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.

Archive for Roll and Write

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  

Recommend
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

The introduction to Tempus Quest was too introductory

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
Last month, I tried out Chris Anderson’s Tempus Imperium. It’s a PnP game where you use the date and time to set up the map and then create a list of actions. I knew Anderson had also made a series of other time stamp related games called Tempus Quest so I decided to try the first one.

(And THEN I learned that there was ANOTHER time stamp game, Tempus Infinitum, that looks like a refined version of Tempus Imperium)

Tempus Quest is a series of games or scenarios. After the introductory scenario, it looks like how you do in one scenario will effect what happens in the next one.

In Episode 0-Some Reassembly Required, you are attempting to rebuild a spaceship in a junkyard. Connect resources together to make parts and then connect them to the ship in the middle. There’s an alarm track. You check alarms off if you do something close to guard towers but you can also check them off to change your action.

Having learned Tempus Imperium first, Tempus Quest was really easy to pick up. And I have come to two conclusions.

One, Tempus Quest Episode 0 is probably the best introduction to the whole use-the-datestamp-to-generate-a-number-string idea. It uses a shorter number string and has a clear-cut goal with a clear-cut way to go about it.

Two, I liked Tempus Imperium more and I’m glad I started with it.

It isn’t so much that Episode 0 is flawed but that it hits the whole introductory thing a little too on the nose. Tempus Imperium has multiple paths to victory while Episode 0 has just one. In Tempus Imperium, you have to develop a good income. In episode 0, there’s a checklist of alarms to spend and there seems to be so many that you shouldn’t run out.

Really, I’m punishing Episode 0 for being exactly what it’s intended to be. It’s an introduction and a tutorial. Looking at the next couple episodes, it looks like the complexity level does go up.

But it did leave me wanting to play more Tempus Imperium.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
Twitter Facebook
1 Comment
Fri Jun 18, 2021 9:56 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Cat Nap makes me happy

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
Cat Nap from the seventh Roll and Write contest has me in a bit of a quandary. On the one hand, it doesn’t bring anything new to the party. I’ve seen all the mechanics before. On the other hand, it all fits together nice and neatly and I enjoyed it.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2627636/wip-cat-nap-entry-7...

The idea behind the game is that you are making a quilt for your cats to sleep on. You apparently own at least six cats so you’re officially a crazy cat person.

The board itself is a grid that has six cats on it, who each take up six or seven squares and there’s a five square cross is the middle that serves as the starting point.

Take two dice that you can tell apart. One determines the shape of the piece your are drawing in and the other determines the pattern.
The first piece has to touch the starting cross and every piece after that has to the touch the side of another piece. And, no, you can’t cover up the cats.

There are a few touches that make the game more than just drawing in shapes. If pieces of the same pattern touch, you lose points. Completely surround a cat and you get points and a one box star. Being able to fill in just one box is actually a strong bonus. Oh and there are some bonus moves of the dice just done work, which is actually pretty standard but still a good mechanic.

The game ends when someone has to pass for a second time or gets a fifth star. You get points from stars, complete rows and columns and not having the same patterns touch. Most points wins and there’s a scale for playing solitaire.

As I said at the start, Roll and Writes that involve filling in a grid with shapes is old hat. Mosaix was doing it back in 2009. Since then, I have seen the concept used more times than I can count offhand. There’s nothing innovative about Cat Nap.

But, you know, I still like Cat Nap and have fun playing it. I particularly like the cats blocking the vid so I actually have to make decisions rather than use the spatial skills I got from Blokus and play on auto-pilot. It doesn’t hurt that I love cats. All the mechanics in Cat Nap fit together and work.

At the end of the day, Cat Nap is a pleasant, family weight game that is free to print and play. It might not set the world on fire but it’s a game I’d recommend to folks who are looking for a free, easy to teach, enjoyable game.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.con
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Mon Jun 7, 2021 11:14 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

My May R&W

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
May continued my habit of learning and playing lots of Roll and Write games. As I have said ad nausium, Roll and Write games are a good return when you have limited time and space. The medium definitely has limitations but the benefits are real.

