Happy 2024!!!


Welcome to the new year!! It feels a little odd waking up about my normal time without feeling stiff or tired from the previous night’s NYE gig… hopefully next year… 🙂 And it’s a very different year with Selena living with her boyfriend / Fiancée… Julie has struggled the most with it to the point where she wasn’t that into Christmas which is so not like her… she started to shake it off around the 27th or so and was acting more like herself…

I’m almost ready to present my Christmas 2023 haul!! It’s smaller than usual – partly because I’m not gigging like I used to (but hope to be again soon) and partly because I’m gaming less often since Selena moved out and partly because (as most of you know) the cost of groceries has TRIPLED over the past couple of years…

January 7th… Sorry – I’m a little late getting this together but Julie and I or Selena and I have actually got some games to the table!!

Let’s start with my most anticipated game of the Holiday (that we haven’t played yet)… my gift to myself from my girls… last year you may recall it was Wayfarers of the South Tigris so it should come as no surprise that this year it’s Scholars of the South Tigris – the 2nd in Shem Phillips, S.J. McDonald and Garphil Games (out of New Zealand) South Tigris trilogy… 

(from the designers): Scholars of the South Tigris is set during the height of the Abbasid Caliphate, circa 830 AD. The Caliph has called upon the keenest minds to acquire scientific manuscripts from all over the known world. Players will need to increase their influence in the House of Wisdom, and hire skilled linguists to translate the foreign scrolls into Arabic. In this Golden Age of wisdom and knowledge, be mindful not to neglect one in pursuit of the other.

The aim of Scholars of the South Tigris is to be the player with the most victory points (VP) at the game’s end. Points are gained by translating scrolls, increasing knowledge in various areas of science and mathematics, influencing the 3 guilds, and by retiring translators after their years of faithful service. The game end is triggered once all 4 caliph cards have been revealed.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Shem Phillips, S.J. McDonald and Garphil Games… enough said. While I don’t have all of their games I have most of the various trilogies and have gone so far as to message them during their crowdfunding campaign to say that if they announced their next game was ‘Whack A Worm With A Wet Noodle’ – I would back it!! 🙂 The theme of translating scrolls, the multiple boards, fascinating gamepley and the dice mitigation and manipulation of not only the numbers but the colors is brilliant!! It may take a while to get through the rules and convince Julie to try it (or I may have to go solo) but I can’t wait.

I traditionally have something under the tree for Christmas Eve – for Selena, when she was little, then for the family as she got older – usually a game to play to make the evening go by quicker (who can sleep – at any age – with the thrill of Christmas only hours away?)… 🙂 This year I was excited for the girls to open it whether we played it or not and that game was Bark Avenue

From the publisher: Bark Avenue is a competitive route optimization pick up and deliver game centered around a day in the life of a dog walker in upper Manhattan. Players balance walking several dogs at once with competing needs – including walk length, preferred activities, bathroom breaks, and compatibility with your other dogs.

You will be challenged with solving the puzzle of returning dogs on time and determining which dogs to walk next! In between walks, use public transportation to your advantage to position yourself for the best walks.

As you progress in your dog walking career, your good ratings will unlock new abilities, such as walking more dogs simultaneously, going off leash at the dog park, and taking more end-of-turn actions, including pickups and activities like visiting pet shops. Be wary of returning dogs late, because you could lose out on most the pay!

At 45 minutes – 1 hour, this Gateway+ game is targeted at all players and pulls in dog lovers, providing fun for new gamers and critical thinking and optimization problems for seasoned gamers.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): We love our dogs… and know the joy and pain of walking them – especially in the middle of the night… 🙂 What better than a game about dog walking with squishy poop tokens? 🙂 Julie and I would get it played a couple days after Christmas… it’s pretty easy and a fun experience to puzzle out. And she beat me of course… 🙂

One of the cool things about the game is that all of the dogs on the cards are real dogs!! During the crowdfunding campaign there was even an option to get your own dog added to the game which was a little out of my price range but in the months while I waited for it to be delivered, I was already mapping my strategy to make my own…

Once it arrived I started executing my plan… how did I do??

The card at the left came with the game…

And here are my versions with our three dogs…

Next up was a request from Julie… one night we were in bed watching YouTube… there are a ton of content creators covering board games that we enjoy watching and on this night one of them was previewing Disney Animated… I’m half asleep and she starts whacking my arm saying, “Yes please! YES please!!”

(from the publisher): Work together like the team at the famous Walt Disney Animation Studios to create movie magic! Produce five classic Disney films using detailed background art, vibrant paint colors, and lively sound to bring cherished stories to life on the screen. But watch out! The infamous Villains of your feature films will rush your deadlines and create all the calamity they can. As a team, you’ll use the strengths of the Animation Studio – Heart, Focus, Inspiration, Grit, and Teamwork – to vanquish the Villains and finish your films in time!

Cooperative gameplay integrates novel mechanisms and unique player powers! Stunning components include full-color player boards, custom wooden tokens, and 15 transparent cel cards. Explore the storied history of the Disney Animation Studios with five classic films! develop sound, ink & paint, and background art – plus a bit of magic – to bring your films to life!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): It’s Disney and anything with Disney on it is a ‘must-have’ as far as Julie is concerned… 🙂 To be fair, while she was going ga-ga over Mickey and friends, I was learning about the gameplay and this is a fairly complex cooperative game that I’m really looking forward to playing. I only wish that, when she opened it, that she had remembered seeing it… 🙂

Another night there was a review of a game that Julie thought Selena would really like named Dragonkeepers

(from BGG): Anyone can herd sheep, but have you ever herded dragons?

In Dragonkeepers, you compete against each other as magicians. Two stacks of cards form the “Magic Book”, which indicates which and how many dragons can be herded. With each card taken, this information changes, but luckily you can cast spells and return your cards to the Magic Book to change it in your favor and score! But which of your dragons can you spare to cast spells?

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Selena has always loved her dragons and the art on the cards is adorable!! We thought this would be a great game for her whether she takes it with her or leaves it here for when she visits… 🙂

A few nights ago Julie and I gave it a try and it’s a really great game!!

The backs of the cards form the Magic Book which tells you how many and what color dragons can be played currently… the left side is the number and the right is the number… BUT – draw one of the face-up cards from in front of the decks and you could change one or the other…

You can also play cards from your hand back to the top of the Magic Book which lets you set the values to something that’s better for you!! Build amulets for points and get bonuses, etc. makes Dragonkeepers a keeper and one that I think will be a go-to for quite a while.

Selena and I started a game back on the 5th before we went out to eat… I was going to just play a couple rounds but she insisted that we finish so I know she liked it… 🙂

Here’s one that I was very excited to get for Julie… the All-In Collector’s Edition of a small game that we already loved though we only owned the base game called Project L!!

The Collector’s Edition includes the base game, every expansion ever made including a new one called ‘Finesse‘ – this is what caught my eye and the link is to Ruel’s final thoughts of the expansion which is what sold me on it… and of course there’s a deluxe storage solution that makes setup a breeze… 🙂

Here’s a look at everything that’s packed in that box…

I unpacked it all back on the 5th, read the rules for the various expansions and sorted out their components and, when I was all done, was convinced that there was no reason we couldn’t play with all of them at once… so we did… and it was fantastic!! The Finesse Expansion really elevates what was a pretty simple but challenging game by adding a new layer of minor complexity that also serves as a game timer… and 10 rounds are over before you know it… and we both love it!! 🙂

Back before Christmas you may have read that I was a little concerned because my wife says she got me TWO games this year…

My concern stems from last Christmas when she got me a copy of Gloomhaven… this is a beast of a dungeon crawler AND a campaign game that can take months or even years to play… my best chance at getting this to the table would be solo because you really need to have the same group of players for each session and I’d need to leave it setup in order to continue… I really appreciate her going to this extreme for me but, to be totally honest, I was never really interested in the game despite all the hype… eventually I opened the box thinking I’d better give it a try… after exploring the contents of the massive box and starting to read the rules, I just packed everything back in the box… I feel terrible because I don’t think I’ll ever play this massive masterpiece of a game that simply isn’t my cup of tea…

3 months later we’d be on a road trip that took us near my favorite (not so local) game store… I was browsing the isles for a birthday present (for myself) when Julie had stealthily bought me a copy of Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion… this was a sort of prequel to Gloomhaven that they say makes it easier to learn the game mechanics and get into the story… sadly, I couldn’t get far in the rule book of this either before packing that away as well… that brings us back to the present… present time that is… OK – I guess ‘present’ in the gift sense would be applicable as well…

All she said was that they’re games that Zee Garcia from the Dice Tower really likes so she hopes I’ll like them too… OK… my tastes and Zee’s do overlap on occasion… my fingers were crossed and, while I wasn’t familiar with the games initially, once I learned more about them, I was excited to play them!! A big ‘thank you’ to ‘my girl’!! 🙂

The first was Anomia: Party Edition

(from the publisher): Anomia: Party Edition adds 6 new decks to the Anomia card game family. Each deck is a word game in which players sequentially place a card face-up in front of them in a stack. As each card is revealed, players look for matching symbols between their card and any other card. If a match occurs, the two matching players face-off and must quickly give an example of something within the category (eg. breakfast food, lake, reptile) listed on the opposing player’s card. The first person to finish saying a correct answer wins the face-off and takes the opponent’s card into a face down “winnings” pile. Since cards are played on top of each other, the player who lost the face-off reveals an earlier card on their stack and may immediately match another player’s card causing a cascade of face-offs.

In addition there are wildcards which allow different symbols to match until it is overwritten by another wildcard which may then trigger a whole new set of face-offs. Play continues until the deck is exhausted and whoever has the most cards in their “winnings pile” is the winner.

The second was another version of the same game called Anomia: X… now I’m worried again because she knows how much I loathe the likes of ‘Cards Against Humanity’ and the like… turns out that, while leaning towards the ‘darker’ side, it’s not the adolescent awkwardness of those others that seem to be dirty for the sake of being dirty… WHEW!! 🙂

(from the publisher): Where common knowledge becomes entirely inappropriate.

The award-winning party game is back – with bad manners and an oversized martini. Anomia X pokes a stick at the underbelly of society, and the results are decidedly NSFW!

Think about it – our minds are just brimming with all sorts of questionable information. While it’s easy enough to think of a rum cocktail, a lubricant, or a celebrity train wreck, you’ll find that your brain works a little…*differently* under pressure.

Anomia X is simple. Players flip category cards until the symbols on two players’ cards match. Matching players race to give an example of the category on their opponent’s card. Sounds easy, right? Think again. Wild Cards create unexpected matches, and even losing a card can set off a chain of cascading face-offs. Pay attention, it could be your turn at any time – and with Anomia X you never know what the cards have in store!

Fast-paced, brain-bending and irreverent, Anomia X promises hours of laugh-till-you-cry hilarity for you and your twisted friends.

While both games are meant for 3 or more players I found a 2 player variant which we tried and really liked (even though I screwed up a couple of rules)… 🙂 I can see where this would be fun with more players and look forward to playing again!!

And lastly, Julie had also wrapped two new variations on Uno!!

UNO Triple Play features the familiar UNO gameplay, with players trying to rid themselves of cards first, but this game comes with a special electronic unit that holds three discard piles and features lights and sounds. On your turn, you can play onto a discard pile only if it’s lit up — and if any pile gets too many cards in it, it may overload, with the LED display indicating how many cards must be drawn!

Lights and arcade sounds on the machine create maximum anticipation and excitement, and the “timer mode” makes the game move even faster. As always, when players have only one card left, they must yell “UNO!”

UNO Quatro is a classic four in a row game with an UNO twist!

On your turn, play a tile in a column and try to make four in a row by matching color or number. There are three action tiles that can change the game. Swap lets you swap the positions of any two columns. Minus 2 removes some of your opponent’s options. Lastly, Push pushes the bottom tile out of the column.

Pay attention to what you play- everyone shares the tiles and you might set up your opponent’s victory!

Selena and Mike gave them each a try before Christmas dinner but Julie and I haven’t played them yet though we’ve always enjoyed Uno and its offshoots… 🙂

January 14th… Selena’s spending the day and night since Julie has a doctor’s appointment the 15th and can’t be alone for 24 hours (and I’m off from school but have a house call to make)…

After some shopping and crafting the girls wanted to get a game in… I decided to keep it simple so we played a couple games of Anomia: Party Edition with a different deck each time… of course Selena killed us both games which we should have expected with the speed recognition and response element… AND a game of Dragonkeepers… I was patient and focused and it paid off… I surprised even myself when the girls announced their scores of 97 and 103 and I was sitting on 145 points!!

With that, the girls – tired from their shopping trip – went back to movies, crafting and napping while I went back to working on my design of a score sheet for Scholars of the South Tigris… I don’t know why (since everyone is saying this might be the hardest game these designers have created) but, after reading the rules, I feel like this may be one of their EASIEST!! I’ll know if it’s just me when I try to get Julie to play… 🙂

January 16th… Minor storm… sent home from work early because of road conditions… I had Scholars of the South Tigris setup from the previous day when I was going to try it solo and now Julie wants to play… but not THAT… 🙂 She had seen a little of a playthrough I was watching from a YouTube content creator that goes by Slickerdrips… he was taking the time to explain his thought process on each play and Julie thought that was indicative of how the game plays… other reviewers thought this might be the heaviest (hardest) game this design team / company had put out… that wasn’t helping with her perception of the game I’m sure… 🙂 After much explanation and begging and pouting, I was able to convince her to try it!!

I told her we’d just play a few rounds before supper then I’d have to go out and clean up from the storm… I worked with her on her turns… she usually knew what she wanted to do but was still getting a feel for what she needed to do to make that happen… it wasn’t long before she had it down and we were figuring out other parts of it together… hopefully she feels as good when I get home from work tomorrow because she had me leave it setup so we could pickup where we left off… I think she’s liking it as am I and it doesn’t seem as hard as it’s been made out to be.

January 18th… Julie’s got some sort of bug… slight fever and feeling rotten… Selena’s working so I’m taking the day off to take care of dogs and anything Julie might need (after a 3 degree 7:00am run to the store for more Alka-Seltzer gels, cough drops and chicken soup)… 🙂

After catching up on some work remotely I started looking long and hard at a solo run of Scholars of the South Tigris… After some reading and videos and more clarifications, I reset the game and started a new solo venture… the AI is not very complicated – it’s more my wanting to make sure I interpreted the icons correctly and didn’t forget anything that keeps it from flowing… I’m sure that, after I spend some more time with it, it will play pretty quickly… 🙂

January 21st… Julie’s feeling better but tired… I’m on dog duty so she can sleep… I’ve been playing more solo and it’s a fine AI but, just like previous solo attempts, I’m realizing I want people to play with… by supper time Julie’s starting to move but it’s apparent she’s not interested in playing… I remember seeing the game group was getting together so I pack some games and head for a local Domino’s!!

