Archive for John Owen

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In the Year 2121 - What Survives?

BGG Top Ten June 2006
1 Puerto Rico ($54.95)
2 Caylus (currently out of print)
3 Euphrat & Tigris (currently out of print)
4 Power Grid ($49.95)
5 Princes of Florence (currently out of print)
6 El Grande (currently out of print)
7 Ra (currently out of print)
8 Die Macher (currently out of print)
9 Age of Steam ($89.99)
10 Wallenstein (currently out of print)

7 out of those 10 are currently out of print. AoS is available from Eagle, but probably only because they printed too many copies and there wasn’t enough demand, otherwise it would be out of print right now as well. Puerto Rico and Power Grid have been surprisingly popular, proving their longevity even if I personally don’t love either one of them. From this list, I think that they are the only ones that have been in print with no lapses for nearly a couple decades now. The rest have received occasional reprints, but have not stayed in print (I think that El Grande has maybe been in print throughout the years in Germany, but it’s been off and on in the States).

Let’s remember that hobby culture is ephemeral. No one outside our hobby cares about these games, which isn’t too surprising considering that relatively few within the hobby care about these games. And even if you care about these games from 15 years ago, do you care about the ‘hot’ games from 15 years before that, 1991? How about 1976? 1961? How much do you know about the gaming cultures of 1921?

15 years from now, will Gloomhaven, Pandemic Legacy, Brass: Birmingham, Terraforming Mars, etc still be the darlings of hobby gamers? We know that they will not. And even if I’d rather play any of the 2006 games over any of the 2021 Top Ten games, I don’t think that it’s a terrible thing that these 2006 games are mostly forgotten. The popular games that appeal to a broad audience will continue to be played. The ‘hobby’ games that this site champions will continue to be cycled through, mostly disposable. What games from the past 30 years will really survive and be played 100 years from now? I don’t expect to be around to find out, but chances are very good that most of the games that you and I love from the past 30 years will be forgotten. Just like you and I will likely be forgotten. So it goes.

I didn’t mean to write about any of this. This post was supposed to be about how much it would cost to buy every game in the BGG Top 10 right now at retail prices.

BGG Top 10 March 2021
1 Gloomhaven $140.00
2 Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 $69.99
3 Brass: Birmingham $69.99
4 Terraforming Mars $69.95
5 Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition $149.95
6 Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization $69.99
7 Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion $49.99
8 Gaia Project $99.99
9 Star Wars: Rebellion $99.95
10 Twilight Struggle $65

I was talking to a friend about the world of hobby gaming. He couldn’t believe that these were the most popular games among self-described gamers (it probably didn’t help that he was forming his opinions off of my descriptions of these games, and I’m hardly unbiased in my disgust at the bloat that my fellow gamers seem to love). Anyhow, to purchase all of these games, to get your ‘starter kit’ of the 10 most popular games according to those who ought to know, you’d be spending $884.80. That’s not to mention the Hotness. Our new-to-hobby-gaming enthusiast may want to also pick up whatever the Top 10 Hot games are to join in on the conversation of what is happening Right Now. That’s another $500+. Sure, sure, online discounts. Let’s say an even $1000.00 to get up-to-date with the “best” of what’s happening right now.

These are all fine games, sure, as good as the best of 1991 or 1976.

They will be forgotten.

You know what will still be played in 100 years? Haggis and Plus-Minus Jass and Hearts. Because my grandkids will have a cheap deck of cards and some freely available rules.

And so begins the campaign for Haggis and Plus-Minus Jass and Hearts to be included in the 2121 BGG Top 10. This is the long game, folks. Join me and we can change the future.
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Mon Mar 22, 2021 8:10 pm
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A report on winter break plays.

A report on winter break plays. I wrote this as an ongoing document over the past couple of months. If there are any weird inconsistencies, it's because some of this was written piecemeal with additions and edits maybe not always actually helping.

Board Game: Chess
Board Game: Hearts
Board Game: Magic: The Gathering
Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates
Board Game: Ambiente Abissal
Board Game: Haggis
Board Game: High Society
Board Game: Mittlere Jass
Board Game: Adder: Realtime Chase System
Board Game: Checkers
Board Game: Hnefatafl
Board Game: Nine Men's Morris
Board Game: Terra Nova
Board Game: Fliptricks
Board Game: Heul doch! Mau Mau
Board Game: Maskmen
Board Game: My City
Board Game: Bosk
Board Game: Carcassonne Junior
Board Game: Fano330-R-Morris
Board Game: Here to Slay
Board Game: Miniversity
Board Game: Ninja Camp
Board Game: Oh Hell!
Board Game: Qwinto
Board Game: Qwixx
Board Game: Reign of Witches
Board Game: Tammany Hall
Board Game: Texas Showdown
Board Game: The King is Dead: Second Edition
Board Game: Unpublished Prototype
Board Game: Zero Down
Board Game: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
Board Game: Just One
Board Game: Letter Jam
Board Game: Mountain Goats
Board Game: Quarantine Haircuts
Board Game: Slide Quest
Board Game: UGO!

