows units to spill out into adjacent unscored ones. Conceptually this would be solvable, but you randomize all the territories Catan-style at the beginning so it's never that cut and dry.

This is the kind of lunch hour game I'm all about. Decision making, tension, conflict, replayability. Of all the games on this list it's the one I'd pick up without hesitation as my monthly. Problem is you kiiind of can't, at least not in the west. I was in talks with someone to trade a copy away but it didn't come to pass. It seems to be getting some attention here though, so maybe it'll see a US release? I can hope.



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ACotIS is a deceptive box. It's not a traditional civ game, it's a civ-themed brawler. A lot of the grognard set seemed disappointed, where folks like me who enjoy historical games but don't list game weight as their primary enjoyment metric seem to be enjoying themselves. It's even in a region that I've spent a lot of time studying! Fantastic.

This one's at least partially the fault of There Will Be Games. Michael Barnes called it "Super Smash Civilizations" and I see why. It's absolutely brutal, with every player having access to an incredibly nasty deck of miserable effects that they inflict on each other. Combine that with easily mathed out deterministic combat and it sounds like a great time to me.

My only real concern here is length. I know the game length/boards used can be adjusted depending on how much time you've got, which is great, but it definitely seems like a game that wants to be played at its longer settings and I honestly have no idea if/when that'd happen. I'm increasingly uninterested in adding games to my shelves that won't be optimally played for one reason or another, even if I really like the ideas in the box. Hence why I'm looking to try it first - it could be great! I don't know.



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Double feature! Roxley recently announced Skyrise, which is a reworking of Metropolys, which is a game I haven't played. In fact, until I read up on this all I knew about Metropolys was that it was "that city game with the really ugly board". Having actually looked it over I've softened on it slightly - it's not awful - but it ain't the best.

The rules of Metropolys are actually really neat though. Serious Knizia vibes. The reason they're both featured here is that I don't know if I should potentially see about playing the original or just wait for the new one. Roxley typically doesn't drop the ball, but I have concerns that they're adding too much stuff to a very clean core. Modifiable boards? Player powers? I dunno man, it's starting to sound kind of CMON-y in here.



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I'm an Allers fan. I've at least liked all of his games that I've played, if not REALLY liked them. He's got a great sense for distilling the most fun parts of euros. New York Slice and Alea Iacta Est were particular standouts. Heartland was very much out of print until Gunkimono came out in 2018 and I was counting the days until I could give them my money...and then I saw the color scheme on a demo copy.

This is a digression but I'm going to take it, it's my blog. I'm not color blind but a friend who I play games with a lot is, and bafflingly they decided to use red, orangey-brown, and green as 3 of the 5 colors. In case you're not up on accessibility stuff that's an abysmal combination for most kinds of color blindness. The pieces are technically visually different, but they're all differently armed soldier dudes and that wasn't ideal either. My friend couldn't play it, and so it was a sad pass for me. I wish Renegade had put a bit more time into visual accessibility testing.

So when I found out that Allers has another formally-farming-now-something-else-domino game coming out it felt like a second chance of sorts. Gloomy Graves definitely doesn't play the same as Heartland/Gunkimono. You're not just playing to a central field and cutting each other off, you're also working on a personal 3x3. This presumably gives you some extra control as to what to aim for at the cost of potentially signalling intent to the other players. That concept, brought down to a card game sized box, is really appealing to me. The fantasy gravedigger set dressing is...less so, especially for a light fluffy tile layer, but I can look past it.

THE LAST BIT


Thanks for putting up with a change in programming. I've actually got a few reviews in the oven right now (Little Town, Never Bring a Knife, the Epic app) but they're not ready yet either due to the aforementioned illness. Did I mention that norovirus is terrible? Because it is. Oh god it is.

There are, of course, some other games I'm interested in actually owning. I already said I'm acquiring Cosmic Frog and Ride the Rails this year. The former because Felli is a mad genius, the latter because I dig Iron Rails as a concept but I know no one else in my group will pick up the new one.

Please give me your suggestions for games I should look into playing! I'm not uniquely interested in new releases - if anything I'm more inclined to go for something that's already out - so any favorites are welcome. Playtime of an hour or less will make me particularly happy but by all means aim higher if you really enjoy it.

Thanks for reading! See you all in another 14.
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Sat Feb 15, 2020 3:43 pm
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The Cardboard Diogenes Club - Developing Allergies

Demetri
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A curious side effect of my self imposed restrictions is that I've begun to bounce off of rules.

I read a lot of rulebooks. Mechanisms are interesting to me, even in a vacuum, and rulebooks are a quick read. It's not a substitute for actually playing the thing but it's a good way to get a grasp for what a game is trying to accomplish. Lately though, things have been a bit different.

