Klinsy73 - A life in games
chris keeley
England
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Who is the mysterious klinsy73? Will his true identity ever be revealed?
Why klinsy73? Jurgen Klinsmann briefly plied his trade with Tottenham Hotspur. The blond bomber signed for spurs when I had just started working in the city at the tender age of 21. I thought I was it. By comparison Jurgen clearly was.
All Spurs fans fell in love with this cult hero. He may well be the best player I ever saw in a spurs shirt. That sentiment does not come cheap. Messrs Hoddle, Waddle, Gascoigne, Ginola, Sheringham, Bale and now Kane have all set the Lane alight. Yet for me there has not been a more talismanic figure to grace our hallowed turf.
I've attempted to highlight some of the more influential games that have shaped my formative years. Most are now obsolete due to growing up and discovering real gaming. At the time however they were truly addictive which is all you can want from a game. Most of these games have a powerful resonance owing to the players involved. Some of these classics were taught to a wilful and energetic younger version of me. I am grateful for the patience that must have gone into making me sit down and learn to game.
Sadly most of my family cannot now be enticed into any game. Fortunately I have my long suffering wife and teenage son to keep me entertained in the gaming domain. We three have progressed a long way from our first foray into euro gaming. That term was mentioned to us in a game store some years ago. I felt totally out of my depth. Anyway enough of this rambling self indulgence and onto the slightly more interesting stuff.
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1. Board Game: Mouse Trap [Average Rating:4.09 Overall Rank:15439]
chris keeley
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It's 1977 and I've turned 4. You Win Again is being sung by Hot Chocolate, but can I beat my nan? I cannot remember anything about the game except the madness of the mousetrap. I just love watching the ball bearing making its way around the apparatus. Was there really a diver at the end plunging into a basket? I fully expect the older version was the nuts compared to the cheapness of today's model.
So this is the first game I remember being immersed in. Other games like Buckaroo, Jaws and Ker-plunk were all very well but I never owned any of them.
 
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2. Board Game: Trap the Cap [Average Rating:4.75 Overall Rank:15246]
chris keeley
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I had no idea this game was so old. I believe the English version was called Coppit. It was way better than Ludo in that you had options. You could capture people and really piss them off. I mean at the age of six that's got to be great fun. I remember this one time playing the adults and needing a six to capture someone's last man. It was so sweet to see all those lovely dots. Not for the last time have I been accused of doing a pact with the devil when it comes to dice throwing... Top tune for 1979 is Chic's Le Freak. You can't beat the freakish nature of dice throwing or needing that one card to cement your hand.
 
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3. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:421] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
chris keeley
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The first of the big four (Monopoly, Scrabble and Backgammon)that I learnt to play. I was very aware of how old this game was. For me the history and development of this game is unrivalled. My mum's dad had a set under the stairs that their friend had made for them. He decided to teach me the game at the age of 7. Outstanding. I beat him the following week. I totally absorbed all the possible moves the pieces could achieve. It was so elegant. Yet it also represented brutal and bloody carnage. I went through my local library's chess book collection like the geek I undoubtedly was. I started an interclass school competition. And I ended up going to the adults chess club at this amazing place called Friday Hill house. The place was scary. Dracula could have lived there. I will never forgot needing half a point in my last game at an early tournament. I got a certificate and proudly showed it to my dad. I should also mention him as we used to play most nights. We also played a number of games on an infamous train journey up to Edinburgh for the day. Way better than going to school! I was probably listening to Adam and the Ants and Blondie et al at the time.
 
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4. Board Game: The Game of Life [Average Rating:4.19 Overall Rank:15443]
chris keeley
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The most interesting thing about this game was the decision making at the start of the game. Did you race away and earn a pittance or did you knuckle down and earn a respectable trade? We always wanted to be the journalist as it was way cooler than the teacher. I guess it had hints of an early euro style of gaming. And what kid does not like accumulating wealth beyond their dreams? In comparison I hated the tawdry Go For Broke game around at the same time. When Stefan was younger we got a Simpsons version of this classic. I liked the theme and we had some good times. Undoubtedly Stefan would have won every time too.
 