 10   Chess x6 (58 all-time)
 10   Hearts x2 (5 all-time)
 10   Magic: The Gathering x7 (283 all-time)
 10   Tigris & Euphrates (20 all-time)
 9   Ambiente Abissal x9 NEW!
 9   Haggis x3 (4 all-time)
 9   High Society (11 all-time)
 9   Mittlere Jass NEW!
 8   Adder: Realtime Chase System x2 (20 all-time)
 8   Checkers x4 (7 all-time)
 8   Hnefatafl x6 (11 all-time)
 8   Nine Men's Morris x2 NEW!
 8   Terra Nova (12 all-time)
 7   Fliptricks x5 (35 all-time)
 7   Heul doch! Mau Mau x3 (8 all-time)
 7   Maskmen (2 all-time)
 7   My City x9 (25 all-time)
 6   Bosk NEW!
 6   Carcassonne Junior x2 (10 all-time)
 6   Fano330-R-Morris x2 NEW!
 6   Here to Slay NEW!
 6   Miniversity x3 NEW!
 6   Ninja Camp NEW!
 6   Oh Hell! (3 all-time)
 6   Qwinto x2 NEW!
 6   Qwixx x3 (5 all-time)
 6   Reign of Witches NEW!
 6   Tammany Hall NEW!
 6   Texas Showdown NEW!
 6   The King is Dead: Second Edition NEW!
 6   Unpublished Prototype x5 (11 all-time)
 6   Zero Down x2 (3 all-time)
 5   Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde NEW!
 5   Just One NEW!
 5   Letter Jam NEW!
 5   Mountain Goats NEW!
 5   Quarantine Haircuts NEW!
 5   Slide Quest NEW!
 5   UGO! NEW!

New-to-me games

Two Instant 9s

Ambiente Abissal
In Mid-December, seandavidross added this to his Top 50. bankofdracula commented either there or elsewhere that he wanted to inject the game into his veins. As an addict always looking for the next fix, I knew that I’d have to check this one out. Fortunately for me, the rules were available on the ‘geek and it was playable with a Rage deck, which I had recently acquired prior to December. This could also be played with a Schotten Totten deck if you have one of those and not a Rage deck. The game needs 36 cards, 1-6 in six colored suits. And could be played with a Tarot deck. Anything withs six suits. It’s the simplest climbing game I’ve ever played (which admittedly is not a long list). The lead player will play any single card or one of two kinds of pairs, either a number pair or a color pair. The next two players need to follow that lead, playing a higher single card following a single card, a higher numbered pair, or a “higher” colored pair. That’s right, not only is there numerical rank here; the suits are ranked. This really only takes half a play to get a handle on, and is helped greatly if you set out a reminder (I kept out the 0s in each of the suits off to the side in rank order for this purpose). First to empty their hand wins the round, gaining 2 points. Second out gets 1 point. Third place gets zero. First to 6 points wins the game, which is over so quick that you’ll just want to play it again. I was surprised by how much I loved this game. I know that others were dissatisfied with the 2 player experience. Sure, it’s not quite as good as the 3p game, but I still liked it a lot. I’d be happy to play this 2p or 3p anytime. It has become a permanent part of my collection. I even paid to import the official version (for the story of how stupid I am, see my spending geeklist), mostly as a token gesture to support a great game and great designer, but also because the official art is pretty great.

