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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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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Lifeguard is not bad but that might not be enough

Lowell Kempf
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I’ll be honest. While I look at every entry in PnP contests and download them, the low ink, low construction games are the ones that get made right off the bat. (Larger games require consideration) Which is why I’ve already tried out Lifeguard: Surf and Rescue. It’s a Roll and Write that consists of one page of play sheet and one page of rules. I duplexed it and laminated and was done in one sheet of paper.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2490831/wip-lifeguard-surf-...

Lifeguard is all about rescuing drownings surfers. In addition to the play sheet, you will need something to write with and a couple of dice. Yes, this game has a really low buy-in requirements.

The actual board is a grid. You set up the game by rolling the dice and then spending the pips on resources (which consist of three different ways to manipulate dice, ranging from +/- 1 to refills) After that you roll the dice and place drowning surfers on those coordinates. You can adjust the difficulty by adding or subtracting and drowning people.

Okay, here’s how you play. Roll two dice. Choose one of them and draw a line straight up from the X axis until you hit the other number on the Y axis. Then drawn a straight line to the left. If you touch any drowning surfers, you save them. If you can’t, use resources to adjust the dice until you can. Save all the surfers and you win. Use up all your resources and you lose. Scores are based on how efficiently you rescue drowning surfers.

I have to admit that I read the rules wrong the first time I tried to play. Based purely on my own preconceptions, I assumed you were drawing a diagonal line, not a right angle. And that made the game literally impossible. Getting the rules right made quite a difference.

Honestly, the game was better than I expected but I went in with very low expectations and a misunderstanding that broke the game. My favorite part of the game is the dice manipulation, which is clear and cleanly laid out.

But the big problem the game has is that it’s too easy. After a decent handful of games, the only time I lost was when I rolled a four to buy resources. I feel pretty sure that rolling a six or better (and you do get a mulligan) will give you enough resources to win the game. And a d6 is small enough that a little dice manipulation can go a long way.

Too easy isn’t an absolute deathknell for a game. I still periodically play Solitaire Spellbook Swapping from last year’s solitaire contest still comes out. It’s easy to solve but it’s an amusing puzzle. But it’s the exception to the rule.

Being easy to pull together can be an underrated virtue in PnP games and one I keep in mind when recommending games to folks who don’t normally PnP. However when it’s a game’s strongest point, it’s not the best.
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Fri Nov 27, 2020 9:05 pm
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My changing opinion of Handful o Hazards

Lowell Kempf
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Handful o’ Hazards is the first (but not the last!) game I’ve tried from the 2020 PnP Solitaire Contest. It’s a set of tiny little scenarios for a tiny little dice system. Each scenario is on a wallet-sized card and I’m a big fan of games that you can take anywhere.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2481607/wip-handful-hazards...

Each card is its own little game and scenario with each one is a generic scene from an action movie. An unnamed archeologist with a fedora who clearly not a reference to any Harrison Ford running through a hall of traps. Escaping a biker gang or a giant shark. That sort of thing.

The actual mechanics are roll five dice. Check off two pairs on rows with the fifth die getting checked off on the side. You need to complete all the rows with Ws (for win) before you complete any area that has an L (for lose)

Sooooo... the game lifts Sid Sackson’s Solitaire Dice/Can’t Stop Express/a-bunch-of-other-names entirely and adds a tiny veneer of theme and some restrictions. The end result is very playable but doesn’t have the more flexible open structure of Sid Sackson’s game.

While I realize that the is supposed to be a handful of tiny stand-alone games so you can pull a card out anywhere and have a quick game, I think it would be stronger if it was more of a campaign. That could be just having the scenarios form one story or completing a scenario giving you a tiny bonus (like a one time +/- to a die) That would make the game stand out more from Sackson’s game.

BIG EDIT: aaand I found out that there is already an expansion set of five scenarios that did exactly what I wanted from Handful O Hazards. Handful of Hoodoo lets you play a campaign of three scenarios. You choose from two level one and two level two scenarios with the final level being the same. And you will get bonuses and penalties depending on if you win or lose scenario.

I actually quite like how the bonuses and penalties are handled. Depending on what you get, you modify the rows as opposed to dice manipulation. Seeing as how I’ll probably be playing the game while waiting in the car with a dice app, this is elegant and functional design choice.

And there’s at least one more expansion on the way.

I have to admit that Handful of Hoodoo completely flipped my opinion of Handful o Hazards. It went from a hack of a game I like that hasn’t had anything interesting done to it to ‘oh, now this is interesting.’ I’ll actually recommend it to folks I know who like the Sackson game.

I look for either two things from a PnP solitaire game, apart from being any good. Either I want to easily be able to get a quick game in or I want a meaty game. Handful o Hazards does a nifty job of the former.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Mon Nov 16, 2020 8:06 pm
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