Category Archives: Card Games

A Game by Any Other Name

Set a posting schedule for myself and I already broke it. I’d like to think that calling my dad for Father’s Day and spending the afternoon with a friend is a good excuse. But then last night night I have zero excuse except that Trigun has sucked me in again. I felt a little guilty… but not enough, clearly.

Saturday I made a challenge to myself: I wasn’t going to wrinkle my nose up at any game that was proposed to me, no matter what. I’ve been far too negative about other peoples’ game choices lately, which has limited who I get to play with. I also think it reflects poorly on me – it’s important to me that my gaming isn’t just about me and what I want to do, but rather about supporting community and inclusion by placing others above myself more often than not. Even if it means playing some games that certainly aren’t my top pick. As we learned with Monopoly, sometimes giving a game a second chance has its benefits.

I showed up about 40 minutes after the meetup started, which meant that everyone else was already engaged in a game when I arrived. So I parked myself at an unclaimed table, and took the opportunity to browse the rules for the Bohnanza board game. I haven’t played it yet – every time I think about playing it I decide I’d rather just play Bohnanza instead. But the fact that my eye keeps getting drawn in its direction means I should probably give it a try at some point.

While I was doing this, a pair of women I didn’t recognize walked in. They looked a bit intimidated, so I said hello, asked if they were there for board gaming, and they said yes, but actually they were hoping to play some cards. Part of me thought “Bleh, I want to keep reading these rules!” but I stuck to my agreement with myself and said I’d be happy to play – what game were they thinking of?

Melds for the seventh round: three runs
Melds for the seventh round of Shanghai Rummy: three runs

Their game of choice was a rummy variant called Shanghai, which BGG has listed as just Contract Rummy or California Rummy. As they explained the rules I realized it was a progressive set-building game very similar to Phase 10, and the fourth player who joined us just as we were getting started was familiar with it as Progressive Rook. There was some confusion as all four of us women reconciled the version we knew of the game with the version that was being taught to us, but it didn’t take long before we were all on the same page.

A set and two runs in Shanghai Rummy
Shanghai Rummy: A set and two runs, and apparently one “buy” that hand

The unique elements of this variant are the ability to “buy” a discard on someone else’s turn if the active player doesn’t want it, up to three times per hand and with a “penalty” of an additional card from the draw pile, and the ability to trade the wild card in someone else’s sets or runs with the card it represents from your own hand. I wasn’t entirely keen on playing such a long card game as my first game of the day when there were a number of other people I’d been looking forward to playing with, but it was nice to be able to welcome a few new people to our community, even if just for a few hours. Maybe next time they’ll be brave enough to try something new!

Shanghai Rummy: One set and one run
Shanghai Rummy: One set and one run

When our game was finished, a few more people had arrived and were hovering awkwardly at various tables. So I roped them in to learning The Builders: Middle Age with me. One of them was a brand new board gamer and opted to just observe instead of playing, so it ended up just being two of us.

Using my circular saw to build the Stables in a game of The Builders: Middle Ages.
Using my circular saw to build the Stables in a game of The Builders: Middle Ages. Not sure why there’s a circular saw in the middle ages…

The Builders was a fun little game, but a little over the head of our newbie gamer. He asked if everything we played in the group had a steep learning curve, and I assured him that we played all sorts of games, and also that everyone in the group was friendly and willing to teach games to newcomers. I was impressed that he showed up alone and with no board gaming experience! To demonstrate that some of the games we played were short and easy to pick up, and to hopefully entice him to visit us again, I grabbed a copy of Red7.

Red7 box
Forgot to take a picture of gameplay so here’s the box

At first I feared I’d misstepped again and picked another one a little too convoluted for a newcomer. I’d never taught it before and I always get tripped up on how tie disputes are settled – I understand in theory but when it comes to specific examples I get confused. He started to get the hang of it, though – just in time for the game to end… and for him to win. laugh

overview of the board for Wildlife

Another group had just finished up their longer euro moments before Red7 ended. I’d been hoping for exactly that thing to happen since I hadn’t played a game with a couple of them in a while. Two people took that opportunity to leave, and what was left of our two groups joined forces to play a game of Wildlife, which one of the guys had just gotten in a BGG trade. Thematically and visually, it reminded me a little of Inhabit the Earth, which I’m really sad that I still haven’t had the chance to play! (I don’t have the funds to buy it, so I’m hoping one of our more obsessive collectors picks it up soon.)

