Friday, 10 July 2020

Board Report - Ticket to Ride: Stay at Home

When we first entered this lockdown, I had some vague ambitions that it might be a new renaissance for board games in our family and to brush a little dust off of our games cupboard. While this has been true for me, with the chance to rejoin my old college board game night as it went digital, it hasn't been all that I'd initially hoped when it comes to two-player board games over a physical table, as my time together with Mrs. Owl mostly having been devoted to educating her about early 2000's serial drama television and other important screen-based pursuits instead of staring at pieces of cardboard.

I did, however, get the opportunity to make myself a copy of the pandemic-themed print-and-play release of the Ticket to Ride: Stay at Home, expansion, in which up to four family members attempt to complete routes around their own house (the idea of a game that is fundamentally about travel being subverted like this makes me giggle), and after low-level badgering over a period of weeks Mrs. Owl eventually agreed to play it with me.

In TtR:SaH, each player gets 32 trains (just less than 3/4 of a full size TTR game), then picks one of four characters and gets a random two of that character's special tickets as well as a selection of two of the general shorter tickets that will make up the deck during the game (as usual, they can pick and choose which they keep as long as they keep some). This means that players who've studied the cards (maybe while cutting them out) or who have played on this map a couple of times will have a pretty good (but not certain) idea of the general area where the other players will be intending to play depending on their role.

This aspect has loomed large in the online conversation about this game, since the featured family is a pretty typical nuclear family, with a mother that cooks and decorates, a father who likes board games, a girl who dresses up as a fairy princess and a boy who likes trains, and given the board games community's poor track record in the area, a game reinforcing this much WASPy heteronormativity feels pretty on the nose for a 2020 release. That was my first reaction too, but as I've thought about it I've adjusted my headcannon into believing that rather than being intended as a stereotypical average family that the featured player characters are actually based on the game designer Adrien Martinot's actual family. This is based on some pretty flimsy evidence, like the cat being called 'Rouky' being weirdly specific and the Dad character looking vaguely like Martinot himself if you squint, and I have no idea if he has a family at all, but I prefer this interpretation, so I'm just going to run with it for now.

The other significant change is the addition of starred multi-coloured 'Family Routes', a number of longer, relatively central special routes that can only be filled one train at a time and can be shared cooperatively between all the players that contribute to them. These routes definitely slow down the game a little, as a single route can take many turns to complete, but they do add an interesting element of getting along together that seems very thematic. In the two player game they were pretty underutilised, since I built a lot of them while Mrs. Owl mostly did her own thing in the corner. With more players with overlapping routes (I suspect this game will be at it's stressful best with four) it feels like they might have a little potential, though testing that theory is going to have to wait until we can have friends over to play again.

Even with that slight slow-down, the game was over much more quickly that either of us anticipated, as we'd both taken extra tickets part way through the game that we ended up well-short of being able to complete and had to take negative points for (I guess we're just both wired on some deep psychological level for a full-length TtR game), leaving us both feeling a little bewildered and wishing it were a little longer. When the dust settled and the points were counted (as TtR traditionalists, we only ever count TtR points at the end) we both ended up with 70 points and an equal number of completed routes, so we had to settle for a tied game. We'll have to have a rematch soon to settle the question of which of us is the best player, but I guess it'll have to wait at least until the end of series 2 of Grey's Anatomy, at least.

If you think this looks interesting, or you want to play any other print-and-play games that have been released during the pandemic, check out this handy list over at Board Game Geek. I've already downloaded the Pandemic: Hot Spot variant to try some times, as though we don't own the base game we've both played and enjoyed Pandemic games before and you can apparently play it with any old pieces. And besides, it's a pandemic, after all, not playing Pandemic at all during all this time inside it would just feel wrong.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Long Live the Queen! Turns 211-220

It's been a while since we checked in on our communal game of Civilization VI, but turn 210 has rolled around so it's time for us to revisit the British Empire for the government of UnwiseOwl the third, Prime Minister to her Eternal Majesty Queen Victoria following the tenure of Krikket. 4 of the 5 black city states on the map swear fealty to the Union Flag, but we're quickly running out of any usable space for expansion.
Since our last term, both the Babylonians and the Egyptians have built new cities inside lands that I would have preferred to remain firmly under the control of Her Majesty. Gilgamesh has another Settler eyeing up the river to the west of Stoke-Upon-Trent, so when diplomatic efforts to stop him settling fail, I decide to rush build a settler of my own and send the military out to slow him down a little. If we get lucky, maybe we can beat him to the punch.

