Category Archives: Ramblings

Things that didn’t fit under any other category.

Winning against Perfectionism

by April-Lyn Caouette

I haven’t posted to this blog for a long time because my expectations for myself got in the way. I have these grand ideals about posting lengthy analyses about every game night, complete with pictures, and when I’m attending 7-10 game nights a month, that just gets ridiculous. Maybe I can work my way back up to that as I get back into the habit.

When I can’t meet my grandiose goals for myself, the voice of my inner critic paralyzes me and I decide that rather than do a half-assed job and fail to live up to expectations, I’ll just quit altogether. Pretend it doesn’t exist.

I’ve decide that’s dumb and I’m setting a new goal for myself: each time I game, write about one particularly memorable moment. Just a paragraph or two to start. I know some of you were enjoying my longer stories, but if I don’t start this way I’ll never get going again.

Next game night is tomorrow, so feel free to hold me to that and send angry messages if you don’t see a post. 🙂
Source: GitNG @ BoardGameGeek

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.

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.

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
Quilt Show
The Extraordinarily Horrible Children of Raven’s Hollow (RPG playtest)
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

Every Night is Game Night

After our brain-intensive game of Microscope on Friday evening, I was ready for some time to myself to decompress and for my brain to rest. So after spending some time blogging on Saturday morning, I headed downtown to hit up some thrift stores to see if I could score any good finds. I didn’t have much success – I found a new wooden puzzle for my housemates, and a copy of “The Movie Game”, which appears to be a cross between Monopoly and something even less strategic than Monopoly. I opted to get it anyway, though, because the box art is lovely, and the “Movie Game” and “Meeting” cards contain enough flavor text that it might be an entertaining look at the cares of a 1980’s movie agent.

I also bought a new mug on a whim. A few of the guys at Wednesday games have taken to calling me “Cookie”, after seeing a picture of me in all-blue cosplay and somehow relating that to Cookie Monster. I think they keep it up because I find it a particularly unflattering nickname. But then I found this, and decided that they could keep the nickname. It’s even one of my favorite colors!

It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, so I took a scenic route past the harbor and down the coast to join the Saturday games day for a few hours.

When I arrived there were at least four intense games in progress including Stone Age and Russian Railroads. Eventually some games finished, new people arrived, and we started a game of Alhambra. Which I handily and gleefully won. Winning games is a relatively rare thing for me, so I made sure that I took a picture to remind myself that I’m not always a loser.

I had just enough time before I had to leave for a book club to either a) grab dinner or b) play another short game. I opted for (b), much to my stomach’s distress. There’s always time to eat later, but time with friends is precious! Then the trick was finding a short enough game that I also wanted to play. One of the women suggested Harbour. I was hesitant but allowed myself to be convinced.

I’m not sure why I’ve never wanted to play this game before, because it turned to be excellent for its size and length. I would happily add this to a collection of portable strategy games. I also liked that because of the constant changing nature of the market, there wasn’t much point in pre-planning moves, and I could zone out a little bit between my turns. My brain was still a little fried from Friday.

I like to think that I’m fairly openminded about what games I play, but lately I’ve been wrinkling my nose at a lot of games. I don’t think that having preferences is a bad thing, of course, but I do want to be intentional about playing what other people want to play and not just always pushing for my own gratification. At yesterday’s game day a couple of the guys grabbed Star Wars: Imperial Assault and said they were going to learn it. “It was nice knowing you all,” one of them joked (presumably about the length of time and focus they assumed it would take) and I had a sudden pang of envy when I realized that I used to be that person who was always up for grabbing a game she knew nothing about except that it was intense. So, something to work on. I’m not sure why I’ve stagnated and become so negative, but I don’t like it.

Today, a bunch of us gathered for lunch after our church gathering, and then a few of the women wanted to go thrift shopping at a few stores I missed yesterday. So I joined them, and along with some wine glasses and a new dress, I ended up finding two more games that will probably require pleading in order to get people to try them with me: Bumper to Bumper, a racing game (which comes with little toy cars!) and Solarquest (Apollo 13 edition), a game of “space real estate”, which one reviewer on BGG says is “more than just space Monopoly”. I figure that with all three of my scores this weekend, if I manage to get a few plays out of each of them I’ll have gotten my money’s worth, and then perhaps I can find them new homes with families who will love them.

At lunch, one of the girls asked me how many nights a week on average I play games. To which another of them responded, “You learn over time that with April-Lyn, every night is game night.” And now they think I need a t-shirt that says “Every night is game night.” It’s not a bad idea…

One more thing: a water-carrying whale that we found at the plant nursery. I mean technically it’s a whale for carrying plants, but it could ALSO carry water. Probably not in space, though.

