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

Archive for Kevin L. Kitchens

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Resurrection Day

Kevin L. Kitchens
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Georgia
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Matthew 28:1-10

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Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you."

So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me."

To all my Christian brethren on the site who read this little blog, I want to wish you a very happy Resurrection Day as we remember the true Good News of Christ defeating death so that all who believe on Him should have eternal life.

May God bless you and use you to be a blessing to others for Him.

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Sun Apr 5, 2015 5:00 am
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Beans, Beans, Good for Your Heart (or Taking a Leek at the Gates of Loyang)

Kevin L. Kitchens
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As I mentioned previously, near the top of Uwe Rosenberg games for solo players sits At the Gates of Loyang which until a week or so ago, I did not own. However, I managed to strike the right deal in a math trade and voila... to my mailbox it came.

Unlike the other games I have of his, this one (from the Z-Man Games 2010 printing) had rules that were a little less than clear, especially for the solitaire game. (They mention a "Courtyard" for selecting and placing cards, but never what that is. The player boards also have a second side and no indication what they are for.)

Obviously the instructions have improved in later games and normally very clear. So I turned to the forums here and got everything worked out enough to play the game.

And lose on my first attempt with 14 points. I admit early on it seemed getting past 10 was going to be impossible. But as the design of the engine came together in my head, things started to work themselves out and I could see how each of the options tied into one another.

I'm sure with more plays, then certain combinations will become even more evident and the play will get easier. But getting over the very small learning curve, the game is really fun to play.

Lots of nice wooden bits as always, including the aforementioned beans and leeks.

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Fri Apr 3, 2015 8:50 pm
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Kickstarter: Burgle Bros Sets Off Alarms!

Kevin L. Kitchens
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From Tim Fowers, the designer of Wok Star and the great word/card game Paperback comes Burgle Bros.. Billed as a "A Cooperative Heist Boardgame", the game supports 1-4 characters (via 1-4 players) sneaking into a building, trying to avoid guards, find the safe on each floor and escaping.

Each floor is made up of a 4x4 grid of hidden tiles and each characters spends their actions each turn revealing tiles, moving, disabling alarms and avoiding the guards on patrol. It looks like a very clever system and a neat puzzle each time to play. The artwork is similar in style to Paperback (which is a very good thing).

You can back the game for only $29 with free U.S. shipping ($8 shipping discount to other parts of the world). Multi-pack discounts are also available to reduce international shipping.



If you're so inclined, for an additional fee you can buy a knockdown tower that lets you layout each floor one on top of the other.

Kickstarter Page: http://tinyurl.com/burglebros-onesuponagame

The project has already well surpassed its funding goals and most of the stretch goals. It sits at 4300+ supporters and just shy of $158,000. This campaign ends on April 4 2015 5:36 PM EDT.

Below is a Rahdo preview of the gameplay from prototype. Sold me!

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Wed Apr 1, 2015 2:03 pm
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No Such Thing as a Winnable War? Playing Twilight Struggle Solo

Kevin L. Kitchens
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How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer's deadly toy
There is no monopoly in common sense
On either side of the political fence
We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too


"Russians" (1985) by Sting (Gordon Sumner)


What is there to say about Twilight Struggle that hasn't been said before? It's been the #1 game on BGG for many years now (something I find very odd in spite of it being a great game). It's got clever mechanics, an interesting theme, depth of strategy, ease of play... all those things.

Well here's one thing that's been said, but you might not have heard: It plays great solitaire. Say what? That's right, solo comrade!

On a whim, I added this to an online order about a year ago. It was on sale, I'd already hit my free shipping minimum. It was the #1 game, I might actually play it with my son maybe. So I ordered it. And it sat on the shelf, in the shrink, waiting for the day.

For that copy the day never came. It went briefly out of print, demand was high, and GMT Games announced the Kickstarter for the digital version being developed by Playdek. Hot diggity dog! I promptly sold my hot commodity copy, figuring the digital game would be more than enough for me.