We also begin cultural development into Humanism, which should give us the ability to build museums for a much needed culture and tourism boost. We're ahead by almost all the other measures, so improving our cultural output should pretty much guarantee that we can't lose this game.
There's a lot of unexplored area out past the Eastern edges of our empire near the newly settled city of Sheffield, so I embark the unused military units into the ocean to go for a little bit of a swim and scout around. The only military threat anywhere near by is Pedro, and I figure he's unlikely to mess with us again any time soon. We could actually build a navy out here once we get the infrastructure built up in Sheffield, but that's not likely to happen any time soon, and I'm not expecting to find that many major landmasses out there anyways.
Gilgamesh isn't a big fan of my settler shepherding strategy, but given that our military is more than twice the size of his I'm pretty confident that he's not going to go to war with us about it. He seems very unsettled about our forces on his borders at the moment, and looking at this fearsome army massing just here I can't say that I blame him.
Poor Pedro wants in on the settling, but sadly for him he's a little boxed in up in his northeastern peninsula, and I'm not willing to give him give him an inch for expansion or for his military, scant as it is, by granting free passage through our territory for a paltry 6 gold pieces.
Having just researched Military Science I successfully settle the city of Plymouth, gaining a free Redcoat unit and and forcing Gilgamesh back to Ur; He's going to have to find somewhere else to build his cities. Since he rudely insisted on expansion earlier, I'm not willing to promise him that we're not going to expand further either. I feel a little bad about upsetting him, since he's one of my favourite Civ leaders (I just want to bury my hands in that fabulous beard!), but friendship has to work both ways. 

I can't say I was particularly interested in either of the potential scientific prospects, but I decide to investigate Economics. I've also started work on Oxford University in Stoke. If we complete it it'll give us a huge science boost, but it's going to be slow work.
To help with the wonder building, I begin recruitment of a few more traders. I hope to transfer control of them to Stoke in order to increase the production output there to allow the builders to hire a few more workers finish building Oxford a little faster. I also notice a single potential city building hex to the the northwest of Birmingham, and with Gilgamesh and Cleopatra both with settlers on the prowl look to secure it for the realm. It's not an amazing spot for a city, but I'd much rather put a British city there than let our neighbours expand, so I'm going to leave this knight here until we can scratch a settling party together.
One of the major developments since my last tenure has been the development of English Buddhism, so I do my part for the faith and deploy a couple of Apostles. Both of them have neat upgrades for converting cities in foreign civilisations, so I've sent them off to spread the good news in Egypt. I thought about sending them after Pedro, but since he has a religion already and is likely to put up a bit of fight over it, I thought it might be easier to convince the heathens.

Just like that, my term in office has come to an end. Feels like at least bit a little more this time around, but at this point I'm starting to get the impression that there isn't that much that could stop the English steamroller now that it's gotten up steam. The Rambling Redshirt is the head of the incoming government, and can find the save file here.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

USA Today Crossword - June 18th 2020

Island where Queen Lilioukalani was born / City name in Texas and Ukraine / Sound of rushing wind / Comedian Poundstone / Genre of the song "Duke of Earl" / Hughes who wrote "I, Too" / Blanket statement's lack

Constructor: Evan Kalish

Difficulty: A little on the easy side. It only took me two sweeps of the grid to solve in my morning semi-catatonic state. (7:46)

Theme: JUST MY TYPE - The first words of the three theme anwers give the name of a common typeface.
  • TIME'S A-WASTING (20A: "Let's get moving!")
  • NEW MANAGEMENT (36A: Different ownership)
  • ROMAN NUMERALS (60A: Something popes and Super Bowls have in common)
I dunno how many folks are solving crosswords in serif fonts (even the New Yorker uses something simple and understated for the grid, though their clues are written in their distinctive typeface), but as a bit of a fan of a good embellishment myself, I'm all for the idea of this theme, even if I have small quibbles with each of the theme answers. And yes, this is a blog about the minuitae of crossword puzzles, so of course I'm going to share them.

