500 Hours

After seeing others posting about games they have 500 hours in, I too was interested in checking.

My list is dominated by MMOs.

Completely certain

  • Lord of the Rings Online – the Steam launcher shows I have 504.4 hours, so there it is. But that’s only a fraction of my time played, because I played LoTRO before it was available via Steam (which says it launched Jun 6 2012, but I started Jul 2007), and also have skipped Steam and installed directly (how I have it installed right now).
  • Elder Scrolls Online – Steam says 268 hours. But I am 100% certain I have 500 hours here too. I remember starting this game on Steam in 2015 or so, but I also played a year on the PS4, and am heavily back since Jan 2021 on PC directly. Oh yeah, this is the one MMO I can play while visiting family because it is available through Stadia, so I have a bunch of hours via Stadia as well.
  • Guild Wars 1 – I’d have to reinstall the game to log in a check my hours. But I am also 100% certain I have 500 hours. I played nearly+ every class through all three campaigns, repeating missions to get the Protector title on every mission for every char. For my main character (Ranger), I got the Guardian title for every mission, plus Legendary Skill Hunter. There is no way I don’t have 500 hours.

+ Nearly every class… the game had 10 classes total (6 base, 2 factions, 2 nightfall) and I played 9 of them. The only one I didn’t technically play was Elementalist, because the game allowed dual classing. What I did was make my Mesmer my Elementalist – I would sometimes equip nothing but Elementalist skills on my Mesmer. I’d lose the Elementalist primary attribute Energy Storage and instead have the Mesmer primary attribute Fast Casting, but for all intents and purposes that was an Elementalist.

  • Asheron’s Call – my first MMO, started in Feb 2000 and played about 2 years. Lots of adventuring around with friends from work, we’d stay late and conference call each other. For me to have 500 hours in 2 years means an average of 21 hours a month? An easily cleared hurdle.


  • World of Warcraft – I’d have to reinstall and resub to check – and I played on different servers each time I tried it. There was my first foray, in 2008/2009 on a PvP world (Firefoot, I think) with a friend/coworker. And I hated server-wide PvP. There was the 2nd time, on Zangarmarsh, where I was in the official guild of “The Guild”. There was the third time (Gorgonnash and Earthen Ring), with friends/coworkers in 2015 ish where I had the most fun raiding after using the level boost that came with Warlords of Draenor. There was the fourth/most recent/final time in WoW Classic where I got to the low 50’s on my priest.

Close but not quite

  • Final Fantasy XIV – Steam shows 80 hours, but that was my first account. I started another one to take advantage of the much larger free intro (base game plus Heavensward with level 60 cap) in Sep 2020. Yes, I am a cheap bastard. Logging in there shows about 250 hours. I also played some on the PS4, but it definitely wasn’t the ~170 more hours I’d need to get to 500.

That second PC account is one I’m still playing, poking along the Stormblood Main Scenario. I recently arrived at the Azim Steppe. Login queues are still high in prime time (hey this is a really good problem for a game to have) so I sneak in a few hours here and there, mostly late morning on the weekends.

  • Eve Online – Steam says 320.3 hours, a very solid number that even I was surprised at. This is a great game with a very different design attitude. I was in Eve University for a while, joined a small corporation that did wormhole planetary interaction, eventually joined Brave Newbies… it was fun but ultimately I didn’t have the time to devote to it. If I do come back (haha, wait it could happen) my next plan is stealth ship exploration in low/null sec.
  • Secret World – Steam shows 215 hours for Secret World Legends, but I don’t think that includes time I spent in The Secret World, the original pre-rebooted version. Great game I think about all the time, when chatting with friends about games. Great skill system (in the original game, but even the reboot let you make a variety of builds), awesome quests, unique crafting system that sometimes would appear in quests, entirely cosmetic clothing because all armor/buffs/stats came from trinkets and jewelry… oh heck I might fire this up again soon.
  • Slay the Spire – 340 hours on Steam. This deckbuilding roguelike really grabbed my attention. Fantastic game, with a great balance between luck and allowing choices/decisions that let you steer things better ways. Great replay value with four classes that feel different enough, plus a daily challenge. I bought this for Switch as well, and have 70 hours there. So total of 410 hours, and counting higher a bit here and there.
  • Splatoon 2 – 175 hours. This is Nintendo’s take on a PvP team-based shooter, and it is a lot of fun. The game involves crazy weapons shooting paint, and your 4 player squad wins the match not by racking up kills, but by having the most surface area of the arena painted your team’s color. Of course, knocking an opponent out helps because it takes them out for a few seconds. Game has events (Splatfests) and nice variety of arenas and weapons. I never finished the single player campaign, but should. Also, Splatoon 3 is coming out and I am absolutely going to buy it.
  • SSX Tricky – this game hooked my on my PS2 for months. I 100%ed it, played every course to gold medals and so on. No way for me to check but I had to mention it as the game I played the most on my first console. Based on my Slay the Spire and Splatoon 2 hours, modified down since there wasn’t as much to do, and guesstimated up due to playing a lot of split-screen racing and competitive mode with friends… let’s say 125-150 hours as my best reasonable guess?

