The Mountain–A Solo Board Game Experience

The Mountain-logo

The 2015 Global Game Jam – an annual event where game designers are presented with theme, and challenged to create a game around that theme in 48 hours.  The game can be a video game or a table top game, and there are awards for different categories. 

This year, the theme was, “What Do We Do Now?”   28,837 people registered to participate in GGJ, for 518 different jam sites in 78 countries.  An impressive 5438 games were produced.

The Mountain won Best Board Game, Jury’s Prize and took 2nd Place – People’s Choice Award, with credit going to: David Chircop – Design, Story, Graphic Design. Yannick Massa – Design,  Johnathan Harrington – Story, Design. Matthew Agius Muscat – Story. Fran Bte – Story. Daniela (iella) Attard – Art, Illustration.

BGG game description: “The Mountain is a board game experience for one player. It explores a pensive man’s descent from a mountain from the moment he reaches the peak. You navigate the mountain while exploring the man’s thoughts as he contemplates about the unknown abyss that lies exactly after his life’s biggest accomplishment.

There are five exit points on the board, one for every element that will affect your journey – frost, sun, wind, sky and horizon. As you try and find the path down, you learn more about yourself through the story cards, divided into five different story lines that affect you as a protagonist.

However, the path down is not immediately obvious. Your movement subdues and stimulates the elements. If three or four elements are acting, you start suffering from ennui; a feeling that perhaps getting to the bottom of the mountain is not that important after all. If all five elements are raging, you will succumb to nature and die.

Traverse through the safest path and take care of yourself. This could be either the most important journey of your life, or your last.”


The Mountain certainly adheres to the Global Game Jam theme of, “What do we do now?”  Playing as a character who has just peaked in more than one way, he is now dealing with self-doubt and the lack of a goal in his life.  As he treks down the mountain, he is fighting his own depression as well as the elements, and his life is in danger.  This is a theme many writers could sink their literary teeth into, and I have been fascinated with this premise for years.


The game has an interesting mechanic for movement, using 5 controller cards to determine which spaces can be moved onto in a given turn.  This presents an interesting puzzle, as you must plan ahead to insure you can move on following turns.  If you can not or chose not to move, you must still draw an Ennui card (pronounced än-ˈwē), representing a lack of spirit, enthusiasm or interest.  If you draw too many Ennui cards, the character gives up trying to descend the mountain and dies.  In game terms, that means you lose.


If you can reach one of the 5 exit points around the map, and you have acquired at least 1 each of the 5 different element cards, you can end the game, leaving the mountain.  At this point, if you have more of the element card that matching the space you exit, you can draw the first ending card from that deck.  Otherwise you draw the second, less favorable ending card.

It’s an interesting exercise, and I played three times, which is far from exhaustive.  It did give me a feel for the game, and put my mind to a depressed story theme, but sometimes that is useful.

Note that this game is not available for sale, but the designers have been kind enough to provide a free print and play version, downloadable here:

Be aware that the file has a 4-page game board and 9 pages of cards.  The files are in full color, no B&W option currently available.

There is also a Printerstudio version of the game that can be ordered.  More details in this BGG post:




Viceroy board Game on Kickstarter now until Dec. 27

Viceroy is a bidding and resource management table top game from Russia.  It premiered at Essen Germany at Spiel 2014 and sold out before NOON on the first day.  It hit the HOTNESS on immediately and demand was clearly present to bring Viceroy to the USA, Canada and Europe.


Mayday Games answered that challenge, putting the game on Kickstarter.  It sailed past the $10k funding goal in the first 8 hours and has continued to reach stretch goal after stretch goal (increasing component quality or adding new ones).  In short, it’s already a huge success and it still has 18 days to go on KS (as of this writing).

Viceroy Game


On Kickstarter, a single copy of the game (plus stretch goals) is $22 plus $5 shipping in US.  That is the full game, shipped for $27, when it will hit MSRP for $35 in stores later in 2015.  The Kickstarter campaign closes December 27, 2014, so if you want in on it, back this one now.

