Thursday, September 29, 2005

September Gaming at the JSGC

September saw the return of strong gaming after the summer. October is going to be a problem with all the Jewish holidays in the middle of the week. And the end of October/first two weeks of November I will be in the U.S. for BGG.con . Games will be at Nadine's house, I'm hoping.

The following list includes only games played at the club, not those I personally played outside the club.

Amun Re - continues to be the "game that nobody doesn't like". While a good meaty game, it is not anybody's favorite - a little lackluster, not very inspired scoring. All the "better" games, however, such as Puerto Rico, Prince of Florence, etc., have people who love them and people who really dislike them. So when we only have 5 people playing, Amun Re is often called out. The game does grow on me a bit, I must say.

Boggle - played as an opener.

Can't Stop - played as an opener. I had just finished reading Dice Games by Knizia and wanted to see if my game group would be open to trying something different. Nope.

Chess - played as an opener by someone passing through.

Cities and Knights of Catan - Still enjoyable, I think it is better with three than with four. With four, one player often gets locked out pretty quickly and is bored for two hours. With three, natural balance keeps people ganged up on the leader unless something pretty screwy happens with the dice.

Cribbage - played as an opener.

El Grande - Nice meaty game, usually about 3.5 hours in our hands (we play all games pretty long).

For Sale x 2 - The regulars in the club don't like it, the newbies do. An easy game to have new players play while they are waiting for other people who are in the middle of a game.

Louis XIV - Best new game acquired in the last year. Also some clunky scoring issues, but otherwise much enjoyed. We can play it in about 2 hours, too.

Princes of Florence - Game that looks about as fun as watching paint dry when you're not playing it, but is just incredibly good. I still can't understand why. Most people love it, including me. You've got 7 auctions and 14 actions. How hard can that be?

Puerto Rico x 3 - Still a staple, but now a more relaxed staple, as David K and I have burned out a bit playing on . Still amazing, diverse and fun every time we play, especially with variable buildings. If anyone at BGG.con wants a set of my best buildings, drop me a line and I'll make some batches.

San Juan x 2 - Should be less enjoyable than St Pete, but is actually better. Four player is probably best, as more phases are taken each round. Needs expansion buildings, pronto.

St Petersburg x 3 - Newest game. ... I can't help it. It's problematic. The position in which you sit when certain cards flip up basically determines the game. And the buildings are basically a waste of time against the power of the aristocrats. As far as I have been able to tell, the luck in picking the aristocrats is far more than the luck of picking 6 point buildings in San Juan - with the exception of buying an Observatory. I have suggested that the buildings score one more time at the end of the game, but we haven't tried this yet.

Tikal - Definitely a brain burner, but a lovely game. And beautiful to look at, too.


Session Report Up

Games played: Boggle, San Juan, For Sale, Louis XIV, Cities and Knights of Catan, Puerto Rico.


Monday, September 26, 2005

More of the Same

Emails to the potential publisher in the U.S. They actually made a mockup of the game and will be sending me comments. Nice to hear.

I am designing my own mockups anyway, as I said. If you want to own one of my special demo copies, let me know. I accept PayPal :-) . Price will be between $10 to $20 depending on how I go about making it. For an additional fee, I'll personalize your copy by adding your name into the graphics when I actually print it.

I finished Ethics in Gaming 5.0 and sent it to Greg.

And I'm almost finished with chapter 4 of Sarah. Yay! The trouble is, is that chapters 4 and 5 don't really fit in with the story anymore. To be truly honest to the idea, I should cut them out. Only they contain most of the game related material, so I feel like I have to leave them in. Well, what I post to Gone Gaming doesn't necessarily have to be the final format for the story. And what will I do with the final story, anyway?


Sunday, September 25, 2005

Weekend Gaming

TM, from Jewlicious, left me a comment on my previous post. This brings my readership to 21! Moving in the right direction!

This weekend was all about the continuing saga of My Game Prototype #1. Friday I picked up Saarya from his sleep-away school and headed to downtown Jerusalem to talk to a printer about creating 50 copies of my game.

First of all: why 50 copies? Because I want to send some to interested publishers, some to prominent game reviewers, some to give out/sell at, and some more to give out/sell to people here who have already requested copies for themselves.

I was hoping to hear from a certain publisher in the U.S., but I'm still waiting. No sense not covering all bases.

Anyhoo, I already have complete mockups from the abortive attempt with the previous game company. I couldn't produce with their artwork, but I could use it to demonstrate what I am looking for in terms of components. Just swap out the art, keep the same pieces and proportions, and I should be good to go.

Even though I said I want minimal design, just enough to show people what the game is about without a particular theme, the printer still indicated that I was looking at something like $500 here, plus another $500 for printing on paper and gluing to some nice cardboard stock, and including boxes to go with it.

Too much for me, even though I've had offers for assistance. Anyway, I don't have much time, but I think I should at least get another price quote. Also, armed with Paint Shop Pro 8, I don't see why I can't create my own graphics. That should save $500, at least. I asked him to give me a firm quote on both design and printing and went home.

Dinner Friday night with Nadine, Rachel, and Saarya. Nadine is a marketer and game group regular. Nadine kept on insisting that I find a theme for the game, as this will make it more memorable to publishers. We rack our brains for things that come in groups of eight (the game is about collecting a set of eight objects) until I finally come up with 8 candles on a menorah.

Nadine and Rachel then explode in a frenzy of ideas: let's create 500 copies! Let's sell it in Israel! Let's get the Jerusalem Post to cover it as a new gift for Hanukkah! Let's call it "Light My Menorah" [as in "Come on Baby, ..."] We'll have eight different colored candles for the objects, gold candles for the wilds, and Antiochus and Greek soldiers for the hazard cards! Let's play again!

We played, and Rachel won (I played poorly - I'm better two player). Lots of talk. In the meantime, I now have to redo the graphics again with candles and I still have to find the right printer at a cheaper price.

Saturday lunch we had a family over, including a boy (15) who is a full time Halo player. He plays every evening and all night in Israel with his friends in the states. He doesn't go to school. He is so good at it, that he hoping for sponsorship to compete in a worldwide tournament for money, and expects that this is pretty likely.

I tried to convince him to play board games with me. Every time he raised an objection as to why he doesn't like board games, I told him that I feel the same way about board games, which is why I play good ones. "They're too much luck". Yes. "They're for kids". Yes. "They're too slow with lots of waiting". Yes. "They go on forever". Yes. Exactly what I don't like about board games, that's why you should play the new board games.

Eventually I convinced him that just like video games doesn't mean "Pong", board games doesn't mean "Monopoly". He consented to try my game prototype #1. After one game he asked to play again. And again. He lost each time, and still told me it was a great game. Nachas!

The guy spends all of his time at home without any local friends, I think. I hope I can convince him to come to the game group.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Blog Curiosities

Those of you in RSS-land are missing the spectacle of my ever-changing blog template. I would like to grow to a 50,000 readership, without having to, say, write material interesting to 50,000 people. So in my spirit of self-blindness, I have decided that great blogs:

- Must have a unique template. A pat template is a sure sign of uncool. And the template has to be a good one! See that die inside the funky Jewish star symbols? I did that myself! Wow!

