Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Word from a Sponsor: Oh! Nuts

Last year, Oh! Nuts kindly sponsored a gift package for my giveaway contest, so I'm happy to run a sponsored ad on their behalf this year. All of Oh! Nuts products are kosher supervised, according to their site.

Hanukkah Gifts

This Hanukkah, treat your guests with Hanukkah candy. Thank your host with Hanukkah gift baskets. Or delight your kids with Hanukkah Gelt or with Hanukkah gifts for kids. All from Oh! Nuts. As the leading source for kosher candy, chocolates, nuts and gifts, Oh! Nuts is fully stocked with all your Hanukkah party and Hanukkah gift needs.

And I'll just add that for $5.99, you can get a unique Checkers game where the pieces are made from blue or gold wrapped chocolate coins. Every time you capture your opponent's piece, you get to eat it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Anagrams Still Pleases

Anagrams, the older but better word game that comes in a Scrabble box, is sometimes able to please my non-gaming guests on Friday night. Assuming they evidence any interest in a gaming activity at all.

I'm pretty good at the game, so in order not to make it frustrating for newer players, I pretend not to see certain words, especially the most obvious ones. The most obvious ones, because most of the time another player will find them within a few seconds.

Sometimes, though, I start the game doing this only to find that one or more of my opponents is actually just as good as I am, or nearly as good. Such was the case last night. One of my guests was nearly as good, and did some excellent anagramming. We ended the game fairly close in word counts. The other player wasn't quite so good, but neither did she have anything to be ashamed of, getting in a number of excellent anagrams that I didn't notice.

Which is one of the joys of Anagrams over Scrabble; clever words are still enjoyed. Not just high scoring plays.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Roundup: Three Years of Forty Eighth Week Posts

And God looked upon Candyland, and was displeased

What to do with that Monopoly game that your friends got you for Christmas because you "like games"

The problem with ranking games

Everything you always wanted to know about board, spaces, and pieces, but didn't know there was anything to ask

All about erotic board games

Among the continuing sections of the armed forces code in verse is the uniform code of justice, in verse, which was the best of them, imho

Thursday, November 27, 2008

You Pick the Target, I'll Send Him or Her a Game for Free

Hi, guys. It's that time of year.

To thank you for reading, I'm giving away a game - any game of reasonable value - but not to you. I'm going to send it to someone you think needs it.

Pick a game at FunAgain Games or Then pick a target: a loved one, someone who really should learn about games, someone who need a hug. Post a comment with the name of the game, the target [1], and why they need the game. I'll pick one and send it to them, with your name as the sender [2].

Why? Because it's thanks to readers like you that I have affiliate money at FunAgain Games and Every time you buy something at either of these two store after clicking on the links I add to my posts [3], I get a little store credit. So I'm sharing the credit with you.

One day when I'm rich and famous, I'll forget about you, so take advantage of me now. Hurry! You have to comment by next Friday, December 5.

Oh, and I'll add the shipping if it's to the U.S., but I'll have to ask you to cover the shipping outside the U.S.

Update: I've received offers from readers, including one from a game company, to send additional gifts to some of the extreme cases in the comments that I don't.


[1] You don't have to give the name.
[2] Or anonymous, if you like.
[3] Like the ones in this post, hint hint.

Session Report, in which we play Antike for the first time

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Antike, Tichu.

We play Antike for the first time, with pleasant results (took over 3.5 hours, though).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Beyonce, A Woman of Few Specific Words

Beyonce's latest video, "Single Ladies" is a masterwork of choreography and presentation. It was already parodied on Saturday Night Live (starring Beyonce), and has spawned numerous copycat dancers on Youtube, including one especially good one by a young man, Shane Mercado, now making the viral video circuits.

But most interesting is that the video, like the video of her previous release from this new album ("If I Was a Boy"), is partially a commercial for Beyonce's new line of clothes products, Dereon. In the first video she simply wore them. In Single Ladies, she even sings about them.

Does Beyonce need to sell jeans? Is she intending to make more money from the music or from the clothing? (If she's paid enough, will she add lines about Coca Cola into her music?)

She has a gorgeous voice, and beautiful looks and moves. And a side income if her music doesn't sell. I think she should go all the way: give away CDs with every clothing purchase.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Agricola Gone Bad

I taught my brother how to play Agricola this afternoon, taking off a few hours of from working.

Two-player is certainly tougher than three-player. Wood and clay are in short supply. We proved that some occupations are simply better than others. I had the one that, whenever I took a wheat, I got a free plowed field. Come on. That's better than an extra clay or stone when taking the clay or stone action, without question.

I had a food supply chugging fairly early, while my brother had to struggle for food for most of the game. Partly this was due to my occupation, but also because at a certain point I took the fireplace he needed, and he didn't have the extra clay to take the other one. From his perspective of having played only one game, he blames that action for his inability to catch up the entire game. I'm not so sure about that. I think he just doesn't see the available options in the game, yet.

I ended at 46 to his 28, but he should have had more; we forgot that he was supposed to get 3 foods for free on the last three turns, which would have made quite a difference in his last actions. So give him another 6 points or so, and I still won, but after all, it was his first game and my seventh.

He seemed willing to try it again, at least. Despite being pretty sure that once you've fallen behind, you can't catch up. Which is not always a bad thing, although it may be frustrating.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Webcamming the BGG.con: Intercontinental Agricola

Chris Brooks, Jim Ginn, and I sat down to play Agricola using two games, two computers, and 8,000 miles of network connections.

Agricola is the number one game on Board Game Geek, displacing Puerto Rico a few months ago. Is it that good? It's very, very good, but perhaps not quite as good as Puerto Rico. It surpassed Puerto Rico on Board Game Geek partly due to the "cult of the new" effect: a more recent item scores somewhat higher than a less recent item. More people are now on Board Game Geek and submitting rankings, there has been less time for backlash to the game and for known problems to crop up, and there is more hype in the online world than there used to be.

