A Gnome's Ponderings

I'm a gamer. I love me some games and I like to ramble about games and gaming. So, more than anything else, this blog is a place for me to keep track of my ramblings. If anyone finds this helpful or even (good heavens) insightful, so much the better.

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what can you do with one sheet of paper?

Lowell Kempf
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My rough measure of, well, how much work a PnP is going to be is the number of pages I print out. But, wow, can that be a wide range in reality. After making a copy of Raging Bulls (printing out and laminating a sheet of paper) and Robots of Creation (forty-two itty bitty cards, plus a couple of tiles) almost back-to-back, I really found myself wondering how useful a measure was

That said, I think those two examples represent the two extremes of how much cutting you can expect to do on one page.

I almost don’t count just laminating a sheet of paper. Ironically, I have had a lot of great experiences with Roll and Writes so the return on some of those builds has been great.

The real middle ground for me are sheets of eight or nine cards or boards with a couple columns of counters. Basically, if I can cut it in five minutes with a paper cutter, it is still an easy build.

However, when I have to get out the scissors and fussy cut for an half an hour, that’s when i cross over the threshold to it being ‘work’.

The first time I really experienced a fussy-cut build was Raiders in My Pocket. At first I was thrilled at a Zombie in My Pocket that fit on one page. However, I spent more time making it than I did making Tiny Epic Zombies And the bits were so tiny that I actually had real problems physically playing the game.

The last two fussy-cut builds I’ve made have been Robots of Creation and My Little Castle. It helped that I had a good idea what I was getting into, build-wise. I think these small bits will work better than Raiders.

Ironically, the actual intellectual-size of the game isn’t determined by the number of cuts. Utopia Engine, for instance, is fairly deep and cat fit on one page with no cuts.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Thu Mar 12, 2020 10:35 pm
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Raging Bulls makes simplicity work

Lowell Kempf
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Raging Bulls is a game that has been on my radar for a while. It’s gotten decent buzz and making it consists of printing out one page, maybe laminating it. So, seeing as how I’ve been playing lots of Roll and Writes lately, I decided it was time.

Raging Bulls has you drawing lines on a grid to fence in bulls with die rolls determining which points you can draw from. Honestly, that’s a pretty good description of the game in one sentence.

The simplicity of Raging Bulls is both the best part of it and why you’d probably burn out on it relatively easily. A couple years ago, I tried out another Roll and Write called the Captain’s Curse which also involved carving up an area with straight lines. Raging Bulls is a much simpler design but, at the same time, I felt like I had more legitimate choices in Raging Bulls. It’s simplicity also makes it very intuitive.

At the same time, it’s not flawless. The random placement of bulls could place them on the edge, making them much more difficult to fence in. The difficulty can be way all over the place, depending on the dice. I’ve been having fun with the game but I can see how it won’t be a winner for everyone.

The site Happy Meeple has added Raging Bulls to the list of games you can play online there. And it’s added elements like sheep, ponds and other mechanics. I do intend to explore that. I am curious to see if making Raging Bulls more complicated makes it better or spoils it.

Raging Bulls epitomizes for me the potential of a PnP R&W experience. Not perfect but very accessible on almost every level.
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Mon Mar 9, 2020 8:42 pm
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Sometimes, the process is the reward of the game

Lowell Kempf
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As I’d written earlier, I just discovered that there was a Roll and Write contest in 2018. Fortunately for me, the files for all the entries that wanted to share their files are still around so I’ve been sifting through them.

Some of the more interesting items don’t have solitaire options so they are on the back burner for me. (For many reasons that i’ve discussed before and will discuss again, it’s always easier to get a solitaire PnP on the table, regardless of its format) I printed off a couple of the quicker and more ink-light of the solitaire options.

As it happened, they had the exact same theme, coloring in autumn leaves. But one of them left me meh and the other one I enjoyed enough that I can see it part of my regular rotation.