- Must be compleetly gramartical and speled corretcaly. Bad editing is a sign of sloppiness and unprofessionalism. Like most of my posts.

- Must link to lots of big blogs, even if these blogs have nothing to do with you or your subject matter. Thus, my ever expanding blogroll on the side of the page. I will soon be adding links to Boing Boing, a blog about sex on trampolines, and Gizmodo, a blog about zen muppets.

Jewlicious is my mechanical track rabbit. Why? Because one of the writers/founders was over my house for dinner a few months ago. She told me that she was running this blog with a fifty thousand daily readership. I told her that I also had a blog, and that my readership was twenty.

"Twenty thousand?" she asked.

"Uh, no. Twenty." I said. "More soda?"

Meanwhile, my blog's valuation on BlogShares is at an all time high, which has prompted one analyst to give it an "Overpriced" rating. Oh no! You know, I've looked at this site and I still have no idea what the hell it does. Some guy named Sean has bought most of the shares in my blog.

Who the heck is Sean? Why is he buying all those shares in my blog? Does this mean he gets to tell me what I can write? I, for one, am not going to compromise my artistic integrity. And I'll tell you something else, this is the blog and I'm not going to change it. Right?

No, Sean. I mean, Mr. Sean. Yes, Mr. Sean. Yessir, right away.

In other news, I saw this great article about armed terrorist sex slaves who voted for George Bush using this really cool new wifi device that encourages copyright violations!


Session Report Up

On my site. Games played: Amun Re, St Petersburg.

We are a slow group - always were, and looks like we always will be. Amun Re play time on the box - 90 minutes. Our play time - 3.5 hours. Always.

Can't wait to play Die Macher.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Dice, Luck, Bah Humbug

What is the difference between teaching your child to play Chutes and Ladders the regular way, and teaching your child to play Chutes and Ladders where each player has two pieces and they have to choose which one to move each time they roll?

The difference is that the former is the child's first introduction to the great world of gambling, while the second is an introduction to using your brain.

Dice? Feh.

Why do people enjoy dice and luck in games? Because people are addicted to gambling. Really, what is the excitement in that two second period between the time you roll the dice and the time it lands and you discover what will happen to you in the game? Why do you enjoy that?

I think it must be something to do with entering a place where it is not you vs. him anymore, but you vs. the world. The world is more arbitrary than an opponent. Two people are treated equally when they face the world. Either one can win. Two people against each other are not equal. The more skilled one is usually going to win.

Without that die roll, the only way to consistently win is to work at it. Even if your opponent hands you advice and insight into his or her own strategy, you still have to absorb it, make it part of yourself and become a better player. And this takes work and time.

Sure, better players will win Risk more often than worse players. But really: when you play against a better Risk player, and the other player outmaneuvers you, but you win anyway because of lucky dice - did you really "win"? When playing against a worse player and you play better and still lose because of a few dice rolls - did you "lose"? We all know that if you play the game 1000 times, and you are twice as good as your opponent, you will be winning twice as many games. What is the point, then, of a single win or loss? A die roll rolled up good - oh boy, I win. It rolled up bad - oh darn, I lose.

On Luck vs. Randomness.


Monday, September 19, 2005

My Game Prototype #2

I created a mockup of MGP#2 and played it by myself. Unh. No story arc, so the game doesn't progress. Not enough control. Too much calculation. Back to the story board :-(


People Fighting Back Against the RIAA

Here is one of my rare outside linkposts.

File sharing is one of those activities that I recognize as an illegal activity, but feel very strongly that it should not be.

1. In my opinion, and according to law, file sharing is not stealing, and therefore should not be grouped in the same moral category. As a contrast, consider the moral equivalence between a) copying a single song from a CD, b) posting a comment that a song is bad which discourages one person from buying the CD, and c) surreptitiously going into someone's online bank account and taking the price of a CD out of it into your own. The RIAA would have you believe that a) is more like c) than b).

2. Paying for "copies" of something in digital format is anachronistic. Not that making money off of a creation is anachronistic, just the concept of making money off of the idea of copying it.

3. When vast industries find themselves without a sustainable business model, they turn on the people to suppress legal and moral activities. That's when the real ethical violations begin. For this reason alone, I advocate blanket protection to copy, but not resell, digital works.


Sunday, September 18, 2005


Destiny was raiding my refrigerator
When I fell out of bed this morning and
Into the kitchen
Half-asleep, having been kept awake all night
Swatting mosquitoes.

"Get out of there!" I yelled,
Ineffectually. "Stop trying to run
My life!" he yelled back,
Slamming the refrigerator door and
Grabbing his backpack. As he stormed out the back door,
His black army boots thundering on my linoleum,
He left muddy footprints,
Leading nowhere.

"You never pay attention to me!" Who else
was yelling at this godawful hour?
I wondered. I looked up.
There was Time, standing in my living room,
"Leave me alone, I need my coffee, I can't
deal with you this early, I have to sit down."
I stumbled to the kitchen counter, trying to
Remember where I had left my wallet.
"I hate you!" he shouted,
Flying out the window
As he is wont to do,
I remembered, too late.

And then I noticed
His hands at the throat of my choking child,
Icy fingers coiled around blue skin.
"This isn't funny, anymore," I said.
He answered, "Whoever said it was?"


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Weekend Gaming

St Pete ... ah St Pete. Notice that I keep talking about St Pete. That is because when I find a game, I like it or I don't. If I don't like it, I will play it one or two times to see if I missed something, and then get rid of it. If I do like it, I will play several times to see if it holds up and if there is room to get better at it. If there isn't, I get rid of it.

This is part of a long post, which I will save for some other time.

Anyhoo, I played with Rachel and Saarya. Like Gili in the last game, Rachel had trouble securing adequate income and was then totally out of it for the rest of the game. This is a surprise, as she has won a few of the last games. This "no way to catch up" is both a flaw and a benefit to a game, in my opinion.

A "flaw": who really wants to sit through a whole game where they don't have a chance? When I am out of it, I usually set a personal goal such as "get 60 points" and then I don't worry about winning. But I understand the frustration that others may feel in this situation. Rachel was very unhappy, and left the game on a sour note. I really should have let her quit, and I certainly would have if we had been playing two players. I should have, anyway.

A "benefit": this usually implies that experienced players will do better than inexperienced players. This is a good thing, indicating that the game has a strategy curve and depth.

Oh look, we're back at that post that I was saving for some other time. Let's keep on saving it.

The twin ideas, that players are not automatically eliminated early on and that players do better as their experience increases, are not incogruant, but finding that balance is tough. Name a few games that work this way. T&E? Settlers? Traumfabrik?

Other games played:

Three games of my game prototype #1 with Tal. Unbelievably, I discovered new strategy elements in the game. I am very happy with it.

Five games of Go with Tal on a 9x9. She has settled at a 6 stone handicap, but she doesn't really get the game, yet. Too bad.

Dinner Friday night at friends. I tried to show them how to play Zendo with cards without much success. And Tal insisted on trying to beat me at Spit again, at which she has never succeeded.

