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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Can you make a tiny Power Grid?

Lowell Kempf
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I’m not sure if I’ll actually play Power Duel but it was too fascinating an idea for me not to make a copy. It’s a two-player distillation of Power Grid that will fit in a mint tin.

I have never actually owned a copy of Power Grid. That’s because, in every gaming group I have ever been in, at least one other person has already owned it. There have been times when I’ve played so much of it, I got burned out on it but I’ve never stopped thinking it was an A++ game. And I bet if I played it now, I’d think it was ever better than I remembered.

I originally found Power Duel via Project Shrinko and it is a good example of the Project Shrinko philosophy. Try to distill a beloved game into a pocket-sized package. I approach every Project Shrinko game with the same two questions: Does it actually feel like playing the game that inspired it AND is it any good as game in and of itself. The second question is really the more important

Power Duel is theoretically my Project Shrimko ideal. An easy way to have a portable version of a game I don’t own and really like Unfortunately, while I find many of the choices made in shrinking the Power Grid down downright fascinating, I think too much is lost in the process. More than that, I have to wonder if the game is solvable.

Not only are auctions removed (fair enough, two player auctions are a tricky proposition, albeit not impossible), all the power plants are available from the start. And using money tracks instead of paper money condensing the game but makes money public knowledge all the time. Removing all the random elements and hidden information might make it too easy to create an optimal strategy, probably one with a first player bias.

Other choices, players lose unpowered cities and the game lasting a set six turns and upgrading plants to accommodate a small number of cards, do seem like good choices. There are some neat ideas going on here. But the strong possibility of scripted play being too easy to develop makes me feel meh about using my limited game time to try it out.

Power Grid is a really nifty set of interlocking mechanics. I praise Project Duel for trying to make a smaller, simpler version but some things can’t be simplified without losing too much. But, man, the idea fascinates me enough that I’m writing all this about it and making a copy. Back at the very earliest point in my modern board game life when most of my gaming was at little tables at coffee shops, I bet I’d have played Power Duel if it had existed then.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2214797/wip-power-duel-tiny...
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Wed Jan 13, 2021 9:32 pm
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The Great Races is really a look at the design process

Lowell Kempf
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There are three reasons I decided to make a copy of The Great Races: A) It was there B) it is a Sid Sackson design C) historical curiosity.

To the best of my knowledge, the Great Races has never been published in a box format. I know it was published in a collection of paper and pencil games in 1974. I’ve seen it reprinted in The Greatest Games of All Time by Matthew J. Costello and I’m sure it’s been reprinted in other places as well.

And if the Great Races isn’t a precursor to Can’t Stop, my cats are secretly lemurs with retractable claws. The board is almost the same and the dice mechanics are also very similar. If the Great Races wore a hat that said ‘I’m a prototype for Can’t Stop’ and danced a ‘I’m a prototype for Can’t Stop’ dance,’ it wouldn’t be more obvious.

The game consists of eleven tracks, numbered two to twelve. They sort of form a bell-shaped curve with the two and twelve tracks being the shortest and seven being the longest. You roll four dice, pair them and move up on those two tracks.

And here is where it’s different than Can’t Stop. Your turn ends at that point. There isn’t the same kind of push-your-luck element. The game ends when every track has been completed and there are points for first and second place in every track.

Can’t Stop is an absolute classic of a board game. It’s been around for decades and it is the game that all push-your-luck games are judged by. Between on-line and in-person plays, I’ve been playing Can’t Stop several times a year since I got into playing board games.

And compared to Can’t Stop, the Great Races doesn’t measure up. Not that it’s reasonable to expect it to but it isn’t a lost gem that has been unfairly languishing in the shadow of its more famous offspring. In addition to having a significantly weaker push-your-luck element, I honestly feel the game takes too long for what it gives you. Having to finish all eleven tracks makes the endgame drag. It is incremental where Can’t Stop is dynamic.

