Games for Keuka Lake and Ireland

Now that I've talked about what's coming up next, it's time to talk about how I'll manage to keep playing games while being away from my collection for nearly 5 months! At least I have the luxury of driving to New York, so I hopefully can afford to carry one of my plastic bins. This probably means I leave the golf clubs behind though.

So I have to plan for two different scenarios: having an adequately diverse set of options for the 2+ months I'll spend at Keuka Lake along with a compact gaming kit for our 7 weeks of backpacking in Ireland. I'm already mostly packed up so what I'm sharing will be just a peek but not a full display. Let's start with the small container.

The little box of games

Here's what I've got:

  • Tichu -- my favorite partnership game for four people. This won't go to Ireland because the learning curve is too great for new players and Julie and I will most likely just be playing two player games.
  • Love Letter -- quick fun and easy to teach to new players.
  • Famiglia -- I like this underrated two player set collection game.
  • Star Realms -- that's what you see in the brown plastic box. This game comes in a crappy box hence the switch. I've mostly played the iOS game but hoping Julie will like it face to face.
  • Die Sieben Siegel -- Sometimes you have five players and want to play a trick taking game. That's why you carry this one.
  • Bang! The Dice Game -- I'm a long time fan of Bang! but it can run on for too long. This has enough of the fun of the original in a much quicker game.
  • Bohnanza -- There's a lot of game in this small package, and it scales well to 5 or 6 players.
  • San Juan -- One of those games that I'll always play.
  • My Sticheln universal gaming pack
  • Hanabi -- This game is so unique and I look forward to trying it out with guests at the lake.

Now let's take a look at the bigger box. Moving around we can see the first side.

Mythotopia, Richard III, and more

  • Mythotopia -- I want a few heavier multi-player games and this was my pick. I've only played it once, but I love the deck-building-and-wargame mashup.
  • Richard III -- Jim and I like to play a wargame when he comes out to Keuka, and we played this one earlier this year. I think it is better than Hammer of the Scots and am eager to play it again.
  • For Sale -- One of my top 10 all time games. Easy to teach and quick to play.
  • Jaipur -- This is one of the main two player games Julie and I have been playing.
  • Time's Up -- One of our favorite party games that can scale up real well because you can build teams with more than two players.
  • Rivals for Catan with Age of Enlightenment expansion -- When Julie and I want a two player game with a bit more depth, this is one of our favorites.
  • 7 Wonders with Leaders expansion -- Evergreen game and a Keuka Lake tradition.

Dixit, Castles of Burgundy, and more

  • Dixit -- Easy to teach social / party game. Good with a bottle of wine or whiskey. There are several expansions packed in this box.
  • The Castles of Burgundy -- One of the better Euro games to come out in the past few years. Alternate for Mythotopia when folks don't want to fight.
  • Morels -- Along with Jaipur one of the main two player games for Julie and me.
  • One Night Ultimate Werewolf and Ultimate Werewolf -- These are both packed in the same box. I have a feeling without Matthew being at Keuka most of the summer that these may not get played much, but I want the option.
  • The Pillars of the Earth -- One of my favorite worker placement games. Hoping to try this two player with Julie.

Magic, Game of Thrones LCG, Havoc, and more

I think that's it. I've got party games, card games, war games, collectible card games, a decent range of Euros, and plenty of two player games. I'm not sure what I'll bring to Ireland, but for sure I'll bring the Sticheln kit.

Our Next Chapter, Five Months Later

Julie and I are nearly 5 months into our next chapter and I'm going to share some updates on how things are going.

I mentioned then that I was starting a new site with two key objectives. I'll restate them here and give some detailed follow up on each.

