Origins 2018

I think the official subtitle of this year’s Origins trip is “Better than we expected.” In addition to playing many, many, many games that looked crappy at first glance that ended up actually being fun, I also came back with many fewer games than I thought I would, we didn’t burn ourselves out playing like last year, I ran into Tim more than I expected, and we also got a discount on the hotel room. So in general a bunch of things went better than expected this year.

So yeah. I went to Origins again this year, with the same group as last year (where we were occasionally joined by Kevin and Jenny’s friend Sam). It was a ton of fun. We went for one less day this time (starting Thursday instead of Wednesday), and due to having to bus home, I only had one suitcase for games this year. I think that worked out better anyway, since it helped me make decisions on what to buy.

This year’s haul: three promos, and 13 games (two of which are signed).

Noteworthy is the fact that we actually played every game I bought this year! Given around half of last year’s purchases remain unplayed, that’s a great thing.

As always, photos are at photos.

Anyway… The Games! Looks like we played (or got explanations of) 52 different ones this year, which is surprisingly more than last year despite having one less day. I think that’s due to us being more willing to stop playing games we weren’t enjoying, rather than sitting through them. We may have also just played a bunch of lighter games, compared to last year.

Day one (Thursday):

Dragon Castle – Tile collection and placement game that looks visually similar to Mahjong, where strategy is as much in what you leave open for other players as where you place the tiles you do take. A much stronger first game than last year’s.

Superhot: The Card Game – 2-player coop card game that’s intended to be a simulation of an FPS, where you work your way through a line of enemies, dodging bullets and using weapons. I didn’t play this, but the game seemed a little sloppy, and Kevin and David both seemed to dislike it. Probably bottom five games, based on their impression of it.

Shogunate – A quick hidden-role game where players distribute honor among different clan leaders, trying to prioritize their clans over other players’. Enjoyable, and I bought a copy and got it signed by the designer.

Orc-lympics – A deceptively simple drafting game that’s as cute to look at as it is fun to play. Immediately after we played a game, all three sets of us (Kevin/Jenny, David, and I) bought a copy of the game. Definitely in the top five for this year’s Origins, at #2. One of three games we played more than once this year.

Pikoko – A trick-taking game where you can’t see your own hand of cards. Instead, players bet on how well they think other players will do, and then you play for your neighbor. A lot of fun, and the art and game components are also gorgeous. Will seriously consider buying a copy, but didn’t mostly because of the size of the game box.

Escape Tales: The Awakening – A detective/escape room type game, where you explore different objects within a room, along with a storybook, to progress the plot and move on to the next room. It felt a little clunky, and it really wasn’t helped by the storybook being so badly written. This was a good example of a game that was basically all theme and no game. In the bottom five games for this year.

Altiplano – A “bag-building” game… basically a deckbuilder crossed with a worker placement game, where you collect tiles, draw them from a bag to execute different actions, and generally score points. It is definitely a cute game, and it was enjoyable enough to play, but it just didn’t feel special. Would play again, but wouldn’t buy.

Echidna Shuffle – Probably the cutest game we played. A kids’ game where you move echidnas around a board to collect bugs and move them to stumps, but with a surprising amount of strategy. Also mitigated dice screw in a good way — each roll determined your next two turns’ of moves, summing to 9 across two turns. A good game, and something I’d gladly play again, but it was maybe a bit too simplistic for what we usually play. Definitely “better than we expected”.

Curio – Best described as “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes”: The Board Game. A series of small puzzles requiring interaction and communication between players, where you speed through things as accurately as possible. I bought a copy, and got it signed by the designer.

Senshi – Disc-collection game where you want to strategically play colored tokens based on your stacks, while minimizing other players’ points. Another game that was “better than we expected”, but wasn’t particularly interesting.

Decrypto – Team game where you send clues about words to your partner while not letting the other team figure out the words as well. Interesting enough, and I’d play it again.

Potion Explosion – Resource-drawing game where you build up potions from marbles pulled from a track. Another game that was “better than we expected”, but it wasn’t all that interesting.

Wallet – Party game where you pull random cards from a pile (or, in this case, an actual cloth wallet) to try and get the most money without violating any of a few goals. Fine, for what it was, but not something I feel the need to play again.

End of the Line – A game set in a post-apocalyptic future where you send your family members to stand in lines gather resources while messing with other players’ families in line through various events. Was actually a fairly interesting game, and I may have been interested in a copy, except it felt too expensive for what it was.

