Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Tiny Epic Zombies leads to more PnP

Earlier this month, I had a flurry of game crafting activity. To be fair, I was catching up on about of a month of printing off stuff and planning on getting around to it. At the time, I wondered if that was going to be my big PnP push for 2018. (Eh, at least most of it was solitaire so I knew it would get played.)

But low and behold, I have found myself in the middle of another bout of crafting. (Can’t really call this a binge since I’m taking my time this time) And, again, even if this is just a momentary phase, I will end up with a bunch of PnP to play.

I really have Tiny Epic Zombies to blame. When the Kickstarter started, I decided to print out the demo, even though it’s not a genre I’m into. (I keep hoping for a Tiny Epic Industrial Complex or Tiny Epic Trading in the Mediterranean, which means I am so not Gamelyn Games Target audience)

I have to say that, compared to the free demo Gamelyn made for Tiny Epic Kingdoms, this demo is really nice. But I also have to say that one mall, even one filled with zombies, really strains the word epic :P

This also marks a shift for me towards at least a slightly larger project. Tiny Epic Zombies isn’t big but so many of my projects have just been one or two pages of components. And while I think you can have a happy and healthy PnP hobby just with games that size, I think it’s also likely a body will branch out a bit of you keep crafting PnP games long enough.

And I am also crafting some smaller games right now too. Two pages of tiles for Cheese Chasers to revisit it again after a good ten years, a couple pages for the tile version of Bowling Solitaire, two pages for the low ink version of Microconnect and one page for Farmers Finances, which is a game I'm pretty sure won’t work but I have to try a commodity game with only six commodities.

I know that part of what is driving my increase in PnP crafting is a desire to explore more PnP games, particularly solitaire ones. However, I also know I’m doing it because I’m enjoying the actual act of crafting.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Our DM says it’s time for demons

Session 14 of the Late Lurkers

(For those of you keeping track, I didn’t do a write up of session 13. That’s because I couldn’t make it due to holiday travel. My character didn’t die and that’s all I know :P)

This was another session where only three of us were able to make it. As I’ve said before, playing online through Roll20 makes the game possible at all and gives us a lot of flexibility but there’s sometimes only so much we can bend.

The Nordic-style village that is the characters’ home was getting attacked by Manes (really weak demons, by the way) Amusingly enough, the  adventurers are all more disposable villagers so we’re more like dog catchers than heroes :D And we got stuck with the job of finding out where the Manes were coming from.

The Manes turned out to be the slaves of a Shadow Demon (easily the least imaginative named demon in D&D and that includes the old Type 1 - X naming convention) It had been accidentally freed from a forgotten altar (There’s a shocking number of those in the setting. It’s a low fantasy setting that may have been a high fantasy setting in the past)

Frankly, a Shadow Demon was a brutal fight for three third-level characters. Luckily, our druid cast Faerie Fire on it, negating a lot of its shadow abilities. And the cleric used radiant energy attacks, which burned the demon like an oil-soaked moth on a griddle. 

Afterwards, we got what might have been our first major reward from the Jarl. I even got a hovel of my very own.

That was a really fun session. Yeah, it consisted of two fights with some skill checks in between. However, they were good fights and stuff happened that furthered our characters’ stories. That’s pretty good for two and half hour session.

While it apparently wasn’t easy, judging by the DM’s swearing, the dynamic lighting and sound effects from Roll20 were pretty good.

Cabbage Quest - mechanically slight but thematically rich

Cabbage Quest was an entry in the 2016 Children’s Print and Play Game Design Contest on Boardgame Geek. It doesn’t actually an entry on the Geek but I came across enough references to people crafting that I decided to to try it myself. It didn’t hurt that it only required printing three pages and no other construction.

Cabbage Quest is a solitaire game where you play someone in a fairy tale world who accidentally ate three cursed cabbages and got transformed into a donkey. Now you need to break into magical gardens and try to eat three enchanted cabbages to turn back into a human being.

Basically, Cabbage Quest is like a very short Fighting Fantasy game book. You stat out your donkey by assigning 1, 2 and 3 to kick, bite and stubbornness. Plus, you get three points in determination, which serves as your health points. Lose them all and you’ve given up, deciding to live your life as a donkey.

Since what skill you will need on any given area is randomly determined with an equal chance for each skill, I’m not sure if there is meaningful difference which stat gets which number. However, you get a different special, one-time use ability based on what you assign the 1 to.