That said, I have played plenty of worse dice games. Some of them predate the Great Races and plenty of them came after. I feel like it should have had a bigger moment in the sun. But it led to Can’t Stop. That’s a big deal.


Originally, this was over at www.gnomepondering.com
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Fri Jan 8, 2021 3:17 pm
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Ah, New Years resolutions

Lowell Kempf
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Ah, time for New Year’s resolutions.

My primary ones don’t play into gaming or reading or writing and are pretty general. Try and eat better and exercise more. (Literally, that’s it. If I try and make specific plans, life is more likely to get in the way)

But I do have a few relating to gaming.

For a while, I have made it a goal to make one ‘larger’ Print and Play project a month. My definition is quite humble. At least three pages of components. I realized that that’s about the size of a printer’s sheet so about the size of a publishable micro game.

However, at least once this year, I want to make at least one game that exceeds the scope of a micro game. Which wouldn’t be new ground for me but still isn’t a monthly thing. I’m not sure what counts. Would a 54-card game count? Do I have to make a board? It’s really all up to me but I don’t know what the answer for me is.

I also want to try and learn a new game at least once a month. Which also isn’t a new thing for me but, during the start of last year’s quarantine, I stopped doing that and realized learning new games really helped keep my sprits up. I don’t want to go crazy but at least one a month is a happy medium.

2021 has an uphill struggle after 2020 but I think things, big and small, will get better.

Originally posted over at www.gnomepondering.com
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Mon Jan 4, 2021 9:58 pm
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My December PnP

Lowell Kempf
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December 2020. The last month of what was one son-of-gun of a year. At one point, I thought I’d be lucky to make one PnP project with everything that happened during the month. But I had a couple of crafting sessions of making tiny projects to relax.

This is what I made:

Squire for Hire
Ugly Gryphon Inn
Railways (2019 9-Card Contest)
Petals (2020 2-Player PnP Contest)
Handful of Hazards (little cards)
One-Minute War
Gator (2020 Solitaire PnP Contest)
Pohutukawa Christmas
The Great Races
Dice Baseball
Bounce
Mombatuk the Adventurer (2020 R&W Contest)
Dolphins and Dinosaurs - solo edition (2020 Solitaire Contest)
Griphold Tower (2020 Solitaire Contest)

Squire for Hire was my ‘big’ project for the month. As ever, my definition of big still isn’t that. More than two pages of components Basically, enough to be published. And Squire for Hire proven to be a game I keep playing and trying to do better at.

As I mentioned, I made a bunch of tiny games, micro games and laminating Roll and Write sheets. Itty bitty things that will still be fun to explore and making them definitely helped my peace of mind.

Print and Play was helpful in a lot of ways this year.


Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Fri Jan 1, 2021 6:27 pm
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2020

Lowell Kempf
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I don’t think there has been a year that will have more retrospectives than 2020 for maybe a generation. That is a huge sentence but I think it’s still true. This has been a grueling, devastating, damaging year. People all around the world will be feeling 2020 for years to come. 2020’s going to get its own Dewey Decimal number.

We have been luckier than so many people we know, let alone the wider world. And this has still been the most exhausting, stressful year of our lives.

Quarantine led to remote schooling and having to be the entertainment center meant a lot less R&R time. Short stories became incredibly valuable for me. And gaming has helped keep me a little saner.

Print and Play, solitaire micro-games have been a big deal for me in 2020. I already enjoyed them a lot but 2020 made them a focal point of my gaming. PNPArcade was a really solid source for them. When I had a stack of print-outs sitting I front of me to be cut and I felt like I had just walked into the exhibit hall of GenCon, I knew how confined quarantine had made us and how much we needed the little things.

Digital and online gaming has always been a big part of my gaming hobby so it didn’t feel particularly significant for me as far as 2020 was concerned. But I did play a lot of board games, thanks to the power of computers. In particular, I attended a coupe of virtual conventions. Which wasn’t as good as in-person but was incredibly important for fostering a sense of connection and community.

