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Meepleonboard

When I am not putting notes on paper I like to play. Here are my scribblings.

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21st March 2019 - Looking at the new, playing the old

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There are some people out there whose blogs I have read who have not played a single one of the games nominated for the Golden Geeks this time around. I am in awe of that achievement, a commitment to the Cult Of The Unnew that far surpasses my own, but which proves that there are wise folk out there for whom the constant avalanche of new games is just so much noise rather than signal.

Signal there is, though, in that cavalcade, and while I have not got my N-index (nominated games played) down to zero, it is still quite low, so maybe I am falling out of my dealings with the new as well, although I have traditionally viewed these awards as pointers of what to look out for in any case rather than expressions of what I already own. The compulsive purchasers sort the wheat from the chaff and then I pick at the remains, saying ooh, that looks interesting.

I have voted for those few games that I have played, however, even if I was a little surprised that 1066, Tears To Many Mothers did not garner a nomination in the Best Artwork category, but there we go. My votes are cast, I care slightly who wins, but my admiration and respect go to all of those who have been nominated.

I retreated to another three games of Aquaducts today, and that win on Difficult level feels so close that I can almost taste it, as each of these three plays came down to a single placement that was needed. I know that I can do this, the question is when.

After work KT wanted to play something, so I put Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game on the table for the first time in nearly a year, part of my intention to rotate games more equitably. This have always been a game that I have enjoyed greatly, and KT and I have had some good experiences with it, but in today's play we were on the back foot right from the get go, playing with the difficulty level as specified in the expansion. KT's Medic was the first to go, while my Gunner fell soon afterwards. We had blocked the ventilation shafts, but lacked enough firepower to keep the xenomorphs at bay and that was the end of us as they overran the Nostromo.

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Thu Mar 21, 2019 10:12 pm
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20th March 2019 - ...to those who wait

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Anybody who reads this blog on anything like a regular basis will probably have detected a slight undercurrent beneath all the gaming talk, of there having been a couple of large projects going on in the background of my life, and that free time has, on occasion, been hard to carve out. I am far from the only person who feels that work might intrude just a little too far into downtime every now and then, but I have always striven to keep it as balanced as possible with play and that balance has just tipped a little too far in the wrong direction of late.

Recently I have managed to wrest back a little control, and today I resigned, with sadness, from a job I have enjoyed for many years, but as somebody who runs what one might call a portfolio career, it has been replaced by something a little better suited to where I am now, much in the way one might curate a bonsai game collection that improves in quality rather than quality. The first thing I wanted to get back to once I had the last batch of Big Stuff out of the way was to fire off a long overdue review, and thus it is that my musings on Aquaducts went live on BGG and also over on the WDYPTW website earlier today.

I love reviewing, love writing in general, words and music, so it felt as though I was getting back in touch with a long lost friend after so much time away, and I plan to catch up on all those articles that I should have written when my head was buried in other things. Did Aquaducts return the favour and let me beat it on Difficult level this morning as a token of thanks? No, it did not, not quite, but there is always tomorrow.

Late this afternoon, with most of the day's business out of the way, KT declared that she wanted to play something, and while I would happily have taught her Viticulture Essential Edition eventually I decided that discretion was by far the better part of valour and instead we played our trusty two-player take on Catan. The map was very clumpy indeed, all the fields and forests sitting together, which meant that a balance of resources was hard to find, although I had a decent placement for ore and a harbour that allowed me to trade it at a 2:1 rate.

The game started very slowly but picked up momentum towards the end, and KT was right on track to win it but for a misplaced road which left her unable to build a legal settlement. Ladies and gentlemen, KT made a mistake - I couldn't believe it! It was now or never, and thankfully the dice gods were with me on my next turn when I managed to build two cities which, along with my two points from Development Cards, took me to a 10-9 victory.


KT's misplaced road - right there, just north of my city!


This might not mean much in itself, but it was my first head to head win against KT in 20 plays of Catan, the first since June 2014, for crying out loud. Had she not made that critical mistake then her streak would have continued, but this time I was ready to pounce. Good things come to those who wait!

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Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:39 pm
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19th March 2019 - Clouds and silver linings

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One of the few good things about sitting on a Piccadilly line train at a station for half an hour while the powers that be clear up a signal failure at Acton Town is that it provides a clear space of time in which to study various rule books for games. Wisely prepared for such an emergency, I had a wide range of reading material stored in a folder on my laptop, meaning that while I read I looked to all the world as if I was doing some really important stuff, which, of course, I was.

