Tuesday 28 November 2023

Fit to Print

The Game

The graphic artist for Fit to Print is Ian O'Toole, who is currently the graphic artist in the boardgame industry. I wasn't aware it was him initially. I thought the art was fantastic and evocative. It was after the game that I realised it was his work. Good artwork contributes a lot to the play experience. 

Fit to Print is about newspaper editing. It is a real-time, spatial game. Over three rounds, you will be arranging the front cover of your own newspaper. It will be for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday editions of your paper. Players work on their own personal newspapers. You try to arrange your front page well in order to score points. After three rounds, the highest scorer wins. 

During setup, you get your own player board (your newspaper front page) and a work desk. The desk is 3D, although you can't really tell from this photo. It's a nice touch. At the start of a round, all tiles are spread around the table face-down. You need a countdown timer to play a round. We were all new to the game, so we agreed on 5 minutes. Within 5 minutes, you have to claim tiles from the centre of the table, and also fit them all onto your newspaper. The tiles are articles, photos and ads. Everyone does this simultaneously. 

When you take a tile. You flip it over to see what type it is. You can decide whether to keep it. If you want to keep it, you place it on your desk. Otherwise, you return it face-up to the centre of the table. That means others can see it and they can decide to take it. When you are still claiming tiles, you can't arrange them on your newspaper yet. Only when you are done with claiming tiles can you switch to tile arrangement. 

Ideally you are able to place all your tiles. Any leftovers entail a penalty. There are rules around tile placement. Articles of the type (business, entertainment or technology) cannot be adjacent to each other. Ads cannot be adjacent. Photos either. Some photos score points based on adjacent articles. You want to place them next to relevant articles. Every round everyone gets a special headline article which provides some special ability or an additional way to score points. Articles can be cheery or gloomy, and your newspaper needs to be balanced. Imbalance leads to a penalty. You also don't want to leave too much blank space. Players will compare their largest blank space at the end of every round. They gain and lose points based on how well they have managed their blank space. 

This particular headline offers an additional way to score points.

This was my newspaper from the first round, i.e. Friday. The difference between the three rounds is the size of your canvas. Friday is 7 x 14, Saturday 8 x 16, and Sunday 9 x 18. 

The ads are orange, and they have $ signs. Over the three rounds you total up your advertising income. Whoever earns the least is automatically disqualified. Only the rest get to compare points to see who wins. This can be quite brutal. 

There are three types of articles - green, blue and pink. Articles of the same colour must not touch. If you make a mistake, you have to flip over the offending tile. This will cause you to score fewer points. In the photo above, my photo tile on the left scores points for each adjacent green and pink article. So it scores 3 points in total. 

Some news articles are positive (cheery), some are negative (gloomy). The positive ones have yellow circles, and the negative ones blue circles. Your newspaper must try to be balanced in this. Any imbalance causes you to lose points. In this photo above I have 3 positive icons and 4 negative icons. This imbalance forces me to lose 1 point. 

The Play

The real-time aspect of Fit to Print feels like Galaxy Trucker, but this is a simpler game and is probably better for families. Being real-time makes the game exciting and engaging. It is not easy to accurately gauge whether you have claimed just the right number of tiles. If you claim too few, you are missing out on scoring opportunities and too much blank space can cost you points. If you claim too many, tiles you cannot place cost you points. 

This is mostly a multiplayer solitaire game. There is some player interaction, but it is not direct. You can look at tiles discarded by others to see whether they suit you. You can't really meddle with other players' newspapers. You do have to pay attention to the ads. Being faster than others is useful, because for the next round you'll get to pick your headline tile first. Most of the time you're working on your own paper. 

I noticed Albert tended to be the first to complete his work. He applied a clever tactic. He specifically chose larger tiles of about the same size. This way he didn't have to claim many tiles, and arranging them was easy, almost like laying out a checkered floor tile pattern. This also helped in minimising blank space. However I am not sure how effective this is in scoring points. With fewer tiles, it seems points will be less too. 

Some photos have good scoring abilities. I took a different approach, and claimed many small tiles. I wanted to fulfil the scoring conditions of the photos as much as possible, by placing many relevant articles around them. 

This was my Saturday (Round 2) paper. The rule in this game is similar to that of Blokus. Tiles touching at corners are not considered adjacent, but tiles sharing an edge are. In this photo above, my three photo tiles are touching at the corners, so they are not considered adjacent, and thus their placements are legal. 

At the top right I have a vertical article placed in a weird position. The reason is I wanted to avoid creating a large empty space. Had I placed it along the right edge, I would have a 10-square empty space. Now I had a 6-square empty space and a 4-square empty space. When players compare empty spaces, you don't add up all empty squares, you only look at the largest empty spaces and compare their sizes. My largest empty space is that at the bottom right: 8 squares. 