I arrived about 20 minutes after they would have normally started to find the back room (visible from the street) dark and empty… hmmm… must have changed their minds… with that I head back home and just go to bed… I hadn’t been on Facebook that afternoon or I would have learned that they moved to a local Game Cafe ‘Go Play With Your Food‘… even more disappointing for me was that they played a couple Garphil games including Scholars of the South Tigris… DAMN!! 🙂 Next time…

January 24th… headed out for work this morning – about an hour later than usual… several inches of snow fell overnight… it was 33 and raining when I hit the untouched roads and made my way to the highway which also appeared NOT to have been plowed… it’s maybe 3 miles from the exit I get on to the next exit and, in that short span, I narrowly missed not one but TWO separate cars passing traffic and spinning out in front of me before crashing into the guardrails… nice driving a–holes!! Enjoy the repairs to your fancy cars!! I’ve driven in much worse so it wasn’t phasing me but, like my parents told me and we’ve told our daughter, it’s the OTHER people you have to watch out for… these incidents didn’t shake my confidence but were – I suppose ‘frustrating’ would be the best term – to the point that I got off, turned around and settled in at home for the day – burning a vacation day at work (I can do almost everything remotely anyway).

Julie and I have started a couple games of Scholars of the South Tigris but haven’t been able to finish one… I’d gotten about halfway through a solo game and reset so we could play together… we had started one last night after supper – determined to finish it tonight after work… I thought we might get through it during the day but I could tell she was tired so I sent her to bed and geared up for dog duty…

We picked up where we’d left off after supper… usually that gives us an hour or so before I have to head to bed (because I’m up 4:30-5:00am each morning for work) but tonight was different because Julie has her port flush at the Cancer Center at 8:00am so I’ll be able to sleep in… we were back up to speed pretty quickly, saw our first of 4 Calif cards which serve as the game’s timer… as the game progressed, I could see her wheels turning and there were less and less questions so I started making plays for points since I could see the Scroll deck (containing the Calif cards) shrinking and knew the game would be over shortly… when it was all over, I thought she had me but I apparently messed up a couple of her scroll translation plans and squeaked out a 47-39 victory. She’s always telling me how she doesn’t like more complex games like this and how she’s not as smart as I am yet she was pulling off moves and making plans and already asked to play again tomorrow night… ‘don’t try to play ‘dumb’ with me – you’re not as good at it as I am’… 🙂 Scholars of the South Tigris is a fantastic game and has us looking forward to the third game in the trilogy Inventors of the South Tigris coming out later this year.

February 1st… Julie’s been fighting another head cold and sore throat (but no COVID thankfully) so we haven’t gamed in about a week… I’d already packed Scholars of the South Tigris to make room to prep my taxes and she’s asked to play the last couple of days but I could tell she wasn’t quite over it yet… 🙂 Tonight she asked again but I was running store errands for Mom who has confined herself to her room at the assisted living facility…

The facility recently moved a woman from another floor who’s mind is sadly gone and who is going into other people’s rooms and taking random stuff then putting in drawers or closets in other parts of the floor… she has to be frequently removed from office spaces and she’s scratched and bitten multiple residents and staff… while most of the nurses and aides are sympathetic and try to keep her corralled, others laugh and say there’s nothing they can do… and administration will only say they’re ‘working on it’… Mom started by locking up her iPad and phone whenever she went out but now she feels like she has to stay and protect her belongings – sacrificing any remaining independence she had… I was charged with picking up several things for her and making more blueberry muffin tops for a Maintenance worker who was very helpful when Spectrum managed to kill about half the cable boxes in the facility… it took overnight to get it straightened out but he got her back up and running again so, along with Mom’s other items, I dropped off a plate of about 2 dozen muffin tops and a ‘Thank you’ card…

When I returned home Julie was taking the dogs out and I surprised her by setting up UNO Triple Play – one of the two Uno off shoots she got us for Christmas… and we LOVED it!! I’ve cooled on Uno a little but haven’t developed the blatant hatred for that some modern board gamers seem to profess… this game might just hit the table more frequently… 🙂

It’s electronic and has three discard piles… you discard cards just like the original game BUT you can only discard to one of the areas that is LIT… as you discard to the three piles, their corresponding lights gradually change from green to yellow to red and, once they hit red, it’s only a matter of a card or two before someone triggers an OVERLOAD and has to draw 1-4 card as indicated in the center… there are also RESET cards that, when you play them to a pile, you hold the pile down for a couple seconds and it resets the overload timer back to green… we played 3 or 4 games like this and thought it was pretty cool then I decided it was time to switch modes… Julie was surprised to learn there was another way to play… oh yeah – with a 7 second timer!!

In Timer Mode, all the rules are the same as before but you have 7 seconds to play a card and, if you don’t, you have to draw 6!! Yes 6!! At one point I had so many cards I couldn’t hold them or sort them and still play card in 7 seconds so I just laid them out in front of me until I could hold them again. Julie took full advantage of being able to see that I had a lot of green cards left and it wasn’t long before all three discard piles had RED cards and she soon won the game. 🙂 It was getting late (for me anyway who gets up at 5:00am for work) otherwise we probably would have played with the timer for another hour or more – it was that much fun!!

We did try a couple quick games of UNO Quatro which we thought was OK… it’s like the game Connect 4 but with Uno tiles and couple of tweaks to the rules… I could see this one being more interesting as we start recognizing strategies and such but, at least for now, I’m sure we’ll be heading back to Triple Play in Timer Mode. 🙂

February 4th… I started the day with breakfast and going through the Disney Animated rulebook again… following my regular course of action, I had already watched some videos though there weren’t many how to play videos available… regardless , it all seemed to make sense and I was sure Julie would enjoy it… then I got a wonderful surprise… Selena was coming to visit!!

She spent the afternoon with us and stayed for spaghetti supper!! Of course she wanted play some games… Julie was in pain but up so I started off light with several games of UNO Triple Play in Timer Mode which we really liked… then Selena was willing to learn Scholars of the South Tigris since Julie already knew and liked it… the process of translating threw her in the beginning but once she got that she settled right in… we played for about an hour by which time Julie had to lay down and take her meds… we did a quick current score check just to see where everyone was at… it was close but, to no one’s surprise, Selena was just ahead of Julie… While she rested, Selena and I just kicked back, relaxed and talked while preparing dinner… and dessert… 🙂 It was great seeing her and we had a great time together as usual… 🙂

After Selena left, I packed up Scholars of the South Tigris and reread Disney Animated… Julie was asleep but I went through everything and read the rules once more anyway… I was getting everything together for work the next morning and hit the shower… when I came out, Julie was up and taking the dogs out… when she came in she saw the box and screamed, “I wanna play!!”

It’s an amazing production and I must say that I felt a little of the Disney magic the first time I removed the cover and was greeted by a sizeable piece of cardboard (that serves no purpose in the game at all) with an elegantly printed short quote from Walt Disney himself on a black background about his animators and how working together makes the magic… I had already repacked the game and the components for the included 5 classic films which all pack in their own tuck boxes and store in the box in such a way that, when you open it, you see the board with the quote and the 5 film boxes and the Animation Studio box (see below)… I left everything in the box because I wanted Julie to open and see if she felt the same magic seeing as she’s such a Disney freak… nothing… she just started pulling everything out without even reading the quote… easy to see who the romantic is between the two of us… 🙂 I fumbled through a rough teach (never thinking we’d try it tonight) and we started the game.

Julie chose Fantasia and I chose Snow White… the graphics on everything are gorgeous… we play as Disney animaters trying to complete our films before a looming deadline – all while the villains try to prevent the films’ completion because they know how the movie ends for them… we’re working together… each film has different special abilities and each villain has their own decks which get shuffled together for the game… we figured a few things out as we went and, in the end, were both able to complete our movies on the very last turn. OK – this was at the standard difficulty level… we can’t wait to try the other films and maybe step up the difficulty. The game is very well done and I would recommend it for and Disney fans… we’re hoping there are more titles to come beyond the included 5… fingers crossed for more Disney magic!! 🙂

February 6th… Julie’s ready for another go at Disney Animated… I’ve been up since 2:30am and falling asleep in my office chair after supper but I’m game… 🙂

Tonight she chose ‘Alice In Wonderland’ and I took ‘101 Dalmatians’… different powers and bonuses and, as with our first play, we barely won on the very last chance round of the game… the only movie we have left to play is ‘Alladin’ but mixing different movies and ramping up the difficulty should keep it interesting but we’re really hoping there are more titles to come… 🙂 Solid game!!

February 9th UPDATE… I just saw a board game news segment that talked about Funko (that created Disney Animated) being taken over and potentially ending the company… there were similar posts on the BGG forums as well which may mean this game may never see an expansion which is too bad… with its growing support and interest, it seems like an expansion would spark renewed interest and sell even more copies…

February 11th… Julie’s in pain and resting while I try to amuse myself on YouTube between taking the dogs out when I stumble on a video that mentions a Flash Sale that just started at Pandasaurus Games… they’re selling Orichalcum for $11 and change… I’ve been fiscally responsible since my gigs have slowed down (and I over spent at Christmas) but I can swing $11 and shipping… it will arrive on Valentine’s Day which is fitting since I love games… 🙂

(from the publisher): Orichalcum is a tense and fast-pace strategy game – similar to a short 4X. Each player has their own Island board to explore and develop. On each turn, they choose a set of one Exploration tile and one Action : recruit hoplites, produce precious orichalcum (a legendary metal from Greek mythology), construct buildings granting powerful bonuses, or try to get rid of Monsters infesting your island (and preventing you to build new building).

To prevail, you will need to erect majestic temples, forge orichalcum tokens or win the favors of titans (by creating areas of their favorite landscapes. The first to get to 5 victory points while clearing their Island of all Monsters wins the game.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): When I saw the sale announcement, I immediately started going back through various reviews and everyone was very positive about the game… I watched the Dice Tower review with Julie and, once I could tell she was interested, I told her it was on the way… 🙂

February 16th… Julie had her 6 month checkup which went very well… she’s dropped some weight and her doctor is very pleased with everything given her chronic ailments…

Today she’s feeling better after a bout with some sort of bug and wants to play… of course I was ready to go with Orichalcum as it doesn’t seem that complicated but is still challenging… I ran through a brief explanation (which she never pays attention to) and jumped into the game because she insists that she has to do it to learn it… I’m getting used to this ‘teach-while-we-play’ method… or should I say, I’m getting used to LOSING by this method because I’m so busy trying to teach on-the-fly in such a way that I’m not playing her turn for her that my turns usually suck… 🙂 Tonight was no different…

It’s a race to 5 points – that’s all – and there are 3 ways to get points; constructing Temples, crafting Medallions and attracting Titans… getting a Titan’s attention is easy – you just need to have groups of 3 or more of the same terrain grouped together… players can only have 1 of the 4 Titans at a time (unless they construct a specific building that didn’t appear in this game) and other players can attract the same Titan and take it from whoever has it… Julie had already built 2 Temples so I sacrificed my dessert Titan to take her forest Titan which slowed her down a little but not enough… she was one away when I reminded her that she could craft a Medallion for 5 Orichalcum (she should have paid attention to my brief teach) to get her 5th point which immediately ended the game.

It’s an interesting game and the player boards are double sided – the back side being more challenging… hope to try it again this weekend if her health permits.

February 17th… Julie’s still not back to 100% and spent the day in bed catching up while I spent another long day doing nothing other than taking the dogs out periodically and falling asleep in my chair – bored with YouTube videos and sports… I’m convinced that doing this type of ‘nothing’ is more exhausting than when I was playing multiple gigs every weekend… now I’m trying to decide what to eat and whether I’ll go to the local group’s game night or maybe just go to bed…

With a couple hours to go before dinner I hear Julie stirring and she wants to know if I have ‘that game’ ready (she can’t pronounce Orichalcum)… She was taking the dogs out to play for a few minutes while I reset it and rearranged the layout so we could both see things a little better… we were a few rounds into the game when we decided to stop to eat (I’m on a somewhat tight schedule due to my Type II Diabetes)… I had hoped to finish the game after dinner AND get a game of something else in as well but, by the time I finished supper, Julie was back in bed and that was the end of another game night…

February 18th… today was somewhat of a surprise… Julie’s up and moving early and feels fantastic (other than her chronic EDS pain in her knees and back)!! She wants to play but I’m taking Mom shopping about 10:30 and grabbing lunch…she insisted that we still had a couple hours… I had already packed Orichalcum early this morning for a couple reasons; 1) l didn’t want to lose any game pieces because the dogs banged into the table or the cat jumped on it and batted stuff around, and 2) I think the air from our forced air furnace is causing some of the game boards to warp when left out… I may start putting ceramic bowls of water on the floor vent to see if that introduces enough moisture into the air to make a difference…

Recently, I’ve had a number of games running through my head that we haven’t played for a while that I wanted to get to the table so, while she took the dogs out, and rather than unpack Orichalcum, I setup my blinged out version of  The Quacks of Quedlinberg!! It’s been a while but it seemed to come back to me pretty quick (thanks to a quick review of the rules while the dogs went potty)…

Julie seemed to remember everything as we went along… once again we were a few rounds in when I had to stop to pickup Mom but I left everything setup for when I got back…

Of course Julie and the dogs were all in bed sleeping by the time I returned a couple hours later… I could see some minor warpage so I packed everything and put it back on the shelf…

Like I said earlier, there were a lot of games running through my head that I wanted to play and another on my list was Fort… I grabbed it off the shelf and had it on the table in case Julie felt like playing when she woke up… 🙂

As I was finishing my soup, she’s on her way in to tell me she wants to play after the dogs are in – then screams ‘YOU PUT IT AWAY’ when she saw ‘Quacks’ was gone…

I was able to convince her to play but she insisted she didn’t remember it at all…

Once we started playing it came back to her… and me too… such a slick little game about being a kid and having friends over to play and toys and pizza and friends perhaps leaving your yard if you don’t play with them… odd color palette but a lot of fun to play… 🙂 While Julie was rapidly advancing on the score track (if someone gets to 25 the game end is triggered), I had a hand of cards that let keep gaining resources which I was using to level up my fort (if someone reaches level 5 the end game is also triggered)… I managed my 5th level but there was still final scoring… she thought I’d trounced her but I ended up only winning by 10… 🙂

When we finished, she immediately wanted to play again but I wanted to play something else if I was actually going to get TWO games in with her in one night… she looked around the shelves and quickly pulled out The Quacks of Quedlinberg again… 🙂

We set everything back up and started playing… in our earlier partial play I thought we were doing something wrong but couldn’t put my finger on it… but tonight – by the 3rd round – we had already filled our pots and were in the overflow so I knew we were missing something… after about 10 minutes forward and backward through the manual I finally figured out that we both had been moving the piece that marks where in the pot (a spiral track that goes from the middle out) we start adding ingredients to where ever we finished 5 or 10 or 20 spaces ahead… this piece is only supposed to get moved 1 or 2 spaces and only under a couple of conditions… we both had an ‘ah-ha’ moment and decided to restart the game… after that it made much more sense and felt as challenging as we remembered…

The game lasts 9 rounds then everything is scored and I somehow managed to squeak out another victory… a double game night which is very rare for us… thankfully I had the following day off from school for President’s Day but I was ready for bed… it was great to have Julie feeling so good and be interested in playing – a combination that doesn’t happen very often so I was happy to take full advantage of the situation… 🙂

February 19th… enjoying a day off from work for President’s Day and trying not to snack too much since I have blood work tomorrow morning…

It’s another typical weekend-ish day… I’m up early and ate and took the dogs out and fed them while Julie’s sleeping… I wasn’t sure if she’d still feel good enough or want to game again so I managed to (as usual) amuse myself with YouTube videos and my banking and updating this website… I had just about finished a light lunch when I heard Julie and she wanted to know if I had a game setup… I had a few other favorites on my mind and pulled out Whistle Stop with the Rocky Mountains Expansion added in…

I’d forgotten how much was involved in setting this beast up but it’s a great game and all the variable setup means it’s never the same game twice… thankfully, within the rules for the expansion, they had included new setup instructions that handled everything step-by-step…

I almost had everything ready… Julie had just sat down at the table and the dogs had made their way in (they usually all lay at our feet under the table) but the youngest went back to the living room then our cat wandered out and, for whatever reason the dog went after the cat!! We were able to break it up before the cat was touched but Julie disciplined the dog and was understandably angry then very upset because she had whacked the dog on the head… she and all the dogs curled up on the bed… I reorganized and repacked the game… maybe we’ll try again later… nope.

