My First Crokinole Board

I’ve always been impressed with self-made Crokinole boards. BGG’s image gallery is overflowing with all styles, octagonal and circular gutters, plywood, hardwood, painted, natural, fancy, simple, impressive, crude, … the variety is endless.

Regardless of the variety, there’s one common theme: pride.  Every one of those boards has had the energy, drive, spirit, and motivation of the maker poured into it, lovingly hand-rubbed, and waxed into the surface. The pride of a job attempted, completed, and well done. It’s a lot of effort, regardless of the outcome, to see a project through to the end and for that, I commend everyone who’s taken on the task of making their own board.

I’ve always wanted to make my own but just never, well, just never had the motivation to try.  Nothing was stopping me other than just doing it. So, last weekend, I found the motivation somewhere inside, and embarked on the journey of making my own board.

After reading a lot of posts on BGG, consulting the web for other techniques, tricks, and tips, I decided to use maple plywood. I liked the looks of the round gutters so I also purchased an 8′ maple trim piece that I could rip into strips to make the gutter guard.  I also decided to leave it natural and make my own discs…more on that later.


I created a table extension and jig for my band-saw that would let me rotate rough sawn squares around a pivot to make the circular playing surface and the circular base.  It was crucial that these be exactly circular as I would be wrapping the base with thin strips of maple and I didn’t want any gaps due to an irregular cut.


With the circles cut, I turned my attention to the 8′ maple trim. I ripped the face off both sides of the trim piece creating two 8′ strips I would eventually use to create the gutter wall.  8′ is just barely long enough to wrap the base.


I then got to work on wrapping the circular base with two layers of the bands. I nailed and glued the first layer keeping the clean face towards the inside of the playing surface, wrapped that with a band-clamp.


When that was dry, I glued and wrapped the second layer (with the second clean surface facing out) with a band clamp and other ancillary clamps.


In parallel, I wrapped and sanded the edge of the playing surface with a thinly ripped piece of maple to cover the exposed plywood edge.


After the gutter wall was dry, I scarfed the outer joint edges to create a clean joint.


I also knocked out the rough blanks that would eventually become the playing discs.


I was really nervous about the playing surface lines. Many hobbiest board-makers use a Sharpie marker but I was really hesitant. You have to be very careful to prepared the surface appropriately so that the marker won’t bleed into the wood and you need to create an environment to get an exact circle…no wavy lines or inconsistent thicknesses. Professional makers (or those with access to expensive pieces of equipment) route grooves into the surface but I just didn’t see how I could accomplish that without wrecking it. So, I improvised with the help of an old Erector Set Noah had as a kid.


With a center pivot hole that tightly fit an axle and pieces that tightly fit the axle extending outward with pre-drilled holes at 1/2″ intervals I was well-prepared to make the Sharpie lines at 4″, 8″, and 12″ intervals.


Next was creating the appropriate holes for the 8 pegs arranged around the center line. Those holes are rotated 22.5° from the 90° that define the 4 playing regions.


I was getting close now.  By this time I’d had three layers of poly on the playing surface, then the Sharpie lines, peg holes drilled along with the center hole, and then two more layers of poly.


After gluing and screwing the playing surface to the base, waxing the surface with auto-wax to get a nice slippery surface, and installing the pegs (I used wooden ‘toy axles’ wrapped with clear vinyl tubing), I was declaring it done.


Overall I’m very happy with the result. If I make another one I’ve got some ideas about what I can do to improve it but I shouldn’t let that detract from enjoying this one.  I had some trouble finishing off the playing discs and from the image above it might look like it’s hard to tell the difference between them.  However, in play, the sides of one set are black (they look a bit like seaweed-wrapped sushi unfortunately!) and it’s clear which discs are your opponent’s. I also painted the center hole and the interior sides of the hole black to match the pegs.


If you ever think you’d like to try making a board, go for it. I found the project entirely enjoyable, nerve-wracking at times (I had heart-palpitations during the Sharpie marking), but completely rewarding.

Views: 79


Orléans: Deluxe Edition – Racks


A month or so ago a made a set of three racks to hold the Place Tiles for Orléans: Deluxe Edition. They look really nice and hold the tiles firmly (you can tip the racks severely front-to-back and they won’t fall out) but they’re slightly too vertical and any bump to the rack or table causes some of tiles on the bottom of the rack to tip forward. The tiles stay in the rack, but after tipping forward you can’t see them and it was annoying to keep tipping them back.


