Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Designer pages on BGG

Gosh, with the new designer pages on BGG, there is now an entire page devoted to me. Of course, you may be more interested in this one.

Funny, it lists forums about my game, but not The Menorah Game itself.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Weekend Gaming

My daughter taught her cousin and friends how to play Apples to Apples. I joined for a while, but it tends to get repetitive. OK, it was amusing that one of them was tipsy and couldn't stop giggling. They, on the other hand, can play this for hours without getting bored.

She also played Set. I looked on during the first game. Unlike some, I can actually keep my mouth closed while others are playing Set. This wasn't good enough, because my daughter could still tell by my eyes when I found a Set, and this bothered her. I was impressed with her friend's Set finding ability, so I joined the second game and won by a small margin. This was the closest game I'd played in a long time.

Am I bragging? No, not really. Set hits people in a particular area of the brain, and you have it or you don't. There's plenty of other things where I don't; this one I do. Actually, you can probably learn to get better at it if you really care. I'm sure there are plenty of others who could beat me.

Parents who can play well and refuse to "play badly" need to choose the right games to play with their children, so that the kids have a chance of winning once in a while. As the kids improve, the games improve.

Eventually, if they are not spoiled and have not given up playing games because they don't always win, they will start beating you, even at the harder games. This usually happens somewhere in their teens. It's partly due to their having grown up, maybe a little due to you slowing down. But it's fine and good.

Of course, then you have to move to games where you have a chance of winning once in a while.


Friday, February 24, 2006


My daughter tells me that her cousins who are visiting for the weekend "know how to play Settlers". I'm ready for anything.

Meanwhile, here's the top ten "games" over the course of my life, in no particular order:

1. AD&D, 1st edition
A. Magic the Gathering
a. Puerto Rico
i. Cosmic Encounter
I. Soccer
01. Ultimate Flying Disk (Frisbee)
one. Dungeo (Zork's predecessor)
One. Nethack
Alpha. Bridge
Aleph. Settlers of Catan

Wish I could add Go, but I haven't played it enough, yet.

See you on the other side of shabbat.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Session Report

Games played: AD&D 2nd edition, San Marco.

It's really long, and probably full of spelling mistakes, but it's up. It's mostly a role playing adventure, but board gamers will probably enjoy it.


Also, here's another shout out for the excellent Treppenwitz. Do read.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Havoc with Tal

Tal does cause havoc, but we're talking about the two-player game of Havoc by Sunriver Games.

I haven't played this in a while. It's not a top tier game, but it's also better than many second tier games. Maybe it's the perceived amount of luck, strange mechanics compared to the theme, I don't know. It's still a pretty good game.

The game is a little long for a straight filler, but that can be rectified by removing one or two battles from the game. It's not that long, however. Tal and I played the full set in about 50 minutes.

I pulled ahead early by taking the first three battles, while Tal spent her time trying to pull certain cards to make perfect straight flushes and sets of numbers. Apparently this was the right choice, as she took all but two of the remaining battles, and one of those two was removed from the game, unfought.

After round seven I was 3 points behind. The last two battles are six points each (swing), so I had to win both and she only had to win one. She won the last battle with her perfect straight card flush up to the 8 in green, beating my five 1's.


As Long As We're Linking 7

See As Long As We're Linking 6 for more details.

Note that several of the sites in previous ALAWL lists have been, or are in danger of being, removed from my blogroll, as they haven't updated their site in way too long. Also, some of the sites I add are new sites that pop up for one or two posts and then disappear. Get with the program, people.

Also, if you change your feed URL, please notify people on the old feed URL (Critical Gamers, this means you).

In addition to the sites I list here, there are other sites: sites that don't update, sites that have board game content very infrequently and provide no way to RSS by category, promotional sites (blogs containing no information other than new games received in the store), and many sites that deal primarily with war games, classic board games (chess, poker, backgammon, go, and so on), other games, and so forth.

Here's the new sites:

BoardgameCafe.net Community: Session Reports by various people on the BoardgameCafe site. They have a blog feed, too, but no bloggers.

The Games Journal: Greg's posting some article odds and ends as he receives them on The Games Journal site. May be very infrequent.

Have Games Will Travel: I listed the blog by Paul last time, but neglected to add the feed for his game podcast.

Karl CA Wilde: Blackpool, UK. Session reports. Suggest that you set your feed for articles from the board game category only.

Meeple Monologues: Gone Gaming's own sodaklady from South Dakota.

Petworth Game Night: Brian, Washington D.C. A little sparse, but still hoping.

Truth & Strategy: Lance Roberts, Fairbanks, Alaska. From Coldfoot's hometown.


Update: Added 'Peg City Gamers, a blog by Ryan Walberg and others in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Colloquialisms on the Air

I'm not interested in mentioning by name that radio station again, but I heard what I thought were some interesting colloquialisms on the air this morning on the way into work.

The subject: the Darfur conflict, a subject that deserves ten times the media attention that Israel gets, let alone that it has been getting.


The first was something by the correspondent in the field, in response to an on-air correspondent's pointed question:

waka waka blah blah. That's the rub[on-air correspondent's name], blah blah ...

"That's the rub"? Since when did the word "rub" enter into the dictionary as synonymous with "main issue"? I though Shakespeare made it up.

*Type* *Type*

Ah, here it is. According to The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms, "the rub" means "the difficulty":

This expression may come from lawn bowling, where rub refers to an unevenness in the ground that impedes the ball.



The next was from a different correspondent:

waka waka blah blah. Touch wood, they hope to blah blah.

"Touch wood"? Is that like "knock on wood"? Of course, "wood" must refer to "cross". In Yiddish that would be "pooh pooh pooh", the symbolic spitting sounds used to ward off the evil eye.

*Type* *Type*

Dictionary.com does it again, this time by means of Webster's New Millennium™ Dictionary of English. It indeed is meant to ward off evil spirits. Since when do on-air correspondents use idioms like that?


The last one, again by the first correspondent:

waka waka blah blah. The refugees are hemorrhaging across the border into blah blah.

Yikes. An appropriate idiom, indeed.

Too bad I couldn't write while I was driving. I didn't realize the radio people were so idiomatic (1) (2).


(1) In it's third sense here.

(2) Something similar to "idiomatic" I already realized.

Monday, February 20, 2006


I feel like someone should be calling gotcha on DW's latest article. C'mon guys: It's the king of ranters ranting about people who rant. Get it?

I received an email today from a Helena Kling of The Educational Centre for Games in Israel (or possibly The Heritage Centre for Games and Toys in Israel). They are based in Tel Aviv. It is some organization that has been promoting games and toys in Israel for 25 years. Strange that I haven't heard of it.

One of the reasons must be that the focus has been on "games and toys" and the implicit understanding of the foundation that assumes interest only from children and grandparents. The only games they know appear to be typical games from Kodkod (the only large Israeli games producer, makers of Rummikub) and classic pre-1970 games. Also, Helena only speaks English, which must be a problem. I speak Hebrew poorly and it is a barrier for me in reaching out to Hebrew speakers.

