ones upon a game

I am almost exclusively a solo gamer and look at the gaming scene seen through those eyes. I also literally like alliteration. TWITTER: @onesuponagame

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You Gotta Standee for Something, Or You'll Fall for Anything

Kevin L. Kitchens
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I think I'm starting to hate miniatures.

Well, not hate, exactly. For the right games, they're right on. But unfortunately Kickstarter has become Mini-starter at least in the board game space. I'm surprised we haven't see a miniatures version of Yahtzee yet. (Hope I didn't give some sociopath entrepreneur an idea!)

Whereas the plastic little statues used to be reserved for tabletop miniatures gaming, now they are being used as pawns in the deadly fundraising arena of crowdfunding. And for the most part, pawns is all they are in the game. Where cubes gave rise to meeples and then to character meeples, little plastic statues are now all the rage. And creating even more rage! (HULK SMASH!)

But I'm digressing down a rabbit trail for sure.

Miniatures can be good in some board games but are superfluous these days in most (see Brook City for a recent example). In Batman: Gotham City Chronicles they are a good use of miniatures -- and pretty much the whole reason that game costs as much as it does. Like Core Space, they at least took the helpful step of making each side a different color plastic, so the game could somewhat be played right out of the box without painting being necessary.

Face it, we're not all painters.

And while I can do a decent job, I don't have the time to paint 150+ miniatures. And with every game coming out with grey plastic blobs, multiply that time requirement and we'd all spend our time painting instead of playing.

And some of us just want to play the game. A game should stand or fail on its merits, not its minis.

(catching my breath, almost fell off the soapbox)

So to that end, I set about in the same manner I did with MERCS: Recon – Counter Threat/MERCS: Recon – Assassination Protocol (MERCS: Recon Standees v3.0 Now Available...) and created standees for all 150+ miniatures in the base set of Batman: GCC.



No, they are not so flashy as a set of well painted miniatures. But at the same time, they don't take as long as painting would take. And they work 100% the same in the game. In fact, maybe a little better as they have the name of the character right on the standee and for those larger (or smaller) than a "1" size index, that value is on the image too so you can easily add up the value of an area.

At the very least, for those who have them sitting on their painting table, they can still be playing while they work.



They come 14 to a sheet and there are 11 sheets for 154 total standees. BTW, there are two for Two-Face (both a heads and a tails), bringing up the total from the in box 153. Just print them on white cardstock (I used a color laser), score along the red lines, then cut, fold and glue. The "fold inside" section helps to make them a little more sturdy and hold in a standee holder better. I tried to group them in logical ways (henchfolk with their villain) as best I could, so you should be able to just print the ones you need as you go if you prefer.





These are a little wider (1" vs. 3/4") and shorter than my previous standees. I was going for a little closer to miniature height for (most of) them and make them about the same width as the bases of the miniatures.

I would love to see more companies include standees as an additional, ready to play stretch goal or addon... but until they do or this fascination with miniatures dies down, I will keep making them where I see the need.

Perhaps one benefit of correcting trade imbalances with China via new tariffs will be to force publishers to consider less bling and more zing in their games... Who knows.

Standees PDF: https://tinyurl.com/BatmanStandees

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Mon Jul 15, 2019 7:06 pm
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Kevin L. Kitchens
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Batman: Gotham City Chronicles

MORE: You Gotta Standee for Something, Or You'll Fall for Anything
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Fri Jul 12, 2019 9:17 pm
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Mythbusting: "Cooperative Games Are NOT ALL Solo Friendly"

Kevin L. Kitchens
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This comes up from time to time and did yesterday on the Facebook Solo BoardGamers group... Fortunately this time the presentation was factual:


Meme shared by Glen Telfer


I've said this for several years and am happy to see there are clearly other right thinking people in the gaming world.

The reality is that all cooperative board games are solo-friendly. But then you have to look deeper at what a cooperative game truly is. Simply put, it's a game where the players fully cooperate to achieve the game's winning condition. Period. The key word being fully.

But what about Hanabi?