The map consists of four magic gardens that are increasingly difficult. Each garden consists of four tables: one that determines the skill challenge to get in; one that determines the results of the cabbage you eat; one that determines if the wizard or witch who owns the garden sees you (the chances go up the more cabbages you eat); and one that determines the skill challenge if the garden owner does see you.

Mechanically, the actual game part of Cabbage Quest is a push-your-luck game. The real decisions are how many cabbages will you eat in each garden and how dangerous a garden will you break into, since the more dangerous ones have better cabbage odds. Really, from a mechanical, game standpoint, Cabbage Quest isn’t that interesting.

HOWEVER, what makes Cabbage Quest interesting and fun is the theme. This short, little game is positively dripping in well written, fairy tale theme. The game may be at the mercy of the dice but you always get a fun fairy tale story.

Cabbage Quest is an odd beast. It’s a contest entry that never really went past the beta stage. However, the flavor text is so charming and well written, it has stayed on peoples’ radar, as opposed to sinking out of sight. 

And it’s on my radar as a children’s game when my son gets older. It’s amusing and charming for adults but it might be really engaging for kids.

Cabbage Quest is, at best, so-so as a game. It’s not a game I’d play over and over. However, the theme does such a good job that it was worth printing those three pages.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Wrapping up our first trip to Disneyland

Our third and final day was back at Disneyland. And it ended up being a particularly ride-filled day. Not because we wanted to pack in as many rides as possible but because the lines are a lot shorter if you get there when the park opens.

Pirates of the Caribbean was our first ride because we wanted to get it in and it doesn’t have a fast pass. We basically walked on. And the California version definitely wins out over the Florida version. Our son liked it, other than the two drops at the beginning.

Then we went to the Winnie the Pooh ride, which our son specifically requested. Which was cute and fun and not as jerky as the Florida version but the real treat was that Winnie the Pooh and Tigger were just outside it with no line. Doodle got over his shyness and hugged both of them.

On the way back, the line was short for Haunted Mansion so we got that in again.

Then, while Mommy and Doodle went on the Teacups and Mr Toad again, I went on the Matterhorn. I knew it was the first rollercoaster at Disneyland so I really wanted to try it. Not bad but very jerky and not that different than a regular roller coaster. 

After that, we went almost all of the dark rides in Fantasy Land that we hadn’t been in. Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and even the walk through of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. I’d say they were all a bit dated, technologically, but still cute and charming. I’d go on any of them again, as long as the lines were short. (Which is why we didn’t go on Peter Pan)

The ride that was not fun that we got in was Storybook Land Canal Boats. The aisles in the line were very tight and cramped. And, other than getting to sail into Monstro the Whale’s mouth, it was simply not very good. You ride in a boat to see miniature replicas of buildings from the movies. No characters, just  architecture. If you didn’t have the narrator telling you what the buildings were, I don’t know if I’d recognize most of them. It was like a boat ride by a miniature golf course.

Somewhere in all that, we ate at the Rose Inn, which was the Beauty and the Beast-themed restaurant. The beef poutine and cauliflower sandwich were tasty and doodle ate his way through the kids meal.

Then Mommy and Daddy took turns riding Space Mountain. Personally, I thought that the seats were much more comfortable than the Florida version and and the ride was smoother. Radiator Springs Racers was still better but Space Mountain is a classic.

By then, our time at Disneyland was wrapping up and we needed to get to the airport. We got in one last ride at the teacups and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and headed out. Good rides to end on since we’ve enjoyed them at both Florida and California.

Disneyland is a different place than Disney World. Florida is like going to another country. Disneyland is still the same country, just a couple of very good amusement parks.

Our first time visiting California Adventure Land

Our second day was our California Adventure Land day. We were very curious about this park, since it doesn’t have an exact version in Florida, although it has elements of Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

It was also the day that our friend Melanie came out to see us. She moved to California last year and it was really great to see her.

We got a fast pass for Toy Story Midway Mania when we got into the park. While we were waiting for that, we got in the Little Mermaid Ride (we couldn’t tell any real difference between the California version and the Florida version other than the queue) and the Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (spun us around faster than we expected but that made it more fun) and we tried to get on the Luigi Rollicking Roadsters ride but it broke down literally just before our turn.

This was our first Midway Mania experience. It definitely took the shooting game crossed with a ride idea to the next level. The Buzz Lightyear ride explores it too but this was a more involved game. All three of us were impressed by the shooting part, although doodle found it too jerky.

