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...the squared ball in midtown's lagoon...

Alexandre Correia
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Lagos
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Day 937. July 26, 2019. Lagos...

Today's beach? Praia do Alvor-Lagos

We weren't exactly aiming for this one. Praia do Vale da Lama, located in the easternmost point of the all-encompassing Meia Praia was supposed to be our morning destination. But we took longer than expected to arrive at the place, and once again, the satellite imagery didn't help. The narrow pathway connecting the dirt road to the beach, crossing a segment of the Ria de Alvor, a coastal lagoon, was cut off. It looks like Winter hit it with force.

So we left the bike on the dirt road and negotiated our way through not one but eventually two "holes" on the pathway. All to Alice's immense delight, experiencing an unforeseen morning adventure on our routine beach trip!

When the pathway was behind us, we found ourselves staring at a deserted beach facing the Ria. To our surprise, very much like one of our favorite beach in the whole world - and we're not alone in this assessment - Praia de Cacela Velha. It was getting late, Alice had had enough adventure through the unknown, so we literally tossed the towel to the sand and made our camp there.


Morning ride.


Bridge to Praia de Alvor-Lagos.

A very good morning.


Followed by a very good Lightning & Bolt session in the afternoon. This time there was more excitement than usual. Instead of an easy win, or a crushing defeat, the game's kid-driven luck, balanced itself to a fine line of rescuing a pair of civilians one at a time and facing Dr. Confusion in our next rescue attempt.

I was able to use Bolt's Heat track more to reroll dice, and drew more six driven upgrade cards to bolster its heroic capabilities! Lightning Alice fell under a full trouble meter at least two times, after a speedy fight with the DocBots and I had to crack Bolt's euro-brain to come up with a solution to save her!


Not enough bolts for Bolt.

But it wasn't enough. Dr. Confusion thwarted our final rescue attempt, stealing MidTown's safety in the last possible tile flip! Still, the best-unexpected game that as come our way this year.


We ended things with a Go Unicorn session using the Unicorn cards. For once it seemed that my lead in finding animals pairs was too much for Alice to catch. But while searching for fish animals, Lady Luck blessed her with the animals she was looking for, and an endgame "take the Unicorn instead, daddy!" spelled game over for me!


A unicorn still going strong.


Just to report a small foray into the other side of the geekland.

I played Pong for the first time today. Yes, that 1972 title, heralded by gaming historians as the game that launched the video game industry.


That squared ball that ripple the gaming pond!

A few days ago I stumbled on a list of video games. After a mere 10-second glance at some o the titles, a crazy mammoth-like and challenging idea sprouted inside of me. It's crazy and it's downright difficult. Which are two of the main actors I look for in challenges and journeys of exploration through the gaming land.

The 5-minute Pong session was surprisingly satisfying enough that I might just start that adventure soon after the vacations. To be continued...


One year ago: ...longing for warmer waters...


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Fri Aug 2, 2019 9:00 pm
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...how do you log a gaming session...

Alexandre Correia
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Day 926. July 15, 2019. Lagos...

Sometimes I find it hard to differentiate between what's playing a game versus what's playing as if we're playing a game. Especially when a four-year-old is involved.

If we're just playing with the components, no rules attached, then in my geek mind, this is not a gaming session. But sometimes Alice "invents" make-belief rules, pretending we're actually playing a game... with a game!

Take this balancing game from the Lidl supermarket, aptly named, Balancespiel. We have rules for this one. I don't remember if we've lost them since, or if there were never any rules inside the box. I'm inclined to think the latter. As far as I remember, we used to play it by rolling two dices with colored faces, and we would pick one of them to stack a matching colored cylinder on top of the balancing turtle. And then... nothing!


The mysterious boring turtle.

No way of knowing who would win. No way of knowing what happens when someone drops the pieces. No way of knowing if this a cooperative game of trying to stack all the pieces at the same time!

When Alice asked for the turtle game this afternoon, to play under the aroma of daddy's freshly brewed Ethiopian coffee, the only thing we did was take turns stacking pieces ad infinitum! Occasionally she would invent something like, "place small cylinders first", or "the supply needs to be arranged by color" and that sort of things. The winner, the person who got bored first! ...I won!

So... would you log this as a gaming session? I logged an incomplete Balancespiel session.