Autumn Tree is a game where you are coloring on circles on a stick tree, with restrictions on the order you color in branches and how often you can use each color. You also have to deal with black leaves that worth negative points.

Man, I feel bad slamming someone else’s work. (I haven’t ever tried to design a R&W so I don’t know if I could do better) Autumn Tree is an example of a game that isn’t broken. All the parts work. But it’s sadly boring. (Sorry, sorry!) The decision tree is very simple and kind of obvious. It doesn’t engage me with either its decisions or its use of its theme.

Autumn Leaves is a game where you color in six different leaves, each one divided up into sections. You get points for completing leaves and using the same color. You also have to deal with a decay track, the dreaded color brown and a table of bad things happening to your leaves.

I’m honestly not sure that the decision tree in Autumn Leaves is actually any deeper than Autumn Tree. However, the process is more engaging. Each decision is binary but still involves sacrificing one leaf in the hopes of doing well with another. The decay track and the table of bad stuff helps keep the tension up.

And, while the art is just clip art that looks like it is from a free coloring book you might pick up for your kid at a local park, it does add that extra bit of visual pop. Really, you are pretty much coloring a picture as you go.

I have a theory that short, simple solitaire games can be as much about the process as the actual game. Last year, I made a copy of a game called Mariner from the Nine Card Contest. The game borders on being solved but I like the process of cycling through the deck. Autumn Leaves may not actually be a good game. The dice do control a lot of what goes on. But the procedure is fun.

On the one hand, I think there is value in exploring the PnP games that are out there. You can learn a lot of mechanics and the application of theme. In that sense, every game is worth trying. However, I also like finding a game that is fun.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Wed Mar 4, 2020 9:08 pm
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My February PnP

Lowell Kempf
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I pretty much just made Roll and Writes in February:

Pencil Park, including the 2020 year version
Seascrappers
Gryphon Delivery Service
Grazing Sheep
Rollands

The original version of Pencil Park actually qualifies as a larger project by my meager standards. Three pages of cards. Not much but that was more than just laminating a sheet of paper after I printed it out

I only realized it when writing this blog that, for once, I actually tried out almost all the games I made this month. (Okay, it doesn’t hurt that the longest one is ten minutes and they all were just rolling dice and writing stuff down) I skipped Grazing Sheep because I want to explore one of the designers’ earlier works, Raging Bulls, first.

Honestly, when you consider that I probably spent an hour tops on print and play crafting in February, the return has been really great.


Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Sun Mar 1, 2020 5:45 pm
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Rollands is like an old friend

Lowell Kempf
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The designer of Rollands described the game as a cross between Knizia’s Criss Cross and Kingdomino and I don’t think I can do a better job than that.

It is a Print and Play Roll and Write, which means it’s a dice and pencil game that you can print out yourself. The actual play sheet itself consists of a six by six grid with notations to remind you how the game works.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2037862/wip-rollands-roll-w...

You are drawing a map and trying to get the most points you can. You start off by drawing a castle in one of the squares. Then, you roll two dice each turn. Depending on what you roll, you can do a q variety of things.

Each number from one to six has a different kind of landscape associated with it. You can either draw two landscapes (one for each die) next to each other or add them together to draw one landscape. However, at least one landscape type needs to be next to one of the same type. (The castle counts as a wild so you can actually play the game)

If you roll a nine or eleven, you can add a coin to a group of the odd-numbered landscapes. Eight or ten, you can add a coin to a a group of even-numbered landscapes. Twelve let’s you add a coin anywhere. At the start of the game, you can only add one coin to a grouping but a roll of seven lets you increase the number.

Oh. And if you can’t do anything else, you add a scarecrow, which are worth negative points at the end.

When the map is full, you figure out your score. Every grouping with at least one coin is worth the number of squares by the number of coins. Just like Kingdomino. Groups with no coins are worthless and scarecrows are negative one each.