I have in any case found it handy to reread a game's rules before we get it to the table anew, not just to refamiliarise myself with the way it might work but also because there have often been times where we have played something for a while but missed a critical instruction. We played Dominion many, many times before we realised it was may make a purchase, not must make a purchase (which is Puzzle Strike (Third Edition)).

Anyway, I was reading three rule books back to back for games that inhabit vaguely similar territory but which all have a different status in our collection, namely Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn (played and owned), Deus (played and previously owned), and Antike Duellum (unplayed and owned). They all do some kind of light Civ thing in a rough way, one could argue, all have that build yours up and knock theirs down feel.

Of the three, A New Dawn has easily been the most successful, taking important elements of the computer game and translating them to the table with what we have found to be a decent amount of success. No, it does not do everything but, yes, it takes well under two hours for us to play and I really think that it is about time that we returned to this.

Deus was also something I really enjoyed and I wonder whether I got rid of it too hastily, although I did trade it for something I really, really enjoy, which is not so bad. Still, it has a quick, clean and interesting manner of play that definitely appealed to me and which I think I would be happy to experience again.

As for Antike Duellum, I bought this as a possible 2-player Civ game that KT might enjoy, but that was before A New Dawn came along to blow the other games out of the water. It looks clean and clear and possibly fun, but unless I can find somebody - probably not KT - who might want to play it then I cannot see when it might get to the table in preference to anything else. Maybe I should pass it on and see if I could replace it with Deus instead, which would at least reduce my unplayed games by one without my actually having to play anything. Now there's a thought...

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Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:30 pm
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18th March 2019 - Losing feels good

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Today has been one of those days that just has not stopped, pretty much from the moment I woke up to about half an hour ago. I have had to keep the wheels spinning in order to clear the decks, but I was called in for a meeting this afternoon at short notice which threw my plans out of kilter and means that I will need to tidy up the loose ends tomorrow morning.

At a certain point in the evening I decided that I needed at least a half hour to myself, so rather than play one of the larger games I have with me in London I instead turned to those two favourites Aquaducts and Sprawlopolis. I only played one game of each, but it felt as though something was missing from my day until I had at least played something.

Aquaducts was another play on Difficult level and another loss, but I know that I am getting closer each time on this. It is a question of managing to balance all those conflicting demands, but I am not going to stop chipping away at this until I beat it.

By the time I got Sprawlopolis to the table I was already feeling pretty tired mentally, so I doubt very much that I was playing to the best of my ability, and in fact I scored only 13 points against the target of 20 after my previous two wins in a row. I know I could have done much better, but this was all about the pleasure of simply having the cards in my hands and playing them to the table.

Tomorrow will be another long day, and a late return home so I shall sneak in a little gaming where I can, most likely another round of Aquaducts. Maybe that one will grant me the win I am after.

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Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:25 am
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17th March 2019 - Healing the cities

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A long day of work today as I tried to clear the decks prior to the week ahead. I came up a little short, but had determined by the time I got back to the burrow that the working day was done and that what little remained would be play.

There was not a huge amount of time, but I had brought Pandemic up to town with me and was determined to give it a spin. I was a little surprised to find out that I have never played this solo before, as I do enjoy playing multiple characters in coops, so I set up on Normal level to see how I would fare without KT's brains to guide me.

I had the Dispatcher and the Medic, and I played moderately well, but eventually I ran out of cards in the deck with three diseases cured but with the fourth about to bite the dust. There was a short moment mid-game when I totally forgot about the Medic's ability, but it would not have saved the day, and in any case I enjoyed the play thoroughly.


Working towards a cure


With only a few minutes left before I needed to start powering down for the night I decided to leave Aquaducts until another day (I spent some of the day putting together the first draft of a review for this) and instead opted to try Sprawlopolis once more. I was not particularly optimistic of a win, just because, but when I totted up the scores I found that I had done enough to hit the target, which made it my second win in a row, both of these by the skin of my teeth.


