I finished Gris this past weekend. It’s a beautiful game to look at and the soundtrack is one of the best I’ve heard in recent memory. The game itself was a little lacking, but with a playtime of maybe six hours, it never wore out its welcome.
What’s important here is that I finished Gris. I can’t say I’ve finished much of anything these days. I have stacks of books with bookmarks in them, piles of video games I’m dozens of hours into, and various canvases that are in different stages of progress. They all sit there, day after day, waiting to be completed. Meanwhile, I sit and watch YouTube or Twitch, which is really rich, given I’m watching people play and do the things I want to be doing.
This is all on me. When faced with infinite possibility of a free night where M goes to work and I can do what I want, I shrink back in my chair and do nothing more often than not. Or, when I do get motivated, I spend that time cleaning up around the house (which is ultimately time well spent).
So I finished Gris and now I want to keep finishing things. I want to get through the backlog of books and video games, or just get rid of them entirely. I want to start painting smaller canvases, one a week, and see it to completion. Hopefully by doing this I can feel like things are getting done, like I’m finally starting to finish things.
At the Gates of Loyang is one of my favorite games with a solo component. I’ve never actually played it at any other player count, and that’s perfectly fine with me. Uwe Rosenberg does a fantastic job of integrating solo mechanics in a lot of his games, and I’ve found At the Gates of Loyang’s solo game to be extremely satisfying.
At the Gates of Loyang is a trading game in which you are able to produce goods by planting them and later selling them to customers. You can use the abilities of some helpers to increase your income or production.
Fields, customers, helpers, and miscellaneous objects are represented by cards. Each player receives two of these cards per round distributed by a bidding/drawing mechanism in which you end up with one of the cards you draw and one of the cards of a public offer filled by all players. Additionally, to these cards you always receive one field for free each round.
Placing one good on a field fills the complete field with goods of this type. Each round, one unit per field is harvested. After planting, harvesting, and distributing cards, each player can use as many actions as he wants, only limited by the number of his cards or the number of goods he owns. At the end of his turn, he can invest the earned money on a scoring track, where early money is worth more than late money. The game ends after a certain number of rounds, and the player who is first on the scoring track wins.
Everything is tight in At the Gates of Loyang. Money is used not only to purchase resources, but also to ultimately move up the scoring track. Planting the correct resources and having enough of them to complete customer needs is crucial to getting more money. It’s one of the few games where I feel every decision counts and one wrong move means not being able to move up on the scoring track.
As with a lot of solo modes, the ultimate victory is beating your previous score. I find I can get to 15 pretty often, but 16 and higher is a real challenge. I find I’m just short of being able to move just one notch further.
I took a look back at my last play of At the Gates of Loyang and was surprised to find I hadn’t touched it since 2014. I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t have broken it out for roughly five years, but now that it’s hit the table again, I’d like to make it a point to play it at least once a month. I also want to finally try it with more players to see how that stacks up to the solo experience.
Our play through of the game library continues with Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar. I bought Tzolk’in roughly around the time it was released in 2012, so we’re looking at six-plus years without a single play.
Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar presents a new game mechanism: dynamic worker placement. Players representing different Mayan tribes place their workers on giant connected gears, and as the gears rotate they take the workers to different action spots.
During a turn, players can either (a) place one or more workers on the lowest visible spot of the gears or (b) pick up one or more workers. When placing workers, they must pay corn, which is used as a currency in the game. When they pick up a worker, they perform certain actions depending on the position of the worker. Actions located “later” on the gears are more valuable, so it’s wise to let the time work for you – but players cannot skip their turn; if they have all their workers on the gears, they have to pick some up.
The game ends after one full revolution of the central Tzolkin gear. There are many paths to victory. Pleasing the gods by placing crystal skulls in deep caves or building many temples are just two of those many paths…
So how was were the gears in practice? Brutal, absolutely brutal. Having to keep track of where your workers will be is key. Start them on one gear to get resources in order to build later means you need to pay attention to when you need to place a worker on another gear in order to be able to build when you want to. Needless to say, planning is critical in Tzolk’in.
I had a rough time of it as the game went on. We were getting close to the end when I turned to M and told her I had no idea what I was even doing. There is so much to go for, but if you haven’t planned to focus on anything from the start, you’re going to have a rough game.
