Thursday, March 31, 2005

Arguments and Objectivity

In the case of disagreement, a concerned and responsible participant would adhere to the cooperative spirit in investigating alternatives congenial to the pursuit of a common enterprise, rather than hold on tenaciously to his own view. For his view may be the product of obscuration of mind (9), rather than an impartial exercise of reason.

A. S. Cua, Ethical Argumentation: A Study in Hsün Tzu's Moral Epistemology (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985).

Is that so difficult? For example, why are men looked at so strangely when they argue a feminist position? If there is something unenthical or unfair occuring, do you have to be the victim to cry foul? Is it so surprising that an uninvolved party would cry foul? Or even the person who is realizing the unfair benefit?

Yet people are so used to the notion that only victims complain about their suffering, that people who stand out against the unjust are ridiculed, scoffed, and, eventually, challenged to explain what personal gain they must stand to get for sticking their neck out.

I have no particular incident in mind. But to a less serious extent this happens during game nights. When an argument over the rules happens, what side are you on? Do you naturally choose the side that stands to gain you something? Do people believe that you are arguing objectively if you are involved in the outcome? ARE you arguing objectively?

The unfortunate thing is that most people won't believe you , even if you are being objective. But the principles that apply during game night are no less than the principles you hold throughout your life. What kind of person are you? What do you stand for?

There are, of course, situations where, within the game itself, you must argue out of a kind of deception - Diplomacy is the obvious example. But the key here is that this is within the game itself, not about the rules of the game. (In any case, this is one reason why I don't normally play Diplomacy. Too hard not to let the game world creep into the real world.)

The game board is an opportunity, like any other, to strive to be the best you can be ... as a human being. Intelligence, creativity, guile ... these all make for good game moves and help you achieve the goals of the game. But good manners, civility, consideration ... if you have these, then even if you don't achieve the goals of the game, you win.


March Gaming at the JSGC

We seem to be hitting a low point in attendance. This is always frustrating. It has happened before, and we have bounced back, but at times like this, keeping the game club going and getting the word out is hard work. I'm envious of those who live in population dense areas with easy access to these games (and in their native language), such that membership problems are caused by too many, rather than too few, players.

Anyway, we still have at least 5 each week, but that includes myself and my son, and occasionally my wife.

March games:

ASL - yes, a local Jerusalemite found out my club by way of the new Tel Aviv club's web forums (apparently, many people have suddenly discovered my club this way, but they live in Tel Aviv). Looking for an ASL partner, he came one evening and taught some of our members who were interested. I wasn't. Dice, combat, war. Brrr.

Amun-Re - Continues to be a club favorite by everyone but me, who painfully loses whenever we forget to play "draw two, keep one". Luck averages out over time, so they say. Yeah, right. Tell me about it.

Checkers - played with my son while waiting to start the club. I resigned after 4 moves.

Geschenkt x 7 - Elegant, light, and quick.

Hansa - Really fell flat, and we quit halfway through. Previously, this had worked ok for two players. For 4 players there does not appear to be any real buildup, just an endless series of repetition. I thought it was better than the rest of the group, but they were not convinced.

Othello - someone else played with my son. This person also lost very quickly, although the game continued until the end.

Princes of Florence - Slow, thoughtful, and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. Most slow thoughtful games seem tedious, but this one seems to work anyway. Not for my wife, however, who is usually grabbing the role she wants in PR before everyone has finished with the last one.

Puerto Rico x 2 - I won't bother saying "with expansions" anymore, since we NEVER play PR out of the box. We have pretty much settled on a consistent set of rules and buildings that just works best for our group. Just a few of the buildings are not quite permanent, yet, which is great, because it keeps us on our toes. Time for me to make some new ones.

I think each group of players requires their own set of buildings, and, even more so, even within one group these buildings should change over time. In one group, Factory at 7 is simply too strong. 6 months later, the same group playing Factory at 7 might be right.

San Juan x 4 - A perfect time slot, longer than Geschenkt, shorter than a meaty game. Probably Lost Cities would work here too (others?), if I had it.

Settlers of Catan - still enjoyed once in a while, and especially with new players.

Tikal - enjoyed, and works with 2, 3, or 4 players.

Traumfabrik - a little less meaty than a meaty game. I enjoy it, but we can't figure out a strategy, yet. The person who wins is never the person we expect to win.

