Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Twitter Moves Me to Palestinian Territories; Doesn't Recognize Israel

My Twitter phone code (for posting tweets via mobile) stopped working a while ago, and I only just now got around to checking my settings on Twitter to see why. Turns out that, according to Twitter, I don't live in Israel.

Which would be news to Orange Israel (Partner Communications), my mobile carrier. Actually, according to Twitter, turns out that Israel doesn't exist. Here are the countries that they recognize and the short "tweet" codes that they provide for each country.

Letter to Twitter customer support sent, but they sure take pains to hide their contact form.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Session Report, in which I'm late in posting this note

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up, and has been since last Wed. Games played: Dominion/Intrigue/etc, Vinhos, Settlers of Catan, Tobago.

We played on Tues instead of Wed, which allowed Adam to come with his gf.

Shabbat Gaming

Shabbat afternoon, Nadine and I were invited over to a friends to bring some games for non-gamers. I brought Apples to Apples, Pit, Set (we didn't play it), and The Oxford Book of Word Games. They like Password. I tried to come up with good targets, but they got all of them in two words.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Session Report, in which Nadine wins everything

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Glory to Rome, Sticheln, Year of the Dragon, Magic: The Gathering.

I continue to lose interest in Year of the Dragon. I actually beat David at Magic for the second time in a row.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Moment's Thought

Here's how I keep track of every card played in a hand of bridge, or any other card game, for that matter:

1) Think about it.
2) Use shorthand.

Let's first talk about number 2: using shorthand.

It's difficult to juggle more than seven numbers or items on a list in your head; so it's a bad idea to try to remember every card one by one as it's played. I don't keep a mental checklist with 52 boxes to check off. I just remember a single four digit number.

On each hand, I start off with 0000. That's how many cards have been played from each suit, in suit order (spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs). After each trick, the number goes up: 0400, 0701, 0741, and so on. Counting the cards in my hand, I pretty much always know how much is left of every suit. If a suit's count goes over 9, I'm fairly confident in remembering that there is only either one or two cards left in that suit; if there are three cards, I don't have any of them, so it generally doesn't matter to me, anyway.

That covers number. What about the values, such as the honor cards? Oddly enough, just doing the number count is pretty much all I need to do in order to remember the values played, too. When I think of the number (e.g. "7 hearts have been played"), I usually remember the tricks in which they were played, and therefore the values played in those tricks, too.

Which brings us back to number 1: thinking about it.

If I don't think about something, if I give something not a moment's thought, the memory of that thing passes through me like water through sky. I can walk by people I know, but if I don't pay attention, no impression of their passing remains with me. You can tell me your name, but if I don't take a moment - just a fleeting moment - to think about it, or remembering it, I won't even have heard you say it.

A moment's thought it no guarantee that I'll remember anything for a long time; interference, such as the unimportance of the thing or a cacophony of other things can crowd out the memory and cause me to forget, even when I take a moment to remember. To remember things long term, I have to repeat them to myself, write them down, or perform some other kind of conscious task. I couldn't tell you most of the bridge hands right after I've played a set of them, unless I write the results down after each hand.

A moment's thought is the difference between a short term memory and no memory at all.

Session Report, in which I also write about what happened on Tuesday in Beit Shemesh

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: R-Eco, Carson City.

We get two new attendees (actually, one of them had come before to some Games Day or something, I think).

Independence Day Gaming

Tuesday was Yom Haazmaut (Independence Day). I brought games along for my family to play and to bring to the Beit Shemesh game club in the evening.

The biggest hit was my new frisbee. The only kinds of frisbees you can (easily) get in Israel are the crap toy frisbees. I had to get a decent one shipped from Amazon to someone in the US who could bring it back to me. We tossed it around for a while before lunch.

After lunch, Mom and us boys played Bridge, a twelve game round robin without keeping score. My brothers' wives appear to resent (or pretend to resent) this time that we play together, but it's actually pretty special to me that the four of us will sit together engaged for a few hours, after all that has happened to us in the last 40 years or more. Not every family has that opportunity.

