Friday, December 30, 2005

Movie: Narnia

Saarya, Eitan, Tal, and I were supposed to see Harry Potter 4. But it turned out that HP4 was sold out until the 10:30 pm showing, which was just too late. Eitan suggested Narnia. That was a surprise, seeing that his form of entertainment is usually Death Metal music; the previous evening he saw Sammael in concert and loved it. I think he saw the previews of Narnia and liked the look of the battle scenes.

So no HP4 review. Instead, Narnia.

It was good. Narnia is an old fashioned book and it shows in the movie. The major battle is intense and drawn out like in other modern movies, but there is nothing in the way of the ugliness and gore that you normally get. Instead you get a lot of unbelievable scenes of children wielding swords and being brave. It was kind of nice that way.

Also, the movie didn't try to batter you with scene after scene of action, rushing, comedy, and so forth. It had a nice balance of story elements. The acting was good. And the major heroine was a pudgy and not particularly pretty girl who acts like a young girl, for the most part. Different.

The effects of the talking animals were also good. However, you could see just a bit from the brightness contrasts when scenes were filmed in front of a blue drop. The same for King Kong, actually. They don't quite have that effect down, yet.

I can't really think of anything negative to say; it didn't aim to be a much greater and grander movie than it was. Maybe if you wanted to see something larger it will be a bit simplistic for you. Instead, you get a simple vignette which fulfills what it sets out to do: a fantasy story about temptation, betrayal, sacrifice, compromise, loyalty, love, and bravery.

Yehuda

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Best of Blogospere Moving

Alfred's Best of the Blogosphere is moving to http://boardgames.blogsome.com/ (feed: http://boardgames.blogsome.com/feed/), but you all already knew that, I bet.

Good. That's the way it should be.

Yehuda

Domain Name Blues Continued

So it seems that the registrar Freewebs had the wrong email address for me, which is basically my fault. After three emails, the domain name jergames.com expired and is now in a "redemption period" where, instead of the usual $20 renewal fee, it will cost me $80 to renew. No way.

At the end of the redemption period it will be up for grabs again unless it was already auctioned off (I don't know how that works), which it appears to have been. I will just have to wait and see if it becomes available again.

In the meantime, jergames.com is now defunct. Everyone should point their link to www.freewebs.com/jergames while I figure out what to do about it. I will probably just create jsgc.blogspot.com (I already started it). Only, I don't like having all my stuff on blogspot, either. What if something happens to them? It's a Google company, but who knows.

Urg.

-----

Someone offered to send me a game to review. That's nice. My second. My first was Oceania from Guido Teuber. He said he was also going to send me Candamir, but then he never got back to me.

I also got some more emails generated from the board game awards (go nominate, now!): look at this site, help me submit a nomination, and so on. Busy busy.

And Rachel came home happy from her teaching at Limmud. And she may have gotten a scholarship from Hebrew U. Yay!

Yehuda

Domain Name Blues

Somehow my domain name jergames.com has expired and was snatched up by another registrar (GoDaddy). Now I don't know what is happening to it. The old registrar (Freewebs) thinks I have to talk to whomever owns it, and the new one thinks it doesn't own it and have to talk to the original owners.

In the meantime, my site is still there, but it is at http://www.freewebs.com/jergames instead of www.jergames.com . Some formatting is lost, but all the content still works.

I think I may just move it all to a blog. I was thinking of syndicating my session reports, anyway, and there's not much more to my site than the reports and all of my variants.

Yehuda

Thursday, December 29, 2005

December Gaming at the JSGC

We return to a full month of gaming after missing some sessions in November (while I was at BGG.con). As usual, the following list represents only games played at the club, and not my personal plays.

Alhambra - This game is not enjoyed, as I mentioned last time. We tried it again and still found no particularly interesting decisions, although it is slightly better with less players. You can't plan, because what you want is gone by the time it gets to you (a small expansion slightly fixes that problem). And while I can see in theory why you wouldn't want to buy something with exact change, it hasn't happened in practice. There is another expansion planned that looks like it could help.

Billabong - A highly abstract and chaotic game on first impression. It was interesting enough. Like Chinese Checkers on speed.

China Moon x 2 - I was pleasantly surprised to find this game enjoyable when I first played it, but it loses its luster (as well as all semblance of player control) if played with four people, and probably loses it even more if played with five.

Domaine - Our group found this a bit dry, although I liked it. I introduced it to some new players at the club who loved it.

Dvonn x 3 - Excellent game which I also originally thought was too chaotic. Fine fine game.

El Grande - A classic that hasn't seen much play since the last time when it took people six hours to finish. Yarch. This time took a balmy two and a half.

Evo - Also not enjoyed by the club. They felt the whole thing was silly (the same people who like Primodial Soup). Personally, I liked it except for all aspects of the game having to do with the dice. Introduced to some new players who loved it (more than Primordial Soup).

Havoc - A fine game, but just a tad long as a waiting game, and a tad short for a meaty game. In any case, likely to be played again soon.

La Strada x 2 - We felt that this was only half a game, like a single mechanic was taken out of another game and left unfinished. Plays quick, easy enough, left us unsatisfied.

Lo Ra (Ra) - This is a homebrew imitation of Ra rethemed to be about the Jewish temple. Ra is another fine game, and this plays about the same. "Lo" means "not", so the game translates at "Not Ra", and "Ra" means "bad", so the game can also translate as "Not bad".

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation - I have played this a few times and liked it, although it is basically a very very short card driven war game, and I don't really like war games.

The Menorah Game x 3 - Played on Hannukah, of course. Also enjoyed as a quick opening filler game.

Modern Art - I really liked this, and some of the members liked it, while others were not convinced. The only problem we all had was that it seemed like the double auction cards affect the game too much, and therefore those who don't get any feel left out.

Primordial Soup x 2 - The first play with three players felt a little dry, while the second one with four players was sweeter. Another good game, with a mild runaway leader problem. Looking forward to trying it with alternate gene options.

Puerto Rico - The game. Period.

San Juan x 2 - Always a good filler game.

Taj Mahal - Excellent game for a main course. Plays well equally with 3-5 players.

Tikal - I think it's great, others think it is somewhere between very good to ok. Since our group tends to have analysis paralysis, this makes sense.

Yinsh - Another excellent game. It is more initially accessible for new players than Dvonn, but I think I like Dvonn better.

Yehuda

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Blip in my site hosting

Something just happened to my website http://www.jergames.com . It is hosted by freewebs, and it just disappeared. Now I get a page for a parked domain on GoDaddy.

I'm trying to figure out what happened. In the meantime, my pictures were hosted there, so this blog looks a little naked without them.

But I'm mostly concerned about more than two years of session reports, game variants, and so on. Yikes! I think the last backup I made was only a month ago, but that's still a lot to lose.

Yehuda

Session Report Up

Games played: The Menorah Game x 2, China Moon, Billabong, San Juan, Evo, El Grande, Domaine.

Happy Hannukah and Happy Holidays,
Yehuda

Don't forget to nominate your favorite sites for the Gone Gaming: Board Game Internet Awards!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I Wandered Lonely as an Ant

The Wedding

Religious Judaism prescribes certain virtues for all people, but specifically for women: a certain modesty about clothes and actions, a certain kindness and generosity, a certain piousness, and an adherence to the rituals of keeping kosher, keeping shabbat, and taharat mishpacha (for another discussion).

Haredi women take some of these to a deeper level. Regarding modesty, not only will they only wear clothes down to their ankles, lower arms, and collar, they will also hide every hair on their head with a covering of some sort if they are married (your basic religious law allows an inch of a married woman's hair to show in public), they are scrupulous about not being alone behind closed doors with men, they won't sing around men, and so on. Things that your modern religious person might be aware of, but somewhat more lenient about, according to their understanding of the reality of the situation and the actual law. From the outside perspective, it seems that public sexual awareness by haredim is so feared that it becomes all they ever think about. As one of my friends put it, the books written for the haredi public about modesty are so comprehensive and so specific that they border on the pornographic.

From my limited experience, and while admitting that everyone is different, there are roughly two types of haredi women who have been my co-workers. One type tends to be very straight and serious. They are scrupulously honest, often extremely talented, and dedicated workers; they don't fraternize beyond what is required for work and have no sense of humor around men. The other type is more interesting and companionable. While they are just as honest and talented, they don't seem to mind fraternizing with co-workers and can be quite spunky. One of my secret and twisted amusements is working next to a modestly dressed haredi woman as she lets loose with a string of old-world curses in a decidedly immodest manner. Of course, she will apologize for it with a wry smile.