Plus-Minus Jass
I’ve come to terms with the fact that player tastes can be very different even when players share similar sensibilities and are looking for many of the same things in a game. This is true with my gaming friends locally, my childhood gaming friends, and my BGG friends. And I know that my own peculiar mix of gaming affections will not map onto any other single player. I know from painful experience that no one loves Bladder as much as I do, except for my friend Mike, who is the same guy who crapped on Bus the whole time we played together, so who knows who will like what games for what reasons. I sure don't. It’s still mostly a mystery to me. That’s a long rambling way of getting to saying that I tried Jass because hanibalicious has relentlessly championed the game, a game that has something like anti-buzz on BGG while millions of Swiss families happily unaware of BGG continue to blissfully play their favorite Jass games unconcerned with any goings-on here.
I was going to play Mittlere, but started with Plus-Minus at Hanibal’s recommendation, which turned out to be a great one. I think that I could be happy to just play Plus-Minus for a long time before moving on to any other Jass games. Honestly, I’m not sure if the rest of the Jass family, with its melds/marriages, interests me that much more. Maybe I’ll want added complexity some day. Right now, I’m happy with simplicity. And Plus-Minus is surprisingly simple. It’s played with standard ranked suits with Ace-Ten points (A-11, 10-10, K-4, Q-3, J-2, number cards are 0), but it’s simpler for newbies because the 10 keeps its “normal” rank between the 9 and the J instead of getting moved in between the A and K. Then, to confuse things, the J and 9 of the trump suit become the strongest ranked cards and are worth 20 and 14 points respectively (so trump suit is J9AKQ10876). It’s not too hard to remember if you have marked-up cards to remind you of the point change (thus reminding you of the rank change).
The two things that I love about Plus-Minus are how trump is determined and how VPs (called sticks in the game) are awarded. Whenever a player cannot follow the lead suit and breaks suit for the first time in a round, the suit of whatever card they play becomes the trump suit. It’s marvelous, but mostly because of how it works in combination with the VP scoring. At the end of the round, the person who won the most points (without going over 100 points) wins a stick and the person who won the least points wins a stick. The person in the middle wins nothing. So, when evaluating your hand, it’s good to plan whether you’ll try to force a certain trump suit if you can, either to benefit yourself for a high score or to force trump in a suit that you have no more cards in so that you can lose all future hands, settling in to lowest score while the other two win with their trumps. There’s enough planning to satisfy and enough chaos from interaction to ensure that those plans will get frustrated and you’ll often have to decide whether to stick to plan or pivot to doing the opposite of what you’ve been trying to do.
It’s a delicious game. It’s an hanibalicious game, and I love it.
I’ve read the rules to full Mittlere and it looks very good, in some ways better in little things like that it’s good to have the lowest score, but only if you win at least one trick, a requirement not present in Plus-Minus, making it a little more friendly. I’d like to try Mittlere someday and I probably will, but I’m happy to continue with just Plus-Minus for a while longer.
Finally, I’ll admit that we played the game clockwise instead of counter-clockwise. I’m not going to change the direction I go in every single other game unless I have a very good reason. I don’t find the “it’s always been done this way” argument very compelling, but that's only because of my circumstances. If I found a community of counter-clockwisers, I'd join in their opposite-world antics.

Somewhere between a 7 and an 8, rounded up to an 8 because I found it charming.

Nine Men’s Morris
How had I never played this before? This is the game that I should have been playing every time that I played tic-tac-toe with my sister when we were kids. If only someone had been there to teach me Morris! I’ve known about the game for at least a couple of decades. Being a chess snob in my youth, I looked at Morris variants in books and read descriptions and thought, hey, that’s cool, but then immediately dismissed these games as not chess, so having deserved their fate in being forgotten by history, not passed on by any living tradition. But I was mistaken. Nine Men’s Morris is still remembered and is still played by some. I’m happy to now be part of that community of players.

I’ve begun compiling my own “Great Games” book for family use. Right now, it’s just a digital text file full of rules which will eventually be printed and make its way to a 3-ring binder. I have past experience using print-on-demand services (which are quite good now), so maybe someday this will become a real book that I can pass on to my children. The rules included are for card games using a standard deck or a Rage deck, board games that can be played on a Chess or Go board or on a board that can be hand-drawn in less than 5 minutes (which is also pretty much true of a chess or go board), using common pieces such as stones or blocks (or yes, checkers and chess pieces), pen/paper games, and party games that can be be played using any of the above items, scraps of paper, or nothing at all, and once dice game (Liar’s Dice; I’m open to suggestions for other quality dice games).

I’ll eventually make a separate post about this rules tome, which may or may not ever actually exist. That entire previous paragraph was a ramble away from Nine Men’s Morris, but the point was/is that Nine Men’s Morris has a place in my heart and in this book. I like it that much. Yes, of course it’s still second or third tier under the likes of chess/shogi and go, but what isn’t? For its simplicity and purity (how is that for a loaded term?), I prefer it over most of the commercially published abstracts that I've played.

Hanibal sent me rules to a fun little card game that I think is even better than he possibly realized. It's feels like a mash-up of Knizia's Black Sheep or even Schotten Totten (in the sense that you are playing cards to win material for an endgame condition) and a Poker version of Officer's Skat (in the sense that it is a great 2 player game that teaches poker ranking while being fun, involving some skill but also a heaping portion of luck) and something else I'm not quite pegging, maybe even Movable Type, but others as well. I'm thinking of the fact that the "resources" you are fighting over (cards) are used to shape your hand for a final showdown. I only played it 2-player (and think that's how I prefer it, not really wanting to even try 3-4). This rating might even go up. I had a blast playing it with one of my daughters. It's light, quick fun, perfect for playing with kids. (And I've also now played it with an adult friend and taught it to his girlfriend and watched them play a match. It's light and it's quick. I think it holds up as a form of "Officer's Poker"). If Hanibal approves, I'll post the rules.