In other news, I have been working on a game that has gone through five incarnations now without getting to prototype status, since I still don't like some of the central mechanisms. It is a full weight game, something like T&E weight. It is based on my tri-colors mechanism idea (red/blue/yellow combining to make green/orange/purple).

Since I still couldn't get it to work the way I wanted, I decided to try something else to take a break from it. I came up almost immediately with a card game based on the idea. In fact, at first I added some complications but then I removed them. It's pretty simple, actually. Now I have an interesting looking game that takes about 3 minutes to teach and holds a lot of potential. Of course, it could still fall apart, but when I made a mockup and did some solo testing it seemed to hold up ok. It needs a bit more player interaction and a bit more player control. If I'm lucky, I'll have another game to show off at BGG.con .

Meanwhile, Saarya took Settlers and a copy of my game #1 to his sleepaway school with him. Apparently Settlers players are falling out of the woodwork to play with him. Where did they all come from and how come he has the only copy? He has also taught at least one person my game, which was well received.

He is working on getting a board game club going along with the school proposed chess club, or perhaps trying to merge the two. I am ready to step in once a week to run it, if he succeeds in arousing any interest. Probably I should call myself and talk to the administration. We shall see.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

In the Words of Derk ...

Yeah Baby!

I have bought a ticket, and I am going to BGG.con, barring any unforseen disasters. Woo Hoo!

Freakin' unbelievable. Mostly because I can't really afford it. I'm hoping I will make some good game contacts and pick up a slew of new games.

I am hoping to bring along copies of my game to give out (maybe I'll charge for costs). Anyone want me to bring sets of my Puerto Rico buildings? I will also be bringing games to trade at the con.

Are you going to be there? Let's game.

I will be staying with friends on Willow Lane, about a seven mile drive due north from the con. I won't be able to eat with anyone unless we make arrangements to eat kosher - there are a few places in Dallas. Mostly I will be bringing my own food.

Also, I won't be at the con Friday evening until Sat night. If anyone wants to come by on Sat afternoon at the place I'll be staying, drop me a line. My friend also plays.

I will be in Dallas for a week, and then New York for a week. If you want to meetup in New York, Queens, or northern NJ, drop me a line.

See you there!


Session Report Up

Om the site. Games played: Can't Stop, El Grande, St Petersburg, Tikal, Puerto Rico, San Juan.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Diary from Gadid

Warning! This posting contains some political opinion.

I have a general rule not to post anything political on my blog. There are plenty of other places to find that sort of stuff on the internet. In any case, my politics are not easily defined - they may at best be decsribed as anti-political.

The following is just too important to pass over.

My first cousins Lisa and Haggai, and their two children Or Yaacov (19) and Avichai (15), lived in the Gaza community of Gadid for some 20 years. A few weeks ago they were evicted from their home along with the forceable eviction of all Jewish residents from the area. My uncle Shmuel and aunt Hannah went down to their house a few weeks before the eviction to give them support. My uncle kept a diary of the time he spent there. Below is the last week of the diary along with some final notes.

Regardless of how you feel about the political and moral issues of the occupation, getting evicted from your home on short notice and under a cloud of blame, rocket attacks, police brutality, mixed government messages, and political and procedural confusion, is a traumatic event that none of us should have to experience. It is a human story, and the story needs to be told.

My uncle is now around 70 and has live in Israel for 30 years. The diary, along with his political opinions, is left unedited, with only mild formatting.

Hannah and I have spent 24 days with Lisa and Hagai until they were expelled from Gush Katif. I have written a diary of the whole period but have decided to give you a break and send only the last week. Unfortunately you will not get to know the earlier exciting and emotional experiences leading up to this last week. I plan to computerize them but it will probably be too long and also take a long time to do. I just have to share our pride that we have for our children, the Gush Katif communities and the tens of thousands of our people that have given us their support.

Shabbat 13/08/05

Friday night the synagogue was packed. There was no sign of fear or anxiety. Spirits were high and there was lots of singing and dancing. (Due to present situations the rabbis have given permission to the people in Gush Katif to by-pass the laws of restriction of enjoyment during the three weeks before Tishe B’Av . In fact during L’cho Dodi there was a large ring of congregants dancing and singing around the bima. It was like an early Simchat Torah. What a people! Like all the other synagogues we had a big outdoor Kiddush. For all of Shabbat there were thirty of us having meals in Lisa’s house. Most of these people were also sleeping here for two or three weeks. The Tishe b’Av fast started immediately after Shabbat and everyone quickly dressed in their mourning clothing and went to synagogue’s of their choice for Eicha and Kinot. Hannah and I went to Neve Dekalim. What a mob! Hannah went into the synagogue and after the services came out soaked from perspiration. They were packed in there like sardines. I sat on the ground outside. It was a very hot night without a breeze so I wasn’t too comfortable either. The police have lost many points in the country by using so much brutality on the demonstrators. Even the IDF is kind of disgusted with them. I hope we will have to face off with the IDF and not the police.

Sunday, 14/8/05

I woke up in the morning to find out there was no water or electricity. It lasted for five hours. I thought the Police were playing games with us. I was able to fill three buckets of water from a faucet in the hot houses until there wasn’t any left. We spent the rest of the day fasting and praying.

In another two hours the fast will be over. Everyone had an easy fast because the house had air conditioning. In another two hours the fast will be over. Protestors from all over the country will be trying to get into Gush Katif. It will be very difficult as the army has declared it off limits and have check points as far away as Ashkelon and Beer Sheva. After midnight Gush Katif will be off limits to anyone trying to come in and anyone leaving would not be able to return. We were informed by Yesha (our Gush Katif and Shomron leaders) that at eight in the morning we should block the roads to prevent the security forces from serving the home owners with eviction notices. Once the home owner was served he had two days to leave or he would be expelled forcefully. Minutes before midnight, Ayelet and Moriah, two of the many illegal girls staying with us left. It had nothing to do with fright. They were notified on their cell phones that protesters were needed in Morag and Kfar Darom to join other protestors trying to block the police from entering. They didn’t succeed in getting out of Neve Dekalim but I am proud of their bravery anyway. I do not tire of praising all the girls that were able to get down here by hook or crook. After midnight we will be living in a ghetto.

Monday, 15/8/05

About 4AM there was a loud explosion as if a Kassam rocket landed close-by. We found out later that one did land on a roof of one of our neighbors about three houses down the block. There was a big hole where it crashed through the roof. Thank G-d no one got hurt. I took pictures of the children holding the remains of the rocket. They were not traumatized as a while back another one landed in their yard. You can get used to anything if it happens often enough.

In the morning I was on my way to Neve Dekalim to daven as usual. There was a large group of girls sitting by the fence separating Gadid from Neve Dekalim. Or Yakov and his cohorts knocked down part of it during the night. There were also some men standing around. They asked me to join them for a minyan. I went all the way back to the house to get my siddur and returned. There was already a minyan and the crowd was growing. It was an experience that I will not forget. We davened on the road and we even had a Sefer Torah and table that someone brought from the synagogue. I took pictures and hope they came out.

