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 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!


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.

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,





Meeple Adventures

First Blog entry!

Hi all,

I am a single dad that loves all kinds of gaming and sharing the gamer culture.  I joined up with a gaming meetup group called [toggle Gaming] a year ago. Since then, I have been trying new games and teaching my amazing kids and girlfriend.  I will be sharing my experiences.  I hope you enjoy!

Thank you for giving me a look!



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  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?


  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 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.



  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


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.