As I mentioned previously, I came unprepared for the work-wedding I was supposed to attend after work. So I went home, lit my menorah, sang to myself, shaved, changed, and headed off to the wedding.

The wedding hall was a hall specifically designed for haredi purposes. The "least" haredi wedding will have separate seating for men and women throughout the evening and tall barriers between the men's side and women's side for all but the actual ceremony. The "most" haredi will have two separate halls altogether. And during the ceremony, the bride wears an opaque veil that covers every inch of her. (Perhaps the best solution is to just have men marry men and women marry women; that way the sexes won't have to mix at all.)

The co-worker who got married is a haredi woman, of course. I don't know her that well, since, while polite and friendly, she is of the non-fraternizing variety. It probably made no difference to her whether I came or not, but I thought I could at least contribute to pleasing her by being part of a group of co-workers. I forgot that I wasn't going to see her and she wasn't going to see me. Oh well, at least I will have an evening sitting with some people I know from work, I thought.

A group of other co-workers came. They poked their noses around the wall, said mazal tov to the bride, and then decided to go. What? Well, they said, they only came to say mazal tov and go. They didn't even wait for the ceremony. That meant that if I decided to stay, I would be basically alone on the men's side surrounded by walls of dark coats and no one to speak to. Feeling betrayed, I decided to go, as well.

So much for the wedding. I hope it was nice and I wish her the best. And for this I turned down going to a special game evening that Binyamin, who has recently been coming to the game group, planned for his friends and neighbors in Beit El. OK, to be honest, I really didn't want to go to Beit El, anyway, especially at night; it is in the wrong part of the West Bank. I did that for five years when I lived in Tekoa, and that was enough.


The Mall

So I now found myself alone, again, and without dinner. I remembered that of my four children, the only one who said they wanted anything in particular for Hanukkah said that they would be happy with a gift certificate from a certain music store in the mall. I decided to treat myself to a rare expenditure and eat out at the mall while buying the certificate. Eating out means spending $12 or so at a restaurant.

I quickly found the store. That done, I remembered that there is a movie theater in the mall and that there are a number of movies that I would love to see, only I never go out to movies. Well, a movie is about $8, and if I recall correctly, after you buy the movie ticket they give you a coupon to eat at some local fast food place for $4.50 . I could do that instead of eating at a fancier place.

The choice was basically between King Kong and Harry Potter 4. I called one of my kids and, after determining that he would be free, I decided to take the three other kids to see HP4 on Thursday as their Hanukkah gift. That left me to see the Kong. I bought the ticket and went to eat at Sbarro.

Sbarro has a kosher joint in Jerusalem. It used to be at one of the main corners in the center of town, but it kept getting blown up by baby-killers, so they moved to the mall. When something non-kosher becomes kosher, they have to choose whether to eliminate the meat or milk from their menu. Seeing as Sbarro makes pizza and pasta, they decided to eliminate the meat.

As I'm intolerant to milk, my only choice was the pasta and tomato sauce with a salad. And salad dressing packets.

Let me tell you about my fascination with salad dressing packets.

I got three salad dressing packets with my salad: Thousand Island, Vinaigrette, and Garlic. All three packets contained 10 grams of dressing, yet they were all different sizes. The garlic is about 2 mm shorter than the vinaigrette, and the vinaigrette is about 3 mm shorter than the thousand island. I'm telling you this because it's important that you know. You may be blind, or you may walk into a Sbarro when the lights are out, and then where would you be without this knowledge?

Furthermore, the ingredient list for these dressings is also of utmost significance. Let's have a looksee:

Garlic/Vinaigrette/Thousand Island
------/----------/---------------
Veg Oil/Water/Veg Oil
Water/Veg Oil/Water
Flavor/Vinegar/Sugar
Eggs/Sugars/Pickle
Sugar/Salt/Flavor
Garlic/Spices/Tomato Sauce
Spices/Lemon/Eggs
Salt/Color/Salt
Colors/Flavor/Red Wine
Preservative/Color/Colors
Preservative/Flavor/Spices
/Preservative/Flavor
/Preservative/Preservative
//Lemon
//Flavor
//Preservative

What do we learn from this:

1) The primary ingredient in a vinaigrette is water. That's also the second ingredient in all other dressings.
2) Salt is not a spice.
3) There is a difference between "Sugar" and "Sugars".
4) All dressings have: water, veg oil, flavor, sugar(s), spices, salt, colors, and two types of preservatives.
5) 10 grams of dressing is enough to cover one lettuce leaf.

Number 4 is the most important piece of knowledge, here; it leads to the creation of the Food Ingredients Game, a game for 2-5 players:

1. All players go to a supermarket and buy ten different items that each include at least two of the following ingredients: water, veg oil, flavor, sugar, spice, salt, color, or preservative. Each player keeps their items secret in a bag.

2. Around a table the starting player chooses an item to take out of his bag. He places it on the table and names one of the eight ingredients. His item must contain that ingredient. Each player chooses an item to place on the table in turn, clockwise. If they have an item that contains that ingredient, they must play one; otherwise they may play any item. The person whose item had the ingredient numerically highest in the list of ingredients collects all of the items. If there is a tie, the last played item wins. If an item doesn't have the ingredient listed at all, it can't win the trick.

3. Play passes to the right, and continues until all ten items have been played.

4. For each item you have won, count minus four points if one of the eight ingredients listed is numerically first in the ingredient list, minus two points for second place, minus one point for third place, and no points otherwise. Each item may score multiple times. However, if three or more items all have the same ingredient at the same level you score those points as positive, instead of negative.

5. The person with the highest score wins.


The Game Store

I still had about a half hour until the movie started, so I did my usual checking out the local game stores. I have found surprises in the past, like TransAmerica, Take 6 and so on. This time I was hit with a wallop of a surprise: Ingenious on the shelf for $36. In Hebrew it is called "Hiburim". Unbelievable. I was sorely tempted, but I'm out of game spending cash.

They had TransAmerica ($26), Blokus ($30), and Travel Blokus ($22), as well as Gobblet, Kid's Gobblet (only three sizes of pieces with colors instead of wood), Quarto, Batik (alternate dropping wooden shaped into a frame until someone can't without his piece sticking out), Sputnik, Pylos, DisX, Abalone, and Talisman (1st edition). Pretty good for a typical trashy toy store.


The Movie

Peter Jackson is back with King Kong, a movie that opens with a condensed version of Shakespeare in Love (before the boat), and then follows with Titanic (on the boat), Lord of the Rings (before Kong comes), Jurassic Park (while searching for Kong), and finally Superman II (back in New York).

It is a fun movie, but it is a bit disjointed, and it is hard to really get into any of the characters other than the big guy, himself. Naomi Watts does a fabulous impression of Nicole Kidman. Unfortunately, she is given virtually no lines in the movie. Instead the movie draws out a number of long wordless shots of her that would have been better with more dialog.

The other "flaw" is that there are way too many serious characters delivering serious pronouncements. Over and over. Jack Black as the film-maker takes his role so seriously that I wanted to slap him a few times. And his last utterance, the last line of the film, was so seriously delivered that I burst out laughing. I think this may have been done deliberately to match the overbearing acting style of old movies, but why? If we can update the effects, why not update the quality of the actors' deliveries?

The remainder of the film is lovely. Aside from aforementioned long wordless shots, it moves along quickly. In fact, the characters get into so many scrapes in scene after scene that you may be exhausted by the time it ends. The effects are amazing, of course. Unlike every other fantastic movie, bullets actually work against the critters, which was a big surprise. The best part is Kong, who steals the show as a thoughtful, considerate, yet manly-man loner type who just wants to rest, but has to keep asserting his right to be King of the Jungle.

The movie ended late, so I'm now groggy. Game night tonight.

Yehuda

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Games from 2005 I have played

You can never really know when other people will like what you post or not. I thought my post about games in 2005 that I haven't played was pretty funny (c'mon, "tip the cow" was funny), but nobody acknowledged it. Oh well. Can't win them all.

I can't give you a top ten games in 2005, seeing as I only played eleven games from 2005 total, and two hardly count: The Menorah Game, which is mine and is not yet published, and The Rooster Coop, a small and cheaply produced game by my friend Gilad, which I don't think has been distributed, yet.

That leaves the following nine games:

ChiZo RISING: I played this only two-player with open hands. Not a good idea. With closed hands and multiple players it might be better.

Havoc: The Hundred Years War: An excellent set collecting attrition game. A great middle-weight Euro. Good with two through six players.

