Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Year In Review

One of the nice things about keeping track of my games played is that I can go back and see what that month was like in retrospect. Here's my Year In Review based on the games I played that month.

Began my one solitaire game per month goal with Field Commander: Rommel. This game *almost* does it for me, but seems to be very fragile in terms of how you do based on the dice, although good tactics tend to be rewarded. I was also playing in a B-29 online campaign that was fun. Popular games that month were Dominion, Factory Manager, Rise of Empires, and Steam. I also got in a game of CC:Pacific with my friend Connor, whom I don't play games with often enough.

February started with Lorna's EGG mini-con in Eugene, which I sadly won't make this year. I rediscovered why I dislike Agricola (too stressful), and found Steam Barons to make almost no sense at all, which surprised me considerably. At least it came with nicer bits and two more maps for Steam. I also got in a game of BStarG's Pegasus expansion, which I also wasn't terribly thrilled with, and I screwed up the rules to We the People with my nephew Alex so badly that I may never be able to get him to play a CDG again. Mosby's Raiders was my solitaire game for the month, which I liked although the period doesn't interest me much. I also got the chance to try out the depots in Ticket to Ride: Europe.

March was largely taken up with prep work for GameStorm, which I contributed to by scheduling the board game section. Over 250 games were scheduled using what I'll charitably term as beta software. The coders worked hard on the project, but they were uncompensated and did it in their spare time, so it was never really ready for the con. However, we got 'er done and the con went pretty well and I felt like I contributed quite a bit to it's success. I ran a Conflict of Heroes campaign event that was fairly well attended, and I also managed to teach the game ahead of time. Other highlights were Nautilus, Dungeon Lords, and a variant map of northwestern France in a game of Brass. That and bringing a case of beer with me. I also enjoyed a game of Richard III, and my solitaire game fo the month was the newly released Phantom Leader, a stripped down version of the 90's solitaire game Hornet Leader (which also has it's own refreshed version out now).

After the previous month's mega-gaming events, April was sure to be a bit of a let-down in terms of volume. The weather was starting to turn, and I got out a few times on my bike. We were also beginning study for the games we'd play at WBC West in May. Dungeon Lords seemed to be the popular game this month, and I got in another mission for my B-29 campaign (I'd skipped this for March because I was so busy with planning the con). My solitaire game was London's Burning, which I lost when all of my pilot's died. Also, a three hour game of El Grande, which must be a record.

May was, of course, WBC West month, and all of that planning and prep work paid off. Highlights were The Burning Blue with Roger and A Most Dangerous Time with Mike. Almost all of my other time that month was spent prepping, so no solitaire games at all. I should also mention The Battle For Normandy, which was terribly frustrating as it is so close to being a truly playable monster, but with rules that seem to encourage some strange tactics to get units out of pockets that seem very unhistorical and unlikely. The designer was very responsive but after three attempts to explain the problem met with a lack of understanding I gave up. We may just play with house rules in the future if this game sees table time again. On the plus side, I got my first multiplayer monster game in.

June should have been the calm before the storm, had I know the storm was coming. The month was dominated by my involvement in a couple of musical projects connected to my University's reunion weekend, made particularly emotional as my conducting mentor and very good friend Roger Doyle was directing perhaps his last large-scale concert with a choir of alum. I ended up not only MCing and accompanying a light cabaret of former students, but also most of the alumni concert and was even asked to direct one piece - asked less than 18 hours before the concert, and I was planning to sleep for 8 of those hours. I taught Twilight Struggle to Matt G, and my solitaire game was D-Day at Omaha Beach, a game I dearly love, as well as playing that same title with Dave and I each taking a division. I also got to try out Dominion: Alchemy, which left me a little cold. I like the system, but it doesn't come out enough to warrant so many expansions and there's quite a bit of competition now.

And then there was The Summer That Wasn't. After three large-scale events that took a large portion of my time over six months, we went to the beach with friends only to have to come home early when my mother literally fell and couldn't get back up. Fortunately we had planned to move her to an assisted living facility anyway, but the process became much more difficult because suddenly she needed someone there just to get her to the bathroom. My sister and I carried the bulk of the load, getting her moved and toileted and keeping her spirits up as best we could. It was a Herculean effort, but no good deed goes unpunished and the end of the month saw my mother fall and suffer a subdural hematoma that we thought was going to kill her. In fact, she went into hospice (more a status than a place these days) and more than another month of figuring out that we could no longer carry the burden of caring for her, even with her in an assisted living facility. As such, gaming was nearly nonexistent. I got in one B-29 mission at the very start of the month, and hosted one game night, but that was it for gaming.

