New Year of Gaming

by April-Lyn Caouette

Happy 2018! Despite feeling like a useless, tired, unenthusiastic lump most of the long weekend, I did manage to spend a good chunk of it gaming.

Friday night my roommates [user=Percephony]Percephony[/user] and [user=runtsta]runtsta[/user] and their best friends gathered to celebrate runtsta’s birthday and play some Gloomhaven, and I retreated to my room to log on and play some 7 Days to Die with some other guys from our gaming group including [user=daylighter]daylighter[/user] and [user=duggo42]duggo42[/user]. We spent the evening leveling the top of a mountain and then after I logged off early at 10 they proceeded to stay up until 3am building a frickking tall tower. You know, the normal kind of exciting things you do on a Friday night… 😀

Saturday I dragged myself down to our Saturday gaming meetup where I mostly felt like myself (until I ran out of steam and had to go home around 9) and ended the year with three more new games for my 100×1 challenge, including an introduction to Kingdom Death: Monster. I’ve been watching our friend Oscar be obsessed with it from a distance and have been curious about playing with him. I’m still skeptical about the idea that hunting the same three monsters over and over again won’t get dull, but so far I’m intrigued enough to play through a couple more sessions and see. It has a lot of game elements that I find really appealing, and generally I trust his taste in games.

On Sunday the roomies and I ordered pizza and had a few friends over to hang out for the evening. I had been invited to a party and also to go out swing dancing, but I didn’t feel up to being around a lot of people, so I declined both offers. My original plan was Netflix and early to bed. I’m afraid I wasn’t great company and staying up until midnight was rough (and shows where I’m at health-wise considering I was not-infrequently staying up dancing or gaming until after midnight over the summer without trouble, even a few times on worknights). I’m grateful to our friends that they didn’t drag me up to the dining room to play board games and instead were willing to play Fibbage 2 and Quiplash for hours.

But I would have been happy to play some medium-light tabletop games… if I could have played them from the couch. Why is this not a thing? Tabletop games that can be played without a common surface? This would be a great addition to my games collection. There are times that I am torn between playing a game and staying comfy in the living room, but even a lot of party games these days require a surface for cards or a board. We all have smartphones – what about games for Steam that we could stream to our TV and play on our phones, like Fibbage, but that are more serious strategy type games? I suppose Bidiots fits into that category (another Jackbox game we tried out on Sunday night,) but I never fully understood what we were doing. Maybe we need to give it another try.

Finally, yesterday, I was invited to try out TI 4th ed with some friends, but wasn’t feeling up to an 8 hour game or gaming with more strangers. After binging “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” all day on Netflix, my roommates played another game of Monuments with me, and I lost miserably. That’s what I get for playing with people who are a lot smarter than I am…

Now that I’m feeling a tiny bit more like myself and the holidays are over, my Pandemic Legacy group will be reunited this Wednesday, and I’m sure that people will be bringing their new Christmas acquisitions.
Source: GitNG @ BoardGameGeek

Challenges

by April-Lyn Caouette

For four out of the past six years, I’ve participated in a reading challenge on Goodreads. This is the first out of those years I won’t be completing my challenge, but that’s okay – part of the reason I didn’t complete the challenge is the large number of books I started reading and never finished. If I counted number of pages read instead of number of books read, I think that I’d be more than satisfied with my progress. (Especially considering one of those books was Anna Karenina, and one of the books I’m in progress with is War and Peace.)

I’ve also participated in challenges on BGG the last two years. It’s been a good way to push myself to explore different kinds of games and gaming, and it’s been fun to drag others into the madness. Last year my goal was simply to play all the games in the BGG top ten, and after reaching that goal, I’ve added it as an ongoing challenge for myself to always play these games that surge in popularity.

I also signed up for a 100 play challenge of Mysterium, without a specific timeline so that I could chip away at it at my leisure. “Where are you in your 100 plays?” is a question people ask me a lot… one day I’ll finish it….