My Sunday paper. This time I didn't plan as well as previous rounds. I had one extra ad left at my desk (on the right) because I couldn't squeeze it in. This time my headline allowed me to earn extra $ for each ad above the fold, i.e. in the top half of my board. It turned out to be crucial for me. Without this $2 more, I would have come in last in ad revenue, and would have been disqualified. With that $2, I barely managed to squeeze into second last place. This is an interesting mechanism. I know Cleopatra and the Society of Architects has this too. It can be brutal, and that's why it's fun. 

The Thoughts

Fit to Print is pretty, engaging and also easy to learn. It is a pleasant play experience. In real life, newspapers are on the way to become a relic. How many still read them in physical form? Playing this game is like playing a historical game. You get transported to a past age. There is not a lot of player interaction, but the real-time aspect and the spatial element keeps you busy enough. 

Friday 24 November 2023

Completing Dorfromantik

Younger daughter Chen Rui and I have "completed" Dorfromantik, after playing 10 games. "Completed" as in we have unlocked all the game components and rules. We actually did that at the end of Game 9. We played Game 10 with all components in play. The campaign doesn't end there. There is no end, technically. It's just that there won't be new components to unlock. 

Spoiler alert! Photos and descriptions below include content which is only available from Game 2 onwards. If you want to fully experience the component unlocking yourself, you may not want to read on. You can read the spoiler-free blog post here. I don't think spoilers will affect your enjoyment much though. 

I found the early games of Dorfromantik unexciting. Most of the time it's better to draw mission tiles. However as more and more special tiles are added, the decision on which tile type to draw becomes trickier. There are many special tiles which you will hope to be able to draw earlier, especially before completing your missions, because they can double the points of your missions. It is no longer straight-forward, and that's a good thing. 

Some new tiles make the game more challenging, e.g. the one with both train tracks and a river (see photo above). More challenge = more fun and satisfaction. There are many ways to score points, and it's not easy to keep track of them all. You often have to prioritise and be ready to sacrifice some. 

When Chen Rui and I became more familiar with the tile mix, we planned around what we knew would be coming. E.g. if a certain tile had not come out, we knew we could play our current tile this way, because that tile which was coming would help us to complete this particular terrain type. 

The balloon is a fun special tile. Whenever you play a tile next to the balloon, you have the option of moving the balloon onto the new tile. When the game ends, the balloon scores points based on how far it is from its starting tile. 

When you play a regular tile, you have the option of placing a heart on it. The heart scores 1pt for each edge where the terrain matches that of the adjacent tile. This example above is a perfect 6 points. Three edges are villages, two are train tracks, and the last one is a plain. Train track and river edges must match. If they don't you can't even place the new tile. However villages, wheatfields, forests and plains need not match. 

So many missions! 

In this particular game, the balloon went quite far. When we drew a useless tile, we used it to make the balloon go further. 2pts is not a lot but it is something. 

The map can become quite oddly-shaped. 

That building at the centre is the train station. If the tracks it is connected to terminate at the other end as well, you score 1pt per tile. 

This fog tile was the last component we unlocked. It is a joker, and that's a powerful ability. You can treat any of the edges as any terrain type you like. At this point in the game we were building a river, and we used the fog tile to extend it. There is a drawing of a river on the fog tile itself. We oriented it to look like it was actually extending our real river. It wasn't necessary, but it was fun. Thematic! 

The longest river scores points. In this game, we prepared to have this long river terminated by the harbour when we drew it (that special tile at the top right). This meant we scored the river twice, once for being the longest river, and then again for the harbour's power. A river connected to the harbour, if terminated at the other end, scores 1pt per tile. 

The railroad tracks connected to the train station is pretty long too. 

At the bottom right there is a special tile - the shepherd. All sheep connected to the shepherd score points. In this particular game we managed to get many sheep close to the shepherd. He scored 16 points! It was cool to make a donut from rivers too. It didn't score points, but it was photo-worthy. 

This is Chen Rui and my record after having played 10 games of Dorfromantik. This is the campaign sheet you use for tracking progress and unlocking components. When we played our 10th game, we were able to exceed the highest rank of 400 points. That was why we felt contented and we were happy to reset and return the game to Han, to let new players start their own journey. 

Saturday 18 November 2023

TTGDMY playtesting session

21 Oct 2023. I made it to the TTGDMY (Tabletop Game Designers Malaysia) playtesting session. This time it was in Kajang. Poon Jon is currently the active organiser. Mostly the sessions are in Kajang or Subang Jaya.  

