Goals for 2015

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I have successfully avoided making any New Year Resolutions this year, acknowledging that, as the previous article I posted on the topic pointed out, “You don’t need a big resolution to change your life, because your life isn’t established in big moments.” That said, I have set several goals that I am working on this year.

The first two include my wife. We have been working our way through Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening together. I picked it up probably halfway through last year and liked it so much I wanted to do it again this year. I had done them on my own last year but asked if she would be interested in joining me and she was. We have kept this so far.

We are also attempting to read the Bible through over the year. We have both read big portions of the Bible, some much more than others, but it has always been in a disconnected manner for a particular study of one book or another, or Sunday School. I’m excited to see everything in context and watch God’s promises unfold across generations. What we have read in just over two weeks has been enlightening. Instead of a brief passage pulled out for a lesson or sermon, we have traced God’s hand down through generations.

Exegesis is an amazing way to study the Bible, and it definitely has its place, but it is really the only way I have interacted with God’s Word. We have really been enjoying seeing the big picture in context. For those interested, we are using Charles Ryrie’s plan found in his study Bible’s. Someone scanned the front of their Bible so others could have the plan here.

I plan to read two books a month this year. I hope to have them all be non-fiction, though I am ok with some of them being Great Books. I realized that my son is reading much more than I am. He is averaging a book a week and has read thirty books since we started this homeschool year back in July. I considered reading all of the books he is but I really don’t have any interest in some of his choices (some of these books have been things I assigned and others his pleasure reading choices).

Since we started this homeschool journey I have found myself reading non-fiction almost exclusively. Selections like Mere Christianity and The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis, Norms and Nobility by David Hicks, and Beauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott, and I really enjoyed them. They stretched my thinking in ways that fiction never could. So I decided that I would like to continue that trend but include the kind of books that will be covered in VP’s Omnibus. I do plan to read along with my children when we go through the selections so that I can really discuss with them. I figure reading tougher books for the next year and a half will have me primed to keep up when we finally start. I am reading On Christian Doctrine by St. Augustine, and plan to read Beauty for Truth’s Sake by Stratford Caldecott. I am also planning to reread Norms and Nobility. I don’t really have anything planned beyond those. I am just trusting I will be led to them like I have been everything else. I will keep up with what I read using Evernote.

Last year, inspired by a board game video blogger, I made several board game resolutions. I wanted to play all of our board games at least once, wanted to play ten games at least ten times each, and have at least three hundred total plays. We succeeded with the last, but came up short on the other two for various reasons.

As far as playing all of our board games at least once, that one is the easiest to explain: we kept buying new games. We also attended game meet-ups with local groups so we had their games to helps us meet our overall play goal, so some of our older games just didn’t get played last year.

The 10×10 goal was just more difficult than I had anticipated. We accomplished six with at least ten plays, two with nine, two more with eight, and few more with six or seven. Ten plays of a particular game can be a lot in a year, though it may not sound like it. If a game is light and quick then it can easily be played two or three times in row without a second thought. Four out of the six were in this category; games like Love Letter, Skull & Roses, or King of Tokyo. These games generally take between ten minutes and half an hour and are usually card, dice, or light bluffing games. It is pretty easy to pull them out on a few nights over the course of the year and hit ten plays with them.

But a game that takes ninety minutes to two or three hours to play and requires a lot of thinking and strategy can be difficult to get to the table ten times a year. You really, really have to like it to play it that much. Games like Madeira, Brass, Age of Steam, and Roads & Boats are in this category. I discovered I have a lot more of this category than the lighter games. The only two heavier games that made it to ten plays were Castles of Burgundy and Keyflower, though Castles really isn’t that heavy. If you are interested in what we played last year you can see the list here.

In the long run I discovered that, not only was it difficult to get some of these games to the table ten times in a year, but it was also constraining. We found ourselves playing games we didn’t necessarily want to play to meet a goal. It took a lot of fun out of it. So, while I do want to continue to keep up with our plays this year, I am no longer interested in setting goals about specific games or amounts of games that we need to play. Instead, I am interested in charting what we play so that we can look back at the end of the year and follow trends in what we played, look for favorites that we naturally gravitated to, and also look for games that didn’t get much play as possible trade items. If you want to keep up with years plays, you can here.