February 20th… blood work then back to work today… a quick trip with Mom for some shopping and light supper after work and when I get home Julie has 3 games on the table… I guess she feels like playing again… 🙂 While I applaud her selections, they were games we hadn’t played in a while and I would need some time to refresh the rules so I convinced her to play a quick game of Dragonkeepers (details above) since we both really like it… she had amassed a huge hand of cards and when she finally started playing them, she whooped up on me pretty good.

I’m happy that she’s feeling better overall… she’s been able to do some things around the house and we’ve done more gaming in the last week than we have in maybe the last 2 months… I continue to try to prevent her from doing too much and landing back in bed but when she feels this good she’s hard to stop… 🙂 Maybe the doctors have finally hit on a combination of meds that is actually making a difference… hopefully this week wasn’t a fluke where ‘all the stars aligned’… time will tell.

February 22nd… after sleeping for only about an hour total all night (Julie, dogs, Julie’s sinuses, etc.), a full day of work then taking Mom shopping and grabbing a bite to eat, a stop to CVS for Julie and Selena’s prescriptions, I finally get home and decide to treat myself with a small bowl of Stewart’s Coffee Ice Cream and relax… but Julie is up and wants to play a game… I wasn’t sure I could stay awake through the ice cream but I start going over that list of games I want to play again since it’s been a while and pull Gizmos off the shelf… 🙂

(from BGG): The smartest minds of our generation are gathering together at the Great Science Fair. Everyone’s been working hard on their creations, but only one will be crowned champion. Contestants have to think on the fly to build their machines quickly and efficiently. Whose project will be the best?

In Gizmos, you want to build engines — engines within the game to get things done faster. Using the four types of energy marbles, plucked from the 3D marble dispenser, you purchase and construct new additions to your works. As you build, new attachments can trigger chain reactions, letting you do even more on your turn. Whoever builds the greatest machine and collects the most victory points wins!

I’d forgotten how much fun this game was… that tactile feel of the Energy Spheres (marbles) and the satisfaction of putting together some crazy combos from the cards in your tableau where the action you take triggers another card that gives you another bonus somewhere else and so on… once we got going, I was surprised at the engine (the way the cards work together) Julie had put together… she knew how it all worked and was going after it and I don’t remember her being able to wrap her head around it all like that when we played previously… pretty impressive yet she continues to insist that she’s not smart… in the end I only won by 3 points… 🙂

Julie’s therapist has started her EMDR therapy every other Friday in hopes of helping her come to grips with all the abuses she suffered when she was little… Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a mental health treatment technique. This method involves moving your eyes a specific way while you process traumatic memories. EMDR’s goal is to help you heal from trauma or other distressing life experiences. The sessions are pretty intense and she can’t be alone for 24 hours afterwards… her first one was a couple weeks ago and they started off ‘light’… even at that Julie wasn’t herself until sometime Sunday afternoon… it’s going to be a rough weekend and I don’t anticipate any gaming but I hope in the end it helps.

February 24th… Julie and her therapist ended up not doing EMDR this week but at 1:30 this morning I was awakened by Julie crying uncontrollably… she had just received a text that her Grandmother – who had taken her in when she was very young when her Mom kicked her out – was in GF Hospital on ‘End of Life’ which means the family is allowed in at any time to say their goodbyes… her ‘family’ consisted primarily of a number of cousins and such – several of which had lived at her house at various points in their lives… she’d been in the hospital for about a month but no one in the family bothered to let us know so we could visit which is typical… we got dressed and I took her down where Selena met us and they went in while I waited in the car with the dog… after about an hour Selena texted me that they were going to stay a while and I should go home and she’d bring Julie home…

The dogs and I slept until after 8:00am and the girls came home about 8:30am… while she was unconscious, the girls applied Vaseline to her lips and towels to her head which she seemed to like… they held her hand and talked to her and she would squeeze their hands seeming to respond… at one point Selena went to let go of her hand and she let out an irritated groan as if to give her Hell for letting go… 🙂 The only family present was her son Chris who told the girls that they had done more that morning than the rest of the ‘family’ had sadly done in months… her other son was in Rochester and hadn’t been around in years… this son had raped Julie every weekend that he came home when she was younger but Julie would never say anything because she didn’t want to hurt her Grandmother… that filter might come off now and could get ugly… 🙁

Later this afternoon I would go grocery shopping and was almost done when Julie called – again very upset… to the point I couldn’t understand her other than ‘her Mom wasn’t good’… I flew home thinking we’d be heading to see her Mom but when I arrived home, I learned the circumstances were a little different… her Mom’s Dementia was getting worse and she was no longer following instructions – mainly that she needed to stay in her wheelchair… she would get up then fall and injure her head or something… she had just gotten out of Albany Med for a similar incident… they were hoping Julie would talk to her and try to get her to understand…

February 25th… Julie’s Gram passed around 10:30am… Julie was understandably upset but more relieved… her pain was over… RIP Gram.

I had taken Mom shopping for one of her Christmas presents – knowing that Selena was coming up to spend time with Julie… Mom had never been to Boscov’s so we made the trip to Clifton Park…

I think she was a little surprised to see the prices… many items were 50-60% off but when the regular price is $60-80, that’s still more than she was willing to pay… of course she did find a number of things on clearance and, between my gift card and her $50+ scratch off winnings, she found several items she liked… AND got a nice workout in as we browsed the store before heading to Sonic (one of her favorites) for lunch… 🙂

Early that afternoon after I returned home, Selena and I were talking and the phone rang and it was Julie’s Mom… after a few minutes we hear Julie crying again… her Mom really hated her Gram (maybe for taking her in way back when) – to the point that Julie wasn’t even going to tell her that she passed… but her Mom could tell she was upset so Julie told her and she was surprisingly sad and sympathetic which made Julie cry some happy tears for a change…

Later Selena asked to play a game… Julie was up but I wasn’t sure if she’d welcome the distraction but thought she might enjoy it and some time with the three of us… I setup Disney Animated because I knew how much she liked the game and loves Disney and when I asked her, she jumped right in… 🙂

It’s a cooperative game and we were well on our way to beating it when Selena reads one of her win conditions that made Julie and I stop and go “Wait – WHAT?!?” Turns out there’s some text above the icons on ALL our villain boards with an additional condition that must be met in addition to the required paint and cards… in Selena’s case she had to have 10 cards in her hand before she could fill the other conditions… Julie and I’ve played this twice before and barely won on the very last turn of the game and we never noticed these – otherwise we probably would have lost both times!! Now we’re all laughing because Selena picked up on it her first time and I had to back track because I thought I was already done… we still managed to win and it was great to see Selena’s mind problem-solve different parts of it… it was even better to see Julie get a break from all that was going on… 🙂

March 2nd… I’ve been cleaning up my Raiders of the North Sea teach and working on a player aide in anticipation of possibly teaching the game at a local convention next month… I’ve also been anxious to teach the game to Julie because so many of the games that we played early on in our discovery of this wonderful hobby just about made our heads explode!! Now even harder games seem very familiar and easy to pickup – probably because most of the mechanics are things we’ve seen before so we’re not learning new methodologies… Julie insists that she’s not that smart and not into games like I am, yet when we play games like this and she beats me (which is most of the time), I have to pick on her, “Thanks for the ass-whooping – now tell me again how dumb you are.” 🙂

The other thing that had this game on my radar was the resolution of an issue with the game that’s been bugging me since my last play a couple years ago… that being that, somewhere along the line, I’d lost one of the Jarl shields… I’m sure I just dropped it while packing or the cat knocked it off the table but because part of game setup is randomly drawing pieces from a bag to seed the board, I was always concerned that this one missing piece might throw something off… probably not, but it still bugged me…

Rather than bother Garphil games for a single tiny wooden replacement piece (that I was tempted to try to whittle myself), I’d been eyeballing upgraded components from a couple sources online… they were becoming increasingly harder to find and only one now included the Provisions (on the left side of the pile below) – most places sell them separately… it was time… I found a place with the full set AND they would split it over 4 payments (in case I had to justify my buy to Julie)… 🙂 They arrived a few days ago and I now have a complete set of game pieces again… they even included a spare for each piece – as if they know me (or that I have a cat)… 🙂

Raiders is from the first trilogy from one of my favorite designers and publishers – Shem Philips and Garphil Games out of New Zealand… Shem would later team with S.J. McDonald for the West Kingdom trilogy and most recently the South Tigris trilogy whose third game is in the works… Raiders had two expansions – Hall of Heroes and Fields of Fame… while the base game was enjoyable, I feel like playing with both expansions is the game Shem envisioned and was probably convinced to scale it back for fear of being perceived as too complicated… I’ve seen a number of reviewers say they won’t play without them to which I agree and I even include them as a regular part of the game when teaching and haven’t had an issue…

I set everything up which takes a little while because there are a lot of parts to this beast, went through an abbreviated teach (because Julie is still a terrible student) and we launched into game…

It was fun playing with all the new pieces which looked great on the table… unfortunately we got a later start than we would have liked after supper… I thought the thrill of a game night would have me pumped up but, after a boring day of entertaining myself between taking the dogs out and napping in my office chair, I was wiped out… I’m convinced that doing nothing when you’re used to always being on the go is totally exhausting and after only an hour or so I had to call it a night and we headed for bed… Julie was really liking it and wanted to keep playing but when I couldn’t, she insisted that I keep it setup for tomorrow…

This was also my first play with the playmat… usually I much prefer playmats to the often-warped cardboard, but I must say I was a little disappointed in the readability of various parts of the mat… the font choices, while matching the original board, seemed too thin for the mat printing making things difficult to read… next time I’ll look closer and ask other players… maybe I can touch them up with a fine point Sharpee… that would be a test of my less than steady hands… 🙂

After about a week of Julie not feeling well and me worrying about the cat getting on the table and knocking bunches of pieces around – never to be found again AGAIN, I packed everything up. Oh – and she was kicking my ass… what else is new… 🙂

March 16th… it’s only taken 4 years but tonight it finally happened…

Selena came up to spend the night and cook a mess of corned beef and cabbage tomorrow… after supper everyone was chilling which meant it was game time!!

The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game was a Christmas present to my girls way back in 2020 (this is one of their favorite movies… the timing was never right – either I wasn’t ready with the rules or they wanted to play something else (or didn’t feel like a game)… whatever the reason, it never got to the table… the last couple of years I’ve been trying to surprise Julie with a movie / game night combo… she’d be surprised because I wanted to watch a movie… I’d be surprised if we got to play the game after… 🙂 That hasn’t happened either… 🙂

But we finally did it!!

It’s a pretty cool game though we only made it through the first chapter of 6 before we were all yawning and ready for bed… we might have gotten further had we not all misinterpreted the winning conditions… there were three things we needed to do in a specific order to complete the chapter… we completed the first one and were almost done with the third when we realized that we had carried over one of the conditions from the first condition that no longer needed to be followed… had we noticed it sooner, we might have made it through 2 or 3 chapters…

We all loved it and I’m betting the next time we’re all together the girls want to play this… 🙂

OK – this will come as no surprise… today I backed the third game in the South Tigris trilogy on Kickstarter – Inventors of the South Tigris… once again, it should arrive in late November… once again, this will be my Christmas present from the girls… and once again, reviewers are saying this is the hardest game yet but we’ll be the judge of that once I have it in hand… 🙂

March 19th… another game that I’ve been writing my rules fresh / teach notes for was Carcassonne!! I’m not sure if I’m thinking of teaching this beyond home but I wanted to include the first two major expansions… This game goes back to Christmas 2013 for us and my initial discovery of the modern board game hobby…

As I recall, this was my biggest ‘gamble’ of the games I had ordered for that Christmas… I can still see the looks on their faces when they opened it and saw the box… they looked confused then at each other then at me… I was excited to tell them that it was ‘a board game without a board – you create it as you go and it’s different every time’… this could be a hard sell… 🙂

We were enjoying some of the other titles like Sequence… and Selena totally kicks everyone’s butt at Ligretto Dice… but, in my spare time, I was reading and re-reading the rules for Carcassonne… the scoring was a little complicated at first glance but the game play was pretty straightforward and I wanted to be ready for any questions they might have. Eventually I convinced them to try it…

The first play 11 years ago started slow… our version included the River expansion that Wil plays with in the Tabletop video and, just like he said, we soon got the hang of it. Once we’d exhausted the tiles – which triggers the end of the game – we set about figuring out and completing the scoring.

This is another element of the game that I really enjoy (that I believe is fairly common in ‘Euro’ style games from the various information I was absorbing at the time) and that is that you won’t necessarily know who won for sure until the very end and everyone is usually pretty close. This was the case here on that night back in 2013 with Selena narrowly edging out Julie and myself. I remember looking at them and (bravely) asking, “What do you think?”  After a short pause (to make me sweat) they immediately wanted to play again and to this day I’m proud (and relieved) to say that it is one of my wife’s favorite games!!  Selena likes it too and I should mention that she won the first time we played all the games that year and thus began a streak of her winning the first time we played any new game that lasted for 5 years – until Christmas 2017!!