Check out the KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN, HERE.  Don’t miss the gameplay videos or the reviews, which are stellar.

Yes, it is the Cult of the New, but this game has promise, stunning artwork and very interesting gameplay I have not seen in another game. 

Game Review: Car Wars, 4th Edition is a Missed Opportunity for SJG

I just got my copy of the 2014 release of Car Wars and can testify that the quality of the components is as weak as shown in the unboxing video by Gamer Goggles, here.

This is for Car Wars, 4th Edition, 2nd printing, 2014 $19.99 from Steve Jackson Games, which released in November.

Originally published in 1981, Car Wars is a game where players build vehicles complete with weapons, armor and so on, and then they duel with each other.  There are many reviews out there of previous versions  that tell you about the game play of Car Wars, so I will focus on what Car Wars, 4th Edition brings to the table.

2014-12-06 17.06.52

Different from the previous version, this version has  thicker cardboard counters than the original, but they came pre-punched in a plastic bag, so I can’t verify if the set is complete, other than count 103 pieces an hope they put all the right pieces in the bag.  I dislike this presentation and much prefer to be given the sheet of counters.

The ‘turning key’ is thin cardstock, like the original, and that is disappointing because it is such a useful tool and would benefit from being printed on chipboard or at least, thicker card stock.

The rule book is 64 pages, black and white on printer paper, and the map is of course, black and white printing on paper stock, folded up.

The game included four, 6-sided dice, but even they are low grade and I won’t be using them.

2014-12-06 17.08.14

With so much opportunity for improvement over previous versions, SJG phoned this one in.  I dig Car Wars, but all my old stuff from the 1980’s is as good as this version, the sole exception being thicker counters and a new box.

Scott Haring (Line Editor for Car Wars) was quoted as saying this is a “Classic” version of the game (YouTube link here), but I am disappointed to see so little work going into this release.

By “Classic,” I guess they mean that the quality is as crumby as it was in the 80’s.  I can understand making a classic version of the game, not doing a rewrite of the rules with new, color artwork, but this is on printer paper.  At least print the rulebook on gloss.  Print the maps on cardstock that pieces together, puzzle style, rather than a big piece of folded-up paper.  And those lousy 12mm dice… nobody wants the dice in this box.

After seeing what was done in OGRE Designer Edition, maybe my expectations were too high.  Still, I only expected some degree of concern over appearance.  I will forever refer to this release of Car Wars as CAR WARS – the Neglected Version, because that is exactly what I thought when I opened the box – this looks like nobody cared.

What a missed opportunity for SJG to introduce new players to this very fun game.  I expect that most new players will open the box, see the lack of effort put into the product, and pass.  The ones that actually play it will likely be die-hard fans of the game like myself, but then, I would play it anyway, and I will, but it won’t be this version.   It’s just too… sad.

ARIF Rating: ABORT unless you are an old school Car Wars player who no longer has a copy and is jonesing to play.

Upcoming Games I’m Excited About

GENCON is the biggest US gaming convention of the year and it is going on in Indiana, August 14-17. This is the 46th year of the con, and it is here that game designers and producers display their new and soon-to-be-released board/card/dice games to the general public. Over 49,000 people attended the con last year, and even more are expected this year.

I’m not one of them. I’d love to be, but you know – life.

I have, however, been keeping up with the market and there are several games I am very interested in, debuting or at least showing at GENCON. This is my list of new gaming hotness I am looking forward to playing:


1. Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game by Plaid Hat Games (SRP $59.00)

2-5 players in a small, weakened colony of survivors attempt to survive a world where most of humanity is either dead or diseased, flesh-craving monsters. Each player leads a faction of survivors with dozens of different characters in the game.

Dead of Winter is a meta-cooperative psychological survival game. This means players are working together toward one common victory condition — but for each individual player to achieve victory, he must also complete his personal secret objective. This secret objective could relate to a psychological tick that’s fairly harmless to most others in the colony, a dangerous obsession that could put the main objective at risk, a desire for sabotage of the main mission, or (worst of all) vengeance against the colony! Certain games could end with all players winning, some winning and some losing, or all players losing. Work toward the group’s goal, but don’t get walked all over by a loudmouth who’s looking out only for his own interests!