But, inspired by last year’s 10×10 resolution, a board game blogger came up with the D12 Challenge for 2015. The challenge is to introduce twelve new people to the board gaming hobby. The tongue-in-cheek description of the challenge:

Together we will wipe out the question “What, like monopoly?”
Together we will help publishers create more games
Together we will play more games
Together we will take over the world!

This will not be an easy thing but I am looking forward to it.

So, have you made any resolutions for 2015? Any goals? How are you keeping yourself accountable? Share in the comments!

On Time Travel and Furniture Making

I got the chance to play-test a wonderful new game last night. It is called Cabriole. The designer is Doug Bass, who previously designed and published Garden Dice. Players take on the role of 17th century furniture manufacturers in London. The game tasks you with gathering resources and hiring tradesmen to get furniture pieces made. It is a worker placement / card drafting / resource management game. I very much enjoyed it, and while none of the mechanics are new, they are arranged in a very interesting way.

The game is set up with the main board in the center of the table, rows of cards (the number of which varies by player count) beside it, and player boards for each player. The main board contains the spots to collect resources, the trade guilds where players place to hire or promote tradesmen, a store front where players can make a sell for some quick cash, three tracks that keep up with how many of each furniture type players have sold (bonuses at the end), and the victory point track. The player board is where players keep up with their tradesmen, which types they have hired and what levels they are.

Placement happens by placing at the end of one row of cards or by placing at the spots on the board. The cards are furniture designs players can complete or special bonus cards that allow players to collect a resource for free or hire/promote a tradesmen for a discounted price. All of the placement spots are limited and there is a timing aspect to how all of the placements are resolved that I really enjoyed. When you place at the end of a row you are queuing to select something from that row, not placing on the specific card you want. The first person in a row will obviously get what they want, but second on has some deduction to do to try and guess what those ahead of them intend to take and whether that conflicts with what they want. They may risk being later in queue or they may need to find an alternative action.

This timing mechanism extends to the way actions on the board resolve. There are four resources and each has four stacks available, each containing a different amount of resources for a different amount of money. Players select the stack they want in the order that they placed meaning, if you need three ebony to complete the projects you are working on, but are the third to place in the ebony spot, you may be in trouble. Again, you need to keep an eye on the projects your opponents have in front of them, and even the rows they are placing on to see what they may possibly be working on when it comes time to resolves resources, before you commit somewhere.

At the end of the turn players are automatically allowed to complete any projects they have the resources and correct tradesmen for, choosing to take either money or victory points for each piece they sell. The game forces you to plan your next turn out in advance, making sure you have enough money on hand to buy the resources you need and pay your tradesmen, before you decide whether you need the money or it is ok to bank to victory points.

I really enjoyed it. The mechanics are simple but the planning it asks you to do is not. Planning out your turns ahead of time, calculating exactly how much money you will need to get everything done, while also trying to bank as many victory points as possible, is interesting. Trying to read what your opponents are doing so you don’t end up in the middle of a round with your plans shot, scrambling to figure out a new direction, is fun. But it can also be mean. If you can figure out what opponents are doing, you have the opportunity to screw them out of it. The game can be kind of easy going or players can get in each other’s faces, and that is one of the more interesting aspects of the game for me.

With a few rule tweaks the game has the ability to go from a fun, relaxed Takenoko or Fresco level game where money comes pretty easily, there are ample places to place, and people are required to do much less planning, to a much heavier and tighter game where money is scarce and planning is paramount. If you calculate your money, or your opponents’ moves, wrong you could be left very short at the end of a round, unable to complete the furniture you had intended to, which will leave you without the money you need to pay tradesmen or get anything done in the next round. There are no loans, and the store front gives a very small return for a placement. You may end up having to sell some of the resources you had gathered to build furniture, meaning you’ll have to regather them before said furniture can be completed.

