Sunday, December 31, 2006

In the shadow of the year

Pleasant news! I do not work on Monday. Happy New Year to all!

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Saddam Hussein, Gerald Ford, even JAMES BROWN is dead. Soon the year will die, too.

Friday, December 29, 2006


This marks the first time I'm on broadband since I left Austin for California. I'm in a coffeeshop in oldtown Salinas, drinking an average hot chai and killing the ton of spam I've managed to collect.

I could rant about airports and the loss of privacy in the wake of false security, but the bile isn't fresh.

I could take about the first day of actual sunshine we've had on our trip since New Orleans. Rain in Houston, rain while flying, rain while driving, fog while flying. We wound up circling San Jose for an hour and forty-five minutes waiting for the weather to clear. For a while, we didn't know if the pilot would land us in San Fran, San Jose (where Cat's parents waited to pick us up) or Oakland (of fame).

I have a camera full of pictures, precious few of which are of Carl and Jackie's wedding- sadly, we left the camera in the car.

I would like to mention that I've played twenty-plus sessions of Wits and Wagers (BGG, BUY ME!) since Monday. Beyond passing the "Let's Play Again!" test, it has also passed the "Can we play without you?" and "Are we playing tonight?" tests. I'm a little floored- I suspected the mix of trivia and gambling would go over well, but How could I suspect I'd play so many games? I'm starting to need more question cards.

I have a new didgeridoo! A present to myself with courier servies courtesy of Cat's cousin, holidaying in Australia. Pix soon.

We will soon return to your irregularly scheduled game blogging, complete with a list of presents.

I've got some productivity and lifehackery things in store for the New Year, too.

I am not an Internet addict.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

In California, behind dialup. Via cell @ enroute to the Pacific. Pix Soon.

Friday, December 22, 2006



  • Drive from Austin to Houston
  • Fly from Houston to New Orleans
  • See friends and family, attend wedding
  • Fly from New Orleans to Houston
  • Drive from Houston to Austin
  • Less than twelve hours later, fly from Austin to San Jose, California (as opposed to San Jose, Costa Rica {that's another story})
  • Drive around to various towns in California
  • Fly from San Jose to Austin before the New Year

We made it in last night on a very late flight, originally scheduled to leave Houston at nearly eleven PM, arriving at two minutes after midnight in good ol' MSY. Due to inclement weather, our flight was delayed about an hour. I don't think I've ever flown on a more turbulent flight; the captain nixed drink services so the flight attendants and soda pop wouldn't fall about the cabin. This made me pretty cranky, especially since the fascist TSA busted Cat for an unopened bottle of water, destroying the backup beverage service that lives in her backpack. To make up for it, my ears didn't bother me at all for possibly the first flight ever- normally I go through a pack of gum per flight.

My good friend Judson got out of his Jury Duty (two months of nonsense, then an 11th hour settlement) and actually could make it in for the wedding. As luck would have it, our flights were scheduled to arrive within minutes of each other, so we arranged to give him a ride. I haven't seen him since before the storm, and this is his first time back to see the city. We drove around to the Quarter and had cafe au lait/hot chocolate/chocolate milk and beignets until 3AM. I also managed to not wear black and cover myself with powered sugar, another first.

Good times.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Honeypot now available!

Please allow me to direct your attention to Marc Majcher's Honeypot, a nifty new two-player abstract strategy game from Gizmet Gameworks.

I had a hand in the playtesting and rules editing, plus I suggested the title. You can see some of the ready-for-assembly game bits over on Marc's Flickr channel.

Shop New Orleans

I wish I would have found out about this earlier in the holiday season, but my mom just sent me a site that collects a bunch of New Orleans local businesses with an online presence. The basic idea is to help rebuild the city by helping revive the economy with an infusion of out-of-state cash that not donated or loaned, but actually going straight to the heart of the mom-and-pop places that make up the soul of the city.

A few suggestions from the list:

  • The Times-Picayune's store has a wealth of visual and newsworthy delights: Snow (really!) in 2004, the pope's visit, Katrina, Katrina, Katrina.
  • Scriptura, a great shop for readers and writers- paper, ink, and more. Classy but not pretentious.
  • The Michalopoulos gallery, a local artist with a distinct style of painting architecture- one day I'll own one of his actual paintings.
  • Perlis, the men's clothing line with crawfish-embroidered polos.
  • Emeril, Paul Prudhomme, and Cafe du Monde all have an online presence.

If you can't visit New Orleans, try the next best thing.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Double-0 R2

I'm finding it hard to give this Star Wars interpretation a good intro.

In a nutshell, Episodes I, II, and III force us (if you'll pardon the pun) to reexamine our assumptions of the canon as presented in Episodes IV, V, VI. Was R2D2 the Rebellion's top agent? Was Chewbacca manipulating Han Solo? Just how kindly is ol' Ben Kenobi?

You'll have to read it for yourself- it's pretty compelling.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Apple versus Microsoft

Not quite a heavyweight battle for supremacy, more like a compare-and-contrast essay. Slashdot brought us the latest article in a series comparing the new Microsoft Vista and the newest incarnation of Apple's OS X, Leopard. I spent at least an hour reading the author's various articles- There's a lot of pro-Apple information to the point of evangelism, so be advised if you don't want to read some drum-beating.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Happy Hanukkah

If it's Friday and after sundown where you are, then Happy Hanukkah!

Pardon our dust

I'm on the new Blogger Beta, with bells and whistles and pizzazz. Right now, it looks like everything made it okay- I don't see any huge 402:Kidnapped By Elves errors, the posts are in place, the layout looks right, and the ads are working. I'll play with the features some time this weekend. Maybe even tag old articles for ease of reading.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Technology update

Yesterday I bought a modem for my MacBook at the Apple Store over in the mall. Wha-huh? A modem? Why? Well, we're traveling to California for the holidays and none of Cat's family has high-speed internet. I'll have to rough it for a few days and go back to dial-up. My awesome boss back at Tulane once told me that he used going back to dial-up as his standard threat to his wife and daughters. Last year, none of their neighbors were giving away wireless, but I'm hoping that this has changed. We'll see. After all, when McDonald's, Chick-Fil-A, and even the smegging Dairy Queen has free wireless, perhaps someone else in the city will jump on the bandwagon.

The gold and silver beamsplitters for Khet (née Deflexion, BGG, BUY ME!) are now available! Major kudos to the guys at Innovention Toys for supporting the early adopters of their game. Shop Louisiana! I had an opportunity to teach this to someone recently- even though I trounced him twice, I still had fun with the lasers and the mirrors.

In other news, my car is back from the shop after I skid on a puddle, hit a curb, and managed to really hose my suspension.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Tis the season for eggnog

Soon I shall continue with my annual tradition of buying some seasonal eggnog to save for a time when I can enjoy it and forget about in the fridge for a few months.

I love eggnog, but it wasn't until I was in my late twenties that I realized that most people A) make homemade eggnog and B) add liquor to it. Yet another perfectly decent consumable that doesn't need alcoholic improvement.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Firefox is awesome still

I recently downloaded the new Firefox 2.0, and so far it rocks. It's got built-in spellcheck in form fields, has built-in crash recovery, and they fixed an annoying Mac-only bug with Gmail. And it is a little faster, too.

If you install it on a Windows box, I get a dollar. Go click the big Firefox button on the right.

100 new games?

Stephanie, one of the cool people I met at BGGcon, makes mention of her gaming buddy Dave's goal to play 100 new games each year. I don't know Dave, but I like the idea.

She managed to play her one hundredth new game by October 1st, the 274th day of the year. For those of you following along at home that means playing a brand-new-to-you game about once every three days. Normally, I'd throw down the info about myself, but I've only been keeping track of played games for the last few months, so I'm working with incomplete data. I suppose I've played that many new games this year. I've certainly purchased at least that many post-Katrina. I've certainly played more than a hundred titles in this last year, too.

Playing one hundred new games might seem like a lot, but thinking about it- How much media does the average person intake over the course of a year? How much television soaks up time, or how many books get devoured? How many hours down the drain in front of teh internets, looking for teh funny?

Have you seen one hundred new television episodes? Learned one hundred new words in any language? Read one hundred books? Written one hundred new stories, or even one? Driven on one hundred streets?

Traditionally, folks make New Year's Resolutions in January. Why not spend some time in December examining the past year ahead of time?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Once again, Yehuda has it right, in talking about his Menorah Game: "I can't really be called a game designer unless I am regularly sitting down to the business. I may as well be living in LA and call myself an actor."