By that point I'd played a couple of times with a friend at work and then once online via Vassal (and got creamed early on -- stupid Europe). I really did enjoy everything about the game, though Vassal is, well Vassal and can get in the way of enjoying a game.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago and a BGG user was selling his copy. Sleeved cards, custom dice. Drool. Plus I'd come across this solo variant: SoloPlay_TwilightStruggle_v1.doc by

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So I took the plunge, won the auction, printed the rules, and committed to learning to play this AI.

TS is a long game, made even slightly longer when you are learning a new variant, refreshing yourself on the core rules, and forced to split the game over several sessions. Normally when a game is this long, I get bored by the second or third session and am ready to get something else on the table. Not so with this one. I loved every minute of it.

The SoloPlay AI alters the game only slightly, but keeps the same tension and decision frustration that makes TS such fun. For example, no player holds the scoring cards. They are kept in a separate stack and cycled each round of the turn to provide primary (and possibly secondary) regions of influence each round. The early war (first three turns) will only have one scoring round (an early war scoring card somewhere in the third to sixth round). The mid- and late-war turns will have two scoring rounds each, the third and sixth rounds. So even though you know which rounds will score, you don't know where until that turn.

And it works great.

Each side's hand is built via a balanced draft mechanic whereby you draw a set number of cards (usually six) and split them up between yourself and the AI hand. However your three cards cannot have more ops points than the AI's three... so it forces a single player "I cut, you choose" mechanic. The hands are also peppered each with a random drawn card or two to keep it variable and then the turn begins.

You still play the headline phase. The AI may still play a card for ops or events (there is an appendix with instructions for each card). There are times the AI will play for the space race, rarely for coups, and may even bring the China Card into play. The initial placement of the US and USSR's extra 7/6 influence during setup is addressed as well with a clever variable method.

Amazing.

The only thing I had some trouble deciphering and remembering was all the rules in the placement of AI influence. There are some guidelines for specific event card decisions, but the list of options for where to place got a little muddled. However, I just tried to always do what was best for the AI... (which I think is the intent of the flowchart-like list in the first place).

And I guess it worked as I was obliterated in the second scoring round (round six) of Turn 7. The AI was the USSR and the primary region was Central America, so it would be scored after the cards were played. I thought I was ok as the AI only had two ops points to play, but one into Cuba gave him control and one into Mexico stole my control, giving the USSR dominance and a net total of 5 points to take the score to +20 USSR.



So I lost.
And had a blast doing so.

I am still looking forward to the digital version.

I am still happy that I reacquired TS just to have on hand and maybe be able to play someone face to face.

But I am very happy that this solo variant is available and very deep and preserves all the elements that makes Twilight Struggle the #1 game on the site.

Even if the AI kicks my butt.

If you like TS but cannot always get with someone to play, give this solitaire variant a good look.
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Tue Mar 31, 2015 4:37 am
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The Accumulation Game

Kevin L. Kitchens
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Known by many names, there is no cure...

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Fri Mar 27, 2015 5:38 pm
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Great Gatsby! Look What's Returned!!!

Kevin L. Kitchens
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Hello Hunters, my old friend.
I've come to dice with you again.
Across the oceans made of paper.
Using charts we'll plan our capers.
We will roll and roll and roll and sink
Many ships... of the Brits
We will attack... from silence...


When I was in eleventh grade many many many years ago, we had to read F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" in the English class. I hated it. I hated the movie (the real one with Robert Redford, not Leolardo Defattio) too. So dull. So boring. I worked at that time in a used bookstore. I had procured my own paperback copy of the book instead of the one from the class set. When Mrs. Anderson said we were done with the book completely, I ripped my copy into pieces and walked to the trashcan by her desk and dropped it in. She stared with her mouth agape, but it got a laugh.

Laughs are great in high school.