Just good enough


Tomorrow is another long day, but I really do want to do some more gaming when I get back to the burrow, so the intention is to set something up on the table before I leave the house so that it is ready for me when I come back. Quite apart from taking my mind off whatever else might have gone on in the day I am really enjoying being able to get these old favourites back to the table, and it gives me something to look forward to once everything else is done.

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Sun Mar 17, 2019 11:53 pm
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16th March 2019 - For whom the belle rolls

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KT and I managed six plays today, but rather than the mixture I had envisaged yesterday, a starter, main, and dessert, we instead played the same game over and over. I have noticed before, but not really registered, that we do have a tendency to replay games we like, so perhaps I should worry less about getting a variety of boxes to the table on any given day and instead just stick a pile of components into view and see how long it takes before we tire of it.

Today's game was That's Pretty Clever, which I had played solo a few times, but which was totally new to KT. After a brief explanation of the rules we were rolling (of course) in a very short time, and it was clear even during the first game that this would be something we would both enjoy.

It took a couple of games for KT really to understand what was going on, especially remembering that the white die is wild and using her bonuses to the best possible effect, but by game number six we were both triggering significant combos in the later rounds. Game number five actually saw us both register scores in the 200s, which took us both by surprise.

Over the series of six games KT eventually won out 4-2, and she would happily have played on were it not for the fact that I have an early morning run to London tomorrow and therefore need an early night. Still, I think we can add this game to the list of titles that we can take along to play over lunch or an afternoon coffee, or something similar.

It is also another good result for the online recommendation website, because I had more or less rejected this game until it appeared in a list of recommended games and then I decided to give it a go. KT said during out play that she enjoys these roll-them-three-times games, so maybe I should dig Yahtzee out of the bottom of whatever box it happens to be in in the attic and put it on the shelf next to this and Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age.

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Sat Mar 16, 2019 11:00 pm
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15th March 2019 - Thinking about gaming, as usual

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It was KT's second day in the new job today, so once more I hid myself away in a nearby cafe in the morning and afternoon and met up for her for lunch in the middle. There is certainly enough time for gaming in that break, and at least one of the venues has the space as well, so that is something we need to bear in mind.

Although I spent the morning working on one of the ongoing projects, in the afternoon I was sorely tempted to down tools and do some solo playing, but in the end the head ruled the heart (in a way) and I did some more detail work on my latest piece instead. Just like the heaviest of resource conversion Euros, sometimes I am not quite sure if this is work or play, but I am trying to get myself to view it as the latter...just like the heaviest resource conversion Euros.

Anyway my gallant gaming sacrifice this afternoon means that as long as the emails stay vaguely quiet overnight we should have a little time for gaming tomorrow, so as I tap this my thoughts are turning to what we might get onto the table. There tend to be four categories for this - games we really like playing, games that haven't been played for a while, games we are getting to know, and games unplayed as yet - and the one I tend on which I tend to focus tends to be the one that has weighed on my mind the most of late.

I think, given our lack of gaming this week, that something new might be unwise, even though I really want KT to try Viticulture Essential Edition (getting to know/new), so maybe that will have to be the first reserve, but I reckon that I could easily get her to try something like That's Pretty Clever (likewise), so that should definitely go on the list. Otherwise, of the games on my 'underplayed' list, it might be right to settle into something comfortable like Pandemic (underplayed/enjoyed) as a light main course, perhaps with a dessert of something like Mr. Jack (likewise).

The way things tend to go on so-called free days is that life takes over and other things get in the way, so it may well be that we end up having to squeeze in just the single play, but a man can dream, right? Then it's off to London again for a few days and some solo gaming once more, so I need to grab tomorrow's opportunity as best I can.

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Sat Mar 16, 2019 12:09 am
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14th March 2019 - A little when you can

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I am starting to wonder when the work will ever let up and I can get back to the life I used to have and the things I used to enjoy doing. Almost every time I sit down to begin the day I have to clear the decks of the things I need to do before I can, if lucky, get to the things that I want to do.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, though, because I have been able to do more of my own stuff recently than over the past year or so, but that reversion to the way it was is happening slowly, if surely. Meanwhile KT began her new job today, which demanded an early start, something neither of us tends to cope well with.

Tomorrow is KT's second day, more training and another early start, while I shall find a suitable resting place in the town and clear the decks of the things I need to do (morning) before hopefully getting to the things I want to do (afternoon). Well, they may take our freedom but they can never take our - or, in today's case, my - gaming, so I snuck in three solo plays at the end of the day while KT got an early night.