I've got a dozen or so game projects on and off the stove in various stages of completion. Am I a game designer?

I've got one roleplaying game self-published and sort of selling. Am I a game designer?

I'm considering starting an imprint with a friend to put out games. Am I a game publisher?

I usually don't think of myself as a game designer. Right now, I think that would be a fine thing to do for a living.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Free press for the oppressed

Ellen "Queen of Sky" Simonetti, the flight attendant fired for blogging, is having a book signing event here in Austin.

    When: 6-9PM December 6, 2006 (reading starts at 7)
    Where: Mozart's (Google Map)
    How much: $24 for the book, coffee unknown, wireless free

I'll be there to show the colors. Maybe I'll get an EFF membership while I'm at it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Hokey Smokes!

I woke up today to 321 pieces of spam in my Gmail.

MS Vista was released a few days ago.

Coincidence? I think not.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A more Modern Modern Art

Mike Doyle, a New Jersey design and game guy, has some extremely nice pictures and commentary on the new Portuguese edition of Knizia's Modern Art (BGG, BUY ME!). I'm almost glad I don't already own it so I can get this version. The aesthetics are almost tangible.

Oh Hell Indeed

Over the last month, I've played quite a few games. Be advised that this number of plays (129) is higher than average for me, due to BGG.con and a week of Thanksgiving vacation. What game have I played more than any other this month?

Oh Hell.

More than Category 5 (BGG, BUY ME!), more than Zendo (BGG, BUY RULE CARDS), and more than twice as often as my beloved Jungle Speed (BGG, BUY ME!). Oh Hell (BGG) is an addictive trick-taking card game you can play with a regular deck of playing cards. None of this fancy "new style" of game, mind you. Due to the age and popularity of the game, there are dozens of variations on how to play.

Here's the rules as played in the office:

Play consists of ten rounds. Each round, flip a card- this indicates the trump suit as well as the number of cards to be dealt out. Face cards are worth ten and Jokers are ten, no trump. For six players, face cards, tens, and nines count as eight cards maximum. Depending on mood, a Joker may get shuffled back in and a second card flipped to determine hand size and trump suit.

Everyone looks at their cards and holds their hands under the table. Put a number of cards indicating your bid into one hand, and with a count of "Ready, Steady, GO!" everyone puts their hands on the table and indicates their bid. Zero bids are allowed. The unlucky sod chosen as scorer records all bids. (This version of simultaneous blind bidding is taken from the English method called "knocking," where players use their hands alone. One hand makes it difficult to bid more than five, though.) If it happens that players have bid the exact number of tricks available, we let it ride.

The player left of the dealer leads. Trumps do not have to be "broken," so any card may be led at any time. Other players must follow suit, and may slough an off suit or play a trump if they have none of the led suit.

Make sure to play with the Jokers. As I was taught Oh Hell, the Jokers are used like the jesters from Tichu (BGG, BUY ME!)- that is to say, Jokers are Ultimate Fail and a guaranteed lose. A player who plays a Joker may do so without restriction- in other words, you can play a Joker to avoid having to play another card you might normally have to play when following suit. If a player leads a Joker, there is no led suit and control passes to the next player to determine suit. The same is true if the second player plays the other Joker.

Aces are high. High card of the led suit wins the trick. Cards of the trump suit beat all cards of the led suit. A Joker can't win the trick. The player who won the trick leads the next trick.

Once all tricks have been won, it's time to score. Right now, I have two scoring variants- the one I was taught originally, and the ruleset we play with in the office, affectionately known as "English Consolation Points." In both, if you make your non-zero bid, you get ten points plus your bid. So a successful bid of four is worth 14 points. A successful zero bid is either worth a flat ten points (English-style) or five points plus the number of cards in the round. If you miss your bid, you either score nothing or one point for each trick taken (English-style consolation prizes). I prefer the non-British scoring methods, but YMMV. Note that there are no partners, so your score is your own.

The shuffle and deal passes to the next player on the left.

Other common variants: Jokers are high. Bid openly, but the last player must not bid to make the tricks come out evenly. Trumps must be broken before they can be led. Play a round with 8 cards, then 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and finally 8. Trump suit rotates in an orderly known fashion: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs.

And finally, no matter what shouted epithet you wish to hurl with vitriolic fury at the player who has smugly played an Ace over your King in a one-card hand, your line is always "Oh, Hell!"

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Do not give me Monopoly

I am likely to do one of these things.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Yet another bandwagon

Okay, okay. I joined LiveJournal so I could post a comment on a friend's LJ thing. Sadly, because I'm late to this party, my choice usernames have been claimed by impostors. I'm rossumcapek over there.

Never fear, loyal readers! The real action will continue to happen at this address.

Monday, November 27, 2006

National Games Week

I just found out that last week (November 19-25) was National Games Week.

At least I did my part; By my count, I had 40 sessions of some 16 titles played. w00t!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

New Orleans is still everywhere

Cat and I just saw the new Denzel Washington flick, Deja Vu. I didn't know going in that the movie is set in New Orleans. The movie was in pre-production in New Orleans before Katrina and nearly didn't happen in the aftermath.

Like any New Orleans film, this one has problems, between bayous n' gators minutes from downtown and the lack of drunks and costumes on Mardi Gras (though they got the amount of trash right).

I'm glad that we saw this one so close to returning from New Orleans, and not in a week or three or whatever- it was easier being reminded of the city with fresh memories.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Hook them, Longhorns; Hook them, I say

We're back in Austin.

Driving out a week ago, I slept fitfully the whole way, recovering from a touch of food poisoning from Denny's. "Moons over My Hammy" indeed- more like Moons upside down and out My Hammy. Driving back in today, I woke up a little congested from allergies. Again, Cat did the lion's share of the driving while I used up pocket tissue and allergy meds.

Sick out, sick in. If this were a novel, I'd have a clever metaphor for you.

Driving to/from home [fixed]

Posting via cell, between Baton Rouge and Lafayette. Picked us up a muffaletta for the drive. Cat says: like a mouthful of heaven. I agree and savor mine because I already miss the garlicky olive relish. Hard to sleep last night-cried and thought about the future and the past. Home is good but different and familiar and strange, more than any homecoming has the right to be. I know nothing stays the same and nothing should; I know it more now.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I've woken up from a nap after Chinese buffet for Thanksgiving and Cat's watching the Top Chef marathon on Bravo; I am overwhelmed with food.

We had a list of places on the must-eat list. Whenever you come to New Orleans, there's never enough time to eat everything you want, and I knew we were overbooked to begin with. Our meal schedule was nearly done on the drive in. So far we've hit almost everything. Props to Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Menu site- now 709 restaurants open, and only one hundred left to go before we hit the pre-storm number!

The list:

  1. Lebanon's: Chef's special: hummus, taboule, labne, spinach salad, baba ganoush, kibby, falafel, grape leaves, Lebanese tea, and burma.
  2. Lee's hamburgers: A works, hold the lettuce, fries, and a Dr Pepper.
  3. Franky & Johnny's, sort of. Zeke's is now open by F&J's owners with their menu: Roast beef poboy, dressed no lettuce with Tabasco. Cat had a half-dozen oysters and boiled shrimps.
  4. Memphis-style Barbecue -> Corky's: Pulled pork, beef brisket, roast turkey, damn good barbecue beans unheard of in Texas, and potato salad.
  5. Dot's: L1 with cheese; mini burgers and fries made with crack and black magic.
  6. Five Happiness: Beef teriyaki with peanut sauce, sizzling chicken, bean curd and beef, and white rice.
  7. A poboy w00t!
  8. Zea: Rotisserie beef, sweet potatoes, the best corn grits in the world (no lie), tomato basil soup.
  9. A muffaletta
  10. Crazy Johnny's
  11. Roman Pizza
  12. Rue de la Course
  13. PJ's Coffee: Pumpkin pie chai, a granita, vanilla tea, cafe au lait, and a white hot chocolate.
  14. Angelo Brocato's: Florintine, some sort of light cookie with icing and apple filling, tiramisu ice cream, and praline gelato. I cried a little, being here.

Coming home to New Orleans has been wonderful, as if a great pressure of unfamiliarity has been removed. Like the man who kept hitting himself on the head because of how good it felt when he stopped, it's good to be home again. I've spent this week back at home, surrounded by my friends and family, playing games and eating.