I played in my dining room in Jerusalem. Chris and Jim set up in a side room at BGG.con in a Westin hotel near Dallas Fort Worth airport. The connection was a little squawky, the video a little fuzzy. My dog took inopportune moments to bark at the top of her voice. And it took a second or so for the information to travel the 8,000 miles of wired and wireless connections.

But in the end it worked really well. I could see them and a bit of their layout, and they could see my handsome face. We could hear each other well. We played at a good pace. The game was a great game, we all had around the same experience level, and we all scored fairly closely in the end.

I lay out my board and kept the family tokens for Chris and Jim near the boards to mark actions as they played them, as well as the cards that they played. I didn't keep track of their boards, relying on general memory and my fuzzy view of their setup. I knew about when they were filling up their board, and I knew roughly when they had room for more family members. They lay out a complete board for me, and we synchronized once in a while to ensure we both had the same layouts. A few times we needed to correct.

They dealt out my cards, reading me the numbers and holding my card up to the screen so I could find it in my own deck (we only played the "I" deck). They didn't know the deck well enough to gain any advantage from glancing quickly at my cards to read the numbers. Whenever they played their cards, they read out the name and number of the card and I found the copy in my deck; they did the same for my cards.

Chris Twittered before the game, and I Twittered before and during the game. As a result of Chris's tweets, we got a few visitors before and during the game, including Aldie and a host of people, and Derk, and Mischa. Aldie and someone else took pictures of our setup, including Chris's Macbook with my picture in the video window.

Jim played a lot of cards with very high synergy, something I've never managed to achieve. Most of them weren't worth any victory points. But they gave him bonuses for plowing and sowing, and he had the stone oven, so he had no food worries throughout the game. One of his cards also gave both Chris and me several wheat during the game, so we also had little in the way of food worries, too. I solved the rest of my food worries by fencing in four sheep, buying a fireplace, and fishing once for 7 food. Chris had a few more worries, as he never got to a fireplace, although he did get a well and fish once for 6 food.

I swiped a lot of the early wood, which allowed me to expand my house first and add family members first. The others soon followed, however. I was one round ahead in my family members, which helped. Somehow, I finally managed to get to a clay house. The stone house was easy, as one of the few cards that I played let me take extra stone when I took stone. I also took two other major improvements, purely for the victory points.

Three-player turns out to be somewhat less tense than four- or two-player. I didn't feel hindered very often during the game. Once or twice Chris or Jim took something I wanted, but only once or twice. I had a slew of stuff ready to go on the last round of the game, expecting to get most, but not all, of it done, but I got all of it done. This was because Chris's first three moves on the last round were all on the basic board, taking one reed, one occupation, and one minor improvement. That left the major actions free for me and Jim.

In the end, Jim scored maximum for food items, some animals, plowed fields, and no empty spaces, but only a few points for bonus cards. He won with 44 points. I had one empty spot, filling in four of my last spaces with a plowed field and a three space pasture. I had one or two of all the animals, a few veggies, one grain, all my people, four stone rooms, and seven points in bonus cards for a total of 43 points. So close, but I'm used to losing by one point. I didn't see Chris's point breakdown, but his having to scramble for food in a few of the rounds hurt, and he ended with 37 points.

Thanks again to Chris for taking the time and effort to help me be a part of BGG.con . Still too bad I can't pick up my BGG.con door prize, though.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Daughters and Their Friends

The eldest came home from the army dog sick. The army wouldn't give her anti-biotics, so we're ensuring that she gets some tonight, before she goes back to the army tomorrow.

She still arranged to have a group of her friends over for the third meal; a lovelier and stronger group of young women you have never met in your life.

The youngest had two friends over for shabbat. She has written 18 complete songs, including lyrics and music, and one of the two friends is a guitar player who is learning to play them. I hear they may even get some studio time at some point. They sang us one of the songs before shabbat started, and it's pretty good. I've been encouraging her to continue her voice lessons and put stuff up on Youtube. She will eventually. Right now, she sometimes busks on the midrachov.

She taught her friends how to play It's Alive. When I first saw them playing, I thought that the friends were going to turn out to be non-gamers, but in the end they liked it enough to play four games.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Roundup: Three Years of Forty Seventh Week Posts

d6 or not d6: That is the question in this poem parody of you know what

My usual travel woes returning from a BGG.con. And pictures from the 2007 con.

50 things even a dumb board game like Monopoly can teach you

Conveying the sense of eating peaches through 6 peach games

The first post of the first two parts of the US Armed Forces Code, in verse. Second post. Third. Fourth.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Food and Theater

Rachel and I had a lovely dinner out. I acquired a deeply discounted coupon for Little Eucalyptus, an expensive restaurant in Jerusalem.

They are very original. They start the meal with a lecture about all the spices they hand pick from around Jerusalem and the traditional methods of cooking they employ. Then they infuse dozens of small dishes with elegant arrays of each of these spices, each presented with a mini-lecture and an assortment of drinks.

Earlier this week we went to see Henry V presented by a new company calling itself the Jerusalem Shakespeare theater group. Seven people did the entire play, each one playing a dozen roles.

There goes our culture budget for a few months. but if you're going to do it, you may as well do it right.

Session Report, in which I love Trias and no one else does

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Trias, Year of the Dragon, Race for the Galaxy.

I love Trias. My fellow players don't, for some reason.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I'm Planning to Play a Game at BGG.con

With no entrance fee. Or travel or hotel fees, for that matter.

My good friend Chris Brooks who is going to BGG.con has kindly agreed to set up his Macbook in such a way and at such a time that I can play a game with him while he's at the con. Wheee!

Probably play Agricola, or whatever he wants to play. And I may twitter the game as I play. Haven't found much else use for twitter until now.

Too bad I can't pick up a free game from the yellow prize table.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Friday Night Tidbits

I found Braille text on the labels of my Golan Heights Hermon Red and Hermon White bottles. Pretty freaky. Here's a source I turned up. Guess that's where they get the expression "blind drunk".