First up was Aquaducts, and I was so, so close to that elusive victory on Difficult level, within sniffing distance of it but just without the card draw that would have completed the challenge. There will be more of this tomorrow and probably daily as I attempt to bend it to my will.

Next up was a quick play of Sprawlopolis with the usual contradictory goals that I felt I had no hope whatsoever of achieving, but then, in the final tally, I found that I had matched the target score, technically a win, so I felt pretty pleased with myself about that. I am continuing to develop my way of playing this, and think I am slowly getting better at it as I become more confident and aggressive with the placement of my cards.

To finish off the evening I took That's Pretty Clever for a third solo spin, and I must say that I really enjoyed it, not least because at the end of it all I had somehow managed to score 221. I checked and double checked and, yes, this was right, so I was fairly happy with the result, not least because it rounded off a pleasant and necessary half hour of solo gaming, reminding me that even thirty minutes of play is worth the having.

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Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:16 pm
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13th March 2019 - Shifting a little

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KT begins her new job tomorrow, bright and early, and although it is only for a couple of days a week, it eats a little into what was once our gaming time, and the likelihood is that it may have a knock on effect on our evening's play as well. For the newer arrivals in the collection this is not so much of a problem, but for the old stagers like A Feast for Odin it means that we shall just have to plan a little bit more how and when they get to the table.

In any case, our tastes have shifted over recent years towards lighter gaming, somewhere around the two hour mark at most and more with very rare exceptions, but a game that take around sixty minutes or so feels just right to us and also gives us a chance to replay or move on to something else on an average evening. More recently still I have been looking for games that we might be able to play when out and about when space and time are at a premium but which still offer meaningful choices in their playing.

Race for the Galaxy, even with its tableaux, fits this bill (and cafe tables) really well, as does its younger sibling Jump Drive, and both are regular choices for gaming at home as well, while Seasons of Rice has come as something of a recent surprise, a fun print and play that lasts only around ten minutes, but which is an intriguing experience and which I would like to play more. Joining the collection at the weekend was That's Pretty Clever, which I have yet to play with KT, but I think it could fit well as something to dip into from time to time for variety.

Coming back into the collection over the weekend was Yomi, which I once owned, traded away unplayed and then could not quite get out of my mind. Given that setting up for playing this involves little more than shuffling a couple of decks of cards and that KT excels at reading what little there is of my mind I really do hope that this will be a success, especially with all those decks to explore. I know that we might well need to play this a few times to get past the "this appears to be wholly random" thing, but I have hopes that it will swiftly move on to the next level.

And then there are my own friends of the moment, Aquaducts and Sprawlopolis, the former of which defeated me twice more today on Difficult mode, because while KT is at work I shall be seeking out a small corner of the nearby town and getting some gaming in between doing my own stuff. I love the idea of an evolving collection that changes with one tastes, and with the arrival of Yomi it looks as though I am about to tread over that line where one reacquires games that left once upon a time but which have suddenly shifted back into focus.

Happy gaming!
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Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:24 pm
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12th March 2019 - Keeping at it

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I'm going to defeat that pesky Aquaducts and I'm not going to give up until I do. Last night I had another crack at it and despite ending up with a very slightly incomplete and underfunded city again I felt that I could have done better.

In that way this game feels different from The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game that I used to play, where eventually I felt I was just banging my head against a wall unless I bought the newer more powerful cards. Here I think that I can do it and always that the next play could be the one.

I also had another go at the lovely Sprawlopolis last night for another loss, but only by a few points. Despite going into a play of this pretty much expecting to lose (and not being disappointed in that respect) I always enjoy playing it, and that has to be a good sign. Maybe it is something to do with the scoring only being totted up at the end.

What I had really wanted to play, though, was Viticulture Essential Edition but time was against me. There is something about this box that just feels absolutely solid, and I am already attempting to find an opportunity in the diary for when KT and I might have the time and mental energy to get it up and running.

I'll be home again tomorrow night, and although out rhythm may well be changed by KT's new job I think that we have enough games for enough occasions, so it may be that we play not less but differently and that other games have an opportunity to come to the fore, so the change looks like an opportunity to clear some gaming dust.

Happy gaming!
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Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:46 am
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