Turns out a significant amount of my desire to engage with these systems came from considering them as potential acquisitions. I've always enjoyed games that skew a bit simpler than the average active BGG user, but nowadays anything with more than 4 pages of rules makes my eyes glaze over. Exceptions apply of course but for the most part my light reading habits have become more exhausting than anything else.

There is of course a chance that this is just general hobby fatigue and not a side effect of my detox. But I'm still excited about games, is the thing. Just fewer overall. Y'know what one of the best plays I had recently was? Lay Waste's Dragoon, a game that I'd encountered once when it was new and summarily dismissed. Now its blend of simple rules, constant conflict, great aesthetics, and a healthy dollop of randomness is incredibly appealing to me. I want to play it more. Maybe even own it. There's a purity to it that I crave more than anything else in games right now. Raw interaction. Emotion. Play.

I don't have a closing paragraph. Thanks for reading.
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Mon Feb 10, 2020 3:56 pm
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Games of the Moment 36

Demetri
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Raleigh
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Hey hey hey! It's GotM! Not a random writeup, not me being mad at people who act like children despite being twice my age, just games and opinions! Isn't that nice?

An intended consequence of The Cardboard Diogenes Club is that I play a lot of games that other people bring, as well as repeats of my favorites. Not gonna lie, it's been nice to not think much about what hits the table. Have all of them been winners? Nope! But that's fine. Bad times make the good times more valuable. Speaking of, let's start with a euro!

OH NO THE GAMES HAVE BEGUN




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I kind of get it, y'know? Tile laying is fun. Time tracks are fun. Putting 'em together makes sense. What's that? 50 scoring conditions and a ton of single-use iconography? Oh.

Let's start at the end: Glen More II is fine. There's nothing horribly wrong with it, which automatically places it higher than a lot of late 2010s euros. Trying to build a functional engine with as few tiles as possible is neat I guess. There's just nothing about it that elicits any kind of emotional response. You manage the early draft, zero in on a gameplan, and act on it as well as the game allows for the next hour or so. Unlike a lot of tile layers I didn't feel any kind of satisfaction with what I'd built by the end, despite achieving my goal of becoming the whiskey king of Scotland. It just felt like I was yanking whatever obviously benefited me while occasionally hate drafting something when I could afford to. Very procedural. Sterile.

Glen More I is not a game I've had the opportunity to play, but I'm a curious boy so I looked it up after playing this one. During our session I noted that the second board with the web of unlocks felt bolted on. Sure enough, the original didn't have that board at all. I have a feeling I'd like that a lot more. Sounds more focused. Apparently this was a Kickstarter, which explains why there's so MUCH of it. Big box, lots of modules, more game layered onto more game like a cardboard lasagna with no regard for how cooked the middle is. Such a waste.

All that said I can't bring myself to roast GM2. It didn't offend. It's just yet another euro with a solid mechanical core that's had far too much stuff dumped on top of it. I shouldn't have to wade through a ton of icons and variables to understand how to pick up a tile. There's definitely something to this one, but I'm not overly inclined to play this enough times to find it.



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This is a Feld? That can't be right, this game is good!

Speicherstadt is savagely brutal. Like, damn. My first game was a disaster (in like, a fun way) that left several of us bereft of points. I finished that game at a whole 1 point. 1. Second game went considerably better, during which I scored 25 and won without even taking a single contract. Let it never be said I don't know my way around an auction once I figure out what things are worth.

There's a lot of little mechanical decisions that make this game sing. The early placements get hate drafts and baits out of the way, then you start to form queues for anything that's particularly juicy as the board state solidifies. The pricing being = to the number of dudes in the queue makes reading and affecting game state quick and easy. Being able to raise prices and just nope out of any given auction once you're resolving the round is great. There's a fair variety of cards to shop for at any given moment, especially with the expansion (which we've never not played with), but never so many that you can't pin down things to go for. And most importantly, the ultra-tight economy brings tension. My favorite economic games involve using money as a blunt object. Speicherstadt demands that you manage your handful of coins carefully and not dig yourself into a hole, lest the other players keep you there. Great stuff.

I can't believe I'm saying this but this is a Feld I'll happily play whenever it hits the table. I'd even go so far as to consider a copy of Jorvik if I happened upon it, since that's got the game and expansion packed in and I can't imagine just playing the base unless we were tight on time. Really cool all around. I dunno what happened to the Feld that made this, but I wish he'd come back.



