Goodbye Rick, my brother, my friend
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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My oldest brother and longest friend, Rick, 49, died yesterday. A quadriplegic since he was 25, he decided he couldn't take it anymore and traveled to Switzerland, where he arranged to have a doctor assist him in peacefully ending his life. He did this without telling any family, of course, which was a crushing blow to us all. Particularly to me. He was my protector, my mentor, my buddy, my friend. And my opponent when sitting at a game table. Which is the thing we enjoyed doing most when together, which sadly wasn't enough, with me living in Seattle and him living in LA.

When we played games, his disability was gone. It was both an intellectual and a social activity sitting around a table where all were equals. He got no sympathy in a game, nor did he give any. He could play nearly anything. That is anything that doesn't require frequent manipulation of a hand of cards in secret. So no Tichu, Mage Wars and the like. But if everything is out in the open, even games with lots of cards were not a problem. For example Mage Knight. In fact I've seen various threads pop up where people have asked what kind of games are playable with someone with physical disabilities, and my response has been, "almost anything" (with the cards caveat as mentioned).

So, here goes, this is my memorial to Rick, dorky as it is, through remembering the games we enjoyed playing together. Or in some cases didn't enjoy playing, but we still enjoyed being together. In our youth, I have a very different memory of him, doing all the active stuff boys do. But in our adult lives, at least the last fifteen or so years, playing boardgames with him is how I will remember him most. And they are truly precious memories.

Now, when I first saw a memorial like this, in my earlier days on BGG, I'm ashamed to say that I was an insensitive twat and had the gall to suggest that maybe BGG isn't the best place to share stories of personal loss. I do believe that was my all-time low as a human being in terms of empathy and sensitivity. Nevertheless, I do remember feeling that way, and thus I would not begrudge anyone for feeling that way here. Maybe it's not the best outlet, but it's an outlet, and I need one right now. So my only request is, if you do feel that BGG is not the place, please just move on, or send me a private mail if you must, and let this be a place of love and peace that can last as a place I can come visit for many years to come. Thanks for understanding. But for those inclined to leave any kind words, please do so.

I do believe I will be able to see my brother again, and expect that to be a joyous reunion. While my intent is not to make this overly religious, for anyone who believes in prayer or anything like it, I would be grateful for any that you could offer on behalf of my brother, our family, and me. Thanks.

And with that, here in roughly chronological order are the games I remember playing with him the most.

Goodbye Rick, my brother, my friend. I love you. Until we meet again, we'll always be one player short...

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1. Board Game: Careers [Average Rating:5.79 Overall Rank:4929]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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Yeah, we played Life, Monopoly, and Risk, but this was the first approximately hobby game we played as kids. We played it enough that we actually developed strategies, such as it were as a roll-n-move.

Another game of that era was Mille Bornes, but since I'm not sure we ever even played correctly, I'll refrain from adding that.
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2. Board Game: Pit [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:1352]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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A game that was definitely played exclusively in Rick's pre-quadriplegia days. In fact this was played with with our grandparents. And I have some great memories headaches from playing this. But I don't think I've played in 30+ years. Hopefully won't for another 30+.
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3. Board Game: Taboo [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:1627]
Curt Carpenter
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Kirkland
Washington
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Rick & I were in sync. We had a deep well of shared experiences around so many areas, it was completely unfair to have us on the same team. We would have one or two word clues that would only work between us, because we knew what the other person knew. This was somewhat popular in the pre-Settlers years.
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4. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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Yup, the one that really started it all. I discovered this around 1996 (the edition we played pictured), and by 1997 we were playing at every opportunity. Rick was incredibly competitive. We played it so many times the cards practically disintegrated.
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5. Board Game: Catan: Cities & Knights [Average Rating:7.47 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.47 Unranked]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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I got this the day I heard about it (still pre-BGG; I'm not actually sure how I heard about it). There was no going back to vanilla Settlers for us. The additional time required was nothing. We'd still play back to back (to back) games.

Sometime during this, Rick got some sort of samurai (or something) headband from Japan, which was worn to recognize the "ultimate champion" or some such after each game.

