Joe Solo (and not, on occasion)
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I play games. Always have, always will. This is where I will write about my experiences playing said games and anything else I feel like is important... or not.

There is no ultimate goal. No specific format. Read it... or don't. I'm just happy to make conversation.
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1. Board Game: "300" [Average Rating:3.80 Unranked]
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Time for a little update on my whereabouts and activities:

Wednesday after work, my wife and I drove down to Austin for one of the big annual education tech conferences. My brother and I were actually leading a session this year. We've been working on it the last couple months (him doing more work than me admittedly) and felt decent about it going in. I figured we'd get 50-100 people in the crowd and do a good job. Our session was intentionally not sexy. Most sessions at these events are about the latest and greatest tools, which is fine, but my brother (and me) despite working in and loving ed tech, feel that pedagogy (teaching norms and best practices) gets lost in the mix.

SO... he came up with this idea for our session looking at two big education researchers and where they overlap and in turn, how tech can be used to support their findings. Our session was called "Hattie and Marzano walk into a Bar". Apparently, this name was way more intriguing for people than we realized it would be. We had 350 people in our session and only a handful left during it (bad or mediocre sessions will often lose a lot of the crowd... especially around lunch). At the end, we had quite a few people come up and tell us how much they loved it and we got at least 3 invites to do it at other conferences, at least one of which would be paid.

So... yeah. Pretty cool. I'm pretty humbled by the whole thing as I've never felt like a "source" of good ideas in education. And really, we didn't say anything the crowd didn't already know. I just think we packaged it in a fresh way and people appreciated it.

THAT would be great enough for a post, BUT... you may remember that I said my wife drove down with me. The kids are with grandparents and my wife and I are enjoying a couple of days in Fredericksburg, Texas, a quaint little tourist town in the beautiful Texas hill country. We have a bunch of gift cards from Christmas and birthdays (today is my wife's) so this trip is basically free for us. Lots of food, beer, and a couple of frivolous purchases will be had. Life is good.
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2. Board Game: Baptism at Bull Run [Average Rating:7.91 Unranked]
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I don't talk a lot about my faith here. I suppose not many of us do unless it's offering prayers for those struggling or relating it to particular life events. Religion is obviously a touchy subject. Truth is an objective concept, but belief is subjective and I appreciate that most of us (at least those in my normal circle here) seem to respect that. I'm always more than willing to discuss what I believe with others, but you'll not find me bringing it up spontaneously or out of context in order to tick a box on the "sharing my faith" chart.

That said, a lot of us share our lives here and have fostered what I think are real friendships even if they don't have a lot of history to fall back on. Today, I woke up this morning not realizing that today would be in the top 5 days of my life. My daughters were baptized this morning and it was one of the most unexpectedly beautiful things I've ever witnessed.

Quick backstory: I grew up in a decidedly evangelical home. Not militantly evangelical mind you. You wouldn't find our pastor(s) preaching politics on Sunday mornings or openly condemning the unsaved heathens walking the streets. I was fortunate to grow up in a Christian home and church in which love was priority one. BUT, there were definitely some things I thought were weird and I'd have to chalk it up to what I was taught growing up. One of those things was the bizarre practice of baptizing children, babies especially, who couldn't understand what exactly they were doing. For me, baptism was a response to a choice and nothing further. Add it to the list of other more traditional church practices that were rightfully moved on from over time.

ANYWAY, several years ago, my wife started reading about church history and became really fascinated with church traditions and liturgy and such. Things I barely knew anything about. She also grew up in an evangelical home so all of this was new territory for both of us. Before we left Houston, she was wanting to find a church that valued traditionalism and egalitarianism. The Anglican Church seemed to be the best fit and we found a small congregation meeting at an elementary school close to home. I was trying to do "man" stuff like work, drink beer, and play games, so I just kind of went along for the ride. When it comes to church, I've always been pretty open to whatever. As long as they're not preaching heresy and I can drum from time to time, I'm pretty easy to please. The liturgical stuff and old-school traditions were a little odd to get used to, but I'm getting there. But then a few months ago, the idea of getting the girls baptized came up and suddenly, I had to have a strong stance on something, whether for or against. As I said above, I had to get my head around what was happening, but I got there and was excited for today.

I'm rambling a bit at this point. Long short story shortened, today was the day. All of our local family came to church this morning and over to our house afterward for brats and beer. Everyone at church now knows I'm a crier and I got to enjoy one of the most satisfyingly proud moments of my life. The girls will go through confirmation some time down the road and make their decision about whether or not the believe all this stuff, but until then, we'll just do our best to teach them what we believe the truth is.

If you read all that, I appreciate that you're here. If you didn't and skipped to the bottom to see where I went with all of this, you're appreciated too. If you're not reading this, then I probably still appreciate you in some way, though I'll have to find another opportunity to express it. I'll probably end up editing bits of this post after I reread it a couple times and find mistakes. Forgive the sub pings.