They appear to be underfunded, so I can't say I blame them too much. In any case, I know that Gilad, who is trying to start a Board Gaming organization in Israel (Hebrew speaking), is looking for a place to play in Tel Aviv, and Helena sounded enthusiastic about hosting his group, so maybe the connection will work out.

In other news, I bought a used copy of Queries and Theories from someone on the Jerusalem mailing list. It is an old game about logic and natural language. Some of you computer geeks may remember that languages are formed by sentences (such as A, PQ, and ABG) and rules (such as P -> BA). In the preceding example, we know that BAQ is a legal sentence in the language because it can be formed by some combination of the sentences and the rules.

You are supposed to guess the language; that's all I know so far. The game consists of a bunch of colored chips, a mat, and a 50 page rulebook in itsy print. I suspect that this rulebook could probably be rewritten as 8 colored glossy pages with pictures, but I wouldn't complain about the rules with DW around to scold me. Hee hee.

I think my son Saarya might enjoy playing it, as he is learning logic and computers in his ninth grade science high school class, and he likes games.

I also got the first three books of Pratchett's Diskworld series in pristine condition. The person selling me the game was getting rid of them, so I bought them, too. If you want them, make me an offer.


50 steps to a healthy gaming life

Inspired by this post by Better Me, I decided to make a checklist for healthy board gaming ...

By a "healthy gaming life", I don't mean just "a healthy life", or a "gaming life", but a synergy of both. Therefore, a certain amount of obsession is implied. A life full of gaming that is also still healthy. If this is not your intent, then the list doesn't apply to you. See the comments for more details.

Your stuff:
  • I am aware of all of the games that I own.
  • I have played all of the games that I own.
  • I don't own any games that I have no realistic plan on playing in the future. I don't own any games just for nostalgia. All of my games are fun to play, right now.
  • I own or have easy access to all of the games that I like to play.
  • My games are kept in a safe and dry location, in an organized manner.
  • All of my games have all of their pieces. None of the cards or pieces are marked or broken.
  • All of the components to my games are in their right location, and are not mixed with other games or under the couch.
  • All items in my games work properly, such as spinners or towers.
  • All of the boxes to my games are intact and sturdy.
  • All of my games contain rules in my native language or a language I can read easily.
  • I do not play with games if the parts were acquired by means of copyright violations.
  • I put away one game before taking out another, unless many people are over and playing simultaneously, or unless I have a designated area to store a long game such as a monster war-game.
  • My game collection is not obtrusive, and does not interfere with the functions of the house or the room in which they are stored.
  • I have a well-lit, uncluttered, and healthy place to play games. This place has access to fresh air, natural light, and a bathroom with a sink.
  • I have enough chairs for all players, and these chairs are comfortable.
Your self:
  • I don't overindulge in caffeine or sugar.
  • I exercise a few times every week and I don't watch much television.
  • Games do not take up more than 1/3 of my waking hours, unless I am involved with them professionally.
  • I read or write general articles about tech, math, or game strategy, as well as about games that I play.
  • I can effectively teach all games that I play.
  • I make a reasonable effort to win games while I'm playing them. If I'm playing with children or sensitive people, I still try to win, but I give advise to help them as well.
  • I really don't mind losing, since I find the game enjoyable for the experience.
  • I am a good winner, because I don't think that any of my opponent's are inherently incapable of doing whatever I did to win; it just clicked. I make other people feel good about specific plays that they did after the game, or I point out how the loss wasn't really under their control due to some random event, when appropriate. And I mean it.
  • I never cheat, and if I gain inadvertent information, I either don't use it or I disclose the fact to my opponents.
  • I never play with an agenda in mind. I don't try to humiliate my opponents. I don't carry grudges. I play for the shared enjoyable experience with my opponents, aware that both/all of us have to work together to achieve it.
  • I don't whine or use other means of coercion during game play.
  • I do not argue about rules during the game. I assume a ruling is unfavorable to my position before asking a question about rules.
  • I assume that actions are not permitted unless otherwise specified.
  • I do not favor an opponent when I can't win. I have a kingmaking code to which I follow in this situation (pick one or more:play for placing; play for max points; play for min point differential with leader; play for sub-goal; try a wild strategy that has at least some possibility of success; passively try not to affect the outcome and wait for the next game).
  • I play reasonably quickly, think only as long as acceptable given the spirit of the game, and do not hurry others to make their moves.
  • I maintain a record of my games and seek to improve my play in these games.
  • I am open to playing both games that I have already played and new games.
You and others:
  • I share my love for boardgaming with other people.
  • I play with my spouse or significant other.
  • I play with my children or parents.
  • At least some of my friends play games with me.
  • I do not use games as an excuse to cause distance between me and anyone else.
  • I do not play or suggest playing games when it will cause a fight of any sort.
  • I belong to and regularly attend a weekly game group.
  • I contribute to the game group more than just my attendance, such as organization, snacks, games, recording sessions, and/or cleaning up.
  • I ensure that all players feel welcome where I play, and I don't only talk to my close friends.
  • I give minimal strategy advice to new players, and otherwise only when asked. I never give misleading advice.
  • I politely decline to play games in which I am not interested.
  • I politely request to play games in which I am interested, unless I already know that other players don't want to play them.
  • I do not quit games in which I am losing, except for two player games where I politely offer to resign, but will continue if I think my opponent doesn't want me to.
  • I do not request takebacks that annoy other people. I let others take back their moves whenever possible so as to ensure they continue to enjoy the game.
  • I maintain a clean and healthy body and ensure that other players are not offended by my personal grooming or manners.
  • I am equally respectful to all people at a club, regardless of sex, race, age, or physical disability.
  • I prefer not to play than to get into an argument.
  • I do not gossip about other players or ridicule moves made by other people, even when they are not present.
Your initial score:

Score yourself again in two months and every six months.

Happy Gaming,

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Anti-climactic Game Endings

This is what happens when you track too many blogs. Someone started a discussion about board games that peter out with anti-climactic endings, but I can't remember who. I search back a week in bloglines to no avail.

Anyhoo, I just wanted to add a confirmation of this phenomenon. Lately, even some excellent games seem to end with a dawning slow realization that the game is over slightly before it should be.


Power Grid. It comes down to some positioning that happens a few rounds before the last. Even if you don't realize this until the last round, once the person with the most plant capacity has built an equivalent amount of cities, everyone else just tosses their cards in without finishing the round. Bleah.

Maharaja. Similar situation. Someone pulls ahead in palaces and then the last three rounds are useless attempts to catch up, since the leader probably has enough money already to drop the last palaces, and it is really difficult to stop this. Again, cards are figuratively tossed in at the beginning of the last round, rather than finishing out the round.

Taj Mahal. Another major offender in runaway leader, if the lead is far enough.

In extreme cases of Settlers of Catan this can also happen, but generally speaking with enough lucky dice and a trade embargo it always remains possible to catch up. In Puerto Rico, you may know that you've lost, but the two leading players almost never know who has won.

So what is wrong here? What is the pattern?

In Power Grid, it's that there is no hidden scoring. In Maharaja, not only is there no hidden scoring, the victory condition is just too easy to fulfill once you are leading. In Taj, it's that there are not enough points to earn each round, even with the hand points (a poor attempt to add hidden points to the game, in my opinion).

