Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dungeons and Dragons, 4th edition

For the record, I do not yet have an opinion on the forthcoming 4th edition of D&D. It's largely not relevant to me, since I'm not roleplaying enough and I'm not a big fan of straight Tolkien fantasy, but I'm curious as to what has changed over the years.

I know one of the design goals aims to incorporate more online experience, and I've heard that some of the rules aim to include more indie/narrativist/story-oriented/player-driven play that's at the bleeding edge of the definition of roleplaying game. Do I think D&D is going to be a hippy-love-fest game? I doubt it seriously. Do I want to have the option for more play, less single-player driven play, and severely reduced prep time for the GM? Hell, yes.

I don't think D&D can become the kind of game I want to play, and I'm okay with that.

UPDATE: Purple Pawn reports that the books have been leaked onto the net a week before release.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ubuntu on a Mac

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the latest Ubuntu CD (8.04 Hardy Heron x86) will merrily boot a latest-and-greatest MacBook Pro with no hassle.

Of course, I'm not sure why I'd want to shell out two grand to do so, but it's nice to have the option and know that the Ubuntu team are on top of things.

I have the PowerPC build of the distro, but I haven't tested it.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Greek Festival!

No, it's not a fraternity/sorority thing. It's the 35th annual Greek Festival here in the city, celebrating food and dancing and Greek culture and carnival and shopping and food and the whole everything! I haven't been in years, but I hear they have several whole roast lambs. Maybe I'll remember the camera. My mouth is watering, just thinking of the possibilities.

I don't know of any actual Greek games off the top of my head expect for those that are merely Greek-themed. No, the Olympics don't count.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

This week's played games

No time like the present! Twenty-one plays of ten titles this week.

I've played Khet (BGG, BUY ME!) the most this week, with five total plays. I used to own the green-box Deflexxion edition with the limited gold-and-silver beamsplitter pieces (Eye of Horus; BGG, BUY ME!), but I traded it for a copy of Mayfair Cosmic Encounter. When we moved back, Margaret had her copy of Khet, so I got my hot laser action fix via someone else. But the boys have finally put out the new mezzanine expansion, the Tower of Kadesh (BGG, BUY ME!). This pushed me over the edge and I bought myself a present. Three presents, if you count the expansions. I have a special love in my heart for two-player abstract strategy games, and Khet is definitely in my top ten. Not bad for a game that made the 2006 Mensa list.

Khet ultimately reminds me of a competitive version of the vintage Black Box (BGG, WP, OOP), and is most accurately described as "Laser chess." Half your pieces have mirrors, and you must press a laser button after each move. If your laser strikes any piece where there's no mirror, it's dead. All pieces move like kings in chess, or you can rotate a piece a quarter-turn. Winner is the one who hits the other's pharaoh. The first expansion adds beamsplitters, the second expansion adds a second level, with a periscope-style tower. (CAUTION: Do not point laser into remaining eye.) The game designers, who invented the game while at Tulane University, have plans for more expansion pieces.

It's hard to argue with lasers.

A friend of mine went by a game store on the northshore and reported they had a 50% off table. I got two new games by proxy: Bamboleo (BGG, BUY ME!) and my very own copy of Set (BGG, BUY ME!), hooray! I've never played Bamboleo, but I've seen it and coveted it due to pictures alone. It is another high-quality wooden dexterity/balance game from Zoch, the sort of game that retails for $75 due to wood and weight. One could probably make a copy for oneself with twenty bucks at a hardware store, or cheaper if you have bits lying round the workshop.

Bamboleo looks a bitlike a pizza topped with wooden blocks, balanced precariously on a spire. Take turns removing a block. If it falls, you lose points. The magic comes from balancing a top a sizable cork ball with enough friction to make things interesting. Words don't do enough justice. It's a visceral delight to play this one.

I'm sad that Margaret has moved to Chi-town, but this means that I have less competition in Set.

