Monday, January 31, 2022

Waffle Hassle is fun but flawed

 When I was trying out Waffle Hassle, the thought that kept going through my brain was that this was a game that designed to be played on a airplane tray.

Waffle Hassle is an 18-Card micro game that’s all about stacking waffle cards with different toppings on top of each other.  There’s a two-player mode and a solitaire mode and the two are pretty different.

In the two-player mode, each player has a hidden objective card. Solitaire just has you trying to get at least two of each topping on the final board. Oh and the two-player mode has you swap hands at the end of each round. (Which is honestly the most interesting element of the game)

Either way you play the game, you use four of the cards to form a two-by-two grid that make up the entire playing area of the game. Here’s the telephone booth, here are the knives, go.

I have only played the solitaire version of the game. There are things that I like about Waffle Hassle. And there are some real concerns as well.

Okay. Let’s the the positives out of the way. While we live in an age of micro-games and an increased interest in In Hand games, I do like the minimal footprint of Waffle Hassle. If you have any kind of table space, it will work. And the solitaire game has a surprisingly strong ‘one more time’ effect.


Here’s the biggest problem.  The alingment of the fronts and the backs of some of the cards in the files I bought is off. That means that those cards are effectively marked, which would quickly become a big deal in a two-player game. And I am doing my best not to remember cards for the solitaire game.

Now, even for someone like me who isn’t super craft for computer savvy, I can come up with workarounds to solve this. I can just use a solid pattern for the backs and problem is solved. However, I do like how the backs form a grid that is the same size as the symbols on the front of the card. And, let’s be honest, this is a legitimate  production issue.

I am also concerned about how the small pool of cards will affect long term  replay value. Four of the cards are hidden objectives, leaving 14 cards that you actually play with. And four of them become the board. I think there will reach a point in which you know the deck well enough that it won’t be as interesting. I bought the files for Ukiyo at the same sale and that is a tile-laying micro game that I can already tell will have a lot more long term value in it.

All that said, I am enjoying my time with Waffle Hassle. I bought the files on sale and I am definitely going to get my money’s worth out of them. It’s got problems but it is engaging.

Friday, January 28, 2022

I arrive decades late to the Tamora Pierce party

 Tamora Pierce is an author famous for her young adult fantasy. Her work goes back to 1983, meaning that she was doing this stuff way before Harry Potter. She has been nominated and won awards. She is regarded as one of the folks who defined the modern fantasy heroine.


Seriously. I should have been reading her stuff for decades. I could have been reading her instead of Piers Anthony!

I stumbled across her when I was trying to look up Defender of the Small by Jody Lynn Nye (which is about some cats hiring a mercenary. It’s super cute) and found Protector of the Small.

After I started the first book in that series, I then discovered that it was actually the ninth book in her Tortall books and there were two series published before the Protector of the Small. Yeah, there are some spoilers but I’ll go back and read them later.

Protector of the Small is about Kel, the first girl who _officially_ goes through the training to become a knight in Tortall. (Yeah, unofficial is another story. Literally) The plot of the first book is literally boilerplate coming of age story. There were so little surprises that that was the surprising part.

But the writing and characterization are both excellent. First Test kept me cheerfully reading away to the end.

While Kel has her quirks and flaws, she was brawny and brilliant enough that I had to ask if she was a Mary Sue. My conclusion was that she wasn’t. It would take someone actually extraordinary to break through the glass ceilings she has to go through.

I am going to finish the Protector of the Small series. Then, I’m going read more Tamora Pierce.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

TV Tropes got me to read another webcomic

 Looking up a visual reference about poor handwriting on TV Tropes has led me to archive binging a webcomic called Sleepless Domain. Which is how TV Tropes works. I end up reading new series of books by clicking on random media and then I see something I want to follow up on.

It’s been a while since I’ve tried a new webcomic though. If Sleepless Domain reliably updates, I do intend to add it to my regulars. I’m halfway through the archive and still having fun.

Sleepless Domain is a relatively gentle deconstruction of the Magic Girl genre. While it clearly has the potential to get dark and serious, Rick Veitch’s Brat Pack is my benchmark for dark and edgy deconstructions so I’m holding to calling this gentle.

