The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

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What happens in Stationfall, stays in Stationfall

…mainly because so few people live.

I’ve played a number of 2p games with the TaoLing (back from college for Spring Break). Like the cyborg says, I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.

  • A tentacled horror climbed into the station from the void, only to be instantly firebombed on the next action by the Inspector. The Psychic Rat then mind-controlled the Engineer (carrying the rat) and Inspector into the fire, where the rat gleefully watched the flames consume all of its enemies. Well, some of them.
  • The Astrochimp “accidentally” discharged his gun in a shuttle, damaging it right as it launched. Oops.
  • The Colonel achieving everything he could have possibly wanted, including have the Legal robot give him an NDA (after said Robot had been dumped into magnetic containment, erasing its prior loyalty!), only to discover that the Stranger had methodically disabled the remaining shuttles.
  • The pirate code? It’s really more of a guideline.
  • So. Many. Incoming. Missiles.
  • The phrase “I’m pretty safe here,” is just asking for trouble. (Gun through airlock, tentacle through vent …. firebombs all over the place).
  • “Can I borrow your gun?” “Sure” “Thanks.” (Shoots giver). (Pro tip — at least in a 2p game, if your character has a gun, you really should consider revealing).
  • I don’t know what the count of people who died because they needed one more minute is, but its high.
  • An apparently dominant victory (18-4) nullified via leaked psychiatric records.
  • Legalbot — “Thank you for signing the company NDA.” (Releases unconscious chimp paw from the pad it had just been pressed against),
  • Astrochimp thought he was winning …. and he was, until the Death Ray vaporized his pod.
  • “It’s normal to put the monkey in the airlock.”
  • “Well, you killed my character in the first minute, but my backup… oh, he’s down now too.”
  • The maintenance clone got into the pod and set it for launch….and then a minute later (as the pod was launching) shapeshifts to reveal the Consort smugly heading to the mesosphere…

The 2p game is certainly more tactical, and our (2p) meta is rapidly changing, but so far I’ve personally discovered lots of ways to lose. Full review probably in the next week or so.

Written by taogaming

March 11, 2023 at 11:01 pm

Posted in Session Reports, Stationfall

Tagged with

Woodcraft — A Crime Against Elegance

Last night (in addition to Stationfall), I had the “pleasure” of learning Woodcraft, the most inelegant game of recent memory. Resources you can gain include immediate Money and VP, recurring Money and VP, three types of cubes (saws, glue and spare lumber), three colors of dice, a variety of tools and cards. A mosaic of tile placement (your ‘attic’) for bonus resources (all types), some ‘first to the post’ bonus VP races.

“VP Multiplier times number of orders fulfilled?” Check!

“Tokens that let you take an extra action or ignore the action on the rondel you selected?” Check! (If one of your resources lets you ignore the core mechanism that differentiates your game, is that a good thing?)

(“A different ‘Bonus action token’ that lets you re-use a once-per-season free-action token?”) Check!

Do any of these mechanisms interact in interesting ways, you ask, already knowing the answer? Pshaw.

This led me to ponder “Why is it so difficult to define elegance?” I suppose we could just say “when there is nothing left to remove, it is elegant.” Or perhaps “When the theme fits the mechanisms,” sort of a “well-ordered” definition. Who knows?

Not me. But I certainly know enough to feel its absence.

Rating Avoid

Written by taogaming

March 9, 2023 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Ramblings, Session Reports

Tagged with

Heat, Formula De and the “Down by a Turn problem.”

Heat is (IMO) better than Formula De. And I say that as someone who had a dozen tracks, painted cars, had a league that did a race a month, came up with variants to improve the game, etc. But I eventually stopped playing … there are a number of reasons but partially because its brutally hard to come back and the nature of dice makes the game relatively easy to plan out. Even with the “no thinking during your turn rule” people just in general did well and the dice decided the game.