The first part of August saw my mother begin to recover, although only relatively. Her memory was badly damaged, and while the physical and occupational therapy helped to a degree it was also clear that she was not going to be able to retain much. By the end of the month, after trying to figure out how best to care for her, it was clear that the buik of the weight was going to fall on my shoulders, and after two months of giving up every aspect of my life to care for my mother I rebelled against my non-involved siblings and refused to do anything other than incidental assistance. We ended up hiring caregivers 12/7 to fill the gaps that the assisted living facility couldn't cover. By mid-month I had started gaming again, both with Tuesday nights as well as with Matt R for our Third Monday sessions. High points were Frontline: D-Day and Settlers of America. By now, it was clear than most of my gaming goals for the month, as well as my bike training, was shot for the year. It was also at this time that I decided to bail on my involvement with GameStorm for 2011 because my project bucket was not only overflowing but completely submerged. I also dropped out of the B-29 campaign after two months of excused absences from missions.

September saw me moving back toward normalcy in my life in general, although there were still some adjusting to do with my mother's situation. Perhaps the biggest events that happened in the month involved my discovery of Thunderstone as both a multiplayer and solitaire game. I completely fell in love with it and have played several solo games. I also discovered the Castle Ravenloft boardgame, which some poor fool reviewed on BGG after one one play and declared it too much of a mix of a puzzle and a ride. Which, of course, is the basic design decision in *any* solitaire game, which CR is by it's very nature as a full-coop game. I'm afraid I took out the frustrations of the past two months on this guy, who called me a Review Nazi for *politely* pointing out the flaws in his reasoning and his lack of experience with the game. When he claimed that I had no right to critique because I should respect his opinion, I kind of laid down the hammer on him privately. Many games were played this month, including Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer and Fresco, both of which I also enjoyed. It was so very nice to get back to gaming and with such great people.

And then October came and made up for the rest of the year. Perhaps the best Sunriver ever in terms of games, which included me playing Sticheln drunk, a ton of Thunderstone, me scoring a copy of Alien Frontiers, a game of Mecanisburgo, a successful campaign game of RAF: Lion, the fastest game of Le Havre *ever*, and my first pass at playing The Barbarossa Campaign, a very clever solitaire game on the East Front. The annual Euro retreat at Sunriver really recharged my batteries, and I started to feel like my life was in my own hands again.

This month was my introduction to some of the best games of the year, Dominant Species and Civilization. Neither is a perfect game, but they are both a lot of fun and very engaging. I also got in a session with Jesse, my friend Connor, and a 5th Fleet scenario with Chuck. I also started playtesting scenarios for a Guadalcanal version of Conflict of Heroes with a local designer. I was also very happy to discover that I liked the redo of Brass, Age of Industry. I also wrote an analysis of Labryinth: The War On Terror which has gotten a lot of attention online, being linked to by the publisher as well as ConSimWorld. Not bad for an essay that was initially greeted with a loud "meh" by a guy who was apparently insulted that I thought that the US had largely botched the effort over the timeframe of the game. The gaming year was definitely looking up.

The year ended with a great day of gaming at Chris' house, as well as a nice three-player gaming day at Chuck's including Dave. I spent about 20 hours at Jesse's store in Wilsonville helping out and playing Game Consultant for the customers there, which while not as large a volume as one would hope, did see several people leave very happy with their choices. New games for the month were 7 Wonders, Resident Evil Deckbuiding Game, and The Fires of Midway. Matt R and I also learned Warhammer: Invasion and really liked it, and plan to play regularly. I also got my very first governor in Endeavor, something I'd failed to do in five previous attempts. All in all, a very good end to the year. I also got my resolutions for 2011 up on the Geek, which include a major project to study and game all of WW2 in the ETO chronologically over several years, probably more than a decade. Should be interesting, assuming I keep it up. My mother is fairly stable, although the perils and pitfalls of corporate end-of-life care have convinced me to start drinking a lot more heavily and working to have a major heart event right about the time I turn 75. Sadly, it also appears that our house has lost more than 25% of it's value in the past two years, and we are now stuck here, probably until we are actually old enough to have bought into a retirement community in the first place.

All in all a very challenging year for me. Perhaps the biggest highlight, however, was celebrating my granddaughter's second birthday. She bears a strong resemblance to me, and thanks to my son-in-law we have a close relationship. I can only hope that my biological daughter will decide to resume a relationship with us next year too. I also hope for my mother to remain content and continue to find the quality of caregivers that she has been blessed with for the most part this year. These people do incredible things for long hours and I could not have resumed my life without them.

As always, a very big thanks to the people I choose to game with. In a hobby that at times seems to draw in people for whom social skills were either never taught or were unachievable, I am blessed with gaming partners who are clever, funny, smart, and harder than hell to beat in a game. Without you this past year would have been nearly unbearable and I thank you.

Sorry for all of the personal stuff this time around. I guess I just needed a little catharsis this time of year. Thanks for reading and I'm looking forward to some new takes on gaming in general.


Uwe Eickert said...

Hiya Doug.
Happy New Year and I hope that 2011 is just as productive game wise! Thanks for all of your help and support in 2010, it was really appreciated. The local game cons really help spread the word in our hobby.
I agree that Dominant Species is an incredibly good game. One of my new favorites. Another game that I am play testing at this time is Conflict of Heroes Solo designed by John Butterfield. Wow, is all that I can say.
So keep up your great blog, it is a pleasure to read and has given me many good gaming leads.
Talk to you soon.

Uwe Eickert
Academy Games.

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