John OwenUnited States
I wrote a post at the very beginning of this year about my history with playing cards: A Personal History of Naked Card Playing (Death to Sleeves)
I've written multiple posts over the course of the year directly or indirectly about "minimalism" and the not-so-good feeling of having too many unplayed games. Here's the current list of unplayed games in the house: https://boardgamegeek.com/collection/user/trawlerman?wanttop....
I was looking at a stack of copies of unplayed games this morning, thinking to myself that I just don't have the desire right now to play many of these games at this moment. I know that these things come in waves so I'm not really worried. There's a good chance that I'll be playing half a dozen of these unplayed games this very weekend. It's good for me to get these games played. I think that the last time that I lived in a place with zero unplayed games was probably 2005. I've actually begun to cull books as well, but that's its own separate challenge. I'm on something like the Kondo 20-year plan.
So, if I'm not so excited about the unplayed, what games have I been thinking about and/or playing?
I was inspired by bootleby's My Expertise III geeklist to create my own similar list. My list includes a running joke (hey, aren't jokes supposed to be funny?) about playing all of the games mentioned immediately. I didn't actually play more than a few games that day (Duell, King's Valley, Chartae), but I did get every one of those games out of the cabinet and stacked them together, impressed by what a great small collection they made. I could be happy with just this pile of games.
There was another geeklist on the
front pagedashboard about modern 2p abstracts that led me to the Connect6 page which led me to russ' review of Connect6 which led me to all of russ' reviews which led me to his review of Mini Shogi, a Shogi variant I was aware of, but wasn't high on my "radar", which I am now hoping to play soon. Part of me is excited to play Mini Shogi. Another part of me is screaming, YOU MUST FINISH PLAYING ALL OF THOSE UNPLAYED GAMES, and that's really the problem; not the unplayed games themselves, but the feeling of having some obligation to unburden myself.
The simplest way to destroy that feeling is to get through the unplayed games and continue to stay firm in my new policy to play every incoming game within two weeks of receiving it. The acquisition itself isn't the problem (though sometimes it is). It's the acquisition without playing that is problematic.
What have I acquired in the past couple of weeks? A few things.
I have purchased two different decks of playing cards, 2 copies of each deck, one for me and one for the Secret Joker Exchange. I would post pictures here, but won't for fear of lurking Jokers.
I purchased a copy of Qwixx while at Target. This was an impulse buy, but I knew that it would go over well with the kids. I taught it to three of them the day after purchasing it. They have since gone on to play it more without me, which is always the best sign that a game belongs in the house.
Another trade happened. My copy of Meltwater: A Game of Tactical Starvation for Formosa Flowers and Secret Moon. Those two games should be arriving today or tomorrow. Getting rid of Meltwater was another tough decision that many here may think was the wrong decision. It is undoubtedly a good game, maybe even a great game. It is rare that a game can successfully make an argument through gameplay, through mechanisms. Meltwater succeeds in its evocation of a shrinking world and the despair of mutual destruction, the meaninglessness of any sort of "win" under these circumstances. It really is brilliant. And the gameplay is strong enough for the game to be an interesting challenge apart from the theme (as if this were possible). After all that praise, though, I just didn't find myself wanting to play it. It's a bit of a bummer. If I wanted a 2p head-to-head game, I was always going to pick another game, or at least in practice I always did pick another game. So it left the collection.
I exchanged a few very pleasant messages with Daniel Zinn, the person behind The Blue Rings Custom Skat Deck. It was immediately apparent that this deck is a true labor of love for him. His love of Skat and his wanting to share that love with the largest possible audience is really infectious. Daniel recognized my own enthusiasm for custom decks and my interest in learning Skat and offered to send me a Blue Rings deck that he already had printed and laying around. He did not expect a review or ask for any publicity (and I'm not kidding myself that I really have any influence here). He just saw that I was excited and wanted to share something that he loves with me. I happily accepted his kind offer.