I went home to take my medications and to eat breakfast. On the way Or Yakov drove by and asked me if I wanted to demonstrate at another gate. This one was the security gate for Gan Or and Gadid. The crowd of protesters was very large and we succeeded to get the soldiers to back off with the exception of their commanding officer who wanted to discuss the situation with our Yesha leaders. The soldiers left and we went home although many of the protesters stayed because they didn’t trust the soldiers
Later Lisa heard that Neve Dekalim was full of soldiers and police serving eviction notices. Apparently the officer convinced our leaders to allow the soldiers to come in to serve the eviction notices. She said that when the notice will be served to her she would tear it up in their faces. If she goes through with her threat we will be expelled forcefully. Hopefully it will not be violent.

The rest of the morning was quiet. I went to the post office to see if the Jerusalem Post arrived. As I suspected the post office was already closed permanently. I returned to the house and did some Torah learning, catching up on my diary and napping. Lisa and Hagai went to a community meeting to discuss the situation and to make vital decisions.

Hannah was painting and the others were doing their things elsewhere.

Tuesday 16/8/05

This morning it finally hit me that we will not be here in a few days. It is like our vacation is coming to an end and we will be going home. Unfortunately, we will not be spending another vacation in this wonderful place. The people that have been living here have had their lives shattered. They are on the verge of being homeless and do not know what will be in the future. They do know that there will not be any homes to return to.

Going to shul this morning I have been seeing shipping containers in front of houses and some of the houses have already been vacated. Bus loads of soldiers have been arriving in Neve Dekalim. We have until midnight to decide if we will leave voluntarily or if we will stay. The soldiers will help the settlers that decide to leave with their packing. In the next two days they will try to convince us to leave or they will use force to evict us. Hagai had no intentions of packing until the soldiers actually came to expel us. He still had faith that it wouldn’t happen. He wouldn’t even pack up his many precious Talmudic books. He said that he would take a few of them. The soldiers are already evicting people that have been living here illegally. The girls are coming to Hagai for advice and the only advice he has been giving to them is to pray hard and to keep their faith in Hashem. Hannah and I hope to convince the police or soldiers to leave us stay with our children and grandchildren in order to help them pack. Avichai and I already prepared an act where he would carry on that he couldn’t let them take his sabba. Sharon threatened the settlers that didn’t leave voluntarily with fines on their unfair compensation. He also threatened to confiscate their cars. A real sweetheart. Hagai couldn’t care less.

In the afternoon will be a special Mincha service for those that are leaving and also those that are staying. The families staying will have to make a final decision on what they should do when the security forces will be at their doors. Meanwhile life at the house goes on as usual. Everyone is calm with no sign of panic. The kids are playing on the computer and the younger ones are running around the house and yard. Or Yakov and a couple of the girls are experiencing new cooking skills in the crowded kitchen. Hannah gives them a tip once in awhile as she cleans up their mess. Hannah and I got used to all the people that were calling us Abba Shmuel and Savta Hannah. We have lots of new grandchildren that will be gone in a couple days.

The next door neighbor was shipping her things to a Moshav right next to Julie’s moshav. In fact Julie knows the people. She was willing to take our personal and heavy items that we could do without. Hannah wanted to send the paintings that were on the wall. Hagai let us take only the paintings that Hannah painted for them. The neighbors that have been moving constantly bring us their perishables. Our freezer and refrigerator were filled to capacity. I am glad that we are here. In Jerusalem we wouldn’t have been able to sleep. I have no trouble sleeping here. I brought two bottles of anxiety pills and never had to use even one of them.

A group of soldiers came by and Yakov, Hagai’s brother-in-law, who with his seven children came here a week before us, gave the soldiers a mussar (ethics) speech. He has a good way with words and a great personality too. The soldiers listened to him for about fifteen minutes and then they had to leave. They wished us good luck. I think they were sincere. Their reason for being here was to help with the packing of the families that are leaving. The soldiers started with a neighbor down the block. They actually saw a mortar or a rocket over their heads and they ran into the house in a panic. The neighbor’s child started crying. The neighbor told the soldiers that in five years with mortars falling the child never cried until she saw the panicky soldiers running into the house.

Later in the afternoon I heard music and shofar blowing coming from Neve Dekalim. I went outside and saw smoke coming from there. I thought that the army started the expulsion earlier than expected. I went to the gate to check it out. In the distance I saw hundreds of people dancing and singing by the synagogues. I went down there to see what was going on. When I got there a bus was blocking the road and lots of soldiers were running towards it to clear the road. I didn’t stop because I was curious to see what all the dancing was about. When I got there I couldn’t believe what was going on. In a few hours the expulsion was going to start and we were having a dedication of a new mikve, and a new sefer Torah from America was being carried to the synagogue. There was such joyful dancing and singing on the big courtyard between the Askenazi and Sephardi synagogues. Then the Torah was brought into the synagogue and the dancing and singing was tumultuous. There was so much spirit in there. No matter what happens their faith will not be shaken. The knapsacks and sleeping bags from all of the illegal wonderful youths were lying on the floor in heaps. I do not know how anyone could find his or her knapsack. I phoned Hannah and she came over. She stayed awhile but then got nervous that there may be violence if the police come. She left and I stayed on. A little later Hannah and the others from the house came to share in the enjoyment. Before midnight the males locked themselves in one synagogue and the females in the other. They were bringing in cases of food and toilet paper because they were planning on staying there all night until the soldiers came. The rest you saw on television. At the meeting that Hagai went to he was very disappointed. Many of the families that said they were going to stay changed their minds. There were only about five families that were willing to stay. Even the rabbi left.

Wednesday, 17/8/05

This morning Hagai and I went to the synagogue in Gadid. There were yeshiva boys from Itamar sleeping all over the place. They came down to protect the shul and to make sure there was a minyan.

Back at our neighborhood it was like a ghost town. With the exception of one car at the end of the road there was no movement. Lisa and Hagai went up to the hot houses to make sure the lettuce was getting enough water. He still had faith that we will not be evicted tomorrow. They watered the lawn and garden. The other day all of the people staying here planted over fifty flowers around the lawn. We are living as if nothing is going to happen. The soldiers are going to be surprised when they come. Not one thing has been prepared for removal.

Music has started playing on the loudspeakers. It may mean that the soldiers are coming. None of us are scared or anxious. Actually our spirits are high. Hannah and I are very glad to be sharing this historic period with our family, eleven of Hagai’s family and two of the girls that remained with us. Shushie, one of the girls may even become a real granddaughter as she and Or Yakov have become very good friends. He even asked me if I liked her. She was very happy when I told her that when I spoke to Lisa about her I always referred to her as being her daughter-in-law. Lisa didn’t seem to mind.

The music may have come from Neve Dekalim because we now hear shofar-blowing. It is possible that there is a confrontation with the army and police. We prefer the army because the police are more violent as they are salaried and want to keep their jobs. The soldiers are much more sympathetic.

