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Gates of Madness

A gaming blog, where rhyme and reason are nowhere to be found.

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First Quarter Update

Jesse Metcalf
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I am lagging behind in my blog updates. I feel really swamped lately with commitments. But I have found time to play some games.

GOAL REVIEW

Goal One: 52 Game Challenge

Looking at played games from January 1 through present, here is the breakdown of games played:

Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure--4
7 Wonders--3
Poker--3
Champions of Midgard--2
DC Comics Deck-Building Game--2
Skip-Bo--2
Viticulture Essential Edition--2
Bärenpark--1
Bohnanza--1
Catan Card Game--1
Joking Hazard--1
Lords of Waterdeep--1
Roll Player--1
SteamRollers--1
Wizard--1
TOTAL--26 (50% of goal)

Clank! has really found some fans in my D&D group. It is a great deck-builder and dungeon-crawler. For me, it is starting to get old. I really need to either get new maps to play upon or get a modular board of some sort. I think Clank! In! Space! would provide for more variety, but I am hesitant to lay out more money without trying it out first.

7 Wonders was a hit for a while, only because it accommodates for 7 players (i.e. the size of the D&D group). However, they have grown weary of it where I have not. Thus, the opposite problem as Clank!

Finally, I really like SteamRollers. It gives me the feeling of playing Steam: Rails to Riches in a fraction of its play-time. I look forward to getting in more plays.

Goal Two: Collection Management

I still feel line I am falling down the rabbit hole of consumption with this goal. I have only played three games on the unplayed shelf, but I have acquired more than that (though some are via trades). I see so many new board games releasing every month that I want to play. There are so many older games that I have yet to play. And Kickstarter is full of new projects that I want to back. I know I don't have the time for all of these games.

I want to go through what I have and see where I can make some cuts, but I don't know if I want to get rid of anything right now.

Other News

I have just GMed my first Star Trek Adventures RPG session via Google Hangouts (making it also my first game GMed via the internet). Overall, I was pleased with how it turned out. I am looking forward to our future sessions.

The D&D game will get back on track on April 28th (International Tabletop Day). This will be the finale for the campaign, as I hope to tie up all the loose ends in one last epic adventure. We shall see how it goes.

Finally, I hope to work on some gaming-related projects over the next few months. I miss putting stuff together for tabletop miniature games. I am not really to get back into that hobby, but I want to make something using my hands. Ideas include:

Upgraded counters for games I love.
Counters for tabletop RPGs.
"Bling" for board games and RPGs.

As I get some of these completed, I will post pictures.
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Tue Apr 17, 2018 5:07 pm
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February Update

Jesse Metcalf
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It has been a while. Life has been very hectic with lots of commitments. I find that this blog is very low on the priority list these days. This is probably hand-in-hand with my lack of enthusiasm for board gaming in general these days. I have really enjoyed playing D&D with friends. I am in the midst of getting a game of Star Trek Adventures RPG up and going. RPGs are very much my focus of gaming, and that has been the case most of my life. I like board games, but RPGs will always be my preference (if and when I have the time for them).

For board game plays, I am up to 14 for the first two months. The breakdown:

7 Wonders 3
DC Comics Deck-Building Game 2
Poker 2
Bohnanza 1
Catan Card Game 1
Champions of Midgard 1
Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure 1
Joking Hazard 1
Lords of Waterdeep 1
Viticulture Essential Edition 1

7 Wonders continues to be a great game for me. It is easily teachable to about any group, it is a civilization game, it can be played in a reasonable amount of time, and it has enough depth for me to enjoy.

I finally got to play Lords of Waterdeep, and I have to agree with many podcasters I have listened to: Champions of Midgard implements theme better. LoW is trading cubes for benes. The theme is pasted on. CoM feels like a game about Nordic myth and fantasy. Both are great games, but CoM is better in my opinion.

Moving on collection management, I have been doing some board game sales and trades. I moved quite a few things off the Shelf of Unplayed Sadness, and I have added only a couple of games.

