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 Lowell Kempf

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  [153]

Recommend
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

I taught myself Calico in my doctor’s waiting room

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
While I had known a while that there was a solitaire demo of Calico online, I didn’t get around to trying it out until I was waiting at the doctor’s office for my annual physical. No one will ask for me for a blurb about Calico but it would be ‘You can learn it in the waiting room’

Calico is a game about cats, which puts it right up my alley. It’s also a puzzly abstract themed around making a quilt for those cats. I’ve heard it said homespun Arcadian themes have become their own genre but I think that’s been the case since Agricola (and that’s been out for a while)

I really had no excuse not to have tried the game out earlier. The website is very accessible and the game mechanically simple enough that I was able to learn it while waiting for a nurse practitioner to call my name.

You have your own hexagonal grid. You have a hand of two hexagonal quilt tiles. On your turn, you place one in an empty spot. You then draw one of three market tiles to refill your hand and the left most market tile gets discarded. (Ticket to Ride strikes again!)

There are three ways to score points, at least in the demo. Groups of three or more like colors can earn a button. Specific cat tiles can be placed on specific combinations of patterns. And there are goal tiles on your board that have to be surrounded by specific combinations of colors and/or patterns.

I really enjoyed Calico, more than I honestly been expecting. A big part of what makes the game tick is the three separate ways of scoring points. Because unless you are both very careful and very lucky, they are going to conflict with each other and you are going to make choices and sacrifices. I also liked the market. That helped add choices to the game.

I’m continuing my moratorium on buying new games but Calico has rushed to near the top of the top of the list of games I’d buy. I know the complete game has more types of cats and goal tiles and scenarios. The demo entertained me but the full game sounds really good.

https://myautoma.github.io/games/calico/index.html


Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Sat Jun 12, 2021 3:37 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Cozy Grove. Come for the ghosts. Stay fir the R&R

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
Cozy Grove is the latest Iyashikei game we’ve tried. It’s a Japanese genre that is about healing and decompression, no conflict and often about nature. It’s actually much more of an anime genre than a video game one but Animal Crossing was our introduction to it. (Which might be why the other two video games we’ve tried aren’t Japanese)

In Cozy Grove, you are a spirit scout, a gender neutral branch of scouting that is devoted to camping, outdoor crafts and exorcising restless ghosts. Wait, what was that last one?

You are stranded on the island of Cozy Grove which is positively teeming with unhappy spirits. Who are all incredibly friendly anthropomorphic bears. The game consists of low key fetch quests, resource gathering and decorating the island.

And Cozy Grove is a slow burn, even compared to Animal Crossing. You will run out of resources and fetch quests for the day and it won’t be too difficult to reach that point. As opposed to Animal Crossing, where you could catch fish and bugs all day long if you felt like it.

I have to make a special note of the music and graphic design. It’s a lot of fun to see areas burst into life after you’ve helped someone or added light to the world. But the music is what really sells the feels of Cozy Grove. I could listen to the soundtrack for hours.

We still have a long ways to go before we complete the game. While the stories are melancholy (these are ghosts after all), I hope there isn’t any twist like you’re actually dead all along or the bears are all restless because they killed the last scout. I want this to be Iyashikei to the end.

Animal Crossing was a quiet revelation for me. Cozy Grove isnt quite as immersive or impressive but it has its own strength and poignancy. So I will see where its story goes.
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Thu Jun 10, 2021 1:35 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
3 
 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
11 
 Thumb up
0.02
 tip
 Hide

Lord Dunsany’s voyage to Mars

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 been slowly reading The Travel Tales of Mr. Joseph Jorkens by Lord Dunsany, the first of his Jorkens collections. It took me years to find a copy so I am savoring the book. I mean to write about the whole experience when I am done but one story really struck me.

While most of the stories I’ve read so far with Jorkens are slightly grounded travel stories, Our Distant Cousins veers into serious science fiction. Which also actually makes it feel the most dated.

Spoilers

Spoilers

Spoilers

For a story that was first published in a magazine pretty close to a hundred years ago

It has been said that the Jorkens stories helped codify the pub story (even though example go way back) but this one breaks a lot of the conventions. Eh, it’s Dunsany. He seems to have only followed his own rules.

Our Distant Cousins isn’t actually told by Jorkens but by an associate of his who allegedly made the first voyage to Mars but lost all the proof that he had by the time he made it back to Earth.

The actual plot is honestly an abridged version of the Time Machine by H. G. Wells only with space travel instead of time travel. However, it’s the details that really struck me and stuck with me.

The traveler gets to Mars via a conventional airplane, albeit one with a rocket attached. Honestly, I’m not sure that I’ve ever actually seen that idea used literally.

However, he doesn’t fly through ether or does there turn out to be a breathable atmosphere in space. He actually turns off the engine and uses the momentum of the Earth to to power his trip to Mars. More than that, it takes him thirty days to reach Mars and he describes the silence and boredom of the experience. His head is stuck in a special but faulty oxygen helmet and his body is wrapped in special bandages to deal with no atmospheric pressure.

It’s the last bit that just really stayed with me. Bandages as a space suit. Dunsany actually considered the issues with flying a plan into space. No, they wouldn’t work but they make sense. That part of the story is actually remarkably hard science fiction.