Walked up to a random friend at synagogue and told her, "You know what you were saying last night at dinner? I completely disagree with you." Got a laugh, as we were not at dinner together. Took her a few seconds to realize that, though.

Walked up to another random friend at synagogue and told him, "I like you. I want you to remember that this week. If you're feeling depressed or upset for whatever reason, just remember that you've got enough going for you to have made at least one person think you're great."

Our synagogue held an "older members host the newer members for dinner, and we all meet together for dessert" event. Worked nicely. We're also planning another synagogue weekend away for the first weekend of December. We're pretty together (in some ways) for a synagogue.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Whining Kids Game, or how to survive your children

The Whining Kids Game


A way to list people in order in the kitchen: a whiteboard, a bulletin board with figures or papers representing each child, etc.

A way to track bonuses: a whiteboard, gold stars, whatever.


Each child gets three stars at the beginning of the week.

When one child wants something, and the parent is able to respond, carry on.

When one child wants something at the same time that another child is being attended to, arrange both the children's names on the list. The second child is attended to after the first one is removed from the list by the parent. If two children come to the parent at the same time, the parent decides on the order.

A child can opt to pay a star to move up in the order at any time. If a child no longer has any stars, he or she cannot use this option.

At the end of the week, a child gets one "X" for each star he or she possesses, where X is a dollar, a cookie, or whatever.

You can accumulate stars from week to week. You can trade 10 stars for a "Y": a doll, or bowling. Or 50 stars for a "Z": an Ipod, or whatever. And so on. The parent can make prizes that can be bought by the children pooling stars together.


Proposed benefits of the game:
1) less arguments over not getting attention; once a name goes onto the list, the child knows that they've been heard and have to wait.
2) the realization that will dawn within the child as to how much attention they actually demand.

Barack Obama Can't Do it Without You

Change isn't going to happen by watching the president to see if change happens. The change we wanted was change within ourselves. No president can do that. We have to do it. You have to do it.

Want politics to be different? Stop creating and listening to attacks on politicians.

Stop giving support to those that create unending steams of trash talk: from The Daily Kos on the left to Michelle Malkin on the right. They have many important and intelligent things to say, but they are hidden amid an endless stream of attacks on their opponents.

Want media to be different? Stop creating, watching, and passing around cruelty, pranks, bad taste, and embarrassment. Turn off those channels. Vote with your ear and eyes.

Want people to be different? Be different. Be kinder, listen more, help more. If Obama's government is going to make a difference, it needs 250,000,000 volunteers to make it different. Obama's not going to make the world different while you're sitting back to watch to see if it happens. You're the difference that you were voting for. He can't do it; you have to do it.

Clean your street up. Fix your leaky faucets. Walk or bike more. Buy less processed foods. Smile. Make charity a habit. Volunteer. Reduce, recycle, reuse, resell. Learn. Teach.

Be the example you've been waiting for.

Session Report, in which we love Agricola and are not sure about Mexica

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Agricola, Mexica.

Everyone loved Agricola. I loved Mexica.

This week I also played a Scrabble game with Rachel. I won by 30 points or so. In included my extending ELOPED to ENVELOPED onto a triple word score. And I ended the game with a bingo. But Rachel took most of the other triple word scores, as well as the Z, J, and X.

I also played several hands of Gin Rummy with Tal. She won a few, but I won a few more, some of them on my second draw (with knocking). Gin Rummy has some skill, but it's often simply decided by luck.

Monday, November 10, 2008

3 Player Puerto Rico Game

Sat night I played three player Puerto Rico with Rachel and Nadine. I won 67 to Nadine's 57 to Rachel's 48.

We played on Nadine's board. She has only the regular and expansion buildings, unlike me who has dozens of extra buildings I designed. So we used Library in place of University, Small Wharf - which we played as Discretionary Hold - in place of Large Warehouse, Trading Post in place of Office, and Aqueduct in place of Small Market. We also played with the special Hospice rule.

Unfortunately for us, we didn't exactly clarify the rules before we stared playing. Thus Rachel took Aqueduct and began playing as if it were Assembly Line, which is what we sometimes do. In the meantime, I took Aqueduct and played with it as if it were Aqueduct.

Only around halfway through the game did I notice that Rachel had extra colonists on her Small Indigo and Small Sugar, at which point I realized that we were both playing the same physical building as different buildings. That was fun.

My success was due to a coffee monopoly, fairly early Factory, and choosing Harbor after Nadine beat me to Guild Hall, which I consider overpowered. Rachel suffered due to having only indigo and sugar going. She took a Hacienda, but drew nothing but indigos and sugars from it. On the last round of the game, the corns began appearing.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

2008 Holiday Gift Guide

This guide includes games for young and old, for every sex, generation, temperament, and culture.

Whatever you do, and whatever you celebrate, there is no better way to spend a Christmas, Hanukkah, or what have you than together with friends, family, and neighbors with a warm cup of cocoa and a casual board or card game.

The overwhelming majority of the games listed here are meant for newer players, non gamers or the like. I don't list the complicated, heavier games for gamers only.

I hope you enjoy the guide. Remember: the holidays are not only for sharing the warmth with family and friends, but also for sharing with those who have no one else to share with them. Give to your local shelters, hospitals, and so on, because that's the gift that keeps on giving.

Apples to Apples: Ages 10+, 4 to 10 players

Apples to Apples is a party game that is dirt simple to set up, learn, and play. There is no writing involved, and no board. And unlike many party games, reading all the cards doesn't ruin the game.

Each player has a hand of red apples (nouns) with which they have to match the green apple (adjective) flipped up. Each player has a chance to judge the best match. The cards you have in your hand never exactly match what gets flipped up; you have to do your best!

Backgammon: Ages 6+, 2 players

Backgammon is a classic game that is sure to be enjoyed by children and parents alike. While there is a large amount of luck in the game, there are also many meaningful decisions to make, which makes this a good stepping stone to future games with more challenge, such as Checkers or Chess.

