Friday, June 30, 2006

On the road again

Huzzah, back in Louisiana! We're crashing for the night in Crowley, about 2.5 hours from New Orleans. Some of you may remember the important role that Crowley played last October.

Amazingly, the rental made it just over 351 miles on about three-quarters of a tank of gas. Go, Corolla, go!

The current roadkill register has a surprising turn of events- Skunks in the lead with three, followed by Armadillos with, two and Raccoons in dead last with only one dead one spotted thus far. Place your bets!

And speaking of wildlife... We pulled over in Vinton just over the border to stretch out legs, and saw a cockroach. Not ten minutes in Louisiana, and we saw a cockroach. I had nearly forgotten that they existed back in the desert. What a welcoming committee, eh?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Memes and memes and sequential art

Amusing video, work-safe: it's Pickle Phobia Girl!

Man, these things are awesome. I wonder when they'll be available in the United States?

Thanks out to Remi for pointing me at two new graphic novel series: Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina. The premise of Y is that every male on the planet- human, animal, zygote, anything with a Y chromosome- dies from a plague, except for one man and his pet monkey. It sounds a little frivolous, but it is truly worth reading, with some juicy conspiracy. Ex Machina posits a single superhero in New York City, a man with the power to control machines with a word. He unmasks himself after the events of 9/11 (he stopped one plane) and becomes mayor. There's a lot of promise here as well; the art is almost rotoscoped, which adds a lot of credibility.

Having epic disaster life-changing and world-changing events on the brain, I picked up a fantastic-looking book by Art Spiegelman called In the Shadow of no Towers, a very evocative take on life in New York after 9/11, all done in large Sunday supplement old-school comic style. This is the man who brought us the Pulitzer Prize winning Maus, so I look forward to this work after only having read the introduction.

Comic books are simply not just comic books anymore. If you don't believe me, read Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics.

Any of these should run you no more than ten or twenty bucks; some you can find in college bookstores as textbooks, all will be on the shelves at your Friendly Local Comic Store or whichever chain of brick-and-mortar bookstore you patronize.

Edit: I found a high school teacher's guide for Maus from the publisher.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Homemade Catan Madness

A guy went to the Peace Corps and forgot his copy of Settlers of Catan. So he made his own- want to see pictures?

In the same vein, someone made an edible board with the Cupcakes of Catan. Why players want to eat their games, I don't know. But someone else did it, too.


This is more than I wanted to know about Rush Limbaugh's sex life. Google News has more stories.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Roleplaying, pencil style

Plans didn't happen as expected, and I found myself running a one-shot of Corsair Publishing's Sketch! last Friday. Sketch!'s shtick is that character creation is limited to what you can draw. Yup, that means that you can play whatever you can draw. Can't draw? There's clip art in the back to trace.

Once everyone has drawn their character (loosely defined with the expectation of a costumed hero), the sheets are passed around and everyone else secretly votes on your stats (Muscle, Speed, Toughness, Mind, Power, and Gear, ranging from one to ten) and you average the total. We've got a relatively simple 2d6 + appropriate stat versus target number resolution mechanic.

What's really interesting is that this is consciously designed as a "Gateway Game," a way to bring people into the hobby. In fact, the intro to the game assumes that you and your friends are making characters for arena-style combat. (Shades of Clay-o-Rama!) About a third of the way in, the book starts talking about actually playing the game, having one person run the game as a GM, the setting of planet Sketch and the city of Sketchopolis (sort of like Toon meets Over the Edge gone to 11), plus a random Mad-Libs style adventure. "The characters are BLANK BLANK, when they meet BLANK, who BLANK."

For our game, I rolled: "The characters are on a spaceship above the Luxury Moon, hiding from someone, when they meet an insane hobo selling alien memories, who is revealed to be the secret enemy of one of the players." I swear I am not making this up.

Yari played Little Miss Wonder Meyer. (Endorsed by Sketch Originals)
Ryan played AstroMan! (Quickchange!)
Marc played Mr. Peanut. (Olé!)

I picked up Sketch! for a song and $3.50 at Half Price Books, a used chain of bookstores. The book comes as a fifty-or-so page comic-sized digest, a great form for the function. Also, all of the art comes from players and playtesters- I found a review on that says some of the artists were in the second and fourth grade at the time. The inimitable Jonathan Tweet also has a review and a scan of the cover.

My take? This is fun in a basket, something everyone wanted to play again. I'm not sure I could run it for more than three hours or so at a go- it's a little to madcap for me and I'm honestly not sure if I can keep up with the players. Maybe if I was Robin Williams- do you know he's a gamer, too?