It's a good day.
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3. Board Game: A Castle for All Seasons [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1036]
Justin
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The other day, my wife brought up the idea of dedicating one night a week to a game and one night a week to reading. Both of these things are things I'd like to do more of so the "YES" was shooting out of my mouth before she even finished the thought.

We started tonight with this 'old favorite'. We haven't actually played that many times, but this was one of the first games I picked up with my wife in mind. It was sitting on the shelf of the FLGS in Houston with a clearance sticker on it. Those were the days of more dispensable income so I said what the heck and grabbed it. It's now "The Castle Game" for us and we've enjoyed every play of it. It's every bit of a Euro, but it's a little more interesting than a simple cube converter. You're trying to construct different buildings within a castle community using various resources. You have deck of 8 cards with different actions on them that you play through until you decide to 'reset' your deck with the Master Builder card. It's got some fantastic Michael Menzel artwork and rules that are relatively easy to grasp.

I obliterated my wife with a score of 100-something to 60-something, but she enjoyed it and actually suggested we play this one for the next few weeks so that she can get better at it. Fingers crossed this idea holds. Having young children has led us to watching a lot more TV than we used to and I've been hoping to break away from it for awhile now.



Update: Laura just beat me! I love it! She's talking about the idea of "other games" like this one. meeple

So it's making me think about Euros. In my mind, I don't own many Euros, but we have Agricola, Pillars of the Earth, Loyang, Terraforming Mars, and Carcasonne. Of those, She even said that Pillars might be a little "too similar" to Castle. Guh WHAH!?

I'm a happy man right now. whistle
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4. Board Game: ComancherĂ­a: The Rise and Fall of the Comanche Empire [Average Rating:8.09 Overall Rank:1942]
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No, it's not Gears. I know, I know. I'll regret it someday. Or not.

Pictured: My new little gaming corner in the front room of our new house. At some point, I plan to build or purchase a nicer looking table so that it looks like an actual piece of furniture. Will still have to be covered, though.

Not pictured: Wall mounted shelves for games. Perhaps a summer project. For now, they're stashed various places. The Crokinole board will go on the wall by the window.

I went back and forth on what to set up first. Gears was an obvious choice, but I didn't feel like committing to an entire play of something just yet. I really want to get back to Fields of Fire, but that's going to require some mental energy I simply don't have at the moment. I wanted something I could pick at for the next week or two. Comancheria is awesome. Done.

Update 4-3-18:



I posted on SGOYT for the first time in awhile and I don't feel like copying the same thing here. Any of you reading this list know (even if second hand) how good this game and its big brother are. I played through the first Passage of Time tonight. My first solo game in months. It felt great. I didn't find myself missing the video games at all.

That said, I had some bad luck on a couple of raids and couldn't manage to keep a ravaged marker on the last enemy tribe during the first PoT so I'm arguably still at square 1. I have managed to advance my Rancheria a bit, but the big amount of reinforcement I put into its bands was negated by disease. Pesky Europeans.
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5. Board Game: Enemy Coast Ahead: The Doolittle Raid [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:4149]
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Man... take my cardboard away for a couple months and watch me want to play everything at once when I get it back. Oh well... I'm having fun. Life is wearing me out right now (everything's okay, just busy and baby) so I'm grabbing every little moment I can to get some play time in.

I was between Doolittle and Fields of Fire, but I think I'm going to need to do a little forum reading before I dive into FoF again so Doolittle it is. I played quite a bit wrong in my first full play so this time I'm going to take it slow and try to make sure I'm doing things right.

Planning: *original text deleted*

Let's try this again. After a little more investigation, it seems that I already had a couple things mixed up. For one thing, Doolittle being on the phone is all or nothing so just having him benefit a couple of months is pointless. I decided to keep him off it and have him stationed at Eglin to help train the crews.

Also, Nimitz becomes harder to convince as time goes on so pushing him out later does little more than slightly reduce your security risk, so I bumped him up to March.

ALSO, flying 19 bombers is a little silly since flying 18 or fewer affords you a couple of nice benefits. Anyway, all that done. I played through the planning phase tonight. I'd call it a success overall.



Positives:
-Planes are nicely equipped and carrying extra ordnance while staying under the 'heavy' weight threshold
-Crews are pretty well trained even though they had to leave their wives at home and I stationed extra MPs at the base.
-Doolittle stayed off the phone

Negatives:
-China and Nimitz both struggled to get on board with the plan. I had to just brief everyone involved which made security take a hit.
-The task force is delayed meaning that rendezvous with Nimitz could be tricky. Hopefully, this mission doesn't end before it even starts
---
Thoughts to this point: Wow, did I miss a lot of stuff my first time through. I'm using the actual rulebook more than the player aid this run and it's shed light on several things. Eventually, the aids will be plenty, but I'm glad to take it slower. The decisions are also meatier in the planning phase than I thought. Every little decision has potentially huge ramifications.

