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.

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Culling the Game Collection: A Work in Progress

Lowell Kempf
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I have always been a collector and a packrat. It’s part of who I am and part of my nature. And, to be honest, I don’t see that as something that’s going to change. I’m not going to become an ascetic and live a possession-free life. However, one thing that I have been working on is managing my collecting and packrat nature.

Now, I’ve never been to the point where I was in danger of going on Hoarders. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

However, by the time my fiancé got ready to move in with me, I knew that I had a problem and that something had to change. The problem was that I had a spare room full of boxes of books and games, some of which hadn’t been opened in five years. Truly, full to the point where you couldn't see the floor. Okay, that was on top of having a shelf of games in the kitchen that took up a third of the wall and games and books squirreled away in other places as well.

Part of the problem might have been my acquisitive nature. I couldn’t pass up a bargain and I could relate all too well to Igor from Dork Tower’s cry of “It must be mine!” But, clearly, part of the problem was that I didn’t have enough room for another human being and another cat to move in!

Well, I spent a month ruthlessly culling the books. We made multiple trips to a local used bookstore, once even renting a cargo van, until I was down to two book shelves of books. She got me a nook with extra memory so I could develop an electronic library, which I have indeed been doing. It might not be the same but, let me tell you, the space difference makes it totally worth it.

Unfortunately, culling games isn’t quite as easy and it’s a process that it still ongoing.

Step one was, of course, deciding what games had to go. In some cases, that was an easy choice. Some games I bought just because they were cheap and I knew that I was probably never going to play them. Other games were ones that I had tried out and hated. Those could go as well.

Then, there were games that I knew just weren’t going to see much, if any, play. A board game collection exists to be played (except for my collection of 3M games. Mine! MINE! Hisss!) and a game that’s just taking up shelf space and doing nothing else may have to make way for a game that will hit the table.

I have given games to friends and I have given games to charitable institutions and I have sold games to bookstores, particularly when I was sure that they didn’t have much resale value anyway. I still have a couple stacks of games to get rid of.

I’m thinking about using the geek market place, which I’ve never done before. A little scary since I’ve shied away from e-bay and similar places (since I clearly have poor self-control when it comes to buying stuff ) However, that might be the next logical step.

I'm not done yet and I have a feeling that something I need to learn how to do is regularly assess and cull the collection.
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Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:35 pm
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Onirim: A game that wasn't my style at all but I liked anyway

Lowell Kempf
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I am not really much of a solitaire player. For me, part of playing games is playing them with someone else. I don’t get that much enjoyment out of playing Klondike with a regular deck of cards or playing a cooperative by myself (although that is sometimes the best way to learn one so you can teach it to someone else)

So why is it that I like Onirim so much?

Onirim is a little card game that has been on my radar ever since I first saw it. It’s designed as a solitaire game with a two-player cooperative option. Neither of those are things I really look for. I like playing against other people. Competition is fun

However, the strange artwork that combined a child-like element with an almost graffiti art sensibility, as well as the concept of being lost in a world of dreams, trying to find your way out, a concept that the art managed to do a very good job conveying, those were things that kept on drawing me back to the game.

To be honest, I’m someone who tends to evaluate a game based on mechanics, not theme or components. However, there was just something about Onirim that hooked me.

In the end, I told myself “Well, it doesn’t cost very much and won’t take up much space on the shelf” and I got it. And I played it. And I liked it enough to play it some more times.

Despite being the kind of game I don’t go looking for, Onirim definitely worked for me.

First of all is the theme. While theme isn’t a priority for me, the theme honestly seems to work here. You are wandering through a maze, looking for a way out. Each card is either a room or a part of a room. If you have a key or explore a room thoroughly enough, you will find that door. However, in the world of dreams, there are nightmares and those nightmares will destroy the progress you are making, possibly putting you into a downward spiral that you cannot escape. Maybe all those Sandman comic books I read in high school and college are coming back to haunt me but I like the theme.

