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10 Games on BK's Shelf Still Unplayed

Bill Kunes
United States
Cincinnati
Ohio
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In last week's post I talked about my demanding work schedule the first half of the year which limited the number of plays I've recorded and I listed those games that got to the table most often during that time. This week I'm going to talk a little bit about ten games I own but have yet to play and some of the challenges surrounding each getting to the table.

Core Worlds

When I finally took the plunge and tried Dominion we immediately understood on some level why this game and mechanism (deck building) was so popular. When I first heard about Core Worlds I said it sounds like an interesting space themed Dominion clone... and I love the space theme. I tried at both my first Origins and Gen Cons to sit for a demo but could never get a spot at the table.

Now this is a list of unplayed games. I did get the opportunity at Ravenwood Castle to read through the rules and teach it to a non-gaming father and daughter and attempt to play a 3p game. We got so many rules wrong, at least one per round that I don't really count that as playing it.

I did acquire my own copy in last year's Gen Con Math Trade and really want to find how to get it to the table and experience it for real.


Mice & Mystics

When I first tried Summoner Wars it became an instant Top 5 game for me and I went out and bought a Master Set. I've listened to every episode of the Plaid Hat Podcast and really love what they have done as a company. I like the concept of all there games, but the sad reality is there isn't anyone else in my gaming circle with much interest in playing any of their titles.

I get an occasional game of SW to the table or tablet. I have to beg to get a game of Dead of Winter recorded. Other titles I just passed and admired from a far. Mice & Mystics just sounds cool with the whole storyline that goes with it. I never had much hope of owning it as my wife gets wigged out over mice and squirrely creatures in any medium include board games. BUT, much to my surprise she actually gifted me a copy this past Christmas... but we have not gotten it to the table. I was hoping my teenage girls would be interested in it if I could just get them to try it with the four of us. Still hoping.


Brass Age of Industry

I've heard a lot of good things about Brass and actually received some strong recommendations from other trusted geeks (i.e. those who share similar taste in games as I do) to get it. So I traded for it last year at Gen Con. But never got it out of the shrink. I had read on the forums that Age of Industry was the designers attempt to streamline Brass and may be the better choice and play in less time. So I traded Brass for AoI.

I actually got the rule book out this week and started reading it to pass some time and discovered that it plays with 3-5p. I rarely have 3p to play a game as it is let alone something a bit heavier weight for the mostly casual gamers in my group. So not sure when I'll get the opportunity to test this recommendation out, but I'm not giving up.


Alexandros

This may be the odd title on the list. It is not a game I sought after, rather it found me. My wife went through a phase of spending hours searching online auctions for deals including games. She found this one out of shrink but unplayed and the components still bagged for a decent price and surprised me with it.

I didn't know anything about the game or the designer. After a little research it sounds like the designers games including this one are a bit different and often are not appreciated or vaguely understood the first go round or two and truly require multiple plays to gain an appreciation and understanding for its game play. So I'm on the fence with this one. I like the challenge of it and it fits our preference to play a game many times to get the full experience. I just don't get a sense that my wife or anyone else would be a willing partner on this one. Still contemplating whether to open it or trade it.


Love Letter: Batman

I like the concept and for the most part the game play of Love Letter, but rarely get to play it. Given the small size of the game, its portability, and price point it is a great value. When the Batman themed version came out (with a minor rule tweak) I was sold on the hope that maybe a different (more masculine) wrapper would see more play time.

I got it for my birthday and not even a nibble. Pow! I got nothing.


Empire Express

I've heard much about the crayon rails games and see them often mentioned in the regular forums. I've been curious enough to take note from the outside looking in to want to try them. When I learned that Empire Express was designed as an introduction to the system I added it to my Wish List and received a copy as a gift for my birthday this year. Now I've got to find a partner to break it out and punch a ticket on this ride to see what it has to offer. I have high hopes for this one when it does get to the table.


Deep Sea Adventure

This has to be the smallest game (non-expansion) in my collection. Wow! I expected the box to be small, but Deep Sea Adventure comes in a very tiny but full box. I've read the rules a few times and watched a number of videos while I wait some poor saps to take a journey on this get rich quick, push your luck, fun looking game from Japan. Of all the games on the list I think this one will hit the table first.


Bruges: The City on the Zwin (expansion)

The last three games on the list are expansions to Top 10 games in my collection. I love Bruges and as I've said, it may just be my favorite Feld design. The City on the Zwin adds a fifth player, but more importantly more cards and a few more modules to mix into the game play. I don't need the expansion to love the game, but maybe it will be interesting enough to convince some in our group to try the game again after not having played it for a while.

Tzolk'in: Tribes & Prophecies (expansion)

With Tribes & Prohpecies you get some unique (tribe) abilities that injects some player differentiation right from the start of the game that seems like it would encourage some different strategies and decisions. While prophecies looks to offer some new choices and options in the game that folks really seem to like. I need to freshen up on the rules, but this game is over due to hit the table again and I intend to include the expansion when it does.


Power Grid: Australia & Indian Subcontinent

Power Grid has been a long personal and group favorite (among the guys, not the ladies in our group) since we all got into the hobby. Over the past few years I've accumulated a couple of expansion maps that we are slowly playing through. We finally got to play through China this past May. Australia or India will be next when we can get the game back to the table and I have anything to say about it.


Well that does it for this week's topic. It feels like I wrote quite a bit. I've just been typing away with out much thought to the time. I need to get some sleep, so here is to hoping that I get a few of these played in the near future. If you've followed any of my other posts you may have noticed there are no pictures in this blog. I like to use my own pictures, so until I get to play them I don't have anything to show. But when you hear about my first plays with these, keep on the lookout for some personal illustrations.

meeple Keep playing (those games unplayed on your shelf)...
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Thu Jul 16, 2015 3:35 am
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BK's First Half of 2015 Most Played Games

Bill Kunes
United States
Cincinnati
Ohio
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It has been over six months since my last blog post. The lag is mostly due to work having been exceptionally demanding since the new year. Consequently I have not had much creative space to think of interesting blog topics let alone seeing my normal monthly play levels these past six months.

June ended with the completion of a major deliverable. So now my work hours should subside and I am taking steps to return to a healthier work-life balance.

