James Nathan: Volo, Feed the Ducks, and assorted puzzles

Game: Volo
Designer: Dieter Stein
Publisher: nestorgames
Players: 2
Time:  45 Minutes
Times played: 2 with a purchased copy

Game: Feed the Ducks
Designer: Néstor Romeral Andrés
Publisher: nestorgames
Players: 2-4
Time:  20 Minutes
Times played: 5 (with both mine and a friend’s copy of Yavalath)

Once a month during the brisker times of the year, I spend my Friday nights at a science lecture.  It’s a group of retired folks from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, but all of whom are avid and skilled outsider botanists in their retirement.  The group’s specialty is wildflowers, but the lectures run a broader gamut, and recently I attended one that focused on the retinal structures of the two forward-facing sets of eyes in certain jumping spiders.


We learned about their culinary and sexual attractions to different colors; their adaptability to changes in these realms; the use of red filtering cells to allow green-detecting retina cells to observe red; their use of muscles to contort their eyes inside their head, so as to adjust their focal point, without turning their head to bely their position; and how the placement of their retina cells counteracts chromatic aberrations.

He also talked about various technologies that have directly and indirectly taken inspiration from discoveries of jumping spider and other animal behaviours.  

One thing that must’ve slipped the presenter’s mind is the avian behaviour that has inspired the nestorgames for today, Volo and Feed the Ducks.

I first came across Volo as I was falling down the LUDI rabbit hole and stumbled across Cameron’s Games & Puzzle Design Journal. The articles are refreshing in their academic approach to game critique and theory.   Continue reading

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James Nathan: Ndengrod/Pentalath, Valion, and Elrostir

Game: Pentalath (Ndengrod)
Designer: LUDI
Publisher: nestorgames
Players: 2
Time:  20 Minutes
Times played: 12 (1 time with a copy of Yavalath, 4 times on a purchased copy of Pentalath, and 7 times against the GDL in Dr. Browne’s LUDI Experiment III survey, ex post facto)

Games: Valion, Elrostir, Lammothm, Teiglith, Gorodrui, Quelon, Vairilth, Elrog, Duath, Bregorme, Rhunthil, Eriannon, Hale, Pelagonn, Pelot, Ninniach, Pelagund
Designer: LUDI
Publisher: nestorgames or unpublished
Players: 2
Time:  Various
Times played: Each at least once against the GDL in Dr. Browne’s LUDI Experiment III survey, ex post facto

Whenever I lose a grandparent, my father takes to cleaning out his attic. Some of it is nostalgia, and some of it is to lessen the burden on me when I someday have to clean out his house.  Occasionally I get a text asking if I want something. Sometimes I do (my great-grandfather’s croquet mallet), sometimes just seeing the picture is enough (my 2nd grade letters to my grandmother aren’t unreminiscent of the way I talk and write now), and often he knows when I don’t want things.  Sometimes he’s right, and sometimes he’s wrong, and while he usually doesn’t ask me about the things he knows I wouldn’t want, he recently offered me my 6th and 7th place elementary school track ribbons.  Continue reading

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Chris’s Trip to the Gathering of Friends: Thursday/Friday/Wrap-up


This is my third and final post documenting my trip to the Gathering of Friends.  My apologies for the delay; I’ve been busy since I left the Gathering on Saturday night, so I didn’t get to write as much as I had hoped.

Below I predict what will be hot later this year, discuss my trip by the numbers, and recount my favorite moments at the event. Continue reading

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James Nathan: Yavalath and Manalath

Game: Yavalath
Designer: LUDI
Publisher: nestorgames
Players: 2-3
Time:  10 Minutes
Times played: 27 times.  (14 with a friend’s purchased copy, 6 times with my purchased copy, 7 times against the GDL in Dr. Browne’s LUDI Experiment III survey, ex post facto)

Game: Manalath
Designer: Dieter Stein and Néstor Romeral Andrés
Publisher: Included in nestorgames’ “Yavalath & Co” book
Players: 2
Time:  30 Minutes
Times played: 8 times with a purchased copy of Yavalath

If you’re just joining us, yesterday we discussed Cameron Browne’s PhD project where his computer program LUDI evolved and mutated an input set of games into new games (and provided them whimsical names). It’s quite fascinating and I encourage you to read it -or the thesis.