Dominion: Hinterlands – It’s Dominion. Hadn’t played this set before, but it didn’t feel particularly different than usual.

Dominion: Nocturne – The newest Dominion that actually feels like a rather different game. In addition to a new “Night” phase, happening after your usual plays and featuring unlimited plays of “Night” cards from your hand, it also adds a bunch of starter deck replacements (swapping out your copper or estates), player statuses, and boons and hexes. It was actually really enjoyable, and this has the privilege of being one of only three games that we played more than once this year.

Day two (Friday):

Prowler’s Passage – Two-player tug-of-war game where you fill in pieces of a city while collecting tiles and controlling those colors. Seemed decent enough, but wasn’t particularly interesting.

Junk Orbit – The one big disappointment for the con was that this game was sold out by the time we played it. Pick-up-and-deliver game with a great twist, where you’re in space and you throw your junk in the right direction, causing your ship to move backward that number of spaces. Easily top five of the con, and probably #3 for me. Then again, it being sold out was perhaps a blessing, because its game box (a large hat-box-looking cylinder) would have been impossible to carry home. What were they thinking?

The Climbers – I’d played this years ago, but it’s been re-released, and it’s just as fun now as it was then. A game where you physically move blocks and maneuver your piece upward, trying to reach a higher point than other players. Super enjoyable, especially for its differences in a sea of board- or card-based games.

Kitchen Rush – Essentially “Overcooked: The Board Game”. We didn’t get to play, but they were showing off the game. It looks fun enough, but my question is why you’d want to manually control the fiddly bits of Overcooked. I’d rather just play the video game.

Shaky Manor – Best described by Jenny as a game “I had to play once, but never want to play again”. A game where you physically shake components around a tray to get desired ones into a room as dictated by a goal card.

Cytosis – A rather classic worker-placement game themed around a cell, that was actually great fun to play. Collect cubes representing RNA, proteins, lipids, and carbs, and use them to make hormones. Another example of “better than we expected”, and it’s a great example of how you can do a classic genre well, without innovating too much, and still make a really great game.

5-Minute Chase – Asymmetric real-time tile-laying game where half the players legally lay down tiles to escape prison, and the other half study those tiles carefully to chase them. Enjoyable enough.

The Mind – The ultimate example of “better than we expected”. A card game with a super simple premise: Players have a card or two, from a set uniquely numbered 1 through 100, and have to collectively play them to the middle in order. But they cannot communicate with each other. Was surprisingly fun, like when Jenny pulled out her phone and started fiddling with it to indicate her high card, or when Kevin stared at Jenny for like 30 seconds to get her to play her card.

Dinosaur Island – Essentially “Jurassic Park: The Worker-Placement Game”. A game where you’re trying to assemble a dinosaur-themed theme park, create real dinosaurs from DNA to attract visitors, and prevent the dinosaurs from eating your guests. Its neon coloring and plastic (rather than wooden) components were surprising turnoffs for me, but didn’t distract too much once the game was actually under way. Enjoyable enough, but not particularly memorable.

Reef – A game where, similar to Dragon Castle, you lay pieces down on a grid in optimal ways to score points. This time they’re four colors of coral instead, and the goals differ based what cards are out, and the cards can also chain with each other if you plan it right. Enjoyable enough.

Rwby: Combat Ready – A fighting game themed after an anime show (apparently?) where you play cards to attack a villian and cooperate with each other. Mechanically fine, but it just didn’t feel like something I wanted to play. In my bottom five games for the con.

Noria – A game where the interesting mechanic is set of spinning gears that limit what actions you can take on a given round, and where strategically placing new action tiles on the gears was crucial to success. Also an interesting mechanic where you improved scoring for some elements while simultaneously hurting others, leading to natural specializations. Otherwise a standard exercise in building your engine to collect lots of points. Was actually rather fun, but its price doesn’t seem worth it for the gameplay.

Raiders of the North Sea – Probably the biggest surprise of the con, for me. A game that looked easily dismissable, and looks like a typical worker-placement game, but that actually has a lot of depth to it due to the shared worker mechanics, as well as the requirement to upgrade workers to make progress. This is on my list of things to buy, later, and is probably in the top five for this year’s Origins, at number 5. (Then again, worker placement games are my favorite genre of game.)