  1. Build and engage with an audience of youth football coaches that are either running or want to run the Wing-T offense. I'll be writing posts at least weekly, running free online web clinics, and engaging folks through email via my weekly newsletter. I'll be putting the Wing-T book up for sale in January 2015 through both the Apple iBooks store and through my own site (for the PDF version). I have at least three more book ideas in the works and hope to publish #2 by late spring.
    • Update -- I've written 36 articles this year and we are just wrapping up week 19. That's almost two articles per week. I've run two webinars so far and will be running my third next week. My newsletter goes out consistently each week and I'm up to over 150 subscribers. I released my second product, a set of printable play cards, and now have a bundled offer to get both the play book and play cards. I've also been running a local clinic (called the "Wing-T Academy") for rising freshmen and it seems to be an effective way to ease the transition into HS football.
  2. Build a framework (both technology and business process) for repeating this engagement and selling model across new topic areas. My hope is that Julie and I are able to flip between content expert /support role on these different ideas. We've had so much fun working together over the past few months. While I've been writing the book, producing videos, and writing content for the blog Julie has been setting up our email marketing tools, doing graphic design work, and playing the role of editor and proof reader.
    • Update -- This part of the business has been an amazing learning experience. In addition to what I first wrote about, we've also become adept at putting on webinars with mostly free tools (relying on Google Hangouts on Air). Julie is becoming a master of pixel-based editing (we use the amazing better-than-Photoshop tool called Pixelmator). We dove into social media advertising using Facebook ads, and we are extremely impressed with the ability of Facebook to target our audience and attract them to our free offerings (mostly the webinars).

Even with this successes, we have moments of doubt and frustration. It takes a long time to build an audience; it really is a grind. Let's look at some growth stats:

Business metrics as of 2015-05-16

While the absolute value of the numbers isn't large, I love the growth that I'm seeing. Even after the engine got started in Jan/Feb we are seeing 50-75% growth each month in our key engagement metrics. Google page rank has gone up for the key words and phrases we care about (e.g., Google "wing-t youth football" and you should see my site in the top 5 rankings) and I feel like I've built some authority in this topic area. I get phone calls from coaches all over the country (and in Canada) asking for advice on Wing-T installation and play nuances. Even from high school coaches.

It helps when I reflect back to what Julie and I discussed back in the summer of 2014: I would leave the workforce and likely take at least a few years off completely, then we would re-assess and consider our next move. At the time we never even considered starting an online business. So even the meager success we are seeing is beyond what we had contemplated less than a year ago. And best of all, I'm really enjoying this work. Most of the time it doesn't feel like work. I love collaborating with Julie on these projects. Which is a good segue to...

We are hard at work on our next site and (potentially) next online business offering. This one will also be a grind - it might take 6 months or longer before we start to monetize any part of it. But like the football work I've been doing, this work promises to be fun and will align perfectly with our planned adventures over the next 5 months.

Lastly, I should give an update on our plans. Here's what's happening in the coming months:

  • Matthew graduates from high school on June 5, and we start driving east to Keuka Lake on June 8, arriving about June 13.
  • Matthew reports to West Point the weekend of June 27.
  • If all goes well, Matthew finishes "Beast Barracks" and gets accepted into the cadet Corps the weekend of August 15.
  • Julie and I fly to Ireland (from NY) on August 25.
  • Julie and I return to NY from Ireland on October 5.
  • Julie and I will join Matthew at Parent's Weekend at West Point October 8-11
  • At some point after that, we will drive back to Oregon. We hope to stop by and see various family on our return trip.

All the while (even while in Ireland) we expect to be fully engaged in our online endeavors. Our hope is that the travel is mostly transparent to the business. That's sorta the whole point, after all.

Matthew is Headed to West Point

West Point Visit Apr 2015

Some of you have been following this blog for a long time, so have seen many posts of me playing games with my sons, photos of me watching their various sporting activities, attending Boy Scout camp, traveling the world, etc. Jacob is attending Carnegie Mellon University and is wrapping up his sophomore year; he loves it there and will have an internship with GoDaddy this summer.

Matthew finishes high school this June and I'm happy to mention that he will be attending the United States Military Academy at West Point starting this summer. This is a goal he has been working towards for several years now and I'm so proud that his hard work is paying off. Shortly after Matthew graduates on June 5 we will pack up the car and drive east for a short while to New York where we will spend some time at Keuka Lake before depositing him at West Point in late June.