To get things started I want to review what has made it to the table most often in the first half of the year, followed next week by a review of titles on my shelf that have yet to see any plays that I hope to remedy in the second half of the year. Finally, if all goes well, I hope to then be able to post and share thoughts surrounding the completion of my second one thousand plays and an accompanying geeklist.

On to the titles that have most frequenting reached our table top in the first half of the year.

Arboretum - 4x

This beautiful small box card game may be my surprise game of the year thus far. A number of trusted BGGers with similar tastes to my own raved about the game so I made it a point at Origins to play it. Arboretum is deceptively simple on the outside but crafty and more complex on the inside, especially when it comes time for end game scoring.

The majority of my plays thus far have been with my primary gaming partner and wife who has won 2 out of 3, yet she is still raw from an embarrassing loss in that first play that she is not interested in playing it right now. I really hope her feelings change as I don't easily take a liking to card games and this is one I want to explore further.

Lost Cities - 5x

I recently created a new H-Index Geeklist after much procrastination. Lost Cities is the next likely candidate approaching addition to that list. Another small box card game that my wife and youngest daughter have really taken a liking to that has seen consistent plays since finding it last summer nearly unplayed at a garage sale.

Interestingly, myself and others have felt similar qualities to this and Arboretum where this is more a linear set collection game experience and the previously mentioned game is a more dynamic multi-directional one. Given how likable this game is around our house, it won't take much longer to get the few more plays needed to update my list.

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game - 5x

I picked this popular card game (apparently I like them more than I thought I did, this is three in a row) at Gen Con to be my goto solo game until I can complete painting my GoW minis. I really want this game to grab me, but it has required more learning and focus than I've had available to invest in it to achieve that state. It can be tedious especially for me as I'm constantly having to return to the rulebook to verify steps, rules, terms, etc.

I haven't given up on it yet. For one I put it on my 10x10 challenge list this year to ensure I didn't quit on it. I also bought the first expansion pack should I get past playing each of the base preset decks and enjoy it enough to continue on after experimenting a bit with deck building. I am a fan of the genre and franchise, so hope that it grabs me with a little more time and focus.

Aquasphere - 7x

It seems like nearly every list-oriented blog post I write on BGG includes at least one Feld title (and I'm proud of that). Aquasphere is the newest Feld in our collection which has nearly reached its 10 plays for my 10x10 challenge.

It feels different and more puzzly than previous Feld designs. One in which I have a knack for finishing 2nd place regardless of the player count more often than not. It offers your typical euro I-can-almost-everything-I-want-yet-come-up-a-move-or-two-short-by-game's-end fare. I sense many Feld fans are frustrated by the difficulty and hurdles to action selection when compared to his other titles. Yet I approach it as a challenge and it has forced me to think and seek out new and curious choices.

The potential drawback with this one can be analysis paralysis for some players who tend to over think or try to plot the perfect course to the perfect game.

Bruges - 10x

Bruges carried over momentum from last year and reached its 10x10 challenge plays at the start of March. At the end of 2014 I said this had become my favorite Feld title. Unfortunately it hasn't seen any plays in four months despite receiving the much anticipated expansion back in May. It certainly isn't from a lack of interest, but an honest casualty of my busy schedule which has limited my gaming time.

As for game play itself, the challenge is remaining flexible and tactical throughout the game if the cards you are wanting for your initial or early strategy don't pan out. This is a tactical game far more than a strategic one. I look forward to getting the expansion out to see how it changes up the game. It will also allow me to measure how strongly it holds the top Feld spot after a much time away from the table.

Fidelitas - 13x

During its Kickstarter campaign this small box card game (here's another one!) caught my attention. It was mostly the artwork. The reasonable price point made it worth the risk of supporting this new publisher.

The game turned out to be lighter than either of us expected or hoped it would be which is a bit of a damper. Not that there is anything wrong with lighter games, but we tend to enjoy more medium weight games. When this package arrived in the mail it saw all its plays in a short period of time. It plays relatively quick, around 20 minutes for a 2p game. We were delighted to find in the last few plays more depth as we manipulated the card placements more in order to throw off the other player's plans as we tried to subtly setup our missions. It is then that we found the enjoyment factor of this game. You have to mix things up or you will be bored and underwhelmed.

Castles of Burgundy - 13x

To complete my list is yet another Feld game, our first and most played. In fact we are approaching 100 plays making it our most played board game (um, behind two card games). For a game that had cast doubt in my wife's mind (upon seeing the box cover after an hour long search at Gen Con to find it), this has proven to be a real winner for us.

My sister-in-law picked up a back issue, English edition copy of Spielbox magazine with the first expansion boards for me in Germany before visiting for Christmas which breathed new life into an already favorite, making it the first game in our 10x10 challenge this year to complete its required plays. Since we haven't played with the expansion rules yet, I have a feeling when my wife is ready we'll see a good number of more plays before the year is out.



That completes this blog post. Time permitting I'll post my thoughts next week on some games sitting on my shelf that have yet to see the table and why I'm excited to try them and when I think that might happen.

meeple Keep playing...
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Tue Jul 7, 2015 10:00 pm
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Merry Christmas BGG Friends!

Bill Kunes
United States
Cincinnati
Ohio
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It is Thursday, the day I try and post my weekly blog post (when I remember), but today is also a holiday so I am spending time with family all day. But I managed to sneak away for just a few minutes to log in and say, "Merry Christmas, gaming friends!"

We have much to celebrate. I wish you and yours the best and looking forward to finishing the year strong playing games old and new alike. I have my 10x10in2014 Challenge list to finish and some new stuff I want to get to the table.


My wife gifted me Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar – Tribes & Prophecies and this biggest surprise Mice and Mystics. The latter was a game I wrote off as my wife has this thing about squirrely things like mice and rats, etc. but she did this for me.

We're off to see The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies with family today, then opening more gifts before dinner. I'll post an update if any games are included.

Enjoy your family. Cherish your relationships. Play some games. Comment below what you got this Christmas.

meeple Keep playing...
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Thu Dec 25, 2014 2:28 pm
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BK's Top 10 Gaming Experiences of 2014

Bill Kunes
United States
Cincinnati
Ohio
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I was out of town last week without access to the internet so I skipped a week of blogging. Looking at my list of topics I outlined a couple months ago it's ironic that my Top 10 Gaming Experiences of 2014 is the focus given the Dice Tower Video where Tom, Sam, and Zee shared their Top 10 Gaming Experiences. Totally coincidental. Unexpectedly in-sync.