Back to tonight… Julie had seen the box out a few days ago when I was checking rules and writing my notes… she hasn’t let up since… “Anytime!! I’ll play that anytime – you just set it up!!” Tonight I had just about finished my editing and would have normally headed for bed… Julie was getting something to eat and I told her I had it on the table and we could see how far we got before I fell asleep… 🙂

Needless to say, we finished the game… at this point I probably don’t have to tell you that she kicked my ass… 🙂 She kept saying how much she (still) loves this game… it was her favorite 11 years ago and continues to be to this day… while we were packing up she said this was easily in her top 10… maybe top 5… no – her top 1… this is her favorite… out of the room full of games – including several Disney titles – this is her number1!!

March 27th… another older game that’s had me itching to play was Kingsburg… 

As I started watching videos and reading the rules again to refresh myself I thought a player aide would be in order… I was putting the finishing touches on it after several days of editing when Julie asks to play something… PERFECT!! I open the box and start setting up and deciding which modules to add in when I discovered there are already playing card sized player aides for each player… well – at least I gave my editing skills a workout… 🙂

When Julie sat down she looked it over and insisted that she’d never played it… I’m pretty sure she has but she didn’t remember it…

A quick teach and we jumped in…

It’s not a terribly complicated game but does have a lot of moving parts to keep track of – especially bonuses on buildings you’ve constructed… it lasts for 5 years with 8 phases in each – 3 of the phases being Production Seasons that are identical each time… it wasn’t long before Julie was up to speed and turns were going by pretty quickly…

March 30th… Julie’s been fighting another bug for a couple days… she’s feeling a little better but is still in bed so I’ve been on dog duty so she can rest… she’s eating a little and the dogs have been pretty quiet so I took them out once more before heading to join a local game group at a nearby Dominos who graciously lets the group use their side room for game nights since they rarely have parties there… I packed Kingsburg and First in Flight – two games I knew I could teach pretty easily… I’d forgotten that the local game convention was next week and those running games (myself included) like to have nights like these to test our teaches and get a dry run of sorts before the actual convention… I couldn’t make up my mind what I wanted to teach this time around and ended up not signing up so tonight I was open to whatever next week’s GM’s (Game Managers) wanted to teach… first it looked like it might be Scholars of the South Tigris but they decided to go with a Dune game instead so I landed with a different group… the GM was teaching a game from 2014 that I’d been interested in for some time and even tried the online version (which was OK)… that game was Istanbul

(from BGG): There’s hustle and bustle at Istanbul’s grand bazaar as merchants and their assistants rush through the narrow alleys in their attempt to be more successful than their competitors. Everything must be well organized: wheelbarrows must be filled with goods at the warehouses, then swiftly transported by the assistants to various destinations. Your goal? Be the first merchant to collect a certain number of rubies.

In Istanbul, you lead a group of one merchant and four assistants through 16 locations in the bazaar. At each such location, you can carry out a specific action. The challenge, though, is that to take an action, you must move your merchant and an assistant there, then leave the assistant behind (to handle all the details while you focus on larger matters). If you want to use that assistant again later, your merchant must return to that location to pick him up. Thus, you must plan ahead carefully to avoid being left with no assistants and thus unable to do anything…

In more detail, on a turn you move your merchant and his retinue of assistants one or two steps through the bazaar, either leave an assistant at that location or collect an assistant left earlier, then perform the action. If you meet other merchants or certain individuals at the location, you might be able to take a small extra action. Possible actions include:

  • Paying to increase your wheelbarrow capacity, which starts the game with a capacity of only two for each good.
  • Filling your wheelbarrow with a specified good to its limit.
  • Acquiring a special ability, and the earlier you come, the easier they are to collect.
  • Buying rubies or trading goods for rubies.
  • Selling special combinations of goods to make the money you need to do everything else.

When a merchant has collected five rubies in his wheelbarrow, players complete that round, then the game ends. If this player is the only one who’s reached this goal, he wins immediately; otherwise ties are broken by money in hand.

AWARDS & HONORS

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): First, many thanks to Wendy from the game group who is teaching the game at the Con next week… great teach!! I enjoyed our play so much so that I spent the next couple of days tracking down a copy because I liked the tabletop version so much better then the digital version and I’m positive Julie is going to love this game… 🙂 Unfortunately (OK, FORTUNATELY) I could only find the Big Box version with the expansions – the same as she had… I know Julie and I will start with the base game which features a 4 x 4 grid of locations but can see us throwing in one or the other expansion which bumps the game to a 4 x 5 grid… not sure we’ll attempt both expansions at once and the 5 x 5 grid – at least not right away… 🙂

Of course I had another, smaller game floating around the back of my mind – coincidentally from the same year (2014)… it happened to be in stock so how could I resist adding it to my order… a game that involves polyomino (Tetris) style tiles which Julie loves and that game was Patchwork

In Patchwork, two players compete to build the most aesthetic (and high-scoring) patchwork quilt on a personal 9×9 game board. To start play, lay out all of the patches at random in a circle and place a marker directly clockwise of the 2-1 patch. Each player takes five buttons — the currency/points in the game — and someone is chosen as the start player.

On a turn, a player either purchases one of the three patches standing clockwise of the spool or passes. To purchase a patch, you pay the cost in buttons shown on the patch, move the spool to that patch’s location in the circle, add the patch to your game board, then advance your time token on the time track a number of spaces equal to the time shown on the patch. You’re free to place the patch anywhere on your board that doesn’t overlap other patches, but you probably want to fit things together as tightly as possible. If your time token is behind or on top of the other player’s time token, then you take another turn; otherwise the opponent now goes. Instead of purchasing a patch, you can choose to pass; to do this, you move your time token to the space immediately in front of the opponent’s time token, then take one button from the bank for each space you moved.

In addition to a button cost and time cost, each patch also features 0-3 buttons, and when you move your time token past a button on the time track, you earn “button income”: sum the number of buttons depicted on your personal game board, then take this many buttons from the bank.

What’s more, the time track depicts five 1×1 patches on it, and during set-up you place five actual 1×1 patches on these spaces. Whoever first passes a patch on the time track claims this patch and immediately places it on his game board.

Additionally, the first player to completely fill in a 7×7 square on his game board earns a bonus tile worth 7 extra points at the end of the game. (Of course, this doesn’t happen in every game.)

When a player takes an action that moves his time token to the central square of the time track, he takes one final button income from the bank. Once both players are in the center, the game ends and scoring takes place. Each player scores one point per button in his possession, then loses two points for each empty square on his game board. Scores can be negative. The player with the most points wins.

AWARDS & HONORS

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): As I said earlier, Tetris-like tiles for Julie… It’s also a light, quick game which will make it a frequent request from her also… 🙂

March 31st… Julie’s been in bed for the last few days with some sort of bug (but no COVID fortunately)… She was starting to feel better last night thankfully (I was afraid she would miss Easter) and we all enjoyed Easter dinner and early in the evening she was asking to get a game in and wanted me to pick since it was my 64th birthday… I kept it simple and broke out Kingsburg again since we both enjoyed it and ought to be able to remember how to play from a few days ago… 🙂

I took the buildings to the next level just to mix it up a little and we were able to dive right in… the game was close right until the end and the only thing that put me over the top was getting a last-minute building worth 6 points – the margin of victory…. 🙂

The game revolves around strategically placing or combining dice to influence the 16 advisers in the King’s Council and the king and queen… through this you gather resources needed to construct buildings and bolster your military strength… in the 4th and final season of each year (winter), players battle the invading monsters by comparing their battle strength (comprised of their level that year plus bonus strength from buildings they’ve built plus a token each adds with a value between 1 – 4) against the monster’s (whose strength increases each year)… have higher strength and you defeat the monster and earn rewards… tie it and you win but get mothing but if you have less strength, you lose and must pay a penalty… the tokens can only be used one time each… players will have one left at the end of the game and if it has a value, it counts as points… during the 3rd year I constructed a building that said if I tie a monster in battle I still get the rewards… this gave me the luxury of not having to play my higher value tokens late in the game… why am I telling you all this??

At the end of the 5th year we won our battles and started adding up our points from buildings and all… Julie had beat me by 1 point… WAIT!! What is the value of our leftover military tokens?!? She flips over a 0 and I flip over a 4 with a grin… I’d won by 3 points… 🙂

She still says she’s never played it but wants to play again… hopefully she feels up to it over the next few days that I have off…

April 2nd… yet another older game that I’ve had an urge to play again… this time it’s Stone Age!! The link is to the Wil Wheaton’s TableTop playthrough and my family and I have never collectively laughed as hard as we did watching this… and that was long before we ever had the game to play… 🙂 It’s hard for us to get into the actual theme of the game since, anytime we play, someone always makes the comment about ‘making babies’… if you watch the video you’ll know why… 🙂

It was an easy refresh – especially since the rule book is only 8 pages (counting the cover) which are full of pictures…

The game play is straightforward and there are a ton of ways to get points… I could see Julie was focusing on her tech (neanderthals learn to make tools) which helps make dice rolls better which means more resources… then later she shifted more to the collection element using the civilization cards… I on the other hand was going for more ag to help feed my people – a requirement at the end of each round – and a more building-centric approach…

The game starts slow – giving everyone a chance to settle in and maybe choose a potential path to victory then ramps up to where, by the end of the game, everyone has all the resources they could ever need and can do just about anything… however, the buildings and civ cards are the games timers… when one runs out the game is over!!

Early on we were trading tech and ag since spaces are restricted… Julie would boost her tech so I’d increase my farming so I had more food on hand to feed my people without having to send workers hunting… then when the other would go first, we’d each take the opposite (spaces are restricted so we couldn’t do the same things as each other)… Then there’s the math involved with d=sending workers to gather resources… resources have a set value – wood = 3, clay = 4, stone = 5 and gold = 6… you gain resources by sending a number of your workers to the desired resource’s location then roll that many dice to see how much they come back with… for example, if I send 3 workers to the forest to get wood, I roll 3 dice… say the dice add up to 10… 10 divided by 3 (the value of wood) = 3… if I had a couple tech points available, I could add 2 to the 10 making it 12 divided by 3 = 4… my tech got me an extra wood…

As the game goes on, everyone gets points if they construct buildings (right picture below) and even more math come into to play… the right-most building below says that I have to pay 4 goods of any kind BUT they all have to be different so I’d have to use one of each (wood = 3, clay = 4, stone = 5 and gold = 6) so add the values up and that building would get me 18 points. Trust me – it’s easy once you’ve done it a few times… 🙂

Anyway, we’re blowing through the game and I start snagging more civ cards hoping to disrupt Julie’s set collection plans AND add to my end game multipliers… the cards ran out just before the buildings so the game ends immediately… I was already over 100 points with Julie about 20 behind me… we start scoring and she pulls out 1 full set of the 8 relic civ cards which score the number of unique cards times itself giving her 64 points (8 x 8) right off the bat and she blows by me… another set of 3 for 9 points (3 x 3)… I had one set of 4 for 16 points…

Then we went through our civ bonuses… there are 4 different workers represented on the cards and each card has one or two of their type – Builders, Tool Makers, Shamans and Farmers… Builders = the total number of builders on the cards x the number of buildings constructed… Julie got 5 points while I got 40… Tool Makers = the number of tool makers on the cards x the total value of your tech.. Shamans = the number of Shamans on the cards x the number of workers… Julie had no Shamans while I had 7 AND had all 10 of my workers for 70 points… and Farmers = the number of farmers x your level on the ag counter which I had maxed to 10.

When math class was over, Julie finished with 196 points plus her remaining resources are worth 1 point each putting her at 204… I lapped her AGAIN during final scoring and finished with 348 – beating her by 144 points!! She’s begging for a rematch and I hope she feels up to it after work as I’m sure she’ll trounce me this time… 🙂

April 12th… well it took 10 years (10 days of that was getting these two games from a company less than a 12 hour drive away who took 7 days to get it in a box so the USPS could load and unload it 5 times on the way) but tonight we FINALLY played Patchwork!!

Patchwork was an easy sell for Julie who’s a Tetris freak and this game is all about making a quilt using polyomino tiles and counting the buttons to see who wins… I guess she didn’t ‘gronk’ the buttons on the quilt thing because, while she almost filled her board, she didn’t take many tiles with buttons on them and I ended up winning by more than 30… 🙂 She loved it of course and I think this instantly made its’ way near the top of her list of favorite games…

April 13th… we played the other game in that shipment Istanbul!!

Instead of my usual condensed rules teach, I ‘borrowed’ much of the overview from Shut Up & Sit Down’s entertaining overview (link in the description above)… I think Julie enjoyed my attempt because she wasn’t her usual grumpy self as she is during my normal teaches and we were able to setup and jump into the game pretty quickly…

It was a close game and we both loved it!! I was making money hand over fist when I attempted to collect my final gem but Julie was already there which meant I had to pay her 2 Lira which left me 2 Lira short of the current purchase price… I was 2 steps into Plan B when Julie snagged the last gem SHE needed to end the game.

When I ordered these games I was sure she’d like them and pretty sure they would immediately join her list of favorite games… I love when a plan comes together… 🙂 I don’t plan on adding either expansion right away… I’ve seen mixed reviews where people generally like one but not the other which probably means we’ll enjoy them both… I wasn’t even considering a time when we’d play with both at the same time but Julie watched some of the videos and saw elements in both that she thought looked like fun as did I… maybe down the road… a sprawling game with EVERYTHING!! 🙂

April 16th… today, for once, my limited patience finally paid off… I received an email notice that the acrylic tokens were coming back in stock from the publisher of The Castles of Burgundy – SPECIAL EDITION as part of a campaign for a new reprint that was already live…

I backed the original campaign but didn’t go all in for the acrylic add-ons – mostly because of the added cost but also because I wasn’t sure how much we would like the game if at all even though it had been on my radar for years… well, we absolutely LOVED it so I set out on a months long quest for the acrylic TILES and ended up paying about triple what they would have been if I’d just added them when I backed it originally… the only problem with acrylic tiles versus the cardboard version was that the new cardboard tiles had the descriptions right on the back which was a game changer for many fans of the game (and I understood after we started playing)… no problem as I was able to print all the descriptions on vinyl and cut and apply them myself… but now I wanted the acrylic TOKENS too!!

These proved even harder to find… everyone was out of stock or, as with the acrylic tiles, wanted nearly triple the price… I’ve come to realize that these are investments for these people… they buy up stock the available stock then prey on suckers like me… but not THIS time…

I found the campaign and was able to back (order) just the acrylic tiles AND the double – sided playmat – all for just $41… this will complete our deluxified version of the game… 🙂

April 19th… today I left a very quiet work day to get Julie’s new prescriptions… when I got home she was up and feeling decent and wanted to play so we got a quick game of Istanbul in before supper… we’re loving this game!! Rather than play with the 3 neutral merchants, this time we played a variant where we each start with a neutral assistant in our stacks… then when someone would leave them behind to carry out a task, someone else could pick them up and use them like their own… it works very well… of course Julie grabbed her final gem one turn ahead of me to win… 🙂

April 20th… picked up Mom for shopping and lunch and today we uncovered the grill for the first time this year – one of Mom’s favorites… 🙂 Hot dogs, kielbasa, a couple different salads, chips, etc… we stuffed ourselves before visiting our favorite local ice creamery – Rookies Cookies & Cream!!

