Musings from a not-so-serious gamer

Random thoughts from someone who loves the idea of games, spends way too much time on BGG, does actually play games, but isn't all that passionate about them.

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PACG Mummy's Mask: Hero snapshot at the end

Kevin B. Smith
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My wife and I finished our campaign tonight. Unlike PACG RotR, the final scenario in MM was far less tense. In fact, for our heroes, it was a bit of a cakewalk. We finished in 15 hours (out of 30), and Zadim had only a couple cards in his discard pile. A probably would't have had any, except that she spent the last few turns discarding cards hoping to draw more useful blessings for the final battle.

Here were their final stats:

Character Name: Alahazra
Role Card: Recursor
Skill Feats: INT+2, WIS+2, CHA+4 (NOTE: She got an extra skill thanks to the Cenovath boon)
Power Feats: Hand size [x] 7; When you play a card that has the Fire ([x] or Poison) and Attack traits on any check, add 1d8; You may recharge a blessing to examine the top 2 ([x] or 3) cards of any location deck ([x] and put them back in any order); You may discard ([x] or recharge) a spell ([x] or card) to banish a card that has the Curse trait next to the deck of a character at your location; [x] You may evade your encounter with a bane--if you do, suffer a scourge
Card Feats: Spell+2, Armor+1, Item+1, Ally+1, Blessing+2
Weapons: (none)
Spells: Canopic Conversion x2, Cure, Find Traps, Ice Storm, Safety Bubble, Volcanic Storm
Armors: Advocate's Armor, Aegis of Recovery
Items: Cartouche of Protection [Loot], Life Lantern [Loot], Scarab Brooch [Loot]
Allies: Apprentice, Hippopotamus Mud Elemental, Tetisurah [Loot]
Blessings: Blessing of Abadar, Blessing of Anubis x2, Blessing of Horus, Blessing of Maat, Blessing of Pharasma, Blessing of Thoth

Character Name: Zadim
Role Card: Executioner
Skill Feats: STR+2, DEX+3, INT+2
Power Feats: Hand size [x] 6; You may recharge a card to add your intelligence skill to your check that invokes the Poison ([x] or Acid or Undead) ([x] or Obstacle or Trap) trait; You may discard([x] or recharge) a weapon that does not have the 2-Handed trait to ad your Stealth skill ([x] +2) to a combat check by a character at your location; [x] You may ignore a monster's immunity to the Poison trait; [x] After you attempt a combat check against a monster, you may use the result of that check for any subsequent combat checks against that monster during the encounter.
Card Feats: Weapon+1, Armor+1, Item+1, Ally+2, Blessing+2
Weapons: Chakram of Ruin, Crook and Flail of Kings, Mace of Ruin, Scorpion Whip, Thousand Stings Whip, Venomous Heavy Crossbow
Spells: (none)
Armors: Gravewatcher Chain Mail, Rhino Hide Armor, Steel Ibis Lamellar
Items: Bird Feather Tokens, Carpet of Flying, Pharaoh's Key, Ring of Stony Flesh
Allies: Ausetitha, Freed Soul, Hippopotamus Mud Elemental, Khai-Utef [Loot]
Blessings: Blessing of Abadar x2, Blessing of Horus, Blessing of Isis, Blessing of Maat

It's interesting that A ended with about half the same cards that she had at the mid-point. Z kept almost no cards from the middle to the end.

This was a very powerful duo. They never lost a scenario, although they came very close several times. For us, choosing characters that complement each other well, I think Mummy's Mask is about as easy to win as Rise of the Runelords. Which is OK, although I would probably prefer that it were a bit more difficult. But just a bit.

We started this campaign Sept 10, and finished Oct 29. That's 35 sessions in 49 days, or an average of 5 plays per week. That's how much my wife (who is not a heavy gamer) enjoys this game.