Heat’s card luck is harder to predict (even if you count cards or let people inspect their own discards) and you can have weird things like shuffle timing make or break you, and the slipstreaming rule (and adrenaline for being in last place) helps mitigate being behind (a bit gamey, but — hey! it’s a game!).

But there are still the corners. Those are monster bombs. A space or two is one thing, but if the pack slips through a corner and someone falls a space short …. well, you are in trouble. Because you’ll have to go slow next turn, and so now you are always a turn behind. And the slipstreaming (you don’t get any; the pack does) makes it worse.

(Arguably the strategy in Heat is how much to spend to make that corner, since you could always spend a heat to flip a card, which will presumably cost you more heat as you go through it at top speed).

Rarely you’ll get a break away leader, and those games are tense as the pack gains a few spaces a turn. But a fall away trailer? Sad Trombone. On the one hand, part of my applauds this. I fell two turns behind the pack last night in the opening turn, and yes, that should be a big problem. (I could at least console myself that my problems were self-inflicted, unlike the poor unfortunate soul who drew an eleven on three stress cards to fly into the first corner by one space and spin out). I didn’t love Charioteer, but the “move directly behind the player ahead of you” meant you are always within striking distance. A useful card … for anyone but the leader. Is that more of a hack than the adrenaline rule? Less?

Anyway, I have no real solution, this was just an observation that I had while trying to end the game only one turn behind the pack, instead of two, and to ponder if this flaw will be merely a fact about the game, or fixed (or possibly ‘fixed’) by an expansion.

Written by taogaming

February 1, 2023 at 12:14 pm

Updates on recent games

Maglev Metro — Now that I’ve got a few more plays under my belt, there are some annoyances:

  1. I strongly suspect (and the TaoLing* agrees) that the 2p game is heavily biased towards the first player, for the simple reason that build station action is powerfully efficient (two actions for a robot and control over the board) and the first player can likely build an extra robot station. We’ve played through two full games and discussed the opening in detail. There may be a good counter, but neither of us see it.
  2. The cards are wildly imbalanced. In our game today (4p), I earned 30 VP by two cards without much effort, which was 28 more VP. Some cards are impossible, some are traps, and I agree that the idea of earning VP by “not doing anything” is distasteful.

I will have to look at the card drafting rules (which the game includes), but other possibilities include simply building a better card deck; but a simple idea is to let a player chuck a VP card for an extra action (probably after some trigger to prevent early game shenanigans and probably limiting to 1/turn).

I’m still interested in playing this … the fact that it doesn’t work at 2p is annoying but I have plenty of 2p games. The card issue is more problematic. Not quite willing to drop the rating yet, but a bit more cautious.

Heat — Played a game with garage module (allowing players to draft a few cards to customize the deck) and liked it. Heat plays quickly, vaguely simultaneously (close enough to dodge the ‘fixed fun‘ label) and I think I’ll root out a copy (although a few games are on boats to me right now, so no huge rush). There is definitely luck involved, I had nice draws for most of today’s race through Italy, but then miscalculated a corner when I had a bad hand that cost me the race. That’s how a card game is supposed to work. Luck but skill plays a critical part. I’m much more delighted losing that race in Heat than winning a wire-to-wire game of Charioteer.

Cat in the Box — Rating dropped to indifferent. Too many hands where one player just slaps down the highest cards until someone calls out and then that player often pulls trump to make it an endgame. In the 3p there’s a rush to get off lead because if you win the last trick you must paradox (unless someone gets hit first). In the 4p the player to the left of the player who wins the last trick is hosed, which is even worse. Games are short enough that luck dominates (Getting four ‘1’s when one player gets four ‘6’s) and yet I don’t want to make it longer.

Update — I’ve been informed that we missed the “discard one card at the start of the hand” which prevents the “final trick must paradox” problem. So this is back to unknown and I’ll try it a few more times.

* N.B. — For my readers who may have lost track of time, the TaoLing is now a sophomore studying computational physics and better than me at a number of games. Which is not to say we’re immune to groupthink, but … his opinion carries weight.