I also loved Ratchet and Clank but I just played through the storyline. 🙂

Blaugust 2021

Woohoo, I joined the Silver Club 2021, collecting the silver medal.

It was… tough. Major kudos to folks who could join Gold or Rainbow Diamond.

I’m not sure I could do 31 tweets a month, much less blog posts!

Since I decided to rotate among games, it did “force” (in scare quotes because playing games isn’t exactly onerous. It’s one way I relax, haha) me to log in and spend some time in various games. Where my natural tendency is to binge a game until I reach some natural break, pause, then go to another game and repeat.

I’m gonna try my hand at balancing playtime in game better going forward. Which means ESO and FF14, and then as a second priority, LoTRO and DDO. This is already too many MMOs for a sane person to play to we’ll see how this works.

I’m also celebrating a minor milestone: this is my 500th blog post. And the blog will reach 11 years old soon. O_o. Mind boggling. In a good way. 🙂

StS – Ascension 10 completed

Slay the Spire is an example of a game that didn’t initially click with me. I played it enough to unlock the 3rd character (the Defect, at the time), maybe beat the first boss, and the kinda put it aside.

Later, a year ago, I picked it up again. I vaguely remember it being on sale for the Nintendo Switch, and I thought the game was perfect for that system, especially since you can save the game whenever and come back at the start of whatever fight you were doing (this can be used to save-scum). A new character, the Watcher, was rolling out and I wanted to unlock it.

This time, I paid more attention to the game. Card effects, status effects and how they worked, what game terminology meant (e.g. ethereal vs intangible, etc). I found the wiki, and did some reading: relics and what they did, the patterns of encounters, etc. I even watched portions of streamers that the SlayTheSpire subreddit recommended (Jorbs, LifeCoach) and came away some good info.

Now, Slay the Spire is one of my favorite games. It’s the game, outside of MMOs, that I have the most time in. It’s a fantastic mix of luck and skill… and like Scrabble and Backgammon, player skill can steer towards a positive outcome.

I’d say half the reason I buy games during crazy sales is I’m hoping to grab another gem like Slay the Spire.

Anyway, after a lot of games (hundreds?), my favorite character is the Defect. He’s a robot that summon orbs to assist in the fight, so a successful run involves trying to build up a lightning, frost, or dark deck, or a mix, whether or not to pick up focus cards, or increase orb count, etc. Basically, choosing what to do given a menu of choices, building the deck towards a goal, trying to address current weaknesses and future needs. A successful run also involves choosing what cards not to draft, because each card taken dilutes the deck, lowering the chance of any particular card getting drawn. Or another way to look at it, more cards means more turns to get your best cards another time.

The basic outline of the game is a series of encounters leading to a boss fight, repeated 3 times. If you beat the 3rd boss (which means you also beat boss 1 and boss 2), you unlock a new challenge – Ascension levels, and a 4th boss, the Corrupted Heart (I’ve beaten the Corrupted Heart on everyone except the Watcher) if you also collected the red, green, blue keys along the way.

I have all characters in various low Ascension levels, but for now, I’m concentrating on advancing the Defect as high as I can get. I’ll play the others for variety, but 4 times out of 5 I’m playing the Defect.

This run began with me trading in my starter relic for a random one, and I got Busted Crown: extra energy each round but 2 fewer cards to choose from after a fight. I used that to keep my deck thin, selecting frost cards and eventually creating a strong blocking deck. I just had to survive a few turns to set it up. 😉

So each encounter revolved around playing blocks to minimize damage while adding frost orbs, or invoking them to help prevent damage. After getting my blocking machine established, I would wear down my opponent. For boss 3, the Awakened One, I eventually was passively blocking for a huge amount per turn, allowing me to win.