We're going to set PACG aside for a while, as we have done between previous campaigns. We have now played 3 complete RotR campaigns, and 2 full MM campaigns. By the end of this one, my wife seemed a bit more burnt out than in the past, so we might have to wait a bit longer before starting our next campaign. I do want to pay MM again, though. There are so many interesting characters in the box, and there are still boons we have never managed to acquire.
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Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:00 am
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PACG Mummy's Mask: Hero snapshot at the mid point

Kevin B. Smith
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My wife and I are roughly halfway through our second campaign of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy's Mask – Base Set. We just finished adventure box 3, which means we got to pick our advanced roles. It's traditional to post a snapshot of the characters at that point, so for the benefit of my own future self, I'll do so:

Character Name: Alahazra
Role Card: Recursor
Skill Feats: WIS+1, CHA+3
Power Feats: When you play a card that has the Fire ([x] or Poison) and Attack traits on any check, add 1d8; You may recharge a blessing to examine the top 2 ([x] or 3) cards of any location deck ([x] and put them back in any order); [x] You may evade your encounter with a bane--if you do, suffer a scourge
Card Feats: Spell+2, Armor+1, Blessing+1
Weapons: (none)
Spells: Cure x 2, Deathgrip, Find Traps, Holy Light, Viper Strike, Volcanic Storm
Armors: Advocate's Armor, Mystic Silk Coat
Items: Sun Falcon Pectoral [Loot], Tablet of Languages Lost [Loot]
Allies: Apprentice, Tetisurah [Loot]
Blessings: Blessing of Abadar x2, Blessing of Horus, Blessing of Ra x 2, Blessing of Thoth x 2

Character Name: Zadim
Role Card: Executioner
Skill Feats: STR+2, DEX+1, INT+1
Power Feats: Hand size [x] 6; You may recharge a card to add your intelligence skill to your check that invokes the Poison ([x] or Acid or Undead) trait; You may discard([x] or recharge) a weapon that does not have the 2-Handed trait to ad your Stealth skill to a combat check by a character at your location; [x] You may ignore a monster's immunity to the Poison trait.
Card Feats: Weapon+1, Armor+1, Blessing+2
Weapons: Blowgun, Glacial Khopesh+1, Natron Fang [Loot], Scorpion Whip, Shocking Scimitar+2, Staff of the Uraeus
Spells: (none)
Armors: Clawhand Shield, Reed Snake Armor, Shield of Fire Resistance
Items: Mask of the Forgotten Pharaoh [Loot], Scarab Brooch, Scarab f Mummy Defense
Allies: Clockwork Menial, Mahga Threefingers
Blessings: Blessing of Abadar, Blessing of Horus, Blessing of Ra, Blessing of Thoth x 2

It's interesting to note that Alahazra still has 5 "B" spells, including 3 Basics (2 of which are Cures). Two of her high-level spells were added in the last 2 scenarios of box 3.

Zadim still has a "B" ally (Threefingers, who remains amazingly useful). And he still has a "B"/Basic weapon, the Blowgun, which was starting to become less useful due to his power working with Acid and Undead...but now that he can ignore poison immunity, it suddenly became more useful again.
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Tue Oct 10, 2017 6:06 am
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Top Elegant Games

Kevin B. Smith
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Rahdo recently ran through his top 10 "elegant games". I figured I could do a quick version of the same thing. Following his lead, I scanned through my highly rated games, identified the ones I feel are "elegant", and listed them.

I don't micro-rate games, so within each rating category below, the games are listed roughly in order from least elegant to most elegant. In some cases, that gives a higher ranking to games I respect than to those that I love.

7's
10. Star Realms
9. Jaipur

8's
8. Roll to the South Pole
7. The Game of Life: Card Game
6. Thebes
5. Africana
4. Sail to India
3. Mint Works

9's
2. Forbidden Desert
1. Jump Drive
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Fri May 5, 2017 5:24 am
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The PACG addiction resumes

Kevin B. Smith
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My wife and I have played 3 full campaigns of PACG Rise of the Runelords (RotR). Our character pairs were: Merisiel+Lini, Merisiel+Seoni, and Tarlin+Arushalae.

My wife is a casual gamer--she probably wouldn't play boardgames if I didn't love them, and she only occasionally asks to play a game. However, she regularly asked to play RotR. We would burn through campaigns playing a scenario almost every evening...sometimes we would even play 2 or 3 scenarios in a day.

We tried Skull & Shackles (S&S), but it didn't click for us. It felt punishing and capricious, and it seemed to have complexity for its own sake (rather than for thematic reasons, or to add fun). Halfway through the campaign, neither of us were really having fun, so we just quit and sold the game.

I heard that Wrath of the Righteous was even more punishing, so I didn't even bother with that one.

After we abandoned S&S, we played our third campaign of RotR. By the time it was over, my wife said she was getting tired of it, and probably wouldn't want to run another RotR campaign for quite a while. That was about 5 months ago.

