Meeple Musings: Win, Lose, or Just Have a Good Time?

It’s curious.  I love high conflict in board games.  Yet, I can still have a good time after a night of losing very game. These were games I know and really enjoy.  I’ve even blogged about them.  Secret Hitler, Battlecon, and Onitama.

I started my Tuesday night [toggle Gaming], talking about joining a new D&D 5th edition campaign.  Then, as conversations do when I am around, the talking pivoted from “Maybe I’ll try a half-orc barbarian that heroically looks out for the good oddballs” to “Holey crap!  Can you believe Donald Trump this morning after the debate”.  From fantasy brainstorms to showboating politics in about half an hour.  Of course, I enjoy that, so I it was a good start to the night.

Then, I got the request to join the highly political and social game of Secret Hitler. Not only did I lose as a liberal at Secret Hitler though, I lost while supporting the Hitler character (unbeknownst to me). Not only did I lose at Onitama, but I lost one game in just a few moves.  How did I not see that?!  To be fair, I my loss at Battlecon was nearly a win. I was only a one action away from winning, against the best player I know at 1am.

One thing I love about games though is that players can learn so much about themselves and their friends when they lose.  Personally, I often learn practical as well as psychological elements when I lose or watch others lose.

For example, last night, losing at Secret Hitler as a liberal, taught me that I am very poor at reading bluffs.  It also means that the fascist players that beat us  have gotten much better at lying since they started playing this game so frequently.  Apparently, with practice, even in a bad liar can get convincing results.  Do I want to improve on that?  Well, certainly I would like to play more to learn how to spot a bluff better.

Then, losing like I did at Onitama in at least one game, meant purely that I wasn’t paying much attention as I also tried to handle a conversation on the side. Riiiight, so my multi-tasking skills are a myth.  Really this is true for most people but it is so easy to forget.  Most of us claim we can multi-task but that generally means we can do two things poorly at once. I need to focus to play well, like 95% of everybody else.

As for Battlecon, I learned that even against better, more experienced players, I’m really good in games using game theory (aka rock / paper / scissors type mechanics).  I can still trust my intuition even when my focus is split.  That whole, “your first answer is the right answer on multiple choice” really works for me.

Finally, at the end of the night, I realized that although I love to win high conflict strategic and tactical games, I love learning about people and myself even more.  I enjoyed myself immensely, so did I really lose after all?

 

Happy Gaming,

Meeple Dad

Meeple Musings: Divorce and Gaming

I apologize to my readers for missing the last two weeks.  It felt even longer to me.

In the meantime, my divorce was finalized Aug.31.  This event was officially 15 months  in the making.  For me, this was a significant and positive step forward in my life.  To those readers that listened and helped me through this stage, I will never forget your kindnesses.
Immediately following the divorce, I felt like a toddler picked up at the end of the day from daycare, overwhelmed with stress.  I worked myself up into a head cold.  While feeling  sick, I only wanted to focus on the essentials to get through my days.  I began to realize while sick though, that the cliché, divorce means different things to different people, really is true.

What’s more is that I may have stumbled upon the universal meaning of divorce.  Anyone that has completed a divorce survived a major milestone.  What’s different though, is that the breakup of the relationship is always in a different place when this milestone is reached.

You are probably thinking, that’s fine and all but where does gaming come in then?

Well, here it is.  For some, divorce is the end of the early game phase.  For others, it’s the end of the mid-game phase.  Then, for others, divorce is the final turn of a game.

The first set of divorcing people did not plan for the divorce and they still live together. They have not considered how difficult the future will be.  The world and game board is just getting crowded and players are aggressive with high conflict moves. This is the end of the Bronze Age in Advanced Civilization, or Day 1 of Gettysburg, or Game of Thrones when all of the empty victory point spots have been taken.

The old life has been replaced by something new but also a fog of war of sorts.  No one in this phase has any knowledge of future calamities.  Everyone still has something to lose and the hope that they will come out on top.

When these divorces are finished, they are just beginning to deal with co-parenting, the loneliness of separation, reduced finances, and the extra rules that will impact the Iron Age, or Act 2, or Day 2 of their breakup.

