Nerds of a Certain Age – Welcome to My Thoughts

Let’s call it wisdomry! Instead of wizardry. As one ages geekily, wisdom may seem tasty. I’m seeking it.

It’s out there. So this will be writing about life with emphasis on RPGS, board games, running, fitness and whatever interests me. I give you the increasing perspective of age with a love of magic. And a crapton of nerdy, dorky, geeky thoughts.

Thanks to my friend of a decade Doug Nordwall (aka Raleel) and a journey of 1746 or more miles for the idea for this blog. For the rest of the world reading – all seven of you someday? – this distance is about 2810 kilometers. I’ll tell you more next entry. (It has to do with Gen Con.) The idea – “Nerds of a Certain Age” – just flowed right out of the conversation. So I’m running with it.

Sometimes I have to go outside my usual zone to rebuild and to find new ideas. Here’s one new idea for me that I shall try to sustain. Hopefully as a weekly thing. I’m already stockpiling columns. I will post a second one today, however here’s the official “get it started” obligatory rigamarole word vomit. Thanks for dropping by!



The Grasshopper: Games, My Life & Utopia

TL; dr – This is a review of a philosophy book. Irregular, irreverent bloggery continues.

The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia – Bernard Suits

Review by William L. Collins

Copyright 2022 all rights reserved. Will anyone really care or rip off these words anyway?

Initial Thoughts

-Philosophy dialogues work well.

-This is a book about the common thread between all games and people who play them.

-Read it if you want to deliberately overcome the obstacle of reading a philosophy book about games.

Basically Spoiler-Free Review

This pleasant, at times funny, at times droll, work discusses games, especially board games, prominently – and mostly in the abstract. (How meta, right?) This is a thought piece of philosophy and not a “how to play” guide though. You will not improve your board game skill ladder, though you might find some clarity about playing games, or appreciation for the time you spend.

It is definitely a product of its time that still has a core tenet – we play games to overcome unnecessary obstacles. Implied yet never stated is that we do this because it’s fun and we are human.

Replete with callouts to well known people and events, the 60s and 70s references I get because I lived them, or at least saw them mentioned in the news. A younger reader or someone not raised in America might have to spend time finding the references. They don’t overwhelm the book, however Suits sometimes uses them to make a point as if the audience will automatically assume a universe based on one name or description. He’s not wrong with the right reference – especially with his contemporaries. Readers should beware though. 

The construction of the definition of what a game is, followed by the attempt to prove the definition incorrect, is a very pleasant thought exercise. It almost felt like one of those weird, deep late night conversations with a friend. It wanders over point and counter-point, with new illustrations punctuating each new challenge. The conclusions are valid.

The book has a foothold with readers because it gets reprinted – I purchased a third printing copy. The art lends more to the book than one might expect. The sketches set a tone for the start of every chapter. The author gamely plows on through attack after philosophical attack raising his Shield of Superior Reasoning deftly, while couching it in the dialogues.

My one critique is that I wished that Suits had expanded past the roles of the Grasshopper and his student, Skepticus. It was probably easier and traditional to have a two-person debate. It is my impression that he thought it easiest to frame the discussion as master and student, and that works. Some minor, and relevant characters do appear. Yet, a few more third or even fourth viewpoints would spice it up. That’s a personal position and others will no doubt rightfully disagree.

For those who enjoy philosophical deep dives and board games, I recommend this volume. For everyone else? Chances are you didn’t read this far. 😉

Random Notes

I found the book via the Decision Space podcast, which I endorse for thinkers who like board games or board gamers who like thinking. The Grasshopper was mentioned in an episode about a different philosophy volume. It was unavailable so I started here. (I I have acquired and will read Games: Agency as Art next.) Reading this book meant that I also read two essays that The Grasshopper references to be complete in my understanding. It’s not common to do homework – at age 56 no less – for pleasure reading. Philosophy turns out to be an almost endless series of references to prior philosophers and essays, making it inherently self-propagating.


More Pandemic Upside

TL; DR – I can’t say enough good things about! I’ve played a lot of games online with friends there and it helps maintain sanity. I talk about some of them in more detail including: Nippon, Res Arcana, and Russian Railroads. Plus I recommend a tabletop game I’m playing solo mode called Era: Medieval Age.

Read on if you’re so inclined…

BGA Plays

Nippon continues to hit the table with friends since we found the game. A very complex one where you have to watch and calculate every move. You ignore Influence at your peril. It’s awesome to rack up the X5 rewards if you can, but you need to have the right amount of yen, coal, knowledge, goods, contracts, etc. Plus the buildings to go with it! I could go on, but it’s like no other game I know. If you’re into medium to heavy games for 2-4 give it a try! One game this week saw a player pull out a big win. I swear it started with his first round, where he only had one color meeple for all six moves. (In Nippon, changing meeple colors to take actions costs you yen.) Then he had two more rounds with only two colors and his cashflow soared. That was impressive.

