Monday, May 23

Beer and Pretzels 2016

It's been a great week of gaming, culminating in my weekend con trip of the year at Beer and Pretzels 2016 in Burton on Trent. Wednesday I went to Manchester with Ian, so once I'd finished my presentation slides we played a few games on the iPad (including 6 Nimmt! which works better than I expected pass and play). Thursday was Games Night featuring 6 Nimmt! (again) a couple of games of Race for the Galaxy, King of Tokyo and a couple of games of Zombology. Friday I had a night off gaming and an early night to try to recover from a few bad nights sleep and to ready myself for the early start.

Five AM on Saturday I planned to quickly turn off the alarm and get ready as quietly as possible to avoid disturbing The Wife (who doesn't deserve a 5am start just because I want to go gaming). Sadly at 4:58am every house alarm in the street (including ours) went off due to a very brief power outage. I sprinted downstairs to turn it off, The Wife, thinking it was a fire alarm had dashed into The Daughter's room, where she was happily sleeping through it! The Wife went back to bed and I got in the shower only for it to happen again and this time The Wife has to sprint downstairs. Sub-optimal.

Burton Town Hall

Still, it meant I was definitely awake and didn't miss my train to Burton! Beer and Pretzels has been held in the lovely Burton Town Hall for the last 27 years, but sadly this may well be the last one. The council are putting the rent up by a huge amount and Sal and Phil who organise it have yet to find a suitable replacement venue. Three out of the last four years I've been down and met up with Terry, one of my old Bedford gaming chums, for a great weekend of gaming, beer and catching up with friends.

On Saturday Terry and I played a few games with Paul and Carol and their friends Tony, Callum and Phil and a few 2-player games together. We started with Kodama, then Port Royal, Zombology, Magnum Sal, Roll for the Galaxy (ticked offf my ten plays list!), The Voyages of Marco Polo, Patchwork a couple of times, Murano, Kodama again and ended with another play of Port Royal.

Port Royal, Magnum Sal, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Patchwork and Murano were all new to me and all good games. Patchwork stood out as my favourite of the bunch with Port Royal and Marco Polo also particularly good fun. I can see Port Royal being popular at Games Night, so I might have to get that. As I expected, Kodama is growing on me the more I play it, I imagine I'll tick off the remaining 7 plays required to get to ten quite quickly.

Beer and Pretzels 2016

Sunday was a shorter day as I had to get the train home at 5:30, but I still managed another 9 games. We played Oh My Goods!, Kodama (again), Roll for the Galaxy (again), Burano, Kigi, Koi Pond, Port Royal (again), Hamsterbacke and Roll again!

Oh My Goods!, Burano and Hamsterbacke were all new to me and it's becoming clearer to me that I'm moving towards lighter games. I thought Oh My Goods! was great fun, and surprisingly deep for a little card game. Hamsterbacke was also very enjoyable with plenty of screwage.

Burano on the other hand (where I was flailing around completely unsure of what I was doing) I really didn't enjoy. It has a mechanism where at the start of each round you have a minute to build a pyramid of cubes which affected what actions you could take for the next 12-16 rounds. It was immensely frustrating since as a beginner I had no idea what to do and then ended up hamstrung for the next 45 minutes four times during the game. What's more, it's didn't seem to add anything to the game. Needless to say I am not a fan.


All in all a fantastic weekend. Patchwork was my favourite of eight new to me games, putting me well on the way to my 24 new to me games this year goal. We played three games three times: Kodama (which Paul bought after our play), Roll and Port Royal.

In addition, I spent 8 hours programming on my German language app on the train journeys and on Sunday morning!

Next week will be noticeably quieter!

Monday, May 16

Eu Volto

I'm back!

We had two weeks in the south of Portugal. The day we arrived (at 5pm) it was glorious. The next day was pretty good and then we had two weeks of very windy and overcast weather with occasional downpours. The day we left (at 8am) also looked glorious too. Ho hum. Apparently they had a heatwave in the UK in our absence!

Still despite the weather we had a lovely break and The Wife and I even managed some gaming after The Daughter had gone to bed and we introduced The Daughter to Jenga which she loved despite losing every game. I took Carcassonne: The Castle, Kodama: The Tree Spirits, Race for the Galaxy and Magic with us and we played one game of Kodama, several of Carcassonne and Race (two of our staples from when we used to play games together, pre-The Daughter) and unwrapped the Magic cards but lost interest before making decks, let alone playing. The Wife and I have played a lot of Magic in the past - especially when we lived in the US, but I think that's where it belongs now - we've moved on.

