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A Gnome's Ponderings

I'm a gamer. I love me some games and I like to ramble about games and gaming. So, more than anything else, this blog is a place for me to keep track of my ramblings. If anyone finds this helpful or even (good heavens) insightful, so much the better.

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Embrace how you always cheated at Choose Your Own Adventure

Lowell Kempf
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A few years ago, I stumbled across the Parsely RPG, a system designed to emulate old school interactive fiction. It’s a fun game, part party game and part RPG and part street theater. The biggest downside to it is that you can only play each scenario once per group.

Enter Cheat Your Own Adventure. It’s a free RPG whose existence I discovered through Play By Forum. Instead of being based on old computer games like Zork, it’s inspired by the Choose Your Own Adventure game books, hence the name. But let’s be honest, it’s a pretty similar idea.

In Parsely, one player is the computer/game master. They have the map and the adventure and everyone else takes turns giving instructions. And frankly, a lot of the fun of the system is the GM imitating the artificial stupidity of those old games. And it is a lot of fun.

Cheat Your Own Adventure, on the other hand, has players turning playing the reader and everyone else gives choices. So, it’s kind of like you takes turns being the PC while everyone else is the GM.

Mechanically, after the active player makes a decision, two dice are rolled, trying to beat or equal an increasingly high number that caps at twelve at the end of the game.

Rolling under means game ending, over-the-top failure and death. But that doesn’t mean the end of the game. No, just like with a real Choose Your Adventure book, you can go back and make another choice, which will automatically work. (You did it too. Own up to it) Twelve rolls and you wrap things up.

There’s actually a lot I like about this system. It has a lot of replay value and every player has a lot more agency in the story you end up telling. Every story-based game depends on the group but I think this would work with a lot of groups. It’s seriously on my list to try.

Cheat Your Own Adventure doesn’t fire Parsely for me. The GM is an artificially stupid computer is a really awesome mechanic when done well. However, I think it is a game that will be easier to play more often.

http://mcleanfamilyonline.co.uk/CYOA.pdf

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Mon Mar 18, 2019 6:52 pm
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Carrying In Hand games everywhere

Lowell Kempf
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Okay. I said I was going to do it and I’ve done it. I made a second fidget box, my pet term for a small, extremely portable box of solitaire card games.

They live either in my bag or on my nightstand and the games are really more for fidgeting or taking mental coffee breaks than being the focus of my gaming life. You know, except when they are

One of the things had has haunted me when it comes to make these little to-go libraries is size. The first set of cheap plastic boxes I picked up are too small for larger cards and are slightly convex so the cards at the bottom have to be even smaller This second cover box is actually a plastic case that gum came in. It is longer and wider so larger cards can fit into it but it’s more shallower so fewer cards can fit

But it fits my big goal. I can fit the Palm Island PnP demo into it.

While playing more Palm Island, which I am doing, is awesome, it was two of the prototypes from the current Nine-Card PnP contest that made me decide to make an In Hand box. Which means I’ll probably be making new copies of those games in a few months when they are further developed.

9-Card Circus has to using several different actions to sort the cards, creating runs and balancing symbols. I am still trying to grok it but I feel like it’s ambitious in its design and I like that. I want In Hand games to be more than just fidgeting. Even if I decide in the end that it doesn’t work, I’m glad that it was tried.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2144072/wip-9-card-circus-2...

On the other hand, Labyrinth Runner, which creates a maze of forking paths out of nine cards in your hand, is amazing for fidgeting. It’s been a great anywhere game. I haven’t bothered trying the advanced game, just playing the light one over and over.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2128436/wip-labyrinth-runne...

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Sat Mar 16, 2019 5:54 pm
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My PnP plan that won’t survive two months

Lowell Kempf
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As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, I’m trying to take a different approach to my PnP projects in 2019. Which really comes down to just being more picky about what I make

But I’m also trying to pace myself better as well. Last year, a lot of my crafting took place as big binges, often followed by weeks of making nothing. Now I’m trying space things out more and have a slow but steady rate of crafting.

I’m also trying to more formally plan out larger projects. In my case, a larger project means more than two pages of components I’m trying to plan one larger project a month, with the goal of actually getting them done and without burning myself out.

Actually, that sort of just happened. I made Haze Islands in March and I told myself I should make Black Sonata in April. Then I asked myself, is this a thing?

Frankly, I give that part of my plan until May before it falls apart.

And I’m sure I’ll cave and have some crafting binges too.

Still, it’s healthy to try and heave a goal and moderation.
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Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:28 pm
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What’s it like to not be the game library?

Lowell Kempf
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There are many factors that determine what games you get exposed to. Not the least of which are when you were born and where you live. If you were born in 1865, there’s a lot of games that you are never going to see.