To my surprise, we essayed a round of Kingdomino recently. Interface on BGA is pretty good, and helps you avoid matching issues. I still lost even though I really like this game! Maybe it’s the art? I think it’s a nice light game for in between heavier ones.

Speaking of which, in between longer games, 6nimmt and 7 wonders also hit the table fairly frequently. It’s nice having the interface do the work for you with both these games. I can never win at 7 wonders – I think I have once in about 5 years and probably 40+ plays. My friends really like it and it’s quick though so I stick with it. 6nimmt is just pure gamer shrieking and complaining. Excellent palate cleanser.

Three of us gave Res Arcana a try after others stated that it was really good. Well it has really good art and components, but it started off quite hit or miss for synergy, especially in a deckbuilder with set management. I lost one game big, yet I won the second game bigger and faster with drawing the Druid, getting the Dragon’s Lair then putting several dragons out, and just stockpiling gold. With the high random element, we deemed it playable when someone wants to play it, but not our first choice. Then I found out about drafting. Oh-ho! Drafting, which is available in the online version at BGA, makes the game go better. Lots better. We played two games since then and saw improvement. Light years of improvement even. I have to give this more plays to form a full opinion, but I’m very grateful to a couple of Redditors who pointed out drafting. I don’t think I’d even play it without that now.

The shiny new-to-us breakthrough game , which we played seven times over two nights and part of one day, was Russian Railroads. Wow! (I personally have 12 plays in within a week. Blink blink??) RR is a worker placement game where scoring and strategy are not immediately obvious, however all the actions are quite intuitive at the start. We wound up getting pretty fast at it darned quickly. Our scores started moving up to higher totals too. One four player ended in a tie, which was pretty amazing considering that one player looked to be in the lead all game, and that scores tend to be in hundreds of points. I managed to parlay the right combination of engineers and end-game bonuses into being one of those tied players. 🙂 And I’ve won more than my share of this game. Give it a try if you can! Highly recommend. Would have missed it but for the pandemic.


This week, in my few spare moments when friends aren’t online, it’s been all Era: Medieval Age all the time. (See picture above.) This is a very nifty roll and build polyomino game. The solo mode is a “timed” mode where you want to build and wall your city by round 8. Depending on how well you do, you get a tile ranging from Serf to Merchant to Knight to King to Pope. After trying about every variation I could think of, 17 games in I hit upon the right combination and achieved Pope, with a score of 116! That was a very pleasant result.

Having solved that puzzle, I moved promptly on to Collector Set 2 and Collector Set 3, all 3 sets having arrived by post last Saturday. I played one game solo building the Manor and two more games building the Abbey. I’ve gotten in one play with both the Weigh House and the School from Set 3, and then a game where I just focused on the Schools getting walled early to try to win on Culture. I scored about the same though, so the buildings add some great variety, without breaking the game. I’m very excited to get this to the table with people. Especially because Disasters will be different and we’ll all have our eye on the good things, but possibly different things. I enjoyed the new buildings, though the lack of a quarry or other stone production building seems to me to be a bit of an oversight. Apparently, this is found in the expansion, Rivers and Roads. So there’s something to buy when I next have spare board game budget!

Thanks for reading.


Pandemic Upside: New Games

TL; DR – Nippon, Mariposas, 6nimmt and Eruption are board games that I’ve played recently. I recommend them!

Okay I’ll Read More

We found an upside to the Pandemic: playing boardgames virtually, with friends, on a Discord server and a virtual tabletop. We’ve found many decent implementations on and As have a lot of other gamers! Okay maybe there’s a physical game in here too…

Overall I prefer how BGA scores for you and plays faster, but the “look and feel” on Tabletopia can’t be discounted. Unfortunately I frequently have to reload the game, and some of the controls are wonky. We tend to stay on BGA. For the right game, I’ll play it on Tabletopia. Here are a few quick words:

6nimmt (sometimes called Take 6) – Here we have a fast, easy to learn, easy to play, hard to master card game for 1-10 people. What’s not to like about that? Oh lord it’s brutal. We thought it would be easier at 3 player? Oh no. It’s not. A great, short, fast, choose the lesser of current evils game.

Mariposas – The latest from Elizabeth Hargraves. Can’t wait to play it again. Competitive butterfly migration?? Zow.

Eruption – First criteria? It supports up to 6 players. Wait no. That’s the Zeroeth Criteria. The first criteria? It’s virtual. When your village gets too warm, send the lava elsewhere. Yeah, my friends group is late to “take that” sometimes, but we appreciate this one. As long as you’re all on the same voice chat.