I kept up my Duolingo practice of both German and Portguese while I was away, along with reading His Dark Materials in German on the Kindle iPad app (with very frequent use of the in-built dictionary!). The German is going well, I've reached Chapter 4 of HDM and I kept practising with my German language app too.

Portuguese, sadly not so well. I'm about a quarter of the way through the Duolingo course, but I found I couldn't actually say anything useful ('The bill please', 'Can I park here for free', numbers, etc.). I knew quite a lot of words (when reading there was a bunch of stuff I was surprised I could understand), but I felt hopeless when it came to talking.  It's the first time I've used Duolingo to learn a language from scratch (I already knew quite a bit of German before starting the Duolingo course) and I've found it a lot less brilliant than I thought it was when doing the German course.

I've used this knowledge to pad out the list of stuff I want in my German language app. Lots more to do there!

This week I've a busy week of gaming planned: Wednesday I'm off to Manchester for work with Ian - there'll probably be some games on the iPad on the train, Games Night is moving to Thursday as a result and then Saturday and Sunday I'm going to Beer and Pretzels in Burton on Trent with Terry who I used to game with in Bedford when I lived there. Should be a great week!

Monday, May 9

Daniel Solis On Spec

All being well this will have been posted automatically by blogger in the middle of my two week holiday in Portugal...

As I've said here before, I very rarely buy games without having tried them beforehand. I've only got seventy games in my collection (which ordinary people think is ludicrous and makes me a weirdo, but gamers think is a pathetic attempt at a collection and pretty weak for a designer), and space is limited, so I normally get rid of a few games a year and replace them with games I really like but don't yet own. Buying a game without trying it first is a big risk - I might end up wasting valuable space on a game I'd rather not have and will rarely play.

An exception to this rule has recently been games by Daniel Solis, a games designer from North Carolina in the US. Daniel first came to my attention when he was posting the income that he'd made by selling his games through Drive Thru Cards on a monthly basis. I liked the transparency and it was interesting to compare his exploits in the world of no-risk print on de mand publishing to my experience gambling with £12,000 and losing £8,500 of it while running Reiver Games.

Daniel has been prolific (he has 55 games and expansions listed on BGG) and he does his art himself given each game its own attractive unique art. So when I considered publishing Zombology print on demand after the hand-made limited edition sold out, it was to Drive Thru Cards I turned, and I bought a copy of his beautiful game Kigi to check out Drive Thru Cards quality and customer experience. Drive Thru were great and Kigi is a beautiful game with a really nice card laying mechanism. After eight plays I enjoy it, but it feels a bit too light and the pruning mechanism means that your trees rarely get to develop more than a single branch.

When I'd uploaded the Zombology art for proofing I bought Koi Pond (another highly rated, beautiful, Asian-themed game of Daniel's) at the same time. At this point I've only played it twice so I'm still getting to grips with the strategy, but it's got a few interesting ideas in there too. That's two Daniel Solis games bought without trying first.

Recently I'd started seeing more photos in my Twitter stream of another game that appeared to have stolen the tree branch card laying mechanism from Kigi. I was mildly perturbed on Daniel's behalf until I realised the game, Kodama: The Tree Spirits, was one of his. It turns out Kodama was the outcome of Action Point Games picking up Kigi and re-theming and developing it further. I watched a video review of it, during which it sounded like it addressed a few of the things about Kigi that bothered me slightly and promptly bought a new in-shrink copy of the Kickstarter edition from the BGG marketplace. I've yet to try it, but I have high hopes: it's got a cute theme, nice art and sounds more strategic. That's three Of Daniel's games I've bought on spec!

Monday, May 2

Off to Portugal

As expected this week was a fairly unproductive one, mostly spent doing frantic last minute preparation for our trip to Portugal today. I'm not particularly organised it turns out.

I did get a little bit of work done on my German language Windows Phone app, changing a couple of things that really bugged me about the functionality, improving the UI a bit and introducing a heinous bug. Sadly, I didn't have time to fix the bug ahead of the trip, so I'll have to work around it for the next couple of weeks while I'm away. I use my app on a daily basis so it will be particularly frustrating. Fixing it will be a priority on my return!

We did have a special Games Night on Wednesday to bid adieu to Amaury who has been coming to Games Night since the New Year. He's moving to Geneva shortly, which is apparently 'too far' to commute to Games Night. Wimp! We played games that were designed or published in France (he's French), including Pitch Car which was a blast. It was a great evening, he'll be sadly missed at Games Night, although I have to admit his amazing win ratio slightly less so!