Some 6s

The only reason that I played Nine Men’s Morris is because bootleby sent me a hand drawn fano330-r-morris board, which was one of the best Christmas gifts I received this year, even if I was a bit disappointed by the game itself. I liked it, but didn’t quite love it. Instead of trying to win, you are trying not to lose, which of course means that you are actively trying to maneuver your opponent into positions in which they are forced into a losing move. It’s superficial, I know, but I probably would have liked it at least a little bit better if I had played it with the Nestor pieces. Each side gets four pieces, two each of two different shapes. It’s important to see the color and shape of pieces while they are stacked. First, I tried using dice, two flipped to 1, two flipped to 6, but I discovered pretty quickly that it’s hard to quickly distinguish what’s what. The next game, I used Quarto pieces, which seemed appropriate because the games share the similar “don’t lose” vibe. The Quarto pieces were theoretically great, but in practice they were hard to keep stacked and they’d fall over. So it goes. Sorry, Fano, maybe some other day, but at least you led me to Morris games. Thanks, bootleby.

Reign of Witches
This was also a gift from bootleby. I played it on Christmas day and had a lot of fun with it. Unfortunately, after that one play, it never got played again, a victim of the busyness of the end of the year, I guess. Now, a few months later, I’d be happy to play it again, but I also don’t feel like I need to or especially want to. I’m going to keep it around, though, because it really does pack a nice bit of historical flavor into a very tight little package.

I did have one rules question after reading the rules, but it was only a few days into my BGG absence. I figured that it wasn’t terrible to go to BGG for something very specific like this. I went straight to the forums for Reign of Witches. My problem was not addressed anywhere at all. What could I do? I almost right there and then logged back into BGG. Then I caught myself and thought, no, there is a way to do this without BGG. So I headed over to consimworld. :-) But that was no help either. That’s when I did the sensible thing and sent Tom an email. Sent Tom an email! It just suddenly clicked that I knew that Tom and/or Mary had responded to every email I had ever sent them. Those were only a couple of emails about orders, but I figured that rules questions were probably welcome as well. I sent the email. Within 15 minutes, Tom had sent me a very pleasant response which answered my question. Amazing! Hollandspiele is one of the best companies in the business. Thank you, Tom and Mary.

I've surprisingly caught the roll n write bug. Context definitely matters. These would feel like a waste of time at a BATS game night (I'd never want to play these for any kind of main event game and I'd probably rather just sit around chatting even if we did have 15 minutes or so to play this at the end of an evening or in between games). At home, with any of the kids, though, both Qwixx and Qwinto have been big hits. These games are a pleasant way to get in some quick gaming.

I don't know about Bosk. The theme is charming. The gameplay is fine, but I found it rather dry and procedural. I planned out my last 5 turns, then executed them as planned pretty much on auto-pilot. This is strange in a game that seems to have so much interaction. I don't know. I think I found the actual interaction to be too gentle, but then again, maybe that's fitting for the theme.

Here to Slay
I was surprised by how much I liked this. It's a very simple 'take that' style game, but it has charming art and it does not overstay its welcome at all.

Hanibal sent me this little game. I had a good time playing it. 'Nuff said.

Ninja Camp
This is basically Hey! That's My Fish! with a grid layout and special powers. I liked it.

Tammany Hall
I'm glad I finally got to play this. It was a good time and I'd happily play it again. It's wild and swingy, but the player interaction and the shared narrative development makes it a treat.

Texas Showdown
I'm still cautiously optimistic about Texas Showdown, but my first play was not as great as I wanted it to be. I can see some fun here, but can I grasp it?

The King is Dead 2e
This rating may go up. I'm not sure. I had a great time playing this, but need to think about it some more.

5s or 4s or I don’t know, whatevers.

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
These are two trick-taking games that I respect more than I like. I feel like UGO! played me more than I played it. I somehow still found it pleasant and fun, but not compelling enough to ever return to. This is one in which I definitely disagree with hanabilicious. Jekyll & Hyde was too clever by far. There’s a lot of skill involving tracking and deduction, but I just didn’t like the way that the game was often about making other people do things instead of doing things yourself. It almost felt like a combative cooperative game, if that makes any sense. Again, I respect it a lot, but didn't really like it, disagreeing with bankofdracula. See what I mean? I started this post mentioning the games that I enjoyed that these guys enjoyed. Now I'm crapping on other games that they also enjoy. Tastes that are so close yet so far away. I love Plus-Minus, but am lukewarm on UGO! I love Ambiente Abissal, but don't like Jekyll & Hyde. So it goes. There's still enough crossover that we're all gonna have a blast at DeepCatCon, if I even have time to play any card games or want to live at all or do anything but cry after playing a day long session of Xas Irkalla with mplsmatt. I can dream, I can dream.