Nippon – Here we hit the deep gaming divide. This is an excellent, in depth strategy game like basically nothing else my friends group has tried. And yet, it’s virtual. Even with a steep learning curve and the first two games taking four hours each, we rallied for 2 more games for a total of four over the weekend. Can’t wait to play again.

What have you found that you like?


Review: The Good Game Grill


The Good Game Grill in Providence, Rhode Island, USA is:

  • A four star restaurant.
  • A four star board gaming cafe.
  • A place with a $5 US cover charge.

Five stars when you put the two together. 



My friend Andrew and I visited on 11/26/2019. There were supposed to be more of us, however two turned out to be just fine. Five games and seven hours later it was a darn good time. So what is there anyway?

A good gaming grill – e.g. diner – with entertainment!

They have a cook, a counter with stools, tables, and a decent supply of boardgames on a main street in Providence. There are hotels all around. For anyone who wants to spend a full day board gaming, just stay over. Or if you’re just a foodie, no interest in games, go in for their menu! They have a counter.


So let’s talk about the food first. I had the Philly cheese steak for lunch and the Beyond Sausage grinder for dinner. (We were there from 12:30 pm to 7:30 pm; good timing.) Beyond Sausage is a find given the number of vegetarians popping up these days. Plus it repeats less. Andrew had the bacon cheeseburger and the chicken poppers, which he said were all good. They looked tasty. Note that we were there on a Tuesday. I can’t speak for how the grub is on a busy day. I suspect they are adequately staffed and it’s just fine. 

Both my dishes were well prepared and had absolutely fresh bread, which is a delight. Heck, I was looking at the kitchen throughout the day – from about six feet away. It would be hard to reduce the dish to table time more. 

Now the menu is small. I consider this a virtue. First, as advertised, this is pub food/grill food. It’s not fine dining. It’s tasty! It’s hearty and filling. There are plenty of choices. They have a huge array of available toppings, seasoning and sauces. So you can get a good meal and have them customize it. Second, I’ve thought lately that restaurants offer too much. You have to page through so many options it takes longer just to decide!

Besides, we were there to game not dine for hours. I don’t want to put down my meeples and rulebooks, clear the table for another course, then set the game back up to finish. Good food you can chow down on and then get back to gaming works great for me. Plus prices were quite reasonable for city dining.


Water was available. Bottled water and local seltzer water – pretty good – was there for a reasonable charge. There was no hot coffee. This was the one niggle I had on the options. However, I don’t think most board gamers drink coffee besides me. They had a decent selection of coffee and espresso in cans. I survived. 

They had beer and wine for anyone wanting alcohol. I can see where someone coming in off the street for the food and not the games might want a beer. The beer selection was all cans, no drafts, and yet reasonable and fairly local. The wine selection was common brands, 175 ml bottles, which I didn’t see as a downside either. Board game cafes don’t need to stock Pio Cesare for me. Or anyone. 


Everyone was friendly, welcoming and helpful. They also know board games. Ha! A feature that you’d think would be routine in all such establishments and yet not always. The manager in particular knew all the games we tried except one, and had helpful tidbits. They were also receptive to ideas and explaining us finding mixed up components in one box. (An expansion had gotten mixed in.)

Board Games Tried and Played

  1. DC Comics Deck Building Game
  2. Onitama
  3. Isle of Skye
  4. Gravwell
  5. Time Stories

How about a one line description with three bullet points and a note about each game? For more in depth information, I would refer you to that font of knowledge:

Time Stories

“a cooperative mystery game with a time travel theme”

  • elegant art with high component production values
  • clever puzzle that we almost finished solving on the first playthrough
  • solid mechanics that support gameplay

This is a game where you take on the role of a team mentally transported into the minds of someone in the past or future. You pick your team a la Mission Impossible, then you try to figure out the mystery. Except your first team probably won’t uncover all of it, so you loop back through time again. We concluded that 1) a more explicit a warning that you can’t finish the initial scenario with your first team would be helpful and 2) that we’d want to play the scenario again with four human players not just two. See the game says that you “might” need a second team from your initial roster. Well that’s a lie. You will need the second team. Possibly a third team. We thought with other humans to also lend input we might do better. 

I’m undecided about this game until I play it again sometime – probably at a future visit to a board game cafe! It was easy enough to play and smooth. I think my main hesitation at owning it would be the expense of the new scenario packs. For many I can see this as a feature because they’d want the experience and price isn’t an issue. Secondarily, it feels like a series of plot coupons to work through. However, the story was decent. If it plays well a second time who knows?