One game that I had already learned that I want to mention again is Reiner Knizia’s Criss Cross, which I went back to in May and played a lot. I remember being harsh about it when I first tried it and... I don’t think I was unfair even though I had a lot of fun revisiting it.

Criss Cross isn’t the minimum in what I’d accept from a Roll and Write but I think it does represent as _minimalist_ as you can get and still be good. And a lot of its good qualities come from that minimalism. It’s good for a mental coffee break and it’s great as a travel game you can play with a large group, particularly of non-gamers. But, at the same time, there’s not enough there to sit down for some serious gaming.

I tried two different games from two different contests by the same designer based on the Divine Comedy. While Nine Circles, the Inferno game, was an acceptable, workmanlike game (which is no small thing to accomplish), Seven Steps had a dice cycling mechanic that I liked. I hope there will be a Paradise game that shows similar development.

I also tried two more of Radoslaw Ignatow’s designs. (For some reason, his PDFs confuse our printer so it’s slow going getting them printed) Those were Mage Forge and Master Your Castle. I’ll need to play them more before I feel comfortable reviewing them but I enjoyed them. Ignatow continues to give me a good, casual-weight experience with one sheet of paper.

And I finally tried Tempus Imperium, a roll and write that replaces dice with a time stamp. I quite enjoyed but the same designer all the uses the same idea with Tempus Quest that has mission-based goals and a campaign and with Tempus Infinitum that uses a simpler time stamp with more complicated rules and map. Tempus Imperium might end up replaced by its successors.

In other news, I’ve noticed that laminating sheets have been out of stock at some suppliers lately. You can still find them and I still have a stock but I’ve started using sheet protectors for Roll and Writes. I prefer the sturdiness of laminating sheets and I don’t consider sheet protectors a craft project but they will do in a pinch.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
Twitter Facebook
1 Comment
Fri Jun 4, 2021 7:39 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
9 
 Thumb up
5.00
 tip
 Hide

Tempus Imperium: it’s time to build an empire

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
For literally years, I’ve had Tempus Imperium on the back burner, thinking that it’s a game I should really try out. I finally decided it was time that I did and I ended up quite enjoying it.

Tempus Imperium is a solitaire Roll and Write with a rather quirky twist. You don’t use dice or cards. Instead, you use the date stamp. You use the date and time to generate a string of ten numbers. You use that string to populate the starting grid map with forests, mines, lakes and a couple starting building. The string then becomes the order of actions you can take over the ten turn rounds.

The actions consist of building roads, digging to expand lakes, building buildings and using buildings. You can also spend two gold to take any action instead of the one from the number string.

Your road infrastructure is essential. If you want to build a building, the site has to be connected to forests and/or mines for construction supplies. Markets and castles have to be connected to other building to generate gold. And you will need gold. Building by lakes will earn points with the bigger the lake the greater the points.

Oh, and there are enemy squares. They will cost you gold at the end of each round and points at the end of the game. You need to build and use fortresses in order to get rid of them.

At the end of five rounds, you figure out your points and hope to do well.

At this heart, Tempus Imperium is an infrastructure development game. From that perspective, it does a nice job as a simple engine builder. You expand your network to get resources and ideally you will make a gold generating machine that let you build up your little kingdom. However, it doesn’t add anything new the genre as far as building roads and buildings go.

It’s the time-stamp and write part of the game that makes it interesting. But that’s also a double edged sword.

On the downside, while it does create different setup every time, they aren’t random. The first six numbers will be the same if you’ll play more than once in a day. I can see the game becoming formulaic, although you could just use a random string. (That said, using a time stamp does actually weight certain options, which might actually help balance the game. Until 2030, you’ll always get a road building action)

On the upside, it’s a neat idea that does work and means you have to tweak your plans every game. More than that, it means all you need to play is the sheet and something to write with.

Some years ago, I tried a game called Akua that promised to be a Euro with just a dry-erase board. Unfortunately it was so nit picky that it just wasn’t fun. While Tempus Imperium is a solitaire (although the designer has spoken of sometime trying a multi-player version), it does deliver on the idea of a Euro that just requires a dry-erase board. It might end up being a permanent part of my travel bag.

