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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Lost Cats is clever but not my cup of tea

Lowell Kempf
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If you ever wanted to play Three Card Monte as a solitaire game with an ‘robot’ player moving the cards around, Lost Cats is the game that you’ve been looking for.

And, in all honesty, that one sentence was pretty much sums up the game perfectly. I found the game when looking for different kinds of solitaire games you can play with a regular deck of cards. And it was such a simple and clever idea that I had to try it out.

All you need is a regular deck of cards and a chart to play. And you don’t even use any of the spades or the jokers. The remaining three queens are the cat owners and the remaining three jokers are the missing cats. Missing cats are placed face down, sandwiched between the nine and ten of the same suits with their owners over them.

The rules are not only free but just take up on page so I won’t repeat them. Instead I’ll just cover the clever bit. You create an action deck from the remaking cards, shuffling and dealing out ten of them one at a time. The actions cards rearrange and otherwise mess with the stacks. When you are done, you have to try and find the jacks and match them to right queen. No, you can’t flip them over first

The only real mechanical issue I have with the game is that you need the chart to see what the action cards do. I have a feeling that the designers of this game will try and kickstart it with a specialized deck, which would solve that problem.

Lost Cats is an interesting example of a game that I don’t enjoy but I really appreciate the design. I’m not just bad at this kind of game, I also don’t have fun with them. If a shell takes shows up as a mini-game in Mario Party, I’m not having a good time.

But I think the action deck does a really good job of making a functional, replayable solitaire Three Card Monte. More than that, I can see it working as a multi-player game with one person running the action deck, possibly at great speed; while everyone else tries to keep up. It’d be like Ricochet Robots with a regular deck of cards.

In short, I may be done with Lost Cats but people who aren’t me will probably have a lot of fun with it.
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Mon Nov 9, 2020 8:50 pm
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Wow, that’s a lot of R&W contests

Lowell Kempf
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I read in the Boardgame Geek newsletter that the sixth Roll and Write Design Contest has started. It won’t be done until the end of January and will be fun to follow it.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2532785/6th-roll-write-game...

... Wait a second. The sixth R&W contest? (Wow, I missed the fifth one!) The first one ran from February to June of 2019. Most design contests are annual but there are going to have been six Roll and Write contests in two years? That’s incredible.

Okay. It can be true that a Roll and Write game can be easier to physically make than a lot of other categories of games. (Emphasize on can. Many designs have you make a deck of cards as well as a game sheet) But I can’t believe that it is magically easier to DESIGN Roll and Write games. Maybe they are easier for play testers to make and then play test but that’s the only part of the process that seems faster.

Not that I’m complaining. Over the last few years, I have come to really appreciate Roll and Write games, particularly Print and Play ones. It’s a remarkably flexible format, as well as being very easy to make. The 2017 GenCan’t R&W Design Contest was a major milestone in my gaming life.

Still, I have to wonder why this contest has happened so often. And I have a theory. I have heard that there’s been some success taking the next step and getting games formally published from the R&W contests. And maybe that’s added bit of inspiration needed.

No matter what, it’s nice that these contests keep happening.


Originally written down in pencil at www.gnomepondering.com
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Fri Nov 6, 2020 12:30 pm
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My October PnP

Lowell Kempf
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Oh, I had plans for October. Our son was going to be going back to school part time with blended learning and I’d have time to get some uninterrupted crafting time in. And then blended learning got pushed back Eh, losing print and play time is a small sacrifice to keep everyone as safe as reasonably possible.

Really, what it meant was making a rough copy of Agent Decker so I could try it out got pushed back.

Here’s what I made:

Islands of Microlandia
Everchange Dungeon (2019 9-Card Contest)
Fog Town (2019 9-Card Contest)
Warlock’s Eye
Into Cursed Pit (2018 Solitaire Confest)
Penny Rails

My ‘big’ project for October turned out to be Penny Rails. As I mentioned, I had bigger ambitions but that’s not where I needed to focus my time management. And I have been curious about Penny Rails for ages. A train game that actually feels like a train game in 18 cards and nine coins? And if it has that feel, will there be a single dominant strategy?