Next up was yesterday's unexpected gift, Dragon Castle. As usual, if it's a game suitable for Alice to play with, I always ask her for help with the punchboards and the sorting of tiles. Obviously, she wanted to play with the game.

Tentatively, I did as she asked. I built a two-player castle, handed her a player board and told her that we would take turns picking identical tiles. Finding identical tiles was not a problem for her. Understanding that she could only choose the ones with a "long" side uncovered was not so immediate. After a few rounds of this, no more identical free "long" side tiles were available, so I gave her another option. Pick only one, plus a rooftop! It felt like a revelation for her! Never again would she even try to find identical tiles.


Learning to tame the dragon.

When four or more of the same colored tiles were grouped together, I would flip them, thus creating new grounds for laying a higher castle. Understandably, she was going for neatness on her player board, rather than color lumping! But by the end of this session, when she was running out of room to put more tiles, she tried to create groups. Unfortunately, this coincided with the ending of her excitement over a new game, so she proceeded to put the rooftops over her castle, no matter what.

We never talked about points, nor special powers, or even the other options available on a players turn. We took turns drafting pieces and placing them in our player boards until someone got bored first. ...she won!

So... would you log this as a gaming session? I logged an incomplete Dragon Castle session.


With the humongous Gloomhaven box residing on our living room table for over a week now, it's time to pack everything again and make room for other gaming travels. But not, until I score a victory with the Brute and the Tinkerer versus the Living Rotting Dead in arcade mode.

Last week's sessions at Level 1, resulted in near victories - or certain defeats, depending on your take on glasses half full! - so tonight I scaled things to Level 0. This still means I'm battling Level 1 foes mind you.


(yawning)... more bones.

I was also battling sleep at the same time I was battling Living Bones, so my main goal for tonight was to simply open the door to the second room, and finish the game tomorrow. I still find that 30 minutes per player written on the side of the box, to be the #1 lie in the board gaming world!

The corridor seemed deathly narrow, with little room for tactical maneuvering or pushing and luring foes into traps. I had to resort to good old hand to hand melee with the Brute, backed by the ranged contraptions and volleys from his little friend. I expected severe wounds on the Brute, but instead, the muscled barbarian-like character plowed trough the undead ranks as smooth as a knife through butter!

Either I was lucky... or I'm finally understanding how to efficiently use these two characters... or this easiness is nothing but the result of scaling back a level. I couldn't figure it out. I was too tired and fell asleep a second before I hit the bed. Tomorrow I'll end the Rotting arcade scenario.

So... would you log this as a gaming session. I didn't!

If a single game session stretches over many days, I log it the day the game is over. At least, when a clear "game over" factor is discernable. This is not a problem in eurogame-type sessions, but can sometimes be a fuzzy line when it comes to gamebooks or solo RPGs campaigns. For me, Four Against Darkness falls in those murky waters, so I tend to log it by 30-minute sessions. Since that's the amount of time I'm at the table playing 4AD. Usually, a single dungeon last about four or five 30 minute sessions.

What about you? How do you log your gaming sessions?


Summer vacations have finally started for Alice, meaning I'm joining the ranks of the millions of parents who, for the next few months, have to find a way to keep their children active and happy, as much in the outdoors as possible.

So we've challenged ourselves this year, to never visit the same beach twice for as long as possible! Apologies in advance if for the next few weeks, I'll end many of the posts with a beach view. It's out of context, I know. But life isn't just about recording game's session, right? You can also log and gamify the outdoors!


Today's beach? Praia da D. Ana.



One year ago: ...the illusion of freedom...


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Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:00 pm
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...a different city cottage...

Alexandre Correia
Portugal
Lagos
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Day 909. June 28, 2019. Lagos...

Two days ago, when the four-year-old daughter in the house asked if we could play a game after kindergarten, I gave her the usual answer:

"Pick whichever you want more."

A few moments later, as I pulverized coffee beans in the kitchen, she showed up with Cottage Garden's box underneath her arms. "Ok," I said tentatively. "We'll try."

She was no stranger to the components and had, in fact, helped me punch and sort everything when it had arrived about a month ago. Without a doubt, the sight of cats, pots and the wheelbarrow played a part in her choosing today. So we setup the game, just as if meant to play "by the rules". Score cubes, sorted cat tokens, and flowers all over the main board and in front of the wheelbarrow. Four cats in the four corners of the nursery.