Ghosts and Gamblers, Shortstops and Spies

My Wednesday board games night meets in one of the event rooms of a local restaurant. Sometimes the banquet hall next to us is in use too, and because the two rooms are only divided by some windows and a doorway, the other groups sometimes get annoyed by our noise. “Other groups” mostly meaning the bicycle club, which I also call the Bike Gang in derision (I’m not sure anyone else is amused by this but I’m okay with entertaining myself). One week we arrived to find that they had pushed all our tables as far back towards the opposite wall from their room as they could, and they once tried to prove to the waitstaff that they spend more money than we do and thus should get preferential treatment. I try to be a gracious person, but the Bike Gang are our rivals.

Anyway, this was apparently supposed to be the Wednesday the Bike Gang met, but our waitress informed us that it looked like they wouldn’t be showing up this time and we could be as loud as we wanted. Good news, too, because half of us started off the evening with a lot of loud dice rolling.

Half our group split off to play Baseball Highlights: 2045, and after some discussion about what the rest of us should play, I suggested Las Vegas. I’ve been curious about it since I saw it being played on International Tabletop Day, but usually it’s not the sort of game to show up on a Wednesday.

I quickly learned that this is one of those games that involves lots of groaning, cursing, and trying to convince people that they really want to screw over *that* guy instead. Not that it did any of us any good. One good round and Brett had it in the bag. I never had a chance.

You can see there’s some fierce competition for that $50,000 and also for the $80,000 near the top. Sadly, I didn’t get either. I think I managed to get a paltry $100,000. This is why I don’t gamble.

We ended up calling the game an hour and a half in because not everyone was
having fun, and two more people had arrived who were waiting to join in a game. I would have been happy to keep playing, though. I think Las Vegas is exactly the sort of game my family back home would enjoy, and I’ll be looking into purchasing a copy for them.

While we waited for Robot Baseball to finish up, we started up a game of Codenames. Brett headed up the red team, as he and two of the other guys were wearing red shirts, and I took charge of the blue team, since we were all wearing blue tops (one of them was dark grey, actually, but close enough). It was like we’d planned it that way! Actually I was the one who insisted that Brett and I switch places so the colors would match… he rolled his eyes at me but agreed to do it anyway.

For the first few rounds, there was no contest – my blue team was wiping the floor with those red spys. Then I started to get careless with my clues (“Oz, 1” when both ‘witch’ and ‘lion’ were on the table) and red caught up fast. In my defense, I had no idea that “scrimshaw” wasn’t a common word, and I was lucky that they remembered enough about it to guess ‘ivory’.

Sometimes playing board games with a bunch of men cracks me up, because I get to witness conversation gems like:

“The clue is: Horror, 2”
“Hmm, horror. Well, ‘witch’ is something you might find in horror, there’s ‘film’, oh, ‘date’! Dates are horrifying!”
*murmured agreement among the other men at the table*

“The clue is: Dungeon, 2”
“Could be ‘cross’, like the crucifixion.”
“That didn’t happen in a dungeon…”
“Hm… Oh, ‘pass’! You can totally make a pass at someone in a dungeon.”

I don’t even know.

In the end, despite my mistakes, our team emerged victorious. Mostly because the red team guessed one of our words, sparing me the trouble of finding a way to connect “cross” and “time” without resorting to obscure theological words no one else would know, like “eschatological”.

Then it was time for more “what game should we play next” game! “More Codenames”, “Dixit”, and “Mysterium” were all brought up as suggestions. Since I had brought Dixit for the express purpose of playing Dixit Mysterium, I suggested that, and it was met with approval. The rest of the gang broke off to play some Evolution and Fuse.

I’ve written about Dixit Mysterium, and the game of “vanilla” Mysterium that followed (“Let’s play again!” “Eh, I don’t know guys, I need to sleep…” “Come on, you’re never going to get in 100 plays if you don’t!”) on my 100 Play Challenge blog . But, in short: Dixit Mysterium kicked our butts, but it was a worthwhile challenge that I’m sure will be attempted again.

Mysterium #13 – Dixit Mysterium

Mysterium #14 – Return to Normal

Gaming Can Save Lives

This article from Ars Technica is a great personal narrative about one man’s struggle with deep depression and how the board gaming hobby has helped bring him out of the darkness.

I have suicidal depression—and board games saved my life

This is the part I found the most fascinating:

“Board games give me something that little else does. They give freedom within a constructed framework; players are given the social space to bounce off each other like carnival bumper cars, while remaining safe and bounded. Everyone jockeys to achieve something—whether to become king, to solve the puzzle, or to save the world. The objectives and rules form a kind of joyous arena in a 1990’s-style Gladiator gameshow where the players and walls are covered in brightly colored padding. In your game you might be trying to brutally murder another player’s character, but the game will always make sure that everyone is having fun, that everyone is safe. Every rule is a safety net, letting you walk the tightrope without fear. To someone terrified and unable to deal with social situations, this web of gameplay and rules can be an unbelievable gift.”

