Archive for John Owen

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If I Could Only Keep 5 Reiner Knizia Games (June 2021 Edition)

After reading Martin's recent article, I felt inspired to make another list (it doesn't take too much to get me to make another list).

I've logged 332 plays of 71 unique Knizia games.

The following is a list of my Essential 5. I've still got other Knizia games in the house because the kids love them. I get it. I like those games too. But I'm at the point at which I could cull my Knizia collection (a collection within the overall collection) down to these 5 games (with the additional caveat that I'd also be keeping copies of New Tactical Games with Dice and Cards and Blazing Aces!: A Fistful of Family Card Games). These are the essentials.

1. Tigris & Euphrates
2. Babylonia
3. Schotten Totten/Lost Cities
4. High Society
5. Lord of the Rings (2003)

Yeah, yeah, you'll have likely already noticed that I've included six games in my Top 5 list. Plus two books, which brings the Top 5 to 8. Sigh. I might as well add two more to make 10. Through the Desert to stretch the Knizia Collection player count to 5 and to add a game that I think I still love? That sounds good. That's 9. But I don't know what game I would slot in to be #10. There are a dozen different games that could be there given mood and circumstance but none that feel essential to me in the way that the games above are essential to me.

I've already written in various places about why I love each of these games. Sadly, I was only inspired to make a list today, not to also add interesting comments. Sorry.

Now, I'll turn the comments over to YOU. What are YOUR 'essential Knizia games'?
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Thu Jun 17, 2021 5:26 pm
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May '21 - "By blood we live, the hot, the cold / To ravage and redeem the world:" GH

Board Game: Babylonia
Board Game: Tak
Board Game: Kluster
Board Game: Mini Kubb
Board Game: Cavum
Board Game: Lucky Little Luxembourg
Board Game: Memoir '44
Board Game: Railroad Ink: Blazing Red Edition
Board Game: Würfel Poker
Board Game: Yellow & Yangtze


 10   Babylonia x3 (24 all-time)
 8   Tak x6 (28 all-time)
 7   Kluster x2 NEW!
 7   Mini Kubb NEW!
 6   Cavum NEW!
 6   Lucky Little Luxembourg NEW!
 6   Memoir '44 (3 all-time)
 6   Railroad Ink: Blazing Red Edition NEW!
 6   Würfel Poker x2 NEW!
 6   Yellow & Yangtze NEW!

I'm still in something of a gaming slump.

But I'm now at 24 Babylonia plays, which is almost 1/4 of the way to 100. It'll take a long while because I'm not focusing on it, but 100+ plays honestly feels like an effortless thing to achieve..

My plays of Tak with my friend Ben were the highlight of my month (my rating should go up), reminding me again that I enjoy simplicity. The other highlights were playing Memoir '44 with my son and Railroad Ink with Abigail, even though I could take or leave either one of those games.

I didn't actually play Mini Kubb. I decided to start tracking lawn game plays this year because I'm disappointed that there is no LawnGameGeek. Kubb is always great fun.

Kluster was my best impulse buy in a long while. I only played it twice, but then it saw a ton of play in the house by the kids, especially when one of their uncles was in town.

I think that part of my 'slump' is feeling again the weight of the Unplayed and Unread, and the Already-Played&Read-Unwanted. I made a lot of progress in May, giving away something like 80 books and moving dozens more games to the Departing Bench (the place things go before they leave the house), but that progress is hard to process and feel great about when there are still stacks and boxes of books (and games) in the basement. I wish I had the strength to just drop them all off at the thrift store. The hardest part of getting rid of games (books, anything) is the desire to know that they've gone to a good home. But getting good games to good homes requires time and effort. Giving away games requires time and effort. Selling games requires time and effort. The trap that I've built for myself is that I'm too often 'managing' the stuff I own instead of 'enjoying' the stuff I own. I'm feeling alright, though, because I've been taking serious, tangible steps every month now. Less shuffling around of stuff, more serious purging.

