Monday, October 31, 2005

BGG.con: Monday, Oct 31

Today is Halloween, a strange pagan holiday we don't know anything about in Israel (I'm originally American, however), but you wouldn't know about it in our part of Dallas, aside from a pumpkin here and there and some newspaper ads. No trick-or-treaters, no costumes, no craziness, nothing closed.

Since I had no other plans, I decided to play around with the public transportation system and cruise around town. I left the house without a jacket, of course, and stopped in Tom Thumb to pick up a lunch. By the time I came outside, it was raining and cold. Oops. I don't remember anything about rain in the weather report I looked at before leaving Israel. Now what?

I ran across Preston to one of the other strip-mall corners, looking left and right to see if I had missed any men's clothes stores or umbrella stores somewhere. I got a little wet, and I knew I would not be able to make it all the way home without getting thoroughly soaked. Nothing looked promising. So I stopped into the Clotheshorse Anonymous to see if they carried men's clothes. Nope.

Inside, however, the salespeople all gathered round, trying to help me come up with a solution, and then one of them offered me her umbrella to keep. I was stunned; I offered her something, but she wouldn't take anything for it. Well, well, a stolen jacket, and a given umbrella. The wheel keeps on turning.

The umbrella helped, and I would have made it home even drier if I had not turned down the wrong street. Somehow I made it halfway down the wrong block before noticing my error. It was then I noticed the small hole in the umbrella ...

Back home I decide to stick it out and spend the day cutting and assembling more copies of the game. I managed to get through about nine copies. Takes a bloody long time. (Coldfoot - I'll send yours out tomorrow.) In the meantime I learned that daytime television sucks.

Big game news of the day is Rick Thornquist planning to start something new. I can't see how it will pay him any more than he was getting from Gamefest, but I guess that depends on how much he was getting. Good luck, Rick.

For dinner we went out to a local restaurant, which shall not be named. The last time my friends had been to this restaurant, the waitress (plus staff) had misdelivered half of the order. This time they managed to improve on that by misdelivering almost the entire order.

The waitress was on her first day. We don't blame her, because she should have someone standing next to her during her training period for a few weeks. She didn't know most of the items on the menu, or what was allowed or not, so she went back and forth to the kitchen to answer our questions. After placing our order, the fun really began.

Only my friend's daughter got what she ordered. David ordered broiled tuna and received canned, which he was not happy about, and had to send it back while being informed that they don't have any fresh tuna to broil. Sharron and I both ordered but we received only one plate, with her main dish and one of my side dishes, and one cup of soup that could have been either of ours, but we couldn't tell what type of soup it was because it was opaque and came without a spoon. We were also missing dressing for the potato and the salads.

We tried to correct this and received a large salad of some type (which we didn't order), and sometime later a spoon. Eventually a more experienced waitress came over to try to solve the problem, but the only thing that happened was that she took the complete order again and promised to bring back the correct items but never did. Eventually the manager came out and we bantered a bit, feeling like the entertainment was worth it all. David got a new salad with roasted salmon but no dressing. Then we got dressings for all items and identified the soup (Sharron's). We had to leave soon, so we couldn't start ordering an entire meal again, but when I told him that I had also ordered a soup, he said he could at least bring that out quickly. So he did - without the spoon. I felt like calling him over to ask him to "taste the soup" like the old joke.

The whole thing was ridiculous, but the food - I tasted some of what actually made it to the table - was good. The "new" waitress was apparently the sister of the waitress that had done the same thing last time. Ursula, maybe? We received a $25 coupon for the next time for our troubles.

On the way back to our house, we stopped to let Sharron sign up her daughter for basketball, which apparently involved a reading of the entire set of rules and regulations to all parents. David and I strolled around playing mental Go on a 5 x 5 board, since we had no equipment. I was pretty sure that first move could force a win, but David believed that we would tie.


Me: B2
David: C3

David seemed to think that the center was a winning move for him. I disagreed.

Me: B3
David: C2

Me: C4
David: D3

I was rather happy with this, as it looked like I might end up with 16 spaces to his 9. David disagreed, of course.

Me: D4
David: B4

I said that that was suicide for white, since I will just capture him. I think David was having a hard time trying to remember which position was which at this point.

Me: B5
David: A4

I said that that doesn't help since I will just reduce it to one liberty again well before he can capture anything of mine.

Me: A3

At this point, David was obviously having trouble visualizing it; the women came out and we went home. The first site on Google detailing how to solve Go on a 5x5 board can be found here. It's cute, with animated games for many of the typical openings. The optimal opening is, indeed, the center.


BGG.con: Sunday, Oct 30

Yeehaw, today I met Aldie and Derk.

Today seemed kind of short. Something about the way the day was blocked.

I woke up at about 7:30, which is great considering my jet-lag and that we changed the time last night to add more fuel to the problem. I spent an hour or two looking at my email and cleaning up the kitchen and dining room from shabbat while my friends were still asleep or out swimming.

I had arranged to meet Anye and Chris in Half Priced Books at 2:00 pm. I was told that another player was scheduled to arrive at 5:00 for a game of Die Macher, and that we would play other things until then. So I packed up my trusty game prototype.

