Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Session Report, in which the last die roll determines the game of Carson City

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

Ben plays Carson City for the first time.

Last shabbat I played Quelf for my first and last time.

Movie Reviews

The Adjustment Bureau

Matt Damon stars with some random woman (the casting was entirely unimportant; all she does is look nice and hold his hand) in a plot that should have been a 22 minute TV show. John Slatterly (Mad Men) and some other dude play angels whose job is to keep people on track with their fate. Despite complete access to everything everyone is thinking and will think in the near future, these angels fail spectacularly just when a plot turn is needed.

It all makes little sense, somehow the entire universe is centered around the NY area, and the ending (and most of the movie) is predictable, a cop-out, and stupid, but John Slatterly always looks good in a fedora.

Captain America

Captain America the most comic book of all comic book movies. Deux ex machina rules, the hero can do anything, has any skill, and can do no wrong. People appear where they shouldn't, women lead charge into battle (in WWII), cars can fly faster than planes, metal shield always bounce back when you throw them, and inertia and gravity apparently don't exist when they're not needed - no one ever gets hurt in an accident, no matter how fast they were flying or falling.

The two mcguffins are a) an infinite energy crystal or some other dohickey belonging to the gods, and b) a serum that makes, together with vast amounts of radiation, a superhero. Ok. Why not? Nazis with lasers are cool.

The other recent superhero movies, such as Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, etc tried tempted us with seriousness using flawed heroes. Captain America is superhero for the pre-teens and teens who wouldn't understand that stuff (you'll say "Sure, why not?" many times). And for the adults who can remember being too innocent to care about complexity. Actually, one small scene at the beginning of the movie pays lip service to a modern sensibility, namely that it's not about killing but about standing up to bullies; but this is quickly forgotten. There are endless scenes of killing and explosions, but no blood or gore.

A very enjoyable summer blockbuster, some quotable lines, and shallower than a kiddie pool.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

The finale of the eight part movie series, the movie doesn't spend even a second getting you up to speed, so make sure you've watched the previous films. There's little in the way of characterization or exposition. Heavy, emotionally gripping, and important scenes in the book are passed over in a few seconds of screen time. Spells that would be particularly useful in certain situations are often conveniently forgotten.

However, there many well-directed action sequences, as well as kisses, daring rescues, dramatic flights, humor, climax, and denouement. If you've come this far, you'll want to see it. It's satisfying.

Jane Eyre (2011)

Another adaptation of this novel, the main question is how it compares to the 1995 version: they're about the same (both good, but quiet drama pieces). They both tell the same story. Ok...

Morning Glory

A light comedy with Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford. McAdams plays random smart but overwhelmed protagonist girl (think Sandra Bullock in nearly every movie except The Blind Side), and Ford plays gruff older man who won't give anyone the time of day but eventually is seen to actually have a heart. Formulaic. It was ok. Other than the first bullpit session, it's all pretty forgettable.

Source Code

Jake Gyllenhaal, some random woman, and Vera Farminga. Again, the love interest is eye candy and not much else. Jake is a dead? dying? army dude sent to occupy a mind and body on a train that is going to explode in eight minutes. Somehow the "memory" of the train event, and every person on it, is recorded and able to be run in simulation, over and over, with each repetition changing depending on how Jake acts. Not only the train, but every possible location and person within travel distance of the train. It's not just the memory recorded; apparently it's the entire world and what each person would do if the script changes.

The bomber is on his way to set off another explosion, so time is of the essence. And yet, only through Jake's unsubtle, brute force detective work will they be able to find out who actually planted the bomb on the train and where that person is headed now. No, it doesn't make sense, but you kind of go with it. Until there is some kind of hint that the alternate flashback reality can be made into something more than just a simulation, and then I got lost.

Jake and Vera are both good presences on the screen (though I tend to get Jake and Tobey MacGuire mixed up). The material should have been written by someone who understands paradox, consciousness, time travel, ... heck, science, a little better.


A very good adaptation of an excellent novel starring a pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart, this is some super acting and directing work about a teenager at high school with a secret that's not so much of a secret to the audience, but that doesn't matter. It's not a feel-good movie; but it's not a downer, either.

Super 8

A movie that feels like a classic 70s/80s Spielberg movie, interspersed with explosive effects from a JJ Adams movie. It's got a lot of sweetness and a lot of kid-centered action driving the plot. However, it moves along at a quicker pace than I remember actual Spielberg movies moving; remember ET slowly crawling around picking up Reese's Pieces, or long treks with singing kids in The Goonies? We don't have time for those types of scenes today.

The payoff might let down some people, and some problems raised in the movie's middle are not dealt with by the end of the movie. But it's good, solid, summer fun.




Along the lines of Speak, this is another very good movie about a similar subject (rape) in a similar setting (high school). Only this time the creep is a 35 year old man who hides behind the identity of a teenager on the internet. A tad didactic, but beautifully acted and directed with a great script.


Creepy European movie about girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl clones and gives birth to boy copy, and what happens next? Is this kid ... her future lover? Ick.