The latest set in the series, Mummy's Mask (MM) caught my attention. First, the setting (faux Egyptian) is very appealing to my wife (and is appealing to me as well). Second, the early indications were that they had dialed the difficulty back down. Watching playthroughs seemed to confirm that. We decided to give it a shot.

MM is definitely more complicated than RotR. Scenarios, locations, characters, banes, and boons all have more complicated effects. Most boons can be used in multiple ways. In that sense, it's more like S&S (and perhaps even more so). But at least so far (we're halfway through box 1), it feels quite different.

S&S felt like a capricious god, hurting us or blocking our progress for no reason. MM feels like a tricksy deity, just messing with our heads. Some of the zany effects are even helpful. The effects seem pretty thematic (at least if you have the fan-made Adventure Guide).

The difficulty feels about right. Several of our scenarios have come down to the last blessing or two in the timer deck. My wife has had a few brushes with death (getting to to the point of having an empty draw deck). But in each case it has been because she has been reckless, not because the game screwed us over.

Based on the 8 MM scenarios so far, I am really enjoying MM. I won't know until we finish the campaign, but so far it looks like it might eclipse RotR.

Anyway, back to my wife: We started playing MM a week ago. Every day, she asked to play another scenario. The addiction is back.
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Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:09 am
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If I were going to attempt a 10x10...

Kevin B. Smith
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I'm not going to attempt a 10x10 in 2017. I did it back in 2014, I think, and I succeeded, but it was way harder than I expected. It would be even harder this year, with a less consistent gaming group.

But if I were going to attempt it...


First, here is my aspirational/ideal list of games I would LOVE to play 10 times next year:

Legends of Andor, probably with The Star Shield, and if somehow that got dull, then with The Journey to the North.

Uruk II: Die Entwicklung geht weiter. I played the original Uruk: Wiege der Zivilisation 18 times, and feel terrible that I have only gotten Uruk II to the table 3 times so far. I really want to explore the game, with its variable epoch rules and the developments that are significantly different from Uruk.

Peloponnes Card Game is a similar story. I played the heck out of the original Peloponnes, but have only played the card game 7 times.

Phoenicia. For some reason, this snowball engine building auction game really appeals to me. However, I suspect the auctions might become too cutthroat with more experience. Still, I would like to get to that point to know for sure.

51st State certainly deserves deep exploration through repeated plays. My 6 plays so far just aren't enough. I want more.

Sail to India is such a cute (if dry) little cube-pushing euro. Literally, managing your cubes is the crux of the game, and in 4 plays I have not seen everything it has to offer.

Mottainai bends my brain, in a good way. How can a game be so strategic and so random/swingy, at the same time? I could play this one 10 times in a weekend, with a willing opponent.

Bear Valley. Why am I the only person around here who enjoys this game? Reactions from others have ranged from disinterest to strong hatred. I could definitely see enjoying 10-20 games of this, with other like-minded gamers.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy's Mask – Base Set. I don't own this yet, and I'm not sure I'll end up liking it. But I'm sure I would enjoy playing at least the first 10 scenarios to find out.

The Voyages of Marco Polo. It's my favorite mid-weight euro, thanks to the asymmetrical player powers and smooth play. I'm 10 plays in, and another 10 would be awesome.



Ok, so here's where reality sets in. There's no way I'm going to play those games 10 times. I'll be lucky if more than a couple hit 10 (Andor and Mummy's Mask are the most likely). I'll be lucky if I pull a 5x5 out of that list.

So here is a list of 10 games that I probably could play 10 times each:

Legends of Andor. This is a bit of cheat, because if I can't get it played at my gaming group, I'll play it solo. I'm not a solo gamer, but it's that good.

Forbidden Desert is a favorite of my wife, so we'll almost certainly hit 10 plays. We have already played it almost 50 times.

Witch of Salem is another favorite of my wife. She had soured on it a bit, but we're trying some new houserule variants that will probably put it back in rotation. We're already over 50 plays.

Pandemic: The Cure is, again, enjoyed by my wife. We're 17 plays in so far, and I can easily see getting another 10. Especially if we buy the expansion, which is likely.

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu is a new favorite of my wife. Our 8 plays have barely scratched the surface, and it seems to be her "go to" game for now. I'm pretty sure we'll get 10 plays in.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a reasonable bet to hit 10. It's long enough and at times feels punishing enough that I don't think my wife loves it. But it is Harry Potter, and cooperative, and fun. It took us 13 plays to get through the 7 games in the box, so another 10 seems doable.