Still, I got tired of it after 12 hands, so I, David, and one of his kids played Age of Empires III. David had been wanting to try the game again since I spent shabbat with him. Ben started off trying to play with us, but he got screwed out of a few of his choices after the first round or two, and became quite frustrated. We tried to calm him down, but he had to go anyway.

We only got to play 4 rounds before David's family also needed to go. We managed to fend them off a little more, but after round 6 it was clear that we still had too much time left. At that point, each of us had advantages in our positions in one way or another, and it was anybody's game.

Beit Shemesh Board Game Club

In the evening I carried my bag of games to Avri's house for the BSBGC. They had a rocking evening, with up to 15 people showing up over the course of the evening. I apologize in advance, but I either forgot or never learned most of the people's names.

We started off with Carcassonne the City. We played three-players, Avri, me, and someone. I don't get to play this in our group, and this was first plays for both of them, though they had each played regular Carcassonne before.

We each placed one meeple in a central field area, but I eventually snuck in a second and stole the whole field. When the walls appeared in phase two, they sometimes move slowly, but we took every opportunity to score points on each play, so the walls came together quite rapidly. The game ended when the walls actually met (they jumped right past "5 spaces apart". Unfortunately missing from the rules are certain situations, such as just what it means to build "outside" the city walls, whether it's possible to the walls to meet at a kitty corner and continue (forming an "eye"), and where you can place a tower if the walls meet.

But anyway, I won by a comfortable margin with 135 points or so. Avri had around 110, and the other guy had around 85.

I taught five guys how to play Age of Empires III, while others were finishing up some other games. They asked me questions now and again, but somehow assumed without asking me that only captains and soldiers could be placed into the Discovery box. I don't know how they came to that conclusion, since I didn't even explain the specialists until after I had explained the rest of the game. After realizing their error, they restarted the whole game.

I played a quick game of Sorry Sliders to see if it was in any way comparable to the fun of Crokinole, as I has heard, but it wasn't really; it's just too darn quick and the materials are just too cheap and flimsy.

I played Steam with Eliezer, who owned the game and had played once or twice, and two other guys. Three of us were fairly close to the end of the game. As usual, it came down to some kingmaking; the decider played mostly fairly, and I took the game by a few points.

I assume that a full report will be available on the BSBGC eventually.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shabbat Gaming

Went to my friends for shabbat. I played with him and with his 10 year old son.

When his son asked me to play a game, I chose a game on their shelf which I didn't know, Five Crowns. Listening to a 10 year old boy explain the rules - in English, when he generally speaks Hebrew - was a surreal experience. Words, rules, images floated around without ever quite settling into coherence structures or sentences. I grasped the idea that the game was some kind of rummy game with a series of hands, but I missed a very important rule about jokers until we were on round three.

The deck contains five suits with cards from 3 to k in each suit, two of each card, and a number of jokers. You play 11 rounds, dealing each player 3 cards, then 4, and so on up to 13. You draw and discard on your turn, with the option of taking the top card of the discard pile. First to meld his entire hand - three or more of a kinds, three or more straight flushes - puts it down. The other players have one more round; on their turn, they then meld what they can and score points on the value of what is left. Face cards are 10 points each, jokers a lot (but none of us were ever caught with any). Low score at the end wins.

And, oh yeah: whichever hand you're on, all the cards of that value are also jokers. So on round 3 (5 cards dealt to each player), all 5's are jokers.

Whoa nelly, that's a whole lot of jokers running around. Turns out that in several of our hands, a player went out on the first turn; in the other hands, it didn't usually take more than 3 or 4 turns. Too many jokers. And your hand sure looks confusing with its array of colors and displaced numbers scattered around. It actually became hard to see exactly what you had; usually you were left with a single card that you couldn't meld.

However, this was not the case in the first few rounds; until you had five cards, your meld had to be a single kind or run, which made for longer and higher scoring rounds.

It was fun, like most rummy games (not word rummy games, which are universally dull). I'm not sure it really needs a dedicated deck to play it. We all scored very closely, and I won 86 to 89 to 92.