Crocodile player card for the game Wildlife
My crocodiles in Wildlife. They’re apparently not Plains Crocodiles or Mountain Crocodiles…. yet.

Wildlife was an interesting twist on an area control game. Each player starts with a different species with different abilities in each of six terrain types. Over the course of the game, you can “evolve” your species to travel and/or attack in additional terrains. You can also steal abilities from your opponents, and each turn you are required to auction off one of the action cards in your hand in exchange for food (the game’s currency) – then the player who wins the auction gets to take that action immediately.

The final scores for Wildlife
Men in the lead, followed by the eagles, the crocodiles, the bears, and finally the mammoths

My crocodiles maintained a strong lead for the first half of the game, but my lack of solid strategy started to catch up with me and eventually they were overtaken by the sneaky eagles and the pesky men. There’s more strategy in choosing which cards to auction off than I took advantage of, and that among other oversights almost certainly cost me the game. I let several other players amass much larger herds than I should have, and also probably gave my opponents the opportunities they needed to break up my own herds. As you can see, we had a pretty wide spread of points, and I was right smack in the middle. I don’t feel bad about that at all. Looking forward to giving this one another try now that I have a better grasp of what the heck I’m doing.

Tomorrow is another Wednesday, and then this Saturday is the monthly event I host at my church building. That already has 14 RSVPs and several maybes, and I know that at least five people always put in their RSVPs at the very last moment. So I’m hoping we can beat our March attendance count of 19! (We had an amazing 52 for International Tabletop Day in April, and then in May took a month off so I could recover and my team of helpers wouldn’t mutiny.) I think I’ll continue my “no turning up my nose” challenge through the rest of the week to see what interesting adventures come my way.

All the Small Things

Warning: this is going to be an image-light post because my phone died at the beginning of games night last night. I managed to get exactly two pictures before we started our first game of the evening.

This was a night full of small games for me – I managed to get in six unique games, eight games total, over a period of four hours. Not bad! First up was Karuba. I’ve been wanting to try it for a month or so now, and B started bringing it regularly a few weeks ago. But each other time it came to the table I’ve been otherwise occupied.

Here is a picture of all my tiles laid out neatly in numerical order:

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And here is a picture of the explorer and temple meeples. I’m a fan.

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Immediately after this picture was when my phone died, so you’ll just have to use your imagination!

I liked this game. The combination of tile-laying, spacial puzzle, risk-management (should I lay down this good tile or spend it for movement points? Will I have enough movement left? Will the other players get ahead of me?) worked well for me. I wouldn’t want to make a steady diet of it, but I’d certainly play it again without hesitation.

While we played that, the other half of the room occupied themselves with a game of Monty Python Fluxx. I’m honestly surprised every time the more “hardcore” gamers play Fluxx – I’m not sure it’s anyone at our night’s favorite game, and even *I* wrinkle my nose up at it most of the time these days. It has its place – and that place is for playing in lines at con, playing late at night at con when your brain is tired but you’re not ready to give up and sleep yet… pretty much, its place is for playing at con.

This is the point where my memory of who played what when gets a little hazy. There was a long game of Panamax played off in one corner, a game of Evolution in the middle of the room, and on our side of the galaxy there were a half dozen shorter games, several of which I got to knock off my “to play” list. First up was Welcome to the Dungeon, one that I’ve been eyeing for months, but wasn’t entirely sure I’d like. “Press your luck” games can be fun, but most of the time they just irritate me. Welcome to the Dungeon turned out to be the former, I’m happy to say, although I wish it had gone on a little longer. I feel like just as we were getting the hang of it, it was over. Maybe if we were more devious with our playing we could have extended the game longer.

Next up was Monopoly Deal. I wouldn’t normally play this sort of game (ie games based on major game company franchises) but I’ve been more willing to give them a chance since I learned that Yahtzee Free for All is actually a pretty fun game. My mom sent me this one in her last care package, and I’ve been looking forward to giving it a try so I could report back to her. It was a success! It some of the parts of Monopoly I like (set collecting, demanding money from your friends) and none of the parts I hate (playing for much too long, landing on your opponent’s properties over and over and over again, hating your friends). Playing it also made me realize that I haven’t played actual Monopoly in maybe 15 years. My roommates and I may remedy that tonight so I can see whether it’s actually the terrible game I’ve been claiming all this time.