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Confession time: I've never played with the actual LAMA deck, only cobbled together versions by dismantling Circus Flohcati or combining two decks of standard cards. I imagine Dr. Knizia will forgive me for having played his game with another one of his games. Consider this me attempting to wash my hands of my sins.

Anyway, LAMA is great. Not great enough for me to type it out as an acronym for the rest of this entry, but great nonetheless. You know how the word "addictive" gets thrown around for a lot of games? Especially bad mobile apps? This is the first one I've seen in years where that actually applies. "One more, one more" is a common refrain whenever this hits the table. The rules are so dirt simple, even for Knizia, that it can be hard to see where the game is at first glance. Your first couple hands will just kind of...happen. I imagine that's why some folks have bounced off of it; it's feather light and will play itself if you let it. But if you like cards and numbers like I like cards and numbers? Folks, this is the good stuff. The purest of the pure.

The game's feedback loop is as quick as it is intense. Get some cards, watch the distribution of the early plays as you feel the round out, decide whether you're playing to fold or go out, and work your ass off to make that plan a reality as efficiently as possible. Duplicate numbers only sting you for points once so maybe you try to hold a few copies to make a quick fold easier, but will you get stuck if you don't play? Maybe you want to draw extra cards because you think everyone else will fold and let you go out, but if you're missing a key link in the chain you're doomed! And of course, shedding a 10 point chip if you manage to go out? That delivers a shot of dopamine like few card games can. MMM! Brain chemicals.

I won't pretend that there's a ton going on here, but there doesn't need to be. You toss cards, you take chips, you shed chips, you laugh. LAMA succeeds at everything it was designed to do and that's good enough.



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Tiefe Taschen is one of my favorite games, full stop. We play it relatively often and yet not often enough. But a quick search of the blog shows me that I've only ever mentioned it in "this game is fine but not as good as Tiefe Taschen" contexts. Let me fix that!

TT manages to pull off a trick that's been often attempted but rarely succeeded at: the short negotiation game. From the very first round it's almost always impossible to split money evenly, so the negotiation starts early and only heats up from there. It's strengthened by the fact that you can generally tell who's winning, but not so exactly that math gets in the way of chatter. You'll go through all the best bits negotiation and voting games have to offer: bribery, forming coalitions, promises of future considerations, reneging on those considerations, and eventually trying to outright destroy each other before the country goes bankrupt. And you'll do it all in 30 minutes. It sounds too good to be true, and yet!

Unfortunately TT is a bit hard to get, though the US edition called Goodcritters is available. I like the rules changes in the latter a bit less than TT but those are mostly fixable by just looking up the original rules and playing it that way. The real loss is the endgame ruler which was apparently ditched so that sleeving the cards wouldn't be a problem, which further confirms that compulsive sleevers are fun-hating cowards. Play this if at all possible, it's brilliant.



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I've played a lot of Las Vegas over the years. What I've only played a few times are the Boulevard expansions, which are what I'm going to write about today. As of right now I've seen the big die and the kicker dice. Of course I have opinions on both.

The big die is really simple; it just counts as two dice of your color wherever you put it. It can create a big swing on a casino but it's a bit less exciting than just having more dice and rolling multiples. Do I dislike it, then? No! Just indifferent. I'll play with it, I'll play without it, it's whatever.

The kicker dice are a bit more involved. Each player gets two dice that match no one's color. When placed they allow the active player to select a die that's already there and kick it back to its corresponding player. Importantly, the kicker dice do NOT stay on a casino. They vanish into the ether upon use. This forces a very different kind of thinking than LV normally asks of players - who do you bump, where do you bump, when do you bump? Normally a placement in LV is a commitment, which informs players and allows for speculation. Kickers introduce a lot more chaos - nothing is real, everything is potentially temporary, your very eyes cannot be trusted. Are they interesting? Sure! Do I like them? Not really!

Las Vegas, to me, is a game made by its simplicity. It's a game I've played dozens of times with folks of all different gaming tastes and backgrounds. It works as well as it does because it's effectively bulletproof and has like, two rules. I'm not convinced that adding additional complexity actually improves the game in any measurable way. This is why I ignored Las Vegas Royale despite it being a much nicer edition with a fancy rolling tray. LV does not need rules grit to "ascend" to some kind of gamers' version of itself. It's perfect as-is. Toss dice, curse at dice, place dice. Simple. I'll play with these modules when other folks set them up but I won't be chasing them down for my copy of the game any time soon.



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I've been going through a couple new-to-me Pairs games lately. Deadfall came highly recommended, and as it was released on its own I had reason to believe there was merit there. It's a bit wonky to teach but pretty simple in execution. Have ya played Liar's Dice? It's basically that, but not.