This year I joined a 100 x 1: 100 different games in 2017. But that sounded too easy. So I made my own personal challenge to play 100 games I’d never played before. I thought even that would be simple, but it proved a lot more difficult than I expected. Going to Gen Con for the first time and demoing lots of games helped. So did having a very understanding gaming group with large collections of obscure games (and short games) they were willing to play with me to boost my numbers.

This past Wednesday we met for our regular Weds gaming night and we played five short, new-to-me games – entirely for my benefit. If it weren’t for my challenge, “Joking Hazard” would never have made its way to our table – we’re the Ventura County STRATEGY Boardgames group, not the Ventura County Light Party Games group. I think everyone is relieved that my challenge is over and that we can stop playing terrible games just for my benefit.

But now I need to find new challenges for 2018! I’m considering:

– 365 play challenge (365 game plays in 2018)
– 10 x 10 challenge (10 plays of 10 different games)
– bumping up my H index at least two numbers (doing a 10 x 10 would accomplish this as a byproduct)
– doing some sort of social challenge (eg playing x number of games with x number of different people, playing x number of games each with x number of specific people, playing x number of new games with one specific person, or maybe just making a goal of helping other people finish their own goals)
– playing every game in my collection at least once (with the goal of culling the collection to only the best games)

What gaming goals did you accomplish in 2017, and what are you thinking about setting as new goals for 2018?
Source: GitNG @ BoardGameGeek

Games and Depression

Been struggling with a bout of depression lately, and long story short, it’s miserable.

Last night I had a few close girlfriends over to keep me company, and rather than talk endlessly about myself and how I feel, or sit there incapable of holding a conversation with them about the things on *their* minds, I suggested we play a game of Phase 10. Usually not my top pick for a game, but it was well-suited to the moment for a number of reasons. They’re not gamers, so I needed something they could pick up easily (and even then it took them a few phases to really understand what was going on – probably in part due to my rusty skills in explaining games to non-gamers). Also it’s one of my family games, so it’s familiar and comfortable, which was exactly what I needed at the time.

I realized partway through the game last night, and then reflecting on it this morning, that games will probably be a big part of my recovery. I didn’t have the ability to put together a coherent conversation last night, until we started playing. Then I was still sluggish, but my mind felt clearer. Having something to focus on that was strategic, and wasn’t my problems or my feelings or my fatigued body, helped me feel more like myself. And it was great.

A week and a half ago I wasn’t in that place – I skipped my usual Weds games night in favor of Netflix on the couch. But now the medication has had a small amount of time to clear some of the fog away. I’m still withdrawn from much of my life, avoiding most of the stressful things except for the ones I absolutely have to deal with (like going to work). Every day I’m feeling slightly more like myself, but it’s still a struggle. I feel like I’m rebuilding the structure of my life one stone at a time, and sometimes I need to take stones away when I realize that the supports underneath them aren’t quite stable enough yet. And games help with that – they provide a framework when the structure of my day-to-day life activities feels too overwhelming. And the social aspect is key – the framework is one that my friends are building with me, by following the rules and strategies of the game. So without even realizing that they’re doing it, the people I care about are helping restore me to health, even if they’re bad at listening or empathizing or knowing what to say.

I’m going to attempt to actually keep up with this blog again. It seems that interacting with tabletop gamers is good for my mental health (and doing it away from the information overload of Facebook is even better).

Games and Depression

by April-Lyn Caouette

Been struggling with a bout of depression lately, and long story short, it’s miserable.

Last night I had a few close girlfriends over to keep me company, and rather than talk endlessly about myself and how I feel, or sit there incapable of holding a conversation with them about the things on *their* minds, I suggested we play a game of Phase 10. Usually not my top pick for a game, but it was well-suited to the moment for a number of reasons. They’re not gamers, so I needed something they could pick up easily (and even then it took them a few phases to really understand what was going on – probably in part due to my rusty skills in explaining games to non-gamers). Also it’s one of my family games, so it’s familiar and comfortable, which was exactly what I needed at the time.