The inspiration for choosing this as a topic was one of the memorable experiences mentioned in this week's list. I recall reflecting on the special moment and realizing I have had a number of noteworthy gaming experiences this year.

So, let's get to it...

10. Game Play: Dead of Winter

I pre-ordered this game from Plaid Hat Games knowing it was going to be a special design. It had to be as I am not a zombie guy. My hope was that it would be the game I've been searching for with a hidden traitor that my family and gaming group would finally embrace.

I've only managed a few plays thus far, but I am hopeful that it will fair better than BSG or The Resistance: Avalon. My wife's comment after the first play is the reason that it makes the list. She noted for the first time that she saw the emergent story in a game and that she now has a new appreciation for a game's design.

9. Game Play: Tzolk'in game with two newbies

Tzolk'in has quickly risen to the top of my list for action selection games and climbed its way onto my Top 10 Favorite games list this year. Each turn of the gears facilitates an ever changing variety of interesting, meaningful, and challenging decisions to playfully agonize over.

I had one particular play this past summer after a long day of gaming when I was teaching it to two new players whose enthusiasm and excitement about the game play was witnessed and felt by everyone in the room. I remember realizing at that moment that this is what gamign with friends is all about. Tzolk'in is now my friend's favorite game!

8. BGG: 10x10in2014 Challenge

My 10x10 in 2014 Challenge List makes the list as it achieved its objective in encouraging and reminded us to play a set of games that we often say we want to play more but often do not making for a simple yet fun experiment.

I've mentioned multiple times this year on the forums that I felt I've reached a saturation point in my collection. I have more games than I can effectively play and enjoy. This can be a frustrating and discouraging situation. This challenge reminded me why I subscribe to the "cult of the proven" and play my games 25 or more times. It allows us a fuller experience of our games and investments as we explore the depths of their designs.

We enjoyed this experience so much that I'm already looking forward to doing it again in 2015 with another exciting list of games!

7. BGG: Geek of the Week

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the year was being chosen as Geek of the Week #471 - Bill - (bkunes). What an encouraging honor. I gained a new appreciation for this popular thread on BGG and have started going back and learning more about my fellow gamers and trying to keep up with the nominations going forward. (I confess I fell off the wagon for good reasons the past couple of weeks... more catch up).

It makes this list because I experienced a connection with other people who play games in a new, encouraging, and unexpected way. What a fun week of answer intriguing questions and interacting with a variety of BGG users, both familiar and new.

6. Game Play: Hanabi with parents

I had taken my oldest daughter up north for a weekend teen event that presented me the opportunity to visit mom and dad with just me. We had a wonderful time chatting and eating out at some local favorites, watching a movie and much to my surprise playing a few games of Hanabi.

I usually bring a few games when ever I visit should the opportunity present itself. We played three games and although we were getting tired and our clues and memory were quickly fading we laughed and had a wonderful time over a game. It was this experience that inspired this list. We are accumulating memorable moments around the table all the time being in this hobby. It's nice to pause from time to time and cherish these times and the people involved. Thanks, mom and dad. I still enjoy spending time with you and having fun together.

5. Game Play: Diplomacy

This game has a reputation as both a classic strategy game that relies on negotiation and backstabbing and its potential as a relationship wrecker. My buddies and I had been interested in trying it for some time. At the beginning of the year I defined a list of gaming goals and made sure that this particular game was on that agenda.

We played online (dipbounced.com) and had mixed experiences in our six month game played with roughly a season ever week and a half. Many of the negatives were due to early mistakes and hard lessons learned early in the game that left some feeling already defeated and behind. It was also frustrating for most that there was so much time (initial setting) between turns that dragged the game out, eroded enthusiasm after long waits, diminished communications, and led to multiple delays due to forgetfulness.

I however focused on the beauty of this game and accepted the mishaps as lessons learned for any future plays. I should mention that I did win so perhaps my opinion is a bit bias. At the end of the day, it was a great gaming experience for me and I would gladly play again.

4. Event: RayCon III

Any time you get the opportunity to play games all day it's going to be a great experience. RayCon is a shared birthday celebration for one of my best friends and his wife who have birthdays one week a part and were inspired by my all-day birthday gaming event to host their own the weekend between their big days.

We get there early, and for the third year in a row the four of us started the day with a game of Agricola as the sun breaks through the window. Usually by the time we are nearing completion others start arriving for more fun. In total I got to play a bunch of games Agricola, Vikings, Village, Railways of the World, Power Grid, and it was at RayCon III that I had the Tzolk'in experience listed at #9 on this list.

3. Event: BillCon IV

Speaking of all-day gaming events, BillCon is one of my favorites. It was the first event that I ever organized after getting into the hobby. We had so much fun that it ultimately led to establishing our monthly game night.

Each year I get to schedule my favorite games and get to play something with my friends. Attendance has grows each year with multiple games going on at any time. In its fourth year we had anywhere from 3-6 tables going at any time and nearly a dozen folks came for the whole day (8:00am-10:00pm). I got to play Eclipse, Railways of the World, Tzolk'in, Bruges, and Terra Mystica at this years event which is about as good a line-up as you can have in one day if you ask me.

2. Game Play: Pathfinder Session 1

I purchased a copy of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Beginner Box at Origins in 2013 and made it a goal of mine this year to give role playing gaming a chance. I knew going in I was going to have to be the Game Master (GM) and leave the playing of characters to whoever I could convince to join me. This fall my wife, brother-in-law, and a couple from our gaming group caved and gave it a whirl.

All of us were nervous as only one guy had any experience and it was minimal at that. We had no idea what to expect or what we were committing to play other than it was similar to D&D, whatever that entails. Our first session exceeded all of our expectations.

For me it went smoother than I had expected a new GM. Even more exciting was my wife enthusiastically announcing she was excited about continuing our adventure as this experience confirmed for her that she really likes the emerging story and role playing element of RPGs.

The moment that all of us will remember from that day forward was near the end of the session. After a slow, overly cautious start, a taste of combat with a pair of goblins, and a smashing confrontation with a locked treasure chest that left the room in shambles and the disappointment of learning the magic potion vial within had been destroyed, my wife asked to inspect the beds in the corner only to find a rusty iron key that would have opened the chest had anyone thought to look before declaring war on the locked chest. This discovery was followed by a moment of silence before we all burst out laughing. The fun and excitement of RPGs had just been revealed and we had just taken the bait.

