Mental Health: Social anxiety and coping with conventions, what I wish you knew

Anxiety comes in many forms, for many reasons and is a very personal thing for anybody dealing with it. It’s something that a lot of people deal with but hardly anybody is talking about. I hope that by talking about these issues, I can contribute to a community where this stuff is normal, accepted, talked about and I want to help in any way that I can. I can’t fix your problems, but I can reassure you that you are OK, that this is normal and that you are NOT alone.

I can remember a time when I didn’t live with anxiety. I have always dealt with depression, but anxiety is a fairly new (well in the last 7 years or so) concept to me.  I remember a time when simple things like going up to a cashier or making a phone call didn’t make me panic but a series of traumatic and difficult events over the years have brought me here.

For me, anxiety looks like this …

I live in a constant state of worry; sometimes it’s rational and sometimes it isn’t, sometimes I worry that people won’t like me for no reason at all. I worry that I’ve said or done something wrong, that I’m not good enough. Every little mistake or problem that I face seems like a catastrophe, nerves escalate into panic attacks and even the most simple tasks can feel exhausting. 

I freak out in busy places, meeting new people feels like a monumental task and even walking up and saying hi to somebody that I already know can feel overwhelming and scary at times. 

Most of it’s irrational and I have learned over the years how to manage and control my anxiety, but sometimes I simply can’t.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that social anxiety doesn’t affect me on a daily basis, because it does, and I have learned how to cope with it, but one thing that is new to me and I still find so difficult to do is going to gaming conventions.

I know a simple solution would be to stay at home, but I made a promise to myself that no matter how bad I felt, I would never let anxiety take over my life. There have been so many times that anxiety has ruined things for me – friendships, relationships, careers –and I am determined to make sure that never happens again. 

I find it very difficult to talk to people, especially in a group setting and that doesn’t mean I don’t want to, I just find it nearly impossible to do. This makes maintaining friendships hard; it makes forming new friendships even harder. Gaming conventions are built on friendship, socialising, community and a LOT of people, all of the things that I enjoy yet can find overwhelming.

If you see me at a convention and I seem quiet or shy, please never take it personally. I would love to come and say hi to you, I would love to come and play a game with you, but sometimes I just can’t. At other times, I feel like I can take on the world: I’m a confident person, a kind person and I value friendship as much as I value meeting new people and I love socialising, but sometimes all I can offer you is a smile.

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Large crowds can easily send me into a panic; something that has always contributed to my anxiety is the feeling of being trapped and being unable to escape. For a long time, it made even the easiest things like getting a bus or a train impossible for me. I have realised that this usually sets my anxiety off and then it can spiral out of control from there. 

I have learned ways that help me cope and deal with anxiety at conventions and social situations. The main thing that works for me is to give myself a goal: it could be that I am going to meet up with that person I talk to on Twitter and say hi, or I’m going to sit down and play a game with strangers and have a really good time. Or, on specifically bad days, it might just be that I am going to walk up to a booth and talk to somebody about a game they are selling. Constantly pushing myself out of my comfort zone has been the best thing for me and in doing so, I am starting to experience all of the amazing things around me.

Many people suffer from social anxiety – we don’t want sympathy, we’re not seeking attention. We just want people to know and understand that sometimes even just making it to that convention or event is a huge deal for us. I enjoy these things and I know that I want to be a part of this community. I want you to come and say hi to me if you see me, I want to hang out with you and play games, and I will do my best to do all of those things. It just takes a bit more effort sometimes. 

Always know that if you need somebody to talk to, my inbox is always open. Thank you for reading and please leave a comment if you like.

Katie. 

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A Few First Impressions [Labyrinth: The War On Terror, 2001 – ?]

I really don’t know where to start with this one. My love for GMT and the games they publish is ever-growing and it’s pretty obvious to see why. I’m an enormous fan of card driven games and after one play, Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? seems to be no exception to the rule.  

I know wargaming isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t something I initially thought I would take a huge interest in but I really do enjoy the whole experience. Yes, you can say that about any kind of game however something about the whole combat aspect and becoming totally immersed in the theme has really drawn me in. 

I know that the subject matter is a bit of a sensitive subject for some people and I can completely understand why, if you feel like the theme may throw you off I suggest playing it before buying it if you can. The game was so much fun and so well put together that I could look past the theme and see the game for what it was – brilliant, clever, tense and very enjoyable. 

