Thursday, March 30, 2006

Web 2.0 rants, and what I want for Web 3.0


Basically, Technorati sounded like a cool idea. But, basically, it sucks.

What do I expect out of Technorati?

- That it ranks my site on a real time basis. Guess what? The site has one ranking when I'm looking at the list of blogs that I have claimed, and another ranking when I am looking at the blog page itself. And neither one gets updated more than once a month. A month!!! Maybe every two weeks. Certainly not every minute, that's for sure. And who can trust the result, anyway?

- That I could check sites linking to mine. Guess what? I can check some sites linking to mine, but not most of them. Tons of blogs, and they do have RSS, just don't get picked up by Technorati. And of course, anything that's not RSS'd doesn't get picked up.

- That I could find my own posts and other posts based on keywords associated with my blog or posts. Guess what? I can, sometimes. Sometimes it takes days to pick up new posts, however. By which time, the post doesn't appear in the search results until page fifteen.

- That I could view, um, any information. Guess what? I get this message more than 70% of the time I look for something: "Sorry, we couldn't complete your search because we're experiencing a high volume of requests right now. Please try again in a minute or add this search to your watchlist to track conversation." And I've been getting it for over two months. What the hell? What else do you do, Technorati, besides respond to searches? If you can't do that, why do I bother?


What is going on with Blogger? Between the times it simply can't ping itself, loses my posts (not once have I been able to retrieve a supposed "auto-saved article"), can't republish my blog, indicates that there is no permission to view my blog, and so on. Sheesh.

And oh, yeah:

How do I access the pictures that I have uploaded?

Why can't I add tags, like every other blog site?

Why are the comment pages not formatted like my main site?

Why are the RSS feeds so slow in updating?

Why are 90% of your sites spam?

I've been there. I've created an account. I still have no idea how to find anything or do anything useful with it.

Whose bright idea was it that thousands of random people can make sense of the vast garbled tangle of the internet when it was thousands of random people who created this vast tangle to begin with? A thousand lists linking to a thousand pages are no easier to navigate than the thousand pages were to begin with.

Why would seeing someone else's bookmarks be any better than searching on a search engine? I may serendipitously find a good site? I can't do that by searching for key words?

BTW: I just tried to access it and it didn't load.


Google, aside from sliding down the slippery slope into scumitude (China, video search, book search, privacy policies, desktop security, ad-sense bullying policies, etc...) is still crap, believe it or not. It's just the best crap that we have.

- Good luck finding something if you don't know how to use quotes and the exact right keywords. Or if you don't know English.

- Why do my search result show 1,200,000 pages returned, and then end after 3 pages? Even after I click "show me related pages"?

- How many millions of sites are still abusing your search results? A hundred people could manually go through 50,000 sites a day for a month and cut out half of the crap, or tag it as "not a page", "duplicate", "spam", and so on. You're not a government service, you are a private company.

- Searches that return different results if you change the order of the words.

- Duplicated results from the first page of results on the second page of results, and the third, and so on.

What next?

Ladies and Gentlemen: Web 2.0 is here and it's no different from Web 1.0 . Just a lot of losers stroking each other's egos that they're better because they can submit funny videos and create some interesting blog posts once in a while. Let's hope Web 3.0 is better.

What do I want out of Web 3.0?

I don't want to surf. My browser should be a pane with four boxes.

In the upper left box I search for other people/site snippets. Saved searches should give me back previous results first. The rest of it should be ordered by the type of information that I need. If I'm a college professor, I want to see academic stuff first. If I'm a music-a-holic, I want to see music sites first. And so on. And I want to be able to junk or pin sites for search relevancy. All results are snippets returned to this box.

In the upper right is my mail and my headline news. Buttons to let me filter and so on.

In the lower left I write, edit pictures or documents, and so on. Buttons to let me: mail, publish, save, and so on. Another which lets me select whom to let view and what tags to assign (otherwise, tags and permission are done automatically).

In the lower right I see an application: a picture viewer, a music tuner, new movie releases, a snippet browser, an IM client, and so on.

Naturally, I can expand one of the boxes to full screen, if I want to.

If I want to read what someone else has posted, I subscribe to their snippets by tag which come into my mail or my snippet browser. If I want to find what people have posted, I search for tags or text in the first box.

I want everything that happens in one box to make sense in the other boxes if I drag and drop. And I want to be able to export from any of these boxes to any format I desire, if necessary.

Is that too much to ask?


Update: some trackbacks for Web 3.0:

Web 3.0
What to expect,

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Session Report Up

Games played: [Quick rules summary of Twillight Imperium 3], San Juan, Princes of Florence, Medina, San Marco, Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation, Geschenkt x 2, Tigris and Euphrates, The Menorah Game, Go.

Find it here.

We had a BGG visitor from the U.S. for the session.

Other news:

I played two games with Tal on Tuesday evening that I forgot to mention. One was the stupid card game I described earlier that plays very similarly to 8 1/2. Nothing to say here. For the second game I taught her how to play Oh Hell. At least it is a reasonably good game. In two players, if you play with the "dealer has to make the bids not add up" rule, it gets nasty at the end as you wind down to only one card hands.


P.S. If you are in Israel over Passover (specifically April 16), do stop by for Games Day.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ahead of the Curve

I like to be ahead of the curve. To that end I hereby declare myself to be the first anti-anti-anti-anti-really-hardcore-gamer.

First, you have people. People like to play neat games.

Some people like to play games more than other people. These people finish playing their game and look around them. "Hey," they say, "how come nobody wants to play this game with me?" So they create the distinction: gamer and non-gamer.

Gamers think they can convert non-gamers to playing games if they spread the truth. When they realize that they can't, they distinguish between gamers, not-yet-gamers, and anti-gamers. Anti-gamers, sick of being told that they have to play games that they don't like, go along with this, and complain about gamers playing too much, wanting to think too much, and spending too much of their money on games.

Along come the anti-anti-gamers, who deride the anti-gamers as the hordes lead by Hasbro, obviously too ruled by their subservient nature to understand real games.

Lately, we have seen a wave of anti-anti-anti-gamers, who say that they like to play good games on occasion, but that they are not obsessed with them, and hey, they still like Monopoly. This movement is gaining strength.

It must be stopped.

I hereby declare the formation of the anti-anti-anti-anti-really-hardcore-gamers league (abbrev: AAAARGH [sic]). Our aim is to once again swing the pendulum the other way. Our tenets:

- Our games are better than your games. So shut up, and stop defending mediocrity.

- Time playing games is time well spent. Time drinking beer, watching television, going to movies, reading books, having light conversations, and all of that other crap is fine, if that's what you're into. Don't bother us about it.

- More games is better, as long as they're good games. Stop saying otherwise. If you don't buy the good games and introduce them to your friends, you are just sponging off the generosity of those who do.

- People have been playing Monopoly in some form or another since the early-1900's, and since then people have killed more people more violently than any other period in human history. The world would be a whole lot better off if all people stopped killing each other or trying to persuade each other about religion, politics, what car they should buy, or whose butt looks bigger on television, and instead played better games.

Join us. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.


More on Israeli Politics - Election Results

Just one more post, since I may be the only source for twelve board gamers around the world to get information about Israel.

Israel just finished an election. As usual, this election was called "the most important in Israeli history", like the previous ones. The last government, like previous governments, made some major changes to the borders. Our country is continuously in flux, only it has been shrinking for quite some time. Meanwhile, it is still being hit daily by barrages of missiles, suicide bombers, boycotts, slander, and so on from its neighbors.

The government has 120 seats. You vote for a "party", not a person or a representative. The party has already selected it's list of candidates. The number of seats that the party achieves indicates how many of those candidates get in. A party must receive at least 2% of the vote to be considered, however. The largest party typically tries to form a government by allying with some other parties, because no party has ever achieved more than about 45 seats.

In this election, apparently no one really thought it was that important, or no one really liked the parties and their lists. Voter turnout was the lowest in history, about 63%. The leading party achieved only 28 seats, which just shows you how no one agrees on what we should do next.

The main attitudes to "the peace process are":

A. Real peace will be achieved by completely withdrawing and having a signed piece of paper. Unfortunately, Chamberlain said the same thing before WWII, and no one on the other side seems willing to sign a piece of paper, anyway. And every time we do sign a piece of paper, the other side promptly throws it into the rubbish and forces us to start again.

B. Real peace will be achieved by unilaterally withdrawing to more secure borders. Unfortunately, without an agreement, the other side doesn't feel the same way, as is evidenced by continued attacks across the Lebanese border despite our unilateral withdrawal from there.