Louis XIV: An excellent area control Alea game. It is heavy-weight Euro, even though it comes in a small box. It's not perfect - several aspects about the scoring mechanisms are clunky, and there is the usual luck about picking cards - but it's very good. Good with two, three, or four players.

Palazzo: Played once with four players. A decent light to middle-weight game.

Pompeji - Die Letzten 37 Minuten: Played once with four players. Not truly awful, but pretty close. While the designer included lots of pretty pieces and nice thematic elements simulating chaos and disaster, these elements make every act a total crapshoot. Without phenomenal luck, everything you do gets undone. It is easy to wreck anyone else's plans. And once you have actually succeeded in doing anything, you literally have no pieces to play with for the rest of the game.

Power Grid - Italy/France: I've only played Power Grid once, and only on this map with six players. PG is an excellent game. This map, with its huge conglomeration around Paris, seemed a bit unbalanced, but this may have been more to do with the experience of the players rather than the board itself.

Shadows Over Camelot: Played once, three player. A cooperative game which is not truly cooperative because one player may be a traitor. Without the traitor, the game would probably not be that interesting. You are mostly picking cards and playing sets. Beautiful pieces and some theme and special cards and rules make it more fun, but the traitor makes it interesting.

Ticket to Ride: Europe: Played once with five players. I haven't played Ticket to Ride. This game has simple rules and was a reasonably fun game, but it would probably have been better if we had played it more viciously. A good game.

Travel Blokus. Played once. If you liked Blokus, and you wanted the equivalent two-player game without playing four colors, this is just as good.

Yehuda

More on the GG:BGIA

I came to work only to remember that I have a wedding tonight - a co-worker. I am under dressed and unshaved. This is the second time in a few weeks I forgot to shave before a wedding. This time I think I will have to go home first. I have to light Hanukkah candles, anyway.

Do remember to cast your nominations (not votes, just nominations) for the Board Game Internet Awards.

We left out a few possible candidates for awards:

Best online personality - Grog suggested this. It's a good idea, but would have been hard to judge in the allotted time. What do I know about war game personalities, anyway?

Best player aid, best dowloadable game - And so on. These could have made it, but are already kind of covered under other game awards. What do you think?

Best mainstream coverage of board games - This one is covered under Best Promotional/Advocacy Article.

Most clueless mainstream coverage of board games - I wanted this one. Maybe next time. If you have any candidates for this year's winner, add to the comments to this post.

What else did we miss?

In Board Game Communities, Tom Vasel writes about how the blogsphere itself has turned into a community, which is true. Which means that our model of "site that is a community" doesn't necessarily work.

The models are constantly changing: music distribution, television subscription, national jurisdiction, advertising, business hours, social circles, recreation. Still, some things remain the same: love, hope, friendship, and prayer.

Yehuda

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Gone Gaming: Board Game Internet Awards

Greetings, y'all.

I'm happy to announce a new award in the board game community: The Gone Gaming: Board Game Internet Awards. There are lots of awards for board games, but this is the first award about board game sites on the Internet.

Check it out. And, as they say, vote early and vote often.

http://boredgamegeeks.blogspot.com/2005/12/gone-gaming-board-game-internet-awards.html

Yehuda

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Hannukah

Owing to my my wife being in England and my children being at their other houses, I found myself all alone, tonight.

I wandered the slick streets of Jerusalem, head bowed against the pouring rain, shivering in the cold. My feet skidded on the wet rainy surface and I fell upon the hard pavement, exhausted, my body strewn across a puddle. There I was. Lying in the dirty water, alone. Unloved. How long could I go on like this? *sniff* *HONK*

Actually, I called my brother David and went to deliver the Menorah game to them, and they invited me for dinner. Au 'natureaument, I played some games.

They had bought Travel Blokus, which is the two player version of regular Blokus. The board size was 14x14, which I seem to recall suggesting as a good way of converting the regular board to play as a two player game some time ago on BGG ... hmmm ... well what do you know, here it is. I'm such a genius.

Another game they bought was a version of Blink/Speed by Foxmind games. I can't remember what it was called; something short that starts with an "S", but not Speed. And it doesn't seem to be listed as a Foxmind game on BGG. Strange.

However, what we ended up playing was a game of Tigris and Euphrates. I played with Pini (17 year old) and Ariel (11? yo) (gosh, I don't know the ages of my nephews; I'm a bad uncle. In any case, they were old enough that I wasn't afraid of beating them). They had only played a few times. I thought I would make mincemeat out of them, but they both happily collected points for some turns while I spent the time trying to establish position.

I then had some phenomenally bad luck conflicts (you know, the ones where your opponent HAS the four tiles that they need ... several times). I still managed to establish the kingdom later on, and then won, owing to them a) not using their disaster tiles early enough, and b) not ending the game when I had clear control of both monuments on the board. Turns out, with regards to this last one, that they were both shy in a color and didn't think that they would be able to win if the game ended too soon. True, but when I control the monuments, there is no way you are going to catch up unless you kick me out of them.

After that we played two games of the Menorah game. Another one of their friends had joined us by then, and Pini had swapped out for one of his other brothers, so we were four. I won both of these games, too, but they were certainly not easy. Damn fun game, if I say so myself.

I finally got home to light my own candles and make some more food for the rest of the week.

Yehuda

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Weekend Gaming

Um, none. Actually.

I finished cutting up the last of my original prototypes. After delivering two, to my brother and a friend of my daughter's, that will leave me with the last two copies. One for me, and one if I still need to send out another to a publisher. If enough people want copies, I can make more.

My wife is in England teaching at Limmud, a yearly conference for Jewish studies that attracts 2000 people from around the world with nothing better to do on Christmas break. I just found out that my kids won't be around until Thursday; I want them here when Rachel gets back, and I forgot that that means that I can't have them during the first half of Hanukkah, too.

Meanwhile, I spent shabbat with friends and aunt and uncle. I forgot to bring my game with me to show them. My aunt and uncle are not really game players, although once upon a time they played Bridge and Scrabble.

Actually, my aunt had this game in the closet that no one was willing to play with her; of course I volunteered. I'll play any game once. It is "Mid-Life Crisis". It seemed like your typical dumb roll-and-move game, but there were a few decisions that made the game a bit more interesting. You accumulated three different levels of problems (stress, divorce, and cash) and then you had to choose the right ones to get rid of at the right time. Or you could simply declare an all out war on normality by purposely getting tanked in all three areas before anyone finished the game, thereby winning immediately.

It looked sort of cute, but there were no tokens or money or counters, which meant that you had to write to keep track of everything, which we couldn't do on shabbat. So back to the shelf it went.

Since I didn't get to buy any presents for the kids, yet, being alone for the first few days gives me a bit more time to find something. I also have a work-wedding on Tuesday and game night on Wed.

I'm also planning a few big ideas for Gone Gaming. I'm excited about them and I hope they go over well.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, everybody.

Yehuda

Friday, December 23, 2005

As Long As We're Linking 3

The latest board game blog news since my last posting. I will post these whenever at least 5 or more changes have been made since my last post.

Aside from my new list of blogs, Joe Gola finally posted something on his Sniff the Light Fantastic blog after a long silence. I don't know what he said, but here's hoping he continues.

Another Point of Singularity - Walt O'Hara, Washington D.C. Almost as wierd as Grognads.

Boardgamers' Pastime - Mario T. Lanza, New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. Welcome aboard.

Boardgame News - Already indispensible board game news from the team of Rick Thornquist.

Boardgames To Go - I neglected to add Mark Johnson's long-running podcast from Santa Clarita, California.

The Fun Zone - Eric Michael Summerer, a voiceover artist from Connecticut. Mixed with other personal info.

GamerDad Unplugged - Another podcast, by Dr. Matt J. Carlson, a science teacher. Location unknown.

GeekCul 101 - Games, Books, Movies - Mark M, Ottawa, Canada

Piddinghoe Gamers session reports - Another UK blog.

Trabsact Sagme Diaries - João Neto and Bill Taylor. Possibly ever wierder than Mr Nizz and Grog. A blog about a far-future game researcer examining abstract game concepts of the past (our present).

Enjoy,
Yehuda

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Chess, Go, and all those other games

Chess players play chess. Go players play Go. Scrabble players play Scrabble (and sometimes Anagrams). And so on. Rummikub. Bridge. Poker. Magic: the Gathering. Backgammon. These games attract single-game game players. These players are not playing a "game". I think that, generally speaking, they don't even like games. This is a hobby, a devotion. They play it because they like THIS activity; it just happens to look like a game to other people.

