Monday, January 20, 2020

Can a gamer live on PnP alone?

I think one of the questions that you have to ask about PnP games is ‘Can you have a fulfilling game closet with nothing but PnP games?’ I have no intention of getting rid of my actually published games but if I washed up on a desert island with nothing but an internet connection, a laser printer and a ton of crafting supplies, could I be happy?

Wow, I have just come up with the least marketable sequel to Castaway. Particularly since a gaming group apparently washed up on the other side of the island for me to play with. The analogy might be getting a little carried away.

There are three questions I feel like you have to ask in order to determine if a game collection can be nothing but PnP games. Is there enough variety out there? How much trouble is it going to take to make them? Can you get other people to play them?

The answer to the first questions is a blatant yes. There are hundreds of PnP games out there in every genre imaginable. If all you want to play is train games and war games and you don’t mind paying for the files, you will die happy and contented. (Yeah, I should have included food and water in my desert island scenario)

Building them... that’s tougher. Here’s the thing. There’s games where you just print the board and add pawns. There are Roll and Writes that you just need to print out the playing sheets. There are some nine card games that are worth playing. There are easy builds that are still good games. If you really want to, you will work your way your up. If you want to, you will build.

Question number three... I think that’s the really big one. It’s not for nothing that a lot of my PnP builds are either straight solitaire games or can be played solitaire. And I have read that designers will intentionally include solitaire options even if a game isn’t a pure solitaire because that greatly increases the chances of getting play testers.

Let’s be honest. The quality of components can make a real difference in whether or not folks are willing to play a game or not. I have made games by printing them on copy paper with a scissors. (Admittedly, the last one was a game where you rip pieces off of the game) But I don’t think I could get anyone interested in a game that looks like that.

And, no, I’m not unique in my interest in prototypes and experimental games and chrome not being a deal breaker. But I feel a game collection should be accommodating. So you have to up your crafting game.

Yeah, you can have a PnP-alone collection but it will take some elbow grease.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Dunsany Dreams 15

The Happy Laughter of Children 

All the children remembered the puppet man, who would come to the village green every spring with his bag of puppets. There, on the grass and behind the curtain, he would speak with a funny voice and make the puppets come to life.

In some ways, the stories were always the same. Punch was the light-hearted murderer who could outwit even the devil. At the same time, the stories were ever-changing. The broad strokes remained the same but the details changed with every show.

And, oh, how the children would laugh with every swing of the club, laugh at every snap of the alligator’s jaws. As the puppets danced and the silly voices piped through the curtains, the children would laugh.

And oh, how the children still laughed when the puppet man’s body was found floating and rotting in the river. 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

I _finally_ try Qwixx

A few years ago, I made a homemade copy of Qwixx. Then I found an unopened thrift copy and picked that up. So, of course, I don’t actually get around to playing it until I buy the app :P

In a sentence, Qwixx felt to me like Lost Cities the Dice Game. And I know there is actually more than one version of that game officially and unoffically out there. I’ve played some of them. Still, Qwixx captured that idea very well for me, perhaps better than those other games.

Over the last couple years, I’ve started really exploring Roll and Writes. I’ve learned that that can have it’s a form that can have depth and complexity and really embrace theme. A Roll and Write can tell a story and have the oomph of a game with lots of pieces. 

Qwixx so does not fit into that box. This is a simple game with no theme that’s all about the numbers. It’s all about the bell-shaped curve of two six-sided dice.

But that is not me bashing it. Quite the opposite, this is a very good game. It is a very simple game but simple doesn’t mean that the game is either bad or was easy to design. In this case, simple means they pared the decisions down to the absolute basic concept. And it works.

Qwixx is just about the opposite of everything I’ve been exploring in Roll and Writes. It has no theme. It has no dice manipulation. And it’s actually been published :P (Thanks to Kickstarter, a surprisingly high number of designs don’t remain unpublished) You just cross off numbers.

And I like it!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Starting the year with a Roll and Write

The first game I’ve learned in 2020 has been Blankout, a roll and write that I printed out and laminated. I enjoyed the game but this is going to be one of those yes... but reviews.

Here is Blankout in a nutshell: you’re filling out a grid with polynomials that are determined by rolling a die. In a multiplayer game, you all use the same rolls and whoever is the last person who can fit a shape in wins. If you’re playing the game as a solitaire, then your score is the number of shapes you were able to draw.

I like polynomials. I have ever since I first discovered Blokus at basically the start of my board gaming life or maybe when I discovered Tangrams before that. They let you play with space and patterns. And drawing shapes and Roll and Write go well together. The core concept of Blankout is great.


This is far from the first time I’ve seen the idea used. Discounting non-Roll-and-Write games like FITS, I have still played games like Mosiax or 13 Sheep or Bentoblocks and that’s just scratching the surface of polynomial Roll and Writes I’ve seen or heard of.