Having TIMES as one word in the answer rather than cheating it over two words ala TIME SIGNATURE was a nice touch, but the answer having an apostrophe when the theme doesn't want one just makes me feel a little squicky. I can't think of a good replacement with TIMES TABLES and TIMES SQUARE both being a little short, though.

I'm also not convinced that different owners always mean NEW MANAGEMENT. Don't get me wrong, it was a gimme of an answer, but it lacks a certain degree of precision.

Last and almost certainly least, though I enjoyed the mental image of elderly pontiffs in crash helmets and body armour lining up on the gridiron, I feel compelled as a pope fanboy to mention that by my count 44 of the 266 Popes up to this point, including the incumbent, don't have Roman numerals in their names. 

That little rant out of the way, this was a pleasant grid without that much spoor. Sure, there's PSST and PFFT, the ever-present APP and BAA, but none of them are in places where they cause a problem. I continue to be uncomfortable with IDED (identificationed? Identity Documented?) but have to admit that as little as I like it I would like IDD even less. The larger down answers like DOOWOP, SMUDGE , NOODLE, NUANCE, LANGSTON are all good solid fill, very gettable but not the sort of thing you see every day, so overall the puzzle gave me fresh vibes, which is all one can really ask for. Did you know EARTHA Kitt was Batwoman for a while? I didn't.

Today I learned: Zakat (almsgiving) is one of the pillars of ISLAM. Easy enough clue given the context, Islam famously has pillars, but I certainly can't name any of them other than the always crossword-ready HAJJ.
There are five principles that should be followed when giving the zakāt:
  • The giver must declare to God his intention to give the zakāt.
  • The zakāt must be paid on the day that it is due.
  • After the offering, the payer must not exaggerate on spending his money more than usual means.
  • Payment must be in kind. This means if one is wealthy then he or she needs to pay a portion of their income. If a person does not have much money, then they should compensate for it in different ways, such as good deeds and good behavior toward others.
  • The zakāt must be distributed in the community from which it was taken. (wikipedia)
Word of the Day: EMPORIUM (40D: Big store). I generally think of an Emporium as a small store with an intense sort of focus, Crazy Dave's Kitchen Lighting Emporium, or Marvels of Parquetry Emporium, or something like that, but I guess this is just another case of the dictionary in my head being out of step with the dictionary the rest of the world is using.

Shout-out to WHOOSH, though. It's just a fun word.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

USA Today Crossword - June 17th 2020

When this appeared in my feed last week I was truly tempted to pick up my keyboard and go to work, but I figured that it was pretty likely that someone a little more qualified would leap to the challenge. Rex Parker (as well as being an old internet acquaintance via the spirital blogmother) is the king of angry crossword twitter and I figured his royal seal of approval would be all it would take to get a regular USA Today crossword blog up and running. As if I didn't spend enough time thinking a out crossword every day as it is.

Sadly, a week of enjoyable USA Today crosswords later and I haven't seen any evidence of a new blog appearing just yet, so in the meantime thought it might be fun to try imitating Rex's style for a little while here on the Leaflocker and share my enjoyment of the puzzle that has recently become a staple of my days in quarantine.


Yes, I'm hot in this" garment / Island whose capital is Oranjestad / Character often said to have been based on Bass Reeves / Tamal wrappers / Company with a duck mascot / "What was I thinking?"

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Difficulty: I've only been doing this puzzle for a few weeks, so it's hard to say how difficult this one was compared to usual. I'd say it's in the mid-Tuesday NYT range, which is about right for the sort of thing I've come to expect from the USA Today most of the time, and the 8:44 I took is also pretty typical for me for a puzzle completed with my clumsy thumbs.