There's no pattern. It's just a slight negative feature of otherwise great games. You would think that they could have gone back to the drawing board and added something to fix this, but either it didn't matter enough to them to fix, or they didn't consider it a problem.

Whatever it is, now that it has been pointed out, it bothers me. Don't you hate when that happens?


More on Linkposts

I tend to avoid a lot of the "best" blogs because they are filled with a whole lot of posts that are just links to other blogs (I call these "Linkpost" blogs). It's information overload and most of the information is highly time-wasting and irrelevant.

With their emphasis on traffic and the "wow-factor", it can feel a whole lot like hype. "This is cool! And so is this!" over and over. Like staring at an infomercial for too long, until you begin to realize that there's nothing behind the smoke and mirrors.

Occasionally something cool does pop up. Unfortunately, what each person considers "cool" is so widely varied that any attempt to consolidate it is doomed to failure.

Linkpost sites are no more than collections of what one person, or a few people, think is cool on other sites. I don't consider all the stuff in Boing Boing or Engadget cool; just a fraction of it, about the same amount I consider cool when I read the original sites themselves. What you need is a list of what is REALLY cool in all of these cool linkpost sites.

I'm sure you realize where this is heading. I make a list of what I think is cool from all of these sites. So do a hundred other people. Nobody agrees exactly with what one particular person finds cool, so after reading all of the summaries someone condenses all of the summaries, and so on.

All you can really do is flock around people whose ideas of cool match yours to a slightly higher percentage than what is typical.

Aside from game sites, one linkpost site that hits cool for me is Techdirt. I don't always agree with their assessments, but the topics are about what I want to see covered.

Another one that I discovered recently that is just inside my radar is lifehacker. It slips in and out, actually. Sometimes I'm just about to stop following it because it is wasting my time, and then it comes up with a few good articles. Two of the latest ones it linked to are Conversational Terrorism, an article about the unethical language we use to "win" conversations, and Are you ready to clean up your life?, one version of a checklist containing important steps to create a healthy lifestyle. I am considering adapting the latter article to create one for the gaming community.

I am far more enthusiastic about sites that actually have content. It's like listening to an original album by an artist, rather than to the greatest hits of the seventies.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Weekend Gaming

For lunch we had a woman and two of her three children. I don't know why so many people we have over are divorced women with children; something about our social circle.

This one was a very old friend of my wife's. She was married to a gamer who once left me a large bag of Magic cards when we stayed at their apt in New York. Apparently he is also in Israel for the year. I invited him for Wed night games but haven't yet heard back from him.

Where was I?

So she came with her two kids, ages 10 and 13. After lunch, while she and Rachel discussed Pseudopigrapha and such stuff, I played Settlers with the kids. They took to it pretty well.

Settlers is one of those games that is just complicated enough that it is hard to teach all of the rules in one go before people's eyes begin to glaze over. Leave out the development cards or the robber and you could do it. Also, the setup phase also tends to confuse people. With some people you have to start playing a bit and then tell them about the cards.

I am extremely well versed in teaching Settlers, so I generally do teach it all at once, anyway. These kids were very bright and didn't have a problem. Their previous game experiences included Risk as well as most other board games.

Of course, the dice were screwy, but they got into it anyway. The ten year old boy won (with a little assistance of showing him how to build settlements) which was great. Both of them liked the game.

I decided to go read some Dragon magazine issues for ideas for the upcoming game, so I left them playing Yinsh. They seemed to get it, but when I came out to check on them I found out that they had disagreed over which ring they had to remove and had prematurely ended the game. A little while later they were playing Settlers with their mother.

She wanted to know if I take a commission in selling the game.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Bump in the Road

I would just like to give a shout out to the guy or gal who came up with the idea of having visitors to a website pay to not see ads. The idea is based on the following premise:

The people who have money, or are willing to spend money, do not see advertisements. The people who don't have money, or are not willing to spend money, see advertisements.

What a brilliant concept. I expect this idea to have a long lifespan.


Technorati tags:

Meanwhile, Out in the Field

Captain Martin squinted through the dusty binocular lenses, trying to ascertain the enemy's activities. Four weeks of hard traveling and he was ready to engage his enemy. Martin was a military man through and through. He didn't serve because it paid well, because it was honorable, or because he had nothing better to do.

Martin's grizzled gray hair dripped water beneath his battered gray helmet. He lowered the binoculars, and reflected. He knew why he served. He served because he loved the taste of combat. This was his element.

Around him his men were setting up, building fortifications, and scouting around for the resources needed to prepare for the coming conflict. He surveyed the proceedings with a grim eye.

"Sergeant Trent, front and center!" he bellowed.

Sergeant Trent appeared before the Captain and gave a crisp salute.

"Yes, sir!" yelled Trent.

Martin commanded, "The enemy is trying to dig something up. I want you to take a crack squad of four men and blow up their position."

"No, sir!" replied sergeant Trent.

"What the ... Sergeant, that was an order! What the Hell is wrong with you?"

"Sir, sorry, sir! We are not allowed to engage in direct confrontation with the enemy, sir!"

"Not allowed .. What? What the Hell are you talking about, Sergeant? Not allowed to confront the enemy? That's ridiculous!"

"Yes, sir! No direct confrontations, sir!"

"Well, what the Hell are we supposed to do, wave at them?" asked the Captain.

"Sir, we are digging our own water supplies, as is the enemy! If we work hard, we can dig more water supplies faster than the enemy. If we have more water, we win."

The Captain stared at his sergeant as if he was seeing his left foot for the first time. "What!? What do we need more water for? We've already got enough! And how is having more water than our enemy going to win this war!?"

"Sir, not just more water!" Trent replied. "Let's see," he looked up and began ticking off on his fingers, "We need more water, more dirt, and more wood, and then we trade the dirt and wood to get bricks! Or we can use the wood to get paper which we can use to write to HQ for another shovel. That will let us dig even more water. See?" he beamed happily.

"What!" barked the Captain. "What are you talking about? We have to kill the enemy, not drink water!"

"Well, sir," answered Trent, somewhat embarrassed, "you know that the better supplied army is going to win, isn't it? That's why we need to get more supplies than they do!" And he smiled.

"Trent, I don't give a goddamn hoot nor holler about water, shovels, or dirt! Just take some men and go blow up that ... what the Hell is this!?"

An enemy soldier walked past Martin and Trent with a shovel and began digging in the ground. The rest of his men were laughing and joking and carrying on with their work.

"What the Hell is going on here?!" He fumbled for his gun. Trent lay a hand down on his arm. The Captain went wide eyed, struggled for a moment, and then gave up, staring at the sergeant.

"Uh, uh, Captain, sir. No direct confrontation, remember? He's just digging here for water, like the rest of us."

"What the Hell is he doing here? What's he doing in our position? How did he get into our position?"

"Well, Captain, I learned that it is best not to think of any particular position as 'ours' or 'theirs', you know? What's important is that you are constantly looking around for the best position at any given moment."

The Captain was looking rather green. "How did he get in here? What's happening with our fortifications?"