Beating Ascension 10 grants an achievement, as well as the ability to start the next Ascension level. The ultimate goal is to beat the Corrupted Heart in Ascension 20 (!!). My victories against the Corrupted Heart have all occurred at low Ascension levels, and relied more on luck than typical runs (great relics, encounters that granted strong cards as well as luck drawing them when needed, etc.) That’s just honesty, the Corrupted Heart fight is MUCH harder than any of the regular boss fights and I don’t always beat them.

Cyberpunk 2077 – The Pickup

I’m not too good at action shooters, which is fine. I generally play console games on the easier difficulty settings – I’m mostly there for fun and story, not for honing my fast reflexes and aim.

So I got to a mission in Cyberpunk 2077 that I had some trouble with, called “The Pickup”. Not to spoil too much – but you go in to deal with a gang that captured a military robot, and partway through, the owners attack trying to recover it. Understandable. 😉

I am determined to play Cyberpunk “non violent”, or I’ll settle for “low body count”. I try to avoid killing NPCs, and have been successful so far. Granted, this mission is only about 4 hours into the game, and I’m a slow player… in previous missions I was able to sneak up behind an enemy and render them unconscious, and kept going. I also hack items along the way, which so far has meant disabling cameras or distracting enemies (causing floodlights to blink).

Anyway, I had some trouble getting by this mission. First attempt or two, I tried to run through to the exit, but that proved unsuccessful. I don’t want to lay waste to a bunch of enemies, surely there was a better way?

Well, I found that there was – hang in the back, do the hacker thing (disable cameras, cause floodlights to distract) and let the friendly NPCs take almost every enemy out! Haha!

Once or twice it felt like there was a trigger – one regular shooter seemed invulnerable to my team, and I say team very loosely. So I crept up, and punched out a NPC wielding an assault rifle. That caused the action to continue to the next room. It happened again, so I did the same thing – running down the stairs in order to punch someone unconscious.

The final room featured 2 enemies wearing some kind of power armor, and 2 regular enemies. Fortunately, we had a friendly guy wearing even better robot power armor! So I just stayed outside and let the friendly guy cleanup everyone. When there was only one enemy left, I crept into the room, and so did my NPC partner, who appeared to be invulnerable.

I looted along the way, and scavenged everything in that last room, picking up “epic item components” off one of the enemy robot armors. Sounds like I can use those towards high quality items in the future!

The next mission involves a heist, in fact it is called “The Heist”, so I hope I can complete it the way I want – skulking around, hacking, and at worst rendering someone unconscious.

The game runs well for me, via Stadia. I’ve only hit one bug so far, while driving the car. Steering locked up and I crashed into a building. After a few seconds of nothing, I crashed to the desktop (which for me meant crashing back to the Stadia game launcher in a Chrome browser tab). Re-entering the game, I found myself as the target of a police shootout – evidently I had actually continued driving through a crowd, along the sidewalk. Fortunately on easy mode I just had to backup to the street, and floor it. They didn’t chase me, which is fair since crashing into a storefront/people wasn’t my fault. 😉

2020 Partly in Review


Nintendo sends out a summary of games played and so forth:

The bulk of my hours was split between Slay the Spire (which I also own on Steam), Fitness Boxing, and Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate.

StS is fantastic and my total combined time on Steam and Switch is approaching 300 hours. My favorite character is the Defect, whose mechanic is summoning and evoking orbs for various effects: lightning for damage, frost for shield, plasma for energy, and dark for damage (scales up over time). On Steam, I’m at ascension level 6, whereas on Switch I’m on ascension level 2. The game has randomness, but allows skillful choices to steer towards an improved/better outcome. It is easy to pause and resume, which really helps.


I remember getting these kinds of summaries for Playstation, but I haven’t seen it yet. So… not sure, maybe it is still coming? I’m curious what my numbers look like there. It’ll be mostly God of War, ESO, some Ghost of Tsushima.


Over in Pokémon Go, I hit level 41:

I have the XP for level 42, but lack 2 of the achievements: using berries to catch 200 pokémon, and evolving each of the eevees. The latter is the reason I’m currently walking a flower eevee – getting in 10km for a future flower Umbreon (and later, flower Espeon). The Glaceon and Leafeon evolve with special lures on pokéstops, while the Flareon, Jolteon, and Vaporeon are random (which is extremely annoying). Playing the odds I evolved 2 flower eevees into a Flareon and Jolteon, but producing a Vaporeon is now just a 1/3 chance so I’ll just do regular eevees since they are more plentiful.