Theme: WOLF PACK - First word of each of the three theme entries start a phrase completed with the word 'wolf'
  • LONE RANGER (16A: Character often said to have been based on Bass Reeves)
  • TEEN CHOICE AWARD (36A: One of 28 won by One Direction)
  • GRAY MATTER (60A: Brains)
Sure, three theme answers doesn't feel like a lot for a puzzle without a revealer, but I've gone over the puzzle twice, and unless false wolf and cheap wolf are phrases this is what we've got. They're all definitely wolves and as a nice bonus they triggered flashbacks to a certain Michael J Fox movie that seemed to be constantly being played on Australian TV during my childhood in the '90s, so...thanks I guess?

I didn't notice the theme at all during the solve, but I did notice that the keystone One Direction clue was accompanied by a LIAM at 46 down, so I was expecting to find the names of the rest of those early-teens heartthrobs as an easter egg, but was sadly disappointed that in a grid with a LOU and a LOIS there doesn't seem to be a LOUIS hiding anywhere. If this wasn't going to be five-year-late OneD tribute puzzle, then why not use someone more current, like Taylor Swift, who has almost as many wins, or BTS, who won some awards in 2019?

That minor quibble aside, the grid was full of the good stuff that we've come to expect from the Agard-edited USA Today puzzle: Easy fill that doesn't require two many second guesses (I had START instead of RESET for a while) but avoiding a lot of the usual crosswordese dross even if there was an OWIE or two along the way, with a decent chance of the solver learning something along the way. I'd never met Yes, I'm Hot in This or Oranjestad, but they both seem like things to know about.

Clunkers: I'm not a big fan of AH I SEE, but the crossings were all pretty straight forward, so that's all good. As a non-Usonian I tend to trip up a little on brandnames, too, but since EARLE seemed inevitable AFLAC came together nicely, and a few years of buying the grape juice for communion meant that WELCHS was a gimme. Some things just don't change even on the other side of the Atlantic, it seems.

Word of the Day: SCOOTED (25A: Slid while seated) Simple, elegant, and could never be anything other than SCOOTED. Just the word itself brings back happy memories of cafeterias and camps back in the days when we spent time in the same place as other people.

There should probably be a picture or video clip or something, but I'm not going to subject you all to the highlight of 80's cinema that was Teen Wolf and my reference library of music leaves a little to be desired. So uh....

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Getting Cheapass in Tabletop Simulator

My Monday night online board games night has been one of the triumvirate of touchstones that I build my week around over this quarantine period, along with the weekly staff meeting and the daily crossword-solving conference call. I haven't posted about it for the last few weeks because there hasn't been all that much to say, but I really can't overstate how much I look forward to it and will miss it when we all eventually go back to our normal lives.

This week we tried out in implementation of Veritas that I made a few weeks ago for Tabletop Simulator. Veritas was one of the games that Cheapass Games made when they came out of their hibernation at the start of the 2010's. It was made with the old-school Cheapass gimmick philosophy, that game pieces are pretty much all interchangeable so they're not going to ship them in the box, but came with a slightly higher production value than the earlier entries in the series (colour printing and all). Veritas is a neat little game and it's still available for tenbux at, but it's basically unknown (only just squeezing into the top 10000 games on BGG at the time of writing, and with five plays recorded in the last four years I'm the equal-second-most frequent player of the game that logs their games on the site). I think the reasons for this are that it came during a huge growth period in board games, when Cheapass just didn't have the reach or the brand recognition that they once did, and because the 'standard' pieces that it required were actually a little obscure, as it needed about 40 stackable 20-30mm diameter discs for each player. If the pieces had come in the box and they'd just charged a little more for it, maybe it would have done better. But then it wouldn't have been Cheapass enough, I guess.

