The Tyranny of Small Decisions

It's a blog on a board-gaming site. Pretty safe bet it'll be about board games then...

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Tree of death

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Yesterday we went to look at a tree. An ancient tree, in an old churchyard, about half an hour's drive from where we live...

From gallery of MrShep


It's a Yew tree. And like many big churchyard Yew trees... it's very old. Possibly one of the oldest living things in the UK. Historic records suggest that it predates the church, which would put it at around the thousand year old mark ... but other theories suggest that it might date back to the roman occupation, which would add another millennium or so to its age.

As you get closer, you can see that -- like many ancient, sacred trees -- this one has been given a bit of help and assistance in its old age. Iron chains and bands -- put in place in the middle of the last century -- hold the tree in shape.

From gallery of MrShep


Yew trees are, apparently, notoriously difficult to age, as they go through phases of rotting away and then regenerating. Apparently new bark will eventually cover the ironwork ... and, over the course of centuries, as the tree returns to a growing phases ... the rusting metal will be slowly asborbed and dissolve away inside the tree, until no trace of it remains.

From gallery of MrShep


Yew trees are also, apparently, extremely deadly. Pretty much every part of it is poisonous. The berries... the leaves... the bark... there's even an account of somebody dying as a result of inhaling its sawdust! The pollen emitted by male trees is highly allergenic; the Ancient Greeks believed that the tree emitted poisonous fumes, and that sleeping beneath its boughs would cause death!

So... yeah... it was an interesting little jaunt, visiting the Beltingham Yew... and fortunately we escaped with our lives (this time!).

But when we got home, I was reminded that I've had a deadly tree of my own, draped in straps and chains, which has been sitting -- somewhat neglected and unfinished -- on the paint bench since around the start of the year. I should really get around to finishing this.

Our long-suffering Kingdom Death protagonists will then have something new and exciting to go and look at too!

From gallery of MrShep


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Sun Sep 6, 2020 11:19 am
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Kickstarter: Baiting-and-switching the fire-and-forgetters.

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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A few days ago, in a rare moment of good sense and responsible adult behaviour … I downgraded my pledge on the Hamburg / Amsterdam kickstarter. Instead of an all-in double-deluxe pledge, I dropped Hambruges completely and switched to the basic, non-deluxe edition of Amsterdamacao.

At the time, I was very much in two minds about the decision. But it turns out that — given the events of the last 12 hours — I’m feeling pretty happy with that outcome. Here’s why…

It’s notable that Queen games have put THIS disclaimer, very prominently at the top of their kickstarter page:

From gallery of MrShep


…and yeah, at first pass, that’s reasonable enough. Changes and alterations happen in kickstarters. I’ve been on kickstarters where pledgers have totally lost their shed over seemingly-minor alterations (“this stretch goal mini-expansion has ONE FEWER DICE than originally stated. HOW VERY DARE YOU!”), and it’s good to make people aware that stuff might be tweaked.

But just how big a change is reasonable?

In on overnight backer update, with 3 days left to run on the campaign, Queen games have put out a campaign update — innocently titled “Evolution of Hamburg Art” — in which they mention that they have been busy “Re-imagining” and “re-envisioning” the game over the last couple of weeks. And that they now want to get rid of the central game board, in favour of a modular board approach. Here’s the concept art:

From gallery of MrShep


A modular board. As opposed to this (rather impressive looking) spread that’s been punted so far at every point during the campaign:

From gallery of MrShep


Queen claims that:

- Switching to a modular layout creates a better “aesthetic” for the game, and lets players feel like they are “helping to build the city of Hamburg”.

- It will allow you to swap in modules (such as the stock market) without them being distracting if they are removed.

- And it will make the play area more compact, for those who need a smaller playing area.

Seriously.

SERIOUSLY??

On the aesthetic-execution-of-theme front: do you know what one of the key themes of Hamburg (or Bruges) is?

It’s about building a wall (or a Canal) encircling the town. In Bruges, the canal goes around the outside perimeter of the board, and you fill it with little cardboard tiles. On the pictures of Hamburg shown so far… the wall goes right around the outside perimeter of the board, and you fill it with little wooden chunks of city wall.