Blokus, Blokus Trigon, Travel Blokus: Ages 8+, 4 players (Blokus), 2-4 players (Blokus Trigon), or 2 players (Travel Blokus)

Blokus, Blokus Trigon, and Travel Blokus are relatively new abstract games with very simple rules. Each round you take a piece and place it on the board such that it touches any previous pieces you played on a corner, and only on a corner. It can touch other players' pieces along corners or sides.

The rules are easy, the components are beautiful, and it's a lot of fun.

Boggle: Ages 8+, 2 to 10 players

Boggle is the "other" word game, whose simple rules - find all the words you can within three minutes - make it a game that is both fun and quick. Adults can play with kids by restricting the adults to have to find words of four or five letters.

Carcassonne, variants, and expansions: Ages 10+, 2 to 5 players

Carcassonne is a fairly new game that is a bit more complex than some of the other games here, but the beautiful pieces and the fun game play are worth the time to learn. Essentially, each round you pick a piece from the pile, rotate and place it so that it fits on the board (like dominoes), and then optionally place one of your pieces on that tile. There are several ways to score, some of which occur during the game and some of which only at the end of the game.

There are some more rules than that, but not too many more. The game play is engaging enough to make you want to play it more than once in a single sitting.

There are dozens of versions to the game, and some of the versions have several expansions. The one that I linked to is called "Hunter and Gatherers" and is a good standalone game to start with.

Checkers: Ages 5+, 2 players

Checkers is a classic, and rightfully so. The rules are very simple, although there are regional variations. Although the game often hinges on who makes the first major mistake, it is worthwhile learning the tricks and the care necessary to play well. With two experienced players, there is a lot of depth to explore.

It's cheap, and grandpa will play with you.

Chess / Xiangqi / Shogi: Ages 6+, 2 players

These three games, Chess, XiangQi (Chinese Chess), and Shogi (Japanese Chess), are all top-tier 2-player games that can occupy a curious mind for an entire lifetime. They also have wide followings, so learning the game is learning a language that will admit you to a culture of fellow players around the world.

Board and piece prices range from inexpensive to very expensive, and Chess pieces come in many different themes.

Chinese Checkers: Ages 6+, 2 to 6 players

Another great abstract, and a pretty one if you find one with nice marbles. The rules are simple: move or jump your pieces from one side to the other. Finding chains of jumps is a thrill for all ages.

Connect Four: Ages 5 to 12, 2 players

Connect Four is a classic two-player strategy game, where the object is to get four in a row before your opponent does. Easy to set up, easy to learn, hard to master.

Carrom, Nok Hockey, Air Hockey, Billiards, Foosball, etc.: Ages 6+, 2 players

Carrom is the most played tabletop game in India. Like Billiards, the object is to knock pieces off the table area, which you do by flicking wooden disks with your fingers. Crokinole is another classic finger flicking game, as is a racing game called Pitchcar. All kinetic tabletop games, from snooker to billiards to foosball, are loved by players of all ages.

Decks of Playing Cards: Ages 3+, 1 to any number of players

Decks of cards, whether they are the well known Western type with 52 cards in 4 suits, or special European or Asian decks, are a great starting point for any number of wonderful games, including Bridge, Hearts, Skat, Cribbage, Pinochle, Oh Hell, Bullsh*t, Durak, President, Spades, Solitaire, and many others.

Check out for the rules to these games and to thousands of others.

For Sale: Ages 8+, 3 to 6 players

For Sale is a quick bidding game in two stages: first you use money to bid on houses, and then you use your houses to bid on checks. The player with the most checks plus money at the end of the game wins.

The exact rules are a little longer, but the game is simple and fun, and the thirty house cards (ranging from a cardboard box to a space station) always get a few comments from new players.

Froggy Boogie: Ages 3-9, 2 to 4 players

Froggy Boogie is a brilliant game to frustrate grownups and please younger children. All you have to do is remember where the picture of the fly is, under the left eye or the right eye? The dice have only colors - no counting necessary. It's a perfect first game.

Go / Pente: Ages 6+, 2 players

Beyond Chess, Checkers, or XiangQi is the absolute perfect game of Go; it's so popular, there are twenty-four hour television stations dedicated to it, an anime series based on it, and it's considered one of the four arts of the Chinese scholar.

It really is that good, and the rules are easy, too. Best of all, a built-in handicap system allows two people of any skill levels to enjoy a challenging game against each other.

The link I provided is to a nice but expensive board; you can play with a much simpler board and plastic pieces for under $10.

Pente, a game of getting five stones in a row, can be played on the same board. The rules are just as easy as Go, and while the game has much less depth, it is also a little less intimidating to new players.

Hive: Ages 8+, 2 players

Hive is another new game with simple rules and cute buggies. Each round, you either add a piece to the table so that it is connected to the other pieces, or you move a piece. When you move a piece, you can't break up the hive while doing so. The winner is the one who surrounds his or her opponent's queen bee.

Each player has eleven pieces, with five different bugs and abilities. Its simple rules and nice pieces make this a game that generally gets several plays in one sitting.

Ingenious: Ages 8+, 2 to 4 players

Ingenious (sometimes called "Connections" or "Mensa") is another new and neat abstract game, where you score points by placing domino like pieces to create lines of colors. Your final score is whatever color you have the least of.

It's another pretty game with simple rules and a lot of replay. Amazon's copy is pretty expensive, and you should be able to find a less expensive copy in your local game store.

It's Alive: Ages 7+, 2 to 4 players

A little plug for my own game. This is a simple set-collection auction game with a Frankenstein theme. It fits in well with the other games on the list: easy to learn, quick to play, lots of replayability.

Of course, I may be biased, since I designed it. This game is available from Reiver Games.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation: Ages 10+, 2 players

This is a game that plays similarly to Stratego, but it's theme and the special powers each piece possesses elevates the game to another level. It makes a tense exciting game of light vs dark, and it plays in a mere 10 to 20 minutes.