If they cannot cooperate fully, then we have another category for that: semi-cooperative. In semi-cooperative games, the cooperation between the players is limited or hindered in some way. Thus they cannot fully cooperate. Some information might be hidden. Communication might be restricted. Each player might have different, personal winning conditions that might impede another player's winning condition.

Because of those limitations semi-cooperative games are certainly not soloable (normally). But semi-cooperative and cooperative are two completely different categories of games.

But what about Hanabi?!

In cooperative games, a single player (true solo) can very easily play the game with one or more hands or characters as nothing is kept secret between the characters. Managing the actions of all hands or characters can actually make the game more fun because you alone get to be the alpha player and control yourself alone. No more talking back from other players who just don't understand your genius strategy! And if you do talk back to yourself...

But what about Hanabi!!!

Hanabi? Glad you asked.


photo by Club Amatent


For some reason Hanabi is the game that it seems everyone runs to as ABSOLUTE PROOF to try and dispel the truth that all cooperatives games are solo friendly. In reality, BGG classification error aside, the only myth here is that Hanabi is a cooperative game.

Even the designers of the game perpetuated this myth in the rules (as translated from German): "Hanabi is a cooperative game, meaning all players play together as a team." Except of course, all players being on the same team is not what makes a game cooperative. There are many other games, like Hanabi, where players are on the same team, yet cooperation is limited. That intro should be written as "Hanabi is a team game, meaning all players play together as a team." but then that would be redundant, so that erroneous piece of fluff text should probably just have been removed altogether.

Hanabi, as described above, is a semi-cooperative game, or as I prefer to call them: "common goal" games. The players are all trying to achieve the same goal, but they are not doing so in a fully cooperative manner. They are assisting each other, but cooperation is limited in what they can say to the player. Each player has some information hidden to them (their own cards or tiles). Semi-cooperative.

So the reality is, that in all cooperative games are completely solo friendly.

Disagree? Better yet, agree? Comment or feedback? Please send a GeekMail with your thoughts or opinions on the matter. Respectful comments for and against will be presented in a later post.
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Tue Jul 9, 2019 3:32 pm
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Old Man Solo Flew a Ship... AI, AI, Oh!

Kevin L. Kitchens
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Old Man Solo Flew a Ship...
AI, AI, Oh!
And on this ship he had some cargo.
AI, AI, oh!

With a bounty here!
And a bounty there.
Here a bounty!
There a bounty!
Everywhere a hefty bounty!

Old Man Solo Flew a Ship...
AI, AI, Oh!


What started out as a title, became a thing...

But anyway.

One of the cool things about Star Wars: Outer Rim is the very easy to run AI deck. Reminiscent of the most excellent Automa we've all come to know and love (and specifically the one in Scythe), it became apparent that it'd be cool to be able to run more than one AI in the game.

Unfortunately, Fantasy Flight Games only included one deck in the game (though hopefully a second copy or even a deck with a different strategy could be included in a future expansion). So this means it's not possible to properly control two AI using just the one deck per the rules. Some have tried to spread the cards among two AI, but the result is a dilution of the actions between the two, completely weakening the outcomes.

However, there are a couple of options available now, to run two or more AI.

First and simplest.

* Take the Ace through 10 of a single suit from a regular deck of cards for each AI that you want to run.
* Shuffle each of these stacks separately and draw one for each AI player after your turn.
* The AI cards are numbered 1-10, so you can use the in-game AI deck as a second "databank" and pull the card that corresponds with the card that you drew and carry it out. When that AI's turn it done, put it back in the AI databank and draw for any remaining AI players.



The second option, to make that process a little simpler, is download this AI reference sheet I made (https://tinyurl.com/OuterRimSolo). It has the cards marked 1-10 and a reminder of the different actions to be taken. If anything on the sheet is confusing, then you can refer to the original AI card in your set. But as you play more and more the options are pretty clearly understood, so the reminder sheet is all you need.

Now Han can face off against Lando AND Boba Fett in a single go!
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Wed Jun 26, 2019 6:56 pm
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Catching Fallout and Fireflies Visiting the Outer Rim Via Xia

Kevin L. Kitchens
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My cheap copy of Star Wars: Outer Rim from (Mass)Drop finally arrived, but I had to finish my playthrough series of Blackout: Hong Kong first (Part I, Part II -- two more videos left for editing!) and do an unboxing of this and other backlogged games (three more videos left for editing!), but after filming those, I kept this one on the table to give it a go.