So, I received the Blue Rings deck. I watched Daniel's videos, which are quite good (and the reference cards included are also nice), but I still struggled with the bidding rules. I read Parlett on Skat, but that didn't help so much. Finally, I broke down and turned to a Skat iPhone app and just played repeatedly. I had seen both bootleby and Sean mention playing card game apps to learn games and figured it was worth a try. You know what? It worked. Not only did I learn the bidding rules to Skat, it helped break down the barrier I had in considering the Jacks (the Rings in the custom deck) as the highest part of a named trump suit and helped in cementing the Ace-Ten-King ranking.
I felt good with the rules myself, but still felt overwhelmed teaching the game to my family. The truth is that I still haven't done so.
What I did do was use the Blue Rings deck to play Officers' Skat with my 10yo daughter. This helped to teach her the rankings of the cards. There is a lot more luck in Officers' Skat than in true Skat, but it was still plenty of fun and worked as it should. We played with a simplified scoring system, just 2 points awarded per won game, which is one of the variants listed on that wiki. I added in "ramsch" and "kontra" and "re" as she became more confident.
Daniel recommended playing the game with my family without bidding at all for a while. It seems counter intuitive as a gamer to do this, because bidding is the very heart of the game, but it really does make sense to do this to teach the game. Introducing a complicated bidding system on top of a complicated ranking system is just too much. It was too much for me, as I've already noted. I had to use repeated play against an AI to understand it myself and I did so because I was determined to learn the game. Someone without that desire and determination would just give up.
The good news is that the Blue Rings deck really does make the ranking much easier to learn, eliminating that barrier. The toughest part of the design must have been the Rings, which are (almost) always trump, but malleable in their suit. This was the only thing that my daughter struggled with. I had to remind her a few times that her rings were actually the trump suit color. That said, I think that the Rings design as-is is about as good as they possibly could be. I'm really impressed by the design.
So, here's that Kickstarter link again. There are only a few days left. Pick up a copy for yourself if you have any interest at all in Skat. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/danielzinn/the-blue-rin...
My copy of Doublehead Kids hasn't arrived yet, but it's good to see that others have started to receive copies in the States.
I do absolutely love this "trend" of updating traditional games with more functional aesthetic designs. Boon is another one that I love, maybe my favorite in terms of aesthetics, but to be fair this is a simpler game to update since there is a fixed trump suit. I've given myself a free pass to purchase any of these sorts of updates, which is why I didn't feel at all guilty when I just recently purchased a copy of Vivaldi after seeing Rob comment on it. These decks may not be finding a huge audience, but they are at least succeeding in easing me into further exploration of traditional games. I'm personally glad for this.
I'm painfully aware that this is already a long post. It's a giant wall of text without any pretty pictures to break things up. I had taken photos of my 10yo playing Officers' Skat with the Blue Rings deck with me, but I accidentally deleted them, because, well, technology. I guess I'm going "all in" now and just committing to the wall of text.
Here's an update on the card games that I have played so far this year. I won't even comment on these as I've already done so throughout the year. All I'm doing here is listing them all in my current order of preference, splitting the games into two lists, Modern and Traditional. Here we go.
New-To-Me Modern Card Games Played in 2020 Ranked
1. Schotten Totten
Modern Art Card Game
Heul doch! Mau Mau
Air, Land & Sea
The Bottle Imp
Ugly Christmas Sweaters
Knizia is still king.
New-To-Me Traditional Card Games Played in 2020 Ranked
Skat (The Blue Rings)
Poker (Follow the Queen)
Hearts still has my heart. I greatly enjoy trick avoidance.
But now I will tell the lineage and the names of the heroes, and of the long sea-paths and the deeds
Just another bgg blog about playing games.
Archive for John Owen
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Not related to gaming. Not related to stressing over time spent online or having too much stuff. I'm just here to encourage you to watch more great films and eat more great food. Do it.
Noirvember 2: How does a man decide in what order to abandon his life?
BurrEato 2020 - A Challenge to Eat 30 (or more) Burritos in 30 Days!
