We had a good month of gaming in October. It was mostly short games, many of which got played multiple times, so that we have had, for the first time, an average number of plays per game a little above 2. Our total number of plays was 37, our second highest of the year, and that was of 17 different games, which is also a very respectable count.
We had a couple of get-togethers with other families for gaming afternoons, which was great, and always helps keep things ticking over.
The thing that pleased me most from the month is our most-played game, which was Cribbage, on 5 plays. This is a traditional card game with somewhat arcane and bizarre rules, but is one of my favourite games of all time, and one which I may well have played more than any other in my life. On a whim I offered to teach it to Miss B, and she enthusiastically accepted and then picked up the rules far more quickly than I did when I was a kid. It is now becoming one of her favourites and she is starting to get the hand of the tactics in the game, so she will start winning more often soon.
The other games we played more than once were BraveRats, Push It, In a Bind, and Giftmas with the Grimms (one of my prototypes) on 4 plays each, plus All Hands on Deck, Cockroach Poker, Hnefatafl, and TiddlyWinks all on 2 plays.
And that leaves us with our three top games for the year stretching their lead over the rest of the field, but staying in the same position relative to each other: Push It keeps its nose ahead with 16 plays, closely followed by BraveRats on 15, and In a Bind, which only had its first play in June with a strong 13 plays. Next up is the mighty little tin that is ‘6’, which has still been played 9 times this year.
It looks like we have three plausible candidates for this year’s crown, and only two months left to see which comes out on top — or if we get a sudden surge from an outsider.
I’m running massively late with this, but at last I would like to announce the shortlist for this year’s Training a Gamer Award (formerly the Golden Thingummy).
In case you haven’t been reading this blog in previous years, each summer Miss B and I choose a set of four games (Miss B chooses two and I choose two more) that we enjoy and want to play a bit more. These games are paired off so we can have two “game-offs”, playing a pair of games in one session so we can decide which we enjoyed most on that occasion. The winners of each heat become the finalists for one more game-off to decide which will win the prestigious and sought-after TaG Award.
Last year was won by flicktastic dungeon crawler Catacombs. What will get the laurels this year?
Miss B’s first choice was instant, the game of contortions, In a Bind, which she introduces to friends and visitors whenever she can. Her second choice surprised me a little as it is something we haven’t played for quite a long time, but she really fancied breaking out Dragonheart, which we used to play a fair bit a few years ago.
I added recent favourite Apotheca to the list as I think it deserves a few more plays and is probably at its best with two players. My second game is one that we haven’t covered here before, but Miss B did express interest in while we were discussing the award: a cute card game called Murder of Crows.
So we have four contenders, two new and two not so much. Coming soon: the game-offs.
Apotheca is one of those games I acquired from a small, indie game publisher via Kickstarter, which sat on the shelf for a couple of months before we got around to playing it. It is essentially a lightweight abstract game but, boy, is it beautifully produced or what?
So basically this is a game where you win points by getting three potions of the same colour into a row on a four-by-four grid. On your turn, you either add face-down potions to the board, turn potions face up and earn yourself gems, use gems to hire apothecaries (gain cards that grant special abilities), or use the apothecaries you have hired to move potions about — and they all have different movement options available. When you have managed to make three rows of three, you win, but the twist is that when you score a row of potions, it means you lose access to the ability of one of your apothecaries.
That’s about it.
Over the last couple of years, Miss B has been getting pretty keen on abstract games, and regularly beats me in games like Balanx or Mijnlieff, and also really likes games with great artwork, so this was one I was keen to try with her. Eventually the right moment came along, I suggested Apotheca, she took a look, and readily agreed. So far we have played a few games and she has won all but one of them, and she is keen to play it pretty much any time now, so I think this is a game that we might actually get past that sought-after ten play mark, and reasonably quickly too.
I’ve not yet played Apotheca with adults, but it does have a reasonable solo play mode, which is nice. It also has a variant for two teams of two, and an asymmetric version where one player is the “Master”, who is pitted against a team of up to three apprentices. We’ve not tried either of these modes, but they look fun and I’m hoping to give them a go some time. In general, I’m very pleased with this purchase, despite the fact that it could have been made so much smaller and cheaper; I’m kind of glad it wasn’t, as the game as it is is such a lovely object. But my opinion doesn’t matter in this blog. It’s all over to the boss…
The verdict from Miss B (aged 9½): “Apotheca is a brilliant game. I like that you are collecting potions for your apothecary. I would give it a 95% rating.”
The game: Apotheca (Knapsack Games), 1 to 4 players aged 13+.
July was another pretty quiet month from a gaming point of view, with 14 plays of 10 unique titles. Oddly, only one of the games we played got played more than once, and the beneficiary of this attention was BraveRats, with 5 plays, which it now occurs to me we haven’t yet done a write-up of, so I’ll have to have a word with Miss B for an official verdict. This is a game that we love playing on trips to coffee shops, as it is quick, takes up little space, and Miss B somehow manages to beat me almost every time.
We had a really nice afternoon one Sunday when another family came around for an afternoon of gaming, which meant we got to play a few great games, including Tokaido and Scotland Yard.