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5. Board Game: Scrabble [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:1520]
chris keeley
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Where to begin? My dad says his aunt picked up this obscure game from Macy's in America. It always came out at family gatherings. My grandad and dad may have got me into this game that was going to shape my life for years to come. The spectrum home computer was initially sold with scrabble in a game pack. I played it more than the other games put together. I remember having some aptitude for the game when I repeatedly out scored my contemporaries. I used to play myself when dad was not around. Roll some years forward and it's 1991 and the world championships highlights are shown on TV. I'm amazed at the words that are being thrown down. As a result I joined the London scrabble league. I played in that for years and made some great friends. I became the chairman of the league. I also still play in tournaments. Whilst I'm not totally besotted with the game I'm still capable of playing at the highest level. I will also never forget chatting my future wife up with the sexy - do you know CH? Obviously if she had said no then things would have turned out the same way. Yet she had passed a great test with total aplomb when she said yes to knowing an obsolete word which are so prevalent in this amazing game.
 
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6. Board Game: Monopoly [Average Rating:4.39 Overall Rank:15441]
chris keeley
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I've got fond memories of playing my brother in an epic game. Neither of us could land on Park Lane and we'd assumed all the property had to be purchased. At the time I was probably only 9 and he was only around 6. We learnt quickly to put a 2 hr time limit on future games.
Along with Risk, Monopoly received a lot of playtime around the World Cup of 1994. We set up a league to keep us interested whilst waiting for the footie. The bidding element for property is the key to success with this game. It helps prevent it become a straight luckfest. Mortgaging to the hilt for the holy grail of getting a set in a four player game made for tension as you hoped to avoid draconian taxation. Having a number of train stations and the utilities could guarantee at least second place.
I did collect various incarnations inc the European Union version. My rarest acquisition was my Hawaiian set.
Although I never play the game now I guess it has some similarities with Catan. It always seemed to provide an infectious atmosphere. I can still recall the tense edginess as you traveled round the board. All this would be going on accompanied by the big four thrash bands, Chillies and Maiden.
I always preferred Monopoly to Cluedo. The latter is certainly deserving of an honorary mention but I can't bring myself to list it separately.
 
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7. Board Game: Backgammon [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1095]
chris keeley
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I'll conveniently age around 10 years, so I'm around 32 now. Competitive Scrabble is still my raisonne d'être. I'm now living with my future second wife. As well as being awesome at Scrabble she is no slouch with the oldest game of black vs white. We play loads and get antsy with each other's perceived lucky dice.
I know there is plenty of strategy in this game and I'm not unfamiliar with openings and strategems. What never fails to cut the quick is your opponent rolling the perfect number to get out of trouble or worse prevent getting that last counter safely back.
I've got a thing for having the best aesthetic experience whenever you play any game. Back when Greenwich had a boardgame shop I spent a small fortune in there. One of my favourite acquisitions from there was a beautiful Del Magro backgammon set. I'd now be listening to the insanely catchy White Stripes. And discovering the delights of a soulful Johnny Cash.
 
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8. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:281] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
chris keeley
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We often visited Germany as I had a friend who I played Scrabble with. Sadly this great friend has now departed. We would still go over and keep in touch with his wife and family. It's around 2006 and it's World Cup fever in Germany.
As we know gaming is a way of life in my favourite country. Antje decided to show us Settlers of Catan. Although it was in German it was easy enough to understand. We enjoyed it so much we bought our own set the next day.
Yes it's easy to knock Catan now but at the time we thought it was the best game ever. We got Stefan into playing at the age of 7.
The cities and knights extension added more complexity and replayability. I can remember almost every game coming down to the wire. The great thing about Catan is the social side of the game. Of course Stefan would strike some tough bargains. He would also gleefully screw over his father whenever he could.
We got a few more expansions and integrated them together creating epic games. The 3-d set I purchased increased the thematic level to the game. Of course all good things come to an end. We had now discovered a new world of gaming. The gaming itch had now turned into a full on rash.
 