Setup and started a few turns. Of course I had to go with Han the man to start (he shot first ya know!)... but then read the AI setup and had to pick an opponent. Went with Lando as the two old friends have a "friendly" race.



The game is really a bit of a table hog for solo. Was hoping to keep it tight for a single ship, but nope. Have to setup a second player and ship. Of course, if I kept my table clean of other games, I'd have more room too! You also have seven decks for "encountering" planets and navpoints and six decks for acquiring ships, missions, bounties, and gear, etc... So 13 little decks + the AI deck.

AI deck (Can we agree "Automa" is the new "Coke" -- and not "new coke", blech! -- and all these decks will eventually just be called that?) is pretty easy to manage. Never been a fan of the "discard face down to the bottom of the deck" mechanic. All the card decks do that (except the databank which go in numerical order). Would prefer "discard face up" so that becomes your cue to reshuffle, otherwise everything just runs in the same cycle. But for now I'm playing "as written".

So first off (can I say that in the fifth paragraph?), this is most accurately a blend of Firefly: The Game and Fallout more than anything. People keep trying to cast aspersions on the game and compare it with Xia: Legends of a Drift System, but the only commonality there is

Similarities Between XIA and Outer Rim
1. Xia is also set in space.
2. Xia also uses "fame" as the winning condition.
3. "Xia: Legends of a Drift System" contains the letters: S, T, A, R, O, E, I, M

That's about it.

Yes, you can explore in both games, but exploration in Outer Rim makes sense. In Xia it's just busy work. Outer Rim has the planets and connections all laid out as it should be. You're exploring/investigating what's currently happening in the area. With Xia you're playing Columbus, ignoring all the knowledge available to you (as in the in-game character, not you the player) and "discovering" what each tile is during the game... and getting famous for it. No long range sensors or star mapping in Xia. It really is gamey and makes no sense.

Outer Rim also has easy to use, enjoyable solo system, something Xia is sorely lacking (yes, even with the Xia: Embers of a Forsaken Star expansion which I helped playtest -- XIA : Variants of a Solo System). As I've said before, there is a GREAT SOLO GAME somewhere in Xia... it's just not been revealed yet. I hope to get a copy again soon and create an AI deck that works.

Final comparison, fame is a little harder to earn in Outer Rim, even for the AI. In Xia, the AI just rolls a die and gains points.

Back to Outer Rim overall though. It moves pretty fast and so far has been fun to play. Someone complained about the ship cards not being "boards", but after getting my copy I just don't see an issue. They are a bit thin, but they are made to be swapped out and flipped through the game, so they don't stay in play too long. Being a Fantasy Flight Games release, I'm sure there will be expansions coming very soon too.

Early thoughts? Fun game for solo. Check it out.

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Wed Jun 19, 2019 3:07 pm
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Conflict of Heroes Tray Dividers -- now in 3D!

Kevin L. Kitchens
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Several years ago I created tray dividers for Academy Games, Inc. Conflict of Heroes series. These were cut and fold paper dividers that kept the numbered counters neatly organized in sets of 5 so they were not only easier to find, but when some were removed for play, they kept the rest of the counters from falling over in the tray.

Original file: CoH Insert Dividers by Ones Upon a Game

Then the other day it occurred to me that these could actually be more sturdy if they were 3D printed, so remeasuring and using various tools, I created just such a model for both the small and the large "wells" in the Conflict of Heroes awesome game trays.




The base game of Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Operation Barbarossa 1941 (second edition) has 15 large wells and 6 small ones. The German and Russian units each take up 3 large slots each plus an additional one each for the Conflict of Heroes: Monster Tanks of the Eastern Front expansion. I'd tried to print three grey and three tan ones and the rest in white, but my tan looked too much like white when all was said and done, so the effect wasn't as cool as I'd hoped.

However, in all I'm happy with how they turned out and they work great as replacements for the cardstock ones. I look forward to adding them to all the other games in the series too.