C. Real peace will be achieved by not budging an inch, until they are ready to negotiate. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem likely that a population who has always been sympathetic towards Hamas, but only delayed voting for them until after Arafat passed away, ever intends to stop attacks.

You will note that there is no talk of any of the following ideas:

D. Real peace will never be achieved. Therefore, we must do what we have to do, bearing that in mind.

E. Real peace can be achieved by attacking and seeking an unconditional surrender from our enemies.

F. Real peace can be achieved by unconditional surrender from our side.

So what is the news from this election:

Kadima: 28 seats. Not really a new party, exactly, but a breakaway from the right with a heavy dose of left. They are the proponents of B. They will be asked to form a government, and it is unclear if they will try for a left leaning, center leaning, right leaning, religious leaning, or mix for a coalition. Next prime minister: Ehud Olmert, a former mayor of Jerusalem, and a poor one at that.

Labor: 20. The mainstream left, who believes in A, but is willing to do so slowly.

Shas: 13. Sephardi religious party, wants more funds for religious Sephardim and elderly. Willing to join either left or right government to achieve this.

Israel Beitenu: 12. A surprise in the election, as they were a smaller party before, and now have a stronger party than the mainstream right, Likud, which was the leading party for thirty years or so. These guys want to swap areas containing mostly Israeli Arabs to the Palestinians in exchange for lands containing Jews in the west bank. Unfortunately, Israeli Arabs as a rule want to remain in Israel, which has religious freedom, great health care, quality education, and so on, despite some important racism and second-class status issues.

Likud: 11 - Fallen from great heights, these guys once had 43 seats in the Knesset. Kadima took most of them, and Israel Beitenu took some more. In my opinion, the biggest problem was their leader Binaymin "Bibi" Netanyahu, who was both a failed prime minister and a good finance minister, but my opinion is a minority one. Most people blame the whole party, and Bibi's financial policies have increased poverty in some areas.

NRP / NU: 9 - NRP is right wing religious, and NU is far right wing. Seperately, they had 10 seats in the previous Knesset, and they were hoping for more this time, but apparently they failed.

Pensioners: 7 - Big, big surprise, as polls projected that these guys had nowhere near enough support to get into the Knesset, at all. Not only did they get in, they achieved an amazing result. This party is based on one principle: better treatment of the elderly. I don't know anyone who can argue with that position, really, and I expect them to be part of the next government, no matter what its form.

United Torah Judaism: 6 - The Ashkenazi equivalent of Shas, these guys went from 4 ot 6 seats. Haredim have lots of babies, but even some secular people are concerned that Israel maintain a religious identity.

Meretz: 4 - These guys are radical left. They believe in A to the point of withdrawing to the '67 borders first, and then hoping our enemies will like us and sign a peace agreement with us. They shrank from 6 to 4.

United Arab List: 4
Balad: 3
Hadash: 3 - Collectively known as "the Arab parties", I don't feel guilty about lumping them together. While they have differences of opinion regarding economics and so forth, all of them are basically left of Meretz regarding peace, and want to either give Jerusalem to the Palestinians or erase the country as a Jewish state.

Other interesting news:

The Green Leaf party (for legalizing Marijuana) was projected to get close to the number of votes, while all other minor parties were not considered to be anywhere close. Instead, the pensioners party got 7 seats, while these guys got 0.8% of the vote, just about enough for 1 seat, except that you are disqualified from joining the Knesset unless you get at least 2% of the vote.

The Green party scored higher than them, too, at 1.2% of the vote. Both of them are pretty left wing, politically.

Shinui is a center secular party that had 15 seats in the previous Knesset. With the formation of Kadima, they were expected to fall dramatically, and not even get into the Knessest. They began to squabble and split into two parties which made it even less likely. They ended up with less than 0.1% of the vote. Wow. Frankly, I don't see much difference between Shinui and Meretz, anyway.

All in all, it looks like we're in for more of the same headaches and heartaches. In my opinion, as long as each Knesset continues to think that it can "solve" our conflict with radical Islam, without seeing that radical Islam doesn't care about solving the problem, it is doomed to failure. We keep hoping that if we just do something a little different, a little more, a little here or there, that they will like us. When they don't, we blame ourselves, as do the rest of the world.


Obgames: here's a link to eleven intermediate chess strategy tips.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

More on why we play games

A number of articles on the web cover the topic of "why we play board games", as do a number of books. I have read many of these articles. Unfortunately, due to cost constraints, I haven't read most of these books (but my birthday is coming up, and my wantlist is on Amazon, hint hint).

In a recent Gone Gaming article I wrote how the answers to the seemingly straightforward question - "Why do we play games?" - are not really straightforward. We often want to play one game today, and another one tomorrow. We may want to play games at 10:30, and watch a movie at 11:00. So I posited that the "reasons" why we play board games are really a complex interaction of variable "factors" that contribute to us wanting to play at any particular time. These factors depend heavily on our own personal psychology, recent events, our culture, and present and past game groups.

Yet, even not considering the complexity of these factors, the reasons given in the articles that I have read seem to be woefully incomplete. I could assume that other reasons are given in some of the articles and books that I haven't yet read, but I find it strange that all the articles that I have read on the Internet pretty much overlap; surely somewhere someone would have mentioned a few alternative reasons for wanting to play games other than the classically presented ones.

A classic example is the online text, The Art of Computer Game Design, by Chris Crawford, which lists the following reasons (additional annotations are my own):

Escapism - People want to distance themselves from their current reality. This is certainly true, and it also holds true for other forms of entertainment, from watching movies and reading books to simply walking or having a conversation.

Nose thumbing - The opportunity to simulate non-socially acceptable acts, such as killing people or stealing things, within a social acceptable framework. Again, also a reason that people watch movies, read books, and act.

Proving Oneself - By means of competing against your own score on against others in a ranking system or in a tournament. This provides self-satisfaction.

Social Activity - Either directly, during the game itself, or by means of having a common experience to share with others while socializing.

Exercise - Although chess players may break out in a sweat on occasion, I believe that this more refers to sports games, rather than board or computer games.

Acknowledgment - This is the counterpart of proving oneself: hoping that others will acknowledge your mastery or your efforts, thereby stroking your ego.

This is a nice list, but I think it hardly scratches the surface. It certainly misses a whole host of reasons that I know that I, and other people, play games:

Appreciation - A fine game is like a fine piece of art. I know that there are games that I've played just to learn why they are popular. Similarly, I have played games for the experience. Part of the joy of learning how to play Go is to appreciate the subtle beauty of the rules and the components.

Some people I know like to read rulebooks. And I know someone who learned how to play Bridge so that he would be able to understand the Bridge column in the newspaper.

Creativity - Many games reward creativity. Whether a party game where you have to come up with a synonym for a word that rhymes with 'snake' within five seconds, or a strategy game where you need to try something devious and unexpected, the opportunity to express yourself creatively is a pleasure that specifically drives people to play games.

This is the same impetus that drives people to paint, write, or act. Sometimes, when the opportunities for creativity are no longer relevant in a game, the game is no longer enjoyable.

Cooperation - Perhaps closely related to being a social activity, I still think that this reason deserves its own mention. That is because you can experience cooperation entirely non-verbally. Rather than being a social reward, you can think of this as a reaffirmation of humanity and kinship.

The concept of cooperation does not require a cooperative game. All games are essentially entirely cooperative. A Chess game requires two players to cooperatively adhere to the rules and spirit of the game in order to create the game experience. It always takes two or more to play a game of any sort, not including puzzles or solitaire. Cooperation is its own sort of reward.

Education/Inspiration - These are related concepts, I think. Many games give to us as much or more than we put in. It may be a game that stimulates your creative juices, makes you think about a subject, or gives you ideas for your own game designs.

Many teachers use games in their classrooms just for this reason. Namely, as a springboard for a topic related to the theme or mechanics of the game or gameplay. Children for many generations have learned Chess and Go as instruments for intellectual growth.

Gambling - This is surely the oldest and most prevalent reason that humans play games. Every flip of a card or roll of a die is an act of gambling. The thrill and exhilaration, the very fun for most people, comes from awaiting the results of some sort of luck device. There is something inherent in most people that enjoys this.

Humor - Many games are simply fun or funny experiences. Take out a game of Apples to Apples or Balderdash and many people will soon be enjoying themselves with grins and laughter. Again, this places games on par with other entertainment activities.