Naval:

Things went well at first. Despite rough seas, the task force made it to Midway easily and rendezvoused with the Enterprise no problem. That's where the problems began, however. The Japanese had a lot of eyes in the air and on the waves. My security risk spiraled out of control and an air boat caught my task force napping just before we were set to launch the B-25s.

Airstrike.

I could have attempted a launch of the B-25s. We were close enough to Japan after all, but they would be at risk of attack and may not all get off the deck in time. I figured I had a full complement of destroyers and cruisers to fend off the strike. The carrier group defended their objective valiantly. 3 dive bombers downed by flak. 3 torpedo bombers downed by flak.

One torpedo bomber attacked from the south. He was persistent.



He broke through and got his ordnance off. On target. The Hornet was damaged and with that, all the B-25s were lost.

Game over.
---
Thoughts: Well, that was an abrupt ending, and I could see how many people might not be satisfied with that kind of outcome. You could just reset from before the airstrike, though.

You know what that ending did have going for it, though? Narrative power. We were so close to launch. We'd managed to stay relatively covert up to that point and it all just fell apart so quickly. When I flipped the hazard chit and saw that air boat with the '!', my heart sank. I knew this was going to be rough. As the Japanese bombers rolled in, I could see the ships' crews scrambling to defensive positions. Flak peppering the air. It was awesome. Then the one got through...

I see why ECA is so beloved. Great game.
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6. Board Game: Fallout [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:899]
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Taking my first steps into the wasteland and running into looters at the Super Duper Mart is a great first impression for this game.

Update 1-2-18: And done! Missed victory by one influence, though I realized that I voluntarily completed a quest that did it so I guess I could have not done that. Hard to feel like you lost when your aligned faction accomplished their goal.

I like the game itself a lot. If you've played Runebound, you can imagine what this game is like. A few things are a little more dynamic, but the overall questing/fighting feel is the same. I love the way Fallout handles combat. Roll 3 dice and then do whatever reroll/manipulation you need to do. No figuring up strengths and modifiers. It's those 3 dice every time and best I can tell, it works well. Neat system.

Questing is pretty fun, too. It often goes beyond simple skill tests, though there are plenty of those, too. Questing often alters the decks and may slightly change the board state when you "stage" the next part of that quest or a new one. I'm sure other games have done something like this before, but this is new to me. I like it.

People seem a little lukewarm on the solo rules. They don't change too much about how the game is played and I actually didn't mind them for a first run. I may read around about what others are doing with it. I think Kurt mentioned playing 2 characters or something like that. We'll see.

Dadgum, I'm tired. Need to hit the sack. One more day of Christmas break sadly, but it's been a good one. Fields of Fire should be on the porch tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow night can be the 'reading' night.

Play 2 / 1-2-18: Played the Commonwealth scenario again as the Ghoul. I felt pretty hapless wandering wasteland as I failed to find any sort of weapon the first half of the game. I finally found a wrench. Because of this, the board quickly filled with enemies as I explored and I was just trying to complete quests and find a good place to shop. It was frustrating, but also pretty fun. I just kept imagining my character griping in his raspy ghoul voice the whole time. I scraped my way toward the end, but came up short of victory when a Deathclaw eviscerated me outside Railroad headquarters. I took it down with me, though, and with that, maintained my dignity.

Play 3 / 1-7-18: Commonwealth again, this time as the Brotherhood Outcast. He starts off with some tough power armor (-2 hits), but you only get 1 move point per move action (you can pay a cap to negate this per turn). So normally, he/she can't even move through difficult terrain. Interesting.

So my big tank just trekked across the wasteland offing baddies and slowly helped the Institute achieve their goal, but not slow enough unfortunately. I unexpected reached the end of that quest line which ended the game. I was 2 influence short. I had a lot of fun again playing around in the Fallout universe, but I'm now definitely seeing the flaw in the solo game. In this play, I was allied to the Institute. Helping them achieve their goals should ONLY help me win, but in this case, TECHNICALLY, I lost because they reached the end of their track before I had the required 11 influence. I guess thematically, I'm trying to figure out the significance of my personal influence. I mean I get it... I want to be a renowned wastelander known for his amazing survival skills, but losing because I did something good feels off. This may be exactly what others have written about this and I'm forgetting who so if you've already talked about this issue, I'm not trying to take credit.

Some possible solutions:
1. If I help my allied faction win, then I also win. Simple.
-Drawback: I can just complete that faction's quests which would water down a experience a bit.

2. If my allied faction wins, I reduce my required influence by X (not sure what number would be best).
-Drawback: Not sure... this may be the best bet.

3. Ditch solo and play 2 wastelanders. This may be where I go with it. "Winning" this game is secondary to having loads of fun in the Fallout universe. Maybe I pick two characters and role play a little bit. Maybe they both have to achieve their required influence. I don't know.