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Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? is a 1 – 2 player game, taking players inside the Islamist jihad and the global war on terror. With broad scope, ease of play, and a never-ending variety of event combinations similar to  Twilight Struggle, Labyrinth portrays not only the US efforts to counter extremists’ use of terrorist tactics but the wider ideological struggle — guerrilla warfare, regime change, democratization, and much more.

This well designed game really surprised me, I had heard many good things and a few not so good things about the game and really wanted to try it out. I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it was going to be THIS good after only one play.

Volko did an incredible job of accurately capturing the real world struggle between the western world and extreme jihadism and even though the theme may be sensitive to some as mention earlier, it was definitely treated with caution and I thought it was integrated well within the game. It definitely has a more abstract feel with no real casualties resulting from the terrorists actions.

I found the game to be of medium complexity, that’s a pretty subjective opinion and differs for everybody but generally it was pretty straight forward. Even for my first play I was able to see a clear (ish) strategy and how I was going to play throughout the game.  I did however find the rulebook to be slightly confusing, I understood the rules but couldn’t always understand the why. I’m hoping with a couple more plays that this will become more apparent.

Gameplay

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The course of the game is straightforward and simple. Players take turns playing cards, which they were given at the beginning of the game – always two per turn. When they run out of cards in their hand, the round ends. With round ending are some specific actions, such as reducing funding Jihad and U.S. prestige. The allied player may keep the last card for the next round, play it, or throw it away.

Each card can be played as an event or for operation points. But if you play the role of the United States and play a Jihadist card for points, the event still would happen and the other way around too. You can avoid only your own cards, which is needed for strategic reasons. Some events and their effects persist until end of turn, or even longer, which is easily marked with available tokens. Operation points can be accumulated to prepare a large attack and mark on reserve track.

I’m not going to go into rules as such as there are far better sources for that but here is a link to the rulebook on BGG – Rulebook

A lot of people compare the game to Twilight Struggle, and they are both similar in the way you play cards but I will leave it at that. All I will say, if you do enjoy TS then DEFINITELY give this game a go! 

Final thoughts

Component quality of the game is once again, absolutely stunning. You have heard me say this time and time again but GMT games really are always produced to the highest quality. 

A gorgeous mounted game board, high quality cards and components which definitely add to the whole playing experience.  There are a lot of cubes to be moving around the board though, so if that’s something you’re not really into that then be warned. 

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Replay value is strong, even though I’ve only played Labyrinth once, I get the feeling it has a very high replay value. Similar to many CDGs, there are many options and the cards provide multiple uses meaning that the game will be different every time with various strategies and variations of the game. 

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To finish off, Labyrinth: The War On Terror, 2001 – ? is a perfect school night game for me. It lasted roughly around the two-hour mark, maybe a little bit more which is the perfect ‘quick game after work’ timescale. Alright, not quick but you know what I mean. It’s a nice, meaty CDG with a bit of dice rolling involved that definitely influences the game slightly. The game is mainly strategy based with the odd bit of luck due to the dice rolling and luck of the draw but not so much that it will throw you off. 

I’m really looking forward to giving the solo game a try within the next couple of weeks and hoping for a similar gaming experience. 

Overall I was really impressed with Labyrinth and I’m excited to play again and introduce others to the game.

Thank you for reading.

Katie. 

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A Few First Impressions [Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection]

Here are my initial thoughts on Liberty or Death; The American Insurrection, part of the COIN series published by GMT GAMES. I had very high hopes for this game and so far, it has definitely delivered. 

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Photo by Katie Aidley.

Let me start off by saying, I have only played this game once so these truly are my first impressions but I couldn’t hold off on talking about it as it still so fresh in my mind and I really, really enjoyed the game. Liberty or Death had been on my radar for a while and within a couple of days of receiving it, it hit the table (literally within a COUPLE of days). I couldn’t wait to play and I was rather impressed.

Now the rules might seem pretty hefty from a first glance, however if you are an experienced COIN player or have played a few COIN games before then you should pick up the rules without too much hesitation. 

There has been so much talk about this game, and even from that initial play I can see why. The gameplay is absolutely stunning and it’s nice to see the COIN system being used for pre-modern themed warfare, it definitely works.