My June gaming goals are: getting in some gaming with Jake before he leaves the area, playing more Tak, and re-establishing weekly gaming with the family, which somehow just stopped earlier this year amidst busyness and then never resumed. I'll also add the easily accomplished goal of buying no new games during the month. Nope. Not even one. Not gonna do it.

----------

Other Stuff
Outside of gaming, I've been pretty satisfied.

Books
I finished Wheel of Time book 11, Knife of Dreams, which was Robert Jordan's last book before he died. 10 was the lowest point of the series, so it was satisfying to see Jordan pull off a tidy finish to many of the sprawling threads that he had let loose, setting everything up for The End (which of course is still three fat books away). I'm glad that my final taste of Jordan was a positive one, because when Book 12 starts, it's immediately clear how much of a better writer Sanderson is than Jordan. But instead of despising Jordan, I loved him more because it was obvious that Sanderson loved him, taking the best parts of Jordan's writing (worldbuilding, the repeated minutiae of character tics and interpersonal relationships, sometimes flat, sometimes real) and celebrating Jordan's style, taking it up and breathing new life into it. I'm about 1/4 through Book 12. I hope that this freshness continues unabated through the rest of the series.

Even though I've been reading bloated fantasy novels, I still care about great literature. LaffCon5 is happening online this year if any of you want to join in on an event celebrating my favorite author of the 20th Century: http://www.laffcon.org/2021/04/laffcon-5-june-12th-2021.html

Music
I was listening to a large variety of music, but got to 2010 in the music guild at the same time that I discovered an old CD copy of Glen Galaxy's 2011 album Thankyou in my car trunk, which I've been listening to on repeat in the car ever since. Also re-listening to a lot of Fahey (mostly The Voice of the Turtle), new Oldham stuff, old Molina stuff, and the entirety of 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' for the first time ever. And I just last week discovered Martha Redbone's 2012 William Blake album, Garden of Love, which is great. And I've been falling asleep to ambient music from a Spotify playlist titled Floating Through Space, which I've found wreaks havoc on the AI's 'Release Radar' and 'Discover Weekly' recommendation formulas. The SpotBot thinks I'm a genuine spacebient connoisseur.

Comedy
I didn't watch any new comedy specials, but I re-listened to Paul F. Tompkins' Freak Wharf, Neil Hamburger's Hot February Night, and Richard Pryor's 'Craps' (After Hours).

TV
I watched a new episode of The Simpsons for the first time in a couple of years. It was the recent Morrissey episode, which started pleasant and playful and ended a bit too snarky and cruel for my tastes (yes, I'm aware that many think that contemporary Morrissey is too snarky and cruel himself. I get it, but I don't think that meanness begetting meanness does anyone any good).

Movies
I watched about half a dozen feature films during the month. Godard's Sauve qui peut (la vie) and Wender's Paris, Texas were the best new-to-me, both exploring the terror of communicating with loved ones or, really, anyone at all.

I've been disgusted by the state (non-state) of current 'cinema' (where streaming services give you the option to watch at 2x speed because they know their product is garbage, not worth your time). It was absolutely refreshing to watch personal, meaningful films by master filmmakers, who understand the language of motion pictures and manifest their ideas so skillfully in that language.

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'On Another's Sorrow'
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Tue Jun 1, 2021 11:32 pm
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The People Games Play #1 - bootleby

While I was away from the 'geek over the winter, I had the idea for an interview series, highlighting people that I like 'in the hobby'. The basic format is me asking ten(ish) questions to someone I like and allowing them to answer without any restrictions. The plan is to post one of these interviews every month.

'Living la Vida Luda' was a candidate title for the series. 'Living with Ludic Tendencies' was another, which is why I have invited bootleby as my first guest. I considered 'Lessons in Ludophilia' and 'Board Blabbering' and countless other stupid names. I almost settled on the rather straightforward: 'Ten Questions for BGG Personalities'. There may be some overlap, but each entry in this series of interviews will feature different questions. Probably ten questions, but I’ll also probably cheat and ask multiple questions with each question. Not even probably; this is definitely what I will do, so that the real title should be something like 'Probably Near or Around Ten or Thirty Questions for BGG Users Who Don’t Really Like Being Referred to as Personalities, Because Persons Are Not Personalities'.