Written by taogaming

January 2, 2023 at 11:25 pm

2022 Year in Review


Bridge — I played just 40 sessions of bridge this year. The local club lost its lease and now operates out of a Synagogue, so there are no games on Saturdays or Sundays. So I get to play Face to Face bridge maybe once every two months (at a local tournament, which is now Weds – Sat instead of Thu – Sun). (Evening games? Don’t make me laugh, those disappeared a decade ago. Not a big deal for the vast majority of bridge players — who are retired — but another sign of bridge’s slow decline.


Innovation — The local game store had a cheap copy, I picked it up, and the TaoLing and I played nearly twenty games.

Dice Realms — I expected I’d play this more, but the TaoLing didn’t care for it, and after a game or two the local gamers didn’t request it much either.

Jump Drive — Still gets some play as a filler. The upcoming expansion should boost its numbers.

Race for the Galaxy — Another tenacious game. Xeno Invasion was a dime by itself, and I played a few games of full first arc (Prestige!)


Pastiche: Birth of a Masterpiece — Almost a dime, might still make it.

18Mag & 1862 — I mostly play ’62 2p with the TaoLing, so it was easy to get this long game. We played a few 2p 18Mag, but I got several 3 and 4p games in.

Mage Knight — (Cooperative)

Space Station Phoenix — I was sure this was going to be a dime (if not more) but no store got a copy until the TaoLing was away at college, so just a few games here and there.

It’s a Wonderful World — My wife liked this and so I traded for a copy and have played it a few times. I’m not really enchanted with it, but it’s OK. The local group has several people who suggest it.

Scout — Really enjoying this.

SpaceCorp — Mostly with the new expansion, but one or two base (teaching) games.

Written by taogaming

December 31, 2022 at 4:34 pm

Posted in Session Reports

Tagged with

Monday Night Gaming

Quartermaster General (with expansion) — Germany went hard core against Scandinavia and managed the Scandinavian Ore Status (for 2 VP/ turn) leaving Italy to take care of Western Europe. Italy was scoring well (3 bonus points/turn after about T7, plus four standard points) … so the Axis were slowly pulling away, but the US stormed the Pacific with early Aircraft Carriers and conquered Tokyo on turn 10 or so. The last Japanese holdouts were killed in China soon after, at which point the game was a forgone conclusion, partially because meanwhile Russia sank two Italian Navies. In the Med. (I’m not sure I’ve seen Russia sink two navies at all). Germany also got the Scandinavian Economic Warfare card against the UK off (for 5 cards!). But all too slow.

I still think QMG is the best game (or family of games) in the last decade.

Rating Enthusiastic (still).

Cascadia — A pleasant surprise of a game. There are four tile+animal tokens pairs to pick from. On your turn you pick a pair, and place the tile (which shows 1 or 2 terrain types and 1-3 animal types it can hold) in your park, and then place the animal on any tile that can hold it. Tiles that are restrictive (only one type, only one animal) give you a bonus point when you fill it, which can also be used later on to take a tile and token that aren’t paired up. Each of the five types of animals has a different scoring rule (and each animal has ~6 scoring rules, you pick one when you set up).

This feels Old School, like Carcassonne.


Also playedReality Shift and Dimension. Both are “meh” although Dimension is kind of the game For Science! wanted to be, nicely streamlined. (I rate For Science as an avoid, so meh is a big step up).

Written by taogaming

November 28, 2022 at 11:12 pm

Ozymandias Quick Thoughts

Based on watching a few minutes of the Nialus video I played the Ozymandias demo. The elevator pitch is … this is a minimal Civ style game you can play in an hour or two. You have four resources (Science, Food, Money, Power), the tech tree has lots (100?) of options, but they are all mostly the same (extra Sci/Food/Money/Power per hex you have of each of 8 types, pay less food to build). You can spend money to buy science or food, and also improve storage, because “saved” resources suffer a huge penalty. Armies and Fleets are expensive in money and food, but you’ll need them. If you project power into neighboring hexes (via your native power and/or armies and navies) you might take it over.

