The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Archive for the ‘Session Reports’ Category

Quick Hits

Lizard Wizard — Way too long. From the makers of “Racoon Tycoon” and I spent most of my time trying to come up with good rhyming “Animal Occupation” titles to expand their series. That part was fun. Avoid. (I am told that Racoon Tycoon is incredibly similar but faster…)

Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun — The central mechanism (dice of various colors around an obelisk that whose shadow slowly turns, and the dice may become unavailable depending on whether they in the obelisks shadow or not) is clever. That being said, the rules were just massive options that really didnt’ seem to matter, point salad, and cool ideas that don’t matter too much. I frankly couldn’t bring myself to care. Avoid, but perhaps could be talked up to indifferent on a good day.

So Clover — A decent coop word game filler, that I would be happy to play again. Suggest.

Written by taogaming

December 6, 2021 at 11:35 pm

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


At the Bridge Club yearly Luau I am playing with Roxie against very nice newcomers … so before the round I congratulate them for playing and generally encourage them. (New players are rare and valuable). Rather unfortunately, the first two hands against them have belonged to us, so we get to routine, average-ish contracts (although likely pick up a bit on one hand against a misdefense). In an earlier round the pair who don’t have a firm grasp of their own system have the hands, which gives us good results as they can’t bid them. I was hoping for a repeat….

Then I pick up the sort of hand that bridge players dream of, but rarely see….

S: — H:A7 D:AKJT9x C:QT762

Not many high card points, but bursting with potential. I am dealer, vulnerable vs not, and I have an easy One Diamond opening. My LHO bids One Spade and Roxie is there with Three Diamonds. We play that as pre-emptive, but red vs white it should have something of note. My right hand opponent bids Four Spades.

Roxie should have at least four diamonds for her bid, and five is more reasonable, so I’m losing at most a heart. Losing three clubs would be unlucky but possible, but it takes very little for my hand to make slam (particularly if I get a spade lead). KJ of clubs would do nicely. Red vs White its just possible partner has more (a side king, even).

Since I think slam is still in the picture (remotely) but also that I’m expecting to have a good chance to make, I bid Five Clubs. This should help Roxie know that clubs honors would be welcome offensively. LHO passes, Roxie declines to push for slam with Five Diamonds and RHO is there with Five Spades.

Is Five Spades making? Well, if Roxie doesn’t have anything in clubs, she should have a card or two in spades and hearts, and those would both work. I have two aces (although its possible the diamond ace may not cash). I think if five spades makes we’re getting a bad result, so I’ll try to protect our position. I double.

LHO passes and Roxie contemplates this and pulls to Six Diamonds. This goes to LHO, who bids Six Spades. This comes back to me, and I don’t think my logic has changed. Admittedly they are one level higher, but against that I suspect that someone is void of diamonds. And the new players may just be horribly misbidding. In any case, I’m likely only risking a matchpoint by doubling, so I double again and nobody has anything else to say.

Partner leads the eight of clubs….

Dummy: S: Kxxxx H:K8xx D:x C:Axx

Roxie: S:xx H:xxx D:Qxxxxx C:8x Me: S:– H:Ax D:AKJT9x C:QT762

Declarer: S:AQJT9x H:QJT9 D:– C:KJx

After winning the club in hand (covering my queen with the king) declarer pulled trumps in two rounds and then lead the H9 to the HK, which I won. When the diamond ace didn’t cash, I still had hopes that partner had the heart queen or jack (and that declarer misplayed), but eventually declarer took the rest for a score (for them) of 1660.

I should have simply passed five spades, I had already bid my (shapely) fourteen count to the five level opposite a pre-emptive hand (and while part of me wants to say that CHO should have perhaps bid four diamonds, that bid could easily be a disaster red vs white). The silver lining? Doubling did only cost a single matchpoint. Still, that number was a bit more encouragement than I like to give out, new pair or not.

Written by taogaming

August 8, 2021 at 11:08 pm

Posted in Bridge, Session Reports

Dyson Sphere Program

So, as I mentioned before, I got Dyson Sphere Program. This is the latest in the (growing) line of Automation games, which I guess was started by Minecraft, but as far as I’m concerned, started with Factorio (which I’ve now been playing for 4 years). How much time have I spent playing DSP in the last few days? That depends on how you keep time.

Because it turns out … my computer doesn’t have a powerful enough graphics card to play it. Which is to say … my laptop has no graphics card. Unlike Factorio (which tries to run at a set speed, and sometimes drops frames if the graphics get complicated), if DSP slows down due to graphics issues, the game slows down. I first noticed this when I said “Huh, I’ve only been playing for 40 minutes according to the game, feels longer.” It was closer to two hours. So I’m either four hours into the game, or fifteen hours, or somewhere in between.