Second, Onirim works for me due to the ease and accessibility of play. It’s not hard to learn how to play and it doesn’t take too long to play. For that matter, it doesn’t take that much space to play it in. It’s easy to get out and it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Of course, neither of these things would really matter if the game wasn’t any good. Fortunately, Onirim is.

The game, in a nutshell, is all about laying out cards and trying to get sets of the same color, allowing you to collect eight door cards. If the deck runs out before you have all the doors, you lose. Nightmare force you to pay a penalty and, no matter which penalty you decide to pay, it will speed up the game.

What makes the game shine and what makes it a game instead of randomly dealing out cards is that you actually have meaningful choices. Yes, sometimes the luck of the draw will crush you but a lot of time, it is the choices that you make that determine if you’re going to win or not.

In particular, the use of the key cards seems like one of the most important aspects of the game to me. Keys can be used to claim doors and they can be used to block nightmares. However, you can also use them to rearrange the top of the deck. Knowing how and when to use a key is the crucial and driving decision of the game.

The game comes with three expansions that add more rules, challenges and decisions. I haven’t actually played any of them yet. So far, when I feel like playing a solitaire game, the base game has proved fulfilling enough for me. However, I like the fact that, when I get bored with ordinary dreams, there are more dreams to come.
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Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:49 pm
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Revisiting Isotropic: A return visit that proved worth making

Lowell Kempf
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When the isotropic dominion website first appeared, I checked it out. I play board games online and I like Dominion a lot. While I was quite happy playing on BSW, the allure of having access to all the cards was hard to resist.

However, after a couple of attempts to play on the early isotropic, I found it to frustrating and went back to BSW.

Here were some of the problems as I remember them. It has been a while so my memory could be playing tricks on me. I found the interface to be slow and counter-intuitive. If I remember correctly, you had to click to another page to see what the cards did in case you didn’t have them memorized. I found it hard to find pick-up games in the lobby. And, the page frequently froze my computer and even crashed it twice the second time I tried to use isometric.

In short, I found difficult at best and literally impossible at worst. In comparison, I have had few problems with the BSW client program and I find its interface very easy and intuitive to use. Although, for those who don’t find it that way, I should add that I taught myself how to play Dominion on BSW.

However, while I was mulling over playing games online for another blog, I decided to revisit isotropic. Either my memories are playing very false or the powers-that-be have revamped the site very heavily and for the better.

Just walking through the door seemed like a vast improvement. First of all, I could log in via yahoo or google. I don’t remember that but it is a nice bit of security. Second, I had the option of having icons instead of just words, which was also nice. Third, the lobby seemed to be a lot more intuitive and have a feature that had it look for other players under the criteria that I set.

When it came to playing the actual game, it seemed like everything was a whole lot smoother. Pop-up windows reminded me what the cards did. The game seemed to run a lot faster and the interface just seemed a whole lot more intuitive. I didn’t have to randomly button mash to try and do something. I was able to understand what I needed to do at all times.

Most importantly, it didn’t crash my computer!!!

Maybe isotropic was like this before and my computer was having some bad days or I have somehow gained much greater computer skills since I was last there. Or maybe the powers-that-be really did a good job upgrading the site.

I’m not going to be forsaking BSW. It has been my go-to for online gaming for years and I play a lot more than just Dominion on it. However, my revisit to isotropic has impressed me enough to add it to my list of sites I regularly visit. After all, it has all the cards and a new pool of players who are perfectly willing to teach me new lessons through the school of hard knocks.
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Tue Aug 16, 2011 9:05 pm
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Online gaming: Why I do it and what it's done for me

Lowell Kempf
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Ever since I discovered that you can play board games online, I have been a regular online gamer. BSW is the place where I place the most but I also regularly play at SuperDuper Games and Button Men and I’m willing to try other sights. I periodically go back to Isometric for Dominion and someday I’ll probably end up on Vassel or Yucatan.

Now, let me be the first to say that playing board games online is not the best way to play games. Playing games face-to-face with real components is the best way to play games. I remember, years ago, one of DM wanted to switch our D&D game to online to make scheduling easier. That flew like over like a battalion of lead balloons.

