Upcoming: A Review of Bemused, Jim Felli

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Bemused

Jim Felli/Devious Weasel Games

4-6 player

Duration 10-30 mins

A couple of months ago a lovely promo came my way in the form of Jim Felli’s Bemused. This is a gorgeous thematic card game involving hand management and bluffing with a strong take that element. And when I say it’s gorgeous I mean the artwork is really is beautifully detailed, with an ethereal feel that resonates throughout the game. Later on I became privy to some information about the intent of the artwork and it’s meaning, but first of all I should really give you an idea of what Bemused is all about.

It’s very much a social game (well all games are social but you know what I mean) it’s 4-6 player, and I’d say it’s essential to play with those whom you’re comfortable with. Or with a certain type of tabletop gamer who will catch the Bemused vibe. Having said that I can almost see it having the potential to be used in a weird psychosocial experiment- with disastrous consequences, like something out of a horror film. It is a weird one. And if you know me by now you’ll know that I’m good with the weird.

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You are playing as a muse, who is on a mission to elevate a human virtuoso to toppling heights, and the virtuoso is the character card you will be randomly dealt. There are 6 virtuosos available- the dancer, the painter, the thespian, the singer, the musician and the poet. But since your protégés are pretty damn fabulous already you are now seeking to destroy each other instead, by driving virtuosos insane and/or killing them. You achieve this by planting niggling doubts and seeds of dread in the form of coloured doubt and neutral dread cards. The colour of the doubt cards depict the type of virtuoso it associates with. You begin the game with a hand of five cards, including one dread, plus an unrevealed Gemina card and a secret (more on these later). Whilst you are still sane you draw two doubt cards into your hand and are able to take two actions on your turn if you choose; plant a doubt, instill a dread or use your virtuoso’s/ Gemina’s ability. These are individual abilities that can shift, change or remove doubts and dreads from yourself and each other. A combination of five dreads and doubts will drive a player insane, which limits the amount you can do on a turn, but also reveals the insane player’s Gemina card. An insane virtuoso can regain sanity, but if they receive further dread in the meantime their insanity kills them…but their phantasm can still haunt the remaining players! The Gemina cards represent a virtuoso and once revealed you can use that virtuoso’s ability as well as your own. The secret cards add further depth, as these reveal your hidden feelings toward your Gemina. So maybe you secretly hate your Gemina and wish a horrible death upon them, therefore if the Gemina is a phantasm at the end of the game you will gain further points for their death.

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The game end is triggered when there are fewer than two sane virtuosos left. There are some rules around what players can and can’t do depending on the state of your character throughout the game, so please visit the BGG page to have a peek at the rulebook.

So there’s a fair bit to absorb here, and it can take a little while to get your head around it, but trust me- the pay off is worth it. In terms of gameplay it’s actually dead simple and fast paced, but it has that intriguing depth and complexity. It’s clever. And I’m pleased to say- it’s also a lot of fun and highly amusing. But it is what you make it. There’s not much entertainment to be had if you choose to move through the rounds in a monotonous fashion, simply slapping dreads and doubts on other players. But if you can get down with some ‘shameless table talk’ as the rulebook encourages, and start to weave a narrative around each other’s characters, that is when the real soul is breathed into the game. The way that the rules shift with your virtuosos change of state is also interesting. As well as some clever hand management it’s the dual use of the cards, the choices you make with them and the virtuoso’s secrets that give the game it’s bite. No one can really tell who’s playing whom until it’s perhaps too late. This is where the good stuff begins- the bluffing, scheming and contemplation as to what the hell is going on.

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I appreciate the thematic quality of Bemused, and how it leaves you questioning each other’s motives during the game and in the aftermath. It definitely has that ‘fancy one more quick game?’ appeal. I also think in the case of Bemused, it’s the more the merrier; we had fun with 4 players but I imagine it will be even better with 4 plus.

As previously mentioned the stunning artwork is a wonderful addition, it’s diverse, and laced with intentional nuances, which the designer let me in on. Despite wanting to share those with you I’m instead going to leave it here and ask you to look closer…what do you see?? This I think is where the game is a winner for me- physically there’s not a huge amount to it, but it’s chock full of stuff and it’s your job to figure it all out. And I love that about small box games.

