The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Alone in Arle

with 3 comments

I traded for Fields of Arle last year in the middle of the pandemic (for real this time) … but upon opening the box I couldn’t actually summon the willpower to read the rules. They aren’t horrible, but I’d also just gotten and tried Caverna, proving that I’m a sucker. Anyway it’s a year later (ish) and I’ve managed to reclaim some gaming space away from the hordes of “work at home” computers. The TaoLing is off to college and on a day when the wife announced she had plans I decided to try some actual board game solitaire instead of more Slay the Spire or some other computer-based solitaire game.

And … you know what, Fields of Arle is yet another game in the Agricola line. Now I’m perfectly aware that the small subtle changes in rules (or costs) can have enormous impact on gameplay.

I just find myself not caring for this particular line.

Having (finally) read the rules, Arle may be a monstrously good 2 player game. You have winter and summer turns but the ability to the board seems tuned for 2 players. Letting a single worker (at most) place out-of-season at the cost of giving the opponent the start player next season seems brilliant. No family growth (etc) to unbalance things, lots of paths to score, the slight randomness in setup. I suspect it all works.

As a solitaire game I found it dull. In theory you could plot out all 9 seasons since there is no mid-game randomness. I don’t particularly enjoy doing really deep look-ahead, and given that the solitaire experience is … vaguely pointless? (Of course with two player you still have to look ahead, but its more a season or so. “I take space A, he probably takes B or C” etc. A real chess game — still a giant search tree, but I doubt that looking ahead a full game (or even three seasons) is feasible.

Rating (as a solo game) — Indifferent

Post-Script Debate Trigger — “Resolved: Uwe Rosenberg’s work has become self-derivative since Agricola.” (I really don’t want this to sound as harsh as it came out, but I don’t know a good way to say it).

I’m not actually sure where I stand on this. I like Agricola, generally liked the follow-on types (Le Havre suffered from a rather one dimensional route to victory, if I remember correctly) but the returns are definitely diminishing (even if not directly each time) and each game just feels like a different point-salad setting. Look at U.R.s first five games: Bohnanza, Bargain Hunter, Klunker, Mamma Mia, Babel. They don’t feel all the same (even if only one was a monster hit, they are all reasonably solid). Now it’s just “Variations on the theme of Worker Placement.” (I actually suspect that isn’t true, and that I’ve only noticed U.R.’s worker placement games, but … there sure are a lot of them).

I hope that Uwe invents another genre (even if it doesn’t catch on fire) instead of the Nth variation. Of course I must admit full culpability here … I’ve bought (or traded for) many of the Agricola style games, and none of the other ones. So I guess I should look in the mirror when placing blame.

Written by taogaming

November 13, 2021 at 5:25 pm

Posted in Reviews

Tagged with ,

Links — Spooky- and Non-

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Written by taogaming

October 31, 2021 at 8:30 am

Posted in Linky Love

An opportunity …

Playing in the Swiss Teams (with a new partner) I had an interesting defensive problem. I (as East) held the following

S: Txxx H: T8xx D: Axx C: Ax

and heard the following auction by the opponents

---   ---
1NT   2C  [1NT is 15-17 High Card Points]
2S    3S
4S    Pass

Partner led the club deuce and I saw the following dummy

S: Kxxx H: Txxx D: KQ8 C: xx

I won the club ace and continued with my club spot (the un-readable seven, IIRC). Partner — not being endowed with second sight — switched to a diamond … king – ace – small.

You’ve taken three tricks. Partner could have either major ace, in which case the hand is already over. But what do you do?

Amazingly, the correct answer is …. return a diamond and this is something you can figure out with the information at hand. Declarer has four spades (from the answer to stayman) and five clubs (assuming partner led fourth best). That makes her shape likely 4=2=2=5. Declarer has the Queen of clubs (since partner would have won the queen from KQxx) and the jack of clubs (since partner would have won the jack from KJxx.