Broadhorns – A game with decent enough mechanics, but where the iconography was among the worst we’ve ever seen in any game. It was enough to ruin the few gameplay mechanics we enjoyed, and it just generally wasn’t interesting to play once we finally figured out what certain things meant. Bottom five for this year, and would probably take the lowest spot if not for the Carcasonne dice game.

Tzaar – Another game in the GIPF series, this one resembling checkers. I didn’t actually play it, but it seems decent enough.

Gizmos – Basically Engine Building: The Board Game. The entire game revolves around improving your ability to do actions so that you can do more and more actions. For example: buy a card so when you buy future blue cards, you get a pick action, and when you pick a blue gem, you get to store a card. Actually a really enjoyable game, and I think everyone was surprised afterward by how much we liked it. Another of the (much) “better than we expected” games.

Roll for the Galaxy – Nothing new for any of us, but Kevin and Jenny hadn’t played since last year’s Origins. You should already know how much I love this game, and it’s still probably either my #1 or #2 game from last year’s Origins.

Captain’s Wager – A betting game where you try to win the most of three “fights” with a given hand of cards. Purchased it because it was $5, but we solidly found this one “better than we expected”. This one will actually likely see play again, and was enjoyable to play.

Get Reelz – A party game where you’re creating movie titles based on cards in your hand. Purchased it because it was $5, and it doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. A good alternative to Apples to Apples, in any case.

Day three (Saturday):

Coimbra – A dice-action game primarily distinguished by the ability to gain points in a number of ways. A good example of “dice done right”, and also one of the few games where “multiple paths to victory” is actually a real thing: There is so much you can do in the game to get points that it’s pretty easily to go in different directions than everyone else. Enjoyable enough, but wasn’t personally terribly interesting.

Oceans – The sequel to Evolution. It’s still in the design stage, so we played a prototype version and gave feedback about it to the creator. In general, it’s a much more streamlined game than Evolution, and plays a lot smoother and is more enjoyable. Has some balance issues, as is to be expected right now, but I’m looking forward to this when it comes out.

Spy Club – Detective game where you collect cards to solve a case, with a legacy component where you can play a series of five games, unlocking more content across the campaign. Seems to be intended for kids, and was a decent enough game, but was a little too simplistic for our tastes.

The Legend of the Cherry Tree – Push-your-luck game where you draw colored flowers from a bag and try to collect sets without busting in each draw. Enjoyable enough, but didn’t feel particularly special.

Herbalism – Initially described as “Card Counting: The Game”, which immediately turned me off of it. It wasn’t until I watched a play of it, and then played it later after Kevin and Jenny bought a copy, that I really got into it, and got a copy for myself. Basically, given 12 visible cards and known numbers of each color, figure out what color(s) the two hidden cards are by asking questions of other players about their cards. A super simple, but surprisingly deep, quick game. Kevin and Jenny played this twice, but I only played once, so I’m not counting it.

Welcome To Your Perfect Home – Best described as a cross between Yahtzee and Racko, this is a game where numbers are revealed and you have to slot one of them into a line of monotonically-increasing numbers on your neighborhood design. Different icons increase the choices and ability to do different things. Went into it not expecting much, but this easily lands in the top five at the #1 spot for this year’s Origins. Managed to pick up a copy thanks to Kevin: The game isn’t actually released yet, so they had 100 copies for sale (and were releasing 25 copies a day), so on Sunday morning, we waited in line for the hall to open, and then Kevin ran to secure a spot in line for me to buy a copy. So good! One of three games we played more than once this year.

Round House – A game where you move workers around a circular board to execute actions and gain points. Wasn’t paying too much attention (and didn’t actually play this), but it seemed unnecessarily complex for no good reason. Seems likely to have made the bottom five if I actually played it, but since I didn’t, I don’t feel qualified to pass judgement on it.

Sorcerer Stones – A game where you move and rotate tiles to control and collect colored cubes. I didn’t play this, but Kevin really enjoyed it, and it looks like an interesting game. They bought a copy, so I’m sure I’ll give it a go at some point.

Mystery of the Temples – Gem-collection game where you put them onto a track to trace a path through specific colors and gain points. A rather unique mechanic combined with a circular action board. I picked up a copy.

Eko – Basically a variant of checkers. I had no interest in it, but it seems like a fine game.

Merlin – A dice-action game where you move around a circular board (seems to be the theme of this afternoon) executing actions to gain points. One of the most complicated games we played, component-wise, and also didn’t feel particularly interesting.