We next tried out Bug’s Land, which has some carnival style rides that seem aimed at younger kids and we have a four-year-old. We tried three of the rides. Flik’s Flyers and Francis’ Ladybug Boogie were fun but Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train was one of the more meh experiences we had at the parks.

We at lunch at Pacific Warf. Bread bowls of soup isn’t high cuisine but it was a nice alternative to sandwiches.

We watched some cute street theater about the Guardians of the Galaxy having a dance off (I was disappointed that Ronan the Accuser didn’t show up and dance) before we waited an hour to get into the Hyperion Theater to see a theatrical production of Frozen. Frozen is the doodle’s favorite movie and he knew about the Hyperion production. It was his biggest request for this trip. 

It was a surprisingly good production. The special effects were a lot of fun, including the puppets. Their version of Anna was goofier than the movie version, which was more interesting than a more straight reading. Our son was rapt the entire time.

After that, we tried something we hadn’t tried before. Taking turns going on a ride that was too big for the doodle so we’d get to go on it. We both wanted to try the Radiator Springs Racers and that proved to be maybe one of the best rides we went on. The special effects were great, the speed was wonderful and it was smooth. As someone with back problems, smooth is a big deal.

Then we made our biggest mistake of the trip and had our most miserable experience. The World of Color. That is a light show that uses pyrotechnics, fountains, lasers and images projected on mist.

The problem was we waited an hour in order to get prime viewing and that was at the end of the day. Doodle was fussy and tired and our feet and calves were aching. And we had to stand through the show as well and doodle fell asleep near the beginning.

Oh, it was impressive, particularly wall of fire that was the Pirates of the Caribbean portion. We had no idea why they included Mustaffa’s death scene as part of the show. But it was simply a grueling experience and none of us thought it was worth it.

Afterwards, we got some pizza at Downtown Disney, the retail area in between the parks (where we also got some legos at the LEGO store’s huge Pick A Brick wall) and went back to the hotel for sleep.

Our very first day in Disneyland

While we have been to Disney World three times, we have waffled about going to Disneyland for a while. Truth to tell, it wouldn’t even be on the table if we weren’t currently in Arizona and much closer to Disneyland. And after doodle turned four, we decided that it was time for a quick Disneyland trip. Our plan was to fly out early on Saturday and fly back late on Monday, giving us three days at the parks.

We got up when it was still dark on Saturday. Amusingly enough, we ran into my Uncle Don at the airport. He had been in Tucson for a conference but we hadn’t been able to get together with him. It was a fun start to the trip.

We had an easy flight to Los Angeles. From there, we took the official Disney Coach to the parks. I say official since there are some fly-by-night vans that will offer to do the same. As usual, the doodle hated waiting but was happy as long as he was in a moving vehicle.

We stayed at the Day’s Inn across the street from the two parks. Part of why we chose to stay there was that it was closer than any of the actual Disney hotels. 

Now, I’m not going to go into exhaustive detail about every ride and attraction and quick service we went to but some will get more comments than others.

One term I’m going to use a lot is dark ride, since our son really liked those. Dark rides are when a little car or boat takes you past a series of scenes. They’re mostly inside and often have a lot of animatronics.

Our first ride was Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, which is a dark ride and one that’s no longer at Disney World. So it was one we wanted to see. We also knew that it ended with a car crash and the ride going through Hell. Well, it was the quaintest Hell ever. It was pleasant, quaint ride but I would hope a ride based on The Wind in the Willows would be quaint and pleasant. It was a nice way to get started.

One of our big goals was to go on the California version of It’s a Small World since we’d heard it was better and bigger than the one in Florida. And it was. We managed to ride it only a day or so before it was shut down to remove all the Christmas decorations. It was memorable and impressive.

I also have to note that It’s a Small World is an odd experience. It’s depicting not a realistic version of the world but a toy one. So it has an intentional fake look to it. It’s quite surreal.

After that, we went on the Mad Tea Party and the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, both rides our doodle had enjoyed at Disney World. While there were differences, none of the them were significant.

Our next stop was Toon Town, an entire area unique to California. It’s a mix of tributes to Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the houses of the classic Disney characters. Our son was most interested in Chip and Dale’s treehouse. We also went on the Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin, which is another dark ride with the story being an out-of-control taxi ride through Toon Town.