It is now noon and the kids are playing with the computer. The other people are in the second apartment behind the house. The rest of us are hanging around. M.K. Nissim Ze’ev just came for a visit. He is a member of the Knesset in the Shas Party. We sat around the large table in the living room. The M.K. started talking with Hagai. He was here for at least half an hour and he was very impressed with Hagai. Hagai may have convinced him that the government was making a big mistake. You should have heard Lisa. She let him have it with both barrels regarding the stupidity the government and soldiers were showing. I couldn’t believe that this was my daughter Lisa.

It is now 4pm and two trucks with soldiers pulled up in front of the house. I thought they pulled a fast one on us and came early. When the kids saw them they ran out and started chanting, “Soldier, soldier, do not follow orders”. The soldiers left in the direction of Neve Dekalim. They were supposed to give us two days after we receive the eviction notice so we were hoping to get a reprieve until Sunday since we didn’t get the notice.

Thursday, 18/8/05

This morning we went to shul earlier because we were told that the expulsion will begin this afternoon. It was very sad that this may be the last day that we have prayed in the shul. I forgot to mention that the girls have been going through the entire book of Psalms several times a day from the first day that we came here. After the Torah-reading Hagai got up on the bima and requested the congregation to recite in unison the special prayers for impending danger. From memory he would recite a passage and the congregation would repeat it. During the prayers Hagai became very emotional and couldn’t hold back his sobbing.I do not think there was a dry eye in the shul.

After shul we went home. Rabbi Kopled from Dolev and Rabbi Rami from Talman joined us for breakfast. Rabbi Rami replaced the regular rabbi who left the day before. He was also here last night. He worked so hard to strengthen us. He was very tall but he slept in his car the first night and tonight he was going to sleep in a sleeping bag in the rabbi’s empty house. He was very happy to accept Hagai’s offer to sleep in our house. The rabbis came to Hagai because they were aware of his cool logic and his faith in Hashem. They listened to every word that came out of his mouth as if he is a rabbi. They were so impressed that they took notes intending to use them in future lectures. They left convinced that his decision not to pack was the correct one. It is too bad that it is too late to convince the rest of the community. It is now almost noon and the army still hasn’t come so we figured the chance of delaying the eviction until Sunday was good because it was getting late and we didn’t think they would evict us on a Friday. Anyway they never gave us the eviction notice. The rules of the game were that they weren’t allowed to evict until two days after the home owner was given the eviction notice.

We decided to have a barbecue and we did have it. After the barbecue we went across the street to the only other family left in Gadid. They just harvested their parsley crop and it was trucked to the packing plant. The volunteers that helped them with the harvesting, the family, our family and the rest of the people made an outdoor kiddush.

There was plenty of dancing and singing. There was a guitarist and a bongo drum player. The rest of the people played on pots and pans and we even had a tamborine. There was lots of noise. I videoed some of it and hope it came out. No way would anyone think we were on the verge of being expelled from our homes. Afterwards we were happy when the army told us that we will not have to leave until Sunday. That happiness was short-lived as a little later we were told that they are going to come at 5:30am. From 3am to 5am Or Yakov and Shushie were being interviewed by a reporter from the Maariv newspaper and a reporter from Brazil.

Late tonight I felt I was a member of the underground. My imagination has been working overtime. I was sitting with Hagai, Rabbi Rami and Yakov, Hagai’s brother-in-law plotting, on believe it or not, what to do about a minyan in the morning. It was already after midnight and the rabbi was calling contacts that may convince the army to wait until Sunday. Hagai was calling the few sons that were guarding their parent’s houses because there still were some possessions in them. We were short one to form a minyan in our house at 5am. He then called the moshav security officer and he told him that the soldiers will not arrive until 7am. Hagai had to call everyone again to inform them that there will be time to daven with a minyan in the shul. It was too bad that Hagai didn’t call him first.

Friday 19 Aug 05

This morning the davening was faster than normal as we were in a rush to get back to our families before the soldiers came. I have been here almost a month and it was not easy leaving the shul for the last time. I feel so sorry for the residents who have been living here for so many years. When we left the shul there was a huge black column of smoke rising from a barricade at the intersection down the road straight ahead. We were aware that the barricades and fires wouldn’t stop the soldiers. They are more symbolic than defensive. We left the yeshiva boys to take care of the synagogue. We took a detour to the house to avoid the soldiers if they were nearing the intersection. We had our last breakfast.

Hannah and I were standing outside watching the advancing troops when Avi called me and told me that he sees me on TV. I told him that it wasn’t possible because I didn’t see a camera in sight. I told him that I will wave my hand. He saw me waving my hand and called Rami to look. Actually there was a cameraman standing on something quite far from me. This place was off limits to cameramen so I guess he zoomed in on me. Hannah and I waited for the troops to reach us. The commanding officer asked me if we were going to leave peacefully or will they have to remove us physically. I answered that I wasn’t the homeowner and I didn’t know what he was planning. He and his troops continued down to the end of the road. Another platoon passed by too and the next platoon stopped and lined up facing the house. Hagai and some of the children brought the soldiers cold water and cups. Hagai then invited the whole platoon into the house. At this point I felt confident that we will have a non-violent eviction. Before they entered the house Reut, one of our girls was running like a gazelle into the apartment in the warehouse. Three soldiers were in hot pursuit jumping over bushes like jackals closing in on their prey. One of the soldiers, who was an officer stopped right in front of me near the entrance of the house and took out his bull horn and shouted that everyone should get out of the house. The officer in charge of evicting us stopped him and told him to leave as this is not his jurisdiction. Our officer was lower in rank but the other one apologized and left without taking Reut. The reason the soldiers were chasing her was that across the street soldiers were rounding up all the illegals and putting them in a bus to remove them outside the Gush. She was sitting on the ground and started running when they tried to put her on the bus. You wouldn’t think that Reut was capable of such an action. She is tall and innocent-looking with curly hair and glasses. She looked like a goody-goody girl but she always went where the action was.

After this incident the officer and his men entered the house and lined up in front of the bookcase. The rest of us sat before them around a large table. Hagai offered them fruit, cake and water so that they can make a brocha. Hagai stood up and started talking about Torah, faith, courage, brotherhood between Jew and Jew and the eviction. It was very emotional and there was lots of crying or red eyes from us, the children and the soldiers. We were given two hours to pack up our immediate needs. Avichai was crying so I took him into his room to pack whatever he wanted. He took all of his Bar Mitzvah books and some of his treasured personal things like Hannah’s painted rocks. He left behind all of his games, tapes and clothing. He quieted down for awhile. Meanwhile everyone was scurrying around collecting what was needed. The refrigerator and large freezer were packed. We removed what we could but lots remained. A couple of the girls took some pictures off the walls but Hagai made them put it back.

After we finished packing some of us walked out and some of us opted to be carried out. Avichai was outside screaming that he didn’t want leave his house so I went out to calm him down.After he was more or less calmer I went back in to see what was happening with Hannah. She decided to be carried out but due to the bad burn on her leg she had two of the female soldiers walk her out. Hannah said the soldiers were extremely gentle with her. I walked out right behind her. The soldiers carried out all of the things that we packed and our personal baggage. Avichai was calm by this time and even laughed when he saw the soldiers carrying out the many stones that Hannah painted. The soldiers were holding them in their hands. A couple of the soldiers asked me in English if I needed help as Hagai told them that I came from America to be with them.