Tactical Wargaming: Advanced Squad Leader and Combat Commander

Tactical wargaming

Continuing my weekly wargaming sessions with Doug, we've fallen down the deep mysterious well that is Advanced Squad Leader (ASL). I won't say that I was hesitant at all, despite my past attempts to play and learn the game (2003, 2006). My experiences playing the original Squad Leader in the late 70s with my friend Mike were in my top three early gaming highlights (APBA Baseball and D&D being the other two).

What helps is that Doug is a fantastic teacher, likely eliminating my main objection to the game which is that the rules are too dense. Technically Doug and I haven't played full ASL yet, only the starter kits which means we aren't playing with the full rules. Yet I have a lingering suspicion that the starter kit is the problem in the first place: there are some omissions of terminology and the rules do not have an index. Summary judgment: I think MMP did a poor job executing on the starter kits.

I had the pleasure of playing what are arguably the two most highly regarded tactical WWII wargames in the same week last week. In addition to ASL with Doug I also played Combat Commander: Europe with Matt. Perhaps you'll enjoy some brief comparative remarks on the two.

ASL with Doug

Doug and I played the scenario Priority Target, featuring Commonwealth forces plus Greeks defending a battery of AAA from the Germans. I played the Germans and took the attack posture. Doug had a tough day ahead, with no easy way to hide the batteries and a dearth of quality troops to defend.

Doug and I have a solid mastery of infantry rules and tactics from the Starter Kit, and we are both able to play quickly which is one of the reasons we are both falling in love with the game. The flow is so nice, and you feel like you are able to plan ahead and devise a strategy. Hold that thought for later...

Tactical wargaming

I had a fairly easy go of it, but it was fun. After taking his first two guns, I was able to turn them on his own troops as I closed in with my other forces. Doug and I have both been listening to the 2 Half-Squads podcast and one point of advice is that if you are the attacker, you must attack. Or rather, disperse your forces, only prep fire when required, and press with movement and advancing fire. The main risk for me was Doug keeping rate of fire with his last remaining gun, and he struck out on some poor rolls at the end.

Tactical wargaming

That same week, Matt and I started a Combat Commander: Europe campaign using the new personal leader rules from C3I. This hearkened back to my old Squad Leader days when Mike and I used to play the campaign rules, which was almost like a role playing game combined with a wargame.

We opted to start with scenario 106, Lost Battalion, thinking this would be a good launching point for an America vs. Germany sequence starting in October 1944.

Tactical wargaming

Now I adore Combat Commander. When I purged about 30 wargames from my collection last year, this was one of the games I decided to keep. Not just keep, but I doubled down with a nice Plano box for storage and organized all of my scenarios (I have every one published) in a three ring binder with sheet protectors.

Still, the utter chaos in this game provided such a stark contrast with my ASL experience the same week that I started to have doubts. I had a plan for how to stop Matt's battalion from escaping, but the cards and chaos (we had 3 or 4 time triggers within the first 15 minutes) prevented any material strategy from presenting.

I should take a deep breath.

Combat Commander is what it is. The chaos is what makes the fun, and to be fair Matt and I did have fun. It is like the beer and pretzels version of ASL, and it is a great intro game to teach others for the very same reason why it pales next to ASL: constrained choices. By holding a fixed set of cards, you do not have the option of doing anything and everything. This scarcity of options makes it easier to go with the flow and play very tactically, turn by turn.

Looking forward to more ASL this week with Doug. We expect to be playing full "big boy" ASL by November.

My Final Salishan Gaming Event

Ken and Jim strolling Salishan beach at Sunset

I haven't written about my Salishan gaming retreats in a while (since 2011 I think) but having just held my final one I think I should wrap things up with a post. This is mostly photos with a bit of commentary. You can see the full set of photos over on Flickr.

For this swan song event before we sell the house I was able to extend the event to a full week plus invite my friend Jim from Indiana. We designated the front part of the week (Sunday through Thursday evening) as being a wargaming / heavy gaming portion, and the remainder (Thursday through Sunday afternoon) being the vintage gaming portion. No games published after 1 Jan 2005 thank you very much.