I told her to who the gardener was (the big green die) and that he needed help picking the right plants for the flowerbeds. "Don't worry about anything else," I insisted as she kept asking about when did the wheelbarrow moved or what the blue/orange cubes were for. As expected, things weren't immediately obvious to her. Polyominoes planted outside the flowerbeds' boundaries. Several cats neatly tucked next to each other in one big clowder. The gardener presence in front of the row was of no consideration to her chosen flowers.

We "played" around the components for a few minutes before moving on to something else. The truth is, the game has rules to accommodate children as young as five years old! That was a good surprise paragraph to discover when I first read the rules. At the time, I wondered if I could bend those to accommodate Alice.


So today, when she asked for Cottage Garden again, I decided to try something different.


Picking the right cat is THE most important thing in this charming game.

I left the Planting Table and scoring cubes in the box and prepared everything as we did before. Instead of going for points, we would go for complete the most flower beds for as long as her attention lasted. It lasted longer than I expected! This second time around Cottage Garden, there was no mistake when it came time to pick a flower tile in the right row. Nor did those colorful polyominoes left the confines of the flowerbeds. And, she did ponder for a few seconds on whether to pick a flower tile or a simple pot, before committing to a decision.

Improvement. I guess my daughter is growing up fast.


As for the rest of the day over at geekland, I found time to continue with the Sprawlopolis challenge, even if no progress was actually made. I'm currently at the 1-2-11 setup. The #11 card being about placing commercial blocks between residential blocks, all connected by the same road.


Maybe I should go for standard block scoring.

It didn't' take long to figure that I would have to choose between the standard block district points and those from the #11 card. I chose the later, and thus ended up with a jungle of blocks. No district had more than 3 blocks of its color, so few points there. That lack of balance ended up with a defeat, by a single miserable point! Ah! Tomorrow I guess.


One year ago: ...Billy's cleaver...


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Fri Jul 5, 2019 9:00 pm
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...balancing panthers...

Alexandre Correia
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Day 899. June 18, 2019. Lagos...

With an assortment of small bugs infesting the kindergarten today, it was a no-go for the geekling in our house. Not a problem as we are more than used to staying in the city and/or indoors. There's never a "there's nothing for we to do" moment. Especially when board games are around. Right?

And while throughout the day Alice and I played Labyrinth Junior and Animal Upon Animal, it was with a reimplementation of the latter that something amazing happened today. Amazing things are a dime a dozen when growing four-year-olds are around biasedly proud parents. I know, I know...

Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge (AuA:BB) is not a favorite game in our house. When Alice wants to stack, she's drawn to the original or to Rhino Hero. Dexterity at this age is perhaps best left in the quick and simple department which AuA:BB is not. It adds secret goal cards and a race aspect to get rid of them. And secrecy was never Alice's strong suit since she's always showing me her cards to share what she has! As for the goal cards... she's never fully comprehended them. The animals must be touching to fulfill the goals. But it isn't necessary that they are all in direct contact with each other. A simple row of touching animals suffices for completion.

This distinction was never clear in her mind. But after this session, I think she finally got it!


A wobbly crocodile.

It was the first game of the afternoon. She was the one who picked the game but she was very energized and easily distracted by flying swirling dust particles to play any board games. Especially a dexterity game. With no surprise, more than half her turns ended with animals falling off the bridge, splashing into the river or forest below. Each new tumble, added a new card to her hand. In no time, her initial hand of three cards turned to nine.

To hasten things, I set myself to complete my own three goals as fast as the die allowed me so that we could move on. In retrospect, I should have called the game off. I'm glad I didn't!

All my goal cards required panthers. Two of them in two, in fact, along with giraffes and flamingos. So my first few rolls saw two panthers going up the bridge. Unfortunately, we were also rolling several "bridge" rolls, that asks us to move animals around on the bridge. Those two panthers quickly got separated.


No game mind today.

Add a few animals on top of them, a few tumbles from Alice and a series of bad die rolls, and I just couldn't get my hands on the other panthers around the box! Meanwhile, animals kept going up in a slow but steady manner. With so many of them up there, it didn't take long for Alice's hand of nine cards started getting fulfilled. Some she noticed herself. Some I hinted her to look again. As the game progressed, I stopped giving her clues altogether. She was back with three cards while I was stuck with my last one!