Look — this is a game where you start by chopping down some trees and rocks and eventually build a Dyson Sphere, so you have to scale up. If you already know you love/hate that, nothing will change. However, a few thoughts.

At the four hour mark (etc) I have literally just started my first Dyson Swarm and have unlocked (but not yet started) the third “Science” type (which you need to unlock more advanced technologies).

  • Its pretty. If you have a graphics card, its pretty and runs at a normal speed. I stood for a few seconds watching my EM rail guns launching solar sails over the horizon (100m away) into the setting sun. (There’s a reddit thread for prettiest screenshot, and some of the entries are amazing).
  • The twists (from Factorio’s POV) are threefold:
    • The planets are tiny little things (think “The Little Prince”) so the curvature of the planet matters. You literally cannot put more than twenty or so assemblers in a parallel line before one of the lines has to jog. (I don’t know the exact number). And they aren’t perfectly level either (apart from just water and crevasses).
    • You can build UP. Conveyor belts can stack at levels, some buildings can be stacked, etc.
    • You can (fairly quickly) unlock technology to sail between planets. Factorio has “outposts for resources” but here you can’t lay a conveyor belt back to the main base. You either have to literally hand carry everything back and forth, or build an interstellar logistic system. (If you are running at normal speed, a trip might take a minute or two).
  • It’s an early access games, so the controls leave much to be desired. No mappable hotkeys, confusing tutorials, etc. I almost uninstalled it before even landing on the starting planet, because how to navigate to it was not obvious, and I missed and wasn’t clear how to turn around. Right now this game is a dancing bear, because there so much of it works … sort of.
  • There are many … many recipes and ingredients. There are maybe 100 intermediate components (things that don’t do anything, just a step along the path to the next thing). Factorio felt overwhelming the first few times in this, but this is a level above.
  • You start with robots to build stuff, but its much slower than clicking to place (especially in my case). You have to tech up to make them fast. They really need blueprints though, because controlling everything by hand likely won’t scale well. Copy-Paste!

Anyway, I don’t think this will be a thousand hour experience, because I’m not zen enough, but I don’t consider my money wasted. I have little hope that the devs (a five person team) will make it fast enough that my laptop will suddenly be good enough, but I can while away a few hours here and there.

Written by taogaming

February 6, 2021 at 7:27 pm

A followup to 1846 strategy

I have now lost an 1846 game by the scores of $6616 to $6614. So, yeah, I want my two dollars.

Written by taogaming

July 27, 2020 at 2:30 pm

Posted in 18xx, Session Reports

Tagged with

Jackbox Games

For a family “Get together” last night we played some games at It took me longer than I care to admit to realize that this was by the same people who did You Don’t Know Jack. And there’s still cleverness, but these games are not trivia and firmly in the party genre. (I suspect that’s for economic reasons. Trivia games require scripting and jokes for each question, weighing the potential answers, etc. Party games just require reading the questions and having enough stock reactions to deal with it, while letting the players provide the answers.)

Anyway — well executed (although lag was a real problem in our house, but that may have been bad coverage, as you play using your phones or computers and most used phones). The cleverest little game — which I’m sure is a party game somewhere — is “Split the House” where you want to come up with an answer that evenly divides the audience, but there were others.

Anyway, I suspect that if this would interest you then you already knew about it. But just in case…..

Written by taogaming

July 5, 2020 at 10:04 am

Posted in Session Reports

Tagged with

Minor Gaming, Minor Update

I played a few 1862 games solo (with possibly correct rules). In one game I had a ridiculously good tableau with the four closed areas being the three Leeds RRs and the WstI&CL, so the NW quadrant was blocked but the board wildly free. Towards the end I was tired and didn’t optimize (I really need to write an app to handle the cards, its a pain) so I missed the Yokozuna title by something like £9. But … I’ve also played over a dozen games 2p, so now I’m not as interested in solo. Still, a good game to have picked up.

Since it was Spring Break I took the TaoLing to game night and played (non-1862) board games for a few hours myself for the first time in over a month (according to BGG).

Quacks of Quedlinburg — Still a luckfest, but I must admit this is enjoyable enough that I’m moving my rating from indifferent to indifferent-plus. But If I bought this I’d be playing this 2p with the TaoLing all the time (he loves it), and I don’t think I love it that much. But this would be a good once/month game.

Magic Maze — My thoughts on this are exactly the same as Quacks, except that this is the opposite of a luck fest. This is a good “every now and then” game, but needs the right crowd.  Unfortunately playing it rarely means that it is practically impossible to have the right crowd, as people communicate way more than the game should allow. But it was good to play again.