This is Haireey's game Al-Kisah, about mythologies around the world. So far he has Malaysian mythologies, Greek mythologies and Chinese mythologies. Each of these are a complete set, and different stories within each set can be mixed and matched to create different play experiences. For example you can swap out the Puteri Gunung Ledang cards from the Malaysian mythologies set and swap in cards from a Chinese mythology. This system works well for creating expansions. 

Al-Kisah is a 2-player game. The game has 18 cards, 3 each in 6 different colours. You have a hand size of two. During the game you will draw cards, play cards into a common grid, and change the positions of cards. Every card has a different way of scoring points. Most of the scoring methods are along the lines of being next to a card of a particular colour, or being next to a specific card. Basically the board positions. The game ends when the deck runs out. You will still have two cards in hand. Their colours are your scoring factions. The cards with these colours in the grid score points for you. At most you will score points from four cards. 

During play, you will be choosing between what cards and colours to play, and what to keep, knowing that the colour you keep decides your scoring faction. If you have a powerful card, playing it won't help unless you have another card of the same colour. Throughout the game you need to guess what colour your opponent is going for too. 

Each player has 4 action cards, which you can use to move cards in the grid. Moving cards affect how they score. Some will score more, some less. If you refrain from using these cards, you score points. If using an action card helps your other cards score many points, it's worthwhile making use of it. 

Art in the playtest version is AI-generated and looks good. We all should learn to use AI to help us be more productive. 

This is Formation of Rome from Poon Jon. It has a bit of a Reiner Knizia feel. There are six classes of citizens in Rome, and you are competing for their support so that you can be emperor. This is a majority competition game. Playing a card of a particular faction means gaining support in that faction. You compete on having the most cards played in each of the factions. One of the factions is the brigands. If you "win", you lose points instead. When you play a brigand card, you play it in front of an opponent, not in front of yourself. 

This is the card distribution. Some cards have special powers. If you play it for the power, you won't be able to keep the card in front of you. This is sometimes a difficult decision. 

The cards with three icons are monuments. If you claim such a card, you need to have citizens in the depicted factions to score it. 

Card powers vary, and they can significantly affect the game landscape. It is often good to keep a powerful card for the most opportune moment. 

This is Faris' pitching game. It has a roleplaying element. Humankind is colonising the stars, and we are interviewing specialists for the colony ship. We know what the target planet is like, and we need to make sure we pick the right team to set up the new colony. Every player gets dealt a hand of cards. Cards can be used as characters, strengths or weaknesses. If you use it as a character (photo above), there will be various traits like age, gender, cleverness, charisma, physical strength and hobbies. 

Every round you must propose one character to be sent on the trip. Everyone takes turns to convince everyone else why his or her candidate is most suited for the mission. Then everyone votes. You rank everyone else's candidates based on who you think deserve a spot on the colony ship. You don't rank your own candidate. After all votes are cast, the top three candidates win spots. If your candidate is in, you score points. If the candidates you support win, you also score points. 

The back of a card has two parts - strength (blue) and weakness (red). These can be stuck beneath a character card to give him or her a strength or a weakness. During play, anyone can add a strength or a weakness to any character at any time. A character is limited to at most one strength and one weakness. Adding these help you convince others why they should support a character, or not support the character. You certainly don't want a hot tempered explosives engineer on the crew. 

These were the 8 characters in Round 1. Only some of them had strengths and weaknesses attached at this time. 

This is Chee Kong's Zodiac Go. It will be released very soon. It is on a ship to Malaysia now. Zodiac Go is not only a game. It is a game set with which you can play multiple different games. I've played the standard game included in the box. This time Chee Kong taught us a different game, about making bets. 

Player tokens

The three rows are where you get to place your bets. You place your token at a corner where four Chinese Zodiac animals meet, or between two animals, or on a colour. If your token is in a corner, it means you are betting that all four animals will appear. If your token is on a colour, it means you are betting this colour will appear most among the cards drawn for the round. 

The two rows at the bottom are cards flipped from the deck and they represent the results of the round. A few cards are revealed before players make their first bets for the round. More are drawn before more bets are placed. The players will have some basis for making bets. After all bets have been placed, the rest of the cards are drawn. Then you check whether make money from your bets. 

There is a first mover advantage, because this is like a worker placement game. Each betting position only allows one player to place a bet. 

