Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Looking forward to more nine card games

I just saw that the 2019 Nine-Card PnP contest has been announced. And that has me pretty excited.

I enjoy crafting PnP games (and playing them can be fun too) The act of making them  can be very therapeutic and relaxing. But I’m also a pretty lazy crafter. Nine-card game are right up my wheelhouse. That’s something I can done in one sitting.

And there are some solid games in that nine-card range, something I would not have believed a few years ago. Cunning Folk was my watershed game in that regard, also giving me something I’d been looking for, a Coup-like experience that works for two people.

Since then, I’ve found nine-card PnP games that I would genuinely recommend to anyone. Bomb Squad #9 and Pocket Landship and Orchard are particular highlights. An easy to make PnP library that fits in a pocket.

As I said earlier, the contest, along with the mini-PnP Secret Santa, has gotten me excited about PnP. And I could use some enthusiasm. Life has been busier and it’s been harder for me to find the time and enthusiasm. (And lets be honest. If I had the enthusiasm, I’d figure out how to make the time.)

And also to be fair, I expected to have some burnout since I made a lot of PnPs during the front half of the year. It’s only natural for there to be some ebb and flow and its really time to try and get back into the game.

I feel like the quality of PnP games just keeps getting better. I’ve already mentioned Orchard, last years winner. That is a game that is an example of a good game that just happens to be nine cards. I have high hopes for the coming contest.

Monday, November 26, 2018

You werewolves get off of my lawn!

Okay. I have had one of my worst grumpy, cranky old gamer moments. So far.

I saw a box the size of Ticket to Ride called Ultimate Werewolf Legacy that cost $60. Why, back in my day, we played Werewolf with eighteen cards pulled from a regular deck of cards and we only had three roles. Werewolves, one seer and a bunch of villagers. And none of this one night business either. We went night after night until everyone was dead. AND WE LIKED IT!

(Well, we did.)

Seriously, we have gone from a public domain game that uses a few cards from a regular deck of cards and takes fifteen minutes or so to a good-sized box that apparently plays out a campaign in five one-hour sessions. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. It might be a very good thing. But it is a mind-boggling thing.

At some point, I really should at least try One Night Werewolf. Although, I am scared that once I try it, I’ll never be able be able to go back :D

Friday, November 23, 2018

This seems fitting on Black Friday

I am a game hoarder. In some respects, I am a recovering game hoarder. I’ve done a massive purge of my collection over the course of the last few years. And I have heavily curtailed my game buying as well. 

While that ultimately emotionally satisfying to an amazing degree, it was initially driven by the practical needs of marriage and parenthood. If you’re stacking games in the kitchen, you might have a problem. 

There were two questions I had to ask when purging. Is this game good or, preferably, great? Is this game going to actually see any kind of regular play? And, as it turns out, the second question turned out to be the more important one.

I’ve been thinking about some games that I thought were really good games but also games I just didn’t see myself playing for one reason or another. I feel Cape Horn is a unique and interesting race game but, even when I had a group that got together one or twice a week, it didn’t get played. Australia has some neat twists on area control, fighting over the borders not the areas, but it also just didn’t get replayed.

I got to be honest, there are a lot of games that I know I just want to play once to get the experience. You can only try and master so many games after all. 

Honestly, thats what conventions and other gaming events are for. Well, in addition to playing longer games and meeting people and buying games and getting away from it all. But buying every game you want to look at leads to huge stacks of games that get one play at best.

In the end, the most important reason to own a game is to play it, not to have it on your shelf.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Easing up a bit on micro games

My obsession with micro games has waned in some respects in 2018. I still think they are the bee’s knees and the cat’s pajamas but I’m not as fixated on them.

While I still am between regular gaming groups, I’ve made a point to go to more local gaming events. Micro games are ideal for random pick-up games but more of my face-to-face gaming has been more structured with more time and space available. Micro games have become less a part of my face-to-face gaming, as opposed to being kind of the center of it.

I realized this when I realized that the Pack O Games line of games wasn’t the gaming franchise I am most excited about :D I still think that they are an amazing exploration of the micro game space and I will snatch up any new games that come out but they aren’t the focus of my gaming.

The exception for this is PnP, particularly solitaire PnP games. I am a lazy PnP guy so I have gravitated to making micro games. They’re easy to make! And most of my solitaire play is short, mental coffee breaks so micro games really work there as well.

Now, one of the milestones of my gaming life was Pico 2. Made well before micro games were cool, eleven cards, five minutes to teach and play, full of tension. Pico 2 lived in my work bag for years, a game I could play anywhere and teach to just about anyone.