At that point, we needed lunch. It was getting later and we the adult at least we’re really hungry. We are at the Galactic Grill and I’d say it was a low point in our dining. Not because the food was bad because it was so crowded it felt like being in a cattle car.

The last time we were at Disney World, the Magic Kingdom’s train was down and our son didn’t get to ride it. So we wanted to make sure he got to ride the one in California. We didn’t realize it would include a huge diorama of the Grand Canyon and of dinosaurs. That was a fun surprise.

Doodle has done well enough with other dark rides, we decided that he could handle the Haunted Mansion. And he did. He thought it was lots of fun. We did think that the special effects were better in Florida. 

We had dinner at the Jolly Holiday Bakery, which is the Mary Poppins-themed restaurant. It was a much better experience than lunch and the baked goods were excellent.

After going on It’s a Small World again to see it lit up in the darkness (which was pretty incredible) and another round of Buzz Lightyear, we called it a night and went back to our hotel.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Playing in the Autumn leaves

I have been trying out the PnP game Autumn. It’s a small, eighteen card build that requires nothing but the cards, although there are two different decks: one for two players and one for three players.

Autumn, the first in a four-game series (I bet you can guess what the other three games will be and Winter has already been produced), is a very simple tile laying game. Each card is broken down into four quadrants, each one showing a pile of leaves. There’s two different types of leaves for two-players and three for three-players. 

The basic idea of the game is dead simple. Draw a card and place a card on the table as part of a growing tableau/map of leaves. Everyone has their own type of leaves and you score your biggest group, most points winning.

And if that was it, then Autumn wouldn’t be very interesting. I mean, that is one of the most basic tile-laying concepts you can come up with. If that’s all there was, it wouldn’t be bringing anything new to the party.

Fortunately, the game has a couple of interesting flourishes.

The first, and it certainly not a unique or innovative idea, is that it uses the pie rule to determine who has what color/leaf type. Like I said, this isn’t anything amazing or new. But it does add a little bit of depth to the game.

Second, and much more interesting, you don’t match edges. Instead, every placement must cover one or two quadrants that are already in play. First of all, that’s more unusual which is fun. Second of all, that creates a greater number of choices. It also means that blocking is more flexible, creating a more confrontational and interesting game.

I’ve only played it solitaire so far. One-player mode uses the same placement rules but your score is the third largest group. So it still creates some interesting choices.

However, having now logged some solitaire plays, I think it’d be worth trying multi-player. In fact, given the fact that I think blocking will be interesting, I think that’s where the game’s real strength will be.

Now, Autumn is an eighteen-card micro game. And while I truly believe that are some micro games that stretch and test the limits of what a micro game can be, Autumn is not one of them. It is a quick little game that feels eighteen cards big.

I don’t know how much replay value Autumn has. However, it’s a game that took a minimum effort to make. I’ll get more than enough play out of it for what it took to make it. Plus, it is tiny enough that I can easily carry it in my bag. If I double-side it so the two-player deck is on one side and the three-player is on the other, it’s a travel game for one to three players.

Autumn is not a top-tier, change-your-life print and play game. However, I would say that it is pretty solidly in the second tier. If you are like me and a relatively lazy game crafter, it is well worth the making.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Binging on PnP

The other night, I noticed that I had been printing out PnP projects but I hadn’t actually been getting around to making any of them. To be fair, December was pretty crazy and I did spend half of it in other states. In fact, my last crafting was for the Mini PnP Secret Santa (which was a blast and totally worth doing)

So, I sat down and started cutting, followed by laminating and then more cutting. None of the projects were remotely big but I really had let them pile up.

Over the course of a couple days, I have made copies of Pentaquark, Jasper and Zot, Elevens for One, Pocket Landship with the Second Front Expansion, Garden of Zen, Zone Runners, Bento Blocks, Raiders in My Pocket, and the original edition of The Name of God (which is a micro RPG)

Some of these games are ones I’ve made before but I’ve given the earlier copies away. And, in some cases, I’ve also gotten better at crafting since I made the first copies too :D

Raiders in My Pocket was easily the most annoying to craft. When I first printed it out, I thought it was really neat that they fit all the tiles and cards, plus the tokens, on one sheet of paper. However, in reality, that means all the pieces are really tiny which make them a pain to cut. That might also make them hard to use too.