Since the rest of the room was still busy in their long games, the three of us kept gaming together, and found three more games we could all agree on – and they all happened to be cooperative! We played two rounds of FUSE, and didn’t win either of them. Although I think we would have won the second round if another restaurant guest hadn’t come over and said “Okay, I’m curious. What are you playing? It looks fun!” I think I did a pretty good job of chasing her away politely by saying, “We’re playing this game called FUSE where you have ten minutes to defuse the bombs in this deck of cards – and we have about four minutes left.” I would have loved to explain further but bombs are Serious Business. I did hold up the box lid for her to see, probably costing us the game but it made me feel less rude.

Two games of that was about all the stress I could handle, so then we moved on to a couple games of Mysterium (bringing my total count for my 100 Play Challenge up to a whopping 17). Turns out being a psychic in a three player game is even harder than being a psychic in a 4+ player game! Of course, we did play on hard mode, too, which made it even trickier. Winning one out of the two games felt pretty good.

To finish the evening off we played a quick 3-player game of Codenames, which we just barely managed to win against the dummy blue team. And that was that! Another Wednesday in the bag.

Now, I’m off to play Monopoly without the help of the “money on Free Parking” rule I’ve always played with. Wish me luck….

Gamers Gone Wild

I hereby vow to do a better job of sticking to a schedule. Here it is Wednesday, almost time for another gaming meetup, and I haven’t blogged about the weekend’s gaming. Plus I have these great Youtube videos I want to share!

On Saturday I took a leisurely drive up the 118 to visit friends in Moorpark who were throwing a “board games and relax” party. I was actually looking more forward to the “relax” part of that invite, as occasionally it would be nice to have a conversation with my friends that doesn’t involve resource management, rules manuals, passing dice, and negotiating treaties.

That… kind of happened. I did have some lovely conversation with one of their friends about indie roleplaying games, and I’ve added a whole bunch to my list of games to try: Lady Blackbird, World Wide Wrestling, Sorcerer,The Final Girl, and Night Witches. He invited me to join in their Apocalypse World game but as much as I’d love to, I think joining a regular RPG campaign isn’t a good fit for my schedule. We left with an understanding that we’ll make some one-shots happen at some indeterminate point in the future. Also he was super jealous that I had the chance to game with Vincent Baker once upon a time. If only I’d known what I had and taken more advantage of living in MA!

Because we were all gamers, there was no way we were going to have a get-together without some games getting played. While we waited for pizza we enjoyed a game of Aye, Dark Overlord. Which it turns out is a lot more fun when you don’t try to use too many rules and just enjoy blaming each other for being bad minions. “Well, you see, your Lordship, yeah, I was going to use my magic wand just as L told me to, but it turns out the wand was made from the wood of an ancient tree, and it didn’t have any magic power. So I sent K to the scorched desert to find a new one. It’s really HER fault the mission failed.” This needs to make its way to our game nights more often.

After we had filled our bodies with delicious pizza, Codenames was next to the table. My new RPG buddy was itching to try it out, and I am always more than happy to teach it. I think maybe I should have used that for my 100 play challenge instead of Mysterium!

After three rounds, we switched to Telestrations. I haven’t decided yet if I like it less or more than its big brother Telephone Pictionary, but in either form it’s a worthy addition to any game night. Adding to the challenge/hilarity was the team of father-and-five-year-old-girl. I wish I’d taken pictures of their artwork!

Once the kids had left, the rest of us settled in for some games of Fibbage. It seems like that has become the default way to end the evening at least half the time at our gaming parties. It is also the time that we are the most mature. Even if there hasn’t been drinking involved, most of the answers end up devolving to fart and booby jokes, because really, winning is secondary to getting your friends’ approval as the funniest liar and deep down we’re all ten-year-olds pretending to be adults. Also, somehow, T and K won a few rounds despite not even being there.

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Thus ended another night of gaming. I used to be super snobby about party games, and I’m glad to discover there are party games I enjoy that my friends also enjoy. Gone are the days when I have to cringe as yet another game of Pictionary, Charades, or Trivial Pursuit comes out of the closet.