Julie’s been in pain for a couple days – most likely from the weather and allergies – but she was up and grilling… I tried to get her to rest for the afternoon so we might hopefully get a game in tonight but she was up again after and hour and had reset Istanbul by the time I got back to my office / game room… this time I hit on some of the right moves and had my 6th gem – ending the game – before she even had her 4th… she was ready to play again but I was pooped from all my earlier running around… grocery shopping, getting Mom around, etc. so it was time for a short nap…

Julie was ready for another game of in which she looked like she would have her revenge for my earlier victory

I talked her into playing something different before calling it a night but couldn’t decide what… I had my eye on a couple bigger games but the whole time I was thinking about it I was yawning so I went with something smaller that I thought we’d both recall pretty quickly – Three Sisters… it’s a very strategic roll & write about backyard farming… then name comes from an indigenous agricultural technique still widely used today in which three different crops — in this case, pumpkins, corn, and beans — are planted close together. Corn provides a lattice for beans to climb, the beans bring nitrogen from the air into the soil, and the squash provides a natural mulch ground cover to reduce weeds and keep pests away. I was skimming the rule book and it was coming back to us both… in the end, there was one bonus action we both forgot about… somehow I managed to finish 30+ points ahead so, even if we’d both had those bonus actions, I think it would have been a wash… 🙂 Still a great game!!

April 22nd… picked up another prescription at our local CVS which happens to be in Target which happens to have a decent board game selection – some of which start of as Target ‘Exclusives’ before going to retail… tonight a stumbled on a tremendously popular little card game from a few years ago named Scout

Scout is a ladder-climbing game in which cards have two potential values, players may not rearrange their hand of cards, and players may pass their turn to take a card from the current high set of cards into their hand.

More specifically, cards are dual-indexed, with different values on each half of the card, with the 45 cards having all possible combinations of the numbers 1-10. During set-up, whoever is shuffling the cards should randomize both the order of the cards in the deck and their orientation. Once each player has been dealt their entire hand of cards, they pick up that hand without rearranging any of the cards; if they wish, they can rotate their entire hand of cards in order to use the values on the other end of each card, but again they cannot rearrange the order of cards in their hand.

On a turn, a player takes one of two actions:

• Play: A player chooses one or more adjacent cards in their hand that have all the same value or that have values in consecutive order (whether ascending or descending), then they play this set of cards to the table. They can do this only if the table is empty (as on the first turn) or the set they’re playing is ranked higher than the set currently on the table; a set is higher if it has more cards or has cards of the same value instead of consecutive cards or has a set of the same quantity and type but with higher values. In this latter case when a player overplays another set, the player captures the cards in this previous set and places them face down in front of themselves.

• Scout: A player takes a card from either end of the set currently on the table and places it anywhere they wish in their hand in either orientation. Whoever played this previous set receives a 1 VP token as a reward for playing a set that wasn’t beaten.

Once per round, a player can scout, then immediately play.

When a player has emptied their hand of cards or all but one player have scouted instead of playing, the round ends. Players receive 1 VP for each face-down card, then subtract one point for each card in their hand (except if they were the player scouted repeatedly to end the game). Play as many rounds as the number of players, then whoever has the most points wins.

AWARDS & HONORS

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I like to keep a handful of these quick and easy games around for when we don’t feel like the longer more complex games… this is more common with Julie but occasionally I too am in the mood for something lighter… 🙂

April 24th… another evening of Scout and I think we’re getting pretty good at it… 🙂 We split the wins but we’re both starting to develop winning strategies… fun quick little game!! 🙂 Of course I had to make dry erase boards for each player count… double sided AND they fit in the original card box… 🙂

April 28th… Julie’s been in bed for a few days now – depressed over yet another medical issue that no one can explain… no one can see her until the second week of May which doesn’t help but we’re dealing… I watched the dogs and skipped a couple band shows so she could rest and spent the rest of the weekend working on my ambitious teaching notes for A Feast for Odin: The Norwegians expansion – a massive game that I’ve had an urge to relearn…

Today she was up and doing better so we lit the grill and made some favorites… then she asked about playing a game… I had Feast on the table just so I could check my notes against the actual game… just looking at it I didn’t think she’d be interested so I told her to go back and rest until I finished the section I was working on… of course she fell asleep… 🙂

When she woke up she was interested in giving it a try… I don’t think she’d ever played it with the expansion that fixes a bunch of things that some didn’t think needed fixing… I’ve landed in the other camp and think this is essential and will never play without it.

I had a garage appointment in the morning which meant I could sleep in a little so I blew through the rough edit of my notes and we launched into a game – both of us learning and remembering things as we went… it wasn’t long before she knew what she was doing and we were both finding our way around the huge action selection board which was one of many things that was vastly improved over the original…

I made it through a full 5 rounds to almost 10:00pm – way past my usual work night bedtime… 🙂 Julie really wanted to finish the game but I was wiped out but very pleased we got it to the table again… it’s been a few years and she’s already asked to try it again… 🙂

May 7th… Julie’s been sicker than usual for about a week… fever higher than usual… increased nauseousness… even some vomiting… she definitely picked up some sort of bug but, once again, multiple COVID tests (one old and one of the new ones) proved inconclusive… both had a faint line indicating a positive test but the Internet is loaded with differing opinions on whether that’s an actual positive or not… Alka Seltzer Cold & Flu, Popsicles, chicken soup, crackers and lots of rest and she was pretty much back to normal today which was great because her sister is coming to stay with us for a couple days on her way back to Georgia after too many years (in my opinion) away from her kids who love and miss her – all because of her loathsome ex-husband… she’s heading back in time for her daughter’s graduation and we couldn’t be more excited… of course, sis’s presence gives me another potential game opponent and with Julie on the mend that meant the three of us could play…

It was getting a little late as I really wanted to get at least one of our 4 portable AC units installed and running… with a game on the horizon I put my office (game room) unit in first… the whole time I was working on it I kept looking around trying to decide what games she might like, hadn’t played and that I could remember enough to teach… with a cooler room and much deliberation, I chose Dragonkeepers

Of course Sis picked it up pretty quick… I thought I’d had a horrendous game – waiting for one card to make a big score took longer than expected and most of the higher scoring options were gone by the time I got it played… Julie and her sister both beat me and Julie thought she’d won – then she noticed that Sis hadn’t included the colored gems she’d earned early in the game… that put her over the top and way ahead like we had anticipated… 🙂

We were packing up and it looked like we’d take the dogs out and head for bed but I was ‘feeling my oats’ and talked them into a quick game of Ready Set Bet… it was fun as always and I managed to hit some big paydays in the early races which carried to a huge win… Aaaaahhh – it’s good to be playing again… 🙂

We’ll have one or two more opportunities to play before she continues south and (of course) I have a million games going through my head… 🙂

May 8th… Julie was supposed to perform an exercise her therapist had recommended in a location where multiple abuses occurred… unfortunately, she became so over-stressed about returning to the area that she ended up in bed and didn’t budge until late in the evening…

I left work early to try to get her calmed down enough to go through with it but, when that failed and she was sleeping, I went back out and took Mom shopping and grabbed some supper…

When I returned, Sis was ready for some gaming and I – after much deliberation – decided to muscle out my now 15 pound box of The Castles of Burgundy – SPECIAL EDITION and teach the base version…

As usual, she picked it up quick and it wasn’t long before turns were flying… the score was close as the end approached – I even managed to pull in front… for a few seconds… but in the end she pulled away with the victory… 🙂

It wasn’t terribly late and I promised her an easy one… she agreed and we sat down for a quick game of Patchwork

I should have known how much trouble I was in when I was explaining the rules and thought for sure we started with some buttons… then spent 5 minutes trying to find it only to have Sis take the manual and it was in the very first step… smooth move game master… I need to open my tired eyes a little more instead of trying to rush a teach… 🙂 But my rules flub was a precursor of what was to come…

The first 3 tiles I added to my quilt had no buttons!! NOT GOOD!! Especially when the number of buttons on your quilt determines your ‘income’ (in buttons) each time it’s triggered on the game timer… I eventually got my income to 7 but by then Sis had a quilt that was getting her 13 – no 15… now 19 buttons… I knew I was getting crushed yet again… she finished her grid bonus and had only a handful of uncovered spaces left… these are worth -2 at the end of the game… I had over -30 and finished the game with a total score of -13… this is getting embarrassing… or maybe I’m just a good host… 🙂

I think we have one more night before she continues south and my mind is spinning trying to decide what to play after the game she was attracted to which was the very good game – Planted

May 9th… Last night for gaming with Sis before she continues her return trek to Georgia…

She had picked out Planted last night so I’d been refreshing myself and trying to piece together a quick teach while I ate… turns out I put way more effort into that than was necessary as the game is pretty easy… 🙂 Julie was still not herself and very nauseous again so it was just me and Sis once more… Our game was pretty close and the game itself is short and a little restrictive which requires a good amount of planning… in the end, Sis beat me by only 6 points.

We have so many games that I wanted to share but I wanted to pick something I’d played recently enough that I could teach pretty quick so that would be Istanbul

I had everything organized so I could use the same teach / skit that I used when I taught Julie… it was effective like before and we were playing in about 20 minutes… 🙂

The game is a race to collect 6 gems by various means and it was obvious that Sis knew what she was doing almost immediately (I’m a good teacher… and I make great player aides)… 🙂 before I could get anything going she had piles of my new metal coins, had completed building her goods cart and was going for her 6th gem as I was about to get only my 2nd!! She KILLED me!!! The game went so fast that we rest it and played again!! This time I executed a different strategy which worked very well and I was able to collect my 6th gem but only 1 or 2 turns before Sis would have earned hers… I love this game and wouldn’t be surprised if Sis has to add it to her fledgling collection once she gets settled… 🙂

We were packing up and chatting… Sis had spotted Chronicles of Crime in a bag I had on the floor… I described how it works using QR codes and an app and she was anxious to try it since she loves crime dramas and such…

I had another game packed in that bag that I pulled out – Project L… this was the original base game – a small, quick Tetris style polyomino game that we love so much that I snagged a Collector’s Edition that included a bunch of expansions for Julie last Christmas… I popped it open and was showing her the cards and components and how it works and she asked how long it took so we setup and played a quick game… she beat me by 6 but I could tell she liked it and thought her daughter might enjoy it too once she was down south…

After we packed it up, I slid it in her direction and asked her if she had room in the car for both games… I thought she was going to cry… that bag was games that I was culling from our collection that I had planned to bring to a game night to see if anyone there wanted any of the… one because we have a big version, the other because we SUCK at these crime games… 🙂 I feel like they’re going to a great new location…

May 11th… Today I loaded up Julie and the dogs and took everyone on her Mother’s Day excursion to her chosen eatery – the Country Drive-In off exit 8 in Clifton Park… after we all stuffed ourselves with selections from their delicious menu, we headed to Guptil’s for ice cream treats – including the dogs who slept the entire trip home… 🙂

Later that afternoon, Selena stopped up for a visit for Mother’s Day so of course I had to persuade her to play a game… 🙂 I’ve been waiting for a chance to try out my Istanbul teach on her and she thought it was pretty cool… as with Sis – through in my new player aides and everyone can learn the cards themselves which means I don’t have to explain them… Julie was feeling much better so she jumped in with us… the girls were both ahead of me by a few gems then I found a route to victory and was able to collect my 6th as Julie was getting her 5th… Selena had 4 but I’m sure she was only 2 or 3 turns away from getting her final two… it’s unanimous… everyone in my gaming family – including Sis – really likes this 10 year old game!! Well done designer Rüdiger Dorn!! I can see why this has garnered so many awards… 🙂

Selena headed home but it was still relatively early and I was able to get Julie to play another game… this was an easy choice since I had spent several hours the previous couple of days on dog duty so she could catch up after her recent illness and rewriting my teach notes for Planted… I set out to reprint it on a paper size that would fit in the box but ultimately trimmed 5 pages down to a page and a half!! After actually playing the game with Sis, it was clear that this game is not as complex as the rulebook makes it feel… 🙂 Julie didn’t think she’d every played the game (here we go again) then she proceeded to trounce me of course… 🙂

May 11th – Mother’s Day… I started today making my family favorite blueberry muffins with a sweet streusel topping… I somehow managed to not wake Julie up in the process and had already had the dogs out so they were either back to sleep or curious as to what I might be up to… I was able to finish the process then wake Julie up with several piping hot muffins and butter (she loves to slice them in half and melt butter inside), a big, cold glass of liquid sunshine (OJ) and her Mother’s Day card… then she was back to sleep and I took the dogs out once more before picking up my Mom for her Mother’s Day lunch… she selected Scarlotta’s followed by a stop on the way home to Rookies Cookies & Cream where we both (didn’t need but totally enjoyed) their hot fudge sundaes – mine over vanilla and hers over strawberry… 🙂

I brought a couple treats home for Julie and she was asking to game again… I really wanted to get A Feast for Odin: The Norwegians back to the table with my reorganized resource trays and killer (IMHO) player aides and set almost everything up while Julie worked on some paperwork for an upcoming disability meeting… the game doesn’t fit on our table and overflows to a TV tray and my office / game room is a little small so I have to wait until I’m blocked in at my chair before pulling the various surfaces together so everything is sort of within reach… by the time she was done and I the rest of the components in place, I was already fading and couldn’t even remember how to start… I’m sure I was a little over-tired from all the weekend’s events so we just called it a night and headed for bed… maybe tomorrow… 🙂

May 12th… I got home from work and mowed to beat the next round of rain… grass is growing like crazy this year… 🙂 Then ate and waited for Selena to stop up after work… her big new phone from Christmas had pretty much died – well, it was bad enough it couldn’t be used… Samsung UPS Air-ed it back to them and she had the repaired phone back in less than a week!! Tonight we’d follow the instructions for getting her backed up data restored, etc… The process was well outlined and everything worked like a charm so all we had to do was wait for it to complete… hmmm… how to kill some time… WAIT!! I have an idea… let’s play a game!! 🙂

She helped me pack up the sprawling A Feast for Odin: The Norwegians (I don’t know if Julie and I will ever get to play a complete game of this) then I taught her Scout… which she proceeded to win every round of both times we played… 🙂

With under an hour left to the restore process, I shifted to Patchwork… even with her 7 point bonus for being the first to complete a 7×7 grid on her quilt, I still managed the win… players LOSE 2 points for every uncovered square on their quilt board… I lost 20 of the 43 points I finished with while Selena lost significantly more – finishing with 0 points… she broke even which is still a lot better than the -30 I finished with against sis a couple nights ago… 🙂 By now the phone was just wrapping up and she was excited to have it back in her hands and I was ready for bed… but it’s always great to have her hang out with us for a while… 🙂