Mahjong: Ages 7+, 4 players

This is a rich version of a rummy game, using tiles. It is one of the games on this list that I have not yet had the fortune to play as of yet, but it looks great, and who am I to argue with a billion Chinese?

There are variants for playing with 2 to 5 players, as well as a solitaire game that can be played with the same tiles.

Mancala: Ages 5+, 2 players

This is another ancient game, widely known around the world under various names (e.g. oware), and the national game of many African countries.

The rules are easy: pick up all the seeds in one of your bowls and place one in each bowl around the table. If you land on an empty space on your side, you win the seed and any seeds opposite.

There are a few more rules, but that's about it. It takes a few games to get up to speed; early victories tend to be lopsided. Once you get the hang of it, you can play several, quick, challenging games in succession.

Memory: Ages 3 to 12, 2 to 5 players

This is a first game for kids and adults, and a great game for it, because kids get the hang of it very quickly and adults find it a real challenge without having to pretend. All you need are one or two decks of cards, but an infinite number of these games are sold with various different pictures and themes.

You can play with more than 5 players, but I wouldn't recommend it.

No Thanks!: Ages 7+, 3 to 5 players

This is an easy to learn and addictive little card game. A card is flipped up, and you either take the card and any tokens on it or place one of your tokens on it and pass it to the next player. Cards are bad, and tokens are good. But runs of cards only penalize you for the lowest valued card.

A simple and fun game.

Pit: Ages 7+, 4 to 10 players

I don't know if you can play up to 10 players with the original game, but you should. This is a loud trading game. The cards are dealt out, someone says go, and everyone shouts for what they need. The first player to collect a full set wins.

Raucous and fun. The deluxe version comes with it's own bell to signal the start of trading.

Poker: Ages 6+, 2 to any number of players

Playing for money is not a good habit, but a nice set of poker chips and some decks of cards is a great way to spend an evening. There are countless poker games, too.

R-Eco: Ages 9+, 2 to 5 players

This is another short and sweet card game, with simple clever mechanics that leads to enjoyable but no stress game play. Easy to learn and easy to play.

Rummikub: Ages 7+, 2 to 4 players

Another game of rummy, but a good one. And also playable with the grandfolks.

Scrabble: Ages 8+, 2 (or 2 to 4) players.

Scrabble purists will tell you that you should only play with 2 players and a Chess clock, but for casual purposes it can be played with up to four. It is The word game, and for a good reason.

My favorite way to play is to ditch the board and just play Anagrams: turn over tiles, and first to call a word gets it.

The link is to a beautiful deluxe version of the game, but you can also find less expensive versions on Amazon.

Set: Ages 6+, 2 to 10 players

Those who don't have it won't enjoy it. For those who do, it hits just the right spot in the brain. All you have to do is call out matches when you see them, but the matches have to match or not match in all four characteristics.

Settlers of Catan: Ages 8+, 3 to 4 players

This is the perfect game for beginning adult gamers that I use to hook new players into my game group.

All you need to do is collect ten points through building settlements and cities, connecting roads, adding developments and trading with your fellow players. A unique board that changes each time you play, constant interaction even when it's not your turn, and a great balance of luck versus strategy makes this The Game to acquire if you still think that board games are only for kids.

Shadows Over Camelot: Ages 12+, 3 to 7 players

The most renowned of the new cooperative games, this is no feel-good game of cooperation. The hordes of Saxons, Mordred, siege engines, and sinister knights are out to destroy Camelot, and you have to work together to save it. But lurking among the players is a traitor who wins if you all lose. Or is there?

Pretty components, albeit more complex than most of the games on this list. But it's easy for people to join and leave midgame.

Stratego: Ages 6 to 15, 2 players

By the time I was in my teens, I had outgrown this, but it remains a seminal game for early players, a great introductory war game with all the basic elements: strategy, tactics, and bluffing. Avoid the electronic ones; they break and they're noisy.

Ticket to Ride: Ages 8+, 2 to 5 players

Many of my fellow bloggers think that this, rather than Settler of Catan, is The Game. I disagree, but who am I to argue? New players will probably find this a great intro game, with lots of choices and great game play.

There are several editions of the game.

Time's Up!: Ages 8+, 4 to 10 players

This is the only other game on this list that I haven't yet had the pleasure of playing myself, but it consistently ranks as the number one party game on all of my fellow bloggers' lists. It's the number one ranked party game on Board Game Geek. Which says something.

Uno: Ages 6 to 12, 2 to 8 players

This could be a child's second game, after Memory, and before moving on to real games. There's not much in the way of thinking involved, but its simple rules, portability, and quick play make it an ideal game for younger kids in almost any situation.

Just be sure to move up to better games when the kids are ready.

Wits And Wagers / Balderdash: Ages 8+, 4+ players

These are party trivia games where knowledge of trivia is not so important. The question is asked, and each player writes down an answer. These are revealed and players then bid on the answers they think are best. The winning answer, and the winning bids, all score points.

Wits and Wagers does this in the form of a poker game setting, while Balderdash requires you to make up funny possible answers. Both have won awards and acclaim as a generation better than you-know-which famous trivia game.

Zooloretto: Ages 8+, 2 to 5 players

Winner of dozens of recent awards, Zooloretto is a cute game for kids and decent game for adults. Simply take the animals as they are revealed from the deck and try to fit them into your zoo without overcrowding.

A few extra rules and some clever mechanisms makes the game enjoyable for all ages.

Other game gift guides around the web:Yehuda

Saturday, November 08, 2008

2 Player Agricola is as Good as Multi-player

I got in a game of Agricola with Nadine this afternoon. Works very well with two players.

The game felt nearly identical to the two four-player games I had played. The biggest difference was the severe lack of wood, which is needed for so many things, from building early houses to fences to many minor improvements.