There is real value in micro games and, in the time since Love Letter, I have seen a lot of innovation and exploration with the form. I still think they are an important part of the hobby.

However, at the moment, I have found myself playing on bigger spaces.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A mild slump

I have hit a bit of a slump in my gaming life. 

After a very active September, October was really not much. Not much in the way of face-to-face gaming. Not much in the way of learning new games. Not much in the way of making Print and Plays. Not much in the way of blogging. And, while I made a point of getting in at least a little bit of solitaire play in every day, it was pretty much just what’s become my old standards.

And that’s just life. October was busy with real life and real life has to take precedence. I’ve had gaming buddies who’d disagree with that but it’s served me well.

Truth to tell, I’ve had far worse slumps. There have been times in past jobs when I would stop all gaming altogether except for logging on to the Button Man site once a day. I’ve still been logging on to Yucata and playing the odd hand of Onirim.

More than that, since I’ve embraced exploring PnP solitaire games, 2018 has seen a lot more gameplay for me than the past few years. This particular slump would have been a bonanza a year ago. Which makes me feeling like I’m in a slump particularly hilarious.

But it did give me something to blog about :D

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

I need soap operas with my super heroes

With Stan Lee’s passing and my own love of gaming, I’ve found myself thinking about super hero games.

Now, it may be because I haven’t played Sentinels of the Multiverse (I have friends who swear by it and even cosplay about it) but I have not yet played a board game that captured the feel of a comic book/ super hero for me. Oh, I’ve had lots of fun with them but they haven’t  made me feel like I was living a super hero story.

Mind you, that’s because a key element of the genre for me is the soap opera, something that Stan Lee made a major part of comic books. (Seriously, the definition of Spider-Man is him worrying about the bills and Aunt May’s fiftieth operation while wrestling Doctor Octopus) The fights are all very well but they are only one layer of the chocolate cake.

Which is why my best super hero experiences in gaming have consistently been through role playing games. In particular (and appropriately, given that Stan Lee has put me on this train of thought), the old Marvel Super Heroes Role Playing Game. Good old FASERIP.

At the time, FASERIP seemed almost too simple to be a real RPG to us, seeing as how it really boiled down to one chart. Now, I have a much greater understanding of how that simplicity makes the system great. By not having to focus on rule mastery, we were able to focus more on story telling. Of course, we had to supply our own soap operas but we’d all read Chris Claremont’s X-Men so we were able to do that.

My old Marvel GM has recommended Masks to me for a super hero game that really explores story telling. I’ll have to look into that.

Let’s face it. Super Heroes are, at the end of day, about specific characters and their stories. And role playing games are great at that.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Excelsior and good night

Stan Lee is dead.

And his life was a big deal.

Now, let me state this at the start. Stan Lee couldn’t have done anything that he is famous for without the help of a lot of other people. Jack Kirby deserves at least as much credit for more characters than I can lift offhand and Steve Ditko was crucial to Spider-Man existing (Okay, and Doctor Strange). And I do believe his skill at self-promotion had as much to do with his success as his skill at writing.

Okay. Disclaimer done. Because I don’t think Kirby and Ditko and everyone else could have created the Marvel Universe without Stan Lee. He may not have created it all by himself but Stan Lee was a key part of the puzzle. Stan Lee had the help of the right people at the right time but he was the right person too. If you took Stan Lee out of the equation, comic books and super heroes wouldn’t be remotely what they are today.

Stan Lee didn’t invent continuity or interconnected stories or flawed heroes or heroes who had normal people problems but he definitely did a lot to help refine them and make them part of our comic book/ super hero language.

And, with the pretty much unbelievable success of the Marvel Ciniverse, as well as success of some of the X-Men movies and Spider-Man movies, the influence and the importance of Stan Lee’s work is actually growing. He is a bigger thing than he was a decade ago.

And when just about anyone you’d ask in the world can tell you who Spider-Man or Iron Man or the Hulk or the Black Panther are. That’s pretty amazing. Stan Lee has had cultural impact that is growing and growing.

95 is an amazing run but, darn, I’m going to miss him.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

The evolving world of Barnes and Noble’s game shelf

Every time I wander into a Barnes and Noble, I like to take a look at their game section. That’s honestly only three or four times a year, so  there always seems to be some changes.

I remember when I first saw Catan at Barnes and Noble and being amazed at seeing it outside of a game store. The store has come a long ways since then.

Back when I first started looking at designer games, there was only one game store that was even vaguely convenient for me to get to. (That was Games Plus in Mount Prospect, IL, in case you’re curious) And they were mostly focused on RPGs and wargames. (Their wall of lead miniatures was a thing of awe for me) When I first went, they had one table of board games. A table of wonder, since my only other options were online or cons.