Slide Quest
Letter Jam
Just One
These were all games that I gave to the entire family for Christmas. The kids have since gone on to play Slide Quest several times without me, but I don’t think anyone has touched Letter Jam or Just One since we first played them. I know that I don’t care to revisit them. They’re not at all bad games. I’d just rather be playing something else.

Mountain Goats
This is fine, but it's just rolling dice and hoping for the best.

Quarantine Haircuts
This is a fun enough way to spend a handful of minutes, but nothing really to sustain repeated plays, which is fine, because I think it was designed to make a person smile, not to survive as an example of a great game.

Not new, but notable

My City
I’m grateful for the experience that My City gave me. 25 plays with Abigail, with her usually being the one asking to play. That’s a great success right there, but… I don’t care if I never play it again. I ended up winning the last six games as the system became more baroque, with mines and trains, oh my. Instead of there being multiple good options, I felt like there was often a best option than multiple red herring distractions. It felt less like the great puzzle game that it had been and more like an efficiency Euro. The “eternal” game on the reverse board probably represents the game at its peak, which must be why it was chosen as the version to keep, the version that is the most fun to play repeatedly. In the end, I think that the legacy aspect grew past what the game should have been, and I write this as someone who grokked the ending and ended up winning by a significant margin after a mostly otherwise close game. Abigail just wasn’t having as much fun the last few games and that meant that I didn’t care at all about the game anymore.
Do I recommend it as a couples game? Yeah, I do. Do I care to ever play the legacy game again or ever play the eternal game? Nope, I don’t.
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Mon Mar 22, 2021 3:14 pm
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He hears with gladdened heart the thunder, or, A Quiet Spirit, or, On not being a better person after having left boardgamegeek for 3 months.

I've seen your face in every place that I'll be goin'
I read your words like black hungry birds read every sowin'
Rise and fall, spin and call, and my name is Carnival

He hears with gladdened heart the thunder
Peal, and loves the falling dew;
He knows the earth above and under —
Sits and is content to view.

He sits beside the dying ember,
God for hope and man for friend,
Content to see, glad to remember,
Expectant of the certain end.

Converse much in your thoughts with the dark and silent grave. You meet with many things now that disturb and disquiet you, and much ado you have to bear them: think how quiet death will make you, and how incapable of resenting or resisting injuries, and what an easy prey this flesh, for which you are so jealous, will shortly be to the worm that shall feed sweetly on it … And is not a quiet spirit the best preparative for that quiet state? Think how all these things, which now disquiet us, will appear when we come to look death in the face: how small and inconsiderable they seem to one that is stepping into eternity. Think, "What need is there that I should so resent an affront of injury, that am but a worm to-day, and may be the food of worms to-morrow?"


It took me less than a couple weeks to realize that I really and truly missed BGG. I finished out the self-imposed 3 month exile just to be certain, and, yes, mostly because I would feel like a loser if I came back any earlier than I said I would.

So, how was it away from BGG? Did I learn anything about myself? Did I use my time any more wisely? Not so great. Not really. Nope.

This BGG blog of mine has always been as much about my search for contentment as it ever has been about games. Contentment and games. The two are related. I’ve long understood about myself that games settle my mind, bring me peace. I’m prone to anxiety and despair, acedia and melancholia. So it goes. I know from long experience that there are physical actions that make these things better and physical actions that make these things worse. The right choices are pretty reliable, even if it often seems like I reliably make the wrong choices. One positive choice that almost always works without fail is to play a game. Works at what? Works at convincing me that all is right with the world and my place in it. For the time that I’m playing a game, any good game worth playing, there is always “a temporary, a limited perfection.”

“Inside the play-ground an absolute and peculiar order reigns. Here we come across another, very positive feature of play: it creates order, is order. Into an imperfect world and into the confusion of life it brings a temporary, a limited perfection. Play demands order absolute and supreme. The least deviation from it ‘spoils the game’, robs it of its character and makes it worthless. The profound affinity between play and order is perhaps the reason why play, as we noted in passing, seems to lie to such a large extent in the field of aesthetics. Play has a tendency to be beautiful. It may be that this aesthetic factor is identical with the impulse to create orderly form, which animates play in all its aspects. The words we use to denote the elements of play belong for the most part to aesthetics, terms with which we try to describe the effects of beauty: tension, poise, balance, contrast, variation, solution, resolution, etc. Play casts a spell over us ; it is ‘enchanting’, ‘captivating.’ It is invested with the noblest qualities we are capable of perceiving in things: rhythm and harmony.”

Play has a tendency to be beautiful. That’s it, right there. For the time in which I am playing, I am part of a rhythm and harmony, the rhythm and harmony of that particular table and those particular people, but also, I am convinced, in rhythm and harmony with the way the world itself is rightly ordered.