I'm guessing that you're supposed to steal the first-player token in order to solve this problem. But nearly every time one of us wanted to do this, we had no minor improvement to play, which would have meant an entire action just to take the token. Which felt wrong.

Speaking of which, a slew of the cards that say they play for 1+ players looked like they should really have been marked for 3+ players only. I'm going to go through them and assess them and maybe make some corrections.

But otherwise, it was as good as the multi-player game. For what it's worth.

Friday, November 07, 2008

If It's 4 am, This Must Be The Desert

Friends of mine, whom I intend to get back at when they least expect it, held a dawn wedding overlooking the Dead Sea for their son this morning.

I got up at 4 am, coordinated various pickups, and got my butt up a 500 meter cliff some hour and a half away. I must add that these friends live on my street and have a perfectly lovely backyard. A large one.

It was the most wonderful experience you can have while freezing, tired, and crabby. Very beautiful. I would have shed tears of joy if my eyeballs hadn't been frozen shut.

The opening scene from Paradise Lost

Obviously delirious from the cold

Someone brought their dog

A camera flash from Jordan

Happy people at 6:00 am; go figure

Mazal Tov, guys. It really was lovely. I wasn't even crabby by the end of it.

Roundup: Three Years of Forty Fifth Week Posts

More about alternatives to winning and losing

My game design for 600 people at BGG.con 3. Rules and cardlist is available here.

NOT: the board game (may seem vaguely familiar)

My travel woes at BGG.con 1 continue.

Pretty pictures of the beach in Toronto.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Papa's Got a Brand New Game

After purging a third of my library of games, Rachel returned from the U.S. with seven new games I ordered:

Hacienda - never played
Mexica - played at the last BGG.con, and loved it
Antike - never played, and suspect I may not like, but my group may love
La Citta - Heard many good things about it, especially for our group
Jambo - supposedly the best of the 2 player Kosmos series
Trias - always looked like a cute filler, finally got it

and, dum de dum ...

Agricola - played once, liked, a little wary of the end game, but sure to be a big hit

Game night tonight! A cause for celebration!

Hmmm, come to think of it, there's something else I'm celebrating. What was it? Hmmm. Can't put my finger on it. Oh well. It will come to me in time.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Just Imagine

Just imagine.

Imagine that you didn't live in darkness. Imagine that you had organs to sense colors and light, distance, beauty, ugliness. Imagine that you had eyes. Imagine that you could see.

Imagine what you would do with them. Would you waste them? Or would you use them to see the vibrant beauty of the world? Imagine that you could see rich colors of the people around you. The flush of skin. The crisp green and brown woods, and indigo mountains. Imagine that you could see the towering wood, earthy bricks, and straight steel beams of our cities. What could you do with eyes? What would you do with them?

Imagine that you didn't live in silence. Imagine that you had organs to sense vibrations and sound, music and wind, distance, beauty, ugliness. Imagine that you had ears. Imagine that you could hear.

Imagine what you would do with them. Would you waste them? Or would you use them to hear beauty all around you? Imagine that you could hear brooks, trees, sounds of love and anger, hopes and passion, laughter and despair. Imagine what sweet music could do to your heart. What could you do with ears? What would you do with them?

Imagine that you didn't live unvoiced. Imagine that you had organs to speak, sing, call, love, sway, calm, and comfort. Imagine that you had a mouth, tongue, and teeth. Imagine that you could speak.

Imagine what you would do with them. Would you waste them? Or would you use them to create beauty around you? Imagine that you could give pleasure, love, comfort, assistance. Imagine that you could make others feel loved, understood, touched, or believed, or guided, or happy. Imagine that you could create sweet song. What could you do with a mouth? What would you do with one?

Imagine that you didn't live stationary. Imagine that you could move about, run, bend, jump, dance. Imagine that you had legs. Imagine that you could walk.

Imagine what you could do with them. Would you waste them? Or would you use them to find beauty? Imagine that you could make others laugh or feel through dance, or you could travel to places with joy, beauty, or awe. Imagine that you could bring these to other people, or feel your body swaying. What could you do with them? What would you do with them?

Imagine that you didn't live separated. Imagine that you could feel, hold, embrace, scratch, carry, caress, and tantalize. Imagine that you had skin and hands. Imagine that you could touch.

Imagine what you could do with them. Would you waste them? Or would you touch beauty, create happiness, and hold, comfort, and connect? Imagine that you could feel things smooth, supple, rough, and ragged, skin, food, cloth, leaves, and rocks. Water and ice. Heat and hair. Imagine that you could enfold and hold, carry, reach, and move. What could you do with hands? What would you do with them?

Imagine that you didn't live purposeless. Imagine that you could sense right from wrong, better from worse, less loved from more loved, less helpful from more helpful. Imagine that you had a heart. Imagine that you had a conscience.

Imagine what you could do with them. Would you waste them? Or would you see, hear, speak, walk, and touch everything that you could to make the world a better place? Imagine that you could help, show love, give happiness, give comfort, see needs, correct wrongs, hear cries, make things better, foster understanding, build a community, gather friends, erase loneliness, feed the hungry, clothe the needy, offer rest, judge kindly, feel, do, and be in this world. Imagine you could make one or more lives better today. What could you do with this power? What would you do with this power?

Ben Kenobi, Private Jedeye

Have to pass on viral videos once in a while, just to keep up with the Joneses.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

(via, via)


P.S. You may also like Sith'd, by the same team.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Selling Oxford History of Board Games

I'm selling my copy of Oxford History of Board Games. It often sells for around $100 to $200, but I sometimes see it for as low as $70.

My copy is here, on eBay for $50 plus shipping. If you're reading this, worldwide shipping's on me (just let me know when you win).


Sunday, November 02, 2008

October Board and Card Game Patents

Card game - Poker game. Each player gets five hole cards. Three sets of three cards are revealed, eventually forming a 3x3 square. After each three cards are revealed, a player discards one of his hole cards.

I think it would work better if you discarded a hole card before each reveal, rather than after.

Floating poker table - For use in swimming pools.