If she has the diamond jack and the heart ace as well, she makes by 4 spades + 1 Heart + 2 Diamonds + 3 Clubs. So partner needs either the diamond jack or the heart ace. But not both! What if partner has the diamond jack and the heart king? You can see the end position after declarer runs spades and three more clubs…

Dummy H: J D: Q8

Partner H: K D: J9

Declarer H: Q D: T C: x (good)

When declarer leads the good club partner is squeezed in the red suits. Declarer doesn’t even need the heart queen or diamond ten … partner would have already thrown the queen of hearts earlier.

What if you lead a diamond and partner had the heart ace all long? Well, if declarer has the diamond jack, she only gets one pitch from dummy, so partner still gets the heart ace. The only time switching to a diamond costs a trick is if partner started with AQ of hearts … (if partner had the AK then the bidding makes no sense and partner would have led it). Even then we still set the contract (instead of down two). At teams, that’s fine.

What if declarer has a stiff heart and was 4=1=3=5 (allowable by the new ACBL rules if the heart singleton is an honor). Then declarer can’t get any pitches on the diamonds (if she has the jack) and will still lose a heart (unless she also has the ace, in which case nothing matters).

Nope, the absolutely correct play is to break up the squeeze at trick four by leading diamonds to break up communications. Now when declarer runs her black suit winners, partner can tell (once I pitch on the first club) what is declarers shape is and hold onto Kx of hearts and wait.

(You can also break up the squeeze by holding up the diamond ace at trick three, which means that the count is not rectified …this may get into some weird strip squeezes but in general will work).

Sadly, this was an opportunity lost because I woodenly shot back a heart at trick four. And partner had the magic hand J9 of diamonds and K of hearts. Making four on a squeeze. Only after the hand did I realize that I could have broken it up (two ways!).

Written by taogaming

October 12, 2021 at 5:14 pm

Posted in Bridge

“The thing about Bridge,” said the Rabbit …

“is that you can get lucky. No matter how good you play at Golf or Tennis or Billiards, you aren’t going to beat the pro. But in bridge sometimes your mistakes work out. And,” he added in a lower voice, “sometimes you get all the cards. The experts really hate that.”

I’ve been playing with Roxie recently, and we’ve been doing OK but — contra the Rabbit — you can also get unlucky. In the morning session we bid a decent slam If my club jack is in diamonds, its cold. If diamonds break, its cold. Neither is true. I’m also playing against a national champion, so no misdefense. After six tricks everyone just shrugs, we all know its down one. We did well enough to scratch, but there had been warnings. Novices getting to the right contracts. Diabolical suit splits. I should have paid attention.

Playing in the evening session (against a strong married couple) I picked up

S: Axx H: x D: AKQJxxx C: xx

RHO in first seat opened 3 Spades. Well, there was nothing to it. While 3 NT could go down quite a bit on a heart or club lead, why should LHO lead a heart or club after her partner bid spades? Unless she had a solid suit (or near so), I figured I’d get a spade lead and on said lead I figured to make eight tricks.

And — as thee saying goes — where there are eight tricks, there are usually nine.

So I bid 3NT. LHO passed and Roxie seemed to have a bit of a problem. Eventually she bid 6 Hearts, and RHO passed.

Roxie could have transferred to hearts and asked me something, but she’d set the contract. No doubt she had a void to shoot a slam, and I had more than a strong suspicion that void was diamonds. My hand would not be particularly welcome, I thought. If hearts didn’t break we could easily lose a heart and some other things. But it would be a grave breach to pull her bid to 6 NT. The stiff heart would be a sad note, but two small would be normal, so perhaps the suit would play for no losers. Still, I considered bidding, but passed.

When RHO tabled his card I said as I put down dummy: “Sometimes nobody does anything wrong and yet you get a ludicrous result.” I could see how the play went. RHO would lead a spade and Roxie would have to take some number of discards on diamonds, her sole entry to dummy being hit. But likely she could only cash two or three diamonds, not the four (or perhaps seven) tricks I had thought my hand worth.

But RHO had tabled …. the nine of clubs!

I put down dummy and it went small small to Roxie’s Ten. She then played down the AKQ of hearts. LHO followed twice and RHO followed three times. Roxie then played another heart, both opponents pitching spades. Roxie played another heart ….