Finally, my positive, warm, fuzzy feelings towards Roll and Write games got a huge boost. While it goes back into how valuable Print and Play has been for me, Roll and Write still deserves a special mention. When time and space are limited, Roll and Writes offer some of the meatiest options for me. More than that, they are the best options when someone has asked me for a game they can make and play when they can’t get out.

2020 has been a devastating year all around. I think I speak for everyone when let us hope that 2021 is better.
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Thu Dec 31, 2020 7:43 pm
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Squire for Hire is Inventory the Game

Lowell Kempf
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Squire for Hire is a tile-laying game disguised as an inventory management game disguises as a dungeon crawl.

Oh, it’s also an 18-card micro game that is available as a PnP and offers a solitaire option that’s pretty effective. Those last two items are why I ended up trying Squire for Hire out

In the game, you are a cute little anthropomorphized animal person who is serving as the squire for an adventurer, which pretty amounts to being their caddy. You have to make sure they have the right weapons, magic, armor and such at the right time, not to mention make sure the inventory bag is properly sorted.

Really, it’s Nodwick without the horrible injuries.

Enough other folks have given detailed descriptions of the rules so here’s the thumbnail. The cards are double-sided. There’s a story side, which requires you to use specific items in your pack to be able to get loot. The other side is the loot side. That’s the tile laying side, three by four grid with random items taking up different numbers of squares. There’s some empty spots too.

Points are earned by having good stuff, duplicate items next to each other and special bonuses from your squire card. And you lose points for garbage.

It’s a pretty simple game, which is good because the rules definitely need some work. It’s a problem I’ve seen in a lot of micro games that are designed to fit into a tiny box or folder. There are number of points that could use some clarity. And, because of that, I thought Squire for Hire was easier than I thought. As I worked through some plays, I realized rules I had gotten wrong and the game became more interesting.

When you actually get the rules right, the puzzle element of the game is solid. You have lots of options and every decision will turn out to be wrong But it’s the theme that honestly sells the game. There are _lots_ of micro tile laying games out there. Invoking the grid inventory system that even I, who don’t play many video fakes, am familiar with, that’s the hook. And the mechanics make sense with managing that inventory.

At the end of the day, Squire for Hire is better than my first impressions and an amusing solitaire.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Tue Dec 29, 2020 2:48 pm
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Ugly Gryphon Inn: a nightmare in customer service

Lowell Kempf
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Earlier this year, Buttonshy started a new subsection of their wallet line called Simply Solitaire with Food Chain Island by Scott Almes. Now they’ve announced the next one, Ugly Gryphon Inn. Also by Scott Almes. He’s making all of them? I’m OK with that.

In a kitchen sink fantasy world, you are the proprietor of the Ugly Gryphon Inn. It’s the only inn for hundreds of miles and apparently you’d have to be crazy to go there since all your potential patrons are crazy. Still, you have bills to pay so you are trying to have at least seven paying guests by the end of the night.

The game consists of eighteen cards and nothing else. That’s kind of the idea of the Simply Solitaire line. Minimal components with accessible, solid rules. It’s a tableau management game and I feel like it’s aimed at a more ‘gamer’ audience than Food Chain Island.

Each card is a patron. Along with some art, every card comes with some tidbits of information. There are one to three traits, one of which is always food or beer and the rest are things that annoy people. Then there are one or two things that will irk them when they are in the inn and what happens when they get irked.

There are two areas in the game. The bar, which is a horizontal line of four cards, and the inn which is a vertical line. Each turn, you move someone from the bar to the inn and then see if you’ve irked anyone in the inn. Usually, irked patrons leave but most of them will also do something else to mess with your tableau. If you have at least seven cards in the inn when the draw pile runs out, you win!

The worst thing I can say about the game is that there are a lot of fiddly details to keep track of. I’ve been having fun with the puzzle elements of the game and the mechanics work with the theme nicely.