Port Royal might hit 10 plays, especially between its competitive and co-op modes. Unlike Bear Valley, everyone I play with seems to enjoy it more than me. I like it (8 rating), but others seem more enthused.

Mottainai will probably make it, thanks to a couple local gamers who enjoy it, combined with a pretty short play time. It's not a sure thing, though.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy's Mask – Base Set, because I'm pretty sure I'll buy it, and I'm pretty sure my wife and I will play at least 10 times. Even if we hate it, we probably won't be sure before then. We got 27 plays into Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Shackles – Base Set before abandoning the campaign when we decided we weren't actually having fun.

One Deck Dungeon, a co-op I have kickstarted but not yet received (or played). It looks quick enough and clever enough that I'm optimistic I could play it 10 times soon after getting it.

Putting a game on a 10x10 that you have not yet played is a pretty risky move. The safer choice for that last slot would be Vanished Planet, a co-op that my wife enjoys enough that I could probably push it 10 times, or I could resort to solo play if that's all that stood between me and 10x10 success.
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Sat Dec 3, 2016 7:03 am
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Going SMALL!

Kevin B. Smith
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Being a minimalist at heart, and living in a relatively small space, I decided a few years ago to constrain my game collection to a single set of shelves (about 6' tall and 3' wide). I'm spilling over a bit, but not as much as I was a few months ago. I managed to sell a bunch of games in an auction at a local con.

I also transport games to game days and nights in a backpack, and recently have been doing so without a car.

All of that has led me to favor games in smaller boxes. Within the last year or so, I have managed to find and obtain quite a few really good ones. This seems like a good time to survey all the small boxes in my collection. I can squeeze a TON of great gaming into a single bag!



Before we talk about the small-box games, here are some "Dishonorable Mentions". Games that *could* and *should* have had small boxes, but didn't:

Progress: Evolution of Technology. Cards and player boards could have fit in a far smaller box. Fun game, though, at least with 2-3 players.

Pandemic: The Cure. All the components fit inside the draw bag. Maybe expansions will make me glad to have the box, and it's not huge, but I wish it were smaller. This is our only Pandemic game, at least for now.

Rise of Augustus. ARGH! The components easily fit in a small box, but they chose a full TtR-sized square. I created my own smaller box to carry it around in. Now I need to decide whether to be bold and discard the original box, or store it. Solid gateway game, which I especially enjoy with 5-6 players because it is so quick.

Level 7 [Escape]. Not only is the box larger than necessary, but it's a bit larger than a TtR box. Stupid. Seems like a great game, but the rules make it hard to get to the table.

Phoenicia. Again here, the box is not just bigger than necessary, but is also bigger than a standard size. The board is mostly pointless. I really wish this great game would get a reprint, with great components (and a small box).

Forbidden Desert. It's not a big box, but there was no reason for them to make it bigger than the earlier Forbidden Island box. I'm also not a fan of the tin. It's one of our favorite co-ops, especially when we travel (and I take it in a much smaller box).

I'll discuss Rise of the Zombies! and 51st State later, but they could have been listed here as well.

UPDATE: There are games that I haven't bought, specifically because of their large or oversized box. Escape: The Curse of the Temple and Escape: Zombie City are prime examples. Put them in a right-sized box, and I probably would have bought both (and then traded one away). Another example is Outpost.



Next up are games that I have ordered, but haven't yet received.

Neolithic is on its way to me as I write this. I have blind ordered this one, so I don't actually know that it's a good game. Fingers crossed. It's a tiny one-deck game.

Speaking of one deck, I also backed One Deck Dungeon on Kickstarter. It's a gamble, since there weren't playthrough or neutral reviews. But the mechanisms look solid, and the all-female cast convinced me to take the risk.

Also pre-ordered via Kickstarter is Expedition: The Roleplaying Card Game. This one might not even be a game I enjoy all that much, but I had to back it because they have released the source code to the companion app.

My final upcoming Kickstarter game is Fire of Eidolon. I'm a bit skeptical about it, but the price is low, and the box is small. Another gamble.



Ok, enough about games I don't even own. What about games sitting on my shelf already? First, the games I own but haven't yet rated:

I recently picked up Mottainai for $8. At that price, and with that glorious tiny box, I couldn't say no. The gameplay is both simple and convoluted at the same time, which appeals to me. There are some attack cards, but I'm hoping they are a small enough part of the game that I'll still be able to enjoy it. I'm guessing it might end up an 8 for me, but could rise to 9, or could end up a 5 if the attacks are too annoying or if it just doesn't click.