1. Event: Gen Con Math Trade

Gen Con itself is a worthy candidate for this list this year as it was the first convention we attended for more than one day. It provided us quality time doing something we enjoy together and was full of intersting experiences (like meeting people you see in videos or hear on podcasts). But I wanted to narrow it down a bit further to the highlight of the show for us which was the Gen Con Math Trade.

We are still talking about the idea of us taking a half dozen games we no longer play and exchanging them in a handful of pre-arrange trades for new-to-us games with no further investment ($$$). What an awesome gaming experience! So much so that it tops my list for 2014.

We are playing through the acquired games and still have a couple (i.e. Brass and Core Worlds) yet unplayed. I expect future math trades in our future.



When I look back over this list, 2014 has presented a number of enjoyable experiences. Gaming is not my life but it has become an integrated part of my social life that offers respite from the busy-ness of the full and fast pace schedule. I appreciate having a forum to share special, fun memories with family and friends. I will ride the momentum of these experiences into the new year and look forward to the gaming experiences of 2015.

meeple (Until next time) keep playing...
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Thu Dec 18, 2014 12:32 pm
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Our Top 10 Most Competitive 2p Games - 2014 Edition

Bill Kunes
United States
Cincinnati
Ohio
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Next week I celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary with my amazing wife. In honor of our friendly rivalry I review how our competitive landscape has changed over the past year.

To do this I compared last year's top 10 most competitive games with the current top 10 with one caveat, I excluded any game that hasn't been played in the past year and therefore has not really been a competitive factor over the past 12 months (e.g. Pentago, Carcassonne, and Scrabble).

I define competitive by subtracting our head-to-head record and dividing it by the total number of 2p plays to get a competitiveness value. If we are even it is equal to 0.000 and is ranked by most to least played giving the nod to the game that more plays. If one of us has won all of our plays then it is equal to 1.000 and is sorted from least to most plays as a game yielding an undefeated record after more plays is less competitive. Games making the Top 10 range from 0.000 to 0.143.

Our Top 10 Most Competitive 2p Games - 2014 Edition:

#10. Abyss
Record: 3-4 (0.143) mb


Abyss is the first newcomer to the list. This beautiful and elegant game was my wife's single purchase at Gen Con after we got to play a few rounds in a demo. It has been well received as we begin to introduce to more people in our game group. A 2p game plays in a reasonable amount of time and on occasion has been played twice in the morning over coffee before work starts.

There are only a few decision points presented each turn (explore and choose, buy, or select). Selections are a bit of a gamble early in the game until you secure some lords and a location after which you can begin to taylor your decisions towards known end game scoring opportunities.

#9. Lost Cities
Record: 8-6 (0.143) mb


The second newcomer is Lost Cities which is easily the biggest surprise. My wife found it at a garage sale in new condition and despite my lack of enthusiasm we've found it to be a good game. It plays quickly and remains competitive. We usually try to play best of three games with three rounds each.

#8. Dominion
Record: 26-20-1 (0.128) mb


Dominion became our first game to see 100+ plays and is still our most played game. It ranked #4 on last year's list and saw 12 more 2p plays this year fueled by the 2014 10x10 Challenge. It is still an engaging game for us as the Seaside and Intrigue boxes are still largely under-explored. We seem to play this one in spurts which involves a handful of games at a time.

#7. Tzolk'in
Record: 5-4 (0.111) mb


I longed to acquire this gem of a worker placement game last year. After painting my gears it has enjoyed regular appearances at our table both as a 2p and more. We have largely ignored the purported golden strategies and are just enjoying this as we play it. Every game is challenging and interesting. I won the earliest plays but my wife has continued to close the gap with a single win separating us. There are a number of things still to learn before adding the expansion to the mix.

#6. Innovation
Record: 21-25 (0.087) mb


Our plays of this civ-builder card game have slowed considerably since last year. It has only seen four plays all of which my wife has gone convincingly. Her gangbuster winning streak has dethroned it from its #1 position last year and left me in her wake. If I don't figure out how to play the Echoes expansion better, she may continue to grind me in to the ground with no remorse.

#5. Trajan
Record: 13-12 (0.067) mb


This is the first Feld title on the list, same as last year. It improves its #8 position by three spots as my competitive advantage has been diminished to within one win after 25 plays. I gained an early advantage after exploring each of the mini-games equipping me with some flexibility. But now my wife is learning from my insights and has leveled the playing field.

#4. Guildhall
Record: 59-54 (0.044) mb


It is no surprise that we play a lot of Guildhall. We cleared the 100+ play milestone earlier this year, 37 of those were additional 2p which helped to move this from #7 last year to #4 this year.

Continuing with the theme of this year's list, my wife is closing the gap on most games including her favorite, Guildhall. I'm still trying to convince her of that trend but she's not seeing it. Only five wins now separate us... and she has won the majority of the last dozen plays.

#2-tie. Smash Up
Record: 4-4 (0.000)


This new to us game of 2014 was acquired as part of the 2014 Gen Con Math Trade and has been a slow starter for me. My wife quickly ran away with the first few wins and I've managed to close the gap. It will be interesting to see how many plays it gets in 2015 and which way the advantage will tilt a year from now.

#2-tie. Macao
Record: 4-4 (0.000)


We play a lot of Guildhall and we play a lot of Feld. Macao improves from #6 to #2 this year. We learned after 10 plays that we were playing a few things wrong. Now that we've righted the ship the game is even better and more interesting and at this point it is anyone's win depending on the day as we are even 4-4. Macao is not one of our favorite Feld's but it is one of our more competitive.


Record: 10-10 (0.000)
#1. Bruges

With Bruges being #2 last year it only required one step to claim the top perch on this year's list. The 10x10 Challenge helped lift it to new heights but it has proven to be a game that we both enjoy. I fully expect that we will either acquire the expansion for Christmas or I will buy it shortly after the holidays. I plan to include it again for 2015's 10x10 Challenge. Therefore, I expect a continued battle for the Bruges championship in our relationship but the real question is whether it can maintain its crown as the most competitive 2p game?


