Dale Yu: Session Report from the Doldrums

This time of year is what I jokingly refer to as the gaming doldrums.  From MW.com:

Full Definition of DOLDRUMS

1:  a spell of listlessness or despondency

2 often capitalized :  a part of the ocean near the equator abounding in calms, squalls, and light shifting winds

3:  a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or slump

And, frankly, that’s how I usually feel in March/April…  This seems to be the slowest time of the year.

  • January and February tend to be filled with the remainder of games from the previous Essen as well as new-to-me games that have been given as Christmas presents.  I normally do not get to attend Nuremberg, so those games are generally too far away to get excited about.  (This year, I did go to Nuremberg, and there were so few new games actually available on the store shelves, that I’m still not overly excited about them yet…)
  • March is the Doldrums. Nothing happening here.
  • April and May usually are busy with the Gathering of Friends (a week long gaming convention) as well as the arrival of those games from Nuremberg.
  • June/July is one of the US release periods, coinciding with the Origins game show.  Admittedly, this time period has become less and less important on the US calendar, but there is still enough new releases around the show to make mention.
  • August is GenCon month, and this has actually become the most popular time for US releases.  The new trend, which has been growing in popularity over the past 3-4 years are for games to get a North American release in August at GenCon and then a European release at Essen.
  • September and Early October is filled with new games from GenCon as well as preview games for Essen.  Always new stuff to be played here!
  • Late October thru December is the post-Essen bonanza of gaming where I usually get to play 60-80 new games in those 10 weeks.

Despite this being the quietest time of the year – my game group still meets on its almost-every-week basis, and I’ve noticed a definite up-tick in older games making it back to the table.  As I have mentioned in the past, my weekly group often plays only new(ish) games… But by this time, there are only 2 games that I have brought back from Essen which I have not yet played, and there aren’t many new games to be had quite yet (as the Nuremberg games haven’t become available yet).

This week’s game night was a typical Doldrums lineup – a few newish games and some old ones that hit the table for the first time in quite awhile

1) Cheaty Mages – we played the AEG reprint of this great Japanese game.  Lots of fun here, and I managed to go all 3 rounds without betting on a single winner… This one will be part of a mini review writeup in the coming weeks

2) Hollywood – a new-to-me game from Russia – a drafting card game about making movies.  I plan to write a full review in a few weeks once it gets played twice more.

3) A new prototype – one of the guys in my group is working on a design and our group has been playing it once or twice each meeting to help refine it.  It’s really coming together, and I think it will be ready to submit to someone soon

4) Flash 10 – the Essen 2013 Rack-O like game from Kramer/Amigo.  I still really like this one, and it is becoming one of my Essen 13 favorites.  I am definitely leaning towards playing this all the time with the variant that you can call the end of the round with thunder cards in your lineup.  It makes the game play even faster and makes it more frenetic – and that makes it more fun.

5) Le Patissier – a wonderful Japanese game by Kenichi Tanabe – the same guy who designed Kaigan, the major Four of Heizei and Guild.  This one is probably my favorite of his designs.  It uses a clever card drafting/placement system combined with a challenging scoring system.  The game has to stretch a little bit to accomodate 5 players (I believe it was initially designed for only 4), but it still works.  This is the third time this year that it has been played at my house, and it’s only March!

6) Gipsy King – next up was my favorite Cwali game, Gipsy King.  We got our RVs ready and tried to control the campgrounds and fishing lakes.  I did manage to mis-remember one rule (I forgot about the double camper rule) as I tried to teach this from memory.  Even with this rule left out, the game was still enthralling as ever, and both of the gamers who had never played it before instantly bought the iOS version.  I imagine that this will turn into a regular filler in the group given the overwhelming positive response to it.

7) Ubongo – wow, it had been awhile since we played this puzzle game from Kosmos.  I actually had to look up the rules about the scoring.  We had traditionally not used the real rules and simply drew out N*2 jewels at random and then let the players pick pairs of them in the order of their finish.  As two of the gamers had not ever played the game, we played by the real rules, and the stupid scoring board seemed just as arbitrary and unsatisfying as it did when I first discovered the game.  I’ll probably not play with it again and go back to some other system to distribute the gems.

8) Ubongo 3D – we closed the night with another puzzler, Ubongo 3D.  (We did pass on Ubongo Extreme as the other option.)  This one is much harder than the basic Ubongo game, and it again proved to be better suited as a solitaire puzzle than a competitive game.  In the 9 rounds of the game, I only managed to finish 3 of the puzzles in the allotted time… and I won the game!  When I first opened the game up, the newbies chuckled at the fact that there is an illustrated solution pamphlet for all of the puzzles in the game… before our game was over, we had consulted that sheet no less than twice to prove to someone that the puzzle was actually solvable with the pieces listed!

Overall, it was a very enjoyable game night – lots of fun games fit in about 5 hours.  There are still a few more weeks left in the Gaming Doldrums, but that is probably not a bad thing as there are plenty of oldies-but-goodies lining the game shelves in the basement that truly deserve another whirl on the table!

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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2 Responses to Dale Yu: Session Report from the Doldrums

  1. Dan Blum says:

    These days I play Ubongo with the Ubongo Extreme/3D scoring rules (first gets a blue and a random, second gets a brown and a random, everyone else solving gets a random, the colors worth 1-4 points). Admittedly it’s not ideal when playing Ubongo with more than 4, but I still like it better than random pairs.

  2. huzonfirst says:

    These days, so many new games come out of Essen that I’m usually still discovering them during March (for example, I got to play Caverna for the first time last Saturday), so this is not a doldrums month for me at all. Probably the deadest time of the year for me is July-August, before the buildup for the Essen titles ramps up. But that just means we have a better chance of playing some old favorites, so it’s all good.

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