I usually don't post about roleplaying sessions because I'm not sure that I have an audience for the subject, and I do try to keep people informed and entertained. Of course, I could say that I don't have an audience for my RPG stuff precisely because I don't blog about it. What say you, vox populi? Do you want to see more roleplaying material?

Snakes on a Plane

Well actually, Snakes on a Plane on a Shirt on a Mischa. If you want your own, you can buy one from these guys.

If you live under a rock, ask the Wikipedia for starters. Then read this guy's blog to get the camp and the insanity and the mad rush of a buzz and the profanity, then go read Snakes on a Blog.

Lather, rinse, repeat. August 18th, baby.

MS Paint

Some people can draw, and some can use Microsoft Paint. I'm sure there's a third kind of person who can do both.

And then there's the people who spend 100 hours with the application.
The result will make you cry.

EDIT: If that first link gives you grief, try this direct link to the image.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Holes in my teeth

I have two fewer holes in my teeth now, thanks to Dr. Barbe of Far West Dental. Huzzah!

And of course, I have a friend throwing a barbeque tomorrow. At least it's not a taffy-and-caramel-eating contest.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Played games

Last week's gaming night was relatively short for me, so to speak. Normally, I like to get in several shorter games rather than a few longer games, but this night gave me the opportunity to play two games that I'd wanted to play for a while. (Please note that all photo credits go to Marc, who actually brought a real camera instead of me using my camera phone.)

Game the first: VIKTORY II (BGG, BUY ME!). As you may or may not know, I played the first version with Clinton and Judson back home a few months before the storm. I remember not liking getting my units handed to me, but I liked the quick skirmish-like rules that encouraged attacking and quick play. A three-way wargame in under two hours? Yes, it can happen! The game's first production ran out by the time I wanted to purchase, so I sat tight and waited for reprints. Peter Morrison, the designer, has a great saga about the design, development, and production of the game. If you're remotely interested in the nitty-gritty of what it takes to get a game made, read the story.

To this session, we had a four-player game with myself, Greg, Dan, and Steven. The game rules provide for a nifty fog-of-war effect as players build and expand to slowly reveal the map, but I suggested that we play an open game to get used to play, and everyone agreed. Only I had played the game before, but everyone else was willing to give it a go.

After the fact, I discovered that I was in fact not missing any hexes. In laying out the board, you count the outer rim as part of the game board. We didn't, so I now know that we had a four-player game on a board for five or six. I'd like to give it another go with the correctly-sized board. I'm pretty sure I can get everyone on board again. We had a good time, even if it was a bit slow to build up at the start. I suspect the larger board caused the slowness, and I also suspect scenarios other than "conquer the world" would help a bit. Dan even tossed out an idea for a King of the Hill scenario. Quick session recap: Greg slowly built up his forces, Dan pushed out quickly towards the center, I built and pushed towards Steve, who was crushed between myself and Dan. After Greg and I started squeezing Dan, he conceded and we went to play other things.

I didn't do the best job of explaining the rules, but the others had no objections and all explicitly said they liked having one person be the gatekeeper for the rules. I think there's something to having a gatekeeper (as it were) for the rules to adjudicate and inform. Probably this is the sort of game that would benefit from a referee, but I know that other, less competitive games could also benefit from having one overseer guy. It was also fun to play a strategic wargame as differing from a Eurogame and actually crush my opponents into submission. I don't think I'm about to trade in all my stuff for Advanced Squad Leader, but I enjoy playing a wide variety of games to work out the ol' noodle.

While we played VIKTORY, Ryan and Yari played several games of Marc's prototype, Hive (NO BGG, NOT YET FOR SALE). This game has lots of promise, and Marc could put it on a shelf tomorrow (with a bit of effort). It's sort of like targeted Othello (aka Reversi). Each player has a set of numbered pieces. Each has arrows showing you in which direction you can flip your opponent's pieces- either by one higher-numbered piece or with two pieces summing to the target. There's no chain reactions. Total your color at the end, highest points wins. It plays elegantly, and there's definitely strategy there that I didn't instantly grasp. I'd totally buy this so I could play it again.