Management - Specifically by this I mean managing chaos. Think of this as the breadth-first version of Mastery (below). Many games require you to juggle many different possibilities in a short span of time. Some people really enjoy this, whether they succeed or fail.

Mastery - For some games, analysis is a waste of time. For other games, even good analysis is not going to prevent the occasional "D'oh!" from happening. The only feelings that I remember from playing Princes of Florence are the ones about three seconds after I buy the wrong item.

I guess the feeling here is something akin to mastery. Maybe I won't make that mistake again. This is not about "proving yourself". It is about enjoying the control. Control is a very powerful pleasure. Most of the games that I play do rewards patient analysis and experience. I don't play it to prove this to anyone, not even myself. It's just enjoyable in its own right.

Senses - Many games, from sports to Twister to marbles, either feel nice or look nice. Simply participating in the game can be an experience for the senses. That's pleasure.

Story - All good games have their own story, from the humble beginning to the victorious end. Good games go through many of the elements of a story, including partnerships, conflict, adversity, underdogs, and resolution. This is one of the reasons people don't like games to be ended prematurely; they want to know how the story ends.

Furthermore, the story of a series of games in a tournament, or over a time period, or over your lifetime, is a story in its own right. And of course, there are RPGs, which are, literally, stories.

Therapy - Many games, by virtue of their theme or mechanics, can provide therapeutic benefits. It may simply be the meditation you require after a long day of working, or it may be a game that deals with something important to you or your personal history.

That's a partial list. There are many other reasons people play games, such as revenge, belittling, humoring, love, procrastination, and so on. It doesn't seem to me that these reasons can be so easily wrapped up into only a few boxes. Funny how this isn't more recognized.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Gaming, and ...

What else is your passion?

I'm just a sucker for great juggling. Another video from Youtube; not well lit, but great content. I'm sparing the list of the other neat videos that I've now seen on Youtube.

Also cooking, folk and some rock music, intelligent, unique, or classy movies, well-written sci-fi or social fiction, hacking, and the social world of the Internet.


I'm So Mean

This morning:

Me: "Ariella, I just wanted to apologize to you for all the times that I said that you were absentminded and space-brained. It was rude of me to say that. You know I love you."

A: "Thanks, Jon."

Me: "By the way, your hair is in your coffee."


P. S. I also told Rachel that I wouldn't mention on my blog how she squirted mustard on her pancakes last week instead of syrup, but I lied.

P. P. S. To be fair, I left my wallet and ID card at my parent's house last night and didn't remember until we were halfway home. It is human nature to be spaced out sometimes, yet we all feel so self-righteous when we catch others being so.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Weekend Gaming

I went for the weekend to my parent's house, along with my daughter Tal and her friend, and Rachel.


Tal is a game player. She likes all the standard games, as well as some non-complicated Euros, like Settlers of Catan, The Menorah game (she loves, as do all of her friends), and Havoc.

Most of the time, however, when she is not playing with me, she is playing Chinese Spit with her friends. This weekend we played: The Menorah Game once, where Tal won and I was about to win on my next move; and regular Spit, which she made me play with her friend. Tal claims that she hasn't beaten me, yet. I was feeling particularly slow, because I am still sick, so I lost to her friend.

Actually, it came down to single card. I was already down to no flip pile when I missed a single card play. Her friend emptied her hand without my having a chance. The next round, she didn't have a draw pile, and it again came down to single card. I was left with 8, and she with 10. Naturally a 9 eventually flipped up, rather than a 7 or J. We both hit the pile at the same time, but my card somehow ended up stuck halfway into the pile, whereas hers was correctly located on top. Oh, well.


I brought along a few other games. One was Queries and Theories, which I though might interest my father who had once been a computer science teacher, but he doesn't remember anything about natural languages. Another was Lexicon. Lexicon is an old game, one of I don't know how many that are designed around the idea of cards that each have letters on them, and with which you need to form words.

The basic problem with card games with letters whose rules simulate various standard card games is that it is much, much easier to meld words than it is to meld the numbers in a standard deck of cards. True, it takes a little more thinking, but so many more combinations can be used that it is rare that someone doesn't go out within two or three turns.

In this case, the game is a melding rummy. You are dealt ten cards, and on your turn you can either a) lay a word, b) add to an existing word, c) swap cards with an existing word, or d) swap cards with the deck or discard pile. First one out gains no points, and the rest gain the face value of their cards (common letters have higher values). Players are eliminated as they go over 100. Last one standing wins.

As I said, if the game really played out like Gin Rummy, where ten or twenty turns occurred each round, it would be a grand game. As it is, someone always goes down within two or three turns, which makes the game fairly uninteresting. Still, it is fun playing around with the anagramming, and I would play it again, casually.

The game comes with a rulebook that contains another twenty variations, all simulating regular card games, such as Lexicon Bridge, Lexicon Whist, and so on.

Anyway, Rachel and Mom and I played a few rounds, and then my Mom and I played a few more two player later in the day.

Scrabble and Three-Player Bridge

After Mom and I both got bored with Lexicon, I suggested Scrabble as a better alternative, and then won by an embarrassing amount. I scored 395.

Later, my Dad actually volunteered to play three handed bridge with my Mom and me. Three handed is bridge extremely gutted, but still ok if you are not really expecting "bridge", per se.

There are variations, but ours is that eight cards of the fourth hand are turned up. Each player bids, and whomever wins the bidding gets the fourth hand as dummy. The remaining five cards are turned up after the lead is made, and always turn out to contain four cards of some suit one of the defenders was bidding on, at which point they make some pithy remark about how "if they had only known!" That's why it's not really bridge: no partnership bidding, no control over the contract, and no information about where the other cards lie.

I find it generally useful to be quite aggressive when bidding three player. However, you can get a feel for how many values are underneath by listening to the other player's first bids. If one of them passes, odds are that there is a lot under there. If everyone is bidding aggressively, odds are that not much is under there.

We played a few hands.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Quick Post, and boring

Went to the Inaugural Convocation for Yeshiva University last night with Rachel, mostly because Malke Bina and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin were two of the four people receiving honorary degrees.

Malke Bina is, among other things, the founder of Matan, the foremost place for women's serious torah learning, and one of the places with which Rachel is associated. Highly recommended.

Rabbi Riskin is associated with many many places, including the Ohr Torah Stone learning centers, the village of Efrat, and the Lincoln Square synagogue in New York City. All highly recommended, of course.

It was dull, of course, but quicker than I expected, and followed by light refreshments.

Rachel and I are are still coughing from our sickness, and someone handed me a candy to try and keep me quiet.

Off to see my parents in Beit Shemesh this shabbat. They only play bridge and rummy. I need to check my new games to see if I've bought anything recently that might appeal to them.

Shabbat shalom,

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Green Eggs and Tom

I am Tom
I am Tom
Tom Vasel

That Tom Vasel
That Tom Vasel!
What a hassle
that Tom Vasel!

Do you like
playing Carcassonne?

I do not like it,
Tom Vasel.
I do not like
Carcassonne, it's facile.

Would you play it
here or there?

I would not play it
here or there.
I would not play it
I do not like
Carcassonne, the game.
I do not like it
If it's all the same.

Would you play it
in a house?
Would you play it
with a mouse?

I would not play it
in a house.
I would not play it
with a mouse.
I would not play it
here or there.
I would not play it
I do not like playing Carcassonne.
Just the game's name makes me yawn.

Would you play it
in a box?
Would you play it
with a fox?

Not in a box.
Not with a fox.
Not in a house.
Not with a mouse.
I would not play it here or there.
I would not play it anywhere.
I would not play that Carcassonne.
I do not like it. Please be gone.

Would you? Could you?
In a car?
Play it! Play it!
Here you are.

I would not,
could not,
in a car.

You may like it.
You will see.
You may like it
in a tree!

I would not, could not in a tree.
Not in a car! You let me be!

I would not play it in a box.
I would not play it with a fox.
I would not play it in a house.
I would not play it with a mouse.
I would not play it here or there.
I would not play it anywhere.
I would not play it, Vasel, Tom.
What is this, some kind of pogrom?

A train! A train!
A train! A train!
Could you, would you,
on a train?

Not on a train! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! Tom! Let me be!

I would not, could not, in a box.
I could not, would not, with a fox.
I will not play it with a mouse.
I will not play it in a house.
I will not play it here or there.
I will not play it anywhere.
I do not like that Carcassonne.
I think it is the devil's spawn.

In the dark?
Here in the dark!
Would you, could you, in the dark?

I would not, could not,
in the dark.

Would you, could you,
in the rain?