He looked around and saw his fortifications halfway built. There was another enemy soldier standing on top of one of the walls building it up. Right next to him was one of his soldiers, just standing around doing nothing.

"What the Hell are you doing?" he yelled up at his soldier. "What's that guy doing here?"

"We built up a few pieces of the wall, and then this other guy climbed up and began building some more on top of what we built," yelled his soldier from on top of the wall.

Trent added, "Don't think of it as 'our' wall sir, like I told you before."

"Well why is our man just doing nothing?" the Captain asked in bewilderment.

Trent answered, "He needs to get to the other side of the enemy guy, but he can't pass him."

"Can't pass him?! The damn wall is five feet wide! Just go around!"

"Sorry, sir. Our man just has to wait for the other guy to move. He's not allowed to go around. Hmmm. He might be able to come down on this side of the wall, walk around to the other side, and then climb back up. That will probably take a few days, however."

Meanwhile, a contingent of enemy soldiers had walked up to his canteen. After some exchange, the soldiers handed the guy in the canteen a cordon of wood and in return received a barrel of water.

"What's going on? Why are we giving them water, sergeant? You told me we needed to have more water than them to win the war!"

"Oh, we have enough water. We have a good water supply. We're trading water with them for wood."

"But we're helping the enemy! You don't trade with the enemy!"

"Well," answered the sergeant slowly, "we are helping them, true, but we do need the wood, and both of us are gaining over that third enemy over on the other hill."

The Captain's grizzled face began to turned purple. He jumped up and down and began screaming "Sergeant!!! What the Hell is going on here!? I came here to fight a damn war, and I'm going to fight a damn war!!!"

Trent traced a circle in the ground with his foot. "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to stop shouting at me. That could be considered confrontational, you know."

Huffing and puffing the Captain slowly regained his composure. He hung his head in defeat, staring at the ground with a small tear slowly running down his face. He wore the look of a beaten man.

"Sergeant," he choked. "Sergeant, I give up. I'm going to go back to my tent to turn on my computer and play war games. It seems to be the only way I'm going to be able to experience any combat around here."

"Sir, I'm afraid you can't do that, sir."

"I can't?" asked the Captain, wearily.

"No, sir."

"Well, what can I do?"

The Sergeant took out something front his breast pocket and fanned it out in front of the Captain.

"Pick a card."

Some old postings of mine from Usenet


An acronym dictionary

Quick code to add callbacks into Net::FTP in perl.

A post of mine in 1994 questioning the sanity of propagating virus alerts via Internet. I was one of the first to catch this problem. It was related to the very first virus alert hoax, Good times.


CE Superpowers

My early attempt at fun Magic comboes: Stormbind/Whiteout

I actually commented on the entire Stronghold expansion

I get persnickety after Hasbro announces it is taking over Wizards of the Coast.

My first attempt at a completely new game posted. Not a good game, since there is a forced stalemate.

3e D&D Elementalists and here. And additional elements, too.

How to succeed using cursed items


RAP UP 1: where I attempt to provide a weekly wrap up on poems I found interesting on rec.arts.poetry. I stopped after four postings due to complaints about copyrights.

My Microwave poem

Monday, February 13, 2006

2 Player Power Grid

Today was the last day before I start a new job, and also Tu B'Shvat, a Jewish holiday for planting trees.

Many kids go on field trips to plant trees, either through school or with youth groups. I let Tal skip school and we went hiking. Long story short, we hiked around the Ein Gedi area near the Dead Sea. In the evening I brought Saarya home from school and we ended up playing two player Power Grid.

The game works pretty well for two players. Saarya started with some extra cities, but eventually the good prices slowed him down. Coal and oil kept being used faster than they could be replaced and they eventually ran out each round by the first person to pick them. Neither of us could get a nuclear plant running until nuclear fuel had already hit a cost of 1.

The problem was for the person with more cities who couldn't power them because he had no fuel - that was me. I saw this problem coming two rounds earlier and tried to switch to alternate plants of garbage and nuclear but couldn't do it early enough.

Saarya built to and powered 21 cities while I only had 3 plants operating and powering 16 cities.

There you have it. The trick is to work back early enough from the end game to see where that point is that you can establish a victory by running your opponent out of fuel. Of course, it is always possible that other 2 player games will go differently; this was only the first time I tried it.

Quite fun.


Sunday, February 12, 2006

The State of Games in Israel: FoxMind Games

Every once in a while I browse through the Israeli game stores looking for new products. Last time I found Ingenious and some other abstracts, like Travel Blokus, Gobblet, and Batik.

This time, in addition to the usual Haim Shafir line of card games, I found a line of FoxMind card games that looked familiar. I didn't write them down because I figured I would just look on FoxMind's site when I got home to remember them.

Strangely enough, none of the games are on FoxMind's site. In fact, when you look at the site (www.foxmind.com) in English you see one set of games, and when you look in French you see a different set of games. On BGG, only three games are listed from FoxMind. I know it's the right company because I recognize the fox logo.

This must be one of those weird country distribution sector business thingies, wherein they won the rights to publish certain games in some countries but not in other countries. Maybe the French will boycott them if they know that the company sells games in Israel, so Israel-only distributed games are not listed on the site. (It wouldn't be the first time.) Could be some more mundane reason, of course.

I'll see if I can pick up a list of these games next time I go.


How to Ruin Your Son's Computer Games

Something like the following happened this evening...

Eitan (16 yo son) fiddles with the computer and the voice of a Roman emperor is heard.

RE (loud and passionate): Your warriors are in position! The day of battle draws near!

Me: Boy this guy sounds angry.

Tal (12 yo daughter): Yeah, he does, doesn't he?

Eitan: Hey, be quiet, I'm listening to this.

RE: With blood and fire, steel and muscle you will drive your enemies before you and destroy them!

Me (moving over to computer): He's got issues. Listen to all that violence.

Tal (moving over to computer): He probably wasn't loved as a child.

Ariella (17 yo daughter, moving over to computer): Maybe he broke a nail.

Eitan: Will you guys shut up, I want to hear this.

RE: They will fall before the might of your glorious legionnaires! You shall make Rome whole again, oh mighty emperor!

Me: He really ought to get some therapy and deal with those anger issues.

Tal: You don't want to keep those feelings all bottled up inside. It could be dangerous.

Ariella: He could hurt someone, or himself.

Eitan: Come on guys! I can't hear what he's saying!

RE: Nothing will stand in your way! Your forces are the mightiest on Earth!

Me: Wow. Maybe he had a hard day. The guy should learn to relax.

Tal: He could use a good cup of cocoa and a warm bath.

Ariella: Maybe a massage. He sounds tense.

Eitan: That's not funny, just shut up!

RE: With a mighty trumpet and a swinging sword you shall conquer all and be victorious!

Me: I wonder if his family knows the problems he's been having at work.

Tal: Poor guy. A massage, or maybe ... oh wait I know!

Ariella: Yes! Yes! He needs ...

Eitan (puts his head in his hands)

RE: All hail oh mighty emperor!

Me, Tal, and Ariella (holding out our hands): A MAKEOVER!