“Robo Rally with spaceships and fewer decisions!”

  • Fast and furious.
  • Probably way funnier with 3-4 players.
  • Not what I expected with that title.

We did this with two players. It would do a lot better with four. It went quick. We enjoyed it. Bet it’s hilarious when it’s late in the evening and everyone is punchy. Essentially, you have spaceships with movement cards and you’re trying to escape a singularity. Well you can mess with the other players pretty easily while trying to escape – in a fun way! If I see this I’ll pick it up to stick on the shelf since this would be a good introduction game or great to teach younger children. I would not play this just 2 player again though.

Isle of Skye

“Build your clan a home and a victory in six rounds – with tiles”

  • Like Carcassonne in the British Isles with goals.
  • Quality pieces and easily understood rules.
  • An individual, not a group, resource management/puzzle completion game.

This game was quite interesting. I had played it at GenCon a few years ago, and hadn’t found it that fun. (The rules explainer didn’t know all of the rules and the other players needed lots of explanations so I may have been responding to the demo experience not the game.) I have a long-standing rule about trying a game a second time. So we tried it. (Andrew liked it the most of everything we played.)

This time it went a lot better. I miss the central semi-cooperative puzzle of Carcassonne personally, however the “build your own clan holding aspect is cool. The resource management to get just the right pieces of the puzzle is fascinating. The goals vary game to game so being flexible is important. The coin flow back and forth is a key part of the game. This is more than just Carcassonne. It’s a new game with similarities and fun differences. Good choice for folks who have burnt out on the original too. 

(One of these days I need to blog more on game “paths” or “trees”. I can see introducing someone to Carcassonne, then Kingdomino, then Isle of Skye. Of course, this works best where you have similar games that feel like upgrades or variations.)


“Two player speed chess with changing movement rules.”

  • An elegantly created, designed and presented game. 
  • Clever tactics. Stay on your toes.
  • Worth having.

Prompted by a few recommendations  from the excellent Luke at Start Your Meeples, when I spotted this on the shelf we decided to try it. It is chess-like in appearance, construction and feel. And then it’s not. Each game uses different movement cards, with a simple, fascinating system for determining what moves you get to make every turn. One in which you also know which two moves your opponent will be able to choose from. It’s like someone took a series of computer punch cards, handed them to you, and said “go play chess with pawns and a king only, but use these cards to move, then give one to your opponent”. It limits options while opening up the need to be more tactical. Way more tactical. Waaaay more tactical. And it played fast. I really liked this game.

DC Comics Deck Building Game

“A themed deck building game.”

  • Whooo comic book art.
  • Odd distinctions for power levels between heroes and superheroes.
  • Honestly I don’t have a lot to say about this game.

This is a straight forward deck building game. So simple it almost hurt. The theme warred with the mechanics. Why are there multiple Suicide Squads, multiple Supergirls, multiple Batmobiles? There’s really only one at a time in the DC Universe. Why do we keep milling through the deck looking for more power and more options to take down the next villain? It felt like an eternal lather, rinse, repeat game where the big strategy is “acquire the best card you can every turn.”. The rules worked cleanly. I’ll give it that. For someone new to deck builders, this game would probably be a fine choice. However it felt like an attempt at Dominion or Sentinels of the Multiverse for an entry level audience. You could honestly reskin this into 30 other games and I would probably like it better because I wouldn’t find the theme so odd. 

Entertainment Value

The board game cafe experience is worth it. 

I love going to one a couple times a year with friends. This time, I paid a $5.00 cover charge. I got to eat twice very well ($27.78 US not including tip). Someone else cleaned up after me. I hung out with a great friend and we played games – new ones – for 7 hours. Compare to the cost of a theme park or a Broadway show? Or heck, drinking at the hotel bar on a business trip. I would have spent the same time without real food to see three movies back to back. These are all different entertainments; we’re discussing opportunity costs.

This one suits me just fine. 


New Blood For Old Grognards

TL; DR – I brought 6 new games to a board gaming weekend, and we tried 5. Everyone liked all 5. I’m going to blog about 3 of them now because I liked them. Read on for the titles!

Grognards Defined

Grognard, n. an old soldier; someone who enjoys older board games and/or roleplaying games

What’s winning the gaming weekend? When you bring six new-to-you-and-your-group games to your grognard friends and you try 5. (You would have tried the sixth but you forgot it in your car.) And all 5 are well liked!


Pseudo-Grognards or Some Other Related Species?

My gaming friends and I are not really grognards. We enjoy new games as much, sometimes more, than old ones. We tend to fall back a fair amount on old favorites like Ticket to Ride and Puerto Rico and Eclipse, even though Terraforming Mars and Viticulture Essential Edition (with the coins) have been consistent hits since we acquired them. New games appear maybe once or twice a year. This year I decided to get us out of the rut.