They had quite a few more board games the last time I was there but the selection you can now find at Barnes and Noble is much larger than the best store I could find fifteen years ago. Although I have also seen game stores this year that had fewer games than Barnes and Noble.

I will say that I feel like I am seeing how board games are breaking further into the mainstream when I see the strategy shelf at Target. I feel like Barnes and Noble is where publishers are testing limits for the market. It has more of a boutique feel.

This time, what surprised me the most was seeing Perplext’s Pack o Game line. While I am a big fan, I was not expecting to those games at a non-game store. I hope this means Perpext is doing well since I’d like to see a third set get developed.

Barnes and Noble isn’t my choice for brick and mortar store but it is always educational.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

I couldn’t escape Bingo

Thanks to Halloween, our son has now been introduced to Bingo. He enjoyed several games in a row and I’m sure that Bingo will come out again in the near future.

Now, you might expect this to be the big where I say, after years of scorn for Bingo, I say that it’s not that bad a game. I’ve been through that with Mastermind after our son got interesting in that. Nope, sorry. Bingo violates one of the most crucial parts of being a game in my eyes. 

There are no decisions.

Okay, there are two decisions. Am I actually going to play Bingo and how many Bingo sheets am I going to use? After that, you are basically just keeping a record of what gets drawn. 

I will admit that Bingo does have some uses for me personally right now. It is an activity that has our preschooler sitting quietly for and helps him practice pattern recognition, which is a good skill for gaming and in general.

However, at best, it is a springboard board for much better activities. Games like Take It Easy or Karuba or Rise of Augustus use some of the core concepts of Bingo but add very real choices, making them at least a hundred times better. Even versions of Road Trip Bingo are better since they practice observational skills.

Oh, I’ll be okay with playing Bingo regularly over the next few years. It’s part of the journey. But I’ll be dreaming of Take It Easy while I do it.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Echidna Shuffle - too cute for words

Echidna Shuffle. It’s a kids game where the most adorable plastic echidnas ever haul bugs around a traffic roundabout.

At its heart, the game is a pick-up-and-deliver game. Each player has to pick up three insects in their own color from a pick-up spot they place on the board and deliver them to three different tree stumps (also in their color) that their opponents place.

None of the twelve echidnas belong to anyone. Anyone can move any of them on their turn, even if their carrying someone else’s insect. The clever bit with movement is that, every odd round, you roll a die that’s numbered two to seven. On the even turns, you move the flip side of what you rolled the previous turn so everyone gets nine moves over the course of two turns. And you can split up the movement points over any number of echidnas.

Anyway, whoever delivers their three insects first wins.

There is no way to talk about Echidna Shuffle without talking about the components. They are fabulous. The chunky plastic echidnas are the size of a child’s fist and as cute as 3/4 of a Winnie the Pooh. (That silly old bear sets a really high bar) As someone who is colorblind, I like that the insects aren’t just different colors but different distinct species. I can see someone buying the game just for the toys and not to play.

The game reminds me a lot of Bruno Faduiti’s China Moon, the game where frogs make a bouquet for a duck. (Honestly, one of the weirder themes that didn’t come from James Ernst.) While players have their own pawns, anyone can move any pawn. 

Now, I think that China Moon is the deeper game and one I’d rather play with adults, I think Echidna Shuffle is the better game for kids. In fact, I think it will prove a very good game for kids. It is very simple but it offers real choices and decisions. It’s not an activity but a genuine game.

That said, I think it will only work for adults as a very casual game. I know adult players who would focus on blocking other players rather than making deliveries. And I think that would work as far as frustrating folks plans. Not sure it would let them win unless everyone else rage quits but it wouldn’t be fun.

But we do have a small child so Echidna Shuffle is a game I am very seriously picking up. The toy factor is a huge part of its appeal but there is a decent kids game underneath all those toys.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

My October PnP

Okay. Here’s what I made in October. Micropul. Yup. Just one game and not even a particularly big one. 

It’s not that I have either lost interest in crafting print and plays or that I have lost interest in playing them. October just ended up being a very, very busy month for us. Not a bad month, just a busy one. And one of the rules I have developed in the recent years is that real life always comes first.

This is not the first time I have made a copy of Micropul. At the very least, it’s the fourth copy I’ve made over the years. I made my first one back in 2005. This time, I made a copy with the plain, basic art but larger tiles. If the game still holds up, I’ll probably end up making one of the fancier versions.

I know November will be a more craft heavy month for me. At the very least, I’m planning working ahead in case there is another mini  PnP Secret Santa this year. And if there isn’t, I might send some friends some PnPs as Christmas gifts :D