Also, I promised some videos. First, the reasons that Heroquest is the best game ever made. It’s hard to argue with this guy’s logic. If it wouldn’t mean taking Heroquest away from a seven-year-old who’s really enjoying it with his dad, I might try to retrieve my copy from MA after watching this excellent argument.

Then there’s this French video that Stuart shared on his blog today. It’s funny because it’s all true, down to the confused reactions of non-gamers.

However, just once I’d like to see a video where the gamers are predominantly women and the non-gamers are men. Us ladies game too! And we have the same difficulties in communicating with non-gamers that you menfolk have. I don’t understand why more women aren’t interested in this hobby (and not just because their husbands and boyfriends drag them into it). I guess it’s the same reason that math and science are always struggling to find ways to get more women involved. It’s frustrating. Sometimes it would be nice to complain about resource management AND my nails to someone who isn’t going to simply be tolerating me on one or the other of those topics.

Betrayal at the Restaurant by the Sea

On Tuesday night I was reminded the hard way that BoardGameGeek‘s blogging platform doesn’t have autosave…

So my session report for The Extraordinarily Horrible Children of Raven’s Hollow will have to wait another few days. I’ve been having trouble catching up to my normal blogging routine – even with the extra day to recover from Gamex, I’ve felt off all week. But that wasn’t enough to keep me away from my weekly gaming meetup at the diner by the sea!

First on the agenda was a game of Phase 10. We’d tried to play it before but ended up abandoning it an hour and a half in on phase 5. We’ve been determined to play it through to the end, and this was as good a night as any.

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Phase 10 is one of the games that I played with my family growing up, and I have fond memories of playing with my mother, my aunts, and my grandmother. My mother is at her most relaxed when we play something like Phase 10 or Skip Bo, which is probably where some of my love of gaming comes from. So it was heartwarming to have my friends play with me and enjoy it with plenty of laughter.

Even though it’s a rummy variant, the addition of “skip” cards makes it above all a game of alliances and betrayals. At first, the battle lines are drawn arbitrarily. Then, a leader begins to emerge, and the target becomes… no, not the winner, but usually the person who is most guilty of skipping other players. Rivalries form. Heated words are exchanged. Shrieks of dismay are uttered.

IMG_7440(Why make phase 6 with a run of 9 when you can go out with a run of 11?)

Near the end of the game, new alliances form: those who are determined to prevent the current leader from winning versus those who are simply ready for the game to be done already. Then someone goes out on phase 10 and it’s finally over.

I think it will be a long time before this one is brought to the table again, but eventually memory fades…

After Phase 10 was done, Matt broke out a new game he bought last weekend at Gamex called Deception: Murder in Hong Kong. I’m not sure how I feel about this one. In concept, it’s an interesting idea, and incorporates a lot of things I enjoy – non-verbal communication, mystery, accusing your friends of murder. In practice, it was much too easy to figure out who the murderer was. Either we got lucky, in both of our two games, the two murderers weren’t nearly as clever as they could have been, or we’re all just really good at these sorts of games after playing 12+ games of Mysterium and countless games of Codenames together. There are more advanced rules, so we’ll have to try those next time.

IMG_7442(Cards for the Forensic Scientist to give clues to the investigators.)

IMG_7441(Potential murder weapons and clues. None of the Californians knew what a mosquito coil was, which amused me greatly.)

In the time it took us to play these two games, the rest of the group played Karuba (which I was bummed to have missed), Panamax, Colt Express, and Suburbia.

I’d never heard of Panamax before, so I looked it up just now on BGG, and followed an intriguingly-titled link for Scarlett Johansson’s Quick Start Guide to Panamax. I can see it has cards and dice and a fair number of moving pieces, so that’s a good start. I like all those things. But the main reason I’m even mentioning this guide is the large amount of space it devotes to humorously addressing the question, “What the heck is medium-heavy?”

Weekend in my Happy Place

Feeling a little bit more rested now, but still feeling a bit drained from too little sleep four nights in a row. So far, no con plague though. I have a wedding to go to this weekend, so I’m hoping to keep it that way. Lots of water and vitamins and hand-washing for me.