At 10:30 I got a ride to HPB, since it was somewhere that I wanted to go anyway. It is nice and big, and nicely priced, so I spent until 2:00 looking at used CDs and books.

At 2:00, Eran arrived. He was someone who had contacted me previously, and it turns out was the player scheduled to arrive later. We played two games of my prototype while waiting, and Eran seemed to like it. Chris and Anye arrived soon thereafter, followed by Jared, making five for our Die Macher game. I had only played the game through to the second round twice before, and Anye had only played about two thirds of the way. The others had played a few times at least. So we did some quick rule reviews and started.

As the cards were dealt out, Jared announced that he had lost the game and had no chance. I quickly learned that this was his style of commentary. He is sharp and a good player; somehow most agreements with or near him tended to end up to his advantage. Chris started the game with a very strong advantage in the first province which is a decisive advantage. Still, the game proceeded and ended up being a good battle.

Eran ended the first round with 28 on the national scoreboard, when no one else had more than 11. He was only overcome by the fifth round.

In most games of DM, after a player wins the bid for choosing who goes first, he chooses to go last, or sometimes choosing to go first. The exception to this is when he wants to go as late as possible, but still wants to form coalitions with the first player before the player to his left can do so. This happened in our third turn.

Another unusual turn of events: Jared's platform exactly matched the national one on the 4th round.

Somewhere around turn 2, Derk and Aldie showed up to get games out of Anye's car. Actually, they kind of look alike, which should not be too surprising, although they do have their distinctive voices. Since they were hanging out waiting for us to finish a round (or something), I got them to play my game prototype with each other. While they both liked it, calling it Knizia-like, they didn't immediately ask to play it again. I think they imagined it will be more enjoyable with more players, rather then 2. Eran liked it with 2. Can't please everyone. They suggested that I send it to ... shoot. I forgot the name of the design contest. Aldie? What was the name again?

Anyhoo ...

I had the same problem with Die Macher that I sometimes face when playing a new and deep game. The whole game is very murky. It's not that I don't know what the rules are, it's that I really can't see the implications of my decisions more than a few minutes after my moves. So I can't tell if I'm doing the right or wrong thing, and I can't tell who is winning or losing, even towards the end of the game, unless there are gross discrepancies. Something like the first times I played Dvonn or Puerto Rico.

Turns out that I did ok, second place.


Round 1
Eran: 42+
Chris: 42+
Jared: 9
Yehuda: 0
Anye: 37

Round 2
Eran: 0
Chris: 11
Jared: 28+
Yehuda: 36+
Anye: 0

Round 3
Eran: 24+
Chris: 24
Jared: 0
Yehuda: 7
Anye: 24+

Round 4
Eran: 0
Chris: 26+
Jared: 26+
Yehuda: 20
Anye: 26

Round 5
Eran: 48+
Chris: 11
Jared: 28
Yehuda: 28+
Anye: 43

Round 6
Eran: 10
Chris: 54
Jared: 54+
Yehuda: 54+
Anye: 0

Round 7
Eran: 2
Chris: 20+
Jared: 0
Yehuda: 14
Anye: 0

End Game
Eran: Mandates 28 + Media 60 + Membership 58 + Bonus 10 + Votes 10 = 264
Chris: Mandates 188 + Media 35 + Membership 56 + Bonus 6 + Votes 47 = 332
Jared: Mandates 145 + Media 47 + Membership 52 + Votes 45 = 289
Yehuda: Mandates 159 + Media 47 + Membership 39 + Votes 70 = 315
Anye: Mandates 152 + Media 35 + Membership 41 + Votes 35 = 263

Having finally played a complete game of Die Macher, I can say that it's a nice game, but I can't really see that I would want to play it too often. It takes just so darn long. It feels like I wasted a lot of the day (no, not wasted. I enjoyed myself and the company. More like, it felt a little like 80% gaming, 20% work), which I don't think I would have felt playing three smaller games instead. Also, while it suffers the "Goa" problem of highly impacting swings of luck which cancel out lots of strategic play, it doesn't seem to suffer it quite as badly as Goa does. What bothers me more is the huge impact each element has on the final results. Your luck depends on others not being able to change these results when they need to, and the huge impact so many trivial events have on the scoring makes the game a constant fight against sliding into oblivion. I'm not sure if I'm enamored with the results, although it could simply be because the game is so long.

To summarize - it feels like juggling fifteen balls for 5 hours. Your arms get tired.

Chris gave me a ride home. When I got home, he called me and said that Jared had called him and told him that someone asked him as he was leaving the store if any of us had left a jacket and Jared had said no. But I had; I left the spanking new jacket that I had bought last Thursday. I called Half Priced Books and asked them to search the store and their lost and found, but no one had turned it in. Probably, the guy who asked Jared if any of us had left a jacket decided to keep it. Maybe it will still turn up, but I don't have much hope. *sigh*


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Session Report Up

From Oct 26. Games played: Amun Re.


BGG.con: Saturday, Oct 29

A story is told of a rabbi who was always careful to ensure that guests in his house suffered no embarrassment. Once a guest spilled wine on his expensive tablecloth. The rabbi immediately and surreptitiously knocked over his own wine glass and said, "This table has a wobble." The guest was thus spared embarrassment.