In the new “modular” version: you build your wall on your own personal game board.

The update suggests that your sense of building the city will somehow be improved because you’ll be laying your cards “near important buildings”.

No. You won’t. Not unless they’ve massively, hugely changed the way that this game plays … you’ll actually be playing your cards in a neat little row in front of yourself, because you’ll be building a massive engine of rule exceptions and scoring opportunities that needs your full and undivided attention throughout the game … it DOES NOT need to be spread around the ***ing table to improve your sense of ***king immersion.

The stock market is distracting?? … The stock market is a single pile of cards. (It’s also based on a weak, swingy, half-baked expansion that you’d do better off permanently leaving in the box… but that’s just in my humble opinion). Even if you want to argue the case that every individual stack of cards in the game NEEDS to have a specially-delineated place to live on the board (how DID we manage in the old days, when you had to set aside a small piece of tabletop to place a stack of game cards?), the fact that such a space would haves NO CARDS IN IT if you’re not using the expansion won’t be in the slightest bit confusing to anybody. At least, not to anybody over the age of 6.

And as for the table-filling argument? Seriously… if you can’t fit a quad-fold board onto your table… have a word with yourself. Euro-gaming might not be the ideal hobby for you.

But the REAL advantage of this… the thing that Queen games haven’t really mentioned here… is the fact that taking a nice, fully-wrapped, quad-fold board off of their bill of materials -- and replacing that with a couple of extra die-cut sheets -- that’s knocking their production costs way down. They are saving a shed-load of money by doing this.

A cynical person might even suspect that… well… it’s a funny time (and channel) for such a significant change to be announced, isn’t it? And that picture on the front page of the kickstarter … that prototype that Rahdo enthused about… that’s probably not what people are actually going to end up getting, is it?

And when these changes have been made… and when Queen reports back about how much it’s improved the aesthetics and flow of Hamburg, and how they’re going to take the same approach with Amsterdam. Well… lets not fake too much surprise if that happens, shall we?

So yeah... in retrospect... it’s fortunate that they put the big disclaimer at the top of the campaign, about how much the content might change. Because nearly 1000 people have paid $400-a-head to advance-buy the first four games in this series, sight unseen. And that disclaimer is going to give their cognitively-dissonanced buyers-remorse-addled brains something to cling to when other folks tell them that they’ve been suckered … right?

I’ll stick with my current edition of Hamburg. I think that might turn out to be the truly-deluxe version.

From gallery of MrShep


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Sat Sep 5, 2020 11:48 am
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We are the goon squad and we’re coming to town. Beep Beep.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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2020 me: “in the year 2020, you will buy more facemasks than any other kind of clothing in your wardrobe”

2019 me: What??!!

From gallery of MrShep


This arrived today. It should probably have arrived weeks ago, except:

(a) it’s from redbubble (a print on demand service),
(b) it was printed-on-demand on foreign shores, and
(c) their first attempt to get it to me got lost in the post, so I had to have a whinge at them and have a replacement sent.

However… it’s here. And in terms of broadcasting my massive boardgame geekery to the wider world, while at the same time, not actually broadcasting my massive boardgame geekery to the wider world at all … I quite like this design

Plus… it actually fits me. Which is a bit of a rarity with most "designer" face masks.

(Yes yes… cue the jokes about the size of my head…)

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Fri Sep 4, 2020 2:40 pm
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Trucked off

John Shepherd
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I finished reading the Galaxy Trucker book yesterday.

From gallery of MrShep


Yeah, I know, it's a few weeks since I mentioned I'd started it ... but -- much like the game -- several unexpected diversions appeared once I'd begun

Final verdict: yeah, I enjoyed it. Though the stuff I mentioned previously -- the super-geeky narrative re-interpretation of the board game rules -- didn't (disappointingly) hold out for the duration of the story. The beginning of the tale had it in spades, and the end of the story came back to it ... but the middle? Things seemed to drift quite some way from the source material, and the story kind of lost itself a bit in the middle. But anyway... it was a light, fun read. In a way that reminded me of reading Douglas Adams + Terry Pratchett as a teenager. Which is a good thing (Though I fear that people unfamiliar with the source material won't get anywhere near as much out of it as fans of the game will).