Next game was Mall of Horror (BGG, BUY ME!), a vicious social game about zombie survival. The basic mechanic is moving your survivors (Tough, Gunman, Pinup, and Kid) from shop to shop in the mall; if you're in the parking lot, you have a chance to find a card to help you survive. Beyond that, you vote on pretty much anything else. Who get to become Security Guard and see where the zombies will arrive? Vote. Who gets eaten next? Vote. If you lose all your survivors, you still have a little input by placing an additional zombie each round and helping to break ties, but this is a game of backstabbing and player elimination. The components are top-notch and very evocative- the cards look like bloody Polaroids, for instance. It felt a little long with six and Marc died first, quickly followed by me. I think Steven was the ultimate winner.

Last for the night was Lucca Città (BGG, BUY ME!). This needs to be played again, as we all missed a few rules for the last game of the night. Dan has a very detailed writeup of the session over on the Stink's blog. In a nutshell, it won an Italian game competition themed around cities and walls. It's a steal for less than ten bucks.

Weirdness from the animal kingdom

Odd. I didn't know that fish could fart, much less as a defensive tactic.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Forthcoming travel

Wahoo! We're going to New Orleans over the long July Fourth weekend!

My bro may or may not join us, as it depends on his vocational situation. Right now (depending on when you read this), he is in the vicinity of Marfa, Texas (a no-horse town in west Texas) working as an extra in a Paul Thomas Anderson flick called There Will Be Blood.

Obligatory geeky link: shock horror to the ENDOR HOLOCAUST, in other words, the Ewoks are extinct- what do you expect when you detonate a low-orbit thirty-two-mile-wide metal chunk of Imperial military technology?

Roleplaying linky

Two quickies today.

First, check out this sweet random cave generator. I totally don't need anything like this for anything I usually play. Maybe when I get to play that machine-gun-weilding wizard I have in the back of my mind.

Second, if you want out-of-print game books, take a gander at Noble Knight Games. They buy and sell OOP RPG stuff- I've just scored some cool material and plan to sell things to them in the future.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Katrina is still with us

The mother of all aggregators for me, Google News, brought me to an item in the Times-Picayune about a recently found body out in New Orleans East. Here it is, nine months after Katrina, and forensic workers are still finding the dead, more than twenty since March. Just read the article and let it sink in.

As to hearing some good news, I recently found out that an old friend of mine from college has been located safely. Now, I know that I had said many times that everyone I know made it through the storm all right, but I was lying. There was one person who I didn't know if he had made it, but I hadn't wanted to jinx anything. Call me a superstitious old softie if you like. I've kept my eye on his name over on the National Center for Missing Adults page, which thankfully now has reassuring information. Faris, wherever you are, I'm glad you're safe.

Now you're sixty-four

Paul McCartney, Beatle, turns sixty-four today. You should understand the significance of this.

We all do count the clock.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Why does no dentist in Austin have weekend hours? Virtually none of them have Friday hours either! I guess they all must play golf together, or have a regatta on the river. (They call it a "lake" here.)

I heard an advert on the radio by the Software Business Alliance encouraging disgruntled employees to rat out software piracy in exchange for financial rewards. However you feel about this, COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS NOT THEFT!

An art teacher in Austin had non-erotic nude photographs taken by her girlfriend, who posted them on Flickr. Chaos ensues by busybodies trying to "protect the children." The teacher might lose her job.

When did bacteria become germs, anyway? "Germs," ironically enough, is such a sanitized concept.

These mini-rants have been brought to you by the City of Austin and Corporate America. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Out, damned Monopoly

The ever-eloquent Yehuda has a few things to say about Monopoly. I love his metaphor.

Making a board game

In an effort to not bore all of my readership to tears, I've posted a medium-length boardgame design post over on the Flywheel. Feel free to read it. I talk about what it took to make a semi-quick-and-dirty mockup of a game idea, ready for tonight's playtest session.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sweet, sweet randomness

Care for a crime-fighting duo?

No? How about a totally unique RPG, almost guaranteed?

Can't come up with rules for said game? Never fear!

Heck, if you just write, maybe you need an oblique strategy or a specific slice of randomness. If you have a Windows machine, you can even make your own.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Fear your government

After reading journalist Edward Hasbrouck's article about a near-arrest from asking questions of the TSA and its contractors, I wonder why more people aren't up in arms about this sort of thing.

When the people stay silent in response to the slow erosion of freedom, does it come as a surprise that students think the First Amendment offers too much protection?

We live in interesting times.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Weekly open gaming report

Since last catching up on my game session reports, I don't want things to get as out of hand as before. Only a week late instead of months? Not too shabby.