For the full list see: My Wife's and My Most Competitive Games. Check it out and subscribe as I maintain the full list throughout the year and add new games as new ones enter the arena that is our table top.

meeple Keep playing...
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Thu Dec 4, 2014 11:31 am
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Top 10 Games I Wish My Friends Would Buy - 2014 Edition

Bill Kunes
United States
Cincinnati
Ohio
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This blog will be posted on Thanksgiving here in the US, when Americans traditionally spend time with family and friends, share a festive meal, and partake in other family traditions like playing a board game or two (I just threw that in there to see if I had your attention). Ideally we also take a moment to reflect on the blessings in our lives.

One of the many things I am thankful for are my friends. My life would certainly not be the same without a network of encouragement, support, and collaboration. One of the highlights of my month is when my friends carve out an evening from their busy schedules to get together for Game Night. I'd like any of my friends who may read this (including my friends here on BGG) that I am thankful for you and thanks for being special. You are appreciated and cherished. Happy Thanksgiving, friends.


In honor of my local gaming friends, I've constructed my annual list of top 10 games I wish my friends would buy. It may sound ironic that I'm talking about being grateful for my friends, yet I am posting a list about wanting something more from them. I assure you that is not my motivation. In our short history of gaming together we have produced more multiple copies of games (e.g. 4 copies of Power Grid) and very few new or different titles. So my hope with this annual list is to share some exciting recommendations from the games I've seen over the past year that might be good selections should they be considering a game purchase any time soon (like Christmas).

My criteria for this list is simple:
1 I'd be excited to play the game, however
2 It doesn't fill a hole in our collection so is unlikely to be a purchase of ours anytime soon, but
3 I feel it would make a good acquisition for one or more of them as a family game, a 2p game, and/or a fun Game Night selection!

Before we get started, let's take a quick look (for kicks) at last year's list and review the effect it had on my friends... let's see... um... hmm... Sadly (or predictably) none of my friends bought any of the games on the list. shake laugh

I ended up purchasing 7 Wonders off of last year's list which everyone has liked; and a friend did buy Power Grid: Australia/Indian Subcontinent as a gift for my birthday (which certainly earns him brownie points). So what conclusion do I draw from this? I still have my work cut out for me.


Top Games I Wish My Friends Would Buy - 2014 Edition (in alphabetic order):

Alien Frontiers

I am a "cult of the proven" game buyer and would love a copy of Alien Frontiers. I finally got to play it in the Gen Con Library in August. It is similar yet different enough from Kingsburg to co-exist in our collection but my wife, who ironically won our 4p game, did not care for it.

Players roll dice, place combinations for various actions (at times displacing others), gain resources and benefits, ultimately inhabit regions of the planet named after influential sci-fi authors for special abilities and VP. It is best with 3-4 players so maybe a Game Night game.

Deus

Deus is one of the hottest games coming out of Essen this year from what I can tell. Players build a variety of buildings and manage resources via card management which allow them to place buildings of various types on the board, surround barbarian camps, and place temples for valuable VP.

Players agonize over build or discard decisions hoping to put together productive combinations. With all its positive buzz on the forums, I would encourage my buddies to check out a video or two.

Five Tribes

This game was all the rage at Gen Con this summer. I saw it setup on tables and was initially turned off by how busy the game looked. After watching a few review videos the game makes much more sense. Rather than placing meeples on the board over the course of the game, you start with the board completely populated and players take meeples off as part of their turn to collect various types and quantities which factor into end game scoring.

The title continues to accummulate raving reviews and would look real nice on any of my gaming friends' shelves (unless you are analysis-paralysis prone)! We purchased Abyss by the same designer who has had an amazing run of hit games released in 2014.

Istanbul

Istanbul was the 2014 gamer's game of the year (Kennerspiel des Jahres Winner) and near the top of our list going into Gen Con to play. Unfortunately we waited until the second day at which time AEG switched to two turn demos to turn over more tables which was not sufficient time for us to formulate an honest opinion. The game components exceeded my expectations, but overall my wife was not impressed.

The game has some interesting movement mechanisms and a customizable board configuration with each spot yielding different actions. I don't see myself acquiring this game given our experience, but I would be delighted if one of my friends would be a real pal and give it a go. This could be a good 2-4 person game.

La Isla

Our gaming group shares an affinity for Feld games almost as much as my wife and me. This 2014 release is not in any future purchase plans of mine given my Kickstarter purchase of Aquasphere earlier this year.

In La Isla, players explore an uncharted island to capture animal species so that you can study them (i.e. score points). Gameplay requires careful hand management as players simultaneously preprogram their actions (the new Feld mechanism in this one) in hopes of collecting valuable animals around the modular board to increase their value in end game scoring. As with most Felds, I suspect it plays well with 2 or more players making it a great couple's and Game Night game.

Machi Koro

Machi Koro ranked high on my Wishlist for nearly a year, but its North American release seemed to take forever and it was unavailable at Gen Con and I couldn't maintain the hype on my radar. Now that it's here, we have a number of unplayed games on our shelf and other games on this list that I would be more likely to pick up for us before this one.

However, this is an affordable dice roller and card tableau builder that has been described as a cross between Settlers of Catan and Dominion. It may become a bit simple after a dozen plays for a seasoned gamer, more for the novice, but there are affordable expansions avaiable to add variety and extend its replayability. This would be a nice selection for someone looking for a new family game.

Murano

Eurogames with large maps, wooden bits, piles of chits, and a variety of actions and mechanisms mixed together call to me. Murano is one of the new, exciting euros for 2-4 players from the designers of Village coming out of Essen that has caught my attention.

The islands of Murano are divided by building sites and walkways separated by canals. Players move gondolas in the direction of play to an empty action space each turn. The catch is that you can't pass another gondola while moving or land in an occupied space making for an interesting action selection mechanism that I'm interested in playing.

Mythotopia

Mythotopia is a deck-building game set in a medieval fantasy world where players draft cards which allow them to expand into provinces, buy armies and ships to attack and prepare defenses.

This area control, area influcence game leverages a card mechanisms from another popular game which had a "broken" strategy which I have never played. It is another recent release with a map and a variety of colorful, wooden bits which appeals to me. This may be the game I know the least about but perhaps one of the guys will research it and get excited about it.

Pandemic: The Cure

Pandemic enjoyed a long period of prosperity in our collection but has waned this past year with only two trips to the table. However, with the fresh release of Pandemic "The Dice Game" I feel there is an opportunity for someone (Chris, this is a shout out to you, buddy.) to acquire a game that would not only see play time on their table but it would grab the interest of folks at Game Night for some time to come.