In a little more broad category are the multi-game genre-only players. RPG players may play a few types of RPGs. CCG players may move between a few types of CCGs. Wargamers, or "grognards", may play a catalog of Avalon Hill titles and maybe some newer titles. Some people will only play party games. Or abstracts. And so on. Genre players like THIS activity, and they can only immerse themselves in the activity through a certain set of tools. Anything outside of the genre is some other activity. It can be fun, but it doesn't fill the belly.

Note that I don't lump computer gamers in here (see below).

More broad are multi-genre game players. They play a variety of games from different genres. These guys love gaming in general. They start game clubs, write game blogs, go to game conventions. If you get any broader than this, you simply get "fun-lovers", who are just as happy to watch a movie, play a game, or hike a hill. They have no particular interest in games or gaming, per say. It's just another fun activity.

Which of these is the "true" gamer?

Scratch that. I don't care. That's not my question.

I think a more important question is: are all these worlds doomed to be forever excluded from each other? Do CCG players and chess players have more in common with each other than with, oh, say, gardeners?

It may not matter to either of them, because, after all, they don't care about anything outside of their own worlds. But it matters a little to me. It's not that I don't like gardening. I do. It may be healthier for you and the world to be a gardener than a game player. But I'm not in the business of advocating gardening.

Speaking only for myself, as someone who loves all types of gaming (we'll leave computer gaming aside for the moment), it seems to me that these two worlds could have a positive influence on each other and on the world of gaming, in general, if they would sit in the same tent. Let them stay on their sides of the tent, if they so desire. So long as they share the tent. In this way, the tent becomes an inclusive arena of sharing those things that we have in common: at the very least, a love of sitting across the table with a friend, devoted to a shared experience, and battling your wits.

An article in Wired about computers beating humans in chess shows the media's real perspective about games: it is about winning, not companionship. Chess, one of the foremost examples of a zero-sum confrontational game, is essentially a cooperative experience. Two players have to work together to create the game, by adhering to a rule set, by agreeing to spend the time, by making the game enjoyable. The same is true of all board games. Even in tournaments, there is still that sense of companionship across the table (well, not always, I guess).

That is one of the reasons that games against a computer are so different from games with other people. The nature of the activity changes from one of cooperation to one of loss or victory. I think of computer games more as puzzles and hand-eye coordination tests than games.

I told you all that to tell you this:

The worlds of Eurogamers and war gamers are no less insular than the world of CCGers. So many of us play only "these" types of games, and not "those" types. Now, I'm not talking about preference; I don't like war games. But I don't exclude them from my world or notice. Or game group. I don't tell chess players that we "don't play chess" here, only that, sadly, the people in my group don't generally like chess, but that shouldn't stop you from coming with other chess players and joining us. I know that other chess players will have no interest in the other games in my club, and probably not much in the other people because we don't talk and breathe chess, but that doesn't mean that we can't share the same space. We are more alike than different. We all need a table on which to play.

Yehuda

Session Report Up

Games played: Dvonn x 2, Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation, La Strada x 2, China Moon, Taj Mahal, Primordial Soup.

Yehuda

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Games from 2005 I haven't played

‘Dillos in Austin

"A simulation for 2 to 4 ground-dwelling armored rodents."

But is it really a simulation?


2012 Overture

Another recently unearthed musical piece from PDQ Bach.


A Fist Full of Throttle

"The Ultimate, 100% knock down drag em' out Rock & Roll, boogie woogie till' ya puke, adult, biker lifestyle board game. Play "A Fist Full Of Throttle"........ And remember Keep The Shiny Side Up And Rock On!!!!"

OK ....


Aaargh !

Not to be confused with ...


Aargh!


Age of Steam Expansion - The Moon

Not to be confused with Lunar Rails. What is it with gamers wanting to run trains on the moon? Is there a lot to see during the ride? "Oh look, another rock."


Alfredo's Food Fight and
Food Fight

"Game includes 12 meatballs, 4 flinging forks, and 1 spinning chef. Batteries not included."

OK ....


Axis of Evil - 2007

Bush learns that what goes around, comes around. "Grrr! Take that, you ... you American!"


Bad Babiez

"Put the stereo at full volume, flood the bathroom and make the babysitter run away. But be aware that nobody sees you cry or wet the bed... or your reputation will be seriously compromised."

Reputation? For a baby? "Oh, I just cried, here. Is that ok? Do you think that's ok? Well what are the popular babies doing right now? Oh, I am so embarrassed."


Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus

"A boardgame based on the Barbie movie Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus."

Which I unfortunately missed, so I guess I just won't understand the game.


Batman Begins UNO

Because playing Uno is just so much like being a caped superhero.


Black Stories 2

The sequel to "Black Stories", of course. Seeing as the game is all about violent crime, I have a feeling that this will never be sold in the U.S. under its current title without causing an uproar.


Bratz Twister

"Exactly the same a Twister, but it has pictures of the Bratz toys and costs $2 more. Also known as '5th Horseman of the Apocalypse'"

Hey! I would pay $2 to twister with the Bratz. They're sexy!


Cactus Throne

Um, I hereby abdicate the throne if I have to sit in that thing.


Charge!

Oh, a war game. I thought it was a shopping game.


Cow Poker

If you win, you have to tip the cows.


Dancing Dragons

Not to be confused with ...


Dancing Mice


Dicefest

No, not Risk. Actually, it isn't one.


Dogs Do

Please do not click on the above link. It's just what is sounds like.


Elves Under Hoof

"It seems the elves have opened up a crate of ultra-violent video games and played them all night. By morning they had been turned into mindless zombie elves bent on destruction."

Sounds like my kids.


Finger Football

I played this as a kid for free. Now you can pay to play it.


Frankenstein's Children

My kids, when my wife hasn't had her morning coffee. (I would have said "me", but I don't drink coffee.)


Gloom: Unhappy Homes

I thought games were supposed to be a picker upper. Brrrr.


Girls' Nite Out: The Party Game for Women

Because our girls need a board game to teach them how to tell stories and make cocktails.


Holey Cow!

No joke here. Cows are just funny. Cow cow cow.


Hooey

Sounds like a carbon copy of "I doubt it/Bulls**t"


Hot Wheels Acceleracers Collectable Card Game

Because cards about cars are so much cooler than the cars, themselves. Wait a minute - did someone say "collectible car game"?


I Am NOT a Communist

No, but Sen McCarthy was. Isn't that ironic?


I Want Candy!

"All the fun of a pinata, with none of the screaming, accidental concussions, or clean-up. For two to six hyperactive greed-crazed kids"

This is SO not coming into my house. What are we learning here?


Kiss My Rules!

What the designer says when he gets back comments on his prototype.


Liebrary

Because Daryl Hannah says so.


Love U

"Love U is a fast-paced search game based on text messages."

it hd 2 hpn evn2le. shdnt it b cald "lv u"?


Miss Monster

Because monsters deserve beauty pageants.


Monopoly - United States Marine Edition

"YOU WILL NOT PASS GO, YOU STUPID !^%&^%#!! YOU WILL NOT COLLECT $200, %*!@%*@!*!! DO YOU HEAR ME??!!!!" "YES SIR!!!"

Actually, the marines have to collect various pieces of military equipment using luck and limited resources. Sounds a lot like the real war in Iraq.


Paranoia Mandatory Card Game

The computer is your friend. You will play this game. Anyone who does not play this game is a traitor.


Peace

A war game.


Play Gauss

"This is a collection of 12 games playable with the same components released to commemmorate the 150th anniversary of Gauss' death."

Which is why I play games.


Playas and Haters

Pimp: the Backhanding stole all of its thunder. Looks just as good.


Pop Belly

"Feed the cute piccies with chips, making them get more and more full. But don't feed a pig too much or else POP!"

Animal torture and exploding pigs! What could be more fun!


Rock Paper Scissors Game

More ways to make money that I never thought of.


Run for your Life, Candyman!

A twisted version of Candyland. I'm in favor of it. Especially since "Candyman" used to mean "drug pusher".


Stoner Trivia, A Card Game

Finally, a trivia game about drugs.


Team Work Religion

"'Team Work Religion' is not a game about winning or losing - it is a game of having fun."

Amen, brother.


Terakh: A Creative Strategy Game

Apparently, there is more to Abraham's idolatrous father than I knew.


Uncontrolled Squid

This year's Cthulu award winner (an award that is sadly lacking in the gaming industry).


