I've set up a bucket list of things I'd like to try and get done in the next year to 2 years. The items on the list run the gamut of prosaic to logistically arduous, but all of them seem do-able within the time frame so I'm really making an effort to get things knocked off the list.
And the purpose of this post (and hopefully others in the future) is simply to note/recount doing the thing I said I'd do because it's nice to remember that sometimes you accomplish the goals you have in life.
So here are the first two items:
Play a game of Root: I said some of these would be prosaic. I backed Root after having backed and played the amazing Vast: The Crystal Caverns -- an asymmetric board game that was incredibly fun but quite difficult to teach as each player in Vast take on a role that has different play rules and win conditions. Aside from some very simple rules on movement, everyone acts completely differently from everyone else. The upside is that the game has a lot of useful player aids and once you've played through two turns you know how to play your role, though learning how to play it *well* and learning what the other roles are up to is a different story.
Root was pitched as an asymmetrical wargame that feels like cute woodland animals having a tussle. There are four factions, each plays slightly differently than the others, but everyone is trying to get the most victory points and the basic mechanics of movement and combat are the same for everyone (and the exceptions are all pretty straight forward). So this seemed like a much more approachable/teachable game.
I backed the base game and the expansion set. It arrived over a year ago. It sat there unplayed. A number of bucket list goals are simply to play new games that I have but haven't played or replay games I haven't played enough. Root was at the top of the list so a couple weeks ago we all sat down to play. Along with the generous play aids and rule reminders, the game also has a pre-planned "teaching scenario" that walks all players through their first two turns. You could stop then and restart, but we were fine playing out the game from there.
The walkthrough was great. The sheet has each person explicitly announce what they are doing for each part of their turn. Obviously that helps you understand how your faction works, but it also gives players insight into how the other factions work. But the game also has you take some actions that will really guide your strategy for the rest of the game. The biggest example here is the Vagabond -- a lone adventurer who travels the forest looking for action, adventure, and better gear to keep doing the first two things. The Vagabond has a relationship chart that tracks how the other factions view her. You can ally yourself with a faction, or you can earn their hatred and both states offer benefits and challenges. It's also pretty easy to get a faction to hate you -- just kill one of their dudes.
The upshot is that you want to think carefully before you get someone ticked off at you, but the walkthrough doesn't care what you think. Turn two the Vagabond kills a bird warrior and now the birds all hate her. Remember, this is the very first time the Vagabond player has played the game and turn two she's made an enemy. It's that kind of bold decision making (taken out of your hands) that really gets you stuck in to the game. I suspect the other factions also made some very committal moves, but it wasn't as obvious as the Vagabond's.
The game itself was a lot of fun. I played the Woodland Alliance (i.e. the rebels caught between the cats and the birds). So I'm slowly infiltrating spaces on the board with my supporters and forcing the others to pay me cards as they moved through those clearings. I get an actual rebel base set up but the Alliance has a handful of troops and some of them need to be trained up as officers to help get those troops to do anything useful. Meanwhile, the Marquis de Cat was fighting fires all over the board while trying to get enough troops together to blunt the advance of the birds of the Eyrie. The Vagabond mostly did her own thing and stopped by the Alliance from time to time to get more gear.
In the end, I pulled out the victory. I'd like to say it was deep strategy on my part, but I think it mostly came down to me not looking like a threat. I had lots of tokens everywhere but only a few actual troop meeples on the board. The Cat was everywhere at the start of the game and Eyrie got real big, real fast. The Vagabond probably needed to be more aggressive -- hey the Eyrie hates you, go kill some birds. Still, the game has a lot of potential, plays in a reasonable amount of time, and it left us thinking about taking a second go at it.
Special shout-out to the Eyrie player. The Eyrie faction plays a bit like Robo-Rally for those who remember that game. Each turn, the Eyrie lays down a couple of cards on their Decree track and then they have to do all the things in their Decree track, in order. If they can follow their "program" great, next turn add some more cards and try again. The problem is that eventually, you won't be able to do all the things on your Decree Track and when that happens, the Eyrie's government is overthrown, they lose troops, spaces, and victory points, and finally the Decree Track is cleared and a new leader is chosen. We were all waiting to see the Eyrie's government fall, but the player managed to keep the same leader the entire game and never failed to carry out the Decree. He was a very close 2nd and only a last-minute propaganda drive got me over the finish line. One of the things we need to learn as we play this game in the future is how to make it hard for the Eyrie player to maintain their Decree. Another is that Alliance bases need to be *ahem* rooted out. It's costly, the Alliance is very strong on defense, but if you don't do it, the Alliance just slowly get better and if you do destroy a base, that triggers a bunch of bad stuff for the Alliance player which will set them back a bit.
Overall, this game is a lot of fun. It's easier to teach than Vast and the cutesy woodland theme disguises some serious gameplay.
Take a bike maintenance class: I've been doing a bit more cycling over the past few years. For a while I've been meaning to take a bike maintenance class, mostly just to get a better understanding of how my bike works and general stuff you can do to keep it in good condition. This summer, I took the basic bike class at Broadway Bicycle School. It was a six week course that met on Wednesdays.
The class covered a lot of ground. Fixing flats, adjusting hubs, wheels, and brakes, chain sizing and replacement, and working with the shifter -- it's a pretty comprehensive course. This didn't turn me into a wrench monkey. If anything, I'm more likely to take the bike to the shop and have them deal with it because man, it can be fiddly. That said, I have a *much* better understanding of how everything works and I'm much more likely to correctly identify problems before they get worse. Also, truing a bicycle wheel is quite...meditative. I also picked up a few basic maintenance tips that I can do for myself (a little bit of chain lube makes it all better).
Anyway, the course was fun, our instructor was great and I feel like I learned a lot of useful stuff.