Thursday 30 January 2014

Happy Lunar New Year

For those who celebrate the Lunar New Year, I wish you happiness and good health in the year ahead.

Gu Zheng 古筝

The early types of guzheng emerged during the Warring States period (475 to 221 BCE). It was largely influenced by the se (瑟), a plucked stringed instrument. It became prominent during the Qin period (221 to 206 BCE), and by the Tang Dynasty (618 CE to 907 CE), the guzheng was arguably the most commonly played instrument in China.

The modern zheng is very different from ones made centuries ago, mainly due to natural evolution influenced by local as well as historical environments but also because of the adoption of Western musical styles. Strings were once made from silk but now they are almost always metal-nylon which increases the instruments’ capabilities, volume and potentials.

There are many techniques used in the playing of the guzheng, including basic plucking actions (right or both hands) at the right portion and pressing actions at the left portion (by the left hand to produce pitch ornamentations and vibrato) as well as tremolo (right hand). These techniques of playing the guzheng can create sounds that can evoke the sense of a cascading waterfall, thunder, horses' hooves, and even the scenic countryside. Plucking is done mainly by the right hand with four plectra (picks) attached to the fingers. Advanced players may use picks attached to the fingers of both hands. In more traditional performances however, plectra are used solely on the right hand, reflecting its use for melodic purposes and its relative importance in comparison to the left hand which is used solely for purposes of ornamentation. Ancient picks were made of ivory and later also from tortoise shell. Ornamentation includes a tremolo involving the right thumb and index finger rapidly and repeatedly plucking the same note. Another commonly used ornamentation is a wide vibrato, achieved by repeatedly pressing with the left hand on the left side of the bridge. This technique is used liberally in Chinese music, as well as in Korean gayageum music.

Sunday 26 January 2014


Plays: 4Px1.

The Game

Every round a number of gift cards are randomly drawn and displayed on the board, and every player secretly decides which gift to give to which other player. Once this is done, every player then ranks the gifts according to his (or her) own preference. He must pick the top three, plus one least preferred gift. All this is then revealed, and everyone scores points for how well chosen the gifts are. If a player has picked one of the top three preferred gifts for the recipient, they both score points. Otherwise, they both lose points. Each player has two score markers, one to keep track of points gained from giving gifts, and the other one for receiving gifts. To win, both these markers must reach the end goal.

Chen Rui (7) and Shee Yun (8). It was Chen Rui's birthday so this game was perfect for the occasion. The nine spaces at the centre of the board are for the gift cards. The number of gift cards to be used depends on the number of players. The nicely-wrapped-up-gift marker is the giver score marker. The open-box marker is the recipient score marker.

The Play

I played with the family when we visited Meeples Cafe. It's a simple game so it was easy to teach to the children. One of the selling points of the game is that it would trigger discussions and revelations about your friends. E.g. oh I didn't know you like this, or oh I didn't know you hate this, or gosh you have weird tastes. I didn't expect these to apply in our game, since we are a family living under the same roof. But they did. It is partly because of the variety of gifts in the game, which put us in situations which we have never encountered before. E.g. a gift yacht. How would I know if my daughter would like a yacht? The topic never came up over dinner!

The fun comes from not knowing your fellow players well enough. You make discoveries, you get to know each other better. The fun can also come from knowing your fellow players too well. One gift that came up in our game was advanced driving lessons. Now I've always teased my wife Michelle's that her driving is aggressive. She insists that she is just attentive and she knows what she is doing, and she always knows what she wants to do next, unlike many other drivers who are slow, clumsy and distracted on the road. My first thought when I saw advanced driving lessons was this was the perfect gift for her! But she would completely disagree. And because we both knew this topic so well, we had to guess what the other was going to do. We both wanted me to give her the right gift, so that we would both score, but should she make it her favourite gift because she knew I'd pick that for her? Or should she not pick it because she trusted that I knew she wouldn't like it? This additional history that we brought to the game added a twist for us.

Michelle and my scores were quite extreme. I had a high giver score, but a low recipient score, which means I often picked the best gifts for others, but I didn't often get what I truly liked. That's sad. My family doesn't understand me! Michelle on the other hand gave lousy gifts but received all the things that she liked. Life can be so unfair. In constrast, Shee Yun and Chen Rui's scores were well balanced, and they came first and second place.

My (green) giver score marker was in the lead...

... but my recipient score marker was way way way behind.

The Thoughts

This is a get-to-know-you game, very suitable for playing with new friends. It works for old friends too. It's quite simple to play, so it works as a family game, as a party game, and as a casual game with casual players, even non-players. The fun comes from both getting to know your friends better, as well as from shared past histories. The simple game mechanisms fade into the background, and the personal touches come to the front.

Wednesday 22 January 2014


Plays: 4Px1.