If this sounds like your weirdly wonderful cup of tea, or vicious and thematic card games are your penchant you can pay the BGG page a visit here. It’s available for pre-order on the Devious Weasel website, or you can pick up a copy at Gen Con in August. Until then I’m going to be concocting ‘Bemused- the social experiment gone wrong’ movie script…Thanks for reading!

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Kickstarter Preview: XYbrid, Gabe Shultz

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I mentioned XYbrid several weeks ago, and I was cheeky enough to get my paws on a prototype, albeit a bit late to the party but I got there nonetheless. I received it (thanks to the kindness of the project creator), played it and now I’m going to give you a brief insight into what it’s all about.

Initially there were a few points to catch my eye, namely robots with animal features, transparent cards and a vivid, very cool artwork style. So it comes as no surprise that the designer-Gabe Shultz-is a graphic designer by day with a self confessed childhood passion for modular creativity, and a game designer. XYbrid was four years in the making and it definitely shows. In an industry brimming with cool and novel ideas that are sometimes unfortunately rushed out or poorly executed, XYbrid works, it works well and it’s fun. It does have a lot of style but in this case not over substance, which is a huge relief.

This is a filler game for sure, lasting up to 30 minutes it’s not intended to be a mind-boggling epic, and as I’ve said many times before this is something I personally welcome wholeheartedly. I love playing games and I always aim to have fun whether it’s hours of heavy strategy, medium crunchiness or lightweight fillers. In XYbrid you are building monsters over three rounds and after each round you deploy them to do combat. There’s no major backstory here, this is just what happens and it’s cool ok?

At the start of each round you choose a core part (the torso if you will) and you will build upon this using the cards from central ‘lab’. You are also dealt three ‘breakthrough’ cards to use later on. You take turns choosing subsequent parts such as heads and limbs that are of different numeric values and sciences (biology, chemistry, physics and robotics) and attaching them to your creation by overlaying the cards. Some cards have effects to assist you along the way; some can be used when they’re drawn, some at beginning of a turn, others during the deployment phase. The card abilities vary but just to give you a few examples -you can upgrade your monster, maximize your infamy points or take out your opponent’s parts. When monsters are completed they are then deployed, and this is where you can have some serious fun fighting each other and utilize your deployment abilities and breakthrough cards. When all effects have been resolved you add up your infamy points (which can be done using an accompanying app) and move onto the next round. I won’t go into a rules explanation beyond this, but please do take a look here if you want to get a broader spectrum of the game.

 

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Core Parts

I found XYbrid to be impressive, on an experience level and the design itself. It has that retro-console-as-a-card game feel. Which is fab! I mean what’s not fun about assembling a weird monster with a shark head, robotic arms and ostrich legs, then getting combative on your opponents ass and blowing the limbs from their panda/lizard hybrid? It’s genuinely good fun, but at the same time is an elegant design where the more practiced gamer will be able to strategise a little deeper. As I’ve only played a few times I can’t give you a definite example as yet, but there’s something going on here beyond weird science and blowing each other to smithereens. I really enjoyed the multi faceted cards, and I especially loved the auxiliary parts- unnecessary but aesthetically pleasing additions you can attach to supersize your monster, a couple of tails for example, and this is also a good way to notch up a few extra points.

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Breakthrough Cards

The transparent cards are pretty nifty but not for the sake of it, the reason for them being transparent makes sense within the game, and I like that. I’m pleased to say that as of last week the campaign funded and I’m so pleased for the designer, there must of been a huge amount of work that has gone into this game to make it work as well as it does. The Kickstarter campaign itself is pretty much ‘no frills’, which is refreshing, and funding covers the expense of the printing technology that goes into making this concept a reality. I must say that the quality of the prototype was very decent anyway, so the final version should be mint. So all that said there’s only 4 days left on this one (I did say I was late to the party) so if you want to get your hands on a unique small box game this year then XYbrid is where it’s at. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Great Western Trail, Alexander Pfister

 

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The first time I mentioned Great Western Trail was last summer in one of my first ‘tabletop I’m excited for’ posts and once again in my ‘Essen Wishlist’ video last autumn. And sometimes things I’m excited for can change from one month to the next. It can be for any number of reasons, but on many an occasion my initial excitement over a game can turn into a ‘maybe….not’. Others however will go the distance. Great Western Trail was one of them for me. Despite its 8.3 BGG rating  it’s received a mixed bag of reviews, many very positive but a few of disappointment that it maybe wasn’t the wonder game that was expected. So here I am to throw my two-pennies-worth into the mix.