This resonated with me – one of the things I appreciate most about the board gaming Meetup group I’m part of is how our events are welcoming to newcomers. All of us are socially awkward weirdos of one shade or another, but once we get over the initial hurdle of welcoming a new person into our midst, and they get over the hurdle of taking that first step to show up to a new place as a stranger, it’s easy to involve them in a game and bring them into the fold. The rules and boundaries of board games make for a safe and structured social encounter. No small talk needed beyond “Hello” and “What kind of games do you like?”.

When I’m having a bad day, sometimes it’s a relief to know that no one will expect me to talk about my bad mood, my worries, or my stresses. Around the game table, none of that matters. My friends will accept me exactly where I’m at and then we’ll put aside everything to immerse ourselves in a game or two for a few hours.

On the other hand, though, sometimes I do want to talk about what’s going on, and that’s where I struggle. Game night can be so focused on the games that there’s not much room for depth of relationship. It’s almost a taboo to start conversations that take away from the game playing. Anything more than light banter is a distraction from the real reason we’re there, and I find myself longing for deeper connection with these people I spend up to 13 hours of each week with.

I’d love to hear from other people about their experiences with depression and board games, or depth of relationship in gaming groups/game nights.

We interrupt this program…

Tuesdays are generally light on gaming for me, so I thought this would be a good chance to share a few additional links.

100 Play Challenge – Mysterium

As I mentioned before, I am challenging myself to play Mysterium 100 times. No timeline, although I’d certainly like this challenge to not go on for so long that I lose interest.

“That’s crazy, April-Lyn! Why would you do that??”

Because I’m a bit sadistic, I suppose. And also because I’m looking forward to the deeper understanding and appreciation for the game that I should get from playing a game that intensely. Also should be a good way to see who are the real friends who stick by me even when they’re sick of my predictable game choices!

Here’s the link the blog I’m keeping to record all my play details and thoughts as I delve deeper and deeper into the madness of this challenge: 100 Play Challenge – Mysterium

Board Game Geek Top 10 Games Challenge

This is a personal challenge I made with myself, to play all the games in BGG’s top ten by the end of 2016. More specifically, to play the ones I hadn’t already played, as I was at least half way through the list at the beginning of the year. As games move in to the top ten, I’ve been adding those at my discretion depending on how interested I am in playing them. Star Wars Imperial Assault has never made the cut for me, and fortunately for me it has been bumped out of the top ten! The #1 game from that list that I want to play is Twilight Struggle, because it’s in a category of games I have zero experience with. Also because it has such an opinionated and stubborn fanbase, I’m curious to see what the fuss is all about.

The geeklist for that challenge is here: Top Ten Games Challenge 2016

Other Games I Want to Play

I keep a geeklist of all the games that people recommend to me or that strike my fancy for some other reason. Recently I decided to not remove the games from the geeklist once I’ve played them, but instead add a comment with my initial thoughts and the dates I finally played them.

I need to find a better way of tracking this but for now you can check out the geeklist here: Games I Want to Learn. And I always welcome game suggestions!

Because I Totally Needed a New Project

The last thing I expected to do when I moved to California is become addicted to board game nights. I’d been involved in a weekly game night with friends back in Massachusetts, but other commitments meant I hadn’t made it in years. I expected board games to be a great way to make new friends off and on, but not something I’d spend more than a few nights a month doing.

Instead, board games quickly took over. What started as a night a week playing Netrunner turned into two to three nights a week playing games for as long as 9 hours at a go, attending board game conventions in L.A., and eventually even hosting a monthly games day at my church.

I just started a blog to record my plays of Mysterium for the 100 Play Challenge on Board Game Geek, and because I don’t already have enough random pieces in my life to keep track of, I decided that writing about ALL of my gaming would be a fun project. Woo.

It’ll be a few days until my next tabletop game night, so I’m taking a break… with some video games and anime. First, a few rounds of this gem that I downloaded onto my 3DS last week called Pocket Card Jockey. You literally race horses by playing Solitaire. The better you are at Solitaire, the better your horse races. It’s ridiculous and completely addictive. Whenever I mention it, my friends look at me like I’m crazy. Of course these are probably the same naysayers who scoffed at me when I started playing Neko Astume, and then became addicted themselves. (I might have just made that up.) It’s hard being a trendsetter but someone has to do it. 😉

I also have a borrowed copy of  “The Cat Returns” (old Studio Ghibli film) that’s been waiting on my bookshelf for me to watch it, so I figure that’s a good thing to do on a lazy night by myself.

Next board game night is Wednesday, so I’ll have more to say about actual tabletop games after that. This week is looking like a busy one for games, so stay tuned!