Such fun (Topic Discussion) – Tabletop Games Blog

There are many reasons why people play board games. I have written about this before, but in this article I want to dive into it a bit deeper. Like with any activity, and apologies if I upset anyone when I call playing board games an activity, people do them for varying reasons. Just think of physical exercise. For many, it will be for health reasons, but it’s more faceted than that. Some people might need to lose weight to improve their blood pressure or they exercise just generally to improve their cardiovascular systems. For others it could be a matter of physio therapy after recovering from an injury or people do it to improve their stamina. The reasons why people play board games are just as diverse.

All of the reasons I list in this article will be considered of different importance by different people. So my list is in no particular order, but I do have to start somewhere.

So let’s start with the social element of playing board games. For some it will be about spending time with good friends. It’ll be about having a good chat, maybe having some friendly banter or catching up on what everyone has been doing since the last time you all met. The game itself is usually secondary and the talking will be the main part – before, during and after playing.

Often there will be food and drinks involved as well. So you might have your games night in a pub or boardgame cafe – or round someone’s house. There will be nibbles and snacks, hot and cold beverages, all of which are a way of connecting and enjoying the time together. It’s not much different from people going to the pub, a restaurant or cafe together – or meeting at someone’s house. There just happens to be a game there as well.

That sort of environment also allows to make new friends, and for some people it is actually important to make new friends. Boardgame cafes, conventions and similar environments will help with that, and a boardgame can make it much easier to meet new people, because you all have the love of playing games in general or the love of a specific boardgame in common. It is easier to invite others to a game if you know they either like the game or like playing in general. It also makes it easier to talk to people you have just met, because you have the same hobby in common.

Speaking of talking, for some people the fun is very much in playing the game, but only if there is also a bit of friendly ribbing and banter. It’s a matter of socially interacting in the context of the game – the so-called magic circle of the game. It’s a safe place where you can interact with others, without personally insulting them – or at least, without meaning to personally insult them.

Social deduction or co-operative games can create a similar feeling for those people for whom the game does come first, but where social interaction with others is still also very important and possibly even a critical part of playing in the first place.

Of course, boardgame date nights are also very popular these days. You can spend a romantic evening with your partner and have some quality time together. There are a number of “couples games”, if I may call them that, which are ideal for this way of playing together.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be partners. For some people, it’s important to play games with loved ones – partners, children, parents and other family members for example. It is very similar in that respect to wanting to spend time with good friends.

Now, many of you will be asking about solo gamers. Well, to be honest, a lot of what I have talked about so far will also apply to many solo gamers. Just because you play solo, doesn’t mean you don’t like social interaction. So there is a lot of overlap when you look at why solo gamers enjoy playing games and why groups of people enjoy it, even though people often draw a thick dividing line between solo and multiplayer games, which is a shame.

In fact, there are some things that seem to be attributed specifically to solo gamers, when they’re really also reason why multiplayer gamers enjoy playing board games. One of the first reasons mentioned is trying to solve the puzzle that a game presents. As a solo player you basically play against the game, whether that’s in the form of an AI or just a matter of trying to reach a goal in a certain amount of time, number of turns or with limited resources.

However, co-operative games are really the same thing, and multiplayer games are not much different either.

Whenever you play a game, you try to solve the puzzle presented to you, in the form of creating an efficient engine or populating the largest area or whatever it may be. In a multiplayer game you simply have several people trying to do the same thing at the same time – and often on the same board.

So here is another reason why some people enjoy playing board games – whether solo or multiplayer. It’s about solving this puzzle, about challenging yourself to find an efficient strategy, about responding to events and play tactically or about doing the best you can. It’s the challenge that matters to those people.

You can divide this even further. For solo players it will be about challenging themselves, for multiplayer gamers it’s also about challenging themselves, but probably also about pitting their wits against the others and trying to do better than them, however serious those people might take that – and for multiplayer-solitaire players, it’s very much like for solo player, about meeting the challenge and doing well.