I would not, could not, in the rain.
Not in the dark. Not on a train.
Not in a car. Not in a tree.
I do not like it, Tom, you see.
Not in a house. Not in a box.
Not with a mouse. Not with a fox.
I will not play it here or there.
I will not play it anywhere!

You do not like

I do not
like it,
Mr Tom.

Would you, could you
In a castle?
Could you, would you
With a tassel?

No, I wouldn't
You old Tom Vasel.

Could you, would you
with a goat?

I would not,
could not,
with a goat!

Would you, could you,
on a boat?

I could not, would not, on a boat.
I will not, will not, with a goat.
Not with a tassel. Not in a castle.
I will not play it in the rain.
I will not play it on a train.
Not in the dark! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! You let me be!
I do not like it in a box.
I do not like it with a fox.
I will not play it in a house.
I do not like it with a mouse.
I do not like it here or there.
I do not like it ANYWHERE

I do not like
that Carcassonne!

I do not like it,
Mr. Tom.

You do not like it.
So you say.
Try it! Try it!
And you may.
Try it and you may, I say.

If you will let me be,
I will try it.
You will see.

I like this game, I do!
I like it, you Tom Vasel, you!
And I would play it in a boat.
And I would play it with a goat...

And I will play it in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
It is so good, so good, you see!

So I will play it in a box.
And I will play it with a fox.
And I will play it in a house.
And I will play it with a mouse.
And I will play it here and there.
Say! I will play it ANYWHERE!

I do so like
this little game!
Thank you!
Thank you,
Er ... what was his name?

Yehuda, with a little help from Theodore Geisel

Session Report

Games played: AD&D 2nd edition, Clans, The Menorah Game, Aladdin's Dragons.

This time with FULL PICTURES!!! Thanks to Itamar. Check it out:

In other news, Kelly Clarson just canceled her two shows in Israel, owing to a throat infections. We were supposed to be going to the Saturday night one. Argh. Poor Tal.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Israeli game stores, continued

I went back to the toy store while my daughter went shopping for a skirt.

My first check was to see which Foxmind games were available, as I incompletely reported on them last time. Turns out that the games published by Foxmind in Israel are Gamewright games: Rat-a-Tat Cat, Slamwich, Snap, and so on, as well as some other games, like Speed (looks like Blink) and Set.

I also noticed for the first time some cheap but interesting looking abstract games by Orda Industries (here, and here), makers of Duello, 1,2,3 Go, and some other stuff. Orda's games were cheap, about $6 for the first, and $3.50 for the second.

Duello looks cute. Each piece is a square with its movement capabilities illustrated on its top, and you have to capture your opponent's pieces by landing on them. You get access to your own pieces in random order. Looks a little like a possible influence for Gilad's Rooster Coop game.

There are still a few games in Hebrew that look original and "meaty", but I haven't yet figured out what they are. Something called "Enchanted Forest"? It might be the one on BGG. The rest of the games are translations of English games, SuDoku, classic abstracts as well as Abalone, Blokus, Batik, DisX, Gobblet, Pylos, Quixo, and Quarto, or knock-off trivia, roll-and-move, or matching games.

They still have original copies of Talisman (bleah), European 4-player Stratego, and a Stratego-like game where your pieces can stack, called Super Tactico.

I saw what looks like another sort-of Monopoly clone called "Canyon", which means "Mall" in Hebrew. You have to buy stores that customers are visiting in the mall; I couldn't figure out the rest of the rules from the back of the box.

Some very prominent games include:

- Blanko, a Hebrew Scrabble variant

- Rummikub (of course)

- Monopoly (Israel, and the Hebrew edition of Wonders of the World)

- Hebrew Scrabble

- Rolit (marbles colored on 4 different sides embedded at each point in a grid; you obviously have to get N in a row of your color via some sort of restricted mechanism for turning the marbles)

- Manhattan; this one matches neither of the same named games on the Geek. You have to place 2x3x4 blocks on a grid, and when you enclose a space you get points. I can't tell how deep this games is from the box.

No "Ingenious" this time.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Juden Raus and other such antisemitism

Thanks to Brendan from my game group for providing the link. Click on Children's Games for three example games from Nazi Germany, including the infamous Juden Raus. Includes poorly translated rules (if they're not poorly translated, then the original rule-writer couldn't write German very well).


Monday, March 20, 2006

Best of Blogging

Let's be honest: I kind of suspected that I might get mentioned on Best of Board Games for yesterday's quiz. I haven't been mentioned on their blog in a while, and I was starting to feel lonely. OK! I know what that makes me, at least according to Grognads.

Why was that post chosen, when I've obviously written so many fine quality posts since my last mention on their site :-)? What is the best of the blogosphere, anyway?

Skimming through the BoBG site, it appears that what qualifies as "best" is: humorous posts, well defined philosophical articles, technical articles about some aspect of games or gaming, newsworthy events, or long reviews. Rarely, it may be a session report with nice pictures. A few criteria are for certain: it has to stand alone, cover only a single topic, and be a post about board games.

Given that criteria, the "Best of Coldfoot, BGG(1)" could be:

04/13/2005: War of the Rings, Extra Credit Assignment - Reflecting on WotR

07/19/2005: Boardgame Resource List - The original, then updated

But if you look at his archives, you will see many other posts that are just as interesting. Almost every post is a review of one or more games. Most of them are not "earth-shaking enough" to warrant a BoBG posting, or cover two games at once. The BoBG bar is rather high and specific. Anyone interested in the games Coldfoot reviews would be well served reading his reviews.

For instance, other great Coldfoot BGG posts that probably wouldn't make BoBG, but are good reads, include:

03/15/2005: Always summer down south. - Reflecting on the real reason the rest of us are lucky not to live in Alaska

03/28/2005: HotS, YINSH, GIPF, ASL, LotR. - Learning ASL

04/09/2005: Chinatown, War of the Ring, more YINSH - Reflecting on WotR.

05/04/2005: Little Coldfeet - Cute kids

06/30/2005: What's this? - Notices his high ranking by Tom Vasel, and talks about game reviews

and his reviews of reasonable length, which include: age of mythology, blokus, blood feud in new york, bootleggers, buyword, carcassonne: hunters & gatherers (also here), chinatown, china, doom (and here), dos rios, euprat & tigris (and here), explorium, game of thrones, goa, kingdoms, manifest destiny (and here), mare nostrum (and here), mcmulti, medina, napoleonic war, niargra, struggle of empires, and twilight imperium iii.

And that's just his BGG posts.

Excerpting the "best" of a blogger is sort of like excerpting the hits from a record and compiling a "best of" album. To whit: if you like an artist who produces a hit, you may just like the artist as a whole. And the "best" may simply be the most presentable.

The reason that this is a problem is that people are always looking for ways to cut down their reading, and they are turning to a "Best of Board Games" blog as one way of doing it. But as I mentioned ages ago regarding linkpost blogs, a linkpost blog is just one index into a growing world of posts.

By now there should really be other "Best of Board Game" blogs, with their own criteria for selecting "best" posts. And so on, until we get a "Best of 'Best of Board Game blogs' blog".

I would complain more, but I am filled with no small trepidation; Peter of nimrods complained and they made him an official poster to the BoBG blog. Urk.

There is so much out there that would qualify as best, even according to their criteria. Rather than complaining about all that they miss, I will note that they are only five guys. If you see something that needs to be mentioned, submit it to them. Don't let all the good stuff get missed by the masses. All of us like to be noticed, and a lot of what is written deserves to be.


(1) Before Gone Gaming

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Player Quiz

1. Your friend tells you that you'll be playing Settlers of Catan at the next game group session.
a: You thank your friend for the warning, gather a crack squad of elite troops, and blow up the gaming group location a week in advance.
b: You say, "OK."
c: You say, "Again, we played that last week!"
d: You say, "W00T! I luv Settlars!"
e: You say, "Whatever."
f: You say, "Settlers of what? Is that like Monopoly? You guys are so obsessed with these weird complicated games. Can't we just play Sorry?"

2. You decide to go because:
a: You remember that Settlers has dice, variable terrain, units, and so on, so it could, in a weird way, if you squint a little, be considered a light war game.
b: It's the game group.
c: You might play some other games before or after.
d: Settlars rox!
e: You don't have anything to do on Thursdays since they canceled Friends last year.
f: Your friend tells you it's easy to understand and play.

3. Who's bringing the game?
a. You are, along with three extra copies, just in case, as well as a spare one you have on call at the game store. Each piece is stored in its own Plexiglas storage container for easy setup.
b. You are, of course.
c. One of you is, and you know who.
d. Someone is.
e. Whatever.
f. Is that tonight?