My D&D group gave me an Amazon gift card for Yule/Christmas/Festivus. I used it to buy Kings & Things. I was rereading the webcomic Erfworld and wanted to get a hex and counter fantasy wargame. Kings & Things seemed like the best fit for this. I am hoping to get it to the table soon (perhaps using some fan-made solo rules).

In another trade-in at the LGS, I got Muse and Catan: Cities and Knights. I own Dixit as well as a couple of expansions. It is a good game, but looking at Muse it seems a bit better in overall implementation. Either way, the cards for one can be used for the other. I look forward to taking Muse to the next social game night.

Finally, I have made my first outright board game purchase of the year: Star Trek: Ascendancy. I wanted a Star Trek board game, and this is probably one of the best out there (if not the best). I am hoping this will also fill my 4X space niche. Compared to the other big 4X games out there, this is pretty light. Hopefully that will make it accessible to a larger range of players in my groups.

I have been pretty disinterested in Kickstarter campaigns lately. Some have tempted me. I am mostly disillusioned with how many KS-created games end up in the online sale bins not long after release. It seems to me that unless the KS game has exclusives, it is better to wait until retail release.

The other disillusionment comes from certain companies. There are companies, many largish and/or long-standing, that can't seem to get it together. Game Salute (and their fulfillment company, ShipNaked) and Ninja Division/Soda Pop Miniatures come to mind. It is sad, as they make good games. But their performances on Kickstarter aren't great. It made me sad to pass on Everdell, as it looked amazing. But I am not comfortable with supporting Game Salute every again.

All-in-all, I am making progress on my gaming goals and enjoying the hobby while spending less on new acquisitions. That's a win in my book.
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Wed Feb 28, 2018 2:15 pm
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2018 Goals

Jesse Metcalf
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2018 Goals

Goal One: 52 Game Challenge

Re-revising my further thoughts, I like the idea of playing newer games as well as old favorites. I want to make specific goals for board games but leave room for flexibility.

My goal for 2018 is to play at least 52 games (which is a mean of 1 game per week).

Simple, fun, and encourages me to play games.

Goal Two: Collection Management

A: Play What I Have

The rule of this goal is to not acquire new games until my entire shelf of unplayed games is empty (either through play or trade/sale).

Current Unplayed Shelf
Kings & Things
Star Trek: Ascendancy
Muse
Battlestar Galactica
Civilization
Food Truck Champion
Honshu
Space Empires: 4X
Zoo Ball
Stuffed Fables
Vast: The Crystal Caverns

Played
Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure
But Wait, There's More!
SteamRollers
Tiny Epic Galaxies

Traded
Tiny Epic Quest
Arkham Horror LCG
Best Treehouse Ever
Friese's Landlord
Jump Ship!
Last Friday
Legend of the Five Rings LCG
Stowaway 52

B: Limit New Games

The purchase of new games is limited to SIX games for the year 2018.

Exemptions to the purchase rule include:
E Games I receive as gifts or prizes.
E Kickstarters (I don't back many games, and there is no guarantee of delivery).
E Games on preorder or en route.
E Games obtained through trades.
E Expansions to games I own.

Kickstarters/P500/Preorders
colonist Root
colonist SteamRollers
colonist Flow of History
colonist SpaceCorp
colonist Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea
colonist Vinyl

New Games
1 Star Trek: Ascendancy
2 Stuffed Fables
3 Vast: The Crystal Caverns
4
5
6
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Wed Jan 3, 2018 4:30 pm
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2017: A Review

Jesse Metcalf
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Well, that's a wrap on 2017. It was a good year for board games, especially for me.

Goals Review

Goal One: Gaming Austerity

Sucess! I purchased only six games that were outright purchases (i.e not trades, purchased with the proceeds from selling games, etc).

Goal Two: Shelf of Opportunity

Success!... although the shelf didn't shrink. Instead, its contents just changed.