Then, there are those like me that complete their divorce with a spouse and kids after a long separation and many months of conflict.  I realized only after it happened that for me divorce was not the end goal I had been publicly announcing it would be, but the completion of a major task. Or, the end of a stage of my life, instead of the end of a relationship.  I had made it to the Iron Age in Advanced Civilization without being held back.  I made it to the end day  of day 2 in Gettysburg as the Northern Army but haven’t won the war.

Despite the planning and healing, there are still calamities ahead to overcome and battles to be won.  Like the summer season of Keyflower, there are just not enough resources to do everything I want to do in this phase.

I keep thinking, if only life after divorce could be more like a Euro, maybe Euphoria or T’zolken, rather than Monopoly, then I would have had a nice resource engine started by now rather than looking at bankruptcy in a few more times around the board. But, that’s just escapism. I still need to plan my endgame tactics.

Finally, there are the divorced that planned heavily, maybe for years. They don’t have kids. They don’t have child support or spousal maintenance concerns.  They long ago separated emotionally and physically from their ex.  This is their finish, their resolution, their win or loss.  It is time for them to count their victory points and see how they did.  Then, it will be time for them to move on to a whole different game.  Maybe a game of Pursuit of Happiness.

The point is that divorce is a final step, but only in whatever phase of life the individual is working through. In divorce, just like in many other parts of life,  it is possible through board games to learn a fair amount of what is needed to get by.  Here are some gaming tips I learned to apply towards surviving my divorce.  Maybe they will help you or someone you know:

I) For any of you just starting into a divorce, be sure to work out what stage of the breakup you are in ahead of completing your divorce, or you may get everything asked for and nothing you want.

II) Create a strategy from the beginning. Along with your strategy, you also need to be flexible and adjust your plans based around your adversaries.  (Make no mistake!  Like a game of Bang, your ex, the court, and all of the attorneys, and in-laws can and probably will become your adversaries, whether they are revealed or not already.)

III) Don’t start your end game too early.  If you do, you will show your adversary your strategy too early and exhaust your resources before the end game really starts.

If you are going through divorce now, whatever the situation, you have my sympathy.  Your road is hard and I wish you a quick and bearable resolution.

Now, before I press my luck too far like too many rolls of dice in Can’t Stop, I’ll finish this gaming metaphor.  Hopefully, I can win over some readers with it.

In any case, dear readers, I wish you all happy gaming!

Thank you for reading!

Meeple Dad

 

Meeple Aventures: Paradox

This week on Meeple Adventures…  Can a cadre of strategy gamers save planets for 12 rounds from a time and space anomaly called the Quake before the train home arrives?

Or, in other words, could the four newbie players finish a new game of Paradox including setup in three hours?

First, a thank you to Tokens&Tankerds for providing a midway location to play this game on a Sunday.  We were all comfortable with a variety of drinks, food available, and plenty of space to spread out.

Then, we had to deal with setup.  Beyond punching out several boards of chits, the game requires a different setup depending on the number off players.  I did this wrong the first time….and second.  Really pay attention to the setup rules to this game you will really waste a lot of time or significantly impact gameplay!   Now that I know how to setup, it can still take a significant amount of time to setup, unless you bag each of the colored tokens up separately.  In that way, it is a little like a deckbuilder game.  If the game is all sorted, setup is easy.  If not, you will have to plan on spending a while sorting pieces out.

Now we were all setup.  I had read the rules and another player had played months ago.  The turn actions are easy to understand and can go quickly.  Unfortunately, none of us understood how these actions interacted.

Ok, so we all picked a card (basically at random) because we knew we needed these cards but we didn’t really know what they represented.  Then, matching 4 or 5 tokens on our turns like a phone game is somewhat intuitive but the mechanism for matching isn’t matching a matching color token over by one.  So, we had to look that up.  Then, what do you do with the token you win?  Can you keep it for another turn?   Do you buy a card with it?  What happens if you have no cards left on your board to resolve for the round?  How do we resolve a nexus?  The answers are:

1) You spend the earned token to resolve the cards you currently have on your board.