The Game

Plastic cups are randomly arranged in a beehive pattern, and each player picks a colour. The objective of the game is to claim as many cups as possible. Every turn you stack one of your cups onto an adjacent cup, creating a higher stack. You can stack as long as your cup (or stack - I'll use the word "cup" to mean a stack with your colour on top) is taller or of the same height as your victim. As cups stack atop each other, the play area will shrink and break up. Once separated, the isolated groups of cups will never meet again since the play area can only shrink further every turn. The game ends when no one can make anymore moves. Stack together all your cups, and whoever has the most cups wins.

The drawings are cat, panda, leaf and flower.

The Play

Cappuccino is a straight-forward abstract game. There is an atmosphere of escalation as players try to create powerful stacks which can run wild eating up every smaller stack in their way. However players also need to pay attention to how the play area will break up. You want to have your stacks run away from the more powerful stacks. If a powerful stack becomes isolated, then it will not be able to do much damage. You want to make sure the breaking up will favour you, leaving your stacks as the most powerful ones on the newly created islands. They don't need to be very powerful, they just need to be more powerful than the others on the islands.

There is one aspect of the game that feels like Through the Desert. Every turn there are a few crises you want to address, but you can only pick one to act on. Making one defensive move in one area of the board will mean you are missing out on the opportunity to make a strong offensive move in another area. Plenty of tough decisions.

At this point two smaller islands have broken off from the main play area, the island of three stacks on the left, and the one with six stacks on the right. On the island on the left, it is a race between beige and black. Whoever claims the white stack first will win the whole island.

Boon Khim. Determining who wins is as simple as this - just stack all your cups together.

The Thoughts

Cappuccino feels like a simpler cousin of DVONN. The play area keeps shrinking, and pieces stack higher and higher. It supports up to four players, as opposed to only two for DVONN. Both are perfect information abstract games. Cappuccino doesn't have the DVONN or life pieces, which are an important aspect of DVONN - player pieces that lose connection to a DVONN piece are dead. Cappuccino is easy to teach, and will work with casual players and families.

Saturday 18 January 2014

my 2013

Fancy Charts

The raw numbers.

Same set of numbers, but for 2011 onwards the numbers exclude games played against AI's.

The dark blue dashed line (total games played) uses the scale on the right axis, the rest use the scale on the left axis.

My total games played has continued to drop (dark blue), but do not despair. It's only because I have been playing fewer games against AI's. If only counting games played with other humans, the trend is actually upwards, as you will see in the next diagram. I'm playing fewer new games (yellow), and also fewer different games (pink). The numbers in 2013 are very much dominated (or distorted) by my many plays of Ascension on the iPhone. I always have 5 games in progress at any one time. I played 275 games of Ascension in 2013. The total plays of all other games played is 274. This is how much Ascension dominated the stats.

Humans only numbers. From 2011 onwards, the numbers exclude games played against AI's.

Distinct games played. Very few games made it to the dime list - games played 10 times or more.

Percentage view. 2013 had the highest percentage ever of games played just once.

Number of plays.

Percentage view.

Lowest ever record of number of games acquired (which includes buying as well as receiving as gifts). I met my quota of 18 games per year! Maybe I will shoot for 12 in 2014.

Games Played

Games played in 2013, sorted by number of plays. Where there are two numbers, the first number is the total number of plays, and the second number is the number of plays against computer opponents (AI's).

  1. Ascension (275) - All played on the iPhone. Most are recurring 2P games, played against Han, Allen and two strangers TheCreator and ToDream. I have one recurring 3P game against Han and Allen. I can't explain why I still don't tire of this game. I play with most of the expansions. With this many expansions, quite often by mid game the winner is obvious. I don't mind it very much, although I think I should. I guess this is compensated by the fact that the powerful card combos are fun.


  2. LOTR Confrontation (13) - Mostly played against Shee Yun (8 years old).

    Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation

  3. Android: Netrunner (11) - I have barely scratched the surface. I want to play more. I always tell myself I should ask John Choong or Afif to coach me, but I never get around to do it.
  4. Robinson Crusoe (10) - Initially I found it very tough, but now that I have played the first scenario quite a few times with different people (when I teach I still prefer to start with the basic scenario), I think that scenario is quite easy to win once you have a good grasp of the game. You will still encounter different things, because of the many different event cards in the game, but the challenge is no longer there once you know the scenario well. I'm not sure whether it's just the first scenario. I haven't played other scenarios as many times. I've played scenarios 1, 2 and 4 so far. So I have at least three more fresh ones to go. Plus there are more scenarios designed by players available on BGG. So there is still much replayability.

