The Games I’m Playing, January 2023


A bit over a year ago, I used this Friday Weekender space to share with you some games that I’ve been playing in my spare time. That was very well received so I am going to do the same today. You’ll see a few repeats on this year’s list — that’s probably an indication that the games are really good! 

iPhone Games
My newest obsession is Marvel Snap, a collectible card game battler (using virtual cards, of course). I played a lot of Magic: the Gathering growing up, and if you played that or, say, Pokemon, you probably are familiar with the general idea. If not, the learning curve is easy. As someone with a lot of experience playing these types of games, I can attest that it’s incredibly well designed; matches are quick (under five minutes) and there’s just the right amount of variance to make it interesting for weeks on end. And i”s a free game — you can pay to access some cards more quickly, and you can also spend money to get different card art — so there’s no commitment; I haven’t put a dime into the game. 

My go-to game when I don’t have any data access is Solebon, a solitare app. It’s now $5.99 but I’ve had it for probably a decade and have played thousands of games, so I think I got my money’s worth. There’s a free version, too, but I haven’t used it in a while.

Last year, I featured Cracking the Cryptic, a YouTube channel where, each day, two expert puzzlers solve a Sudoku variant, one per person. A lot of them are very hard and I’ve skipped a bunch of them lately. Definitely worth your time, though, if you haven’t tried them previously. 

I find myself spending more time, though, on James Sinclair’s Artisinal Sudoku newsletter. Each week, he shares three puzzles, one harder than the next, plus some bonus ones for paying subscribers. Here’s a really tricky one I was able to tackle if you’re looking for a challenge.

I’ve been playing Rummikub for almost my entire life — my grandmother taught me probably around the same time I was learning to read. The name-brand board game’s website has an online interface; it’s really not mobile-friendly and sometimes, it takes a few tries to connect. And sometimes, there’s sometimes a delay in the drag-and-drop of the tiles, among other little annoyances, but there’s a robust community of players, so you can usually find a game.

That’s all for now. Any recommendations — especially if you have a backgammon or bridge app/website you really like — let me know! (Just please do not suggest Monopoly.)

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday:  How To Save a Sinking Church: I once took a geology class in college where I was supposed to learn all about how water tables worked as they applied to civil engineering and construction. I can’t remember a single thing from that class other than how there’s a landfill right near Walden Pond (famous for the Henry David Thoreau poem written about it). The landfill doesn’t pollute the pond because the water table flows from the pond to the landfill, not the other way around. I think. In any event, I would have totally screwed up the saving of the church.

TuesdayThe Original Turn Signals: I’m not going to tell you what they were because that would ruin the surprise!

Wednesday: When Astronauts Smuggled Mail Into Space: It’s a weird thing to bring into space, given that there are no mailboxes or post offices or the like, right? But it makes money!

Thursday: Seattle’s Mystery Soda Machine: I really think thiis would be a fun thing to install in a city somewhere. 

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend:

1) “The Mysterious Case of the Doctor Who Disappeared at Sea” (New York Times, 12 minutes, December 2022). I love a “mysterious case” of anything (non-medical related).

2) “I was given a house – but it already belonged to a Detroit family” (Bridge Detroit, 20 minutes, October 2022). This is a tough story on so many levels.

3) “The Misunderstood Roman Empress Who Willed Her Way to the Top” (Smithsonian, 25 minutes, January/February 2023). I didn’t know anything about the subject in question, so I didn’t really appreciate the “misunderstood” part beforehand, but it was still a good read.

Have a great weekend!