I’m going to start off talking about the aesthetic and components of the game…

 

If you follow my blog or know me well, you will know that I am generally not one for theme or usually that bothered about the game I’m playing looking all that pretty. However, when it comes to wargames, the more I can immerse myself in the theme during the game and the nicer the game looks, I am probably going to enjoy it more. GMT games are always of a very high quality, gameplay and component wise from my experience and Liberty or Death is no different.

 

Photos by Katie Aidley.

The artwork is beautiful, the map is definitely the prettiest map in the COIN series so far in my opinion and even though the game is so bright and colourful, it doesn’t lose the feel of the time period at all. 18th Century North America has never looked so attractive.

Gameplay

Designer: Harold Buchanan
Series developer: Mike Bertucelli
Solitare system developer: Orjan Ariander
Map Art: Terry Leeds
Counter Art: Charles Kibler, Terry Leeds, and Mark Simonitch

Time Scale: One year per Campaign between Winter Quarters
Map Scale: Area movement
Players: 1 to 4

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Photo by Katie Aidley.

Each faction in Liberty or Death brings new capabilities and challenges:

As the British, you have to deal with an Insurrection across a massive region. With control of the seas (at least until the French arrive), you have extreme flexibility and can move across the coast and cities at will. You will muster Tories to support your efforts. They will march with you to battle, but they need your cover. You can control any space you choose, but you cannot answer every threat on the map. The Indians will work with you but, like the Tories, will need you to coordinate and protect them when the Patriots become aggressive. With the leadership of Gage, Howe, and then Clinton, you will be able to strike a potentially decisive Brilliant Stroke if the stars align. Each leader brings something new to the war effort. If you can strike the decisive blow and Win the Day you will be able to build Support and reduce Opposition in short order. If the option to Battle the French in the Colonies presents itself, it will be hard to pass up!

As the Patriots, you initially aren’t powerful enough to counteract the British Army. You will need to pick your battles and initially spread the Militia to key areas. Over time you can train a force of Continentals to take on the British Regulars. Until then, Rabble-rouse and work with the French to challenge British dominance. Skirmish with the British in small numbers to make their stay expensive. Will the French be there when you need them? Persuade the local population to give you resources to keep the heat up. Watch the Indians on the Frontier because if they develop their forces unanswered you won’t be able to win the game regardless of what happens with the British.

As the Indian player, you have selected the lesser of two evils in aligning with the British. You will work with them to lower Opposition using Raids but you will be developing your footprint by Gathering forces and building villages. The British can help you to protect them from the Patriots and in return you can assist the British in controlling the region. War Chief Joseph Brant and later War Chief Cornplanter give you the ability to mount a decisive attack with your War Parties but will it be worth exposing your villages to Patriot attack?

As the French, you have the ability to be the thorn in the side of the British in North America. With the Hortalez Rodrigue et Cie Company, formed to feed the Patriots resources, you can fund the Insurrection. Your agents can rally assistance in and around Quebec and you can facilitate privateers to steal resources from the British. When you sign the Treaty of Alliance with the Patriots, you can bring French Regulars to America to March and Battle. You can also increase French Naval Intervention, Blockade Cities, move Regulars by sea and Skirmish with the British.

As with earlier COIN Series volumes, players of Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection will face difficult strategic decisions with each card. The innovative game system smoothly integrates political, cultural, and economic affairs with military and other violent and non-violent Commands and capabilities. Rabble-rousing, Indian Raids, Persuasion, Naval Pressure, Letter of Marque, Looting, Trading, Skirmishing, and Foraging and more options are available. Flow charts are at hand to run any faction short a player—solitaire, 2-player, 3-player, or 4-player experiences are equally supported.

Source [Liberty or Death on BoardGameGeek]

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Photo by Katie Aidley.

I’m not going to talk too much about the rules as such as you can find those yourself but I do want to talk a little bit about the conflict in the game and the battle system. Now, remember I have only played this game once but I found that there were not many battles going on within the game. I quite liked that aspect though, in some wargames there are so many battles that they tend to lose their importance or impact within the game however this Liberty or Death was historically accurate and felt as though it fit in with the era, it also drove me to try and come up with some different strategies during the game instead of just relying on winning conflicts. There’s a lot to think about and it will probably take a while to get used to the commands which are somewhat unique from the predecessor COIN games, fitting in with the different time period. 