Noticing my increasing alarm after her relentless stream of fulfilled goals, she stopped "dancing" around the board with her distracted legs and arms, focusing on the game instead. She did not drop a single animal anymore.

When the die rolls finally granted me access to more panthers, the initial two were buried too deep! I would have to start a new set of animals to fulfill the final card. Including, somehow, the monstrous giraffe that often ends up collapsing everything! Alice's two iguana heavy cards were fulfilled rapidly. Iguanas are an easy animal to stack. Her last cards also had two panthers, so it came down to one card each and who was lucky enough to roll a spot with panthers and who had the steadiest hands to place them.

Against all odds, in a game that neither was too keen to play in the first place, Alice was the first to fulfill her last and ninth goal card, fare and square, turning this session into one of the gaming highlights of the week!


Brilliant.

Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge... you've found a home in our memories at last.

Thank you for reading.


One year ago: ...dragon visions in the grotto...


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Tue Jun 25, 2019 9:00 pm
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...dragon placement in a space maze for kids...

Alexandre Correia
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Day 896. June 15, 2019. Lagos...

Usually, I go alone to the monthly gaming meet-ups at the shop, to play non-stop from dusk till dawn. This month though, Alice had to come with me, and when the two of us arrived, the players were already... well, playing!

Keyforge, of all things. I still think those Keys will end up being a fad in the long run. A niche. A spike. Like Netrunner, Pokemon, Legend of the Five Rings. It comes, it goes and only a niche group of hard-core players are left behind to keep the flame burning. A new better-than-Magic heralded to the seven winds so that everyone's eyes and wallets are aimed at the new kid on the CCG! Even if this newest iteration is not 100% collectible. Time will tell.

For now, they're having fun forging keys, and that's all that matters really. They'll get more mileage out of a 10$ gaming product than many similarly priced card games, board games, RPG's, etc... But not Alice and I! So while the forgers forged, we delved.

The shop has a thrift copy of a Portuguese edition of Labyrinth. I've been meaning to try it for a while with Alice (why haven't I borrowed it before?) and now seemed like a perfect time. Alice too was keener to play with games, that with the toys and books lying around the shop.


Labyrinthers.

She had a kick setting up the board! Way more path building possibilities than our Junior version. Unfortunately, it also has way more possible outcomes when it's time to shift the maze. And way more treasures! And the labyrinthers in this version, leave a lot to be desired when it comes to portraying an adventurer.

She enjoyed it for the novelty and actually made a good start picking up three treasures in a row. But the endless pile of cards and the endless permutations of the maze quickly tired her and we ended up not finishing. Clearly, a game to be explored as slow as she grows.


Next up, Carcassonne Junior. Not the tile laying game that I would choose as an introduction to the genre for a 4-year-old.But, beggars can't be choosers.

Again, understanding a new concept in the first play is still several months (years?) away for Alice. She wanted to put tiles on their own, not touching any edge. She didn't understand that roads had to be connected to put your meeples. And she didn't realize this was a racing game.


Tiny little chunky tiles!

What she did, was enjoy immensely in discovering the tiny little details on the tiles! The hens, the cows, the running children, and castle towers! The frogs in the pond! Indeed there's a lot of story potential in those illustrations. But with a band of forgers nearby and people entering and leaving the shop, this was not the ideal setting for easing into a new game with a story.


By now Alice had had enough of board games. So while she played nearby with Lego's, pushcarts and noisy books, the grown-ups blasted off into space with another play of Master of Orion.

Having played the game recently, everyone had the modus operandi fresh, save for Daniel, who was playing it for the first time. But since he's no slouch at card tableaux engine building games set in space (thank you Race for the Galaxy), the only difficulty he found was seeing those combos for the first time. Obviously, he came down in the last place once eight rounds were over.


War and Peace.

There were no premature endgame shenanigans this time. We were all aiming for the long haul and that was fine by me. I set myself a mini-engine, scoring 3 points per attack and piling up five and six actions cubes per round. Even with Nuno trailing right behind me, and scoring himself a free point every time someone attacked him, I was able to gain a significant point lead. Daniel had stopped somewhere in the '20s and Joana... didn't score a single point the entire game!

But her five allotted systems were practically full!
"You'll get some points out of those I'm sure," I said in a patronizing tone. Suggesting that she should be more aggressive next time since that's how you score the big points in Master of Orion. Right?