The rack’s stability relies on the small, half-moon, of wood on the back and I wanted to engineer a way to create a bit of a rear leaning angle without compromising the stability of the rack.


So, this afternoon, while working on another project (more on that later), I ran the racks through the table saw and ripped a bit off the bottom at an angle and it fixed the problem like a charm.

Views: 14

Session Report: Orléans: Deluxe Edition


Orléans: Deluxe Edition has been hitting the table a lot with my group. That’s pretty rare, for us, granting the game a relatively vaulted position. Some of the best praise I’ve heard is, “Every time I play it, I do worse which just makes we want to play it again!”.

We’ve been playing with a couple of incorrect rules and after digging into the forums on BGG I think I’m prepared for the next play. Things to watch out for:

When there are no more character tiles available in a given color, nobody can choose an action that would normally grant them one of those tokens.

For example, if there are no more gray Scholars in the University, nobody can activate the “Scholar” action effectively locking out regular movement up the University track until a plague manages to restore a Scholar to the board.

Players can, however, still activate Place Tiles that grant additional “books” or “technology gears”. We’d been playing that it was still possible to choose the given action and take advantage of all the benefits but just not receive a character tile. Late in the game, this is many times a welcome relief since it doesn’t muddy your bag with unwanted tiles and doesn’t prohibit a catch-up mechanism for those that waited for a given benefit. No wonder it’s not allowed!

When you receive one or more technology gears in a turn (by choosing an available Craftsman and/or activating the Laboratory) you must wait until the end of the round (after you pass) to place the gear(s) on empty locations.

This rules miss didn’t impact anything in our games but simply clears up some questions we had. We’d played correctly that placing the gear when you immediately receive it would NOT activate the space and that the space must be empty but we weren’t waiting until the end of the turn.

I’m not convinced I like the Beneficial Deeds board. It feels tacked on and nobody in our group tends to pay much attention to it until late in the game. It’s common for us to only complete 1 or 2 places. The “game of chicken” seems, to us, the inhibiting factor. If the Citizen was granted to the player with the majority of character tiles in a location, it might completely solve the issue for us. However, we don’t usually “house rule” games since doing so can dramatically change the game in ways that were never intended (I’m looking at you Monopoly).

The Deluxe version is very nicely produced but I do wish there was more of a need to use the metal coins as currency in the game. With metal tokens like that, there should be a need to fondle them more.

Thanks Reiner Stockhausen for a great game, I can’t wait for another play. Deck building by drawing tokens blindly from a bag! Nicely done!

Views: 19

Cabin Con 2016

Or should I say, Apple-Con!

My annual long weekend getaway with my game group is now over and, as usual, I’ve got the post-con blues and can’t wait until next year. Last year, and all previous years, I’ve always booked one of the big “forest” cabins at Lake Hope State Park but this year we moved to a different location. Lake Hope’s cabins are rustic, economical, and meet our needs but one member of the group had an inside scoop to a “cabin” in Apple Valley so we took a chance.

I usually book the Lake Hope cabin a year in advance but last year the way the convention fell over MLK day I couldn’t book the 2016 dates until we got back and the big cabins were all gone. So I quickly booked two side-by-side smaller cabins so that we weren’t completely out in the cold. As 2015 progressed I was getting more and more concerned that having two cabins would ruin the close-knit camaraderie that we enjoy when we’re all together. Luckily, the Apple Valley connection came through and in the end, the cabin was nicer (it even has wifi!), it cost less, and is about 30 minutes closer to Columbus. A win all around in my book. With no strong sentimental reasons to return to Lake Hope, we’re all hoping we can use the Apple Valley connection for years to come.


This year I got a bit goofy and generated Machi Koro-based “name tags” for everybody and threw them out on the gaming table. Each person had to locate the one that had the center icon that the most identified with. I made it way too obvious but I had fun making them and enjoyed watching people pick them out.