Contains the oft-seen trope of prejudice against "them" (clones, this time). But mostly you need to know that the movie is a string of pregnant images with little in the way of conversation. Each shot is a beautiful frame or moment, mostly of barren coastlines and landscapes, but it's all very unreal. Most jarring is that boy clone ages from birth to adulthood, but no one else (especially the girl) ages at all, which makes little sense and kind of skews the point of the movie. For lovers of cinematography.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Session Report, in which I have bad luck in Cities and Knights of Catan

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Quest Adventure Cards, Santiago, Cities and Knights of Catan.

We try out Quest Adventure Cards (full review coming to Purple Pawn soon), discover that Santiago doesn't work as well with three players, and I have astoundingly bad luck with the dice in Cities and Knights.

I have now packed away most of my games in preparation for moving.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Session Report, in which we teach a visiting player Homesteaders

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: San Juan, Odin's Ravens, Homesteaders, Tribune, Tichu.

We entertain a visitor to Israel, an experienced gamer from Germany.

Actually, the session report is pretty boring. So anyway:

Israeli Tournament: Dragonicon

There will be a game convention at Bar Ilan University on Thursday August 18th, from 8:30 am until 9:30 pm (or so). Games will be RPG, mini, board and card games. Entrance is 60 (or maybe 65) NIS for the day. More info (in Hebrew).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Anyone Else Want to Produce My Game?

Reiver Games aka Jackson Pope has finally sold off the remaining stock of the second edition of my game It's Alive! and released the rights back to me.

So, any other publishers interested in producing it? It's still a game that I enjoy playing, and I'm a pretty fierce critic of games, you know. I'm especially interested in retrying it with a religious theme (Menorah, Santa, etc) which would immediately make it one of the few decent religious games on the market.

I still have a few copies of the second edition, as well as a few of the prototypes from the original Menorah version.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Board Game Blog World Roundup

Time for another roundup of board game related blogs that are new to me since my last roundup. These are blogs that update with some regularity and that cover general board game topics. As usual, I also dropped a number of blogs that haven't updated in the last several months.

A note about this blog: this blog has been pretty slow for the past two years, since I've been concentrating on Purple Pawn. Traffic has slowed to around 150 visits per day. My advertisers have all bolted. C'est la vie. This is likely to continue for the foreseeable future: a weekly session report, the occasional snippet about my life or something humorous, an occasional philosophical musing on gaming, and my travel adventures (look for daily trip reports and pictures in November).

2d6 - Kevin, Marco, Bob, George, Eric, Landon. Written and video reviews.

Cartrunk Entertainment - John Moller, Wyoming, DE. On games and gaming events.

Castelli Board Game Reviews - Harry max Ryan, Sydney, Australia. Podcast and reviews.

Debbie's Board Gaming Book - Debbie Ohi, Toronto, CA. Board game cartoons and stuff.

Deck Building Games - Jeremy Mueller, Portland, OR (I think). All about the title.

Dice Food Lodging - Tim Rodriguez, NY. Podcast on games.

Drunken Goblin - Mike Devonald, Bristol, UK.

FANTASARD - Tony, Faye, and Mark, New Zealand. Fantasy meets war gaming.

Game People - Ed Stephens, somewhere in the UK. The board game section of a gaming site.

North of Reality - Sean Johnson, Avon, IN. A pastor on board games.

Perpetual Geek Machine - Kevin Alexander, Dan Zuccarelli, Ryan Hewson. Game reviews and stuff.

Tabletop Hell - Branko, Serbia. Sessions, thoughts, etc. Also runs TCG Hell.

The Card Gamer - David, Cleveland, OH. Reviews and video reviews.

The Dump Stat - Gregory Schuster, Japan. RPGs and other games.

The Game Traveler - Daniel M. Perez, Miami, FL. Highmoon Games hosted podcast.

The Noble Gamer - Ian Noble, El Dorado Hills, CA.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Real Estate Agents Think I'm an Idiot

"Here's the bathroom. That's the shower. There are tiles on the floor. And over here is a kitchen. See that six foot tall, three foot wide large box like object with two handles with the word 'Amana' written on in? That's the refrigerator. It's a big refrigerator. You can put food in it for shabbat. Or if you're having a party, you can also put food in it. Here is a sink. You could put a table here. Or you could put it here."

Shut. Up.

I've seen a lot of acceptable, some nice, and some very nice apartments in Raanana. I nearly took one that was stunning, but I would have ended up paying more than I wanted to pay, and he appeared to be taking less than he wanted to accept, and we were still haggling over terms (not the price). I decided to pass, after all.

The agent who showed me today's apartments takes a month rent from BOTH seller and buyer, which is simply ridiculous; I thought agents only took from one or the other. He didn't provide much in the way of service, other than to show up late, get in my way, make promises I know he won't keep ("I'll tell the owner to put in central a/c for you!"), and annoy me.

Which is a pity, because the first apt he showed me I would take at the listed price, but after paying his fee, the price bumps up to 10% more (a month plus VAT divided over a year's rental), and that's above my price range. There are so many apts listed for rent, with dozens as nice and equivalent in price to the ones he showed me, that I can afford to be picky.

More days of uncertainty. Wish I didn't have to move at all.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Session Report, in which we are uninspired by Canal Mania

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Canal Mania, El Grande.

Our group was not inspired by Canal Mania, but they only played a third of a game. A pity.