Wrong! Joana's peaceful civilization hadn't been idle. Amongst all those cards, she comboed an impressive 45 points, jumping to the first position without attacking once! Very impressive. She pushed me from the podium by a single point, and thus a grudge interplanetary war begins in Orion.


Nuno U. had arrived by now and a next game needed to be picked, yet time had run out for a longer game, like Caledonia or Near and Far. And while everyone knew that K2 shined brighter with more players, both Nunos wanted to test their mettle in the city of Waterdeep! A three-year overdue play of Lords of Waterdeep at the shop!

It was Nuno U.'s first time with the classic. But as expected, he didn't have any problems with the rules. Nor with winning the game by a fairly large point lead!


The Waterdeep connection.

That everyone enjoyed the game was to be expected. We're all DnD fans here. Worker Placement our bread and butter growing up in the recent renaissance of game design. What I failed to remember in Lords of Waterdeep is that the game is blazing fast! And I mean FAST! To be done with a game like this in 30 minutes is no small feat in game design! No downtime. Everyone engaged, start to finish! Pure gaming bliss!

Even before Waterdeep's dust settled, I was immediately drawn back to another similar worker placement experience. Architects of the West Kingdom in LeiraCon! There was something about that game that I had enjoyed a lot, but couldn't quite put my finger on at the time. It's this, the Waterdeep connection! The smooth and fast manner that turns fly by. The game's various parts all moving around in harmony under distilled rules as if a well-rehearsed concerto!

Nuno backed Paladins and Architects, so I expect several joyful forays into the West Kingdom in the near future.


As a closer, we put Clank! on the table.


Clankers!

Joana made sure to steal the first treasure she found but didn't immediately carve her way up. She preferred instead to linger in the Depths for a while, honing her deck as the loudest bag of trinkets this game has ever seen! Obviously, the Dragon targeted her first, every single timed he roared out of slumber!

Nuno U.'s deck wasn't finely tuned as the rest of us. He didn't really have a coherent plan and seemed to flow randomly like a leaf falling from the tree. Burdened by the heaviest of Secret Tomes, before being squashed on the floor! He picked up quite a lot of those. And suffered every time the tomes cluttered his hand.

The other Nuno was set into making his deck the most valuable commodity in the dungeon. Every time a gem popped up on the shop row, he was quick to grab it, despite the noise he made in the process. Nimbly and with tremendous luck, he dodged admirable from the dragon's attacks.

I... well. I grabbed the underworld goblin dealer early and that was that. You see, he and I are old acquaintances and together have won our share of Clank! delvings. I stripped the deck as thin as possible first and then picked up every single gold coin I could on the way to the Golden Bananas, to fund the discounted tomes. The tomes didn't bother me as much as Nuno U.'s old books. And they felt like a winning recipe book to me once we exited the dungeon. Underworld Dealing triumphs every time.

So does playing games in Até à Lua. Thank you for reading.


One year ago: ...shelf dismemberment...


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Sat Jun 22, 2019 9:00 pm
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...yawning princess in Midtown's new tower...

Alexandre Correia
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Day 895. June 14, 2019. Lagos...

We started the week playing games, might as well end it playing games. More often than not, Alice asks for a game as soon as we arrive home from kindergarten. Since tomorrow is Saturday and Friday afternoons have that magical aura around them due to a restful weekend ahead, you can actually top that feeling with a board game cherry as the week's closure.

Lightning & Bolt was the first to hit the table carpet. It'd been a while since Alice flew over Midtown while I ran after her cleaning up the Bot's mess in her wake! Our first few rounds each saw us unable to fend off the pesky Bots from the tiles. Alice kept rolling sixes for them and we continued fighting with 3's and 4's! It took both of us to clean a single city block more often than not, wasting valuable time and making rescue attempts a chore. Add to that a string of unlucky Dr. Confusion moments and we had ourselves our first defeat after a long time!


Midtown opening.

Next came Spooky Stairs.

I've finally printed the English rules for our Scandinavian version. Not that it makes any difference. But it gives me a reason to try new rules with her, under the excuse of the new piece of black and white paper in the box. So now, when ghosts come up on the die and all the spectral sheets are covering the children, instead of switching your children (or what you think it's your children!) with another, you can switch anyone's white pawns!

Immediately it adds a soft element of take-that to a once peaceful climbing of the tower!