'Ramble Time with Guests’ is the most honest title, I guess. I settled on stealing the title 'The People Games Play' from David Parlett (but I don't even remember where I saw that now).

Enough. Here goes…

The People Games Play #1 -
Mr. Anderson
United States
Ivory Tower
Minnesota
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I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have board games.
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How do you know what you want 'til you get what you want and you see if you like it?
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Microbadge: Caravan fanMicrobadge: Res Arcana fanMicrobadge: GameChat League - Phoenix Division: "Like a phoenix rising from the ashes..."Microbadge: I have at least 3,000 logged game plays!Microbadge: Blue Skies fan


Mr. Anderson, thank you for joining me.
(Apologies to bootleby for this one taking me two months to post after interviewing him. I was really excited about the idea when I got back on the 'geek, then wasn't sure if I wanted to continue with it or not. I think I do, and even if I don't, I like this first interview and shouldn't have sat on it for so long.)

1.
trawlerman:
Your profile starts with a quote from a Frank O’Hara poem. Do you see any overlap at all in poetry and gaming? Yes? No? Explain. :-) What about poetry and gaming and mathematics? Is there a connecting thread there or do you see each as distinct? Answer in 2500 words or less.

bootleby:
Gaming and mathematics is a pretty easy connection. Here are some rules, explore what happens. Now explore what happens when we relax one of the rules. That could also be how someone might describe poetry. We have rules for language. Now, let's break them. Gaming & Mathematics both help to try to codify some of the chaos of living into principles and rulesets but of course, you learn about Gödel and John Bohrer, and you're even worse off than before. Poetry helps you survive the chaos by highlighting the absurdity of these codifications. And/or makes it worse, I guess.

Northern Pacific and Hex are probably the two games that I think best resemble the types of poems I like: short and beguiling.


2.
trawlerman:
Name anywhere from 1 to 10 books that everyone who wants to understand you should read. These may or may not provide any insight into anything or anyone else. You may simply list the titles or you may also comment on each.[/b]

bootleby:
Back when I had a facebook profile, I listed the following (maybe... the first two are For Sures, the last two are guesses) as necessary reading to understand me, which my now-Husband dutifully read during our initial courtship:
-The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
-The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
-Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
-Age of Reason by Thomas Paine

The Last Samurai is a book I've reread a few times. Helen DeWitt is an inspiration to me and that book is the reason I took six terms of Ancient Greek in college. Frank O'Hara is the kind of cultured irreverent I aspire to be. The Collected Poems gets a lot of crap for being a poorly edited collection so search out the following: "Morning", "For Grace After a Party", "Animals", "Meditations in an Emergency", "Joe's Jacket", "In Memory of My Feelings".

I would now add Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm as it's helped me clarify my worst impulses. Hasn't yet helped me avoid them, though. Ovid's Metamorphoses is another one I've read and reread. All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews was a recent book that knocked me out. I just asked Jeff "What are my favorite books?" and he added The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Maybe Pedagogy of the Oppressed should be thrown in there as well as it has informed my values around autonomy in the classroom and on the pool deck.

3.
trawlerman:
You currently have 5 games that you rate a ‘10’ on BGG. Chicago Express, ConHex, Hansa Teutonica, Hex, and Sheepshead. Why these games?

bootleby:
God, I have great taste. I want to punt on this question and just answer "Because I have fun playing them," but what the non-abstracts have in common is that they are simple games that allow for mean play–or at least high levels of trash talk and manipulation. What Hex & ConHex have is simple rulesets with fun play. You know, as a teacher and a coach I really value connection so maybe that's why I love those abstracts so much.

4.
trawlerman:
Tell me about your grandparents. Did they (do they) play games?

bootleby:
I know very little about my grandparents. Two of them were dead before I was born, one was whisked away (allegedly) by a second wife and the other one was only interested in playing head games, and, unfortunately, I don't mean the song by Foreigner. I bet my paternal grandpa played a lot of Cribbage since all of his sons did and one of my uncles ended up joining the American Cribbage Congress. My guess is my maternal grandpa did too since my Mom played Bridge.