“Diamonds Break,” RHO said helpfully. LHO started to put her hand away, but neither of them quite conceded the rest of the tricks and slowly it dawned on everyone that there was a reason that Roxie hadn’t claimed the rest, and so they pulled their hands back to their chest.

It may help to see Roxie’s hand:

S: — H: AKQxxxxx D: — C: AQTxx

After leading out her hearts Roxie had to lead a small club. RHO showed out. LHO won and returned a club, letting Roxie take the marked finesse but with clubs breaking 5-1 there was still a club to be lost.

Off one.

“What you said when you put down dummy, how did you know” asked RHO.

“Signs,” I said. “And Portents.”

Update — I’ve been informed that partner was in fact 8-5 instead of 7-6 (which doesn’t really change the play. I have updated the above). And in fact 6 hearts can be made. After winning the club cheaply Roxie plays the AK of hearts then the ace of clubs. If RHO trumps the club, he is endplayed and must give access to dummy. If not, Roxie plays her deuce of hearts to endplay him. (You play the ace of clubs first in case RHO has 9x of clubs).

Written by taogaming

October 9, 2021 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Bridge

RIP Jeff Goldsmith

Jeff Goldsmith passed away last night. This wasn’t a surprise — Jeff had been private about his battle with cancer but we’d been quietly informed before seeing him in August. Jeff is probably the person I name checked on this blog the most, his website on bridge is one of the most amusing sites related to bridge (and possibly gaming in general).

The notice put out by his friend put it best — “The communities he built will live on after him.” I only caught a glimpse of one or two of the communities he moved through, but he affected so many more.

Bridgewinners Obituary

Written by taogaming

October 2, 2021 at 10:58 am

Posted in Non-Gaming

Tagged with

Dyson Sphere Program Redux

My old laptop blew up, so I got a new computer. This coincided with a few weeks between jobs (I’m part of the “Great Resignation“), so I decided to revisit Dyson Sphere Program (see my earlier thoughts). According to steam (which tracks these things, and also has an annoying overlay that sometimes interferes with my game despite the fact I keep setting it to “No overlay”), I’ve played 60 hours (at roughly real time), so my current game is ~40 hours. I’m close to “the ending” (which isn’t actually building a dyson sphere, but done by solving the “Universal Matrix” (grand unifying theory of science in your Little Prince Universe, I guess). I’ve started the research, but — as happened with my first game of Factorio — I wasn’t really setup to grind out that much science, so its a slog to finish. (I need 4000 white science, which needs 4000 critical photons, which I’m generating at the rate of several per minute).

That being said, more thoughts:

  • The devs added copy/paste and blueprint functionality, which greatly enhances the gameplay experience. It isn’t perfect (by any means) but its much better than it was a year ago.
  • There are still sharp edges. Fractionators don’t use sorters but you run the belt directly through them, which is unlike anything else (etc). That threw me …. off to Reddit to look it up. Why are logistics not working? Off to reddit! (etc etc)
  • There are a few ‘fake intermediate’ products. (An intermediate product serves no intrinsic purpose but is necessary for other items, so Factorio has Green Circuits, Red Circuits, Blue Circuits, Engines, etc. Engines are used to make cars, trains, some science, and electric engines, which are used in robots. Green circuits are used in all simple electronics devices, etc). But DSP has intermediate products that are used in only one product, which creates ‘false complexity’ IMO. There are also some alternate recipes, but you typically can’t find the raw ingredients until you are well past the point of caring. And there are some intermediates you’ll need to make massive production, and often you can’t tell until you’ve played the game once or twice which is which.
  • The science timing doesn’t really work. When you unlock a science you can quickly (over an hour or so) knock out all of the upgrades/sciences that requires it. Then your science sits stagnate because the bottle neck is setting up production of the next science type (which has several intermediate steps) and also taking advantage of the new perks of the old science. To be fair, Factorio also suffers from this. (My suspicion is that upping the cost would drive off new players, but old hands and automation have ‘solved’ this). My last game of Factorio I played with 3x research costs, which made the game feel nicer. Not nothing …. nothing nothing … mad rush of all the new sciences … nothing nothing nothing….
  • The early game is too slow even on my second play through. Your construction drones are tediously slow.
  • The Dyson Swarm/Sphere editor is esoteric, to say the least and how you calculate energy received from it is complex enough that even the “pros” like Nialus need plenty of time to explain it.