Free STL files available on Thingiverse. You can also order them there printed as a set for a low price (no money to me at all!).
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Wed May 29, 2019 7:20 pm
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Man down! Man down! Rally the Troops!

Kevin L. Kitchens
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News broke this Memorial Day weekend that Chad Jensen, designer of many games, including the true BGG #1: Combat Commander: Europe has cancer and will be/is undergoing Chemotherapy to treat it. There is going to be a gap in his medical coverage and he and wife Kai Jensen could use our help to see them through this shortfall.

A GoFundMe page has been setup with a modest goal of $20,000 of which the community has already covered over half of that.

You can find more details and donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/help-chad-with-chemo

The power of community is that each person doing a very small amount can add up to a lot. Already that $10,805 was raised by 173 people. If you cannot help financially, you can at least send Chad words of encouragement and lift him and Kai up in prayer during this rough time.

We (in the USA) live in a great country with a wonderful health care system. It has some rough edges of course, but the opportunity for people to come together and help others is a testament to the underlying generosity of the American spirit.

Thanks!
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Tue May 28, 2019 8:43 pm
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Combat Commander: Europe FOR THE WIN!

Kevin L. Kitchens
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Anyone who's read this blog knows that I'm a big fan of the excellent Combat Commander: Europe from Chad Jensen and published by GMT Games. Sadly though, my ownership predated this blog and YouTube channel. However, as the new fourth printing of the game was recently released, I decided it would be a great time to do an unboxing as well as give one YouTube subscriber a free copy and introduce them to the best tactical WW2 wargame there is. Some come close, sure... but this one is the gold standard.

Details are in the unboxing video below. Entries must be on the actual YouTube site, not here on BGG, to be valid.

Thanks for your support!

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Thu May 23, 2019 9:01 pm
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Crime Reduced in Brook City. Department Upgrades through Downsizing

Kevin L. Kitchens
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FILES
3D Pawns on Thingiverse
Three Piece Board


Brook City, the latest release from Blacklist Games and designers Adam Sadler and Brady Sadler, is another great game using their "Modular Deck System". Combining decks for the various parts of the game, in this "case" the cops, the criminals, and the current case (four short of the "7 C's of History"), produces a host of combinations and increases replayability. It's a fun, unique system (bearing only the most superficial similarity to Sentinels of the Multiverse, to which it's erroneously compared).

However, unlike their previous Street Masters (a nostalgic martial arts romp using the same MDS), Brook City is just a tad bit overproduced. The Kickstarter promised and delivered minis galore! Minis for the cops. Minis for each car and vehicle. Minis for each crime boss and his/her henchfolk. Lots and lots and lots of plastic in the game. There is also a large roughly 3x2' board to sit on the table, Card areas for each cop, a card row to be maintained for each criminal, as well as one for the case. A lot of space, especially for the solo player.

In addition, the minis in question violate my two rules for effective use of miniatures. First that they be a 1:1 ratio (not scale) so that one miniature is one entity in the game. A character, a vehicle, etc. Here the game commits a minor infraction as for the most part the minis do represent a single character, except for the criminal's goons where they abstractly represent where a crime is taking place that the cops have to deal with through interaction.

The second rule of minis is scale. All miniatures in a game should be of the same scale to each other. Here the characters are not to scale to the map and certainly not to scale of the vehicles. While some may still find the eye candy appealing, it truly kills any immersion factor.

So far all the minis included (which drove up the price of the game), they are essentially just pawns and could even effectively be cubes. The miniatures for any given criminal and thugs are interchangeable with the others. They are simply placeholders (and a waste of materials really). Each cop can only use a single vehicle at a time, so while it's cute to have the various cars and motorbikes represented, it adds nothing to the actual gameplay.

Halfway through my first game, as this stark truth set in, I decided to fix it and make the game take up less space than it needed. Nothing to affect the actual game play (which is still excellent), but make the game easier to manage and keep 100% of the fun.

First off the board. Since a high resolution image of the board was not available, I resorted to photography and photoshop. I took photos of the board in six segments and then stitched them together with the help of Photoshop's align function. The photos didn't do the text of the locations justice, so I re-added that text so it would scale correctly and took the liberty of making the "street" and "river" areas a little more clear with some overlaid lines in black and blue. That done, I adjusted for skew and endup with a roughly 18x12 board which I printed out and resumed my game in progress with colored cubes for the minis and dice for the vehicles. The transition was seamless.