In October 2013, just as I was getting into the solo board gaming hobby and actually starting to acquire a collection, The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43 came onto my radar. I managed to get a copy of the then rapidly depleting stock and looked forward to what was claimed to be a great solo game.

It nearly torpedoed my new hobby.

I couldn't get rid of it fast enough (strike while the iron is hot and the blinders are on). Sold it on Amazon and managed to get most of my money back. My review back then was scathing and to my surprise, well received by those who disagreed with me completely. I since switched accounts here (correcting a username issue the site has never corrected), but never bothered to repost my original review because there was no sense stirring things up again.

And now it's returned.


Hunters surfaces in the midst of the Colorado Mountains


Yes, in a recent Math Trade, I decided to put in a trade for a copy of the game and lo and behold, I won it.

My reasoning? I've changed in the past year plus. I've tried a lot more gaming systems and mechanics. I have a new game space. I have a better understanding of solitaire games.

I should give the game another chance.

Much like about five years ago or so, I picked up a copy of The Great Gatsby and read it again. Wanting to see if the 40+ year old would have a different view than the 16 year old did.

And you know what? I did. I enjoyed it much more than I did in high school.

So while the gap between my last play of the Hunters and it soon getting on my table is nowhere near the nearly 30 years it took to appreciate Fitzgerald's masterpiece, perhaps a little time passing might warrant a different opinion.

Then again, maybe it won't.

TO BE CONTINUED
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Mon Mar 23, 2015 10:14 pm
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Ease on Down, Ease on Down The Glass Road

Kevin L. Kitchens
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I'm a big fan of Uwe Rosenberg. In my relatively short time back into the new physical board gaming hobby, I don't think I've ever encountered a dud of his. There may be some, but I've not experienced it. The biggest disappointment (for me) was Caverna: The Cave Farmers and that was SOLELY because of the invariability and ultimate solveability of the solo game.

I was first exposed to Agricola and Le Havre (The Harbor) on iOS and for solo play, just never bothered to grab their physical versions. Two non-digital titles that always come up highly recommended however were At the Gates of Loyang and Glass Road. While I've not yet acquired Loyang, I did pick up Glass Road a few months ago in a BGG auction and finally was able to get it to the table this week.

I like it. I love a good Euro with lots of options and this one has that for sure. The variety of buildings you can construct, the specialist cards, and the innovative wheel mechanism are all brilliant.



Is it just me or did that wheel seem odd and make no sense until you actually play and see how it functions so beautifully. Well done!

Looking forward to several more plays of this one.

BTW, I scored 19.5 on my first game out, so not sure how that might compare to others, but well short of the 30 target.
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Fri Mar 20, 2015 6:19 pm
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Solitaire Subdivision - Be Cool or Be Cast Out

Kevin L. Kitchens
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My review of the Bézier Games town building title Subdivision is now posted on the 'geek.

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The game comes complete with a solitaire mode that I found to be challenging, fun, and fast playing. I was worried scoring would be a spreadsheet nightmare but it actually moves at a pretty good clip.

Review Link: Be Cool or Be Cast Out - A Ones Upon a Game Review

Play Log: Ones Upon A Game - Play Log
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Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:46 pm
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Two WW2 Kickstarter Projects of Interest

Kevin L. Kitchens
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A couple of very cool KS projects have piqued my interest and I thought I'd share them with you here. These have both reached the funding goals and several stretch goals, so I don't feel like I'm pimping for them as much as just bringing them to your attention.

Both are WW2 themed. One is pure solo, the other is a two player wargame that is pretty soloable right out of the back, but the designer will be providing a few solo-friendly scenarios as well.



First up is Airborne Commander by Aaron Lauster and StrataMax Games. This is a pure solo, card game featuring the 101st Airborne Division's actions in support of the D-Day landings. You start with a base deck and through the game build your deck and deploy your cards to combat the onslaught of German forces. As your deck becomes more and more "Disorganized" due to lost skirmishes, it will get harder and harder to draw the beneficial cards each turn.

The artwork on this is amazing. Well done.