5.
trawlerman:
You’ve logged plays and not logged plays. You recently started recording plays in a physical journal, yes? Your profile states “I am finding that reflecting on the day’s games is a good framework for general contemplation.” Do you still think this is true? Could you unpack the statement a bit further?

bootleby:
Yeah! In my journal, I sort of did my normal blog mini-session reports but worked it into more of a general reflection on my day and frame of mind. It was nice to have the structure of the game write-ups to hang potential emotional breakthroughs/downs on. I think jotting down session notes anywhere is a valuable experience both for the writer and the reader. It allows you to process what happened, reflect on why you liked/didn't like the game, and helps (possibly) seed a discourse. Also, I realized I was playing Irish Gauge incorrectly by reading someone's play logs.

I think logging plays with comments is a good practice. I think analyzing play data is largely a bad practice if it ends up with you making game night decisions based on pumping up numbers. It can be a fun thing to analyze after the fact but not something that should inform your decisions.

6.
trawlerman:
Coding and programming? What was your experience with computers growing up when and where you did? What kind of hardware are you using today and to what purpose? OS?

bootleby:
My dad likes to tell the following anecdote: Two guys who were hired to recarpet our basement noticed that I, as a four year old, was coming in to sit down at our Commodore 64. They joked to each other, "Aw, this kid is playing pretend computer!" and carried on with their work. About five minutes later they realized I wasn't playing pretend computer. I may not have been four but the spirit of that anecdote should inform my answer to this question. I was born in 1985 and had access to computers my whole life. I use a Mac for work (beacuse the Chromebook they gave me can't run Google Meet & the interactive whiteboarding software I like to use) but a PC which I built for gaming. I have no preference for either but am much more comfortable using the command line on the Mac.

When I was young, I worked my way through some BASIC programming and had a geocities site on which I did some HTML. I had always been interested in math & language so I wish someone would have directed me to Computer Science in college but I probably would have answered "I don't want to be around computers all day" even though that is probably exactly what I want to be around all day given my habits, lately. This is also reminding me that Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter should be on my book list. Anyway, I learned JavaScript and enough Scala to get hired, found I wasn't all that interested in programming that had any use and then learned enough Erlang to program a command line version of No Thanks! and enough Haskell to beat my coworkers in programming contests at work. I always threaten to learn OCaml or some other Functional Language to work through an at home computer science curriculum but learning a new language's toolset is more fun in theory than practice.

7.
trawlerman:
On the topic of video games. Do you agree that Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo is the greatest video game of all time? Or are you stubbornly wrong in picking some other game? Besides some continued shared-space realtime in-person gaming such as Towerfall or Castle Crashers, I have been unable to find anything I enjoy in the realm of digital video gaming. What do you find that video gaming provides that is unique that other media do not? What is it specifically that draws you to video gaming? Tell us more about this Twitch channel that I keep hearing about.

bootleby:
Ha, I have not played Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo but I imagine I'd love it. My favorite game historically is probably the Mario Kart series, and Mario Kart: Double Dash will always have a special place in my heart. Video games are at their best for me when I can turn into a reflex. I don't like video games that ask you to manage systems or sift through a bunch of lore. I also am a fast typer so a game like Cook, Serve, Delicious is also a banging good time.

That said, this game that I totally wrote off in the Fall of 2020 has come ROARING BACK into my life in early 2021: Fall Guys Ultimate Knockout. I needed a relatively mindless diversion and found that it was just the ticket. Mostly just sprinting through levels with some occassional mean strategy elements and shared incentives (sounds appetizing, no?). I started streaming so my friend could watch while she was at work and have folded in some mathematics & crossword puzzling. I have a miniscule but passionate following. I did once stream myself playing Cribbage and Sean heckled which was also fun, I think he could tell I was streaming due to the Discord integration.