4. Who sets up the game?
a. You do; actually, you did several weeks ago, and you soldered Plexiglas over the game, repainted all of the pieces, and added 3D realistic terrain to the board to simulate cover and concealment.
b. You do, since everyone else forgets that, according to the original German rules, you have to lay out the hexes 5 center, 4 on the right, 4 on the left, 3 on the right, and then 3 on the left.
c. You can, or someone else will.
d. Watching it get set up is cool! Look! Three wood hexes! I'm calling that space!
e. Hey, they sure have a lot of games here. Look a TV. I wonder what's on TV.
f. What are we playing again? Does it always take so long to set up? Can't we just play already?

5. What variant are you playing?
a: The variant where you set up Settlers on one table and play ASL on the other. Failing that, every variant that includes direct confrontation, including Cities and Knights of Catan, Nuclear War of Catan, Armed Ambush of Catan, and the Franco-Prussian midday skirmish of August 22, 1875 just-after-they-had-their-afternoon-tea of Catan.
b: All of them.
c: Cities and Knights, and maybe Seafarers
d: Vanilla Settlers
e: Hey, they're showing a rerun of Friends on channel 63 in Spanish. Ha ha! That Chandler!
f: What's a variant? Is that complicated?

6. Who teaches the newbies, and how?
a. You bring out your 300 page glossy custom made manual as well as printouts of every web page with errata that ever mentioned the word Settlers of Catan. Your opening line is: "Men. This is war."
b. You do, since you always teach everyone. You've got it down to five minutes and twenty seconds. Your opening lines are: "Youneedtenvictorypointstowinthegame. Eachsettlementisonepoint. Eachcityistwopoints."
c. Someone else, and you occasionally interrupt if they forget to say something they were about to say.
d. Someone else, and you continuously interrupt with things like, "Wood is really important!", "Don't trade with Josh! He always wins!", and "These dice never roll tens so don't bother with the ten hexes!"
e. Look, there's the monkey! Ha ha! He touched Rachel's breast! Ha ha! I sure wish I was that monkey!
f. Man, can't we just play already? I'm not going to remember anything you just said! Why can't we play Sorry? This is a dumb game.

7. When is a good time to start thinking about your moves?
a. Three months in advance, after you have read the rule book and all errata and programmed your computer to step through all scenarios.
b. After looking at the board setup, while planning a strategy for the game.
c. A round or so in advance, while others are thinking about their moves.
d. After you roll the dice for your turn. The game changes so much each round.
e. A few minutes after the other players call you away from the TV set
f. I don't want to have to think about my moves.

8. What is a good strategy?
a. Using your relationship to the other players as psychological advantage, threatening severe reprisals if they come anywhere near you, and running the bank out of resources.
b. It depends on what resources are more available and how many other players are playing.
c. Cities, because they double the production of your best locations, and you only need four locations to win, anyway.
d. Roads and settlements, because roads only take two resources, and Longest Road is c00l!
e. Waiting for the other players to tell you what to do.
f. Strategy?

9. What are some good tactics?
a. Positioning the board so that you are sitting in the shadows, quoting obscure rules during the game to undermine the other player's confidence, and arranging for a regional disaster to happen that will distract your opponents during the game.
b. Many good trades, since the more you trade, the better you net against multiple opponents.
c. Quick ore and wheat production.
d. Building lots of roads, hoarding resources, and rolling lucky.
e. Saying "what?" a lot of times, until the other players just tell you what to do.
f. Tactics?

10. How do you roll the dice?
a: In a dice tower.
b: In a box, so that no one can argue about the dice landing unevenly.
c: On the side of the table.
d: Across the board, knocking over all the pieces.
e: Someone else rolled them for you.
f: You kiss them and say "Come on, lucky 7's!"

11. What happens after you rolled the dice?
a: Take the results of the first die, look up on the master table, go to table 3a, take the results of the second die, look across row 4 on table 3a, see footnote 24b, ...
b: You hand everybody their resources.
c: You take your resources.
d: You ask what resources you get. After you get them, you say, "Is that all? Don't I get a wood?"
e: Hmmm? What?
f: You ask what the cards mean again, you look at the resource cost chart again, you show everyone what you have, and you ask whether you can build a settlement and where.

12. What is a good trade offer?
a: You give me all of your resources and I won't crush you like a bug.
b: I'll give you two wheats and one sheep for a wood and an ore, and I'll give you that wood and a brick for two ore.
c: Any one card for two cards.
d: Wood? Wood? Wood for sheep? Ha ha! Wood for sheep! No, my sheep for your wood. Ha ha! Two sheep? ("No one has wood") Three sheep? Anyone have wood? Oh c'mon. I need to build my fifteenth road! I'm this close! Brick? Anyone have brick? Sheep for brick? Two sheep for brick? Three sheep? Three sheep and two wheat for a brick and a wood? Anyone have wood?
e: I'm done.
f: What do I need to build a settlement again? I'll give you this green thing for a road. Lamb. I mean sheep.

13. Who won?
a: You're still looking at the tables. Victory will be yours, eventually, if not this game, then the next.
b: You did. Again.
c: You came close, but you lost because no tens were rolled and all of your production was on the ten.
d: You had three settlements and Longest Road. Pretty awesome!
e: Hmmm? Is the game over? Who won?
f: Can we play Sorry now? Come on, I played your game, it's only fair. Sorry is a great game, and you don't have to think so much!

You are a:
a. War gamer
b. Obsessed Euro-gamer
c. Average Euro-gamer
d. New Euro-gamer
e. Annoying gamer groupie
f. Non-gamer


Weekend Gaming

Apples to Apples

It started with dinner.

Although I was still getting over being sick, and Rachel was full blow coughing all over the place, we somehow had: three visiting Mennonites, a local family of four, Nadine from the game group, and Brendan (an Anglican) from the game group, all over for dinner.

We all had a good time, and the Mennonites gamely tried to defend their pacifist stance, as they always have to do when confronted by non-pacifists who live with terrorism on a daily basis.

After dinner we played Apples to Apples four times, twice with the Mennonites, Brendan, Nadine and myself, and twice more also including the two kids. Brendan wants everyone to know that he won one of the games.

Puerto Rico

Sat after Rachel's shiur, Rachel and I played two-player Puerto Rico. I decided to mix it up again, and we played with the following:

Wildcat Strikers 1/1: At the beginning of a round, you can sacrifice WS and declare that one phase this round will act as Prospector instead of its usual function. Move your colonist to San Juan.

Captain's Quarters 2/1: When you ship, you may add a colonist into the Hold for 1 VP. Each Hold can store only one item of any sort.

Bazaar 2/1: During Mayor, you may trade a GP/VP/barrel for an additional colonist; during Craftsman, you may trade a colonist/VP/GP for an additional barrel; during Trader, you may trade a colonist/barrel/VP for an additional GP.

Small Warehouse 3/1

Trade School 4/2: When you buy a building, you may pay an additional GP to have it come manned with a colonist.

Office 5/2

Inheritance 5/2: When you buy a production building, take its matching plantation from the supply.

Small Wharf 6/2

Super Market 7/3: Trade at +3

Large Business 8/3: Builder and Captain's privileges (Build at -1, +1 VP during Captain phase)

Large General Workhouse 8/3 (2 circles): Produce any type of goods with matching plantations.

Port Privileges 9/3: Once per Captain phase, you may load onto the wrong ship. Choose a type of goods, choose a ship, and load as many barrels as you can of that good onto the ship.

Cathedral 10/4: +1 VP/3 red point VPs on buildings.

Fairgrounds 10/4: +1/2/3/5/7 VP for 2/3/4/5/6 types of plantations (including quarries).

Fortress 10/4

Custom's House 10/4

City Hall 10/4

Looking at this set, I thought that Captain's Quarters and Port Privileges might work together. CQ is hard to use, not only because the loss of a colonists is so hard, but also because it is easy to get locked off of boats, and only one colonist can be in the Hold at one time. PP helps you get around that. PP is a strictly better building than Wharf, but not completely overpowered.

I got both CQ and PP, and still lost by a very large margin. Rachel got Wildcat Strikers, Trade School, and Large Business. She got a large building, and then I got one on the second to last turn. At the beginning of the last turn, she sacrificed her WS to prevent me from taking Mayor, which prevented me from manning my large building, and then she bought her second big building, manned. Score: something like 53 to 41.