The Kickstarter page is at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1954959428/airborne-com... and ends on April 3, 2015. Pledge levels start at just $25 + $8 shipping to US.




Next is Old School Tactical, designed by Shayne Logan and published by Mark H. Walker's Flying Pig Games. This one is a traditional hex and counter wargame set in the Eastern Front. The game uses an impulse system where each side gets a variable number of points each turn. The artwork for the maps (MOUNTED!) and counters is great. An additional map goal, also mounted, has been reached and Mark Walker himself will be designing additional solo-friendly scenarios. Looks like a great game and a great value.

But time is ticking!



The Kickstarter page is: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1408460255/old-school-t... and this one ends in less than two days on March 15, 11:04 am ET. You can get the full game starting at $70 + $13 worldwide shipping. There are several other combinations of Deluxe features and multiple copies for group or friend orders.
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Fri Mar 13, 2015 5:53 pm
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Conflict of Heroes Solo -- Won't Be March, But Will Be Soon...(?)

Kevin L. Kitchens
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As a solo gamer, I love official solo variants to great games and Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Operation Barbarossa 1941 (second edition) is a great game. It can be played solo, but I found the back and forth move-move-move-move-move to be like a strobe light to an epileptic (no offense to epileptics). Academy Games, Inc. has had planned (since Lincoln was in office it seems) the Conflict of Heroes: Eastern Front – Solo Expansion.

Not only has it been long awaited and long anticipated, it's also been long delayed.

Gamers jumped on this early on with the release of the second edition in 2012 which was updated to accommodate one solo design by legend John H. Butterfield. However that solo version was scrapped somewhere along the way in favor of the current, new (and improved?) design.

Of course the delays have prompted a ton of jokes and cynical posts in the various CoH forums, but then the latest from Academy Games promised a March 2015 delivery (release announcement for March 2015).

Hurray!

However, we barely made it into March before more threads of "It's late!" arose. I decided to check with Academy directly to see what the current situation was.

Quote:
I know Uwe and Academy are getting beat up on BGG over the Conflict of Heroes solo expansion. Last report from Academy was March shipping and while we're only on March 4th, people are already crying foul.

I don't want to jump on that bandwagon of course, so rather than go with speculation, I figured it would be better to just ask.

Can you confirm if this is still on of if there is some sort of delay and a new ship date?

I know it's been a long process (3+ years), but the excitement (and scrutiny) of this release is very high. Any assurances and updates would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
Kevin Kitchens
Ones Upon A Game on BGG
ones upon a game

I received this reply...

Quote:
Hello Kevin,

Thank you for contacting us directly. I'm sorry to say that we will not ship in March. I see that there is a very frustrated group on BGG about the lack of information from Academy, and I will be posting more info there in the next few days to try to help with that. All I can say is that we're finally in the home stretch and the game will be out soon. I know this has been promised many times before, but everything is finalized now.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks,

So... it won't be this month. But "will be out soon".

Seeking a little clarification, I asked:

Quote:
When you say home stretch, does that mean home stretch in that it's being printed, but not yet arrived for distibution (sic)... or home stretch in the final translation and has not even gone to the printers?

Is there any chance, as I suggested on BGG, for Academy to produce a print and play, English only, set of cards ONLY for the first mission so that people can see the game in action? Right now there's very little beyond a promise for people to wrap their head around.

Academy reply:

Quote:
Yes, the files are finally at the printers, but are not here for distribution. Thanks for the thoughtful suggestions. We are thinking of putting parts of a few of the firefights up on BGG and Facebook. I asked Uwe, and tomorrow he is going to send me the ones he wants to include. So I would like to get something tangible out there for you all.

Thank you for your support and ideas!

So there it is... news should be forthcoming in the next day or so, hopefully with a realistic timeframe for getting our hands on this expansion. In addition, more details on how the cards work and the scenarios should be available soon.
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Tue Mar 10, 2015 3:13 pm
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