Too Many Cinderellas was too cute not to buy. I have watched it played a few times (although with incorrect rules), but haven't had a chance to try it myself. It's a light filler, so I suspect it will end up a 7.

Dungeoneer: Tomb of the Lich Lord, and others in that family. I have drafted co-op variant rules for them, but haven't had a chance to try them out yet. So the game sits there, unplayed and unrated. It's likely to end up an 8 if the co-op variant works.



Low-rated games:

We'll skip over the small-box games I have rated a 4 (Onirim), and 5 (10 Days in... and Rory's Story Cubes).

In the 6's, we have my newly acquired Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game. It's not a tiny box, but I appreciate that it's at least a bit smaller than the standard 12x12x3 square. Then there is Balloon Cup which is way too aggressive for me to really enjoy, but has sentimental value since my wife and I got married in a hot air balloon. Red November would rate higher if it worked better with 2 gnomes, and perhaps was slightly less swingy.



Good (but not amazing) fillers, rated a 7:

Rolling America. I've only played it solo so far. Not sure if I'll find the right crowd for this one.

Black Stories. More of an activity than a game, but several people have quite enjoyed solving the mysteries.

The Builders: Middle Ages. I'm not a fan of the tin box. The game itself seems good, but I haven't enjoyed it as much as I had hoped. I would like to get more plays in so I could decide whether or not it's a keeper.

Friday. Turns out I'm not that into solo games.

Martian Dice and Zombie Dice. I enjoy push-your-luck dice fillers, and these are good ones. 7 is about as high a rating as a solid dice filler is going to get from me, I think.

Jaipur. For a while, this was our "go to" non-cooperative couples game. Early on, my wife tended to win with her intuitive play style. As I got better, that shifted, and I started to see ways to mess with your opponent. That all made it less fun, so we rarely play it now. We're usually happier playing a co-op anyway.



Here come the 8's. For me, an 8 is a really good game, that I *want* to play. As opposed to the 7's, which I'll play if asked, but generally wouldn't suggest unless the situation calls for it (like Zombie Dice).

Quick Quest is a dice game from The Game Crafter. I had quite a bit of fun playing it solo, but got tired of it. Theoretically it's a co-op, but really it's a solo game. I should try it again at some point.

I have only played The Game of Life: Card Game 4 times, which is a shame. For a light mass-market card game, it's quite awesome. It's hard to find, which makes me a bit reluctant to bring it to public events. But my wife finds the theme too mundane to be fun. So it sits there unplayed.

Cypher is a microgame in a velvet bag. I picked it up in a trade, and have played it a couple times. The rating might slide down to a 7 with more plays. It depends on how confrontational it feels, when I play it with people who have played it before.

Bear Valley is new, and I have only played it by myself so far, so this is a very tentative rating. The basic game seems like it might be a good quick filler. The advanced game has a surprising amount of decisions, and might become my new push-your-luck exploration game (replacing Roll to the South Pole which I love except for the box size). Small note: The Bear Valley box is about twice as deep as it should be. Grrr.

Rise of the Zombies! has a needlessly large box, but it's still on the smaller side. This rating is tentative, because I need to find a good houserule variant to make it easier to win. Until I do, I'm not even going to try playing it with my wife. But the mechanisms are fun and thematic.

Oh My Goods! sounds perfect on paper. Tiny box, production chains, and some push-your-luck. So far, it hasn't been quite as much fun as I had hoped (even with the 2nd edition rules). But I want to play it more before really passing judgment. For now, the 8 rating represents a bit of hopeful thinking on my part.

Port Royal (with Port Royal: Ein Auftrag geht noch.... Small box, push your luck, and deeper than a filler. That might not completely convince me, but the cooperative variant in the expansion got me to buy it. I haven't actually played it as a co-op yet, but I suspect it will remain an 8 regardless.

Tiny Epic Defenders is an adorable little box. I enjoyed my first couple games enough to give it an 8 rating, but I really need to play it more. My wife didn't take to it like I had hoped, so I'm waiting to re-introduce it to her. Or try it with someone else.

51st State (original edition) has a box about 5 times larger than necessary, but it's still slightly smaller than average. This is another one that I have enjoyed in my few plays, but need to play more to have a solid rating. It's a total brain-burner for me.