Pulsar 2849 – The surprise of the day for me, after Merlin and Coimbra both were just “okay” games. Another game with dice actions, but the dice were done in a really balanced way, and the exploration and upgrades felt compelling and perfectly-timed. Also noteworthy for its excellent iconography, which meant we were able to pick up the game extremely quickly with a few basic explanations. Lands as #4 in my top five for this year, and I will look at getting a copy.

Fresco – We only got a brief explanation of it due to the hall closing, but basically a collection game where you collect “paint” cubes and use them to complete a painting. Seems fine, but not terribly interesting.

Carcassonne: The Dice Game – Push-your-luck game themed around Carcassonne, where you assemble city pieces into the largest city you can while avoiding catapults. Bought it because it was $5, and played it over dinner. It was… not good. Definite bottom five for this year, and probably the worst of the bunch.

Conquest of Speros – Another $5 game purchase that ended up being rather fun. An area-control game that looks like it was built by someone reusing Magic: The Gathering cards, but that actually is interesting to play. Enjoyable, and I’d do it again.

Day four (Sunday):

The Flow of History – I think of this as Through The Ages: Light. Build different types of cards, representing things like military or culture or leaders or monuments, to get the best city. The most interesting part is the bidding and stealing mechanic. Rather enjoyable, and given I went into it not expecting much, definitely falls under “better than we expected”.

Luxor – A game where you move along a path, collecting tiles, with movement controlled by playing cards from either end of an ordered hand. Enjoyable enough, but not particularly memorable, and it unfortunately felt like a light game with non-light game setup requirements, which turned me off of it.

Purchases (in order of purchase):
Conquest of Speros – From the $5 clearance rack, but ended up being surprisingly fun.
Captain’s Wager – Also from the $5 clearance rack; also surprisingly fun.
Get Reelz – Also from the $5 clearance rack. Interesting enough as a party game.
Orc-Lympics – My first real purchase of the con. A steal at only $10, and I think it’s also not officially out yet. Super quick, super fun!
Codenames Duet – I’d played this at last year’s Origins, and really liked the variation on Codenames. Bought it primarily because of the free copy of That’s a Question (thanks to David also buying a copy).
That’s a Question – First played last year, and played again at Carnival this year. It’s always enjoyable, and it was free, which is even better.
Curio – Got it because I could get it signed by the creator, and also because I think my group would enjoy a board game version of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.
Shogunate – Seemed like a great filler game, and I really enjoyed it, and I was able to get it signed.
Paradox – I played this at last year’s Origins, and thought it was fine then, but not particularly worth a buy. This year it was on sale for $10, which seemed worthwhile.
Carcassonne: The Dice Game – Can’t win them all. A bargain bin miss.
Welcome to Your Perfect Home – Detailed more above, but I love that I got the game before it’s generally available.
Herbalism – Picked up a copy thanks to a buy-one-get-one-50%-off deal, after enjoying it so much.
Mystery of the Temples – Paired with Herbalism above. Looking forward to playing it.


Uh, wow. It’s been three months since I last posted. So much for posting at least once a month…

In the home repair department, we successfully replaced our old bathroom ceiling fan. We are quite proud of ourselves!

Downtown flooded a bit in March, thanks to the excessive rain we’ve been having. We missed the worst of it, but caught some of the mess.

Life has otherwise just been full of board games and rock climbing.

With luck, it won’t be another three months before I post again…

Origins 2017

I went to my first board game convention!
Apparently this is what happens when I go to a board game convention. Yay for 19 new board games and/or expansions (and promos, besides)?

I went to Origins in Columbus, Ohio with Kevin, Jenny, and their friend David. It ended up being an awesome experience; we basically played board games every waking and non-eating moment from Wednesday afternoon until Saturday evening.

It looks like I played (or sat and watched an entire game of) 47 different games. I think I only played four games more than once: Saboteur, Roll for the Galaxy, Codenames Duet, and Caverna: Cave vs Cave.

Photos of the entire trip are at my photos site.

I don’t want to forget my experiences and game impressions, so here is a brief summary of every game I played on the day I first played it, along with some brief thoughts about each. Also pictures, of course.

Day one (Wednesday):

Hounded – Asymmetric chess-like game where one player tries to corner another’s fox using hounds. Decent, but very easily broken (just block off a corner using your hounds), and not something I’d really replay. Also it’s only two players, and I wouldn’t ever really get a chance to play two-player games. The huge version of it was impressive though.