New Orleans is evocative and emotionally charging, even before the storm. I don't want to go into the negative now- this holiday season is about focusing on the positive.

Monday, November 20, 2006

For those of you watching from home

Yes, Cat and I are safe in New Orleans. Family, food, games, friends, food, games, family, food, friends, friends, coffee, games, friends, food.

Details to follow.

Friday, November 17, 2006


It's that time of year again; the time for the ritual devouring of our national bird, the turkey.

Also for road trips. Next week we'll be back in New Orleans.

New local boardgame- Now, with terror!

Two Austin sisters have self-published a boardgame, Where on Earth is Osama bin Laden? For the low low price of $19.95, you too can roll-and-move for a fifty-fifty chance of jumping ahead or moving back two spaces. Judging by the few images on their site, there's not much to the game itself, and the hilarity comes from reading the cards. All in all, it doesn't look that interesting. They did get some local press, so more power to them. I bete they get sales at their target demographic and for gag gifts.

It does ramp up my anticipation for getting my copy of the War on Terror boardgame, direct from England and complete with Evil ski mask!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Steve Pavlina provides some compelling reasons for remaining unemployed- Mom, pretend I said "freelance."

We're seeing more and more strange and wonderful situations due to the non-physicality of the net- Successful virtual businesses in Second Life; the Long Tail for retail; individual people forming communities based on ideas and interests rather than geophysical space.

Everyone else is doing it, why can't I?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Future is Now

In one of the deleted scenes from Aliens, we see the robot sentries emptying their ammo into hordes of swarming aliens.

Now, for the low low price of $200,000, you too can own your very own automated robot machine gun sentry robot, by Samsung. ED-209, hold on to your pension.

Bonus points if you can name the rousing Korean music played during the video.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Optics mishap

I had an awesome weekend. To balance that out, I had a bad thing happen to me. While demoing Zendo to some folks at BGGcon, I took my glasses off to clean them and the frame snapped under my hamlike fists, popping the left lens out onto the floor. Panic.

As luck would have it, the lens was undamaged by its traumatic journey and easily recovered by one of the company. Cat (via the hotel gift shop) also came to my rescue with superglue.

Now I can see again, but my prescription is so damn bad that the optometrist needs to order the lenses. I hope they come in before we go home for Turkey Day.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Back to Austin

Back in Austin after four days of nearly twenty-four hour gaming. I got 3-4 hours sleep most every night.

Just finished unpacking the suitcases. I'm about to put food in my mouth and fall asleep, hopefully in that order. One of these days I'll learn to take an extra day off after con for recovery.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Eighty-something plays of forty-odd games

Since I've last blogged a board/card game sessions, I've played quite a few games. That's forty-one different titles in forty-two days, and eighty-some games played. (Kudos to Ian for helping me start keeping track of my play data.)

I want to post my thoughts on these before I attend BGG.Con in Dallas tomorrow. I have no idea how many game I shall play over these next four days. I better get snapping with the old plays.

Here's the list, sorted by number of plays:

Category 5 (BGG, BUY ME!) Still fun, still awesome, well-recieved and high on my list of go-to games. Successfully playing it at work during tea time most days, but the best moment was when one of my coworkers asked me if I had brought it in for play. I still feel good about that. I can say for certain that it plays well with three, four, five, six, eight, and ten. I prefer five or six, though. My record-scoring 47 points has yet to be beat, though. (Points are bad in this game.)

Jungle Speed (BGG, BUY ME!) Still awesome. I'm going to need to buy extra copies to bring home to NOLA over the holidays as gifts. At Dragon*Con, we played this for six hours. I wonder how much table time it will see at BGG.Con? Introducing it with only four players is less fun, though.

Oh Hell! (BGG, GET A DECK OF CARDS) A new go-to game for me, very popular at the office, playing with four or five. I'll need to grab a second deck for six, I think. Not sure how that would play out- maybe I'll just limit the hand size. At work we play with "English Rules Consolation Points" where you still score if you don't make your bid. Clive alleges that this has to do with their socialized programs. (Interestingly, this does appear to be a legit variant depending on which side of the puddle you live on.)

Zendo (BGG, BOX SET OOP BUY TREEHOUSE STASHES AND RULE CARDS) An impromptu get-together by the Renegades found us playing with pyramids instead of roleplaying. Working out a way to play Zendo with not many stashes of pyramids ("don't use specific colors; use 'same or different') and scraps of paper for Buddha-nature or not prompted me to snap and buy Icehouse pieces. I now have a complete set. Wahoo! Zendo is nicely compelling, has a fascinating interplay between simple and complex, and exercises good brain muscles. I'm looking forward to this at BGG.Con.

Hey! That's My Fish! (BGG, BUY ME!) On my list to purchase for several weeks now. Cat actually wanted to play it when she saw it! (Cute wooden penguins can never hurt.) It's much deeper than it seems at first, and you can actually make your own copy using poker chips and spare pawns if you want to get a feel for how it plays. I've now played this with two, three, and four. All are equally satisfying for different reasons, but three is almost a sweet spot.

Mauer, die (BGG, BUY ME!) Still a go-to game for me, but one guy described it as "more complicated rock-paper-scissors." I've been losing quite a bit lately when playing with strangers, but my rules spiel is improving. It's coming to BGG.Con, too.

Castle (BGG, BUY ME!) Light, cheap, and fun. I think play over time would improve as you learn the character cards and their abilities. I got this as a trade, and it's definitely a trade up for me. After one play, the four of us enjoyed it enough to give it a second go with a fifth player. The game does become a bit too chaotic with more players; I'd really like to see it with three.

Chopstick Dexterity MegaChallenge 3000 (BGG, BUY ME!) I'm surprisingly bad at this one. Or maybe Marc's just a ninja. Eating with sticks isn't the same as nimbly grabbing things with them before someone else does. Either way, a huge fun factor! In the suitcase for BGG.Con.

Drakon (BGG, BUY ME!) Tiles and Tom Jolly, a good combination. Like RoboRally, this is a well-done release of an old classic dungeon crawl. The third edition is well worth playing. Only two plays so far, losing both, but a grand amount of screw-thy-neighbor and bash-the-leader. Hard to say if it's too "American."

Easter Island (BGG, BUY ME!) Another two-player game that will be hard to bring out, as it's not easy to find a singler parter at game days. It plays sort of like Deflexion/Khet in the sense that you have to keep reflections and bounces in mind, and your giant stone Moab statues (er, tiny plastic pieces) can readily be destroyed by a stray beam. This one is fun, and I've won once and conceded a draw the second time. Definitely worth playing if you like two-player more-or-less-abstract strategy games.

Havoc: the Hundred Years War (BGG, BUY ME!) Havoc is an interesting little card game that plays like poker for points with an 18-rank, six-suit deck. I don't know my history enough to tell you about the war, I'll leave that to the Wikipedia. I've only managed to play this as a two-player game. It went over well, considering I lost both times to New Dan. Upon reflection, it seems a little like Tichu (read below) in the sense of trying to lay down a hand higher than the opposition. I need to refamiliarize myself with the rules before it hits table again. I'll bring it to BGG.Con.

Jungle Speed L'extension (BGG, GET FROM FRANCE) Still awesomely brain-breaking, also coming to BGG.Con. Not the best when all 160 cards are shuffled and in play. The next time I bring it out, I'll want to pick and choose which symbol families are in play.

King Me! (BGG, BUY ME!) Serves well as a light filler while people are still showing up. In the last game I played, Beatrice was queen three times out of three. Conspiracy?

Metro (BGG, BUY ME!) This appears to be one of the go-to games for the Monday group I've started to irregularly see over at Dragon's Lair. I need more practice at this one, as I haven't yet learned to maximize all my plays. I like tile games, and it saddens me a little to know that Metro is superior to Streetcar ("The New Orleans Trolley Game"), but similar to Aqua Romana. I continue in my quest for a really fun rail game that doesn't take six hours to play.

Oceania (BGG, BUY ME!) I've played this a total of three or four times now, and it simply hasn't grabbed me. It's hard to find the strategy and in the games I've played, we keep sealing ourself off from the rest of the board, forcing an early end to the game. I've wanted to like this, as it's a tile-laying game by Klaus Teuber, the man who brought us Settlers, but it's jsut not clicked. Maybe I'll give the full game, Entdecker, a go at some point. I got this game as part of a trade and I traded it away already, so that shows you want I think of it. I might play it again with someone who really loves it, but I don't think I'll ever choose it.