We already have two copies of the original board game within the group, we just need someone (ah-hem!) to add this to the fold.

Terra Mystica

I first saw Terra Mystica at Origins last year but within two minutes my wife said it looked too complicated with all those pieces. To me it looks like another Eclipse a big box, hundreds of bits, and like a lot of fun but would only see a limited number of plays per year.

At Bill Con this year I finally got to play it and it was spot on what I expected. This #2 ranked game on BGG would be a nice addition to someone in our group's collection. It comes with a hefty price tag and would likely collect dust most of the year, but they would bring a smile to a bunch of faces when it does get played. Any takers??? (Rich, I know you want it.)




The list is noticeably shorter this year. My own appetite for new/more games has shrunk so it is only reasonable that what I'd want my friends to focus on would shrink as well.

Next week I will share Our Top 10 Most Competitive 2p Games - 2014 Edition.

meeple Keep playing...
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Thu Nov 27, 2014 11:54 am
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My 2014 Christmas Wishlist

Bill Kunes
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This year's work schedule has derailed my efforts to stay on the weekly-blog-post-wagon yet again. BUT... despite the constant mountain of work I press on in hope of stringing together a series of weekly posts continuing my tradition of end of year and beginning of year lists.

To start things off I discuss my 2014 Christmas List, since I need to get it out to the family ASAP.

In looking back at last year's list I actually received or acquired 7 of the 10 games I had listed. However, given I've reached a game saturation point and I have a number of games that go unplayed or see an insufficient number of plays already, this year's list is shorter and only contains expansions and accessories aimed at enhancing those games already capturing our attention.


1. Bruges: The City on the Zwin

Bruges was my Best of 2013 pick and has continued to see significant play time. I enjoy it more and more with additional plays as I challenge myself to explore different card types that I might otherwise avoid in favor of a routine. Given our aim to play our purchases multiple times part of the enjoyment is seeking new insights hidden in the depth of their designs.

Having a favorite designer and owning a number of his titles places a special honor upon your chosen favorite which is exactly what Bruges has become for me. Therefore, topping this year's list is the expansion to my favorite Feld. The fifth player option is nice, but the other additions offered in this 2014 expansion is of great interest to me and my game group.


2. Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar – Tribes & Prophecies

Tzolk'in has propelled itself to the top of the list as my favorite worker placement game. A number of gamers on BGG claim it has 2-3 dominant strategies and have therefore cast it aside and moved on. I refuse to read these threads so as not to spoil the enjoyment.

We aren't seeking to discover the dominant strategies in order to break or solve the game. Instead we act and react to what tiles are available as we put our hope in a current and present scheme in hopes that we can exceed our opponents efforts to do the same. We are far from exhausting our enjoyment with the base game but would not oppose adding an assortment of unique abilities at the start of the game to encourage an additional variety of choices.


3. Village Inn

Village Inn deserves to be on this list despite being difficult to find for anyone on the buying end of my Christmas List, but I list it any ways in case Santa were to have a special copy set aside for me this year.

Perhaps someone from Tasty Minstrel Games will stumble across this list and find that last bit of motivation to initiate a reprint project amongst their already crowded agenda. I'm not interested in the current expansion that is available, instead preferring the first one. So here's to hope, a cornerstone of this holiday season.


4. LotR:TCG - The Hunt for Gollum

I picked up a copy of the LotR:TCG base game at Gen Con this summer to explore as my solo game. Thus far it is as challenging as folks said it would be. I am on the second preset deck attempting to solve the initial scenario as I learn the cards. I still have much to learn and hope to find my stride through the game's fiddliness. Right now I'm focused on completing my 10x10in2014 list so this puzzle will have to wait until the New Year for me to continue my quest.

Since I don't see myself ever collecting everything, selecting an expansion route is important. I am leaning towards the adventure packs for the base game as my starting point, thus The Hunt for Gollum makes the list this year. Should I work my way through this cycle, then I'll try one of the other cycles which requires a big box expansion to accompany it.


5. Hansa Teutonica: Britannia

After years of admiring it from afar I actually acquired a copy of Hansa Teutonica which I have admittedly not even played yet. However, this map initially caught my attention as a potentially better option for 2-players which is most likely the player count that will see the most plays on our tabletop. Since it doesn't have a North America publisher yet, it's not likely to appear under the tree, but it makes my list anyway.


6. GameMastery Condition Cards

I intentionally tried some new things in 2014. One of those was getting my dust-collecting Pathfinder RPG Beginner Box to the table. Our all-green adventure party and their fearful, still-wet-behind-the-ears Game Master (me) are enjoying their introductary adventure thus far.

We have only had one session with the second scheduled for this weekend, but my hopes are high that we will want to continue at a snails pace beyond this, thus I am already looking for some tools to help enhance our role playing experience.

I saw these cards at Gen Con during my window shopping stroll in the enticing Paizo booth. A few passerbys commented that these were awesome. Given they are cheap and readily available, I'm hoping they find a hiding place in my stocking come Christmas morning.


7. Pathfinder RPG: Core Rulebook

I figure our introduction into the system has 3-5 more sessions at the rate we are going. Then we'll try other shorter and free session adventures available for new players online. Then hopefully we'll be ready to try a bigger campaign. So it's not to early to explore the fuller system with the Core Rulebook. I've already acquired the GameMastery Guide for assistance in facilitating an exciting RPG experience, so this seems like a logical addition to the library and is the type of guilty pleasure item perfect for a Wishlist like this.


Feel free to comment on this year's list? Some of you who know my tastes may be surprised... or maybe not. Perhaps you feel I'm overlooking something too good to pass up? If so, convince me.


Next week I'll share my annual Top Games I Wish My Friends Would Buy - 2014 Edition.

meeple Keep playing...
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Thu Nov 20, 2014 11:32 am
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Planning...

Bill Kunes
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Nothing real elaborate this week. Last week I didn't post to my blog as I was out of town on business attending a conference actually. Ah, the craziness of it all.

Fall is here so things are cooling off which is great for my running with a half marathon coming up in a few weeks. School is in full swing meaning the girls' soccer schedules are keeping us hopping here and there. Work projects are coming due left and right (Is there light at the end of this tunnel?). I've got a plethora of ideas to investigate and implement from the conference I attended last week. And there is the lingering question: When am I going to play all these games I acquired. This requires some serious planning.