So, for the year, BraveRats has edged into the lead with 11 plays, just a nose ahead of Push It, with 10 plays, and a gap before 6, which has had 7 plays.
We’re into the summer holidays now and Miss B has got into the idea of having another TAG Award contest, so I think we will be having a go at doing that over the next few weeks, plus we are building up a list of “we should really write that up” games, so hopefully we’ll have a bit more content coming really soon. Watch this space. 🙂
January was a better month for gaming with Miss B than I was expecting. We had 22 plays of 15 different titles. This was helped by two days: one where we met up with some friends in Oxford for an afternoon of gaming at Thirsty Meeples, and the other when we visited some other friends in Bristol.
Our multi-plays were dominated by new arrival Wetland with five plays. This was actually thrown in as a dead-stock freebie with a recent delivery of stuff and, though it is right up Miss B’s alley (a quick abstract game with frogs), there are certain problems with it. Maybe we’ll do a full post on this sometime — or it may never get played again, difficult to say!
We also had three plays of the ancient take-stuff-from-the-piles game, Nimm, and two of yet another abstract, Cambio.
I was particularly pleased to get a play of Between Two Cities with Miss B (plus two more people), as it is fast becoming a favourite of mine, being a very scalable super-filler that just works nicely and generally leaves people smiling.
We’re not doing a 10×10 challenge this year, but it’ll be interesting to see if we do get to hit 10 games 10 times anyway. We’ll see how it goes…
Oh dear, we’re getting caught up in something again. As you may well know, there is something of a fuss going on about the new Star Wars film and the fact that one of the major characters, a young woman named Rey, is being excluded from some lines of toys. Or at least not being given the prominence of the other characters. It’s like Black Widow being missed out of Avengers lines, but possibly even worse as, while Black Widow was one of half a dozen lead characters, it is probably not a spoiler to say that Rey is the joint lead, along with one other character, and she may well be more important.
Anyway, recently a new Star Wars Monopoly set came out recently including figures for two characters from the original films, a young Luke Skywalker plus Darth Vader, and two from The Force Awakens, Finn and Kylo Ren. All male. None Rey. When I passed this information to Miss B she was outraged and immediately went up to her room, emerging a short while later with a letter.
“To Hasbro Gaming. I think the idea for Monopoly Star Wars is brilliant. But you have missed out important characters. Firstly Rey. Rey is the main character. And even if you included her then that is only 1 female character. Leia is important. And what about Padme Amidala? Please give a GOOD reply or I will be complaining heavily.”
So we stuck that in the post.
Today Miss B was delighted to receive a response. She eagerly opened the envelope and then started growling with annoyance. She had received a pathetic non-response which didn’t even acknowledge her point.
“Thank you for contacting Hasbro UK Ltd.
“We appreciate the opportunity to assist you and hope you and your family will enjoy our products for many years to come.”
As you can see from the picture of the reply, Miss B took her frustration out on the poor, defenceless bit of paper, and would probably have flushed it down the toilet if we hadn’t managed to point out that it is probably worth keeping for posterity.
The situation now is that the anger has been channeled into a new letter demanding a different response, which will be winging its way to Hasbro UK tomorrow. I will report back on what comes of this.
Miss B’s school runs a chess club that is open to pupils of year 2 (thats six and seven year olds), and this has been something she has been looking forward to joining since she started at the school. Well, Miss B is currently in year 2, so signed up and has been going along each week. Usually she loses, sometimes only narrowly, but she gets the occasional win, and she always enjoys taking part.
A couple of weeks ago, she brought home an invitation to take part in a local chess tournament for primary school aged kids. At her request, I sent off the entry form, and today the day of the event arrived. We turned up nice and early at the venue, her being very excited and me being more nervous than I would admit to her.
I learnt to play chess when I was fairly young, and got to be okay at it, but never joined a chess club or took part in any tournaments or other organised play. It was just a game to play casually but try to get better at. As a result, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from a tournament, but figured she was used to losing so how bad can it be?
The tournament had over 40 kids in attendance, divided into 5 age classes, and the event was run over five rounds as a Swiss format competition. I had heard about Swiss tournaments, but didn’t know what they were, so spent a few minutes reading the page on Wikipedia, and then explaining how it all works to one of the other parents who were hanging around.
Once each game was started, the parents were ejected from the playing rooms, starting a period of tense waiting. Miss B was delighted to win her first match, but went on to lose her other four. She took all this extremely well until the very last match, when she felt that one of the adults in the room was helping her opponent at the very end. I’m sure this wasn’t as bad as she perceived it (and it sounded like she was losing anyway — and even winning this match would not have put her in the prizes) but it did sour the experience for her. Another downer was when she found out that a couple of her class mates (one of whom is actually older than her by a few months) were competing in the lower age group. I have no idea what happened there. Probably some mix up with the paperwork. A big cuddle was needed at the end.
So it was all a pretty intense day, with 5 matches played over a four hour period, and it is not surprising that everyone was a bit frayed at the end. Still, Miss B says she wants to go back next year and see if she can do better. I couldn’t be more proud of her.
Edited to add: I’ve figured out what happened in the age group. The mix up with the paperwork was my fault, so I owe Miss B a huge apology for accidentally entering her into a higher age group. Oops.