But one that I am thinking about is who you know and play with.

Because, at least in my limited experience, it’s the person who does the research and buys the actual games that ends determining the groups library and what the group ends up playing. I’m sure there are groups where everyone is that person (which must make for some interesting arguments) but I’ve usually seen a max of two in a group.

Here’s the thing. When I’ve been in gaming groups, I’ve been the obsessive compulsive who spent hours reading Boardgame Geek and studying rules and buying too many games. I was that guy.

Actually, I have to imagine that a lot of the folks who read a blog like this are that gal or that guy.

So I wonder what it’s like to show up on any given week and have no idea what your insane friend has dug up and how well they’ll be able to teach it.

Yes, there were the regular favorites like Ticket to Ride or Puerto Rico or Dominion or Palatinus (we had our quirks) but I regularly showed up with a new treasure to explore.

The downside was I had so many treasures that we didn’t replay a lot of them :/

I am sure that I will end up in another group, probably in the next stage of our lives, and if I end up being that person again, I’ll definitely reign it in more.
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Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:51 am
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In Hand and no table needed

Lowell Kempf
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While I have used the term surface-free for games that can be played while holding all the parts in your hand, I’m getting the impression that the term In Hand might be the preferred one. Although In Hand might just refer specifically to cards games where you hold all the cards.

To be fair, it’s not like there’s some governing body demanding a strict etymology for board game terms. It’s really more of a organic process.

I have to admit that I have come to like In Hand solitaire games a lot over the last year or so. I’ve come to like solitaire games and I mainly play them as parent breaks (quick little mental breaks) So a game that I don’t even need a table to play and can play waiting on the car or lying in bed is awfully handy.

Now, from what I can tell, In Hand games have been around for a long time. Apparently sailers played them back in the day of tall mast ships. Even if that isn’t true, that’s too romantic an idea for me not go ahead and believe.

Palm Island is my current gold standard for In Hand games. It feels like a ‘full’ game with resource management and developing an infrastructure. Mind you, that depth comes at enough of a time price that it doesn’t work for a quick mental coffee break. But I think it pushes the boundaries of what you can do with a deck of cards that stays in your hands, as well as being a very good game.

And I wonder if it is inspiring other In Hand games. I feel like I’m seeing more of them over the last year. There isn’t a flood but I swear there’s more of them.

I have a tiny box of solitaire games that I keep in my bag, my fidget box. And now I’m thinking of developing another fidget box that is nothing but In Hand games. I’ve seen more and more variety. And they work well for games on the go.

And for me, there’s no better way to fidget than with a game.
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Fri Mar 8, 2019 6:13 am
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Laika is a game designed to break your heart

Lowell Kempf
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I think that short form RPGs need of be about one idea. The shorter the form, the more focused and concentrated they need to be. If an RPG takes less than two hours, it has to be a punch in between the eyes.

Which is why it seems like so many of them seem to be so darn tragic. Let’s be honest, it’s easier to make folks cry than to make them laugh. Comedy is harder than tragedy.

Which brings me to Laika, an RPG about saying good bye to something forever and is designed for one player.

When you deal with more indie, more experimental RPHs, they sometimes blur the line between an RPH and a board game or story telling or a drama exercise. In the case of Laika, it blurs the line with ritual. To be fair, it’s not the first time I’ve seen that happen. (Brave Sparrow comes to mind)

The game is just a few pages long and free to download so I won’t go into detail about the game. In a sentence, you go through several steps to make something go away that you will never get back.

That can be a very powerful experience to put yourself through. Possibly unnecessarily traumatic but powerful.

But what made Laika absolutely brutal for me was that invoked Laika, the first dog in space. Who the Russians sent up with no plan or intention of bringing back. By putting a face and a true story to the process, it really made it visceral.

Laika skates the line between RPG and something else. Its not something that I can see myself playing more than a couple times and not in a row. But I think it succeeds in its goal of creating a sense of loss.
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Tue Mar 5, 2019 8:12 pm
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Hey, I went thrifting!

Lowell Kempf
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I’m not normally a thrifter. Not because I object to thrifting but I’m very conscious of storage space and I have become a lot more picky about what I buy in general. However, this February saw a lot more thrifting than usual.

Eh, the neighborhood Goodwill had some good stuff.

The actual big item for me was finding a copy of Airlines Europe. Considering I’m used to seeing battered copies of Checkers and Trivial Pursuit, that was quite a surprise. And it’s a game I’ve had my eye on since it came out. It may well be the highlight of my entire year of thrifting.

