Too Many Bones. Too Little Space.

Gearloc Box Template: HERE

First off let me be clear, the packaging of Too Many Bones is pretty darn good. Chip Theory Games has produced a perfect blend of function and storage that should be the role model to all game publishers (well, maybe not Academy Games, Inc., they do a great job too).

Each Gearloc (the characters in the game), comes with a tray to hold their 21 dice. The clear plastic trays not only store the dice in the box, but they go straight to the table to keep the dice organized before players add them to the character mat for in-game use. The lids for the trays double as additional table trays as well. It’s a very ingenious design.


There are currently seven characters available with three more coming in the Too Many Bones: Undertow “standalone” expansion. Even with doubling up characters two to a tray (and removing the initiative dice to a separate container), five of those trays will be hard to combine into the main game box (along with all the other chips, mats, and player cards).

So to reduce the amount of storage required in the box (and make room for expansion content), I created these “Gearloc Dice Boxes” to hold each character separate. Each box is designed to easily hold a character’s 21 dice in three rows of seven and includes a snug lid. They take up less than half the space of current trays and are suitable to go straight from the box to the table. I still plan to keep the provided dice storage trays for on-table use, but with more content on the way, making more room in the box can never hurt.

I chose to cut mine on color coordinated cardstock (with black divider inserts), but also made labels with each character’s name, image, and a matching color ring in case you want to use basic white. The files are available here:

Gearloc Box Template: HERE

Each box template prints on a single sheet of cardstock. Cut the solid lines, score the dotted lines. You get three divider sections from a single sheet, so a little paper savings there. I use the same techniques I’ve used for creating other boxes, so this video  will help if you cannot figure out the basic assembly.

Make no bones about it, these boxes are superior to the TMB ones in only one way — they take less space. The included ones are excellent and if you have no issues with storing the game, then by all means, you should keep on as is. However, if you’re looking for a way to fit more in less space, I hope you like this solution.

As always, thanks for reading.

The Perils of Penelope Pitstop and other Persons

A little over a year ago I released my “Hostage Cards” unofficial expansion for Hostage Negotiator by Van Ryder Games. It was met with more enthusiasm than I anticipated (thank you!). This deck of 27 characters gave a little more depth to the yellow meeples of that game and many felt increased the tension (some said too much!).

If you’ve not heard me harp on these before, you can read all about them and download the print and play PDF versions yourself if you like.

Hostage Negotiating Just Got Real-er-er-ish (and Dark)

With the current Kickstarter campaign for the Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Tragic Events expansion underway (LINK:, it occurred to me that these cards could as well be used for other games. With the limited direct ties to Hostage Negotiator, I decided to sever that connection and make the cards a little more versatile and work with not only HN, but also for Flash Point: Fire Rescue and perhaps other games that use a hidden “victim” component.

So from this point forward “Hostage Cards” are now “Persons in Peril”

Obviously fire rescue isn’t about hostages, nor are they “victims” if they are actually rescued, so “Persons in Peril” seemed like an appropriate fit. This deck includes the original 27 character cards as well as five “False Alarm” objects and two straight-from-casting-central cute animals (a dog and a cat). There are also 20 “blank” character cards for you to make your own persons in peril should you so desire. The entire 54 card deck features an all new back image as well.

The 54-card version is now available on The Gamecrafter (LINK: As promised the original “Hostage Cards” will remain free PnP for those who only want it for Hostage Negotiator.

A reduced price 36-card version (same as the 54 but with 18 fewer of the blank cards — there are only two) will be available in the next week or so. UPDATE: They’re ready……

I’m in a Mechs-ican Rodeo

a ones upon a game review


Pre-Play Thoughts

Not sure I’d ever heard anything about this one before I played it. There certainly was no hype at all surrounding Mechs vs. Minions.

The box is a beast. It could literally be the foundation of your gaming collection.  Or your house.