Switching to prototype mid-game


After finishing that game -- VICTORY! -- I knew I needed to make some tweaks to the prototype. I planned to make the board in two pieces and then connect them for folding into the main box. This would result in a resize to about 11.5" tall. I then realized that I could fit the entire game now into the smaller stretch goals box, so I made the board into three sections which would total about 10.67x16.5" when put together. I printed each section on legal sized cardstock, rough cut and glued to mat board from Hobby Lobby and then gave each piece a finish cut to size.


Creating the new (and improved) smaller board


Additionally I knew that I could do a little better than cubes and dice, so I set to work in 3D printing land, putting my new Ender 3 Pro to the task.

I love the cones in Lord of the Rings and used that as my starting point for custom pawns. For the cops, I added a shield to the top. For the crime boss, I went with an inverted cone on top to create sort of an hourglass figure. The goons were hexes set atop the cone (to be the nuts and bolts of the operation). For the vehicles, I created my own "car" through the carving of abstract shapes.


Printing the new pawns on the Ender 3 Pro


Not all the items on the board are miniatures in the full-size game, some are tokens that go in board spaces. Since my spaces were now reduced to about 1/2" I would need replacements. For the "asset" tokens I used the briefcase idea on the tokens and created a simple representation for that. The current lead token, I used one of the goon pawns in a different color. Finally for the "clues" that appear in the game I created two options. For when the clue is on the board in a location, I split the cone down the middle to hold the clue marker on the board. However that still might get in the way, so the pawns themselves can simply serve are the marker and the token state be maintained off board. In at least one case, the clue moves around on the board with a vehicle. So matching cars in the same color would serve for that.



Cops, criminals, clues and assets.


I painted all the new pawns to coordinate with their respective purposes. Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue for the cops with a gold metallic shield. Each also has a car in the same color. Green pawns with Silver briefcases for the Assets. The boss was black with a red "Sauron-esque" band around the center and the henchfolk were likewise black as was the vehicle they might be using. The lead pawn was painted a light brown to match it's cork-board token, and the clues and their cars were painted to match their token color as well.


The new pawns in use on the smaller board.


All the now extraneous components can store in the main game box and the real meat of the game can be kept in the smaller box and less shelf space.

I'm sure I missed some opportunities and needs as I've not played every case yet. For example, I suppose a few small boats would be better than the car "vehicle" pawn riding the waves... but that's a minor issue in the grand scheme. Don't have the Velocity expansion where wrecks can dot the board either. I can always create new playing pieces if it really seems to be warranted (or use substitutes), but for now being able to set the game up in a smaller footprint, more manageable for a solo gamer is a oversized win in my book.

And that's "Just the facts, ma'am."
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Mon May 13, 2019 4:58 pm
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Brook 'em Dano! Organizing Crime (and Punishment)

Kevin L. Kitchens
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So Brook City from Blacklist Games arrived last week and after doing a requisite unboxing for the YouTube Channel, I of course had to start organizing the contents. Using the same universal box design I created for Street Masters (Taking it to the Street (Masters)), I cut and prepared 14 new boxes to hold the counters, vehicles, and miniatures for the game and get everything to fit in a single box. While I only have the Brook City: Keys to the Kingdom Expansion and Brook City: The Sixth Cycle expansions at present, there should still be plenty for room for Brook City: Delta Keys and Brook City: Velocity Expansion when and if I manage to get those.




The boxes are all 100x75mm in length and width and vary in depth. For the four boxes for counters, I used the 24mm variety with divider to separate groups of counters. For the miniatures boxes, the 35mm height was necessary. The lids are all the same however and I prepared 2x4" Avery Labels for each. I tried (and failed) to get a good full bleed on those, but they still did the job.



Now with everything in a single box, I'm on to my first play. Though a foam core insert may be in the future to hold the cards and boxes in order...

Pattern files are available on here: Etsy Link

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Mon Apr 29, 2019 4:29 pm
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