Wreck The Nation: The Game of Political Misbehavior

This is not a political blog, so I won't say anything.


West Bank Gamer's Game

"Greg Schloesser, founder of the Westbank Gamers, has moved to the mountains of Tennessee. Now, all of his friends in the Westbank Gamers are racing to be the first to visit him at his new home. However, before they can visit, they must first race across the United States in search of chips, cookies and sodas."

Awww... No one's made a game about me, yet! *sniff*


Just what have I been doing with my time?

Yehuda

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Backlash Effect

A mere hours after Tom Vasel posts a message questioning the popularity of the Gipf series as compared to other abstracts, Rick Thornquist does the same in his weekly roundup, throwing off an insinuation that these games derive most of their popularity simply because Rio Grande Games published them.

I hereby announce the start of a new Backlash Effect on Gipf, an effect most recently visited upon Caylus by people who haven't even yet played the game. Expect a series of people to now denounce Gipf games as over-produced and over-hyped, and "not so special" when compare to lots of other abstract games. I have my own gripes about games that I have not enjoyed as much as I was "supposed to". I've made these feelings clear on this blog as I've played them. I was a victim of believing the precursor to the "Backlash Effect": the "Hype Effect".

I suggest that everyone try the following exercise: go to your games rating page on the Geek and click on the arrow that arranges them all by rating, from 10s down to 1s.

Now, I assume that your 10s are only the real all-time classics that you expect even your grandchildren to enjoy. And the 1s are only reserved for games that simply are not games, like "Bingo", as opposed to simply bad games, like "Candyland".

For the remainder of the games, those in the 2 through 9 range, check if all of your 9s are really more enticing to you than all of your 8s. Do the 9s all hold a similar level of appeal to you? Do the 8s? Now do the same for the 8s and 7s, and so on down the line.

Look at your list. Remember that most games have both good and bad aspects. The best games have a few faults, and (most of) the worst have a few saving graces. Maybe both sides of the coin are true, to a certain extent.

Yehuda

P.S. Edited to remove poorly worded sentences.

More on Search Engineering

It confuses me as to why my site doesn't appear anywhere near the top several hundred for search terms such as "board games israel", or "jerusalem games", or "strategy game blog", and so on. I've changed my HTML title, my blog title: no effect.

Maybe this will help: board games board games board games.

Instead, I get a rather interesting bunch of search engine hits for esoteric subjects that appear in my blog, such as ... well, I better not mention them here. A few hints: "F... F..." (the actress, twice), m*n*bl*gst*r (I don't think I ever used that word on my blog), something about a credit card company, and a bakery in Italy.

I dearly need a course in search engine optimization.

Meanwhile, using the last of the cash I had from my gaming group and sales at BGG.con, I bought two more games along with a larger game purchase from some of my game groupies. My games: Power Grid and Maharajah. Aside from the anomaly of Goa, I think they should fit well with our game group. Power Grid I already played and liked. Of course, Alhambra I had also played and liked and then discovered that I didn't really like it so much. Hopefully that won't happen with Power Grid.

I would really like Age of Steam, and could possibly be convinced to want Railroad Tycoon, but I'm not interested in buying any game over $30. The only exception I ever made was for a copy of Through the Desert when I had a bit more money and it was very rare - now it sells for $20. Ah, well.

Game store of choice: still Time Well Spent. Great prices, great service.

Yehuda

Monday, December 19, 2005

Quick Link

I haven't had much time to write today as I spent it writing my next article for Gone Gaming. But here is a quick link to a real news article that refers to an impressive list of both mainstream and specialty games.

By the way, it's not so hard to keep up to date with the mainstream press board game news. Just set up searches on Google and CNN for ("board game" OR "board games"). Nifty.

Yehuda

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Catalog of Absurd Future Copyrights and Patents

I think it is only fair to help those people who haven't jumped onto the bandwagon of destroying the world through intellectual property, by notifying them about the opportunities they have been missing.

Who doesn't want to make lots of money by patenting an obvious idea and then sitting back and raking in the money while watching the world decay into a legal morass, when the world governments are willing support you? As we bury the original idea for copyrights and patents - encouraging publishing and development - and promote the new one - discouraging publishing and development - here are some untapped areas that are just begging for IP fights:

Legal:

How about EULAs? Did you spend a lot of time writing a nifty new EULA, such as one that requires the user to erase all of his music from his desktop if he loses the CD (wasn't that the entire purpose of making a backup in the first place)? Copyright it! In fact, don't stop there - patent every clause. Surely no one else would have thought of adding those clauses to an EULA. Why let them - unless they pay you a fee?

While we're at it, why not all legal agreements? Why let other companies steal your nifty legalese? You worked hard and paid a lot of money for it. No one else should be allowed to hire people, rent houses, or merge companies using the same terms you used in your contract! Or derivatives, thereof.

In fact, let's go even further. We all know that government documents are not copyrightable, but that doesn't mean the government can copy your documents, does it? It's only a one way street. If you have passed laws in your company or community that prove to be effective, don't let the government pass the same laws without paying up. Patent them!

You can even do it before the laws come into effect. Are you a political party, tired of seeing others adopt your political platforms and then do better in the polls? Well, don't you deserve the right to control your own agenda and proposals? Patent these, too. Your solutions to health care and balancing the budget can then be yours forever; and you can refuse to let anyone use them unless you get elected! Victory!

Religion:

What goes for political platforms goes for religion. The Protestant movement could never have been founded if only the Catholic church had patented "worship of the divine being as mentioned in the bible". It certainly was non-obvious when it first started. You could also bring up a host of serious trademark issues: do you want those people claiming to speak in the name of your religion?

On a more local level, if you're a pulpit priest, why not patent your sermons? If you come up with a nifty way of linking two stories or presenting the word of God, don't let all those wannabes steal your ideas! Make them come to your church to hear it.

Family:

Naming your child something unusual, even if it is just an unusual first/middle name combination? Trademark that, too! As a bonus, this will save your child from any mistaken identity issues in the future.

But don't stop there: have you found an effective means of raising your children? Patent it! I'm pretty sure you won't find any prior art for it, and you want your kids to have every advantage they can, right?

Working World:

Think of the disciplines that still don't use IP to protect their rights:

Restaurants: Everyone else is stealing your recipes! Patent them! Don't let people eat your food and then make it in their own kitchen. That "discourages your incentive to publish"!

Architecture: Oops, too late for that.

Newscasters: Do you present global news, local news, weather, and local interest stories, in that order? That sounds creative. Better patent that, too, before someone else uses the formula. Don't forget to trademark your fancy phrases, like "Good evening, and drive safely". If you don't we may not be able to distinguish between you and some other channel's news service.

Novelists - Oops, too late for that.

Banking, Offices, Phone companies, and so on: Got a special way of giving good service? Patent that, too! We wouldn't want others to have good service; they may compete! Oh wait, Walmart already does that, too.

Teachers: curriculum, teaching hours, office hours, coffee breaks ... you name it! Patent the lot of it.

The rest:

We're only getting started. Why not patent war? Got a good military strategy? Don't let other countries go and use it for their own gains. Patent it, and then haul 'em into court. Why should anyone else be able to kill lots of people as easily as you can? Heck, if we patent "going to war for a specific reason", we may end up saving a lot of lives.

How about love? You want that moment to be special? Keep it that way for your natural lifespan, plus seventy years.

Politics. Religion. Why not sex? Got a new position that works for your? Patent it! Just make sure to investigate if there is any prior art.

Death! Don't let anyone just up and die the way you want to! Or did! You want some hack stealing your final thunder after you're gone? Don't wait until it's too late: bring out the patents!

Yehuda (TM, copyright, patent pending, and so forth (actually, creative commons))

Technorati tags: , ,

Weekend Gaming

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

I had played this once with my friend David. I played White and found it incredibly difficult to get anywhere. But, it was my first time. The game seemed like it still had potential, so I was hoping to play again.

I also introduced my brother Ben to the game at the game club, and he was so disgusted with the lack of symmetry and blind aspects to the game that he refused to play after one move.

This time I suggested it to my non-gamer neighbor whose family came for lunch. He has already played the Menorah Game and liked it, and I thought the association of this game with Lord of the Rings would appeal to him.

I played White again and won. Of course, this was his first time. He said it was OK, but not special. I kind of agree with him.

This looks like another victim of the overhype on BGG: "best two player game ever". No, it isn't. It is over too quickly, and it appears to be too slight a game to be that good. At least, from my limited experience.

I'm happy to play it a few more times. Here's hoping it will still be interesting after the tenth game.

