Oof. I’ve not updated in forever, so I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, ground I’ve mostly forgotten. But I’ll pick out some highlights. In no particular order.
Played a three player game of Root. It didn’t feel great, as I took on the Woodland Alliance because I hadn’t played it yet, but that faction is so strong against new players, it’s ridiculous. Everyone enjoyed themselves, but there is a definite tension between wanting a fair game and wanting everyone to be able to experiment and play around. I’m still fond of it.
Terraforming Mars may have had two games, including one with the Prelude expansion. I reckon Prelude is perfect for shaving a bit of time off the game and giving everyone something obvious to go for, but it does make the number of choices at the beginning of the game pretty overwhelming, especially for new players. It’s weird to sit down to a game, go through the rules, and then sit in silence for so long while everyone tries to figure out what to do. It reminded me that the game really needs you to feed the drama and narrative into it, to stop it just being a lot of people staring at cards very intensely. It was good though. and I’ve never been able to slam a moon into someone’s greenhouse quite so quickly. Still think it’s a great game.
Spirit Island finally got a follow up to the one round teaching game I got two nineworlds ago. It’s as brilliant and exciting as I remember. I was describing it to someone as ‘the anticolonial child of Pandemic and Mage Knight’, and it doesn’t feel entirely inaccurate. The power curve and comboness of the cards (and Concordia style deckbuilding) leaves to you doing hugely powerful things against overwhelming odds. While the processing of the enemies is almost as simple to operate as Pandemic and twice as relentless. There’s a lot of depth here that I’ll never play enough to discover, but I’m already picked up the first expansion and am backing the second, because I want to be able to be able to go really deep if the mood catches. Wonderful stuff.
The King is Dead is a tightly abstract and very pretty game. I really enjoyed it, but did awfully. There’s a lot of known information. It kind of feels like a lighter, tighter, quicker and nastier alternative to El Grande. I still prefer El Grande, but that’s hefty praise. For convoluted reasons I now have both The King is Dead and Konig von Siam. Really need to double check if there’s actually any difference at all.
Nusfjord remains brilliant. I got slammed by a new player with a lot of Uwe experience, but was pleased to find yet another route through the cards, even though I’m playing the simplest deck so often as I’m normally teaching. Absolutely adore the way everything interlocks in this game. I think it’s challenging Glass Road as Uwe’s finest!
Welcome to… was a mild disappointment. It felt fine. Fun even. Just never really engaged me. Although I was pretty underslept and kept on not being able to think properly, so it may have been me rather than the game.
A partner got a copy of Fungi and they wanted to try teaching as they have zero patience for game rules. It’s such a fun little game! Just a nice simple flow, and lots of interesting choices. They absolutely destroyed me, but at least I got to look at lots of mushrooms.
Piepmatz has my favourite name of any game, I love a bit of foreign onomatopoeia. I couldn’t quite gel with it though. I want to play again to see if it can get more ruthless, but it felt a little bland. For some reason I was expecting something as simple yet terrifying as Arboretum, but it didn’t deliver that. But it is very very pretty. And saying the german names for birds makes me quite happy.
Tales of the Arabian Nights got it’s first outing in a very long time. With three people playing to ten points it was about exactly the right speed and length to leave people wanting to play more, but ready for bed. For something designed to be so directly queerphobic, it’s kind of wonderful how easy it is to make it very very queer. I’m kind of glad it has the ‘other’ text in the book of tales, to make it more flexible, as it reminds you that you can switch things up pretty easily. We had a lot of fun. (But that doesn’t make it’s bigotry acceptable, just manageable)
Through the Desert had at least two more plays, and remains delightful to everyone who tries it.
But the main event of the last few weeks has been a surprisingly small game. Between two castles of king ludwig is a wonder of design. I bounced off between two cities as I found the scoring just the wrong side of boring and just the wrong side of a bit too fiddly to teach (it’s not hard, it’s just…fiddly for little benefit). Two castles on the other hand has nice clear iconography and a player aid card that makes a huge difference, and the combination of scoring and potential bonuses gives you plenty of simply but satisfying meat to chew on. It makes the most of the semi-co-op nature of it, by making it really easy to grasp. I suspect we’ve got more ruthlessness to learn about, but every game has been fun so far.
I recently posted on twitter that I would always prefer a smaller box to a nice insert, but my word is this the most exceptional exception I’ve ever seen. The tray sorts everything into the correct number of tiles, so if you shuffle at the end of the game (which is a pretty pleasing task in itself) then when you pull the game out again you can be playing in seconds. It’s not as if it would be that fiddly without it, but it’s so lovely to just not have to think and suddenly be playing. I love it, and I think it’s so clever. It’s the sort of game that gets out of your way so you can just enjoy the company of those you’re with (and then argue with them). I think it’s brilliant.
Games of Trains and regular Castles of King Ludwig also went down really well, though Castles now seems so fiddly in comparison. Trains also ended with the closest game I’ve ever seen, with everyone within one point of each other. Lovely.
In short, it’s been a good few months for games, despite being a hard two months to be trans and depressed. I think things are turning around a bit at the moment, but for a while there I thought the whole universe was against me. It’s then that I treasure games the most though. Being able to interact with people and have fun is so important to me when everything else is falling apart. Don’t forget how magic this hobby is. Bringing people together is the best thing we can do.