DSP is still a good sandbox game. Once I finally “win” I will likely start a new game and try to build more effectively and use a Dyson Swarm (which I skipped) and finish a sphere. It’s not bad. But it could be much better.

DSP feels like it needs another “Bomb” in the game design sense (I don’t have the link to that original article anymore ….). A bomb is a sharp breakpoint, a game changer.

In Factorio, once you have construction robots, the ‘time cost’ of building stuff drops drastically! (Hurray!) So you can just double (or 10x) your smelting by copy/pasting. Of course you pay other costs of (power consumption, etc). But now the game isn’t about running around as much, you can slap down blueprints and let the bots do the tedious work. You get to design. But in DSP you start with construction bots that are horrendously slow and can improve them (both in speed and number). Your bombs are intra planetary logistics (don’t need belts), interplanetary logistics (necessary to build a multi-planet system) and finally interstellar logistics (by adding warpers).

But you are still have to layout belts and miners to collect resources (just as before) and you are still limited by your (admittedly faster and more numerous) drones. You never get a “bomb” technology something that says “Oh, your logistic towers will automatically mine an area around them if you get it.” So even after constructing a Dyson Sphere you still personally run around to slap down iron miners? (Maybe you have a blueprint to speed it up, but still).

In this game you can mine gas giants. There is literally nothing to do but go to it, fly around and place orbital stations that suck up gas. Each gas giant can have a maximum of 36 (??) they only go at the equator and have to be 10 degree apart (and they have no terrain etc). Maybe you can have 72. But I still have to fly to the gas giant and place them by hand. Why not just shoot them off at some point? After all, I can do that with the Dyson swarm/sphere. It feels like another fake interaction.

And I still sometimes miss planets when I fly. (Or run out of fuel halfway, which is basically just a restart from last save level of annoying)> Yes, you can go faster and faster (and ‘warp” between systems, but you have to aim/remember to fuel up. Where’s the “autopilot/teleporter?” bomb? Setting up the first colony is a 30s-3m flight (depending on how your solar system is set up) and then laying out miners/etc. Once you go interstellar, its the same thing, but your flight is covering light years, but sheesh, after the 10th time give me something that makes it automatic (or at least less painful).

Anyway, if this sounds like I don’t like DSP, that’s not right. It’s fun, and clever, but it just needs that polish and oomph to make it great. I don’t necessarily want to fight aliens (ala Factorio) but I want the experience to feel like it grows over time, not just “OK, grind it out.”

Rating Suggest (assuming you have a good graphics card), but I hope it gets better. I’ll probably get to 100 hours on this by the end of the year.

Update — Finished at 51 hours. A few more things that crossed my mind:

  • There are production charts (by planet or system or total) which are nice, but it would be good to have a measure of deliveries (like, this planet exported X units of Coal in the last 10 minutes). It’s tough to trace the logistics. The main reason I’m restarting is that I have no idea where anything is and too many haphazard builds. I spend ten minutes looking for my Titanium Steel setup (on the main world).
  • The ability to label the map (even with just icons) would be great. It was a huge add in Factorio.
  • Logistics bots would be nice, or even a “provider” chest where you could just drop your excess trash and it would get sorted back into the system (like a supply only intraplanetary post). But eventually stuff is so cheap you just throw away that excess steel you spent an hour setting up rather than run around to recycle it….that’s fine from a game design perspective but a bit unsatisfying in a game about efficiency.
  • Found that article on “Bombs” in game design. Man, its nearly 20 years old….