Eitan: Crap, I can't play this anymore. (shuts off game, gets up, and walks away).


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Weekend Gaming

This was a full weekend of gaming, for me. Saarya and Tal were both here for the weekend, which only happens once every three weeks.

Our guests for dinner were Zeke, who comes occasionally to the Wed night games, and his mother Mindy. Zeke is about 14 years old, by the way.

After dinner, Zeke, Mindy, Saarya, Tal and I played Zug im Zug, otherwise known as Ticket to Ride. I had played TtR:Europe at BGG.con and was hoping that this could be a game that both Tal and Saarya could enjoy. Net reaction: it's ok. Maybe we are spoiled from five years of gaming already, having broken our teeth on Settlers and Cities and Knights and so on, but TtR is not quite deep enough for us, at least on first playing.

I will say this: it is a very elegant game. It combines a very few rules for a complete game experience. There are just the right amount of decisions to be made on your turn, but not too many. And all with very few rules to the game. Add to that some nifty pieces, an educational map, and you're good to go.

However, it lacks a bit. Since you don't really know what other people need to do, blocking them is usually more of an accident, rather than educated guesswork (although there's some of that). Most of all, it lacks any sort of story arc; the game plays the same from the very beginning to the end and then it stops; then you count points. Some sort of mechanism that required an increasing minimum route length as the game progressed would be slightly more interesting. And of course, the luck of the routes is a big factor, although variants on the web are designed to solve that problem.

So let's say it's 85% of the game we want at 30% of the complexity, which is a good tradeoff. SoC is 70% of the complexity for 95% of the game. I don't think TrR will replace SoC as our introductory game of choice, but it is a strong candidate for being one of the first ones out.

Anyway, Zeke cleaned up in our first game with 115 points. I was the next closest at 88 points.

Saturday Tal brought over some friends. They played TtR again; I forget who won. After dinner we played 4-player Settlers which played ok, although one of them was more interested in the LotR:tConfrontation game I played simultaneously with Saarya. In the Settlers game, there was a lot of giggling, and one of the girls didn't really try, buying only Devel cards whenever she could. I knocked out four cities and a Longest Road.

Meanwhile, Saarya took white in LotR. This was his second game. The first time he beat me playing black. This time he beat me playing white. I must be getting old. Somehow our pieces just kept trading off until we each had three left. Unfortunately mine were not able to get to the Shire or intercept Frodo before he could waltz in.

Lastly I introduced Saarya to Maharaja, and also tried it as a 2 player game. It played pretty well, actually. We played with the variation that each player kept picking roles whenever they chose role swap until we both had three, and thereafter we traded roles. So we each had three roles from the second round onwards. We also played that the role owner had +1 in the corresponding city.

I really like the game; I like it as much as I like El Grande, and there sure are a lot of similar mechanics between the two. However, the one thing that bothers me about Maharaja is the victory conditions. Aside from the fact that the rich kind of get richer, somewhere around midgame one person gets out a palace one round earlier than the other person and that kind of wraps it up as long as he can keep doing so each round thereafter.

Which only matters because the winner is the first person with seven palaces. Two of my game group members complained about the same thing during game night and I dismissed them, but I now kind of agree with them. As a general rule in games, the mechanism for gaining resources should not be the same mechanism for victory points, unless there is a clear means of ganging up on the leader or otherwise making up for a deficiency. Settlers has the robber and trading, Power Grid has the turn order. Maharaja has the blind actions, but it's not quite enough.

In any case, it doesn't prevent me from enjoying the game; I may just have to think if there is anything I can do that would make it slightly more to our taste in victory conditions.

After shabbat I reviewed my player's character sheets and answered an email from a new potential player. The next two days are semi-vacation.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Not my day

Do you ever get those days where only one out of the processors in your brain booted up properly? And the others are spinning around giving off a high-pitched hum? That was my day.

I wandered around trying to make things for shabbat, pick up kids, and so on. I could do one thing at a time, slowly. The moment anyone spoke to me, my brain froze up and began thrashing. I hesitated and milled about like a robot in RoboRally. Eventually I came to, confused as to where I was, picked something up and started again.

My muffins came out like hockey pucks. My meat sauce came out like chunks of rubber. My kids and wife, bless them, were buzzing around my head like mosquitoes.

And to top it off, I have been dethroned from the top position on PR-Game.com .

If it wasn't for shabbat in an hour, I would go back to bed.


Maurice Sendak and Brundibar

I should have guessed that Maurice Sendak's art and work is colored by the shadow of the Holocaust. In this NY Times article he describes his work on Brundibar, a book and an opera written by children in the Holocaust. He reads from the book in a Flash presentation.


Obgames: Last games night, Binyamin left me Ticket to Ride, which I hope will be a game that both of my kids will enjoy. I have only played TtR:E once, at BGG.con .

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Ecology of 2 Games of PR

Rachel and I had dinner with Peter and Susan Pitzele. Peter is the originator of bibliodrama, a form of roleplaying used to explore the deeper meaning in biblical text. Of course, roleplaying is as much about exploring the explorers as it is about the text itself. If you teach biblical text you may be interested in exploring this as a form of learning. It may also be applicable to other subjects.

Anyway, Rachel and I know another practitioner in Israel, and Rachel has also started dabbling in it during some of her lessons.

But that's not what I came here to tell you.

Peter was also interested in my game knowledge, and intimated that his daughter may be interested in hearing what I have to say about games and education, particularly with regards to ecology. I can give lots of general info about games and educational aspects thereof, but I had to sent off a few messages to the Geek and some game buddies asking for specific info about games for teaching ecology. I got a few answers and suggestions so far, such as Terra and Industrial Waste.

In the meantime, I gave him some suggestions for games he might like to try himself. Susan sounded particularly interested in learning Go. I hope they try it out.

After dinner, Rachel and I played two games of Puerto Rico, both of which I won by a few points. Some interesting buildings:

Aqueduct - not my favorite building, but I'm willing to play with it once in a while.


Forest House - changed to 1,3,5 instead of 2,4,6. Also, does not discard a plantation while picking forest, and cannot take two forests if using Hacienda (you're stuck with your Hacienda pull).


Hospice - changed to allow you to move a colonist onto it when you first buy it (from colonists you already have).

Large Market

Large Warehouse - moved to 5/2

Beachfront - Also allows you to take forests, and gives you a wharf with a size equal to the number of forests you have. Even with this building and the enhanced Forest House and Hacienda, the combo, while good, is not overpowering. It's just one strategy out of many.


Large Warehouse - -1 to all building costs, +1 VP (once) during Captain phase.

Large General Workhouse (2 circles) - produces any goods along with occupied plantations, like a wild production building.

Port Privileges (I think that was the name) - Load once a set of barrels onto any ship. Yes, this is almost strictly better than Wharf, but once in a while you won't be able to use it well. In any case, we never buy Wharf in 2-player so I needed something stronger (we don't buy it because we don't play the official 2-player with only 2 ships. Instead we play with 3 ships. Undoubtedly both Wharf and Harbor could be returned to play if we played the official way. I may do that some day.)