Last Friday's gaming proved to be a very successful night, I think. We had a good number of the irregular crowd show up: Greg made an appearance, as did Ben and Kevin and their friend Jason; Steven and Lisa came by as well, and finally Marc showed the colors before the evening ran out. Plus the other half of the area taken up by the miniatures players and the Austin Boardgamers, players of heavier (usually railroad-themed) games.

Starting out the night, we played a quick four-player game of Loot (BGG, BUY ME!), Knizia's games of marauding pirates. Our players were Dan, Greg, Jason, and myself. I won by a nose at the end by capturing a sweet eight-coin merchant ship. Sure, you can pick this up at Wal-Mart for less than ten bucks. It's definitely worth it, but don't try to play with two. Four, five or six is much better, and the game says it can play with eight.

Next, I cracked the seal on Magdar (BGG, BUY ME!), a thinly-veiled Balrog-themed dice game. I had snagged this from a half-price table after having played it quite some time ago. The box says that it plays in 10-20 minutes, and even with four it still plays in less than twenty minutes. We missed a rule the first time around and had plenty of time to start over and play another round. It's a quick little dice game, sending dwarves to dig before the Balrog^H^H^H before Magdar destroys a tile. I can see how it would play different with less than four. I won, but it was close. There's some interesting strategies here, but the game plays so fast it's hard to grasp them at first.

You knew it was coming: Wiz-War (BGG, OOP BUT I CAN SELL YOU 5TH EDITION). Lisa and Steve had specifically requested that I bring this one, and I'm so glad I did. I wound up playing a full SIX PLAYER GAME. I don't know when (if ever) I played a six-player game of Wiz-War. My evil plan of getting people to play this slowly has finally paid off! This epic battle lasted an hour and a half of evil combo goodness. Players around the table: Me, Kevin, Jason, Steven, Lisa, and Dan. Jason and Kevin had never played Wiz-War before. I love this game because of the interactions of the cards, players, and the game environment.

This is the result of several layers of interactions. Steve had, in an effort to save his treasure, moved it into the corner. He had then created a wall and a pit to seal it in- you may not realize that a door can't be opened next to a pit, so you can get in to get the treasure, then you can't get out and have to bash your way through the wall in order to get out. He had also used the redirections to seal off his sector so you can only get in through two entrances. The next turn, Kevin had teleported Lisa into the closet. The other two wizards are Jason rushing to save his treasure before Dan dropped off his other one, killing Jason instantly (which wound up happening).

I won with a great combo. I moved three, played a five to go further, then a Pick Lock to finish the five movement through a door, then Power Run to burn hit points for movement. I dropped a second treasure on my home base, and pwn3d. Life is good. Here's to more games!

The last game of the night, the Great Space Race (BGG, BUY ME!). Ben pulled it out and we cracked the seal. Players round the table: Me, Marc, Yari, Ryan, Ben, and Kevin. I'm going to describe this game as a lightened cross of RoboRally (BGG, BUY ME!), Car Wars (BGG, BUY ME!), Nuclear War (BGG, BUY ME!) and pure chaos in a bucket. In the very first move of the very first game, we had three collisions. Now that we've played once, I'm looking forward to playing again; zany and evil and cutthroat. Plus it's IN SPAAAAAAAAAACE!!!!!

While we knocked around the galaxy, the others played Shadows over Camelot (BGG, BUY ME!). I plan to play at some point; read Kelly's thoughts on that night for details. Make sure to read the comments for more opinion.

Han Shot First!

Lucasfilm evidently listens. Come September, we can buy the theatrical version of Star Wars and see it on DVD.

Thanks to Ryan for putting this on my radar.

People are strange

For some reason, a number of strange people on the interweb have passed along my radar in the last few days.

Funniest of all is the guy who's living for a week on monkey chow. This Canadian fellow figures he can save money buy eating like a monkey. Yes, actual feed-it-to-our-hairy-cousins-in-cages food pellets. The videos, while work-safe, do feature a Canadian man repeatedly saying the word "poop." I guess this is what it takes to be famous on the internets.

If you read Slashdot or are aware of the Digg phenomenon, you may be aware of the recent meme detailing how not to steal a T-Mobile Sidekick PDA/Smartphone. If you want the full drama, complete with late-breaking news and embarrassing Myspace photos of the alleged perpetrators, check the guy's update page.

The last one is an oldie at the speed of the web, so I suspect you've heard of The One Red Paperclip guy. This is the fellow who, on July 12th, 2005, started to trade one red paperclip for a house. Yes, a real live small metal object used to hold paper. Yes, a physical, actual structure with rooms that you can keep stuff in an also live within its walls.