The next most popular game I've played this week is Race for the Galaxy (BGG, BUY ME!), just like everyone and their step-ex-wife. I like it more than Puerto Rico, but maybe it's just the space theme. It's also getting popular enough in the group that I don't need to reteach it every time we play, and it is an overwhelming game to teach. Simon and I tag-teamed Allison with our explanation, which I normally don't like to do- too often when multiple people teach a game, you'll get conflicting answers or rules or reasons. It worked out this time, though.

Each time I explain this one, I'm reminded of a quotation: "When one teaches, two learn." I first heard it quoted by a character in a novel talking about martial arts and spellcasting, but it definitely applies to crazy European strategy games.

I also cracked the shrink on a game that I've had on the shelf for a while: Nexus Ops (BGG, BUY ME!). A near-stranger and newbie to BGG gave me a copy after last year's Math Trade as a thank you. I brought it along as an emergency "if more than two people show up" game, but my boy Simon expressed an interest and Germaine never showed, so bam, we played a two played game of fighting and killing and throwing dice and mining for Rubium- and who doesn't want more Rubium in their life?

Overall, I wasn't blown away and instantly in love with the game, but I did have a good time. I will admit that the dozens of fun sculpted beasties and my third-party plastic red gemstones helped a lot of the tactile and visual appeal. Mechanically, the dicefest has a few clever angles on initiative, which is worth remembering and stealing. I would definitely like to play it again with three or four, and I can really see the appeal in a light and simple wargame dicefest.

A few more of the usual suspects hit the table in the last week, too:

Bohnanza (BGG, BUY ME!), which I won and taught the lesson that it's vital to not be stingy
Category 5 (BGG, BACK IN PRINT AS SLIDE 5 BUY ME!), which I got to introduce to two new players
Carrousel (BGG, IMPORT FROM FRANCE), which I got to introduce to new players and discovered that a five-second handicap on my part is not enough
Sheepshead (BGG, WP, USE A DECK OF CARDS), which we played twice and only two people needed the cheatsheet
Die Sieben Seagal (BGG, BUY ME!), which is really starting to show its wear in the humidity
Oh Hell (BGG, WP, USE A DECK OF CARDS AND THE RULES WE USE), which will break your brain for a and or two if you play it right after DSS

Game on!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Non-traditional clothing

We now have almost all of our wedding clothes, in the old style, from an electro-ethereal merchant of renown.

I need a hat, perhaps (a non-trivial task on the best of days); also shoes to match my spats. I could stand to obtain a pocketwatch and chain, but I fear it will see little practical use.

Yes, dear readers, I now possess brass goggles. Contact lenses are now a higher priority.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cell phone headsets

Executive summary: If you drive with a cell phone, you should use a headset. I bought the first generation Aliph Jawbone and like it.

Right, moving on.

Two months ago, my loyal readers may recall that I started using a Bluetooth headset with my cell phone. Of course I find out yesterday that the company is soon releasing a second version of their product that's sexier, sleeker, newer- hell, it's literally got leather upholstery. At least the price point hasn't changed. This doesn't bug me so much, but I do wish they had a loyalty program.

I don't constantly wear my headset like some folks. You see these people walking and talking, and at first you think they're either talking to you or outright crazy and conversing with their dog. I got problems enough without strangers thinking I'm talking to invisible people across the ether. I most commonly see people who spend a long time working alone wearing headsets- delivery personnel, usually. They may have a business case to wear one, too. Maybe taxi drivers will soon start wearing them for dispatch.

I very specifically wear mine in two cases: driving or if I plan to have a long phone conversation. I've even gotten into the habit of wearing it no matter how long the drive unless I have someone in the car with me. This may change in the future, but for now, it's a solo tool.

Let's compare driving without a headset versus driving with a headset. Without, you must hold your cell (and ergo the hand) up to your head. Regardless of squandered attention, my hand cuts of a bit of my peripheral vision, but also makes me less inclined to turn my head. This is the crucial argument for using a headset- not that you're more or less focused when you jibber-jabber, but that your sense of kinesthetics inhibits you from the maximum range of freedom if you've got your meathook by your mug.

Upshot? It took a few days to a week to get used to handsfree talking. Now it's second nature. Oh, and it works with my Mac. Bonus.