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30 Oct 2020
I have never participated in any BGG Secret Santa festivities. My own tastes are so specific (and sometimes so fickle) that it has never made sense to me to trust purchases to others. I realize now that I resisted the whole thing because really all I wanted was a hexhex board and a deck of playing cards. Well, it's hard to improve on the hexhex board I already have. But a new deck of cards? Yeah, I could always enjoy one of those. Heck, even if I hate the deck I get, I could enjoy not enjoying it, I think.
So I joined this: 2020 Secret Joker Playing Card Exchange
If you like cards and you like surprises, then you should join too.
I totally tagged The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine just to abuse BGG's crazy tagging system, triggering the subscription notifications of thousands who clicked here hoping for some smart something related to that new hot game they love. Sorry. But if you enjoyed The Crew, maybe you're itching for a new card deck? That could be fun, right?
And I tagged a variety of other games. Sorry not sorry. I chose a handful of games that might have people loving them that are happy by this silly holiday overflow of goodwill. If you're upset or disappointed, that's okay. Don't stress about it.. Check out the Secret Joker. See if it's for you. If it isn't, well, keep playing with your early 90s Jurassic Park deck. That's fine too. I'm tagging Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues just for you.
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Anyone want to play a live game of Skat on boardgamearena sometime? Maybe tomorrow, Oct. 31st, 2020? I am still very bad at the game, but I think I understand the rules well enough to deserve my losses. I have read the rules multiple times. I have watched several videos. I have played (and lost) games on an iOS app. I think I'm ready to go live? I have been allergic to online games for too long. Why not have my first online game in a long time be an embarrassing, bumbling loss?
I'm EST. I can do almost any time on Saturday, late afternoon on Sunday, and/or early evening any day. I'm typically ready for bed by 8 and get increasingly cranky as the night goes on. I could even play this evening, but I'm already cranky at 3:30pm. I was awake at 4am this morning. What time did you get up?
Next, setting up VASSAL on the mac and finding out how to stop being an online Babyloner and join the online Babylocos for some asynch play.
Edit: Playing more app skat. I am truly terrible.
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I continued to play more games. I have successfully played all 18 games that came in the trade before two weeks was over. Crazy, yes.
I also engaged in another smaller trade (which I discuss below) and was able to play the two new-to-me games that arrived just this past Saturday.
The rules were tough to parse with this one, but I was mostly confident when we sat down to play. It definitely took more than half of our game for everyone to feel confident with what was happening in the game. I'm not sure about this one. I like it, but would I rather play it than other similarly weighted card games? Is turn order too significant once everyone is equally good at the game?
Medina (Second Edition)
Medina has been on my wishlist for about as long as I've had a boardgamegeek account. I'm glad that I have finally played it. Maybe I love it? It's really just a game of chicken, with everyone building the playing area together, building the relative values of everything in the game together, then deciding when to claim something for oneself. Timing is so important. Jake, have you played this one? It might be too abstract for you, but I think that you would like much of this emergent construction of game space.
Tower of Babel
Tower of Babel is much better than I remember it being, but it's still not good enough. There's not much tension. There's a decent amount of interaction, but it feels especially hamstrung, limited to what card draws are happening. It's fine. I actually enjoyed myself. But... I kinda don't care if I ever play the game again or not? Eh.
This might be my new favorite set collection game? I hesitated to get this game. A family friendly game with bloody art on the back of each card? I don't know who was in charge of art design or marketing, but this one is almost a no-go from the start. But the gameplay is light and fun. Draw two cards, then discard a card or lay down a set of three or more cards. Or pick up a discard pile, then lay down a set of three or more cards. Game ends either when the deck runs out or one player has played all six possible sets. It is this control of the timing of the endgame that makes the game a cut above. I really enjoyed it.
Hare & Tortoise
It is almost painful for me to admit that I don't like this one at all. I love Parlett and want to love everything that he's done. This game, as wonderfully thematic as it is, just was not fun for me to play. In order to move forward, you are forced to move back. Any sense of game progress is stymied on every turn. Managing these setbacks is the game. I'd rather not.