You know, October was a crazy month in a crazy year. I got in some crafting. That is still a real win.


Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Sun Nov 1, 2020 3:08 pm
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Scoundrel: random and abstract yet intuitive

Lowell Kempf
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Scoundrel had been on the top of my list of games for the next time I tried a thematic solitaire with a regular deck of cards. It’s not something I do that much but it is nice to add to the library of games that you can play with just a deck of cards in your bag.

Scoundrel is a dungeon crawl that just needs a deck of cards and some way of keeping track of your hit points. The game consists of you going from room to room and trying to not die.

Each turn, you create a room by drawing four cards and resolving three of them. Spades and clubs are monsters. Hearts are healing potions. Spades are weapons. Combat consists of subtracting the value of the monsters from your hit points. Weapons subtract from the value of monsters BUT they get blunted. Every monster you fight with a specific weapon has to be lower value than the last. The fourth card remains and is part of the next room.

You also have the option of running and putting the room at the bottom of the draw pile. If you go through the deck and survive, your hit points are your score. If you die, the remaining monsters in the deck are negative points so you have a way of measuring how badly you did

I have very mixed impressions of Scoundrel.

On the minus side, even though you have choices, luck of the draw is by far the most powerful force in the game. I’ve lost games in scoundrel two rooms, having run from the first room and then getting overwhelmed in the second since you can’t run twice in a row. The random factor is high and stacked against you. And the game is sufficiently abstract that I never had a narrative sense of being in a dungeon crawl.

On the plus side, the theme does do the very important of making the rules intuitive. I didn’t feel like I was dealing with weapons and monsters and potions but the rules made the interactions between the cards easy to understand. And while chance frequently overrode my choices, I did like the fact that the order I chose to resolve cards mattered and that I could run.

And Scoundrel does benefit in my eyes by being a minimalist game that I can set up just by shuffling the cards (after I’ve taken certain cards out but replay is super quick and easy) It succeeds at being what I am the most interested in a game like this being: a super portable game I can play anywhere with a deck of cards.

Ultimately, the net positives outweigh the negatives for me. I have had fun with Scoundrel and I’ll play it occasionally. That said, I’d still recommend games like The Bogey or The Blackjack River over it.


PS I found you can play Scoundrel online at https://elementalcode.itch.io/scoundrel but actually playing with cards is part of the appeal for me.


Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Fri Oct 16, 2020 2:56 pm
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The Revolutionary War in the palm of your hand

Lowell Kempf
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Battle for the Carolinas is a solitaire war-themed game that is designed to be played with a deck of cards that you hold in your hands the entire game.

Okay, it’s not even an elephant in the room because the designers openly admit that Palm Island was a huge influence on the game but Battle for the Carolinas is so much like Palm Island that if you’ve played Palm Island, you can pretty much pick up Battle for the Carolinas cold. Which is not saying it’s the same game with different pictures.

As someone who has played some Apocalypse World hacks, I would instead say that Battle for Carolinas is a Palm Island hack. It uses the same basic framework to do its own thing. It’s like comparing Dominion to Thunderstone.

Here’s the basic gist. You are going through the deck. You can turn up to four cards into resources by turning them on their side. You spend resources to upgrades cards, which either flips or turns over cards and makes them better. In Battle for Carolinas, your goal is win three skirmishes and two battles which means completely upgrading those cards.

Now, I have a very generous definition of war game. I do consider Memoir 44 a war game and some days I even consider the Battle for Hill 218 a war game. Battle for the Carolinas doesn’t pass even my loose definition though, simply because it has no conflict. You can’t actually lose a battle. You just haven’t won it yet.