Web of Power x 2 - Mixed. Three good games, one poor game. Another game with really simple mechanics but some convoluted rules on placement restrictions and scoring. I like it more than the group, I think. Sort of a Taj Mahal light.


Session Report Up

On my website. Games played: San Juan, Amun-Re, Web of Power.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Jon: 1/2, Rachel: 1/2, Too Much PR: 1

I have been trying to get my wife to play other games, but she is a one game woman. The game changes every once in a while, and then stays the same for a long period.

First it was Scrabble, then Bridge, Boggle, Settlers of Catan, Cities and Knights of Catan, Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, and now Puerto Rico. It has been PR for about a year now.

We play two player, and have gradually evolved into the best set of buildings from my expansions plus the official buildings (See my building sets for details): Aqueduct (or Assembly Line), Small Fashion District, Hacienda (or Black Market, Bazaar, or Civil Office), Small Warehouse, Hospice (changed so that you can move a colonist onto it as soon as you buy it), Large Market, ??? (no good choices here; Office in two player sometimes. Church is kind of dull. In multiplayer I have a few other choices), Discretionary Hold, Factory, Large General Workhouse, Large Business, Wharf, City Hall, Customs House, Fortress, plus any two of several random buildings from my big buildings, such as Distillery and Cathedral.

We don't play official two player version. We play: one of each violet building, 4/5/6 ships, 1 GP to start, -2 of each plantation and barrel type, 5 quarries, 6 roles, 3 roles taken per turn (governor twice), 50 VP, 35+2 colonists. It works out to a very balanced game, often with all victory conditions filled at once.

Anyway, yesterday's game ...

Rachel starts with Indigo and Small Fashion District, I start with an unusual Hacienda. (I never get anything good with Hacienda, but I keep trying. In this case, because Large General Workhouse is in the game, I can alleviate some of the bad luck.)

Rachel takes Hospice and Tobacco, I take Coffee, Sugar, and then LGW (wierd to take both LGW AND Coffee, but LGW does give more production.)

Rachel takes Large Business, I take Factory (also works well with LGW), big buildings, go back and forth, shipping, etc...

To make a long story short, we play subtly, strategically, tactically, and with a great flourish, we decisively end the game 58 to 58, no gold or barrels each. Perfect tie.

I'm hoping to convince Rachel that it is time to move on to a new game, maybe Go.


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Purim Fest

Went to the parents this shabbat, and out to a friends for lunch. Of course, games played:

Fri night

Bridge: I've been playing bridge since I was 4 years old with my family, one of the first games I learned after rummy (many different types) and war. Bridge is to card games what Go is to board games - the pinnacle. But you have to play often, and many years, to get the patterns down and start playing well. Experienced players just can't enjoy a game against inexperienced players, or with an inexperienced partner. Even when all players are competent, good manners is keenly important, since the "right" play is sometimes obvious to one player in a partnership, but not the other. That is part of the game, and you have to accept it. But playing "right" does make you feel so smart.

Sat lunch

Pit: Tried to rope my host in to play with me and his kids, but my host, while a lovely man, can't handle this type of game.

Go: His son and I, both amateurs, played a few games. I initially gave him the starting advantage, which he soundly beat me with. I took the advantage the next game, and still lost due to a hairs-breathe race for one point in the middle of the board. We then played the same position several times, each time backing up further to see if I could win by making slightly different plays, but I lost each time. There was something wrong with my initial placement, which I still have to discover.

Arimaa: I don't know where he (son) learned this from, but I tried this game which was designed specifically to be "difficult for computers to solve." The game is played with chess pieces, where each piece can move one space orthogonally in any direction, and you get 4 moves each turn. In addition, bigger pieces can push or pull smaller pieces. There are four spots on the board where, if your piece lands, and is not orthogonal to one of your other pieces at the same time, it is removed from the board. Lastly, one your pieces next to a larger enemy piece is frozen (for you), again unless orthogonal to one of your pieces. Search Google for details.

Anyway, I found the game difficult, but my first impression was that, like Abalone, a good defensive position will probably beat any offensive position. With certain exceptions, such as Go, and the Gipf series, I am not much of an abstract/no randomness gamer, so this doesn't really appeal to me.

Spit/Speed: Whatever you call it. I played against my friend's 11 year old. I still got it, but I am slowing down every year. I measure my lifeblood by assessing how good my spit skills are.