Auctions, Monopoly, and D&D

Saturday night I checked my emails. I won a new set of Settlers of Catan cards and the GIPF game in geekgold auctions. Only, I turned out to be twenty geekgold shy. I'm behind in submitting my session reports, so I'm off to do that after this blog entry.

I've also been getting numerous emails about my Monopoly listing. Way to draw traffic. :-) I will be exchanging info and some links with some other sites.

At the next game night we will be doing roleplaying again; I have enlisted Josh's help (another game group member) to become an assistant GM. I've never worked with an assistant GM, so the experience should be interesting. Josh came over on Sat evening and we fleshed out the world and talked about the rules. Should be an adventure.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Sigh. Good post, down the tubes ...

I had a great post, I was just reviewing it for spelling errors, and the electricity went out in my house. And Blogger's autosave doesn't.

Oh well.

Nadine and Brendan from the game group are among my guests tonight for dinner.

Shabbat shalom.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Monopoly Versions updated

Up to almost 800 900 versions. Wheee.


Session Report

Session report up here.

Games played: Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation, Yinsh, Amun Re, El Grande, Apples 2 Apples, Puerto Rico, Modern Art.

Earlier in the day I also played a two player Power Grid game with Saarya, home from school on a rare occasion. It's still good, but a bit mechanical with only two players. Possibly that just may be because we're not thinking more than a turn or two in advance.

Now that we both have some experience, the game ended pretty closely. In the last round, there was finally a 7 capacity plant available. If I got it, I would be able to both build and power 21 cities, but I could only bid up to 45. Saarya took it at 46, and he was only able to build and power 20 cities. I decided to end the game, anyway, by building my 21st city. We could both power 20, and we ended the game with him winning by $1. Probably, if I had waited one more round, we would have both ended the game at 21 cities but I would have had slightly more cash.

I went to my brother's for the Purim meal, and my whole family was there. Of course, I brought a few games in case we had some time afterwards. I ended up playing Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation with one of my nephews. The house was too chaotic to allow any further game playing.

And in other news: there really IS a branded version of Settlers of Catan, currently for sale on eBay (at a very high price). An exerpt from the description:

A promotional version of the original Settlers game. Produced by Kosmos for the French telecom company Alcatel. It's the same game but with a telecom theme. The traditional resources are replaced by telephones, cable tv, internet, mobile phone and multimedia. The longest road becomes the longest fibre line and the robber becomes Government regulation! The land types become: rural, residential, metropolitan, industrial and high tech.

On BGG: Communication in Catan, The

Also a Whisky themed version for the Glen Grant Distillery Company: Wasser des Lebens, Das

I managed to secure Kelly Clarkson tix for my daughter. Visiting superstars are usually very expensive for the average Israeli salary; these were cheaper tickets, only $15. Of course, they were snatched up very quickly. Then the date of the concert changed from Monday night to Saturday night, and some people who had Monday night tickets couldn't go on Saturday night. I managed to buy them from one such person. And she wasn't even scalping them.

This is a great once-in-a-lifetime birthday present for my daughter, who really likes KC's music. Kelly isn't exactly my musical style of choice, but I think she is pretty talented for her style, and considering the very few performers who make it to Israel, this is a great opportunity to see one. And her songs are relatively wholesome, too.

I'm actually impressed that she is including Israel on her first international tour, which also deserves support. Of course, one of her band members (guitarist?) is an Israeli, which may have something to do with it.

Now I just have to figure out how to get her to the concert in Tel Aviv on Sat night by 7:30, when shabbat ends in Jerusalem at 6:30.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Great Session Reports, with Pictures

Boardgame Cafe has been cranking out some impressive session reports. Pictures, detailed and interesting descriptions, and so on. Very impressive.

Also still putting out session reports with great pictures (really great pictures): Chris Brooks, Jim Ginn, and 'Peg City Gamers.

Gili, one of our game groupies, already brought over "shaloach manot" (food gift) for us this evening. I will see her again tomorrow evening at the game group.

Rachel is back home, and cooking is going on, as well as costumes, hearing the migillah, Purim play, kids going here and there. Dad in the hospital, planning tommorow's big meal, and so on.


How much time and money did it take Lucas to do this in 1977?



Rachel going home

Rachel was given a clean bill of health and is going home. At least, I think it's a clean bill of health. It might be only a temporary clean bill of health. Whatever.

No one offered to Skype for games last night, which is fine because I ended up going to bed early, anyway. I'm feeling better today, even if I'm not sounding better.

Today is Purim, but tonight and tomorrow is Shushan Purim. Residents of Jerusalem and other certain cities are supposed to celebrate Shushan Purim and not Purim. That includes me. When Rachel gets home, she will begin assembling some of the plates of food that we will be handing out to our friends tomorrow. I will be making the potato kugels to go with them, tonight.

No games for three days. Sigh. Maybe tonight.


Monday, March 13, 2006

My Next Gone Gaming Article

Which will be here, tomorrow, kind of wrote itself. Sometimes it's a meme floating in the blogosphere, sometimes it is just something that clicks together.

In the meantime, today in my new company, we saw a presentation made by my old company, about a software product that they (my old company) sell. It was a coincidence that we happened to be looking for just that type of software. Funny, that I was working in the old company for almost two years and never saw that software product until I went online in my new company to search for a product that might suit our needs. And found them.

Today was also the Fast of Esther which occurs before Purim. I couldn't fast, owing to being sick (one is not supposed to fast on a "minor" fast such as this one when one is sick). Now I'm off to the hospital to see my greekobibliophiliac wife.

I will be alone tonight. If you want to play a game via Skype, let me know. Yinsh, maybe?


Rachel Update

Well, I'm still sick. How long does a cold last?

Monday morning, and no change in Rachel's condition.

Rachel says that she still feels perfectly fine, but the doctors say that she definitely has a gall bladder infection. It may have to be removed; surgery for that would be scheduled for a later time. In the meantime, I'm not sure how much longer she will remain in the hospital.

By a startling coincidence, my father is going in to the same hospital today for his final course in chemotherapy. We're considering renaming the hospital after us.

Recapping, Sunday morning I went to the hospital with some of Rachel's stuff and picked up Ariella and brought her home. I did some work at home. Later I took Tal and Eitan to the hospital and we all came back. Eitan was on his way to a "ball" at school. Eitan is the metalhead, so to see him dressed in a suit-jacket is an amusing thing. Even his girlfriend couldn't get him to dance, however.

Tal and I went shopping for food to make and handout on Purim (one of the customs of Purim is to hand out food to other people - a nicer custom than trick-or-treating I think).

This morning I brought Rachel more of her things. What is she doing in the hospital? Studying ancient Greek, compiling biblical sources, writing chapters of her dissertation.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

February Gaming at the JSGC

Again, a very busy month of new games brought by our enthusiastic new member Binyamin. But stranger than that was our first session of roleplaying. I wrote a long session report which you can view on the JSGC website, along with all of our other session reports.

As usual, the below represents only those games played at the club, and not my own gaming.

AD&D 2nd edition (and preparatory sessions): rolling up characters and going over rules, followed by a long game session. We played with too many people, which made it a little noisy and occasionally some boredom. However, even with all of that, it was enjoyable. Even when you are not swinging, you usually have something to do or something to research or something to pay attention to. We played 2nd edition because I refuse to play 3rd.

Bohnanza: I had traded this game away a long time ago because I didn't find it to be enjoyable with grown-ups, only with kids. I should have kept it for that reason, but I don't really miss it. Binyamin bought it anyway and figured out the same thing.

Clans: I didn't play it, but I heard good things about it.

Geschenkt x 2: Binyamin brought a live copy of this, although I usually play on a mockup. Very nice filler.

Goa: And he also bought this, even though my copy is currently traded to a Tel Aviv group in exchange for a host of other games that they don't like as much. I still don't like it that much. Most of the other players disagree with me on this, except for a) the flipping for colonies, which they all agree (as far as I know) is a bad idea. We just add 4 to your attempt to found a colony. and b) we pick two cards and keep one. I kind of hate card mechanics like this.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation x 2: Can't help it. I've grown to like it a lot.

Maharaja: I like it slightly more than the other players. It's got so many nice planning mechanics and strategies. And it's so much like El Grande. However, it's one of those games that seems to dwindle out rather than finish properly. Some guy pulls ahead, and that's it. We have a lot more playing to do to see if there is something we can do about that, however.

Power Grid x 2: Despite this having a similar dwindling endgame, the dwindling happens only towards the last or second to last round and it takes a long time to get there. Our group loves the game, and so do I.