Day 1 – Friday

Friday night was pretty quiet. After a relatively uneventful drive down the 101 and the 405, I made it to L.A. at about the time I expected, picked up my badge, met up with my roommate for the weekend, dropped my stuff off in the hotel room, and then settled down in the open gaming room with my convention program. I circled a number of RPGs and events and ended up attending almost none of them, as is usually the case. I consider it a win when I’m too busy enjoying myself to check out the scheduled events, though.

My main goal for Friday night was to make it for the playtest of The Extraordinarily Horrible Children of Raven’s Hollow, at least to observe – I was the third alt on the waiting list, so it didn’t seem likely that I’d actually be able to play. Turns out, they were willing to play with up to ten, and we had nine. So it worked out!

I’ll devote a separate post to that game – it was drastically different than the game I played at home with my friends a few weeks ago, and some very interesting things happened. It’s always fascinating to me to see a group of complete strangers gel together over the course of a few hours. Alliances were formed, hearts were broken, creepy little children got away with murder, literally. The game took some dark twists that I found less than humorous, but even that was fascinating. I’ll write more about that another time.

Day 2 – Saturday

Saturday morning I grabbed some breakfast then headed down to open gaming. Since most of my friends were arriving that morning, and the rest weren’t awake yet, I decided to set up …and then, we held hands to see if I could get any strangers to play with me. Zack Lorton recently did this at Geekway to the West, so I wanted to see what it would be like.

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It didn’t take long before someone wandered over, although it turned out to not be a complete stranger, but rather someone who recognized me from our Ventura County Tuesday meetup. (I was surprised, since I’ve only been to that meetup four or five times and didn’t think I was particularly social.) He went away to check on friends he had planned to meet up with, then came back over and said he had time before they started their game. So we gave it a try.

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The game went pretty well… and then it didn’t. We tried again, and we nearly won that one… but neither of us could find a way to make it into the center with our emotions balanced, our draw pile was running out, and eventually we were just stuck. Turns out that if you’re not playing with someone intent on making tongue-in-cheek comments about the theme as you play, the theme does get lost in play. But it’s still a great little strategy game and the added twist of not collaborating on strategy although it’s cooperative is still interesting, even if you’re not actively talking about relationships.

A few of my friends had come by at that point, and we popped up to the event hall for a Food Chain Magnate 101 to decide if we should say “okay!” or “Hell no!” next time M asks us to play. There were too many people crowded around the table and the GM’s voice didn’t carry, but I think I’ve seen enough to convince me I’d like to try it out. Also there was a dude taking notes in shorthand. Very cool. I’ve never actually seen anyone using it.

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 That afternoon after getting back from lunch in town with a local friend, I found a friend sitting by herself in the hotel lobby while her husband played a game of Star Wars: Imperial Assault up in the war gaming room. I had just checked Dice Heist out of the games library after being curious about it in the vendor hall, so we grabbed some fancy frozen coffee drinks from the cafe and cracked it open. We were busy trying to figure out whether the purple gem counted as a gem or an artifact when a man walked by, saw us puzzling, and asked if he could answer our question. “I make that!” he said, by which he meant his company did. The helpful AEG employee answered our question and we got on with our game. Only at con! Fun little game – I played it later with the boys after we were braindead on Sunday night. Not sure I’d get enough play out of it to spend the money for it, but definitely adding it to my wish list.
 IMG_7411 (Yes, those are doges playing poker. My favorite card in the deck.)

Later that night, my friend K and I watched a 101 for Inhabit the Earth (which looks great!) and then went looking for a game to play – J was tied up in an intimidating-looking 9-player game of Eclipse (which he won! Yay!), S & K were off at a dinner reservation, M was… somewhere? I’ve been wanting to learn Twilight Struggle for a while now, and I knew he was familiar with it. So we decided to check the ancient first edition out of the games library and head over to the war gaming room for a tutorial session for me before dinner. We figured after dinner we would return and actually play.

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(This is what 9-player Eclipse looks like.)

War gaming is a whole new level of nerd that I find intimidating, fascinating, and very male. Walking into that room felt like stepping into a foreign land. I felt like an invader and a brave explorer. Of course, no even batted an eye, and quite possibly they were the most chill gamers in the place. I guess you’d have to be, to play games that can last multiple days…

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(Apparently this is what modern war gaming looks like – why deal with tiny pieces when you can just play on laptops and a freaking big TV?)