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9. Board Game: Poker [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:865]
chris keeley
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Okay it's definitely not a board game. I must however give it a mention though. It's a game that has rewarded me in ways beyond the financial.
I came to the game late around 2008. I was in two minds to devote any time to this pursuit. I feared how it would detract time from my Scrabble first love. Those fears certainly did impact on my devotion to learning lists of words. The buzz of playing a bonus was mirrored by taking down a pot with a nicely timed raise. Even better was the possibility of winning a hand with the two worst cards at the table. What other game allows you to bully, manipulate and bamboozle multiple opponents? Psychological warfare with cards.
I cut my teeth playing during work lunchtimes. Not bad for a respectable civil servant. I would go on to win the civil service tourney for a holiday in st Lucia. I'd replicate this with the equivalent scrabble event but that was almost 99% certain when it was announced.
The best thing about poker is the home game I've been involved with over 6 years. All those friends I'd grown up with were now meeting once a week. I cannot tell you how many laughs I've had over the years. This eclipses the money I've made playing. My style is based on Dan Harrington. Just don't tell anyone.
I also have amazing memories of playing in Las Vegas where we married and honeymooned.
 
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10. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:79]
chris keeley
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Arguably this is our first foray into euro gaming. Stone Age also seemed to be the time when I really got into the dangerous pursuit of collecting games. That collection has leapt out to around 100 games. The vast majority were euros. I find it's getting increasingly difficult to get excited about getting yet another euro. I've got the vast majority of the classics. It is now very rare to have a game significantly improve on the old school. Now it has to be dripping with theme.
I've also steadily got more into war and area management games. And I've really enjoyed games like Robinson Crusoe, DofW, Firefly and Thunder Alley too.
I recall reading the instructions to Stone Age and being utterly baffled. To the point where my brain shut down and sleep came to rescue me. Once I overcome my ineptitude Stone Age become a big favourite. I even briefly got into the top 1% on the iOS app leaderboard. I've not remotely thought about playing it over the last two or three years. I can say the same about Puerto Rico, Le Havre, Caylus et al. Once you know these type of games there is nothing that sets your world alight.
 
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11. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:35]
chris keeley
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Whenever we went on holiday I'd take a game so we could have the time to learn the intricacies. We've done this with various degrees of success. Brass was by far the biggest failure. We had much more success with arguably more complex games like Twilight and Through the Ages. Actually Labyrinth was a joyless experience too. Although I could never tell if it was the game or not.
After a lovely day in Tenerife we got the Brass board out and eagerly begun to digest the rule book. I think we put it back within 10 mins as it seemed like a crash course in brain surgery would be more feasible.
We did not look at Brass for another couple of months. My wife had discovered Ryan Sturm on the How to Play podcast. By listening to the dulcet tones of Ryan and going slowly through the rule book we slowly got the gist. In my opinion this is by far Martin Wallace's best game. I'm so glad I persisted with this classic. Most games this old don't get any table time. Yet we will gladly always get this to the table. The theme is amazing and you can choose numerous routes to fame and fortune.
Anyone that does not get Brass is just not a fully fledged gamer. Naff card games like Dominion should not be anywhere near Brass in the BGG ratings. Brass is just so cool and what other game has Blackpool in it? Still a firm 10 for me.
 