My friend made challah for shabbat, but was unhappy with the results: the dough didn't rise enough, and she believed that she burnt it on top of that. So when I was making cookies, I "accidentally" dropped the tray onto the door of the stove which is angled slightly inwards. The tray slid onto the bottom of the stove, the wax paper slid off the tray onto the heating coils, and the whole thing burst into lovely flames. I did this so as to make her feel better about the challah. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Dinner was out at some fellow shul members. Arriving at the hosts' house, I noticed the first game on the floor: Barbie Game. Like Monopoly and Life, but far dumber. I decided to play a round of it, just for fun and so that I could have the privilege of rating it.

I then did my usual. I took the die and said, "Here's a better game you can play, with more meaningful decisions it only takes five minutes, and requires nothing more than a single die." Roll the die trying to get all numbers 1 to 6. You can roll as many times as you want and then pass the die, saving your results. If you get a duplicate, you lose everything that you haven't previously saved.

So easy, and so simple to teach.

The following day, before lunch, I played my game prototype with my one of my friends. Both of them hate the temporary name of the prototype ("Light My Menorah") and don't like using a Jewish theme, saying that it will scare off potential publishers. Can't please everyone.

Later in the day I went with him to play Scrabble at a neighbors. My friend is a champion Scrabble player, and so is the neighbor, it turns out. When we got there, the neighbor was deep into a game with yet another neighbor. Both using all of those ridiculous two and three letter words. They each had a copy of the new official words as of October 2005. It's like the latest expansion set from Magic the Gathering.

My friend and I played Anagrams, which I almost won, until he finally managed to steal two of my words at the last moment. Then we played quick Scrabble, which I lost by 80 points, him having had a 70 point bingo and a 50 point double OX with the X on a triple letter. Aside from those two moves, I played better, as any fool can see from the scores. :-)

Sat night I dragged them to a house concert by Richard Berman. Now, I went through the papers of the previous week and there was nothing about this house concert in there. I had heard about it on Musi-cal. There was lots in the paper about U2, Hall and Oats, Styx and Def Leppard, etc. all of which were $50, $100, etc... U2 probably would have been worth it.

This house concert was simply amazing. For $10, I sat in a room with 10 other people, up front and personal, hearing what amounted to a perfect evening of music. He plays lovely guitar, his voice sounds like James Taylor, and his words are personal, sometimes funny, sometimes serious. Like all great house concerts, he occasionally forgot some words, and we all schmoozed around during the break. It turns out that he knows a folk-singing friend of mine from Israel. Small world.

See? Sometimes you can save money and still get the best.

Still experiencing jet-lag.


Friday, October 28, 2005

BGG.con: Friday, Oct 28

Today is erev shabbat, which means most of the time we are thinking about what to buy, cook, etc. on shabbat. Still, when shabbat starts late, there is plenty of time to do other stuff.

Walking around the strip malls of Prenton and Forest, I dropped letters sent from Israel into a mailbox (cheaper and faster to mail from within the U.S.). Then I bought an exacto knife and cutting mat so that I could cut the remaining 27 game prototypes. I also bought more glass stones, since my paper coins are not enjoyable to play with. I may not even bother cutting them out. If I send you a game prototype, you are better off just using stones or poker chips.

I also stopped into a Tom's Thumb that glaringly declares itself "kosher" outside the store. Inside the store, the first thing I see is pork chops, bacon, and shrimp salad. Obviously a different meaning of the word kosher than I am used to. The full story is that one of the meat departments and the bakery is kosher, and they have a half an aisle of specifically kosher stuff. The remainder is the usual supermarket fare. Better than nothing. There is enough types of food to provide for me during the con. It's all very expensive.

I think a typical Loblaws in Toronto, or D'Agastinos in New York, contains more kosher food than this supermarket. Back to checking labels, I guess.

I called both Anye (dietevil) and Chris Trimmer (TrimChris). We'll be meeting at Half Priced Books on Sunday for games, starting at 2 pm, with Die Macher scheduled for 5 pm after someone else comes. Great for me, since I wanted to go to Half Priced Books anyway. I guess I'll make a complete day of it.

Monday is Halloween; everyone will be indisposed trick-or-treating or whatever. I'll have to think of something else to do.

We found the farmer's market - some block long open air warehouses lined on each side with Mexican families selling fruit and vegetables. Good quality, but just as expensive as the supermarkets, which is strange to me, since a "shuk" in Israel means 2/5 the price of a supermarket. Also, everything was spacious, quiet, and dignified. A shuk in Israel is crowded, packed, with vendors screaming at the tops of their lungs. Maybe we came on the wrong day.

There was also a warehouse nearby with lots of interesting hand-made wooden furniture, wire and wicker stuff, and Texacana. Again, some of it nice, but most of it not what I would call a bargain. Isn't anything in Dallas cheap? No outlet stores? Hoping for better value at HPB.

Meanwhile, I am cooking for shabbat at my friend's house. Shabbat shalom, y'all.


Addendum to the previous

I forgot to mention: my shopping was at Valley View Mall. I knew there was a "big game store" there, so I asked someone in J.C. Penney and was directed to the computer game store. I went to the directory and found the store I was really looking for: Game Chest.