4. See what other people who are smarter than me are doing with the solo variant (I'll do this regardless).

Anyway, none of the above gripe(s) is meant to sour anyone on this game. It's a really good time. I feel like I can usually tell with 3 plays if a game is going to work for me or not. I'm pretty sure I was doubting Runebound by 3 plays. I don't know why my mind always goes back to Runebound to make analogies/comparisons. Maybe I just really wanted to like that game. I'm still sad I couldn't get into it.
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7. Board Game: Firefly Adventures: Brigands and Browncoats [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:5161]
Justin
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Sorry Gary... that was pretty gorram enjoyable.

There's a beautiful mess under my table cover that I already can't wait to get back to in 24 hours.

Update 24 hours later: Just finished the "Questionable Objectives" mission again. Two plays and two pretty varied experiences. I tried to be a little sneakier this time. Jayne and Zoe tried to pick a couple of goons off on the edges of the map while Mal strolled up to the main area and attempt to lure guards off their posts.

Zoe succeeded in sneaking into one of the buildings and blowing away a cowboy with her shotgun before they knew what was coming (brutal, but effective). Jayne lured a goon around the corner out of sight and tried to lay them out with a solid punch. Unfortunately, the goon was a martial artist and dodged the punch. Jayne found himself a bit outmatched until Zoe came back out and helped him out. She had to patch him up afterward.

While all this is going on Mal casually strolled up to the first cowboy he saw and spun a story about some guy somewhere who needed him and that he (Mal) was there to relieve him at his post. The cowboy wasn't buying it and called out to all the goons nearby to come take care of the browncoat.


"Whoa... easy now gentlemen. We're just having a chat."

Mal punched out the grizzled gunman and the punk and ducked around the corner after the tracker's first bullet grazed him. Hearing the racket, Jayne bolted down to help while Zoe decided to calmly move to the other side and see if she could take out one of the last waiting guards without stirring up further trouble. Jayne rounded the corner of the center building and knifed the tracker.

Then the power went out. Shaky grid I suppose. This left the doors to the center building conveniently unlocked so Jayne waltzed in to see what their objective was. It was a set up. 3 more thugs surrounded the building. They entered and had Jayne on the ropes 3 to 1. However, one of them walked right by Zoe (who was acting casual) so she was able to follow him in and blast him with the shotgun. Mal ran in and helped Jayne take out the other two. Mal and Jayne were bruised up pretty bad, but they just had to make it out of town and claim the bounties on the downed goons.

Just as they were about to make it out, two more goons got the drop on them. A duelist and another martial artist. The duelist shot Jayne who went down just steps from the map edge. Zoe turned and downed the martial artist while Mal grabbed Jayne and drug him to safety.
---
Holy cow. I took no notes during this play but everything that happened during it is vivid in my mind. It's early and the honeymoon phase could wear off, but I'm loving this. It's got some rules issues, but it's the type of game that perfectly allows the "just do what makes sense" approach when questions arise. Can't wait to try another mission tomorrow night.

Update: I really want to play this again tonight, but I can't leave it set up because the buildings are too tall for the table cover so I have to basically start from scratch with set up every time, which is a bit fiddly here (though not horrible).

Choices.
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8. Board Game: Fleet [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:695]
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I'm loving being back at the table. I'll get back to Ghost Recon and Kingdom Come over the summer probably, but right now, my gaming time will be spent with cards and cardboard.

My wife and I got back into our game/reading night groove this week (is it a groove on just one week back?). I put a few options on the table including Fleet, but she opted for Jaipur instead (which was great... love that game).

But I was really hoping to play Fleet. I haven't played it in awhile. Some may recall this being an incredibly awesome gift from the great Mo that he sent me just after my house flooded. That was 2 years ago this week... maybe that's what put the game in my mind. I loved the look of this game from the first time I saw it and most people seemed to regard its gameplay well. It's almost Race for the Galaxy like in the way you build a tableau paying with cards in your hand and gathering resources to cash in. It's a game I'd like to play with 3 or 4 sometime (perhaps the last day of school whistle).

Anyway, I went ahead and set it up to solo last night, but was dog tired after being up late the night before finishing Doolittle. I played one turn while my daughter was going to bed and will finish later tonight.

ALSO... check out the awesome shelf we inherited from the in-laws!



Sadly, it will not fit Gears well. That will remain in the closet until further notice.

Game 1:
Captain TC - 25
Captain Kirkman - 24
Captain Joe - 33

I got pretty lucky with the launches. TC only launched 3 boats and Kirkman just 1. I think I played everything right, though I expected the game to last more rounds. If you build the license deck for a 3P game, I don't know how you actually make it into rounds 8, 9, and 10 unless I missed something about reshuffling the licenses.

Hold up... you don't clear unbought licenses from the offer. Well, crap. I mean... me and both captains were playing under the same wrong conditions, right? I still can call this a valid win, right?

...

right?

Game 2:
TC - 31
Kirkman - 28
Joe - 44

Crap... I wasn't fishing for the other captains. The solo rules should point out not to forget this.

Someday, I will play this game right.


Wait... I just watched a playthrough of solo and they didn't fish for the other captains either. That would seem to make the solo game really easy. Maybe I'm missing something...