A few years back I painted a set of British 2p coins to use as my truth tokens, and though they could do with another coat of paint and then a little varnish to seal them or something and the yellow went a very unappealing greenish colour when it dried, they fit the purpose very well (and make a very satisfying clunk when you drop them on the table). I was expecting to be able to link to the previous post that I've written about that set at this point, but it seems like I've never written a post about it before, just mentioned in passing back in 2016 that I should probably get around to it. Good work, there, Mr. Owl. 

Given the lack of popularity of the game, maybe it's not surprising that there's not already a Tabletop Simulator version of it. A dedicated soul has made TS versions of many of the older Cheapass games here, but since Veritas occupies the ambiguous middle ground between Freetown and Expensiveburg I guess it doesn't fit into that category. My implementation is a little quick and dirty at the moment, but I think I'll go ahead and fired off a request for permission to publish it just in case, and if James Ernest or who whoever owns the right to the game since Cheapass' acquisition by Greater Than Games last year is willing to give permission, spend a little time improving the art assets and as many quality of life changes as I can without having to learn how to do any actual programming before sticking it up on the Steam Workshop for others to hopefully discover and enjoy this unappreciated diamond in the rough.

It's my first attempt at making something for TS, and while it's pretty clear that I haven't quite gotten the physics to work right, I was pretty pleased about how it turned out. We were able to sit down with four players and play out a painless game via screen-share in a little less than an hour, which is a comparable time to playing it in person, the game hit all the usual high notes of a game of Veritas done right, and everyone (winners and abject losers like myself) had a good time, which is always a bit of a relief when I introduce something new to the group. I have a couple of little tweaks to get to after this playtest, but overall I was very pleased with how it turned out. 

Not pleased enough to consider learning lua to actually program some smarts into the implementation, but pleased nevertheless.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Long Live the Queen! Turns 131-140

In a piece of fortuitous timing, I got the ping in the discord channel letting me know that it was my turn in our communal succession game of Civ VI just as I was trying to work out what to do next this evening. If you're interested in the details of the last few millenia, check out Naithin's game page here