Written by taogaming

September 21, 2021 at 4:46 pm

Why licensed property (‘tie-in’) games are usually bad

A reddit thread asked if there were any good games based on movies and noted that Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corp was bad. (It’s actually pretty well rated on BGG, but none of my geekbuddies have commented one way or another, so I have no real basis to judge. I’d never heard of it).

I’ve generally had (and followed!) a “don’t buy games based on licensed IP until they are proven good” meta-rule (of which movies are very common example). There are good (even great) games using licensed IP (Battlestar Galactica, Jaws, some LotR games), but I actually didn’t really have reasons for my meta-rule. I’d just noticed that most licensed games were bad a decade — or more — ago. That thread led me to ask Why?

I remember reading Tyler Cowen (of Marginal Revolution, who wrote the DC dining guide) gave guidelines for finding good restaurants. One of his rules was that a hole-in-the-wall dive in a strip center would often be good …. a small business would spend as little as possible on rent or amenities (or help) and just pour their limited resources into making good food. That certainly seems to apply. Licenses are (presumably) expensive. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to skimp on game design (like a restaurant might have to skimp on rent) but for many games companies, why bother?

(Another rule: avoid restaurants full of beautiful people, because they would often not need to have good food. The restaurant itself had become a status symbols. This may also apply).

Another concern is that the license imposes additional constraints on the game development. If you have a great idea for a worker placement game, how does tacking on a movie theme help? Making a great game is hard, and the additional constraint may make it harder.

Counter point — sometimes constraints lead to great art. The aforementioned BSG is an excellent and fairly-early example of a social deduction game. In this case the mechanisms (social deduction) tie in beautifully with the theme (“Who is a Cylon?” and “You might be without even knowing it!”).

So one possible extension of the rule is “Does the game’s theme tie in with the license?” or more specifically “Could this game have swapped its license out for some other IP?” If you could hot-swap the Aliens from “Another Glorious Day in the Corp” with fast zombies (etc), then why license the Aliens? A cynical take (and we have plenty of those here at Casa de Tao) is that “we licensed it because our game is mediocre but people like Aliens(tm)!”)

(My most cynical answer is — “Most games are bad, why should licensed games be any different?” But in reality most games are mediocre; but licensed games are often terrible).

If the license ties in well, there’s a decent chance that the designer loves the license and/or was inspired by it. (Even in the case where a company got a license and then hired a gun to fit something to it. I’m looking at you Reiner and Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (which was good).

Looking back on my reviews of Nemesis and Who Goes There I have a number of thoughts:

  • Nemesis (the better game) doesn’t actually license Aliens (I think). It rips it off! Why pay for the license when “a monster is loose on your spaceship” can be generic? Their are no character names (like Ripley, Dallas, etc) just generic stuff. The xenomorph’s life cycle is clearly inspired by Aliens …. but the ship is just a ship, not the Nostromo, etc. (HR Giger’s estate seems like they’d have a cause for action from the artwork if it isn’t licensed, but I’m not about to wade into IP law for my own personal edification).
  • For all I know Who Goes There licenses the short story and not the movie, which would be much cheaper (although I assume that The Thing licenses go for much less than Alien/Aliens, but the short story would be even cheaper!). (The game uses the character names, but the artwork is all original…) Still not a great game, but that would at least match the dining guide’s rules of going for the cheap license.

One final issue that licensed games have — licensing is kind of a nightmare that game developer’s don’t want to deal with. In this I’m particularly thinking of The Princess Bridge RPG where the author (and publishing company) had to jump through hoop after hoop after hoop to satisfy the license’s legal restrictions, then the license holder’s other demands, but finally got a game published …. only for the license holder to give up the gaming license, meaning that no future work could be done.

If you are a talented game designer, you’d ask yourself “Why bother?” (paying the fee, having to abide by some extra legal and corporate restrictions, etc) unless you really thought that the license was the Dude’s rug and “ties the whole thing together?” If you come up with a game and say “Man, this license makes it really shine and will elevate the whole thing” then the license gets added to an already good game (assuming you are accurate at judging the designs). But most of the time the license is an upsell with a game tacked on, so that’s why most licensed games are bad.