    Robinson Crusoe

  5. Spot It (10)
  6. Summoner Wars (9)
  7. San Juan (9,8) - Mostly played on the iPhone, in the toilet.
  8. Hanabi (8)
  9. Race for the Galaxy (7)
  10. Heroica: Nathuz (7)
  11. Brawl (6,6)
  12. Blue Moon (5)
  13. Halli Galli (5)
  14. Nightfall (5)
  15. Eclipse (5,1)
  16. Dixit (5)
  17. Café International (5,5)
  18. Catan (4)
  19. Kakerlaken-Poker (4)
  20. Fleet (4)
  21. Blokus 3D (3)
  22. Ticket To Ride (3)
  23. Qwirkle (3)
  24. TTR Africa (3)
  25. Innovation (3)
  26. Sticky Stickz (3)
  27. Puerto Rico (3,2)
  28. Space Alert (3)
  29. Escape: The Curse of the Temple (3)
  30. Uno (3)
  31. Lord of the Rings (2)
  32. Fauna (2)
  33. Wasabi (2)
  34. Rabbit Hunt (2)
  35. TTR Switzerland (2)
  36. The Road to Canterbury (2)
  37. Mamma Mia (2)
  38. Barbarossa (2)
  39. Monopoly (2)
  40. Neuroshima Hex (2,2)
  41. Monster Chase (2)
  42. Aquaretto (2)
  43. Tigris & Euphrates (2,2)
  44. Through the Ages (2)
  45. Small World (2,2)
  46. Roll Through The Ages (2,2)
  47. Star Wars: X-Wing (2)
  48. Tzolk'in (2)
  49. Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! Russia 1941-1942 (2)
  50. Sekigahara (2)
  51. Yspahan (1)
  52. MR1: Jack the Ripper (1)
  53. Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge (1)
  54. The Castles of Burgundy (1)
  55. Asara (1)
  56. Jaipur (1)
  57. A Few Acres of Snow (1)
  58. Stone & Relic (1)
  59. God's Playground (1)
  60. Java (1)
  61. Goa (1)
  62. Ticket To Ride Asia (1)
  63. Lancaster (1)
  64. At the Gates of Loyang (1)
  65. Ticket To Ride Europe (1)
  66. Villa Paletti (1)
  67. Jamaica (1)
  68. Forbidden Island (1)
  69. Battle Line (1)
  70. Zombie! Run for your lives! (1)
  71. Confetti (1)
  72. Ubongo (1)
  73. Hive (1)
  74. China (1)
  75. Dungeon Petz (1)
  76. Antiquity (1)
  77. Um Reifenbreite (1)
  78. Lost Cities (1)
  79. Age of Steam (1)
  80. Kemet (1)
  81. Keltis (1)
  82. Bremerhaven (1)
  83. La Citta (1)
  84. Checkers (1)
  85. Can't Stop (1,1)
  86. Clash of Cultures (1)
  87. Evolution (1)
  88. Mahjong Rummy (1)
  89. Kingdom Builder (1)
  90. The Great Zimbabwe (1)
  91. World Conquerors (1)
  92. Fearsome Floors (1)
  93. Mage Knight (1)
  94. Feed the Kitty (1)
  95. El Grande (1)
  96. Princes of Florence (1)
  97. It's Alive! (1,1)
  98. Planet Steam (1)
  99. Gulo Gulo (1)
  100. Agricola (1)
  101. Tobago (1)
  102. Ugg-tect (1)
  103. River Dragons (1)
  104. Edo (1)
  105. Taluva (1)
  106. A la carte (1)
  107. Tales of the Arabian Nights (1)
  108. Nanuk (1)
  109. Panic on Wall Street (1)
  110. 51st State (1)
  111. Urban Sprawl (1)
  112. Cloud 9 (1)
  113. Pack & Stack (1)
  114. London (1)
  115. 7 Wonders (1)
  116. Concordia (1)
  117. Rialto (1)
  118. Kuhhandel Master (1)
  119. For Sale (1)
  120. Cappuccino (1)
  121. GiftTRAP (1)
  122. Tokaido (1)

Here's the same list, but sorted by how much time is spent playing each game. The first number is the number of plays, and the second number the time spent in hours. This list will favour longer games. For 2013, this list is not very interesting.

  1. Ascension (275, 137.5hrs)
  2. Robinson Crusoe (10, 20hrs)
  3. Eclipse (5, 12.5hrs) - I actually spent much fewer than 12.5hrs. 2.5hrs is my estimate for how long a full game takes, but most of my games vs Han and Allen on iOS crashed and we were not able to complete any game. Maybe we took too long. Our games stretched weeks.
  4. Android: Netrunner (11, 8.3hrs)
  5. Nightfall (5, 5hrs)
  6. Catan (4, 4.7hrs) - Playing this with the children made me appreciate again what a good game this is.

    The Settlers of Catan

  7. Summoner Wars (9, 4.5hrs)
  8. San Juan (9, 4.5hrs)
  9. Hanabi (8, 4hrs)
  10. Monopoly (2, 4hrs)
  11. Through the Ages (2, 4hrs) - Happy to have played this favourite twice.
  12. Sekigahara (2, 4hrs) - And this too.
  13. Puerto Rico (3, 3.8hrs) - And this, although 2 of the plays were against AI's. The iOS version is not exactly pretty, but it is mostly successful in showing all information on one screen. Only for the buildings I need to take additional steps to show which is which and what they do. The AI's seem decent enough, but not particularly strong. Not as good as the Tigris & Euphrates AI.