I promise I'm not doing a bit. I finally found the sentence. All captains' boats are credited with 4 crates of fish at game end. I think in my last play TC had 3 boats and Kirkman, 2 so I beat Kirkman easily, but may have been beat by TC.

Rerack. Going to get it right this time.

Game 3:
TC - 56
Kirkman - 74
Joe - 55

NOOOOOOOOOO! So close to not last. Kirkman launched 7 boats which basically made it impossible for me or TC to compete.
---
Thoughts: Not to keep bringing up Race for the Galaxy, but this is another game that should keep me from missing it too bad. The AI is easy to work, the rules are simple (despite my idiotic struggling with them) and it plays a lot quicker. I also enjoy the look of the game more.
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9. Board Game: Four Against Darkness [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:4058]
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One more night away from Firefly. An unexpected house task cut into my setup time this evening.

But that's okay, because I'm enjoying exploring the dark dungeons created by this little book. The experience is akin to a team-based Dungeonquest, though there are a handful more decisions to be made.

For my first team, I rolled with:
Ryan - Skull Warrior
Gary - Duck Wizard
Mo - Coyote Dwarf
Dave - Halfling

Things were smooth sailing until 3 wandering trolls ambushed us in a corridor. Despite Gary's valiant effort to down them with a fireball, he was struck down as the party withdrew into the next room. Pretty sure he muttered "fly, you fools!" as the door slammed. Too bad he's the only one possibly capable of flight. Rest in peace duck wizard. The others will press on.

Update: Well, that ended abruptly. Encountered the Medusa as a final boss shortly after losing Gary. Everyone was turned to stone. Rest in peace.



We'll roll a new team for next round. Gotta figure out who's good.

Update 4-19-18: Played this with my tabletop club kids today. At first, no one seemed that excited about it, but once we got a couple rooms in, they were getting into it. I borrowed some large scale graph paper from a math teacher and drew the dungeon out with a big marker. It was a lot of fun. I'm really glad I picked this up.
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10. Board Game: Gears of War: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:348]
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About time this made it on to this list.

Figured I could sneak in a play of this over the course of today as I did other stuff and took care of baby. To that end, I ran Marcus and Cole through Emergence (because those were the components readily available).

What's there to say? The game shines once again. We steadily worked our way to the end of the stage. Cole had 3 grenades ready to go. It took two to get the hole sealed and then the last locusts spawned.


Here we go!

Cole threw a grenade at the Boomers and he and Marcus bolted past the hoard. They turned and picked them off one by one as they moved in. The Drone was the last to fall.


Sweet, sweet, success
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11. Board Game: Gloom of Kilforth: A Fantasy Quest Game [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:1691] [Average Rating:7.65 Unranked]
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I intended to set up Doolittle or Fields of Fire to pick at over the weekend/week, but Gloom was in the stack with both of them coincidentally and said... I'm pretty sure audibly... "play me, Justin." I had no choice but to oblige. I'm happy I did. Even setting this up makes me happy. The artwork continues to impress and putting together my character and choosing an ancient for the endgame immediately put me back in the world. My half-elf assassin is attempting to find the Casket of Souls before the Abscess Abbess of Penance uses it for evil purposes (or something). Even my starting item, the Ring of Influence, created a nice little backstory in my mind for why my character would have it. I played through one turn and it felt oh so good to be back. Can't wait to keep moving through, hopefully later today.

Update: So it's ABBESS of Penance. Reading it as abscess is understandable I suppose. Both are kind of gross. *NOTE: the character looks gross. Abbesses are not gross.

Anyway, it beat me. Hard. That guy has some serious buffs to contend with. Heals an HP every round AND gets +max HP per quest in play (I had 2).

Despite hitting with my sneak ability of 9, My half-elf was simply overmatched. There were a couple ways I could have played conservatively to balance the fight a bit more, but I was only 4 days from gloom taking over. I checked the night cards and I would have been worse off had I waited. Just needed the dice to roll my way, but they didn't. Alas.

No new thoughts on the game. It's still brilliant. Some of the narrative gets a little blurry at the end when I'm just gunning to fight the ancient, but that's a small price to pay. You could even call it thematic. I absolutely can't wait to get the expansions and upgrade kit. I'm glad I gulped and paid for it.
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12. Board Game: Happy New Year [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
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I keep thinking about how to log plays, experiences, various thoughts, whatever on this site moving forward. From 2013 to 2016, I pretty much did that with SGOYT. During 2017, I did it with my play every game list with a small smattering of SGOYT posts mixed in for good measure. I've been hung up on what to do now because for some reason, I feel like starting a permanent log has been compromised by my "late" start... like I have to just do a new geeklist every year going forward.

But I don't want to do that. I want to have one list. One stop. This will be that list and I'll mix in other things for more specific experiences (Fields of Fire) as the opportunities present themselves.