Cathedral - 1 VP for every 3 red building points. Still bought almost as quickly as Guild Hall, with slightly less payoff, but more versatility.

Distillery (10/5) - +2 VP per sugar plantation (max +8).


Custom's House

City Hall

In the first game Rachel did the Forest House/Beachfront/Hacienda but she picked the Hacienda too late in the game. I had an early Factory and then Port Privileges. Neither of us took any quarries.

In the second game, Rachel went more conventional with Coffee and Hospice (manned quarries and corns) while I picked early sugar, tobacco, and Large Market. I got Large Business, and then ended the game soon thereafter. We thought she may have won, but it wasn't to be.

Meanwhile, I am also working on fleshing out my world before the D&D campaign begins. I'm still brushing up on the rules needed for DMing, such as combat bonuses and so forth.


Mike Resnick and Lou Anders want a game

In Mike Resnick's upcoming new book he describes a game, without going into specifics. Now he and the publisher want someone to design it based on the description.

Full rules and criteria at the provided link. Winner earns credit in the book, some copies of the book, and half rights to the game.

Have a go.


By way of SF Signal.

Session Report Up

Games played: AD&D 2nd edition (pregame), Ticket to Ride, Goa, San Marco, Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Ripples in a Pond of Words

Following: The Game Ranch: Blogs vs. BGG, Naturelich: Who needs board game blogs?, and The Game Shelf: The Geek.

One of the truisms of life is that someone, somewhere is always moaning about

- things just aren't like they used to be,
- people grow up and move away,
- nobody respects the elder's traditions.

You would think this pattern would be obvious after recurring again and again over the last ten thousand years.

I work hard at building a synagogue knowing full well that my children will NOT be part of it, because they are going to grow up and move away. Nevertheless, sometime after attendance in my synagogue declines, new people will move into the neighborhood. They may rejuvenate the synagogue I built, they may transform it into something new, or they may make their own.

You don't notice when a new best friend comes into your life; you only notice when they leave. You don't notice when a great leader is born, only when he or she dies. Just because we notice when things die and change, doesn't mean that new things just as good aren't being born or started. It's just the nature of something new: it isn't old and established, yet.

What is happening with BGG is so natural that it deserves no comment; the only difference is that this change is happening in Internet time, ten times as fast as it used to happen in the real world.

BGG was new, once. When people started moving to BGG, people on rec.games.board and Spielfrieks complained that all of the activity on their forums were being stolen by BGG. A few years later, after so much growth, people leave BGG and create board game blogs, and people on BGG complain that activity on BGG is being stolen into the blogs.

With the explosion of blogs, people set up RSS readers, such as bloglines. Then along comes Best of Boardgames which takes (not pejoratively) one group's opinion of the best articles from these blogs and presents then in one index.

Guess what? Five years from now it will change all over again. It may look the same as something we had in the past or something entirely different. That's how it goes.

BGG serves several purposes: board game information, board game articles, board game community, board game rankings, board game marketplace, and so on. It is entirely natural that all of this was lumped into one site when the barrier for creating web sites was high and the amount of people with information was low.

Now we have a low barrier for website creation and a lot of people who have something to say. Some of BGG's functions are now duplicated by other means; in some cases better. As time goes on, maybe BGG's database of game information will be available via SOAP. Maybe better forums will exist; these blogs are like a forum. Just look at the links on top of this post.

Maybe Aldie and Derk will pack it up one day. Or maybe they will reinvent themselves and make something new and better, more focussed or maybe more general. What they have is still amazing. But even BGG has to roll with changes.

I won't say anything in particular about the complainants; they, too, are a tradition. Where would we be without people complaining about the new and waxing nostalgic about the old? Just remember: the only time things really stop moving is when they die.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Really Cool Meeple Clothing

OK, I have to say that this is a really cool clothing store; all meeples or Eurogame related stuff. They also have decals and license plate frames and so forth. If I were going to buy a shirt, this would be it.

And if you click on my link before buying, I may even make a few pennies.


What defines you?

So I'm thinking: People seem to invest a lot of energy in defining themselves as board game players and NOT RPG players or CCG players. Is it just that they've tried a bunch of RPGs and don't like them, or no longer like them? Or is there something about "that activity" from which they have to distance themselves?

Now that I will probably be posting RPG stuff mixed in with my usual board game stuff, is that going to frighten some people? Will I get the proverbial "Judas!" shouted at me for bringing out my electric RPG manuals?

I'm sure the answer is no for 99% of you. But there are definitely people who need to make that stand. "I DON'T play war games!" "I DON'T play Eurogames!" "CCG players are smelly!" "RPG players are crazy!" "People who still play Monopoly are children!"

Frankly, my dear, I just don't get it. I don't understand why a game isn't just a game. I like some of these, I don't like some of those. I don't like most war games, but usually I would like to know something about the game before I dismiss it; I do like some of them.

What does it mean for something to define you? Which of the following defines you?

1 Being human.

2 My sex.

3 My religion, or lack thereof.

4 My attached (marital) status.

5 My residential status.

6 Who I work for, or where I learn.

7 My occupation.

8 My work.

9 My self-motivation and organization (type), or lack thereof.

10 The groups I belong to.

11 My talents or failings.

12 My accessories and purchases.

13 What I appreciate in the world.

14 My political views.

15 My emotional fears and loves.

16 My age.

17 My taste in art, culture, and literature.

18 My taste in games or other recreational activities.


January Gaming at the JSGC

In January, the JSGC suddenly transformed from a group that plays a select group of games to a group overwhelmed with new games.

Between the games I brought back from BGG.con, the games acquired from a new purchase, and the game brought by relatively new members Brendan and Binyamin, we played almost no games more than once.

The good news is that many of these games were good. Also, trying new games is fun for some of us. The bad news is that so many new games makes me dizzy and robs me of the opportunity to replay games that I enjoy.

As usual, the following report is only for the JSGC games, and not my own gaming outside of the club.

Anagrams - Used as a filler once. I love it, but it can be frustrating if your brain is working slowly today.

Attika - Played for the second time, and a better experience than the first time, but still not amazing. Maybe it will keep getting better.

Cities and Knights of Catan - Since so few of us have played this a lot, it remains a good experience. Ganging up on the leader is the way to solve the luck imbalances, but this only works sometimes.

Cribbage - Used as a filler, or occasionally as a second game for one player while another person is waiting for the first game to end.

Entdecker - I didn't get to play this. I heard it was ok.

Ingenious x 2 - A lovely little abstract game from Knizia, which seems to play well with different numbers of players. Needs more play.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation - Unequal forces, but surprisingly fun.

Louis XIV - A good game.

Maneater - Not so good a game.

Modern Art - A good game to end an evening with, but the double auction imbalances bother me.

Power Grid - Newly acquired and a big hit. Long.

Primordial Soup - Also a hit with most of the group. Almost as long.

Princes of Florence - A classic mainstay.

Puerto Rico x 2 - THE classic mainstay.

San Juan x 2 - A very popular filler.

Taj Mahal - Another classic mainstay.

Tigris and Euphrates - Not popular, for some strange reason. I think it is great, but I can't get my group to feel the same way.