Enjoy these real memes, and behold the power of the internet.

Four young lads from Liverpool

A shot from the Beatles' 1964 tour of Australia; Yes, those are didgeridoos. I wonder if any recordings exist?


I need an oil change. The little sticker in my window tells me I do. I last had an oil change three months and a few days ago, nearly 2,900 miles ago. The automotive industry tells us the magic number for oil changes: three months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first.

I can't remember any other time in my life where my regular driving caused me to hit three thousand miles before three months time- so I'm not counting a planned road trip or an unplanned evacuation. This means that I'm driving something like 34 miles a day, burning about a gallon and a half per day. PER DAY. Back home, I'd drive maybe half the amount I drive here in Austin.

This is totally unacceptable. I hate to drive. There's a feeling like my time is not my own that I despise. It's like forced downtime that requires the full focus of my attention on the travel itself so one can barely think about other things. Your eyes are occupied, your brain is occupied. Insert obligatory rant about SUVs and Americans' thirst for oil. I feel like the road just snips years off of my life, one mile at a time.

Where the hell is my automatic flying car? Why don't we have better mass transit? When will teleportation actually work?

Pesky atoms.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Anything you can link, I can link also

Oldies but goodies: Here's Mario T. Lanza on the art of teaching a game. He also links to Greg Schloesser on forgotten rules.

Finally, I noticed that Peter Morrison of Morrison Games has a nicely detailed article (with pictures!) on the devlopment and production of Viktory, soon to be released as a second edition.

Epoxy part two

I have just completed pouring epoxy on the second half of the agave stalk I picked up a few months ago. I shall post pictures later; it needs to cure and I want to see how the final didjeridoo sounds. I'm optimistic.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Oh, the games I have played

These notes easily span two months or more of weekly boardgaming. Instead of presenting these session-by-session, I'll instead break it down and talk about the various games in turn. Kelly and Marc both occasionally talk about these game sessions, and the Austin Stink (a stink of gamers, get it?) has a new blog, so you can get any desired chronological data that way. I also know that I've talked about a number of these games here recently, so I'll try to stay fresh. Even so, some things may have slipped through the cracks.

10 Days in Africa (BGG, BUY ME!) - This again feels like a competitive puzzle as players strive to complete a valid travel agenda across Africa using cars, planes, and plain walking from country to country. This is almost identical to 10 Days in the USA, but with different geography. I don' think that the game suffers by attempting to be educational, but it feels somehow lacking as virtually all of the action hides behind each player- the board only exists to serve as a map, and no tokens move upon it. Strategically, this is a tactical game; can you deal moment-to-moment with what's presented to you? Very engrossing regardless, and though quick, games tend to be very close; Engaging but silent.

Badaboom (BGG, BUY ME!) - I had my eye on this for a while: blowing up goblins and mucking with fantasy bomb components so you could bribe your way to freedom sounded like it would be up my alley. I had picked it up and it had sat on the unopened games pile for a little too long, so I brought it out as part of my bargain with myself not to buy new games until I had played more of my unopened ones. The rules read like they were poorly translated into English by a native Swedish speaker (very likely true), and both Dan and I had a go at reading them. Playing it with five proved disastrous- it was far too chaotic and nobody knew exactly what they could or could not do at given moment. This went over like a lead balloon. I'm extremely unlikely to want to play it again, but I'd be willing to give it another go if it turns out that we missed something critical. The game components are of very high quality, however.

Bang (BGG, BUY ME!) - Always a good crowd-pleaser. Playing it with strangers does strain any new bridges of trust, so be advised. Rumor control has it that they will have a boardgame version in the near future. I usually only bring this to play when we have six or seven people to play- I think the four or five-player version isn't as exciting. Now that this group is starting to learn and enjoy it, I'll soon bring out the Dodge City expansion.

Bohnanza (BGG, BUY ME!) - There is a certain class of player that doesn't seem to get the "Trade or Die" notion inherent to this game. The deal-making and promises certainly force the players to cooperation even moreso than Settlers, and if you don't capitalize on the other player's resources, you simply can't win. Further, the game really speeds up with six players, and you can really zoom through the deck. I don't own any of the expansions for this game, but might soon.