Tempus Imperium was and is still free at PNPArcade. You need to print out one sheet with no cutting. The game is not without its flaws and it’s fairly simple (but I think it has to be in order to work) If you go in knowing that, I think you’ll have fun.

And, yes, I will look at its spiritual sequel Tempus Quest.


Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
Twitter Facebook
4 Comments
Sat May 29, 2021 1:02 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Seven Steps or dice in purgatory

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
Earlier in May, I tried out Nine Circles, a Roll and Write about the first part of the Divine Comedy, the Inferno. (You know, the only part anyone ever reads) I enjoyed it enough that I knew I had to try its sequel; Seven Steps, which is about Purgatory.

(Not to be confused with 7 Steps, which is a published abstract with colored circles)

I’m not going to lie. I had to look up what happened in that part of the poem. Purgatory is a seven-tiered mountain with each tier being one of the seven deadly sins that you have to repent for.

Seven Steps, from the sixth R&W design contest, is a solitaire Roll and Write where you have to overcome seven dice challenges. It’s what I file under Yahtzee descendants. It’s not super-thematic but it does have nice woodcut-style artwork. And when it comes to these simple games, a little bit of theme goes a long way,

There are some nice touches that help Seven Steps from automatically blurting with the vast number of simple dice games out there. For one thing, rather than a static goal for each challenge, a challenge die is rolled which adjusts the goal. You also have a limited amount of dice manipulation, which isn’t unusual but is helpful.

But the real nice touch of the design is the dice pool management. You start with seven dice (although you can get two more by forcing rerolls at the start of the game) The dice that you use to complete a challenge? They go out of the pool into the scoring area. You can pull them back to pay for rerolls but those dice and dice that you rolled but didn’t use end up in ‘the penalty box’ and don’t back to your pool for a turn.

While Nine Circles was a decent, very playable game, Seven Steps is a definite improvement. In Nine Circles, dice management consisted of trying not to lose dice. In Seven Steps, losing dice is how you score points but you lose if you have nothing to roll. It’s a more more interesting dynamic.

Seven Steps is still a light little dice game but now I’m really curious to see what the (hopefully) inevitable Paradise game will be like.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2553688

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
Twitter Facebook
1 Comment
Mon May 24, 2021 11:22 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Pointree: a game about a tree with a decision tree

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
Pointree was a game I was looking forward to trying after I read about it since, hey, it’s about helping a tree get healthy. (Well, what else does making life energy flow through a tree mean?)

It’s a Roll and Write game that belongs to the Take It Easy school of design. Which means that everyone uses the same rolls so there’s no technical limit to the number of folks who can play and it works just as well as a solitaire game.

The sheet has the outline of a tree with a network of connected boxes inside it. The boxes come in three different colors and are either blank or already have a number. Pointree lasts six rounds and each round you roll six dice and then do something with them.

The core mechanic of the game is dirt simple. You can fill in a blank box with the number from a single die. You can mark of pre-numbered boxes with one or more dice that add up to that number or more. You start at the roots and all the boxes you fill in have to be connected.

There are six different ways to score points and you have to pick one of them at the end of each round. And, no, you don’t get to pick any of them twice. And there are a variety of ways to get bonus points, including checking off sets of ones and twos. (Which is a nice touch since high rolls are intrinsically better)

I quite like Pointree and one reason why is that I keep doing badly at it. Despite being mechanically simple, Pointree is not readily solvable. And, while it would help, I don’t think rolling all sixes is the solution. Pointree has an actual decision tree.

Pointree is a Roll and Write that feels like it started out life as a board game. In some Roll and Writes, the sheet is just a place to write down the die rolls. In Pointree, how you develop your paths and connections is the meat of the game, not to mention how you cope with bad rolls.

Pointree is my game of choice if I wanted to get people to try out Ignatov’s designs.