Okay, spoiler time 





Sleepless Domain takes place in a nameless city that is protected from a seemingly endless nightmarish monsters by some kind of force field and magic girls. The city is so isolated that it may be the last human stronghold in the world and yet it resembles a modern city. (I actually wonder if the pre-monster world was incredibly advanced and this represents a setting of scarcity)

And when I say magic girls, I mean straight up Sailor Moon style magic girls. Well, to the best of my knowledge since all I know about Sailor Moon comes from pop culture osmos. Teenage girls turn into super powered versions of themselves, complete with costumes. They are even called magic girls in the story.

Even more spoilers



Okay, after we get introduced to a team of magic girls, most of them get killed in the second chapter. The apparent protagonist loses her powers saving the last member of the team, water-powered Undine.

Basically, as far as my pool of references is concerned, it was like Applejack, Rarity, Pinky Pie and Rainbow Dash got killed, Twilight Sparkle lost all her powers and Fluttershy is the only one left to figure out what to do next.

Wait? Does that mean My Little Pony:Friendship is Magic Girl show? If that’s the case, I know a lot more about the magic girl genre than I thought.

On the one hand, Sleepless Domain makes it very clear that the magic girls are child soldiers. The setting does seem to justify it because powers go away when you reach adulthood so the city needs middle schoolers to fight the monsters. But they are still child soldiers and they clearly do die.

On the other hand, Undine really is like Fluttershy. Despite being extremely self-depreciating (even before the survivor guilt), she is also incredibly sweet and always wants to help people. There is definitely a hopeful vibe running through the story. Of course, this will make the inevitable bad stuff more painful.

There are a lot of questions clearly ahead. How do the magic girls get created? What is the apparently the evil being who killed Undine’s friends and what is their relationship to Undine? Will Undine and Heartful Punch fall in love? (Sleepless Domain is very LGBTQ friendly which I like) 

The setting and the plot and character development are all good enough to keep me reading.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Creative Kids Roll and Writes part one

 As I’ve written before, I backed and received Radoslaw Ignatow’s Creative Kid bundle last year. It consists of fourteen games but my personal focus is on the eight Roll and Writes. That’s because that’s what I’m going to play on my own and that’s what I’m mostly likely to use in the classroom. 

(Honestly, I don’t think I’ll be running any of these games in the classroom but I can dream.  And watch me be wrong about what games would work or get played :D)

These are short and simple games. I wanted a happy medium between spending a blog each on them and giving them one paragraph so I’m reviewing them two at a time, in the order I tried them.

Doggy Race

Doggy Race is a mixture of Roll and Move with Set Collection. The game consists of a track made of three different symbols. Each turn, two side are rolled. Each player picks a die and ‘moves’ that many spaces, crossing off the space where you land on so you can keep track of where you are and what spaces you’ve collected.

Each space is worth one to three points and you gain bonus points for collecting X number of symbols and reaching the end point first. (The rules don’t say what happens if there’s a tie for reaching the end point first. I’d houserule that it doesn’t get awarded) Most points wins.

Honestly, Doggy Race is easily the weakest game that I’ve tried. And it all comes down to the fact that the decision tree is very narrow. Unlike many shared-die roll games, I think players will  end up with identical boards. Either race for the end or go as slowly as possible to claim the most spaces. I honestly wonder if adding a third die would help to give players more choices to pursue the bonuses.

Doggy Race’s issues come down to the basic issues that come from Roll and Write in general. I can’t see using it for a full classroom but I can see using it for a smaller group of younger students because familiarity with Roll and Write will make it easier to teach.

My Farm

You use a dice pool to draw animals on a grid, draw fences around them and raise the value of types of animals. At the end of the game, you earn points for fenced in animals and most points wins.

Look, drawing stuff on a grid is a staple of Roll and Writes. And My Farm is one of the simplest ones I’ve seen that uses a dice pool. Heck, as long as you put the same type of animals together in the same pen, it doesn’t matter where you draw things.

As a gamer, there are a lot of similar games mid pick first for my own entertainment or a gamer group’s entertainment, including Ignatow’s earlier Alpakaland.

But, if I have just an hour to teach and I know some students have never seen a dice pool before, My Farm is a game I’d be looking at. These dice are the money you can spend each turn. You can buy farm animals, fences and upgrades. Any questions?

My Farm really fits the mission statement, a game for a classroom or other group setting.


I’ll be honest. These are not the strongest games in the collection. I’ll probably play them recreationally less than the other Roll and Write games in the collection. But they do have their place and uses.

Friday, January 21, 2022

When a game is literally a puzzle

 The first entry I tried from the 2022 In Hand Contest was a game called 3 Triangle. Because I just had to.