Alice liked when it was her turn to move my ghost backward. No so much the other way around. Her first take-that experience? Maybe. What was a first in our two-player sessions of Spooky Stairs, was that neither of us won in the end! Kids got mixed, confusion settled in and a neutral player made it to the top under Alice's own hand. Her own pawn, still in the first step of the staircase!

She asked for another play once the first was over. Only this time with the old house rules.


Different meaner stairs.

Not quite content, she wanted to end the gaming session with another game. I asked for a smaller game, she brought The Princess and the Pea.

Boring...

If you use the standard rules, there's just no way to perch the Princess in a precarious foothold over the cards to make the game challenging! The magnetic pea, under the metallic box, isn't big enough and the cards themselves are too big and firm! So in the spirit of trying new variants, I set up the game with the lid under the box, pea in the middle, making the whole thing less structurally stable! Hopefully... And this time we were allowed to place the cards without covering the pea drawn in each of them. Less thematic to say the least.

It felt a little better. The Princess did fell a few times. More cards were drawn. The difficulty bar slightly raised. Just not raised enough to change my current rating for the game, from a 5 to a 6. We played it twice and Alice won both times. No due to her skill, but due to luck of draw. She still likes her only Princess game and plays with the components often. So who cares about gamer's concepts of luck of the drawn or rating systems!


Maybe with a real pea it would work better.

A good toy Haba people. Not a good game.


One year ago: ...Blackbeard in Puerto Plata...


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Fri Jun 21, 2019 9:00 pm
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...bears and octopus over a generous pnp land...

Alexandre Correia
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Day 891. June 10, 2019. Lagos...


For the first time in 176 years, a brown bear was seen in Portugal, in the Natural Park of Montesinho. The last time a brown bear was spotted in Portuguese territory was in 1843. It was in Peneda-Gerês National Park and it was shot dead.*

Raquel Alburqueque, Revista Expresso Nº2430

When I read this in the newspaper this afternoon, I was sad. Here's further evidence that our future as a harmonious species is grim indeed. An animal returns to our land after 176 years and how do we greet it? Bang, bang, you're dead! Then grey matter kicked in and I realized I'd misunderstood things. It was the 176 years old bear that had been shot, not the new one!

Relief...

Earlier in the day, we had our own bear visit, but not after such a long absence. Bear Went Over the Mountain continues to see the light of day at least once per month, if not more, by Alice's own choosing.

I keep forgetting to print the rules, and I keep postponing building a box for this game. Games on baggies are ok for the backpack and pocket. But to have on the shelf? Hum... not so nice. In my dreams, one day I'll have all PnP's safely packed in their own custom made boxes.

At least Alice remembers the general rules. When I put the fourth card on the drafting display, she quickly pointed out that it was three and not four cards from which to pick!**


Our bear is back in the woods.

She continues to pick scoring cards during setup, instead of dealing them randomly. But if she used to pick only animal cards, this time she added a longest Hardwood Forest scoring card. One day we'll play with the longest valley and highest mountain! I noticed an improvement in her choices. No more bears and big animals because they're her favorite. She made an effort to create a big hardwood forest and collect as many birds as she could to score other cards.

We played it twice and would have gone for a third if I hadn't called it a day.


Even earlier in the day, after breakfast, both feeling no hurry to go outside and greet the howling cold winds, we played another animalesque PnP game, Unicorn.

This time, I let her know that we can play many games with these cards and that we should try a new one before playing her favorite, Go Fish Unicorn. So I set the cards for a Memory Unicorn, figuring it wouldn't be too difficult for her after so many By Golly!, Monster Chase and Lightning & Bolt sessions!

Reveal two cards. If they match, you get to keep them (score), if not flipped them back down. Nothing new here, until the wild unicorn shows up! The one-horned joker is always trying to create confusion in Noah's orderly sorting of animals in the ark. The player who finds the Unicorn loses a pair of animals and shuffles all the cards on the table before re-arranging them again! A hard mode memory game that resets! I think she liked it, but only time will tell.

We went back to Go Unicorn next, to Alice's particular delight in telling me "Go find a Unicorn!" every time my requests meet nothing on the card's she's holding.


One deck, many unicorns.

Before moving on to other daily routines, she asked what other games we could play with these cards. So I glanced the rulebook and tried the solo variant of the Queue for the Ark. Animals are put in a row, following a snake-like pattern and it's your job to find adjacent pairs to stow away in the ark. As animals leave, the queue moves and more animals are added.