See, my friends and I are fortunate enough to get together a few long weekends a year to play board games. It’s a grand framework for socializing. And we get to play a lot of games. So I set about researching new games to bring to a recent holiday weekend. I did my homework by reading reviews, thinking about our play styles, what had worked in the past and what hadn’t. We started a “Games to Try” list for when we visit board game cafes, so I stole a bit from that. Tossed out were heavy “take that” games, and ones with highly random elements. Definitely in were ones that filled a niche – supports up to 7 players for example – or that was in a favorite category like worker placement. They all had how to play videos, which I now deem crucial to introducing new games (so much easier than just plodding through new rulesets). None of them were rated poorly in both overall ratings and in written reviews on (BGG).

Getting There

I acquired one game, and watched it hungrily sitting on a shelf for three months. I acquired another game. A kickstarter came in. And I kept acquiring them. Six in all by the time I packed up. One I had owned for over a year; it counts because it was still new to the group.


When we unboxed, and played, the games went well. They kept getting requested, over and over again. Two of the new board games are still held hostage, uhh are still on loan, at my friends house. One we played as a learning game, and did not actually attempt to finish it (Through the Ages), however we definitely will play again.

Here’s the list. I’m going to write individual posts about some of these. Stay tuned! For the rest of today, read down for short reviews of three of them.

Between Two Cities – 3 to 7 players; a tile laying game

Century: Spice Road – 2 to 5 players; a resource drafting and management game

Copenhagen – 2 to 4 players; a window tile drafting game

Kahuna – 2 players; area control game

Cryptid – 2 to 5 players; deduction game

Through The Ages – 2 to 4 players; strategy resource acquisition and management

Mini Reviews

Between Two Cities – A very fun “coopetition” game! This fit the “shorter game to fill gaps in between long strategy games” criteria*. It also had an “unusual winning condition” (you have to build two cities working with players to your left and right) and the very important “up to 7 players”. The unique city tokens you use are great, although a couple of them had pieces break off. As much as I love unique pieces, I think a new edition would benefit from one slightly different city piece. (The Sydney Opera House could replace the Sydney bridge, IMO, or something like that.) We did have fun guessing at all the cities represented. It played rapidly and scored easily once we got the hang of it. This was an affordable and pleasant addition to the group collection.

*The cycles between games on a long weekend with a house full of people have interesting gaming rhythms.

Kahuna – A deep strategy game for all that it’s 2 players. I got this on sale! It’s small and portable with a reasonable number of pieces and cards. (I had actually introduced this in advance of the weekend out of eagerness but only one person got to try it beforehand.) I saw furrowed concentration as everyone learned it and tried to suss out strategy. Props to the creators for having good visual aids for color blind/sight challenged folks – the cards you play with orient to the archipelago and highlight the island. It has a slight tendency to telegraph the winner, we found. The more we play it, I wonder if that will go away? Contrast with Odin’s Ravens (not blogged about yet), where the winner doesn’t seem obvious until right toward the end. I have yet to figure out the Kahuna strategy enough to win definitively, however I picked up a lot from my friend Dave who seemed to grasp it inherently. (He went on to win every game he played.) There are definitely multiple levels to this game. It’s a keeper.

Through The Ages – In the words of the BGG crowd, this is a “weighty” game. Not only is the box a bit heavy, but there are a *lot* of high quality components. It is packed with rules, which are excellent and clear even though there’s a lot. As a visual and spiritual child of the original Civilization, there are many strategies tied directly into the growth and expansion of technology, society and civilization. You can choose a heavy military path, or you can choose a heavy Science development path. There are probably a lot more choices too. We played the Learner Mode with four people in a starter game. That game lasted hours – because we were trying to go carefully through the rules – and we didn’t finish. We did however feel quite satisfied with the learning experience, with the game, and agreed to try it again sooon. 


Mountains of Madness Board Game: Crazy Fun?

First Impressions: Mountains of Madness

from Rob Daviau

TL; DR: a real blast of a cooperative “exploration” game that messes with your mind. It might generate a lot of belly laughs. Or freak people out.

Theme: Explore an ancient city behind impassable mountains. Try to escape with your minds (somewhat) intact.

A Few Neat Things:

*good game concept that plays pretty quickly without lots of corner case rules

*high quality components including a little prop plane miniature

*clear rules with examples

*twisted little bits of the game design reinforcing the theme

*an excellent board game homage to Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” 



Why Did I Buy It?

Friends were eyeing this for a while. It got good reviews. Someone almost bought it for a prior board gaming get together. But they didn’t. Due to a sudden and unfortunate last minute cancellation of both SeaFall and Charterstone, I picked it up on a whim on Saturday 10/20. We immediately played it twice. It’s a good game. As with all things vaguely Lovecraftian, things went terribly, terribly wrong. And funny.

Okay Lovecraft isn’t funny but using humor to deal with things traumatic is.


This is a board game of exploration, facing challenges, gathering relics and escaping the Mountains of Madness. All while players act out and role play insane characters trying to reach a decision to overcome challenges to get what they need to conclude the expedition. Fortunately, the insanity “discussion” is timed so it only lasts roughly 30 seconds. Unless the leader extends it.

Which sometimes you need. Especially after you start to play you think:

“Wow what an intense 30 seconds!”

“But we need more time!”

And the madness? The madness that *every* member of the expedition faces? Hilarious! Sometimes crippling, sometimes amusing, and often changing.

This is the genius part of the game. In true Lovecraftian fashion, you go insane and your madness increases. It’s woven into the rules. You can even get a higher level madness!

It may be wrong that sometimes this is desirable. It’s also funny.

The interactions were where it really got good. I wish I could share. You just had to be there -oops you couldn’t be – I’m sorry let me say it was delightful. The memories will still echo in our minds for years to be trotted out at opportune, if not embarrassing moments (for some).

Geeky Stuff

Mechanically, you move across a board holding Challenge tiles that you have to overcome to advance or just explore with. Players have hands of Equipment cards that you have to use to overcome the Challenges. You do so by trying to coordinate resources when you reveal the Challenge. You only have 30 seconds to hold the discussion though! While that timer sand runs, everyone acts out their assigned Level 1, 2 or 3 Madness. (I can’t even describe how zany this got.)

There’s an interesting Leader mechanic that provides tokens to allow you to suppress, extend, avoid or ameliorate certain parts of the game. The Leader changes every round too. I liked this part. It made you think as a group how to try to beat the game. It also put everyone in charge. Briefly.

The goal is to return with enough Relics that your Expedition is a success. But if you have too many accumulated Injuries(an otherwise useless card added into your Equipment deck) once you escape, it’s not a success. Your characters might be denied tenure or worse. Figuring out how to beat the Challenges and escape was, well, challenging. There’s also a slight twist* in the components – an evil twist – that added to the difficulty. Also, we got the Challenge rules slightly wrong, which led to an unfortunate feeling that the game was too hard after we played it twice. Yet for all that, everyone had a lot of laughs, and most of us agreed we’d play it again.

The Rule We Missed:

Since this was an impulse buy, there really wasn’t time to watch a playthrough. Which, amusingly enough, was not really available to our gaming group for, say 35-40 years of board gaming.

My friends and I have been playing board games for about 42 years apiece. (We all started around ages 8-12.) Six of us played the game that evening with some slight rotation of players. Our designated reader (Lisa) went through the document carefully. We’re good, thorough game players who read all the rules out loud at the table before we started. We make sure/made sure as a group that we understood each section and the components as we went. So we thought.

Of course, actual play is where you find out how the game really works. Usually there’s one rule you don’t get quite right until you play the game repeatedly. This one rule was a little bigger than most.

We missed it. Someone (Kevin) who was waffling about playing again admitted that he’d now consider trying another session after Allen found the error.

What was it?

Resolution Phase > Overcoming a Challenge > Success

“If you successfully overcome at least one of the Challenges on the Encounter tile, you gain the reward shown on the bottom right corner of the tile.”

We didn’t get those rewards the first two times playing through because we interpreted it to mean that you had to win both challenges. In fact, we only fully succeeded on both Challenges with three Challenge tiles in two game sessions. So we lost big time with that error.

With the real rule in play though, it will make a difference. It felt harder to beat Mountains of Madness than Pandemic on hard mode. Now it should be accomplishable – we think.

The Fun

Rules aside, the best part of the game was the Madness. For me. Okay the expression of madness. It’s too funny when there are simultaneous interpretations of insanity that so throw off a player that it’s disturbing. I don’t want to spoil this part of the game too much. Let’s just say that there are cards that distribute certain traits that you roleplay when you’re coordinating resources. Two of them collided in one moment. After the game ended, we couldn’t stop laughing while recapping the crazy things that happened. That’s a hallmark of a really good game in my book.

The Odd Side Note

And here’s another amusing part. There were blank Madness cards meant for you to be able to write your own. (We’re going to!) However, they weren’t well explained in the rules. When two of us got dealt them in the first game, we interpreted them! We didn’t just think “huh what does this mean?” We didn’t go back to the rules since we’d already read them.

No no.

My friends and I? We’re creative. We invented what that Madness was. Confirmed it with our independent monitor and second round player Viola. I chose snow blindness. My character thought he was snowblind and couldn’t see anything – so of course I couldn’t see which Equipment cards I was handing over. Andrew – a literalist – interpreted the lack of text to mean a moment where an insane person thought they were sane. Brilliant!


Worth a play or several. Definitely better, as my friend Andrew noted, toward the end of a gaming day when everyone is punchy and not up for games with too many crunchy rules anyway. Nevertheless, no matter what you do, that way lies madness. Of a good natured, belly laugh sort.

Try it!

And please report back even if you’re in Bedlam.



There is a part of the game that’s evil. Evil as in “gawdamnit you fooled me!” It also will be difficult, possibly frustrating for anyone with bad vision, color blindness, nystagmus, etc. If you have a concern about a vision issue, read on please.

Challenge tiles for different board sections have two (later three) different Challenges printed on them consisting of a number and a visual symbol. The symbols are a gun (in green), books (blue), tools (yellow) and crates (red). The higher up the Mountain you go, the more difficult the Challenges. Makes sense right? Except, apparently to increase the difficulty along with perceptions of increasing insanity, the higher tiles change the color of all the symbols. So books are, for example, no longer blue. Then there are three Escape tiles that are played after the plane “launches” to escape the continent. Those have three Challenges printed. The colors are gone – it’s just an outline – of the symbol, and it’s distorted…

Talk about insanity. That way lies madness, and not of a roleplay type.


Run An Empire Take Two

TL; DR: I like my new running app! It’s gotten my now-less-toned ass out of bed to run twice this week, which is good! Here’s some stuff that ran through my brain about it below if you want to read more…


Questions Questions Questions

Using it the second time I had more questions than answers. Some things did answer themselves like “How do I pick up a gem?” Answer: enter the hex.

Can I run one day then switch to walk mode? Is that a permanent choice? I need to fiddle with the controls.

What happens if someone comes into my territory?? This is a big one. Nobody is playing yet. I can’t see any other empires out there.

Can I play elsewhere? What happens then? Can I switch from run mode to walk mode?

Playing The Game

I set out yesterday morning to do a second run with the app. I turned it on and noticed that you get bonus coins for running in a loop. Why is that? I don’t know. Runners typically run loops because they’re more interesting and you can follow familiar streets. However, in New England, we have a lot of rail trails too. If you run down one side of the trail and back up the other, technically that’s a loop!

Anyway I modified my run into a loop. No problem. Saw some neighborhoods that I had never seen. Cool. A deer stood right in the middle of the road at one point before I got too close. Love early morning runs.

I think the issue here is that the app maps my new budding Imperial lands onto hexes. When you run through a hex, you find things. And you get the fun playback at the end of the run where the hexes all jump up and down. Oddly, you only have to go through the smallest portion of the hex to get a treasure in it.

See the landscape is just littered with gems. Okay not littered but it had several that morning. I’ll report back on this later. You can get things with them. Maybe.

After my run I earned coins and spent them. I got to improve my empire! It’s kinda neat to be able to add new buildings. There were things I couldn’t buy yet. Have to enter the next age. Technically I’m in the Stone Age! 

This left me with all sorts of questions about the controls and what I have to do to advance. My best guess on that is “keep running”. Heh. Seems obvious?

More Questions

At the end of the run I got a little notification about hearts. You have 3 it seems. You use one up when you walk or run. However it regenerates within 4 hours. Okay. Does this mean that there’s combat coming?? It also said you can buy them, but I didn’t see them in the store. Do I have to unlock the ability to buy them? Build a building to let me grow them? Kill other runners and take their heart? Well maybe just take their phone. Oh wait no! That’s theft. Don’t want murder or theft with assault and battery – since I’m guessing to get someone’s phone that violence would be involved. The last act of violence – killing spiders aside – that I committed was a punch I threw when I was ten. I far prefer the peace and joy of running with no such things happening. So I’ll shelve this question for a bit.

I also want to know things about my territory. I think the darker greens areas are now “mine”. I’ve added stuff to them. But are they really? Can others invade and take them away?? I see a fort on the map. I’m definitely going to run there next time to see if I can conquer it. Who owns it? I’m looking forward to finding out more.

Physical Results

The app tracked my splits. This is neat. I was really happy to see my times improving at the end of my run. Part of this was going down a hill – let’s be real here – but part of it is that my muscles warmed up and I got into it.

I also ran longer than I intended! That was good. Very good. I enjoy long runs where my brain works. I compose poems, imagine D&D games, and let the workings go to all sorts of interesting places. Getting out and moving and running longer is great.

Okay Where’s The Strategy Part?