I then decided I'd better strike while the iron was hot when it came to drafting this, because with other people waiting just letting this post sit for weeks in the drafts folder like everything else I've written in the last fortnight seemed a little rude. 
Since I last laid eyes of realm (a couple of weeks ago for me, a decade short of two thousand years for the English), it's grown from two small cities hugging the Southern Ocean to a sprawling Empire on which the sun never sets, with six settlements spanning the continent. We've gone from being about to discover the secrets of Bronze Working to being on the brink of discovering Gunpowder (though we don't seem to have worked out how to mine Iron just yet). 
Unfortunately, some of these new cities are looking a little bleak. I've never been to the real-world Bradford, but looking at this little collection of hovels squatting in the ice doesn't make me particularly keen to check it out. Since both the growth and production in this sad little place are essentially nothing, I go ahead and purchase a builder to try and get a little industry going, and switch the production into building a Dockyard. This is not so much to service our Navy, which I've now disbanded since it turns our that we're landlocked and not likely to get a lot of use out of it, but to boost the production of our fleet of fishing boats a little. Maybe somewhere down the track Bradfordians can look forward to some more crab in their diet.
Stoke-Upon-Trent, on the other hand, is in such a good location that the Sumerians have decided to try and build a city right on the doorstep. Gilgamesh seems like a nice guy, but extending the hand of friendship doesn't extend to giving up the natural resources that are the birthright of the British people, so I spend all our gold planting the Union Jack on the wonder tile and trying to secure the incense before Ur grows too much. Unfortunately I'm a little too poor after investing in that builder last turn (another thing to lay at the feet of the poor beleaguered people of Bradford, I suppose), but hopefully I'll be able to scratch together the gold to finish the job somewhere in the next few turns. The campus here just finished, and I set the city to working building a military encampment, since Stoke is a bit of a frontier city and that seems like a good place to build up our military might in case anyone starts spoiling for a fight.
Growth has slowed to a crawl in both London and Birmingham. It looks like London just can't produce enough food, while Birmingham is producing a huge surplus, but has completely run out of room to house people. I'm going to bring that builder over from London to try and put down a few farms and plantations to put roofs over a few more heads in the hope that things start to pick up. Ideally I'd get a little more production here too, but we're going to need a lot of builders to get that done, and gold is kinda in short supply around here at the moment.
In the southeast, the skirmishing with the barbarian hordes has gone relatively well. We did lose a unit of archers that got caught out of position, but with three units down here now and the enemy trapped on poor terrain things are looking good for our ranged units to make short work of it. Unfortunately this leaves a good portion of our army well out of defensive range of our cities, but with the French and Brazilians cowed for now, good relationships with America and Babylonia, and quite a few military units wandering around without anything to do, I'm not terribly worried.
We've gotten a trade route, so to mend fences I decide to send a caravan to Curitiba. Hopefully this will make Pedro like us a little more and be a little less trigger happy, and it also brings in a nice little haul of science and culture. We're leading the world with our scientific nous at the moment, but our cultural game leaves a little to be desired.
To the west of Stoke,our valiant spearment holds to ford against the barbarian swordsmen (how did the barbarians work out how to mine iron when the greatest minds in Britain still haven't been able to put the theory into practice?), while our warriors try to capture that poor lost worker unit. We can always use more workers, after all. There's a lot to do around here!
Teddy wants access to our bountiful sugar plantations in exchange for open borders and a small pile of gold. I feel like he's less likely to attack us if he's happy to loosen tourist visas, so I'm keen to agree to this, especially since the French denounced us again last turn. Teddy won't agree to be my friend just yet, but if we can get an alliance with him somewhere down the track maybe he'll help dissuade people from going to war with us again. We really don't want any more wars, they're bad for business.
Bristol, the first of our new antipodean colonies, has just finished building city walls, which means we can now fire a few salvos from the battlements to scare off all these barbarian fleets that keep bothering us up here. I'm setting the city to build a granary in the hopes of keeping growth here high for a while, as it would be good to pump out a couple of settlers to expand our holdings in the north. That could be a little bit of a challenge given the limited prospects for production in this city, but it might be worth a shot.
Leeds has growth problems as well, and though I have the newly-produced builder on hand, there's no good tiles to develop to help with the  critical housing shortage. Since I still can't afford to buy any more agricultural land, I set the city to constructing a theater square; having a higher cultural output is apparently what helps push the borders out further in this game, which is what we'll need if Leeds is going to grow at all. There's not any fresh water anywhere around here, so we can't just build an aqueduct and be done with it. 
The Galloping Arrows and their new crossbowmen friends have made short work of the barbarians. Crossbowmen are really an order of magnitude better than anything else that we can field at the moment, so getting our experienced archers back to the homeland to get new equipment will result in a big power gain when we finally finish shooting all these scouts and warriors down here.
With the bounty from that barbarian camp I've finally got the resources to buy the incense from under Gilgamesh's nose. I'd like to be able to spend to money to get either the ivory or the horses here, since those tiles are both better to work than the incense, but securing the luxury resource that could be nabbed any moment is the priority, and hopefully that new builder we just stole will be able to work it pretty soon to provide amenities to produce happiness across the empire and help spur on a little more of a population boom.
Since we've reached halfway to Feudalism, I decide to switch it out in favour of investigating Civil Service, since I figure we can probably trigger the Eureka moment for it pretty soon anyway and save ourselves a few years of painstakingly puzzling out exactly how to get armour on our horses. Unfortunately we only have three farms instead of the six that we'll need to get that boost, but since farms are a big priority on the agenda at the moment anyway that doesn't feel like such an impossible task. In what has become a familiar story lately, growth has completely stalled in London, so I decide to pause what it was working on and focus on getting another settler to try and relieve a little pressure by encouraging some emigration.
Eeek! Sumeria has just founded a religion, which leaves just one available for us to grab and a three-way race to found it with us only slightly ahead against our fellow heathen nations. Since we've already got really strong faith generation it would be a real shame not to be able to spend it on anything, so I've set the people of London the task of concentrating their efforts on praying with all their might for the advent of a Great Prophet. Hopefully we prove to be better at praying than the French or the Egyptians. I guess that Settler will have to wait.