Yavalath’s rules are fairly simple.  On your turn, place a piece. If there are four in a row you win, but if there are three in a row (without having four) you lose. Continue reading

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James Nathan: Cameron Browne’s “Automatic generation and evaluation of recombination games”

It turns out there is an equation that likely describes games I like:


It probably doesn’t, but maybe.

If you ask me what types of games I like, I’m fairly at sea as I don’t have the vocabulary for that and you probably don’t have time for my rambling answer. I bemuse myself that I have trouble with the concepts of favorite designers or favorite publishers – as I generally don’t like multiple games from the same designer or publisher.  This last year at Essen, I triaged Eric’s preview by generally assuming that I was safe to throw-out themes, components, and mechanics that aren’t generally in my wheelhouse: take-that, mini’s, etc. Typically my answer would probably start with mechanics- it seems safe to say that I generally like worker placement games. But with enough time, I’d probably give you a quirkierly specific answer- I like games where you are forced to sacrifice/consume your victory condition in order to compete; games where one player is disqualified at the end for meeting/failing to meet a certain criteria; games where you have a hand of cards and on your turn you play two of them to take actions.

Turns out mechanics may not be the best predictor for what you like. There are equations for that too. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Report from the Gathering of Friends, Day 5


The final full day of my trip started with a nice late start.  I was finally able to sleep in and catch up on the sleep that I had been deprived of each morning thus far.  Normally, I only get four days at the Gathering, so this was kind of a “bonus” day.


I’ll admit that I used to go for the whole ten days, and I couldn’t get enough of the convention, but in my old age, I’m generally pretty good with four to five days.  While I was still excited to be with my friends and playing the new games, I was also mentally ready to go home.  I know – it sounds crazy – but my shorter trips also prevents me from tiring of the event; I always want slightly more, and that raises my excitement about coming back the next year.

Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Gathering of Friends 2018 Recap day 4

Sunday morning… Rain was falling…. Well, of the frozen variety. The slush was still coming down, making me forget that I should have already been at least three weeks into Spring. But, it’s 70 and fluorescent in the ballroom, so I headed downstairs for more games!

Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Report for the Gathering of Friends, Day 3

Day 3 started the same way as Day 2 – getting up way too early thanks to being right by the elevators where all the noisy Dance girls are…  Though tired, it’s still no big deal as I’m pretty excited to get down to the ballroom to play some more new games.

First up was a quick 2p fight called The Cousins War, recently published by Surprised Stare Games.  My opponent was Steffan O’Sullivan who was pretty much using the entire convention as a way to find games in which he could kill of Englishmen…  In any event, this is a clever little game where you are fighting over three regions of the country.  If you are ever able to control all three at once, you win automatically – otherwise, the player who controls two out of three at the end wins.  The cards in the game can be used for both Action Points or for the special abilities on them, and it gives an interesting dynamic to trying to choose which cards to use (and when to use them).  Over the course of about thirty minutes, my Red Lancastrian forces were slowly but surely outmatched – though I did manage to survive to the end of the game.  This probably wouldn’t supplant Rosenkonig as my favorite game about the War of the Roses, but I’ve only played this one once so far, so we’ll have to wait and see… Continue reading

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Chris’s Trip to the Gathering of Friends: Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday


This is my second post documenting my trip to the Gathering of Friends.  Today I wanted to highlight two games that have stood out: Ultimate Werewolf Legacy and Rise of Queensdale.  I’ve played an entire chapter of the former (3 games), and the entire campaign of the latter (20 games), and both have been a highlight of my convention experience this year.

I’ll do a couple more entries this week discussing more games.  I leave the Gathering on Saturday.

For quicker updates, follow us on Twitter at @OpinionatedGmrs.  I know some other OGers have been posting there. For other news from the convention, I recommend checking out the hashtag #GatheringofFriends or #GoF2018.   Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Gathering of Friends 2018 Report Day 2

For me, Day 2 was Friday – my first full day in New York. I managed to wake up at 0630 thanks to the loads of teeny bopper girls heading out super early for their dance competition at the convention center across the street. Anyways, I was pretty excited to get down to the ballroom and start playing games, so I really didn’t mind.

hey look, it’s the boss


As I mentioned yesterday, the ballroom was really still pretty empty on Thursday, and there weren’t many early risers on Friday.  Luckily, I was able to run into TauCeti Deichmann (of Sidereal Confluence Fame) and he was willing to try out a few games. Continue reading

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