Goal Three: 7x7 Challenge

2017 Plays
7 Wonders 10
Colt Express 10
Bärenpark 9
Eminent Domain 9
Terraforming Mars 9
OctoDice 7
The Networks 5
Outfoxed 5
Burger Up 4
Monopoly Gamer 4
Scythe 4
Tokaido 4
Gloomhaven 3
Joking Hazard 3
Rhino Hero 3
Roll Player 3
Spaceteam 3
Tiny Epic Western 3
Catan Card Game 2
Competition Kitchen 2
DC Comics Deck-Build... 2+2 (Expansion)
Dominion 2
Firefly: The Game 2
Pairs 2
Pitch 2
Potion Explosion 2
Say Anything 2
Sushi Go! 2
Viticulture Essent. Ed. 2
Alien Frontiers 1
At the Gates of Loyang 1
But Wait, There's More! 1
Caverna: Cave Farmers 1
Knuckle Sammich 1
Munchkin Zombies 1
Nightmare 1
Roll Through the Ages:
The Iron Age 1
Telestrations 1
Unfair 1

On paper, this was a failed goal. However, overall, I played more board games and more heavier games (than my usual average) than in previous years. Again, given that I like variety, playing a single game 5 or more times in a year is great.

Goal Four: Go To Conventions

As I stated in my previous blog post... "In hindsight, this goal served little purpose other than to make me feel bad when misfortune prevented me from attending conventions. It was a silly goal, as I love to go to conventions."

Year in Review

Overall there were some good games released in 2017. However, I haven't played many of them because I was still playing my games acquired or released from 2016 or prior. 2016 brought such great titles like The Networks, Scythe, and Terraforming Mars. Nothing in 2017 came out that I felt the same excitement for. Even my excitement for Kickstarters released in 2017 wasn't that great.

This in part may be because my collection has grown significantly over the past three years. I may be at that critical size of my collection where acquiring more requires careful thought about the game. Do I have room for it on my shelf? Will my friends play it? Will it overshadow something I already own? If so, do I sell something? Given how much I have spent on games in the past couple of years, I carefully consider my return on investment. It may be a cool game, but if I pay $60 for something I play 1-2 times, is it worth it? Then if I want to sell/trade it, will I get a good price for it?

It is a great time to be a hobby board gamer, but I fear that there are so many good to great games out there that the market has a glut. I just hope that the market continues to be strong and many more great games are made. I also hope that the market does not become over-saturated and crash.
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Wed Jan 3, 2018 4:29 pm
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2018: A Look Ahead

Jesse Metcalf
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As 2017 comes to a close, I find myself evaluating my various board game "challenges" to see if they were "effective". That's not the best way of putting it. I find myself so focused on the challenges that I forget why I have them.

Overall the focus is to obtain fewer games and play the ones I have. I don't think the goals were that successful overall.

2017

Goal One: Gaming Austerity

The focus of this goal is to acquire fewer games. Overall I guess I did. I constantly sold or traded games to get new ones. But I still feel like I have more games that I can play.

Goal Two: Shelf of Opportunity

The focus of this goal is to reduce the number of unplayed games by either playing them or trading them away. The problem with selling or trading games to get new ones is that you get new unplayed games in the process. The shelf didn't shrink. Instead, its contents just changed.

Goal Three: 7x7 Challenge

The focus of this goal is to play the games I own. I did this very well, even though I may not have played them 7 of them 7 times. Given that I like variety, playing a single game 5 or more times in a year is great.

Goal Four: Go To Conventions

In hindsight, this goal served little purpose other than to make me feel bad when misfortune prevented me from attending conventions. It was a silly goal, as I love to go to conventions.

So what goals do I want to set for 2018?

I like the idea of combining the playing games goal with the Shelf of Opportunity goal. I think reducing the number of required plays is okay, as I play a lot of different things (plus I am playing and/or GMing 1-2 RPGs at a given moment).