That said, I really like it. The gears are a clever addition to the worker placement mechanic. It works really well with two players, as you’ll add dummy players to the gears, which can really block your placement options more than you think they would. The game with two is fast as well. With limited actions on your turn (pick up or take back your workers), the main gear really hums along.
M loved it. The sign of a good game is how much she talks about it and the possibilities it offers, and she definitely talked a lot about Tzolk’in when we finished. Much like Haleakala, she would have played it immediately again if we were able. I love it when a game hits her like that. I love the feeling I get when a game really clicks with me, so it’s exciting to see a similar spark in her, especially with games from our library.
Initial Verdict: Tzolk’in is a keeper and will see many repeat plays.
We were snowed in for the majority of the weekend, so we decided to spend a lot of our time working through our game library. I’ve been collecting games for roughly ten years and I’m not proud to admit I haven’t actually played a good majority of them. Turns out, this was the perfect time to break some of them out.
Megaland – A nice and easy press your luck style game with elements of engine building. Decide how far you want to go into the dungeon and escape with treasure you can then turn in to build up your city (and potentially provide ongoing bonuses). M and I both liked it, though I felt it was a little too quick to get to the ultimate goal of 20 coins. My only negative is the city building aspect reminds me a little too much of Machi Koro at first glance, a game I really dislike. Initial verdict: This will be a good starter game for the evening.
Haleakala – I was drawn to Haleakala because of the cover art and that it was two player. Miniature Market had several copies on their dent and ding shelves, so I got it for a steal (and it was completely un-dent and dinged). Haleakala is more of an abstract game. You move around the island placing totems and picking up assorted island goods. Twice the volcano will erupt and potentially knock those totems down. Both M and I loved Haleakala, though I was a little mad at myself for missing a couple of rules during the game. Initial verdict:This one will be going into out regular rotation for sure.
Stone Age – I’ve actually played Stone Age before, though it was via a mobile app several years ago. I’ve owned the physical copy forever, but have never managed to get it to the table. Stone Age is a “classic” worker placement game. Place workers on the board and take those actions where they’re at. Once some piece or token runs out, the game ends. I really like Stone Age, but having played other worker placement games in the years since its release, I feel like it’s a somewhat dated (basic) experience for me today. That said, I definitely want to play it more, especially at least once with the expansion that came out for it. Initial verdict: Fun, but may need a little coercing to play.
Africana – I went through a pretty heavy Michael Schacht phase many years ago, and Africana was one of the games I picked up during that time. Another game I’ve never played, Africana with two is just okay. At the heart of it, it’s a game about completing routes, kind of like Ticket to Ride. With two players, there wasn’t much tension to complete routes in the quickest way possible. I liked that it could be seen as an alternative to TTR though, mainly because I know a lot of people who still covet TTR, while I’ve soured on it. Initial verdict: Kind of meh at two players, but we want to play it with the full four before deciding if we want to keep it in the collection.
We’re only seven days in to 2019 and I’ve already been making significant headway on my last three posts!
Persona 5: It probably won’t make much sense if you haven’t watched me play P5, but revelations and shocking plot points have been coming fast and furious. I can’t say how many more palaces I have left, but I hear the game speeds up dramatically now.
Working Out: I’ve been the gym every other day for over a week now and have been trying out all the various activities it has to offer. I even managed to get back in the pool to see how my back would react. So far, everything I’ve tried has been going well in terms of recovery. I’m not pushing myself too hard just yet, but I think I’m doing enough to affect my body.
Pacers Game: I bought tickets! My dad and I are going to a game in February. I’m super excited. I can’t wait to go back to Indy. I’ve always liked that city.
Additional things I’d like to focus on in 2019:
Read More: I sadly lost my motivation to read a few years ago. I’d like to try to read at least three books to completion this year.
Paint More: I’m actually kind of surprised by how little I painted last year. I had high expectations for a productive year, especially painting outside. My hope is 2019 will see my output increase significantly.
Play More Board Games: Like painting, my board game plays last year were much lower than I expected or planned. I’d like to dig out more games this year, especially those that have been collecting major dust in the collection.
With all that said, this year will really be unlike any other in my 43 years, as M and I are expecting our first child. So while personal aspirations are well and good, my ultimate goal for 2019 is to be the best father I can be. It’s going to be an exciting year, whatever I manage to get done!