According to Wikipedia, planning is the process of thinking about and organizing the activities required to achieve a desired goal. Well as a professional project manager this is what I do. It's what I'm doing so I thought what an appropriate topic to write about this week.

Work and honey-do's aside, I'm in the midst of planning our next Game Night, themed "Feld-tober". I've also identified a foursome to be the brave souls to take part in a collective first attempt in playing my Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Beginner Box "Black Fang's Dungeon" adventure. Both are set to happen next month.



Feld-tober

I heard of a BGG user hosting a Feld-themed game night last October which sounded like a lot of fun. Feld is our favorite designer and we've introduced many of our game group friends to our growing collection of Feld titles over the past couple of years. Given all the new games we've recently acquired and been focused on playing our favorites have not seen much table time.

What I'm planning to do is have three tables and I've asked my wife and one of my best friends to join me in facilitating two Feld titles at separate tables in hopes that each table will see two different titles over the course of the night.

I started with my wife who is a bit hesitant to teach games to folks so I've assigned her Castles of Burgundy and Trajan which she is the most confident about. I've asked my friend to lead Bruges and Macao which he is very familiar with. That leaves me for two Feld titles that I have seen very little myself and am anxious to play some more, Rialto and Notre Dame.

Now I just need to create the FB event and upload some pictures and instructions to encourage attendees to start posting which games they are signing up for in advance so we can finalize the plans.



Black Fang's Dungeon

I bought the Pathfinder Beginner Box at Origins last year in hopes of dipping my toe into the RPG world and having an ongoing campaign with a few friends. A good idea in theory, but a challenge in practice. Last month, in a recent blog post in fact, I put a stake in the ground and roughly planned out the next three high level milestones to get this thing going.

Well, I've identified two male and female players to commit to playing the four adventurers in this introductory adventure. I've got the FB event setup and have used some pictures etc to tease them with who their characters are that make up their party and a glimpse at what each brings to the table. We're planning our kick-off at the end of the month to pass out the character sheets, walk through the basics and I will facilitate a get to know one another role-playing discussion to help set the stage and build enthusiasm for the adventure.

I've been making notes and planning out the first few encounters. I've been reading up on how to be a Game Master. And, I've been putting together customized, character-based (nothing fancy) Hero Handbooks in preparation for the event. I'm super excited and hope that they get as excited. My hope is to plan a standing monthly meet-up for a few hours to get through the adventure. If I'm successful and lucky, perhaps at least two if not all of them will be interested in more adventuring for which I would be glad to facilitate.


Well I didn't know how much I had to say about this little bit but there are quite a few bytes of thoughts that have flowed out of my head and through my fingers typing about 120 words a minute. I hope it was interesting. I'll keep you posted.

meeple Keep playing...
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Thu Sep 18, 2014 4:15 pm
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Midyear Self-Appraisal -- 2 Months Late

Bill Kunes
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I set "gaming goals" for myself at the start of the year for the first time. We do it in other life pursuits, why not gaming. Goals guide us and assist us in staying focused on things that are important to us. But defining them is not enough, evaluating our progress is critical to making necessary adjustments to accomplish the prime objectives.

I reported on my first quarter progress, but the busy-ness of summer delayed a midyear update. So after a two months lag, here is my 2014 midyear gaming status review:


Quote:

d10-1 Reach 100 Plays for a Single Game

...I fully believe that Guildhall has the momentum to breech the century threshold in short order with the addition of Job Faire this past Christmas... after Guildhall crosses this major milestone I fully expect Dominion will follow shortly thereafter.
Completed 1Q.


Quote:

d10-2 Implement an Online Diplomacy Game with Local Friends

One of the guys in the gaming group and I have been discussing facilitating an online game of Diplomacy for some time. Due to the length of the game playing it face to face is not a realistic forum for us to try this classic.

The power of the internet may be just the fix we need... We're hoping it can be a fun way to run a game over an extended period of time when its convenient for us.
On International Tabletop Day I initiated an online game of Diplomacy with some of the guys in my gaming group. We are probably 2-3 moves from ending our first play and I look securely positioned to win when the dust settles.

Not everyone has enjoyed the experience. All agree its a great game, but the interval of one week per season was a too long. Players who didn't communicate early in the game suffered alienation from the alliances that controlled the game. Once alliances were well established sending press became scarce or last minute. Too often the reduced enthusiasm and brewing frustration led to frequent missed deadlines for submitting orders. Some players were so discouraged they stopped caring.

Many of the guys are discouraged and not interested in playing again unless there are some serious changes. In some cases its just minor adjustments. For others it would have to be with different people, in person, or without the anonymity from the start as some have less access to the website than others having less opportunity to check in or communicate.

My emphasis to the guys was lets take these as lessons learned and remember that none of the disappointments from the game must come between us. This game can be a relationship killer which is unacceptable between us. Besides, there are far too many great games we want to play to let one cause division.


Quote:
d10-3 Initial Pathfinder RPG Adventure

I bought a copy of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Beginner Box at Origins this past summer and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game GameMastery Guide this past fall in hopes of dabbling a little into the RPG experience. My original hope was to facilitate an adventure for my wife and two girls as a family experience one Saturday a month. But with soccer, school, and youth group activities our schedules are packed... plus they have other interests ahead of gaming at this point in their lives.

So Plan B is to see if I can identify a few friends who would be interested and able to schedule at least a monthly 2-4 hrs meet up to play through the beginner box scenarios and see if there is any future in our gaming portfolio for an RPG like this...
Still no progress.

The plan is to confirm players by end of September. Have a kick-off to assign characters, go over the basic rules, and schedule a standing monthly time to get together for a 3 hours session to start in November or December.

I'm rereading the Beginner Box books, reviewing my notes from last prep, and digesting the Game Mastery book to learn how to be the Game Master as we are all newbies in this adventure.


Quote:
d10-4 Play 10 Games 10 Times

All of us have games in our collection that we wish we played more. Some times we just need that extra motivation. I don't know if it is me or I just missed it in years past, but this Play 10 Games 10 Times phenomenon that has taken the New Year by storm is an awesome idea!
I reached the 50% mark on the last day of June. Spot on pace.