I think that when a game does get a lot of pre-release hype, or has a tall order to stand up to (in this case Mombasa) it can struggle to meet expectations. I’ve not played Mombasa but I did enjoy Broom Service a great deal (that Pfister co-designed) and I wasn’t really holding it to any extravagant expectations. I just thought GWT sounded like a good time. It’s a eurogame about travelling around midwest America living the life of a cattle rancher. This involves following a forked trail, moving your meeple from place to place (only 1-3 route spaces at a time), stopping at buildings, selling and trading your cattle (cards) getting ahead on the railroad (with your adorable wooden train) hiring workers and selling your hand every time you arrive at good ol’ Kansas City.

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For me it was an instant hit, just on a cerebral level I knew liked it, I didn’t have to think ‘why do I like this?’ or ‘hmmmm maybe I need a few more games to get into it’, it simply clicked. But for the purpose of writing about it I guess I should touch on what ticked the boxes for me (in my funny lizard brain).

I like games that I’m not instantly good at, where I start off not really knowing where I’m going or what I’m doing or why. I see the sprawling board with a ton of detail, multiple tiles and little wooden pieces, my intricate player board full of stuff, and of course- cattle cards. It’s like a fascinating puzzle waiting to be solved. Once I got my head around the game not only does it become clear what I’m doing and why, but also how I’m going to win. This is also the point where I start to see how wonderfully designed the game is.

Here are a few things I’ve come to appreciate during my initial plays of Great Western Trail…

The Flow of the Game

I like the way the game flows as you make your way up to Kansas City and back again. Turns are super speedy but you choose the pace of how quickly you travel from one end of the board to the other. Every time you sell your hand at Kansas City three out of nine tiles on the ‘foresight’ spaces are chosen. If you choose to place future workers on the job market this affects how quickly the game will end, because when the last worker drops off the market that’s end of game. Something about the movement of this game just does it for me, it’s smooth and has a different feel from many other games I’ve played, and it’s a good thing.

Building in the Game

In my initial game of GWT I thought ‘ok I’m placing building tiles, cool, I’ll just put one erm….here!’. But after a few games I realised it’s really not a case of popping them wherever and hoping for the best. The buildings not only score you bonus points at the end of game but they can really save your hide (sorry) at the last knockings. When you’re almost at Kansas City and your selling hand is terrible (more on that later) they can also help you accumulate cash- for instance some buildings mean that a player has to pay you (if able) when they pass through. Other buildings will help you rake in the cash, e.g.- when you have multiple buildings on green areas of the board you’ll receive two coins for each building. So if you choose the ‘get rich quick’ route those particular buildings are really handy to have. But you can only place ‘2’ ‘3’ ‘4’ buildings and so on when you have builders to do so, so there’s some balancing to be done there. Hazard tiles on the trail can also be cleared to assist you with achieving objectives and to clear the trail. This means you can build on the spaces where smashing bonus actions are available and avoid paying a fine for passing through a hazardous area.

Bonuses in the Game

I love me a bonus I do, and there is abundance in GWT. I love wracking up bonuses knowing that if all else fails I’ll have some good solid points awaiting me at end scoring. As well as the building bonuses in the hazardous areas there are also bonuses on your player board and objective cards. I must admit I was a bit unsure of the objective cards at first. You are dealt one at random during set up and you choose to collect more thereafter. These go straight into your discard pile and if you commit yourself to a card later on by placing it in your play area then you must meet it, or else are deducted points at the end of game. When that time comes you can choose to score them anyway, whether you are committed or not, so I was kind of wondering why bother committing yourself to them in the first place? Well it’s the bonus actions that can be taken when committing to the objective that can really help you out. Perhaps you’re in desperate need of money, or really want to move up the train track- it can be for any number of reasons, but trust me, at some point one of those bonus actions will matter.