2018

Goal One: 5x5 Challenges

Five New Games

These would be games that are new to me, having never been played and on my Shelf. Examples include: Great Western Trail, Clank, Battlestar Galactica, a few others, plus any Christmas presents I get this year. If I had to set a list now, it would be:

1 (Christmas present #1-hopefully Charterstone)
2 (Christmas present #2-hopefully The Colonists)
3 Great Western Trail
4 Clank!
5 Battlestar Galactica

Five Old Favorites

These would be games I own and have already played. If I had to pick my five right now, they would be:

1 Terraforming Mars
2 Scythe
3 Steam, Rails to Riches
4 The Networks
5 Champions of Midgard

Goal Two: Collection Management

A: Play What I Have

The rule of this goal is to not acquire new games until my entire shelf of unplayed games is empty (either through play or trade/sale). As of today, these games include:

Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure
Honshu
Best Treehouse Ever
Civilization
Friese's Landlord
Tiny Epic Galaxies
Zoo Ball
Battlestar Galactica
Space Empires: 4X
Last Friday
Tiny Epic Quest
Jump Ship!
Stowaway 52
Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game
Food Truck Champion

B: Limit New Games

The purchase of new games is limited to SIX games for the year 2018.

Exemptions to the purchase rule include:
E Games I receive as gifts or prizes.
E Kickstarters (I don't back many games, and there is no guarantee of delivery).
E Games on preorder or en route.
E Games obtained through trades.
E Expansions to games I own.

I think these revised goals will help me keep my collection at a size I am happy with. They will help me focus on enjoying what I have instead of yearning for what I don't.
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Thu Dec 7, 2017 6:02 pm
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Out of Steam

Jesse Metcalf
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So, I am coming up on my three year mark of heavily re-investing into the board game hobby. Most articles I have read state that new or renewing board gamers usually start out consuming board games strong. Then at about the three-year mark they run out of steam.

That's probably me.

I have bought SO many board games in these three years, many of which I have sold or traded away without a lot of play time (some without any plays). I realize that my desire to play all the games outstrips my time time to play these games. It is frustrating, especially when there are so many board games coming out each month. And many of them are really good. It is a good problem to have if you are a hardcore board gamer, but I have come to realize that I am not. I play a couple games a week on a good week. Some people played more games at BGG Con than I played in the last two years combined. I am very much a casual board gamer.

This also holds true to video games and, to a lesser extent, RPGs. Given my druthers, I would prefer to play RPGs over board games and video games. But even so I rarely play more than one RPG a week on average (with the past couple of months being an exception). I guess it is a product of getting older, having a full-time job, being married, being the parent of two kids, and (for me especially) having other interests.

I definitely feel the three-year mark of my hobby. I am tired of chasing the new hotness, especially since I have a lot of unplayed games and played games that have only been played a couple of times. I know certain challenges, like the 10x10, are designed to get you to play more of your own games. My own 7x7 challenge helped with that, but several games on my list of most played games were purchased within the last twelve months. I feel that, should I do a board game challenge next year, I need to pre-select games to be played rather than let the plays fall where they may.

My Austerity and Shelf of Opportunity challenges were designed to prevent a lot of purchased-but-unplayed games from stacking up. They have not succeeded on that front. Sure, I have eliminated many games from my unplayed shelf, but I added to that pile as well. And while I didn't buy many new games without first selling some off, it still feels like I added to the clutter. Again, I feel I need to retool these challenges for next year if I choose to do them again.

Overall, I own too many games and play not enough of them. I am trying to figure out if I need to pare my collection down. I am also trying to figure out how to get more game time in. I am hoping to get to my FLGS for some board game nights. That all depends on my schedule and my family's needs. I also want to host some game days at the house from time to time.

Further, I want to submit more stuff for the Our Turn! podcast. I feel like there are so many podcasts, blogs, etc. out there that discuss RPG items. I find it hard to find a niche to discuss on Our Turn! I would love to discuss diversity and inclusion in gaming, but it is not an area in which I am an expert. I don't want to devolve into a review segment, especially since I don't consume a lot of different RPGs these days (my hundreds of PDFs purchased at DriveThruRPG plus my personal library give me plenty of material to draw upon). I have a few ideas, but nothing seems like it is "worthy" or "good enough" for publication. I guess that is the perfectionist/impostor syndrome sufferer in me.