2) No, unless you buy an alliance with it

3) No, you can only play the token on cards on your board.

4) No cards left?  Then, try to match a white or black to flip one of the worlds you have won a card for back to a non-disrupted world.

5) Put a shield on your token grid in the place the nexus shows.  Once you resolve a 4 or 5 in a row with this token in it, you have resolved a nexus problem and earned the card.

For all of these questions and more, we had to go back to the game book.  It’s not that the game is complicated.  It’s not.  It’s really that the mechanics  are so unusual that there are no assumptions that can be made without possibly wrecking the game.  You really need to know exactly how to play so that there are no errors in the endgame.  At this point player frustration was getting a bit high.  Not with the game but with our mediocre understanding of the game and conflict between personalities of gamers that had been there a more hours with another game.  There was even a heated moment where a player had to walk away from the game.  He came back a few minutes later though as a bit of a favor to me as he knew I was itching to finish a play through of this game.

Finally, we got a bit of momentum.  The only tricks at this point were working out how to be efficient in our strategies and remembering the order of how to replace tokens on the our grids.  Don’t put your row of 3 discarded tokens back until you grab the replacements!  This is easy to forget and messes with the odds on both your grid and the next player’s grid.

Now, we finally got to full speed.  And, the game is really dynamic and fun!  The gameplay has the right amount of player interaction with taking planet past, present, future, or nexus cards that another player may really want.  Players can also interact slightly on the token grids by taking pieces from the center of the board or resolving the same colors on their grid to avoid the next player from getting a better variety of pieces.

At this point, we all began working strategies, moving turns along quicker.  We saw the interactions between players more clearly.  It turned quickly into an interesting game.  Then, we saw the clock. Two rounds left with 20 minutes to go and suddenly my points dropped from a likely first place to a likely last place due to the surprise disruption of a planet!  Luckily, my token grid was setup to solve this problem so I was quickly back near the top. On the other hand, I had to sacrifice my planned move which meant I might no longer win.

One round left with 10 minutes to go.  The last round moved very quickly though as most of us could not find major points with the available cards.  Game done, 5 minutes to go!  The player that needed to hop on the train quickly counted up his points and got to the train while the rest of us were still counting beyond his points.  In the end, I won by a single point!

The endgame is really exciting and the gameplay once understood is really fun and quick. I will be playing this game again soon.  But, this time everything will be organized and I will really understand how to fix the galaxy in Paradox!

 

Happy Gaming,

Meeple Dad

 

 

 

 

 

Meeple Adventures: ToggleTop Day

Over a recent weekend, the [toggle Gaming] meetup I enjoy hosted a rare and special Saturday event.  As usual, the [toggle Gaming] library (consisting of over 300 games / expansions) was available to borrow and play and tables were available through the majority of the bar.  This event was special though because the Saturday timing meant that people that could not make it on the usual Tuesday night were out in force and many people brought their significant others.  I had decided to bring my girlfriend to this event and meet friends from the group for the first time. She was decidedly not aware of geek culture of virtually any kind before I met her months ago.  We had enjoyed a half a dozen different boardgames together and in a group of friends before but this was going to be a large dose of gaming culture all at once.  Would I enjoy a large scale, all day gaming event with her?  More importantly, would she enjoy it?

The event included several drawings to win games.  Every participant to this free event received a free drawing ticket and could purchase additional tickets for other games.  In addition, the normally empty side room of the bar hosted a visiting game store (The Gaming Goat), where over $55,000 worth of games were being sold for great prices. Additionally, there was a couple of tournaments of shorter games being hosted.

When we showed up, the event had people assigned to explain the drawings, introduce how the gaming library would work during the day, and most importantly to welcome us into the event.  This was a very welcome touch, even for a regular like me.  I instantly felt that if any store had staff as friendly and happy to be there as this event, they would not want for customers.  My girlfriend felt the same way.

I had planned on showing my date a very good gateway game to set collection (collecting items like gems or cards which represent resources) to show her a nice introduction to this type of game.

