Take a deep breath and relax... Get comfortable... Change into some loose clothing if you can. Perhaps turn on soft music or make yourself some tea. Take a moment to stand up and stretch and roll the stress out of your shoulders. Inhale through your nose, hold that breath for a moment, then exhale through your mouth. You have come to the lake...
That was not me speaking, and you aren't reading a mindfulness manual. It is in fact an excerpt from a rulebook, and the game is A Gentle Rain. I'm sitting in the living room, it's New Year's Eve, and my dinner plans for tonight got cancelled because of covid. We have 35000 new cases every day in the last 3 days, and one of the guests was tested positive. All I'm left with is a grumpy mood and the goddamned Gentle Rain.
So, what is this little game that promises to offer rest and relaxation, and does it deliver the promise? Answer: it's an extremely simple tile-laying game, and yes, it really is relaxing. I guess it sits somewhere between a game and an activity due to how simple and random it is. And yet, even though you're barely using a brain muscle to match the flower halves on the tiles, it doesn't feel stupid. It feels nice and laid back.
All you have to do is place one tile next to another trying to complete sets of flowers and fill 8 holes with wooden flower tokens. If you succeed, you count up your score and keep it in mind for your next session. The rules say you can play with a friend if you want, but that would be tacked-on. This is really a solitaire game for a Zen monk observing the lily blooms in the lake.
You have to pay attention not to block yourself by placing the tiles in ways unlikely to produce matches but, other than that, it's a straightforward task. It is something to play when your brain is fried after an exhausting day, when you don't feel like playing a 'meaty' game, when you feel down, when you want to look at and touch something well-made and beautiful.
The packaging and production is superb, and if you know what to expect from it, you won't be disappointed. I believe JW likes it as well.
The surprise hit of 2021 for me. Yes, it's by Kevin Wilson, the co-designer of Elder Sign, one of my all time favourite games. But this is something else. It's meant as a relaxing exercise and it succeeds remarkably. I love how the tiles feel in my hand. I'm just staring a bit at the lake, seeing the small drops falling. Flowers are formed between the leaves, then opening up. There's no rush, no competition. I'm away from the world for a few minutes. It's great.
Yep, he does. So, we are closing 2021 with peace on our minds despite the heavy rains that the past year brought, and hoping the rains of 2022 will at least be gentle.
Happy New Year, everyone!