Finally, and perhaps the lead of this article that has been buried, my anxiety has been bad lately. I feel stressed and overwhelmed more and more these days. It is not any one thing, but rather it is a culmination of things. Current events, work, home life, feeling of self-doubt and worthlessness... all of these add up to a big psychological burden. It has gotten to the point where I feel like getting back on long-term medication, something I don't like. However, it may come to that. Perhaps my brain chemistry it just out of whack and needs some assistance. There is no shame in that, my fellow readers. Sometimes you are dealt a hand (in this case, genetics) and you just have to play it out. I am hoping to discuss this with my counselor this week and maybe make an appointment with my psychiatrist's office to follow-up.

Please, please, please... if you feel down more than up, even if it has been going on for a few days or for what feels like an eternity, make an appointment with a mental health professional or talk to your physician. Talk to people you trust and get recommendations on professionals. Call a hotline. Just reach out. You may feel helpless and along. You aren't. Depending on the source, it is estimated that 1 in 5 people have a "diagnosable" mental and/or substance use disorder in any given year. 20%... that is a sizable group. Even though things have gotten better, there still are stigmas attached to mental health disorders. Don't listen to them. There is no shame in having a mental health disorder. There is nothing wrong in getting help. In fact, you should be commended for your strength in recognizing an issue in your life and seeking help.

If you have a friend or family member who is suffering from a mental health disorder, be there for them. It can be hard sometimes, and you need to ensure your boundaries are maintained. But be there as much as you can for them.

Okay, really didn't mean to make a post about mental health, but there it is.
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Tue Nov 28, 2017 8:50 pm
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Home Stretch

Jesse Metcalf
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It just isn't my year for conventions it seems...

Oh, hey there. Sorry for the long hiatus. These past weeks (months?) have been busy and hectic. I was really looking forward to a good weekend at Nuke-Con. Unfortunately, my hotel bed had no mattress support. It was like all my weight was being balanced on my hips. Sucked. Had to come home early just to sleep.

But, I did get to play D&D Adventure League on Friday night, with Claire Hoffman as a DM for one of the sessions. She is the Assistant Content Manager for the D&D Adventurers League! It was very cool to meet her and play in her authored game. I played a tabaxi bard, who leveled up to a bard 2/sorcerer 1 by the end of the day. I really like the tabaxi and the bard/sorcerer multiclass combo.

I hope to talk about my con experiences on Our Turn in an upcoming episode.

Meanwhile, I want to touch on my 2017 Gaming Goals for a moment:

I. My 7x7 Challenge--In Progress

I have played 4 games at least 7 times. At least 3 more are at 4+ plays. I should make this.

II. My Austerity Challenge--In Progress

I have done a lot of trading and selling this year. I am still only at 5 purchases out of the goal of 6. I should make it.

III. My Convention Goals--Failed

This is the big disappointment for the year. I could not attend the Great Plains Game Convention due to strep. I attended ConStellation unofficially for a couple of hours. I did not make it to PretzCon. And I only enjoyed one day out of three for Nuke-Con. I am sad, but my gaming outside of conventions has increased. So I will take that as a small victory.

IV. Shelf of Shame--Success

More that the five required games moved off the shelf. I have played and traded away many. Sadly, they were all replaced with more. It is time to do some trimming of the collection.

Since I am still dead tired from the lack of rest, I will break for now. I hope to update more later.
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Sun Oct 8, 2017 4:10 am
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The Darkness IS Massive

Jesse Metcalf
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Yesterday, I received my pledge for Massive Darkness. It is indeed massive, to the tune of 7.8 kgs. Aside from the Lightbringer pledge, I also purchased the Ratlings set (because I love me some rat-people, whether they be wererats, skritt, skaven, or what-have-you) and the Zombicide: Black Plague Crossover set. It all looks cool. The minis are decent, somewhere about in quality as Reaper Bones. I was really excited about the game when I made my pledge a year ago, but now I don't know if I will enjoy the game play per se. I could certainly use the minis in any fantasy RPG I run. I will probably decide if I want to keep it all within the next few days.

(If anyone wants to make a serious offer on the above plus Zombicide: Black Plague, Hero Pack #1, and Wulfsburg, I would entertain it.)