Codenames Duet (Prototype) – 2-player cooperative version of Codenames, due to be released at Gen Con. Plays really well, and is an interesting twist on Codenames. Would have bought it if it was available.

Glux – Well-made strategy game. Not too memorable (forgot we played it until I went to write this), but fine mechanically, and well-produced.

Captain Silver – Fun shape-feeling game (like sensors in Space Cadets) that is slowed down a lot by the scoring phase. Enjoyable enough, but meh.

Puppet Wars Unstitched – Miniature games for people that don’t want to build miniatures. Not really something I’d enjoy, but decent enough game.

Galaxy Trucker – The classic that I’ve played so many times and love.

Top Secret Spies – Hidden-role game where you move spies around a board with die rolls to maximize your points. Actually a really, really good game until you add in the top secret cards, at which point the game just falls apart. With the cards, this is probably one of the bottom 5 games I played. I’ll probably try making a version of this (basic rules only) with board game people’s faces.

Roll for the Galaxy – Dice-rolling game that fixes everything I dislike about Race for the Galaxy. Amazing game (easily top 5 of the games I played). Bought a copy of the base set plus the first expansion after playing it.

Day two (Thursday):

Radiant: Offline Battle Arena – A customizable card game apparently based on a video game. Decent enough gameplay, although like many customizable card games, it sometimes gets into weird loops or degenerate situations. Enjoyable, but I probably wouldn’t play it again.

Pinball Showdown – Everyone is a pinball and you’re trying to hit targets for points. It sounds weird, but it actually plays really well, and is a lot of fun while remaining really thematic. I bought a copy and got it signed by the designer.

Russian Roulette World Championship – Social bluffing game that is really, really well done and is a lot of fun. I would have bought a copy, except I think the theme (while it fits the game mechanics perfectly) might be a little off-putting to people in my usual gaming group. David picked up a copy, so we can play it, though. Really fun.

New York Slice – Set collection game that is mechanically awesome, and has probably the best production of any game I played. (The box opens like a pizza box, and the score pad is an order receipt). Easily in the top 5 overall, and might be my pick for best game I played there. Picked up a copy plus a sheet of promos.

Werewords – Social deduction game similar to Werewolf, except with a secret word that people are trying to guess by asking yes/no questions. Really good, and a lot of fun. Top 5 of the games I played. David picked up a copy, but it really just needs the phone app to play.

Century: Spice Road – Production game that reminds me a lot of Splendor, except it feels really clunky and was rather off-putting for me. The deck-building aspect of it was interesting, but I felt like I was often way too constrained to be able to do anything useful. Bottom 5 of games I played.

Trickster: Champions of Time – Trick-taking game (ha!) that is actually the best trick-taking game I’ve ever played. Mechanics don’t screw lead players and the abilities give you a lot of “outs”, plus you can collect the most of any given color to negate those cards. Bought a copy, and got some promos with it.

Element – Place elemental tokens on the board to trap other players’ pawns. Interesting mechanically, but wasn’t really memorable in any way.

Deadline – Detective story game that feels like someone wanted to write murder mysteries and slapped some card mechanics on top of it. Decent enough for what it is, but not something I’d want to play again.

Unearth – Dice-rolling and set-collection game that falls flat and doesn’t really feel like you have any control over it. Easily bottom 5 of games I played, and possibly the worst of the bunch? We didn’t finish the game the first time, and walked away from it when playing again on Saturday from frustration and lack of interest.

Portal Heroes – Card game where you collect number cards and use them to collect character cards. Fine, and plays fine, but not really memorable.

The Colonists – Worker-placement game with a moving worker on a hex board. Has the ability to be super complicated and deep (4+ hours), but has ways to reduce complexity for shorter or easier games. I really enjoyed it, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use a 50% off coupon on it, reducing its price to $45. Hopefully I’ll be able to convince enough gaming group people to play it.

Chicken Cha Cha Cha – Children’s memory game with chickens. Fine for what it is, but not something I enjoyed.

Dominion: Prosperity – It’s Dominion, the classic deckbuilding game. We played with only Prosperity cards, so the game was ridiculously full of trashing duchies and getting free gold for buying them. Final scores were over 100. Kind of ridiculous, but fun. It’s Dominion. :P

Near and Far – The “sequel” to Above and Below, except it’s only really related to Above and Below as far as the world goes. Story-telling adventure game that is really, really fun, and it has a campaign mode that I’m interested in trying if I can get a group to commit to it. Got my copy signed by the creator!