Yehuda

Friday, December 16, 2005

Angst Post

The word "angst" is in my description of the blog (actually, my user description, but it serves the same purpose), so I have to write about it, sometimes.

Even though I started off my Gone Gaming posts with a message about "posting, and not letting fear get in the way", naturally I don't always follow that advice. It was advice for me, more than for anyone else. I'm still fearful; a holdover from the depression that hit me when I first got divorced.

It's partially because I've seen my blog grow a bit as time goes by (even though I sometimes think my only regular fan is Alfred, who often notices me in his Best of the Blogosphere posts - thank you, thank you!).

With a bigger blog, my head swelled into thinking that I could do something full-time in the game world - quit my job and blog for a living, or design games, or open a game store. Anything to get out of dealing with more difficult clients in my computer jobs (better to deal with difficult customers in the game world, right?). Of course, growth is relative - some of the Israeli blogs that I read get 1000 times the traffic that I do. If only all the blogs to which I linked would be kind enough to link back to me!

The truth is that this is a long process. My blog may have a few devoted readers, but a hundred hits a day is not going to make Google Ads profitable. I have designed a game and I'm working on others, but I am still months away from publishing it, if ever (although I've sold all of my prototypes). And I can't take off a year in order to get a game store off the ground.

In the meantime, the responsibilities of life go on. I'm luckier then many, I know. A good family, I have work, and a nice pastime. The Talmud calls a person rich if he is satisfied with what he has. That's not one of my successful attributes, yet, but I'm working on it.

Yehuda

P.S. I don't know if I'd call them "trademark", Alfred. Lots of other Geeks do a good job with them, too. For better or worse, here are mine, so far:

A Mad Game Club - Alice in Wonderland.
The Love Song of J Random Wargamer - T.S. Eliot
In Dallas, Tex, BGG.con - Samuel Talyor Coleridge
d6 or not d6 - Hamlet
Seafarers - Tennyson

I think that's it (?)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Tennyson would have played Seafarers

It little profits that a teenage kid,
By a still screen, through a barren game,
Connected through a rusty link, does click and kill
Faceless foes in a savage race,
To hoard, and sleep, and feed, and talk not once.
I cannot rest from people: I will meet them
Over a board: All games I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have played greatly, but with those
That loved me; not alone, decrepit on a chair,
Eyes and mouth agape, an equal stare
And none to hear: To become a name;
A screen-name pressing with a heavy thumb.
Much have I seen and known; boards of cities
And goods, climates, trades, auctions,
Myself not least, given to the game;
But face to face, battling with my peers,
Their warm brown hands and kindly smiles.
I am a part of all whom I have met;
Yet all meetings are an arch through which
Gleams that next game with other friends
For ever and forever when I play.
How dull it is to stare at shiny graphics,
To meet no other, speak nobody's name!
As though to breathe were life! Where the happy face
And all-familiar laughter, give and take,
Sharing drinks and food, talking into words,
Into that eternal silence, something more,
And not just pallor in a game; an evil thing
For kids to know nothing more of meetings,
Than the gray spurt of automatic gunfire
And blood falling like a sinking spirit,
And no real feeling for a human thought.

This is my son, my own head-banger,
To whom I hold affection and respect
Well-loved by me, if not his metal music -
Raucous so-called screechings filled with death,
Chaos, slaves, and kings; and he fancies himself such,
Intent to rule the world, subdue them all
And think no more of books and school and stuff
Wired up by ears, a banging gall
Of thrashing noise; and equally in his eyes
Gore and guts; and what has he gained in hours
From all this heap of electronic powers?

There lies the plug; pull it off the wall:
Open your eyes and see. My players,
Friends and companions, who have played a game with me
And ever on a friendly game night built
Towers and kingdoms in our imagination
But for freedom, not to conquer--he is not too young
To learn to talk to others at the table
Death closes all: but something else may yet be played
And enjoyed, other than brutal slaying,
Unbecoming of men that strive with God.
The lights no longer twinkle on the screen
The power turned off; the phone unhooked: the deep
Moans of many children bored. Come, my kids,
'T is not too late to learn a newer world.
Turn off, and meet over a board,
And meet new people; for my purpose holds
To play beyond the network, always learning
In the comfort of my company, until I die.
It may be that some games will be worthless;
It may be that we play the holy grail
And find hours of joyful entertainment,
Though much is old fashioned, much is new; and though
We play not now with video processed-driven battles
Computing earth and heaven, what we play, we play;
Many tempered hearts and hands together,
Made slow by taking turns, but strong in fun
To touch, to talk, to think, and not to drool.

Yehuda

Session Report Up

Games played: The Menorah Game, Modern Art, Primordial Soup, Tikal, San Juan, Yinsh.

Yehuda

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Googling

board game OR board games: 1,990,000
computer game OR computer games: 2,200,000
video game OR video games: 9,750,000

monopoly: 25,100,000 (monopoly + game: 7,200,000)
settlers of catan: 893,000

I love Monopoly: 1,780
I like Monopoly: 1,520
I don't like Monopoly: 348
I hate Monopoly: 576

I love Settlers of Catan: 177
I like Settlers of Catan: 205
I don't like Settlers of Catan: 4
I hate Settlers of Catan: 7

I play board games: 793
I play computer games: 15,900
I play video games: 41,100
I play games: 147,000

I play monopoly: 554
I play settlers of catan: 100

computer games are good: 928
computer games are bad: 417

video games are good: 10,800
video games are bad: 13,800

board games are good: 245
board games are bad: 3

monopoly is good: 864
monopoly is bad: 642

settlers of catan is good: 140
settlers of catan is bad: 1

halo/halo2 is my favorite game: 990/361=1351
scrabble is my favorite board game/game: 627/99=726
risk is my favorite board game/game: 103/140=243
chess is my favorite board game/game: 48/136=184
monopoly is my favorite board game/game: 38/110=148
trivial pursuit is my favorite board game/game: 26/41=67
go is my favorite board game/game: 9/55=66
diplomacy is my favorite board game/game: 7/3=10
settlers of catan is my favorite board game/game: 4/4=8

Memoir '44 is not a simulation: 16
Memoir '44 is a simulation: 15

How to cheat + board games: 787
How to cheat + computer games: 30,700
How to cheat + video games: 62,600

I always lose + board games: 504
I always win + board games: 1,420
I hate losing + board games: 376

i always win + computer games: 2,030
i always lose + computer games: 1,530
I hate losing + computer games: 565

i always win + video games: 1,910
i always lose + video games: 1,890
I hate losing + video games: 893

i always win + monopoly: 1,010
i always lose + monopoly: 698

i always win + settlers of catan: 213
i always lose + settlers of catan: 179

board games + better than sex: 18,900
computer games + better than sex: 10,300
video games + better than sex: 30,800

I'd rather be playing + board game: 534
I'd rather be playing + computer game: 430
I'd rather be playing + video game: 536

monopoly + good gift: 647
settlers of catan + good gift: 278

board game + good gift: 1,010
computer game + good gift: 488
video game + good gift: 936

Yehuda (1,620,000; Yehuda Berlinger: 876)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Old friends

After making contact with my favorite Israeli blogger, David Bogner, aka Treppenwitz, it turns out that his wife is an old friend of mine from college (she's not old; I just haven't spoken to her in about ten years or so).

What a weird coincidence. What a small Jewish world.

Then I noticed that the other Jewish blog I really liked (aside from Jewlicious), Israelity, has as contributors both David and another old friend of mine: Rachel Jaskow, who has her own blog, Elms in the Yard.

Yehuda

Monday, December 12, 2005

Tech blogs that I read

Organized by subject:

News:
BBC Tech News
CNET news
Digital Tech News
NYT Tech
Wired
The Register

Blogging and Branding:
Church of the Customer
The Long Tail
Many to Many
Duct Tape Marketing
Digital Rules
Get Real
Creating Passionate Users
Moore's Law
Performancing
Gaping Void

Internet Information:
Pew Internet and American Life Project
Techdirt
Slashdot

Patents and Copyrights:
Copyfight
Infothought
bIPlog
LawMeme
RIAA vs the People

Other Tech Ethics:
Freedom to Tinker
EFF Breaking News
EFF Deep Links
Don't Be Evil

Suggestions are welcome ....

Yehuda

The PR Massacre

Well, not really. But my wife beat me in two games of 2-player Puerto Rico. It was an interesting set of buildings:

Assembly Line 1/1: All production buildings can hold additional colonist.

Small Fashion District 2/1: Trade indigo at +2.