It can feel great when you beat a game or when your strategy really does well – or when you pull off an amazing combo. It could be a single turn when you do well and it can be that turn that you remember afterwards – or it can feel great when you’re trailing behind the others for most of the game, or when it feels like you’re not getting anywhere for a long time, but in the last two rounds you turn it all around and unexpectedly win the game. Again, it doesn’t matter whether this is in a solo or multiplayer game – it feels good in all cases.

Some people also love immersing themselves in a game – in its story – in its world. It’s a sort of escape from the daily thoughts and worries, where you can be someone else for a certain amount of time and think about something else. It goes back to the idea of the magic circle that boardgames create, where you are safe and immune. You can explore a character completely different to yourself – or one that is an exact copy of you. You can explore worlds.

Often it is also about the story that a game tells. Some people just love creating a story from the actions players take in a game and the overall flow of the gameplay. I know someone who can turn even the most abstract game into a deep and fun story. That story can be fun or it can be serious – it can even be sad. It can be the game that tells the story, as you find in so-called “story-telling games” – or it can be the players who actively make up that story as the game progressed. Yet, whatever the story is and how it is created, it gives a huge amount of enjoyment to people who love playing games for that reason.

Great artwork and illustrations are a great help to make a game come to life, and a good theme is often needed to bring it all together. Some people enjoy games mainly because of their theme and their look. It’s very similar to the satisfaction people get from the story-telling or the fact that they can escape for a while – but it’s from a slightly different angle. A good theme coupled with stunning artwork can in itself conjure up stories and really fire up your imagination, making it easy to escape into that world – without even playing the game. Just looking at the box or the game board can be really enjoyable and as long as the mechanisms mesh well with everything else, playing the game will be great fun.

In a similar vein are deluxe components. Metal coins or custom, chunky, wooden tokens, maybe some beautiful miniatures or even shiny acrylic components can all add to the enjoyment of a game. Some people just have to go for the deluxe version of a game and it’s almost vital for them to have those upgraded bits to make the game fun. If you’ve never tried it, then get yourself some metal coins and replace them with the cardboard money in a game and you’ll soon be running the coins through your fingers and enjoy the clink they make as you pay them back into the game’s bank. There will be no going back afterwards.

I already touched on it a little bit, but of course some people love co-operative games. The feeling of working together in a game can give a lot of enjoyment. Even in some competitive games, you sometimes have to work together, at least to some degree, to achieve something. It can give you a feeling of belonging and when you succeed together, it gives great satisfaction – or when you do lose together, it doesn’t feel quite so bad. In fact, losing can spurn you on to try again, because everyone has some fresh ideas of how to win next time.

I reckon there are other reasons why people enjoy playing boardgames. Is there something you enjoy about playing boardgames that I haven’t mentioned? Do you identify with any of the reasons I have listed in my article? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (
Music: Dead Times by BrvtVs (

Finding the fun (Topic Discussion)

I think like pretty much every hobby, playing board games is about having fun. You might prefer to play solo, you might like to play with your partner or you have a group of friends you play with. You probably play different types of games with different people. Maybe you play lighter games with your loved one in the evenings, because you’re both tired after work and want to have some relaxing time together, but when you play with your games group you want something complex and thinky to really stretch your brain. Ultimately though, I think it’s all about having fun.

So the question is, where the fun of playing board games comes from. The answer is, as so often: it depends. Different people have different things they enjoy, and what someone enjoys also changes from day to day or hour to hour. When it comes to playing games, it will also depend on who you play with.

In my experience, people want to have a feeling of achievement and progression when they play games. In many games, you start with something very basic and simple and you slowly make it better and better. That’s certainly true for engine building games, of course, but area control, deck building and even tile laying games can all give that sense of progression and achievement.

I would say that even in a game of Carcassonne, you do feel like you’re progressing. You all build the map together, you add to your own cities, roads or monasteries. You place meeples and take meeples back when you score a feature. It feels like things grow in front of you and by the end of the game you feel like you’ve achieved a lot, even if you never achieve everything and some cities, roads or monasteries remain unfinished.

Fun can also come from beautiful illustrations, custom meeples, chunky dice, realistic resources or even from the ever-popular miniatures. A clean graphic design can also help with making a game more fun. The visual element is certainly important to me and I think a lot of people feel the same. It’s not just the visual element, but often also the tactility. Rolling chunky dice, playing with metal coins, moving amazing miniatures or otherwise touching and physically interacting with the game can be a lot of fun.

