Thursday, June 30, 2005

June Gaming at the JSGC

The month of June worked out to five Wed evenings of gaming. In addition we had a special gaming session with our guests Chris Brooks and Erich Litch from the U.S. on a Saturday afternoon, making six gaming session in all. One of our sessions had a high attendance of 12 players.

Chris brought us three new games, Louis the XIV, For Sale, and Sticheln. New blood. By the end of July I am hoping to receive a number of other games waiting for me in America, to be brought back by my brother after his vacation. These games represent the fine art of trading games, trading Geek Gold, and auctioning.

As usual, I'm envious of all of you going to conventions all the time, Origins, BGG.con, Essen, etc... Some day when I'm rich and famous, sigh.

In the meantime, here is what we played this month (group activity only, doesn't include my personal plays):

My Game Prototype #1 x 7

The fiasco of my first attempt to publish this is detailed on my blog (the money was almost in my hands, man!). I'm now sending out feelers to other publishers. If anyone out there is interested in publishing a variably themed tight card game crossing Modern Art and Geschenkt, let me know. So far it has received a lot of good feedback, and we played it at every session this month.

Advanced Squad Leader

This one is played only by my son Eitan and a local guy named Ran, both of whom don't play anything else. They managed to make it to the club once this month, and will probably make it again once next month, but I think Eitan isn't going to continue with it. None of the regulars in the group, with the exception of David K, is interested in wargames.

Cities and Knights of Catan

My family has played this out, but some of our members are just discovering it. It will likely be played on low rotation.

Cosmic Encounter

I've been playing this for more than 20 years. We are now playing Ben's copy of Mayfair's version, and it's still good.


This is what gets played when two newcomers are left to fend for themselves for 15 minutes.

Dvonn x 2

I think I am beginning to understand the first part of the game, and it doesn't really impress me. The second part of the game is much more interesting.

El Grande

A fun five player game. El Grande is great, but on low rotation, which is good, as it is long.

For Sale x 2

New game for us. It was enjoyable. Not as enjoyable as Geschenkt or my own game, but good enough to play once in a while. A lot of people seem to think much higher of this game than we do.

Louis XIV x 2

Also a new game for us, and very enjoyable. I wasn't so happy with Goa, although the rest of my group liked it much more. This one I like better, although I only played half a game. Like Goa, the designer finely tuned the game to perfection and then seems to have wrecked it with unnecessary pure luck elements that you can neither control nor plan for. Why?

Magic: the Gathering x 3

I always lose to David, and these were no exception. Playing eight years now, haven't bought any cards for seven.

Princes of Florence x 2

We had this game for a while, and it suddenly had a revival. People realized that they liked it a lot. I actually though that I had stopped liking it, but now realize that I was wrong (or that I needed a break from it). It is still really good. I play with a few very small tweaks for five players.

Puerto Rico x 3

The GAME. Still going strong, and usually played with various buildings from my expansion sets (we didn't inflict that on Chris, however).

San Juan x 4

A heavily player filler game. Not top tier, in my opinion, but quite good.

Settlers of Catan

The usual intro for newbies, and they tend to play it at least several more times after being introduced to it, until they hit their first game of screwy dice rolls.

Starfarers of Catan

This is still relatively new to us, and enjoyed more than the other versions, but it is really long, and the pieces break easily.

Tigris and Euphrates

Unfortunately, aside from myself and Saarya, my group just doesn't like it. Go figure.


Also not top tier for the group, nevertheless a game enjoyed when the regular games have been overplayed. I like the game better than that, but it does seem to lack an oomph, and there is a strong runaway leader problem.


A classic auction game, the group likes this once in a while, and I like it almost as much. Best strategy is conservative and directed play.

Web of Power x 2

A few mechanisms seem a little broken and unfinished, as I noted last time, but the general idea is solid for a light game. My group seems to think it would play better without the cards altogether.

Happy gaming,

Session Report Up

On my site. Games played: My game prototype, For Sale, Louis XIV, Magic: the Gathering, San Juan, Cosmic Encounter.

The first game played every session this month was the first game prototype. I now have several others for which I need to make mock-ups.

Thanks, Tom, for linking to my blog, but I only get a "6" rating? :-) It must be because I post my sessions on the main site instead of here - they're easy to miss.

I am embroiled in a legalese discussion on Spielfrieks regarding IP and games, which is also the subject of my ethics article about to be on The Games Report. I had to cut all of the legalese out of the article (now posted to Spielfrieks), and I'm worried the article will seem more like random opinions, rather than sound arguments. I do have pretty solid support for the opinions.

Then Shannon Applegate posted links to three articles he had written on the subject specifically covering all of the legalese topics I had cut out of my article, so there you go.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

OT: Court Ruling Against Copyright Infringement

Just a small note:

A recent court ruling allows publishers to sue both copyright infringers and the makers of software who deliberately condone copyright infringement.

Some exerpts:

But NOTE: The language used is consistent by the court: copyright infringement. The court knows what it is saying. Nowhere does the ruling mention "stealing", "theft", or "piracy".

Yet just look at the news articles covering the event, example:

Why is this a problem? It is like calling someone who steals a "murderer". Or someone who reads adult literature a "rapist". The moral category is so vastly different that there is no real correlation.

