The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Archive for the ‘Session Reports’ Category

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

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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

Tagged with


I played this with the local 18xx enthusiasts last night. I actually wondered if I had ordered this, but it turns out I had not. (I have pre-ordered 1848, but I should probably go and cancel under the theory that there will likely be 2+ copies here locally anyway). Some quick thoughts on 1862:

  • Our (5p) first game took 4h, not including a bit of rules reading. Should be able to trim an hour or so from this once the rules become second nature.
  • Lots of variability here. If my combinatorics are correct (unlikely) there are nearly 9 quadrillion possible setups, which means that if everyone on earth played a game a day, our nations would erupt into war and lose vast amounts of GDP without even making a dent in the chances of playing the same setup twice.
  • Some rules questions — Given that any player can apparently open up as many auctions as you like in a parlimentary round, why does the game open with two of them? We also spent a bit of time clarifying things, but overall it wasn’t bad given the sheer number of differences from a typical 18xx.
  • Things I liked:
    • The stock market double, triple, quadruple jumps let companies catch up.
    • Mergers as a dynamic are always interesting (see also,  Indonesia)
    • The novel train mechanism where some companies want direct routes and others want meandering routes, coupled with a tight board.
    • The “re-running track but no double counting cities” route mechanism, which rewards mergers (since companies get rights to multiple train types), which encourages mergers even though the financials force players to take a haircut in stock value after a merge.
    • The “two ways to capitalize”
    • The variable setup
    • The warranty rule (the ability to buy a few extra turns before a train rusts, but you must prepay).
  • Potential worrying aspect:
    • Somewhat nitpicky corner cases in rules (possibly)
    • It seemed like a reasonable strategy may just be “start fast cash company, buy up any IPO stock after it appreciates, then dump everything into the bank and start again.”

Regarding the last point, I was running away with the game when the train rush hit and had a company with a soon-to-expire D train, when another company got dumped on me. I could have dumped both for £2000 (maybe a bit shy, but certainly enough to found 1 or 2 big companies), but I decided to keep one and merge my new company with it to get two different permanent trains (an express and a freight). This was OK, but it meant I had ~5 less certs for 3 ORs, and despite having 70% of the best company I lost by 20% or so. I think if I’d just dumped everything and went for a boring two new companies route, I would have won.

It is early to make such a bold claim, but it is worrying. (I suspect a part of my problem is that you want to merge in ORX.3, not ORX.1, so you have timing to re-acquire a portfolio.

I take it as a good sign that Joe R. and Jeroen both rate this very highly.

Rating — Enthusiastic (and may even pick up a copy, and would certainly trade for it).

Written by taogaming

December 10, 2019 at 6:03 pm

Posted in 18xx, Session Reports

Tagged with


Not a huge surprise (in that fifty games can be done in under twenty hours), but not one I was counting on.

I think I’m 5-15 hours away from finishing the remaining list, and I’ve got two months. (I actually thought I was done with another game or two, but I realized I’d likely miscounted). Thankfully the holidays are upon us. But we also have the Gloomhaven expansion…

Written by taogaming

December 1, 2019 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Session Reports

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Some recent thoughts

I played the actual Shades of Tezla light and darkness scenario. I don’t like the new orc/monster/dragon tokens scattered into the base game (because they make the variability much higher) but in a scenario designed for them, it was fine. But the rulebook font is so small that basically the TaoLing has to read everything for me now. (It was tough to read even when I bought it….)

Played another game of Race: Xeno Invasion (cards only). I should play more Race. Ditto Baseball Highlights:2045.

Apparently Favor of the Pharoah was a gift at a recent game convention, because many locals now have a copy, so I played it a few more times. I think its an improvement over To Court the King, but the setup is a pain.

Reading many new bridge books. Most are on card play, but I did buy Five Card Majors the Scanian Way, and it has many new ideas and a definite philosophy. (‘Scanian’ approximates ‘Scandanavian,’ possibly meaning mainly Swedish. I think.)

Hank and I use transfer bids in competition (transfer advances and after takeout doubles); the Scanians have more including over 1C without competition, which has some proponents in ACBL land and I would play when playing Standard, if any partner wanted to. Scanian also includes switch bids: oftentimes hearts means clubs and vice versa, especially in competition.

There are parts that are likely not legal in ACBL-land (like Multi-) … actually I stared at the new ACBL regs and Multi seems to be legal by the rules but not by the commentary. Also putting 18-19 balanced into the 2C opening. But even if you strip it down to legal, building a system to allow more judgement and multiple ways to bid the same shape and strength (depending on how the HCP are distributed) is intriguing. Also fun are fit jumps (jumps showing the suit bid and a fit with opener’s suit). Of course this is likely for interest only to serious tournament players, and even then most won’t care.

Written by taogaming

November 2, 2019 at 5:33 pm