Despite that fact, playing online does have enough virtues that it is something that I am sure I will continue to do steadily.

First and most importantly, it is much easier to work around the schedule. I can do it from home so I don’t have to worry about travel time and I don’t have to worry about other people’s schedules. Some of the people I play face-to-face games with have schedules that don’t work easily with mine and others are almost infamously late. Like two-and-half to four hours late on a work night, which sometimes means that they get there when I’m ready to start wrapping things up.

A lot of the sites I like to go to, it’s easy to find a quick pick-up game that will fit into my schedule and let me get a little bit of gaming in on a busy night. On sites where you’re playing by e-mail and a day or more might go by in between moves. I know that would drive some people crazy but that’s sometimes what you have to do to play a game.

Another benefit is that when you play online, a lot of the fiddly housekeeping is taken care of by the computer. I really don’t mind such things (After all, if I did, I’d be in the wrong hobby) but I have at least one friend who doesn’t like to play Lost Cities face-to-face because he doesn’t have a computer to keep running score. And let’s face it, it does speed up play and prevents you from making mistakes in housekeeping. I remember a game of Thurn und Taxis where half the table started their own discard pile and didn’t tell me so those cards didn’t get reshuffled.

Playing online also lets me learn new games without having to buy them myself and lets me decide if I want to actually buy a game. Now, don’t get me wrong. Learning a game online game be a real pain, particularly if the other players don’t speak in English and you can often miss crucial rules, particularly if the computer was taking care of them for you.

Despite that fact, BSW convinced me to buy TransAmerica, Dominion, Lost Cities and Ingenious, all games I’ve gotten a lot of play out of, as well as other games. It also convinced me not to buy some games as well. Getting to test drive games is a real benefit. By the same token, playing online may be the only way to get to play a game, either by it not being readily available or no one else in your circle likes playing it.

In addition, playing games online lets you find out about gameplay outside your usual little pond. I have found that my regular group definitely can develop a group think about how to play a game, what strategies to use and what reactions to take. Breaking out into a larger, much larger pool can teach you how small a fish you really are and can teach you a lot of tricks you never knew were out there.

I think those are reasons that can apply to a lot of people. However, there is something else that I learned from playing games online.

While I do play some video games, on a whole, I’m not much a video game player. By the same token, I don’t enjoy playing against A.I.s much as far as board games are concerned. However, I do enjoy and actively seek out playing games against other people, if they are on another continent and I have no idea what they look like.

I mean, for all I know, they could be computers but playing against what I honestly believe are other people gives me a level of enjoyment and fun that I keep on doing it. Playing against a computer doesn’t feel like play in the same way that playing against other human beings.

I’m not sure how the social element of gaming fits into me sitting alone (save for a cat or two) at my desk but somehow, at least for me, it’s still there and still matters.

Gaming online is not the end-all, be-all of gaming for me. Indeed, it’s a weak second compared to sitting down with a group of friends or even strangers. However, it is still something that has become part of my life as a gamer.
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Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:28 pm
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Bingo as a game mechanism: When did Take It Easy become an inspirational game?

Lowell Kempf
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Shortly after I first discovered Boardgame Geek, I learned about a game called Take It Easy. It showed up on lists with other games I liked and was interested in and was basically a game that was recommended for someone with my tastes.

However, at the time, Take It Easy wasn’t the easiest game to pick up in the U.S. and I kept wondering how well a game like this worked. I mean, if everyone had the exact same options, wouldn’t everyone optimize in the same way and end up with basically the exact same board?

Well, long story short, I picked up the game (shortly before Fred got it and made it really easy to get in this country ) and found out that it was a lot of fun, popular with just about everyone from my family to hardcore gamers. And, yes, no one ever ended up with the same board.

In case you haven’t played Take It Easy, it is Bingo with strategy. All the players have their own board and place the same tiles in the same order, with some tiles always being left over. You try to create lines of one color that go all the way across the board to score points.