Super sized store, and my envy is aroused. The collection is awesome. But it's all retail, sometimes higher. It's not the concept of retail that bothers me; if it was 40% off of a 40% higher price I still wouldn't buy games at those prices. And I have no particular loyalty to the store. If Israel had a store like that, it would be worth it, because the shipping would erase any savings from buying online.

But it was fun to browse.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

BGG.con: Thursday, Oct 27

After 28 hours of travel and 2 hours of sleep in the last 46, I'm in Dallas.

Anticipation is a double-edged sword. While providing me weeks of happiness awaiting my trip to the U.S., I also get this nagging knowledge that the trip will be over in 2.5 weeks. Depression is a bummer, isn't it? The only way to overcome this problem is to look forward to the next trip abroad, whenever that may be. This psyches out the depression and allows me to enjoy the trip.

Why only 2.5 weeks? I wasn't built for a day job or for standing still. I'm happy moving. Except for being with my family, nothing draws me back to anywhere, not house, not job, not stuff. Let it all go to Hell, and give me an income reporting on the state of games around the world. I'll take my family with me and be happy forever.

Every minute forward in the taxi, I want to reverse time and spend it again, just to try to draw out the trip. At least, that's what I said to myself in the taxi. I got my comeuppance for that as the trip progressed.

Moving along ...

Nokia has a flower advertisement with a sign proclaiming it the world's largest floral ad, outside a window in the airport. What a thing to be proud of. The word "perverse" comes to mind.

Before boarding, I called Nadine. Game night was happening. Yay! I hope to get the session report some time.

When does one become too old to want to sit near the window? Never, I hope.

My first problem was that my seat was next to a cat. I'm mildly allergic to cats, so I moved. No problem, there.

The flight left 50 minutes late. I was flying Tel Aviv to Toronto, connecting to Dallas. We arrived in Toronto with 3 hours to spare. No problem, right?

Wow. 15 minutes to taxi in and get through customs. Now, someone explain to me why they can't check my bag through to the connecting flight? You want to X-ray it again and ask me more questions go ahead. But this bag should not have to hit my hands. Even once.

Instead, I waited 45 minutes for my bag to come out. We're down to 2 hours. Walk out and up to the connection desk and check it in again. I really had to do that? So I think I'm done. But no. I have to go outside and transfer to Terminal 2. No instructions or signs here. I had to ask a passing bus driver what to do.

Get to terminal 2 and check in, right? No. I have to wait for my bag to come out of yet another metal vagina. Only this time, labor is protracted. An hour after checking my bag into connections, my bag isn't here. An hour before my flight goes. Meanwhile, the Air Canada people are lying to me. I believe that that is what they do to train for the job. They sit in a big room and practice lying. "No problem, Sir. It will be here in five minutes. There is plenty of time to make the connection. El Al does this sometimes, but it will get here. Yes, I checked." And so on, Fifteen minutes later, no bag. Fifteen minutes later, no bag. Then they try bluffing me. "Well, you can check in without your bag, but you will have to go the airport to pick it up when it arrives." Oh really? Someone (Air Canada, El Al, I don't really care) loses my bag and I have to spend two $40 round trips to the airport to collect it if and when it arrives? I don't think so.

20 minutes before my flight, and I'm ready to call the bluff, when it finally arrives. I had to run through the airport, literally. Nice people got out of my way to let me cut through lines for customs, etc. I get there, with little hope that my bag will actually make it onto the plane, of course, but it does. In the meantime, I was hoping to use some of those previous hours to actually eat and pray in private. So I ended up having to pray on the plane and eat my reserve food I always bring with me for just such occurrences. Usually it is the "forgetting to provide me with my kosher meal" occurrence.

Taking off, I notice out the window an entire small plane completely (yes, completely) engulfed in flames, including the surrounding tarmac. Hoses attempting to put it out or control it.

Praying on a plane full of southern Christians is one my joys in life, as I fling my tallis around my shoulders and wrap my arm and head up in my leather tephillin (phylacteries). Always amusing to catch the furtive stunned looks.

Newspaper on the flight. Frankly I don't know how Jewlicious could have missed this one, but the front page had an article on "Muslim Barbie", complete with full head scarf and arabesque look, and lots of talk about the licentiousness of traditional Barbie. Of course, "Muslim Ken" isn't planned, but - I'm not kidding you - a "protective older brother" is planned, obviously to kill her if she removes her scarf or is seen in public with Ken.

Another front page article: "Planned Parenthood" changing its name to "Federation for Sexual Health". Doing well, here. It must be nice to live in a boring country like Canada.

Land in Dallas after one hour of sleep. 10:45 am in Dallas means 6:45 pm in Israel. I left 22:45 hours ago. Now, the people I'm staying with can't pick me up at the airport, but they can pick me up from a bus or train near Forest Lane in North Dallas. I could spend $25 on a shuttle which will take about an hour, I guess. Or I can explore the nefarious public transportation and pay only $4.50. Any guesses?

Here's how it works:

1. There are no signs, instructions or information, and the transportation assistant at the baggage claim doesn't know how to do it. Yes, that's right: airport assistance for ground transportation cannot help you get to where you are going in Dallas, and does not even know how to help you get to the Dallas airport train station. (By the way, my luggage came out with no problems, and there was no customs to pass through going out.)