I'm only taking four games to Portugal (space and weight is at a premium): Carcassonne The Castle, Magic The Gathering (a tiny subset of our collection), Kodama The Tree Spirits and Race for the Galaxy. I managed to cram them all in the Carcassonne box - efficient!

Not sure if I'll managed to blog next week, so have a good couple of weeks everyone!

Monday, April 25

Zombology on Demand!

After a few busy weeks of travel for work and lots of visitors at home we've had a fairly quite week, spent chilling as a family and getting stuff ready for our forthcoming holiday to Portugal. Up until last night I'd done nothing blog-worthy at all (no mobile development, no games design, no playtesting). But last night, I finally pulled my finger out, uploaded the rules and submitted the request to make Zombology available Print on Demand from Drive Thru Cards.

It'll apparently take a couple of days to be made live, but all being well it'll be available this week.

This will make it far more affordable for US/Canadian customers than the hand-made version (which is now sold out anyway). As soon as it is available I'll mention it on twitter and BGG of course.

Next week I'm not expecting much progress on anything either, as we'll be getting ready for the holiday in earnest, then two weeks off. Hopefully I'll be back up to full speed on my return from holiday.

Monday, April 18


Last week I spent almost entirely in Manchester for work. Thankfully, that didn't preclude gaming :-)

Monday began with a three hour train journey with Ian (Ra, Carcassonne, Tsuro, Galaxy Trucker) and ended with a night in a pub for Tabletop Manchester with Ian and two other colleagues: Russell and Steve. Several people were playing either Netrunner (including Steve and Russell) or X-Wing Minis, but there were a few tables of board games too. Firstly Ian and I taught Russell and Steve Zombology, which we played a couple of times, then Ian and I wandered round to see what else was being played. We joined David Nelson for a playtest of his game: Temp Worker Assassins, which was a lot of fun, before a quick game of Kigi and then joined Toby and Andrew for a game of San Juan, which I'd not played since I'd sold my copy eight years previously. It was an entertaining night, definitely more fun than slumping in a hotel room on my own!

The rest of the trip was fairly stacked out with work, so I didn't get much else gaming or programming related done, and then the end of the week was focussed on my family who I'd not seen for several days. All I did manage was to proof the Zombology Print on Demand version. All I have to do now is upload the rules and some pictures for the game page.

This week I'm around all week, so lunchtime gaming and Games Night are both back on and I hope to get some progress made on the new games I alluded too last week, I've been mulling them over during my time away :-)

Monday, April 11

New Games

It's been a very games-heavy week :-)

Tuesday I made it to Newcastle Playtest for the first time in what felt like several months (I definitely didn't make it in March, not sure about Feb). We had a great turnout, including a couple of people who had made the trek from Cumbria to get some feedback on their game: Collusion.

I turned up too late to join in with that, so we went and started a new table and tried out the newer version of Dragon Dance. It worked ok, and Paul thought it was better than the last version but he wasn't wowed. Then he made a throwaway suggestion which I think would make the game loads better - now I've got another version to design, make and try out!

Afterwards, Paul said he had a game idea that he'd knocked together the previous night while watching TV, 'it's not a game but there's an idea there'. He started explaining the game (The Book of the Dead, themed around the Necronomicon from the Cthulhu mythos) including a particularly complex timekeeping mechanism (it's a timed game). We suggested a simple timing mechanism and then tried it out. Six times on the trot! It was awesome - so awesome I offered to publish it for him the next day, or to help him approach the publishers I know. Wisely, he chose the second of those options!

Wednesday was lunchtime games club (Taluva again) and then Games Night (including Roll for the Galaxy). Then on Friday, my mate Paul and his family turned up for the weekend and we played a load more games. I had my first Flick 'Em Up experience (genius!) and knocked a few more plays off my ten plays list and a few more games off my not yet played this year list.

To top it all off, while wandering round Cragside on Saturday, we came up with not one but two new game ideas, one of which Paul was very taken with, and one of which I was very excited about. Yet another game I've got to make a prototype of ASAP for testing :-)

What an awesome week.

Next week is a weird one. I'm away in Manchester Monday - Thursday with Ian for work. We'll play a bunch of games on the iPad on the trains I'm sure and Russell (of Android Netrunner in the US fame) is going to take us both to Tabletop Manchester on Monday night at The Wharf. Gaming in a pub - yay!

Of course, since I'm away there's no lunchtime gaming on Wednesday and no Games Night, so it's not all good.

Anyway, To The Prototype Coalface!