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 The Train in the Game

During my initial play-through of GWT I honestly didn’t understand what the train aspect of the game was for, other than being synonymous of the old west and another complexity to an already full game. And it is a complexity but yet it’s so necessary. Your selling hand at Kansas City determines the station you can stop at, which in turn allows you to take a wooden cube from your player board unlocking an ‘auxiliary action’. The pain of it is once you have stopped at the cheap and cheerful stations you have to keep increasing your hand value to go further. For example- your final hand is the value of 7 but you’ve already stopped at stations 2-6, meaning that you can now only stop at stations 8 onwards. Of course you can always go back- to Topeka or Kansas City- but this deducts points at the end of game. So you really need a decent hand (and to have found ways to increase its value on your way up the trail). The certificates that can be accessed on your player board/buildings/train station tiles are so unbelievably helpful for this as well. The train can also give you bonus tiles and actions or can be used as payment for auxiliary actions, so overall the railroad is absolutely crucial to the game.

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The Cows in the Game

Another crucial aspect to the game is of course The Cows, and the deck building element to GWT is pretty fantastic. It’s also kind of different for me to play a deckbuilder that’s not using the deck for combat or special abilities, but simply for points and cash, it’s basic yet it forms the crux of the game. Throughout GWT you are refining and manipulating your deck to build the best hand possible in time for Kansas City and it’s really great fun. The cattle market is refreshed when the job market hits the yellow arrow and you can buy cattle via certain buildings. You need cash to purchase of course, and 2+ cowboys for the pricier cattle. It’s also desirable to arrive before your opponent if you want first dibs on the best of the bunch (a Texas Longhorn worth 7 points- amazing). The auxiliary actions and buildings are essential for building and fiddling your deck, and that’s what I love about GWT; not only does it flow nicely but the mechanics are interwoven very well indeed.

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 What I’ve enjoyed the most is how damn replayable it is. There are so many ways you can go about scoring big and/or winning that at the end of every game I think ‘next time I’ll try something different’. The game is so deep you can’t possibly do it all in one play, so you have to sacrifice one aspect in order to focus on another, and then resolve to try another next time.

I’m so glad Great Western Trail went the distance for me, from wishlist to shelf to possibly a top ten game. It is a complex one but not crazy heavy, but heavy enough to feel like you put your poor brain through the ringer. I never thought a game about cattle ranching could make me swear so much and GWT is one of those where you’re desperate, exasperated, nail biting, plotting and hustling the whole way through and it’s unbelievable enjoyable.

And that’s my thoughts on Great Western Trail. And…cows. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Ode To Being A Board Gaming Mummy

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I had this really weird day back in October 2014 when I found out I was going to have a baby and that weird day pretty much lasted for two years. It’s ok; this post isn’t going to be alllll about Mumlife and the trials and tribulations of pregnancy, I promise. But it is Mother’s Day in the UK today so it made sense for me to touch on how motherhood has changed me as a tabletop gamer and where I’m at with it nearly two years later.

One of my fears toward the end of my pregnancy was ‘everything is going to change and I won’t be able to play games anymore’. It might sound a bit silly, but it was a legitimate concern. Tabletop gaming has pretty much been my sole hobby for the past few years and when you’re a new parent and don’t know what to expect you seek out (and are told whether you like it or not) so much information about parenthood, and most of it makes your blood run cold. I just thought my life was going to be permanent exhaustion, zero free time and a non-functioning game-brain for years to come. And well I was right in some respects. Kind of. Let me continue….

Up until the day before I had my C-section and Gwen said hello to the world I played board games. Being pregnant didn’t stop me enjoying myself but it was a massive pain in the arse. I was often very uncomfortable, especially during long games. I cried over anything and everything, from dropping a card on the floor for what seemed like the 100th time and being unable to pick it up without a gargantuan effort, to accidentally spilling a drink over Doomtown: Reloaded because I was just so ungainly. Sometimes it was simply just because my whole body was hurting and I’d had enough or ‘I really want to finish this game but I physically cannot sit here any longer’. I didn’t particularly like being pregnant. I didn’t enjoy the experience. The main issue was the perpetual state of fear I existed in, and when complications started to arise I was just fully terrified.

Now this is all based on my personal experience and I’m not deterring anyone from being a parent, honestly. Because of course it has many wonderful aspects. I wish I could go back and tell post-pregnancy-me not to expect too much from myself. Don’t listen to everyone else religiously but it’s ok to let other people help. And it’s ok not to get it right and be perfect. It didn’t click into place for me right away, it didn’t feel as natural as it should have and much of this relates to my post-pregnancy health issues. All I can tell you is that for 6 months post- pregnancy I really didn’t think about games at all. All I cared about what making sure Gwen was healthy and that I was getting some sleep. Nothing else seemed to matter. It was only in December 2015 when I received board games as Christmas presents that I felt like I could even dare to start thinking about it again. But this is completely, 100%, a personal thing. I’ve seen photos of people playing games, holding their very newborn babies etc. and I think ‘wow, that’s amazing’. Because I just couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t focus on anything but Gwen and making it through each day. But what I had to hold on to and I still do when things seem hard,  is that it’s a temporary state. There are so many stages and they pass so quickly, and you always wish you could go back and just enjoy them more.