It’s the absolute pinnacle of multi-player solitaire. That’s a term I think that gets bandied about too much for games where most of the interaction is indirect. Just because you have to be clever about hurting people doesn’t make a game solitaire. In the case of Take It Easy, though, there is absolutely no interaction unless distracting other players with fisticuffs is part of your strategy.

There is competition, though, since you are keeping score. When you get to have winners and losers, there is competition.

As I mentioned, I have gotten a lot of play out of my copy. I even picked up Take It To The Limit, the sequel to Take It Easy, for when folks got bored with Take It Easy. That hasn’t happened yet so it still in the shrink wrap.

However, over the last couple years, I’ve noticed that there have been other games that share the same Bingo mechanic that Take It Easy uses. Every player has their own space and tiles are called out and everyone has their own puzzle to solve.

I personally have played Cities, FITS and Don Quixote which fit that description. I understand that BITS and Mosaix use the mechanism as well. I am sure that there are other games that I’ve never heard of that also use Bingo as the baseline mechanism. Mind you, all of the ones I have tried have had their own twists and none of them have been bad games, although I do think Don Quixote adds too much luck to the concept.

I am not saying that new games are bad or revisiting mechanics is bad. Heck, that’s part of the evolution of gaming. However, Take It Easy came out in 1983. Maybe I’ve just been completely missing other games but even Take It to the Limit came out more than twenty years later. That just seems like a long gap to rediscover the concept of blending Bingo with meaningful choices.

All of these games seem to have a fanbase. FITS was even nominated for the Spiel de Jahres. I'm glad they're out there and I've enjoyed playing the ones that I have played.

I just wonder what caused that light bulb to go off that made designers take a second look at Take It Easy after more than two decades. Was it that far ahead of its time?
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Mon Aug 15, 2011 6:15 pm
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That Dirk is a mean bastard

Lowell Kempf
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Last night, my fiancé and I sat down to try out Belgique which is, as near as I can tell, a Belgium landmark retheme of Alhambra the Card Game. And, if I understand the history of Dirk Henn’s games correctly, Alhambra is a retheme of Stimmt So with tile laying added. So, the card game is basically Stimmt So again with a couple tweaks and we’ve gone full circle.

Man, and people say that Reiner Knizia recycles games and mechanics! The good doctor doesn’t seem to have anything on Mr. Henn when it comes to that!

At any rate, Alhambra the Card Game is just what it says on the tin. Take out tile placement and wall scoring along with it and it is exactly the same as Alhambra. (Okay, that does end up being quite a bit)

I initially had some concerns that the game would become too random since the value of Alhambra tiles is partially based on the walls on them and how hard it would be to place the tiles due to the walls. However, the card game still has the rule that paying with exact change lets you get another turn. Because of that, cheap cards weren’t necessarily an auto purchase and getting majorities still required careful money management.

However, the absence of the tiles actually showed up in the two-player game. Normally, Dirk, the dummy third player, is a pain but one who you can usually compensate for by building walls and getting extra points that way. In the card game, though Dirk becomes a real threat.

Dirk randomly gets 18 or so cards to score. In our game, he managed to corner the purple, white and green cards after the first scoring and proceeded to hammer us like a fiend. Maybe it was just luck of the draw but we both lost to Dirk and we learned not to discount Dirk.

Despite losing to the dummy player, we both enjoyed the game. It’s not as good as Alhambra the real game but it does play faster and it takes up a lot less space. So I know we will be going back for a rematch with Dirk and next time, we’re going to try and take him down.
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Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:41 pm
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Another GenCon, another bag of games brought home

Lowell Kempf
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Well, I am keeping this blog to let me do a bit of record keeping, as well as make comments for other people to read. So, this is really just going to be a list for me to refer back to, as opposed to something really exciting to read

Every year, when I go to Gen Con, I buy games. The shopping trip isn’t the only reason that I go to Gen Con but it’s definitely a part of it. While I order games all year round, GenCon is my single biggest time to buy games. It’s also my most impulsive time to buy games

So, what did I get this year?