Originally posted over at www.gnomepondering.com
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Fri May 21, 2021 9:08 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
9 
 Thumb up
0.05
 tip
 Hide

Some incoherent rambling about Print and Play

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
I have spent a lot of time looking at PnP contests over the last few years. Quite frankly, if you have an interest in PnP, I think that contests are a resource that cannot be overestimated.

The 2021 9-Card Contest is currently in the voting stage, which means that all the final entries are out there for folks to look at. Since files don’t always hang around, it’s a good time to look at them.

For a while, the 9-Card contest was my favorite one. For one thing, they are really easy builds. And sometimes, the ability to just sit down and make a project is what I need. More than that, the limits of nine cards leads to some really interesting experiments.

But I realized that I’ve been enjoying R&W PnP contests more as of late. (And haven’t there been a lot of them!) And I think it’s because design doesn’t have to fight against restrictions as much when it comes to R&W entries.

Which doesn’t somehow erase all the fun I’ve had with 9-Card Nano games. I have had some really fun experiences with 9-Card games. The base version of Cunning Folk showed me you could have a real game with nine cards (and it was a game I was looking for) Pocket Landship is so dashedly clever. And I still hold that Orchard is one of the most impressive games I’ve seen in nine cards. And that’s just scratching the surface.

However, nine cards is a limit and a restriction while R&W is a medium. If a R&W contest required the printed portion, rules and all, fit on one piece of paper and you could only use one die, that would be a more fair comparison.

I also found this revelation led me back to a question I always circle back to. Can you have a healthy and fulfilling gaming life with only PnP?

The answer is clearly yes, particularly if you have unlimited funds and crafting time and skill. There are a lot of war games and train game and other games, big robust games, that are available as PnPs. If you have the time and the materials and the skill, you can make games like that.

However, as more and more time goes by, I become convinced that it can work for lazy PnP makers who have a budget. And Roll and Write games are a part of why that’s the case. Even in the short five or six years since I started seriously looking at PnP and R&W, I feel that a depth and richness has really developed in that medium.

Anyway, all the entries for the 2021 9-Card PnP contest are out there. The world and community of PnP is a living, changing, experimental place so go look at them.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
Twitter Facebook
1 Comment
Thu May 20, 2021 7:14 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

What do people do with Catan dice?

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
Since I have been playing so many Roll and Writes, I decided to revisit one of the first designer R&W I’d ever played, Catan Dice. Other than as a way of fidgeting on my phone, I have pretty meh memories of the game. As I recalled it, it was basically Yahtzee with a Catan-shaped score board. In some respects, it was even more restricted than Yahtzee since you had to do things in order.

So I played it again. And, after years of exploring R&Ws, particularly light, casual weight ones, Catan Dice was actually worse than I remembered. Before, I didn’t like how it completely failed to capture the feeling and interaction of Catan. Now, in addition, I found it dull as a dice game. The one design choice I liked was the knights/jokers.

However, I decided to look at the variations that existed, including one that was one of Klaus Teuber’s original designs for the game in the first place.

Catan Dice Plus has players competing to reach ten points first and fighting over largest army and road. Okay, other than not having a solitaire option, this is better in almost every way from the first version that got published. There is some actual competition and tension going on.

Catan Dice Extra has you fighting over the same island on a shared player sheet, as well as fighting over longest road and army. That actually crosses the line to pretty much being a full-fledged board game.

(Oh, and doing some research while writing this, I found out someone made some home brew expansions for the original game. I guess I’ll check that out.)

Honestly, if I had to pick one for multi-player, I think I’d go with with Plus. There’s not enough to the original game and Extra makes me ask why not play the travel edition of actual Catan.

Over the years, I’ve played a lot of Catan, Catan expansions and Catan Spin-offs. I particularly like Elasund. The dice family seems like the lightest and weakest branch. But I am glad that folks keep playing with the design.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Fri May 7, 2021 9:38 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
6 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide

My April R&W

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
Okay, thanks to Radoslaw Ignatov, April ended up being another month of trying out new-to-me Roll and Writes. Eventually, I am sure I will take a break from learning R&Ws. However, I haven’t burnt out yet.