Torres - About half of them like this. Some think it is too much thinking for not enough game.

Yinsh x 2 - Fairly new and enjoyed as a quicker filler than San Juan for two players.


The real news about The Games Journal

Despite what Board Game News has reported, The Games Journal is not "back". Not really, anyway.

What Greg informs me is that he has no intention of returning to a journal. However, he had a few additional articles lying around that never got published. Rather than leave them in limbo, he decided that he will post them as he gets to them. In addition, if he receives any other additional articles of the same quality, he may post them, as well.

What we have here, as I described to Greg, is a high-quality, infrequent, and irregular blog of edited game articles being posted on The Games Journal's site. Which is only fitting, as it was always my opinion that the rise in blogs was the major reason for the decline in submissions to The Games Journal, which is what led to its closing.

My own Ethics in Gaming 5.0 article was the last one submitted to The Games Journal before it closed, and was never published there. I subsequently posted it on Gone Gaming, but Greg and I thought it would be nice to include it on his "blog" and in his archives as a way of keeping the series together.

Whatever form they come in, I'm happy to see good quality edited game articles. Once again, thanks to Greg for whatever efforts he puts in in bringing them to us.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Starting off the D&D campaign: the Rules

As sent to my players:

OK, I think we will be using 2e rules, basically. I would prefer to
use my own system (link to it on my blog), but maybe some other time.

However, I will be cutting a lot of the rules out of the system, some
of them because I don't like them, and some of them due to the nature
of the campaign you will be playing.

Here are the basic changes:


You are all starting at 1st level with exactly 1 experience point.

All players have stats as follows: 18, 16, 14, 13, 12, 10. You may
arrange these stats however you like. There will be no changes to
these stats, period. However, if you prefer to roll for stats, you may
roll in front of me sometime during the next two weeks at the club.
The rolling method will be: 5d6, drop the lowest two dice. Roll six
times, arrange as you like. If you choose to roll, you cannot use the
default numbers. If you don't like the results, try to remember that
this is a ROLEplaying game, not a ROLLplaying game, and the fun you
derive from the game is not how often you succeed in your rolls.

Racial changes can apply to your stats, but no stat can be raised
higher than 18, period. That includes fighter strength. I am not
playing with percentile Strength. 18 is the limit.

All limitations in the stats apply. Non-fighters do not get Con bonus
higher than +2. I will be checking your carrying capacity. You have to
record your languages, allowable number of spells, and so forth.
Charisma will only be used for reaction rolls. If your party meets a
group of people, your reaction roll will be based on the median
Charisma score of your party.

I will not be playing with alignments or any alignment oriented
abilities or spells.

However, do consider the personality of your character. I expect
characters full of personality. DO NOT bother with any other character
background or equipment. These will be supplied.

I am playing with proficiencies and weapon specialization. Non-combat
proficiencies are also required. I suggest you align them to what may
be a grand wilderness adventure in a land with plenty of political
intrigue (circa 13th century equivalent in technology). Please don't
try to use any science or other anachronistic solutions to various


All magic users can cast Detect Magic and Read Magic at will. There
are no spell components. Spellbooks will be required when appropriate,
however. Information about how to copy spells and use spellbooks and
so on will be given during the adventure.

All spells have a casting length of one round, unless they specify
that they take more than one round to cast. Spell area of effect is
approximate and may vary from time to time. You cannot sculpt a spell,
not only because the power of a spell varies, but because people move
around. Just tell me approximately where you are centering it.

Ask me about illusions if you plan on using them. As a note,
Phantasmal Force cannot create the illusion of sound, smell, or heat,
and therefore will not work very well for creatures, fires, or
virtually anything else that moves unless it appears to be in the


Clerics gain the ability to swap out spells for a heal spell, like 3e.
You do not have to specify a religion for your character.


Rounds are an indeterminate length that is not specified, but the
usual sorts of things can be accomplished: an attack, a spell, some
movement, retrieving an item from your backpack, and so on.

- All players inform me what they intend to do during the round.

- Spellcasters begin casting spells.

- Your party rolls for initiative vs your opponents.

- Non-spellcasters on either side do what they said. Players with
shorter actions or weapon speeds of 4 or less always go first. Players
with weapon speeds of 8 or more always go last.

- Spells go off.


Will be awarded for encounters (fought or unfought), traps, puzzles,
unusual treasures, and general situation management. Individuals may
gain more xp than others. Expect about 400 xp/night under normal

More when I think about it.


P.S. I welcome any suggestions on things to avoid/change in 2E, such as broken spells or items.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

As Long As We're Linking 6

For more information, see As Long As We're Linking 5.

More RSS'able game sites that have come to my attention:

A Fistful of Games: Paul Tevis, Santa Barbara, Ca. A companion site to Have Games, Will Travel.

Blogging the Game of Life...: Doug Garret, Mountain View, CA. A blog and a podcast, also known as Garret's Games & Geekiness.

CubeZen: Somebody or something named "Pol". Definitely finding his wings.

Front Row Crew: Beacon, NY. An established podcast from GeekNights about games that has been talking about board games, too, recently.

The Game Table: This is the not ekted's The Game Table, but a new syndicated column by Ward Batty, Atlanta, GA, intended for mainstream media.

Games Gist: another by Gerald McDaniel, aka GamesGrandpa. I think this is meant to supplement his personal game blog, Time Capsule and literary blog, Word Sketches. Considering he expressed skepticism about maintaining even one blog, I'm curious to see which of these blogs continues.

gamethoughts: Danny Webb, KY. I think. Board, card, and video games.

In The Light: Sam Healey, a friend of Tom and Joe's from Korea. Beginning to do some game reviews in order to lighten Tom's load.

Jim Ginn: Indiana. Games of all types.

JoG (James on Games): Washington DC. Board games.

Journal of Boardgame Design: Jonathan Degann, LA, CA. Intends to continue a series of board game articles that he started on The Games Journal.

While we're at it, Coldfoot updated his game links on Board Game Geek, here.


Update: Oh heck, I may as well add Westpark Gamers. It's primarily German, but they are now doing content and podcasting for English speakers. Moritz Eggert and Aaron Haag were inspired after doing pronunciation for the Dice Tower.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Weekend Gaming


Something screwy is happening with the comments on my posts. At least two comments seem to have disappeared between the time that I went to reply and the time that the reply showed up. I don't mean "Deleted by the user" because that leaves a message to that effect.



As I predicted a few weeks ago, Google is starting to fall. We'll see how far this continues to go. Right now they are making one misstep after another: useless video search, untenable Ad-sense terms, Chinese censorship, poor concept for book search. Too much hubris.

Children of Fire

Friday night I went to friends - total non-game players, but into therapy, social discussion, religious left-wing spiritual types, bibliodrama, and so forth. They also had another family over, similar and also friends of ours. The hosts I had gotten to play Settlers of Catan, and they loved it, but I have never been able to convince them to play anything else. They will try some other games, but the only one they love to play is Settlers.

I described for them the RPG system that I wanted to play based on Children of Fire, and as soon they heard the words "role-playing angels" they went ballistic and wanted to play, wanted me to market it (I kept telling them it wasn't my idea, but they didn't listen), and were "all ababble" about it.