Shameless plug:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Grand Theft Auto does some good

While driving today, I made a left turn from one divided street into a red light on another; this intersection has no stop bar painted in the road; many people run this red light after making the turn. For all I know, it may actually be legal to complete the turn if there's no white line in the road.

I saw a cop approaching the intersection, getting ready to turn drive away in the direction I came from. I chose to not run the light. Would I have continued driving if no cop? Maybe. Yes, the in-game police behavior in GTA reinforced my real-life driving behavior to obey the law.

Clearly, I will not leap out of my car, dash across a busy intersection, pull the cop out of his car, steal his shotgun ammo, then drive across three trees and into the bayou on my way to avoid crashing into a building. I am a normal, rational human being who respects the laws of our society by and large, civil disobedience notwithstanding.

Still, this is an interesting consequence of gameplay.

To tweet or not to tweet


The idea is that you drop tiny one-line status updates- "I'm walking the dog," "Having lunch with Ford," "Dreaming about Mars," "Failing to learn how to juggle" etc, and anyone on the tubes who care can follow along to see what you're up to. I see the appeal of a real-time human status line.

It reminds me of finger in the Good/Bad Old Days.

Do I want to do it? Sure, maybe. I like the notion of social computing. I might be more inclined to tweet more frequently than to blog. The low hurdle of a few dozen characters coupled with the directed "What are you doing?" approach effectively removes the problem of writer's block.

I don't have a good idea as to how many people really read this blog, but I'd have an exact number as to how many people "followed" me on Twitter. So there's a selfish, egotistical, narcissistic desire to know how many people care about what I'm doing NOW NOW NOW NOW RIGHT NOW.

I keep track of the games I play already; I'm starting to keep track of the books I read, too. I could do something over at NetFlix for movies, but I honestly have watched fewer movies these days. I also don't really like the fact that my first ideas are simply to report on the media I'm consuming. That seems equal parts shallow and needlessly materialistic, plus the elegance-needy part of my brain despises the extra work needed to keep the same data in two places by hand.

I hear some good use-cases for the service, particularly in convention/conference/con settings or other large gatherings of relative strangers. Businesses can use it like a rumor mill, or Rumor Control. Performers can use it for tour dates and bookings and the like.

Do you use Twitter? Why?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

When I picked up dinner last night at my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant, I happened into the owner. I haven't seen him in a while; we do a lot more pick-up than sit-down these days. So we chatted for a bit, and I realized that I hadn't seen him since before I proposed to Cat, so I proudly showed off my ring and announced our engagement.

I got big smiles, a hug, and congratulations.

I also realized that I've known a restaurateur longer than my fiancée. I love this town.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A scary number

According to my extended BGG stats page, I own 176 games I've "never" played.

Well, not exactly never ever, to tell the truth. I only started keeping track of games I played in September 2006, so I have years of data that I'll never get. But I generally know which games I've never played, or haven't played since the storm. But 176? It seems like a lot, certainly by the numbers. It's right around half of my collection.

But let's examine the facts in some more detail: The majority of my collection I haven't had access to since we moved back home. So for nearly a year now, most of my games live in storage boxes.

Some of my games I haven't played since before the storm. Some of them simply aren't a weekly get-to-the-table sort of game. Some I don't know how to play. Some I keep for nostalgic value. Some I keep for show, I'll admit. Could I do a major cull? Definitely. Could I easily pick up dozens more without thinking too hard? Absolutely.

How many games to I own that are still in shrinkwrap? I don't have that information.

I so look forward to having a real game room where I can open and fiddle and display and have room to play. Boy, do I have game room envy.

Still here

Hello, loyal readers.

Last night, I dreamt of Grand Theft Auto. Nothing too crazy, honestly- just dreaming about playing the game. I drove here, there, picked up this package, dropped it off at that location, ran over some pedestrians, evaded the cops, blew some stuff up. Fun times.

I deeply regret the negative impact the game has had on my posting. I assure you that I'm still here, still working for NOCCA, still getting married on a streetcar, still playing games.