“The ultimate lesson games give is not about gratification and reward, nor about media and technology, nor about art and design. It is a lesson about modesty, attention, and care. Play cultivates humility, for it requires us to treat things as they are rather than as we wish them to be. If we let it, play can be the secret to contentment. Not because it provides happiness or pleasure—although it certainly can—but because it helps us pursue a greater respect for the things, people, and situations around us.”

This is something like a “posture of play” in the every way that one could (should?) engage with all of the world.

Bogost again:
“But games aren’t magic, and the most special thing about them isn’t unique to them anyway—their artificial, deliberately limited structures teach us how to appreciate everything else that has a specific, limited structure. Which is just to say, anything whatsoever. Play isn’t our goal, but a tool to discover and appreciate the structures of all the malls and fishbowls we encounter.”

I take Bogost’s point, but I'd quibble a bit. Games are indeed “magic” and supremely special precisely because they are “deliberately” limited structures. It is that deliberateness that focuses the mind (and emotions) in a special way. It may be true that they teach us how to appreciate anything and everything else, but they do so by providing a deliberate space in which the training of those faculties can happen. Playing in a deliberate way in closed environments built for play may train us to play, deliberately, in wilder, woolier, more open environments. I think so. But I also know that I play games because it is beautiful and right and proper to play games and there doesn’t need to be any further justification than that, any more than there needs to be a defense of birds or flowers.

So, what does all of this have to do with being off of BGG and with now being back on BGG?

In the past three months, I was more content with what I had and didn’t chase as many new games for myself while I was gone from BGG. I certainly didn't care about the commercial churn cycle. What’s maybe weirder is that I didn’t feel any pressure or care to play any of the unplayed games in the basement either. That pressure just lifted. I don’t know if this was really an effect of being off of BGG or rather just the natural culmination of the past year of public self-reflection, in which I discovered that I’m actually a lot happier playing traditional abstract games and card games than I am playing pretty much any new “designer” game. Being away from BGG meant that I was even further away from the cult-of-the-new churn, but also away from the cult-of-the-small-new-exotic-card-games crowd that I had been gravitating towards (I love you guys). I stopped thinking about what to play next, which meant that for a while I played less, but then I just played at whim or left things set up, playing chess or checkers with one of the kids several nights in a row, which was always satisfying.

Taking a moment to breathe, it was also easy to notice that playing or not playing the games in the basement does not matter. At all. One bit. I mean, I always knew that and would have told you that if asked, but I hadn't felt it. They are still there, but I've already let them go. Kondo-style, I'm grateful that they gave me some moment of purchasing/collecting joy, but I'm even more grateful that they've taught me an (expensive) lesson in the perils of accumulating too much too fast. I was just telling a friend that the best gaming decision I made last year was the rule to play a new game immediately (within 2 weeks) or mercilessly dispose of the game, with this lesson being cemented in my by bootleby calling me out on the massive trade and my then playing that massive stack of games. Barring illness or disaster, I will never buy another game and not play it within 2 weeks. This really is the key thing I've internalized. I've been reflecting on my bedroom as a teenager. It was stuffed full of crap, a clutter-hater's nightmare, and I loved it. I never felt bad about it and I really never have been bothered by clutter. The big difference, I can understand now, is that I never ever brought something new into that room that I did not read/watch/play/listen to as soon as I possibly could.

I’d still like to get to at least a few of those games in the basement before I dispose of them. I’m still going to stick to the Crates rules that I’ve outlined somewhere here. Play the games by sometime (I can’t even remember when) later this year or get rid of them. But I no longer feel any pressure at all related to this. It just doesn't matter. I also culled dozens more games, but that process probably deserves its own short post.

Being away from BGG also meant that I spent time other places on the Internet. Because I didn’t just suddenly stop caring about games and I didn't suddenly completely unplug, I found other gaming websites out there. They exist! BGG is not the only games-related site. I know, this is not news, but BGG was definitely my default, and when it is the default, it’s easy to default to wasting time on general threads on BGG that I’m not ultimately interested in just because it is the default. Away from BGG, I found a wider world of games. I read the rules to a lot of small free (or pay what you want) indie rpgs. I read about traditional parlor games. I read the rules to card games that I’ll never play. I read essays about games and about play. I discovered stuff like Ludocity, “a collection of pervasive games, street games and new sports - social forms of play that take place in public spaces, such as city streets, parks and public buildings.” I briefly joined the new community.consimworld, which is a sort of facebook for wargamers, and stayed there long enough, about half a day, to know that it wasn’t for me.