I also want to note that I made a copy of the first edition of the Name of God, as opposed to the greatly expanded and much more colorful second edition, because it consists of basically six cards and minimal, ink friendly art. I eventually will make a nice copy of the second edition but I now have a good RPG that game can fit in its entirety in my wallet.

I doubt that this will be the shape of things to come, that I’ll end up crafting a whole bunch of games all at once on a regular basis. However, over the last few years, I have been doing more and more PnP crafting. And I’ve gotten into PnP solitaire games more and more. So we will see what 2018 holds in store.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Medical issues and gaming - yup, it can happen

Years ago, I had a bad accident that resulted in a herniated lower disc. Annoyingly, it was misdiagnosed as lumbago and I spent over a decade in varying levels of discomfort before a cat scan identified the problem and I was able to get some surgery. It didn’t undo all the damage but it did help a lot.

What does that have anything to do with gaming?

Well, here’s the thing. Sitting, hunched over a board for a long time, has sometimes been very difficult for me. And, try as I might, I find it hard to sit back and lounge when playing games. 

For a number of reasons, a lot of them involving parenthood, I’ve been much more interested in shorter games lately. Heck, 45 minutes is my current idea of a ‘full’ game.

However, it’s amusing to me to realize that there can be a medical reason to prefer shorter games.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Okay, so I struggled doing a 10x10...

Last year, I tried to do a 10x10 challenge. That’s playing ten specific games ten times. And I didn’t do that good a job of it.

Part of the problem was that I did it through Yucata, which meant that the games were turn-based. And that means that it took weeks, even potentially months to finish games. In theory, I could have tried to play ten games of any given game at the same time but that wouldn’t have been fun for me. If I didn’t mix up games, I wouldn’t have learned from my experience and mistakes since I’d be making the same mistakes ten times at the same time.

So, I am rethinking how to try doing something like this.

The obvious answer is to play face to face games. That solves the games-lasting-for-weeks issue. Unfortunately, having a small child has made face-to-face gaming a lot more difficult, although we are working on that. But I’d rather focus on just playing games than getting reps.

The next idea is playing games online real time. The place where I’d do that is Board Game Arena. Finding the time is still an issue but I’m tempted to try a 5x5, focusing on abstracts. I think that’s a good way to test the waters.

In fact, in general, I think 5x5 might be a better format for me right now.

My last idea is to do a 5x5 of solitaire PnP games. Last year, I really got interested in that form. And that’s something that would be easy to do. At the very least, I can pause indefinitely and not annoy anyone else. Actually, that might be a good policy for solitaire PnP in general.

I think repetition is important with games. 10x10 challenges are a good way of doing that. I just need to do it in a more bite-size way right now.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Will I buy any games in 2018?

Last year, I decided to not buy any new games last year. I gave myself the escape clauses of Kickstarter not counting (and I stuck to just PnP files anyway), children’s games not counting, PnP not counting and used games bought with store credit not counting.

Well, I ended up buying four used games but not with store credit. Still, I spent next to nothing on them and they take up minimal space so I feel I can give myself a C+.

To be honest, I’m not planning on planning on trying not buying any games again this year. I mean, it could happen but it probably won’t. Instead, I’ll repeat my 2016 pledge, to buy no more than six new games. And I only bought two that year.

And the usual clauses apply: Kickstarter is its own thing; games for the preschooler don’t count; Print-and-Play doesn’t count. And I’m not going to count used games UNLESS they cost more than ten dollars. (I’d originally planned on making that twenty but I decided that was too much leeway)

Over the last year, I started making a list of games to potentially buy that I either tried and really liked or felt really confident that I would get real play out of. At the end of the year, the list was... seven games long. (Photosynthesis, Imhotep, Isle of Skye, Sintorini, LYNGK, Azul and Segrata, by the way) 

When I first started buying games, I’d get anything that interested me. That’s how I ended up with a bloated game collection, full of too many games that only got played once or didn’t get played at all. Now I look for games that wouldn’t just be fun but would see plenty of play. (Which, right now, means, shorter games primarily for two players)

Oh, there are bigger games that tempt me, like Scythe. However, I know that those wouldn’t get played or played once at most over the next few years. The decision to not buy games isn’t a meaningless challenge. It’s realistically looking at my hobby.

Maybe this year I will not buy any games. Maybe I’ll go over that six limit. But I will do my best to make wise decisions.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Yup. Time to look at 2017

Okay, 2017 has gone by. How was the year for gaming for me?