    Puerto Rico

  14. Race for the Galaxy (7, 3.5hrs) - The long awaited expansion Alien Artifacts finally came out at the end of 2013. I'm looking forward to buying it. Maybe Race for the Galaxy will see a boost in 2014.
  15. LOTR Confrontation (13, 3.3hrs)
  16. Ticket To Ride (3, 3hrs)
  17. TTR Africa (3, 3hrs)
  18. Lord of the Rings (2, 3hrs)
  19. Tzolk'in (2, 3hrs)
  20. Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! Russia 1941-1942 (2, 3hrs)
  21. Mage Knight (1, 3hrs)
  22. Antiquity (1, 3hrs)
  23. Dixit (5, 2.9hrs)
  24. Café International (5, 2.5hrs)
  25. Clash of Cultures (1, 2.5hrs)
  26. God's Playground (1, 2.5hrs)
  27. Urban Sprawl (1, 2.5hrs)
  28. Heroica: Nathuz (7, 2.3hrs)
  29. Innovation (3, 2.3hrs)
  30. Fleet (4, 2hrs)
  31. Tigris & Euphrates (2, 2hrs)
  32. Mahjong Rummy (1, 2hrs)
  33. The Great Zimbabwe (1, 2hrs)
  34. Planet Steam (1, 2hrs)
  35. Concordia (1, 2hrs)
  36. Bremerhaven (1, 2hrs)
  37. Halli Galli (5, 1.7hrs)
  38. Kakerlaken-Poker (4, 1.7hrs)
  39. Dungeon Petz (1, 1.7hrs)
  40. Qwirkle (3, 1.5hrs)
  41. Space Alert (3, 1.5hrs)
  42. Fauna (2, 1.5hrs)
  43. TTR Switzerland (2, 1.5hrs)
  44. Aquaretto (2, 1.5hrs)
  45. Star Wars: X-Wing (2, 1.5hrs)
  46. The Road to Canterbury (2, 1.5hrs)
  47. Barbarossa (2, 1.5hrs)
  48. Small World (2, 1.5hrs)
  49. The Castles of Burgundy (1, 1.5hrs)
  50. World Conquerors (1, 1.5hrs)
  51. A Few Acres of Snow (1, 1.5hrs)
  52. Lancaster (1, 1.5hrs)
  53. Agricola (1, 1.5hrs)
  54. Tales of the Arabian Nights (1, 1.5hrs)
  55. Age of Steam (1, 1.5hrs)
  56. Rialto (1, 1.5hrs)
  57. La Citta (1, 1.5hrs)
  58. Rabbit Hunt (2, 1.3hrs)
  59. Java (1, 1.3hrs)
  60. Blue Moon (5, 1.3hrs)
  61. El Grande (1, 1.3hrs)
  62. Princes of Florence (1, 1.3hrs)
  63. At the Gates of Loyang (1, 1.3hrs)
  64. Kemet (1, 1.3hrs)
  65. Wasabi (2, 1.2hrs)
  66. Goa (1, 1.2hrs)
  67. Blokus 3D (3, 1hrs)
  68. Neuroshima Hex (2, 1hrs)
  69. Mamma Mia (2, 1hrs)
  70. Asara (1, 1hrs)
  71. TTR Europe (1, 1hrs)
  72. Tobago (1, 1hrs)
  73. Panic on Wall Street (1, 1hrs)
  74. 51st State (1, 1hrs)
  75. London (1, 1hrs)
  76. Spot It (10, 0.8hrs)
  77. Escape: The Curse of the Temple (3, 0.8hrs)
  78. Yspahan (1, 0.8hrs)
  79. Kingdom Builder (1, 0.8hrs)
  80. Fearsome Floors (1, 0.8hrs)
  81. Stone & Relic (1, 0.8hrs)
  82. Ticket To Ride Asia (1, 0.8hrs)
  83. Jamaica (1, 0.8hrs)
  84. River Dragons (1, 0.8hrs)
  85. Forbidden Island (1, 0.8hrs)
  86. A la carte (1, 0.8hrs)
  87. Tokaido (1, 0.8hrs)
  88. Roll Through The Ages (2, 0.7hrs)
  89. Nanuk (1, 0.7hrs)
  90. Um Reifenbreite (1, 0.7hrs)
  91. Kuhhandel Master (1, 0.7hrs)
  92. GiftTRAP (1, 0.7hrs)
  93. Brawl (6, 0.5hrs)
  94. Sticky Stickz (3, 0.5hrs)
  95. Monster Chase (2, 0.5hrs)
  96. Evolution (1, 0.5hrs)
  97. It's Alive! (1, 0.5hrs)
  98. Villa Paletti (1, 0.5hrs)
  99. Ugg-tect (1, 0.5hrs)
  100. Edo (1, 0.5hrs)
  101. China (1, 0.5hrs)
  102. Cloud 9 (1, 0.5hrs)
  103. Pack & Stack (1, 0.5hrs)
  104. 7 Wonders (1, 0.5hrs)
  105. Keltis (1, 0.5hrs)
  106. MR1: Jack the Ripper (1, 0.4hrs)
  107. Taluva (1, 0.4hrs)
  108. For Sale (1, 0.4hrs)
  109. Gulo Gulo (1, 0.3hrs)
  110. Battle Line (1, 0.3hrs)
  111. Zombie! Run for your lives! (1, 0.3hrs)
  112. Ubongo (1, 0.3hrs)
  113. Hive (1, 0.3hrs)
  114. Cappuccino (1, 0.3hrs)
  115. Can't Stop (1, 0.3hrs)
  116. Uno (3, 0.3hrs)
  117. Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge (1, 0.3hrs)
  118. Jaipur (1, 0.3hrs)
  119. Feed the Kitty (1, 0.3hrs)
  120. Confetti (1, 0.3hrs)
  121. Lost Cities (1, 0.3hrs)
  122. Checkers (1, 0.2hrs)