That doesn’t mean I dislike the game at all. Quite the contrary, I’ve enjoyed my intitial plays. However, it is entirely a resource management game.

Here’s the real question: do I like it better than Palm Island? Which one would I rather play and which one would I recommend? The answer is: I don’t know. I have not yet tried playing Battle for the Carolinas with either the variant rule sets or the expansion cards. I also have only played the black and white demo version of Palm Island. I haven’t made a copy of the full game (yet).

I will make this observation: there are more paths to victory in Palm Island, different avenues to gain points and the initial shuffle will help you figure out what is your best option. In Battle for Carolinas, whether you are playing for points or achievements, your end goal is the two battle cards and that is what you are working towards.

Another significant difference is that Battle for Carolinas has spoils. When you completely upgrade a skirmish or battle, it becomes a potent set of resources. In Palm Island, that doesn’t happen. In fact, some cards stop being potential resources.

I suspect that the full version of Palm Island will be the better experience but I also think I will have fun exploring the variations and expansions in Battle for the Carolinas.


Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Fri Oct 9, 2020 7:23 pm
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It’s no 30 Rails

Lowell Kempf
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I will be honest. I tried out Anty Establishment because I knew that it was going to super quick to make, teach myself and play. It’s from this year’s Roll and Write contest. The whole thing, rules and all, is one sheet of paper. Just add two dice and something to write with and your done.

The core of the game is easy to understand. You’re drawing lines on a grid that represents an anthill and you get points by making long paths, going over symbols that are on the grid and by making chambers where ant queen crowns are.

You determine what shape path with die rolls. You roll two dice and so you get two choices to pick from. You have some limited dice manipulation, including the option of rerolls or using both dice, but you also need to use the dice manipulation to create chambers, which can a the only way to score ant queen crowns.

Twenty turns and see how many points you get.

Anty Establishment is amusing but the big question it has to answer is ‘Would I recommend it over 30 Rails?’ And the answer to that is no.

30 Rails, which I view as a gem of both PnP and R&W, offers variable set ups, tighter game play and more painful choices. Anty Establishment is more forgiving and has a preset layout. It doesn’t have the depth or replay value.

I will give Anty Establishment credit for having the dice manipulation being even more of a resource management exercise. And you can pick up and get a game in with zero preparation, which is honestly a huge plus for me.

I had fun but I’d recommend 30 Rails or other games first.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2467791/wip-anty-establishm...#


Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Mon Oct 5, 2020 7:53 pm
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Social deduction in three cards?

Lowell Kempf
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I recently made a copy of the basic three cards of Wild Cats, which is all you need to play the basic three player game. I did it just because I wanted to use some extra space on a laminating pouch. Really, I have no idea when I’ll be playing a social deduction game for three players.

I don’t see Wild Cats existing if it wasn’t for Win, Lose, Banana. Wild Cats screams someone looking at Win, Lose, Banana and asking themselves how they could make a real game out of it.

Win, Lose, Banana is an odd beast and part of what is odd about it is the fact that it has had some traction in the gaming world. Mind you, I think of it less as a game and more like a three-card business card for Asmadi (not to be confused with Asmodee)

Feel free to argue with me but I also view Win, Lose, Banana as a commentary about games like Werewolf. The actual mechanics are arbitrary but the gameplay could be fun and there does have to be interaction. Win, Lose, Banana just peels everything down to most most basic idea.

I also have to admit that my one play of the game did not endear me to it. It was at a con and I was eating breakfast with a friend. A possibly drunk guy we didn’t know sat down at our table and insisted we play. It was faster to do that than argue with him.

Wild Cats, compared to Win, Lose, Banana, has much stricter guidelines about your behavior and gives everyone a vote, as opposed to just Win in Win, et al. That makes Wild Cats more of a game for me and more interesting to me. However, I don’t know if that makes it a better experience.