It got a little heated at times, with my wife once getting more than a bit agitated. It was that sort of thing that led me to the following item...
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6. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:54]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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Ok, so one summer, maybe 1999, we were at my parents place for our usual summer week+ together, and after playing the zillionth game of Settlers (with Cities & Knights, of course), I said "enough". I had what seemed at the time like an original thought along the lines of, "maybe Settlers isn't the only decent game out there???"

So we fired up the 28.8kbps modem , and fired up Alta Vista, trying to see if we could find out whether Settlers was or was not the only star in the sky. And lo and behold, I found funagain.com. I could scarcely believe what I was seeing: hundreds of board games??? Many of which even had reviews. And most reviews pretty much said every game was the best thing since sliced bread. With no real way to know what to buy without spending inordinate amounts of time, I decided to get what I think were the top two best sellers at the time (or maybe it was three and I forget the third): Puerto Rico, and El Grande. I paid some exorbitant fee for express shipping to Maryland. My thinking was that hopefully at least one of the two games would be decent enough to play instead of Settlers. I was completely floored to discover that both were! We gravitated more toward El Grande, because it felt more interactive, and didn't require you to really know the tiles, and didn't have annoying counting of bits. I still prefer El Grande. Sadly, we didn't really play much of either, because after that, I fell off the gaming cliff into addiction, and starting buying everything.
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7. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:15]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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See El Grande above.
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8. Board Game: Hera and Zeus [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:1407]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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This is an exception to the rule that he didn't play stuff that required card management. I don't remember how he played it, honestly. It must have been with some help (although even without control of his hands, he had limited arm movement and he got good enough with using it that he could do basic card manipulation, like picking one from three, turning one over by sliding it to the edge of the table and flipping, etc). This game really brought out the competitive nature in him. Lots of smack talk. Especially to nieces and nephews. All in good fun. This is still the best Kosmos 2 player in my book.
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9. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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It was nice that this game came with the blocks for holding cards, so that you didn't have to hold them yourself. He could gesture to the card he wanted to play, and I'd grab it for him. We enjoyed it for a bit, but ultimately we both prefer to play games where we can include more people, particularly my son, so loves games as much as I do.
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10. Board Game: For Sale [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:261]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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We went on an extended family cruise (parents 40th anniversary or something). We brought a few games, but this is the one I remember playing the most. We played it a zillion times. And we played with my preferred rule of being intentionally literal with the Uberplay rules, where it says you pays half your coins, not the value of your coins. Really makes the $2 coins strategically significant.

Got so burnt out on it I haven't really played much since then.
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11. Board Game: Diamant [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:612]
 
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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This was the other cruise game. Like For Sale, it's pretty compact, supports lots of players (even more than For Sale), and is pretty fast. Rick couldn't put the miner in his hand and clench it, but after we all decided and held our hands out, he would just say his move, and then we'd all reveal. Works out the same. Lots of hoots & groans during that one for sure.
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12. Board Game: Dream Factory [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:575]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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This is, quite simply, a great game. I don't care what anyone else says. The customized goals giving players asymmetric values to stuff being auctioned, the zero-sum economy, the different types of rewards; it all works brilliantly.

But the edition that bought specifically to keep at my parents is the crappy Hollywood Blockbuster edition. Was this the end of the line for Uberplay? I don't remember, but it's sad (I liked Uberplay). It's just hideously ugly. I used to have Traumfabrik, but sold it when resale prices were high. I'm tempted to buy DreamFactory, but don't really need an extra copy.

Oh, Rick was also a film major in school, and hence was a movie buff. So this was right up his alley.
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13. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:28]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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Scales to 6, which is nice for inclusion of lots of family. Extra maps also help. Never any hesitation about completely blocking someone off, of hogging resources they need... just because.
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14. Board Game: TZAAR [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:338] [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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Our dad likes (loves) Chess... and only Chess. I thought that he might like other abstracts, particularly the GIPF seriies, but none of them stuck. But one Christmas when both my parents and Rick were staying at my house, I ended up playing this with Rick. I was a bit surprised he liked it.