Playing virtually every game I own in 2017 has been pretty great. I revisited some old friends, had some bittersweet partings, and most importantly, I feel like I've really honed what I like and don't like in this hobby and at times, those things are a complete crapshoot (why do I absolutely LOVE Gloom of Kilforth, but just couldn't get into Runebound?). But that crapshoot is part of the fun.

Some things I learned about my tastes:
1. Narrative is paramount. I probably knew this before and it's low hanging fruit as far as this kind of thing is concerned. Almost everyone loves narrative. But I think it's why Gloom of Kilforth so easily kicked Runebound out the door. I just never quite felt the narrative in Runebound as opposed to Kilforth which just oozed it. The narrative doesn't necessarily mean that the game has to tell a story with a plot, but the gameplay experience needs to have some kind of arc. That last point is what is currently driving Race for the Galaxy out of my collection. There's obviously no story in that game, but despite the mechanics being utterly brilliant, I figured out that I just don't feel any progression in that game. Most of my plays begin and end without me really feeling any movement.

2. I like soloing both sides, but the game has to have a really strong narrative (see point 1) to keep me engaged. War of the Ring has all the drama of the Lord of the Rings packed into a big, gaudy, box of plastic and cardboard. You can't NOT experience a story with that game.

Flying Colors is great. I love the system and it's fun to move ships around and fire the cannons, but my last play left me a bit cold on it. I just wasn't engaged by what was happening. Maybe it was just my mindset at the time and I didn't really talk about it before now because I quickly moved to the next thing, but I'm afraid I might have a bittersweet parting with it. I didn't think I'd ever get rid of it, but after I realized that I'd probably only ever play 2-3 scenarios from the box, I'm just not sure it's going to bring enough value to the table compared to other things I don't play as often as I'd like. I still like the idea of an age of sail game, but I think I'll need to find something different.

3. I'm content with the idea of turnover in my collection. I just sold Legendary Alien. I love that game. It brought me a lot of pleasure playing through the movies. But after that? I just am not interested in playing it anymore. I'm not into the idea of mixing objectives or characters or whatever. I liked playing the movies with the designated characters and that's that. I've played it multiplayer a few times and while I still think it's fun, there are plenty of other games I'd play that offer a similar kind of experience. So out the door it goes. I felt weird putting it up for sale and I still rate it very high, but I think it will just languish on my shelf and I don't want that. I'm still highly interested in picking up the Firefly version at some point, but similarly, I'll probably play through the episodes and move it along.

4. I may, in fact, prefer playing multiplayer. It's sad because my time for a group is limited and my family only has a passing interest in doing the amount of gaming I'd like to do, but getting together more with Marty and Robert has shown me just how much I love sitting across from other people at the table over a game. I think my wife is inching toward being up for more of it as well which is awesome. She suggested trying to do one book night and one game night each week. I love that idea. I still love soloing of course and maybe it's grass-is-always-greener situation, but either way, I'm happy.
----------

I'll stop there for now. Might think of some more. Might not. I'm excited for 2018. It's going to be another eventful year (moving and maybe looking for a different job... no baby) so gaming may again only happen in bursts, but that's fine. I've thoroughly enjoyed spending another year here with you all. It's been awesome getting to know some of you a little better, too. Cheers and happy new year!
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It's happening.
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14. Video Game: Kingdom Come: Deliverance [Average Rating:9.17 Overall Rank:2190]
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Curse you video games! Leave me alone!

So this game just came out. I still have some extra birthday money left. The game is apparently clunky as heck, but looks so dadgum interesting.

Update: Wow does this game have its hooks in me. I'll get back to MGS soon, but it's all medieval for me right now. The game is indeed a buggy mess, but the story and gameplay are solid. Case in point: twice already I've gotten to points in quests where I thought I had to fight, but both times I was just hammered. For one of them, I was trying to rescue a noble from a bandit camp and I figured out that I could just wait till night and sneak in while they slept. The noble even asked me why I waited so long.

The other, I had to loot something from a dead bandit with another nearby. After 3 deaths, I just ran with him chasing me back to the group of knights I was with and they took care of him. Then I went back and got the item.

And apparently that kind of freeform structure only opens up more as the game goes on. Though I definitely need to get some sword training. I suck.
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15. Video Game: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain [Average Rating:8.29 Overall Rank:898]
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I'm real bad at sitting on Paypal credit (or gift cards for that matter).

I had some from my last sale. This game was the same amount to download almost to the penny. Done.

I don't even know what made this game cross my radar recently. Ghost Recon? Watching a new Let's Play channel while putting my daughter to sleep? I don't know. I played the first 3 Metal Gears once upon a time and liked them for the most part... especially the original MGS remake on Gamecube.

It's open world, but set up in 'episodes' for the main missions. Kind of an interesting way to structure it I think. There's some base-building and tech research involved, too, which is fun. Completing even the simple early missions has provided some great decisions in how you approach things.

Anyway, this has been taking up my gaming time the last few nights. I look forward to getting back to the table this weekend, though.