New To Me

44 new-to-me games in 2013. That's a significant drop compared to 2012 (60 new-to-me games). Many are games played with the children when we had family outings to Meeples Cafe. The numbers in brackets are the number of plays.

  1. Android: Netrunner (11)
  2. Robinson Crusoe (10)
  3. Hanabi (8) - I enjoyed the novelty.
  4. Heroica: Nathuz (7) - It's more a toy than a game. Rules have ambiguities. Gameplay is weak. But the children like creating their own dungeons and scenarios.
  5. Eclipse (5)
  6. Fleet (4) - This was a pleasant surprise. A lean and quick race of a card powers combo game.
  7. Qwirkle (3) - Simple rules. You can play it leisurely. You can also play it seriously with much strategising and calculation of probabilities.
  8. Sticky Stickz (3) - Speed game of identifying patterns.
  9. Ticket To Ride Africa (3) - Hunger for colour. You tend to need lots of cards of a single colour.
  10. Small World (2) - All played on iOS against AI's. Just OK for me. I've played Vinci before, and I remember that was also just OK. The iOS implementation is done well, just like all other Days of Wonder titles.
  11. Monster Chase (2) - Simple children's memory game. Cooperative game.
  12. Aquaretto (2) - Similar yet different from Zooloretto. The core bit of drawing animal tiles and choosing trucks is the same, but how to place animals onto your aquarium and how to score are different.
  13. Star Wars: X-Wing (2) - Pew pew pew fun.
  14. The Road to Canterbury (2) - Brinkmanship and a bit of area majority. Decent game if you don't mind playing an evil priest.

    The Road to Canterbury

  15. Tzolk'in (2) - Not bad, but I don't love it as much as many others do. The timing and planning aspect is interesting, but the multiple ways to score, the area majority competition, the building special powers and the end-game scoring buildings all feel a bit too familiar. I prefer The Road to Canterbury. Too many things in a game doesn't necessarily make it better or give it more depth. Sometimes it just makes the game more tedious.
  16. Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! Russia 1941-1942 (2) - There is so much more I have yet to explore. I want to, but never quite find time to revisit this game. It's a tragedy for boardgamers who are very much into the hobby and end up needing to play so many games and being unable to dedicate more time to some good games that take more plays to fully appreciate. This happened to Allen's and my exploration of Earth Reborn, and I suspect Robinson Crusoe may get neglected before I play all six scenarios that come with the game unless I make a conscious effort to do so.

    Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! Russia 1941-1942

  17. Clash of Cultures (1) - After playing this in January 2013, I saved up my game-buying quota through the year to eventually buy it in December 2013. I like how the objective cards will drive players in different directions. I like some of the clever mechanisms implemented. The warfare part is just so-so, serviceable but nothing to write home about. I think it's a hard problem to solve - how do you represent warfare in a game where the scope spans thousands of years? I like how warfare is abstracted in Through the Ages.
  18. Kingdom Builder (1) - Gameplay is much better in action than on paper. I was pleasantly surprised. The variability in game setup provides much replayability.
  19. Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge (1) - Dexterity game. I prefer the original and more straightforward Animal Upon Animal.
  20. The Castles of Burgundy (1) - It's another multiple-abstract-ways-to-score-points game, but I do like how you have to plan your expansion and try to make every die roll useful.
  21. Asara (1) - A pretty average game. You use a form of worker placement mechanism to build towers. You compete to build the tallest towers in 5 colours and you also compete to build the most towers.
  22. World Conquerors (1) - Not-tedious dudes-on-a-map game driven by cards which represent great conquerors in history. In a way similar to Small World, but more flavourful because of the historical touch. It's educational!
  23. Fearsome Floors (1) - I think I have actually played this before, before I started logging my game plays. So it's probably not really new-to-me.
  24. Stone & Relic (1) - Card game. Didn't like. Very tactical, and much effort required in working out the best move every turn, so the game doesn't flow smoothly.
  25. God's Playground (1) - Classic Martin Wallace, the type that tells stories. The country (Poland) is going to hell. What are you going to do to save the country and at the same time to make sure you're a bigger hero than other nobles (players)? Of course you let them fail in saving their chunks of the country, as long as the invaders don't spread to your chunks of the country.