I think once I felt just a little bit better and more like myself and I could start to consider gaming again I just haven’t looked back since. It’s like anything, sometimes the thought of it is scarier. Maybe that’s an anxiety thing, ‘what if the baby wakes up half way through the game? Well…maybe we just shouldn’t play then…’ but you just have to try to get out of that mindset and do it because of course that scenario has happened, a countless number of times, and it really doesn’t matter a bit.

I couldn’t play many new games for a while after having Gwen. When she was around 3 months old I went to a family gathering and was offered a game of Forbidden Stars, and I’d been looking forward to trying it. Unfortunately due to being exhausted, not being present through the majority of the rules explanation (for a reason I can’t remember but it was definitely baby related) and then having her in my arms for the rest of the game, I consequently really had no idea what was going on or what I was doing, couldn’t handle the components with ease and I really didn’t enjoy it at all. The thought of Forbidden Stars still makes me shudder. So yes, new baby+new games was a no-no for me.

I can say with absolute honesty that even though raising a child is hard work, it’s mainly the sleep deprivation that makes it harder. I genuinely believe that you can do anything you put your mind to, but everything is a million times harder when you’re functioning on a few hours sleep. I was told by a few people at several points last year that it does get easier, but you will always been tired, and I thought ‘there is no f***ing way I can live like this’ but I can now say that is so true. The sleepless nights have ended, but I am still tired. Things can be very draining, and to a degree it just does become your permanent state. But the point is you just don’t let it beat you and you fight passed it.

So Mother’s Day got me thinking about motherhood and all it entails, and how it’s changed me. I had a random conversation with a stranger when I was working in a shop last year, for some reason I felt compelled to tell my life story to this person. Some people just have that ability to help you open up, and I think I  have that ability too, I’m usually a person people feel they can talk to. She told me that she believed it takes about two years to get over a pregnancy and I think she was right. It took two years for me to feel any level of confidence over being a parent, to feel like I could wear the kind of clothes and style I always have without feeling like an idiot. Two years to feel like I can function in society again and two years to claw back parts of myself I lost to pre and post pregnancy anxiety and sleep deprivation. It probably sounds like I’m complaining a lot; and to an extent I am (can’t break the habit of a lifetime) but I love being a Mum to Gwen, I wish I could convince my whole self I’m doing a good job, when a small percentage of my brain knows I am, but silly monster brain tells me I’m s**t. I wish I could give myself more credit. My daughter is amazing, intelligent, sweet and good-natured and I’ve been the main person to nurture her. I’m so proud of myself that even though I didn’t spring back to being a career woman right away, and still haven’t, that even though I didn’t become a domestic goddess (and still haven’t) I grafted to do something I wanted in my spare time, which for me was to continue to play games, grow my blog, start a YouTube channel and create stuff. I’m fiercely protective over what I do, because it’s the only thing that’s reminded me I am a separate entity from Gwen and I’m still my own person but also because I grafted at it through anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation and getting to grips with motherhood, so if I feel anyone belittles  that, whether it’s nicking my material without asking me, or making me feel like what I’m doing isn’t worth anything if it’s not financially gaining anything, well let’s just say I get irked.

I’m going to end this on a sweet note- one of Gwen’s nicknames actually came from Vlaada Chavtil’s Dungeon Petz. Because everyone referred her to as ‘Gwen-Gwen’, I rhymed that with ‘Dungeon Penguin’ in reference to ‘Dunguin’ the one eyed cave dweller from Dugeon Petz. So since Gwen was about 3 days old until this very day, I pretty much sing ‘Little Miss Gwen-Gwen, Dungeon Penguin…’ at least five times a day. It’s my ode to being a board gaming mummy. I’ll look forward to explaining that to her when she’s older.