Sanctuaries (BGG, OOP TRY THRIFTING) For dollar, I can't complain. I got to add a new game to the database. It plays like a dumber version of Blokus, which I really should own. There's a bit of strategy here, but it's not very satisfying.

Terra Nova (BGG, BUY ME!) I've played with three, and I've played with four. I definitely like this one. The tension of reduced decisions as the board steadily shrinks is a whole lot of fun. I don't need to own this yet- two people in the group have a copy and one of the stores has it as an open demo. One day, perhaps I'll analyze this with Hey! That's My Fish! as the two games have a similar play.

Vegas Showdown (BGG, BUY ME!) Great game, terribly marketed. The gameplay has nothing to do with gambling; it's instead a bidding and building game with some very clever interplay. For some reason, this wasn't moving at my FLGS and I picked it up for 1/3 off almost without thinking about it. At some point, I might replace the plastic poker chips with nicer ones and laminate the player aid sheets. How's that for a sign of a well-liked game?

Wiz-War (BGG, OOP MAKE YOUR OWN AND WRITE CHESSEX) Ah, Wiz-War. A favorite I'll never tire of. This month I've introduced four people to the game, with all of them enjoying it. Six-player game, here I come... This one's definitely coming to BGG.Con.

Bang! (BGG, BUY ME!) Surprisingly not seeing much play lately. One game played, the outlaws won! Go, team! I recently got (German) High Noon as part of a trade, so I'll need to make some paste-ups for play. Maybe I'll do an uber-bang with Dodge City, Fistful, and High Noon. But I hear they're putting together a "Deluxe" edition of the game, so we'll see.

Boggle (BGG, BUY ME!) Yes, for the first time ever, I played Boggle about two weeks ago. I liked it, saw it at a thrift store later- totally worth two bucks. Also a skill I need to improve, and very interesting to observe gameplay between two other players who knew the game (and each other's play styles) well- not a position I'm used to, and not one that's entirely welcome. An important and humbling lesson learned on how to treat new players.

Cheater (BGG, DON'T BUY ME!) Bleh. Better you just imagine a game based on the concept. Better yet, design one.

Chekit (BGG, OOP TRY THRIFTING) Welp, the lead player definitely does not always win. This one's basically hex dominoes with fewer things to match. Gotta love the bakelite pieces and the crazy joker, though. This was worth the three bucks at the thrift store, and I hope to play it again to determine what I'm missing. Anyone play dominoes?

Cloud 9 (BGG, BUY ME!) A lighter press-your-luck game themed around balloon races. Do you trust your fellow players to have the colors needed to score? We played a four-player game with a six- or seven-year old, and she was doing pretty well. Ultimately, I'd want to mashup the two versions of the game; the art and wooden guys from the older game, the board layout and balloon basket from the newer.

Dead Money (BGG, BUY ME!) The one time this hit the table, the shop had about a half-hour left before closing time. I pressed through rules and we had a typical unfamiliar game session, coupled with one slow player, a bunch of kibbitzers, and time pressure. Overall, not a good experience, but I can't say if that's the game or not. We'll see.

Exxtra (BGG, FIND OVERSEAS) Guess what? It's a press-your-luck game. Guess what else? It's Reiner Knizia. Guess what third? I like it and I won! There's not that much correlation, honestly. I think I like it better than Sid Sackson's Can't Stop, but I've only played each once.

Funny Friends (BGG, BUY ME!) Poorly written rules and a late start made this not optimal. I need to get more baggies for all of the tokens. Great stories come out of this game though: Andre married my baby momma who I was desperately in love with while New Dan slept with Dan, broke up with him, then converted Norman's wife to a life of lesbian love. I hope to play this again with people who know how to play and continue the oral learning tradition.

Hex Hex (BGG, BUY ME!) The new edition is very nicely produced; it's almost worth finding an old edition to compare what a relatively young game company has learned in a couple of short years. I'll need to keep this in the game suitcase for more frequent play. Nothing wrong with it except wanting to play new games.

Hex Hex Next (BGG, BUY ME!) Finally, I got to play the expansion as a standalone game. Enough people at games night now know Hex Hex itself such that we didn't need to go into the rules very much, just the few exceptions to normal game play. I tend to win at Hex Hex, and the fashion continues with Hex Hex Next. There's more vicious cards in HHN, and I wonder how they'd mix.

IceTowers (BGG, BOX SET OOP BUY TREEHOUSE STASHES) Brought this out for three in between Zendo sessions to demonstrate other games to play with Icehouse pieces. Fun, but a little too fast and unsatisfying with three. Of course, my first intro to this particular game was the giant cardboard pyramids and playing (losing) with five. I'll try it again later. De facto in the box with Zendo coming to BGG.Con.

Marvin Marvel’s Marvelous Marble Machine (BGG, BUY ME!) Say that three times fast, eh? This ultra-low production quality speaks to the conviction of the self-starter. The board is a bandanna, the bits are wooden hobby discs with stickers. It's a great little brain burner about programming moves and taking marbles. Amazingly, nobody made a "lost your marbles" joke the entire time. It was pretty crazy with three; six would be insano. Coming to BGG.con!

Mission : Planète Rouge (BGG, BUY ME!) Absolutely gorgeous board and theme. Steampunk? Mars? Bring it! I'm there! This has not gotten enough play in the group; I'm the only person who owns it and I simply haven't brought it out enough. Some have criticized this one for being a too-finely honed game engine, but I haven't played it enough to see it. I do see the influence of previous designs: the roles from Citadels, the area control of El Grande. I'm sure there's a few other bits in there I don't instantly recognize, but it doesn't bother me. I didn't bring it to BGG.Con as I figured others would have this relatively new release.

Monsters Menace America (BGG, BUY ME!) Dicefest! Monsters! Rrrragh! I was Crawfish-Man/Lobsterboy! Jeff was the Eye that could not Die! Got to give this a go with four, but I could see how it would drag.

Niagara (BGG, BUY ME!) Spiel des Jahres, colorful gems, nifty sliding plastic river discs. Needs to hit the table again, and I need to pick up the expansion. I get the feeling that we missed a rule or two, but it was lots of fun.

Ricochet Robot (BGG, BUY ME!) I got soundly beaten by someone who was very good at this in a one-on-one match. I know I'm a bit rusty, but Ben is very good at finding those cursed little paths. I'm actually considering bringing this into work as a possible gateway game.

RoboRally (BGG, BUY ME!) My official position is that the new edition is nicer (better produced, more refined rules, etc) than the original, but I miss the expansions and the pewter miniatures.

Scotland Yard (BGG, BUY ME!) Another thrift store find for me- I picked up an unpunched vintage copy of this for two bucks, and got it to the table with a full compliment of six players. We caught Mr. Norman X after around seven-eight moves, but it was a first play for all of us. Everyone said they'd play it again, but not that same night. I also used this to introduce a new-as-in-only-Monopoly-and-Scrabble player with great success. I think the cooperative nature is by definition unusual to the mainstream American player.

Take Stock (BGG, BUY ME!) We only played one four-player round of this, and it didn't click. I hear good things about it, so I'll definitely give it another go. The designer will probably be at BGG.Con, so we'll see how learning it from someone who knows it well changes things around.

The Settlers of Catan (BGG, BUY ME!) Yes, I actually played Settlers for the first time in at least a year and a half or more. Why? I've played a lot of Settlers, and I think I've mostly moved on. However; I saw that my FLGS had a copy of the Deck of Dice, (BGG, BUY ME!), a thirty-six card deck of all possible combinations of 2d6. Some people have suggested using such a deck with Settlers to lessen the randomness without removing it. With forty-five minutes left to play, we knocked out a three-player game of Settlers using the deck. (I won.) I rather liked the predictability and the speed of cards, but JP and Chad didn't- I think they enjoyed actually rolling the dice, and I don't blame them. Still, an interesting experiment.

Tichu (BGG, BUY ME!) I'm not going to say anything about this until I play it again. It didn't go over well with me.

Too Many Cooks (BGG, BUY ME!) Another trick-taking game, this time by the good doctor Knizia. I last played this pre-Katrina two Dragon*Cons ago, and I remember liking it a good deal. I got in on a four-player game after three of the players had played a single round, then dealt me in. Sadly, all of my skill has left me in the intervening years and I lost miserably. I don't own this one, but I likely will in the future- perhaps after a few plays to get better at it.