Also, the book finally makes sense of an annoyingly-unexplained end-of-round rule in the game. The reason why the prettiest ship always gets a cash bonus at the end of each round? ... it's because Corporation Incorporated's PR team like to post pictures of successful runs on social media, and prettier ships get more likes

I'm really in the mood to play some Galaxy Trucker now. It's odd, but for a game which seems eminently-adaptable to solo play format, and has had umpteen expansions ... there doesn't seem to have ever been an official solo variant published.

Oh well. There's always the app, I suppose...

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Thu Sep 3, 2020 10:28 am
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King of Snake

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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Sorry... no board game stuff for you today; just a (extremely geeky / retro-videogamey) TV recommendation: Man Vs Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler, as found on Amazon Prime.



It's a documentary movie made quite a few years ago, and -- to be completely honest -- I'd never even heard of it until yesterday. But... after watching half an hour's worth during my lunchbreak to see what it was like, I was absolutely hooked -- and had to go straight back to the TV after finishing work for the day to see how the story ended.

It's the tale of how, in 1983, Tim McVey became the first person to score 1 billion points on a video arcade game. The game in question -- Nibbler -- is a pretty obscure one ... but was the only machine in the golden age of video games that happened to have a 9-digit score counter ... and therefore the only game where a player could manage such an achievement.

Video Game: Nibbler


It apparently takes somewhere in the region of 40 hours to hit a billion points ... 40 hours without sleep. And if you start to lose concentration... Game Over! -- as such, it's very much the marathon achievement of video game playing. And this documentary tells the story of Tim -- who was in his early 40s when the documentary was filmed -- trying to repeat his 1983 achievement ... for reasons which I won't spoil. But ... yeah... it's a bit of a rollercoaster ride watching his progress

If you've ever watched King of Kong, you'll kind of have the idea of where this is going. It's a similar sort of thing, and features a few of the same faces from the Twin Galaxies Arcade scene... but the people involved seem a lot more likeable in this one (even the "bad guys" are more likeable this time around!)

And if you HAVEN'T seen King of Kong... well, that's another TV recommendation for you -- I'm sure that must be streaming somewhere these days?

So there you have it. Man Vs Snake. Well worth a watch. I think I need to go and play some Nibbler on my MAME Cab now.

(And maybe tomorrow I'll have something more board-gamey for you...)

((maybe...))

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Wed Sep 2, 2020 7:10 am
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"Whoosh...."

John Shepherd
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Did you hear that?... Did you?

That was the sound of August whizzing past.

At least, I think it was August… might’ve been July whizzing past. I’m starting to lose track, to be honest; one day seems a lot like another. But although it's sunny outside, it seems like the nights are really starting to draw in a bit. So, on reflection, it probably was August.

Yes.

August.

I’m sure.

August turned out to be a bit of a dry month, games-wise. According to my logs, there’s a period where I didn’t play any games at all (except for the mandatory Sunday online SpyFall sessions) for a couple of weeks … mostly, I think, because that period coincided with that rash bout of all-consuming DIY projects that I went through. As it turns out, I’m rather pleased with the outcome of those; I’ve ended up with massively improved storage in the man-cave-slash-office-slash-games-room, and a whole lot of clutter has been removed from sight. It’s surprising how uplifting I’ve found working in a de-cluttered environment to be. Not that I’ve ever had a particular dislike of clutter (I am definitely one of life’s natural clutterbugs) … but being in a space that’s a bit less full of detritus certainly seems to put me in the right kind of mood to get stuff done.

Anyway, apart from a couple of significant bursts of solo gaming with Feierabend and Spirit Island, it looked like August might be a bit of a wash, games wise. Until, that is, My City showed up. Do you know how many games of that we’ve played since that showed up, barely a week ago? Of course you don’t. So I’ll tell you: Eighteen.