    God's Playground

  26. Feed the Kitty (1) - Children dice game. Not much decision-making. It's for younger children.
  27. It's Alive! (1) - It was free on the iOS. Was OK, but I have not learned the nuances.
  28. Lancaster (1)
  29. Jamaica (1) - Light and fun race game with some conflict. B-E-A-U-tiful. Good family game.
  30. Ugg-tect (1) - Big-group party game. Eye-catching because you need to hit your teammate (and sometimes yourself) on the head. However I don't think it's something you want to play a lot of. I guess it'll work if you play it once a year at family gatherings.
  31. River Dragons (1)
  32. Edo (1)
  33. Nanuk (1) - Bluffing, persuasion, gambling, reading the mood of the group.
  34. Panic on Wall Street (1) - Chaotic real-time multi-way negotiations.
  35. Cloud 9 (1) - Good and simple push-your-luck game. Suitable for families too.
  36. Kemet (1) - Modern dudes-on-a-map design that encourages offense. Do turtling and you'll fall behind. The map is small (gameplay-wise, not physically) and teleport stations (obelisks) make every territory only a few steps away.
  37. Concordia (1) - There's a rondel-like mechanism in this Mac Gerdts game. Make no mistake about it. Quite a decent game.
  38. Rialto (1)
  39. Bremerhaven (1) - Brutal blind bidding. Usually losers get nothing. Some won't like it. I found it funny, but then that's probably because of the company.
  40. Kuhhandel Master (1)
  41. La Citta (1) - A game that gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling because it's a late 90's and early 00's style design.
  42. Cappuccino (1) - A quick abstract game, a little like DVONN, and supports up to 4 players.
  43. GiftTRAP (1) - Family / party game about guessing what gifts your friends will like and hoping they will know what you like.
  44. Tokaido (1) - An OK game. A bit of a multiple-shallow-ways-to-score-points game (a type which I'm getting tired of), but then 7 Wonders by the same designer, is one too. Tokaido is a bit like turning the time (turn order) mechanism in Thebes (and I think Neuland too) into a game. The art is absolutely gorgeous and helps evoke the feeling of taking a leisurely trip.

Of these new games that I've played for the first time this year, I am most keen to continue playing Android: Netrunner.

Games Acquired

Numbers in brackets are how many times I have played the game, including non-2013 plays, e.g. including playing friends' copies before I decided to buy a copy myself.

  1. Android: Netrunner (11)
  2. Android: Netrunner - What Lies Ahead (Cycle 1, #1) - I did some research, and these three expansions are recommended to be the best first steps in expanding the game. I have not played that much of Netrunner so I probably won't buy more expansions until I do.
  3. Android: Netrunner - Humanity's Shadow (Cycle 1, #5)
  4. Android: Netrunner - Future Proof (Cycle 1, #6)
  5. Qwirkle (3)
  6. Aquaretto (2) - Because elder daughter Shee Yun likes it.
  7. Hanabi (8)
  8. Sekigahara (4) - One of the purchases I'm most happy about. I really like this game.


  9. Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! Russia 1941-1942 (2) - Because I came across a very good deal at Meeples Cafe. But I promise I didn't buy it just because it was on sale. It was a great opportunity for me to try something different.
  10. Ticket To Ride Africa (3)
  11. Robinson Crusoe (11)
  12. Axis & Allies 1914 (0) - I should set a goal to get this played in 2014.
  13. Dixit Journey (8) - I count plays of Dixit too. Younger daughter Chen Rui likes this and requests to play almost every time that we visit Meeples Cafe. So I bought a copy for her birthday. So technically this is her game, not mine. Ditto Aquaretto above.
  14. Roads & Boats (0) - I should set a goal to get this played in 2014.
  15. Clash of Cultures (1)

Hey this year I don't need to make excuses about why some games (e.g. expansions) shouldn't count toward my 18 game quota.

Other Thoughts on Specific Games

  • Favourite new-to-me-in-2013 game: Android: Netrunner, but I am still reserved about how much I will like it because I am still a beginner.
  • Unexpected and pleasant discoveries in 2013: The Road to Canterbury, Fleet, Kingdom Builder (because it really didn't sound like much from reading the rules), Qwirkle.
  • Other new-to-me games in 2013 that I like: Robinson Crusoe, Cloud 9, Clash of Cultures, Star Wars: X-Wing.