The consists of three double-sided triangular cards. The sides of the cards have different actions symbols that let you flip, rotate and rearrange the cards. The goal is to arrange the points in different arrangements. White triangles numbered 1-2-3, stuff like that.

I mean, seriously, how could I not try that?

This is at least the third time I’ve seen what amounts to a Rubiks cube as a card game. The other two times are Simple Card (whose rules I’m still not sure I’ve figured out) and Thin Cube. I have a feeling that there are more but those are the first ones that came to mind.

There’s a thin line between a lot of solitaire games and puzzles. But all three of these examples fall solidly into the puzzle side of the line.

I have come to this amazingly original and cunning definition of a puzzle. A game is actually a puzzle if doing the exact same thing always has the exact same result. I regularly play Take It Easy as a solitaire. And it’s constantly different. Thin Cube, on the other hand, has set solutions.

3 Triangles may not yet be finalized so it’s not ready for a proper review. And while it can be randomized beyond the six built-in puzzles, I suspect it has limited replay. But since it consists of three low-ink cards, that’s not a big deal. It has made me realize I like puzzles more when they have game elements.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Mario Kart: because life is serious

 We used Christmas as an excuse to introduce our son to the world of Mario Kart. Which had the same result as introducing him to chocolate or French fries. Instant hit.

Someone once described Prince of Tennis as Dragonball Z as middle-school tennis and taken up to eleven. Well, Mario Kart is Dragon Ball Z as go kart racing and kept at ten. (Because Prince of Tennis is INSANE)

Mario Kart combines go kart racing and open warfare and drops the cast of the Mario franchise (and now some other Nintendo characters) It is silly and frenetic and random as all get out.

I am aware that there are some very realistic, very detailed racing simulators out there. Because I am one of those people who actually reads the editorials in Penny Arcade. Mario Kart is the opposite end of the spectrum. Even gravity is optional (although physics is always required) 

I am pretty sure that the video game that I logged the most hours on is Animal Crossing. Mario Kart, while it has a vastly faster tempo, fulfills a similar function for me. It is decompressing. I know some folks take it very seriously but the fact that I don’t have to is very nice.

Mario Kart is not as insane as the Smash Bros franchise because that is a mascot explosion. However, I honestly think it’s more casual gamer friendly. It has found a happy home in our home.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Judging the Magic Tree House books

 I have been looking for reading material to encourage our son to read and one series that was recommended to me by multiple sources was the Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne. So I’ve read the first few books by the power of my library card.

Here’s the elevator pitch. Brother and sister Jack and Annie Smith discover a tree house full of books. By using pictures in the books, they can travel through time and space via the tree house. And, since I read the Wikipedia page, I know they get powerful magical patrons as the series goes on.

I haven’t done a comprehensive study of chapter books for the young but the Magic Treehouse books seem a cut above what I remember reading back when Fred Flintstone lived down the street. The sentence structure is solid. The books don’t talk down to kids. And they are theoretically educational, particularly if your kids read the supplemental non-fiction books.

Of course, reading it as an adult, the plots are remarkably simple and simplistic. The characterization consists of a motivation and a couple quirks. Indeed, both kids show what would be suicidally poor judgement in what would be even slightly more serious setting. Judy Bloom herself couldn’t justify the kids surviving. But all of that is par for the course for this genre.

What has actually struck me as both a pro and a con is that the books are broken down into arcs. And, after the taken the half hour to read the first arc (thanks again, library), it felt particularly like one book had been sliced into four pieces.

Now, if I am able to get our son to try the books, having them come in bite-sized chunks will make them a lot more approachable for him. The books being less intimidating may be a big deal. But, if I’m not getting them from the library, that means the books will cost four times as much :D

While I do enjoy reading young adult literature, and even some juvenile literature, these books aren’t enough to interest me. However, I’d be happy if our son has read a shelf of them by this time next year.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Wow, that’s a very specific design contest

 When I first really started looking at Print and Play, there were only a couple different design contests. Like solitaire or just print and play. Now there are design contests that are just about a mechanic!

That said, the fact that there is a ‘In Hand’ design contest was pretty amazing to me. Yes, I love me some In Hand games. Games where I don’t even have to worry about a clip board, let alone a table top? Now that’s convenience!

I just didn’t realize that there were enough people like me to make a contest like this viable!