All too soon, my short reign comes to an end. I researched no technology, made no cultural advances and fought no wars, but a nation is built by the leaders that quietly contribute to industry and the economy as well, so I hope our people will look on me with kindness when it's time to write the history of the English Empire. Time to hand the reins to the Rambling Redshirt and sit back and enjoy the show.

Friday, 1 May 2020

My Blapril Is Over

We did it! We've reached the end of Blapril 2020! (Well, due to a technicality it actually runs to May 9th, but just to keep things consistent year by year I'm calling this the end for me.)

Within the month I posted twenty times  (if I count a few extra warm-up days on the start), and I even like quite a few of the things I wrote, so we're counting the whole thing as a resounding success. I've spent a lot of this month thinking about what to write about and looking forward to writing, and while that has mostly resulted in an over-large ideas folder rather than a whole bunch of posts, that also bodes well for the possibility of continuing to write into May and potentially on into the future (even if my track-record of keeping the place running outside of blog festivals leaves a little to be desired...come back in a week and see how that turns out?).

As we complete the month and the posts of appreciation, relief, and thanks roll in, it has left our noble leader Belghast pondering about the value of the challenge aspect of our little annual blogging festival; whether driving ourselves past our comfort zone to post more than we would normally in order to get special shinies to hang on our blogs is really worth the sense of burn-out that so often follows. I didn't think I really had a horse in this race, as I don't think I've ever displayed one of the Blaugust badges that I've won over the years. I am enough of a geek to appreciate gamifying any and every aspect of life that you can, but I take part for the sense of community and encouragement, not for the prizes. 

But perhaps that's the point, because it's clear that despite never going in for the shinies, Blaugust is undoubtedly the thing that gets me back to blogging. Let's take a look at the numbers:

2011: posted 38 times, 27 of them were in Blaugust, with the rest spread throughout the year.
2012: posted 29 times, 24 of them in Blarch, Blaugust and Blogtober.
2013: posted 3 times, all in Blaugust.
2014: posted 40 times, 34 in Blaugust, 1 in prep in July, 4 immediately afterwards in September.
2015: posted 35 times, 31 in Blaugust, 1 in prep in July, 3 immediately afterwards in September.
2016: posted 44 times, 40 in Blarch and Blaugust.
2017: posted 14 times, 3 in the lead-up in July, and 9 times in Blaugust.
2018: posted 18 times, 15 were Blaugust, with another 1 directly before and after
2019: posted 24 times, 18 were Blaugust, with another 1 directly before and after
2020: posted 24 times so far (if I count this one), and 20 of them are for Blapril.

In many ways, this is just a Blaugust site. 88% of my posts are a direct result of Blaugust! I return here every year to write and to rejoin the community, and then I disappear again to hibernate for the winter. I guess you could look at those numbers and say that blogging festivals obviously burn me out, and that if I didn't try to sprint I could jog for longer, but I think it's pretty clear that it's the exact opposite, every year the festival helps relight the spark. Perhaps Blaugust hasn't worked for me to develop a regular blogging habit as I continue to vainly hope, but the mere fact that for a month a year I am encouraged to come out of my shell and doff my writing cap again is a big deal. Thanks to this blog, I have a record, in my own words, of my life over the last decade that I just wouldn't have otherwise. Sure, it's mostly about the videogame bits, but it's a darn sight better than nothing.

So this time I'm going to celebrate the fabulous Blaugust shinies that I've gained over the years, and look forward to adding a third silver one for this year to my collection somewhere down the track.

PS. In the 2018 version of this post, I mentioned that going forward I was going to try to add more pictures of me wearing ties. Everything has changed so much since the start of the blog, ties aren't a part of my daily life any more, and haven't been for years. Heck, I haven't worn one since my friend's wedding back in August last year, but here's a good old fashioned blurry tiepic, just for the old time's sake.