Over at the Mayfair Booth, I used my 50% coupon to buy Pack & Stack. Pack & Stack is, really, a family party game with a bit of dexterity element. It’s certainly not a heavy game or a gamer game. However, everyone who we played a demo with ended up buying it to. It’s a game that we know will be a hit with both our families and with our casual gaming friends. In other words, a game that will see enough table-time to be worth buying.

I also grabbed a cheap copy of Kramer’s Who’s the Ass at Mayfair. It’s another party-like game, a simple climbing game like the Great Dalmuti with enough of a smidgeon of strategy to be interesting.

At the Z-Man booth, I didn’t actually end up buying anything. However, they were good enough to give me the Rattus expansion from last year’s Essen for free. I have always found the Z-Man booth to be full of friendly, helpful people and this just gave me one more reason to feel that way.

Over the last couple years, I’ve found the Cool Stuff booth is a good place to find bargains. I already like to buy stuff from them online.

From them, I got a copy of Glen More, which I haven’t had a chance to play yet. It looks like a bog-standard euro with cardboard tiles and wooden cubes. However, those kind of games delight me. I am hoping that it will put a smile on my face.

I also got Parade, which I’ve wanted to pick up. Z-Man’s little card games can be hit-or-miss but Parade sounds like it has enough tactics and control to be good. Sounds like a good game to play with my fiancé on a lap desk while we watch TV.

On the last day, Cool Stuff slashed the prices of what they had left so I grabbed a copy of a game called Belgique which is apparently a Belgium retheming of Alhambra of the Card Game. I haven’t actually found it listed on the geek.

To be honest, the walls in Alhambra justify the variable price of tiles, as well as give an additional (and sometimes powerful) source of points. The card game doesn’t have that and I am curious to see how the game holds up without that element.

I also bought a copy of What’s Missing for basically next-to-nothing. It is a cross between Highlights for Kids Find the Differences and Spot It. Spot It is definitely the superior game but What’s Missing is still a decent little time killer. I like its formula of how every card has one difference from the original drawing (not included)so every card has two differences with ever other card. Simple but effective.

Finally, I picked up some games at the auction hall. I do enjoy going to game auctions. There’s always a chance you’ll pick up some treasure for cheap or find something interesting that you never thought of getting. Of course, I have learned to be careful. It’s too easy to get caught up in the bidding and spend too much money. It’s also easy to get lured in to get something no one else wants because it’s cheap and get stuck with some junk.

This time, I felt like I did a decent job. I didn’t get anything truly rare and amazing but I don’t think I got any junk either and I kept under my budget.

I collect 3M games, particularly the bookshelf ones. I got a copy of Ploy, which I have been wanting for a while, and Win, Place, & Show. I’m not actually sure when or even if they’ll get played but I am glad to have them.

I also got an Avalon Hill edition of Venture so that my 3M edition can stay in the collection and this one can go out and get beat up. It’s a great game so I’m glad to have no excuse to not carry it around anymore.

Finally, I won a copy of Canal Mania, a game that has long been kind of, sort of on my radar. It might actually be the heaviest game I picked up at the auction but it looks like it will suit my Euro-loving tastes quite nicely.

Looking over what I’ve picked up, I note that it’s definitely on the lighter end of the spectrum. However, they are also mostly games that will hit the table and see play. I’ve already gotten four of them on the table already. So, on a whole, a good haul.
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Wed Aug 10, 2011 10:17 pm
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It took my breath away - Dominant Species

Lowell Kempf
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I’ve noticed a thread that has been running through my ruminations about gaming that I call a blog and that’s how, as I get older, my gaming time has decreased and I find myself enjoying shorter games that can more easily fit into my schedule.

However, there is always the exception to the rule.

Dominant Species! Ta-da!

I was recently introduced to Dominant Species a few weeks ago. I’d long heard about it but I hadn’t had a chance to play it and it costs more than I want to pay for a game that I’ve never played. Fortunately, someone else bought instead.