Day three (Friday):

Saboteur – Hidden-role tile-placement game. I’ve played it before, and it’s always enjoyable enough. Would probably buy it at some point, but didn’t pick it up here.

Costa Rica – Push-your-luck set-collection game. Fun enough, but not really memorable in any way.

Cottage Garden – Really fun game where you try to fill a board with differently-shaped pieces, themed around flowers and planting. Mechanic for piece-selection is what makes this interesting. Top 5 of the games I played, and I would have bought a copy except the asking price didn’t seem worthwhile (I think it was $65?).

Welcome to the Dungeon – I mostly tuned this out, so I don’t know what it’s about other than you finding items and fighting your way through some enemies.

Agricola: Family Edition – A variant of Agricola that strips down the rules and complexities of the game in a way that really works and keeps it interesting. If Cavera fixes Agricola by giving you more choices and complexity, this fixes Agricola by giving you fewer options but making feeding less stressful. Bought a copy (partially due to having another 50% off coupon), and I’m looking forward to playing it again.

Ethnos – Area-control game with card set collection. Decent game, but I feel like the card randomness is too random, with no real way to mitigate it. Would be much better with a couple rules tweaks (like having a constantly-refilling set of cards to select from when drafting). Probably wouldn’t play it again regardless, though.

Alchemists – Logic-puzzle game that “requires” a mobile app to play. Was a really interesting concept, and the puzzle-solving aspect was really interesting, but it felt like there was too much game around it, such that it stopped being interesting for us. We didn’t finish a full game of it, and stopped playing so David could attempt to solitare the puzzle in as few steps as possible, instead. Wouldn’t play it again as-is.

That’s a Question! (Prototype) – Social “would you rather” game that would be good as an icebreaker game, but that feels like it needs to support more than 6 players to be good. Decent enough, and it works well as what it tries to do.

Lyngk – Similar to chess or checkers, where you try to strategically move pieces and stacks to collect more sets than your opponent. Decent enough, but not really the kind of game I enjoy.

Tiffin – Cube-placement game where you collect colored cards and use them to complete routes. Had too much deck screw to really be interesting (both in routes and colored cards). We didn’t finish a game of it.

Piñata – Kids’ game that doesn’t try to pretend to be anything it’s not. Good game for what it is, but not really interesting enough to hold our attention.

Adrenaline – Basically “First Person Shooter: The Board Game”. Really good theme, and it felt like playing an FPS, but I didn’t really enjoy it. The jumbled rules explanation we got before someone else stepped in to correct everything probably didn’t help. I think Kevin, Jenny, and David enjoyed it, but this is not something I would play again. Still, playing with the giant version of the game was nice.

Lemming Mafia – Kids’ game where you race lemmings and/or cause them to drop out by putting their feet in concrete and making them “sleep with the fishes”. Bought it because it was on the $7 discount rack, and it actually ended up being a really fun game. Plays quickly, and is super easy to understand and explain, but still manages to have a lot of depth. Great game.

Johari – Card collection game with action selection that reminds me a little of Puerto Rico or Race for the Galaxy. Mechanically a good game, except the rules were really vague on some important points, and the graphic design was terrible enough that it hindered play a few times. With some small rules clarifications, would be a good game.

Day four (Saturday):

Food Chain (Prototype) – Quick card game where you try to play around what you think your opponents will play. Fun, and easy to learn, and has super cute art. Would play again.

Arena: For the Gods! – Combat game with dice that fails to be interesting and has way too much dice screw. We didn’t finish our game (even after resetting and trying it with the proper draft mechanics). Easily one of the bottom 5 games I played.

Lorenzo – Worker-placement game that is really well designed and that also has some of the best graphic design I’ve seen. Iconography is used so well in the game that we corrected the game-demo person a couple of times based on the icons not matching the explanation. Still, for some reason, it didn’t really click with me, and I can’t explain why. Excellent game, but not one that I’d want to buy or play.

7th Sea Miniatures Game (Prototype) – I don’t remember the name of this, but it’s a miniatures game in the 7th Sea world that seems to really accurately simulate ship movement and combat. Jenny played a round of it, and she seemed to enjoy it, but I have no interest in either the mechanics or the theme.