Then, randomly, I friend walked up to me and asked if I would like to try a second play of a game called Viticulture.  I loved my first play of this game so I agreed immediately.  Together, he and his wife were kind enough to explain the game but this is not some simple gateway game.  This is a full length medium depth worker placement game deeply enriched with the theme of wine-making.  I cannot overemphasize how much I enjoy this game and how much the theme works into each game action.  As an added twist, I ordered me and my date a glass of wine before we started.  I jumped right into my second game without hesitation.  This game has a very standard and intuitive worker placement mechanic and almost all questions can be answered by the response to “What would be logically next if you were really making wine?”

Still, my date was thrown by the heavy thinking and short turns of this worker placement game.  It took her more than a few game years / rounds to really understand what placing a worker represented and why she couldn’t do more one each turn.

She was not to be underestimated though.  Remember, she had NEVER played a worker placement game before, and I had seen this mechanic since 2005.  She is extremely intuitive. Perhaps more importantly from a gamer perspective, she loves learning new things and how things work.  Which, if you read my post yesterday, is one of the reasons I love boardgames.  It is also the reason that as soon as she understood what she should be doing from a strategy viewpoint, she quickly relaxed and enjoyed the game.  This is despite her understanding at that moment that she was pretty far behind me and the leader.  Two or three rounds later, my buddy’s wife played out her slow starting strategy to crush me as well. Then, we all went off to take a break and play more games.

After that game, I realized that we were both going to really enjoy the day after all.

Thanks for reading and Happy Gaming!

Inkwan

Meeple Adventures: [toggle Gaming]

Hello Readers!

On Tuesday this week, I had a good time playing a game and dinner with my kids.  I talked my 7 year old son into a quick game of Onitama. He decided to it would be more fair to play best out of three. Excellent!  Meanwhile, I had already misplaced one of the pieces…dropped in my car after GenCon most likely.  In any case, I replaced the missing piece and an additional piece with bunny finger puppets I was going to give away sometime.  So, with smiles already, we were ready to go!  My intimidating forces are featured in the picture!

Through out the game, I said things like “My rabbit money style has defeated your ox style” and “Oh no!  Your dragon style destroyed my bunny!” and “Hah, hah, hah, you have just fallen for my snake style trap!”  in badly dubbed kung-fu movie style.  My son played well for his age but I beat him in two games.  I am at least a mediocre Chess player after all.  As for gaming, I never just let my kids win.  Playing against real competition builds character.  In the real world, competition is everywhere!  I don’t work real hard to crush them either though. That would just discourage them out of my hobbies I love!

After the games, I walked him through the moves that beat him each time. Then, we shook hands and I told him “Good game!  You played well.”  After all, he did very well for a 7 year old!  Then, we all sat down for a pleasant dinner.  Not long after that, I wistfully dropped them off at their mom’s place.

Not to fear though!  I had my [toggle Gaming] meetup group to drive out to see at Durty Nellie’s bar. As soon as I got there, there were friends to glad-hand and a cold Citizen’s cider for refreshment.  By the time, I got my drink, I was already invited into a wild game of Happy Salmon!   I even got video of the game this time.  Now you can see for yourself what I mean when I tell you this game is exciting for all ages.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FtoggleGamingEvents%2Fvideos%2F650495031786570%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Following this was my first game of Keyflower.  This is a VERY popular worker placement and bidding game.  Worker placement just means that you place a worker somewhere to gain the advantage for that space.  The trick with this game though is that if you bid too much you don’t have the workers you need to get what you need to earn points. On the other hand, if you bid too low, you will be restricted in what you can do and in your number of workers later.  There are only four rounds so it is easy to play in about an hour.  It was extremely interesting but I got crushed even though it was new for everyone I played against.  I love when I get to combine a night with a deep game and a light game.

In other words, between dinner and games with the kids and toggle games, it was a very good night!