2. You take a free bus to the South Remote Parking at the "Remote" sign to the left of exiting the baggage claim.

3. From there, you take a free bus to the TRE station (Trinity Rail something). 45 minutes, so far.

4. Wait 35 minutes for the next Eastbound train. Take it to Union Station in Dallas. Another 30 minutes. Enjoy the ride with views of the backs of warehouses and rusting oil tank cars and ... No, that's about it.

5. Consider taking a "red line" (which is yellow) from Union station to Forest Lane or a bus to Forest Lane, except there is no information about buses anywhere near the train station, despite the fact that it is the same damn public transportation system. For that matter, there is no real information about the red and blue trains from the TRE and vice versa. The people working on these trains actually don't know where the other ones go. There are only three trains in the city: TRE, red, and blue.

6. Despite the fact that the bus probably goes closer to where I want to go, I at least know where to get the red train, so I hope that I can take a bus crossing Forest Lane once I get there. Big optimist, I am. The red train is a marvel of engineering. It starts out as a trolley. Very nice. Then it becomes a subway, an elevated train, a trolley, and elevated, a subway, an elevated, a trolley, an elevated, and then it gets to the next stop. Huh? Who designed this? It looks like the only reason it goes up and down is to meet the elevators that are next to the train landings. It feels like a roller coaster.

7. Get off at Forest Lane. Now 1:20 pm, 2.5 hours after leaving the airport. Is there a crosstown bus on Forest Lane. Yes ... except that when it gets to about a mile before the intersection I need (Preston and Forest), it mysteriously leaves Forest drives about a mile north, drives two miles west, and a mile south, meeting Forest again about a mile after I need it. Yeeha. Well, I can get off this bus at Preston and wherever, and then take another bus south on Preston.

By the way, it was at this point that I tried to give up my noble idea of managing on my own and called the people I was staying with, but for some reason I didn't have the right number. Also, I had expected to be able to find a place to a) buy a calling card or b) rent a cellphone. I didn't see anything like it anywhere, and no one knew where to do it or even what I was talking about.

One other thing: no one even checked my ticket when I got on these trains and buses. I suspect that they do periodic checks, but still.

8. Get on bus going down Forest Hill and then make my last stupid stupid mistake. I believed the bus driver when he said that it wasn't too far to walk from Hillcrest and Forest to Preston and Forest - only the next light and less than half a mile. Boy, am I dumb. I have my backpack - no problem - and my single roll on wheels suitcase which is fine for walking two miles an hour in an airport. An hour later and two miles walked, my suitcase wheels are basically shot. Need to buy a new one, I guess. How much will that cost? More than a shuttle, right? There were occasional sidewalks. When there weren't, the drivers in Dallas apparently don't think that someone walking in the side of the lane is any reason to move a bit over to the other side of the lane and drive slower.

What did I gain out of this, other than restoring my circulation after all that plane travel? Well, I found out that Dallas looks like I expected it, but much smaller. Take about twenty blocks from New York City, remove about two thirds of the buildings, shrink the rest to about 20 or 30 stories, and fade in the background to houses the rest of the way out. Looked like a movie set of a city. I found out that the train stops, literally, right outside the door of the Westin City Center, which is where the game con is. I found out the right way to get to where I'm going was to take the red one stop to West End and then a bus right up Preston, which is how I will be getting back and forth to the con.

Meet friends, shop a little - pants, jacket, cream soda. One tired Jew boy. Go back to bed.

Tomorrow: Farmer's Market.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Respect and Honor

I just celebrated the final holiday of the season, Shmini Atzeret, also known as Simchat Torah outside of Israel. We read portions of the torah every week in synagogue, and on Simchat Torah we get to the end of the cycle and start right back at the beginning.

Each week, eight people are called up to make a blessing before reading. During the course of a year in a particular synagogue you may be called up a number of times, depending on how many people go to the synagogue. One time, five times. If you are a cohen ("priest"), maybe every week or two. On Simchat Torah, everyone in every synagogue is called up. Well, traditionally every male over the age of 13, but in modern religious synagogues, the women also read in a separate reading and call up all of the women.

Three people in the synagogue are not called up with everyone else: Hatan Torah (literally, the groom of the Torah), Hatan Bereshis (the groom of Genesis), and Maphtir (the last reading regarding the temple offerings for the day). The two grooms are the most honored "call ups" of the year, and traditionally given to people who have done a lot for the shul, or a rabbi. I was Hatan Bereshis this year, I suppose because I served as president, and then on maintenance, and also created and run the website. To tell the truth, I was pretty embarrassed.

It's one thing to get no respect at all. I think all of us crave a little. At the very least I would like people not to laugh at what I say or dismiss me or treat me like someone who doesn't matter at all. I would like my children to respect me enough to stop if I shout "Stop!" when they are about to run into traffic. Beyond that, I don't really need any more. Really, as Hatan Bereshis, I'm representing all of the Jewish people who are getting "married" to the torah again. I'm very egalitarian when it comes to honor - you could even say communist. We all do our parts, as best as we can. After the little amount that I need, any more honor is difficult to deal with.