    Star Wars: X-Wing

  • Some (because the full list is too long) games that I like but did not play in 2013: Le Havre, Automobile, Carcassonne (oh blasphemy!), Hansa Teutonica, Rommel in the Desert, Endeavor, Die Macher.
  • Some games that I wish I had played more of: The Great Zimbabwe, Conflict of Heroes.
  • I'm glad to have explored further in 2013: Sekigahara
  • I'm glad to have played these old favourites: Puerto Rico, Age of Steam, Goa, Java.
  • Paths of Glory is still unplayed. I should make an effort to get it played.


My 2013

I rarely host gaming sessions at home now. Allen and I tend to go to OTK ( / BGC), unless we have specific 2P games we want to play. Then we usually play at his place. I am grateful that Jeff continues to host the Friday gaming nights at OTK.

My longest-running boardgame kaki (fellow addict) Han ended a one-year overseas job posting, only to find that he was going on another out-of-town job posting. We still keep gaming via the iOS, playing Ascension, and we still try to meet up for games whenever he's back in town.

I contributed to getting a colleague Zaiham who is an ex-Magic player back into the hobby. I played Blue Moon and Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation with him, and encouraged him to game again. Now he is back into Magic: The Gathering and enjoying himself very much. I've learned a bit about the system from him too, although I don't intend to pick it up. Nowadays he's the one who keeps encouraging me to visit Spartan Games Arena to play Netrunner. They have a healthy community of players there.

Zaiham and Blue Moon

The children are older now, 8 and 7 in 2013. We still occasionally visit Meeples Cafe. Shee Yun (8) is able to handle slightly more complex games. The children are not boardgame fans like I am, they have plenty of other toys, but sometimes they do ask to play. I'm happy enough with that. Shee Yun (8) had 113 plays (slightly less than 2012, surprisingly) of 53 distinct games (increased), and most played games are Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (10), Spot It (9), and Heroica: Nathuz (6). She probably has played quite a few games on the iPad which I have not recorded. Chen Rui (7) had 84 plays (significantly lower than 2012) of 38 distinct games (significantly higher than 2012), and most played games are Spot It (12), Heroica: Nathuz (5) and Cafe International (5). She probably played games on the iPad that I have not recorded too.

Shee Yun and Chen Rui playing Dixit.

In 2013, my wife Michelle had 73 plays (slightly less than 2012), of 36 distinct games (also slightly less). She is not particularly interested in boardgames now, but is still willing to play sometimes. I think I have now stopped looking for games which I think will be good spouse games. She is not that keen about learning new games. I'm thankful that she had played this many games of Netrunner with me in 2013. It was a game that I had hoped to turn into a spouse game. She didn't like it, but still humoured me and played 7 times. We did play Through the Ages, Antiquity and a handful of Robinson Crusoe. I shall be content to play occasional games of Race for the Galaxy (and other games she already knows) with her. I shall not try to make her play Roads and Boats (which is supposed to be best with two) if she is not keen. Her most played games in 2013 are Android: Netrunner (7), Race for the Galaxy (7) and Dixit (5), most time spent was Robinson Crusoe (8hrs).

Michelle and Android: Netrunner

I am able to keep my game purchases within my self-imposed quota for the first time in many years because I really have little urge to buy new games, which in turn is because there are many games that I own which I am keen to play and am not playing enough. Still, I couldn't resist getting Roads and Boats, Axis and Allies 1914 and Clash of Cultures. I do hope to play them. Reading about boardgames on the net and on Google Reader is starting to feel like a waste of time because many articles are about new boardgames (of course) and since I'm not particularly keen about new games, I am spending much time clicking "mark as read" and scanning for articles that I am interested to read. I feel I'm enjoying writing (blogging) more than I enjoy reading. Now the type of article I enjoy are people sharing their stories and experiences, and short impressions which are not rule summaries. I always struggle with this myself when blogging - how to describe a game without regurgitating the rulebook. I decided I should still give an overview of the game, but I hope I'm not doing to others what I myself dislike. Well, at least you can always cleanly skip my "The Game" sections.

I wrote 68 posts at this blog in 2013, compared to 95 in 2012. I didn't realise I have been posting much less. I felt I was still constantly writing. But then I've never set any schedule for blogging. I write when I have time and when I feel like it. I still enjoy it, so I keep taking photos and sharing them and I keep sharing my journey. Here are some posts in 2013 that I like:

  • I came to a realisation that being a happy boardgamer is not about playing only good games, or about seeking out all good games, or about playing with close friends and family. It is simply about the act of playing games with fellow players who also enjoy playing. The games need not be all exceptionally good. The fellow players can be total strangers (you'll become friends and get to know them better).
  • Giving a game a rating when you review it may not be a good thing.
  • There are different ways to enjoy the hobby. There is no wrong way.
  • I miss games from the late 90's to early 00's.
  • Ranking the 2012 games that I have played.

2013 was a year of chasing after new games less and sitting back and relaxing to just enjoy the process of playing games. I hope to do this more in 2014.

Sunday 5 January 2014

La Citta

Plays: 2Px1.