May 14th… I think I may finally be approaching then end of my most ambitious game overhaul and teach notes yet… tonight I put the finishing touches on my combined A Feast for Odin: The Norwegians… I’ve totally reorganized so both the original game and the expansion fit comfortably into the original box… I’ve created individual dry erase scoring sheets with some key reminders as well as a couple player aides… one that shows the location of all the resources as I have them condensed down from 3 trays to two which gets back some table space… the back side of that one shows the hierarchy of the goods in color and size… another explains every action on the worker placement boards for the 2 player game (since that’s how I usually play… I’m still working on the 3-4 player version)… I’ve removed the banned and other Occupation Cards as recommended by the designer… I’ve condensed the instructions from 2 full manuals (and a glossary and an appendix) down to just 4 pages focusing on the main things necessary to understand the game and start playing as quickly as possible… I’m looking forward to testing it out – maybe with the game group – just to find out what things I might have overlooked… mostly, I’m anxious to finally sit down and play a full game with Julie… it seems we either start too late or something comes up and we never get to finish… 🙂

May 15th… OK – I lied… the more I thought about my action board player aide for A Feast for Odin: The Norwegians the more I thought I might be able to put the actual board behind the descriptions… tonight I started scanning and experimenting… time will tell but I needed another project… 🙂

May 18th… Another weekend at home… dog duty, mowing, weed whacking and of course editing something (for something to do)… more work on my A Feast for Odin: The Norwegians action boards… I was finally pleased with the result of the first page though I still need to test print it to see if the text is actually legible… regardless, I move on to the second page and discover the descriptive text for the first two are miles longer than the graphics!! I messed with them a bit, watched some golf, napped then started working on two more cards for our copy of Bark Avenue… I surprised myself with the ones I did for our three current dogs… once sleeved, they are a perfect match for the real cards in the game… now the girls really want me to make cards for our two that passed over the last few years… I just need to find better pictures…

Here are the ones I did of our three… 🙂

About mid-afternoon Julie’s stirring and asking to play Istanbul… while I love it, I really want to try to get a full play of A Feast for Odin: The Norwegians in since we know everything we need to play and have new player aides and reminders… and I don’t think we’ve ever completed a game – not to mention that if I put it back on the shelf I’m afraid I won’t remember any of it by the time we try to play it again… 🙂

Today was the day!! Even though we played the ‘short game’ (one round short of the full game), we both enjoyed it and in the last couple of rounds we could practically do anything we wanted if a desired action space didn’t get blocked… I managed to completely cover my game board – something I didn’t think was even possible!! Julie wasn’t far behind and it was the points she lost for uncovered spaces that ended up costing her the game… as we started packing I was pointing out things I could have done towards the end as I had a ton of leftover resources which would have filled sheds and such… we both had boats that we didn’t use but could have turned in for Emigration points… when I pointed out that Julie’s upgraded 5 point boat could have been worth 18 points had she used it to move people AND it would have blocked of spaces at the feast table (we have to feed our people every round or suffer penalties… thematically, flipping the boat for emigration and having to feed less people makes sense because there’s be fewer people to feed)… hearing that, Julie immediately wanted to play again but I needed to get supper… by the time I finished eating, she was asleep again so our rematch would have to wait… 🙂

May 19th… more mowing and weed whacking, another shower then break Mom out for some errands and lighting the grill… after eating and dropping Mom off I returned home and Julie was up and wants to play Istanbul… I was wiped out and told her we’d have to see if either of us were awake later…

I had stuffed myself and wanted nothing more than a snack for supper… Julie and the dogs had all slept off their full bellies for the afternoon but were starting to move around… Julie was taking them out to play but wanted me to setup a game… I knew she wanted Istanbul but, after playing The Castles of Burgundy – SPECIAL EDITION with her sister last week, I didn’t get something packed quite right and the box had a little lid lift… and it was staring at me – driving me nuts… it made no sense to unpack it all and repack it for no other reason so we might as well play it… 🙂

Julie was surprised to see it – smiling as she screamed, “That’s not Istanbul!!” But she was more than happy to play it…

Our scores went back and forth and for the longest time she was well ahead and I didn’t think I’d be able to catch her… I think the difference was the Duchy board she selected had several small areas of 2 or 3 spaces but only 1 or 2 larger ones while mine had 3 or 4 larger ones with 5 each… AND I was able to complete them using Inns which scores them like they had 6 spaces!! I only won by 13 which is pretty close in a game where scores of 200 or 300+ are common… oh – and when I repacked it, the lid fit perfectly… a fun and productive day… 🙂

May 24th… a bonus day off from work because my district didn’t have to use any snow days… We have Monday off for the Memorial Day holiday but our Superintendent closed campus today so that 12 month employees also got an extra day off,,, teachers get today AND Tuesday the 28th off giving them a 5 day weekend but we can burn a vacation if we choose Tuesday…

For the most part I used the day to break in a battery powered mini chainsaw to take out a couple nuisance bushes that are growing out of control that no one knows how to kill… I at least inconvenienced them a little… 🙂 Then some weed whacking until the battery on that died by then I was ready for a badly needed shower…

Julie had been in bed most of the day with back and knee pain (from her EDS and the weather changes) but was up by the time I finished supper and wanted to play Istanbul again… I talked her into taking the dogs out while I setup… Flamecraft!!

As I went through a quick review she insisted that she’d never played it… that’s possible – I know Selena and I have played it but I thought all three of us played together once… maybe not…

I don’t remember who won but we enjoyed the play time together and she loved the game whether she played it before or not… 🙂

May 25th.. Happy birthday, Julie!! I’m up early for a run to Hannaford to top off our cookout supplies but not before a stop at Dunkin to grab Julie her favorite donuts… of course I walk in to find nothing but bare shelves… the girls comes over and looks at me as I quipped, “Busy morning?” She replied with a straight face, “No – our truck broke down”… I guess there’s one truck supplying ALL of the Dunkins in the area because I stopped at no less than 4 and they were all void of donuts… I did find her a confetti frosted donut at Hannaford and her favorite gold cake (we love their bakery) before heading home…

After enjoying her donut and my story (and the sight of her cake) she and the dogs went back to sleep but not before the first of two deliveries arrived… luckily, this one had shirt I’d ordered for her “This is what an awesome Dog Mom looks like”… she fell asleep with it on… 🙂 I’d already given her (and Selena) their big presents – 4 tickets for them, Mike and a friend of Selena’s to see Gabriel Iglesias in Newark (closet show to us) the end of June…

I asked Julie where she wanted to go for her birthday meal and without hesitation she wanted Mr. Bill’s – a local eatery that was taken over by new owners who have totally overhauled the place from the ground up – even staying open for pickup and delivery all winter… the food (and the service) is a quantum leap from what it had become and we couldn’t wait to see it come together for the summer and it is absolutely AMAZING!! All that aside, Julie picked because it’s one of the few local places that offer Poutine… 🙂 I continued with various projects while everyone slept – eventually making myself some lunch… guess we’ll head to Mr. Bill’s later… 🙂

The later delivery had some much needed ink for my printer, a new and bigger hard drive and enclosure to replace my 9 year old data drive (that has yet to fail) and a replacement battery for my hedge trimmer as well as a spare for my weed whacker… it also contained a game that I’ve been itching to try – Splendor Duel!!

Confront your rival guild in a race for victory. Take Gem and Pearl tokens from the common board, then purchase cards, gather bonuses, royal favors, and prestige.

Discover new twists and strategic opportunities derived from Splendor, the original best-selling game. Acquire cards with impressive powers, take advantage of special Privileges, and fight over scarce access to Pearls.

Splendor Duel is a two-player only standalone game based on Splendor that retains some of the main gameplay mechanisms of that design, while being a bit more complex, dynamic, interactive, rich, tense, and mean.

The game features a main board shared by both opponents, card powers, and three victory conditions.

AWARDS & HONORS

Julie was up shortly after I finished lunch and felt bad but I told her we’d just go later… she asked to play Istanbul yet again but I had to setup Splendor Duel while she was getting some lunch… unlike Flamecraft, as soon as Julie saw this setup on the table (and screamed that’s not Istanbul), she recognized the style of cards and the poker chips and totally remembered playing it… then I explained that this is Splendor Duel – it’s a new version for 2 players only and is a little different from the original game… I’d already been watching and reading – even before it arrived so I was ready for a quick explanation after which we dove in…

It’s a race to be the first to achieve one of the three possible ways to win the game and I was able to win the first game purchasing cards worth a total of 20 points with just a basic strategy… of course she immediately wants to play again so we reset everything and start a second game…

This time I’m a little more comfortable with the game (as is Julie apparently because she’s not asking any questions which usually spells trouble for me) so I’m paying a little more attention to what Julie’s doing… I notice she already has 7 crowns on the cards in front of her!! If she gets 10 crowns she wins!! I need to get my butt in gear… I reserved the only card with a crown available for purchase in hopes of slowing her down then start grabbing gems and buying cards as quick as I can to build up points… a couple of cards with a special power that lets me take another turn… as I’m completing this for a second time I see Julie with a card in hand with 3 crowns – just enough to win… I complete my bonus turn and BAM!! 20 points!! “You’re a jerk!!” she laughed… I told her saw all the crowns and didn’t think I could catch her… 🙂 We were going to play some more but she really wanted a movie night too so we headed for bed and she convinced me to watch Rampage with the Rock and I must admit it was pretty darn good… 🙂

May 26th.. I slept in a little, had a late breakfast then tested out the new batteries for the weed whacker and hedge trimmer before mowing everything again… I moved our Memorial Day cookout to today because the weather isn’t looking good for tomorrow… broke Mom out, Julie grilled and we all stuffed ourselves with salads and hot dogs and chicken and birthday cake and ice cream… 🙂 I returned from dropping Mom off about 1:30 to find Julie and all the dogs sleeping off their full bellies again… the dogs didn’t move until around 5:00 and again about 8:00… other than taking them out to ‘potty’, I grabbed a short nap and worked on some projects inside before calling it a night about 9:30.

May 27th.. I made what I would consider excellent use of my extra free time yesterday and again this morning and managed to finish the new dog cards for our copy of Bark Avenue… I think they came out pretty good if I do say so myself (and I just did)…

I redid Pixie because she came out too light in my original… this looks much more like her…

Coffee was actually Julie’s sister’s dog but when she fled Georgia and her ex, he become one of the family here… unfortunately a few years ago he started having a sort of seizure that would cause him to stumble and fall into walls… the vet offered brain surgery but there was no guarantee that it would help… and it was expensive so she made the difficult decision to put him down but not before Selena made him a breakfast for a king and we all bid him a tearful goodbye…

Ellie was the toughest… she was our first dog and Julie’s first service dog… she came to us from a local breeder who was also a website client of mine… she was one of his favorites and after 8 years he wanted a retirement home for her where she would be loved and spoiled and we gave her that and so much more… everyone who met her loved her and her exceptionally calm demeanor… unfortunately, after a little more than 2 years with us, health issues got the better of her and she stopped eating and couldn’t get comfortable… the vet did everything possible but her quality of life was dwindling and it wasn’t fair of us to keep her alive just because we couldn’t say ‘goodbye’… she’ll always be one of our favorites…

That evening Julie was up and wanted to play (stop me if this sounds familiar) Istanbul… in case I haven’t mentioned it, I DO love the game – it’s just that we have so many games that haven’t made it to the table in a very long time and even a few that we’ve NEVER played (sometimes referred to as being on a ‘shelf of SHAME’… or ‘shelf of opportunity’)… one such game I’d even learned and gotten as far as having it setup at least once but, for whatever reason, it never got played… that game is Flash Point: Fire Rescue – a cooperative game of fire rescue.

We became interested in the game after watching an episode of Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop series where they played it (link to the video by clicking the title above or graphic at left)… one reason we didn’t play it right away was that I was infatuated with the game pieces Wil used in his version – primarily the fire and rescue personnel miniatures… each one matched a different character AND they were painted to look like real firefighters!! I searched and searched – eventually learning that the minis came with the Extreme Danger expansion that was long out of print… even if I’d found it (other than on eBay for a King’s ransom), I’d have to paint the pieces myself and I’m not that artistic (or patient)… 🙂 But today I re-learned it and set it up and Julie and I played the Family mode as recommended for your first play or two…

It seemed almost too easy… Julie was moving around the building, checking points of interest (POI’s) and rescuing victims and pets while I moved through and attempted to keep the fire at bay… it worked like a charm and, even with a number of POI’s that were ‘false alarms’, it wasn’t long before Julie rescued the 7th victim giving us the victory. Of course she immediately wanted to play again and we quickly won a 2nd game which felt even easier… that night we watched a little of Wil Wheaton’s playthrough again and she’s seeing different characters and special powers and and insists that next time we’re playing Experienced mode… 🙂

She thought we’d be heading to bed because I had to be up for work in the morning but she’d forgotten that I still had another day off… now she wants to play ‘that game that I keep kicking her ass in’… OH – she means Splendor Duel… 🙂 And she’s right as I kicked her ass AGAIN… 🙂

During the 2nd game Flash Point: Fire Rescue I commented that I was glad to finally get this one off my ‘Shelf of Shame’… As I explained what ‘shelf of shame’ meant she started looking over our shelves and guessing titles… I assumed that the ones she was naming were ones she either hadn’t played or maybe just didn’t remember… one in particular caught my ear so I had to get her to play Bad Company

We weren’t too far into the game when she said she was starting to remember it – especially once we started upgrading our gang members (by stacking cards that make them get taller)… 🙂 Neither of us could outrun the police which cut into our bonuses but we had a blast… such a great game… 🙂

May 28th.. I’m up early, working remotely and making mini blueberry muffin tops – our family’s new favorite… I’d just finished some sign updates when Julie comes in and wants to know if I’ll take her to see her Mom who’s in assisted living a little over an hour away… I’d offered a few times in the last month but she wasn’t feeling up to it but today we’d make the trip… I finished some files for the BOE President while she tried to get the dogs to potty once more before we left since we were leaving the big ones home and only taking the younger one… my plan was to drop her and the dog off then back track about 15 minutes to my favorite local game store that I hadn’t visited in a few years… it was a great plan and of course I couldn’t walk out empty handed… 🙂

I walk through the door – right into an end cap with a game on my list… Heat: Pedal to the Metal!! It was then that I knew I was going to get in trouble here as usual… 🙂

(From the publisher): Based on simple and intuitive hand management, Heat: Pedal to the Metal puts players in the driver’s seat of intense car races, jockeying for position to cross the finish line first, while managing their car’s speed if they don’t want to overheat. Selecting the right upgrades for their car will help them hug the curves and keep their engine cool enough to maintain top speeds. Ultimately, their driving skills will be the key to victory!

Drivers can compete in a single race or use the “Championship System” to play a whole season in one game night, customizing their car before each race to claim the top spot of the podium. They have to be careful as the weather, road conditions, and events will change every race to spice up their championship. Players can also enjoy a solo mode with the Legends Module or add automated drivers as additional opponents in multiplayer games.