Treehouse (BGG, BUY ME!) Not such a good game, though there are many more games to be played with pyramids. The designer says this one is "kind of like Fluxx!" In my book, that's not really a good thing. Don't buy Treehouse for the Treehouse games; instead buy it for the 147 other games instead.

What's That On My Head (BGG, BUY ME!) Ostensibly a children's game, but pretty rigorously logical when it comes to deducing numbers you can't see. Not as silly as I'd like, though.

Wits and Wagers (BGG, BUY ME!) Not so much "do you know the answer?" so much as "who do you think actually knows the answer?" in a sort of The Price is Right manner of speaking. The green cloth and poker chips make for a good vibe, too. This is on my list for party, family, and non-gamer games.

I still haven't played Acquire.

My PDA is full

Full, you say? Why not delete something? Or upgrade its memory? Or simply back it up, wipe it, and reenter what you need.

Well, my friends, I don't have a digital PDA. I have something akin to the Hipster PDA, which is nothing more than index cards and an alligator clip.

Imagine a reaction to the over-digitalization of modern culture. Normally, I'm all about being pro-gadgetry, but I've recently been much more keen to optimize seconds instead of bytes. I went a little high-class for my own solutions and impulsively purchased a small memo book for 79 cents- about a penny a page! I started intentionally carrying it around with me in order to lifehackishly install a new habit, and after less than two weeks I found myself missing my little book if I didn't bring it with me.

One of the handiest things about the little memo book as compared to the oft-lauded Moleskine notebook is its cheapness. I don't feel financially guilty if I jot down a single word or two, or a URL for a friend, then tear the page out with glee and get on with things. I can also use it as a tasklist, I've always got my tool on me, and it has an ink pen, so I'm set and I have one less thing to carry.

In case you have a concern about a calendar app or the like not existing for, well, dumb paper, here's a treeware solution.

Want the pretty pictures? Go look at other people's solutions on flickr.

After about two months, I've used the eighty pages and I'm ready for another little book. That fact alone speaks to the success of this habit.

Grammarian Gripes

A misplaced bit of punctuation or spelling is like a bit of sand in my eye; a constant irritant that needs removal. I readily admit that I'm not perfect, though I do catch a lot of mistakes in other people's writing.

From A.Word.A.Day comes a Canadian story about how a single comma could cost a cable company one million dollars Canadian.

Yikes. Time to proofread.

Election day is over

The polls are closed, and I now know a State Rep.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Discount Didgeridoos

The Didjshop has a holiday special: 25% off select didjes. They also sell gift certificates.

Oh hey, my birthday is in January. :)

I also recently picked up a secondhand didj from a nice lady who didn't play. It's a nice resin/ABS that's been melted and worked some, then painted by Rob Thomas of Inlakesh, so I'm told there's some good pedigree there.

It's a little hard to see in these photos, but the didj is nicely painted with a platypus moving away from its eggs. It has a great loud bouncy sound, and is surprisingly versatile when it comes to vocalizations. YouTube, here I come.

1984 Prime Update

Jackie is running a playtest session of 1984 Prime tonight. The printed version, not the new fiddly mechanics that I'm liking the direction.

Taking a cue from S. John, here's the current incarnation of my playtest feedback form.

  1. Setting:

    • What worked?
    • What didn't?
    • What three things stand out as cool?

  2. System:
    • What worked?
    • What's missing?
    • What sort of feel did the mechanics evoke? (Respond as theory-laden as needed.)

  3. Physical book:

    • What's unclear?
    • What do you think of the cover and the back flavor text?
    • What do you think of the layout, fonts, images, etc inside?

  4. Session/overall:

    • What stands out in your mind as part of the in-game world?
    • What stands out in an out-of-game context?
    • What sucked the most?
    • What was the best?

  5. The missing question:

    • Would you play it again if you didn't know the author?

Also in Prime-related news, I've got the opportunity to run an ad in the program booklet for Nuke-Con in Kansas.

Thanks, Hieronymous!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Order Sweet Order

From this... this!

My apologies for the hiatus, loyal readers.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Code Monkey Make Me Laugh

I know a lot of you sling code or know someone who does. Here's an aural bit of funny for you: Jonathan Coulton's Code Monkey in a variety of media: Artist's site, direct MP3, lyrics and flash-based player. Heck, if you need video with your funny, there's even a World of Warcraft video.

Yeah, I know this is old news for those of you what follow Slashdot. Gimme a break, okay?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Tracking down games

I didn't have the biggest game collection back home. I wasn't the "go-to" guy for games. That was Judson. Here in Austin, I feel like the torch has passed to me. My collection has grown significantly in the last year, but it's far from complete, even presuming that's possible.

I've been looking for Stefan Dorra's Njet! (BGG, OOP) for a while. I finally found it on German eBay. Ist gut, ja?

It feels like about half the games I buy are replacements in one way or the other.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Games at work

I of course mean card and board games, not power games. Well, card games only at this point.

I work in a now-small office. There's less than a dozen people actually physically at the office at any given moment, and all of them are part of different groups than I. Between conflicting meetings and folks eating lunch from home at their desks, scheduling is a bit tricky. So is enticing people to play games- these guys are the quiet sort of engineers. I know that other people's offices (Dan, I'm talking to you), the folks take regular lunch at the same time, so working in a lunchtime game is relatively easy.

Since my last abortive attempt at bringing games to the office, I toned down my offerings to a single game- Category 5 (BGG, BUY ME!). Why this one? Well, it's a card game that fits in a standard two-deck tuckbox, so it's not intimidating with a board or foreign languages or wooden bits that could go up one's nose. Because it's a points game, you can play either one round or to a predetermined number of points, like Spades or Hearts. It can play well with two up to ten players. It's quick and has a definite end to the game, with a good emphasis on tension and choice with just a dash of screw-thy-neighbor. It also retails for ten bucks or less, so it would make for a good inexpensive gift.

This fine game had been very well received at game days and has served quite well for light coffeeshop fare. It's my current go-to filler and gateway game. As a matter of fact, after two days of teatime (yes, teatime- one of my office mates is a limey) Category 5, the game was asked for on day three. Having a non-gamer ask to play a game- Chalk up a success for the home team!

Day one's success even prompted one of my other office mates to bring Cheater (BGG), a game I had heard about through one of the 'Geek Math Trades. Its premise sounds interesting enough: players are trying to collect a set of cards, but one player is the "Cheater" and can break the rules of the game. When described like that, it sounds like the great Cosmic Encounter. I had high hopes.

I happened to come into the office a bit late and ran into four of the office crew already playing a game, so I was only able to observe. In a few minutes, I sussed out that it was not the game for me and I took it off my BGG want list. It's basically a rummy game, and we know how much I love rummy games- that is to say, not at all. When playing a rummy game, I find myself left with needing a single card to win and having nothing to do but wait for that card. Should someone else turn it up on their turn, you have few options left to you. With so few options on your turn, rummy generally is not my idea of fun.

Here's what makes Cheater interesting. Normally, a player draws the top card off the draw pile and plays a card from their hand, either a special action card or a simple discard of a non-needed card. The Cheater can: draw two discard two, draw one from the discard pile discard one, or draw one from another player's revealed hand. Truly a good amount of stab-thy-neighbor here. Now to the ultimate question- how to become Cheater?

You roll for it.

Yep, that's it. First thing you do is roll two six-sided dice; doubles makes you the Cheater. Only one player can have the Cheater card, and if the Cheater rolls doubles, they lose Cheater power. Never mind that (as I understand it) the chances of rolling doubles on 2d6 is 1 in 6, the same as a single die rolling a single number. It's an added level of randomness that seems so American in design - and don't I feel snobbish?

After watching the game complete, my coworkers asked me my opinion. I gave it to them: I'm not a big fan of rummy games, but it looks like the game could use some improvement to make it more fun. No, I wasn't the only one to criticize the game. The owner agreed with me that the game could run a little long. I threw out a few ideas on possible things to change.

Before lunch, the owner stopped by my cube with a notepad, and asked me what I thought about "Cheater TNG," then started his own ideas for changing and improving the game. Chalk up two for the home team!

What gateway games are good for lunchtime play?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Racism and roleplaying

The 20' By 20' Room has a post on the racial metaphors in roleplaying games, particularly Shadowrun with its transformed metahumans in a dark cyberpunk future.