Forest House 2/1: You can take forests. -1/2/3 ... building cost for 1/3/5 ... forests. Forests don't need colonists.

Small Warehouse 3/1: standard.

Guest House 4/2 (2 circles): Move colonists off of Guest House onto other buildings at any time.

Irrigation 5/2: Produce an extra barrel. [Note: this usually costs 4/2, but I thought it might be too strong. Nope. 4/2 is the right cost.]

Large Market 5/2: Trade at +2.

Beachfront 6/2: You can take forests. You have a wharf with capacity equal to the number of forests that you have. Forests don't need colonists.

Factory 7/3: standard.

Large General Workhouse 8/3 (2 circles): Each circle counts as production when paired with any manned plantation. Decide each time you produce.

Large Business 8/3: Pay 1 less for any building. +1 VP if you ship any goods. [i.e. Builder and Captain privileges.]

Private Boat 9/3: Ship any three additional barrels of any type, as wharf.

Cathedral 10/4: +1 VP/3 red building VPs.

Fairgrounds 10/4: +0/1/2/3/5/7/9 VP for having 1/2/3/4/5/6/7 different types of plantations.

Fortress 10/4: standard.

Customs House 10/4: standard.

City Hall 10/4: standard.

As you can see from the above, the forest strategy is an interesting new stategic addition to the normal buildings. Large Business is a better building than Harbor in a 2 or 3 player game (we play 2 player: 3 ships, 6 roles, 3 roles/round, 50 VPs, 37 colonists, -2 barrels, 1 GP/player at start). LGW is a little powerful, but not overly so, even in combination with Factory. Fairgrounds was also a little strong; usually it caps at +7, but with forests in the game, you could get to +9.

In the first game, Rachel started off with the Forest House. I perversley decided to take the Beachfront. I never used the wharf capability, but seeing as she was corn player, it seemed like a good idea. She ended up getting Factory and then Fairgrounds, while I had Large Business. She eked me in shipping and bonus building points.

In the second game, she started as corn again. This time I started with Forest House and eventually took Beachfront as well. I even had a quarry and three large buldings, but it wasn't enough to compete with her corn advantage, Large Business, and Factory.

This corn advantage seems to be a problem. I'm considering changing to sugar/indigo instead of indigo/corn for starting positions. Has anyone ever tried that?

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In other gaming news, I received some helpful feedback on my game. It seems few people like the Menorah theme. Oh well. I have been spending time cutting up the last prototypes in preparation for mailing.

Now I get to start making new ones with a different theme.

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Oh, and I'm finally adding some of my session reports to the Geek.

Yehuda

Sunday, December 11, 2005

First prototypes all sold

Sorry for anyone that didn't get any from the first batch of prototypes. That's twenty copies sold, and ten either kept or given to publishers/family. The last set was sold to three people who saw someone else who was playing a copy. Viral networking at it's best

If you still want it, I can make you custom copies with a different theme or the same theme. It will still only be bristol paper (300 gram). For those who don't know, this is a set-collection/auction game for 2-4 players ages 8 and up which can be learned in 5 minutes and plays in 20 minutes. I can send you the rules, if you like. If you want to make your own copy, we'll call it shareware: send me $5 (or not, as you like) and go ahead.

Like the guy selling wine through Gaping Void, this could be the first strategy game that sells through viral blog marketing. And Coldfoot, you still owe me a review :-).

Should I send one to Tom?

Yehuda

Update: my email is shadejon at gmail.

Update: the game costs $12, including mailing to anywhere in the world.

JIB Awards

Ooh, maybe this year I'll submit something for the JIB awards (Jewish and Israeli bloggers). Typical winners seem to be people who post about Israel or Judaism, not simply Israelis or Jews who happen to blog, so I don't have many expectations.

Still, it would be cool to compete. Right now, I'm trying to figure out how to get my site listed, at all. There are no links on the announcement.

Yehuda

Weekend Gaming

A quickie, because it's late.

Friday night I convinced my parents, children, and wife to play For Sale. Once again, I discovered a rule mistake that I had made: I had been discarding half the value of the bid, not quote half the number of chips used to bid unquote. I like the game a little better this way. I still don't really like the blind bidding during the second half of the game, because it is so, well, blind; even though I like blind bidding in other games, where that bidding does not so directly determine the game.

Still, the game is sweet, easy to teach, and a nice intro to gaming for people like my parents. Tal, the youngest present, won the game, closely followed by Rachel and myself.

Saturday we had a family with children over, whom I had to constantly keep away from my games collection, as they kept assuming that it was for kids to paw through, dump open and step on ... like all other games, after all. I tried foisting them off with the chess set, Othello, and so on, but I had to keep vigilant watch. I ended up teaching them China Moon, which went over pretty well, despite having to recollect the frogs and chips after they were thrown across the room by the loser.

Also played Havoc with my two kids. Nice game. Saarya won, Tal second, I lost.

Tal then played and lost three abstracts with my other son, Eitan, who doesn't play games, except computer games: Checkers, Chinese Checkers (corner to corner on the Checkers board, actually), and Yinsh.

Yehuda

Friday, December 09, 2005

More on the excrutianing subject of my game, and when is he going to come out with another one?

Speaking of theme, I came up with a new theme for my game. If you have bought my prototype, try the following theme out (and also, if you have bought my prototype, or I if I gave you a copy, feedback would be welcome):

Each player is a Sorcerer whose master sent him out to collect eight different demons, four types of lesser demons and four types of greater demons. Each Sorcerer has two spells: Capture and Banish.

When he finds a demon, he can choose to Capture or Banish the demon. If he banishes the demon, he gains in sorcerer power. If he Captures the demon, he spends sorcerer power. If he tries to capture the demon with less sorcerer power than the demon would usually require, the other players have a chance to steal the demon from him by paying more than him, and if one of them does, he gains the power that they spent, but they get the demon.

And so on for the other rules. What do you think? Better than the Hanukkah theme?

With this theme, and some pretty graphics, maybe Fantasy Flight would be interested?

Yehuda

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Waking Life

Waking Life was the movie that I chose after Rachel said that we needed to watch a movie, one of the two movies (found in a discount bin) that I brought it home from America.

The other movie, Logan's Run I remembered with some nostalgia, but I was also prepared for it to be a little hokey. Oh ... My ... God, was it bad. I'm willing to forget bad special effects. But c'mon. By the mid 1970s we already knew what acting was, didn't we? Everyone in the movie, aside from Peter Ustinov, is truly terrible (Farrah Fawset!). On top of that, the plot was truly terrible, as huge portions of it made no sense from scene to scene. On top of that, the screenplay was truly terrible, with line after line of bad dialog. Ugh. I hate it when fond memories of childhood are sullied by looking back at them through the lens of a mature reality.

Waking Life was better. Much better. I won't say it was a great movie, but it was a very good try. First of all, the animation was kick-you-out-of-this-world phenomenal. Richard Linklater and his team of animators not only produced the most "film-like" animated movie that I have ever seen, but they did it in a wild assortment of styles, sometimes switching back and forth in the middle of scenes. I have never seen animation used this way, and it is truly something to see. Not to mention that some of it is simply breathtakingly beautiful and artistic.

As an example, he captures the characters and expressions of a group of violin players with such taste and accuracy, yet with a subdued sense of simplicity, that I can't recall ever seeing more full-fleshed and lively musicians, even live.

As far as the actual contents, it is different, and for me, that means GREAT. Now, I have to say fairly enough, that the screenplay for the movie doesn't really work. The basic idea is: a guy can't tell if he is dreaming or awake, and he travels around hearing random people express their ideas about life, dreams and consciousness. That's it. Unfortunately, a whole lot of it is pretty amateur and ridiculous philosophy. I think there may be thousands of college students on drugs who will find this deep, but, for the most part, it wasn't. With the exception of the final narrative about Phillip Dick which ends the movie, and was well done and thoughtful.

But, to echo the sentiments of Robert Heinlein, even a badly done DIFFERENT movie is better for the world than a whole shelf full of well done Hollywood formulaic crap. Please! Dare to be different, even if you only partially succeed. The world needs the inspiration, because it sure isn't succeeding by doing the same things over again, but this time "more of it".

Oh, and as a bonus, I loved the scene with my favorite characters from Before Sunrise ("Oh it's so French. It's so cute. Ugh! I hate that!") and Before Sunset ("Baby, you are gonna miss that plane.").

Shamelessly Tooting My Horn

(Written in order to cheer myself up)

My brother called me with his and his children's assessment of last Saturday night's gaming.