But besides finding the adjacent animals, there's nothing a player can do to manipulate the queue! I didn't get it. I read and re-read the rules, trying to find something, but nil! I'll take a look in the forums if I remember.


All these PnP children's games don't help in the slightest in suppressing my growing desire to finally craft a copy of two designs from Mark Tuck. Washing Lines and Otto the Octopus! The latter a tile laying game about extending tentacles for points, the former a simplified version of Herbaceous really. You have to draw two cards on your turn. One at the time. If you add the first to your clothesline, you'll have to discard the second, or vice-versa, to try and set collect colored clothes.

Maybe I'll squeeze these two between two games in the Paper of Shame pipeline!


I meant to post another photo of my progress with the Paper of Shame project, but I'll have to put a stop on that pipeline for a few days. Someone won my generosity offer for a Agricola, Master of Britain, PnP version! I'll try to craft two copies in the process. Send the best looking one and keep the other so I can finally test that famed "cup management" thing.


Cups of war and submersible dice.

A serendipitous generosity and a serendipitous crave for Otto the Octopus... both must have somehow joined forces today because I too won a game in the generosity chains! Octodice! Finally a "serious" Roll & Write game coming my way!

Thank you for reading


* Bear update. It was a Spanish Brown Bear, crossing the border to visit us. A visit to steal 50 kg of honey from a local beekeeper!
** It's four after all!


One year ago: ...Portugal Day...


Photo & Image credits: ZombieBoard, lordpolish, Sintaura
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Mon Jun 17, 2019 9:00 pm
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...ice mountain full of dexterous monsters...

Alexandre Correia
Portugal
Lagos
Algarve
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Day 874. May 24, 2019. Lagos...

Usually, I don't want to play Monster Falle for longer than two rounds per player.

It gets a little samey-samey after a while. So whenever Alice picks it, I like to make sure that we each have just two round trackers googly eye tokens after setup. But lately, Alice's is setting up games all by herself and calling me when everything is ready.

So when I sat on the carpet and noticed four round markers for each, I knew we would be facing a loooong Monster Falle session.


Monster loot after four rounds.

It wasn't half as bad as I expected it to be. Surprisingly, we both score the same number of monsters in the first round. Either I was too slow or she was too fast, but we both caught three monsters a piece.

She's getting better.


She's also getting better at Dragon's Breath. No more choosing gemstones based on her favorite color! Ever since we played it at the shop, she's making sure to survey the top of the ice mountain before committing to a color. I still win though. But the difference in points is getting smaller. Maybe we'll even by the time she outgrows the game.


Mastering improvement.

One game where she's already winning invariably is Gulo Gulo. And we still have fun playing it no matter what.

She'll pick tiles already revealed as she moves forward, leaving to me the gamble of revealing new tiles. And when she triggers the alarm and goes back, she'll spot the precise colors that will allow her to catch up in the least number of turns.

As for the dexterity egg stealing part, well... little finger will always trump adult digits in Gulo Gulo.

Thank you for reading.


One year ago: ...ghoulish snacks...


Photo & Image credits: ZombieBoard
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Fri May 31, 2019 9:00 pm
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...fleeting eternal moments...

Alexandre Correia
Portugal
Lagos
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Day 867. May 17, 2019. Lagos...

Some days, you can't say no to your child.

That little window of time between getting home from the daily stroll and the meal making? Ten... fifteen minutes. Enough time to enter the house, take off your shoes, drop the grocery bags and... play a game?

In Alice's mind, indeed in any four year's old mind, five minutes can last forever. And forever is more than enough time to play games. They excel in living in the moment. When their interest is caught on by something and their fertile imagination leads them into another world.

"Let's play a game daddy!"
"Only if it's a small one. I have to cook lunch, so it has to be a really small game."

She hurries towards the board game shelf, promptly produces the smallest box in her collection. Heckmeck Junior!


Knizia: the numerology teacher.

I wonder what she's seeing when we play a game? Even if it's a five minute game of dice rolling, holding on to some and letting others go. Making cucumber sandwiches and finding slippery roast worms. Is there a whole universe of worms and white cubes that I'm missing? Hidden from my grown-up's mind?