My City x3
If you're not playing My City, well, why aren't you? It really is a perfect 2p game. I almost went without playing it this week because I had been playing stuff with the kiddos. Abigail was the one who said in the afternoon, "My City?," which itself is a win.
I picked this one up because of the potential of the six-suited high-number-ranged deck. But I figured that fair is fair, it's a new-to-me game, I better play it rules-as-written within 2 weeks. So I did. Kinda. I knew after reading the rules that this was going to be a subpar Oh Hell!, with a lot more chaos and a lot less control in what is already a chaotic and hard to control game. Anyhow, I played it. It was a 3p game with myself, my wife, and my 10yo. But after three hands, the little ones in the house were all showing signs of hunger and it was creeping up on supper time, so I bowed out, allowing my 12yo to sub in for me while I went out to the kitchen to make an easy supper while listening to Miles Davis (as my 8yo who was just gifted a broken trumpet mimed along). So I only played 3 hands (of 10) of Rage, but that's good enough for me. It was enough (though reading the rules was really enough) to confirm for me that Oh Hell is pretty great at what it is and does not need any tweaking.
So, subpar trades? I guess that's my jam. Will gave me a little bit of pushback on my previous big trade and others expressed positive opinions on the boardgames that I got rid of. It's tough getting rid of genuinely good games.
Last week, I was proposed a trade of Hare & Tortoise, Vampire, and Rage for Civilization, Unlock Squeek, and Innovation.
I responded that I had recently obtained Hare &Tortoise in another trade, but that I'd be willing to trade Civ, Squeek, and Innovation for just Rage and Vampire. I also explained that my copy of Civilization was obtained for free through a freak Craiglist find (of which I had already profited by selling a bunch of Ambush games), that I was pretty sure that it was complete, but I could never be bothered to confirm that. The other guy played it cool, like this was a fair trade, but I assume that he knows that he got the much better end of this deal, at least in terms of monetary cost.
But, from my perspective, I got Civ for free. I've had it for half a decade and have not played it. I paid $7 or so for the Unlock game on clearance. I got Innovation for free when I was planning a convention that failed (but that's another much longer story). I know that there are many people reading this who are disgusted at me for letting go of Innovation. I did not play it. I read the rules multiple times and set the game up. I decided that it really wasn't for me. I'm looking for something very different in a 2p game and in any card game. On top of that, I know two local gaming friends who own a copy of the game. I can get in my token "I've played that" play any time (assuming some sort of future in our lifetimes that allows for this). In my limited family setting, I didn't see myself ever wanting to play it. And as far as the Unlock game goes, I've already learned that I dislike all of these types of games.
So, I was parting with $7 or so "worth" of games on my end. Rage and Vampire sounded fair enough. And I really do hope that the receiving end witll get great pleasure and repeated plays out of the games that I have sent out. I really do hope so.
And I love surprises. This trade was mostly about getting unplayed stuff out, and I thought that I was winning by getting a Rage deck. It turns out that I don't even care so much about the Rage deck. I'm surprised by how much I like this stupid Knizia vampire set collection game. I wish it had different art on the card backs, but, whatever, my kids can all deal with some blood-sucking. I thought that it would be a "play and done" but it might actually be my ongoing set collection game of choice into the future.
I don't really know what is valuable and what isn't. I certainly look up geekmarket sale histories. I know what games are kinda-sorta worth in market terms. Is Vampire "worth" more than Civ? In market terms, no. In experiential personal terms, absolutely, yes.
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Hat tip to all of the Reiner freaks who know who you are.
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23 Oct 2020
In celebration of Babyloctobia, I am giving away 5 lesser Knizia games.
If you want any of them, leave a comment telling me why you want the game and promise to play the game within two weeks of receiving it in the mail. You also need to agree to pay actual shipping costs.
I'll pick someone for each game by this time next week. If anyone makes a good case for wanting more than one of the games, that's fine.
It's lame, but I'm too tired to put any more effort into this.