Happy gaming,

Inkwan

 

 

 

Meeple Adventures: GenCon

About a week ago, after a drink and a boardgame at a meetup , many of my friends were talking about GenCon in Indianapolis.  I thought about traveling to this convention for a few years but never found others interested before. This time, I managed to find a pass last minute for a discount and found a room with an old friend.  I had not been to GenCon in 20 years though. Back then, it was held in Milwaukee and I was in high school!  Would the biggest gaming convention in North America still be a blast as a grown man?  I wasn’t totally sure.

For those of you that don’t know GenCon, this convention holds all the types of events from Wednesday evening to Sunday afternoon at the Indianapolis Convention Center downtown.  Events include board games, rolepaying games, sci-fi, fantasy, anime, costume contest, collectible card game, or minatures, and more. Almost anything new in the areas above are available at GenCon. It also includes minstrels, book signings, sales, game testing, card towers, game tournaments, and free giveaways. There are even seminars on anything from “How to be successful at online publishing” to “Basic bondage knots”.

Anyway, the plan was to drive about 4 hours to Indy after dropping of my kids and a half day of work on Friday.  Then, I would meet my roomie for the weekend around 6pm to grab a quick dinner.  Followed, by getting my tickets and pass from will call and play a game before driving 15 minutes back to our hotel.

Unfortunately, I forgot some noteworthy items before my trip:

  1. Indy is Eastern time, not Central time like norther Indiana and Chicago
  2. It always takes longer to pack and do errands than you think it will
  3. Don’t drive around Chicago at 4:30pm on a Friday if you can help it at all!
  4. Northern Indiana highways are almost always under construction in the summer, especially after dark.

Soooo…I pulled into a paid car park at 10pm local time.  I got my tickets and pass and met up with some friends at the JW Marriott down the block where a few friends were meeting.  There we played a fantastic and really simple new game called Happy Salmon.  It only takes 2 minutes a game and is a really a amazing fun for all ages!

All of a sudden though, I realized stayed up a bit too late.  I hurried back to my hotel down the road. After all, I was scheduled for a board game tournament of Puerto Rico* at 8am ET.  I LOVE this game!  It is also very popular among serious gamers. But, I was to be punished by tip number 1 above again.  I am certainly not an early morning person and I awoke bleary eyed. So, I showered and hurried to the game in the morning, arriving just in time. As I ran through the hallways, I noticed the convention was surprisingly busy, especially considering the first official events were just starting.

I made it through to the semi-final round, and got beat down by a tiny mistake.  Why, oh why, did I buy a hacienda on turn 4…but I digress!  Oh well, I hadn’t played that game much in the last few years and I was tired.

Then, I had a little time to rest. I ate an early lunch and drove back to my hotel.  I try to lay down but I am interrupted by housekeeping.  I hurried back to the convention in time for my second tournament.  The game was Onitama.

Onitama is only about a half a year old, so there are no experts yet.  This made the tourney extra exciting, especially with a Swiss style format which allows someone to lose and keep playing.  Additionally, any games that lasted 30 minutes were considered ties. I wasn’t too upset when I lost my first two games after 26 minutes of play.  I won my third game and met another guy from my local meetup in the process too, so that was fun.

Then, it was on to the new Star Wars roleplaying game by Fantasy Flight games.  I know, some of you are thinking, roleplaying, really?  Aren’t you too old for that?  Possibly.  I quit roleplaying games after college for years before I came back to them.

When I tried them again, I realized I had become too rigid in my thinking and planning. Everything had to be just one way and roleplaying was difficult.  I discovered that roleplaying is a GREAT way to increase your creative juices and improvisational skills.

By improv skills, I don’t mean just acting.  I mean the ability to react differently to a change of plans or a sudden unpleasant discussion.  For me it gives me practice I need to wing situations with sick kids in tow or hiding my discontent at work when management changes directions yet again or even to enjoy playing make believe with my kids.

On the other hand, as a parent, I don’t have time for infinitely long campaigns and every growing rulesets, along with other interests, so I just try to fit in rules-light games into my schedule occasionally.

Anyway, while some will really enjoy this new game, I found the system clunky with dice rolling slowing down every action. Fantasy Flight made sure everything was thematic but forgot to consider KISS (Keep it simple stupid!) I don’t seem to remember Luke spending over a minute trying to decide how to swing a lightsaber….but again I digress.