However, we ended up finding a lot of things with our five-year-old in mind as well. We picked up a sadly incomplete copy of Pictureka which we knew that he would have fun with. We also picked up a spare copy of Mexican Train Dominoes because, if you’ve ever played dominoes with a preschooler, you know you end up looking for dominoes.

The highlight for the kid games was finding two Ravensburger titles, Mystery Garden and Rivers, Roads & Rails. Both of which turned out to be complete, which is always nice and not something I can count on when it comes to thrifting. (I’m still bummed about getting a copy of Warchon that had none of the pieces. Which I will someday make homemade copies, I swear)

Neither of those games are ones I’d pull out with adults or even older kids. However, our son has already shown a lot of interest in them and I think they will earn their keep.

I doubt I’ll have another month as good for thrifting but you just need one good month to get some good games.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Sat Mar 2, 2019 4:26 am
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My February PnP

Lowell Kempf
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After not doing very much in January, February saw an uptick last in my PnP crafting. I knew I’d have one but I figured it would wait a couple more months. I made Jurassico (from the 2017 GenCan’t R&W contest), Tussie-Mussie (color), Six Sons of the Sultan (color), Sprawlopolis (color), Oh My Lair, Labyrinth Runner (beta from 2019 Nine Card Contest), 9-Card Circus (beta from 2019 Nine Card Contest) and Circle the Wagon (color). And I made one cut to make Jurassico so it was more than just laminating a page

Making the color versions of Tussie-Mussie, Sprawlopolis and Circle the Wagons were the highlights of PnP month. I had already made black and white versions of them but color versions is going to make them easier to play and easier to get other folks to play

I actually printed off Six Sons of the Sultan two years ago and I’m honestly not sure when I’ll get to play it. But I want to start working through some of my backlog of games that only got to the printing stage of crafting.

I wasn’t planning on crafting anything from this year’s Nine Card PnP contest until it was done since I knew I wasn’t going to be able to give play testing feedback so I might as well download and print the most final versions of the games. But I really wanted to try the two ‘In Hand’ games I saw.

As I keep saying, I want to be more deliberate and use more judgement in what PnP projects I tackle in 2019. However, sometimes, I’m still going to be impulsive and do some binge crafting.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Fri Mar 1, 2019 6:00 pm
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Checking in on PnP contests

Lowell Kempf
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My favorite Print and Play contest is the nine-card contest.

A big part of that is because it is the lazy crafter’s dream come true. One page of cards and maybe some dice or tokens and I’m done. Big projects are awesome but it’s also satisfying to be able to make a finished product when I’m crunched for time.

And every year, I feel like the entries get more interesting. I am honestly expecting to see a Kickstarter for last year’s winner, Orchard.

I’m waiting until the contest is really over before I start, well, downloading everything I wish I reliably had the time to play test during the contest but life doesn’t work that way :’(

But I couldn’t help but still skim through entries. Two things struck me. There are legacy games (?!) and at least a couple ‘in hand’ games.

Going back to the rules, I see that legacy games have been added as a special category, allowing for additional components like pens or scissors as long as it’s a legacy game. Okay, I got to admit that marking up and cutting homemade components that I can easily make again makes a legacy game a lot more appealing

As for ‘in hand’ games, games where the cards stay in your hands the whole time, I don’t remember any being made in previous nine card contests. Eighteen card contests and solitaire contests (which include Down, which is nine cards ), yes, but not this particular contest. And while in hand games have been around for at least over a century, I wonder if Palm Island has increased interest in them.

I’ve had a slow PnP year so far but this contest (and other contests, like the Roll and Write contest) will increase my crafting.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2126346/2019-9-card-game-pr...

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Thu Feb 28, 2019 6:20 pm
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Progress in not buying games

Lowell Kempf
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For that last few years, I’ve set a strict limit on how many games I would buy. In fact, my goal for 2017 was to not buy any games at all. But I haven’t set a limit or made a pledge for 2019.

It’s not because I’m giving myself permission to get as many games as I want. No, it’s because I’ve gotten good enough at not buying games that I don’t need any help

Slightly more seriously, it definitely takes time and effort to change your habits and the way you think. Going from compulsively buying games to not buying any means rewiring the way you think.

I actually didn’t think about limiting my purchases in 2019. I realized it was almost March and that not buying games was just a given. I just assumed that I was going to keep any purchases to a minimum without even actually thinking about it. That’s progress.

I do make some thrift purchases, which does count really. They take up shelf space and cost money and add to the too many games and not enough time equation. For the most part, though, I thrift kids games.

(And Print and Play has filled in some of focus too )

I’m sure that, at some point, I will have some kind of relapse.o Hopefully not for a while and not too bad. But if and when I do, I know that I get back in the groove.

Originally posted at www.gnomepondering.com
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Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:31 pm
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