Sat night was Purim dance party. Boomba boomba Boomba boomba.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Welcome to another edition of WEEKLY UPDATE

Yehuda: Today's top story - researchers have discovered that Tom Vasel, game commenter, reviewer, interviewer, and teacher, is, in fact, a giant computer.

"We first got suspicious when we saw the voluminous material 'Tom' produced each week," said noted game commentator, Tom Vasel. "In the last week alone, 'Tom' has generated 8 game reviews, 4 interviews, dozens of replies, articles and game entries, uploaded pictures of his game collection, written several blogs, and commented on thousands of geeklists, journals and blogs around the internet. That works out to almost 25,000 words/minute, faster than all but the best super computers"

That's when our noted undercover game reporter, Tom Vasel, noticed that Vasel stands for "Very Advanced Scientific/Electric Laboratory", or VASEL, a highly regarded research facility in South Korea, where 'Tom's submissions originate. "That was just the giveaway," said Tom Vasel, a lab technician who works at VASEL. "Gotcha."

Authorities suspect that the deception was funded by Rio Grande Games, makers of Crocodile Pool Party, the game which people now most associate with Tom Vasel.

And now here is a weekly round up of comments on Board Game Geek, with Jon Berlinger. Take it away, Jon.

Jon: Well, uh, Brackers asked how many shares there were in Acquire, because he didn't have an even amount. But then he found the rest of them in the box.

And, um, ... Lunga said that he once saw a game of St Petersburg where someone won without having the Observatory.

Hmmm. Oh, uh, dwarf posted a session report of Settlers of Catan ... but he accidentally played with all of the development cards from both the base game and the expansion, so he drew three road building cards.


And, um, some more people said they liked Gola's Amun-Re session report.

And someone uploaded 4 images for 'Wizard'.

And Shade_Jon won two games of Geschenkt, but then he lost the next one.

And, uh, that's it. Back to you, Yehuda.

Yehuda: Thank you. That was ... thrilling. Now on to our spotlight interview with Nigel Geek, a game enthusiast from Manchester, who owns a special copy of Settlers of Catan.

[Begin interview]

Nigel Geek: It's great, man. Special edition. I paid five hundred quids for it. The win condition is eleven point. Look. Look at this rulebook. The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...

Yehuda: Oh, I see. And most Settlers of Catan games are played until ten?

Nigel Geek: Exactly.

Yehuda: Does that mean it's better? Is it any better?

Nigel Geek: Well, it's one better, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing until ten. You're at ten, game over, game over, game over, you've got ten points. Where can you go from there? Where?

Yehuda: I don't know.

Nigel Geek: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we get to ten, you know what we do?

Yehuda: Play until eleven.

Nigel Geek: Eleven. Exactly. One better.

Yehuda: Why don't you just take a regular game of Settlers and when you get to ten points keep playing?

Nigel Geek: [pause] This game goes to eleven.

[End interview]

Yehuda: Well that's it for tonight. Tune in next week when we ask Greg's dog the secret of how to win at Werewolf. Until then, keep the robber away from you.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Games in Transit

My game collection is fluid.

I have previously bought and sold several games: Bang!, Settlers of Catan Card Game, Bohnanza, Citadels. I have traded others.

I just sold Acquire, Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, and Harry Potter Quiddich Card Game to my brother for $30 total - to be used to buy a new game.

Currently sitting on my shelves are games that are not mine: Amun-Re, Dvonn, Taj Mahal, Evo, Strange Synergy, Chez Geek 1 and 2, Oasis, and Attika, all from Yaron's Tel Aviv group, and Web of Power and Hansa from Gilad's collection. In the meantime, Yaron has our San Juan (one copy), Die Macher (which is really David K's), Goa, and Through the Desert, while Gilad has our Torres.

Some of the other games I have were bought by me, some were bought by the group. New ones are on the way: Lord of the Rings the Confrontation which I traded for, Puerto Rico expansion.

If you look at the games we play each week in my session reports, some games come in, peak and leave. Others get played regularly, others get played consistently but infrequently. Same with players: they come, they go, some come regularly, some come consistently but infrequently.

Every week is a new week, and a new experience. Something that is almost entirely not like the bridge clubs I know: same game, same people - but different hands, fascinating and interesting every week. Theirs is the depth first/gain mastery experience. Ours in the breadth/wide and new experience.

Does this say something about me as a person?