The new cabin had plenty of room in the separate kitchen and after moving some furniture around in the living room we quickly made room for the long gaming table. After all seven of us arrived, we ran through two heats of PitchCar joining the best two from each heat into a final three-lap race. The ultimate goal, initially, was for the winners to get the two beds in the cabin and everyone else would sleep on inflatables but in the end, the snoring club got one room and our connection to the Apple Valley cabin got the other room. Seemed only fair regardless of the outcome of the flick-fest.


We all pitch in and sign up for a meal (we have two a day) and attendees bring food to cook and share for everybody else. We all seem to try to outdo each other which isn’t a bad thing in my book. I always try to sign up for the Saturday breakfast/brunch time-slot and always bring a sausage and egg breakfast casserole, spiced fruit, and homemade cinnamon rolls which are always a big hit.


Friday night we split into two groups with one end of the table playing Endeavor and the other playing Freedom: The Underground Railroad. It was my first true two-player playing of Freedom and all I can say is, wow, I don’t see how it’s winnable. We had a really rough time making progress.

Over the course of the weekend we would come together for lighter games and split apart for more thinky games but in general I think this year’s con proved to have a lighter mix of games overall.


We did tend to talk more between games and simply chat more over snacks, drinks, etc. I used to stress a lot about trying to pack in as many games as possible during the weekend but I’m finding that just letting the gaming happen when it happens is a much more enjoyable experience. I have really found a great group of guys and very much enjoy spending time with them.


I did, however, have a die-hard compatriot that was willing to take a shot at playing Antiquity with me. We had a lot of fun working through the rules and playing the game right up until we both chose our winning conditions and could rearrange our cities. When that happened, the theme bubble burst, the game turned into a Tetris-puzzle and it was immediately obvious who was going to win and in how many turns. Maybe we got something wrong but it just burst the bubble for both of us.


On the lighter side we did play another round of PitchCar as well as two rounds of Wings of War: Famous Aces (one “game” kept us up until about 3am!). What a fun game. We had enough bits for all seven of us and although it was a completely different kind of game than what we’d usually play, we had a blast.

I can’t more strongly encourage you to try to find some time to get away with your game group. We’ve found it a great bonding experience for everybody in the group and so far, everyone commits every year and looks forward to it. It takes a bit of work to get it running smoothly initially but once you’ve done it a few years in a row, it almost runs itself.

Thanks guys for a great time again. I look forward to next year.

Views: 81

Transformation is Complete

After years of neglect I had to do something with the software that ran It was highly customized by me, hard to upgrade, non-responsive (mobile unfriendly), etc.

I spent about 40 hours exporting content, massaging data, running software locally to get everything the way I wanted it (given the time I had), installing new CMS software, and importing content.

I dropped most non-board gaming content and removed years of cruft from the server, but I think everything important should be back working again. I suspect I’ll get some rocky reports concerning this or that (probably regarding the online games :-) ) but from the way everything turned out, it looks like it was a success.

I’m not in love with the theme but it serves its purpose, is low maintenance, and appears responsive.  I’m particularly happy with how the games moved over and the dynamic collection/wishlist pages that use the BGG XML API moved over.

Don’t hesitate to drop a comment on this post if you see something amiss and I’ll do my best to make things right. I can finally post some items I’ve been holding back until the upgrade was complete.

Happy Gaming everyone.

Views: 76

Review: Far Space Foundry



I saw a demo of Far Space Foundry at BGG Con in 2014 and was really taken by the look of it. When it was Kickstarted and we reached the metal credits stretch goal I was excited and anticipated the release.

Players take on the role of a freighter pilot and spend half the game taking turns loading raw materials (ore) into their warehouse and then into their waiting freighters. Players get the chance to take extra actions depending on which bay they dock with at Alpha Station. On your turn you play a card from your hand and you make a choice between loading the warehouse or unloading the warehouse into your freighter. For loading you have to find an open bay to land your shuttle full of ore from the two neighboring planets. Your card determines your starting bay but if there is a shuttle already docked you count clockwise until you find an empty bay. They number you reach before finding a free bay represents the number of items you can load. Likewise, when unloading, you must find a docked shuttle and if your card starts your search at an empty bay, you count clockwise until you find a docked shuttle. The number you reach represents the number of items the shuttle can transport to your freighter. How this counting mechanic aligns with the theme is unknown and frankly, a bit confusing.

