The Games I’m Playing, January 2022


As long-time readers know, on Fridays — like, you know, today — I do a week-in-review type of thing. Today, let’s do something very different: I’m going to share with you the games I’m currently playing. (By currently, I mean, “over the past couple of weeks” not necessarily “as I write this.”) Maybe you’ll find something you like; if so, great. And if you have suggestions, that’s great too! Email them over.

Board Games
Sadly, I haven’t played any in a while. Someone did ask me to play Monopoly somewhat recently and I declined, though; as many of you know, I really don’t like Monopoly (and that’s an understatement). I’m also not doing any puzzles right now although if you’re looking for a really great 1000 piece one, “The Happy Isles” by the Magic Puzzle Company, available here, fits the bill. Below, here is what the puzzle looks like when you open it, and no, I won’t tell you what’s in the second envelope. (Those are from a sibling puzzle called “The Sunny City” but I promise, “The Happy Isles” has the same two-pouch setup.)

Card Games
When I get the opportunity to play Texas Hold’em, I take it, but those have been few and far between recently, so I don’t know if should make my list. (My preferred format is low-stakes limit Hold’em, for what it’s worth.) More on-point: Fluxx. The basic rules are simple: every turn, you draw one card and play one card, and if at any point, you meet the win condition (called “goals”), you win the game. That’s it. The cards, though, change the rules as you play, causing a lot of chaos along the way. And best of all, while you only need two players to play the game, additional players can join during the game. That sounds impossible but Fluxx is just that well-designed to make it happen.

Phone Games
I have an iPhone so your experience may vary here. I downloaded a Solitaire app years ago that I still come back to every now and again; right now, I have a nearly 100-game win streak in “Bakers Game” on it. (The app lets you choose to play only solvable boards.) But my current addiction is Retro Bowl, a football (American, not soccer) clearly inspired by the old Tecmo Bowl games. I played a LOT of Super Tecmo Bowl growing up, so it immediately appealed to me. If you liked Tecmo, you’ll like this. A big thanks to my friend Ananda for telling me about it. 

Finally, in this category, there’s Wordle, the inspiration for this newsletter today. CNN calls it “the Internet’s latest obsession” and I think that’s correct. It’s Mastermind but with letters; there’s only one game a day, so it only takes a few minutes; and it’s really easy to share your result without ruining it for others. Plus, everyone is trying to guess the same word, so there’s some built-in camaraderie here, too. Give it a try and I apologize if you’re hooked.

Computer Games
I’ve mentioned this many times before but it’s still great, so let’s mention it again: Cracking the Cryptic is a sudoku YouTube channel with a web app that lets you play along. The sudoku boards aren’t typically your standard grids with normal rules, though; they often have additional rules that make things a bit more complicated. The expert solvers on the channel regularly take 20-30 minutes to solve the “easier” ones and some take them an hour plus; I don’t bother with those often. This week, a tackled this puzzle and if you’re new to these, you’ll find it impossible. But if you watch the video that goes along with it, here, you’ll see how solvable (and frankly brilliant) it is. If you want some easier options, every so often, they upload a video with multiple “generally approachable sudokus” for you to try. Here’s one example — a 30-minute video with five such puzzles.

That’s a lot, I think. If you like them, great! If you have suggestions for things I’d like, let me know!

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: The “You Should Retire” Law of 1882: I don’t know if I did a good job writing this, but I guess it’s fine. Eh.

Tuesday: The Four-Foot-Eight Security Loophole: I cannot believe this happened. I mean, I’m sure it happened, but I can’t see how it could have.

Wednesday: But The Cat Came Back: Pets and politicians don’t mix (unless the pet is the politician’s), and politicians should be wary of this fact, because they will lose most of the time.

Thursday: The Sword Isn’t So Mighty After All: One of these days, I will buy myself a He-Man Funko Pop.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “The Unsolved Murder of an Unusual Billionaire” (Bloomberg, 27 minutes, October 2018). I don’t think I need to explain why this is interesting — the headline does a good job doing that. 

2) “The Desperado” (Atavist, 41 minutes, 2019). This one, on the other hand, needs some more context. So, here’s the subhead: “In April 2018, a blind man with one foot robbed a bank in Austin, Texas. This is a heist story—but unlike any you’ve ever read.”

3) “After the Beanie Baby bubble burst” (Vox, 20 minutes, January 2022). Beanie Babies, like many fad collectibles, were worth a fortune for a while, but are now worth very little. This story asks and answers, “what happens when the frenzy ends and the world doesn’t value your valuables?”

Have a great weekend!