Why I dig it: I like that it is a game with zombies, without zombies being the focus. They are just one of the things the players have to overcome while trying to survive a brutal winter in an apocalyptic world, striving to meet a defined group objective. At the same time, each player has a unique hidden goal that would enable them to win, individually. This is a story-centric game, requiring the players to socialize and communicate to survive, sometimes making difficult moral decisions. It has a subversive element without using the traitor mechanic of other games. This tops my list, and I’ve preordered it at Area-51 Gaming and Collectables. Thanks, Erin.


2. Age of Warby Fantasy Flight Games (SRP $12.99)

Age of War is a quick-playing game of conquest. Fourteen cards are laid out at the start of the game, each showing one castle and the symbols required to conquer this castle, with the symbols separated into battle lines. Each castle belongs to a clan, with some clans having only a single castle and some having up to four castles.

A player starts his turn by rolling seven dice, the six sides of which show archery, cavalry, daimyo, and 1-3 infantry. He then selects a card and uses the symbols rolled to conquer exactly one of the battle lines on this card (by placing the appropriate dice on that line). If he can do this, he then rolls the remaining dice, ideally conquering another line; if he can’t conquer a line, he removes one die from play, then rolls again. His turn ends when either he conquers every line on the card (in which case he claims it) or he no longer has dice available to roll.

Each card is worth a number of victory points. You can conquer cards owned by other players, but you need to conquer an additional daimyo line in the process. If a player owns all the castles of one clan, however, those castles are secure and cannot be stolen. What’s more, these castles are now worth more points because you’ve united the clan under one ruler (you) and strengthened your hold over Japan.

Why I dig it: This is Parker Brother’s Risk Express, re-themed to Feudal Japan. Using dice and cards, it plays in 1/10th the time it takes to play a game of Risk. I’ve been trying to get (the out of print) Risk-Express on E-bay but is expensive and rare. Now, the same game, by the same game designer, is being released with a different, even more cool theme and a seriously affordable price point, it’s a no-brainer. It scratches the Risk-itch without costing 2-4 hours of frustrating dice rolls. Now, it’s only 20 minutes of frustrating dice rolls. Like Dead of Winter, I pre-ordered at Area-51.


3. Knightmare Chess (new edition) by Steve Jackson Games (SRP $29.95)

Knightmare Chess is chess played with cards that break the rules in wild and unpredictable ways. Some affect a single move, and some change the entire game. Knightmare Chess plays quickly out of the box, but it also includes variants, and it’s easy for players to customize. This new edition includes Knightmare Chess 2, for a total of 158 beautiful cards, each painted by Rogério Vilela. Bonus: two blank cards for those who want to create their own fiendish, clever rules. Note: Knightmare Chess requires a working knowledge of chess and a chess set to play.

Why I dig it: Chess is a classic game of strategy. I love Chess, I really do, but it is dry and probably the game most referred to as being serious, and it’s not serious, it is a game. I do appreciate the strategy of the classic game, but it is after all, a game. Knightmare Chess introduces random elements to the game that requires adaptive thinking and seat-of-the-pants response. While I’m sure there are some who would consider it a perversion of a pure game, I think adding random elements to the game is a brilliant idea. Life is full of surprises that you couldn’t see coming and you have to deal with those the best you can, and this elevates Chess to an abstraction of real life, rather than just a battlefield.


4. Mars Attacks – The Dice Game by Steve Jackson Games (SRP $19.95)

In Mars Attacks: The Dice Game, the Martian players compete to see who can subjugate which U.S. cities first.