Cape Horn (BGG, BUY ME!) - As much as I enjoy this game, I know that the Marketing team fell asleep at the wheel for this one. Why not call it "Around the Cape?" The second time I brought this out for five, it didn't fly as well as it had the previous time with three. I think the players were a little confused by my explanation. Still fun, but not as vicious when players don't grok how they can really screw each other over by playing wind tiles where their opponents need to go. I had also forgotten the sort of surprise victory that can occur when a player suddenly grabs a third nautical station token. I still didn't win, but I also didn't have as much fun as I had hoped. Maybe next time, with people who already know the game.

Carabande (BGG, OOP - GOOD LUCK) - Ah, the simple joy of racing. I've most recently learned that it's vital to make sure you have a good, solid, flat playing surface to play, or else frustration gets in the way of joy. I still want more track pieces. If you take a close look at this track, you'll notice how we have improvised two forks in the track- one right after the ramp, and one with the little loop in the corner. This was lots of fun, knocking pieces back and forth as players jostled for position along the same length of track but moving in different directions. I so wish that PitchCar track was compatible with Carabande track. Maybe I could craft come adapters out of MDF.

Carcassonne (BGG, BUY ME!) + The River (BGG, BUY ME!) + Inns and Cathedrals (BGG, BUY ME!) - I've only recently played this again. I hear there are about ninety million different ways to play and almost half as many expansions, and I'm pretty sure contemporary Carcassonne is different form how I played when first introduced. I like The River expansion- it adds a bit of random structure to the growing game field. Inns and Cathedrals add a little, but not too much, so I don't think that it overbalances. I also tried a strategy by not placing any farmers and therefore "losing" some of my followers as they stayed where placed. It worked all right- I came in a close third, though a single farmer proved the difference between first (Dan) and second (Kelly).

Cityscape (BGG, BUY ME!) - Dan had picked this up back during our voyage to Chimaeracon in San Antonio, but I hadn't played it before. This is a medium-light competitive/cooperative skyline building game done fairly handsomely in wood. Dan, Kelly, John, and myself played (I won) in about ten or fifteen minutes. Dan mentioned that he had this at work for a time, and I can see the value in a coffee-break-length game. More on the notion of designing games for particular constraints later.

Deflexion (BGG, BUY ME!) - Lasers. Strategy. Made in New Orleans at Tulane. An Egyptian theme. New pieces on the way. Why haven't you bought this yet?

Falling (BGG, BUY ME!) - This game has a few drawbacks, forcing me to game the play of this, and I mean that turn of phrase very specifically. Falling is a real-time card game where you're trying to hit the ground last. It requires a dealer to deal and adjudicate any in-game disputes. Nobody in my current crew has played it before, so I have to bring it out and engage folks in playing it, teaching and exciting them in play so that at some point in the future I can play. I'm getting there.

GOOTMU (BGG, BUY ME!) - Mazes and tiles and roll and move. A little strange to play an real live actual, honest to goodness, pick up a six-sided die then roll it to see how far you move your token game. I think the last time I played such a game was either Trivial Pursuit or Cranium, both before the 2006 New Year. Fie on you, Monopoly! This is a flawed, fiddly little game from Tom Jolly. Even though it was published nearly a decade before Wiz-War, there's definite influences apparent. It also oddly feels like a devolved version of Wiz-War due to roll-and-move and spaces with instructions printed on it. When I got this as a trade, I selected it because it looked like a game I would enjoy; when I opened it, I had sort of a sinking feeling that it would disappoint. I played a three-player game with Dan and Ryan, and I don't recall who won. Dan and I both thought about ways to improve the game, but nothing definite came of it. I think it's a crime that this is still in print, but Wiz-War is not.

In a Pickle (BGG, BUY ME!) - This light party game of "what's bigger than that" or "will that fit inside this" has survived several plays now. I think one of my favorite sessions was with a surprise visit from Scott and Jen, leading us to play with four couples teaming up. I have a feeling that this box will come with us to the Left Coast for the holidays and that Cat's family will get a huge kick out of it. Overall, a good light filler and a nice cheap find from Wal-Mart.

Kablamo! (BGG, BUY ME!) - This is a game of Russian Roulette without the mess. Interestingly, this is from the same company as Badaboom, but it's much better. The game has a more definite structure to the chaos as players rotate their guns, load their bullets (with actions on them that affect pretty much everything), act on the active bullet, and so forth. I've played with three, four, and five (the limit), and each time, people wanted to play again. This was a good buy, with just enough chaos to upset any needed memorization.