Yeah, landing on a pastoral Mars where grotesque monsters keep humans as livestock sends us straight into fantasy, possible allegorical fantasy. But the space flight part is just neat.

I found out that Dunsany wrote a sequel, the Slugly Beast, where the traveler is lured back to Mars by threatening radio messages. It’s entirely from the viewpoint of Jorkens and the narrator. I think it’s a better, more atmospheric story but it doesn’t have the same science fiction bite.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
Twitter Facebook
6 Comments
Wed Jun 2, 2021 3:28 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

My May PnP

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
May. Here’s what I made in May:

Mage Forge
Master Your Castle
Handful of Hazards (ultra low ink version)
13 Sheep (randomly generated boards)
Catan Dice + fan-made expansions
Washington D6 (2017 GenCan’t)
Time Fixer (2017 Solitaire contest)
Spider-Man vs Sinister Six
Win, Lose, Banana
Power Duel

Okay. Here’s what happened. My ‘big’ project for the month was a handheld solitaire called Light Speed from a contest. No relation to the Cheapass game by the same name. But I duplexed the cards when I was supposed to fold them. And I didn’t notice until I was done and May was almost over.

So I made Power Duel at the last minute just so I made a ‘big’ project. By my arbitrary standards, it doesn’t have enough components to count but I did put on the effort to make Light Speed and the idea of Power Duel (a miniature version of Power Grid) is a big idea. So I feel like I’ve done my hobby its due diligence.

Beyond that, I made Roll and Writes. The Spider-Man is one I found through Juegos Roll and Write blog, by the way.
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Tue Jun 1, 2021 3:12 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

Jim Starlin and his Infinity Crusade

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
When I saw that our local library had just the Infinity Crusade from 1993 as a pair of collected editions, I decided I should actually finish the thing. You see, I did start reading the comic books back in 1993 and quit halfway through.

Okay. Let’s have some background. The Infinity Crusade was the third big crossover event that featured Jim Starlin bringing back Adam Warlock, Thanos and all their related cast after he killed them off in the 70s. Before it was the Infinity Gauntlet and the Infinity War.

And let me get this out of the way right now: The Infinity War and Endgame movies were much better than the comic books. Tighter plots, smaller casts (yes, really!) and better characterization.

By the time the Infinity Crusade rolled around, it was pretty clear even at the time that Marvel was beating a dead horse. It was another cosmic mad conqueror storyline. The fact that Starlin spent a lot of time on a comic relief character that didn’t add anything to the plot or theme makes me wonder how burnt out he was at that point.

Now, I like a lot of Jim Starlin’s stuff. His original Warlock comics were wacky fun. Thanos Quest,
which led up the the Infinity Gauntlet, was much better than the Infinity Gauntlet. And I really liked his apparently forgotten space opera Dreadstar (well, except for the last arc but there was a lot of good stuff before that)

But either he can’t write endings that live up to the rest of the story or he can’t handle a huge cast or the executive meddling gets too much when he has to add in the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man and so on.

The Infinity Crusade is further complicated by the villain being Adam Warlock’s feminine side who has been driven insane by being repressed. That is problematic and misogynistic on so many levels.

I am going to put on my arrogant comic-book guy hat and say that the story would have been vastly better if it turned out that the Goddess was actually benevolent. Like her plan was actually to give everyone in the universe a moment of cosmic awareness, knowing that almost everyone would shrug it off but it would make a difference for a tiny percentage of people. Instead, she’s virtually indistinguishable from Adam’s repressed male side. (Adam Warlock is complicated)

After finally finishing the Infity Crusade almost twenty years later, I can say I’m glad I didn’t play for all the issues back in the day.


Originally posted over at www.gnomepondering.com
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Wed May 26, 2021 10:14 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

A one-card design contest. Seriously.

Lowell Kempf
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
Okay. I just found out there was a one-card PnP contest last year.

How did I not know about this?

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2439504/2020-1-card-game-pr...

There were more than fifty games entered into the contest so clearly folks were inspired by the idea.

I’ve been slowly looking through the entries and I feel like it forces minimalism so far it goes out the other side. I’ve been following the Nine-Card PnP contests for years and the restrictions of making a card game with nine cards is exceptional.

When you have just one card, though, it turns the card into a tiny board. You can’t shuffle or deal out one card. The most you can do is spin the card or flip the card. As a general rule, the card is not the random factor.

Now, the rules only allowed twelve more components, which could be dice or tokens or meeples or coins. So there are real restrictions. In fact, that might be the fewest actual components of any PnP contest rules I’ve seen. But I think being a minimalist _board_ game design I think uses a different part of the mental design space.

And I want to see those components. Every one-card game I’ve seen with no compoohas either just been the rules for a party game or Twister for fingers. And that stops being interesting real fast.

(I’ve seen at least one game where the card gets folded up into an origami shape so it’s not just tiny boards)

The folks who ran the contest put all the entries onto five pages so you can make them all at once. Which honestly means I probably will. That actually makes it much more likely that I will make any of them, let alone all of them.
Twitter Facebook
2 Comments
Wed May 26, 2021 4:05 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

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  [153]