I would even go as far as saying that for some people, visual appeal and tactility can be the main source of fun when they play games – at least sometimes. I think many of use have played a game that isn’t actually that exciting or clever, but because it looks or feels great, we still had a lot of fun.

In a similar vein are IPs. A game that uses a popular book, film or other intellectual property can sometimes get away with actually not offering much in the way of gameplay or complexity or anything new and exciting, yet because the players love the IP, they love the game. I’m sure many of us seen this also.

Of course, that is not to say that great IPs always lead to terrible games, just like great artwork or components always mean the game itself is bad. When a great game is married with great artwork, components or IP, then it really shines, and there have been games like this that will have ticked all of the boxes for us.

Storytelling is also often very important to creating a fun experience. Some people I know just love spinning a story as we play a game. They seem to get most of their enjoyment from narrating what’s happening and linking it all back to what happened earlier in the game. They don’t care much about winning, but when another player’s actions fit perfectly into the narrative the game has told so far, they are over the moon and have a lot of fun, and it’s often those moments in a game that we all remember.

On the other side of all of this is that fun can come purely from the mechanisms and the gameplay. Some people love an abstract game much more than one with an amazing setting or theme. They get their fun from playing well and maximizing their turns, when they’re most efficient with their resources or make the most points. Artwork, components, story and everything else has no impact on their enjoyment of the game.

Often, for these people, it’s more about solving the puzzle that the game presents. They basically play solo, even when they’re not playing alone. They probably enjoy multiplayer solitaire games just as much as solo games and just as much as multiplayer games, because really it’s about how well they do on their turn and how efficient they are, rather than how well they play against other players.

Finally, I think there is a group of people for whom the fun comes from socialising with others. Spending time with friends or family, maybe a loved one, is more important than anything else about the game. To be honest, I think for many of us, that’s at the core of playing games with others. So even when we enjoy a complex strategy game and love that we’re playing really well and enjoy the wonderful art, ultimately the most fun we get is from being with a great bunch of people – even if these days it’s not in person, but virtually.

In fact, I think that’s why our hobby is so great. You can play games with complete strangers and have a good time. Each of you might see the fun in something different, but everyone has fun in their own way. Board games provide the shared interest that allows us to be together, even if we’re all very different as individuals. Board games can be a focal point that allows us to be ourselves, or become someone else, while having fun.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (
Music: Tranquilize by Purple Planet Music (

Family fun – enjoying games as a family (Topic Discussion)

As we know, and as I always say, there are so many games, chances are there is something for everyone. Not only that, there will be games for all sorts of different types and sizes of groups. That has always been true for family games that can be enjoyed by a wide range of ages and interests. In this article, I want to look at what it is I enjoy so much about playing games with my family.

Of course, one of the main reasons I play games is the social interaction with people. That takes on a slightly different meaning when it comes to playing with your family, as opposed to friends or people you’ve not met before. As I mentioned in my article “Face-off“, I love the time my wife and I spend playing a game. It’s a special time. We connect, share time together and focus on the game.

It’s even more special when our daughter plays a game with us. She used to do that a lot, but when she became a teenager, it stopped. Luckily, and I’m extremely happy about it, she’s slowly coming back to playing games with us. They tend to be smaller, shorter games, rather than the longer and more strategic games we used to play. However, whether we play a single 10-minute game or get her to play several shorter games with us, it’s so wonderful to spend time with her as a family.

She prefers competitive to co-operative games. I think she wants to show that she can win against her parents. It’s a friendly sort of competitiveness, even if we sometimes fight nail and tooth. At the end of a game, there are never bad feelings. Our daughter has learned early on that losing isn’t a bad thing.

Games with Siblings, Nieces, Nephews and the Wider Family

In my article “He ain’t heavy“, I talked about the fun my brother and I had with board games. I don’t see him much these days, as we live in different countries, but my wife’s brother’s family lives nearby. I mentioned how we first introduced my brother-in-law’s family to board games and how they subsequently introduced us to new games in my article “Home is where the board games are“. So whenever we meet up, we tend to play board games together.