At the start of the game, four stacks of cards are dealt out randomly, with each stack having as many cards as players. On a turn, the player first declares which city he wants to attack, then rolls all ten dice. Any dice showing the “nuke” symbol are locked and cannot be rerolled. Laser guns are similarly locked, allowing the player to reroll only the alien heads. If he rerolls and ever has as many nuke symbols showing as the number on the face-up cards and the supplementary token, his turn ends; otherwise he can stop at any time, and if he doesn’t have enough guns or alien heads to claim his target, he marks his total with one of his tokens, allowing him to add on to this number on a future turn — assuming that someone else doesn’t claim the card first.

Some city cards have special powers, such as Seattle’s, which allows you to place one die on the symbol of your choice prior to rolling. Las Vegas, true to its nature, wants you to go bust multiple times in order to claim the card. Whoever ends up decimating the largest portion of the earth wins. Ak ak ak ak ak!

Why I dig it: It’s themed for a ridiculous cult movie, has dice and plays in 20 minutes. Questions?


5. Run, Fight or Die!by Grey Fox Games (SRP $49.95)

As in most zombie games, you represent a unique character with your own character traits, except in Run, Fight, or Die! you will also have your own individual board with zombies you alone will encounter. Zombies move closer to you every round. You run from location to location, searching for weapons and survivors in a desperate attempt to stay alive. Survivors may bring new skills to help you in your desperate fight for survival, or in some cases, new challenges to overcome. In either case, every survivor provides you victory points. The game ends either when one player finds five survivors and declares the last round, or when a player reaches the town line (and the total Followers in play meets a minimum), or if a player gets bitten and turns. Be careful, some followers may turn against you, while others can slow you down. When it comes right down to it, the choice is simple: Run, Fight, or Die!

Scoring is based on the total points of survivors and remaining health of the players’ characters.

Run, Fight, or Die! is a frantic first person experience for 1 to 4 players (will play up to 6 with the 5/6 player expansion). The game is loaded with goodies, including 4 Action Boards, 5 Character Boards, a Loot Deck, a Location Deck, an Event Deck, a Follower Deck, Mutant Deck, 7 Custom Dice, tokens and beautifully crafted miniatures.

Why I dig it: A simple, fast-playing zombie game sounds a little tired in light of all of the other zombie games on the market right now, but this one looks like a lot of fun. It has a lot of stereotypical characters that are funny and though it is a push-your-luck, Yahtzee-type game, has a lot of flavor. Simply, it looks like a lot of fun. WANT.


6. Car Wars Classic by Steve Jackson Games (SMR $19.95)

In Car Wars, you can drive the freeways of the future, where the right of way goes to the biggest guns. Players choose their vehicles – complete with weapons, armor, power plants, suspension, and even body style. Then they take them out on the road to come home as “aces,” or to crash and burn. If a driver survives, his abilities improve, and he can earn money to buy bigger and better cars. Advanced rules let players design their own customized cars, trucks, and cycles.

Why I Dig It: I cut my teeth on Car Wars back in the 1980’s. While I haven’t actually played it since 1986, I have logged hundreds of hours with this game. Maybe thousands, measuring vehicle movement half an inch at a time. It is cool that it is coming back into print, but the CLASSIC indicates it has not changed. I’ll wait to see what is different, if anything. Some of the best gaming memories I have are of playing Car Wars.

Now that I think about it, some of my worst gaming memories are of Car Wars, too.


7. Hipster Dice by Steve Jackson Games (SMRP $4.95)

Based on the underground German phenomenon Nichteinechteswürfelspiel and updated with vintage rules, Hipster Dice is poised to be the perfect game to play while you’re waiting in line at the second-hand clothing store. Get it before it is cool.

Why I Dig It: I don’t. It looks like a non-game, but based on my loyalty to SJG and the low price point, I’ll probably buy it. I’m so not a hipster.

Are MicroGames a Fad?

Microgame (mī’krogãm) – The term generally refers to table top games which are packaged in a format that is “pocket sized” (approximately 4×7 inches). Game pieces are typically cards, cardboard counters or tiles and\or dice.