Very simple, but each turn you are also offered a choice of two bonuses. For example, “Gain $2 per hill space, claim when you want” or “Spend $10 for a bonus power this turn.” Some bonuses take time to claim, and you can only have three. These (along with each empires native benefit) are the difference from the basics.

Various achievements (like X points of cities, X spaces, X techs, Conquer X cities) give you crowns and seven crowns wins. A demo game on “novice” level took an hour. (Correction — According to my steam “time-played” it took ~45 minutes!)

The other nice thing (at least, in theory) is that this is a simultaneous play multiplayer game. Apparently in multiplayer you get so long per turn and at the end (or when everyone has clicked “Done”) then the turn resolves and you see where everyone else tried to expand, moved armies to, bought, et cetera).

Despite all that I wonder if it will be too “samey” but its $12, so I may buy it. Haven’t decided.

Written by taogaming

October 12, 2022 at 8:36 pm

More minor game content

Indonesia— Still good. For some reason when playing (or writing about it) I keep thinking that companies can merge multiple times per round, which isn’t true.

Acquire — Still good, although when one opponent merges company A and B early on when his count is “zero in A and none in B” it gets a bit random.

18Mag — Played two 2x games and a few solitaire games. Noted 1846 evangelist Eric Brosius calls this a “Graft-oriented” 18xx. The minor companies last throughout the game, and the major companies do not run trains, but supply services like selling trains, clearing land, placing stations, or running trains for extra value, but they all require payments to the majors (which then pay out dividends). So it’s …. odd. But there are parts I like (I hope that more titles use the double-sided track to stop arbitrary “oh we’ve run out of the right-handed version of this tile, so its gone, even though 3 left handed versions exist” which always bugged me about 1830). I don’t think the graft-like mechanisms destroy the game, but do wish it were a bit … less. I can tolerate it in small doses. And the two player game is a small dose, running at 90 minutes or so. Even with that, I’d like to try this with more (and I also need to play my copy of 1848 and I’d prioritize getting that to the table). This isn’t a great 18xx, I’m indifferent-plus, but I don’t regret spending the money to try it and I’d like to get a few more plays out of it.

The Resistance — Still OK, and reminds me that I want to try Scape Goat.

I do not understand Mottainai to the level of the Taoling, who now seems to win 80%+ of our games. But I still like it.

I played Carcassone for the first time in a decade, and it holds up. I’m not sure I’d suggest it often, but I’m glad to play it.

Written by taogaming

March 16, 2022 at 8:59 am

Posted in Session Reports

Some minor game content

After not playing anything but a few sessions of Bridge in Feb I decided to trek out to a game night and got in a few games.

Furnace — This is a small engine building game; but has a novel-ish idea or two. 1) You get compensation for lost auctions (the more you bid, the better you are compensated, which in some cases may be much better than winning). 2) You run your engine in order but can re-order it each turn. This seems like the sort of game I’d like, a tiny R4TG sized game of auctions and engine building… but I was indifferent. I don’t think it was too short, I just think that the “ordering your engine” part was a big part but ultimately not interesting. Just an optimization problem with no interaction, but a big percentage of the game. Maybe better with less engine re-organization (maybe you must keep the order but can insert new parts anywhere) and more auctions? I don’t know.

Seven Wonders Architects — I thought the premise vaguely … insane. “Let’s take seven wonders and remove the drafting, and thereby make it slower”. Then it doubled-down on stupid with a bunch of science advances that let you take extra turns when certain conditions are met. By all rights this should be way down in avoid, but for all the bad design it didn’t out-stay its meager welcome. Indifferent.

I also played El Grande, which is still good.

Written by taogaming

March 3, 2022 at 8:40 pm

Posted in Session Reports

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