Paradox – Set-collection game where the primary mechanic is playing Bejeweled with colored tokens. Sounds weird, but it actually fits together really well, and was enjoyable to play. Fun, especially because we played it with the creator.

Caverna: Cave vs Cave – 2-player variant of Caverna that is super simple to play and explain, but that has a good amount of depth and strategy. If it wasn’t for my dislike of 2-player games (because I would never really get a chance to play them), I would probably consider buying it.
(No pictures because I only watched other people play.)

Lobo 77 – Quick card game that is a little like 6 Nimmt. Quick and fun and easy, but has player elimination that can be a little rough. Doesn’t try to be anything it’s not.

Bärenpark – Same core mechanic as Cottage Garden, but with the interesting mechanic being around placement order and position instead of piece selection. A lot of fun, and seemingly has more strategic depth than Cottage Garden, and a much better price point ($40). Top 5 games that I played. I bought a copy.

Spirit Island – We didn’t get a chance to play this, but it’s a co-op game where every player is drastically different (different character, different cards and abilities, different core functionality in the game). Looks really good, and is really pretty, but I’m not a fan of co-op games.

Jump Drive – It’s Race for the Galaxy with all the interesting parts of Race taken out in an attempt to simplfy the game. But, if Agricola Family simplifies Agricola well, this is the exact opposite. Mechanically seems interesting until you get to the point where you’re drawing 15 cards a turn (with cards already in hand and a hand size of 10), and you have to study all of those cards to figure out what to keep. Also snowballs in a ridiculous way (50 points ends the game, and I scored 42 points in the final round alone) that just isn’t fun. Easily bottom 5 of the games I played, and would probably be my pick for the worst game I played — it generally feels and plays like a mess and would benefit greatly from mechanical changes (like having separate currency that isn’t cards).


Near and Far – Detailed above. I loved Above and Below, and heard good things about this. The ability to get it signed was just gravy. Played once.
Above and Below: Groves – Expansion cards for Above and Below.
Above and Below: Extended game and tokens – Expansion book with new adventures for Above and Below.
Mysterium Promo Pack – Additional suspect, location, and weapon card for the game.
Caverna Water Expansion – Extra Caverna tiles. For Max and Yubin.
Coup Speculator Promo – Extra Coup cards. For Max and Yubin.
Trickster: Champions of Time – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it. (Included promos.)
Pinball Showdown – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it, got it signed.
Johari – Detailed above. Purchased due to it being on sale for $7, but it seems worthwhile. Played once.
Lemming Mafia – Detailed above. Purchased due to it being on sale for $7, but it was actually really good. Played once.
Roll for the Galaxy – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it. (Got some promos for it as well from playing.)
Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition – Expansion for the above that was part of the demo set we played.
New York Slice – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it. (Also bought a sheet of promo “Daily Special” cards.)
Agricola: Family Edition – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it. (50% off helped make that decision easier.)
Bärenpark – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it.
The Colonists – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it, but only because I had a 50% off coupon.
Power Grid: The First Sparks – Had wanted this game a while ago, but it was out of print and unavailable. Saw it at the con as part of a buy-one-get-one-half-off deal, so picked it up with Roll for the Galaxy. Unplayed.
Gold Ahoy! – On sale for $4. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Zombies!!! Roll Them Bones! – On sale for $3. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Rocket Jockey – On sale for $4. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Forever Young – On sale for $7. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Monuments: Wonders of Antiquity – On sale for $7. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant – On sale for $10. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.

Black Friday, weather, games

Life goes. It’s been busy — hard to believe we’re already halfway through December.

I took advantage of the Black Friday sales surprisingly little this year. I picked up an iPod Touch to replace my Samsung digital camera, at almost $50 off, which was nice. The iPod actually takes better photos, and is generally useful as well in places that have WiFi. It’s been a nice replacement for taking daily photos.
I also picked up season 11 of Supernatural (usual $10), and a few booster boxes of .hack//ENEMY ($3/each) since they’ve been out of print for years and it seems prudent to stock up now while they’re still buyable.
I also bought myself the new computer (a desktop this time) I’ve been wanting for years. My old laptop seems to be having a lot of trouble now, and I wanted something that could actually run Photoshop Lightroom (bought as part of my camera bundle at last year’s Black Friday), so it’s nice. :) Although it’s a little confusing now to sit at my desk and have 4 different keyboards and 3 different mice in front of me… I’ve typed on the wrong keyboard so many times.