And maybe this contest will be a step in my dream of finding the Palm Island killer. Not that I don’t like Palm Island. I adore Palm Island. I just think that it can’t be the ultimate In Hand game. (Portal Dragon is creating Palm Laboratory so maybe it will be it :D )

The submission deadline is February 24 and voting deadline is May 31 so there’s still some time for games to show up. Maybe I’ll actually be able to do some play testing feedback like I keep telling myself I should do.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Why PnP is not shovelware

 I finally decided to look up what Shovelware actually meant. (Huh. Spellcheck has Shovelware as a word)

It’s actually even worse than I thought.

Shovelware means shoddy video games designed to make a quick buck. The name comes from the idea of shoveling cheap, buggy ware onto a disk. It’s the lowest common denominator of digital gaming.

And I heard the voices of some of my gaming snob friends ask me if that was any different than the quirky PnP prototypes that I look at all the time.

And the answer is that PnP prototypes are actually the complete opposite of Shovelware.

Shovelwares are cheap, lazy efforts at making a quick buck. No one is making a prototype to make a quick buck. Someone is actually taking time and effort, possibly passion and love, into making them.  They might be quirky and flawed but someone wanted them to be real.

More than that, one of the defining characteristics of shovelware is that there pretty much nothing new to them. I’m not saying every prototype is trying to create something new but it’s definitely a part of the idea.

The world of PnP is not a dingy bargain bin of rubbish product. It’s a mad artists community.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Starting off the year with Dungeon Roll

 I honestly view it as kind of insane on my part but I like to have the first book I read or the first game I play in a new year to be good. It doesn’t have to be the best of the year but I try to avoid garbage.

When I realized I was actively avoiding trying out prototypes and such so they wouldn’t be the first game I learned in 2022, I decided I’d better hurry up and get a game I thought would be good learned. So I learned Dungeon Roll on Board Game Arena. 

Short version: it’s not garbage.

Dungeon Roll is a dungeon crawl built around dice. Which tells you absolutely nothing. There are probably, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating, hundreds of games that fit that description. Heck, I could describe Dungeons and Dragons like that.

The core mechanic of Dungeon Roll is that you are managing a pool of white dice while the dungeon is an increasing number of black dice that give you monsters to fight and treasure to loot.

And here is the clever bit: you get a hero card that gives you a couple special powers. More than that, it can get leveled up for better powers. In all honesty, that’s the best part of the game for me. The heroes give you your variety and more interesting decisions.

At first, I thought the game was mindless dice chucking and it was all luck. However, there are some ways you can manage your luck and your dice pool. I do think bad die rolls can easily override your decisions but I’ve been having enough fun that I don’t care. 

It’s really the bells and whistles that will keep me playing Dungeon Roll. The core mechanic isn’t that interesting for me but I want to try out all the hero cards and see what tricks I can pull. The parts are bigger than the sum :P

Two games that I kept thinking about while learning Dungeon Roll were Balloon Pop and Deep Space D6. I learned both of them the month before so they were fresh on my mind.

A big reason why Balloon Pop comes to my mind is I also just learned it via Board Game Arena. It’s a push your luck game with the twist that every time you reroll, you add a new dice. Which, if I am doing my figuring right, actually decreases the odds of getting what you want. I’ve read about some people who felt Dungeon Roll was too light but it’s a boulder compared to Balloon Pop. Balloon Pop is what you pull out when folks want to play LCR.

Deep Space D6 is another narrative genre game, only this one is science fiction. I think it is more balanced and more immersive than Dungeon Roll. Watching after the health of your space ship give Deep Space D6 a strong focus. The dice change but the ship is constant. Hero cards are a source of special powers in Dungeon Roll but the ship is your character in Dungeon Roll. Of course, Deep Space D6 is solitaire only.

Dungeon Roll isn’t going to be the best game I learn this year. It is pretty light and it has some real flaws. But I am going to keep playing it and having fun with it. So a good start to the year.

Friday, January 7, 2022

All right, all right, New Years resolutions

 Yeah, yeah. New Year so New Year’s resolutions.

And, yes, I want to exercise more and eat better but that’s not really in the pervue of this blog.

My standard goals of learning a new game and making one ‘big’ PnP project a month stand. And big basically just means around three pages. I make mostly micro games but something big enough that a publisher would publish counts. 

I already had a goal of reading at least one major book a month but I might as well make it formal. Let’s use the word challenging to describe that kind of book. And it can’t be a reread. I really ought to reread Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino and I’m sure it will be challenging the second time around but it’s not the same thing. (Really should get around to actually reading his If On A Winter Night’s A Traveler)

Oh, okay. Let’s make some game related resolutions.