I realized partway through the game last night, and then reflecting on it this morning, that games will probably be a big part of my recovery. I didn’t have the ability to put together a coherent conversation last night, until we started playing. Then I was still sluggish, but my mind felt clearer. Having something to focus on that was strategic, and wasn’t my problems or my feelings or my fatigued body, helped me feel more like myself. And it was great.

A week and a half ago I wasn’t in that place – I skipped my usual Weds games night in favor of Netflix on the couch. But now the medication has had a small amount of time to clear some of the fog away. I’m still withdrawn from much of my life, avoiding most of the stressful things except for the ones I absolutely have to deal with (like going to work). Every day I’m feeling slightly more like myself, but it’s still a struggle. I feel like I’m rebuilding the structure of my life one stone at a time, and sometimes I need to take stones away when I realize that the supports underneath them aren’t quite stable enough yet. And games help with that – they provide a framework when the structure of my day-to-day life activities feels too overwhelming. And the social aspect is key – the framework is one that my friends are building with me, by following the rules and strategies of the game. So without even realizing that they’re doing it, the people I care about are helping restore me to health, even if they’re bad at listening or empathizing or knowing what to say.

I’m going to attempt to actually keep up with this blog again. It seems that interacting with tabletop gamers is good for my mental health (and doing it away from the information overload of Facebook is even better).
Source: GitNG @ BoardGameGeek

Gamechurch's Gen Con Games Jesus Would Love

by April-Lyn Caouette

I recently went to Gen Con 50 as part of the editorial team for Gamechurch.com, and we demoed tons of games. We also interviewed a bunch of game designers. After some deliberation, we came up with a list of games from the con that we think Jesus would love. This is part one of three of that list.

http://gamechurch.com/gen-con-50-part-1/
Source: GitNG @ BoardGameGeek

Arranged! takes on arranged marriage

Processing my trip to Gen Con and starting to sort through all the demos and interviews we did while we were there. That content will start showing up on gamechurch.com soon and I hope to write a little about it here. In the meantime, here’s an article about how one woman made a board game to address the issue of arranged marriage in Pakistan—while avoiding her own.

https://broadly-bkstg.vice.com/en_us/article/d33dzm/nashra-balagamwala-arranged-marriage-board-game

Nope, still losing…

 

by April-Lyn Caouette

After swearing I’d post after each games night… I’ve now missed two. Not out of perfectionism, but plain forgetfulness.

The highlight from Wednesday was that I got to play two of my favorite games with people who hadn’t played them before: Puerto Rico and Alien Frontiers. Puerto Rico is one that I gave away when I moved to California, and I was glad to find someone else who owned a copy they wanted to play. It’s one of those classics I think everyone burned out on long ago but still stands the test of time. I think my favorite part of it is that while there isn’t a ton of direct player interaction, you do need to pay attention to what your opponents are doing. Sometimes the best move is to make a move that will block your opponent from scoring more points than you. Too many euros are glorified games of solitaire. I also like that victory points are hidden, so at some level you need to keep track of how many points your opponents are scoring as you go. Are they making lots of shipments? Are those chips in front of them all fives or all ones? How much trouble are you in, really? It was a joy to be able to share this game for the first time with a friend who is no stranger to Euro games.

Then on to Alien Frontiers, which the other J hadn’t played before. Honestly my favorite thing about that game isn’t the game play at all. It’s the components. The artwork so accurately reflects the golden age of sci-fi cover art that it was inspired by, down to the colors they used. I love the mechanic of rolling dice and placing them as workers. And the only thing that would make the little plastic colonies from the Upgrade Pack better is if they were tiny snow globes I could shake between turns to keep myself entertained.