EIGHTEEN plays! Admittedly games of My City are not especially long, but all the same … this is proving to be pretty compelling stuff. In truth, we would probably have played even more of it, except we’ve been trying not to binge our way through too much of the legacy campaign in a single sitting. Nevertheless… we’re 75% done now, and I can’t see it remaining unfinished for more than a couple more days.

Odd, really, that it was complete chance and fortune that sent this game our way… but I expect it’ll turn out to be one of my gaming highlights of the year.

Here’s hoping September brings some pleasant surprises too!

* * * * * *

Soundtrack:

August’s posts have been brought to you by:

A post about needing a holiday.



A post about Spirits in the Sky (and other places)



A post featuring a lyric which I am far too ashamed to include the video for.

And a post where I’m alright, JACK…

(A pretty blatant attempt to crowbar in one of my favourite live acts of the early 90s. Not to be confused with the significantly-less-good present-day line-up).

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Tue Sep 1, 2020 7:10 am
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I'm Okay. I'm Alright. Jack.

John Shepherd
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Busy day yesterday … hence no blog (sorry) … though the busyness was entirely self-inflicted. I had big ambitions for this week’s skype-call-with-the-extended-family. Ambitions which needed a lot of time-consuming technical set-up.

Because we’ve used up all of the roll+write sheets that I sent out earlier in the year, we now seem to have fallen into a routine of playing the web-moderated version of Spyfall every week. Now — don’t get me wrong — I think that’s a very nice way to play the game remotely, it’s a fun thing to play, and I’m glad that it’s been a bit of a hit with the rest of the family. But the prospect of a weekly Spyfall session really doesn’t fill me with excitement and anticipation. So I was trying to think of an alternative, to break the pattern this week.

One element of the Spyfall sessions which seems to be particularly popular — especially with the teenage participants among us — is the fact that your secret information is served over a mobile phone. And actually… yeah, I kind of like that too. There’s something nice about holding a tangible part of a game in your hand. Even if it’s just a digital screen that you’re holding to help you play a game on an even bigger digital screen, there’s more of a connection there, compared to speaking your answers or instructions to a moderator at the other end of a teleconference call. So anything similar to that had a lot of appeal.

Anyway… to cut a long story short … the replacement activity that I came up with isn’t a board game … it’s a video game (or, rather, a compilation of video games). But a video game with very definite board-gaming overtones and inspirations. We played “The Jackbox Party Pack 6

Video Game: The Jackbox Party Pack 6


The “Jackbox party packs” are the present-day descendants of a series of games that hail way back to the 1990s — and a franchise called “You Don’t Know Jack”, which was, essentially, a set of multimedia quiz games, presented in the format of a faux TV game show… in which you and up to 3 of your friends would gather around the same keyboard and answer a bunch of silly quiz questions.

The latest entries in the series are a bit more sophisticated. Players now connect to the game (which runs on the host’s computer, or game console, or whatever) using a web browser on any mobile device, and get presented with various multiple choice quizzes, drawing challenges, mini-games etc on their own screen, seamlessly-synced to the main display. The potential for playing this stuff remotely is pretty obvious; as long as the host can stream the display from the main game to all the remote players, and you maintain a way for all the players to chat to each other throughout play … you’re golden!

This is the bit that presented slight difficulties. The platform-of-choice for our weekly family meetups is presently Skype … and moving mum and dad to any other kind of conferencing software will be a bit of a pain, because they’re NOT the most technically-literate of people. Plus, while it’s perfectly possible to broadcast the Jackbox game window to other skype users via the ubiquitous "screen share" function, this tends to be at the expense of collapsing all the other video feeds in the session (which, again, causes complaints from mum — we’ve occasionally had screen-shared picture rounds in our weekly Skype quizzes … which are normally accompanied by gripes and complaints from mum along the lines of “I can’t see anybody now… I don’t like this bit…”). So — I came up with a plan to stream the video from the game in a regular chat window, as a virtual web-cam, rather than go full-screen with it.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well… the process wasn’t quite as easy as expected. Mostly because I’m using a mac, and the current version of MacOS is hyper-secure to an extent where it makes it very difficult to pipe a virtual web cam to any piece of software that hasn’t explicitly given permission for virtual web cams to connect. And Skype/Microsoft isn’t allowing any of that kind of nonsense. I attempted a whole bunch of really nerdy approaches, to do with re-signing software components with fake credentials and temporarily disabling all kinds of walled gardens, but to no avail. But, just on the point of giving up, I remembered that you can run Skype completely within a web browser now. And Chrome isn’t particularly fussy about who and what it interfaces with. Sure enough, switching to Skype on Chrome solved all my problems… my stream-to-a-webcam-window was up and running.