Hagai dramatically climbed up on his roof. He gave another emotional speech and then took the flag down and handed it to Reut. Then he did something totally unexpected. He had a very wide roll of black cloth which he started to unfurl to the ground. Every time he lowered about two meters he would announce the name of the person that betrayed us starting with Sharon. When he reached the end of the roll he left the material hanging as a black flag of mourning.

Hagai and Lisa were an extraordinary example of faith, strength and valor. It was a very moving an unforgettable experience. We are very proud of them and pray that Hashem will look over them favorably in their quest for a new life.

We then left the house and hothouses intact. Hagai took most of the things that we took out of the, in a u-haul to Heletz where his mother lives and then we headed to the Hotel Shalom Plaza in Neve Ilan which is near Telstone. The car broke down on the steep uphill highway about two hundred meters from the Shoresh turn off. Robin was on the way to pick up Hannah and me at the hotel. I called her before she got there and told her to meet us in Shoresh. Hagai didn’t have any towing insurance so it would have been quite expensive to have the car towed to the hotel and then to have it towed to a repair station. Before calling the tow truck a car going in the other direction on the other side of the highway divider stopped. The driver came over and asked if we needed help and of course we were very happy to accept. He started working on it when a car pulled up behind us. It was the neighbor from across the street that was evicted the same time as us. What a small world we live in. Hannah and I transferred our baggage to his car and he took us to Shoresh. Just before he took us Hagai’s car was repaired. Apparently the mechanic drives up and down the highway looking for cars that have broken down. The cost was much lower than what it would have cost if he had called the tow truck. Robin picked us up and we all reached our destinations to prepare for a much-needed quiet Shabbat.

21 Aug 05 The Aftermath

Lisa and family were fortunate that they got to stay in one of the nicer hotels with many of the families from their moshav which will be completely razed in a few days. On Sunday they started checking out their options concerning the future.

On Monday Hagai and Or Yakov returned to Gadid for the awesome job of transferring the contents of the house and hothouse to the shipping containers. Hagai got permission for his brother-in-law, Yakov and his nephew, Bennie, to enter the Gush in order to help him. After waiting at the checkpoint for three hours, Yakov and Benny were denied entrance. I wasn’t there so I do not know the actual details but eventually Yakov and Benny were allowed to enter. It took four days to load everything into two containers and several truck loads. The containers were taken to a centralized depot where they will have to travel to every time they need something. It is going to be one big pain. Hagai had to buy the containers at NIS 7000 each! He also had to pay for professional movers. He got to see his house destroyed but he said it did not affect him too much. He still believes that Hashem gave it to him and Hashem could take it away. It is only wood and stone.

Lisa was notified that she had a package at the front desk. She opened the package and there was a pair of small candlesticks. There was a card but all that was written on it was that it was from one of the soldiers that expelled them. Lisa wasn’t even able to thank him. That was a nice token of remorse at this time before the High Holy Days. I am sure that there will be many other soldiers and policemen that are going to ask for forgiveness and to make atonement on Yom Kippur.

It is now over two weeks that Lisa and Hagai have been in the hotel. The government hasn’t made preparations to find other accommodations for them. They do not know how much longer they can remain there and then…..

This experience will never be forgotten by us and this diary is a testimonial of an historical black mark on the Israeli government for expelling over 9000 decent and idealistic settlers that have turned a barren, sandy, stretch of land into a paradise. These settlers were put in this land nearly thirty years ago by our government. They lived there under the harshest conditions. They lived with terror every day and survived over 5000 Kassam rockets and mortar shells that landed in Gush Katif. This government removed 47 bodies of victims of Palestinian terror attacks. The Sharon government has done this with a farcical dream that it would bring us peace with the Palestinians. It will never happen and the Palestinians promise us that it will not happen. We have rewarded terrorism and have proven to them that terrorism pays.

Today, 11 September is another historic day. The Israeli Army is leaving Gaza after 38 years. We are leaving about 21 synagogues there. I do not want to think of what is going to happen to them.

Instead of blaming Hashem the large majority of the evictees still have faith in Hashem. He has His reasons for what has happened and what will happen in the future. We pray that the future will be a favorable one.

Yehuda adds: as we know now, within 24 hours after the Israeli army left Gaza: every synagogue in Gaza was destroyed; the hothouses that were left for the reconstruction of the Palestinian economy have been looted; hundreds of terrorists and thousands of arms were smuggled over the border from Egypt to Gaza; and rockets are now being fired into southern Israel. The suicide bombings continue and Hamas has declared its firm resolves to toss every Jew out of every part of "Palestine", including Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Immersed in Gaming

It doesn't have to be games. It could be guitar. It could be flower arranging. It could be Greek.

I love the feeling of being immersed in a hobby. I love being knowledgeable about the hobby, skilled at executing it, getting other people involved, creating a group, bringing pleasure to others, being part of a global niche.

Today, I coordinated with gamers in Toronto and Dallas to play games. It looks good, assuming jet lag doesn't overwhelm me. I fly infrequently, so I love flying, which means I don't sleep well on planes.

I am discussing printing my game with various sources.

Two possible new members for the games group, and I'm now thinking about game day in October, too.

I'm working on game design #2.

A former member of my club just dropped by today with a game he didn't need anymore: The Arab - Israeli Wars. I'm not likely to play it, but, gee, that was so sweet!

I am selecting games to trade at the con, and some people in the group might contribute to get a few more games, too. (Always happy to accept donations!)

Wow. I don't have enough time to be my usual miserable self. Sucks, don't it! :-)


Monday, September 12, 2005

Wither Art Thou, Toronto?

For my hopeful, maybe trip to BGG.con, I am working hard at three things:

1) Finding a game group in Toronto on Thursday evening, Oct 27. You would think this would be easy, wouldn't you? I've posted to BGG Forums/Ontario, I'm waiting for my subscription to the TABS to be approved, I've looked at the other Toronto websites and I've messaged a few Torontonians on BGG. No luck, so far.

2) Getting mockups of my working game prototype. In addition to a certain publisher agreeing to playtest it, I am thinking of creating fifty or so copies of my own to sell/hand out. One of my friends wants to invest in the production.

3) Working on at least one other game design to be ready for the con. I have some three quarter baked ideas that need some playtesting to see if they work well.

Otherwise ... I believe I'm all set. I just won't believe it until the ticket is in my hands.


Name Change

For a while I have been thinking that it is time to move this blog over to my own name. The JSGC is a game group, which has it's own web site. This is really my blog. Maybe I thought when I first started it that others from my group would post here as well, but that's not the way it worked out.

So here we are: Yehuda.

Truth be told, most people who are not Israeli call me Jonathan, which is my given English name, and the name on my passport. But the gaming world has a lot more Jonathan's than Yehuda's I'm guessing. And Yehuda is the name on all of my articles on BGG and elsewhere. Feel free to call me either.

