Monday, May 30

On The Road Again

I'm going to manage only two weeks in the office in both May and June!

So far this month I've had two weeks in Portugal on holiday, then two weeks in the office (including last week), now I'm off for another holiday with some friends from Monday to Thursday. Then I've got a week in San Antonio, TX for work for the conference that I go to every year, followed by two weeks in the office before I head to Romania for a week for work again. It's far more travel than I'm used to.

Last week I did very little that was blog worthy, I mostly spent the week hanging out with my family after the weekend away at Beer and Pretzels. I did manage a Games Night on Wednesday (they are far less frequent than I'd like due to travel commitments) and a lunchtime games club on Thursday where we played Taluva again.

I'm hoping to get some games in on my holiday this week, and then the 17 hour journey to San Antonio will be spent with poor Ian strapped into a seat next to me and my iPad full of board games, so I'd imagine we'll play a fair few games (or I'll get axe murdered at 37,000 feet, one of the two).

On the subject of axe murdering, the conference I'm attending in San Antonio moves around the US and this will be my fifth one on the trot. At several of the last few I've met with random strangers (and some internet friends) to go gaming.

In Vancouver in 2012 I met with Tao who runs Starlit Citadel who had been very supportive of Reiver Games. We went for coffee before he took me back to his warehouse to show me his operation.

Minneapolis in 2013 involved twice meeting up with strangers I'd met on BGG and getting driven to an out of town location (the Fantasy Flight Event Center!) for an evening of gaming. I returned safe and sound and had a blast with Alfredo, Jay and Fred.

Baltimore in 2014 was a no show, but I was back to my old tricks in St. Louis last year with Dan meeting me, taking me for dinner and then gaming before driving me back to my hotel at the end of the night.

This year I've managed to wangle a night off work on Monday and will be heading out to Dragon's Lair for an evening of gaming (and hopefully a fourth successful axe-murdering dodge).

It's a great opportunity to meet new people, play new games and see a bit of the city other than the Convention Center and my hotel.

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 23

Beer and Pretzels 2016

It's been a great week of gaming, culminating in my weekend con trip of the year at Beer and Pretzels 2016 in Burton on Trent. Wednesday I went to Manchester with Ian, so once I'd finished my presentation slides we played a few games on the iPad (including 6 Nimmt! which works better than I expected pass and play). Thursday was Games Night featuring 6 Nimmt! (again) a couple of games of Race for the Galaxy, King of Tokyo and a couple of games of Zombology. Friday I had a night off gaming and an early night to try to recover from a few bad nights sleep and to ready myself for the early start.

Five AM on Saturday I planned to quickly turn off the alarm and get ready as quietly as possible to avoid disturbing The Wife (who doesn't deserve a 5am start just because I want to go gaming). Sadly at 4:58am every house alarm in the street (including ours) went off due to a very brief power outage. I sprinted downstairs to turn it off, The Wife, thinking it was a fire alarm had dashed into The Daughter's room, where she was happily sleeping through it! The Wife went back to bed and I got in the shower only for it to happen again and this time The Wife has to sprint downstairs. Sub-optimal.

Burton Town Hall

Still, it meant I was definitely awake and didn't miss my train to Burton! Beer and Pretzels has been held in the lovely Burton Town Hall for the last 27 years, but sadly this may well be the last one. The council are putting the rent up by a huge amount and Sal and Phil who organise it have yet to find a suitable replacement venue. Three out of the last four years I've been down and met up with Terry, one of my old Bedford gaming chums, for a great weekend of gaming, beer and catching up with friends.

On Saturday Terry and I played a few games with Paul and Carol and their friends Tony, Callum and Phil and a few 2-player games together. We started with Kodama, then Port Royal, Zombology, Magnum Sal, Roll for the Galaxy (ticked offf my ten plays list!), The Voyages of Marco Polo, Patchwork a couple of times, Murano, Kodama again and ended with another play of Port Royal.

Port Royal, Magnum Sal, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Patchwork and Murano were all new to me and all good games. Patchwork stood out as my favourite of the bunch with Port Royal and Marco Polo also particularly good fun. I can see Port Royal being popular at Games Night, so I might have to get that. As I expected, Kodama is growing on me the more I play it, I imagine I'll tick off the remaining 7 plays required to get to ten quite quickly.

Beer and Pretzels 2016

Sunday was a shorter day as I had to get the train home at 5:30, but I still managed another 9 games. We played Oh My Goods!, Kodama (again), Roll for the Galaxy (again), Burano, Kigi, Koi Pond, Port Royal (again), Hamsterbacke and Roll again!