Update: Finally got this finished the other night. It ranks in the top 10 of video games I've played for sheer fun factor. The story was surprisingly sparse for a Metal Gear title, but whatever... I lost track of all of it somewhere along the way anyway.

I'm still messing with a couple other games, but I'm starting to itch pretty hard for my table again. Two weeks from today, I should have something set up.
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16. Board Game: Paperback [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:305]
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Weekly Reading Night

Reading has always been hard for me. I do it excruciatingly slow sometimes and often go on autopilot for pages prompting rereads. I've wondered in the past if I would get better at it if I just did it more, but I usually find other ways to pass the time. My wife reads more than I do, but I think she, too, would like to do more of it as a leisure activity. Pitiful as it may sound, spending an hour to 90 minutes of leisure reading once a week will raise my average time spent on the activity considerably. I'm excited about it as I have several things in the queue.


Just finished this to kick things off. I'll read the 2nd and third (would do it tonight, but they're at work). Very engaging look at the civil rights movement from the inside. I plan to use this in class this year, though I'm not sure exactly how yet.


Book 2 done. I think I got my inspiration for how to use this in class. The climax of the book is a visual transcript of part of John Lewis' speech at the March for Jobs and Freedom. It ends on a cliffhanger with the bombing of the 16th St Baptist Church. I like the idea of exploring some lesser known speeches alongside Dr. King's. Maybe I'll have my students compare each speech's 'hook'... not sure.


Started this a couple nights ago. An inside look at German concentration camps focused less on the physical atrocities and more on the psychological impact. It's a short book, but heavy. It'll take me a few sittings to get through it. Update: finished this the other night. I liked it, but admittedly, a lot of it started running together on me toward the end including the actual ending which kind of came out of nowhere. That said, it was a very interesting perspective on the atrocity of Nazi concentration camps. Well worth a read if you get a chance, and as my wife recommended to me, just stop when you get to 'II' as it just gets into his theories from there... if I understood her right.
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17. Board Game: Sold! [Average Rating:4.50 Unranked]
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Originally posted 2-26-18 as another item:It was an interesting weekend.

Saturday - In-laws pick up the girls and keep them all day. Laura and I get A LOT done prepping the house for listing and go check out an open house.

Sunday - Church, then we drop the girls off at my parents. We meet our realtor and look at 4 houses including the one we looked at Saturday. Turns out that one is the only realistic option for us despite being a bit overpriced. We're going for it, though. It's a pretty cool little house that's move-in ready and... nerd alert... has SOLAR PANELS. The panels apparently provide 90% of the electricity to the house. Awesome.

Even more awesome? The house only has 3 bedrooms, thus, no gameroom for me. BUT... the master closet is big enough to EASILY fit my table and store a lot of my games (along with clothes).

Suffice to say, I'm hoping we get this one. It may not happen because it's a super competitive market, but the interesting weekend could give way to an interesting week.

Oh and no biggie, but I found out a guy I go to church with is super into board games.

Update 3-3-18:Our house is officially under contract. Fingers crossed we make it through option.

The house we thought we really wanted turned out to be really close to a super shady apartment complex and there seems to be a higher than average number of sex offenders in the neighborhood. I was still feeling confident about it, but we drove back out tonight and I've lost my enthusiasm. The house is still great, but it's not worth being in a questionable area with two young children.

So we expanded our search a bit tonight and found a few promising leads. Hopefully, we can go look at them in the next few days and get something going. Thank goodness the grading period is winding down at work and we have spring break coming up. My brain is tired.

Update 3-11-18: Things can happen so it's not 100% at this point, but our current house is past the option period as of this evening so at this point the only thing that could go awry is the buyer's loan falling through or something like that. Pretty exciting.

Even more exciting... we have an executed contract on a new house. It's one lockable gameroom away from a perfect house (in other words... perfect). Move-in ready, plenty of space such that we may never have to move again, perfect location, you name it. It's a little on the high end of our price range, but we can handle it and my wife will be working in about a year so at that point, it shouldn't be a big deal. We should close in 3 weeks if all goes according to plan.

The game table will be in the second living space with the computer desk and the girls' toys, but that's fine. As they don't bump the table too hard and my cat doesn't cave in the cover, I should have no problem leaving games setup for multiple days. At some point, I'm going to look into a sturdier table option anyway.

Pretty pumped over here. I can't wait to play some cardboard games again, though I'm still enjoying the video game phase just fine.

Update: It's been a pretty great spring break. House stuff is still moving. The new one will need some foundation work, but the seller's kicked in plenty of cash to cover it. We close next Wednesday so Easter weekend is going to be interesting.

Robert and I met up on Wednesday for the afternoon. We actually ended up only playing one game due to having a thoroughly pleasant visit over some burgers and way too much sugary drinks. We played Imperial Settlers. I was looking good through 4 of the 5 game rounds until Robert naturally unleashed his Roman economic engine all over the Barbarians.