Puerto Rico: The classic.

San Marco x 2: A game that I just get. And pretty good, too. Other agree, I believe.

Settlers of Catan: The other classic.

Ticket to Ride: We thought this game was a bit too lightweight for us. Maybe we're playing it too nicely. And surely we would have thought differently if it were our first Eurogame. I'm still happy to play again, in any case.


Weekend Update

Nah nah. You're all too late. Four people read my previous post and received geekgold (or declined). They're my real fans. The rest of you can retake the test later this year.

I was hoping my sickness would be a transitory thing, but I wake up every day feeling just about the same. Just on this side of not being able to go to work, but not enough not to be able to work from home.

Let's see. Saarya had been sick for about 36 hours and had gotten better. Rachel appeared to be sick for only twelve hours and had also gotten better. But ... more on that later.

As luck would have it, not only did we have guests for the entire weekend, but we also had a group of girls for dinner. These girls had just arrived on the March of the Living, a program for twelfth-graders from America (these ones were from Baltimore) and other countries.

March of the Living takes kids to Poland and has them visiting numerous Holocaust sites, such as Auschwitz and so on. They see mountains of ash, rooms full of eyeglasses and teeth, and so on. They see the ghettos and the burnt synagogues. Perhaps just as important they see ice cream stands selling outside the concentration camps, worthless, genericizing, and desensitizing museums in places where the real articles would have been more powerful, and disdain or naked antisemitism on the faces of all too many Polish people today.

We had a non-Jewish Polish person over for shabbat a few months ago who told us that she thinks that it is a shame that the kids see only this part of Poland, and that part of the disdain of the Polish people comes from the fact that the kids are shown nothing else of Poland. Obviously someone is missing something, somewhere.

After this harrowing week, the kids come to Israel for another week or so. In this case, the girls had arrived at 4:30 am without sleep, had gone to the Western Wall and then come to us for dinner, still without sleep. But you know young 'uns; they were still vibrant and full of energy.

They all said that it was an incredible experience and very meaningful to them. They also said that Israel was so much more beautiful than they had realized.

I coughed and hurfed through dinner, but they were all very nice about it. I found out that when it takes a long time to say anything, it is only worth saying things that don't take a long time to say.

We sent them off at 9:30 pm and hopefully they made it back to their hotel without plotzing on the way.

Our shabbat guests were the non-gamer variety. Their kids play, but only the youngest one came, a girl about 13. We played Set, Yinsh twice, the Menorah game, and China Moon. She lost all but one game of Yinsh, but the Yinsh game that she won was extremely well played. I was certainly trying my best.

I did manage to get the mother to play "shabbat Boggle" with us, which consists of simply finding words on a Boggle grid for as long as possible. In theory, you take turns and the last one to call a word wins. Our game just disintegrated into calling out words as people found them, however.

After shabbat, I was called over to the neighbors, as I'll be narrating a Purim "shpiel", or humorous play. This one is a musical where we make fun of all of the streams of Judaism. Unfortunately for me, not only was I sick, but the play organizer still hadn't written all of my narration (the play is Tuesday night), what he wrote was, um, not so good (but the songs are what's important, so no big loss), and the musicians were still trying to figure out how to sing the songs. I guess we call this amateur theater. I'm sure it will all work out, but it's funny to watch.

Rachel had banished me to one of the other rooms to sleep since I was coughing so much. Undoubtedly as a form of divine retribution, she awakened early in the night with severe heartburn-like pain. Ariella accompanied her to the hospital. In the morning we found out that she has an inflamed gall bladder and may have had a very small kidney stone. She is feeling totally ok right now, but is getting pumped with anti-biotics in the hospital until tomorrow, at least.

The next week should be interesting.


Friday, March 10, 2006

I be sick, but not of Puerto Rico

There's a cold going around, and I've caught it. Yesterday I practically couldn't speak. Today I'm still coughing.

Last night neither Rachel nor I could sleep at about 3:00 am, so we played a 2-player game of PR. We haven't played in a long time, owing to Rachel having a new job and still wanting to finish her PhD.

We played with my usual mix of buildings and my usual 2-player variation. The mix is now just about perfect, only I really need a better 5 cost building to replace Office. Church doesn't do it for us.

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

2/1 Hacienda: Actually not my favorite, as I don't like the random nature of the building.

2/1 Small Fashion District: Sell indigo at +2

3/1 Small Warehouse

4/2 Hospice: You can move one of your colonists onto Hospice immediately. Still not enough, but I can't think of any other way to make this stronger without making it too strong.

5/2 Office

5/2 Large Market

6/2 Discretionary Hold: You may place one additional barrel of any type onto each full ship for 1 VP each. Each ship can only hold 1 barrel, so if two players have a DH, start with the Captain and alternate. In addition to the above, you may store up to three additional barrels. It reads a little long but it's a nice building.

7/3 Factory

8/3 Large General Workhouse (2 circles): produces any type of goods along with matching occupied plantations. Some people on BGG thought this was too powerful when combined with Factory. I had both and I lost anyway, so there.

8/3 Large Business: -1 building cost and +1 VP if you ship at least one barrel (i.e. Builder's and Captain's privileges). Since we play with 3 boats in 2-player, this is a better building than Harbor for this slot.

9/3 Wharf: Not as much of a problem when there are three ships.

10/4 Cathedral: +1 VP/3 VP in red building points. Much better than Guild Hall.

10/4 Fairgrounds: +1/2/3/5/7 VP for 2/3/4/5/6 types of plantations. Much better than Residence.

10/4 Fortress

10/4 Custom's House

10/4 City Hall

As I said, I had Factory, LGW, and even three big buildings, but I couldn't compete with Rachel's Small Warehouse, Large Business, and Custom's House. She took an early Hacienda which didn't help her, but she did have a lot of production going, anyway. Frankly, I still don't know how she managed it.

We left the game out and this afternoon we played again; Rachel always like to play at least twice before putting the game away since it takes so much time to set up. She beat me again, this time with Large Business, Discretionary Hold, and two large buildings to my coffee and indigo monopolies, Factory, Small Warehouse, and one large building. Once again, I don't know exactly where I went wrong.

None of this information is useful to any of you, I know. In fact, if you're still reading this and you're one of the lucky first ten readers to respond, I'll send you a geekgold.

We have guests for shabbat. I hope they don't mind my cold. Sniff.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Session Report Up

Games played: The Menorah Game, Davinci Code, Age of Steam, Puerto Rico, Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation x 3, Yinsh, Set.

I even added a direct link, this time: .

Oh look. My 400th post. Yay me.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Ballad of a Game of Dvonn

As I was a-walkin through BGG.con
Sing Catan, sing Catan, sing Catan-i-o
As I was a-walkin through BGG.con
I spied a fair couple who were playing Dvonn
Sing Catan away, and only ten points to go

The lady played a good game, as anyone could see
Sing Catan, sing Catan, sing Catan-i-o
The lady played a good game, as anyone could see
For the gentleman had lost five games and the lady but three
Sing Catan away, and only nine points to go

Oh you take the black ones and I'll take the white
Sing Catan, sing Catan, sing Catan-i-o
Oh you take the black ones and I'll take the white
For I haven't won many games with the black ones tonight
Sing Catan away, and only eight points to go

Yes you take the white ones and I'll take the black
Sing Catan, sing Catan, sing Catan-i-o
Yes you take the white ones and I'll take the black
But the black ones won't help you when it's talent you lack
Sing Catan away, and only seven points to go

Well they'd only been playing 'bout a minute or so
Sing Catan, sing Catan, sing Catan-i-o
Well they'd only been playing 'bout a minute or so
When the lady's brow furrowed and her cheeks lost their glow
Sing Catan away, and only six points to go

Well they'd only been playing three minutes, not more
Sing Catan, sing Catan, sing Catan-i-o
Well they'd only been playing three minutes, not more
When the lady's face reddened and her head seemed quite sore
Sing Catan away, and only five points to go

Well they'd only been playing five minutes and done
Sing Catan, sing Catan, sing Catan-i-o
Well they'd only been playing five minutes and done
For the game had reached its ending and the gentleman had won
Sing Catan away, and only four points to go

You must have been lucky, said the lady, quite flat
Sing Catan, sing Catan, sing Catan-i-o
You must have been lucky, said the lady, quite flat
For you haven't the skill to have beaten me like that
Sing Catan away, and only three points to go