8.
trawlerman:
What do you love about Minnesota? Have you ever been to the Ocean? In my life, I’ve moved from the southeast end of Long Island to upstate NY. What I miss most of all is the ocean and the railroad. How often and how far have you moved in your lifetime? Is there anything that you once knew well that is now no longer a regular part of your life?

bootleby:
I grew up in Wisconsin and moved to Minnesota and haven't really looked back. I used to know the ins and outs of Madison but am pretty clueless now. People in Minnesota love to take advantage of any good weather so about half-way through March the Restaurant patios start to open and there's just so much life outside. I honestly didn't consider the move to Minneapolis much beyond "of course that's where I'm going" after I graduated. I should maybe think about my major life choices a little more.

Minnesota is also great for board gaming. Fantasy Flight Games, All-Aboard Games, Leder Games (and I'm sure I'm missing others) as well as groups like the First MN Historical Wargaming Society. The midwest enjoys a healthy card gaming lineage so you're never far away from someone who knows how to play Cribbage, Euchre or even Sheepshead if you're lucky.

9.
trawlerman:
Have you enjoyed the GCL experience on BGG? Why should anyone else on BGG be interested in joining a GCL? Or maybe they shouldn’t be? You were brought in to a pre-existing GCL. What was that experience like? How did it happen? Why did it happen?

bootleby:
The experience of joining was indigopotter sent me a geekmail asking if I was interested. I assume my participation in Deep Cuts and eventual gaming with The Mirror helped bolster my reputation. The great thing about GCLs is that you get to know people and get to understand what informs preferences that diverge. Phoenix has some incredibly thoughtful and opinionated people who just love playing board games. Lately, as somewhat explained in question 7, I have not been a great participant in the league either on BGG or as a gaming partner but I hope to be a prodigal son that returns when this video game madness passes.

I enjoy the experience but I also think Deep Cuts monthly roundup hits the same notes at least with respect to games. Now that the monthly list also asks about other cultural engagements it has become even more like a GCL. I think that's great. The one nice thing about GCLs is that the hosting responsibilities rotate so we get a different vibe every week. As Rob as also said, it's like planning a lesson and that can be a satisfying creative enterprise and that's not something you can get from just responding to the Deep Cuts monthly prompt.

10.
trawlerman:
What is currently your favorite deck of playing cards? Please share a photo.

bootleby:
I have so many standard Bicycle packs of cards that those are the most used and have found that most of my forays into buying "cool" decks have been rough in terms of usability. I saw Ray talk about a favorite Tom of Finland deck so I bought my own but haven't played with them yet. My favorite fancy deck that I've actually used is the The Planets: Saturn deck that I bought on 52Kards. I also bought the pictured Olympians deck as well but found it difficult to use, so Saturn takes the win and not only because I'm a Depressive Capricorn.
From gallery of bootleby


11.
trawlerman:
If you could abolish all thumbs on BGG, past, present, and future, would you do so?

bootleby:
My first thought is "obviously," and I think Yucata erred by adding thumbs to their forums. My biggest issue with thumbs is that I'll post something and then constantly refresh to make sure that thumb count goes up. How anti-Enchiridion is that? The one positive use of thumbs I've found is to mark what I've read in the Deep Cuts roundup or the weekly GCL lists... don't tell my GCL mates to go back and check for my thumbs for the past few weeks... I hope members of both of those groups don't find their thumb collection devalued after reading that previous statement. It may be that this use is enough to keep thumbs around. Hey wait, I thought this was supposed to be only 10 questions?
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Fri May 28, 2021 6:54 pm
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The Lake House Drawer Game Design Challenge

My friend Mike sent this photo to our group Hangouts chat this morning:
From gallery of trawlerman

6 playing pieces, 2d8, 2d10 and a thimble inside of a plastic baggie. Also in the drawer but not in the photo: 1 pen.

The challenge is to design a game using only these components. If you don't think you can manage without a board, you're also allowed one piece of paper, but you'll always know that you couldn't design this game without a tree dying for you.

Throw out some ideas. I'll be thinking about this at work today. I'm inclined towards some sort of race game, but I think that's only because I've been thinking about race games lately.