Run, Fight, or Die! (with Run, Fight, or Die! Expansion Pack 3) isn't a tiny box, but again, it's smaller than average. And about as small as it could be, considering it has all those plastic zombies inside. The co-op mode in this one has been an absolute delight in my few plays so far. I suspect that if there were more objective cards available, it could become a 9 for me (as a co-op).

Burgle Bros. is a charming heist co-op in a small box. I'm not a fan of oddly-shaped boxes, but at least this one is very functional. This is a solid 8, but the length and swingyness will probably prevent it from rising to 9 status.

Sail to India hits a lot of my buttons. Tiny box, minimalist components, rich euro gameplay. Figuring out how best to use those cubes is just awesome. I have only played a couple times, but REALLY want to play this one more. Officially it requires 3+ players, but it seems to work with just 2. It might get old with more plays, but I'm certainly not at that point yet. If not, it could easily become a 9.



And finally, the amazing 9's!

Peloponnes Card Game replaced the original Peloponnes for me. I really enjoyed the original, but the oversized box was annoying, and I didn't really care for any of the expansions (aside from increasing the player count). The small-box card game captures the same feeling as the original, but is easier to teach, and adds some interesting new decisions. Even if I preferred the gameplay of the original, the small box wins out for me.

Uruk II: Die Entwicklung geht weiter replaced the original Uruk: Wiege der Zivilisation for me. I really enjoyed the original, and in fact it had an even smaller box than this new edition. But the new edition is far easier to teach, between the English cards and some streamlining. Plus the new components are awesome. The new version is different enough that I can see why some people still prefer the original. But for me, whether I enjoy the old or new edition a bit more is irrelevant. The new edition is easier to get to the table, so it's the one I kept.
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Sat Aug 6, 2016 6:09 am
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Hang on...so you're saying I like *zombie* games now???

Kevin B. Smith
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I'm not a zombie person. I've never watched or read The Walking Dead, and I don't think I've seen any zombie movies. Dawn of the Dead? Day of the Living Dead? Warm Bodies? I think those are some zombie movies, right? Dunno. Haven't seen them.

I have sat by and watched the zombie craze in board games (and other media) build up to a fever pitch. Sure, I bought Zombie Dice, but it's hard to consider that a "zombie game".

It's not that I hate zombies. Well, I guess I would hate them if they were trying to smash their way into my house. I just have never really understood the strong appeal they seem to hold with so many people.

But imagine my surprise when I rearranged my bookshelf this weekend, and discovered that zombie games now comprise over 7% of my collection! (see footnote 1).

Ok, so confession time: On a whim, my wife and I tuned into the pilot episode of iZombie a couple years ago. And we really enjoyed it. Much to our surprise, it has held up well, and after 2 full seasons, it's still one of the very few TV shows I actually make an effort to watch. Perhaps my icy heart has started to warm up to the cold ones after all.

My zombie games are:


Zombie Dice - light push-your-luck fun. Generally I prefer Martian Dice, but ZD is a bit lighter, so it's nice to have both. It's basically an abstract, but the pasted-on zombie theme works well as far as helping the rules make sense.


Dead Panic - light tower defense (with an escape rush at the end). I enjoyed Castle Panic, but traded it away because it was too light. Then I got it again because the Castle Panic: The Wizard's Tower expansion made it interesting again. But it's still light, so mostly it sits on the shelf.

Dead Panic is quite a bit more interesting than CP. First, I'll mention that I ignore the "if you die, you turn against the group" rule. I pretty much only play 2-player, and it's more fun for us to just call it a loss as soon as someone dies.

I love the narrative arc in this one. Defend the cabin long enough for survivors to show up with radio parts. Gather the parts, assemble the radio, and call for help. Then, around the time the cabin is filling up with the horde, try to rush through/around them to get out to the van, to escape. Awesome sauce.

The line-of-site and combat rules are slightly more complex than I would prefer in a family game like this, but they are manageable. I love the rush of being (nearly) overrun, but my wife finds it stressful, so I haven't actually gotten to play this one much. Yet.


Rise of the Zombies! - Brutal thematic card-based game. I heard about this a while back, but only became interested and got it this year. I love the way item, skill, and location cards work, and I like the ways that the players can help each other out.

But it can be brutal. I have already taken the easiest mode offered by the official rules, and houseruled it to be quite a bit gentler. And I still got crushed in my last couple solo attempts. Either I'm going to have to improve my skill, or I'll have to invent an even easier mode. My wife hates to feel like a game is hopeless. We would rather win 90% of our co-ops than lose 90% (with the ideal being to win around 50-75%).