Oh My Goods!, Burano and Hamsterbacke were all new to me and it's becoming clearer to me that I'm moving towards lighter games. I thought Oh My Goods! was great fun, and surprisingly deep for a little card game. Hamsterbacke was also very enjoyable with plenty of screwage.

Burano on the other hand (where I was flailing around completely unsure of what I was doing) I really didn't enjoy. It has a mechanism where at the start of each round you have a minute to build a pyramid of cubes which affected what actions you could take for the next 12-16 rounds. It was immensely frustrating since as a beginner I had no idea what to do and then ended up hamstrung for the next 45 minutes four times during the game. What's more, it's didn't seem to add anything to the game. Needless to say I am not a fan.


All in all a fantastic weekend. Patchwork was my favourite of eight new to me games, putting me well on the way to my 24 new to me games this year goal. We played three games three times: Kodama (which Paul bought after our play), Roll and Port Royal.

In addition, I spent 8 hours programming on my German language app on the train journeys and on Sunday morning!

Next week will be noticeably quieter!

Monday, May 16

Eu Volto

I'm back!

We had two weeks in the south of Portugal. The day we arrived (at 5pm) it was glorious. The next day was pretty good and then we had two weeks of very windy and overcast weather with occasional downpours. The day we left (at 8am) also looked glorious too. Ho hum. Apparently they had a heatwave in the UK in our absence!

Still despite the weather we had a lovely break and The Wife and I even managed some gaming after The Daughter had gone to bed and we introduced The Daughter to Jenga which she loved despite losing every game. I took Carcassonne: The Castle, Kodama: The Tree Spirits, Race for the Galaxy and Magic with us and we played one game of Kodama, several of Carcassonne and Race (two of our staples from when we used to play games together, pre-The Daughter) and unwrapped the Magic cards but lost interest before making decks, let alone playing. The Wife and I have played a lot of Magic in the past - especially when we lived in the US, but I think that's where it belongs now - we've moved on.

I kept up my Duolingo practice of both German and Portguese while I was away, along with reading His Dark Materials in German on the Kindle iPad app (with very frequent use of the in-built dictionary!). The German is going well, I've reached Chapter 4 of HDM and I kept practising with my German language app too.

Portuguese, sadly not so well. I'm about a quarter of the way through the Duolingo course, but I found I couldn't actually say anything useful ('The bill please', 'Can I park here for free', numbers, etc.). I knew quite a lot of words (when reading there was a bunch of stuff I was surprised I could understand), but I felt hopeless when it came to talking.  It's the first time I've used Duolingo to learn a language from scratch (I already knew quite a bit of German before starting the Duolingo course) and I've found it a lot less brilliant than I thought it was when doing the German course.

I've used this knowledge to pad out the list of stuff I want in my German language app. Lots more to do there!

This week I've a busy week of gaming planned: Wednesday I'm off to Manchester for work with Ian - there'll probably be some games on the iPad on the train, Games Night is moving to Thursday as a result and then Saturday and Sunday I'm going to Beer and Pretzels in Burton on Trent with Terry who I used to game with in Bedford when I lived there. Should be a great week!

Monday, May 9

Daniel Solis On Spec

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!

Monday, May 2

Off to Portugal

As expected this week was a fairly unproductive one, mostly spent doing frantic last minute preparation for our trip to Portugal today. I'm not particularly organised it turns out.

I did get a little bit of work done on my German language Windows Phone app, changing a couple of things that really bugged me about the functionality, improving the UI a bit and introducing a heinous bug. Sadly, I didn't have time to fix the bug ahead of the trip, so I'll have to work around it for the next couple of weeks while I'm away. I use my app on a daily basis so it will be particularly frustrating. Fixing it will be a priority on my return!

We did have a special Games Night on Wednesday to bid adieu to Amaury who has been coming to Games Night since the New Year. He's moving to Geneva shortly, which is apparently 'too far' to commute to Games Night. Wimp! We played games that were designed or published in France (he's French), including Pitch Car which was a blast. It was a great evening, he'll be sadly missed at Games Night, although I have to admit his amazing win ratio slightly less so!

I'm only taking four games to Portugal (space and weight is at a premium): Carcassonne The Castle, Magic The Gathering (a tiny subset of our collection), Kodama The Tree Spirits and Race for the Galaxy. I managed to cram them all in the Carcassonne box - efficient!

Not sure if I'll managed to blog next week, so have a good couple of weeks everyone!