Each bay also gives the player the option of taking a special action to convert ore to credits, add alien pilots to the deck, add a freighter for the alien pilot, upgrade/process ore, etc. but that’s basically the game for the first half. Play a card, count, load/unload goods, and get your freighters as full as possible.

Once everyone has played all of their cards, you flip many of the board pieces to represent Beta Station where everyone plays the game again with some slight theme changes. You’re now trying to unload your freighters, convert raw materials to goods, charge goods, upgrade freighters, and then reload your freighters as efficiently as possible. The station’s docking bays have different additional actions but in general, you’re just playing the same mechanic on every turn just like you did during the first half of the game.


I really wanted to like FSF. It looks fantastic and those metal credits are really cool and add a nice touch but the game is just simply not my cup of tea. I’ve played it a couple of times and we just couldn’t find the fun in the box.

Views: 44

Great Lakes Games 13 – GLG 2015

Great Lakes Games 13 (2015) is in the bag. Luckily, the convention takes place only a short three hour car trip away and, strangely enough, in a small rural town within 10 miles of where I grew up in northeastern Indiana. I’m very familiar with the area and it feels a little like going home. This is my seventh year attending and seeing so many of the same people from year to year it really does feel like home. There were a handful of regulars that couldn’t make it and they were sorely missed. I hope that this was a one-time issue and that they’ll be able to make it next year.

Over the last few years I’ve lobbied to get four members of my game group invited and this year was a real treat as all four of us could make it. Having someone to discuss the anticipation of playing specific games, comparing notes, etc. on the drive over and then having someone to help decompress and make that transition back to real life on the return trip really makes for an enjoyable experience. Like my group’s yearly “cabin con”, it provides a great opportunity for us to bond as a group, with others, and provides a back-drop for growing individually as a person and a friend. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Here are some stats and spread throughout, I’ve included brief comments where I felt there was something interesting to share.

  • 25 unique games
  • 30 games
  • 13 games were new to me

And so it begins. We arrived early on Thursday afternoon before most people got there but there were a couple of tables already housing some of the really early gamers.

Early on its a little hard to get a larger group so my driving partner and I pulled out Patchwork, a very enjoyable two-player puzzle-game with a fun theme. What a nice game packed in that little box. I’ve pimped out the game a bit with real buttons to use as coins to jazz it up a bit.

By the time we finished up Patchwork we were able to pull in a third to play Roll For the Galaxy one of my favorite dice rolling games. There’s an expansion available but I’m torn whether to get it since I like the game as is and more rules and bits don’t necessarily make a game funner.

Another attendee had just bought of copy of The Great Heartland Hauling Company and hadn’t played it yet so he joined us as a fourth and we taught it. That’s another great thing about GLG is that there are usually people available and willing to teach a game to a group. Whenever I see a group reading rules to a game I know I try to make the time to ask if they want someone to get them up to speed.

Next up was a new one to me called Kemet, an “Ameritrash”-stye game featuring lots of plastic bits and battling each other to earn victory points. It’s got some really nice aspects to it that keeps it in my wheelhouse as I’m don’t normally gravitate towards battle-heavy games. There is no dice-rolling for battle resolution instead relying on card-driven strength and bonuses. And, I have to come clean and admit that fighting with a giant protective, special-power eliminating snake at your side is kinda cool.

This game of Ruhrschifffahrt was brutal. We had all the “no captain” tiles come out close together near the transition to the “white/blue” region and that killed the ability for us to make much progress. Normally this game is really enjoyable but this was a painful slog to the end.

To close out the first night we played Broom Service a re-swizzling of Witches Brew from years past. I wasn’t a fan of the original game but the addition of the board and the full compliment of players made it very enjoyable.

On Friday morning I joined the Cribbage tournament and won two out of the three games. My point spread wasn’t enough to win anything but I had a lot of fun. The three games I played represent almost half of the games I’ve ever played in person when compared to the hundreds of games I’ve played on my phone. It felt clunky to have to shuffle all the time…

Next, I sat down to a game of Viticulture/Tuscany. What a great game. I think I’d almost always be up for a game of it. Wine making at its best!

I was a bit hesitant to sit down to Imperial Settlers after my epically long game with last time I played but we ripped through a game for three quickly and it was great. That experience brings the game back into consideration.

You can hardly go wrong with Splendor. Another quick game that most everybody likes to play.