So the jury is still out on this one. I want to play it with a friend a couple times before unleashing this zombie apocalypse on my wife.


Run, Fight, or Die! (with Run, Fight, or Die! Expansion Pack 3) - Light dice game that is surprisingly thematic. The price tag and mixed reviews kept me away from this one for a while, but I picked it up in a recent math trade. I'm only interested in this one as a co-op, which is why this expansion was necessary.

Based on 2 plays, this one seems like a winner. Sure, the dice can be fickle, and the card draws can be swingy. But it's a quick, cinematic game, so those are reasonable attributes. I rarely think minis are worth the extra cost, but I have to admit that having 20 zombie figures coming toward you on the first-person perspective board does add a lot to the flavor.

I love the personal goals in the co-op mode. Last game, I was "Just plain ole crazy", and near the end of the game, one bad die roll would have caused me to shoot (and kill) the other player. It's just fun.


I should probably also mention that Escape: Zombie City is on my wishlist. My main hesitations are a) my wife doesn't enjoy real-time games as much as I do, and b) the box is big. I have small shelves, so a game has to be REALLY good to justify a big box.


So there you have it. Apparently I have become "one of them". A Z-man. A zedder. A fan of the grey and green. A brain-eater beater.

I guess I can live with that.


(footnote 1: The percentage is calculated based on all of my non-expansion titles, excluding ones I am actively trying to trade away.)
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Thu Jun 16, 2016 7:18 am
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Games with a negative value

Kevin B. Smith
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I think I realized this a year or two ago, but hadn't put it into words until now: Some games have a negative value, for me. That is, I'm better off not owning them than owning them.

Truthfully, *most* games fall into that category. I have always known that I don't want to own Risk, for example. But there have been games that I kind of like, or games that I don't like but I highly respect, or games that I like but know nobody will ever play them with me.

I used to look at auctions, and when I would see games like those, I would think "Ooh, if only it were $5 cheaper, I would get a copy." Now, I don't. Even if that type of game were free, I would most likely turn it down. My shelf space is limited, and I already have a dozen or more games on the "I really need to sell/trade/give this away" list. I definitely don't need more.

A couple times, I have picked up a cheap game with the intention of trading it away. That was a questionable idea when I lived in Portland, where there are tons of gamers, so local trades are feasible. Now that I live in the middle of nowhere[1], shipping would consume most of any profit I might hope to get. Plus the hassle of finding a box, and padding, and doing the actual shipping, is a pain.

So when I put a value on a game, I now tend to over-value games that I actually really want, and I tend to put a negative value on the rest.

[1] I'm not really in the middle of nowhere, but from a "how many gamers are within 20 minutes of me" perspective, it's a pale shadow of Portland.
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Sun May 15, 2016 1:41 pm
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Expedition: The [FREE and OPEN] Roleplaying Card Game

Kevin B. Smith
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I don't back many Kickstarter projects. And I don't generally blab about it when I do. But this is one I really want people to know about. It's: Expedition: The Roleplaying Card Game

The game itself seems pretty cool. It requires an app, which I downloaded and played around with, although I couldn't do a lot without the physical cards that form the bulk of the game. From what I could tell, the game looked like it might actually be pretty fun. But the reason I backed: The app source code has been released under a Creative Commons license.

Other games have required an app, and I have always asked: Is it open source? The answer has always been "no". Well, actually the response from publishers has been a resounding silence, but the "no" was implied. As a result, I have stayed away from them.

Having an app be open source is important to me, because:
- It would allow someone to fix a bug if the developers choose not to
- It allows the game to be translated into different languages
- Even if the developers disappear, we can keep the app compatible with future OS upgrades (and security fixes)
- It shares knowledge and generally strengthens the gaming community

Now, the license they chose is not perfect. First, it's a Creative Commons license, which the CC folks say is not recommended for software. And they chose the "ND" variant of the license, which prohibits distributing modified versions. That means if I fix a bug, I can't share the fixed version, which is a bummer. The best I can do is to submit it to the publishers and hope they release it more widely.