My two nieces tend to play with us grown-ups and our daughter. Catering for a larger group of players isn’t always easy. However, when the family gets together, everyone tends to be quite relaxed and people happily sit out a game or two. After all, we usually spend a whole afternoon together. So there is plenty of time to play games. Everyone is also happy to try out and learn a new game, which is a great opportunity for me to teach some new games or for them to show us their latest game. That makes finding suitable games to play together as a family a little bit easier.

Luckily, everyone also enjoys not just light games, but slightly more demanding ones. Chai is one of the more recent ones they like, for example, but we also play games, such as Colt Express. Azul has also been popular for a while. There is a fairly wide range of options to choose from.

Whatever we play though, it’s so much fun seeing people of a wide range of ages and playing styles play together.

the cardboard coaches and other components from Colt Express
Colt Express

Games with the Parents and Parents-In-Law

That also includes my parents or my parents-in-law. For them, I tend to choose lighter and quicker games. A firm favourite with my parents is Carcassonne. I guess, it’s an evergreen game for a reason – and not because of the colour of the tiles. It’s such an easy game to explain and so very visual. My mum plays very competitively, while my dad doesn’t really mind either way. My wife’s parents usually just want to build a beautiful map. Either way, it’s an hour or so well spent. Yes, it’s an hour for us, because we always play with at least one expansion.

I recently introduced Town 66 to my wife, our daughter and subsequently my parents-in-law. It’s another very visual game that’s very easy to teach. It does require a little bit more focus though. So it’s a bit more taxing, but everyone really enjoys it. It’s such a fun little puzzle that game creates and trying to be the last player standing, while having the least number of tiles in your hand is a lot of fun.

My plan is to introduce them all to Scout, which I think they will enjoy for similar reasons. I know that both games are very different, at the same time I feel they scratch a similar itch. Both are from Oink Games, so it’s no surprise they feel similar in some ways. They’re both certainly easy to explain and don’t take very long to play.

a hand of cards in Scout

How About You?

Now I want to know if you play games with your family. If so, what sort of games do you play? Do you choose different games depending on which part of your family you’re with? Do you have some games that you think always hit the mark? Please share your experiences and suggestions in the comments below. I’d love to hear what games you play.

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Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

Review Pressures – fun versus review (Topic Discussion)

When you publish a review every week, there is a certain amount of pressure to frequently play games that are new to you. Even if you bear in mind that I sometimes re-review a game and that once a year I list my top 5 games as well as look back at the past 12 months, that still leaves around 50 games that I need to get to the table and play a few times. That’s a fair amount and risks taking the fun out of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love playing board games and I am not particularly picky either. There is a wide range of mechanisms, settings, themes, player counts and game lengths that appeal to me. I probably enjoy competitive games more than cooperative ones, but only slightly. Basically, there are very few games that I would never play again and only a handful that don’t give me at least a minimum amount of enjoyment.

Balancing the Fun

However, there comes a point where something that is fun can become tedious and eventually even stressful. Even the most enjoyable activity can become problematic if you do it too often. Something that’s entertaining when done as a hobby may well turn into a chore when done as a job, at least after a certain amount of time. I am very lucky that I was able to convert working with computers back in the 80s from a hobby into a well-paid job. However, 40 years later, my steam is slowly running out.

Let’s return to board games though. I know there is nobody telling me that I have to release a new review every single week. It’s a pressure I put on myself. My blog is also not a job. What I do in the modern hobby game community is for fun. So I really shouldn’t complain about it – and that’s not what this article is about.

I just want to try and share with you my experience of the hobby from the angle of a reviewer. I want to illustrate how it can change things. Having a reviewer hat on is different to playing games without any expectations, neither from other people nor from yourself.

Bring Your Own Game

Most of the games I review are games that I bought myself or that friends brought to games night. That means they are likely to be fun. I try to avoid spending good money on something that I don’t expect to enjoy. Similarly, friends tend to buy games and bring them to games night only when they think the group will enjoy them. So, on the whole, playing games is still always fun, even when I have my notepad out to record my thoughts and the experience everyone was having.