I’m evolving flower eevees for this (except for the Vaporeon as noted above) because I already have a set of shiny and regular eeveelutions. I’ll work on a different set, flower eevees instead – and I don’t have enough party hat eevees for a set of those. I already used the naming trick or I’d be able to guarantee myself a flower hat Vaporeon. I know, I know, #firstworldPoGoproblems.)

Disc Golf

I took up disc golf midway through the year, as a way to get some social distance outdoors fun in. I found out that a few friends also played, without any of us knowing the others did. I also introduced 2 friends to the game (and am working on another) so once it warms back up I’m looking forward to playing a round every week or so.

Of course there is an app for that, and I’m using UDisc, the official app of the Professional Disc Golf Association. It’s pretty handy, letting you keep score, and often displaying a map of the course. It utilizes the phone very well, letting you measure how far you threw a disc with GPS (subject to GPS accuracy).

I’m a RHBH thrower (right hand back hand) and a good throw for me is a little over 200 feet. I’ve tried forehand and it feels really weird. So, something to work on here and there. I can improve my distance by at least 50% (i.e. throwing for 300 feet) so there is huge room for improvement.

I’m also working on accuracy, throwing the direction I want to go. 😉 I am fairly accurate, so my favorite courses are wooded or lightly wooded, since those tend to have shorter distances from tees to baskets, favoring accuracy over distance. Worst case for me are wide open courses, because those tend to have large distances involved – after all, if there aren’t many obstacles the only way to increase difficulty is to lengthen the holes.


I’m going to try a round robin system in 2021. If left to my normal scheduling, I’ll tend to “split” time between 2 games in a 80-20 proportion, which is pretty far off of 50-50. 3 games comes down to 70-20-10 or even 80-10-10 – basically one game is dominant while the others get a cursory log in.

But I like 3 games… FF14 has a fun storyline, smooth mechanics, and above all hassle-free grouping. Which is the point, otherwise I could be playing a single player game. I’m nearly at Ishgard and looking forward to unlocking Astrologian.

LoTRO of course is my very long term game, which I wander away from but come back missing it. I left my Boerning partway through Vol 1 Book 3, Defense of Trestlebridge as I recall, and want to move him along. I somehow have not managed to meet up with the coworker who also plays, but that’s fine, I’m poking along with a different character than the one I used my Valar boost on. Maybe I’ll just give up on meeting up with my coworker and look for a kinship to join.

ESO’s action combat feels a lot different, but the variety is nice. Now that I switched over to the Stadia version, I can play while visiting family (and also freed up nearly 100 GB on my gaming PC). I have a friend also playing via Stadia, so there is the possibility of questing together with someone I know, maybe even doing some basic dungeons. I don’t think we’re interested in hardcore modes, veteran modes, any of that stuff…. just the basic XYZ Dungeon I version would be a ton of fun.

So, I was thinking about some kind of day-pinning rotation: ESO on Tue/Fri, FF14 on Wed/Sat, LoTRO on Thu/Sun (with Mon off since that’s currently Zoom boardgames night). I’ll schedule ESO first as that’s the game I have a friend actively playing, and try to sync up. So this overall plan is a 33-33-33 split without emphasizing or ignoring any particular game.

Or maybe be more flexible and try for something like ESO Tue, FF14 Wed, LoTRO Thu, and then whatever for the other 3 available days. Worst case one game gets 2/3rds of the attention, but at least play each game once a week.

I know, probably overthinking this but that’s what this end of the year planning time is for. 🙂

A Small Rant on Online Music Stores

I’m liking the soundtrack for Final Fantasy 14. At first it felt off, too classical. Nothing wrong with that, but some parts seem out of place in an online game. For example, while Mozart and Beethoven were geniuses and wrote masterpieces, I’m not sure any of their symphonies would make a good soundtrack to a game.

However, I did really enjoy the music in the 3 city-states of ARR: Gridania, Limsa Lominsa, and Uldah… all have nice ambient music. And the Chocobo riding music. And, eventually it all grew on me, from cut-scene music to fight music and so on. OK so violin melodies still seem a little out of place, but it isn’t as jarring now.