Later that night, I played a game called Room 25***, which is themed after a movie called The Cube.  Sci-fi prison escape where 1 – 2 players are the guards. This game with the secret roles and rooms was great fun.  What made this even better is that I got to play the brand new version with friends of mine AND the game designers while having a couple drinks!  This was amazing fun and exactly why I had come to GenCon.  This was the highlight of my trip.

Finally, the next day I bought a couple of sweet games that I will explain in later blogs.  I also attended a seminar on how to e-publish and sell roleplaying games, comics, and books on DriveThrurpg.com.  This was really interesting and inspirational.  This seminar led me to create this blog.  After that, I chatted with friends and left for home.

All in all, the trip cost me around $500 (which is about all I could spare) and about 10 hours of driving.  So, was it worth it?

Pluses:

  1.  I got to play great games that I rarely get to play otherwise.
  2.  I was inspired to write a blog and possible work on a board game Kickstarter or Drivethrurpg.com projects.
  3. I spent time with some newer friends
  4. The Con really felt like an escape
  5. I got a brand new board game which is not yet in stores and another game that is usually out of stock.

 

Minuses:

  1. If I had planned ahead, I would have had the logistics cleaned up (but that’s not a fault of GenCon)
  2. I was unable to hang out with friends as much as I had hoped as they had their own gaming agendas
  3. GenCon is SO big now that it is impossible to feel like you did everything you wanted to do
  4. I’m out $500 and lost 10 hours driving
  5. I got to geek out in board game lingo, roleplaying a role, and escaping reality for a weekend.

 

  • OVERALL ASSESSMENT:  It was worth the trip and expense.  I came back refreshed even though I didn’t get much sleep.  I won’t be able to go back for a few years due to my fresh divorce in any case, so I can at least savor all the fun I had on this trip.
  • If you have never gone and any of this appeals to you or your family, plan this trip in the next few years.  I haven’t seen anything much like it.  GenCon is SO big compared to most other conventions, it is a bit like comparing New York City to Kansas City. I am saying this as I live near Chicago and this city is no stranger to conventions.
  • To get the best time out of it, pre-register and plan your schedule with a couple of your best friends. Then, get a hotel that you can walk back and forth from. This will save you time, frustration, and parking $ as well.

 

I hope you have enjoyed this entry.  If so, please follow me!  If not, please let me know if you have any suggestions.  I can be reached at modernmeeple@gmail.com

 

Additional game notes:

*Puerto Rico  may be my favorite game.  The theme of this game is to create the most successful colony on Puerto Rico. A player does this by growing crops, buying buildings to process the goods / make bonus money / earn points, and then either selling the crops for money to buy  buildings for points and shipping crops for points.  This game includes a unique combination of choosing different roles, using worker placement, and subtle gotcha mechanics.  It was the first game to use some of these mechanics when it was first sold in 2005 as well. It takes about half an hour per player, so 2.5 hours for 5 players.  I have yet to introduce this to my 7 and 9 year old kids due to the moderate learning curve but most people can get a handle on it partway through.

**Onitama is a Chess derivative game but easier.  There are only 5 pieces per side and 5 cards per game for movement. There are less pieces, less spaces, and less possible moves. The cards are rotated between players so the game is fairly balanced and no one needs to memorize what any moves are.  This is really easy to teach kids, even though the box suggests 14+.  It’s  all tactics and not strategy because there is no long game planning. You win by getting your “Shaolin” (aka King) to the opposite “temple” (aka the center space on your opponent’s side of the board) OR by eliminating the Shaolin.  My kids are 7.5 and 9.5 and they like this game just fine.

***Room 25 is a game of hidden tiles and roles.  With a larger number of players, there are 2 guards that are trying to prevent prisoners from escaping by any means necessary.  The other players are trying to find Room 25 and escape (and possibly kill the guard if this helps them get away).  The prisoners win if all but one escapes before time runs out.  Otherwise, the guards win.