So… what did we play? Well, the party pack contains 5 different games, of which we played 3. (You’ll have to forgive me for using screenshots ripped from game trailers here as I didn’t grab any screenshots at the time)

First:

Trivia Murder Party 2

From gallery of MrShep


This follows a (relatively!) straightforward quiz show format … with a somewhat offbeat theme of the players being trapped in a spooky hotel by a serial-killer quiz host. Each round players are asked a multiple-choice question … players who get the answer correct move on to the next round — but players who get the answer wrong are all taken to a random “killing room”…

From gallery of MrShep


…in which participation in one of a number of (very nicely executed) mini-game challenges will decide if they live or die. Players who fall into the latter category are turned into ghosts. Ghosts keep playing the game, but will get penalised slightly in the grand finale round — a race in which the last-player-alive attempts to race to the hotel exit by answering a series of rapid-fire questions, while the ghosts attempt to answer the same questions to catch up and steal their lifeforce...

It’s a pretty slick game, very game-showy, and proved to be extremely popular with everybody playing. So much so that we ended up playing it three times in a row. So… quite a hit, this one!

Next up:

Dictionarium

From gallery of MrShep


A fairly standard implementation of the well-worn party game formula of “everybody makes up a thing, then everybody votes on the best/funniest thing that got made up”. In this instance, players are given a nonsense word, or an entirely-made-up euphemism, and then asked to provide definitions for it. (Though to keep our game family-friendly, I chose the “word” version of the game, rather than the “euphemism” version of the game). It was… OK … though I don’t think anybody was massively excited by this one, compared to the slickness of Trivia Murder Party.

And finally…

Push the button

From gallery of MrShep


This one is clever. Really clever. It’s very much a social-deduction-board-game-esque kind-of-game … but one which could only really, practically, work in a digital incarnation. (At least, not without a non-playing moderator doing an awful lot work and trying VERY hard to keep a straight face throughout).

It runs like this: You’re the crew of a spaceship, rudely awakened from suspended animation. Some of the crew have been replaced by evil shape-shifting aliens. You have 20 minutes to figure out who the aliens are, and flush them out the airlock. If all the aliens are ejected, the humans win. If any humans are ejected, the aliens win. Pretty standard sci-fi social game cliche set-up so far…

From gallery of MrShep


…BUT, here’s how the game works; each round, a player is nominated to be the captain. The captain gets to decide which players will be “tested” during the round, and the room to be used for the testing challenge (there are different types of test … a drawing challenge, multiple choice morality quiz…) but the fun thing is, they humans get given the “standard” version of each challenge, and the aliens get given a slightly distorted version of the instructions, with the intention of making their answers stand out and seem a bit odd. So, for example, the humans might get a question like: “What is your favourite seafood?”, whereas an alien might see: “name a creature that lives in the sea”. When the answers are revealed, accusations and discussion takes place (why, exactly, did you say that “a mermaid” is your favourite sea-food? GET IN THE AIRLOCK!) and eventually — hopefully — the evil alien shapeshifters get flushed out into space.