The situation changes slightly when I play a game for the first time and don’t really enjoy it. I can decide not to play it again and therefore not review it. Yet, I also think about how many other games I have in the pipeline. As I said, it’s me putting pressure on myself to release a review every week, but it’s still pressure. So sometimes I decide that we need to play a game at least once more, ideally a few more times, even though we really didn’t like it.

Luckily, my games group tends to be open to that suggestion, especially if it’s one of them who bought the game. After all, first plays can sometimes be a bad experience, which gets much better in subsequent sessions. That willingness from my friends allows me to potentially review a game, even if it still is not enjoyable after several plays and after ensuring we played by the rules – or it means I can write about a game that takes a while to get used to, but is ultimately worth it.

a heap of games

Review Copies

I have also started to receive more review copies. As long as I am confident that I will get the game to the table, I’m more than happy to review it. The difference between games I or my friends bought and copies that a publisher sends me for free is that with review copies you basically promise to publish your article within a reasonable amount of time. That promise isn’t always explicit, but any half-decent reviewer will apply it implicitly.

So now the pressure is a bit different. Technically, it’s still me putting it on myself, because I agreed to write about the game, but there is now an expectation from a third party that I do so. Again, my games group is always very happy to play a game that I promise to review. If the game doesn’t hit the mark after the first play, they are often also very happy to play it again, because they know I need to write about it on the blog.

Yet, playing games that I was sent for review does change the experience slightly. There is always this uneasy feeling that nobody really wants to say anything negative. That’s especially true for games from a self-publisher who poured their heart and soul into it. So while most people are happy to openly share their thoughts on a game that one of us paid for, a game that was sent for free changes that attitude to some degree.

Don’t Lose the Fun

So my concern is that I sometimes lose the fun of playing games with friends and family. I should always appreciate spending time with people whose company I enjoy. Yet, when I have my reviewer’s hat on, I feel I don’t always do that. I also worry that I put unnecessary extra pressure on my friends to play lots of different games with me.

Sure, it’s always nice to have something new to try. That’s especially true when it’s the latest and maybe a not-yet-available game. When a publisher sends me an advance review copy, it feels very special. Being able to tell my friends and family that the game they’re playing isn’t generally available yet is amazing.

At the same time, playing the same game more than just a handful of times is also special. There are games we love and can’t get enough of. The thing is, playing a game for the 10th time doesn’t add much to my opinion of it. Also, once I have published my review, there is no benefit to the blog if I play the game again.

I have to make sure I never forget what our hobby is all about – having fun. Whether that’s alone, with friends or with family doesn’t matter. We are supposed to enjoy the experience of playing a game. It’s the emotions that they evoke and the stories they tell that are important. A last-minute victory after the most amazing turn is so very memorable, just like the feeling of frustration when your perfect strategy wasn’t as perfect as you thought.

It’s All About Balance

As I said at the beginning of the article, it’s all about balance. I think, on the whole, I have it right. I don’t feel there is too much pressure on me to release new reviews every week. I actually think that the schedule is one of the main reasons why this blog still exists. Without it, I would probably not really write much.

I also think that I don’t overwhelm my friends with new games that I must get to the table. I am lucky that they often bring games we haven’t played before that I can review. The blog doesn’t just feature the latest games, but I happily write about ones from many, many years ago. That flexibility is also important and helps reduce the pressure.

So, yes, I think it’s all fine and I have enough fun. It’s just sometimes good to remind yourself of where you’re at and where you don’t want to be. Let’s hope I can continue on this path and bring you more interesting articles and reviews.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Village Ambiance by Alexander Nakarada
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License (CC BY 4.0):

Bad Fun – how bad game experiences can be fun (Topic Discussion)

If you’re a very competitive player, then winning is all that counts. Depending on how ruthless you are, you will push for victory at all cost, as long as it is within the rules. Even if you’re less cruel, you will do what you can to win. Either way, ending a game in first place feels good. It not only proves that you played well, but that you’re a better player than the other people around the table. Yet, I often find that not winning or even doing badly in a game can be fun and here is why.