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12. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:17]
chris keeley
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Gric was another purchase from Greenwich. I've no recollection of why we bought this heavy box of cardboard. The wife had heard good things and it looked a step up from Stone Age.
Again we could not get going until I'd seen a few videos. For me not knowing what I'm doing in a game is like wading through treacle.
The theme of farming in the Middle Ages is a tough nut to sell. You have now gone way down the road to geekdom with your non-gamer friends. Try telling them that you can be a sycophant or a mendicant whilst plying your trade as a farmer. And that you need corn and lots of it. Try impressing them on the importance of a baking strategy with your latest 16th century gadget, the stone oven.
This is the best game ever for 4 players. Gric still scales well with 3 and 5 but 2 can be brutally attritional. Uwe's masterpiece is utterly replayable time after time. The cards are so well play tested that only a handful can be considered broken. And sometimes the most innocuous looking combinations can yield amazing synergy. It's all about efficiency with this epic game. By the way the Ios app is arguably the best out there. Lords of Waterdeep and Galaxy Trucker give it a good run.
No other game makes me feel like I'm taking my a-levels again when I play competitively. The pressure is constantly on to accumulate resources, feed and extend your family. All this whilst getting some farming bling to make your neighbours utterly envious of your 4 bedroom stone mansion house.
I could just as easily given Caverna this slot but Gric comes first historically. Both games are beautiful to play. Have I mentioned how good Fields of Arle is too? It's a much better form of farming when there is but two of you. How I ever got so into farming is a mystery. Three felines is the extent of my menagerie and I can barely dig over our allotment.
 
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13. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.34 Overall Rank:4]
chris keeley
England
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I'm feeling daunted as to where to begin. How to do this game justice? I'm positive this game will have been better reviewed by more eloquent people than me. A lot of what I could say will have been mentioned hundreds of times before.
It is the best game bar none. It's legitimately ranked no1 as it's a gamers game. Should it be dislodged it can only be my hope that the game justifies it and not simply as a result of cult of the new. I would no longer care about the BGG ratings.
I've got Terra and most of the games below Twiggles. Nothing comes close in terms of near perfect gaming mechanics. Growing up in the latter part of the Cold War from Carter onwards I'm well aware of the straining tensions between the two ideologies. Twiggles does so much to replicate the paranoia at the time. You flirt with Defcon 2 at your peril.
Even if you don't like the theme or care less for 'war gaming' then this is the nuts of an abstract area management boardgame. The decisions appear straight forward enough at the start. Before long you are confronted with a nasty scoring card, a Defcon suicide issue to defuse and another event that will swing domination of an important region. Plus in my case you've got an aggressive teenage opponent that has an eidetic memory. You may as well be playing with your cards face up. The palpable relief of quelling him in a game is so edifying. I accuse myself of too often basing my self worth on the game's outcome.
We've played Twiggles numerous times. I never tire of playing as it's replayability is skyhigh. And that with only around a 100 cards and no constant need for expansions. It is so well balanced too. Just invest time learning the cards for the first 10 games. Be philosophical against more experienced opponents. Better still learn it with another newbie.
If I was compelled to choose just one game for my desert island, Twiggles would be the only choice. Enough eulogising now. I suspect it's becoming cloying. Thanks to Twiggles for the best gaming hours of my life.
 
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14. Board Game: Dominant Species [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:53]
chris keeley
England
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This is the perfect storm of cut throat gaming. You can really tell who your friends are playing this. We love confrontation in our games. Who wants to get along all nice and friendly when you can wipe out your foes with evil plans.
GMT long ago became my favourite designers. I've got plenty of their games now. Suffice to say I really can't bear party games or anything light these days. King of Tokyo is about the lightest game I'll play. I want meatiness and meanness. This game provides both. It is brilliantly designed and scales best with all 6 species in play. I'll happily play two species each though. Anyone who thinks this game takes too long is just wrong. You need to get immersed in games like this. I'd rather play this for 2 hours than have 4 short games of utter tedium. Yes 2 hours too. Without tons of AP it's definitely doable. So a recent edition but I've seldom had so much fun.
At the age of 42 I'm still enjoying my gaming. Can't see that changing in the next 40+ years either.
 
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