Edit: not that anyone cares, but the "it's lame" comment was meant as me expressing that I felt lame because I wanted to post photos of the games and brief descriptions and reasons why they didn't work for me, but I was tired and grumpy and just wanted to get the post up quickly so that it was out there and I could consider more games at least halfway gone. The actual giveaway is awesome. Tell me why you want these games. I want to give them to you!
Here is the list of games:
Gold Digger - I threw away the box. It's in a plastic baggie. Probably a small first class envelope.
Stonehenge - played several times by me and by the kids. Probably medium-low rate.
The Lord of the Rings - used copy i got in trade. Box is beat-up, but components are good. Large flat rate.
Ilium - played once by me. Previously used. Medium flat rate.
Aristocracy - bought new. Played once. Not for me. Medium flat rate.
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23 Oct 2020
A year since the last time I reviewed this info, my K-Index is now 9.
19 x Tigris & Euphrates
19 x Chartae
18 x Babylonia
16 x Lost Cities
13 x Schotten Totten
13 x Through the Desert
12 x Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
11 x Cheeky Monkey
10 x High Society
09 x Lord of the Rings
09 x Ingenious: Travel Edition
09 x Duell
Overall: I have logged 260 total plays of 59 unique Knizia games. That's up from last year, when I was at 136 plays of 34 unique games. I have played a lot of Knizia games in the last year.
After playing so many Knizia games, here is my list of Games I Would Keep If I Could Keep Only Five Knizia Games (Friday, October 23nd, 2020 Edition)
2. Tigris & Euphrates
3. Schotten Totten
4. High Society
5. Times Square
Honestly, those five games alone would make a great game collection. The Top 4 are solidly my Top 4 Knizia games right now and permanent parts of my collection. Each one of these games is in my Top 20 Games of All Time List (10/23/20 not actually completed a new Top 20 list edition). I waffled on that #5 slot. A recent replay of Times Square gives it the edge right now.
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Yeah, so I did it. Almost. Here's a report. Not a ton of detail, but quick gut responses.
Box of 18 games received in the mail on Wednesday, October 14th. I posted my waffling blogpost the morning of the 17th. I rightly got called out by bootleby for not taking my own challenge seriously. I then spent the rest of the 17th, the 18th, and the 19th playing games with family.
18 new games to play? Well, we've still got time for a Babylonia session, right? This was a good time with a brother-in-law and nephew who were visiting.
I only played one game, teaching it to others, then got out of the way to let others have fun.
Then finally beginning to tackle the games that had come in with the trade...
Elephant's Trunk x2
This is an under-the-radar Knizia game that anyone with young kids should enjoy. I played it 4p with a 6yo, 4yo, and 3yo. There was a lot of shouting and giggling. There are no choices in this game and that does not matter. We played twice in a row and the young'uns would have had me play more times, but I insisted on moving on through these new games.
Leapin' Lily Pads
Another Knizia classic from the year 2000. Knizia had probably one of his best years ever in 1999, then released two great children's games a year later. This one does involve choice and skill. It's a fairly simple memory game, but it's a good one.
The little ones wanted me to keep playing with them, but it wasn't meant to be. 18 games to get through, remember? I taught RR to my 10yo, who is a veteran BraveRats (R) and Love Letter player. I won, but it's only a matter of time before she gets much better than me at this.
And then a play of this with the 10yo and the 12yo. This is probably the first very good new-to-me game of the day. Building the values for the animals and the timing of taking animals allows for some crunchy decisions in a very easy and fast game. I know this one was a hit because the 10yo and 12yo played it again immediately with each other while I went on to play another game.
The final game for the night was a vicious Elk Battle (definitely not festive!) with my 8yo son. He was much more efficient with his flicking, providing an almost nearly constant updated platform that his moose just seemed to float across. Meanwhile, I kept having discs just a little too far, followed by my moose dunking in the "water" as I tried to move those impossible distances.
That's right. I told the family that we don't do anything else but play boardgames anymore. The afternoon and evening saw more play.