This weekend is Labor Day in the U.S. I am looking forward to a holiday weekend, as work has me swamped with things. Hopefully I will get to visit family as well as partake in TWO D&D games. I have to say, Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition is probably the best edition yet. It is not perfect, but what RPG is perfect? If they would just make an official tweak to the Ranger class, most gamers would be happy.

Speaking of swamped, I have not been able to make any contributions to Our Turn! as of late. I really hope to get a couple of things recorded soon, as I am tired of them rattling around in my head. I have ideas and advice to share; I just need to get it out there.

I am selling/trading several games in my collection. If all goes well, I should be trading my Star Wars: Armada collection for Mansions of Madness Second Edition, Space Empires 4X, and some cash. I hope to sell some other things off in preparation for acquisitions at Nuke-Con in October.

Hope all is well with you, good reader.
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Wed Aug 30, 2017 4:45 pm
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GenCant 2017 Wrap-Up

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I had a great time at GenCant 2017. First, it did not coincide with the county fair. Thus my 4H duties did not conflict with the event. Since I didn't get to any of the spring conventions that I had planned to attend, I made sure to enjoy GenCant as much as possible.

Both Friday and Sunday, I got in a play of Monopoly Gamer. I really like the game, as it takes less than an hour to play. There are some balance issues with the characters, and there is a lot of "take that" and randomness. But overall it is a fun game.

I played D&D on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday I was the DM for the "newbie" group, for lack of a better name. I had several things prepared and gave lots of options in the game. Ultimately, the group decided to take on a gang of slavers. Thus I got to use my Slavelords modules. It converts to D&D 5E relatively well. Some of the fights seemed harsh, but it turns out a party of five fifth-level PCs can handle it.

Sunday, I got to return as a PC. My regular RPG group began C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan from Tales from the Yawning Portal. The module seems really well researched, and the descriptions and art are well done. However, the presence of
Spoiler (click to reveal)
poison gas in the air
made us feel we needed to rush and find an exit immediately. Thus we skipped any rooms that felt unnecessary. I am sure we are missing out on cool things. Once we find a safe camping spot, we will probably feel like exploring.

I made one GenCant purchase: Battlestar Galactica along with the first two expansions. I really liked the series, and I really like the hidden traitor/survival theme of Dead of Winter.

I hope everyone had a great GenCon, GenCant, or non-Gen weekend.
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Mon Aug 21, 2017 6:14 pm
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Third Quarter Update

Jesse Metcalf
United States
Lincoln
Nebraska
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We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.
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Time for an update on my yearly goals:

I. My 7x7 Challenge

My top 7 played games this year:

Colt Express--9
Terraforming Mars--9
OctoDice--7
Bärenpark--6
Eminent Domain--5
Outfoxed--5
Burger Up--4 / The Networks--4

I think I get get 8 more plays in during the rest of the year. But who knows? Bärenpark got 6 plays in less than 3 days. This list may change a bit before 2018.

II. My Austerity Challenge

This has gone off the rails a bit, as I have traded and sold so many games (including my large Star Wars: X-Wing collection) I am flush with cash for buying games. But here is my update:

1 Colt Express
2 Unfair (formerly Gloomhaven, which has been sold)
3
4
5
6 Legend of the Five Rings LCG (Preordered.)

I plan on selling more games before Nuke-Con to get more cash for that convention.

Speaking of which...

III. My Convention Goals thumbsdown

I have technically failed this, as I missed the Great Plains Game Festival due to strep throat. But that really isn't my fault (I didn't go licking public bathroom door handles or anything.) I do plan on going to Nuke-Con to play and run games.

IV. Shelf of Opportunity

I have played more than five games from my shelf, and I am even getting most of my new acquisitions played as I get them. This goal has been met.

I am starting to think about next year's goals, even though the new year is still about 5 months away. I want to keep my net acquisitions fairly even, and I want to get all games on the shelf played. I think I want to add RPGs to the mix, as I have several new ones that are unplayed.
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Thu Aug 3, 2017 4:40 pm
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