Please do read those comments.

Telephone Support

Twice this week I've gotten a phone call from two different friends back in New Orleans to get my ruling on two different games.

Once, Bennett called me to ask about one of the specials in Jungle Speed. (BGG, BUY ME!)

The second time, Dave Bruce called me to ask about dynamite in Bang! (BGG, BUY ME!)

I've often had random calls from people with computer questions, but games rulings? I'm used to giving opinions and gabbing about games upon demand, but this was a new one for me. Maybe I'm more of a game guru than I thought.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

From the Bloody Obvious Dept.

Genius, I say. I've been forgetting the third lately. Pesky laws of thermodynamics and of conservation of energy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stock up while you can

Reuters has a disturbing report about the US Customs blocking the export of Vegemite from Australia.

I better find another dealer.

UPDATE: These reports are greatly exaggerated. Happy day!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Long Weekend Recap

The title here could parse several ways. Maybe I had a long weekend, and here's the recap. Maybe I had a regular weekend, and here's a long recap. Possibly there's an implied "overdue" for my loyal readers who have anxiously waited for my next installment. Take it how you will, I acknowledge the relatively light last week or so when it comes to blog entries. Thanks for sticking with me.

The weather has changed here in Austin; two weeks ago, I saw temperatures in the 90s; as I write this, my weather widget reports 42 degrees outside. I suppose this is fall in the desert. With the drop in temperature came decently heavy rain, which unfortunately stirred up all the mold and pollen and whatnot, driving my allergies into overdrive. I'm not inhibited to the point of death when it comes to allergies, but I have strong reactions to the usual suspects. I'm too stubborn to see a doctor, but I'm working to change that.

The practical upshot to all this is that I've felt pretty congested with a head full of cement; not the best headspace to write engaging text out to friends and strangers on teh internets. A fair amount of time to play Beyond Good and Evil, though.

As reported two weeks ago, my game closet collapsed. Luckily, the Container Store had a sale on shelving. After some deliberation, hemming and hawing, tweaking, thinking, and actual measuring, I got a plan.


I'm also taking an excellent suggestion from John, the Round Rock Day Gamer, when it comes to storing my smaller stuff. I'll have pictures up in the near future; I've got about two-thirds of my collection put away right now. I'll say one thing, this entire affair has helped me to realize what I need to trade.

I've got a lot of boardgame play to recap for the last three weeks; I'll probably do as one long post instead of splitting it up.

Daily New Orleans thoughts:
While at Epoch, I struck up a conversation with one of the baristas about the music on the speakers- they were playing the Tiger Lilies, an unusual band I hadn't thought of in many long months (yet another need to bring up the musicbox). Turns out the man behind the counter used to own Zotz, a 24-hour coffee shop back home in New Orleans. They sold to some "like-minded kids" who evidently keep the door open and lights on.

Carl and Jackie got married Saturday. The real ceremony is in December.

I also today talked some to Bennett, who's rebuilding on the fast track and scouting a house location for us back Uptown. He sent us some photos of the work, and I was amused to see that he had included closeups of the wiring work he had done. I felt a little like less of a man because I wasn't around to help my friend drop network in his new home, but I helped him plan and gave moral support throughout the process. Also way back when before Ivan in 2004. NOLUG's own Joey Kelly had a wiring gig and needed some extra hands. Bennett, Germaine, and myself pitched in over a weekend for some extra cash and experience. I'd like to think that a little bit of my first instruction lives on in his muscle memory and within the walls of my friend's home.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

DM of the Rings

If you've ever played an RPG ever or are remotely aware of the Lord of the Rings in any medium whatsoever, you should go read these comics.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ready, AIM, Fire... Adium?

I found out today that Fire, seven years old and my multi-protocol IM client of choice, is "effectively dead." My other options are Adium for free or Proteus for pay.

Grumble. Soon I'll have to migrate.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Didj Weekends

This makes three weekends in a row that I've gone out to the park to play didj with a few other guys.

Three weeks ago, nobody showed up. I managed to get my photo taken, though. You can see five of my sticks in this picture: the big agave, my eucalyptus that I've had since college, the long agave, the teak Nepalese, and my (probably cedar) Didjbox all the way in the corner.

Two weeks ago, it was myself, Ben, and Robert. Robert brought his forked didj and Ben had his two PVC didjes. I brought all of the family to show off.

Yesterday, it rained and only Ben showed. I was able to coach Ben into reliably making a decent drone on his long PVC, which made me proud. Maybe I've got a future career as a didj teacher. No barbeque due to the rain, but he and I hung out and jammed for a couple hours. Playing didj in the rain was immensely enjoyable and somehow more primal.

One day, I'll put something up on YouTube so my loyal readers have something to listen to.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Gaming foursome

A few weeks back, my old college buddy invited Cat and I over to his place for dinner with he and his lady. We had seen each other a few weeks back, but we hadn't gotten together for games in several months.

Dinner was awesome beef fajitas and Jen's kick-ass homemade salsa. Desert was even more awesome from-scratch raspberry sorbet.

We played:

I first pulled out Die Mauer (BGG, BUY ME!), the competitive building game. I remain convinced that this a good intro game for non-gamers. It's a no-luck mind-reading game of bluffing and not bidding. The 'Geek makes mention of an early edition of the game made from metal that would set you back about sixty USD per player, which would add an immeasurable amount of satisfaction and aesthetics to play. As is, the pieces are a nice unfinished wood, allowing your inner architect to run wild. I suspect that the metal pieces would've fared better when kept under water for three weeks.

Judson had originally picked up Die Mauer way back in the iRev2 days after Y2K. His copy was destroyed due to Katrina. I've got a good amount of memory associated with this game; Susie being scary good at this game, for one. Maybe the tactile nature of the game, coupled with the need to second guess your opponents while playing at mind reader simply causes a stronger imprint that your average German game. I like this one a lot; I recently surprised Judson with a copy I had acquired specifically as a present.

After a few rounds of keeping score, Cat won over me by one point, Jen was a close third, and John decided to collect points instead, reaching a solid last place.

To exercise a different area of the brain, I suggested we play My Word! (BGG, BUY ME!). I brought this word game because I remember Jen had enjoyed the previous word game. The way I see it, if someone like mainstream game X, there's a better designer game Y with the same theme or mechanic or overall objective. Because a player's skill at this game has more to do with pattern recognition than dictionary memorization of obscure Scrabble words, I tend to score high. In four hands, I beat second place by twenty-five points. Go, me!

For Sale (BGG, BUY ME!) came out next. This quick little auction game went over very well; we played twice. Jen, in fact, was the one who uttered those three magic words: "Let's play again!" Scores were relatively close for four people, with a max spread of 17 and 21 between first and last in both games. First game ranking: John, Jen, Me, Cat; Second game: Me, Cat, John, Jen. I still have no idea how to pitch this game so it sounds fun, but it is a nice and tight little box of fun.

Note: I've just read over on the 'Geek that we've been playing this wrong due to an ambiguity in the rules. Instead of taking back half your bid rounded up, you actually take back half your bid rounded down. I wonder how much differently this will play.

At this point, Jen wanted us to play one of their games: Phase 10 (BGG, BUY ME!), a rummy variant. Let me state up front that I'm not big on rummy games. I hated this game; hated it for two or three hours as time stood still for the duration of play. I'm not kidding! This is a simple card game with four players that took more than two hours for one game.

When I last talked to Leslie about Phase 10, she told me she loves the game because it reminds her of her grandfather. I can respect that, but Phase 10 is way too long for the fun it delivers. And I'm not big on rummy, either. I can tell that there might be a fun game buried in here, but here's the ultimate indicator of how much I don't like this game: I'd rather play Monopoly. Seriously.

EDIT: Cat won.

Interestingly, all of these games have relatively low BGG game numbers, to a one under 3000, implying a batch of older games. Phase 10 is from 1982, For Sale came out 1997, Die Mauer 1999, and My Word! was published in 2001.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Filmic updates

Elrod has some pictures up for the forthcoming Pepper Island films production. They've done some location scouting and have their four cast members. I'm sure we'll see more as the production moves forward.

I particularly like this one of my brother:

Safe and sound

Huzzah! MacBook is safely back from a non-routine Apple checkup. I've got to scoot, so I won't get to play with it and get everything back in place until later today or the weekend.