So, Twilight Struggle. I feel like even going through a rules explanation was an upgrade to my nerd status, and I say that in the most complimentary, affectionate way possible. It was less intimidating than the first time I learned Twilight Imperium or Eclipse, come to think of it, but it was still a lot of information to absorb. I’m am really looking forward to playing a game, although I expect to be thoroughly trounced by whoever I get the pleasure of playing with.

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(Dinner, beer-by-the-oz, and great company at Zpizza – the perfect way to rest my tired brain cells.)

We ended up not having a chance to actually play, because after dinner we only had a few hours before the scheduled game of Mysterium I had signed up for later that night. So instead we tried out a few games of …and then, we held hands in some comfy chairs up on the second floor. And that was actually a much more interesting game for me than the games I’d played earlier in the day. My partner in that earlier game was basically a stranger, and so I didn’t care about his opinion of me very much. Also, we managed to engage in some light small talk as we played. K, however, played in complete silence once he no longer had any rules questions, and had a look of intense, unsmiling concentration on his face. It occurred to me that we’ve never sat in silence before – certainly never GAMED in silence – and it was WEIRD. I was paranoid! Was he unhappy with the moves I’d made? Was he unhappy to be playing this strange game with evocative title? I tried to start a conversation and he made a comment about enjoying the silence. It reminded me of every bad relationship I’ve ever had where our communication fell apart and my partner stopped listening to me. I was actually in a bit of emotional distress. It was very interesting.

We did win after our second play, and that was pretty rewarding! Then we headed back to the main event hall for the game of Mysterium, which I’ve written about on my 100 Play Challenge blog. It was amusing to play two games in a row where I wasn’t talking, though. Especially when I had a moment in our next game where I had to remind myself that it was okay to talk.

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Our friend J was in the second Mysterium game next to us, and when both games had dissolved, I dug out my copy of The Grizzled for one last game of the night. We broke open the whiskey that K brought and the cookies that J had baked, and set out to see if we could survive the horror of war. We did! and it was good. Thus concluded day two. I love my friends.

 Day 3 – Sunday
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Sunday all blurs together in a bit of a fog. There was breakfast, there was coffee (duh), there was bringing my luggage back to my car in the Hilton’s roasting hot underground parking garage, there was a game of Quilt Show with K and S, who made some very pretty quilts (and I admired K’s manicure), followed by another game of Eclipse which I lost miserably but enjoyed muchly. Need to play that game more often so I can actually start learning some strategy beyond “do random things and see what happens”.
 IMG_7430(Moments before I got my butt handed to me by the ancient dreadnought in the Galactic Center. I probably should have upgraded my dreadnoughts a little more before I attempted that…)

At some point we also played Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game, in which my character died but the rest of the team emerged victorious. I convinced (or perhaps told) the boys to try out the game of Once Upon a Time I had bought earlier in the weekend, and learned that they weren’t really excited about telling fairy tales. I thought they’d like it better than they did since they enjoyed Aye Dark Overlord the other day, but I guess accusing your friends of being incompetent minions is different.

M: “Once upon a time there was a fairy *play card* who lived on a mountain *play card* in a cave *play card* where she had been turned into a frog *play card*…”

Me: “You can’t do that! Only one card per sentence. You’re supposed to be telling a compelling story.”

M: “Ugh, okay, fine. ‘Once upon a time there was a fairy.’ Period. ‘The fairy lived on a mountain.’ Period. ‘On the mountain was a cave.’ Period.”

At that point, our brains were fried. We wanted to play more games, but the menfolk said that going up two flights of stairs to hunt in the games library was too much work, and none of us wanted to learn anything complicated. So, good trooper/sucker that I am, I volunteered to go up and send them pictures of any that looked good. One of them ended up joining me, we picked a few light-looking games, and returned to find K and M playing Spaceteam on their phones. So we played a round, made it to sector 8 before we went up in flames, and then called it a con.

Here’s my loot for the weekend (not pictured, the copy of Tsuro of the Seas I bought for my housemate.

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Another con in the bag. I am so grateful to my friends here, who welcomed me into their lives so readily less than a year ago, and to all the Strategicon organizers, who work tirelessly to make sure everything goes smoothly. As well as the hotel staff who put up with all of us weirdos three times a year.