We actually discussed the possibility of the game shipping with the ability to play both ways: two different sides to the player boards, one family and one advanced, two different decks of cards, one that loosens up money, and one that makes it very tight, and a few rules tweaks that forces players to rub more and makes decisions/planning more difficult. I am very excited about the possibility. I really like the theme and think it could appeal to a broad range of players. He got the idea after attending a lecture at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts at Old Salem and the historic flair really comes through. The art is also fabulous. So far only the cards have been done, but they are beautiful and charming. Lamberto Azzariti, the artist from Upon a Salty Ocean, De Vulgari Eloquentia, Rio de la Plata, and Romolo o Remo, is doing it and hist style is perfect for the subject.

I could see using a family version of this game as a gateway/second tier game, depending on the player. I think the theme really is interesting and charming enough, and the mechanics simple enough, to get casual players interested. But the game can also be tough enough to appeal to serious gamers. I could see playing the family version with my kids and other family members at get-togethers. But I can also envision sitting down for an evening and playing the advanced version with my brother and wife, or a game group, trying to outthink and outmaneuver them. The system really is that flexible with just a few simple changes. There were a few rough spots on the board that need to be worked on, and a few things (like a round tracker) that need to be implemented, but, all-in-all, I was really impressed. I am already looking forward to it being released.

60% of families will choose board games over ‘unsociable’ video games this Christmas

An old article from the Daily Mail:

Six out of ten families will choose board games over ‘unsociable’ computer games this Christmas, a study has found.

While gadgets, gizmos and games consoles will feature on many wish lists this year, millions of families will still find time to dig out old classics like Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble.

Most of those who will opt for board games said they preferred them because they ‘brought the family together,’ while others cited the fact they are ‘more fun’.

I would really like to believe this, though there are much better games than “the classics” they list as most popular:

“Monopoly emerged as the number one Christmas board game, followed by Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, Pictionary and Cluedo.”

Rise of Augustus, Forbidden Island, Ticket to Ride, Takenoko, Zooloretto, Hey, That’s My Fish!, Category 5, Jamaica, Snow Tails, and Escape: The Curse of the Temple are all much more fun and engaging. There is a whole world of board games out there that most people don’t know about.

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Your Favourite Gaming Moment

A beautiful post about what it means to play board games, why they mean so much to the people who treasure them. It’s about real interaction with the people you love. We’re so caught up in our light speed world with so many different options for entertainment that it is very easy to never really connect with each other. It’s easier to watch a movie or play on our phones, and never really talk to each other. But board games put you face to face with other live humans and give you an excuse to spend a couple of hours telling stories, talking, and just enjoying each other’s company. They invite you to slow down and take a breather. They invite you to remember what is important, the people you love.

If I had to choose my favorite I think it would be sitting at the kitchen table late at night playing Lost Cities with my wife. We had a new baby in the house, we had just decided to homeschool the older boy, and we were freshly self-employed as our sole means of income. It had been difficult to get some time just the two of us with all the changes. But, after putting the kids to bed we would break out this simple card game and play for an hour or so, laughing and just being happy to get a few moments alone together. It completely validated my hobby in my wife’s eyes and I loved watching her enjoy the game.

This was about a year ago. My wife is pregnant again and sitting to game has become uncomfortable for her so we don’t get to play very much lately. But I look forward to a couple months from now, rocking our new daughter to sleep, and then playing a few hands of Lost Cities with my wife again. And, much further in the future, I see us sitting together after the kids have moved, still playing games at our kitchen table. We’ve actually had discussions about gaming in the future, wondering if it will still be a favorite hobby and what our favorite game might be. It makes me smile to think about it.

A lot of the other stories in the comments for this story are amazing so give them a look. And let me know what your favorite gaming moment is below.

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An Intro to Board Gaming

My biggest hobby is board gaming, as you can see from my Instagram feed on the left side, though it is often difficult to get new people into them because of a couple of preconceived notions most have about them. The Shut Up & Sit Down crew has made a wonderful video to kind of explain a little bit about the brave new world of board games and why gamers are so taken by them. As my brother will be coming over for a game night this evening, and I was just recently able to get him into the hobby, I thought this post was appropriate.