I played this one solo. It was a fun enough diversion, but I'm not a solo or co-op gamer. I think I just got it because it was a Kanai.
This one felt like a dice version of Bucket Brigade, quicker and more fun, even with 6 players.There wasn't a lot to this one, but it was light and fun.
Then a 3p session of Ilium with the 10yo and 12yo. My fears of this one were kinda justified. It's not a meh euro. It's better than those. But it was still meh Knizia. There are some timing choices, but never any really interesting decision. There is mild player interaction, but it's so slow and procedural, always doing the same thing, placing 1-3 dudes, that there is no dynamism at all to any interaction.
This was easily the game of the day. Played with my wife and 18yo. First two hands, I was picker and just shy of 60 each time. I griped about how tough it was. Then, my wife decided that she could do it no problem, my daughter made fun of her, then she of course managed to score something like 80 points. Then she immediately went solo again next round and did it again. At one point, my daughter was in the act of mocking her mother, when her mother unexpectedly won something like a 30 point trick. Mother of course shouted that this is the best game ever and her favorite game of all time. I think this is a winner.
This was played cooperatively with this same competitive group from a moment ago. It was tough. We lost terribly. Talking about it after, we decided that you must have to be carefully card counting and aggressively cycling through challenges more than we were. Even with the passing, it was difficult to know when any other player could or could not follow suit. I think that players would have to agree on a system before playing, such as always passing cards to indicate which suits that person will never go for, or whatever. I don't know, we may try this again, but it gave me a kind of mechanical co-op vibe that I didn't like.
Carcassonne: The Castle
This opinion may be controversial. I love Knizia, but I think I prefer vanilla Carc to this one. This may be better 2p, I don't know, but it also just seems to add more crud to an already pure design. I do want to play it at least a few more times, so that's a good sign.
I had played the Crazy Chickens version back in '08 and barely remembered anything but the art and that I was underwhelmed. I also remembered that my friend who taught it to me liked it a lot. So, over a decade later, becoming more of a card gamer, with a family that loves card games, I decided to give it another chance. And... it was okay. I still don't care about it. Once again, though, that does not matter because my kids loved it (I played with 12yo, 10yo, 8yo), so they'll be playing it plenty without me.
My City x3
Three plays with Abigail. It's a new weekly habit.
Taught this to Abigail immediately after My City. She liked it enough to play more, but we were out of fun time.
I don't know about this one. The simultaneous selection makes it chaotic, but that chaos is also fun. Lots of stupid fun bumping into the Emperor.
Modern Art Card Game
Okay, this might be my most controversial opinion. I like this card game version more than I like the regular auction version.
So, 18 different game, but not all of the 18 games from the trade. There are still 4 left from that giant pile: Medina, Tower of Babel, Maskmen, and Hare & Tortoise. I might not get to them this week, but I'm confident that I can get to them before the 28th. Why didn't I force myself into this stupid "must play everything acquired within 2 weeks" challenge 15 years ago? It's a no-nonsense policy that just makes sense. Stop buying games. If you have trouble with that, then at least stop buying games and not playing them. Makes sense to me. I'm never going back to purchasing games that sit on the shelves unloved and unplayed. Never!!! Which brings us to...
I did buy stuff, but I'm sticking to the plan.
-$12 for a deck of playing cards. I know that someone could give me crap for this, but I've been looking at new decks not for myself, but to give as gifts. I would like a nicer deck for myself (currently using a $4 Bicycle deck that is just fine) and may pick one up in the next couple of weeks or months, but I've been browsing lots of card sites looking for gifts for both family and friends. I bought this particular deck as a "stocking stuffer" for my 10yo.
-I backed another Kickstarter project this morning because it is exactly what I am looking for these days. It's a full version of Skat with a deck redesign for those of us not raised with arcane card game rules. If you had told me last year that I'd be considering playing Skat at home, I'd have laughed at you. Now it's happening and I love that it is. You should check this out and back it too. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/danielzinn/the-blue-rin...
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