Seriously, I normally avoid hype because that usually follows garbage that appeals to the masses and isn’t truly satisfying to play (out of kindness I won’t name games here). I’d never heard of League of Legends (and still know very little about it), however I looked up some solo feedback on MvM. In spite of it’s quasi-fantasy theme, it was about technology instead of magic, so it was in my wheelhouse and I grabbed a (gently and barely used) copy before the second wave.

Review Spoiler Alert: The hype was right in this case!

Continue reading “I’m in a Mechs-ican Rodeo”

Come on and Just Roll Through It, Baby

a ones upon a game review
Pre-Play Thoughts

I had only played Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization itself a time or two on and had learned about this smaller dice game from the other solo gamers. I downloaded the iOS implementation and attempted it a couple of times but was a bit lost on what it is I was supposed to be doing (sadly, the iOS port seems to be gone from the AppStore now). Usually playing the game physically makes things clearer so I was willing to give the real version a try.

Continue reading “Come on and Just Roll Through It, Baby”

Nothing Compares 2U

Pre-Play Thoughts:
I have the luxury of having barely any knowledge of the other game on which Star Trek: Frontiers is based. The fantasy theme was a barrier to entry for me as with few exceptions do I find that to be appealing in the least. I enjoy a medieval setting, just not the baggage of magic that usually comes with it. I had heard that the system was quite good and very popular, especially among solo gamers… So when I learned they were releasing this “theme upgraded” version in a science-fiction setting, I was very interested. So as the title of this review suggests, it will be with minimal comparison to “that other game”.

My initial component gripe was the ubiquitous still images from the Star Trek television and movie franchises.

Continue reading “Nothing Compares 2U”

Hostage Negotiating Just Got Real-er-er-ish (and Dark)

Hostage Negotiator from Van Ryder Games has been a very entertaining and popular solitaire game (as seen in the last several months of Top 10 tracking). However, to me, one thing seems missing. Hostages. We have meeples for the hostages, but the game never told you just who those hostages were. We know who the Abductors are. We know who the Negotiators are. Why not a little back story on the men and women behind the meeples.

This is a project I’ve been planning for several months and finally was inspired to get it done over the last several nights. So to that end, I present the “Hostage Cards” print and play expansion for Hostage Negotiator.

This Hostage Cards (unofficial) expansion is designed to add a little bit more realism to the game, by putting names, faces, and backstory to those you rescue — or lose — in your games of Hostage Negotiator. 27 different hostages are included to give some variety to your game (and since 27 is divisible by 9 cards per page, why not?).

I was not content to just use text, so I paid for 28 stock photos from online site Fotolia to bring these characters to life. I processed them to look more like painting/comic/artwork instead of raw photos (Hey Star Trek game makers, it can be easily done!). I tried to mix up the cards between men and woman, various races and ages, etc. Not for any PC reasons, but for a realistic potential mix.

I also attempted to breathe life into the characters in the small space that I allowed myself. You’ll find a little detail about them, a quote perhaps, and then an explanation of why they were in the crisis location. As each scenario can differ it was hard to do this without being specific. I hope you’ll forgive any inconsistencies that may occur between my explanation and the scenario location. Just go with it.

Using the Hostages
Using the Hostage Cards in a game of Hostage Negotiator is simple. Instead of placing the yellow hostage meeples on the player board at the start of the game, shuffle your deck and deal out (face down) a stack of yellow hostage cards equal to the number of meeples you would have placed. Set aside the rest of the cards.

When a hostage is rescued ( or killed 🙁 ) reveal the top card of the hostage deck to learn which was affected and put it in the appropriate stack. If a terror card adds more hostages to the pool, then add that many more cards to the stack from the remainder of the starting deck you set aside.

You may find it easier to still use the meeples on the board itself and then draw a card when you move a meeple to either rescued or killed.

The instructions for the expansion include more information on how to use them and some variant options. I hope you will enjoy this addition to the Hostage Negotiator system.


Cards PDF…

Gaming is Social, Games Need Not Be – The Cons of Solitaire Gaming

Despite all the benefits of solitaire gaming, it’s certainly not without its problems. Problems that are unique to most solo gamers and especially those of us for which gaming alone is nearly 100% of the experience. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint in any way, shape, or form. Just an observation.