Sunday night Whisk(e)y tasting

I always try to sprinkle in some special activities and we included some whiskey tasting on Sunday and Wednesday evening.

Ken and Jim contemplate start of Allied approach to Supreme Commander

I spent Sunday playing The Supreme Commander with Jim and Ken. We borked up a key rule related to follow-on combat with armor that significantly hindered my efforts as the Germans. We also played with a less constrained diplomacy rule that sounded fun at the time but ended up with way too much wackiness. I'm taking another go at this with Ken and Doug tomorrow and can't wait.

Doug teaching Manifest Destiny

We didn't play just wargames in the front part -- heavy multiplayer strategy games were also in the mix. I finally got to play Manifest Destiny and loved it.

Toasting an Old Fashioned over Combat Commander: Europe

I was frequently called upon to make a batch of Old Fashioned cocktails.

Jim teaching KC Twilight Struggle

It was great seeing KC join for the full week and get more experience with wargames.

I'm running the eastern front vs Germans in Unconditional Surrender

Doug, Alex and I also played the evil twin to The Supreme Commander, Unconditional Surrender! World War 2 in Europe. My gut says I like Unconditional Surrender more than Supreme Commander, largely because I think the rules are more streamlined and well considered. Fewer special cases and all that.

Chris and Doug play No Retreat: North Africa

A big highlight for me was an all-day session of No Retreat: The North African Front. This game is deceptive what with its very low counter density and small maps. Make no mistake there's some complexity to this game but it really started making sense to us as we finished the scenario.

Chris playing Game of Thrones CCG with Matt

I had some old Game of Thrones Collectible Card Game boosters and draft packs sitting around at home so I ran a lightly structured sealed booster event through the week. For some it was a new gaming experience and turned them on to the current Living Card Game which is a good thing. I'm always looking for more playing partners.

Doug performing his Star Wars Shakespeare reading pre X-Wing battle

Doug blew us all away with his Star Wars Shakespeare reading and performance art as a prelude to a massive Star Wars X-Wing battle. He stole the show, maybe the entire week, with that performance.

Rebel alliance engaging to protect

Unfortunately we let the rebel alliance down and did a terrible job protecting the rebel transport.

David wins Virgin Queen!

We played Virgin Queen but the freaking protestants won in just two turns! I was the English and unable to do much to stop them. We are doing a rematch in a few weeks.

Jim, David, and Chris dive into Maria

David continued his winning streak and won an early victory in Maria, an outstanding three player wargame that is the successor to Friedrich.

Classic Martin Wallace: Volldampf

On Thursday we shifted to vintage games, and my copy of the Martin Wallace classic Volldampf was a big hit. Great choice if you want a Steam-like game with simpler choices.

Puerto Rico with Alex, Katie, Jim, and Greg

Puerto Rico was played several times.

Tigris and Euphrates with Jeff, Rita, Ken, and KC

I miss games like this from Knizia.

After beach run with Chris, Jim, Doug, and Greg

I ran with someone every morning but one, and the week ended with this highlight. I convinced Jim, Doug, and Greg to run on the beach with me at high tide and it was a nice struggle.

Matt, Doug, and Chris hiking Siletz Bay and the lagoons on Salishan spit

I also talked Matt and Doug into doing my 2-3 mile low tide loop by Siletz Bay and the lagoons.

Magic draft tournament

On Saturday night we ended up with a Magic: the Gathering draft tournament, this time featuring the Conspiracy expansion which is designed explicitly for drafts.

The metagame rules and extensions

As a final note, I shared my "metagame" rules which is an overlay event whereby folks collect "Brooks Bucks" throughout the weekend, with the added bonus of being able to write in new rules if you win a game. We used the total bucks earned as a way to rank order prize table selection on Sunday.


Thanks to my many friends who joined me over the years going back to 2005. Places come and go but friendships are lasting.