I’d already tried Some Kind of Genius from Ignatov. I added Mixture, Alpakaland, Elektrico, Pointree sand Jurassic Hunt to the list. I have already written about some of them and I’ll eventually write about the rest so I don’t feel the need to write about them individually.

But my general impression of Ignatov‘a work is that he has made a a very solid collection of games that are very well suited for casual gamers. He designed for them to be playable over video conferencing or even via forum, including space to record all the rolls. This does mean that certain dice manipulation mechanics like rerolls or dice flipping aren’t available. And I do like those mechanics but I appreciate the design choices.

The other R&W I learned in April was Fast Train to Miyajama from the fourth R&W design contest. It’s a cute little game that I can honestly see having mass market appeal.

And writing about it led me to this idea: Some Roll and Writes are dice games and some are board games that use pen and paper. This isn’t some amazing epyphy. It’s just a good way describe something I’ve been thinking about since, like, 2017.

Now, there is absolutely no line dividing the two groups. The gray area is pretty much the whole area. And this is absolutely not a quality judgement. I am not saying that ‘board’ games are better than ‘dice’ games. The former might be more complicated but even that feels like a gross generalization.

I do know some Roll and Writes got their design start as board games. Corinth is an obvious example and I understand Welcome to Dino World started out as a tile-laying design. However, I don’t think that’s a good definition either.

While I think that it’s a matter of intuition and intent, the real conclusion I’ve come to is that Roll and Write isn’t a mechanic or a genre. It’s a format and you can do a lot of things with that format. You can’t do everything with it but there’s a lot more than just Yahtzee!


Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Mon May 3, 2021 9:56 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Fast Train to Miyajima mixes colors to move trains

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
Fast Train to Miyajima is a game from the fourth R&W contest. As I’ve explored R&Ws, I have decided there is a sub genre that can be called ‘Trying to fire Yahtzee’. Fast Train could be described as trying to fire Qwixx. Which it doesn’t do but it’s still not bad.

The game is about twelve trains going to six different cities. Well, actually you are filling in boxes in twelve lines. Fast Train is pretty abstract and the theme wafer thin. The theme does justify the mechanical difference between fast trains and heavy trains, which is nice.

You are shipping goods to Miyajima, Rio, London, New York, Paris and Sidney. You also only have two trains for each city, a fast train and a heavy train. So the company you’re managing is apparently amazingly diverse and limited at the same time. The player sheet shows the twelve lines of boxes, two for each city. The cities are color coded: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. Yes, this is important.

In addition to play sheets and writing utensils, you’ll need a red die, a yellow and a blue die. The active player will choose a die and roll it. Everyone will write that number in the appropriate colored line, either the fast train or the heavy train.

And here’s the clever bit. The active player chooses a second die and rolls it. You can either fill in a box in that color OR you can add it to the first die and add that sum the appropriate secondary color! Third die, same deal only you can add it to either of the first two dice.

The game ends when someone completes X number of trains. (X depends on the number of players) Each color is accessed individually. Basically, if you have more fast train boxes but a greater heavy train sum, you score lots of points. If you don’t, itty bitty points. Most points wins.

There are things I like about Fast Train. I like the color mixing and the game-of-chicken-scoring and the fact that the active player has choices that effect the game. I like the theme, as thin as it is. But the basic structure of the decisions is pretty simple. Small numbers in the fast train and big numbers in the heavy train. And I have to wonder if the game will drag with the higher end of the player count where you need to complete more trains. Still, net positive.

Some Roll and Write games are board games where the board and pieces are a piece of paper and pencil. And some are little dice games that you play while waiting for your food or when you’re too tired to play anything else. Fast Train is definitely in the second category.

Mind you, there’s a definite place for that kind of game. There’s plenty of times I’m tired!I have a folder of them I keep handy and Fast Train has been added to it.

Fast Train to Miyajima isn’t amazing but it is a solid little family-weight game that I could picture Gamewright publishing.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2442024/wip-fast-train-miya...
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Wed Apr 28, 2021 10:00 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »