With all of the events canceled in order to keep everyone safe, we’ve really been missing going out and sharing our games with other people and trying out other people’s games. We were set for 6 different events between March and September, but those aren’t happening now. We were sad. The gaming community is full of great people and we wanted to meet more of them, as well as reconnect with those we met at previous events! That being said, we do understand the importance of keeping everyone safe and working through the difficulty and disappointment now to help end the pandemic sooner.
But then there was Protospiel Online! We could meet virtually to play new games and share our games Say What, Now? and Sinoda to get feedback! That was last weekend, and here is my review of the weekend. Bill and I attended separately, so I can’t speak for his experience. So here we go:
The venue was easy to get to, so there wasn’t much traveling time. It was close to readily available food, and the room I slept in was pretty comfortable. There was only one bed and I had to share it, but I love my roommate! I barely noticed the thunderstorm that went over on Sunday. I was clued in by the dog that came and laid under my chair. Also, I enjoyed all of the music that I heard between games.
As for the downsides, I found the room I was playing in to be chilly and had to wear a sweater. And the chair I was sitting in became uncomfortable after a while. Also, I kept getting distracted by the Barracudas and Tiger Shark on the table next to me.
Of course, this being a virtual event meant that I was attending from my own basement, so I can’t attribute any of the above, positive or negative, to the organizers of Protospiel Online.
I’m going to be honest in telling you that I wasn’t hugely enthusiastic about giving this a try. I really do prefer to meet people in person, and so much interaction is lost in virtual meetings. My earbuds were uncomfortable, my laptop is old and a bit slow with a loud fan that comes on a lot as it struggles with running programs.
Also, I was fairly new to Discord and was worried about learning to navigate channels and communicate through it properly.
I even find using Tabletop Simulator so fiddly and annoying compared to being able to pick up and interact with physical components, and I don’t have a mouse for the laptop, so it’s all trackpad. Tabletop Simulator has been important in working on games and trying things out with Bill and others, so that playtesting can continue, don’t get me wrong. In a time when we could be stuck doing very little, it has helped immensely in allowing us to progress.
And if all this isn’t negative enough, my posture kind of sucks so I did end up with a sore back and shoulders from being in front of the laptop so much.
So I was going into it with low expectations and some trepidation. But let me tell you, when I discovered the “looking for game” voice channel and found the moderators and other players chatting, things got so much better!
The mods were friendly and helpful in steering people toward games that were posted, and the players themselves were gracious and accommodating in getting people into games so that as many could get played and tested as possible. The people definitely made what I thought might be a so-so experience into a good one!
I managed to get in a playtest of Sinoda and Say What, Now? over the weekend, and I know Bill played a couple games of Sinoda. Thank you to all of the attendees who played our games and provided feedback! I have made some amendments and clarifications in the rules for both games based on discussions we had with players.
I can’t remember everyone I interacted with, and would feel bad mentioning a few and leaving others out, but I would like to mention some of the games I played. Normally I would include pictures, but I didn’t take any at this virtual event.
Games I Played
Chonky and Friends
One of the games I tried was called Chonky and Friends. It was a cute game in which the players were cats (2 of whom were named for the creator (Jonathan Rawls)’s own cats. The cats were unraveling balls of yarn, each with a point value. Players played a card from their hand into any of the four yarn lines. Each card had a number from 1-4 on it, and the idea was that when the value of the cards in the line equaled the value of the yarn ball, the player who had the greatest value of cards in that line got the ball, scoring points equal to the value of the ball. But once you placed one of your own cards from your hand into a line, you must also place one from one of your opponent’s hands into a line as well (the hands were played open).
It reminded me bit of the game Dix, which is played in French classes here, in which players stand in a circle and, starting at one (but in French) say up to three consecutive numbers. Whoever is forced to say ten (dix) is out. I found myself counting how far we were from a ball’s value and calculating how close I could get without letting someone else put down a number that would put us over the target value.
Anyway, it was cute and fun, and could also be used as an activity to help younger kids practice mental addition skills. Check out the website and see for yourself!
This game, by Andrew Kuplic, was really interesting. It is essentially a deck-builder, but with added elements that I liked.
The idea is that you are running a business, which inevitably causes pollution. As the pollution builds, natural disasters are triggered. In the iteration that I played, the natural disasters triggered the end of a round, at which point everyone scored points from their business. You build your business by playing cards into the business section of the area in front of you, instead of using the effects on the cards and their value to buy new cards. So therein you have the regular deck-building mechanic in which you use cards to buy new cards, but here, you can instead set them out of your deck, locking them into your business. The cards are the resources of crude oil and coal, different types of processing plants for each of the resources, and then the outputs of those plants, such as petroleum-based products such as water bottles and active wear, or things that require power, such as manufacturing or transportation.
It has a neat concept, and much of the discussion we had was around making the disasters more consequential, and adding greener energy options which cost more to buy, but mitigate the effects of the disasters for the people who use them in the later turns, making them a good long-term investment in the game.
I look forward to seeing how it develops and playing it again in the future! Since it is still in testing stages, there isn’t anything on a website for you to see about this one, but you can check out another game by Andrew here: Flamepoint Games.
Awen is a 3-player abstract strategy game in which player are druids moving around a triangular board trying to capture each other. Each player has three pieces, and on your turn, you can move one piece. Each druid moves one spot along a line on the triangular board. But then, if a druid is on a “transformation spot”, they can transform into one of the available animal forms. I say “available”, since even though there are 6 different animals, each with their own unique movement rules, only three are drawn to see what a player can change a druid into. Once one is taken, a new one is drawn to replace it.
Players score a point by forming an equilateral triangle with their 3 pieces and having an opposing piece inside that triangle. I tell you, the amount of thinking and strategy available here is intense! Recognizing the triangular patterns, then using the right move to make with which animal, all while being aware of what your opponents are capable of doing on their turns is fairly brain-burning! It is a thinky game!
I also love the theme, which is the number 3, and also druids. They are fascinating because no one knows who they were, or what they were doing, but their legacy remains, hewn into the living rock of Stonehenge.
Anyway, it was really cool. You should go and read more about it here.
In Wolf, you play as a pack of wolves gaining territory. It is played on a hex board made up of 5 different terrain types. Your starting wolves (Alpha wolves) have certain actions they can perform, such as move, howl (to convert lone wolves on the board to their pack), create a den, put down a scent marker (to make a hex impassable to other players’ wolves), or dominate, which allows them to convert another player’s den, scent marker or pack wolf into one of their own.
All of this is done by using cards that match the terrain type you want to perform the action in. Players “use” the card by flipping it over, revealing a different terrain type. This makes for fascinating planning as they might perform an action not necessarily because they want to do that action, but so they can access the other side of the card which has the terrain type on it they need to do a more important action (some of them require more than one card to perform). Players get two actions per turn, so the interaction with the terrain is important. Each player also has one terrain card that is the same on both sides, so they will always be able to perform an action on that terrain, and also will only be able to perform the dominate action on that terrain, since that action requires 3 cards of the same terrain type. Each player has a different terrain on their double-sided card, making that their preferred terrain.
Players score points for placing dens and eating prey during the game, but also score points at the end for controlling territory. Points are allocated for each wolf, den, or scent marker, and the player with the most points in a territory gets the territory point value added to their final score (there is also a smaller point value that goes to the second-most points in a territory).
I did really badly at this, and in the end, scored very few points. It turns out scent markers were more important than I thought. If I were to play again (which I hope I do!), I will definitely use more actions to pee on stuff. In spite of that, I quite enjoyed this game. The use of the terrain cards to do actions and force some planning really appeals to me.
They don’t have a website to show you more, but the creators post information about the game (including pictures!) on their Twitter accounts. Go and have a look:
This was a fun set-collection game in which you are collecting flowers for a bouquet. You get points for having identical or completely different features throughout your three flowers, which you choose from the set of four that you draft into your hand. The features are colour of flower, type of flower, and number of leaves.
What makes this one a bit different from other set collecting games is that when the available cards are laid out in front of the players, they take turns placing a “reserve” token between two cards, allowing them to take either one when the collection phase comes around. No one else can take either of the two, so it allows a bit of blocking other players if they see what they think others might be collecting. There are goals for bonus points, and a butterfly that changes position each turn. If a player collects a flower that is adjacent to the butterfly, they get a butterfly token. The player with the most butterfly tokens at the end of the game gets bonus points.
Unfortunately, I forgot to record the name and contact information for the creator of this game, so if you are reading this and know who it is, please leave information in the comments!
And that was my weekend at the convention at home! Having had the experience, I would be open to doing it again, especially since I got to meet people around the world that probably wouldn’t be at local events. But, I am still very much looking forward to the day when we can meet in a convention hall to play games and have a great time.