The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

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The Line between Inspiration and Theft

I saw the announcement for Terraforming Mars: Area Expedition(aka TM: The card game) because someone commented something to the effect of “They ripped off Race for the Galaxy.” And — uh, yeah. There are some differences, but the five phases, simultaneous selection, etc. Its all there. (You can’t select the same phase twice in a row).

Last week I tried the Dyson Sphere Program video game and then returned it (because it was somewhat clunky), but after watching some Katherine of Sky videos I re-bought it. (KoS is — to me — the Bob Ross of Twitch. Simply a joy to listen to). Let’s be clear — DSP takes a lot from Factorio. But it adds innovations — you are in a universe where an Astronomical Unit is a 40 km and you can run around a planet’s equator in a minute or two. Factorio meets The Little Prince. The curvature of each planet and its orbital inclination matter! Its three dimensional in a real way, and that’s a huge change. (A beautiful, albeit clunky, game).

I guess the true test is — did you build something new? When you are standing on the shoulders of giants, is it so you can see farther, or are you just pissing on them? Perhaps TM:AE does something new. It’s easy to imagine. Race where you can’t repeat your role selection is a new game (and possibly a great variant). But the fact that this “inspired by” game is tacked onto an established property by an already established company makes it feel a bit dirty. Time will tell.

Full review of DSP later.

(Slay the Spire Update — 7 wins out of 24 games so far, and only two deaths in Act I).

Written by taogaming

February 5, 2021 at 9:59 pm

Article on the World Dip Champion

Written by taogaming

October 1, 2020 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

There’s no good movie with a “3” at the end of the title.

Maybe not be strictly true, but I mean “Saw 3”, “Tremors 3”, “Iron Man 3”, “Rocky 3” (fun? Sure. Good? No), “Alien 3”  (I happen to think Alien 3 was a noble failure, but a failure nonetheless). Listing it on and on is just inviting tragedy. By the time you get to the third movie in a series, if it didn’t have a title and you are just making it up as you go along, then the temptation is “Well, let’s just do what worked, but more.

That’s how you get a bad movie. Or in the case of games, a JASE.

I went to my FLGS. (I wasn’t actually sure it had re-opened). I called first. So I felt like I should be a game. And, given the nature I felt like a hefty game that could work as a solitaire or 2 player game. So I got Caverna. At the time, I thought it was similar to Agricola, but I didn’t realize how much DNA they share. So, is Caverna“Agricola 3: The Dwarfening”

There’s much to like, but like any 3rd movie so much of this title is just a lot more of what worked.  That’s not necessarily a good thing.

But the box is so stuffed and heavy that $100 price tag didn’t seem outrageous. Caverna is chock full of animeeples, vegimeeples, so much cardboard to punch. It doesn’t fit well into the box. There are no random cards, the family growth always appears on turn 4 (which is kind of a big randomness in Agricola, do you set up for it on T4 and then it doesn’t show up until T6 …). The weapon mechanic is interesting and clearly is intended to be a (mild) punishment for have more dwarfs, so there’s that. There are enough buildings to feel overwhelming on the first play, but I suspect it becomes manageable. (We followed the Alan Moon rule of “True Gamers do not play introductory games”)

Now, losing the development and occupation cards means Caverna may wind up feeling samey from game to game, but I’ve definitely played games of Agricola that were over after the initial deal. (I respect that it may be better as draft, but I just haven’t played it that way). So, when I lose Caverna (and losing is what I’ve been doing) I can’t blame the cards. Agricola — by contrast — seemed much more straightforward: grow your family, do all the things. For some reason, Caverna’s slightly more things seems much more daunting. In particular, the slight variability of the harvests, when/how to spend rubies (basically wild cards), the slightly more complex layout rules, they trip me up.

That’s good.

My first problem with Caverna is that I bought it for 1-2 players, and it doesn’t shine with two. The spaces scale with # players, but I felt like there are too many buildings. I think the upper limit of seven is super ambitious (and its a fixed fun game, so …. no), but thee or four seems reasonable.

And solitaire (which I haven’t tried) …. well in that case Agricola’s occupations seems much more interesting.