Game piece - Thank goodness for pictures. This patent is entirely incomprehensible without the accompanying pictures.

A game piece for transferring an object across the surface of a board game or the like. The game piece generally comprises a carrier body having an upper end, a lower end, an entry opening proximate the lower end, and a socket in communication with the entry opening. The entry opening is sized to allow the transfer object to pass therethrough so that the transfer object is thereafter retained within the socket. Additionally, the socket is adapted to receive a second game piece having a similarly configured socket and entry opening. When the entry opening of the second game piece is pushed over the transfer object, the object is transferred from the socket of the original game piece to the socket of the second game piece.
Make sense? The rest of it is just as unclear, but it sure is funny. Some examples:
Although many different types of board games and game pieces exist, very few of these game pieces are designed to do anything more than travel across the game's playing surface [examples given include the dog, car, iron, and shoe from Monopoly]. New games and new forms of entertainment would be possible if game pieces were designed to achieve additional functions...

The carrier body of the game piece may be configured to nest with the second game piece. This enables the second game piece to be stacked on top of the first game piece when transferring or "capturing" the object therefrom. Additionally, the game piece may incorporate various safety features to prevent a person from having his or her finger get caught in the entry opening. For example, the socket may include a cut-out portion or the carrier body may be constructed from separate, detachable components.
So what the heck is all this? It's a basket shaped game piece with a large hole in the top and a small hole in the bottom. The bottom hole is large enough to let a ball through when pressed onto the ball, but not let it fall out again.

So you take your piece, which doesn't have a ball, and you press it on top of your opponent's piece, which has a ball, and presto! You capture the ball from your opponent.

Still no? Here are the pictures:

Assigned to Designomite.

Method for playing a wagering game - Deal each player five cards, each player discards one, and then turn over the top card. Score according to Cribbage scoring rules.

Educational question and answer escape game having an antagonist element - Some kind of trivia game with a theme-related reason for occasionally sending your piece back to the start. Pretty design:

Folding trading card with magnifying region - The card becomes a little house with a magnifier on the front to look into it.

Assigned to Upper Deck.

Organizer for board games - This:

Method for playing a card game - "While the game of blackjack is well known, it is regarded by many as being boring, especially if played for a relatively long period of time... Additionally, there exist known games and/or methods for playing games which typically combine some of the elements of the game of blackjack (both "conventional" versions and variants) with elements of another known card game and/or other game. While these 'combination' games typically do somewhat entertain players, they are often considered to be boring..."

So let's add poker to blackjack. If a player folds his poker hand, he continues as if he's playing blackjack.

Question: Why not just play poker?

Multi-game playing surface and associated methods - This patent starts us off with a history lesson:
For centuries games have been a favorite pastime of adults as well as children. In fact, the earliest form of the familiar checkers can be traced to the Egyptians as early as 600 B.C. Other popular games, such as backgammon and chess, have also provided years of fun and excitement for families and friends. Traditional board, card, and trivia games continue to flourish, despite the foreboding in recent years that these would suffer in popularity from the onslaught of computer, video and hand-held forms of play. According to the NPD Group, which tracks retail sales for board games, sales were up 23% during the first 10 months of 2003, compared with the same period in 2002. Culture-watchers further stipulate that in these especially trying times, with terrorism looming and an uncertain economy, traditional games encourage relaxed, comfortable social interchange. Proving that nothing can equate the interaction of people in a common recreational pursuit, these tried-and-true diversions are certain to be around for a long time to come.
His game is a Tic Tac Toes variant for multiple players, whose benefits include "The method advantageously offers consumers a reprieve from the stresses of daily life, and effectively encourages positive social and family interaction through good-natured competition."

The game board is two sides, and "each of the first and second playing surfaces conveniently has a plurality of intersecting columns and rows defining at least nine spots." Conveniently! And the game requires just such a surface. What luck!

Four games are included, including Tic Tac Roll, Advanced Tic Tac Roll, Kockout, and Gamble. Not to be confused with the game called Tic Tac Roll from Dreammakers.

Board game - A trivia game called Maven Haven by Patrick Kilbane. Not his first board game patent, either.

Blackjack push - An unusually clear abstract:
A modification to the card game blackjack in which bets are pushed, if the total of the cards in the player's and the dealer's hands are of equal value and add up to 21 or less, or if the total of the cards in the dealer's hand equals a predetermined value between 22 and 26 and the total of the cards in the player's hand is 21 or less.
Method and apparatus for playing blackjack with active working wagers - A system for side betting on the dealer's hand results in blackjack.

Method of play and game surface for a dice game - A dice table with various payouts for rolling certain numbers.

Taraccab or Baccarat table card game with Chinese deck - Taraccab, or baccarat spelled backwards, is baccarat played with a Mah-Jong deck of cards.

This patent also comes with a lengthy history and political lesson:
As we enter into the 21'st century, the world as we have known it for many decades is undergoing profound changes right in front of our eyes that severely impact the well-being of our society. First and foremost is the end of the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States which led indirectly to the breakup of the Soviet Empire. This event has changed many lives, both within and without the former Soviet Union. Many people living formerly under the Soviet rule are today enjoying their political freedom for the first time after many decades. More importantly, they have now become productive and free citizens once again in their new environments leading to significant economical gain because of their entrepreneurship and hard work.

The second profound change is the advent of the Internet starting as early as in the late 1970s. Although it took more than two decades including the notorious "WWW or World Wide Wait" period instead of "World Wide Web" for its ridiculously slow services in the beginning, and a gigantic bubble burst in the capital investment community shortly after the turn of the last century to prove to everybody that it is indeed one of the most important events that has taken place. The Internet, together with the tremendous advances in the silicon chip and the computer software technologies during the past two decades have literally ushered the world into the so-called Information Age. Today virtually everything in private and public commerce is done on the Internet leading to an unprecedented productivity gain in many sectors of industry.