I can't promise anything, but I'll try to get Mike to play a game using whatever rules get proposed here.
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Thu May 20, 2021 12:38 pm
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'nother year, 'nother list

If I could only keep 50 games, May 12th, 2021 edition: Love you more than everything Loved it more than anything Loved everything more than anything: an attempt at commitment
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Thu May 13, 2021 12:29 am
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'amerigame'

According to wikipedia:

Amerigame- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amerigame
Eurogame - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurogame

"The oldest known games in the American-style are Pachisi and Snakes and Ladders from India."

"Contemporary Eurogames, such as Acquire, appeared in the 1960s."

So, Amerigames originate in India? Eurogames originate in America, where the typical games originated in India?

Besides Amerigame being a stupid name that should never be legitimized, did any Ameritrash fan at any time argue that the games they love could be traced back to their origins in Snakes & Ladders? If anything, Backgammon and various gambling games combined with historical miniatures games seem like a better antecedent.

The BGG Ameritrash wiki is quite good by comparison - https://boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Ameritrash

I'm almost convinced that this wikipedia article was written as a joke.

"These games are sometimes referred to as Ameritrash. This is in reference to their propensity to use themes aligned to trashy low budget horror movies."

Is this just someone guessing at what the name means? Sigh.

My understanding, based on the hazy memory of being here in '06, and based on reading through links on the BGG wiki, is that Ameritrash began as a term of derision (in a way that Amerigame never was) to describe mass market American games from the past that had virtually no decisions, then was taken up as a term of affection by those championing American games from the past that had plenty of decisions though often had more luck and narrative aspirations than the average BGG user was open to in the mid-00s.

The wikipedia article is just terribly confused.

The earliest games in the American-style are Pachisi and Snakes & Ladders. This leads into a bit about Monopoly, then out of nowhere Diplomacy is mentioned as if it follows naturally from everything above. Then, Risk in the same way. Then, jump to War of the Ring, which is just like Pachisi, right?

The "characteristics" section isn't bad, but it's difficult to see how it follows from the "history" section above it.

Anyhow, it's been a while since I've posted anything here. Those were just some quickly typed out rambling thoughts on having read a wikipedia article. I've got a few blog post 'projects' and a few non-blog 'projects' planned and in various stages of done and not-done. Some day, some day.
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Tue May 11, 2021 8:43 pm
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Dump RUn

I'm getting rid of games.

HEre's a list:
Flick 'em Up!
Ethnos
When I Dream
Seti
Pickomino
Desperados
Gold Digger
Cheaty Mages!
Mai-Star
Say Bye to the Villains
Bucket Brigade
Finger Guns at High Noon
Letter Jam
Secret Moon
Trick of the Rails
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
Familiar's Trouble
The Grizzled
The Legend of Robin Hood
Diamonds: Second Edition
Formosa Flowers
Hellapagos
Ugly Christmas Sweaters
Nanofictionary
Phase 10
Linko!
Senators
Ragemore
Universal Rule: Singularity
Skulls of Sedlec
Desert Pack


I'm not tagging any of these games here. This post is just for the regular folk who have subscribed to my ramblings. I'm still surprised you're here; thank you.

If you want any of these games, post a comment below AND AGREE TO PAY SHIPPING CHARGES. First come, first served because I'm not about to judge who is more worthy right now. First comments get it just because. I apologize that this happens to reward whoever was on BGG when I posted this and not the most worthy, but just remember that these games are garbage; whoever got them first got my garbage while you were spared of the same. Be glad that you have been spared my garbage while others had to shamelessly beg for my garbage.

If you want the game(s) and agree to pay shipping costs, I'll send the game(s) to you. If you want to pay more than shipping costs because you think I should have more money to spend on more games to give away at a future date, well, I won't stop you.

I'll let this run for a few days. It's Wednesday 6:15pm Eastern Time as I write this. I'm hoping to ship whatever wants to be shipped on Monday morning. Whatever doesn't get shipped will get taken to the thrift shop.

Purge purge purge.

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Wed Apr 14, 2021 11:28 pm
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Kickstarter Krap

I need help.

Tell me why I need all of this:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/boardgametables/factory...