I’ve reflected a lot on this one Matthew Henry sentence, “And is not a quiet spirit the best preparative for that quiet state?” Quiet here does not mean silent, but being at peace. It was the restlessness that I sometimes associated with BGG that often “disquieted” me. Always something new. Always another update/notification, and if there isn’t a new something yet, I’ll just refresh a few times, and maybe there will be one soon. Outside of BGG, I was still on the internet. I did not quit that completely. There was some degree of restlessness in my searching, but there was always some greater degree of boundedness to the search results. I was able to sip at a thing or two, then put it down, which is a different feeling than the notification-driven "refreshing" interaction of BGG (just like "content" doesn't seem to bring contentment, "refreshing" webpages rarely feels actually refreshing), which is fortunately user-controlled so I can only blame myself, but I don't think it's any accident that BGG's new homepage changed to an endless scroll. That is the new model. Infinite Content, so some approximation thereof.

Sometimes I even went on BGG (gasp!) when it seemed like the best place to look something up. If I learned anything in all of this, I learned that BGG is a far worse place when not logged in than when logged in. Because despite my complaints, despite the degree to which BGG is complicit in a culture of dissatisfaction and continued acquisition, BGG is also home to a great community of other players, those whom David Parlett, following Cotton, likes to call Gamesters. You, my fellow Gamesters, you who understand the rhythm and harmony of play, you are the reason that I am back and the reason that I will still continue to consider BGG my primary home on the web. I think I understand that better now and I am more grateful than ever for it.

I love games. I don’t think I’m ever going to stop loving games. I don’t think I can ever stop thinking about games or talking about games. This preoccupation with games is frivolous in a sense, but I’m also convinced that it’s a genuine groping at something more profound. If not, it’s at least a welcome respite from the pain and hardship experienced elsewhere. You all reading this might agree with my speculations or you might think I’m crazy. It doesn’t matter. What I do know is that you’re all here because you love games like I do, or like you do, in your own way. There’s something about the ludic life that can’t be shaken. Since those of us smitten in this way, self-concious of our ludobsession, are scattered far and wide, we might as well share our experiences with one another as best we can here on boardgamegeek. At its best, it is a marvelous place.

This time around, let’s talk about digital media and the dead.

As deep fakes, virtual reality, and virtual worlds become more commonplace, I worry that at least some of us will lose our ability to die.

From gallery of trawlerman

I’ve probably mentioned here before that I’ve deleted multiple facebook accounts and multiple twitter accounts. I was definitely active in both of those places at different points over the last decade or so. It might be weird to many of you, but one major reason I deleted those accounts and have not gone back is that I’m terrified that some social media account of mine will outlive me. So much ephemeral conversation, which is really what any of these accounts are, should be forgotten. They are all, at best, partial representations of some carefully cultivated version of some aspect of myself, what I felt like performing that day to that crowd. I don’t know. I just didn’t like it, and still don’t like it, the thought of some future ethnocultural-archivist specializing in early 21st century U.S. history reconstructing some version of me through the tattered scraps of online personas. Not that I imagine myself important enough to be worthy of study. The scenario is more like a future descendent researching his family history, looking into the Owen side of the early 21st century only to conclude that the most important thing in this ancestor's life, based on years of Google Hangouts conversation data, was the regular fart jokes exchanged with his friends.

It’s maybe even weirder that I don’t feel that way about BGG. If anything, this blog and my contributions here give an even narrower version of myself than other outlets. I present the Ludic & Ludological John as primary. And I think I’m okay with this because I wish it were true that the Ludic & Ludological John were the Primary John (here I distinguish slightly between ludic=playful and ludological=playing ordered by and consisting in Logos, which is my own spin on ludological, but also not too far from standard definitions; I'm also happy describing myself as someone who attempts to speak logical structured words about games). I'd like to be remembered for my playfulness. Following Huizenga and Bogost and others, I admire and appreciate and, most importantly, play games because they are beautiful in themselves, but also because in themselves they reveal something true beyond themselves. Not all human activity is play, but “it might reasonably be maintained that the true object of all human life is play.”

And maybe that all got too heavy. For the record, I'm definitely not writing this for any future folk. I'm writing it for all of you, right now, as part of an ongoing conversation that I'm enjoying. I've learned something from each of you about what it means to play and be playful. Being on BGG is its own form of play; I think that I can settle back in here happily without stressing too much. See you all around.

It is not only possible to say a great deal in praise of play; it is really possible to say the highest things in praise of it. It might reasonably be maintained that the true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground. To be at last in such secure innocence that one can juggle with the universe and the stars, to be so good that one can treat everything as a joke—that may be, perhaps, the real end and final holiday of human souls.

C.S. Lewis
I do not think that the life of Heaven bears any analogy to play or dance in respect of frivolity. I do think that while we are in this ‘valley of tears,’ cursed with labour, hemmed round with necessities, tripped up with frustrations, doomed to perpetual plannings, puzzlings, and anxieties, certain qualities that must belong to the celestial condition have no chance to get through, can project no image of themselves, except in activities which, for us here and now, are frivolous.