Before dinner I ran a few of them through an impromptu session to show them what it was like, making it up off the top of my head. Of course, when you do that, you lose a lot of the great vivid color descriptions that you would want to have prepared in advance.

I explained a little bit about the angel world, angel forms, and so on, and a bit about role-playing. The difficulty was in trying to get them to understand that I was the GM, and they were the players, as they kept trying to make up what happened in the world, instead of just telling me what they did themselves. Kind of amusing.

The story I made up:

They were newly born angels. Mike the archangel greets them and tells them that their purpose as angels is to gain grace, which they do by going on missions that he assigns. He immediately assigns them a mission to go to NYC, find someone named Herbert Smith, who is scheduled to die within 24 hours, and ensure that he regains his faith before dying, as he is right on the edge at this moment. He also warns them not to interfere with human's free will, and not appear in divine form (winged) unless absolutely necessary, as this appearance usually interferes with people's beliefs.

First they wanted to see Gabriel (I told them that this was impossible, as he was too high a rank). Then they tried to pester all of the other angels floating around to find out more info. I told them the clock was ticking and they would have to go already.

Then they said "We go straight to Howard Smith." I said "Where is he?" "In NYC" "Yes, but where?" "We're angels! We know everything!"

So I spent some more time explaining. This whole exercise doesn't really work very well unless your players have at least read some of the source material first.

They asked me some more questions: what can angels do (can't use the Internet)? How much do they know about Howard Smith (just his name)? and so on.

So they went down to NYC as humans and found it to be twilight. First they tried crying, hoping to attract attention, but then they weren't happy with the attention they attracted. So they tried getting a policeman to tell them where the library was, but the policeman, who was very busy, said that it would be closed right now.

They tried to pester him into using his policie ways to find someone for them at HQ, but the policeman firmly told them (ten times) that their best bet was a phone book, and eventually managed to get rid of them.

In a shop they found a phone book with twenty-six Howard Smiths. However, strangely near one of them was a black checkmark. They called this one and heard the message: "Hi! I'm probably out partying right now, so leave your name and number and I'll get back to you. BEEP!"

Then they tried calling all 25 other numbers and heard similar messages, no answer, hang-ups, and so forth. They argued about the checkmark for a while, and decided to go to that one's apartment.

Someone let them into the building, and they found this note on his door: "Howard, you bum! We came and you must have left already. We'll meet you down at the Manhattan club! See you, Paulie and Josie!"

More searching phone books, and down to the Manhattan club. Thump thumpa thumpa. They went inside and saw lots of people dancing around, and then they saw, headed toward them, a man with horns and fiery eyes.

At this point we had to stop for dinner, so I told them them rest: the man is a devil sent to stop them on their mission. They will have to tussle or otherwise occupy him and divide up. After entering the dance floor, they will see a man standing by himself by the side of the room. If they check closely, he is sweating and carrying explosives.

I asked them what they would do next. They said "Knock him down and cut the wire". I said "You just failed your mission". "Oh, because we interfered with free will?"

"Yes, which doesn't mean that you did the wrong thing." Herbert is one of the dancers, of course, and he is about to be killed without deciding once and for all if he has faith. If they convince Herbert before he dies, they fulfill their mission.

As far as stopping the explosives, this is a keen moral question for an angel, of course. On the one hand, your archangel is telling you that this is the will of god and that you are failing your mission. On the other hand, not stopping it would strike most people as immoral. What do you do? If you stop him, can you appeal the decision to a higher angelic court? And so on ...

I think those are interesting role-playing situations, which I would like to explore further. Unfortunately, my game players want to play Elves and Dwarves and bash Ogres. :-)


Lunch we went to somewhere else where I played a game of Rummikub with one of the kids before we started eating. It's a nice, quick game, albeit not a gamer's game.

I'm getting much better at not taking forever in passing. I just look at the board, go about two or three finagles deep, and if I haven't found a solution by then, I pass. Oh, I could probably win a few more games by looking deeper, but it isn't worth if, for me, to spend 80% more time to win 5% more often.

In any case, I accumulated first one, then the other joker, and finally found a way to put out all of my tiles at once using both of them. My opponent then could have gone out the next round.

Shul vote

Sat night my "old" shul, of which I'm still a member, had a long meeting about finally, finally building a shul. They have been renting this location for ten years, and the owners have been trying to get rid of them for about eight of those years. The latest plan is to build on the roof of this building. I wish them success, although I don't know if I should be voting, since I'm kind of involved in a new shul, now, and probably won't be participating, anyway.


Friday, February 03, 2006

First of my old rulesystems

I was going through my old rulesystems ... I really like some of them. This is not totally surprising, in that I made them, so naturally they fit the idea of what I want. Yet it is, because usually you look back on things and wonder how you could have made such junk.

Anyway, I never actually played the one in the provided link. Everything is ability and skill based, no classes, and a freeform magic system.

If anyone out there knows anything about RPG systems, I would love to hear about how it sucks and all the holes and problems with it before I seriously take it out and try to use it.


P.S. I taught LotR:tC to Saarya who was over for a few hours. I played white and lost, after he picked off Sam, maneuvered a piece to Frodo's side (so Frodo couldn't retreat) and then hit him with the Flying Nazgul. It was close. I played my last card on Frodo, which was a 5, but he still had a 3.

The game is growing on me, more and more. Yet more proof that a) playing a game once or twice is not enough to give an evaluation, and b) playing new games all the time is a bad idea, because you don't really experience the game properly.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

RPG woes

I'm researching the 1e AD&D system to rediscover how it works in preparation for my gaming club members to roll up characters. Gosh, I forgot how weird the rule system was. Every class, every ability, every skill, and ever spell has a different type of roll. And the first level characters are pathetic.

I remember now some of the things we did to fix these things. I have to reimplement some of them. I just can't play straight 1e. Still, it's better than the overpowered 3e system. I really want something in between.

I now peruse my old notes ... I see that I invented, mostly from scratch, at least three different RPG systems, all of which are better than either of these. Somehow I doubt I will be able to convince these guys to try any of them. They're really cool, however.

Ah, well. At least I have an adventure coalescing. And it's going to be a doozy.


Session Report Up

Games played: Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation, Maharaja, Power Grid, Geschenkt x 2, Clans, Settlers of Catan, Bohnanza.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

San Juan with the Wife

I wasn't bored of Puerto Rico, but I was bored of setting it up, so I convinced Rachel to play San Juan for a change.

She had both City Hall and Guild Hall, but her buildings didn't have any of the synergy that mine had. I had no opening production, so I started with Carpenter, then Silver, Quarry, monuments, City Hall, and Chapel. I didn't realize you could win like that with less big buildings (I knew you could win with less big buildings, but not by ten points).

Game night tonight. My group wanted to play RPG, so I prepared a system based on Children of Fire and a simple d6 skill/combat system, but they weren't ready for such wierdness. They want to play straight D&D; I refuse to play 3e, so it will be 1e AD&D. But I'm not ready for that, yet, so in a few weeks.

In the meantime, we may play Magic and some other games.