When I became thirty, I realized that even that little amount that I needed could be gotten by looking inside myself, and didn't have to come from others. Of course, I still want my kids to stop if I tell them not to run into the street. But there is nothing more futile than chasing after honor.


Shmini Atzeret Gaming

Of course, more games of MGP#1, yadda, yadda ...

Only a day to go until I leave. I am trying to figure out what games to take to trade at the con. Traumfabrik is a game we don't play very often, even though it is nice. But it's not exactly our cup of tea. Since other people value it more than we do, I thought I might trade it for something we might like better.

I'll also be bringing Battle Cry, Top Dogs, David and Goliath, and The Arab Israeli Wars. If you think no one will want to trade for any of these, let me know and I'll save the space in my suitcase.

Otherwise, I don't know what to expect. I still don't know how to budget my time. I still don't know how I'll be getting to and from the con from where I'm staying, nor what I'm eating, nor what I'm playing, nor when I'm playing, nor what I'm going to do with my game mockups (except give some out).

Yeesh. Here's to a great leap into the unknown.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Games Day Session Report

Session Report Up. Games played: Amun-Re, Boggle x 3, Bridge x 6, Cities and Knights of Catan, Cribbage, Dvonn, El Grande, For Sale, Go x 2, My Game Prototype, Princes of Florence, Puerto Rico, San Juan, Settlers of Catan x 2, Some other children's card game, Taj Mahal, Tigris and Euphrates.


3 Sales

Goodness, three people have asked to buy my game prototype #1 in its printed form, even though it is overpriced for the quality of the components. It cost me $7 each to produce the games on 300 gram paper, and maybe $0.30 to print the rules. An unnamed amount on driving, telephone calls, etc. I tossed in $0.70 worth of glass stones (I don't like the quality of the paper coins that I printed) and sold it for $9.00. More on this in the session report for Games Day.

Does selling the game qualify to have it listed in BGG?


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Shabbat Sukkot Gaming

More kind words from non-gaming friends of my wife. They came by just as Rachel and I were going to have a game of PR. We ended up playing MGP#1, with Rachel winning.

I'm getting nervous about the game convention. I really want to make the most of it: make sure people try the game, send it out to lots of people. Get exposure. Have a good time.

Last convention I went to was the O'reilly Open Source conference in 2000. I made the mistake of flying in a day before the Con. The 10 hour time differential killed me, and I was groggy throughout. Not a total waste of money (Damian Conway was a trip) but not efficient. This time I am coming a week before the con. But I have to plan plan plan.

Once I have a plan, I can relax, make sure I hit the high points of the plan, and have a good time.

Oof. Only 2.5 weeks of vacation. Why can't it be 3 months?


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

First Day Sukkot Gaming

Went to Beit Shemesh for first night of Sukkot.

My father is very sick. After having the rest of his colon removed, they found cancer in the removed portion. They gave him a few weeks to recuperate and then they started chemo. That means, on top of the loss of weight and terrible weakness of the surgery, he had to start this chemical killing process. Chemo kills all of your cells, only it's supposed to kill the cancerous ones first. That means that the process needs to be a delicate balance and closely monitored.

Well, he is retching under chemo. His skin is blotting, he can't stay awake, he can't sleep. They took him off chemo for a week and they are going to see how he's doing. I know what it means for people who need chemo, but can't take it. It's a hard process.

Twentieth century medicine is still so primitive. Scissors, string, crayons, chemical and radiation carpet bombing. Sheesh.


Lots of plays with my game prototype #1 (I'm sure you're bored of hearing about that) including introducing new people to the game. Mixed reactions from good to great. Only one wanted to play again immediately. Can't win 'em all.

My daughter also played Gin rummy and 500 rummy, with me, Saarya, and with my mother.

I went to a neighbor's house where the kids always congregate. The parents are in Dallas for sabbatical - I'll be staying with them for BGG.con - and their kids aged 20 and 19 (give or take) are running free. The truth is, there was not much difference between what usually happened there on shabbat afternoons and now. The house was actually in pretty good shape. A bit more cursing going on was about all.

I got in two games of snooker. I am usually competent at billiard games but not expert - a pattern I follow with many games. I lost both games on the last ball. Other people around me were playing poker (with chips) and Go. One of the kids insisted that "Go" was really the five in a row game, while "Gobang" was the name of the classic we know as "Go". Obviously someone had trouble reading the Japanese instruction manual. He also obviously had trouble playing a game with anything remotely like what I know as basic Go strategy. They started the game in the center and kept trying to surround each other with every piece.


Monday, October 17, 2005

Cutting Up Those Mockups Is a Bitch

Each game is four sheets of A3 paper, 300 gram weight. It takes an exacto knife to do it properly, and I have no particular skill with an exacto knife. Very easy to slip and cut right through something I shouldn't (on the paper, I mean. I haven't cut through my fingers, yet).

I'm depressed about the PR buildings which are grainy and 30% larger than they should be. Why did I print them? I kind of knew they were too big when I was printing them. I was hoping against reality, I guess.

Don't hope against reality. Always be a pessimist.