Let's Kill (BGG, BUY ME!) - I first bought this for the presumably humorous theme of stick figures morbidly killing each other. Sadly, this is one of those games where reading the cards is most of the fun. I can see where the right group of people would have hysterical fun with this game, but I think I've moved beyond gallows humor as the reason to play a game. I'll read Addams Family or the Gashlycrumb Tinies with the next gothpunk, but games are another kettle of fish entirely. What works thematically in the different Gloom fails here pretty heavily. Diverting, but I feel like I should've bought Lunch Money instead. Poor Atlas Games. If anyone out there is interested in taking this off my hands, let me know.

Loco! (BGG, BUY ME!) - Another Very Clever Reiner Knizia game of changing values. I'll need to play it again to give a better review.

No Thanks! (BGG, BUY ME!) - Light, elegant, and a high replay value. We also now know how to play and score properly- the first game we played, Dan missed three, count 'em, three rules. This leads one to wonder how to write rules for clarity and as a means to insure that obvious or important rules are not missed. I suspect that it requires professional editing and layout or massive amounts of observed blind playtesting to determine which rules are being missed. I'll probably pick this game up at some point, like a second- or third-tier purchase. After all, it's already on the collective game shelf.

Ricochet Robots (BGG, BUY ME!) - Still good, still awesome, still my most-often-requested game. I snatched this us as soon as I saw it on the discount table. I have no idea how it got there, but I'm glad I snagged it.

Sitting Duck Gallery (BGG, BUY ME!) - This Guillotine-esque game of duck shooting holds up well with three through six. Paring down actions to simply draw one, play one keeps things moving fast as you target and eliminate your opponents' ducks. Of course, there are cards to shuffle the duck line and move the targeting markers from duck to duck, adding a fair amount of uncertainty to play. I particularly like the fact that eliminated players keep playing in kingmaker roles. This game does have a goodly amount of "take that!" screw-your-neighbor, but it's at a light enough level that nothing really leaves the game table. I would still like it even if I had paid full price for it. As a downside, it's not a two-player game.

Sleuth (BGG, BUY ME!) - A classic Sid Sackson game from the late sixties. I got a chance to play this due to Dan's luck in thrift stores. This is unquestionably a competitive puzzle: Take thirty-six cards in four colors, showing one, two, or three Diamonds, Opals or Pearls. Remove one and hide it. The rest of the company must now deduce the missing gem by a series of search cards that direct the natures of the questions one may ask one other player. I think Ryan won our three-player session. This game deserves multiple plays with multiple players, and I should totally pick this up. (Aside: Sackson collected more than ten thousand board games in his life. Read about the auction here.)

Squint (BGG, BUY ME!) - I kick ass at this game. Maybe that's why my group doesn't like it as much as I do. This is basically Pictionary with tiles. A good party game that tests your visualization skills. Can you make someone say "Piggy Bank" or "Swimming" or "Abraham Lincoln" or "Sheep" using a few abstract shapes?

Times Square (BGG, BUY ME!) - Two-player tug-of-war by Knizia. Fast, taking perhaps ten or fifteen minutes. I'll have to remember to keep bringing this out so it can get some more light. I beat Dan twice and the reception was a little lukewarm. Maybe I should listen to Han Solo.

Villa Paletti (BGG, BUY ME!) - This dexterity game gets a lot of play with our crowd. Most excitingly, I found that the game comes in two versions. What's the difference with the $140 version? Size, baby. An instant, instinctively fun game. Buy this if you see it. (The cheaper one, obviously- unless you're buying the larger edition for me.)

Wallamoppi (BGG, BUY ME!) - Here's an interesting experiment. We got to playtest the demo copy of this at our Friendly Local Game Store. This went over like a lead balloon again, though maybe the players weren't 100% receptive to playing. (You know who you are.) The game instantly went to the discount table. I'd still like to give it a second shot before passing judgment. I like dexterity games, and the clever marble ramp timer has an added element of niftiness for me.

Wheedle (BGG, BUY ME!) - This remains well-received, though some of the random people who join don't care for it too much. This sort of chaos doesn't always appeal to some, though I find it endlessly entertaining to see the sorts of strategies people develop- only trading with the center and not with people, intentionally sabotaging other players' runs, or following right behind a trade and trying to beat someone at a needed color. Fast-paced and awesome. I'm very glad I own this.

Wings of War (BGG, BUY ME!) - Unquestionably the best dogfighting game I've played, truly capturing the sense of the back-and-forth, trying to anticipate maneuvers plus the thrill of making quick decisions and living (or not) with the consequences. I got a chance to play two on two and a three-for-all. This went over so well that two people in the extended gaming circle have purchased it. I really need to own a copy and not just mooch off open demos. Who needs miniatures?