Well, happy Mother’s Day from me, and generally ‘good f***ing job to everyone who is or has been a parent’. As an aside- to anyone who is pregnant, or a new parent or is having issues with mental health, please do say hello to me. I’d be happy to listen, be a sounding board and give any advice if asked, I always say this, but i’m not as scary as I sound, I’m a total dork and a nice, caring person- it’s only when people abuse that I turn into a harpy from hell!

Thanks for reading and bearing with me whilst I’ve been getting my arse into gear, and I’m working on some actual board game content as we speak! Have a great week everyone.

A Little Introspection

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I’ve been a tad quieter than usual for a couple of weeks, having recently moved house, and I think most people would agree that this is a fairly stressful and time consuming process both before and after the event. It’s obviously a completely normal occurrence that happens all the time and I guess some people cope with changes better than others. It is a big upheaval, especially with a child in tow, and one that requires a lot of effort and planning. If you’re somebody (like me) who feels better when their daily life is routine and things are planned, then moving house feels like everything is thrown into disarray. All of a sudden I can’t find anything, nothing is where it’s supposed to be, I can’t remember where my socks are, and it’s these little things that can send my mind into a tailspin. To give myself some credit I do roll with the changes the best I can and recently I’ve become much better at taking things in my stride once again, which is something I used to pride myself on pre anxiety-brain. In the case of the recent house move it’s been a bit of an odd one for me. I had a mini meltdown on moving day but I pretty much anticipated that one, but thereafter I was pretty much ok. That is until we got to the new place and I realised I wouldn’t have any Wi-Fi for about 2 weeks. I knew we wouldn’t have Broadband but I thought my 4G would be fine and my data allowance was sufficient to see me through. But apparently in this neck of the woods it’s frankly impossible to keep a signal. I internally freaked out, because being able to speak with people, interact on my social media and share stuff is a huge part of my daily life.

Since Gwen was born I went from being a (semi) normal person who left the house without nearly dying of stress everyday and acted on my own terms for the most part. I could freely walk out the door whenever I pleased to do things like… go to work… Or pop to the shops, book appointments, see a friend without planning in advance, go out to get my nails done at the last minute. You get the idea. It was really hard for me to adjust to being a parent, and right now (and I have to stress that part because things obviously aren’t going to remain this way forever) I spend much time alone with Gwen or out with Gwen and don’t have a great deal of other human contact. I don’t have a huge group of friends nearby or many friends at all for that matter; I seemed to lose quite a few after having Gwen, partly through my own fault, partly because I had quite a few younger friends who didn’t really get my new mum status, yet I still have virtually no ‘mum’ friends. I have a core group of people who I see every few months and they’re my oldest mates, but on a daily basis I’m a bit of a loner. And having no easy access to the Internet really bothered me. I can honestly say it’s a lifeline for me. Not just the friend aspect, but as somebody who creates content that’s all online, and is constantly researching (or window shopping!) or listening to music or watching videos, and keeping up-to-date with goings on, y’know, just those little things that make me happy to be alive and feel connected to other parts of the world, the small pleasures in life, it was a bit like having a limb cut off. I actually got really depressed for a few days, and strangely I just felt like my confidence had died. All of a sudden I couldn’t imagine doing anything, or enjoying anything ever again, telling myself I was a terrible mum and awful human, and anyone who has experienced this will know what a horrible and unnatural feeling it is. Thankfully it didn’t last, and I think a large portion of that unraveling of emotions was down to actual exhaustion, and after a couple of early nights I felt of lot better.

Gradually I found ways to get around my lack of Internet issues, like various locations in the house that picked up signal better than others, or taking opportunities when I was out to go online if possible, or like right now being at my parent’s house so I can post this to my blog. This past week has really made me question my reasons for feeling the way I did. Have I turned into one of these people that have irked me so much over the years? Am I simply one of the many casualties of Facebook era bullshit? Do I over share? Do I post too many selfies? I mean I have to admit at this point if I see one more person with Snapchat selfies especially the bloody flower one I might accidently-on-purpose gouge my own eyes out of their sockets. Yet I take selfies. Not multiple times a day, but I love posing and always have! And I love sharing! But why do I have a compulsion to share? Why am I doing any of this? Do I even want to continue? Believe me, during this introspection I didn’t let myself off the hook easily. But I think I finally got my answers….