Post-Con Recovery: Time to Introvert

Spent Memorial Day recovering from my weekend at Gamex. Gaming conventions are one of my favorite things, especially with friends. But after a few days of it, I need a day to myself to be anti-social and recharge my social batteries.
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I’d planned on blogging about the weekend’s activities as part of my decompressing process, but I just haven’t felt up to it. The day started off on a bad note when the next door neighbors decided to have friends and their kids over at 8am with little more than a fence between my bedroom window and them. So much for “I can drive back from L.A. late; tomorrow’s a holiday and I can sleep in as much as I need to!” I mean, I get it. The world doesn’t revolve around me and other people probably went to bed at a reasonable, responsible time for a Sunday night. I live in a responsible middle-class neighborhood now. But it does mean I was less rested this morning than I’d be hoping. I also stayed up an extra hour after getting home because I had lots of ideas for an RPG I’m brainstorming and needed to get them on paper. So there’s that.
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I’ll write a lengthier post tomorrow, but for now here’s some lists to whet your appetite.

Games played:
…and then, we held hands x4
Dice Heist x2
The Grizzled
Eclipse
Spaceteam
Quilt Show
The Extraordinarily Horrible Children of Raven’s Hollow (RPG playtest)
Mysterium
Once Upon a Time
Legendary Encounters/Alien

Games learned/101s attended (but not played):
Food Chain Magnate
Inhabit the Earth
Kodama: the Tree Spirits
Twilight Struggle

Games acquired:
Kodama: the Tree Spirits
King’s Vineyard
Once Upon a Time
Tsuro of the Seas (for my housemate)

Games I kinda regret not playing:
Twilight Struggle
Disposable Adventurer Gaming System (indie RPG)
Community: the (fan-created) Board Game? playtest
Haunted (indie RPG)
Inhabit the Earth
Synthicide

Top 10 Favorite Games of My Childhood

Geekblogger Stuart Burnham posted some pictures from a book of old board games he came across at a “car boot sale” (silly Brits) this past weekend and while I don’t have anything nearly as exciting to share, it did make me think about some of my favorite board games growing up.

Gal’s Top 10 Tabletop Games of Her Youth (in no particular order):

1. Fraggle Rock (1984)

Fraggle Rock was one of my favorite shows ever, so of course a game where I got to play a Fraggle was going to appeal to me. I don’t have many memories of actually playing the game, but I know I played it a lot when I was very little. Just looking at that gameboard (which is beautifully illustrated, btw!) brings back happy fuzzy feelings. And also feelings of anxiety. I am completely shocked to realized that I was an anxious child. (JK! I’m not shocked at all.)

2. Uncle Wiggily (1916)

Another one I loved to play a lot of when I Was little, but I can’t for the life of me figure out which edition we had. All of the pictures on BGG look vaguely familiar but none of them feel quite right. I’m sure we owned this because it’s something my parents had growing up (and I’m also sure we didn’t have the copy they grew up with; it was probably something they found at a garage sale). I remember plastic pawns, maybe rabbit-shaped, and that’s about it.

3. HeroQuest (1989)

I freaking loved this game. In high school, I knew about D&D and other roleplaying games like Vampire: The Masquerade, and I desperately wanted to play them. But none of the friends I actually did things with had any interest in playing, and it didn’t occur to me to try to befriend any of the boys who did. So this was the closest I could get. Mostly I played with my mother and brother, or with my best friend J. When she and I played, she would play all four of the heroes and I would be the Dungeon Master. She would give personalities to all the characters: the warrior was dumb and would frequently attack walls; the elf and the wizard (which were named after her and her crush) were in a secret, passionate relationship and would make out behind the fireplace. I think the dwarf was also named after her, because she was short.

One night, my parents were out of town, and I decided it would be a great idea to play by candlelight. I put a spooky Halloween sound effects tape into the tape deck in the living room, and J. and I set up a card table in the kitchen. A strange choice of location, but I suppose so we’d have some sturdy surfaces to place candles nearby (like on the breakfast bar). Problem with the 90’s, of course, is that tapes didn’t automatically start over. You had to get up to turn them over. And occasionally the cassette got jammed in the old tape deck and the tape got tangled in the mechanism. As I was trying to fix it, J. bumped the table, knocking over one of the candles we had placed on the card table.