I’ll admit, I haven’t fully figured out what my strategy is so far and I feel like that will probably take a few plays to master but I did feel confident in the gameplay and the rules by the end of the first game which is always a good sign.

Once I’ve played a few times, I will come back and do another post but I needed to tell you my initial thoughts on the game.

A clear winner in my opinion, even from one play it was obvious to see why it was a 2016 Golden Geek Best Wargame nominee and I’m eager to get this to the table again very soon.

Thank you for reading,

Katie.  

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My Favourite Boardgames [Terraforming Mars] A Quick Review

In the 2400s, mankind begins to terraform the planet Mars. Giant corporations, sponsored by the World Government on Earth, initiate huge projects to raise the temperature, the oxygen level, and the ocean coverage until the environment is habitable. In Terraforming Mars, you play one of those corporations and work together in the terraforming process, but compete for getting victory points that are awarded not only for your contribution to the terraforming, but also for advancing human infrastructure throughout the solar system, and doing other commendable things.

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  • 1–5 Players
  • 90–120 Min
  • Age: 12+
  • Designer – Jacob Fryxelius
  • Artist – Isaac Fryxelius
  • Publisher – Stronghold Games

Is there life on Mars?

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My initial reaction to this game as I sat down at a friends house, ready to play was “Oh, not another space game”…… however this is probably one of my favourite games of 2016. I’d even go as far to say one of my favourite games, EVER. Yes, I said it and I am standing by it, this is one of my favourite games EVER.  At BGGCon last year, I played it three times within 24 hours and it has the perfect mix of tile placement, engine building and card drafting  that make for a very enjoyable game and a definitely worthy of being runner up in the Golden Geek awards.

Anybody that knows me or reads my blog will  know that I’m not usually a big lover of thematic games, it isn’t the first thing I think of when choosing a game, well apart from trains however this game got the theme SPOT ON and without sounding too obvious, you really ARE terraforming Mars during the game, I love the way you are working together to do this whilst also trying to win in your own right. This game doesn’t just feel like an engine builder with a theme stuck onto it at all, which was definitely one of my worries when first playing the game. 

Something that can be frustrating but can equally be what wins you the game, is the engine building involved. You could be doing really well for the first two thirds of the game, producing heat or ramping up the oxygen levels however sometimes you can just stall. I’ve found in a couple of the games that I’ve been doing pretty well then all of a sudden, just hit a brick wall and had to think on my feet and come up with a new strategy. For me, that’s something I find enjoyable in a game but it can be frustrating when you’ve spent the last hour or two working towards something.

One thing that initially put me off the game was the quality of the components and game pieces. Some people think the art is a bit tacky and dated but I actually really love the way it  looks unfortunately after only a couple of plays though, the cards and tiles started to become a bit shabby. The player mats are thin and flimsy and the once glistening resource cubes are already chipped and are looking a bit sorry for themselves. You know what though, it doesn’t matter.  It does not take away from how much I love the game and it certainly proves that looks don’t always count. I would highly recommend sleeving your cards straight away though and potentially forking out for the insert and game mat overlays. 

Gameplay

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The players acquire unique project cards (from over two hundred different ones) by buying them to their hand. The projects (cards) can represent anything from introducing plant life or animals, hurling asteroids at the surface, building cities, to mining the moons of Jupiter and establishing greenhouse gas industries to heat up the atmosphere. The cards can give you immediate bonuses, as well as increasing your production of different resources. Many cards also have requirements and they become playable when the temperature, oxygen, or ocean coverage increases enough. Buying cards is costly, so there is a balance between buying cards (3 megacredits per card) and actually playing them (which can cost anything between 0 to 41 megacredits, depending on the project). Standard Projects are always available to complement your cards.

Your basic income, as well as your basic score, is based on your Terraform Rating (starting at 20), which increases every time you raise one of the three global parameters. However, your income is complemented with your production, and you also get VPs from many other sources.