I am of two minds when it comes to Rollands. On the one hand, wow but it can be swingy. Depending on the dice, I have seen scores more than fifty points apart. I think that was an extreme example but it’s still possible. The dice can make a huge difference, particularly when it comes to adding coins to the map. Every Roll and Write has an element of chance since you’re rolling dice but I have to wonder if Rollands has the illusion of choice.

On the other hand, I keep on having fun with Rollands. It uses a lot of familiar ideas and feels very intuitive. It’s just a very comfortable game. I’m glad I found it and I know I’ll keep playing it.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Tue Feb 18, 2020 2:13 am
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Paper Pinball might just be rolling dice

Lowell Kempf
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Since I seem to be focusing on Roll and Write games, I decided that it was time I finally tried out Robin Gibson’s Paper Pinball series.

Every game in the series is a stand-alone Roll and Write, themed around pinball. They all have a nice picture of a pinball table and the rules on the side. The different pinball scoring elements have boxes for you to fill in with 2d6 and they all have different rules and restrictions. Ramps require ascending numbers, for instance. If you can’t fill in a box, you cross off a ball. The game ends when you either cross off the third ball or you fill in the entire table. Every element has its own scoring rules, some of which are a little fuzzy.

I got the first three pinball games when they first came out, printed and laminated them, and promptly filed them. As I understand it, Gibson revised them when they got released on PnP Arcade so I wonder if the later editions might resolve some of my quibbles about scoring.

I would describe the series as ‘okay’ It’s definitely swingy and the best place to write a number is usually pretty obvious. Opening the multi-ball option so you get to roll a third die and get more choices is probably the most essential thing to go for in any of the games. On the plus side, it’s an inoffensive little distraction that I don’t mind playing. It’s fun in moderation.

That said, its theme screams for a comparison to Sid Sackson’s Pinball from Beyond Solitaire. And that Roll and Write game from 1976 honestly offers more decisions. Not nearly as pretty but better overall gameplay.

I also feel compelled to compare Paper Pinball to the Legends of Dsyx, another series of Roll and Writes by Robin Gibson. The Legends of Dsyx are also one page each, including rules. And they are very thematic with diverse and interesting mechanics. They aren’t perfect but they are ambitious. Paper Pinball is me rolling dice. The Legends of Dsyx feels like a board game in a sheet of a paper.

Robin Gibson has become a designer that I’m interested in but Paper Pinball is not one of their strongest works. That said, I have just seen the first draft of the system. I might pick up one of the later games and see how it developed.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Wed Feb 12, 2020 5:25 am
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My January PnP

Lowell Kempf
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It’s already a few days into February and I’m running behind on this blog. Quite frankly, I’ve been more interested in crafting PnP games than I have been in writing. I didn’t have a bad start of the year in January. This is what I made:

Name of God, full version
High Score
12 Patrols
Agent of Smush
Switchboard (2019 9 Card Contest)
9-Bit Dungeon
Micro City

January I am trying to continue my goal of making a ‘larger’ project. Making a copy of the second edition of The Name of God is something I have been wanting to make for a while. It’s a short form, GM-free RPG (and someday, SOMEDAY, I will play it!)

Beyond that, I made some small games but some of them look better pretty interesting.

A good start to the year.


Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Wed Feb 5, 2020 2:29 am
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Can a gamer live on PnP alone?

Lowell Kempf
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I think one of the questions that you have to ask about PnP games is ‘Can you have a fulfilling game closet with nothing but PnP games?’ I have no intention of getting rid of my actually published games but if I washed up on a desert island with nothing but an internet connection, a laser printer and a ton of crafting supplies, could I be happy?

Wow, I have just come up with the least marketable sequel to Castaway. Particularly since a gaming group apparently washed up on the other side of the island for me to play with. The analogy might be getting a little carried away.

There are three questions I feel like you have to ask in order to determine if a game collection can be nothing but PnP games. Is there enough variety out there? How much trouble is it going to take to make them? Can you get other people to play them?