The third event is the crystallization of a globalization process as a direct result of the coming of the Information Age. This globalization process simply means that all activities involving international commerce, trade, finance, communication and production of goods and services are taking place irrespective of continental, national, demographic or geographical boundaries as long as they are done in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. The globalization process is actually a two-edged sword. Whereas countries like China and India, whose economies have been benefited tremendously by the effects of globalization, other countries like the United States, European Union countries and even Japan have suffered significant negative effects like the loss of employment and the closing down of many factories that are no longer competitive in the world scene. Globalization is today an on-going process and nobody knows for sure what will eventually become of our world. One thing, however, is amply clear. China is presently experiencing a strong rise in its economical fortune.

During the past two decades, as more and more affluent Chinese and Asian gamblers, a direct result of the globalization process discussed above, came to Las Vegas and Atlantic City to play, there has been a growing sense of opportunity for the casinos to come up with new games in order to attract the attention of these new customers. If these new games can be devised based upon the cultural folklores and ancient concepts that the Chinese and Asian revere, such as Yin Yang (two opposing forces) and Feng Shui (wind and water), the chance of these new games being enthusiastically accepted by the new comers will be greatly enhanced. Furthermore, if these new games can blend the old and popular Chinese gambling games such as Mahjongg, Tin Gau, Sic Bo and Fan Tan (the so-called "Big Four"), with the traditional Western style gambling games such as Roulette, Poker, Blackjack etc., the so-called gaming fusion of the East and West, then the chance of success should even be greater.

While the need to create new games for casinos in the U.S., based upon the fusion of the culture and gambling methods of both the East and the West, is pretty much a no-brainer, its realization might not be as simple as one is led to believe. However, the observation that one of the gambling tools that is conspicuously missing in the East is the counterpart of the West's international 52-card pack which anchors many favorite Western gambling games, led the current inventor to recognize this unique opportunity and capture it by inventing a novel Chinese style poker deck called the "Chinese Poker Deck". The construct of this poker deck reflects not only its Western origin, but also allows the permeation of the Eastern culture by using elements of Mahjongg, the most beloved gambling game of the Chinese that dates back hundred of years, and also the ageless Chinese practice of Feng Shui, a revered cultural concept of the Chinese people throughout their more than 5,000 years of civilization.
Chess variant and method of play thereof - 1) A new rule that assigns 3/4 of a win for perpetual check, rather than a draw. 2) A boatload of new pieces and a larger funky board.

Intelligent baccarat shoe - A shoe more intelligent than the typical baccarat player. I believe that I can find prior art for this.

Method of conducting a wagering game with continuous depletion - Not mixing the cards from the first game back into the deck, and, in fact, marking which cards have already been played on subsequent deals. This is to create "suspense".

Card game with blackjack and poker aspects - Oh lookie. Another attempt to combine blackjack with poker, this time with Brag.

Creating notable nonrandom patterns in games to encourage play - A method of adding a statistical non-random element to an online poker game system. Players are encouraged to discover these elements and gain advantage accordingly.

Honestly, I don't see the point. Something to do with cheating by using automated bots. However, we get another history lesson and a story:
Too much predictability in the order of shuffled cards--particularly if that order favors one player--may well be seen as proof of cheating. Cheating is taken seriously. In the American West in the 1800's, card cheats were routinely shot dead. Even as recently as the 1970's, a United States Supreme Court case discussed the fatal shooting of a card cheat: The story began in June 1970, when one William Douglas, a professional gambler from Las Vegas, Nev., arrived in Memphis, Tenn., calling himself Ray Blaylock and carrying a gun and a deck of cards. It ended on the evening of Jul. 6, 1970, when Douglas was shot and killed in a Memphis apartment. Testimony at the trial in the Tennessee state court showed that one Woppy Gaddy, who was promised a cut of Douglas' take, arranged a game of chance between Douglas and Robert Wood, a sometime Memphis gambler. Unwilling to trust the outcome of the contest entirely to luck or skill, Douglas marked the cards, and by game's end Robert Wood and his money had been separated. A second encounter between the two men yielded similar results, and Wood grew suspicious of Douglas' good fortune. In order to determine whether and how Douglas was cheating, Wood brought to the third game an acquaintance named Tommy Thomas, who had a reputation of being a "pretty good poker player." Unknown to Wood, however, Thomas' father and Douglas had been close friends; Thomas, predictably, threw in his lot with Douglas, purposefully lost some $1,000, and reported to Wood that the game was clean. Wood nonetheless left the third game convinced that he was being cheated and intent on recouping his now considerable losses. He explained the situation to his brother, Joe E. Wood, and the two men decided to relieve Douglas of his ill-gotten gains by staging a robbery of the upcoming fourth game. At this juncture respondents Randolph, Pickens, and Hamilton entered the picture. To carry out the staged robbery, Joe Wood enlisted respondent Hamilton, who was one of his employees, and the latter in turn associated respondents Randolph and Pickens. Douglas and Robert Wood sat down to the fourth and final contest on the evening of Jul. 6, 1970. Joe Wood and Thomas were present in the room as spectators. During the course of the game, Douglas armed himself with a .38-caliber pistol and an automatic shotgun; in response to this unexpected development Joe Wood pulled a derringer pistol on Douglas and Thomas, gave the gun to Robert Wood, and left to tell respondents to move in on the game. Before respondents arrived, however, Douglas reached for his pistol and was shot and killed by Robert Wood. Parker v. Randolph, 442 U.S. 62 (1979)
Method and device for playing a game using remainder values - A betting card game where you have to guess the remainder after dividing two cards.

Card game device, card data reader, card game control method, recording medium, program, and card - A bloody large game system for many people and trading card recognition software. Looks like a multi-player arcade system. From SEGA.

Gaming apparatus and method - The idea of a dice game using "dice" that are made from interlocking panels of the correct shape for whatever type of die you're rolling (e.g. d6, d12, ...) In this way, you can turn one of the panels on the die around when required (such as when the area associated with that die face becomes destroyed).