Tell me why I don't need all of this:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/boardgametables/factory...
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Sat Mar 27, 2021 7:19 pm
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Sometimes BGG does it right

Browsing the homepage (not the dashboard), I stumbled upon this gem not too far down the page:
From gallery of trawlerman
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Fri Mar 26, 2021 8:49 pm
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Swimming in pips and painted faces

It has been over a year since I wrote about my history with cards: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/98922/personal-history-na...

I’ve spent a lot of time since then playing cards, mostly with my family, which I'm convinced is the best way to do it.

Here’s a list of lists for those who like lists.

Top 3 favorite 2p card games
1 Haggis
2 Schotten Totten
3 Scopa

Magic: The Gathering should probably be here at #1. I still love it, specifically drafting, any form of drafting, or even limited constructed. But, yeah, I also hate everything about it, the cost, the felt (real?) need for a constant influx of new cards, the community that is caught in an obsessive culture that is not healthy (yes, I went there) and jokes about how unhealthy it is (cardboard crack, etc). If a game can be judged by the culture that it spawns (and I think it can be), then I think it's fair to continue to stay away from this scene.

You might have heard of Haggis? I would be worried about praising it too much, but I’m late to the party on this one, and Sean already knows that he created an excellent game. If his head were going to explode from too much praise, it would have happened already! I’ve only played Tichu once and half the table wasn’t enthusiastic about it, so it’s hard to truly compare, but I prefer Haggis. What elevates it for me is that everyone always has at least one 'bomb' at their disposal, but doesn’t always want to use that bomb because the constituent parts of the bomb are useful as wild elements completing other incomplete puzzling elements in the hand. How to best get rid of all of these cards?? I had a great game recently (playing to 350 points) with my 11yo in which she was ahead 222 to 29 and I was able to pull off an insane comeback win 386-290. That was exciting.

Lost Cities used to be my Knizia 2p card game of choice. I still do love Lost Cities, and both games are full of delicious tension, but I prefer Schotten Totten’s tug-of-war tension right now. It is really satisfying to be holding on to those cards you know your opponent needs, then playing one of them right after they’ve given up on their plan. Likewise, the pain of having to commit to an action while being uncertain of being able to complete it in the best way is just the right kind of pain. So good.

And Scopa. This one might stay or it might go. I almost left this spot blank or filled it with another Knizia (Lost Cities or even Duell). I need to play Scopa more this year. I found it to be a relaxing game, enjoyable in the best way a casual game can be. I’ve already forgotten some of the weirder scoring quirks (the 7 of diamonds is important, right? something like that?), but I want to play this again more than other games in this category, which is what nabs it the #3 spot.

Top 3 favorite 3p card games
1 Plus-Minus Jass
2 Ambiente Abissal
3 Boon (Sheepshead)

3p is a sweet spot for card games for me. There’s still a lot of control, but the addition of one more person increases the unpredictability substantially.

Plus-Minus Jass is a brilliant game. Play to 7 victory points. Each hand, you win a vp by having either the highest score (based on card points won in tricks) without going over 100 or the lowest score. If you’re that third player stuck in the middle, you get nothing. What’s especially beautiful about this is that it takes something many people don’t like about 3p games, something that I’ve always loved, and just doubles down on it. If two players are competing for one thing, the best position as the third player is to go for the opposite thing. So here, if two players are going for points, avoid tricks and settle into lowest score. If two players are losing lots of tricks, go all in and get the highest score (keeping an eye on points to stay under 100). This involves first, reading your hand when it is dealt to you, but then, second, reading the other players, and being flexible enough to pivot in response when needed. This is complicated by trump being determined by one of the players during the course of play! And all of this packed into a fairly rules-light game that is easy to pick up (especially if cards are marked with points values, which can change depending on trump).