I set a number of goals for the year. Not to buy any new games. To do a 10x10 goal. To do a lot more print-and-play projects. To limit my Kickstarters to PnP files and under a tight budget. To play more face-to-face games.

I didn’t achieve all my goals but I feel like I came out ahead in general.

Strictly speaking, I didn’t buy any ‘new’ games. I did buy used copies of Qwixx, Rolling America, The Butterfly Garden and Famous Fairways. Since I spent less than ten dollars total and they take up almost no shelf space and are games we can get in in a week night, no regrets.

My 10x10 plan fell through. Part of the issue was that it was via Yucata and that meant some games lasted weeks. At the same time, I did end up playing more of games that I wouldn’t have played otherwise. So, no regrets and I have an even better appreciation for the King of Siam. 10x10 goals may be better with real-time play. Maybe I’ll try a 5x5 goal with Boardgame Arena.

As for sticking to my kickstarter goals and making more print-and-play games, I did great on that. Which makes sense since they are kind of dovetailed together this year. I’m still sticking to smaller print-and-play projects but I have been still making and playing them more and more.

I didn’t end up doing as much face-to-face gaming, although I do treasure the gaming that I did do. However, I did get into what has ended up being a fairly consistent and very good D&D campaign on Roll20, which has been my first Roll20 experience. In fact, I think that is the highlight of my 2017 as far as gaming is concerned.

Soooo, it wasn’t a banner year in gaming for me. However, I still did some neat stuff. Like I said, my print-and-play activity went up a lot and I spent a fair bit of time exploring the solitaire options there. And I got to play Fifth Edition D&D and use Roll20 for the first time at the same time.

Still, I’m going to try and push 2018 a little more.

Belated response to the Doctor Who Christmas Special

All right. I finally found the time and mental space to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special of 2017. Which I have been eagerly waiting for. And which I enjoyed very much.

Kind of Vague but Still Spoilers

First of all, I have to admit that I currently view Stephen Moffit’s time as story runner as a mixed bag. 

Some episodes, like ‘Listen’, made me wonder what I had just watched. Others, like Death in Heaven, just seem too over the top. The human race is just going to get over and forget all the dead coming back as Cybermen? Really? The whole human race blanks things out thing, that seems to extreme for that explanation. And I also felt Moffit hung onto companions too long, like he had problems letting them go after their initial story arc.

On the other hand, his time also had some of the best stories I’ve seen. Heaven Sent may be the best story I’ve ever seen and I liked the entire tenth season, although it helped that it had new companions with a new arc. Matt Smith’s first arc was also amazing.

And I think that both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi were amazing Doctors. Colin Baker proves you have to be more than just a great actor to be a great Doctor. You need a great team with you.

Mind you, I watched Davis’s time as showrunner before I was a dad. I didn’t have the same kind of time to watch TV after our doodle arrived. Maybe when I have the chance to properly binge and fully watch Moffit’s time, I’ll like it even more. 

So, all that said, where did Twice Upon A Time sit with me?

In all honesty, pretty well. After the extremes of The Doctor Falls, this was a quiet, thoughtful story. The external crisis turns out to be a fairly quiet one with most of the plot turning out to be driven by the Doctors’ internal struggles.

Biggest disappointment was that Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter didn’t appear.

And I was glad that the Testament turned out to be benevolent, at least until they show up again. I wasn’t looking forward to another apparently global threat that had been around forever that somehow never appeared before. (“Oh, it’s not an evil plan. I don’t really know what to do when it’s not an evil plan”)

I think what really made the Christmas special work for me was the fact that it was willing to be silly (since, at its heart, Doctor Who is a children’s show and, sorry, Torchwood, I never want it lose that heart) but also willing to admit the emotional weight that the show has developed. It’s a balance and Twice Upon A Time managed that balance.

I’ve been watching Doctor Who for over twenty years now and there are plenty of folks who have been watching it longer. It’s been a part of a lot of people’s lives. It does mean something and this farewell acknowledges that.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Now this was a really good children's Game

I’ve already mentioned that our son asked for Doggie Doo for Christmas. It could be the poster child for a toy that pretends to be a game and a game that has basically no choices. However, we picked up a used copy of Curious George Discovery Beach. And _that’s_ a game for preschoolers that is an actual game.