This is a great question. I’d love to be able to discuss it with others. Has anyone seen forums yet? I sent feedback to the company suggesting that they need a place to discuss. It’s just come out in America. Lots of us will try it and master it. Sharing information improves that. It seems odd that a gaming company didn’t get a free or mostly free forum site yet.

Back to strategy: Yeah I’m thinking it’s in how you explore, conquer and manage your empire, but I haven’t figured that out yet. I’ll noodle on that. Maybe it’s part of holding your territory. The blog on the app’s site mentioned that you have to keep running through your territory to hold your hexes. Otherwise they slowly degrade away from your influence. Hm.

I also earned coins while I was away! Lots by my (new) standards. See the screen shot. But note that I’m still in the Stone Age! I can’t wait to spend my wealth. If I can figure out how to switch modes. Otherwise my next run is Monday.

Hm. This could get me running every day again.


I’m sticking with the app. I need to learn more. Since I’m stuck in the Stone Age maybe my caveman brain must evolve before I get this sorted. 😉



Run An Empire App – 1st Impressions

It’s a floor wax and a desert topping! “Try new Shimmer.” Oh wait. Old Saturday Night references are good but not quite on point. Let me try again:

TL; DR: Run An Empire– It’s a good running (or walking) phone app and a strategy game in one! Get healthy with strategy. Or so I hope.

Cool right? For those of you with extensive time on your hands, please read on!


The Getting It & Getting It Started Details

You can download this from the Apple Store if you’re an iPhone user. (For all of the nice rest of you, wherever the droid/rogue people get their apps from just plug the name in.)

I first heard about this app two years ago. It was available in Australia. I asked friends there how it goes. They said, pretty good! Then I got my sad face. It wasn’t available in America.

This year the beta test for America came along! Yay!

I didn’t sign up right away.


Too much Real Life going on.


But I did finally and got an invite. And that sat for a bit. Then I got the news it’s coming out of beta. Today! [Editor: yesterday technically.]

So I could keep beta tester status for new features by downloading yesterday. [Which was Monday. Your now more irritated editor.]

One much needed -kick in the pants- call to action later, I had the app on my phone last night. I determined to run right away.

So I did.

The Run?

I’ll keep this brief. You’re maybe not a runner if you’re a gamer and reading this? Maybe you are! That said, if you ever wanted to do get in better shape while playing a game, this is a good way to go! There are also other apps that serve the same purpose yet do it differently (like Zombies, Run!). To my knowledge this is the only one that has a strategy element.

No Really, the Run

Oh gawd the damn alarm went off. I have to get up. Have to. New shiny app calling!



Okay okay I’m up!



So I set out this morning at the ridiculous hour of 7:15 AM, into a light mist.


Sneakers on, running clothes on, iPhone in a plastic sandwich bag.




My 6S is too large for my old shoulder hoster. Funny. I’m too cheap to buy a new one. You gotta protect your phone. Especially one running a game app…

My feet hit the pavement, the breath whooshes out of my lungs – rhythmically okay? – and the dumb parts of life fade away.

Done Run

Approximately 30 minutes later, breathing a little harder than I would have liked, I had 5K under my belt, 7700 coins earned in the app, and I had explored 8 hexes around my apartment.

A good run.

Editor: he’s an old Schlub folks. Ten minutes a mile.

Neat Features

Let me be honest. I have no idea what this will be like in the coming weeks. But as a guy who’s played a few phone games, this one has something. There are several features that I liked at first blush:

  • The tutorial guy is funny. And is kinda helpful. Will the “your greatness” thing get old?
  • Graphics are cute in an updated 60s way. It’s a welcome change from the harshly scintillating SF world of Ingress.
  • The post-movement summary is fun! It shows that you did something. [Editor. He ran a ducking 5K. That’s not nothing. Sigh.]
  • Talk about maps that get it right – this app showed me a whole new back way out of my apartment complex! And I’ve been here for five months.
  • The reminders aren’t naggy. They encourage.
  • Rewards were showered upon me for my efforts. And yeah, the big arrows pointing to things I should do were like “D’oh!” Er. “Cool!”


There’s a new running gaming phone app that I tried once. I like it. I’ll try it more.

Are you going to try it? Will you let me know how it goes for you please? They say they’re adding a buddy feature someday.



SeaFall: The Experience

Warning: Contains mild spoilers for a specific boardgame.

TL; DR: An enjoyable Age of Sail-style adventure campaign turned into a board game. There were many twists and turns right up to the final reveal. Play it when you have a group of friends and you make the time.

In Depth Review:

Playing the first “built from the ground up” legacy game was a great experience. So much so that my friends and I are playing a second campaign!


Read on please…

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