One of the designers assured me that if they stop supporting the app, they'll release it under a more liberal license. There is no guarantee that he would follow through, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Releasing the app source code is a BIG DEAL. To show my support for their license, I backed at the "Legacy" level. That means I get to help name something in the game, which will be cool, but isn't something I would pay to do. I backed at the $100 level because I'm voting with my dollars. I want the project to succeed, and I hope you'll take a look and consider backing it as well.
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Fri Apr 15, 2016 3:35 am
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9 Games I wish I had played in 2015

Kevin B. Smith
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I got to play a lot of good games in 2015. But there are several games I would like to have played, but didn't get a chance to. In descending order of how many times I played them before 2015, they are:

Walnut Grove (34 plays total)
I traded my copy away for PACG Rise of the Runelords. It was a good trade, since I have already played PACG over 100 times. But I do miss Walnut Grove. I normally hate tile-laying, but WG does it well. And I love the feeding/heating each year. Maybe I'll pick up another copy at some point.

Legends of Andor (9 plays total)
My wife and I played several times, plus I played a few times solo or with others, but only the first 2 scenarios. My wife soured on the game, and the setup is a bit daunting, so I'm unlikely to take it to game night. Somehow I would need to get my wife back into it. She's not a big fan of dice resolution of combat, but she's OK with it in PACG. And although she prefers to win co-ops, she's OK losing half the time in both Witch of Salem and Forbidden Desert. I think she didn't like the scripted nature of the first 2 scenarios, where you were pretty much guaranteed to lose the first time (or few) tries.

So my plan is to play the 3rd scenario solo, to see how much it feels like the early scenarios, and how much it feels more like a conventional co-op. If it seems like something she would enjoy, I'll probably be able to get her to try it at least once. Hopefully we'll both enjoy it, and it can enter regular rotation. She enjoys fantasy-themed games, and highly thematic games, so there's hope.

The Game of Life: Card Game (4 plays total)
This game is a lot better than you would expect from a single-deck filler with the name "Life" on the box. It's not a fantastic game, but it has some solid mechanisms, and generates some fun storytelling. Ironically, although it is cheap, it's hard to find. I am reluctant to take it to game nights where food and beer are prevalent, which sadly has been the case for me for the last year. My wife doesn't love the mundane theme, so she'll only play occasionally. And I didn't try to push her into it in 2015. Don't confuse this with other simple card games with Life in the title--from what I have read, this is the only decent one.

51st State (3 plays total)
I have only played this a few times, but want to explore it more. The fact that you lose all your unspent resources each round bends my brain in really interesting ways. Ramping up your production without also creating ways to effectively use those resources is counter-productive. It's a bit of a pain to teach, so ideally I would find one or a few people interested in exploring it for several plays within a reasonably short time. Despite its violent post-apocalyptic theme, it's actually a very low-conflict game--much friendlier than the cute Imperial Settlers.

The Voyages of Marco Polo (.5 plays total)
As soon as I read about the "overpowered" characters, I wanted to try this mid-weight dice-placement euro. I got to play half a game at a con, and that convinced me that my initial interest was well-founded. My brain struggled in a good way, although there's a chance it might be a bit heavy for my tastes in the long run. I wish we could have finished that game, and I wish I knew someone who owned a copy. Now that it's back in stock, I could buy it, but honestly I don't have anyone to play it with right now. As soon as I get into a regular euro-friendly gaming group, if nobody else has it, I'll probably buy a copy.

The Dwarves (never played)
This looked awesome in Rahdo's runthrough, and I think my wife would really enjoy it. Unfortunately, the kickstarter campaign for the English version was very oddly structured, where you would have to basically buy the game twice to get one really good edition. I understand they did it to leverage their existing German customer base, but I really hope they end up releasing a simple affordable English version at retail. If/when they do, I'll almost certainly buy it.

Port Royal (never played)
I almost always enjoy a push-your-luck element in games, and I like tableau-building and "spend cards to play a card" games. So I have every reason to believe I'll enjoy this one. If I had a regular gaming group, I would already own it.

Royal Goods/Oh My Goods! (never played)
As I said, I enjoy push-your-luck. I also really love production chains (one example being that I love the misunderstood Vanished Planet). So I'm pretty sure I'll really enjoy this one as well. To repeat myself, when I get into a regular euro gaming group, I'll probably buy a copy.

Starship Panic (never played)
This is a PnP (Print-and-Play) cooperative game that just looks fun. I don't have the time/skills to build it myself, so I'm considering writing a software implementation instead. But of course I don't really have time to do that either. So I probably won't have a chance to try it unless it gets published (perhaps via The Game Crafter, LLC?
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Sun Jan 3, 2016 7:31 am
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