Saturday I played my brand new copy of This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us, which besides having an entertaining title is a great little filler game. Also had a chance to play another game of 7 Wonders Duel, which I have decided I enjoy a good deal more than 7 Wonders. Although I’m also feeling the itch to add 7 Wonders to our regular rotation again for when we need a 7 player game. I was sick of it for a long time, but I think I’m ready to play it again.

This weekend the Ventura County Strategy Boardgamers are hosting two consecutive Thanksgiving weekend gaming days: FATDOG (Friday After Thanksgiving Day Of Gaming) followed by DOGCAT (Days Of Gaming Continued After Thanksiving), which I’m hosting at my church building. I will do my best to NOT forget to post about those two events!
Source: GitNG @ BoardGameGeek

 

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

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.

Loan Sharks and Restless Natives

Came home from work this afternoon and my roommates plus a friend had just finished a up game of Robinson Crusoe. They had just died after being attacked by a band of cannibals… but not because they were eaten. After defeating the cannibals, they then starved to death. If only they’d been able to eat the cannibals…

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Rewind to last night. After Wednesday’s game of Monopoly Deal at games night, I was actually craving a game of Monopoly proper for maybe the first time in fifteen years. I wanted to find out if it was actually the terrible game everyone (including me) has been claiming. But I knew I’d have a hard time getting the folks at any of my local meetups to play. What to do? Enter my housemates. Or at least one of them. M was all for it; B was hesitant when we first asked him before dinner, and straight against playing with us when we brought it up again afterward. That’s fine. Two players was more than enough.

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I’ve been told that if you’re going to play Monopoly, you should do it with the rules as written and omit all the house rules people like to use. In particular, putting payments to the bank on “Free Parking” to be won by the next player to land on it. I was a little sad about that, since it seems like Free Parking is a useless space otherwise. Also I like unexpectedly coming into large sums of money and Get Out of Jail Free cards.

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At first, the game was super slow. Roll, move, purchase property, pass the dice, repeat. But then, as we started to collect sets and run out of cash, things started to get interesting. One rule I never even knew about was that if you decide to not buy a property you land on, the bank has to put it up for auction. There didn’t seem to be much purpose to this in the early stages of the game, and it was actually pretty annoying. But as available properties became more scarce and our funds ran low, auctioning turned out to be a powerful way to get inexpensive properties and/or drive up the price of properties M needed so that she would be forced to either give them to me cheap or go further into debt.

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Several internet friends told me after the fact that the orange properties are statistically the most valuable in the game, and while I don’t care enough right now to look up the statistics I will confirm that holding a full set of orange deeds and steadily building up houses on them was a key to my victory. That, and owning three railroads, and owning all the colored properties on the first side of the board. I was also saved by the foolish deal M made with me – the remaining orange property I needed in exchange for the remaining red property she needed, plus she would waive the rent for the next three times I landed on her red properties. Considering she was deeply in debt at the time, it was too good an offer to pass up.

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As a child, I always assumed that owning Boardwalk and Park Place were important to victory. As an adult, I never played Monopoly enough to question that assumption. Now I know that it’s straight not true. M owned both, with a house on Park Place, and I landed on it at least three times at $175 a pop. It hurt. But not as much as the $900+ rent she couldn’t pay when she landed on Tennessee Ave in the final turn of the game. I crushed her under my oppressive capitalist heel the celebrated my victory by taking a shower and going to bed.

Conclusion: Monopoly wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered it, and was actually a fun diversion for a few hours. It gave me a chance to hang out with M (and B when he wandered over out of curiosity for the last 1/4 of the game) and not have to think too hard about what I was doing.

Also, Free Parking totally has a purpose. Its purpose is to be a safe haven that means you managed to make it half way around the board again and don’t have to pay out to your opponents this turn. Similarly, being in jail can actually be a good thing once all the properties have been purchased. It’s three turns where you will probably collect some rent and not have to pay any out in return. Who knew a life of crime could be so cushy?

Is there a game that you either discovered wasn’t nearly as bad as you remembered it, or a game that you’ve dismissed out of hand in the past but might want to give a second chance?

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