Rallyman: GT — When this was pulled out with six players I was instantly wary. Rallyman practically defined “Fixed Fun Games” for a year, and is barely playable with 3p, much less 4p. When I pointed this out, I was told “Oh, don’t worry, GT is simultaneous play.” This was a bold faced lie, but I (retroactively, and magnanimously) applaud the intent of having everyone (even your humble narrator) sit down for a game. And — in the speaker’s defense — he set up a track that was done in a reasonable amount of time. Apart from the production values and the introduction of braking dice (apparently done in Rallyman: Dirt), this is close enough to scratch the same itch, and makes me want to run some Rallyman solo, so I might. But unlike seconds and staggered start this is a straight forward “first past the post” race (with some clever turn order rules that reward being in high gear), so I believe the original game is better, assuming you don’t have to six players. (My articles on Rallyman).

At this point other games were played, but I had turned into a pumpkin, so my story ends here.



Written by taogaming

March 10, 2020 at 7:57 am

Posted in Session Reports

Some quick actual game thoughts

Karuba — Still good. I just found out about the ‘hard mode’ (you must build the paths from the explorers out) and enjoy it.

Roll to the Top! — I’m not a huge “Roll and Write” guy, but this (with it’s Take it Easy simul nature) seems like a great example of the genre.

Gambit Royale — An improvement over Ruse and Bruise, but not a big one. The problem is that there are so many 20-30 minute fillers that are actually good. Gave away my copy.

China — Web of Power is a classic, and this was the easiest way to re-acquire it.

1862 is almost a dime for the year already, but I do want to play another few multi-player games (instead of 2er).

Written by taogaming

February 3, 2020 at 9:19 pm

City of the Big Shoulders

During the annual-local-New Years Eve-gaming-bash, I got to try City of the Big Shoulders. I’m assuming most of my readers know/are aware of this, so let me just summarize the rules in a few lines:

  • An 18xx like system (of Stock Rounds and Operating Rounds) but no track, and exactly five turns.
  • In between in SR/OR there is a Worker Placement stage where each player can take 2-5 actions, each one affecting a company they control (with the company often paying money).  These workers (called patrons) can take actions on the board (pay to the bank) or a player-built building (pay the owner). Among those actions is a Power-Grid style labor market, and you’ll need workers (or automation) to get your factories to run. There are also specialized workers (like managers, who provide a bonus to a run factory; or salesmen, who increase the price you deliver goods for).
  • Companies can also acquire Capital assets, but most only have one asset slot (if at all). Assets have an immediate benefit (usually a worker or automation), as well as a once/turn power. A company with no asset slots can still be one for the immediate bonus.
  • The Operating Round has a mini-game where companies buy raw ingredients to turn into finish goods and deliver them to tiles. But companies can also get ingredients/goods during the WP stage.

Scoring is — as in 18xx — total cash plus stock value at the end.

This game is simpler than its rulebook, at least, to anyone with knowledge of 18xx. But the book managed to scatter rules around in odd places so that I wasn’t quite sure until I’d scanned it later. I’m still not sure if we handled the worker market right, because it felt like a glut happened. It may have just been random chance, but I feel like we missed a rule.

The components look nice. It may have been a blinged out Kickstarter copy.

And after the game — I’m not sure. I enjoyed it, but there are some concerns:

  1. The aforementioned issue with workers.
  2. The typical Worker Placement problem of someone getting more workers may be problematic.
  3. The way that goods are bought (bins of $10-$20-$30-$40-Futures where once a bin empties, the remaining bins slide down), coupled with the way companies are ordered is very chaotic.
  4. Companies without the ability to own Capital Assets seem much worse, but that’s just a snap judgement.

Each system works, I’m just not sure they work well together.

I looked at my geekbuddies comments and I like Eric’s comment that the lack of train rusting means that they’ve removed a critical bomb. I think they bomb may still be there (in the nature of the goods market) or in the race to get a 3rd/4th/5th Patron.

And there are some things I do really like:

  • The 20% preferred share that can be owned by anyone but the director of a company. (That would be delicious in an 18xx that encouraged dumping!)
  • The “bonus dividend” action

Rating — Right now suggest until I get a better feel for the game. This would also make a great introduction to people who wanted to try heavier business games.

Written by taogaming

January 1, 2020 at 7:28 pm

Tik-Tok goes the clock

Forty-Seven and Forty-Eight of the “Fifty-by-Fifty” arrived over the weekend….

Written by taogaming

December 31, 2019 at 9:23 am

Posted in Session Reports

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