With nap out of the way and windy weather outside, games showed up again as the afternoon entertainment. Again. And again. And again... She was on a roll, and I just couldn't give her a no.

I don't know why she still picks Spooky Stairs. To the game's credit, the art does have a sort of magical aura. But as a two player game, it doesn't have enough room to create that surprise punch in the final reveal. Who's the first to reach the top of the stairs? It's hard to feint that you don't know when your're one of the two players climbing the tower.

In the same way, La Chasse aux Monstres also captures you with an art style reminiscent of early Tim Burton movies. Maybe even Amélie Poulain.

But as a game, does it have enough lasting power to withstand dozens and dozens of plays? Capable to lure a child that's revealing those toys and sending monsters to bed for the last two years? Hum... Even when playing in the hardest difficulty mode? Nah...

These monsters don't pose a challenge anymore.

There's a competitive variant buried somewhere in the French rules. I have to ask the assistance to Dr. Google and his translation department sometime soon.


Scary ghosts, hungry bears and angry monsters? A good afternoon!

And what about the Bear? Does he still make us laugh walking up and down the mountain tracks? Sure. This one still holds up to her age. She's just starting to count, getting used to numbers one game at a time. And sometimes I can see her trying to pick up a card that it's worth more points, rather than always going for the big animals.

We played these three games, one after the other. She was always there. Her attention always held inside the game's universe. No matter how small it might now appear to us adults.

Many of us use games as a conduit to those infinite moments we spent playing when we were kids, years ago. Indeed when a game is really good, two hours seem like nothing. No matter how old you are, right? So in a sense, games are the ultimate age balance. Putting old souls and new spirits on that same infinite mindfulness universe. One held by the curiosity of a new world unfolding. The other lost in nostalgia.


One year ago: ...royal contracts with toddlers...


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Fri May 24, 2019 9:00 pm
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...elusive master toad of the labyrinth...

Alexandre Correia
Portugal
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Day 855. May 5, 2019. Lagos...

Ever since I took Junior Labyrinth out of it's dark waiting place and added it to Alice's shelf of games, that she plays with it more and more. A clear case of "out of sight, out of mind", in reverse. She'll build paths on the board, trying to connect everything to everyone, creating adventures and scenarios with the ghosts. This afternoon, once the ghosts had been through their spectral family bickering, she asked for a real game instead.

Sometimes she's with the right mindset for this game, and she's able to somewhat plan the shape of the labyrinth before moving the tiles. Other times, she's lost in the maze. It was clearly the latter today, after two sessions of Junior Labyrinth.


Disease spreading toad!

In one moment, the slimy toad was the race's prize. And there was no way to get to it, without at least two or three maze slides. But my turns building a viable path were destroyed by Alice's semi-random shifting. It took us ages before we could finally catch the damn slippery animal! And its skin had some sort of animal poison too. Soon after, Alice was burning in fever! It's going to be a long week indoors I guess...


Every time I play Junior Labyrinth, I can help myself and crave for the real deal. The Spiel des Jahres classic Labyrinth. If I lived in England, the US, or even Germany, it would be just a matter of time, before I thrift a used copy. As it was the case with our box of Junior Labyrinth. In Lagos though, you need to be very lucky and wait a long time for these types of games to show up at second hand shops.

Labyrinth has managed to sprout many variations on the shifting maze since it's original release, 33 years ago! From electronic versions to underwater mazes, Star Wars, LOTR, and Harry Potter retheme. Two player versions that are actually real-time games, and card only iterations.


A labyrinth of labyrinths.

Besides the original, the one I aiming my geek eye is the Master Labyrinth version. Not the 2007 take, which added combat rules. That immediately turned me off. But the also golden oldie from 1991. In Master Labyrinth, the basic game structure remains the same, shift tiles, race to treasure. Only now you need to find the treasure, or in this case, ingredients, in a particular order to fulfill secret potions recipes. The ingredients are not pre-painted on the tiles and are instead tokens placed in different places of the maze each time you play. There are wands for "special" powers and, more importantly, the game lends itself to asymmetrical scaling to suit various ages, expertise, and length of play. A winner in my book!

Thank you for reading and escuse me as I head down the maze-like road in the geekland, looking for a treasured trade.


One year ago: ...wraith of rules and the monarchic eukaryota...


Photo & Image credits: ZombieBoard
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Sun May 12, 2019 9:00 pm
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