Generally speaking, being thrashed by other players is usually not a very positive experience. You want to have a good chance of winning. So if things don’t go your way, it’s frustrating and demotivating. It gets worse when you make obvious mistakes, but notice them too late. It’s these things that aren’t fun. They make you not want to play a game ever again. However, that’s not what I want to talk about in this article. I want to focus on those moments in a game that are exciting and memorable, even if they ultimately negatively affect your game or cost you your victory.

Memorable Fun

One of my favourite moments in a game is when another player executes an amazing turn. There you are, miles in the lead. There are a handful more turns left in the game and there is no way anyone else has any chance of catching up, let alone overtaking you. Victory is rightfully yours. That is until another player pulls off the impossible.

I don’t know if you’ve ever come across it yourself, but there are games where you can create amazing combos. In my game group, there is one person who is known for their ability to chain actions together and snatch victory from right under your nose.

Only the other evening they accomplished what seemed like the impossible. We were playing a three-player game of Tapestry and one of us had already finished with a reasonable score. I was about two turns away from finishing myself and had a comfortable lead. I was quietly confident that I would win – and as many of you will know, I don’t usually win games. So you can imagine my excitement to have this elusive victory in my grasp. My friend then made a mistake, which cost them a good chunk of points. At that moment I thought I was definitely going to win. It was practically a certainty now.

Of course, it was not to be. My friend was cursing themselves for making such a stupid mistake. Yet, they pulled off an amazing combination of actions to win by one point. I was horrified, but also so very impressed by what they had achieved. I was sad that I didn’t win, but I also recognized the amazing feat that my friend had achieved. It turned what could have been an awful moment for me into one of awe and respect.

a close-up of the Tapestry game box with some plastic components on top (Photo courtesy of Stonemaier Games)
a close-up of the Tapestry game box with some plastic components on top (Photo courtesy of Stonemaier Games)

Bad to Fun

If you look at the situation from my friend’s perspective, you will have a journey of going from a bad experience to a good one. They were behind for a good chunk of the game, then made a silly mistake and fell even further behind. It didn’t look good and I reckon my friend was getting annoyed with themselves. Yet, they persevered and not only caught up, but turned their fortunes around and won.

Their journey will have gone from being hopeful early in the game, to eventually feeling frustrated and maybe a little cross with themselves, until finally the situation changed and their skilful chaining of actions gave them victory. So even though their negative experience of the game most certainly felt bad and wasn’t fun, their ultimate success must have felt extra sweet. The bad experience made the good experience especially meaningful.

I know, it’s not quite what I explained at the beginning of this article. However, I think it’s related. It’s a good reminder to all of us to not give up and try and turn things around.

Lucky Fun

Generally speaking though, losing against a worthy opponent doesn’t feel as bad as losing due to pure chance. I mean, you might as well flip a coin. Saying that though, there are games where randomness plays a big role, but they can still create memorable moments even when the luck is against you.

I don’t know if you’ve ever played Mint Tin Mini Skulduggery, but if you haven’t, then I suggest you get yourself this wonderfully simple, yet effective, mini mint tin game of dice rolling fun. On your turn, you literally just roll dice. There are three of them and at the beginning of each game, you randomly choose a number from 1 to 6 that is your target number. If any of the three dice show that target number, you get a certain number of points, represented by pretty little skull beads. The more dice show the target number, the more points you get. The problem is, you want to have exactly 15 skulls to win. If you go over, you bust.

It’s a really simple game and even though there are certain things you can do as a player to prevent an opponent from winning, they are pretty limited and ultimately you’re at the mercy of how the dice roll. Yet, this simple setup creates a lot of excitement. As you get closer to the target of 15 points, the excitement ratchets up. You don’t want to go over and bust. Of course, as is the case in luck games, you inevitably end up gaining too many skulls and losing it all. It’s technically an awful moment, because you pretty much lost now, but the excitement leading up to it really cancels out any bad feelings – and all of that happens within 15 minutes. What a rollercoaster ride!

What About You?

So how do you deal with mistakes or losing in games? Have you had any memorably terrible moments in a game? Maybe you’re not very competitive and don’t much care about winning. Even so, you may have experienced a frustrating situation in a game. How did you deal with it? As always, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

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Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Buzzkiller by Alexander Nakarada
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