Wiz-War (BGG, OOP - GOOD LUCK!) - I've introduced (pushed, some might say) Wiz-War enough now that people are actually starting to ask me to bring it. More (plus pictures) with Friday's game recap.

Whew! By the way, feel free to buy games via those BUY ME links- I get kickbacks. :)

Starting my boardgaming recap

Hoo boy, I've got a lot of notes to catch up on. I'll work backwards, ending with most recent.

Quite some time ago, I played a series of games as a foursome: Myself and Cat, plus John and Jennifer. Cat's not a big gamer, and John has been out of the gaming scene for a while and prefers more strategic games, and Jennifer is a non-gamer. How do you choose a series of games to fit this group? I had to pick games that wouldn't be too heavy nor too light for the group, plus be involving enough to be fun, plus not take so long as to waste the afternoon. Luckily, Great Hall has a good number of open demo games.

First, I selected Blokus (BGG, BUY ME!) as a quick four-player game with not-too-heavy strategy. The demo copy was missing a piece, but also had an extra one- we were able to make do and improvise. I'm pretty sure I made a hash of the scoring rules, but I don't think it mattered. We played such that the person with the fewest remaining pieces won, instead of trying to keep track of "going out" strategically. I'm sure that the next time I play I'll endeavor to play properly. We wound up playing twice and the scores were relatively close. A success, enjoyed by all players- I feel confident everyone would play it again.

Moving from spatial visualization to linguistics, I brought out Syzygy (BGG, BUY ME!), which I really wanted to play with Cat, as I know she likes word games. Syzygy is like speed boardless Scrabble. It's fun, though bloodless, as you can't effect the other players in any way- you can only make your words faster. With this game, I really think that there is a class of games that are really competitive puzzles: the famous Ricochet Robots plays this way, and I hear Set is the same way. Clearly, these are games with win conditions, but without meaningful decisions, are they much richer than simply racing to complete jigsaws? Syzygy is entertaining, but I don't think that I know enough word geeks to truly bring this one out time and time again. The game also ends a bit suddenly, simply as a function of running out of tiles. The rankings were much further here, but we had a lot of fun looking at each others words as a tiny postmortem.

Lastly, moving away from the left side of the brain, we played Amazing Labyrinth (BGG, BUY ME!), a simple maze game that's worth playing once or twice. Its lack of words or complicated rules makes it a good choice for little ones, but at the same time lessens its hold over the adult set. There's an unusual amount of analysis paralysis present here, especially for such a simple game. I've only played this one once before, and I'm not likely to bring it out again, nostaligas excepting. I do wish I liked it more, as I like both mazes games with tiles. I don't recall who won, but I know it wasn't me.

Looking back, this game session sort of resembled some kind of intelligence test, hitting the various kinds of intelligences beyond book knowledge. I know that I chose simpler games to help feel out unknown and unfamiliar gaming preferences. What does this say about "simple" games? What learning patterns are they trying to reinforce? How can we use this in our future game designs?

The secret of comedy

Normally I don't link to Something Awful; the site is not often safe for work and some people can't access it. More importantly, I don't always think they're funny.

This week's Photoshop Phriday is (unsurprisingly) very funny. Take a look at misspelled movie titles.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Intertron linkage

Intarweb, Webernet, Intertron. It's all fun. Here are a few links for you.

Last week's Escapist had a good article on people who work at play, both in the real and virtual casino sense and the Massively Multiplayer Online game sense.

Gone Gaming had a good Memorial Day article on War and wargaming, plus an interesting way of thinking about what "The Golden Age of Gaming" means.

I recently downloaded a utility called MacSaber. It uses the motion sensor in my MacBook to make lightsaber sounds, and it ROCKS. Strangers' videos can be seen on YouTube.

While downloading drivers from Dell today, I noticed one OS option was "Apple Mac OS." I swear I am not making this up.

Game night tonight and yesternight. I still have many old notes from previous game sessions to post. Last night's impromptu session of Rêve led to a longish discussion of RPG theory- I'll have to post about it when I have more time to arrange my thoughts.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hurricane Season officially begins

You read that right, folks. It's that time again. Historically, we (New Orleans) shouldn't start to worry until August and September.

If you haven't seen it already, the Times-Picayune has a very complete Flash animation of Katrina's effect on the city. If you're not a native, it will help put the scale into perspective, I think.

On a personal note, they finished gutting my grandparents' house in Lakeview yesterday.