Update 3-31-18: And March will come to an end with me sitting in my new living room typing up a BGG update using my phone as a hotspot because internet isn't getting installed until Monday. Pretty dadgum eventful month.

The move is done. The owner of my old house should be in there now unpacking. We got everything moved yesterday thanks to the super worth it movers we hired and my dad's generous donation of a small U-Haul trailer to the effort. In-laws kept the girls most of the last couple days so we could actually get things done and we did so. Other than the chaos that is the garage, the house is probably about 80% put together. The game table is tucked nicely into a corner near the front door and my wife has even given me permission to mount the crokinole board on the wall by it. THEN, at some point, she would like me to work with my brother to install a bunch of built in shelves on the wall above the table to hold games, books, and other various decorative items. Love that woman.

We've also already fallen back in love with this area. Where we were living was fine and it's a definite first world problem to not "love" your nice, middle class, neighborhood in the suburbs, but this area is just way more our personality. It's got convenience, diversity, character, and the biggest game store I've ever seen 5 minutes down the road.

So... yeah. Going to drink a beer and relax. Good night everybody!
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18. Board Game: Splendor [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:112]
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Game night with my wife last night. This was the choice after a day full of grad school work. Fine by me.

I made a couple of Gold Rushes out of some good 'ol Kentucky Deluxe. They were surprisingly good for being made with some of the cheapest whiskey I'm aware of (7 bucks for 750ml). Worth it, but I had a little bit too much and crashed hard on the couch. Woke up at 2am to my wife prepping a bottle for baby.

As for the game, I think I won both matches, but it was close both times. Splendor is a game that always slips my mind when I think about my favorite games, but I love it. Never had a bad time playing it.
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19. Board Game: Terraforming Mars [Average Rating:8.38 Overall Rank:5]
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After being interested in this one off and on for the better part of 2 years, I finally got to learn and play it this afternoon while the girls were at grandparents' house.

I didn't meet all 3 global parameters, lacking just 3 oceans to get there, but I thought I had a good chance heading into the final round. Right off the bat, I like that there is a clear win/loss condition. You count VPs after that, but I'm not sure how hung up on that I'll be until I actually figure out how to win. And even then, with all the corporation choices in the game, I'm not sure I'll ever worry about VPs. Winning with every corporation would get you quite a few plays.

It took me a bit to get my head around what the game wanted me to do, but once I did, it was all pretty intuitive. It's literally a cube pusher, which normally doesn't do much for me, but first impressions are good. I'm sure I made several mistakes and forgot to move my TR marker a few times (easily double checked by counting up your progress toward the parameters), but it was fun and I could see a lot of different strategies to play with depending on the card draw. I actually started a play and then restarted around the 5th or 6th generation since I had the rules down better and even within those 2 attempts, I saw a lot of variability.

We'll see how this fares over time. I also wonder if my wife will like it.

Update 2-2-18 Oof... Tiring week. My wife and I actually played this last Sunday and I just haven't gotten around to writing about it here. She liked it, though it took awhile for her to wrap her mind around what was happening (as it did me). I beat her, but not by much. She but a LOT more stuff while I focused more on events. I think I rammed about 5 asteroids into the planet.

I haven't fully made up my mind about the game yet. It's fun and interesting, but I don't know if it gives me the warm gaming fuzzies yet.
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20. Board Game: This War of Mine: The Board Game [Average Rating:8.10 Overall Rank:183]
Justin
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Played the first few days tonight.

I like this game.

A lot.

Thoughts:

1. I'm glad I happened to read the advanced rules about being able to eat whenever you want outside of combat and something else (you still have to at the normal time in the turn sequence). My first objective was to have no one hungry and I was just barely able to trade for enough food to get them there. The reward came in handy the following turn.

2. This is Robinson Crusoe, but WAY more streamlined. You're trying to hold everything together, taking actions that will usually pay off a little bit (or a lot), but will often lead to a loss of some sort. You always feel like you're just one action or part short of being able to do exactly what you want to do. Peril at every turn. What sets it apart from RC is that it's about a quarter the fiddliness and rules.

3. Just wrapped up my 4th play. Things were rocking along fairly well actually until I encountered a particular decision to make. I had two options:
a. Play to win the "game"
b. Do what I thought my characters would do given they both had very high empathy

I chose option b and went from sitting pretty to losing the game within a day. Do I regret it? Not at all. That's where I think this game will have it's replayability legs. If you just play the "game", you'll probably figure out a few optimal strategies and/or always make the best "game" decision, thus making it arguably less immersive. If you play the characters, the combinations of personalities and choices are virtually infinite. The situation above happened when I sent 2 characters to scavenge which I rarely do. They JUST HAPPENED to have this particular encounter and they JUST HAPPENED to both be high empathy characters. Had I chosen option a, I wouldn't be typing this right now... I'd probably still be playing. There's a long third thought for you.

4. Love the aesthetic of the game. Having the actual molded pieces for components, wood, and water is such a nice touch. There isn't a ton of artwork, but what's there is great.
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