Written by taogaming

September 8, 2021 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Rant, TV & Media

An unlikely bridge event

Playing with Roxie, in the second round the director is playing with a new-ish player (“Joe”) who doesn’t have a partner. As with any new-ish opponent, you hope they have to make decisions and it works out as well as we could have hoped.

  • The first board, Joe leads K from Kxx in partners suit. This gives partner a trick (that she could have technically taken herself, but would not have, on the bidding). We score a co-top. (7.5 out of a possible 8).
  • The second board Joe misbids to land in a contract he might have gotten to anyway for a poor score. He misplays to turn that into another co-top for us. 7.5/8)
  • On the third board, Joe makes a takeout double which I redouble (to show 9-11 points, as I’m a passed hand). When Joe bids again at the three level, I have an easy penalty double and don’t have to share the top with anyone this time. 8/8.

Roxie and I win N/S with 63% (one or two of our decisions don’t work out, but most of them are correct and do work out, and a near-perfect round like that certainly helps. We only have one below average round when I forget that a takeout doubler was a passed hand, and make a bad assumption based on it, and even that round was 40%…)

Winning East/West with 65% is … Joe and his partner! Their round by round percentages (remember, 50% is an average round) were 65, 81, 75, 77, 85, 04 (vs us), 81, 56, and 60! Amazing!

Written by taogaming

September 6, 2021 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Bridge, Session Reports

The Tao of Gaming Labor Day ’21 Sale

Mayhaps there is something of interest to you. (It is past time where I admit I’m not playing these games again unless an opponent already has a copy. And — as usual — this is spurred on by the recent dramatic housecleaning which has led us to wonder “Do we really need this” and dump box after box of games / books / other stuff to the trash, library, goodwill, or sales. I got rid of ~20 games at a flea market today for a few bucks and a copy of It’s a Wonderful World, which Mrs. Tao likes).

Written by taogaming

September 4, 2021 at 9:45 pm

Posted in Administration

Tagged with

Gathering of Friends ’21 recap

I already mentioned Nemesis and Who Goes There, but here are some brief thoughts on the other games I played last week. Unless otherwise mentioned, I played each game once. Surprisingly, I liked a fair number of the games.

City of the Big Shoulders: My second play. I think this is a fine Euro intro to 18xx, but the resource track just doesn’t work. It’s too easy for someone to block a company by buying all but one resource from each box. Maybe that means you should focus on getting the improvements that get you cubes but this game really just needs a Power Grid style market. But if you play with a gentleman’s agreement to not mess with that, it kind of works. (Arguably companies that start in later turns should also get some prestige bump). And the fact that there is no train rusting makes this a bit ‘loose’ but the worker placement game feels OK. I think this is solidly indifferent, but worth a play now and again.

Dice Realms: Played a near-production copy. I mean, this is a Tom Lehmann game, so it’s an automatic buy (even at $120). This is “Dominion with dice” (where you pop off and replace die faces). My main worry is that most of the time will be spent trying to remember which die face is where and fiddling with it (although it was relatively easy to do, I still think that this will be an X-minute game where X/2 of your time is strictly mechanical …. find face to upgrade, pop off, replace … and then a few minutes to re-set the game). Still, I expect I’ll get at least a few dozen games and fifty is always a possibility, even if it is too late. Assuming it makes it to the stores in time for winter break, this will likely be the game I play with the TaoLing when he is back from college. Cautiously enthusiastic.

Finito: This is a fast little dice game. You put a numbered marker (1-12) on the space on a number line that was rolled on a d20 (OK, a bingo card). If the number is covered, you move to the next higher/lower space. Once all the numbers are placed, you move a number to the number rolled. Each player does this simultaneously (ala Take it Easy) and the first to get their numbers in order wins. Cute little filler. Indifferent.

High Frontier for All: I liked HF3, and I like the improvements to HF4. The contracts are a good jump start. Making a contract auction also tied to a political action means the politics system matters (although I don’t particularly care for it, as I think for a game this long sudden claim jumping is just annoying). But I certainly don’t care enough to buy a new version for a few changes. I think High Frontier is now in the “This is a decent once every year or two game.” Indifferent.

Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile: Oath is a fun experience, and I’m not at all sure it’s a good game. Great art. Great ideas. I played twice (and the set we used played a few different games between). It was fun seeing the world slowly change from game to game, but that means that a random set could be grossly imbalanced in such a way that if you played the last game on the set and other’s didn’t, it would be unfair. (“Those who do not know their history are doomed to discover that there really aren’t any nomads in the game, so maybe they shouldn’t have drafted the nomad king.” Or some such). My first concern in my two games is that I really need a flowchart to explain the victory conditions, which don’t seem that hard, but appear to be have been poorly translated from some heathen mashup of Aramaic, Esperanto and Klingon.

And I also didn’t care for the fact that I won my first game only because the game ended on the only turn I could have possibly won it (and nearly won my second game that way). I’m not particularly attached to the “games must be fair” school and Cole Wehrle certainly doesn’t seem to be, either. But it still makes me suspect that most of the fun comes from before and after the game, not during it. This might still be a total blast with a group that played a game a week (or month, etc). And it spins off stories like nobodies business. If you play 7 games of this and could write well, you might easily have the next bestselling fantasy series. I’m going to say Suggest, even though I’m not sure. Also, because of some conversations around this (and other games), I’m listening to the Revolutions podcast.

Obsession: aka Building Downton Abbey (etc). You try to build up your mansion and social status which requires various types of workers, entertaining high ranking guests, etc. There wasn’t anything wrong with this; I can’t even say that the point salad bothered me. But neither was there anything that captured my attention. Indifferent.

Scout: A cute little climbing card game. Cards are 1-10 but you can flip your hand over (each card is like a domino, two numbers, no two cards the same). But you can’t re-order it. If you can’t beat the prior meld (single card, two card runs, pairs, three card runs, trips, etc) they get a point and you steal one card from the end of the prior meld and add it to your hand. (Once a round you can steal and add). If you can beat a meld, you get one point per card you take. When someone goes out, cards in hand are negative points. I actually liked this. Suggest.

Sheep & Garden: A Japanese game in the vein of Carcassonne. The quirk is that each player has a secret goal and each neighbor around the table share a goal (so with 4 players, there are 8 goals in play, and you earn points for only three of them). Even though I don’t think I’ve played Carcassonne since the year it came out, I’d suggest this.

Sorcerer City : A deck-building game with tiles? A real time tile-laying game with purchasing? Both? I thought this was clever, but I am too slow to enjoy it. Indifferent.

War Chest: An chess-like abstract, but you pull tiles from a bag to tell you which pieces you can activate. But before that you draft to see which four out of the eight pieces you have (and there are sixteen types in the base game, so good variety). I’m not a big abstract fan (or rather, I like my abstracts to be classics like Go), but I enjoyed this. Suggest.

It’s a Wonderful World : This should really be called “It’s a Seven Wonders-ful world.” (I’m assuming the Lawyers nixed that). This is a case where one small change has huge implications — You draft all seven cards and then decide which to keep (and build) and which to discard for building material. But you can build your cards incrementally. No need to get that massive VP card built now, end of game will suffice. There are four rounds (unlike 7 Wonders 3) but all the cards are just slammed together and there are lots of extras, so my suspicion is that this is much more random than it’s predecessor (the fact that I came in second despite not really understanding the building rules until after the first round of play is some evidence in my favor). I think Oath was the hit of the Gathering (but not a run-away hit like Settlers, Puerto Rico, Caylus, etc) …. but this also seemed to get a good amount of play. I’m indifferent but intrigued.

Yellow and Yangtzee: Knizia’s re-do of Euphrat und Tigris on a hex map with a bunch of tweaks. They all work. I think this is a fine variant to a great game, so this is also Suggest.

Where do I turn in my curmudgeon card? In my defense, I’m probably not going to rush out and buy any of these games (Dice Realms excepted) although with Oath that’s mainly because I don’t think I’ll have a group play it enough.