Sadly, this one was a bit lost on mum and dad. And there are other elements thrown into the game (for example, the aliens get a chance to “hack” the prompts being sent to human players to make them look like aliens) which are maybe just a little bit too layered and confusing on a first run through. But I think there’s a lot of potential for “Push the Button” to appeal to a more “gamery” type of audience; it triggered a very definite split between people who thought the game was clever, and would like to get to learn it … and people who were basically “nah… I didn’t get that. I never want to play that again”


* * * * * * *

All in all, I enjoyed this; admittedly it’s not-quite-board-gaming, but it definitely felt like something that’s very felt board game-adjacent. It’s a shame that “Push the Button” didn’t really hit its mark … but maybe I’ll get the chance to play that with a different group at some point. Plus, there was a lot to admire here from a design point of view — both in terms of game execution/presentation, and also in terms of technology, and the nice use of mobile web-clients.

I don’t play a lot of videogames these days, but this is a game that struck me as being particularly savvy to the way that games can be played nowadays. Notably, it contains configuration options specific to running the game on a twitch stream — such as options for a host to pre-filter text contributions before they’re put on general display, and even options for a wider audience (up to several thousand stream viewers) to live-vote on elements within the game via the web and affect the progress of the on-screen players. Interesting stuff. Very interesting stuff; it makes me wonder how board games like the ones we currently play might tweak or adapt, to embrace the current age of remote play and live streaming…

Hmmm….

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Mon Aug 31, 2020 2:33 pm
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Kingdom Death: Economics

John Shepherd
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"The most important thing to remember is: don’t get too attached to your survivors. In this game you should try to think of your people as a basic resource which you need to spend in order to stay afloat. A huge number of them are going to die... but as long as you somehow manage to cling on and stay in the game, that’s OK."

From gallery of MrShep



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Sat Aug 29, 2020 3:03 pm
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Made-up review: Telestrations Upside Down

John Shepherd
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Telestrations: Upside Down is an exciting new spin on a popular old attempt to sell people a game-they-could-play-perfectly-well-with-just-a-few-sheets-of-blank-paper-and-some-pens. But the big twist this time is the fact that the whole game has been turned, quite literally… UPSIDE DOWN!

Board Game: Telestrations: Upside Drawn


Fortunately it didn’t us take very long to bolt the enclosed gaming components to the requisite number of door frames (hooray for power tools!)

From gallery of MrShep


It’s probably worth noting that you ideally need at least one doorway per player in your chosen game room, otherwise there’s a lot of downtime involved in swapping people in and out of the harnesses between turns. Also, if you’re not very good at throwing and catching things (especially while suspended upside-down in a door frame), or if you’re playing in a particularly large hallway with lots of space between the doors, it’s wise to have at least one player sit each round out to facilitate moving the boards around between players, pick up any pens that are dropped on the floor (here's hoping they don't land inky-end first on the new carpet!), and to stop the family dog from playfully licking player's faces.

Even the solo game benefits greatly from having an independent party stationed within earshot primed with a pre-arranged “safe word”.

From gallery of MrShep


So that's basically it. Telestrations. Upside Down.

Does hanging upside-down, with blood rushing to your head, struggling to co-ordinate your fine motor control in highly-unusual circumstances and desperately trying to complete a series of convoluted sketches without losing consciousness add a great deal to the original game?

No. I don’t think it does really.

But playing this game has done wonders for my sciatica. 9/10

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Can you believe they spelled it incorrectly on the box? Hopefully this picture is just a pre-production proof, and it'll all be fixed for retail...
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Fri Aug 28, 2020 7:10 am
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Someone's always playing corporation games

John Shepherd
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It seems a bit pointless to start any post with the words “Something that’s changed in the last 5 months is…”. Because, lets face it, pretty much everything has changed in the last 5 months. (If there’s a thing that you do, and it hasn’t changed significantly in the last 5 months, then you’re probably doing it wrong. )

But sometimes, little things creep up on you. Stuff that’s changed, but you didn’t really notice it changing. At least, not until something else drew your attention to it.

Today, I realised that ever since the start of social distancing, I’ve only been playing games from my own collection. Five months of not going to Newcastle Gamers (and not really playing much online either) means that I’ve not been playing other people’s games. And pretty much anything new that’s come into the house has been stuff that I’ve researched, scrutinised, evaluated, and then made an informed purchase decision on. Aside from a couple of playtest games of Tony’s stuff (which don’t really count … since I would probably acquire such things without question anyway) nothing that I’ve played during this period of time has been put in front of me by other people. Nothing has pushed me into playing something that I wouldn’t otherwise have played. Nothing I’ve played has been proposed, suggested, influenced or otherwise-curated by third parties.