Said the man, oh, I may not have talent or skill
Sing Catan, sing Catan, sing Catan-i-o
Said the man, oh, I may not have talent or skill
But I play with good manners and I play with good will
Sing Catan away, and only two points to go

And the gentleman stood up and he wandered away
Sing Catan, sing Catan, sing Catan-i-o
And the gentleman stood up and he wandered away
And the couple played no more together that day
Sing Catan away, and only one point to go

And I thought, though he'd lost to her, five games to four
Sing Catan, sing Catan, sing Catan-i-o
And I thought, though he'd lost to her, five games to four
His parting remark had about evened the score
Sing Catan away, and the game's over, you know

Yehuda, 2006


I have walked the damp morning air through the verdant gardens of Cornell
I have knocked my dizzy head against the insidious labs of freshman chemistry
I have argued with seminal professors at the forefront of their fields
I have debated the awesome questions of meaning and truth until sunrise

I have parsed verbs in the dead languages of antiquity
I have plotted vectors along the planes of non-Euclidean surfaces
I have interpreted the masters of literature: Hemingway, Shakespeare, Thoreau
I have entered music, dissected film, and understood modern art

For all of these, I have learned the greatness of our possibility
Understood the vast power we humans have to create
Stroll comfortably through a video store with a critical eye
Seeking the deep, the fiercely original, the intelligent, and the awakening mind

So ... why do I have this hankering to watch all of the Star Trek movies?


Monday, March 06, 2006

Global Comm

I just had my first Skype with Tom Vasel, and we talked for a few minutes like old friends. Which we are, at least from my side. And yet, we've never met.

Tom is seven hours ahead of me. New York is seven hours behind me. I've Skyped both ways. Most people in the world are now available to me in the simplest format, indexed by name, with a single scroll and a click. At any time and clear as a bell.

My wife and I also had our first IM session, yesterday (we Skyped while I was in Texas). It would have been too much interruption to pick up the phone, dial, ring, talk and disconnect. IMing, however, was simple and easy, because I could look away, continue my work, and then respond to the next message when it came in.

Of course, to do this we must still be tethered to the computer. But soon ...

Down with the world of geo-political borders, with monopolistic communication carriers, and with distance. The business carried over telcom lines more than pays for the personal data. One world, connected. My electronic fingers reach out to you and brush your senses, whoever you are, wherever you are.



Sunday, March 05, 2006

Pagat: The BGG of Card Games

Every once in a while this site passes within my field of view. This time it is because someone on BGG noticed a game submitted to the site that plays with a standard deck of cards and duplicates most of the gameplay of Havoc (by Sunriver Games). K.C. of SG, the designer of Havoc, was cool about it, although he did request some sort of acknowledgment be placed on the page. Morally, he's absolutely right; legally, I doubt he can enforce it unless he has trademarked the name "Havoc" or "The Hundred Years War" for card games.

Pagat is not an attractive site, but it sure contains a heck of a lot of games and game information. The games are all card and tile games. They are organized in various ways, such as category, country, and alphabetically. Complete rules and variations are described. Most fascinating are the hundreds of original games contributed by the readers, which are also described.

Each time I see the site I promise myself that I will go through it. I think that I shall. I'll let you know what I find. If anyone already has some favorites from this site, do tell.


Kadima on the Move

Political post:

One never knows if something said by the media has any truth. Even less can you trust anything said by a politician, let alone a politician on the eve of an election.

So the story linked to here may be just a fantasy. I hope so. The last evacuation brought Hamas to power (other reasons aside, the evacuation was clearly one of the main reasons - if the Arabs believed that violence was getting them nowhere, they might have been more reluctant to bring Hamas to power, despite the corruption of the PLO). So the new Kadima plan is to do more evacuations.

As a result of the last evacuation, my cousins were thrown out of their house and still have nowhere to live. One of the settlements listed for evacuation in the new plan is Tekoa, where I lived from 1992 until 1997.

There are a lot of nice people living there.

Many Israelis are having a very difficult time trying to figure out who to vote for. In the U.S., politicians are usually in the government for 8 or 12 years and then they're gone. Not in Israel. Here we have politicians in power for 40 years or more. Each vote is the same choice between the same people who are unqualified to solve our problems. If the government falls, we get to choose again between the same people. Nobody ever gets the message that we want new people to choose from.

We have no senate or house of representatives, just a majority rule in the Knesset. And that majority is ruled absolutely by the head of the party with majority power. There is no attempt to do what is best, only to do what they want how they want it. The same holds for left or right.

So the parties in the Knesset are almost irrelevant. Usually it is only who is prime minister that really counts.

Who is running?

Kadima:Ehud Olmert . This party is brand new and consists entirely of people who ran for posts in other parties, failed, and moved to the Kadima party because the polls seemed to show that they would have a better chance of getting into the Knesset. Wow. And this party is leading in the polls by a factor of 2 over any other party (38 seats or so, out of 120). It was founded by Ariel Sharon, who is now in a coma, which is roughly where he put the country, too. Ehud is hell-bent on repeating all of his mistakes.

Likud:Binyamin "Bibi" Netanyahu . Bibi proved himself incompetent as a prime minister already, although competent as foreign minister and finance minister - the latter depending upon whom you ask. He is a total autocrat. The saving grace is his party. All of the major scum left for Kadima, and the remainder were thrown out, leaving a fresh set of faces who are still uncorrupted (yet).

Labor:Amir Peretz . Amir was until very recently the head of the national union, one of the most corrupt and disastrous workers unions on the face of the earth. It has paralyzed the nation several times each year for fifty or more years, ensuring that people who have no competence remain in power and paid highly. Now he is running on a platform aimed at destroying the economy of Israel. The rest of the party still refuses to believe that the Arabs really, deep-down in their hearts, mean us any harm.

Meretz:Yossi Beilin . The radical left, whose idea of response to terrorists is to give up everything, then hold negotiations, and then plead for mercy.

The Arab parties . Who literally run on a platform of dissolving the state of Israel.

National Union/NRP:Benny Alon . Who run on the platform that all Arabs should be killed or thrown out of the country. While the NRP's platform is slightly better, they have proven themselves to be entirely ineffectual or corrupt whenever given any power.

Yisrael Beiteinu:Avigdor Lieberman . The Russian version of the radical right wing, with no plan except to give more money to the Russian immigrants.

Shas:Eli Yishai . Who believe that the budget of Israel should go to religious sephardi Jews, and everyone else can go to hell, especially the non-religious.

UTJ: Who believe that the budget of Israel should go to religious Ashkenazi Jews, and everyone else can go to hell, especially the non-religious.

That's about it. God save us.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Weekend Gaming

Dinner: We ate out at a friend's house. She had other guests including one named Rebbecca. Our mutual friend had been trying to put us together (as it turns out, we had met before) because Rebbecca also plays games with her family all the time. She had brought a little game to show me when she had heard that I was coming. It turned out to be the Norwegian version of Pass the Pigs.

Rebbecca and my friend both come from Norway near the Oslo region.

Lunch: Invited out again. When we got there, their child was putting away Wonders of the World Monopoly (a Hebrew translation of the English version). This was the same family whose mother had asked me to teach her the rules to Rat-a-Tat Cat, but them hopelessly forgot them again. Non-gamers; what can you do?

Afternoon: When I got home I found one of the single mom's over with her daughter in tow. I wrote about her previously. This time I remember her name: Dvira. Dvira talks about me to her mom and has wanted to come back and play again since her last visit. We were both happy to reacquaint. She is about 7 years old.

We played The Menorah Game with her mom before her mom went off with Rachel to Rachel's torah class. Then we played three games one on one, and two more after Tal came in and joined us. Dvira didn't win any, but she definitely got better after each game. After that I introduced her to Settlers of Catan. It was a great game, tightly contested. We were all sitting at about 6 or 7 points. I got Largest Army which brought me to 8 points, but then Dvira built a settlement and after a round or two stole Longest Road from Tal to clinch the victory. She was quite excited.

We may see her at the game night, although she can only stay until 8 o'clock.

The Set system: On the way over to lunch I was thinking about how to transform the Set game into a system of games using a pack of playing cards. I thought about a little math game that plays without the picture cards. The black cards are face value, the red cards are face value plus ten. Cards are slowly flipped over. The first player to call an equation that uses cards on the table gets them. Equations can be formed using at least one of +, -, *, /, and an =.

Some variants: You can add the jacks and play that when there is an even number of jacks on the table the black cards are plus ten and the red cards are regular. You can also play that players keep their pile face open, and the top card of each player's pile can also be used (and is taken by the player forming the equation).