I wrote a blog post almost a year ago, when comparatively I didn’t know many people, and no one really knew me, and I spoke about meeting friends through the Instagram tabletop community and what it meant to me at that point. Everything I said in that post still stands true, and as time has passed I have found some pretty solid friendship groups. I have a laugh with people, I like people who I get and also get me. It’s not that I just share my own stuff either, I also love having a peek into other people’s lives and interests, and I care about what other people are up to and how they’re doing, and not always necessarily tabletop related stuff. So it’s not a one-sided thing by any means. I like interactions and fun! One of my online friends said that he understood my feelings, as he is an extrovert who doesn’t get to be around others that often, which is exactly like me. Sure, I’m shy in some respects, yes I experience anxiety, and I definitely like my solitude. But I do like other people (some of them…sometimes) and I definitely have an extrovert side with the right crowd. Admittedly I like hearing that someone enjoyed my video, or found one of my silly comments funny, because that’s a nice feeling, I honestly feel it’s the place where I can be myself; where I don’t feel worthless, useless or belittled or any of those other negative shitty things. Whether I’m talking about music, games, movies, food, or any number of random things, it’s like I’ve waved my little weirdo flag high, and mostly nice likeminded people have found me. So I think that’s why I felt so scared and vulnerable at the prospect of losing that, even for a couple of weeks. Not just because I’m an attention seeking self obsessed arse. Well, for the most part. Which is a relief.

So, there is a brief insight into what’s been going on in my mind this past week! I’m pleased to say that I’m feeling slightly more confident again and very really excited to keep sharing parts of my life, and continuing to get to know the good people of the tabletop community and otherwise.

Thanks for reading!

The Five By, Episode 3

For anyone who hasn’t heard of The Five By yet, we are a new podcast where every other week 5 tabletop gamers (myself included) each talk about a different game each episode for 5 minutes. When the first episode launched I wrote a post on who we are all and what it’s all about, and that can be found here. I wanted to share this episode on the blog this week because over on Instagram I’ve been singing the praises of Tyrants of The Underdark, and I said i’d review it. But since I discussed it on this weeks episode I thought i’d direct you there instead!

On this weeks episode as well as me with Tyrants, we have Ruth talking about The Oracle of Delphi, Mike discussing Above & Below, Stephanie chatting Gruff and Mason with Bibilos. It’s a lovely and relaxing 25 minute listen, so please do go have a look and download from our website! I’ll leave you with some gorgeous photos from Tyrants…

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Inis, Christian Martinez

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Inis. I coveted it. I swooned over it. I was starry-eyed-head-over-heels in love with it. And I hadn’t even played yet. I didn’t go out of my way to read reviews or look at photos, I wanted to be surprised and I’d pretty much made up my mind I’m going to like this game. Not just because it looked epic and gorgeous (and it is an undeniable beautiful game) but because I really enjoy area control games and I don’t play enough of them. As I mentioned in my Essen ‘fantasy wishlist’ video last year I was weighing up Cyclades and Kemet for quite some time and not really knowing which to go for, and then Magatot brought us Inis and I thought ‘Yes! This is the one!’

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Well it’s a month and a good few plays later so now I need to ask the question…was it worth the wait? Well if I say no I’m going to look just a little bit silly now aren’t I?! Luckily it’s not a no. It’s not a no but… it’s complicated. I’m still trying to get my head around it. In the sense that for a game which has fairly straightforward game play there’s a lot going on, and it’s good stuff, but it’s taking some time to click into place for me. I didn’t have the ‘this is amaaaaaazing’ reaction that I tend to have with some games that I instantly fall in love after playing, but I can tell you that every time I’ve finished I want to play again. Which of course is a very good sign and I think it’s a very clever game indeed.

As with most of my posts about ‘big’ games- those that have been well covered and are pretty well known, I won’t go into the rules and game play, I only tend to do that with games that haven’t had tons of coverage, or Kickstarter games that are brand new and perhaps unfamiliar to you. As always there is a link above if you want to find out more about how the game plays and there’s also multi language rule books on the publishers website. What I will tell you is a few things that have stood out for me in the games that I’ve played so far and my overall thoughts. (Also please note that I’m basing these opinions  on a two player game at this stage. This is important as there are couple of minor variations for two player only.)