On top of that, I might have better success introducing Win, Lose, Banana to our first-grader than Wild Cats. But my wife might not forgive me if I did that

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Fri Oct 2, 2020 4:41 pm
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My September PnP

Lowell Kempf
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September wasn’t a super crazy month for making print and play games for me but I am happy with what I got done:

Here’s what I made:

Puerto Miau
Any Establishment (2020 R&W contest)
6 Steps
Epidemic
Why I Otter
Wild Cats (basic three cards)
Istanbul or Constantinople?
Runner
Quarantine Haircuts
Sid Sackson’s Pinball

This was one of those months where I spent more time printing and cutting and laminating than actually finishing projects. Sometimes, it’s more decompressing to work on PnP than to finish it. And when I need to finish projects for decompression, I have plenty to work with.

While they almost don’t qualify, I consider Why I Otter and Istanbul or Constantinople? my big builds for September. They are both only eighteen cards but the size of the cards made me use more laminating pouches And I think they will be fun to play.

On the other hand, I made Wild Cats just to fill in extra space on a laminating pouch. I don’t know when or if I will need a three-player social deduction game. I fear our first-grader would enjoy Win, Lose, Banana more anyway.

The project I’m most excited about from this month is one of the simplest, Sid Sackson’s Pinball. It has been years since I played it (my copies of the Beyond Books are _precious_) and I want see how it holds up compared to my very happy but distant memories.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Thu Oct 1, 2020 5:34 pm
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Thank you, Jueglos Roll & Write

Lowell Kempf
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I finished doing an archive binge of Juegos Roll & Write (https://boardgamegeek.com/blog/9402 ), specifically looking for Print and Play games that I hadn’t heard of yet. And, yes, a hefty chunk of what I found were ones I had already looked into but it was still a good experience.

It’s one of the blogs I regularly look at, both for PnP information and just out of curiosity. And I think that Roll and Write games are more valuable than ever in quarantine times. They are the easiest form of PnP to make and a huge chunk of them have solitaire options or are just plain solitaires. When your options for gaming or game partners are limited and restricted, that is awesome.

Jueglos Roll & Write actually has had several entries specifically addressing that, featuring collections that are particularly quarantine friendly.

Over the last few years, my opinion of Roll and Writes has changed and, frankly, gotten better. First of all, I have been impressed by the depth and variety of what’s out there, even just in the free category. Mind you, I have still had the best experiences with games that I have actually had to actually spend money on

Second, while I recommended in the past that if you wanted to get into PnP to go for cards or tiles games since actually having to craft components meant you had some skin in the game, I now think an only-R&W-PnP experience is viable. Part of that comes from the variety that is out there (and there are plenty that actually require you make cards or such )

However, it also comes back to the quarantine conditions. You may not be able to get the materials to make cards or dice or such. But you are more likely to be able to print off a R&W sheet or hand copy one. It may be what is possible. And gaming is great way of dealing with stress.

And if that is what you need, Jueglos Roll & Write is really nifty.


PS I was really happy when I learned through the blog that someone has made a nice PnP version of Sid Sackson’s solitaire pinball game. Woo-hoo!
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Thu Sep 24, 2020 11:20 pm
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Thanks for all the Print and Play Game News memories

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I literally just learned yesterday that Chris Hanson put their PnP blog (https://boardgamegeek.com/blog/2020) on indefinite hiatus. Back in June.

Well, I feel embarrassed.

In my defense, every update was a massive info dump and I couldn’t rest until I’d sifted through it all.

Seriously, since the blog was a comprehensive look at whatever was going on in the PnP world, the amount of work that had to go into it was massive. And the rate that PnP stuff has been coming out has just gotten faster and faster.

It’s really amazing that the blog kept going as long as it did.

I found a lot of PnP game through the blog. And, as an archive it is still amazing. I know I’ll go back to look for gems I missed.

Thanks for the ridiculous amount of work, Chris Hansen.
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Fri Sep 18, 2020 5:01 pm
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