All being well this will have been posted automatically by blogger in the middle of my two week holiday in Portugal...
As I've said here before, I very rarely buy games without having tried them beforehand. I've only got seventy games in my collection (which ordinary people think is ludicrous and makes me a weirdo, but gamers think is a pathetic attempt at a collection and pretty weak for a designer), and space is limited, so I normally get rid of a few games a year and replace them with games I really like but don't yet own. Buying a game without trying it first is a big risk - I might end up wasting valuable space on a game I'd rather not have and will rarely play.
An exception to this rule has recently been games by Daniel Solis, a games designer from North Carolina in the US. Daniel first came to my attention when he was posting the income that he'd made by selling his games through Drive Thru Cards on a monthly basis. I liked the transparency and it was interesting to compare his exploits in the world of no-risk print on de mand publishing to my experience gambling with £12,000 and losing £8,500 of it while running Reiver Games.
Daniel has been prolific (he has 55 games and expansions listed on BGG) and he does his art himself given each game its own attractive unique art. So when I considered publishing Zombology print on demand after the hand-made limited edition sold out, it was to Drive Thru Cards I turned, and I bought a copy of his beautiful game Kigi to check out Drive Thru Cards quality and customer experience. Drive Thru were great and Kigi is a beautiful game with a really nice card laying mechanism. After eight plays I enjoy it, but it feels a bit too light and the pruning mechanism means that your trees rarely get to develop more than a single branch.
When I'd uploaded the Zombology art for proofing I bought Koi Pond (another highly rated, beautiful, Asian-themed game of Daniel's) at the same time. At this point I've only played it twice so I'm still getting to grips with the strategy, but it's got a few interesting ideas in there too. That's two Daniel Solis games bought without trying first.
Recently I'd started seeing more photos in my Twitter stream of another game that appeared to have stolen the tree branch card laying mechanism from Kigi. I was mildly perturbed on Daniel's behalf until I realised the game, Kodama: The Tree Spirits, was one of his. It turns out Kodama was the outcome of Action Point Games picking up Kigi and re-theming and developing it further. I watched a video review of it, during which it sounded like it addressed a few of the things about Kigi that bothered me slightly and promptly bought a new in-shrink copy of the Kickstarter edition from the BGG marketplace. I've yet to try it, but I have high hopes: it's got a cute theme, nice art and sounds more strategic. That's three Of Daniel's games I've bought on spec!