I do wonder if the game will be solveable. At the start of the game, you know where close to 25% of the cards are and your knowledge of the deck just increases from there. I feel like you’ll be able to figure out combos and the game will become increasingly easy.

Still, I think that Ugly Gryphon Inn is a strong second step in the Simply Solitaire line. I think Food Chain Island is great for everyone but I would recommend Ugly Gryphon Inn to my more ‘serious’ gamer friends.


Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Mon Dec 21, 2020 8:21 pm
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The world is full of tinier games!

Lowell Kempf
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I messed up making a copy of Petals from this year’s two-player contest. I made it just to blow off steam with a quick project and I made it as six cards because I didn’t realize it was three folded cards.

I’m not the only one this happens to right?

Honest, anything more than nine cards I actually pay attention to. But sometimes I like to make one-sheet projects just so I can make something.

However, now I’m actually interested in Petals as more than just a crafting distraction. Condensing the idea of Tussie Mussie to three cards is more of a legitimate nano-game than six cards

But now I had four cards (one card of instructions) to laminate after I cut and fold them. So I asked myself, what can I do with the rest of a 9 x 11.5 sleeve? So it became a game of making use of space

I had already printed out Gator from this year’s Solitaire contest because, frankly, I thought it was hysterical. I also printed off a One Minute War because I have been wanting to make thinner laminating plastic because business card laminating pouches made the tabs too stiff. Finally, I decided to fill in the rest of the space with Handful of Hazard cards since each one in the base set is a stand-alone game.

When I first dabbled in PnP, Bonsai Samurai was an interesting little experiment because it was a game that consisted of one card. It’s not actually a good game but it was just one card! Well, there are now enough nano games out there that I can actually find ones that I’m interested in trying

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Wed Dec 16, 2020 2:52 pm
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Okay, last minute PnP gift ideas

Lowell Kempf
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Holy cow, Christmas is barreling down on us like a runaway toboggan. As a lazy PnP guy, I feel like I should make suggestions for PnP games for gifts.

Which I realize is exactly the kind of gift that can fall really flat.

Soooo... instead of an exhaustive list or games that I _think_ would work, I am just going to list the two games that I’ve used on more than one occasion that seem to have done well.

I’ve used Elevenses for One in multiple PnP Secret Santas and it’s been well received each time. It’s actually been published. (Which doesn’t prove anything really but it does mean some folks had faith in the game)

I used to consider Elevenses for One the gold standard for light PnP solitaire games. I have come to feel that it’s a bit simple and formulaic to get that high a mark. But it’s a fun game that is accessible, easy to make and still looks good if you don’t have a color printer.

The other game I’m going to suggest is 13 Sheep. I’ve included it in Christmas cards in the past and I didn’t get any complaints.

13 Sheep is a very light, very simple Roll and Write, the kind that any number of people can play as long as everyone has a player sheet. It is one of better Roll and Writes I’ve played that uses just one die. Damning with faint praise, I know but it really is a fun little game.

As I said, PnP games, particularly ones made at the last minute, are an iffy proposition at best but these are fun.

Originally posted at the last minute at www.gnomepondering.com
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Fri Dec 11, 2020 5:56 pm
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My November PnP

Lowell Kempf
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November. After three months of saying I’d do it, I finished Agent Decker. As lazy as my methods are (laminate instead of using modge podge or such), it really says something about 2020 that it took me so long.

So, here’s the list of what I made:

Trico (2019 9-card contest)
Agent Decker
Handful of Hazards with expansion (2020 Solitaire PnP Contest)
Clockmaster ( 2020 R&W Contest)
Boxcars
Patrol Lost (super basic, low ink version)
Lifeguard: Surf and Rescue (2020 Solitaire PnP Contest)
Nine Circles (2020 Solitaire PnP Contest)

Not a bad month. I am looking forward to trying Agent Decker and seeing how Patrol Lost works as a solitaire.
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Tue Dec 1, 2020 10:17 pm
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