I'm amazed at the fast turnaround time; it went out Tuesday afternoon and I got it back this morning, Priority Overnight.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Huzzah! My laptop has arrived safely at Apple for repairs.

This means that I will be without laptop for a few days, at least. I've appropriated a loaner laptop, bringing a second Windows machine into my home.

Current standings of powered systems:
Windows XP gaming machine ("trogdor")
Windows XP loaner laptop ("elvis")
Cat's Ubuntu all-purpose machine ("rubicon")
Red Hat 7 mail/web server ("deathstar")
Gentoo multipurpose server ("monolith")

Unpowered machines include:
Gentoo (?) music box ("toonz")
Debian mail/web server ("stevemartin")
Red Hat 7 fax server ("faxbox")
Unknown Linux phone server ("redline")
Dumpster-dived IBM luggable (unnamed stepstool of a box)

FrankenMac's offsite with Josh indefinitely, so those pesky Windows computers are number two.

1984 Prime exists as an Apple Pages file, and now that my only reasonable means of editing said document is now out of the house, my brain has helpfully decided to turn up the heat on the ol' back burner. Maybe this is a good thing; I can take loaner to a venue where I can work and start from scratch. Hell, maybe I'll just bring paper and pen.

Monday, October 09, 2006

It's not easy being green

You may or may not have heard that some of the new white MacBooks experience extreme discoloration after a few weeks or months of regular use. It seems as though the nice textured plastic likes to pick up small particles from users' hands, turning the normally white plastic a dirty yellowish color that resists all attempts at cleansing. I've been using a black ShaggyMac microfabric screen protector and my white MacBook turned green. A similar thing happened to this guy, so it's good to know I'm not alone. ShaggyMac has since discontinued that shade of product.

The good news is that Apple's acknowledged this defect. The bad news is that I have to ship my machine off for service, and will be without laptop for too many business days; like five to seven.

Have you backed up your data recently?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Organizational Disaster

Shock horror! The shelving in the games closet pulled out of the sheetrock, crashing everything down. We suspect that someone else hammering may have been the ultimate straw that broke the camel's back here.

Luckily, there's no casualties. Syzygy's purple letter tiles spilled everywhere, and the only box damage happened to Strata 5, and luckily it's not too bad or irreplaceable.

All my games are in the hallway for now. Needs must soon I figure out a good storage solution. Hmm, maybe we'll drive to Ikea in Houston...

How do you store your games?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Gaming Light and Gaming Heavy

Whoa, I'm behind on my notes. This is from a game session at Great Hall two weeks ago.

We had a hard time deciding what to hit the table first; New Dan had brought a bunch of games, I had only brought a few. I also recall that Norman and Katelyn had started a long game already with a few of their friends, and Dan and Kelly had shouldered showing some new-to-the-hobby people (Phil and Robin) some intro games: Through the Desert and Carcassonne.

Java (BGG, BUY ME!) (not the coffee, not the language, but the island) became our first choice. I and New Dan had only played it once, and Sean had never played it before. A long review of the rules later, and we got down to playing. Just as teaching a game requires skill, writing elegant rules also requires careful attention. Java plays much lighter than it reads; its rules are a little too complete. Java's a clever buildy 3D tile-laying German game of area control with an elegant high-ground/king-of-the-hill mechanic for points. In short, this is exactly the sort of game that Cat would hate.

Players are building up the island of Java with hex tiles of villages and rice paddies: a communal pool of identical triplets shared by the players, plus a per-player limited number of singletons and doubles. You've got action points that let you deploy tiles, move your guys, build and improve cities, lay down water, and buy cards. Throwing parties is free. Parties (paid for by cards) earn points for whoever has the most guys on the highest level in the city. There's a possibility for analysis paralysis, but with three new players, we found ourselves looking for moves for each other, suggesting the best play.

BGG says that there's a sort of unofficial set of games by the same designers, Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling: the Masks Trilogy, consisting of Tikal, Java, and Mexica. Interestingly, another game I recall liking greatly, Torres, is also by these same two designers and precedes all three games.. I recall not liking Tikal, and I've never played Mexica. But it makes me feel better about sometimes confusing Tikal and Java.

We had a close game: Dan won by four points over me, and I fourteen points over Sean. Total play time plus rules review was around two hours.

King Me! (BGG, BUY ME!) came out as a filler for New Dan, Jeff, Marc, myself, Sean, and another guy whose name I can't read. Light as it may be, there's strategy here, I know; the experienced played (me) won by a hefty margin.

For some reason, I've noted down that others were playing San Juan, Fury of Dracula, and Mall of Horror. Not me, though. One day I'll play Fury of Dracula, though.

And, of course, Jungle Speed (BGG, BUY ME!) hit the table. Such an excellent game! I've also just gotten the Expansion (it's from France), which is full of evil delight.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Today's Escapist has an interview with Steve Jackson. He talks about their new MMORPG (!), UltraCorps, his history as a designer, and sheds some insight on the game industry. Regardless of what you think of the guy, his company is in the top five RPG imprints, and his enthusiasm for the hobby shows.

Kenzoid points out that the Royal Society now has some of their old old journals available online for free until the end of the year. This is primo history, from primary sources. Some of this dates back to the 17th century, and it's particularly notable to read Ben Franklin, publisher, discuss electricity in his own words- as a PDF.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Social Contracts and Board Games

I stumbled across a GeekList posing questions about handling potentially uncomfortable social situations at the game table. An interesting thought exercise, plus I like seeing what others think.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Splashes across the net

A reporter reflects on Pearl Harbor and 9-11.

Mr. Spock sings "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" in a 1960s video.

The inimitable Yehuda reports on religion in gaming causing offense.

Chris Rose shares his personal response to the Saints' win at the Superdome.

Pepper Island Films posts their casting call.

Introversion releases DEFCON today.

The incomprable Vance Kelly showcases his new "Bride of Frankenstein" silk screen poster. (Probably NSFW.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dome sweet dome

Mark your calendars, I'm blogging about football. The Saints played their first game today in the newly opened Superdome, and won.


The newswire reports a score of 23-3 over the other guys. This win is a shot in the arm to the city, and the season is already sold out; a record-breakingly early time to be sold out, I'm told.

For you non-natives, the T-P has some more about the shaky history of the losingest team in the league, and I direct you the Wikipedia for a bio of their owner, Tom Benson. There's a good photo on the Wikipedia, and some more details worth noting. It'll help set the tone. My official position? Texas does not need another football team, much less the New Orleans Saints in San Antonio.

I caught a glimpse of CNN mentioning the game over a roast beef hoagie/submarine sandwich (emphatically not a po boy) for lunch. Despite my regular passion for games, or perhaps because of it, I don't typically like spectator sports. Regardless, the news moves me in a way I can't describe.

Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New Orleans is Everywhere

One of the levels in the latest Hitman game takes place during "Mardi Gras." Of course, it's a weird interpretation of the event- in October. The level bears no real resemblance to the Quarter, though they clearly wish they did. Every character has an obnoxious deep southern drawl that sounds like it comes from Tennessee or Georgia or the land of bad television and movies. Unusually, they have two small details right: the cops and the police barriers are dead ringers for real live NOPD uniforms and metal barriers they use. They're eerily accurate and shockingly familiar amidst the over-the-top incredulity of the psuedo-rave scene of the level. It doesn't look like Mardi Gras, it just looks like spring break with glowsticks and purple, green, and gold.

Now that it's late November September, summer is over in Austin. The weather's been cooler and I've seen something like three or four days of rain in the last two weeks. Seeing rain again still prompts me to go out on my balcony and just look at the weather, feeling it, all but jumping in puddles. Look, it may seem like a little thing, but if I read this data correctly, I'm empirically used to seeing about twice the rainfall back home.

When Christian left, I sent him back with a few care packages for the gang back home- Cyberpunk for Germaine, 7th Sea for Bennett, and Mike's broken laptop. I spoke to B & G today, just catching up on things and shooting the breeze.

Over a cup of tea this morning, I told one of my coworkers the story of Cat and I getting ready to buy a house just before Katrina.

What I feel is nothing compared to so many others, but it's how I feel nonetheless.

Tooth update

All this last week, I've had images of Dean Stockwell as Dr. Yueh from Dune calling out "Remember the tooth! The TOOTH!"

In about twenty-four hours, I'm getting a root canal and a crown, I think. I'm not really nervous for my first major dental procedure, but I'm ready for this whole dental nonsense to be over. The pain is mostly gone, so I don't need to take pain pills. I'm still running through the course of antibiotics.