Oh, the game still qualifies as a toy. Take a piece of hard plastic and mold five pits into it, connected by shallow canals. Half fill it with itty bitty blue beads and tchotchkes like little colored fish and shells. Seal it with a sheet of clear plastic and then put some beach-themed cardboard over that with holes for each pit. Then, add some remove-able covers, also beach themed, on the holes.

Discovery Beach is a combination memory and look-and-find game. You have a deck of pie-piece cards listing items (from as vague as anything yellow to specific as a yellow shell) and a spinner. On your turn, you draw a card and put it beside the board. Then, you flick the spinner. Most spaces give you a choice of two spaces to open but there’s also one space to pick any space and one to shake the board and take another turn. You can claim any cards that you can spot an object that qualifies (and you can take more than one) First player to get six cards, forming a circle, wins.

There’s a lot I like about the game as a children’s game. Kids get to practice memory skills and observation skills. You always have a choice. And by having a growing line of cards to possibly claim, the game keeps moving along.

Now, obviously Curious George Discovery Beach isn’t going to challenge Scythe as a game. Or Catan or For Sale or Can’t Stop. However, it is an honest-to-goodness game that offers the players actual choices and the better players do have a legitimate edge.

While I wouldn’t play Curious George Discovery Beach with adults or teenagers or even older kids, it is one of the best games I’ve tried a for small children. I’m surprised I haven’t seen it for other licensed products because it’s a neat toy with a fun game attached.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

THIS is the game my son asked for?!

Christmas of 2017 was the first time our son has asked for a board game. Hooray! We must be doing something right!

It was Doggie Doo. Oh sweet Azathoth, what are we doing wrong? :P

Okay, he just turned four. Hoping he’d want Scythe was unrealistic.

There may be those of you have had the good fortune to have no idea what Doggie Doo is. Stop reading now if you want to keep that precious innocence and ignorance.

Okay. The game consists of a pneumatic dog toy that you use an air pump to squeeze a spongy dog poop from the mouth to out of the bottom. The game part consists of spinning a spinner to see how many squeezes you get on your turn.

Okay. Let’s be brutally honest here. There’s no decisions to make in this game. You just do what the spinner tells you to. The whole point of the game is justify a pooping dog toy.

And while that doesn’t offend or bother me, it really doesn’t interest me.

However, it is a hilarious to a four-year-old. And I guess it gives him practice taking turns and counting. And it’s a game that he asks to play and I want him having practice asking to play games.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Almost New Year’s Eve gaming

For a while, I was in a Skype game of old school Marvel Superheroes. Time commitments made it too difficult for me to stay but I get invited when they have one-shots. And I managed to make a special, almost-the-end-of-the-year, game on December 30th.

The basic plot of the one-shot was that the UN was sending a group of heroes to an another dimension to retrieve the board of Mys-Tech, a bunch of evil wizards from the Warhead comic book (which I never read and knew nothing about)

While most of my time playing the old Marvel system was spent in homebrew campaigns, Dennis runs his game nominally in the Marvel universe. When he runs one-shots, he just lets us pick from an appropriate group of previously established Marvel characters. 

This time, he gave us a selection of Avengers, Alpha Flight members and other international heroes. Looking through the list, I immediately saw *the* choice: Devil Dinosaur! A later creation of Jack Kirby, Devil is a mutant Tyrannosaurus Rex who has bright red skin and the intelligence of a high school sophomore (to steal a line from Roger Zelazny) 

The rest of the team consisted of Skaar, son of the Hulk, Talisman and Havok (who was easily the least obscure character in the bunch, at least until Devil Dinosaur gets his own movie)

Short version of how things went: Talisman teleported the team right into the board room and we stomped on them until they were dead (Marvel has a pretty strict moral code but Devil Dinosaur is flexible about who people are), in traction or surrendered. Dennis figured the UN would send in overwhelming force and that’s pretty much what we were. The goal wasn’t a high drama, desperate fight but a total romp.

Devil Dinosaur was a great choice for a fun, slightly silly game. For spoken dialogue, I just said the word ‘roar’ while typing in chat Bertie Wooster-like comments ‘Dash it all, that’s dirty pool, old bean!’ And knowing that I had poor psyche and couldn’t handle any magic attacks on my mind, I jumped over the mooks to just literally stomp on the squishy mages. Proved to be a successful strategy.

Back in the Midwest, I used to spend New Year’s board gaming until I dropped. Small child doesn’t lend itself to that. However, playing this game felt like a tribute to that tradition.

Good times.