Pessimists are happy when they aren't right. You can't talk to an optimist - they always know things will work out. They will blindly do things that have no hope of working, wasting time and money. Pessimists are willing to listen to both sides. They are cautious. They don't waste money on something that isn't going to work anyway.

It takes me 45 minutes to cut up each print. 30 prints. You do the math. I've done two, so far.

Sukkot is a-coming. Time to dwell outside in booths.

Jews learn a lot during their holidays. We learn to play music (Rosh Hashana), to fast and to cook, to make a house (Sukkot), to make clothes (Purim), to decorate (Shavuot), to clean (Pesach), to hold our liquor (Purim, again), to dance, to sing, and to form together in large herds and small groups.

If I'm ever stranded on a desert island, I can take comfort in the fact that I will be able to construct a clean, pretty hut that leaks, while drunk, wearing a clown costume, and making noises that are sure to attract a herd of lummox whales. Got it covered.

Hag Sameach,

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Weekend Gaming

Tal's friend Ruthy came over - I get nachas from her, because she is a big fan of my game prototype - now a fully made mockup. She played all weekend and finally managed to win once. I also played with them once, as did a new girl in the neighborhood (another convert).

Ruthy wants to buy a game mockup. That's two sales, so far, and I haven't even started trying. Yay.

We also had Gili from the game group over for lunch, along with her husband, Ilan, and their three lovely children. What a sweet couple, and what cute kids.

Gili, Ilan, Rachel, and I player Puerto Rico. Lowest scoring game I think I've ever played. I won with a score of 38 which included 2 shipping points. The lowest score was 21. I sent them home with another mockup to play with.

One week until Game Day, one and a half until my vacation ...


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Yom Kippur's Musing

Forgive me ...

If I ever criticized your game without letting it be known that it was my own (or my group's) experience with the game that was problematic. I did not intend to criticize the game itself. Many other people like the game, and my opinion should not dissuade others from seeking out other opinions on the game.

If I make a comment on a blog, list, or website that in any way insulted you or made you feel uncomfortable. Undoubtedly it was a result of my not thinking enough before posting (or poorly thought out humor).

If I didn't respond to you when you thought I should.

If I wrote proudly or with conceit or condescension.

If I haven't made the world any better than it was when I found it.

May we all have a year of happiness and peace, for which we so much deserve.


Monday, October 10, 2005

Session Report Up

On the site. Games played: My Game Prototype, Louis XIV, Taj Mahal.

A Thing of Beauty

I printed up a batch of my games. Yay. It was expensive - about $7 per game to print, not including any packaging, etc. Boo. But it's pretty. Yay. But not as pretty as I would have liked. Boo.

It is lightweight and probably easy to ship. Yay. But it was all printed on 300 gram paper, when I would have preferred it to be printed on paper glued to cardboard stock. Boo. While I was printing, I also printed up a bunch of my PR buildings. Yay. But I think they came out too big and poor quality. Boo.

A thing of beauty.

I did the designs myself, derived from Microsoft's online clipart. I'll deal with the copyright issues some other time. From what I can tell, the images are provided without any restrictions that I could see.

Here is a regular tile:

And a wild tile:

And a hazard:

A player mat, for placing tiles you have bought:

There's also a player screen, and coins. Here are the PR buildings - they look better here than they do when I printed them in the wrong size, I fear.

First of all, I think I'll send a copy or two to some interested parties who wanted to see it. Then maybe to some reviewers, if I can interest any. Tom? Greg? Rick?

I will give a number as gifts. Everyone else, if you want a copy, any offers covering my costs will be accepted.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

The language of love

If I only had an 'n'!

Anyone have a brick? Anyone? For a sheep? Two sheeps? Two sheeps and a wheat?

Eat the queen, baby!

What did I say at the beginning of the game? Nothing goes into or out of the king's region. Nothing. -What about this scoreboard? -*sigh*

You raised to game with that?!

You let him get a Jester for 500? Are you crazy?

I lost six armies and you didn't lose any! That's just so ridiculous. These dice suck.

Hit me. Ouch. Yes, very funny, give me the damn card, already.

No, honey, you have to wait until you roll the die before you can move to the 100 space. Put your pawn back. Put it back. Back. Back. Back. Back. Back here. Here. Here. Here.

So, I cast my fireball at 0 range and then I drink my potion of fire protectiom. No wait!

Would you move already? You know you have to move your knight onto the castle with the king, so just do it. Aw cripes.

I edict zap your unzap which zapped my cosmic zap. -Oh yeah? Well I flare zap your wild void which ...

OK, so for each one you have on the beach, you lose it if you roll a six. Go ahead. OK, you lost that one. And that one. And that one. Wow, that one too. That's four for four. Good rolling, Tex.

I'm building threes. -You're an idiot.

OK, I throw a rock at the dragon to see if he's really sleeping. No wait!

Is it my turn? I'm merging all three chains -Why? -I just want the game to be over.


OK, I pay these two and flip here, get a metropolis, I place a road taking longest road, and I build this into a city. The score is now, uh, 11 to 5 to 3. Do you want to continue?

Whose turn is it?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Weekend Report

My Game Prototype #1 with my daughter a few times.