The Game

La Citta is a year 2000 game which I have heard of since I started boardgaming seriously around 2004. I never got around to play it, and only had the opportunity recently when Allen bought a copy at Meeple Cafe's sale.

La Citta is a city-building game. You run multiple cities, striving to grow them to be populous and sophisticated. Each city starts as one castle with three citizens. It grows as you construct new buildings starting from the spaces next to the castle and then extending outwards. Every building needs to be manned in order to be effective, and every citizen needs food. You need to build farms next to farmland to grow enough food. You need to build mines next to mountains to mint coins. You need markets, fountains and baths to allow your population to grow beyond a certain number. By default every city grows by one each round, unless you hit the limits which you need such buildings to abolish. And very importantly, there are many buildings which provide services to your people. There are three types of services - health, education and culture. Every round one or two of these will be demanded by the people, and if your city does not provide them better than a nearby opponent city, you citizens will emigrate to greener pastures.

The roughly triangular tiles are terrain tiles. They are either farmland, lakes or mountains. Cities always start with a castle hex which is in the colour of the player (light green or dark brown in this photo).

Scoring is done at the end of the game. Most points come from citizens (1VP each). You also score 3VP per city which has all three types of services. So you always want to keep growing your cities. The competition in the game comes in the limited space on the board, and outdoing your competitors in services provided by your cities.

The Play

I did a 2P game with Allen. The game supports up to 5 players. I had thought 2P might not be very interesting, but it turned out to be better than I expected. With 2 players, some sections of the board are not used, which helps maintain the competitiveness.

Since it was only two of us playing, those darker green and beige coloured spaces along the edges were not in play.

I spent the early game focusing on farms and food. If any of your citizens starve, they die (obviously!), and you also lose one action in the next round, so famine prevention was at the top of my priorities. Food supply is not just an early-game thing. Because of the free growth every round, you need to keep up. And there's also the possibility that you gain citizens through immigration. During the game I realised that attracting people to your cities may not always be a good thing. You may find that you don't have enough food for the newcomers. And who do they blame? You! Sometimes stealing people away from your opponents may turn out to be doing them a favour, when they are struggling to feed their own citizens. So the markets, fountains and baths sometimes are not really hindrances to growth. Sometimes they are helpful tools for population control.

There is a strong spatial element in this game. You need to analyse the board setup (which is random) to decide where you want to start your cities. You need to consider not just access to farmland (for food), mountains (for money) and lakes (for growth - baths and fountains can only be built next to lakes), but also how many competing cities are in the vicinity, even whether you would be choking your own other cities.

The competition to win over citizens can be quite brutal. One poorly serviced city can suddenly run short of workers if its citizens get lured away by multiple nearby cities in the same round. This can trigger a downward spiral as buildings get abandoned and the city's service levels further plummet. You can end up with ghost towns.

My (light green) city at the bottom left is hemmed in by two of Allen's (dark brown) cities. Cities are not allowed to merge, so there must be at least one space separating them.

Players actions are mostly limited by what cards are available in the action card pool on the board. However each player also has 3 multi-purpose personal action cards available every round. So there's always a fallback. The action card pool introduces some variability, and also sometimes presents tough decisions, e.g. whether to take an action you really want, or one that you know your opponent really wants.

There will always be 7 face-up action cards to pick from. Let's look at some of them. The first one allows you to build a specific building which gives 1 education (black) service point and 1 health (blue) service point. The second card allows you to peek at one of the Voice of the People cards (these cards determine which service type or types will attract citizens from one city to another that round). You peek at one for free, or you see all of them if you pay $2. The fifth card allows you to gain an extra citizen, or two if you pay $2, three if you pay $5. The 7th card allows you to boost the service value of one building by one, or by two if you pay $2, by three if you pay $5.

The Thoughts

I am probably a little biased towards La Citta. It's the type of Eurogame from the period when I fell in love with Eurogames, so it's easy for me to like it. It's the same principle as how those pop songs from your youth always sound much better than the rubbish that the so-called artists are putting out today. La Citta is not really as simple and concise as its peers (game from the late 90's and early 00's). There are many types of action cards and buildings, so it is not a minimalistic or elegant design compared to its peers. But the various bits don't feel superfluous. I like how prominent the spatial element is. This is a real boardgame. The board does matter. It is a platform on which you actually compete, and not a storage space for game components, or a data recording tool, or a device for executing some abstract mechanism.

I like how direct the competition is. Your city expansion can get blocked. You lose people. You run short of operators for your buildings. People die from starvation. In many other games a poor round may mean your opponents score more points than you do, but here, you feel the pain. The game can be very competitive, if players are aggressive and position their cities to block one another. Even if you prefer to start more peacefully and further apart, sooner or later your cities will come into contact with others' cities. There is no way to avoid fighting over citizens.

Saturday 4 January 2014


There's a best boardgame websites voting going on at BoardGameLinks, and my blog is currently at #69. Go check it out. Please "like" my blog if you like my blog. :-) You may also find some interesting blogs / sites that you have not heard of before.