And, let me tell you, Dominant Species is the kind of game that makes my brain go click.

Dominant Species is like a strange alchemical merging of Agricola, El Grande, and Evo. You use worker placement to manipulate the movement, reproduction and evolution of your own species while using majority control to score points. The mechanics fit the theme of the game like a glove (not that I’m really one to worry about themes) and you have a strikingly diverse number of mechanics that fit together like gears in a watch, steadily ticking along.

More than that, I am also very impressed by the actual graphic design of the game. If there is one thing that being a Sid Sackson fan has taught me, it’s that clear, easy to understand components are a real plus in a game. And the game board on Dominant Species is practically the player aid for the game. It shows the tie breakers, the scoring for each type of tile, the chart for bonus points, and the action section clearly shows necessary details, like the reproduction rate for each type of tile. Anything the board doesn’t tell you, the player aids do. There’s a lot going on in the game but the components make it very easy to follow the game.

On top of very solid mechanics and really well designed components, the whipped cream on top that really makes Dominant Species really sweet and replayable is that each species is different enough to play differently and reward different strategies.

I can already tell you that I will not be able to find the time to be able to play Dominant Species as much as I want to. I think that there is enough replay value and depth of strategy and tactics in the game that I will never plumb the depths of the game.

However, I am really, really glad that my friends showed me this game.
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Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:28 pm
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Discovering one of Kramer's lesser works and finding it fun

Lowell Kempf
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As I have mentioned before, as I grow older and my life grows more complicated and my social life contains fewer hardcore gamers and more casual gamers, the games that I look for have changed. I can no longer expect to be able to stay up late and play intricate and lengthy games. If that makes me a wuss and a traitor to the gamer cause, so be it. It’s what I am. Now, my ideal has become games that take around an hour or so to play but offer meaningful decisions and different paths to victory.

This is not about one of those games. It is about a game that I just picked up that will probably see some decent play, though.

Mayfair has almost always had a rack of deep discount games at conventions. At this point, I’ve already seen most of their offerings but this year I noticed Who’s The Ass for $5. If I hadn’t known that it was designed by Wolfgang Kramer, I probably would have passed it by. However, Kramer is a great designer so I picked it up.

Later on, six of us were stuck waiting in a hallway so I pulled it out, cracked it open, read the rules and we were playing in five minutes.

And we had a lot of fun.

Who’s the Ass is not a brilliant, deep game. It’s definitely not a hidden gem by Kramer. It is, however, a decent little game that straddles light card game and party game. All of us enjoyed the game and there was just enough strategy in the game to more than an exercise in dealing out cards.

Who’s the Ass is a variant of that old standby Presidents (also known by a wide variety of other names, some more rude than others) and it’s not the first game to build off of Presidents. The Great Dalmuti and the Dilbert Corporate Shuffle are two that immediately come to mind.

It’s a very simple climbing game, belonging to the same family as Tichu or Haggis. It’s a lot lower on the food chain, though, and a vastly simpler game. No one’s going to make a life style out of playing Who’s the Ass.

The basics are simple and you probably already know them, even if you’ve never heard of the game before. Someone leads, playing one or more cards of matching rank. People follow by playing the same number of cards as the leader but of high rank. If they can’t or choose not to, they pass. The hand ends when someone runs out of cards and people get penalty points based on their hands. Play as many rounds as you feel like, keeping score.

Yup. Nothing new here. I remember this game with a regular deck of cards back in high school.

There are some basic structure changes, though, that I think change up the game a bit. It has 108 cards so it’s thicker than a regular deck but some cards get discarded so card counting doesn’t work. You only go once around per turn so you don’t get that nasty spiral of a couple players bleeding their hands out in one turn while everyone else is stuck with all their cards.

However, what is the real twist of the game is the Ass card. It is the highest value card for scoring so the worst to get stuck with. It’s also double-sided so there’s no hiding it if you have it. You can only lead with it, never follow, and when you play it, that turn gets special rules.