So I looked into buying the soundtrack. I checked iTunes and Google Play. Four albums are in each store, but the Google Play version is consistently 33% cheaper. $30 vs $20 as rough estimates. That is a fairly significant difference, especially since I’d like to buy all four. So I started with a purchase from Google Play.

I went to download the album, and instantly hit the first problem:

That says “a maximum of 100 songs can be downloaded at once. Please select fewer songs and try again.”

Yes, granted most albums don’t have 100 songs, but ARR and Stormblood do (ARR is 119, Heavensward is 58, Stormblood is 105, and Shadowbringers is 88). What really sucks is I can’t figure out a way to multi-select on Google Play. It tells me to select fewer but I don’t have that option – I can pick one, or all. Thus I can either download the entire album at once (except if there are 100 songs in which case it errors), or download each song individually.

One at a time. For about 119 songs. #$%&*!@(*

Becoming a bit angry, I downloaded the first song. I got another popup:

That says “Are you sure? [Why not try Google Play Music for Chrome instead?]”

So I tried that, but got an error that won’t resolve:

And the promised update never seems to take.

So… it seems my only option for downloading this music is to get each song individually. That takes four clicks per song:

  • 1 to click on the 3 dots to show the context menu
  • 1 to click on the 3 dots to show the context menu
  • 1 to click on the 3 dots to show the context menu
  • 1 to click on the 3 dots to show the context menu

To recap: I can’t download the entire album at once, because that is too many songs. I can’t find a way to multi-select several songs so I have to get them one at a time, which takes 4 clicks per song.

And: Each song I downloaded shows 2 popups: one to tell me I can only download a song twice but Google Play Music for Chrome lets me around that.

But: Google Play Music for Chrome is busted and never works for me. It just cycles that dialog box.

So: I have to download each song, one by one, each time dismissing the annoying popup, and then the 2nd confirmation.

I’m not a UI designer, but in my unprofessional opinion, this is abject failure of storefront design.

I’ve bought large albums on iTunes (100 greatest classical music, collections like that) and downloading was ONE simple click. Not some crap arbitrary limit forced by lazy software developers.

I’m considering spending the extra money to buy the other albums on iTunes, which has a non-user-hostile way to download an album with a single click. Even though the Heavensward and Shadowbringers soundtracks should download with a single click, I’d rather pay Apple than reward Google for their stupid miserable user experience getting purchased content.

Time Management

A few months have passed in this unusual state of affairs, grieving (for me) and pandemic (the world with the US hit extra hard due to… self inflicted inaction and stupidity), and I’ve filled my time with a bunch of activities. Reading, watching TV, gaming, hiking… plus some things I’ve always wanted to try out, like crochet (goal: make a “grandma square” to use as an elbow rest/pad), language (study Chinese, or maybe ASL), music (I bought a ukulele a few weeks ago, and saw with great interest that Aywren also picked several up!).

With all that also came the need for a time management strategy. After some web searches I settled on the pomodoro technique, which is to divide up your time into 30 minute chunks: work on your task for 25 mins, take a 5 min break; repeat.

I bought a fancier timer than what is needed, the Dataxx Time Cube. The red model happens to have 25 and 5 minute sides, as well as 10 and 20 minutes. Use it by turning the cube so the time increment you want is on top, and the countdown automatically starts.

What I do is settle into something, turn the 25 side up, do stuff… turn the 5 side up, etc.

This helps me sort my time into periods long enough to where I get something done, but short enough to not feel overwhelming. Plus, the 5 min break. Every 4ish cycles, I take a longer break.

The second thing I started doing is make a bullet journal. Actually mine is barebones, and more of a bullet spreadsheet, with dates as rows and the columns labeled with what I want to track. E.g. “hike/run”, “read”, “tv/movie”, “games”, “ukulele”, etc. What I record is the number of pomodoro time chunks I spent doing whatever, so if I read for 1 hour and gamed for 2, I enter 2 and 4 (since the timer is in 30 min chunks of time) respectively.

This lets me see quickly if I’ve been slacking and not doing an activity for a few days, say ukulele practice. It also lets me see if I’m crazy binging on something in particular, like gaming for 6 hours which then eats up time for anything else.

My bullet spreadsheet is at least the 3rd iteration of this system and this one seems to be light and easy enough to be useful. Minimal format and data, but provides useful information at a glance.

The point isn’t to be militant about my time, I just want to look back over this weird period and feel like I was somewhat productive, and have something to show besides max level characters in an online game. 😉 And figuring out how I spent my time is a part of that.