My parents, of course, chose that exact moment to come home, and found the two of us scraping candle wax off the linoleum with butter knives. I don’t remember if I got in trouble, but I do remember it being very stressful and a good lesson to never put burning candles on unsturdy surfaces like card tables.

A number of years ago, my mother found a copy at a yard sale and picked it up for me. I played a few sessions with other friends who had grown up with it, but it was never quite as much fun as when we were growing up. I even started painting the minis (and got distracted because man, that’s a lot of minis to paint when you have more hobbies than attention span!)

However, when I moved away to California, I gave my copy to one of said friends on indefinite loan, and he has been playing with his five year-old son. I have gotten reports that they’ve been enjoying it a lot, and the birthday card they sent me has a picture of an orc his son drew.

4. Electronic Mall Madness (1989)

(I’m not sure why all the images of this are in German…)

This one was fun because set up was a little more complicated than simply unfolding a game board. You had to actually build the second floor of the mall. Also you had plastic credit cards and a robotic lady voice who would say entertaining things like, “Uh oh Red, you left your lights on. Go To The Parking Lot.” Or, “There is a Sale in the. Chitchen. Shop.” I still maintain that this was a pretty good game. My adult gaming group in MA always intended to have a girly sleepover (the men included) where we played this, and Girl Talk (which we’d all always wanted to play) and maybe even Pretty Pretty Princess (another one I always wanted, but never got). Never happened, but one day!

5. Skip Bo (1967)

This wasn’t really a favorite so much as a game my mother made me play with her. My favorite memories of the game were when my aunt visited from Utah and we’d play with her and my grandmother (“Nannie”). This is probably a large part of how I learned to love gaming. Nannie loved to play games. I’m sure we played other games (Phase 10, probably Rook) but this is the only one I specifically remember, and I remember how happy it made everyone (except for me because I was terrible at it and hated losing). There were always many shrieks and shouts of dismay around the table.

6. Cribbage (1630)

For as long as I can remember, Cribbage and Backgammon are the two games that my parents would take out on camping trips and play as us kids were going to sleep. I never really fell in love with Backgammon, although I really wanted to like it – I loved the little folding suitcase-like box it came in with its cream and brown plastic disks and strange dice and dice cups. Every time I see a copy like that I’m tempted to buy it until I remember that I don’t actually like Backgammon. Cribbage, though, is a game that will always remind me of my father and I try to play with him whenever I visit home. But I’ll save all the things I like about Cribbage for another post.

7. Egyptian Ratscrew (1975)

In eighth grade, my math teacher suggested that I might enjoy joining the Math Team. I did, in fact. Very much. And this game was a math team favorite. That silly math team is probably the reason that I had any semblance of fun in high school at all, and this game (along with Asshole, which we called “scum” when the teacher was within earshot) was the primary way I bonded with my other teammates. I mean, what’s not to like about a card game where you’re never quite “out”, and violence is almost always the answer?

I still teach this every now and then as a game that’s relatively easy for non-gamers to pick up. I taught a group at my friend’s speakeasy-themed New Year’s Eve party this past year and the game ended when one of the women’s manicures drew (my) blood. I remembered to tell the women to take off their rings, but didn’t even give a thought to their claws….

(The game “Slamwich” is a version of this reinvented for children. The bread-shaped cards and lunchbox tin carrying case are cute, but I’d rather just stick with a regular deck of cards.)

8. Steal the Pack (on BGG as “Stealing Bundles”)

A game my mom grew up playing and taught it to us kids. Was never my favorite game to play, but I liked it because it was one that I never found in any books of games, and thus it felt like a bit of a family secret.

9. Taboo (1989)

Let’s be honest, this is a great game but the best part is being the person who gets to push the really annoying buzzer when the person next to you says a word on their card. I was dismayed to find out that new copies come with a squeaker instead. A squeaker?? You might as well never play this again because the buzzer is where it’s at.

10. Mouse Trap (1963)

Mouse Trap was my first experience with a Rube Goldberg machine. Who doesn’t love those things? It was always super frustrating when the mousetrap malfunctioned though.

There are a lot more games I could have added to this list: Clue, Connect Four (which I now hate), Battleship, Mastermind, Othello, Chutes and Ladders, Candyland. But I had to stop somewhere. What are your favorite gaming memories from your childhood?