Now, to be fair. I bought and sold Le Havre (“Agricola 2: Shipping Boogaloo”) because it felt like there was a dominant strategy, which I suspected after two games. If a dominant strategy exists in Caverna, I have no earthly idea what it would be. So, its likely a better game.

So, its a “Good for a  3rd title.” It suffers from the “but I’ve played Agricola.” I knew I was getting some of the game, but I didn’t do my research and didn’t realize just how much of it there was. It was my first time in a game store in six months, I was going to buy something, and its not like Caverna is bad, but it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped.

RatingIndifferent plus.

Written by taogaming

August 23, 2020 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Agricola, Reviews, Uncategorized

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James Miller RIP

They say you should not speak ill of the dead. Even if I thought violating that maxim a good idea, I could speak no ill of James Miller.

I encounter many people at the convention or two I go to, but get to know few. I’m not outgoing or even particularly nice (although I try to be polite). So even as conventions have grown, I withdraw. I do make an effort, but inevitably I retreat to the crowd I have known for decades. Time is limited — I tell myself — but there is also the comfort in old friends and comrades. Which makes it all the more amazing that I made it a point to go out a meal with James when we are at the same convention. I don’t know if he asked me to go to lunch one day, or I invited him. I can’t remember.

Anyone who knows either of us would bet money on James.

We discussed work, games, and whatnot. I don’t remember the details. But I do remember the laughter. Not one awkward pause or one mean-spirited joke. I remember no ill. And after that first time, yes I did suggest lunch the following years.

To say that we were friends is to presume, but I wish I had more acquaintances like James. And I am so very tired of obituaries.

RIP.

Update — There is a memory board at the funeral home to post thoughts and condolences.

Written by taogaming

August 5, 2020 at 11:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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More thoughts on 1862

A local did not care to keep his pre-order, so I took it off his hands and (while I was messing up the solo game), the TaoLing expressed interest.

So I’ve now played four 2p games. To my surprise, 1862 plays well at 2p. The opening reminds me of pro Go players spending half their time on the first 10% of the moves spending it analyzing the long reaching implications of a particular fuseki/joseki. (I don’t do that, but I do play much slower in the first Parlimentary & Stock Round). During our second game I realized that practically any opening move I chose in the first parliamentary round (that I set cheaply) could be countered by a nearby company parring slightly higher and cutting me off (the first 8 companies were crowded along the northern border of the map), and so I passed.

Re-reading my earlier thoughts, I’m pleased with the variability, I think this is borne out by my plays — we’ve tried several different strategies and the random setup has given games different feels — a knife fight in a closet (that North map), a more languid game with locals stacking up cash in slow trains. We’ve had players open 1 company in SR 1, I’ve opened four companies in SR 1. And I have no reason to feel that these aspects are limited to 2p games. (I do wonder how well an 8p game works, but the mere fact that it may be possible impresses me).

Having also read some of discokings articles (while not being sure I understand them), I think the financial decisions are interested. In one game I dumped a company on the TaoLing (after taking its train cheaply for my other company) and got the worse of the deal. I sold at 1/2 price, and then he simply refinanced it and now its earning well. (In fact, one of the interesting things about 1862 is that a company without a train may be in a better position than a company with a non-permanent or even permanent train).

I see Eric’s comment on BGG that 1862 lacks the bomb of forced train purchases (and I worried about it myself). Now I’m leaning towards believing that the financial mechanisms contain equally powerful (but more subtle) bombs. If you make a big mistake in ’62 you’ve lost just as badly as any other game, but it won’t be the going-into-pocket of bankruptcy, just slower growth or halving shares.

Whether that’s a pro or con depends on taste.

My big thought about ’62 (and with ’46) is — do I need to play 1830 again? The (US) original’s totally fixed opening, coupled with multiple dozens of plays means that — while it’s the local father, I think it has been surpassed by the newer titles. (Certainly I had already preferred to explore newer titles, but now I think its clear). Anyway, still looking forward to more plays of ’62, hopefully a few with 3-5p.

Slay the Spire — Tomorrow the new version drops. I’m at Ascension 14 with Ironclad, 6 with Silent and 7 with Defect.

Written by taogaming

January 13, 2020 at 10:22 pm

Posted in 18xx, Uncategorized

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