I like going to the bridge club. Really, I do. But I don't go. I suppose that if I didn't have my own game group, I would be playing bridge each week. But I wasn't, really. I was playing Magic and D&D. If there had been a central Magic/D&D club with a lot of people I probably would have gone every week.

Actually, there is a Magic tourney every week in the mall, but it requires buying new cards every week, or collecting and buying expensive cards to compete. The playing is more mercenary, less friendly, and the players are pre-army teenagers with disposable income from allowances or jobs.

I wish I had just one more night a week to play. You know. Once in my own club, and once out at a bridge club. That way I could get both experiences. When my children are more grown up, I guess I will have that luxury.

I buy new games in the hope that the next game will be the next great one that enters heavy rotation in the playlist. I get rid of ones that don't get played any more. That's the way it goes.

"Just a box of rain - wind and water - Believe it if you need it, if you don't just pass it on" - GD


Monday, March 21, 2005

What are We Doing?

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear, nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, ..."

- Henry David Thoreau

A friend of mine, a painter, once asked himself how he justifies spending his days pushing paint around on a canvas. Is that life? Is he contributing to the world? Is he spending his time valuably? As a game player, I have to ask the same questions.

What are we doing?

People ask me what "I do". Before I really got into gaming, I used to answer: I'm a husband and a father. Now that I run a game group, a game website, and a game blog, I answer: I'm a husband, a father, and I run a game group. Some people are thrilled to be working at whatever they work at - more power to them. I was never so fortunate. I don't hate what i do - something to do with computers, I think - but it doesn't really interest me.

What I do, is live. I try to make a good marriage. I try to raise healthy, aware, well-mannered and thoughtful children. I try to spread happiness and build things for people to enjoy. What are we here for, after all? Work is work. It makes money. Some work is important - mine ... makes money, unfortunately, not enough.

Pushing paints ... it doesn't seem like much. But it conveys to others the feelings and thoughts of life. Even if the painting doesn't survive, the effect on the people who see it might. Maybe they will go out and think more, live more, be more themselves.

Playing games ... just playing games for game's sake is a type of living, if it is social, if it encourages mental growth. But better yet is organizing a game group, providing a space and time for others to look forward to. Building the game community and bringing joy, social interaction, and mental growth to a world of new people. Contributing to the world.

Of course, playing games, like pushing paints, is not all of life, nor enough of it. You haven't lived unless you've loved, guided children, cared for the elderly, walked different parts of the world, helped the poor, studied higher learning, read good works of prose and poetry, and tried your hands at various arts. If you can incorporate some of this into your work, great. I wish I could. But if not, your work is not your life - your living is.


Saturday, March 19, 2005

Puerto Rico

Still happening. I have three games going on, although one is about to end. And I played a quick game with my wife this weekend, which I won handily, despite giving up a huge positional loss early on.

She beats me about 55% of the time now, so rah! :-)


Friday, March 18, 2005

Magic disappointment

A friend of a father of a friend of my son heard that I was selling my Magic collection and came over to view it.

We spent an hour looking for the rares, then the ones he really wanted. About 5 cards were worth anything special in his opinion - Armageddon, Necropotence, and 3 Scragnoths - which he valued, total, at about $8. Then another 75 "good" rares he values, total, at about $12, total. The rest, about 3500 - 4000 cards, including uncommons, less good rares, and commons, about, total, $60.

I had to tell him that I will think about it, which left him a little disgruntled - he spent time helping me look through the collection, and he came with cash in his pocket. I just don't know if I'm ready to part with my ten year collection for $80. Argh.

I have to finish cataloging them and see if anyone else offers more. Or just keep it.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Session Report Up

On my website. Games played: Checkers, San Juan, Othello, Princes of Florence, Geschenkt.

A great PoF game played after a long hiatus.


Monday, March 14, 2005

Magic collection

I have decided to upload my magic card collection, in preparation of trading/selling anything valuable in it.

First step was ordering all the cards by name. Then I downloaded a full list of cards from the internet - I found full lists for each individual set, but no full list of all cards. The closest I found were the complete price lists, which contain most cards, but not all.

So I downloaded that to disk, opened in Excel, and began adding all cards by count. When known, I also added information about the card set, and the condition if not good.

So why not use pre-packaged software for this? All of the ones I tried were either: non-existent, cost money, required Microsoft Access, or simply killed my computer when I tried to run it. Which is a shame, because my list doesn't include standard information next to each card (like rarity and color), just the name, count, and any notes.