For surely we must suppose the life of the blessed to be an end in itself, indeed The End: to be utterly spontaneous; to be the complete reconciliation of boundless freedom with order–with the most delicately adjusted, supple, intricate, and beautiful order?

How can you find any image of this in the ‘serious’ activities either of our natural or of our (present) spiritual life? Either in our precarious and heart-broken affections or in the Way which is always, in some degree, a via crucis?

No, Malcolm. It is only in our ‘hours-off,’ only in our moments of permitted festivity, that we find an analogy. Dance and game are frivolous, unimportant down here; for ‘down here’ is not their natural place. Here, they are a moment’s rest from the life we were placed here to live.

But in this world everything is upside down. That which, if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is likest that which in a better country is the End of ends. Joy is the serious business of Heaven.”
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Mon Mar 22, 2021 2:38 am
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3 Months: An Eternity in Internet Years?

Um, so, what happened while I was gone?

Please leave a comment summarizing the last three months on boardgamegeek. So that I can catch up all at once. Only the really important stuff. Thank you.

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Sat Mar 20, 2021 7:31 am
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Winter (Break) Is Coming

Open invitation to everyone:
note: geekmail gets forwarded to my email even when I'm logged out.

Send me a geekmail message with your snail mail address and I'll send you something the old-timey way. It might be a postcard. It might be a box of garbage. It will always be a (nice?) surprise.

Or don't send me a message. That's okay, too.

Thanks, all of you, for the good times. BGG is often a beautiful place.
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Sun Dec 20, 2020 5:26 pm
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Secret Joker 2020

I wrote all of this for the Secret Joker thread, but figured I'd share it here as well:

I opened my package before the 25th.
My excuse is that I'm logging out of the 'geek for a while starting next week and wanted to give my Joker some deserved recognition before I left. Also, I couldn't wait any longer.

For the record, my Secret Joker was a taskmaster and a tease. Mostly, my Secret Joker was always delightful, and this package is a wonderful end to a very enjoyable correspondence.

The note was marked "confidential" so I haven't shared that here. I've probably already revealed too much, but you can all keep a secret here, right? If any of you tell anyone about my membership card, I will deny everything.

Thank you, Secret Joker, for all of your hard work in making my days merry and bright. It has been a joy. This deck is almost too nice to play with, but I've never been a collector, so I'm already putting in the effort to break it in. I've already shuffled the deck a few times and plan on putting plenty of wear on the deck playing card games with my kids.

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman
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Fri Dec 18, 2020 6:49 pm
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"I hate chess." -Bobby Fischer

I'm not willing to go back and find the conversation (I don't even remember if it was in the comments here or elsewhere), but here's one of the greatest chess players of the past century basically agreeing with Jake's opinion of Chess. That doesn't mean Fischer would like a Lacerda game.

I'll be trying Chess960 soon.
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Wed Dec 16, 2020 11:25 pm
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Santa Classics

I was searching for a non-board/card game Caravaggio painting and stumbled upon this fun project of updating classic paintings by inserting Santa. It was too silly (and too well done) not to share. So here you are:
From gallery of trawlerman
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Mon Dec 14, 2020 4:20 pm
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Traditional Board Games Leaflets

Damian Walker's site is the best one I know of on tafl games. The other site on traditional games also looks excellent. I'm poking around on it now, downloading all of the rules leaflets. Why aren't these incredible resources pinned to bgg's frontpage as an introduction to board games for new players? They should be.
Traditional Board Games Leaflets
Print and Play Downloads
Hnefatafl Variants Leaflets
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Sun Dec 13, 2020 2:00 am
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In a good game, even the losers win. -RK

From the preface to New Tactical Games with Dice and Cards, which you should buy now if you don't already own a copy.
Reiner Knizia wrote:
In a good game, even the losers win. It is the process of playing which is important, and the chance to interact and compete with other people. The appeal of the game is the time we spend together.

While we are playing, it feels like we are visiting new worlds and being subjected to different rules that measure our strengths. Each time, new skills and strategies are required. Everyday life is soon forgotten, previously unknown goals and exciting challenges are calling us. While playing, we become free to do things and take on roles that everyday life cannot offer us. We put aside our fears and embrace a new identity.

For this, we neither need endless rules nor lavish setups and equipment. It is what you do during the game and the choices that you make that provide the excitement. The rules set the boundaries, but within them we control our own world. We know our options and fight for success against our competitors.

Playing games, more than anything else, is make-believe. It is we, the players, who put life into the game and find elements in the form of new strategies. But we have to start with a situation that is defined by good and interesting rules. Then everyone wins, no matter who is victorious at the end.
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Sat Dec 12, 2020 1:32 pm
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