My wife calls me "Jon". My natural kids call me "Abba", and my step-kids call me "Jon". Two friends in my life called me "Jonny" (I kind of liked that one). My brothers used to call me "Twit". My father occasionally says "Son".

Add to that:

"Ma'am" (I don't have a particularly masculine voice)
"Mr Berlinger"
"Mar Berlinger"
"Mr Adelman" (my wife's last name)
"Rabbi Berlinger" (I'm not)
"Yehuda ben Menachem" (Yehuda son of Menachem, for torah reading)
"Yehuda ben Sarah Rivkah" (Yehuda son of Sarah Rivkah, for health prayers) "Yehonatan" or "Yonatan" (people who translate my English name to Hebrew, even though I have a different Hebrew name)
"Judah" (the reverse)
"Jaques" (my French teacher)
a number of unprintable names from aggressive people I meet in life
"John" (from people who assume that my name must follow a Christian spelling)
"Shade", "Shadey, "Shade_Jon", "ShadeJon" (from my email addresses)

and so on. What's in a name, anyway?

Which reminds me, I hope to have the next chapter of Sarah ready by next week. This is going slower than I had hoped. I had lots of time in the evenings when most of my family was away, but now I can't seem to find much of it unless I stay awake longer than is good for me.

I still have no idea who reads this, except for the few other bloggers out there who have linked to me. To both of you :-), thanks for reading, and may we continue to have enough luxury in our lives to enjoy the pleasure of games.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

St Pete Has Been Redeemed

Thank you Mikko for solving my big St Pete problem.

I just finished a 2 player game with my wife using the correct rules. Until now, after every phase I had been tossing out the second row and moving the cards down. This made a very high turnover in cards. The correct rule seems to be to toss out the last row only after every round.

What a difference. I had a ton more cash, which meant that buying buildings now became a possibility instead of a complete waste of cash. And the buildings didn't run out so darn quickly.

Instead, I have another little inelegance: in the second round when neither of us could buy any cards, we passed. And then NO aristocrats and NO traders came out that round. Eh. Is this normal? It seemed a little silly. I assume that this is less likely in a three or four player game. Maybe, if this becomes a regular thing in two players, each player could be allowed to choose a card on the table to discard if the table is full at the end of a phase. Will have to play more.

I still think that all cards should score one more time at the end of the game so as to make the last buys worthwhile. Again, a little inelegance, but not a major flaw.

In any case, the game just got a whole lot better.


Weekend Gaming - update

I forgot to add - another game of my game prototype with two non-gamer newbies who came for lunch. Another success. One of them, a twenty something Hebrew speaker, won the game and enjoyed it, and the other, a forty something single mother, thought it was enjoyable and clever, and told me I should try to publish it. (Ho ho, friends always say that sort of thing, but it was an ironic thing to say, anyway.)

After shabbat, Saarya and I spent some time making more mockups of the game. He is taking one to school with him (he is in a sleep away school in ninth grade) along with Settlers, in the hopes of forming a board game group there. I am eager to help, of course.

In the meantime, I am waiting to hear from the publisher who said he would try it out, and I will also look into making a few dozen sellable mockups myself to bring with me if I make it to BGG.con (nothing is final until I have the tickets in my hand).


Saturday, September 10, 2005

Weekend Gaming

Friday night we were invited out. I stood around looking at my (meager) game collection to figure out what to bring. As happens so often, a game that I would not normally suggest in my group, or even want to play myself, takes on a new light when I think about bringing it to a non-gamer's house.

I wasn't sure if I would be playing with the adults, the children, or anyone at all, but I figured For Sale would fit the bill. I don't really like For Sale - I don't hate it, but it is not on my request list. I just don't feel that I have enough control to make it interesting.

So if I don't like it, why would it make a good game to bring? Because it is light, quick, and clever, and if people don't know any better, it gives them a look into the idea that there are other neat games around. Also, not having to think too hard gives the game a low entry barrier for play.

I ended up showing four of the boys how to play; they liked it, but didn't immediately ask to play again. Then two of the girls took the cards and looked through all of the houses on them.

I am also always ready to play Zendo, using any available household objects, and Opposites, a word game. I should build up a wider array of games to play on the spur of the moment.

Saturday Nadine finally got to play St Petersburg with us, and Rachel won again. I am solidifying my opinion that St Petersburg has some problems.

The first biggie is that the workers are almost always bought up - economically it makes sense, since they almost all go for 4 or less, so they are totally worth it. This means that ALL 8 buildings are flipped over, and the game ends in 4 rounds. That is ridiculous, and I'm sure not the intention. Either I have to figure out why other people who play this game are not buying all of the workers, or I have to limit the number of blue cards flipped.

The second biggie is the inelegant end of the game. Usually keeping the rules simple is best, but in some situations, like this one, it doesn't translate to a complete success.

I don't mind that you have to buy duplicate aristocrats in order to replace them, but if you don't have any, the last few phases are a big bore. In fact, about half the cards that flip up in the last round are a bore, and the lack of useful cards significantly favors the person going first on the last round. I would like to see a final bonus for all victory points one more time, so that items bought on the last round score. Did I miss that rule somewhere? Also, money left over should be something like 5 or even 3 per VP, not 10 per VP, which is effectively useless.


Friday, September 09, 2005


Is uniqueness important? Or is being best important? Or being steady?

OK, I'm blogging. But I wasn't the first. Session reports? Not the first. Interviews? Game reviews? Game design? Just following the herd, folks. Is it unique in taking something that has been done and making it my own? Do I add something unique to it? Does it matter?

Maybe I just want to be the best at it. Well, I'm probably not the best blogger, not the best session reporter, interviewer, game reviewer, or game designer.

Steady? I do try to be steady, frequent, and interesting in my posts, but so are other bloggers.

I think everyone has some talents, whether it is something unique, something they're best at, or just something steady and interesting to say.

Still, I'm looking for that unique thing to do. What could it be? What could it be? Why do I want to be unique? For me? Or for accolades from others? Who knows? I just know, that I have to do it. Something unique. Or, at least, something best.

My game design is a very good game, I suppose it could be considered unique, but it is not altogether unique - the mechanisms are pretty much adapted from other games, albeit in a unique way. It's also probably not the "best game" ever - considering the many ways there are by which to judge games, I don't think any game could ever be considered the "best game" ever. I have other designs circulating around. I need to get those down on paper and start playtesting. Maybe somewhere in there are a few "best games".

Maybe I should videocast game sessions? Create an edible strategy game? A book of game poetry?


Game Blog Wrap Up by MR&TLU

Alfred, of Musings, Ramblings, and Things Left Unsaid, intends to start a weekly wrap up of good game blog posts. Apparently this follows some comment on The Dice Tower, although it also follows the discussion I started here.

OK ....

I once tried something like this on rec.arts.poetry until the residents complained that my pointing out poems that I liked during the week was arbitrary, elitist, unfair, constituted copyright violation, was "publishing", and a host of other complaints.

I wish him (Alfred) well. There should definitely be a new blog doing this, and it should cover a wide variety of blogs and the collection should add something.