Nadine has also always complained about the hazards introducing too much luck. I stubbornly stuck with the design as is, because I wanted the game to have just enough uncontrollable elements that kids will be able to play it and not feel it is too brainy.

Then I played the game with some neighbors and hit a problem which hadn't come up in the first 100 playings: one player got all the hazards, which was patently unfair. So I changed the game in a moment of elegance. The game now greatly reduces the hazard problem, and even makes getting a hazard not such a bad thing. And it is only slightly more brainy.

I suspect that this is one element of game design that never really ends. There is always a way to make something a little better, or even just a little different. At the end of the day, the decision can be somewhat arbitrary. You just have to go with it.

No game night last week, owing to Rosh Hashana. This week it will be on Tuesday, owing to Yom Kippur. And next week, no game night again, owing to Sukkot. Then Game Day, and then off to Dallas.

I haven't had a chance to play PR with Rachel lately, either. It's not because of yet another silly PR bashing article complaining that the game rewards deeper thinking and that there are *gasp* better plays and worse plays in the game *horrors*, but that we are also both helping organize a shul, as well as, late at night, going through every episode of Once and Again, a television show that agonizingly portrayed many of our divorce and remarriage experiences.

And I'm higher than a kite listening to the new Lynn Miles CD, Love, Sweet Love.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Rosh Hashana come and gone

And I'm very lax in posting.

My Game Prototype #1 continues to make the rounds. My son took a copy to school and now has at least four friends who play with him there, along with Settlers.

My daughter and I played the extended version of the game. I wrote an extended version into the original rules but I never actually got around to playing it. All it changes is the scoring and the fact that you have to play multiple games. All I can say is - works great. Couldn't be happier.

Rachel has asked to play Puerto Rico a few times, but we just haven't had the time over the past few days. Maybe tomorrow.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Depth, Luck, and Analysis

Following Rick.

Analysis paralysis is a rather strange term.

I have a game group that takes a long time for just about any game. Amun Re, which is supposedly 90 minutes, takes 3.5 hours in our group. Puerto Rico for five takes 2.5 hours. Settlers up to 2.

No matter what game we play, I often feel that there is too much thinking going on. This may be because my own moves are usually: roll-pick-go, or the equivalent.

Thinking long and hard can be frustrating to other players.

My friend, on the other hand, is a slow thinker. He will usually sit and think about his turn, shuffling his cards, pointing with his finger at various parts of the board, and then putting his hand on his chin. After he has taken his turn (finally), he will often shake his head and say: wait, can I take that back?

I think I win about as often as he does.

Thinking long and hard doesn't guarantee that you are thinking long and hard about the right things.

I'm used to him, and he's a really good friend, so I don't mind. In fact, if he had to play any shorter, he would find the game frustrating, because he would be unhappy that he wasn't allowed to at least try to find the optimal play.

And that is the crux: his enjoyment out of playing games comes from searching for the optimal play. As long as the game is finished before the night is over, he is not in paralysis, he is playing.

Thinking long and hard is the only way that some people enjoy games.

Chess doesn't give you many options. You only have, at most, 16 pieces to move, and maybe 100 moves to make, most of which are blindingly stupid or fruitless. A game lasts about 20 to 50 moves. Yet each player is given 5 hours to make their moves. Is that analysis paralysis? No, because both players come to the game expecting the game to be a game of optimal play, and they enjoy it that way. You want to play a quick game, play speed chess.

Thinking long and hard is a style of play, no worse and no better than any other style.

I wonder if the same people who don't like long thinking in their games also don't like games that have much thinking at all.

There are some game specific issues to think about when it comes to all this thinking.

Luck: a game with luck naturally has a limit to useful thinking, and that limit is about where your ability to determine the outcome drops below 50%. If you can determine what will happen after an event with 90% accuracy, it is fairly useless to think about anything beyond six events from now.

Width: The wider the tree of useful possibilities, the less useful to think about future turns, since the game is not likely to look much like you anticipated by that time. The number of players multiplies this search tree accordingly.

Thinking long and hard is only useful if the game state is predictable.

Time between turns: as a corollary to the above, you should be spending a whole lot more time thinking about the game when it is not your turn, whenever possible. In games with wide search trees, this may only be possible on the turn before yours, since the game may have changed a whole lot by the time it gets back to you. Narrow search tree = 2 player Scrabble. Wide search tree = 5 player Cosmic Encounter.

Hidden/trackable information: Traumfabrik is a game with "hidden" information, all of which is trackable and known to the players at any time. A person with good memory can drag a game out by tracking exactly who has how many contracts. In fact, a really good memory can do it even without dragging the game out. My advice to you is: don't. The point of hiding the pieces is not to provide extra work to people who have better memory. It is to make that element vaguely knowable but uncertain. Tracking the information goes against the spirit of the game, if the information goes beyond a turn or two's worth.

Thinking long and hard is against the spirit of some games.

That's it. No ending. Just a collection of thoughts.



Weekend Gaming - Quickie

I played MGP#1 with the father of the boy I played with last week. Not a gamer. Never saw anyone play that badly.

Played St Pete with Rachel again. Nope, she still finds it uninteresting.

Played Scrabble with Rachel. She trounced me 427 to 348. She had 2 bingos, and I had a 75 triple word score.