David and I then played two games of Dominion+. He doesn't get to play too much Dominion, and he thinks he's not too good at it, which is odd since it seems to be just his sort of game. In any case, I won both games, the first by four points and the second by quite a bit more (with colonies).

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Shabbat Gaming

Nadine and Elisheva (formerly Ksenia) came over for some afternoon gaming; we had invited a few others, but they didn't show up.

I took out Sumeria, read the rules, and we all played our first game. The game play is simple enough that I think we only got one rule wrong, which was turn order in each round. When I read the rules, I thought that the last player in each round was the one with the least number of people in the new "first place" province, but upon rereading it looks like it should really be the old "first place" province. I don't know how much of a difference that made.

Sumeria was the final game published by Reiver Games, the publisher who also published my game It's Alive (of which a few copies are still available). Sumeria is a fake-themed abstract, much like many modern light Euros. Each player has a number of pieces that he places on, or moves around, the board, the object of which is to score the most points over a series of rounds. In Sumeria's case, it is an area control game, with each placement or move not only establishing further control in an area but also raising or lowering that area in scoring order.

Each player gets three moves over the course of six rounds. At the end of each round, only the first three provinces in the pecking order score anything at all, and only the first or second place players in these provinces score. Scoring players collect chips in one of four colors. At the end of the game, your score is the triangular number according to the number of chips you have in each color (1 chip = 1, 2 chips = 3, 3 chips = 6, etc). Between each round, the scoring provinces are placed last and the other five provinces slide up the order.

On your turn, you can place a piece from your supply onto any empty space or move a piece one space or over any other pieces landing in the first empty space. You can also remove a piece from the board back to your supply. Whenever you move into a province, that province moves up in the scoring queue. When you remove a piece from a province, that province moves down in the scoring queue.

The game lends itself to a number of tactical considerations. You have to have a piece in a province in order to be able to remove it from that province. When you move a piece, you can move the farthest one in a line of pieces, thus maintaining an unbroken link of pieces, or you can move one from the middle of the line, which prevents other pieces farther away in the line from moving to where you just moved (since they must land on the first open space). The paths on the board seem random, but you quickly realize that every province is mapped out exactly the same.

There is, however, almost zero strategy, from what I can see. Provinces become blocked all too quickly, and once full of pieces, hard to manipulate in the rankings unless you can manipulate some other province to swap with it. With only three actions per round, this can be hard to do. You are far better off spreading yourself around the board for the flexibility of being able to effect swaps than you are concentrating in one area, which leaves you essentially powerless; you won't even score those areas in which you concentrated, because others will swap your areas out of scoring. That's what happened to Elisheva.

The game's muted picture that provides zero theme might bother some people. It's light with little in the way of anything new happening each round, although points grow as you collect chip sets; this is not a bad thing, since the rules feel almost natural. Some (like me) might have liked to have seen a little more variation in city effects, special abilities, board arrangement, or something, to add a little more in the way of surprises.

Nevertheless, the game works and is what it is, which is achievement enough for a quick game from a small publisher. I would play it again. I'm curious to see how the game holds up after a few playings.

Nadine and I came very close; I was 11 points ahead of her. Elisheva was many, many points behind both of us.

We then played Puerto Rico. Elisheva had played once before, long ago, and I had to reteach her. We helped her during the game. I started off rather weakly, but gained strength with a coffee monopoly; Nadine not only let me keep my monopoly but let me trade coffee with two coins on the trader at least twice. She was doing quite well, otherwise. Near the end of the game she had a Large Warehouse which she had bought simply for the points. She ended up using it, and, combined with her Harbor, it netted her a 9 point shipping after everyone else had no barrels to ship.

I squeaked a win over that, 55 to 52, with Elisheva at 44.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Session Report, in which we make mistakes in Heroes of Graxia, again

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Heroes of Graxia, Acquire, Louis XIV, Boggle, Mr Jack, Mu.

We have a new (slow) player, and Jess wins a few games.