Inspired by this discussion on BGG, Fighting the funk, I decided to proceed with this post that I’d been “cooking” for some time.

First off, with respect the to the title. Gaming is social, games need not be. A lot of people malign the solo gamer because for them, games are “a social activity.” But they have this wrong. Gaming is the social activity, playing the actual game doesn’t have to be. It can be and certainly is for some party-type games that require a large number of people to even be played. But the game is just the catalyst to bring people together. The social interaction is the thing being sought after.

For the solo gamer, the social interaction is still there. We use BGG and other sites and social media platforms to establish a connection with other people, who, like us, normally play alone. This isn’t in most cases some pathetic “40 year old guy still living in his parent’s basement” stereotypical lifeline to humanity. It’s just a venue to share and discuss. Through forums, guilds, Twitter, Reddit and more, we can “test for echo” and see that there are other people out there with the same aligned interests. We can share our plays, our wins, our losses, our questions, our opinions. And let’s face it, for the most part all gamers use this same avenue for discussion. Game night is for playing not a Roman forum.

So while we will not or cannot get together with other people to play a game… most of the time it’s by choice or lifestyle situation.

And that’s fine.

But again, there are still problems that non-Solo gamers don’t have.

Sharing. To maintain that connection, we probably share a little more than others online. BGG monthly Solitaire Games on Your Table Geeklist where many share what they are currently playing along with mini reviews and results. It’s a dangerous list to follow as it makes you want to acquire more games.

Acquiring more games. In a regular game group, only one member needs to own a game. Jane buys a copy of this one, Dick buys a copy of that one, Spot runs away with the dice, etc… When together they can share their copies and experience the game. If a solo player wants to play it, they have to buy a copy (unless you live in one of those rare places you can borrow a game). Take note game publishers. You sell more copies with a solo game, just by improving the ratio of games to buyers.  But we don’t stop at games designed to be played solo. We will play two player games (mainly wargames in this regard) and play both sides. We’ll also play co-op games, taking on multiple roles. And then unsated as we are, we seek out: solo variants (dum dum dah!) of which there are many great ones that keep to the spirit of the core game and some that take the components and make a whole new game — is Patience Solitaire REALLY a variant of Poker???

Regardless, this can lead to an overwhelming collection of games. And I literally mean overwhelming. Doesn’t matter the number of games, it can be small or large. But if it’s more than you can possibly hope to play in a reasonable amount of time, it can be a problem. Studies have been done that show too many choices lead to difficulty making decisions (Survey Choices – How Much is Too Much?). We see it in many games with analysis paralysis. Fewer choices make the decision process easier and less guilt ridden.

Guilt. Why do I own so many games? I’ll never play them all enough. I’m currently playing a great game called Stonewall’s Sword: The Battle of Cedar Mountain and I’m just about finished the last turn. It’s a chit-pull game, so while I am playing both sides, it’s not hard to manage as a solo player (Designers take note: Chit pulls are AWESOME). However, it’s going on two weeks now on my table. Three weekends. It’s fun, but as I’m surrounded by the many other games I want to play/try. I feel this pressure to finish this one, box it up, and get to something else. And then I feel I’m betraying the current experience. But my time is limited and I want to give proper attention to all the other stuff I like too.

And then I get so frustrated. Insert head explosion here.

Fortunately for the “Funk” post above, I realize it’s not just me. And it’s cyclical in nature. Again the social aspect of solitaire gaming has paid off.

I’m not alone.

Neither are you.

The end result of all this though, for me, is going to be a dedicated attempt to not acquire anything new (or used, close THAT loophole!) for awhile. Some preorders are still on the way, so it’s not like I won’t be getting anything “new” per se. But really, when is enough enough?

A collection thinning is probably due as well. But I’ll procrastinate about that later. Now I’ve got to choose: Churchill? Zombicide? Thunder Alley? Star Wars: Imperial Assault?