Watching, Reading, some Gaming

Well this month didn’t go as planned.

It’s been 3 weeks since my father passed away and I’m getting back to normal. Still sad, but somewhere in the depression/acceptance phase of the Kübler-Ross model.

Even though you know this will happen eventually, it is still difficult to deal with when it arrives.

I haven’t been gaming much. On days I have low mental energy, I watch TV or movies. I’ve watched 4 seasons of Bosch on Amazon Prime, season 2 of Westworld, Watchmen, season 2 of Lost in Space on Netflix, and a few other random shows.

On days I have higher mental energy, I read. I finished an absolutely fantastic sci-fi novel, Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky, and I’m eager to start the sequel.

Gaming falls somewhere in between – more energy/focus required than watching videos, less than reading – so in reverse goldilocks fashion I’m not doing as much. Plus, computer gaming tends towards a solitary endeavor, and I lose focus almost instantly because I’d rather at least talk to someone right now.

What I have been doing as far as gaming is playing board games online: skypeing with a friend or zooming with a bigger group. My friend T and I have played Lords of Waterdeep, Heave-Ho, and One Deck Dungeon and I look forward to more. And if I can create an online account for Galaxy Trucker (keeps timing out and failing, hope it’s just a temporary issue) there is that, as well as Mystic Vale, Isle of Skye, Ticket to Ride, Aeon’s End, Spirit Island, Le Havre, Agricola ACBAS, Terraforming Mars, etc. I’ve got Scythe and Wingspan on various watchlists as well.

I got inspired a few days ago to work on my Steam backlog. Just play a game enough to know whether or not it is for me. I tried Factorio and Rimworld, both highly reviewed games, but stopped after ~30 mins of each. These games aren’t bad by any means, it’s just either a side effect of my current mood, or these kinds of simulations aren’t what I’m looking for at the moment. In both cases the amount of work to either build your base or set machines up for harvesting was too much for me right now. I want something more like SpaceChem (which, I never did finish so maybe it’s a good time to pick that back up) which is more on the puzzle side of things.

I also did some reasonable forays into Starbound and Ultimate General Gettysburg.

On the other hand, I liked Oxygen Not Included enough to bookmark it for another try. I got stuck in the tutorial and couldn’t figure out what to do, so I googled up a youtube beginner’s video series and after watching the first video I see what I missed before.


One Deck Dungeon

My friend T and I got together online to try out One Deck Dungeon. I own the physical game and its sequel “Forest of Shadows”, as well as the Steam version. Long ago I shared my Steam library with T so T could check it out via Steam Library lending… but I think for remote play both people need to own the game (furthermore I think T acquired the game via Humble Bundle? Not sure I’ll ask later).


We agreed on a time and found each other via Steam chat. And then spend 30+ minutes trying to setup a Google Hangouts chat, with no success. I mean… argh. The symptom appeared to be the call never went through. On the originator side (we both tried calling each other via phone number and via email address) it would “ring” but the other person said they received no notification whatsoever.

In the end T just called me and we used speakerphone. The old fashioned way that WORKS. 🙂

One Deck Dungeon is a mechanically simple game: you roll dice and use the results to cover spaces on whatever challenge you are facing. Each class starts with their own dice pool and as you beat the challenges you can take the reward as an item (roll extra dice), a skill (manipulate the dice), or xp (accumulate enough to level up and carry more items, skills, potions).

ODD is also very quick to setup and play because it boils down to shuffling the deck, dealing out up to 4 cards, and then turning them over. Since we were playing online, that didn’t matter as much.

After getting set, we then had some trouble starting a two player game. I thought you would do this from within the game, but after launching it and clicking everything that look remotely applicable, T found the actual way to do it: one person launches the game, then right-clicks in the friends list and selects “remote play together”. Aha!

So we finally started playing, choosing our classes (mage and warden) and dungeon (dragon’s lair). The mouse is shared in this game (not sure if that’s how remote play together works for every game) so if we both tried to move the mouse to select dice, it would act funny. We worked this out by taking turns.

We would also discuss what to do for every encounter, fight or flee, and then the best (sometimes only) way to cover the spots with our dice. I suppose Steam Chat would have worked as well but speakerphone was much better.

In ODD you work through the deck 3 times, shuffling and descending a level when the deck runs out. After the 3rd descent, you fight the boss.

We made it to the boss, but it proved too difficult, wiping us out on the 2nd round of our attack. Oh well, we had fun playing together!