Now, I love Liar's Dice. I play it with my work group all the time. If I was forced to pick one game as "our" game, that's probably the one. As a result I expected Deadfall to go over pretty well. It did not. The other guys more or less unanimously rejected it as an inferior option and demanded we switch games after a couple hands.

But. BUT. I disagree! I very much enjoy Deadfall, more than anyone else did anyway. Especially as an alternative for when you don't want to annoy everyone within a 5 mile radius with CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK SLAM. It plays with information in a very different way than its predecessor, forcing players to constantly reveal more and weaken themselves until someone eventually smells blood and pulls the trigger. The added wrinkle of the deck's triangular distribution makes deciding when to call someone a really interesting decision, and of course the bluffing is on point. I'd like to come up with a way to handle scoring besides antes and chips - maybe keep track of lives? - but I still like this regardless. I've yet to play a Pairs deck game I've disliked and I'm generally predisposed to liking games with Ernest's name on 'em, but this was still a good reminder that there's no accounting for taste. I'll be playing this again, just with different people who appreciate it.

THE LAST BIT/CARDBOARD DIOGENES CLUB UPDATE


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So it's February! That's one successful month of being a cardboard hermit/philosopher/weirdo. I thought about doing CDC updates (the one I started, we're not talking about coronavirus here) in a separate post as a sort of a recap, but nah. Just gonna include it here.

It's been a good month! Browsing the internet without constantly thinking about potential purchases has been...weird? Refreshing, certainly, but also kind of a shock. When your browsing habits and goals are changed cold turkey it can sometimes feel like there's not enough internet to look at during downtime. I'd see a copy of a game I've been interested in on sale or up for trade, then have to pump the mental brakes and remind myself that no, I cannot. Even if they'd trade it for something I couldn't care less about.

I have one concern though, and it's about this month in particular. About 2/3 through Feb I'm going to attend a big local board game sale. We have a few of these a year. Tables are loaded with games, store credit is made, I make enough to fund my hobby without spending real money, life goes on. The thing is, trades happen there too. Except they won't. Not this time. Because I can't. I mean Cindy can and probably will (she's got her eye on a bunch of Among the Stars stuff), but I'm still limited to my one.

Fortunately there are only a few games I have on the "wishlist", so to speak. I want for little. But not being able to trade for weird old OOP games that I couldn't have planned for? That's potentially a heartbreaker. Last time I attended this particular event I landed a complete copy of the Avalon Hill big box edition of Acquire and a particularly nice Backgammon set. The former was something I'd wanted for years but never thought I'd get ahold of! Felt like I'd won the damn day. But not this time! Gotta be disciplined.

As a result the CDC will likely not have a ton of updates until I go to the sale. I don't intend to buy anything until then as I want to leave my options open. If I DO opt for some ridiculous thing beforehand...oof. For the curious, here are a couple games I'd consider on sight:

Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea - I like the idea of a high-conflict longer game that uses Civ as a backdrop. Actual Civ games don't tend to be my thing, but I love history and games that use it. Plus the period and region is in my wheelhouse.

March of the Ants - 4X in miniature! I have actually played this and quite enjoyed it, though I haven't spent enough time with it to really do much writing on it as of yet. Liked what I've seen though. Would play more gladly, which may mean it'd make sense to get it for myself.

...oh. I guess that's it? Huh.

Also! I put in a preorder for Ride the Rails. Per the terms of the CDC that IS legal, as it's one of exactly two games (the other being Cosmic Frog) that I have planned ahead for this year and permitted myself to acquire regardless of stipulations. Predictably there was a bit of negative feedback from folks who are very online regarding Bohrer insisting that Harry Wu remain on the box, but that seems to have already blown over.

Some non-CDC orders of business:

- Got a review copy of Never Bring a Knife in literally as I was writing this. Specifically requested it as it seemed interesting. Will get it to the table soon.

- Apparently Andy Looney read my Pyramid Arcade ranking and it affected their product line??? He notes in their blog that their upcoming Pyramid Quartet has Twin Win as a direct result of my writeup. I'm really excited that it'll be available in a smaller, accessible box! (http://new.wunderland.com/2020/01/20/nomids-and-pyramid-quar...)

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- Mystery Wizard is getting a facelift, and it's by The Mico! It looks fantastic. If you haven't seen, do check it out. While I love the original scrawl-y art and intend to keep my PNP's sheets for that reason I think this fits the vibe they're going for really well. God I'm excited for that game to finally exist.

- I am out of coffee. This is unacceptable. I am now done writing.

Thanks so much for reading! See ya around.
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Sat Feb 1, 2020 4:27 pm
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