First off, for purposes of winning the turn, the Ass is zero so it can never win. Second, players don’t have to raise at all. They can play whatever card they feel like. Third, whoever wins get the ass and every other card that was played on that turn.

And that third part if where the game goes beyond being a mindless party game and gets some teeth. Winning the Ass is a way to get more cards into your hand and a way to take the lead when you haven’t been able to. Sure, more cards can be a bad thing but they can also add a lot more options to your play. We regularly saw people getting being able to lead with three or four ones after getting the Ass since it’s a dangerous hot potato.

But you’re not allowed to immediately lead with the Ass after getting it so, you’d better be able to do something with that lead. However, after we got used to the game, the Ass got passed around a lot during each hand and people thought long and hard about what they were giving the player who won that turn.

Who’s the Ass doesn’t make my personal list of Kramer’s best games. I did think that it did a good job tweaking an old card game just enough to make it different and interesting. And everyone did have fun so I know I will be pulling it out again. For the investment of a piece of paper with Lincoln on it, that’s not bad.
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Tue Aug 9, 2011 8:45 pm
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Going to GenCon with the woman I'm going to marry - a whole new experience

Lowell Kempf
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Ah, GenCon. The Christmas in August for gamers. This is the thirteenth year that I've gone to GenCon but it was my fiance Carrie's first GenCon. She does enjoy gaming and enjoys people watching, so I knew she would have a good time.

There was another reason I was really looking forward to this GenCon. A lot of my old friends who don't live in Chicago go to GenCon. That meant Carrie would get to meet a lot of my friends who she hadnt met, including most of my groomsmen.

We went down on Thursday, which have us enough time to check in to our hotel and check out the exhibit hall. It also gave us a chance to meet a bunch of my friends.

On Friday, we went through what has become a GenCon tradition for me, earning ribbons at the Mayfair booth in order to get coupons and swag. In the process, we played Pack & Stack, a game about packing trucks. I had seen it before but never tried it. It's very much a light game, almost a party game. However, we had a lot of fun with it and knew it was a game we could and would play with our families. So that was one game we made sure to get.

We also got to try out a prototype of Martin Wallace's Ankh-Morpork game. I'm a big Terry Pratchett fan, as well as a Martin Wallace fan. It was on the lighter end of the Wallace spectrum but it still seemed like a solid game. I think replay will show that there is a lot of control hidden in the random elements.

That evening, my friend Greg made reservations at the local P.F. Changs for seven of us. Greg also had to help with a show that evening which was part of the reason he made reservations since he was on a tight schedule.

And P.F. Changs kept us waiting for forty minutes. I can understand that if we were walk-ins but the whole point of reserving a table is to not have to do that. In the end, we canceled the reservations, walked across to a Champs restaurant who gave us a table then and there.

On Saturday, we went to the auction hall. I like auctions since auctions are a game mechanic I enjoy only here I got to do it in real life. That said, I promised myself to be careful with my money. I picked up a couple 3M games that I didn't have, as well as a copy of Canal Mania.

Carrie took some of the craft classes in what I heard at least one person call the gamer's widows section, which she enjoyed and reminded me that GenCon offers a lot more things than anyone has a chance to see in one convention.

I had been asked to bring 7 Wonders and we got a lot of plays of that in on Saturday. We also got in some plays of Notre Dame, which I had wanted Carrie to have a chance to play. I had hoped to get a chance to play Wallenstein but that chance didn't come.

We had some car issues on Saturday night but the magic of the smart phone helped us find a place that was open on Sunday morning. And their waiting area had the History Channel playing so we got to get some education while we waited. They were able to get the work done in time for us to catch the end of the con and, more importantly, they fixed the car.

As usual, GenCon was a lot of fun. I got to see a lot of friends who I only get to see once or twice a year anymore. I got play and learn a bunch of games. And going with Carrie let me see a different side of GenCon, which was fun too.
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Mon Aug 8, 2011 11:13 pm
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