They thought St Pete was deeply flawed. The mechanics seemed ok, but the blue cards were not worth anything, the luck of the draw and too powerful cards swung the game, and the game was too short. They suggested doubling the value of blue buildings, eliminating some cards, and finding a way to make the game longer.

They thought Torres was ok and would like to try again, but they suspected that the game will tend to drag as people think about what to do (this was their first experience with an "action point" game).

The game they liked most was my Menorah game; they said it was short, easy to teach, but still involved some nice thought. However, they had some suggestions: the person who ends up getting a lot of low cards has a strong chance of winning, which is too luck driven - maybe I can change the card distribution to a bell curve? Also that they don't see that people will buy cards from the discard pile often. Also that maybe the soldiers could all be valued 6 but can be used to draw any card from a discard pile (i.e. even a higher valued one). And wouldn't it be nice to combine cards so that you don't end up buying useless cards.

As for his first complaint, the simple answer is to play with the advanced scoring rules. As for the last complaint, I pointed out that the possibility of useless cards is one of the central mechanisms to the decision making process in a good auction and changing that would wreck the game. As for the others, I'm willing to let him try them out and report back to me ;-) .

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FWIW, I'm still number one on PR game.com (formerly www.puertoricogame.net). If I don't play any more games, I may stay there for a while, but others are creeping up in ratings and likely to overtake me soon enough.

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Hey, you! I would be much obliged if all those of you to whom I link would be kind enough to link back to me, assuming you like my blog. We love eyeballs.

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"Hey, Jon. Let's watch a movie."

Time to go ...

Yehuda

Session Report Up

Games played: Dvonn, Lo Ra (Ra), Havoc, Puerto Rico, Alhambra.

Yehuda

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My ABC's

I haven't played enough games to make a top 100 list like everyone else; if I did, the last fifty or so would already be hitting the mediocre games.

I can come close to making my ABC list, however:




Non-alphabetic
4000 A.D.: I already covered this one in an earlier post.

Runner up: none worth recommending.

A
Age of Steam: Played only once. I like a good train game, so long as the pick up and deliver mechanism is at least as important as the stock holding mechanism.

Runner ups: Anagrams and Amun Re

B
Bridge: The acme of card games, but likely to make you feel stupid.

Runner up: Boggle

C
Cosmic Encounter: Mayfair or Eon editions. 30 years old and still delightful, as long as your edition has at least 75 alien races and flares.

Runner up: Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers

D
Dvonn: A deceptively chaotic abstract from the GIPF series, gets better each time I play.

Runner up: Die Macher

E
Euphrat & Tigris: Awesome game, and classic Knizia.

Runner up: El Grande

F
None worth recommending.

G
Go: 4000 years of gameplay. Like bridge, can make you feel stupid, but comes with a built-in handicap system so that any two people can play, regardless of their skill level.

Runner up: Geschenkt

H
Hearts: Works best as a partnership game, and can be very tense.

Runner up: Havoc: the Hundred Years War

I
None worth recommending.

J
None worth recommending.

K
None worth recommending.

L
Louis XIV: A nice area control game from Alea.

Runner up: none worth recommending.

M
Magic: the Gathering: Since I NEVER played in a tournament, the "money drain" doesn't affect me. As a card-drafting/deck-building/dueling game it is excellent.

Runner up: Modern Art

N
None worth recommending.

O
Othello: I would like to try this on a larger board, say 12 x 12.

Runner up: Oh Hell

P
Puerto Rico: You've heard enough about this on my blog, already. The tortuously controlled picking order is pure genius.

Runner ups: Princes of Florence and Power Grid

Q
None worth recommending.

R
Robo Rally: Belongs to the same category of loopiness and tactics as Cosmic Encounter. Only, can be too long.

Runner up: Ra

S
Settlers of Catan: Still great after 1000 plays, and still hooking in the newbies.

Runner ups: San Juan and Scrabble

T
Taj Mahal: Very tense game of connections, collections, and losing battles. Play with evenly matched players.

Runner ups: Tikal and Torres

U
None worth recommending.

V
None worth recommending.

W
Wallenstein: The closest I will ever get to liking a war game.

Web of Power

X
None worth recommending.

Y
Yinsh: Excellent GIPF game, like Othello crossed with Pente, but better than both.

Runner up: none worth recommending.

Z
None worth recommending.




16 out of 26 letters. There are games on my want list that would allow me to replace a few of those "None worth recommending."'s, but alas, I haven't yet played them. For instance, Ursuppe is still unplayed on my shelf (although now it is called Primordial Soup). Some day.

Yehuda

It's that time of year ...

... when all the little gamers who don't live in game store friendly countries wonder how they are going to get games from these countries in time for "the holidays". The smart ones ordered three months ago and had the games sent surface mail. I, having just picked up a slew of games at BGG.con, decided to forgo ordering any more games.

I forgot that all of my friends and relations were counting on me to do this so that we could combine the order and save shipping costs. Actually, I did bring a few games back for some people, but not enough.

Now I'm racing against time to find some games to ship to some people who may be coming to Israel, and will they bring them for us? How many can they carry? How many is too many to ask them to carry?

We are looking for: Power Grid, Louis XIV, Torres, Risk Godstorm, Puerto Rico + expansion, Cities & Knights of Catan, Seafarers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Runebound: second edition. And that's just for a start.

Big news: if you're a game company, I'll put an ad for your site on the side of my blog for two months if you send me one of these games, or any game on my want list, or, in fact, any game at all. Everyone has a price at which they will sell out, and mine is shockingly low.

I also still have a few copies of the prototypes of The Hanukkah Game left. The best Hanukkah game, ever. Actually, let's face it - the ONLY good Hanukkah game, ever.

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Tonight: Game night at the JSGC! More new people expected to come.

Yehuda

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

And I promised not to turn this blog into a bunch of link posts

But in case anyone ever wanted to know why I don't post about Israel politics, news, etc on this blog, here's why. And in case anyone wanted to know why I link to treppenwitz, here's why.

Yehuda

As long as we're linking 2

Having posted my initial As long as we're linking a scant two weeks ago, I already have a number of changes to make to the list.

You know that after posting a list of something that you will find a whole lot more of it right afterwards. This usually happens because other people point out all the stuff you missed the first time, such as this post by Coldfoot.

First off, goodbye to all GameWire links, as well as the old Dice Tower link. These have been replaced with the link to Rick Thornquist's new game site: Board Game News. It is already one of the best sites for games on the Internet, and will stay that way as long as Rick and company can continue to make it happen. It also includes all of the Dice Towers, as well as the continuation of my favorite humor series on board games, Misadventures in Boardgames by Dan Bosley.

I also added the following sites:

Board Game Madness - Todd D, another Texas blog from Houston.

Game Guts - Inside Hobby Gaming - Adam Conus, Washington (the state, not the district). Formerly of Wizards of the Coast, now "Organized Play Manager" for Hidden City Games.

The Game Shelf - Doctor J in Canada. He started the blog, but hasn't posted anything since mid-November. Also, being a Microsoft site, you have to be a Passport victimmember to post comments.

GamerDad Unplugged - Dr. Matt J. Carlson, California. The board game podcast companion to a computer game site. I haven't listened to this, yet.

RPGnet Reviews - Various reviews of gaming products, mainly RPGs, of course. Tom Vasel, Shannon Appelcline, and others.

San Antonio Board Gamers - Another multi-blogger blog.

Steve's HFoG Blog - Steve Blanding, Washington (state). Blog is hosted on Bloglines, which doesn't seem to allow comments.

Yehuda

Monday, December 05, 2005

Naphtali Berlinger


My great-grandfather. Rabbi and teacher in Buttenhausen, southern Germany, and for all children in a thirty mile radius thereof. Died in Theresienstadt in 1943.

As did most of his children and family and the entire town of Buttenhausen.

His son, Jacob, managed to get to England with my grandmother Martha, my father Eli, and aunt Hannah in June, 1939, by leaving almost everything. My aunt Hannah was born the day they were supposed to leave (April 1939), but they managed to get another chance. Jacob was interred as a P.O.W. in England for 2 years before being allowed to reach New York. My father was 2 when he came to England and 4 before he saw his father again. They would have gone to Palestine except that Palestine (read: the British) wouldn't let them in. The U.S. wouldn't have let them in either except that my great-aunt Grete was their "sponsor".

My aunt Hannah finally moved to Israel in 1976 along with her entire family. My brother David came in 1986, my brother Ben and I came in 1991. My father and mother came in 1995.

Yehuda