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  • It is a highly tactical game. You have to keep your wits about you and strategise from the get-go. During a couple of games when I’ve been tired I’ve taken my eyes off of the ball for a moment, then I’ve realised I’ve missed an opportune moment or pretty much handed the victory to my opponent. It really isn’t a case of moving your clans around and seeing what happens, you need to be really focused and have a plan. Sometimes I haven’t done this and I’ve unceremoniously lost. There’s three victory conditions that can win you the game. I’ve found that the best thing to do is figure out in advance which one you’re going to try for and go with it, but not stick to it too rigidly, because when the clashes start then the course of things can change. Tactical but flexible, that’s my motto! And I like it.
  • The card drafting. The way the system works gives you two opportunities to change your mind about your selection, two chances of being ‘stuck’ with a card that you didn’t particularly want, but enough choice to decide what you do want to have (depending on what you plan to do each round) and a high probability of  getting hold of a few  sought after cards. So it’s a good balance I feel.
  • You only have a hand of six action cards (two player only) and you need to play them very wisely. I love the Geish card- he basically says ‘Oh you want to do that? I don’t think so sunshine!‘ and there’s nothing more satisfying than your opponent taking an action and you putting a Geish down. I know, I’m a meanie. Of course on a few occasions I’ve been on the receiving end of it and it’s highly annoying. But then there’s the Druid who allows you to search the discarded action cards and add one to your hand. So if you haven’t lost any action cards during a clash then you essentially receive an additional action. This is really handy  if someone Geished you because you can waste that by redrawing the card you lost. Or a better one. Mwuh hu ha!

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  • However this brings me on to the Epic Tale cards. There are significantly more of these and a few ways to get them during the game. In the case of the Epic Tales you really have no idea what your opponent will have up their sleeve once they get one. Then you also have that decision of the best time to play them. Big hint- many Epic Tales will really save your ass from losing clans and action cards during a clash. Others do all sorts of cool things to alter your fate. There’s also the territory cards. Once you are the Chieftain over a territory (you have more clans there than your opponent) you are allowed to take the corresponding card, and again these can come in super useful at times with the special abilities they provide.

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  • As I mentioned I’ve only played this two player so far and it’s brutal. When you are forced into the position of having to clash, say you migrated onto an adjacent territory with your opponent’s clans present, then you decide between you whether to clash. And if your opponent wants to and you don’t then basically you don’t have a choice. That’s when it’s good to have a handy Epic Tale. So prepare for some heavy confrontation in a two player. I’m very interested to find out what this could be like with a larger group.
  • I think my favourite territory so far is ‘Gates of Tir Na Nog’. Whilst you’re present in this territory you flip the ‘Flock of Crows’ token (which is used to determine the direction of play in a 2-4 game but in a two player you do not need to use the token unless this territory is on the table.) If the direction changes you must lose a clan from the territory and draw an Epic Tale card. So this is an interesting one, you could use it to accumulate Epic cards but it’s a risky place to be hanging about y’know? This territory also ties in with the Celtic legend, some of which are fabulously detailed at the start of the rule book. Gates of Tir Na Nog relates to ‘The Otherworld’ Epic Tale and refers to a land of ‘gods, dead people and endless joy…’

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  • I was thinking at one point that I wish there were just a few more action cards to choose from, because you’re repeating the same actions between you every round. But in a way it’s nice not to have tons of cards to remember and consider. The limited amount also gives you an idea of what your opponent is holding; this enhances your chances of figuring out what they’re up to. Also, in my opinion it’s more of a challenge to only have the six cards available to you, because as I mentioned above you are then in the position of having to play them carefully.
  • Deeds are also desirable. If you manage to pick up one of these during the game they will decrease the number of clans/sanctuaries/land tiles you need to be present on to 5 instead of 6, making victory all the more possible. Happy days.
  • The cards although awkwardly sized for sleeving, and the tiles- that are a difficult shape when shuffling- make up for the practicality they lack with gorgeously illustrated and detailed artwork. It is really lovely, and the cards in their size and art style remind me of Tarot cards a great deal. Absolutely love this about the game.
  • I certainly hope to see some expansions in the future. I’d love to see one that draws further on the ‘otherworld’ aspect with abilities to transport (teleport?) you around the board, or specific gods or spirits to conjure into your clashes on the board.

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So there’s my thoughts on Inis! An overall very positive and interesting gaming experience, that was well worth the swooning for in my opinion. I also made an unboxing video at the start of the month if you fancy and this can be found here. Thanks for reading!

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