Before leaving we inventoried all the digital boardgames we own that support Remote Play Together: Carcassonne, Galaxy Trucker, Lords of Waterdeep, Terraforming Mars, Ticket to Ride, Twilight Struggle. In addition, T owns Agricola All Creatures Big and Small which is currently on sale for $2.49. I’ll grab it at that price!

We plan to play Terraforming Mars sometime soon.


Online Boardgames

I enjoy boardgames – I’ve been playing them longer than MMOs (by 2-3 years) – and am in two gaming groups. Both meet on Mon every other week, so in normal times, every Mon I’m usually playing in group 1 (which focuses on LoTR the Living Card Game), or group 2 (strategy games of all kinds). Due to current circumstances, neither is able to meet in person…

Last week, two friends (let’s call them B and T) and I tried an experiment: conference call via Google Hangouts (not sure how this is done, B set it up and emailed the link to join) and attempting to play a boardgame online.

We examined TableTopia, TableTop Simulator (all 3 of us had those in Steam), and Board Game Arena (https://en.boardgamearena.com/).

First we tried TableTopia, which appears to launch https://tabletopia.com with Steam credentials, so you can probably just go directly there and make an account. It looks great, but the problem we hit was most games required somebody to be a Premium subscriber in order to play 3 or more people. From random sampling, games allowed a 2 player free version, presumably so you can try things out, but player counts 3 and higher were locked behind a premium subscription.

I understand this model, but it makes for an expensive trial. TableTopia has 3 tiers: bronze (free), silver ($5/mo; can play premium games), gold ($10/mo; can play premium games AND also invite non-premium players).

So we went to TableTop Simulator. I believe, but haven’t had a chance to investigate, TTS has zillions of plug-ins to implement games. The model is: buy TTS, use a plug-in to play a game. The catch is the plug-ins that were in the Steam catalog for TTS cost extra.

Not to say we are trying to dodge paying, but that kind of model quickly adds up. Plus, B and myself and huge board game collectors – I have over 100 board games, and B has way more than me. For example, I own Wingspan and its expansion, in to play it on TTS costs another $8. Which I get is probably (hopefully) some money that is funneled back to the creator. Am I willing to double dip, virtual and physical?

The answer is Yes for Wingspan. It’s a fantastic game and I have other friends who aren’t local that want to play it.

So we put a bookmark into TTS. My homework in the upcoming days is to figure out if my favorite boardgames are in TTS. Currently that list is Wingspan, Spirit Island, Root, and if there’s a good implementation of Tzolk’in, Great Western Trail, Galaxy Trucker and some co-ops like Pandemic, Ghost Story, or …. hehe too many to list and that’s plenty. I’m also in the middle of some campaign style games: Gloomhaven, Betrayal Legacy, and Clank Legacy, so if those are there, I’m in. Gloomhaven is great but there is a lot of fiddly record keeping so I’m using 2 helper apps (!!) in my campaign: Gloomhaven Helper and Gloomhaven Scenario Tree.


Anyway, we then tried Board Game Arena. It turns out to have a very generous “free” player limit – we had no problems finding 3+ player game we could play, and a very reasonable subscription fee – $24/yr, or $4/mo. That’s basically round off in my gaming budget, and much better than TT. In fact, after we played our session, T went ahead and subscribed.

In our first online session, B, T, and myself played Dice Forge, Race for the Galaxy, and 2 games of Red 7. It was fun, great to hear/see my friends, chat a bit, and game like we used to before the need to social distance.

This was all a test for a bigger session, with all 5 regular Mon evening player: B, T, myself, plus C and R. Buoyed by the success of the 3 person session we emailed instructions to C and R to make a BGA account and sent a link to a hangouts chat.

It went great! This time we played Race for the Galaxy, Saboteur, and 3 games of Incan Gold (re-published as Diamant). T subscribed in between our 3 player session and the 5 player session, but I’m not sure if that mattered. It was a success and we will game in this fashion until it is safe to meet in person.

T and I are also looking into playing One Deck Dungeon via Steam as well. That’s another game I own a physical copy of – the base game plus its expansion. It’s a simple, straight forward game and I tested the Steam version which helps me see if I got the rules correct.

If this goes on longer I may also look into multi-player games on the PS4 and Switch as well. T is an avid PS4 player so perhaps we can find some games to player together. Over on the Switch side my friend M would probably be up for something too.

Interesting times indeed!