AWARDS & HONORS

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): We don’t tend to like simulation games but, in the past, I found that we DID like games like Formula D, Downforce, and the lighter Camel Up and, more recently Ready Set Bet… after watching reviewer after reviewer gush about Heat: Pedal to the Metal I knew we had to play it. 🙂

I spent the next half hour going up and down their large board game isle… I’ve always liked that they separated out the D&D and wargames into their own spaces leaving just the hobby games all together… now I just needed to stay within my self-imposed budget constraints… it was a challenge but I was able to whittle my choices down to just 4 and walk away with only two… 🙂

This pick was a no-brainer for me… I even remember when the Kickstarter was previewed and no one thought too much of it… then they got to play previews of it at one of the larger game conventions and this thing skyrocketed!! That’s Sky Team

(From the publisher): Sky Team is a co-operative game, exclusively for two players, in which you play a pilot and co-pilot at the controls of an airliner. Your goal is to work together as a team to land your airplane in different airports around the world.

To land your plane, you need to silently assign your dice to the correct spaces in your cockpit to balance the axis of your plane, control its speed, deploy the flaps, extend the landing gear, contact the control tower to clear your path, and even have a little coffee to improve your concentration enough to change the value of your dice.

If the aircraft tilts too much and stalls, overshoots the airport, or collides with another aircraft, you lose the game…and your pilot’s license…and probably your life.

From Montreal to Tokyo, each airport offers its own set of challenges. Watch out for the turbulence as this could end up being bumpy ride!

AWARDS & HONORS

2024 – Best 2-Player & Cooperative Game – Golden Geek Awards 2023
Runner up for Best Innovative & Thematic Game – Golden Geek Awards 2023
2023 – Best Cooperative Game – Board Game Quest
2023 – Best 2-Player Game – Board Game Arena Awards
2023 – Best 2-Player Game – Squirrelly Awards
2023 – Best Board Game – Dicebreaker Tabletop Awards
2023 – Two Player Board Game Winner – Game Boy Geek
2023 – Best Co-Op Game – Gaming Trend
2023 – Seal of Excellence – Dice Tower

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Julie and I play a lot of games with just the two of us since it’s just the two of us now so 2 player only games are always worth checking out… cooperative games are also fun and this one should be an easy homerun… 🙂

And lastly, a game from a couple years ago that charmed me back then and I’m happy to add it to the collection and that’s Woodcraft...

(From the publisher): In Woodcraft., you play as forest people running competing workshops in the woods, with you gathering wood and crafting goods for your customers. Along the way, you hire helpers, improve your workshop, and buy different types of wood and other tools to create the best workshop you can.

During the game, players complete their projects with wood (dice) that can be cut down to size, glued back together, and adjusted using dice manipulation to be as efficient as possible with their resources.

Whoever builds the best, most successful workshop wins.

AWARDS & HONORS

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): It looks like it’s got some great game play and there’s something about the artwork that’s both cute and a little creepy but it works…. can’t wait to get this to the table!! 🙂

June 1st… a ‘do-nothing’ kind of day… Mom’s resting from pollen making her cough… Julie and the dogs are all sleeping… I did some web browsing, watched some videos on the new games and started reading the rules… still trying to decide which one to play first… 🙂

Early this afternoon I setup Heat: Pedal to the Metal and was going to attempt it with the Legends expansion which controls all the other racers but I found myself nodding off and ended up grabbing a much-needed nap… later in the afternoon, I was getting everything in place and felt like I might actually race but was still considering going to a local game group’s game night… then Julie comes in, sees what I have setup but doesn’t want to play that – saying that she doesn’t like racing games… uh-oh… she wants to play Flash Point: Fire Rescue again but at the harder level… we’d started watching Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop playthrough again when we went to bed the night before and she was seeing all these game elements that aren’t in the Family mode we’d been playing and now she really wanted to try it in Experienced mode – if nothing else, so she could shoot the water cannon… 🙂

I didn’t think we were ready for full-blown Veteran level so I went for the easiest of the Experienced mode levels… and we won pretty easily again… at this point, we’ve never lost!! It seemed like every time we rolled dice to advance the fire, it landed on a space with nothing and only smoked… there are so many more ways to cause explosions that blow out walls and quickly spread the fire that we expected it to be much harder… I checked the rules again to make sure we weren’t missing anything (we weren’t) while she reset everything (I guess we’re playing this again)…

This time the dice were not as friendly… there were a number of explosions and flash overs yet the fire didn’t spread that much… the explosions were causing a lot of structural damage and thought for sure we’d lose when the building collapsed… we’d already rescued 3 victims but had also lost 2… losing 4 victims is one more way that we could lose… we were down to the last few damage cubs that track the building integrity when back to back explosions took out 2 victims and we lost for the first time…

June 2nd… a quiet morning, grocery shopping, more reading, run and get Mom for a cookout at lunch… after dropping her off I had to hit a Walmart for 20 and 30 pound bags of pet food… I was also checking the toy isles for what else? A small fire truck and ambulance to use with Flash Point: Fire Rescue… 🙂 Julie loved it when she came in and I had the game setup with them on the board but she was heading out with the dogs to do some planting and I wanted to take down a couple limbs and a tree that were rubbing against the house and the get the brush piled by the road before the town came through for pickup… no gaming tonight so I packed everything away but it will be fun next time… 🙂

June 3rd… Julie had some GI tests looking for answers about some recent issues – namely severe cramping and some loss of control… hope they see something but my brain thinks that it could be related to the large combination of meds… wait and see as usual…

Then I broke Mom out of assisted living to stock up on food and such since her floor has reached ‘outbreak’ status… apparently a staff member came to work sick, left early but not before passing COVID on to 9 residents so far… thankfully, Mom is still negative though she’s tested positive 4 times in the past with nothing more than a runny nose… she turns 92 on the 8th and we’re hoping she can still get out to celebrate… for today at least we were able to shop and eat and our favorite ice cream stop had her favorite flavor – mocha twist!!

When I returned home Julie was still upset over her health issues and lack of answers on several fronts but wanted to play a game… her therapist told her what I’ve been telling her for years – that these games are an excellent distraction for her… maybe I missed my true calling… 🙂 I just wanted to sit for a few minutes to relax and check email. etc… then I started thinking about what to play… with my newfound knowledge that she doesn’t like racing games (Camel Up, Downforce and El Dorada not withstanding), I thought I’d read and watched enough to get us through Sky Team so I set that up…

As I started explaining the parts of the simplified dashboard and how the dice work she looked less than interested… when I told her that, once we roll, we can no longer talk – that got her going… “That’s stupid!! The pilot and co-pilot HAVE to talk!!” I convinced her that those were the rules and it wasn’t long before we jumped into our first game…

We crashed on turn 3 because she didn’t commit a die to her side of the engine… it’s mandatory that each player play dice in the engine spaces and the spaces to keep the plane level or within certain tolerances at least… in game 2 we crashed on turn 2 because her die put us outside those tolerances and sent the plane into a spin before crashing yet again…

OK – we’re getting a feel for this now… game 3 we’re cruising right along… she’s setting flaps, I have landing gear down and am starting to adjust the brakes… but in round 5 (of 7 – we were that close), neither of us contacted the tower to clear the other traffic in our flight path and we suffered a mid-air collision… by now you’re getting the picture – this game is not as easy as it would appear… that said, in game 4 we were finally able to successfully land in Montreal and accept the applause of all on board… 🙂

We must have played at least another 5 or 6 games before heading to bed and we DID manage to land a couple more times… the game includes a ton of different airports and scenarios – each adding their own challenges and more components to the game at levels ranging from Easy to Difficult and a few that I would have called ‘We Don’t Know Why We Put These In the Box’… maybe after we have a couple hundred flights logged we’ll attempt one but for now, it’s safe to say that we’re both loving this game!! Each game lasts only 15-20 minutes (some are noticeably shorter if you crash early as we discovered)… 🙂

June 4th… a surprise delivery… a game from last year that I had put in a pre-order for when it got restocked and that is Knarr

(From BGG): In Knarr, you are the leader of a band of Vikings that you send to new destinations. Manage the recruitment of your crew, and choose the best territories to explore. Depending on the destinations reached (for trading or influence) and the Vikings who accompany you, you can increase your reputation to gain even more wealth. Each turn, you:

  • Place a new member in your Viking crew, activate the effects of all of them with the same icon, and get another one from those available under the matching color on the central board, or
  • Explore new destinations, with the opportunity to trade with those places and get more gains or reputation.

AWARDS & HONORS

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I still remember watching the pre-release videos and different content creators playing it… I loved the look and the gameplay and thought Julie would like it too… and I was right!!

She wanted to play Sky Team again but I had Knarr in my hand and the rules are like a 3 page pamphlet – there’s nothing to it but it makes for a great game. We played twice before heading to bed – each of us winning a game and using different strategies both times… if she’s awake when I get home from work tomorrow we’ll probably have to play BOTH at least a couple times… 🙂

June 5th… Julie’s been having pain behind on knee and was able to get in to her regular doctor today… they were afraid it might be a clot but, upon examination, determined that it was most likely a cyst… they didn’t want to take any chances and were able to get her in the hospital for a STAT Ultrasound (meaning they were rushing her in AND she had to stay until the results came back)… it turned out to be a large Baker’s Cyst… I did some reading regarding treatments and the most common was ‘R.I.C.E.’ – Rest, Ice, Compression brace and Elevation… it was almost 90 and the dogs and I were still hot in the van – even with the AC running the entire hour… the ultrasound appointment wasn’t for a couple hours so we came home, cooled down the house and dogs and Julie’s meds schedule meant she could drive herself for the ultrasound while I stayed with the dogs…

I was still itching to play Heat: Pedal to the Metal and had been watching various videos but particularly Rodney Smith’s ‘Watch It Played’ series… I read the rules again, set everything up and launched into a solo game while Julie went to the appointment… after a couple rounds I realized I was screwing up a key rule and had to start over… you can only play a number of cards from your hand equal to whatever gear you’re currently in… I was in 2nd gear but playing 4 or 5 cards at a clip… no wonder I was pulling away from the AI racers… 🙂 Yes – I was playing with all 6 cars… the other 5 ‘driven’ by the ‘Legends’ deck where each card has different instructions for each car not being played by a human… it’s a very clean and quick system for feeling like you’re in a full race – even when playing solo…

I reset, reviewed a couple of rules once more and started another race from the middle of the 6 car pack… this game is a lot of fun but challenging at the same time… it was a slow game for a race but mostly because I was being very deliberate with each step and referring to the rulebook occasionally… I was still in the middle of the pack but everyone had spread out… I stopped to eat then picked up where I’d left off – finishing 4th… I really need to figure out how to better manage my approach and speed in the corners – I think that will be the key… I left it out in case I get to try again after work tomorrow… 🙂

June 6th… the assisted living facility that Mom’s in is in is still battling a COVID outbreak… she’s been tested 6 times in 7 days because her roommate is now positive and there’s no place to move anyone… as of this afternoon Mom’s still negative and able to leave the floor and the building so I broke her out again for some fresh air, food and another mocha twist… 🙂

When I got home (and finished picking on Julie for not doing any of the Baker’s Cyst treatments I’d told her about) she wanted to play Knarr or Sky Team or Istanbul… I told her I already had Heat: Pedal to the Metal setup so she should rest her knee because I knew she wasn’t interested… (I must have had some Psychology training somewhere)… “NO!!” she screamed… “I said I’d have to try it!!” I tried to convince her to rest (the quickest way to get her to do something is by telling her to do something else) but she insisted that I set it up and she’d be right in… 🙂

I reviewed the turn outline at the top player board then did a few quick examples with the cards and the cars and pointed out a couple things on the track itself before we played a single practice lap with just our two cars – both of us showing our full hands each turn… I’d point out her options with her cards then, on my turn, I’d explain my strategy… we did this for the entire lap (which she won) then reset everything for a full race…

I added the other 4 racers in and setup the Legends deck (which she didn’t think she was ready for)… they work just like they do in the solo game so I was already familiar with them and explained that they would provide more options for slipstreaming and generally make the race more interesting… and she didn’t need to learn anything else… 🙂 AAAAAaaaaaand THEY”RE OFF!! Sorry – that’s horse racing… and about sums up my level of interest in the Belmont being run about 25 minutes from where I live… 🙂

It was fun watching her make choices and I’d still remind her of options as she progressed through the phases at the top of the player boards… then seeing the race evolve with Legends (AI racers) – some moving ahead and some falling back… I’d read the card, check their current positions and tell Julie how many spaces to move them… this worked well and kept her involved even when it wasn’t her turn… I managed to win this race with Julie coming in 4th… and I waited… did she play it just because I wanted to?? She’s still sorting out her cards… WAIT!! She’s resetting the game!! SHE WANTS TO PLAY AGAIN!! 🙂 “OK…”, she mumbled as she bowed her head… “You were right… I like it…” I wish I didn’t have to get up so early so we could play it again… I started showing her other things in the box and could see her interest and excitement increasing even more… then I told here the track is double-sided and there are 4 tracks included… she had to unfold all of them and check them out – then proceeded to ‘schedule’ which country we’d be racing in each of the next few days… 🙂 I’m really happy that she liked it because, as I’ve said many times, I’d much rather play with people than solo… 🙂

June 16th… Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there!! A quiet day for me for the most part… Julie was up to lighting the grill but not for eating which I’ll come back to… Selena had an early morning cleanout for her new job and stopped over for grilling goodies and I snagged Mom because she loves the grill… both girls insisted that we were going to play a game when I returned from dropping Mom off…

I knew Julie really wasn’t up to it but I cleared the one I’d been working on the past few days (I’ll come back to that too) and setup Sky Team… she and Selena made 3 attempts but crashed every time though they were close on the last one… then I played one with Selena and we almost made it and with that my Father’s Day game day was over…

Julie’s been a bit distracted by this latest round of doctor visits and tests and the endless quest to get answers that never materialize… a CT scan a few days ago has her stomach topsy turvy so she’s been resting and hasn’t had much interest in gaming or food… I used this time to try to become familiar with Woodcraft… I remembered liking the graphics and the gameplay when I first saw it but, after reading the manual multiple times and watching numerous reviews and playthroughs, I conceded that there was no way I could teach this to Julie even if she did feel up to it – not yet anyway – and the only way I was going to wrap MY head around all the game offers was to table it solo…

My solo venture started 3 days ago and it was like trying to start an old car on a sub-zero morning… I’d think I knew what I was doing then would have to stop and verify that in the rulebook… this was a reoccurring theme with breaks to eat and create a player aide for the things I kept finding myself going back to in the rules… but late this afternoon I was determined to make dent in it!!