Ambiente Abissal is an even lighter game that plays super-duper-extra-booper-quick. It’s played to 6vps and rounds are quick. The “gimmick” of this climbing game is that not only are there numerical ranks as usual; the colored suits themselves are ranked. Lead player plays 1 card or a pair of cards. The next players must play a higher number (following single or pair) or a higher color. The thing is, it’s not just a gimmick. It increases the choices significantly and makes for tough decisions. It’s still a very light game, but it’s a satisfying one, like that peppery popcorn at the bar that has you eating a handful of popcorn because it’s so good, taking a swig of beer because it’s so peppery, then taking another handful because yum, then more beer, then more popcorn, then suddenly you’re ordering your 3rd beer and asking for another refill of that tasty popcorn. Ambiente Abissal is like that, in the best way.

And Boon (Sheepshead). Like Scopa (how often do Sheepshead and Scopa get linked together?), this is one that I played and greatly enjoyed last year and just never returned to because, as we all know, there are always new games, even for those of us who are actively trying not to buy new games!! What I love about this one is the 1 vs 2 nature of it. By ‘picking’, you’re shouting that you’re confident enough with your hand to beat two other players actively working to undermine everything you do. It feels great to accomplish this and it feels great to stop someone else from doing it! Maybe someday I'll try the 5p game, but I really love it as a 3p game. I just need to play it more.

Top 3 favorite 4p card games
1 Hearts
2
3

Yes, I find trick avoidance very satisfying. Yes, Hearts is fairly simple. Yes, I like fairly simple. Not only is trick avoidance satisfying. Slipping nasty cards to others at the table is very satisfying. It’s maybe the perfect family game for me if I had stopped procreating at 2 kids. :-p

I’m looking forward to trying Haggis 4p. I almost put it in this slot just based on reading through the rules.

I almost put Maskmen on this list, but I'm still unsure about it.

It's also possible that Doublehead Kids might settle in here, but I've only had one play of it.

The truth right now is that at 4p settling down with a deck of cards I'd always rather play Hearts than anything else.

Top 3 favorite 5p card games
1 Vivaldi
2 Oh Hell
3 High Society

Vivaldi is so good that I wrote a true review of it, something that I hadn’t done for any other game in a long while (usually settling for rambling incoherent comments scattered across a dozen different places instead). It’s the secret partner aspect and the simplicity of it that I love. It’s even the bidding system that determines the picker that I love.

Oh Hell is a close second at 5p, again because it’s simple. Its exact bidding rewards skill (and some risks), but is also frustratingly stupid in a fun way when there is hardly any information and you're making a bid based on seeing one card. I play that meeting the bid scores 10 points, but every trick won also scores a point, which I find is a bit kinder and forgiving, while also really allowing the game to continue to be almost entirely about meeting your bid.

Finally, High Society. Is it a card game? It’s played entirely with cards, so maybe? I’ll admit that it feels less like a card game than any other game I’ve mentioned so far. It’s an auction and resource (money) management game. The status cards could easily be tiles. The money cards could be Monopoly money. I think maybe I’m talking myself out of including this one? Dang. Um, how about I slip No Thanks in this spot real quietly right now. Did anyone notice? Is anyone still reading this? No? Phew.

Top 3 favorite 6p card games
1

I've got nothing here.

I'll eventually try Haggis 6p. I should also try Cancellation Hearts at 5 and 6. It has been a while, but I like 6 Nimmt. Ziegen Kriegen goes up to 6. 6p is pushing at the limits of what I'd like to play, either card game or board game. At 6, you might as well go outside and play kuub or settle into some stupid Telestrations fun. Pagat has a very helpful 'games by number of players' list. I should check out more of these 6p+ games.

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The question that follows all of this is… can’t I just be satisfied with these great games? 2 players and want to play? Choose between Haggis or Schotten Totten. 3 Players? Plus-Minus, Abyss, or Boon. 4p? Hearts. And so on. Pick from 2 or 3 games that we all know well instead of picking from a dozen or two dozen or several dozen games that I’m fuzzy on the rules for and don’t remember liking quite as much as these. Of course, I’ll keep trying new games because I like playing new games, but that shouldn’t be the usual thing. The usual, the normal, should be just defaulting to a handful of favorites.

I should stop writing this same thing over and over again in different ways and just be more active in actually doing it instead.
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Wed Mar 24, 2021 11:45 am
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