And Blankout is probably the most simplistic, most basic one I have seen. Even 13 Sheep, which was the previous placeholder for simplest before Blankout, has a more complex goal (fencing in sheep) and a little more twists (bushes that block fences)

Bentoblocks, which is the game that reminds me the most of Blankout, has dice drafting, two choices of shape per dice and competing to fill in sections of the board. In other words, Bentoblocks has more choices baked into it and is simply more interesting.

So the biggest flaw Blankout has is that there other games that are very similar and, in my opinion, better. In and of itself, it’s definitely serviceable. In a vacuum, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a cute and light little game. I will keep it in rotation and I am planning on actually making a nicer copy.

But... here’s the other thing. A lot of the games that are like it aren’t available for free. Bentoblocks isn’t anymore and, as far as I know, Blankout still is. (You can order pads of playing sheets from the designer, though) And that’s honestly no small thing. If someone asked for me a game like this or I needed a game for a youth group of some sort, Blankout would be the top of the list. (It has kicked out the previous placeholder for that, ‘Not Another One’) I can picture running games of Blankout for groups of twenty or thirty people.

Blankout isn’t the best in its class but it is a useful tool to have in your files. Glad I tried it and it will come out on occasion.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Looking back at 2019

Okay. It is time I look back and look at 2019 before I get too far into 2020.

2019 was a quiet year for me, game wise. I got in some events and some face-to-face gaming but it was mostly online board games, PnP and solitaire gaming. 

At the same time, it was an affirming year. 

Over the last few years, I have gotten more and more into Print and Play games, including Roll and Write, and solitaire games. Usually at the same time. There’s a lot of interesting solitaire PnP options out there.

2017 was when I realized both that Roll and Write games could have serious variety and depth. 2018 was when I got really, really got into Print and Play and made a lot more projects, which also included formally storing them all.

I didn’t have a major shift like either of those in 2019. Instead, I honed my PnP activities. I became more choosy about what I made (at least as long as it was more than a page in components) I worked on pacing my crafting  so I didn’t get as burnt out (although sometimes life itself got in the way) And I tried to make one larger project a month.

So, in 2019, I took steps to make PnP an ongoing part of my hobby.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

A game that takes out the Roll and is just Write

Golf! from the 2019 Print and Play Solitaire Contest was one of those print and play projects that took five minutes to print, laminate and play so, of course, I had to. One side of the page is the rules and the other is the play sheet. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

The board consists of an 18 hole golf course. With each hole, you put your dry erase maker on the tee, close your eyes and try to draw a line to hole. Your score for each hole is the number of lines you had to draw and the number of water fouls and sand pits you hit. Just like real golf, you want a low score.

It’s a slight, silly little concept that has this one redeeming quality. It is actually evocative of golf. I have played golf-themed games that use dice or cards that didn’t actually give any sense of golf. But Golf!’s playing around with physical space actually has a feel of golf. And that’s enough for me to enjoy playing the game.

Here’s the thing. I have played the exact same game only called Par-Out Golf. And, frankly, that version was better with a separate board for each hole. It has richer artwork and more complex holes.

But... I have never even seen a physical copy of Par Out Golf, just played the app which is no longer supported and the three demo pages. And if I ever saw a copy for sale, it would probably cost more than I’d be willing to pay for. Golf!, on the other hand, is readily available in its entirety and that counts for a lot.

Golf! isn’t for everybody, not for a lot folks really.  But it is fun for those who it is for and an easy little project for those folks to make.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

My December PnP

December. Wrapping up my 2019 Print and Play projects. This is what I made in December:

13 Sheep
Criss Cross
Goblin’s Breakfast
Button Men
High North - Cold War (2019 9 Card Contest, withdrawn)
Bad Letters (2019 9 Card Contest)
Word Chain (2019 9 Card Contest)
Goko no Saikoro
No Dice
Solitaire Spellbook Swapping (2019 Solitaire Contest)
Golf! (2019 Solitaire Contest)

I managed to keep up my goal of making a ‘big’ project each month by making Goblin Breakfast, which was also one of the bigger projects I made in 2019. It looks like a pretty decent Beer and Pretzels game. (At some point, I want to think about how reasonable to would be to have a collection made entirely of PnP games)

I actually made copies of 13 Sheep to include in Christmas cards, which is why I made more copies of it. I made more Button Men cards and Criss Cross plays sheets to use empty space in laminating sleeves.

Beyond that, I made a bunch of little projects that just interested me. 

2018 was the year my interest in PnP really exploded. I had made plenty of stuff before then but 2018 saw me actively not just making stuff but playing it. On the other hand, 2019 was all about honing my PnP hobby, doing more planning ahead and focusing on making games I can see getting played.