I can't remember which other GIPF games we played, but none as much as this, and this was the last. Great game too. He was pretty good at it.
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15. Board Game: Mage Knight Board Game [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:18]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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This was a bit ridiculous. Rick came to visit for Christmas the year this came out (2011?), and we ended up playing this 3p, twice a day for four or five days straight. When you consider that as a quad, it took him about an hour to go to bed, and 1-2 hours to get up, this took up the bulk of those days. But to be fair, my wife was a bit on the slow side. Great great game, but ultimately just too slow for me. Sitting watching a person figure out whether there exists a solution to the puzzle they're facing is just too painful. Especially when mistakes can be made, and you really need to monitor other players.
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16. Board Game: Dragonland [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:2780]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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I didn't quite realize when I ordered this that it looks like a kids game. Good thing, because had I noticed, I wouldn't have ordered, but it's a good game! Ok, it's a bit basic by today's standards, but it's a good logistics/optimization game, and of course as a Knizia, scoring is clever (T&E basically, where you try to acquire complete sets).
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17. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:569]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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I think this is the only game they've I've ever player only with Rick. It served as a good filler when waiting for others, or while others were away. Didn't really wow me, but it was serviceable enough. Never tried any of the expansions.
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18. Board Game: Samarkand: Routes to Riches [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:1239]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
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This is one of the later games that he really latched onto. It has a nice mix of strategy and timing, at about the right length for a fairly substantive family game. I unfortunately didn't hear about the mini expansion when it first came out. When I heard about it, I desperately tried to find it, specifically to play with Rick, but I couldn't find it. Maybe I'll keep trying, in his memory. Or maybe I shouldn't, I dunno.
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19. Board Game: Boggle [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:1959]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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Ok, this was kind of funny. A few years ago, when both Rick and my parents were at my house for Christmas, we played this to humor my dad (because, you know, chess only scales to 2 players). But we almost had a family meltdown when we couldn't agree on the rules. People started guessing words, which drove my dad nuts. My dad is a words guy, and he said you could only put down words you know. So I suggested that if we want that, then we need to have a penalty for entries that aren't in the dictionary (a la Scrabble). No one could agree, the fun was sucked out, and we moved on to the next item...
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20. Board Game: 1960: The Making of the President [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:157]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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There aren't that many 2 player only games, and this is the only heavy(ish) one. I have no idea why I thought we'd like this, other than it got good reviews, but we didn't. One and done. But Rick was a great sport as we figured it out together. He's always been up for anything, and humored me with whatever I shoved in front of him. Even the next item...
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21. Board Game: Talisman (Revised 4th Edition) [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1154]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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Oh boy. What a steaming pile. I might have loved it when I was 10 possibly. But even my teenage son couldn't get into this. Despite the rules being a train wreck, it just wasn't fun. I think we made it through a fraction of a game before throwing in the towel.
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22. Board Game: Bombay [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:2098]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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This is when Ystari went from must-buy to proceed with caution. I guess the art should have been a tip off, but this was completely forgettable. Rick didn't really understand the fascination with Ystari, or why I bought it. In hindsight, I don't either.
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23. Board Game: Jaipur [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:106]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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Has it really been 5 years since this came out? Yikes. Anyway, I saw the good reviews, I don't really play 2p games much, but it seemed harmless enough, so I bought it and took it to my parents place. And it stunk. This is one of those games that I just don't see how it works for people. Things like "play the game 3 times to make one full game" just don't resonate with me, except in silly games (e.g. Loopin' Louie).
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24. Board Game: Navegador [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:162]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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He loved this game. This was the primary game at my house the Christmas it came out. We played multiple times a day. And awesomely, my mom joined, and wasn't half bad! I dare say she was probably one of the better 75 year old Navegador players.

Ultimately I cooled off on this game for various reasons, but mainly the tight left/right binding which really twists players arms in terms of what they do/don't go for.
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25. Board Game: SET [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1219]
Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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I hate this game, really. Mainly because my daughter is so good at it. Freakishly good. Ever since she was like 5 or so. No one ever taught her how to play, but she watched, and ever since she joined, she's been unbeatable, even by adults who claim to be good. It makes the game completely pointless. Every once in a while I'll agree to play with her, as like a reward or something, but it's like agreeing to be a punching bag.

When I broke the news about Rick's passing to my daughter, we cried together, and when I asked her if she had a memory she wanted to share, she said, "Rick was the only person who was willing to play Set with me, even though he always lost." Rick was super competitive, but he always played first and foremost to have fun with other people. None more than with his nieces and nephews.
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