Each player keeps track of their production and resources on their player boards, and the game uses six types of resources: MegaCredits, Steel, Titanium, Plants, Energy, and Heat. On the game board, you compete for the best places for your city tiles, ocean tiles, and greenery tiles. You also compete for different Milestones and Awards worth many VPs. Each round is called a generation (guess why) and consists of the following phases:

1) Player order shifts clockwise.
2) Research phase: All players buy cards from four privately drawn.
3) Action phase: Players take turns doing 1-2 actions from these options: Playing a card, claiming a Milestone, funding an Award, using a Standard project, converting plant into greenery tiles (and raising oxygen), converting heat into a temperature raise, and using the action of a card in play. The turn continues around the table (sometimes several laps) until all players have passed.
4) Production phase: Players get resources according to their terraform rating and production parameters.

When the three global parameters (temperature, oxygen, ocean) have all reached their goal, the terraforming is complete, and the game ends after that generation. Count your Terraform Rating and other VPs to determine the winning corporation!

Taken from Boardgame Geek – Terraforming Mars

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, Terraforming Mars. Definitely a solid game in my opinion and definitely one to have in the game collection, if you can get your hands on a copy!

A few design and component flaws but as I said earlier, perfect gameplay and very enjoyable. 

I’ve played this game many times, and will continue to do so with all different group sizes however personally I thought that this game played the best with 3 or 4 players.

Thank you for reading, and hopefully see you again soon.

Katie.

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Trick of the Rails

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Trick of the Rails, themed on the rise of the American railway period, combines 18XX-like portfolio management and a trick-taking card game. Players collect stock certificates and make the companies more valuable by laying a rail network.

The game alternates between stock rounds and operating rounds. In stock rounds, the cards played become shares for the players. In operating rounds, the cards played become track for the companies. The companies get trains, which determine how many track cards they can count for their profit (the trains have costs as well, which may lead to companies not making any profit at all) and in the end, players simply count the value of their shares and highest value wins.

  • 3–5 Players
  • 20 Min
  • Age: 14+
  • Designer – Hisashi Hayashi
  • Artist – Ryo Nyamo, Ian O’Toole, Todd Sanders
  • Publisher – Japon Brand, OKAZU Brand, Terra Nova Games

Thoughts

First of all, let me tell you that I’m starting to become slightly obsessed with this game and in my opinion, rightly so. I had heard a lot of really good things about it and luckily managed to pick it up at BGGCON last year, I actually picked up a copy for myself as well as a copy for a friend for Christmas before I had even got a chance to play it. I had really high hopes for this game, and it definitely delivered for me.

It’s a lovely small trick taking card game, with an excellent theme and a perfect tip of the hat to the world of stock taking and 18xx. I love the clean simple artwork and the fact that it’s really compact, a great game to throw into your handbag (that’s where I keep my copy), your desk at work, your car or even your carry on if you want something light but interesting to play when travelling. I also think this neat little game could easily be played down the pub ( I recommend this) or waiting in line for a convention, show etc if you have a bit of floor space.

This year, I’ve been gaming with a few of people that are new to games and this always goes down well. Everybody seems to get really excited about it. It might not be for everyone but it is definitely a super fun, clever little game.

Gameplay

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The cards are completely language independent and rules are clear which make it even easier and quicker to follow. There are 50 normal cards (10 each numbered 1 through 10 in five different “suits” or railroads,) five train cards, five exchange cards and five starting track cards. As mentioned earlier, the cards and box are very compact so easy for travel.

Without going into too much detail, the game is played over a series of Tricks until the players have played all of the cards from their hands.

  1. The lead player can play any card from their hand to the middle of the table, this card will then be called the lead.
  2. In a clockwise order, each other player will play a card from their hand. If they have a card of the same company as the lead. If the player has no cards of the same company, they may lay another card.
  3. Whoever played the highest numbered card of the same company as the lead wins the trick.
  4. Then players will either gain company shares or lay track to railways. Which action the players will take is decided by the leftmost card in the Trick Lane.

The game ends after the final track has been played. Then, before a winner is declared, the value of each companies shares must be determined. 

There’s actually an Expert Variant and Team Variant to the game which I haven’t actually tried yet, but seemed quite appealing to me, so I shall be trying both of those out in the near future.

Final thoughts

As mentioned earlier, I definitely found this to be a fun, neat little filler and would recommend this to anybody looking for something light/quick whilst still being able to incorporate stock rounds and portfolio management. It’s a really clever, unique card game and I will definitely keep playing and enjoying this game in the future.

Please check out Terranova Games here: www.terranovagames.com/collections/frontpage

Thank you for reading, and catch you next time.

Katie. 

 

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