Rumor control has it that some humans grow three sets of teeth, not just two. Handy, no?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

It be Talk Like A Pirate Day

Avast! Stop what ye be doin'! It be that time o' year again. You heard me, - it be International Talk Like A Pirate Day. So what be you goin' t' do about it, ye useless bilge rat?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Shameless Shilling

My brother's production company, Pepper Island Films, is seeking donations for their upcoming film project. If you're in the Austin area, they're holding a garage sale to raise money- feel free to donate items (they'll arrange for a pick up) or mark your calendars and buy something.

Saturday & Sunday
Oct 7-8, 8am-2pm
5210 Martin Ave 78751

Alternatively, if you have a few spare bucks and PayPal, do me a favor and drop something in their tin cup.

Also, Ellen Simonetti, the flight attendant fired for blogging, has her new book available over at Heck, she's the only person I personally know with a Wikipedia article, a mention on Slashdot, and a New York Times byline. (Where's my copy, Ellen?!)

Cyborgs among us

Cat and I had company over the weekend. Our friend Christian came to visit us from New Orleans. Christian's a diabetic, and recently got into a car accident. I don't have the full story, as he had blacked out due to low blood sugar. The important thing is that he managed to total his car and doesn't know how. The first thing he remembers is being stopped by the cops, who pointed out that he was missing most of the passenger side of his car and driving on a rim instead of a tire. After that episode, he became a cyborg.

His new insulin pump is about the size of a late-90s cell phone (or a fat Blackberry) and connects to him via flexible tubing and a catheter; it is a semi-permanent port into his body through which a machine dispenses hormones. It's a small adhesive patch, sort of like the EEG electrodes you see on hospital drama shows or low/mid-budget scifi flicks. I didn't snap any photos, but Google Images will come to the rescue for the curious. Not quite the chainsaw-wielding menace you expect from a cyborg, but I'll take my cyberpunk where I can get it.

The practical upshot is that we're one step closer to mechanically replacing another failed organ, which is a good thing. We should be able to just grow what we need. Write your congressthing, will you?

Coincidentally, Judson and I were talking about other kinds of mechanical self improvement. He's gung ho to get some implanted headphones. Bone-conduction hearing aids are already a reality, and this non-hearing-impaired fellow from Hawaii is a bit more serious about it, as of last year. A gadget site picked up the story, so you might want to check out their cross-section illustration. For complete coverage, don't forget to take a peek at the Wikipedia article on the device itself, the Baha.

Be advised: These next links contain some graphic pictures of outpatient surgery. So if you don't like seeing blood, don't clicky.

If simply augmenting your existing senses aren't good enough, some body modification enthusiasts had implanted small rare earth magnets under their fingertips to extend their sensory perception. Then another person got magnets in their fingertips. Ultimately, this procedure is not without its problems and they needed to be removed.

I like the notion of becoming superhuman, but I'll wait for the over-the-counter version.

Games in the mail

As you know, I love Netflix. Now I have a new online service I plan to enjoy.

Thanks to the Long Tail, Netflix has many more titles than the corner monopolistic store. Since they have a distribution center in town, I have a pretty quick turnover for my DVDs. Thanks to lean-back, I don't have to do anything differently in my daily life to take advantage. There's a bit of mental overhead needed to add a movie to my queue, or to occasionally reshuffle a movie sooner or later, or to rate one, etc- but this isn't that different from what I'd do normally, albeit in an undirected and unfocused way.

I recently discovered that someone has applied the Netflix model to console games- this is GameFly, and I've just signed up. It's the same schtick as Netflix with a few twists: games cost more than movies, so the price is a bit higher; and you have the option to buy the game and keep it. All in all, I'm looking forward to playing more games. I typically have been behind the curve when it comes to console games, as many of them don't really appeal to me beyond the eye candy.

The first two games I got are Gun (a western revenge tale) and Beyond Good and Evil (a dystopic scifi adventure). I have a PlayStation 2- any suggestions for what I should play?

PS- if you sign up for GameFly using this link, I get rewarded.

(You may have suspected that someone has applied the Netflix model to pornography; Google can prove to you that it has happened. I leave that as an exercise for the reader.)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Weekend Gaming

I played three new (to me) games at this last Friday's game night.

When I arrived, two new people (John and Nicolette) were setting up for a game of Wolfgang Kramer's Hacienda (BGG, BUY ME!). By the time I got in on the action and gotten an overview on gameplay, Tall Guy Jeff had also shown up. Jeff had played online, so he joined as well. Interestingly, Nicolette had showed up to GHG by posting for board game players on Craigslist. She had never been exposed to Euro or modern boardgames, so John came down from his regular group in Round Rock to show her a sampling of these games of ours. Hacienda's a medium weight Euro game using territory and routes to various locations; not something I'd choose to introduce someone to the hobby.

Hacienda is an economic game at its heart. Your three actions per turn can be used to buy cards, claim chains of land, place chains of animals to market, or buy features to garner you more points for your achievements- namely, waterholes and the eponymous haciendas. I've heard this game compared to Knizia's Through the Desert (BGG); I can see the relation. Both involve players making chains, getting points, and getting in each other's way, and neither game has a well-integrated theme. For what it's worth, the components are quite well made and you get a two-sided board for your nickel.

Overall, I mostly liked Hacienda, but I didn't do too well at it; I came in tied for third with Nicolette, whereas the other two experienced players had significant leads. I do believe John won due to a too-late move on Jeff's part. After playing it, I wanted to play it again, but not immediately. After sleeping on it, I took this game off my "want" list, having decided that I don't need to own it. Ultimately, I think this one is a little too dry for my tastes. Clever, though. The game took about an hour, hour and a half.

John next pulled out Hey! That's my Fish! (BGG, BUY ME!), which I had heard of but never played. Jeff had to leave for the call of the databases, so we played a three-player game of penguins eating fishes. This one is staying on my want list, as it's effectively a nice abstract strategy game played on hexes- this reminded me of ZERTZ (BGG) with its shrinking board. I also have a huge soft spot in my heart for jumping around ice floes thanks to Activision's Frostbite from my Atari 2600 days. The hexes and nifty wooden penguins are a plus, too. Something about the emergent gameplay reminded me of an electronic/computerized game of some kind, but I couldn't put my finger on which one without further reflection.

I actually won this one, with Nicolette in second and John in last place. The game almost takes longer to set up than to play- This is maybe ten or fifteen minutes and unusually deep, given its overtly light presentation.

Just before leaving, John introduced us to Reiner Knizia's Ingenious (BGG, BUY ME!), a very colorful game. (Note New Dan showing up brightly against the green terrain.) Ingenious is played on a hexagonal board, with players laying down tiles. Each tile has two color/symbols on it: a green circle, a blue star, etc. You get points based on runs of identical symbols in five of the six directions on each hex. Placing a single tile might net you four yellow points and two purple points, for instance. Dr. Knizia's clever bit for this one is that your final score is your lowest-scoring color. Thus, players must balance their scores across all six color/symbols.

Not shocker here, hexes + spatial awareness = Mischa like. I also won in a distant first, which never hurts. w00t! I hear this game can be played with partners, sort of like dominoes. Either way, this is on my list to get.

That's real blood. (Hi, Andre!) There are no excuses in Jungle Speed (BGG, BUY ME!)! A slew of people enjoyed several rounds of Jungle Speed: Andre, Cody, Daniel, New Dan, Nick, Nick, Sean, Norman and Katlyn. All told, I think we played four-, six-, eight- and ten-player games. I keep forgeting the special rules for four players, though; most important is that Color Match is always on.

Sunday night roleplaying didn't come together, so I broke out some board games. We played five-player Wiz-War (BGG, STILL OOP), introducing Sean to it for the first time. Nick won, despite out best efforts. Poor Phil had an ADRENALINE + FIREBALL + SUDDEN DEATH combo he never got to use during play.

After that, I cracked the plastic on King Me! (BGG, BUY ME!), which saw two plays for the evening. Not bad for a new-to-everyone game, right? There's some good bluffing and voting going on here, and the art is just evocative enough, with nice components and cards. I'm looking forward to playing King Me! with six.

Sometimes I wonder why people at my FLGS pass up some deals on the discount table. Usually, I'm just glad I got the game before someone else did. Luckily, I'd had my eye on this one for a while.