Until this week… when I won a copy of My City.

Board Game: My City


My City is a game that I don’t think I would have ever actually purchased, if left to my own devices.

It’s not because we dislike polyomino games; quite the opposite in fact. If anything, polyomino games are a slightly over-represented genre in the Shepherd games collection right now. Frankly... we already have more than enough of them sitting on the shelves. But I suspect that if — during some moment of madness — I decided that I DID need another set of rules and tools to facilitate the slotting of little cardboard tetris pieces into other little cardboard tetris pieces … then I would probably have stumped up for a copy of The Isle of Cats by now, rather than My City… because people have been raving about Isle of Cats, whereas My City has been getting somewhat lacklustre reviews.

Anyway… it arrived… and we played it… and you know what?

I should’ve known that Mr Knizia wouldn’t let me down.

From gallery of MrShep
(It’s an early round. No visual spoilers here!)

As polyomino games go, this one is pretty solid. Admittedly, it’s an entirely non-confrontational, low-interaction, multi-player solitaire kind of polyomino game … but if you’re OK with that kind of thing (which we are), then there seems to be a lot to like here.

The basics: you start off with a set of 24 building tiles (8 different shapes, repeated in 3 colours). And there’s a deck of 24 cards, each one corresponding to one specific tile. Each turn the top card is flipped, all of the players grab the corresponding piece, and then they try to fit it into their personal landscape … obeying a simple set of rules about how it needs to be placed … and trying to fulfil an ever-evolving list of point-scoring criteria while coping with an assortment of complications that get thrown in to disrupt your tile-placing efficiency.

It’s a legacy game… each player gets their own board (initially, all displaying exactly the same landscape) … and you keep that same board over a series of 24 games. At the end of each game, you (often) get to permanently customise your board a bit. Various stickers, introducing game-tweaking landscape features, are awarded to the winners and losers, and new asymmetrical components are introduced (usually handicapping the winner, and boosting the loser of the latest game… just to provide a bit of a catch-up mechanism to the overall campaign) … and all of this content (along with new rule sheets) is drip-fed through a series of sealed envelopes, so you never know exactly what might show up next.

But here’s the thing: although My City is a brand new legacy game… it’s somewhat old-school in its design and presentation. The art style is (gloriously!) reminiscent of euros from a decade or two ago, and there’s no deep, convoluted, over-arching storyline. It’s simply a series of replays of the same (solid!) core game, where you open a goodie bag of new components and mechanisms every few rounds, and then make persistent, strategic modifications to your personal set of gaming pieces / starting position. And I’m fine with that. (In fact… I’m really enjoying that) … but these aspects seem to have caused a few complaints and downvotes from players who expected something else from the legacy tag; a prettier, more thematic, deeper game …with a grandiose choose-your-own-adventure branching narrative thing going on.

It very much isn’t that, and we’re enjoying it for what it is. But… buyer beware!

We’re finding the game very compelling, and I’ve got a feeling that we’re going to tear through the campaign pretty quickly. (Despite it being a 24-game series, the individual games are VERY short… initially only 15 - 20 minutes each with 2 players — though I can already see that duration pushing out a bit as the complexity ramps up). However, there’s a non-legacy version of the game included too; the reverse side of the player boards combines with some of the components from the first few envelopes to provide a re-playable version of the core game, which should provide some lasting value once the campaign is done with. (Though, frankly, any game in my collection that manages to clock up 24 plays these days — even short plays — has already proven itself a success, as far as I’m concerned!).

Anyway… first impressions are very promising, and I’m rather glad that fate tossed this one our way. It turns out that there was room for another polyomino game in our collection after all

(But it’s still early days. Expect an update or two as we progress further into the campaign…)

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Rest assured that I feel suitably ashamed of today's lyric quote.
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Thu Aug 27, 2020 7:10 am
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