However, most of the easy plays are in the can. I now have to figure out how to get some of the games I knew would be more of a challenge to get in but that was precisely the reason I put them on the list in the first place.

I'm currently at 58% and trying to get 1-2 plays of M44 in with my BIL roughly every other weekend with hopes to move on to Summoner Wars after that. I'll continue to plug Love Letter and Hanabi as fillers at Game Night to hopefully complete those. That leaves the other games that the normal Game Night crowd is more likely to assist with but there is stiff competition from all the newly acquired games at Gen Con this past month. It's going to be close.

Feel free to check it out, comment, and subscribe to follow my progress at: BK's Hardcore 10x10 in 2014 List.



Quote:

d10-5 Successfully Complete Some Trades

I have some viable games on my shelves in great condition that merely collect dust. Games like X-Wing, Tobago, and Space Alert. There is nothing wrong with them other than they do not capture the interest of my gaming partners as I had hoped when acquiring them. I even acquired a used (obviously) copy of HeroQuest in decent condition with a few blemishes I will never play...
I participated in this year's Gen Con Math Trade and gladly admit it was the highlight of our trip. Surprisingly, but it was. I was able to trade 6 of the 10 games I put in the trade and got a bunch of new ones.

It's certainly a good thing, but at the same time I acquired them at the same time as I received my pre-order of Dead of Winter and bought a half dozen or so right before or during Gen Con. On top of that I've got some Kickstarters I should be getting in the next six months as well.

A great problem to have, but as I wrote last week's blog Post Gen Con Conundrum. When am I going to play all these games?



Quote:
d10-6 Get Caught Up on my Six Meeple Reviews

...I am a "math guy" and not much of a writer. I've gotten better over the years but I can always benefit from regular practice. Writing this weekly blog and revisiting my backlog of over due reviews will serve that aim.

...I have a few games like Summoner Wars: Master Set, Kingsburg, Pandemic, Alhambra, King of Tokyo, and Trajan reviews to catch up on. They may even be more reaching the writing milestone during the year so 1-2 reviews a month may be a worthy intermediate goal.
My list of games continues to grow and I haven't written any reviews yet this year. I really need to get caught up on this. In the big picture it is probably a lower priority compared to all the things on my list of to-do's.

Getting back to these will help be in my critical writing as I practice being clear, concise, and informative. Subscribe if you are interested: Six Meeple Reviews Geeklist.


Quote:
d10-7 Place Higher Than 3rd Place in Monthly Photo Contest

...I'm surprised by how much I've enjoyed photographing games. Nearly as much as I do playing them. This interest has changed how I look at the whole gaming experience. I'm always looking for ways to capture the experience and quality of designer games. I admire the works and perspectives that other geeks seem so adept at capturing. It's inspiring.
I completed the goal in 1Q but continue to participate as often as I have new pictures to enter. I encourage you to check it out and vote and participate each month and support this creative activity on BGG.

This month's contest can be found at Best of August 2014 Monthly Photo Contest! Win a Free Game and GG!!! .


Quote:

d10-8 Paint My Gears of War Minis

...I want to try my hand at this creative and artistic craft to enhance my minis for Gears of War. Now that I've started I'm motivated to see how it turns out...

Before I make more progress on what I've already started I have the priority task of painting the main gear for my recently acquired copy of Tzolk'in. This title has sat atop my Wishlist for a year and I finally got a copy and have already painted the smaller gears within the first 48 hours of receiving it. The middle wheel is a bit more complex. But I need to get going as I really want to play this game soon.
I reported in 1Q the progress I made completing my Tzolk'in gears and starting my GoW minis, but I've done nothing more since then. This is likely a winter project. I've also got some additional game pimping projects on that list. Not painting projects but exciting projects, so I'll have to make sure I make some time to paint so I can wrap it up and get back to playing it.

How are you doing towards your gaming goals? Feel free to share.

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Thu Sep 4, 2014 11:28 am
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Post Gen Con Conundrum

Bill Kunes
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Ohio
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As the dust settles in the wake of Gen Con Indy 2014, I surprisingly find myself buried under a pile of newly acquired games and faced with a puzzling question: When am I going to play all of these games?

Work has been steadily demanding all year. The kids are back in school ushering in an overly active social calendar of soccer and youth group activities. And over in the corners are book shelves reaching their saturation point. When am I going to play all of these games?

Perhaps our collection has reached its tipping point. Good, likable games are not receiving any love. For the first time since plunging into the hobby we've got a handful of games sitting on the shelf... in shrink wrap. As I shake my head in bewilderment I ask myself, "When am I going to play all of these games?"

After reflecting on the recent growth it has been a bit insane. A few weeks before our trip to Indianapolis I acquired 7 Wonders, Notre Dame and Hansa Teutonica. The latter two sat on my Wish List for a very long time. So when Game Surplus had both in stock I pulled the trigger and threw 7 Wonders into my virtual shopping cart for half price shipping. Right on that order's heals, my pre-order of Dead of Winter showed up on the doorstep. Umm, Bill. You're going to Gen Con next week and you have money saved up for two years running since you had to cancel your plans last minute last year. When am I going to play all of these games?

Gen Con itself yielded an serious haul of games. This is mainly due to my participation in my first math trade which resulted in the acquisition of Brass, Core Worlds, Seasons, and Smash Up. My purchases at the convention purchases included 7 Wonders expansions, Abyss, Blueprints, LotR:TCG, and VivaJava:The Dice Game. My goodness. When am I going to play all of these games?

I still want to play the games I got for my birthday more as well: Concordia, Keyflower, and the Power Grid: Australia and Indian Subcontinent map, which is still in shrink. And then there are the games on BK's Hardcore 10x10 in 2014 List that I still need to finish by the end of the year! When am I going to play all of these games?

As if all that wasn't enough, I still have my Pathfinder Beginner Box purchased at Origins last summer waiting for its debut at the table and I have a few Kickstarters, Aquashpere and Fidelitas, arriving in the next six months. (I'm also getting my Quiver Player Mat in that time frame which I'm super excited about!) So I ask again, when am I going to play all of these games?


As a gamer this is probably a cause for celebration, but I still don't have a solid answer. (When am I going to play all of these games?)

...By the way, my wife is revisiting the budget to see if I've been playing within the agreed upon guidelines. shake

meeple (I think the answer is simply) keep playing...
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Thu Aug 28, 2014 11:09 am
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