The answer to the first questions is a blatant yes. There are hundreds of PnP games out there in every genre imaginable. If all you want to play is train games and war games and you don’t mind paying for the files, you will die happy and contented. (Yeah, I should have included food and water in my desert island scenario)

Building them... that’s tougher. Here’s the thing. There’s games where you just print the board and add pawns. There are Roll and Writes that you just need to print out the playing sheets. There are some nine card games that are worth playing. There are easy builds that are still good games. If you really want to, you will work your way your up. If you want to, you will build.

Question number three... I think that’s the really big one. It’s not for nothing that a lot of my PnP builds are either straight solitaire games or can be played solitaire. And I have read that designers will intentionally include solitaire options even if a game isn’t a pure solitaire because that greatly increases the chances of getting play testers.

Let’s be honest. The quality of components can make a real difference in whether or not folks are willing to play a game or not. I have made games by printing them on copy paper with a scissors. (Admittedly, the last one was a game where you rip pieces off of the game) But I don’t think I could get anyone interested in a game that looks like that.

And, no, I’m not unique in my interest in prototypes and experimental games and chrome not being a deal breaker. But I feel a game collection should be accommodating. So you have to up your crafting game.

Yeah, you can have a PnP-alone collection but it will take some elbow grease.


Originally posted at wwww.gnomepondering.com
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Mon Jan 20, 2020 9:24 pm
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Looking back at my 2019

Lowell Kempf
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Okay. It is time I look back and look at 2019 before I get too far into 2020.

2019 was a quiet year for me, game wise. I got in some events and some face-to-face gaming but it was mostly online board games, PnP and solitaire gaming.

At the same time, it was an affirming year.

Over the last few years, I have gotten more and more into Print and Play games, including Roll and Write, and solitaire games. Usually at the same time. There’s a lot of interesting solitaire PnP options out there.

2017 was when I realized both that Roll and Write games could have serious variety and depth. 2018 was when I got really, really got into Print and Play and made a lot more projects, which also included formally storing them all.

I didn’t have a major shift like either of those in 2019. Instead, I honed my PnP activities. I became more choosy about what I made (at least as long as it was more than a page in components) I worked on pacing my crafting so I didn’t get as burnt out (although sometimes life itself got in the way) And I tried to make one larger project a month.

So, in 2019, I took steps to make PnP an ongoing part of my hobby.
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Mon Jan 6, 2020 9:46 pm
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A game that drops the Roll and just goes with Write

Lowell Kempf
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Golf! from the 2019 Print and Play Solitaire Contest was one of those print and play projects that took five minutes to print, laminate and play so, of course, I had to. One side of the page is the rules and the other is the play sheet. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

The board consists of an 18 hole golf course. With each hole, you put your dry erase maker on the tee, close your eyes and try to draw a line to hole. Your score for each hole is the number of lines you had to draw and the number of water fouls and sand pits you hit. Just like real golf, you want a low score.

It’s a slight, silly little concept that has this one redeeming quality. It is actually evocative of golf. I have played golf-themed games that use dice or cards that didn’t actually give any sense of golf. But Golf!’s playing around with physical space actually has a feel of golf. And that’s enough for me to enjoy playing the game.

Here’s the thing. I have played the exact same game only called Par-Out Golf. And, frankly, that version was better with a separate board for each hole. It has richer artwork and more complex holes.

But... I have never even seen a physical copy of Par Out Golf, just played the app which is no longer supported and the three demo pages. And if I ever saw a copy for sale, it would probably cost more than I’d be willing to pay for. Golf!, on the other hand, is readily available in its entirety and that counts for a lot.

Golf! isn’t for everybody, not for a lot folks really. But it is fun for those who it is for and an easy little project for those folks to make.


https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2272801/wip-golf-2019-solit...

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Fri Jan 3, 2020 2:25 am
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