Lots more people arriving now. This is almost as busy as it ever gets besides Saturday night after the prize table drawing.

I jumped into the satellite room with a group of seven to play Between Two Cities. It has a 7-wonders style spin but without cards. Players are drafting two tiles from a group, and then passing tiles to the left, then right, etc. One of the two drafted tiles must be placed in the city you and your left partner are build and the other tile is placed in the city you’re building with your right hand partner. You score for how well the tiles are placed in comparison to numerous rules. You and your partners score the same number of points for your shared city and you want both cities to score as much as possible because your final score is the lowest score from each of your two cities. The game didn’t do it for me as it seems almost every game would come down to the tie-breaker. It’s just designed to be too tight.

Next up was Code Names with eight (4 on a team). Party games aren’t normally my “thing” but it’s not a bad activity for a large group.

I just had to get a shot of a table playing Food Chain Magnate. Wow, what a huge footprint!

We had an attendee get us quickly up to speed on Marco Polo and we knocked that out in short order. There’s not much new to me here. Mostly try to take advantage of your special role/power, get stuff, and then use it to fulfill “contracts”. It was enjoyable enough but definitely not on my buy list.

It started getting late on Friday so we broke out Rhino Hero a dexterity game of building a house of cards using a hand of cards with Uno-styled actions (e.g. skip, x2, etc.) People takes turns, the tower gets bigger, it falls, hilarity ensues. A perfect game to close the night.

Saturday morning was time for Tiny Epic Galaxy a really enjoyable game packed in a little box. I’m not sure I’d go so far to say EPIC but certainly fun :-)

Wow my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders when we played Istanbul. I felt like I was five turns behind everyone.

I grabbed For Sale since a guy at the table had never played. It’s been years since I played and there’s a lot of fun packed in those fifteen minutes.

Next up was SpyFall. This one really fell flat with me. Maybe we were trying to game the game too much I can’t imagine trying to guess the location as the spy without knowing all of the possibilities by heart.

I pulled out Artifacts Inc. since it looked like something I’d like when I saw another group play it. While others were finishing up a game I read through the rules and then jumped in to teach. We played with four which was a mistake as the down-time killed it for me. I think there’s a good game there but maybe only for two or maybe three players.

Next up was Cacao, a quick tile laying game that has a Carcassonne-ish feel but it’s certainly a different game. Players lay worker tiles from their own deck of tiles and fill in with “forest” tiles from a common deck when necessary to create this checkerboard pattern. Adjacent actions in the forest tiles are triggered with worker tiles allowing players to get stuff that can eventually turn into victory points. There are some end-game finagling but it borders on an activity/puzzle more than a game. Light fun but not something I feel the need to own.

A member of my gaming group won a copy of Deep Sea Adventure from the prize table. What a fun little game of semi-cooperative diving to obtain treasure from the deep. There is a shared supply of air and players push their luck to dive out of the sub trying to grab the better deeper treasure while also trying to get back to the sub before the air runs out. If you don’t, you have to drop your treasure. Three rounds of quick fun.

Next up was Above and Below. It was getting late and a couple of us just didn’t have it in us to finish it up. The other two wanted to keep playing and graciously kicked us out and kept going. It seemed fun with the story telling aspects but I just didn’t have the mental capacity to gut it out.

Too much 12-year Glenmorangie was probably the reason. Later I realized I missed a great opportunity to play Glen More while sipping Glenmorangie. Ah, next year I have big plans.

It was close to 1am but I taught a quick game of Tiny Epic Galaxy and then hit the sack.

Sunday morning is a time to fit in a few lighter games and say goodbye to everyone. I usually don’t play much but I did crack the shrink on my prize table winner, Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark and immediately two people who’d played asked if I was looking to play. Hell, yes! What a great game! I’d played its big brother and this is really the better game. It’s much more stream-lined and there are dice to roll! What could go wrong with that!

I finished up the convention with a two-player game: 7-Wonders Duel. It certainly has the feel of 7-Wonders without all the fuss of sifting through cards for the right number of players. In fact you don’t even hold cards in your hand. The additional rules are easy to grasp and I’m on the edge about buying a copy but I’ll probably cave and order one.

I slept 10 hours last night and was in kind of a daze at work today but I’d go again in an instant if I could. Ready for next year; bring it on!

Views: 585