I reset everything and had version 3 of my now double-sided player aide at the ready and dove in… there are only 14 rounds in the game… that’s 14 turns TOTAL!! By the 3rd round I was already feeling the crunch… I was short of money and the necessary wood to complete projects… I think the secret to the game is puzzling out how to most efficiently use the plethora of FREE actions available every turn… there are so many balls to try to keep in the air that by the 13th round my brain was burning… I had completed only two projects… the rulebook says a good score for solo is 110… I wish I’d made it to HALF of that!! I didn’t play the last round but would have ended up in the low 50’s – maybe 40’s after all the end game penalties I would have incurred… THIS may be the hardest game I’ve ever attempted!! I can’t wait to see how Julie likes it but I still have a way to go before I’m ready to teach this beast to anyone… but I loved it!! 🙂

June 19th… I have the day off for Juneteenth and we’re in the midst of a heat wave of 90-100 degree days… Julie had a doctors appointment in Albany yesterday and was feeling better when we got home and had a chance to relax and get the house cooled down a little and wanted to get a game in… I already had Woodcraft. on the table from my less than stellar solo efforts and so I could visually see everything while creating a player aid and my teach notes… I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance that she’d want to try it… but she did!! I told her we’d try to get a few rounds in before heading for bed but we got more than halfway through it… she wanted to finish it today but I reset while she was getting some lunch so we could start from the beginning with the few rules clarifications I had to make…

We launched a new game and about 90 minutes later it was over and Julie had won 24 to 23… the rulebook says 110 is a good score so we must be really bad at this… 🙂 Much to my surprise she really liked the game as do I… it’s probably the hardest game we’ve ever attempted and we had no problems with playing it… we’re not very good at it, but we can play and enjoy the game… a couple people in the local game group are interested in trying it but couldn’t get it to the table after reading the rules… I think I can get them through it though the game reminds Michael Davis… a juggler who would juggle axes and knives and a bowling ball and an apple and say that the trick was to eat the apple and not the bowling ball (I’m sure he’s on YouTube)… 🙂

June 22nd… I had to run in to work for a few hours to finish a last minute project that was given to me the end of the day Friday and due Monday but I will be out… wrapped that up, came home and put the finishing touches (for now) on my player aid (below) and teach notes for Woodcraft

Julie wanted to play Heat: Pedal to the Metal and Sky Team after supper so I setup Heat: Pedal to the Metal and we finished a full race (we’d only been doing single laps)… we play with the AI running the other 4 cars so we can play with all 6 so there are more chances for Adrenaline bonuses and slipstreaming… even with all that in play, neither of us were even close to winning… I finished 4th and Julie was last… we’re still trying to get a good feel for how best to play this game but really enjoy it… 🙂

It was getting close to bedtime (I was yawning all through the last game) but I packed up Heat and setup Sky Team… talk about getting a feel for a game… in less than 20 minutes and with only 1 reroll and 1 cup of coffee (a Concentration mechanic where we can add or subtract 1 from a die), we landed in Montreal without incident… everything was set the turn before last so all we had to do was keep it level and the speed in range to set down our big bird and be done… guess we know what we’re doing so it’s time to start exploring some of the game’s many other challenges… 🙂

Of course I had to back another Kickstarter… an expansion for one of my favorites – Merchants of the Dark Road

But I couldn’t stop there… there’s an upgrade kit (sort of a version 2) that I felt was necessary…

AND, they were doing a reprint of an older game that they overhauled a few years ago so I had to snag a deluxe copy for Christmas… 🙂

Yesterday I was on Amazon for some needed replacement parts and stumbled on another game from a year or two ago that I had been anxious to try but never picked up… that was Trailblazers

(From BGG): Trailblazers are the gutsy folks who pave and brave the trails of the great outdoors.  Whether by hiking boots, cycling wheels, or river paddle, these tenacious travelers seek to feed their insatiable appetite for adventure.  With a scenic wilderness ever ahead and a freshly charted path upon the heels, one mustn’t forget to eventually find their way back to camp.  For there are always new environments to explore, further expeditions to undertake, and more trails to blaze.

In Trailblazers, players compete to earn the most points by building biking, hiking, and kayaking loops from their campsites of the matching trail type. Each round, players are dealt eight trail cards where they’ll draft two cards, arrange those cards in their personal area, and pass their hand to the next player three times. Cards must either be placed adjacent to or overlapping other cards. While players can push their luck by aiming to construct long and elaborate trails, only closed loops that start and end at a matching campsite will score points. Players also compete to fulfill “First To” and “End Game” goal cards. After four rounds, the game ends and the player with the most points from closed loops and goal cards wins.

The standard edition of Trailblazers features a second deck of trail & player cards so you can play with up to 8 players. The box also contains two expansions (the Animals expansion and Adventurers expansion) that add another challenging layer of strategy and objectives to the experience. Finally, there are three unique solo modes that utilize the goal cards, Animals expansion, or Adventurers expansion.

AWARDS & HONORS

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I had to quickly find some of the reviews to make sure this was the game I thought it was… it is… and I know Julie and I are going to love this already… 🙂

June 28th… Julie and Selena and her fiancé Mike were all headed for Newark, NJ to see Gabrial Iglesias in concert at the Prudential Center…. I got them tickets and parking, etc. for their birthdays… they left early in the morning to surprise Selena with some other stops – mainly a visit to the Statue of Liberty… they had a fabulous time, ‘Fluffy’ was great and, on the way home, Mike completed one of his target stops by hitting a White Castle on the way home!! 🙂

This left me at home for the day on dog duty and as luck would have it, my copy of Trailblazers arrived today!! I’d been watching videos and discovered that I already enjoyed burning my brain with another of this designer’s games – Curious Cargo… how would this compare??

Well, it’s the same core mechanism as his previous titles – connecting odd shaped curves to create routes – but this time with a nature theme… when I was convinced I was ready for a solo play, I launched into ‘Tenderfoot’ mode – the easiest of the solo levels… the goal is to score 30, 40 or 50 points by counting the landmarks of ONLY completed routes… the rulebook says you shouldn’t advance in levels until you can regularly score 50 at this one… I scored 53 in my first play!! Either I was doing something wrong or I’m pretty good at this… I decided to remain at this level in case it was a fluke and have probably played at least 10 more games and the best I could do so far was 43… 🙂

I’m very surprised at how much I’m enjoying playing this solo… there are multiple levels / modes for both the solo and multi-player versions and I can’t wait to explore them AND teach Julie!! 🙂

June 29th… tonight I finally made to an ATG (Adirondack Tabletop Gamers) game night… a couple members had commented online that they wanted to play Woodcraft but hadn’t sorted it out on their own… I’d been through it and played a few times, created a player aid and had my tech notes ready to go so I packed that along with a couple others…

While we waited for others to arrive, the early birds played a game of Mantis

Mantis has only two rules: Steal or Score your way to victory. Collect matching cards by stealing or scoring until the winner has 10 cards in their score pile.

With the simplicity of UNO and depth of Gin Rummy, Mantis is designed for both kids and adults. But adults should be warned that kids will often beat them at this game.

AWARDS & HONORS

I really enjoyed this game and might have to get a copy for us to play… 🙂

When we finished, we split into two smaller groups… one was going for a thinky game called Nova Roma while the rest were considering what to play and I offered to teach Trailblazers… it was an easy teach and we were able to bang through a game in no time… the scores were low – 20’s and 30’s but that’s not bad for a first play… Wendy won to no one’s surprise – she is pretty much unbeatable at any game… 🙂

Most of that group stopped to eat (we were at Domino’s after all) while I taught and played a couple quick games of Sky Team with one who had already eaten… we crashed both times but were close the second time and Sam turned to her wife and said ‘we have to get this game’…

As they were picking out their next game I packed up and headed home so Julie hopefully didn’t have to get up to take the dogs out… none of them – Julie or dogs – even knew I was gone… 🙂

June 30th… today Selena turns 24 and yes – the time has flown by… 🙂 Mike spent the day with her for her birthday while Julie continued to rest then they stopped by the house for cake and ice cream of course (I know – I get that from my Mom)… Selena spent the night as we had to be on the road by 4:15am and she was dog sitting until we got home… before I headed for bed, I taught Selena Trailblazers… neither of us did very well we both liked it… then she wanted to try to land the plane again so we had two failed attempts of Sky Team before I went to sleep.

July 1st… Julie hasn’t felt like gaming in a couple weeks and had to use a walker to get around their NY/NJ birthday trip… today was her last hope to get some answers about her cancer… it’s been 9 years since I first drove her into Manhattan for the first time to see the specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering… 9 years of nothing on scans and being told she’s fine but no one could tell her if she was in remission or at risk or anything… she (understandably) has no faith in the scans and blood work because her initial cancer never showed… it wasn’t until she had a total hysterectomy to try to alleviate the severe pain from Endometriosis and the surgeon sent the parts removed to be tested (as a matter of routine) that her cancer was discovered… up until that point they all told her the same thing – the scans and blood work were all fine…

So here we are 9 years later… 9 years with an absolutely horrible quality of life – partly due to a rare side effect of the Taxol (many cancer patients call it ‘the red death’ which caused her to develop Costochondritis… since the treatment, she’s had constant chest pain – sometimes flaring to heart attack levels… and because she would complain of ‘chest pain’, every trip to the ER resulted in heart tests, a long wait and a trip home after being told she’s fine – even though they’d be told going in it’s not her heart… and the cancer center in Glens Falls never even heard of Costochondritis and had to research it… she was placed on disability and has been pretty much bed-ridden ever since except for the occasional ‘good day’…

Over the last 6 month she’s been having severe abdominal pain – reminiscent of what she had before her surgery and treatment for Endometriosis… FINALLY, a doctor up here referred her back to MSK in NYC which brings us back to today…

After about 2 1/2 hours and several interviews because of her suicide attempt and psychiatric history prompting a review by the MSK psych team, we got to see the doctor… the revelation of the day came when Julie explained that she understood that the chemo would have no effect on the cancer tumors but might work on the cancer cells and, after her chemo was finished, they would somehow check to see if it indeed had worked but nothing was ever done… the doctor explained that tumors and cells are the same things… if anything, the chemo wouldn’t have done anything for the Endometriosis… she read where Julie had been on a Chemo pill since right after her treatment,,, most people are only on it for 5 years (Julie has been on it for 9) though she did have one patient on it for 10 though she’s been off it for 2 years and doing fine… then came the best news of the day… the doctor (who initially told her that women with this type of cancer usually live 5-10 years), told her that she believed that Julie is probably CANCER FREE!! If for no other reason than because she’s sitting here in front of the doctor. That was better than anything we were even thinking we’d hear… 🙂 AND… as for her abdominal pain, she believes her regular doctor is on the right track with the gastro and GI exams because her current symptoms are consistent with a perforation in the bowel that could be leaking into other areas… she has a coloscopy in 2 days and now they have better direction on what and where to look… and with that, a sense of relief that she’d waited years for seemed to come over Julie… she finally had some answers and some good news… we had to wait another 20 minutes for the psych team review before they green lighted us to leave… now I just had to find the van… 🙂

Game wise, I’ve been playing a lot of Trailblazers solo and it continues to kick my ass!! But I’m still loving it… 🙂 Hopefully Julie will feel up to playing soon…

July 4th… Julie’s feeling much better but not feeling like a game yet so I’ve kept Trailblazers on the table in hopes of improving my solo scores… took a break today to get Mom and light the grill for the 4th… she never eats very much anymore but we grill she’ll plow through a hot dog, kielbasa, 2 or 3 types of salad and dessert… 🙂

After I dropped her off (and napped and took the dogs out), I went back to Trailblazers and managed a 57, another 53 and some upper 40’s… I was doing well enough to attempt the Voyager level starting with the Hiking Quartet (I think that was the name)… I completed the requirements but only scored in the 40’s… more practice after work tomorrow… 🙂

July 7th… A couple days ago Julie was having pain in her ear – bad enough to call and get into her doctor (or at least a PA) first thing on a Saturday… there she was diagnosed with an outer ear infection and they called in a prescription for drops… I got her home and settled in but just after lunch I heard something over the AC and found her sitting up in bed, holding the side of her face and crying uncontrollably!! The side with the ear infection was very swollen and she couldn’t close her jaw all the way!! I grabbed an ice pack and she called the PA she’d seen earlier and they called in an antibiotic… later her regular meds (including Oxy and Morphine) had kicked in and she seemed more like herself… it happened again overnight and, as before, the ice pack seemed to help…

She was much better today and caught up on some sleep and by supper she seemed pretty normal though she was probably a little high from all the meds… she wanted to play a game and asked a few times but I kept sending her back to bed… I had eaten and I heard her in the kitchen… she was hungry which is a good sign… she had seen me playing Trailblazers solo and wanted to learn it so I gave her the base game run down while she ate…

Her first game was about what you’d expect for a first time through a game like this… long turns and frustration but she managed a score in the upper 20’s… the next game I helped her with some placements and she (we) almost broke 40 (I managed a 57)… she was liking it but I could tell that her meds and lack of sleep where knocking her out so we called it a night but not before I explained some of the other modules we weren’t even close to attempting yet… might get a couple plays in after work tomorrow as she seemed to like it… 🙂

July 10th… Julie’s ear still hurts but is getting much better and the pain in her jaw seems to be lessening judging by her appetite… I spent much of the afternoon after I got home from work mostly watching the radar and storm chasers as our area was under a tornado WARNING for the entire day into the evening…

I stumbled on a YouTuber’s page called Max Velocity a couple days ago and watched for a while after hurricane Beryl made landfall in Texas / Louisiana and into Arkansas… he has radar and storm chaser feeds and I was fascinated… tonight he was covering my neck of the woods as what was left of Beryl wreaked havoc in a line from Cleveland northeast along the NY state border into Canada leaving some major devastation near Buffalo… as the day went on, the warm front line moved closer and closer to us and so did the tornado watches as the front rotation of the original storm touched off violent weather throughout NY, Pennsylvania and parts of Vermont…

As the sun was going down the atmosphere seemed to settle down a little but I was staying up to keep an eye on things in case we did need to leave as our house has no basement… Julie was up for a snack and I was going to play some Trailblazers solo and keep Max Velocity running but it got quiet enough that he signed off… Julie joined me for a couple games and I kept checking the radar app on my phone… the dogs needed to go out and there was a lull in the storms so the timing was right… Julie said it was breezy and muggy out… TONS of lightning but strangely no thunder… we headed for bed but I kept my phone with me… there were two storms I had my eyes on… one had already dropped a brief tornado near Cortland and the other was only 10-15 miles to our north and had triggered a tornado WATCH due to evident rotation… thankfully both fizzled out and I was able to put the phone on charge in the office and actually climb into bed… the weather has been crazy – nothing like I would call ‘normal’ for a couple years now at least… I hope this isn’t the new norm… we always thought the surrounding mountains would protect us from these types of things but – this year especially – it seems like we never get just rain… it’s almost always accompanied by high winds and lightning, etc…