I am looking to trade for Netrunner, Middle Earth CCG, or board games. Always willing to take cash or coupons, of course.

I began collecting in 4th edition - I think that was when the big upsurge happened. My first cards were 4th, Homelands, Chronicles, Ice Age, etc... plus lots of Revised given to me my already established players. I never really spent much money on the game, even though I spent a heck of a lot of time on it.

People complain that Magic is an "expensive" game. I think that is just not true. When people talk about Magic being expensive, they seem to think that playing Magic REQUIRES you to compete in Pro tournaments. Does playing football require you to compete in pro tournaments?

Constructing decks is fun, yes. Buying a few cards to make a deck nicer is fun, yes. But that is only one very small way to play the game. For the last nine years, I have played the game, with my friends and brothers, by drafting from the thousands and thousands of commons and uncommons we have collected for almost nothing. The cards are interesting and often powerful. We have so many different cards that we still surprise each other with cards we haven't seen. When I want something new, I spend $5 and get another 100 cards on eBay; or, I just trade a rare card and get a few hundred commons in its place. Then we draft, construct, rinse, repeat.

Most of my collection is probably not of tremendous interest to the great Magic hoarders. My Ancestral Recall, dual lands, Mana Drain, etc... are all gone. Many of my cards were lost or destroyed. Still, between my brothers and me, we still have lots of good rares, both new and old: Necropotence, Nevineral's Disk, Armageddon, etc...

I will add a link once I get it online.


Sunday, March 13, 2005

Weekend Update

- I taught Go to yet another new player, a friend/son of a friend who comes occasionally when he is available. I gave him a two stone advantage on a 9x9 board, which was quickly reduced to one stone (as in, he goes first), which turned out to be almost exactly right. I don't know if that shows how good he is for his first few games, or how poor I still am, or a combination of both.

- In other news, the Israeli army has decided that RPG players, or specifically Dungeons and Dragons players, deserve a lower security clearance than other inductees, as they are "detached from reality and suseptible to influence". Way to go IDF. Click.

- I went to a small party and I didn't bring a game because I don't have enough party games. My game collection consists only of the type of games I play at the game group, such as Puerto Rico and El Grande. What games should I get to bring to parties?

At the party, like any party, someone always asks me what I do.

I run a game group.

"Oh, for a living?"

Well, no, but I think that my gaming life is more important to me than the endless hours I put in doing computer stuff for some company, however practical that may be.

"What do you play?"

Board games and card game, new stuff, stuff in the last fifteen years from Europe mostly.

"What, like Monopoly? Scrabble?"

Almost completely, but not entirely, unlike Monopoly. And, although Scrabble, Chess, Bridge, etc... are all nice games, and we may even play them sometimes, there are other groups that play these games in Jerusalem. These other groups define themselves as one game groups - they only play the one game. We play many different games from different countries, all beautifully produced, little luck, lots of strategy, lots of fun, multiplayer, about an hour and a half, you don't have to be a genius to play but you have to think some, and we play for fun, not to win, so we are very supportive.

"Sounds interesting. Maybe I'll stop by sometime."

To myself: uh huh.

That would be great.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Love Song of J Random Wargamer

Hey, chabibi!
Al tapilu bira al hamischak sheli.
Kaniti oto ba-chutz la-aretz,
V'hu oleh li yoter may
Ha-auto shelcha, ata shomeya?

LET us play then, you and I,
While the game board is spread out against the table
Like discarded candy wrappers in half-deserted streets;
Let us read through certain dog-eared sheets,
The muttering ramblings
Of restless rule-writers, drunk on Coke in late-night cubicles
And restaurants with half-eaten taco shells:
Lines that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What the hell does that rule mean?”
Let's just play.

In the room Eurogamers come and go
Talking of Puerto Rico.

The yellow oil that runs upon the take-out food,
The yellow oil that pools like molten gold from the chili dogs
Licked its tongue into the corners of the saturated fries,
Lingered in pools that stand in paper bags,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from overcooked burgers,
Slipped by the greasy hands, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was my most expensive game,
Dripped once upon the board, and ruined it's resale value.

And indeed there will be time
For the inscrutable rules upon the many sheets,
In writing as soft and faint as your grip upon reality;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a strategy to meet the strategies that you meet;
There will be time to attack Normandy and retreat,
And time for all the plays and days of hands
That lift and drop a unit on your map;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before your opponent gives up in disgust and walks away.

In the room Eurogamers come and go
Talking of Puerto Rico.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I attack?” and, “Do I attack?”
Time to turn back and hold position,
With a weak spot in the middle of my front line—
[They will say: “How his vanguard is growing thin!”]
My basic units, my mercenaries for hire,
My coffers overstreched, supply lines under fire—
[They will say: “But how his reinforcements are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the stalemate?
In a minute there is time
For invasions and incursions which a skirmish will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known Avalon Hill, Eagle, and GDW,
I have measured out my life with chits and counters;
I have known the units dying with a dying fall
Beneath the fire from an overwhelming force.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the games already, known them all—
The games that fix you with a formulated play,
And when I am formulated, rolling on a whim,
When I am rolling ones for me, and sixes for him,
Then how should I begin
To give up all these games of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the armies already, known them all—
Armies Egyptian, Blue and Gray,
[But in the basement light, gray and grayer still!]
Is it uniforms from a certain period
That makes me so obsessed?
Model paints that lie along a table, or stuck to a newspaper.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . .
Shall I say, I'll go home at dusk through narrow streets
Eat a balanced meal, and get some decent sleep?
Instead of watching dawn creep up, out of windows?…

I should have bought a twenty-two foot yacht
Sailing emerald waves of sunlit seas.
. . . . .
And in the afternoon, the evening, sleep so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … but it malingers,
Stretched on the table, here beside you and me.
Should I, after beer and cake and chips,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have won and wept, won and resigned,
Though I have had my head [grown slightly bald] handed to me upon a platter,
I am no Eurogamer—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the game club owner hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the soda, the Cheetoes, the coffee,
Among the styrafoam, among some kibbitzing about victory,
Would it have been worth while,
To have folded up the game with a smile,
To have stuffed all those chits into a ball
To roll it toward some overflowing dumpster,
To say: “I am Teuber and Knizia, come from Deutchland,
Come to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a game box by his head,
Should say: “That is not what I play at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the counters and the model paints and the crinkled sheets,
After the rule books, after the polyhedral dice, after the pizza boxes trailing on the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic fireball threw some damage in patterns on my army:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a game box or throwing out a die,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I play, at all.”
. . . . .
No! I am not Milo Bloom, nor was meant to be;
Am a Binkley, and that will do
To cut a deck of cards, start a hand or two,
Annoy my friends; no doubt, an easy play,
Referential, glad to be in a game,
Fanatic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of rule knowledge, but a bit obese;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my blue jeans rolled.

Shall I buy from overseas? Can I get this at the mall?
I shall wear dark flannel shirts, and walk the college hall.
I have heard the yacht girls singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding waves in their ships
Combing their hair on the sunlit seas
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the basements of the cons
By hexboards detailed red and green
Till sleep has overcome us, and we dream.

(apologies to T. S. Eliot. From "The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock".)

Session Report Up

On the website. Games played: ASL, Web of Power, Settlers of Catan, Traumfabrik, Geschenkt.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I Sing the Gaming Electric

I got in a game of Tigris and Euphrates the other night. It has been a long time since I played this game. I think that is because I always win when playing against my son, lose when playing against my friend, and the other members of the gaming group don't seem much interested in it.

It is not much of a surprise that the more games you have, the less you play any one of them. Unfortunately, at the last game session, our few players couldn't agree on a single game to play and we had to split into two two-player games. When we only had one game, we could all agree on it.

And we don't have that many games compared to many club. Maybe forty games, with about fifteen in high rotation. Some groups publish games that they will be playing ahead of time. The Trivalley Gamers is going through the letters of the alphabet, one per week, and they are not the first to do that. If I had many more games, I could probably do that.

But maybe I need less games, not more. Maybe we should concentrate on getting more out of the games we have. OK, some games just flop, but others have a depth that still needs to be explored. Like Tigris and Euphrates.

Ah well. Almost any game is ok for me. I wish everyone else felt the same.


Monday, March 07, 2005

A Mad Game Club

There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and Steve and Dan were arranging a game of El Grande at it: Tim was sitting between them, fast asleep, and the other two were using him as a cushion, resting their elbows on him, and talking over his head. `Very uncomfortable for Tim,' thought Alice; `only, as he's asleep, I suppose he doesn't mind.'

The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: `No room! No room!' they cried out when they saw Alice coming. `There's PLENTY of room. El Grande is a 3-5 player game!' said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large arm-chair at one end of the table.

`But we've already started,' Steve said in a petulant tone.

Alice looked at the board nearest them, but there was nothing on it but the castillo. `I don't see any caballeros on the board,' she remarked.

`There aren't any,' said Steve.

`Then it wasn't very civil of you to say you've started,' said Alice angrily.

`It wasn't very civil of you to sit down without being invited,' said Steve.

`I didn't know it was only YOUR game,' said Alice; `there's room for more than three.'

Dan opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he SAID was, `Your turn to play a power card.'

`Come, we shall have some fun now!' thought Alice. `I'm glad they've begun playing.' And she lay down a 13 on the table.

`Do you mean to go first with that card?' said Steve.

`Exactly so,' said Alice.

`Then you should play what you mean,' Steve went on, laying down a 14.

`I do,' Alice hastily replied; then she looked at the card and gave a start. `At least--at least I played that card to go first--that's the same thing, you know.'

`Not the same thing a bit!' said Dan. `You might just as well say that "I win what I play" is the same thing as "I play what I win"!'

`You might just as well say,' added Tim, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, `that "I play when I sleep" is the same thing as "I sleep when I play"!'

`It IS the same thing with you,' said Dan, and here the conversation dropped, and the party played cards in silence and began placing caballeros, while Alice thought over all she could remember about winning at El Grande, which wasn't much.

Dan was the first to break the silence. `Who's winning?' he said, turning to Alice: he had taken more caballeros out of his pocket, and was looking at them uneasily, shaking them every now and then, and holding them to his ear.

Alice considered a little, and then said `I am. My caballeros are on the board, and all of yours are in the teapot.'

`Last place again!' sighed Dan. `I told you the teapot expansion wouldn't suit the game!' he added looking angrily at Steve.

`It was the BEST expansion,' Steve meekly replied, pouring the caballeros from the teapot into the Castillo.

`Yes, but some crumbs have got in as well,' Dan grumbled: `we will count those as mine.'

Steve took his caballeros and looked at them gloomily: then he dumped them all into the castillo, and looked at the teapot again: but he could think of nothing better to say than his first remark, `It was the BEST expansion, you know.'

Alice had been looking over the board with some curiosity. `What a funny map!' she remarked. `It tells what year our caballeros live in, and doesn't tell what countries they are in!'

`Why should it?' muttered Dan. `Does your watch tell you what country you live in?'

`Of course not,' Alice replied very readily: `but that's because it stays the same country for such a long time together.'

`Which is just the case with MY GAME,' said Dan.

Alice felt dreadfully puzzled. Dan's remark seemed to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English. `I don't quite understand you,' she said, as politely as she could.

`Tim is asleep again,' said Dan, and he poured a few caballeros upon its nose.

Tim shook his head impatiently, and said, without opening his eyes, `Of course, of course; just what I was going to play myself.' And he lay down a 22.

`Have you won the game yet?' Dan said, turning to Alice again.

`No, we are only halfway through,' Alice replied: `how would I have won?'

`I haven't the slightest idea,' said Dan.

`Nor I,' said Steve.

A bright idea came into Alice's head. `Is that the reason so many games are put out here?' she asked.

`Yes, that's it,' said Dan with a sigh: `it's always the middle of an El Grande game, and we've no time to put them away between whiles.'

`Then you keep moving round, I suppose?' said Alice.

`Exactly so,' said Dan: `as the caballeros get used up.'

`But what happens when you come to the beginning again?' Alice ventured to ask.

`Suppose we change the subject,' Steve interrupted, yawning.

`I want a new turn,' interrupted Dan: `let's all move one place on.'

He moved on as he spoke, and Tim followed him: Steve moved into Tim's place, and Alice rather unwillingly took the position of Steve. Dan was the only one who got any advantage from the change: and Alice had a much worse position than before, as Steve had just recently thrown all of his caballeros into the bushes. Meanwhile, Dan was playing on a different board altogether.

Tim went on with his turn, moving his pieces onto and off of his spoon, for he was getting very sleepy; `and that's why all of the pieces in El Grande begin with an M--' he began.

`Why with an M?' said Alice.

`Why not?' said Steve.

Alice was silent.

Tim had closed its eyes by this time, and was going off into a doze; but, on being pinched by Dan, he woke up again with a little shriek, and continued his turn: `--that begins with an M, such as Caballeros, Castillos, Cats, Cantelopes, and Cabbage patches. Have you ever won El Grande with a cabbage patch? Very difficult thing.'

`Really, now you ask me,' said Alice, very much confused, `I don't think--'

`Then you shouldn't talk,' said Dan.

This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off; Tim fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put Tim into the teapot.

`At any rate I'll never play THERE again!' said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. `It's the stupidest game club I ever was at in all my life!'

(apologies to Lewis Carrol. From "Alice in Wonderland".)

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Shabbat Conversation

The scene: Invited for lunch, the father (Sid) and his three sons have arrived. They are new in the neighborhood, and this is our first meeting. We are waiting for our wives to return from shul.

Me: And how long have you been in Israel?

Sid: five years.

(tick tock)

Me: And, um, where do you go to school?

Son 1: *so and so* school.



Me: And you?

Son 2: Also *so and so*.

(... tick tock ...)

Me: Hmmm.

(tick tock)

Me: And, uh, how about you? Where do you go?

Son 3: Uh, *such and such* school.

Me: Oh.



Me: Would you like to play a game?

Everyone: Sure! Great! What game!

Which got me going on my game collection, and games you can play, my game group, etc... I bring out two decks of cards, take out the 2-8 and two aces (my daughter also joins us) and we play two games of Pit. (Now I'm waiting for the purists to tell me that I can't play Pit by using two decks of cards since I have to buy the original game to support the industry/author/publisher.)

Which keeps us happy until the women get home. As we gather up to start lunch, I tell them that this is going on my blog.

Sid: Huh?

Me: Yes, I keep a blog with all my gaming on it. Also, I get to say that I won two games of Pit.

Sid: You're kidding. You would really write about this? Are you, like, obsessed with games?

Me: Uh, well, I just like to keep a gaming journal, for myself and the twenty-five people who read my blog every day.

My wife: Yes, he's an obsessive game geek. Didn't I tell you?

Me: That's it! You're going on the blog, too!


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Quick Post

A contingent of ASL players (4 including my son Eitan) will be gathering at my group next Wed. I guess this is not really the first crossover, as that happened when I got the head of the Jerusalem Go club to drop by. Anyway, if these guys come every week, I will have to re-evaluate my club as more than just a Euro game club ... which would be great!

Maybe I should re-advertise as welcoming Chess, Bridge, etc... players? Only, they will have to find a partner.


Session report up / Hansa

Session report is up on the website If you read it you can briefly note our sadly disastrous attempt to play Hansa with 4 players. I thought it would be more interesting that way, but my companions were not happy, at all.

A shame. Maybe we are a picky group of players.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

February Gaming at the JSGC

The following represents only those games played at the club, not other games that I personally played.

Amun Re x 2: A club staple.

Attika: I played this one, and I really did not enjoy it two player. I am looking forward to trying it multiplayer.

Cosmic Encounter: Mayfair. A hoot, although a new player had the audacity to compare this to "Munchkin on steroids".

Dvonn: Enjoyable little two player, if played a few times in a row. Still have little idea of what I'm doing, as there are a few too many libeties available for each move.

El Grande: Another club staple, that gets less play only because it is longer.

Geschenkt x 4: A club staple, quick and multiplayer.

Go: I wish it would become a club staple. Played on a 9x9 board, quick and endlessly fun.

Grave Robbers From Outer Space: don't ask.

Magic: the Gathering x 3: still fun, with the few members who know how to play. Endless fun with no preparation required when drafting random cards.

Oceania: also quick, with more than meets the eye, but not that much more.

Pente x 12: another quickie, still good for two players.

Puerto Rico + expansions: almost never played straight anymore, since some of my expansion buildings are (IOHO) better than the originals and/or official expansions.

Railroads of Catan: long and complicated, and fun. rules available on my site. I am thinking of making a quicker less brain intensive version for next time.

San Juan x 3: medium length for the half hour wait until an expected latecomer shows up, or while waiting for one group to end. A staple.

Taj Mahal: A great game, 3-5 players. A little tough to catch up when behind, however.

Tikal: Ditto, but from 2-4 players.

Torres: Ditto, but more cerebral.

Traumfabrik: Fun, but not earth shatteringly so. Works well as an intro game for non-gamers.

Web of Power: Played once, and really it. Must play again to get a firmer impression.