If our game blog world grows large enough, there may be a variety of "blog summary" blogs, each with a different attitude and angle, until the day comes that we need a "blog summary blog summary" blog. Etc. And so the web evolves.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Session Report Up

On my site. Games played: Cribbage, Chess, Prince of Florence, St Petersburg, Puerto Rico.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Maybe Maybe

Chances of going to BGG.con are rising, and are now hovering at 50%. I am lying to myself and saying that this is a business move, presenting my game, spreading the word, meeting people and making contacts. If I were really honest about it, I would pick a business-oriented gaming conference, so ... don't let me know that.

There's still the money. And I am waiting to hear if the first people outside of my group and family like the game enough to encourage me to publish it.

Then there are the questions:

- Lining up meetups at the con. With whom and what to play.

- Spend an extra week in Dallas, Toronto, or New York for more gaming? Which is best?

Depending on that answer to the last, I then get to line up all of the culture and amusements that I never get to do in Israel, like concerts, poetry, plays, used book shopping, etc...

If I'm definitely going, you'll be the first to know.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Weekend Gaming

Friend of my son's:

Dvonn - too cerebral for him.

My Game Prototype #1 - he loved it, wants to buy it.

My wife:

Saint Petersburg - First game for her. I gave her fair warning about a) money, and b) aristocrats, but I slaughtered her with aristocrats. I can't seem to find any way to describe the game other than as a mid-way game between San Juan and Puerto Rico. In fact, I think the game would be improved by taking the phases in San Juan Puerto Rico style. Must try it.

Anyway, the intent of this game was to try yet again to hook her on a new game other than PR. I'm happy to say that she is willing to try again. I hope to boost that when Nadine comes over, as Rachel likes to play with Nadine. Saarya also likes it. Lots of warm fuzzy feelings, so far.

Let's see how long a shelf life it has. I'm already looking forward to an expansion.


Good Morning, America

A person may succumb to a disaster, but a strong people cannot.

I extend condolences to those affected irreparably by this latest disaster, and warm wishes for a speedy and sane recovery to those otherwise affected.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

August Gaming at the JSGC

August, 2005 will be remembered as one of the most painful months in Israel's history. And that is saying a lot. The game night was what I needed most each week. Luckily, we were able to hold the group together during the entire month, unlike last year.

We also got in a number of new games that I had traded for, bought with GeekGold, or bought really cheaply. This list, as usual, includes only those games played at the club, not my own personal list.

Amun Re - Now a staple game, the game with the "corrupt water official" is the best game that nobody doesn't like.

By Hook or By Crook x 3 - New. This was a bit of a departure for us. Three seems inherently unplayable, four seems about right, and five seems like there is too much competition. The game is lots and lots of blind bidding combined with rock paper scissors. Somehow it works, but just barely, as the game mechanics are annoyingly repetitive. Even with the repetition of the mechanics, the game feels like it changes somewhat as player's holdings and positions change. An occasional filler.

Dvonn x 2 - Dvonn is a perfect example of a game that leave you uninterested the first few times you play, and then grows on you. As you begin to understand the game, which is only possible after a few plays, it becomes a lot of fun - or at least as fun as an abstract can be.

Gin Rummy x 2 - I don't know how this got in here. Still a few bugs in the system.

Gobblet - New. Gobblet is a little abstract filler which I didn't get to play, about the size and weight of Quarto.

Louis XIV - The best game of the year, as far as my limited experience can tell. Little box, big game. I'm very happy to like it after not really liking Goa. It's hard to go against the flow, and I felt that Rudiger certainly deserved more respect.

My Game Prototype #1 x 4 - Still pimping it, although one company said they were willing to try playing it. Here's hoping.

Puerto Rico. Still the game, although less in rotation this month.

Saint Petersburg - New. Played now once two players, three players, and four players. If I had listened to the Geek, I would have thought that the game was solvable and has a limited lifespan. I'm happy to say after three plays that I think I may come to disagree with this - seems more like a Dvonn to me. I'll report back after twenty games.

San Juan x 2 - A good filler, hasn't gotten boring yet, but lord it could use an expansion set. I created a double set, but, unless I'm willing to write on the cards, it is harder to play a home created San Juan expansion than a PR expansion.

Settlers of Catan x 3 - Still used as an introductory game, probably because I don't have Ticket to Ride. Just kidding. It's still a really good game, but I do wish there was some balancing mechanism for screwy dice rolls. Hmmm. I think I'll make up a few right now ...

1. One player rolls 2N+1 dice where N equals the number of players. He selects 2 for himself and takes his turn. The next player selects two from those remaining, and so on. After all players have taken their turns, the player on the first player's left starts the next turn.

2. Record every die roll. If a player rolls a number where the next number further away from 7 has been rolled 2 less times, the results "roll down the hill". If a number closer to 7 has been rolled 1 less time, the results roll up the hill. If both, choose.

3. Every time you get nothing, collect a chip. Trade 3 chips for any one resource. You may also trade chips with other players.

Torres - Returned from Gilad's, I pulled off a squeaky victory. This game feels more like puzzle than a game, like Princes of Florence without the auction. Still very good, but definitely abstract.

Traders of Genoa - New. Borrowed from Gilad's. Played four players, we enjoyed it, but not quite as much as I enjoyed it at Gilad's. It was also too long. Next time I will cut off a turn or two and give each player a few bonus items to start.


Templates and Other Stories

New template. I have come to the conclusion that a great blog need a great template, and, by definition, great templates don't come from Blogger's selection of default templates.

I have a template on my web site; it's not great, but at least it's original. I tried to copy it here and that resulted in a mess. So here we are back to a default template again (this will make no sense if you are reading this in the future, as the template will undoubtedly have changed again).

My next Ethics in Gaming article (4.0) is up on The Games Journal. Feedback is always welcome.

One thing I'm having fun with on the Gone Gaming website is changing the byline every few days. I'm not the only one doing it, but I've done most of them. A little safe place to graffiti over the web without getting in too much trouble. Although, I was castigated once for basing a byline on Martin Luther King Jr's famous "Free at Last" speech. It wasn't disrespectful or anything. Anyhoo, I keep a file with all of the old bylines.

With Nadine (friend) and Rachel (wife) back in their nests, I hope to play more games over shabbat. Rachel's game of the year was Puerto Rico, and I think I might be able to get her to switch to St Petersburg. I have a feeling that there is more to the game than the naysayers would have you believe.

Rachel only likes one game at a time for a long time. After a year of PR, I tried her on Goa, but since I didn't care for it too much it wasn't going to happen. She also enjoys my PR building; in fact, I can't remember the last time we played without at least some of them. Previous games in reverse order were: Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, Cities and Knights of Catan, Settlers of Catan, Cosmic Encounter, Bridge, Scrabble (this was the first game we played together). Game I have tried to introduce her to without success include: Goa, San Juan, Tigris and Euphrates, Through the Desert, Torres, Prince of Florence, El Grande, and Acquire.

Now that school has started, I have less time to write. I have the rest of my Sarah story plotted out but I need more time, dammit! I canna work miracles! Sigh.