In the 1980’s, some of my favorite games were from Steve Jackson Games and came in a plastic pocket box, selling for less than $8. There were other microgame publishers like the now defunct Task Force Games, and I would love to get my hands on a decent copy of Intruder (obviously based on the movie, Alien) by TFG. The cheap pocket game format fell out of vogue in the 1990’s and popular games were repackaged with nicer components and higher price tags. Most just died.

Coin Age

Microgames have seen a rebirth in the last couple of years, largely through the user-backed game projects on Most of these games sell for $5 or less and have small but well produced components. Tasty Minstrel Games (TMG) has had particular success in this arena, with Coin Age, Burgoo and This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us.



Other producers are rushing into this fray, Tiny Epic Kingdoms by Gamelyn Games and Providence by Laboratory are euro-microgames experiencing huge support, as an example. All of these have exceeded their funding goals by large, even phenomenal margins, indicating a lot of support from the gaming community and desire for small games that setup and play is less than 30 minutes.


Well, I’ve backed every microgame to hit Kickstarter in the last six months, and I’ll tell you why I do it, though it may not be why anyone else is doing it.

Here are my reasons for supporting Microgames:

  1. Low cost investment, and as I said earlier, some of the best games I have ever played were cheap games.
  2. It’s fun to back a motivated entrepreneur. Again, my investment is low, but I contribute and get updates about progress and sometimes opportunity to offer opinions on what the finished product will look like. Where else can you spend $5 and get that sort of influence?
  3. I LOVE board games. I always have. Period.
  4. Microgames remind me of the games I played in the 80’s. Some were profoundly complicated but they fit the entire game in a zip lock baggie, and that’s pretty damned impressive.
  5. The new microgames are usually fast-play games, taking less than 30 minutes. This is very appealing to me as I find it difficult to buy out time from my life for things like board games. Also, my son has ADD, so games that don’t take too long to play are good for us and fit into the limited attention span he has.
  6. Summary: Microgames are capitalizing on the small format, but they still pack a lot of strategy and fun into the gameplay (just like the microgames I used to play as a kid). Couple that with a low investment and quick play time, and this appeals to my demographic in a big way.

Some people say the microgame explosion is a trend that will run its course soon, and it may. I also like playing more expensive games that have nice components, deeper strategy and longer play-time, but I’m happy to have some good choices for a shorter but still enjoyable game. I do not think I am unique in my appreciation of that, and I don’t think it is a fad.

The microgame market has always been there and is only being rediscovered. It didn’t look profitable at first, but the numbers are showing it is extremely profitable, if done right. I will always be interested in low cost, fast-playing games from up-and-coming producers. I’ll continue to support them in safe and limited ways like Kickstarter affords, and I think table top gaming’s future is brighter due to the diversity of games available from TMG, Gamelyn, Laboratory and others like them.

Why the Name, “Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail?”

Abort, Retry, Ignore? Or Abort, Retry, Fail? Are familiar choices offered in errors in Microsoft operating systems, commonly displayed with a drive is not accessible.


The same errors are sometimes displayed in applications.


So why name a site that is primarily about board\card\dice\video games after an error message? It’s a good question, and I put a little thought into the decision, though only a little.

First, I like the choices: Abort, Retry, Ignore or Fail. They seem a bit redundant, but not in the game rating system I am using:

  • Abort – This is bad. It implies that we were unwilling or unable to finish our play-through of a game and aborted before completing it.  It was that bad.
  • Retry – This is good. We will actively choose to play this game again, put it in our rotation and consider playing any add-ons and expansions for the game.  Retry is a keeper in our book.
  • Ignore – Not bad, not great. We thought there were problems with the game, but nothing so bad we couldn’t enjoy playing the game, despite the problems; i.e. we chose to ignore the problem.
  • Fail – Bad. We finished the game and regret wasting life span on it. We will never, ever play it again. In severe cases, we may do a “Burning of the Beast,” where the game in ceremonially set on fire or otherwise decimated so that it may never again lure another player into the grief playing it provides.

Second, was an available domain name.

Thus concludes my reasons for the blog’s title.  Forever may it stand… until I fail to renew the domain name.