You know what? I should try and play the full Bargain Basement Bathysphere campaign. I’ve played the first few boards and had fun. And each individual board  should be a quick play. I think. I’ve been good and not peeked.

I also want to finish learning all of the Legends of Dsyx games and all of Radoslaw Ignatow’s roll and write games. Which isn’t a hard goal. I just need to sit down in the mood to do it :D

But, hey, Bargain Basement Bathysphere is a good goal.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

There is a social obligation to do a ‘best of’ post

 Well, it’s not a new year without a best of last year list. Or commentary. Something like that.

The best books I read in 2021 were the first two books in the Locked Tomb Trilogy, Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth. The world building is wild, the character are terribly flawed but sympathetic and the plot is interesting. Allegedly, the next book should wrap everything up. That’s a lot to do and I really hope that Tamsyn Muir sticks the landing.

(I see that there’s actually a fourth book announced. Well, actually, a book in between book two and what was going to be book three :D The more the merrier!)

My audio/visual media viewing was kind of all over the place. My list of stuff I wanted watch exceeds what I actually did watch. I’m going to go with Loki. It was like the MCU decided to become Doctor Who. Two great tastes that go great together. (Our family also really enjoyed Encanto. My head cannon is that the house is a damaged TARDIS, since I’ve already mentioned Doctor Who)

While we had a lot of fun with both Animal Crossing New Horizons and Mario Kart, they weren’t new to me in 2021. So the video game that makes the list is Cozy Grove, the peaceful game of helping friendly ghosts. Yes, after we finished the story, we were pretty much done with it but we got months of distraction out of it before then.

Actual board games… 

Well, I learned sixty or so games last year. I looked at what I learned, what I liked and how many plays I actually got in. In no particular order, these are what I’m going to say were the three best games for me:

Clever Cubed - the clever family has been good to me. The first one is still my favorite but Clever Cube simultaneously pushed the system while making me feel like I had some control.

Yard Builder- a simple Roll and Write that I find so relaxing. I don’t know if it is good from a mechanical standpoint but it got me through some stressful times.

Deep Space D6- a late entry but a game that that just really caught my interest. Bad die rolls can destroy you but I really enjoy the narrative it creates. 

While something has to be best on every list, these bests are good.

Monday, January 3, 2022

My December Gaming, which is basically Dicember

 Okay. Here we go. My Dicember wrap up.

Short version: I was able to complete all three levels of the Dicember challenge. All in all, I played fifty-two different dice games and it least one a day.

Long version: Sometimes it was a grind and some of the games I revisited were even worse than I remembered. But, all in all, I had fun and it added some focus to a December that was pretty crazy.

More than that, I ended up learning ten dice games I hadn’t played before. (Hence the learn part) The only one that wasn’t fun was designed to be an experiment to explore precise die rolling so it wasn’t really meant to be fun :P

On the other end of the spectrum, I learned Deep Space D6, which basically made  my top five games I learned in 2021 list. The narrative elements of the game override the random factor.

If I were to do it again (and I’d be willing to of next December permits), I’d make two lists. One of longer games is like to play and one of shorter games to play if I don’t want the time to play a longer game.

Any regrets? Yeah, there are games that I had figured I’d play but things just didn’t work out. 30 Rails, Bargain Basement Bathysphere, Utopia Engine, Welcome to Dino World and others. I almost didn’t get to play Hall of the Dwarven King and I used it as my marker for the challenge!

(I also meant to get in a play of A Thousand Years of Blood. Not that it is a good game (it’s not) but it is completely insane and I like to call attention to it)

That said, I think it says something that December was my craziest month in 2021 and I was still able to participate in Dicember. I think that says a lot about what dice can do.

PS: Oh, the non-dice game I learned in December was All is Bomb. It’s fun!

Saturday, January 1, 2022

My December PnP

 December. It was a busy month, even by the standards how busy months have been this year. I still made sure to make some PnP games.

Here’s what I made:

Yard Builder, extended version 
Miseries of the Night
13 Sheep
Santa in My Pocket

Tides was my ‘big’ build for the month. The theme of beach combing for arts and crafts supplies really appeals to me. I’m looking forward to trying it out.

I made copies of 13 Sheep to include in Christmas cards. It’s honestly the best one-card game I’ve found to put with a card.

I had some laminating issues with Santa in My Pocket but it should be playable enough to try it out.

Print and Play was good to me in 2021.