To preorder Zodiac Go, visit this link: https://zodiacgo.games/

Friday 10 November 2023

boardgaming in photos: Innovation, Race for the Galaxy, Carcassonne

8 Oct 2023. I played Attika with younger daughter Chen Rui. This was quite a brutal game. I almost connected two temples, but Chen Rui cut me off. We had instances of starting new settlements to grab land and resources from each other. The more I play this game, the more I appreciate it. I have an urge to find an English version. Mine is German. The game was first released in 2003, and it has never been reprinted. That's a shame. It's a great game! 

13 Oct 2023. I played Innovation with Allen. I'll never tire of this game. This is Carl Chudyk's magnum opus. It is an evergreen in my top ten games. It's an unusual game, and also a little challenging to learn, but once you get into it, it is full of surprises and crazy situations. It's a wild ride. 

I had all five colours now, and four of them were splayed. 

I rarely get to ages 8 and above. 

In our game, this was the card which helped me the most - Industrialization. It didn't directly score points, but it helped me draw many cards to be added to my empire. More cards meant more icons, and that meant a much more powerful empire. I could bully Allen, I didn't have to worry about him piggybacking on my dogma powers, and I could piggyback on his dogma powers. 

I had so many cards! By now we had exhausted the Age 8 cards and we were going into Age 9. 

14 Oct 2023. I still play Race for the Galaxy against AI's once in a while. In this particular game I managed to score exactly 100pts. I normally play against 2 other AI players, and my winning rate is probably below a third. So I'm not actually very good at this. It's just that I usually take screenshots only when I win. Most of the time things are not that glamourous. 

The scores for this particular game wasn't high. What was unusual was I tied one AI for the win. We were both at 42pts. The tiebreaker in Race for the Galaxy is remaining hand cards and goods. We tied for that too, at 8. Ties are quite rare, especially when all three expansions are in play. 

15 Oct 2023. I did Carcassonne with my wife Michelle and younger daughter Chen Rui. Michelle and I are veterans, but Chen Rui is quite new to the game. Michelle knew I was the biggest threat and she kept persuading Chen Rui to gang up on me. 

In this photo, Chen Rui (black) was first to start a castle in this area. I (green) was next, placing my meeple on the castle on the left. I placed a regular meeple, so that if Chen Rui and my castles merged, we would both score points for the combined castle. Later Michelle (red) created a new castle on the right. She placed a big meeple, which had the strength of two meeples. If her castle merged with ours, her big meeple would overpower both of ours, leaving us no points. I told Chen Rui, see what your mom is doing to you; you should listen to dad. 

Eventually Chen Rui the newbie won the game. Michelle and I had been too busy tripping each other up.  

The highest scoring castle in the game was this one completed in the early half of the game. It had a cathedral, so it had a x3 multiplier instead of the usual x2. This single castle scored Chen Rui and I 63pts, which was huge. It was very hard for Michelle to catch up. However Michelle did manage to share that very lucrative central field with Chen Rui. I wasn't able to work my way in to neutralise them before the game ended. 

3 Nov 2023. I visited boardgamecafe.net (physically in Cheras) to buy some Exit games. My family likes them. Now some of them contain jigsaw puzzles. I got myself one, to see what it's like. I had not visited the BGC physical store for quite some time, and took the opportunity to browse. There were so many new games I hadn't heard of before. I bought the latest version of Through the Ages and also the expansion New Leaders and Wonders. Michelle and I used to play a lot of Through the Ages. We had a lot of fond memories. Let's see if I can convince her to revisit this. I'm going to ask the children to try this too. 

Friday 3 November 2023

parenting and boardgames

I was invited to conduct a seminar on 23 Sep 2023, on boardgames and parenting. I'm always happy to have the opportunity to introduce boardgames as a parenting tool. Always excited to spread the joy, and to help other families develop better bonding. The seminar was for both parents and children, and most of the children who came were from primary school to lower secondary school. 

I introduced boardgames in general, and spoke about modern boardgames, which many people are not familiar with. Boardgames is still a pretty niche hobby. I shared why they are a great family activity, what they teach, and how modern hobby games differ from traditional mass market boardgames.  

Julian came to help that day. We both arrived very early to make sure everything was ready. We did our preparation and checked the setup before going for breakfast. After breakfast the parents and children started arriving. 

My full time job is leadership training, so public speaking and teaching are what I do every day. However it is not often that my audience includes children. The kids were proactive in speaking up and asking question. Great participation! 

Two of my boardgame friends made an appearance, Tim and Allen. I often take photos at my gaming sessions, and these photos become my material when I prepare slides. 

The presentation is just part of the event. The more important part of the activity is letting the parents and the children experience playing modern boardgames themselves. I brought quite a few family games. This one is Halli Galli

My ex-colleague Simon came to support me. He brought his daughter. 

Group photo