We decorated our house for Christmas. Yay for garland things and big red bows!

The weather has been bizarre here lately. Friday it was freezing. Saturday morning the world was ice, and I walked to Giant Eagle and slipped a lot. By Saturday evening, the world was water, and I was overheating in even just a plain t-shirt with a sweater on top (never mind my usual winter coat). Today it’s cold again. Yay weird Pittsburgh.

Owen’s been visiting and there’s been board games.

We had a fun game of Salem where we killed all of the accused people. Also two of my three witches survived. Yay Salem. Also, I feel like the game plays better with 7 people. Everyone starts with totally equal information, and you don’t have to play weird annotation games with the shared colors. Limiting round 2 to 10 minutes and round 3 to 25 minutes also seemed to work well to keep the game moving.

We had a close game of Settlers with our new dice deck. It was a little weird (and maybe more awesome?) because the 8s came out mostly together, the 6s came out mostly together, and the 7s waited almost all for the end. This led to some interesting situations (abundance of wood early, abundance of sheep in the middle game, and sad everyone late game). It actually ended up being really close — Greg was one sheep away from winning for a couple of rounds, and I would have won had I rolled anything other than a 7 (due to having 8 cards and needing 5 of them to build my last city). So yay games.

Volunteering, Arrival, games, cards

Life goes. I’ve been purposely avoiding news and related things because I would like to not know how much of a shitshow this administration is becoming. (Although, from what I’ve heard anyway, it’s already quite a disorganized mess. So we’ll see.)

To do a (very small) part to combat the havoc this administration will wreak on the environment, we switched our house over to 100% renewable energy. It turns out it’s super easy to do… just go to, enter your ZIP code, and choose an option that fits your needs. We’re paying a bit more than normal because we wanted 100% PA-generated renewable energy (as opposed to renewables sourced from arbitrary locations), but it looks like you could actually see a discount in your bill by switching to renewable. So win/win for everyone!

We also went and packaged meals for 2 hours last Saturday with Stop Hunger Now. I don’t know what I was expecting (maybe pulling turkeys and cans out of boxes and repackaging them), but it definitely wasn’t standing in front of a funnel with 5 other people, filling bags with vitamin packets while others poured scoops of rice, dehydrated veggies, and textured soy flour into the bag. Apparently a bag feeds 6 people and contains all the necessary nutrients (thanks partially to the vitamins), and it’s probably a heck of a lot more shelf-stable than more varied foods, so that’s good?

Also on Saturday, we saw Arrival after a failed attempt at short films for the Three Rivers Film Festival (which was sold out by the time we got there). I thought it was actually a really good film… was scientifically (and linguistically) accurate, and managed to not over-emphasize the military or conflict portions of the plot. Given it was a big film, I was expecting them to have escalated the conflict more, or otherwise focus less on the linguist… but they actually did everything really well, and never took away from her and her role in the film. So yeah… really good, and would see again.

We’ve been playing a lot of board games recently, between the usual Thursday board games, hosting board games over here, and having games at Pat’s for his birthday. The recent favorites are Above and Below, which is a really fun worker placement-ish game, and Codenames Pictures, which is like Codenames but with Dixit-crazy images (kangarooasaurus!) of awesomeness. Game photos for the month are up at photos.

I also splurged on some World of Warcraft cards. I’ve been looking for a new defunct TCG to get into, and WoW had base set starter boxes (6 decks, each containing a 30-card deck and 2 boosters) at $15 each, so I got a case of them (it was cheaper than even just buying booster packs), as well as a few boxes of Death Knight and a box of Drums of War.
I actually had some fun luck with decks… the first 8 base set starter decks I opened had different decks (8 of the 9 possible ones). Of course, then it took an entire box (6 decks) to get the last one I needed. After opening 4 boxes of starters, I have at least two copies of each deck. But I also have four copies of the Paladin and Druid decks, so decks (even within a single case) seem to not necessarily be distributed evenly. (One box of 6 decks had two Paladin decks in it.)
Slowly going through packs and decks (two more base set boxes to go), but I should have a good collection to build decks now, much like my .hack//ENEMY collection. Hopefully I’ll be able to find someone to play with me… Max is starting to get back into Magic, which is very similar, and we had a quick evening of card games, so hopefully this will continue.

Also continuing work on the next People Wars expansion. Still haven’t reworked the Facet icon, but cards are coming, slowly.

Hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving!