Categories
Board games Solo RPGs Tabletop RPGs

A snapshot of my RPG and board game plays, 2009-2017

Around the end of the year, I usually take a look back at my gaming over the previous 12 months.[1] This time around, I decided to graph my board game and RPG sessions for every year for which I have complete data: 2009-2017.[2]

Here’s a graph comparing RPG and board game plays for these years, with solo and group RPG sessions broken out:

And here’s the raw data:

I love tracking this stuff, in part because what emerges from the data isn’t always what I thought would emerge. For example, I knew 2016 was on fire in terms of playing RPGs with my two groups, which the data supports, but 2017 felt just as RPG-packed to me — which the data doesn’t support. (Or rather, it supports that conclusion in terms of overall sessions, but not group play; I did a ton of solo gaming in 2017.)

I’ve also felt like my board gaming dropped off since I moved to Seattle, where my gaming group plays board games maybe once every 2-3 months, rather than roughly twice a month back in Utah . . . but the data doesn’t really support that gut feeling. Ignoring 2013, with its +50% spike, I’ve averaged 174 board game plays every year from 2012-2017.[3]

The data doesn’t lie about 2017, though — and the data and my feelings on the matter align perfectly: Gaming-wise, it’s been a great year. I’m in my happy place, playing and running sandboxes and zero-prep RPGs, and still fitting in a solid amount of board gaming along the way.

Here’s to 2018!

[1] See My 51 in 15 for 2015 and My 2014 in games for that year. I thought I’d done one of these for 2016, but I guess I didn’t.

[2] I started logging board games in early 2008, but didn’t start logging RPGs until almost the end of 2008.

[3] The chart also shows a pretty clear swap that took place in 2016: It was a low year for board games but a massively high year for group RPG play; time for one, broadly, comes from the other.

Categories
Miscellaneous geekery Tabletop RPGs

5 years, 82 projects: My Kickstarter sniff test

Yesterday I was thinking about Kickstarter and how happy I am with some of the stuff that’s come in the mail this year, and I realized I should revisit a post I made on Google+ back in January — one that prompted some great discussion — and see if it still applied. It does, so I’m reprising it here on Yore.

I’ve been backing stuff on Kickstarter since 2011, and over the past five years my engagement with the site — and the “culture” of Kickstarting stuff, particularly tabletop RPGs — has changed. I’ve backed 82 projects as of this writing, mainly tabletop RPGs but also a couple of movies, some comics, several board games, and a few one-offs in other areas

These are my personal guidelines (not rules!) — a sort of informal sniff test that helps me decide whether to back a project. Some are weird, some may not apply to anyone else, and some I consider best practices.

No board/card games

I’ve kept just one board game I backed on KS, Swords & Strongholds — and I haven’t played that one yet. I have enough board games, and my track record in this area is terrible.

No FC0B

“First created, zero backed” is one of the biggest canaries in the Kickstarter coal mine, a big ol’ red flag that the project creator has no fucking clue what they’re doing. Granted, most gaming projects I’d consider backing don’t fall into this trap, and most gaming FC0Bs suck in all sorts of other obvious ways. I mind the 0B a lot more than the FC; everyone has to have an FC, after all.

No at-cost fulfillment

I totally get why offering backers an at-cost copy on DTRPG or Lulu, rather than handling fulfillment directly, is great for creators. But if I have to take the risk of giving you my money up front, I expect you to keep that skin in the game. It’s also inconvenient for me to have to essentially preorder, then order again; I’ll just order once, if the project succeeds, at zero risk to my wallet.

No spreadsheets

If I need a spreadsheet to figure out which reward level to choose, I’ll pass. I don’t feel like investing that much time in what’s essentially a preorder, and it can be a sign of excessive complexity in the project itself, leading to delays and other problems.

No paid autographs

It’s cool if you want to charge for signatures, but paying extra for one has zero appeal for me. I won’t avoid a project for having this option, I’ll just back it at a different level.

There must be a print option

I don’t read PDFs unless I have to, and I don’t back projects without a print book available.

Have your shit mostly done

This mainly applies to gaming books, and comes back to skin in the game. If all you have is an idea, whoopdedoo. I have lots of ideas, everyone has lots of ideas, fuck your idea. Write the damned book. If you can’t invest capital, invest time and energy and then start the KS. I make rare exceptions to this rule for people/companies whose work already lines my shelves; I know they’ll deliver.

Have actual risks and challenges

Don’t be cutesy (“The only risk is if I get hit by lightning!”), don’t boast about how many years you’ve been gaming (which has fuck-all to do with your ability to shepherd a project to completion), don’t say there are no risks. Do mention past projects, realistic hurdles, third party involvement (e.g., printers), and things like impending parenthood. Disclosure is good.

Limited clutter

The best stretch goals make the product better for everyone, and reward backers for taking a risk on your thing. Doodads, which generally involve additional parties and workflows and production hassles, can die in a fire. Make the thing better, and have a plan for wild success (i.e., some stretch goals in mind).

Some sort of sample

If I’m on the fence, being able to see part of the thing for free will help me get off the fence. If I don’t know you or your work, I probably won’t back without a pretty robust sample — a chapter, a draft, some excerpts, whatever.

My stats

Here are my Kickstarter backing stats by year, including 2016 to date:

Projecting a simple trend (average of 1.2 projects backed/month in 2016 so far) through the end of the year, it looks a bit different:

Those charts look like me mostly eating my own dog food[1] — there’s a board game project on my 2016 list, for example (one with a previous KS and a great track record, and I like the first set) — but it also looks like I’m headed for an uptick in backing stuff this year.

My guidelines have helped me choose KS projects better-suited to me, and that’s upped my confidence in backing things this year. I’ve passed up some fantastic-looking games because they only offered at-cost POD fulfillment, and I’m okay with that; I can always buy them later. I’ve ignored a host of gorgeous board and card games, and I’m okay with that, too.

I also tend to star instead of backing right away. I star, come back when the reminder lands in my inbox, and wind up backing maybe 10% of projects I’ve starred at that point.

There’s so much out there on KS now, especially in the RPG world, that I don’t even visit the site to browse anymore. Instead, I let my G+ stream be my filter, and generally only check out stuff I see other folks mention. That keeps the volume fairly manageable, and so far it seems to work.

[1] Guidelines, not rules!

Categories
Board games

Pack O Game: one pouch, 8 games the size of packs of gum

I’m a sucker for highly portable games. Hive Pocket (paid link) is one of my all-time favorite games, period — and it just happens to be pocket-sized.[1] I also dig Love Letter (paid link), which supports four players and, at least in the US, was more or less solely responsible for making microgames a thing.

So I was thrilled to discover the Pack O Game (paid link) series from Perplext: Each game fits in a box about the size of a pack of gum, and 8 of them fit into a pocket-sized pouch. Here’s the pouch, with a buck for scale:

What’s inside?

Inside this neoprene pouch are 8 games.

They pack in nice and snug, and while the pouch isn’t going to keep them from getting crushed by something heavy, it does form them into a sort of “brick” that makes the whole bundle pretty resilient (and of course the padding provides, well, padding).

How portable are they?

The whole pouch, with 8 games inside, weighs just half a pound.

Individually, each game weighs less than an ounce.

True microgames

Each box holds a stack of small cards and a sheet of rules.

Overall, it’s clear that a lot of thought went into the packaging and presentation of these games.

The cards are small, sure, but not microscopic. I’m six feet tall, and I can comfortably hold, fan, and see these cards — they don’t make me feel like a giant trying to use doll-sized cards.

You know how most tuckboxes have a tucked-in flap at either end? And you know how, if the cards are a tight fit, when you try to put them back in one or two get caught on the flap at the bottom? Well, not these!

One end has a traditional tuck-and-fold flap — the end you open. But the other is glued shut, with no folded-in piece to snag or jam up the cards. (And it’s easy to tell which end of the box to open.)

The outside of each box is well-designed, too. For example, the 8 games in the first Pack O Game set are all rated 1, 2, or 3 for complexity (casual, intermediate, challenging), which is easy to see along one edge of each box.

How do they play?

No idea, unfortunately! I’ve only had them for a few days, and I don’t have a regular board game group at the moment. It’ll take me awhile to work my way through them, as opportunities present themselves.

The series is still pretty new, too, but you can check out their ratings on BoardGameGeek (which should only become more accurate over time, as more people rate them).

My rule of thumb is that a BGG rating of 6 is a game I should check out if I like the genre/style, a 7 I’ll probably enjoy if I like that genre/style, and an 8 is a game I should try even if it doesn’t sound like my thing. At the moment, I see ratings of 6-8 for the Pack O Game series.

They’re also a neat mix of styles: FLY is a dexterity game (typically a good fit for kids, or mixed groups of kids and adults), SHH is a co-op word game, LIE is a bluffing game that supports up to 6 players, GEM is an auction game, and so forth.

There’s a second series on the way this year, skewed more towards the “gamer’s game” end of the complexity spectrum. I Kickstarted those, and I suspect I’ll winding up building a pouch of my favorite 8 games drawn from both sets.

If you’re in the market for highly portable games, Pack O Game (paid link) offers a truly unique option: a mix of different games, with an intriguing form factor, that all fit into an extremely travel-friendly case.

[1] Out of 503 games I’ve played and rated, just four have earned a 10/10. Hive is one of them.

Categories
Board games

Kids’ board games my whole family enjoys (around ages 4-7)

We like playing board games as a family, and it’s always a fun challenge to find age-appropriate board games that all of us will enjoy. It’s easier to find age-appropriate games that only my daughter, Lark, will enjoy, and we play those, too — but the sweet spot is when everyone is genuinely engaged.

Looking over our collection, these 12 games that have become family favorites. It’s a pretty varied mix, including dexterity, party, memory, and abstract games, but the one thing that unites them is that actual decisions are involved, and those decisions are enjoyable for all of us. Some are games I mentally categorize as grown-up games, but my kiddo enjoys them too.

These games, with my ratings, are listed below in alphabetical order. (You can see all of my current ratings on BoardGameGeek, too.)

  • Animal Upon Animal (8/10; paid link) is right on the edge of the “dexterity games I count among my non-kids’ games” line. It’s Haba, so the pieces are fantastic and the game is quick, fun, and accessible, and it plays well with 2-4.
  • Click Clack Lumberjack (8/10; paid link
  • ), also called Toc Toc Woodman, is one of my overall favorite dexterity games, not just among kids’ games. It requires a balance of finesse and confidence that neatly levels the playing field in mixed-age groups.
  • Connect Four (6/10; paid link
  • ) is the lowest-rated game on this list, and a hoary old chestnut that has been eclipsed by many, many other games…but it takes like two minutes to play, and my daughter loves it. It’s been a good one for observing (and teaching) her about tactics.
  • Don’t Break the Ice (7/10; paid link
  • ) is another lightning-quick two-player dexterity game that tends to get pretty same-y, but it’s so short that we usually play several times in a row anyway.
  • Gobblet Gobblers (8/10; paid link
  • ) is an abstract two-player game that makes Tic-tac-toe interesting by giving you the option of covering each others’ pieces. It’s a simple change, but it makes all the difference — and a game still only takes a couple of minutes. We find ourselves playing several times in a row.
  • Hold On Scooby-Doo (7/10; paid link
  • ) is a light dexterity game for two that takes about as long to set up as it does to play. It’s just tricky enough to have been fun for several years, and the theme is cute.
  • Labyrinth (7/10; paid link
  • ) is a solid game, and it scales extremely well with age. When my daughter was little, we gave her all sorts of advantages; as she’s aged, we’ve removed them to keep it competitive. This is her overall favorite game, at least for the past year or two.
  • The Magic Labyrinth (9/10; paid link
  • ) is the prettiest game on this list, and has the cleverest board. Its use of magnets and big, pleasing pieces is ingenious, and it’s probably the only memory game I genuinely enjoy. My kiddo is very good at this one.
  • My First Carcassonne (8/10; paid link
  • ) is one I wish my daughter picked more often, because the decisions are interesting and it nudges up against other games — like Carcassonne (paid link) — that drift into grown-up territory. It’s a beautiful game, too, another one that plays well with 2-4.
  • Reverse Charades (9/10; paid link
  • ) is one of our overall favorite party games with adults, but my daughter likes it, too. She doesn’t know all of the cards, but tends to pick them up quickly once her teammates start acting things out.
  • Rhino Hero (8/10; paid link
  • ) is a hoot, a great card-based dexterity game with a tiny footprint, and one I happily bring to parties. It’s solid with two players, and with more than two. (I bet it would be fun drunk, too.)
  • Suspend (8/10; paid link
  • ) is another example of dexterity being the “great leveler” in kids’ games played with the whole family. It starts out easy, but the whole assemblage turns into a hot mess pretty quickly, and it’s a blast.

This list will probably look different in a year, never mind in another few years, but for now it’s a good snapshot of this particular sweet spot in my family — the games we all enjoy, and in many cases have enjoyed for the past few years.

Categories
Board games Tabletop RPGs

My 51 in 15

Back in January, Epidiah Ravachol issued a fun challenge: Play 51 games in 2015. I paid attention to folks’ posts about it throughout the year, but figured I didn’t have a shot at hitting 51 — it was a busy year. To my embarrassment, I also spent nearly the entire year thinking the challenge was 51 games new to me in 2015, which sounded very unlikely indeed.

But taking stock here in late December (edit: updated through the end of the month), I made it to 80 games in 2015, of which 12 RPGs and 22 board games were new to me. Across my 19 RPGs, I logged 46 gaming sessions. For board games, it was 184 plays across 60 games.

In 2014, I played 12 RPGs and 58 board games, for a total of 70 games. I love trying out new RPGs, so I’m glad to see that total up 63% this year. 2015 was also the year I played my 100th RPG, which would put my 200th something like 5-6 years out, in 2021-2022.

Just typing those dates makes me feel old! Somehow, I’ve lived to see The Future.

RPGs

  1. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition
  2. Apocalypse World
  3. Barbarians of Lemuria
  4. DCC RPG
  5. Dragon Age
  6. Executioner
  7. Fear Itself
  8. Honor + Intrigue
  9. Microscope
  10. Mini Six
  11. Psi Run
  12. Savage Worlds
  13. Star Wars: Age of Rebellion
  14. The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game
  15. The Final Girl
  16. The Plant
  17. The Quiet Year
  18. The Thief
  19. tremulus

Board Games

  1. Animal Upon Animal
  2. Bausack
  3. Biblios
  4. Candy Land
  5. Click Clack Lumberjack
  6. Concept
  7. Connect Four
  8. Cosmic Encounter
  9. Disney Dazzling Princess
  10. Don’t Break the Ice
  11. Don’t Spill the Beans
  12. The Duke
  13. Duplik
  14. Elefun
  15. Enchanted Cupcake Party Game
  16. Escape: The Curse of the Temple
  17. Fibber
  18. Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
  19. Funemployed!
  20. Go Away Monster!
  21. Go Fish
  22. Hamsterrolle
  23. Hedbanz: Identity Crisis Game
  24. Hold On Scooby-Doo
  25. Hollywood Game Night Party Game
  26. Hungry Hungry Hippos
  27. Kingdom Builder
  28. Labyrinth
  29. Last Will
  30. Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
  31. Let’s Go Fishin’
  32. Longhorn
  33. Loopin’ Louie
  34. Love Letter
  35. Memory
  36. Mermaid Island
  37. Monopoly Junior
  38. Old Maid
  39. Pandemic: The Cure
  40. Patchwork
  41. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords
  42. Quiddler
  43. RARRR!!
  44. Red7
  45. Rhino Hero
  46. Richard Scarry’s Busytown: Eye found it! Game
  47. Risk Legacy
  48. Scrabble Junior
  49. Seasons
  50. Slamwich
  51. Sorry! Sliders
  52. Splendor
  53. Spot it!
  54. Superfight
  55. Sushi Go!
  56. Temporum
  57. The Castles of Burgundy
  58. The Magic Path of Yoga
  59. The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game
  60. Tsuro
  61. XCOM: The Board Game
Categories
Board games Tabletop RPGs

My 2014 in games

After making my support payment to BoardGameGeek/RPGGeek, my 1/1 (or sometimes 1/2) tradition, I decided to write the post I meant to write last night — I was too tired to do it last night. So here’s my 2014 in games, by the numbers, and with more personal reflection than I was planning when I started writing

RPGs

I logged 31 gaming sessions in 2014 with my two gaming groups, one face-to-face and one virtual (Hangouts), and probably played another 5-10 that I forgot to log. The number of distinct RPGs I’ve played climbed to 93, which I’m happy about.

2014 was mostly the year of Fate Mass Effect, but we also wrapped up a great Hunter: The Reckoning campaign and a mediocre-to-bad Star Wars: Edge of the Empire campaign (run by me), and I played one-shots and short campaigns across a handful of indie RPGs, including Primetime Adventures and Dungeon World. That feels about the same as 2013 to me. I used to play more sessions, but summer is now mostly taken up by camping and hiking, and everyone in my groups has more obligations than they used to, so the numbers are down compared to a few years ago.

In hindsight, I spent too much time not feeling engaged at the gaming table. That’s happened before, and it usually teaches me some good lessons about my taste in games and gaming. I homed in more closely on what I like (player-driven stories, lighter mechanics, player agency) and don’t like (railroaded stories, filler sessions, lack of player agency, close-mindedness about games) in my gaming.

I didn’t do much GMing in 2014, and the GMing I did was almost uniformly pretty bad. I’m not sure why that is, but my GMing confidence has taken a big hit as a result. I did figure out that I don’t want to run the kinds of game my face-to-face group usually plays at the moment, though, and taking myself out of the GMing rotation for a while has reduced my stress level.

I also got some feedback about my default play style that surprised me. The whole thing was handled badly, but after a few months I’m feeling positive about the situation overall. I’ve created two PCs for 2015 that are strongly against type for me, and I’m excited to play both of them. I wish this had gone down differently, but it gave me a richer perspective on gaming as a whole and my strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots as a player, both socially and RPG-wise.

One notable high point was Google+, which has offered up a steady stream of gaming goodness and been a great outlet for me to blather about gaming stuff. I checked in several times a day most days, and enjoyed virtually all of the time I spent there.

On balance, 2014 was a mixed bag of a year unlike any other year I can remember, with higher highs and deeper lows than usual. I’m hoping 2015 has a more even and more positive vibe.

My predictions for 2015

2015 will be a lot like 2014, numbers-wise. My face-to-face group has two campaigns going, Dragon Age and Star Wars: Age of Rebellion, and my Hangouts group is playing tremulus. My Hangouts group will likely cycle through another half-dozen or so indie RPGs in 2015, and my number of sessions overall will be about the same. I won’t GM much in 2015, but I’ll try to hit 100 RPGs played.

Kickstarter and IndieGoGo

I backed 14 projects on Kickstarter (11 RPG products and 3 board games) and two on IndieGoGo (both RPG products). Compared to the combined 58 projects I backed from 2011-2013, that actually makes it a pretty average crowdfunding year for me. Which is a surprise, because I thought I’d cut way back; apparently there’s still room to trim!

Two of the board games have arrived, and I wish I hadn’t backed either of them. My track record in Kickstarted board games is 100% bad: I’ve never liked or held onto a board game I’ve backed on KS. I’m crossing my fingers that Mouse Guard: Swords & Strongholds will break that streak in 2015.

But man was it a good year for RPG stuff. The highlights were The Clay That Woke, Dwimmermount, The Chained Coffin, and a pile of fantastic stuff from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. And there’s more stuff I think I’ll greatly enjoy on the horizon.

I spent zero time browsing on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo for stuff to back, relying entirely on Google+ posts to point me to interesting projects. I backed less than half of the projects I looked at overall. I saw KS and IGG becoming a problem for me in 2013 and turned them into non-problems in 2014, which feels pretty good. (I also posted less about stuff on KS, which makes sense.)

My predictions for 2015

I’ll continue using Kickstarter and IndieGoGo in 2015, but I doubt I’ll back any board games and I suspect I’ll back fewer gaming products than I did in 2014. Crowdfunding won’t quite fall off my radar, but it will come close. Most things I might back on KS/IGG I’ll just order when they come out, or not order at all.

Board games

I played 58 distinct games, with a total of 181 plays logged in 2014. The majority of games got played once or twice; the highest play count was 20. I started logging plays in 2008, and in 2014 I crossed the 1,000-play mark, making 2014 an average year in terms of plays.

My top five most-played games were Don Quixote (solo), Connect 4 (kids), Disney Dazzling Princess (kids), Ascension: Storm of Souls, and Blokus Duo. That’s a decent snapshot of my year in board gaming, which was a good one for games with my daughter, with visitors, and solo, but a light one for gaming with my wife and gaming group.

I purged 28 games from my collection in February, and another 23 yesterday, for a total of 51 sold off in 2014. I acquired about 17 games (my best guess; I don’t track this), which is light compared to the past few years — and intentionally so. That puts my core collection — the games I want to consider when I ask myself, “What do I want to play?” — at 144, which is still bigger than it needs to be.

My board gaming h-index climbed from 12 to 13, which is a bit of a bummer as I worked on that number throughout the year. But it’s only a few plays (of the “right” games) from hitting 14, and 15 isn’t terribly far off. More games saw repeat plays in 2014, though, which was my goal.

The highlight of the year for me was getting closer to my sweet spot board game-wise. I spent more of my time playing games that I deeply enjoy and rate highly, and less of my time playing new games just for the sake of it or games I wasn’t wild about, and my collection got leaner and better overall. My favorite games in 2014 included Kingdom Builder, Hanabi, K2, Ascension: Storm of Souls, Don Quixote (solo), FlowerFall, and Lords of Waterdeep.

My predictions for 2015

I think I’ll rack up fewer solo plays (that time has been taken up by bodybuilding and other stuff), more plays with my wife, and about the same number of plays with my daughter, my gaming group, and visitors. I’ll acquire fewer new games in 2015, and will do another purge. Past purges have culled everything rated 6 or lower, but dipped into 7s; now I’m eyeing the 7s. Why aren’t they 8s? More of those can probably go too. Finally, I might just make it to 500 distinct games played in 2015.

That went from a short exercise in stats to a long, reflective post. Before writing it, I’d have generically described 2014 as “good” for games, but looking at it all broken out like this I have a more nuanced picture of the year. If you made it this far, hopefully you got some mileage out of my navel-gazing.

Happy new year!

Categories
Board games

Hive Pocket is amazing

Hive Pocket (paid link) is the first game I’ve ever given a 10 after one play session (of three plays). In a lifetime of playing board games, it’s also only my fifth 10 out of over 400 ratings. It’s sublime.

As a game, it succeeds at being everything it wants to be: fun, challenging, and intense — yet easy to learn, quick to play, and possessing considerable depth. As a physical thing, the Bakelite tiles are gorgeous (and functional, as the insects are clear and well-etched AND color-coded, making the game easier to play and teach), the bag is just the right size to include the rules without mashing them (and will work without the rules, as well), and the whole package is perfect.

The objective is simple: completely surround your opponent’s queen bee (the color of the surrounding pieces doesn’t matter) before they do the same to you. Each insect has a unique way of moving, though all must follow a couple of basic placement and movement rules. Part of the charm is that the insects move in a manner similar to how they move in real life — for example, beetles can clamber onto other pieces, neutralizing them. But out of those simple rules emerges a deep game full of both strategy and tactics.

I like the pocket edition because the tiles are smaller (yet not so small as to be irritating — they’re a great size: 25 mm wide and 10 mm high as compared to the original’s 38 mm and 12 mm) and it includes the Ladybug and Mosquito expansions, each of which add one new piece for each player with its own movement rules. Gameplay in all three editions (Original (paid link), which lacks the two expansions, and Hive Carbon (paid link), which has black and white insects and includes the expansions) is identical. It weighs less and costs less, too.

I love the combination of small size and great depth in games, and Hive is the flag carrier for that breed of game. Small enough to play virtually anywhere, simple enough to teach to just about anyone, and a blast to play. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Categories
Board games

My first solo board gaming experience: Arkham Horror

I’ve been curious about solo (or solitaire) board gaming for a while now, and while I recognize that it likely sounds weird to folks who aren’t into board games — and, honestly, it still seemed a bit odd even to me until I tried it — it really isn’t much different than sitting down to play a video game.

Having debated different options and discarded them all for one reason or another, I hit on Arkham Horror (paid link).

I’m a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft, and of Call of Cthulhu (paid link), so from that standpoint it seemed like a great fit. But I’d also heard that it takes forever — 4-6 hours depending on the number of players and other factors — and has a high luck factor, something I don’t usually enjoy in games. Still, I like trying new things, especially games, and it seemed like a chance worth taking.

When it arrived, I read the rules and set it up on my desk — which it fills almost completely, leaving just enough space to work.

I started the game over the weekend, taking a few turns while everyone else was asleep, and finished it up on Wednesday night. It took about three hours altogether; I played with two investigators (Darrell and Drake, chosen randomly) and probably screwed up a rule or two here and there.

It’s a fantastically evocative game. One of the coolest things I’d heard about it was that it tells a story, and that was absolutely true. The mood and feel are Lovecraftian — shading into Pulp, and perhaps closer in tone to the RPG than the stories — and the flow of the game is unique. I would have been happy to lose, and expected to several times; the story would have been just as interesting.

As it was, Darrell and Drake stumbled around at first, literally clueless, as Azathoth stirred and gates opened all across Arkham. They both went insane and had to recover at Arkham Sanitarium, and that combined with Nodens’ Favor turned the tide. As townsfolk (and Allies, and shopkeepers) fled the city, Darrell became a police deputy and started driving his police car through gates to other worlds and back again. (It eventually broke down.) Drake joined the Silver Twilight Lodge and gathered clues to pass along, and Darrell closed and sealed the remaining gates — sealing the sixth with the terror level at 9, Arkham nearly overrun with monsters. The last defenders of Arkham, armed with forbidden lore, managed to save the city.

And it didn’t feel weird. Really no different than jumping into a video game, prepping an adventure for next week’s gaming session, or any other similar solo creative play-type activity. I’ve always looked at board games as a fundamentally social activity, but I’m glad I expanded that view. Playing solo, particularly in short bursts over several days, was fun in its own way.

I’d love to try it again with a group of like-minded folks, expecting a longer game, but I’m also looking forward to playing it again solo. If you’re in the market for a solitaire-friendly game and like HPL, Call of Cthulhu, or adventure-style games in general, Arkham Horror is worth checking out.