Please stop calling copyright-infringement "piracy" and "theft".

ObGame: Working on two new designs, including one for the SiegeStone contest.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Progressive Rummy

My parents visited, so I played a few hands of Progressive Rummy with my mom (the card game played with two standard decks of 52 cards, not Phase 10). We have been playing this since childhood, and I would be hard pressed to say why this is the rummy game we played the most. Two decks, 5 rounds, each player is dealt 11 cards. In each round you have to meld (straights are always 4 cards):

1st round - straight, three of a kind
2nd round - 2 straights
3rd round - 3 three of a kinds (or as we call it, Go Fish)
4th round - straight, 2 three of a kinds
5th round - 2 straights, three of a kind.

Melds can go from ace up to ace. Red aces are wild, and a player may "May I" out of turn, picking up the discard and a penalty card if the player whose turn it is doesn't take it (and other players before him don't "May I" it). After melding, you can then add cards from your hand onto your own or other player's melds. When someone goes out, other players score negative points for what is left in ther hand: face value, pictures are ten, black aces 15, and red aces 20.

I guess it was a reasonable multi-player game for kids when we didn't have four for bridge. My brother Ben perfected the art of going down and out in one swoop.

The other rummies we played most often were 500 rummy with my grandmother, and gin with ourselves, when we had nothing better to do. Thank god I can always find something better to do now.

After Progressive Rummy, my mom and I played some bridge, each of us picking up two hands each.

When Tal was around, she begged to play my new game, which we did a few times, and then I taught my mom, who also enjoyed it.

No PR game, since we went for a little tour in the afternoon around the neighborhood learning about early 20th century residents of the area. A nice shabbat walk.


Friday, June 24, 2005


Something got messed up with the previous template, so I am forced to move to a new one.

Also, I have removed a few of my links to blogs that don't update frequently enough. I try to post every two days minimally. Maybe my postings are not too long, but the content is at least fresh. Some blogs that post less frequently, such as once a week are also good, if the postings are, at least, longer and worth the wait.

I just don't feel it is worth my effort to check on blogs that have no postings for months at a time. So I am forced to drop the links, even if some of the content is ok. If you're not going to post on your blog for a long time, or it has been a while, please let people know what the status is, so they don't waste time checking every day.

I'm now working on a few other game designs. With the confidence of creating a good game, I am opening the gates to a slew of other games that have always been on the back burner of my mind. A good feeling. What I need is more regular game testers. Time to scout around the BGDF looking to see what the best approach to this is.

If anyone wants to volunteer, and has a few friends willing to playtest my designs as I make them, let me know.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Session Report Up

On my site. Games played: My game prototype, For Sale, Puerto Rico, Princes of Florence, Louis XIV, Cribbage, San Juan.

I have received some tentative interest from an American publisher. Here's hoping.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Supportive Family

I finally got my wife to try my game prototype. She liked it, and we immediately played two more times. Of course, I could have done without the huge astonishment on her face, "Hey, this is actually fun!".

Of course, then our oldest daughter walks in and asks us what we are playing, and when we tell her, she says, "Really? You mean it's actually a fun game? Really?"


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Second Ethics Article

My second ethics article is written and sent to the Games Journal. Actually, I wrote a nice long article two weeks ago and sent it to Greg, who wrote back that most of it would be uninteresting to the readers, which is what my wife had said, too.

I am covering the topic of "playing games without buying them", and I went on for 2-3 pages on the legal and ethical aspects of copyrights and patents before getting down to business on the last page and a half about how it all relates to games.

I cut it down and resubmitted it; now it is only the page and a half long. Maybe I'll post the entire original piece here sometime, or the parts that I cut out. I certainly find the topic interesting, at least.

The biggest discovery is the pervasive and highly incorrect use in everyday journalism of calling people who violate copyright laws "pirates" who are guilty of "stealing". This is totally without foundation, both legally and morally.

Yes, people who violate copyright laws are doing something illegal - they are in violation of copyright. Violation of copyright is not in any way theft. Nothing has been stolen.

People forget that something that is published is now in the public domain; in fact, that is the legal definition of publishing - putting it into the public domain. Governments, in order to encourage the best ideas to get into the public domain, placed a certain limited restriction on the basic right of individuals to copy text and pictures for a duration just long enough to encourage publication.

So you can't copy when something is first published, because it is a violation of copyright. But theft? Piracy? Give me a break.


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Special Session Report Up

A special session report covering Chris's visit is up on my main website. Games played: My game prototype, El Grande, Puerto Rico.


Friday, June 17, 2005



Last night I get an email from the company that they want to pay me about $300 for the rights to publish as many copies of the game as they want in Israel (but will only pay me if they publish it at all), and that I can keep the international rights.

This isn't a bad offer for my first game. They ignored all of the rest of the issues I brought up in previous emails. I also have no idea how they came up with that figure. I told them to give me until Sunday to think about it.

They said they would give me until Saturday night, since they have to go to the company who may want to buy it on Sunday morning. I said fine.

I woke up this morning ready to say "yes" to find an email in my box saying that they have decided not to use my game period. Why? Apparently they sent this offer to some other designers they were considering and someone else said "yes", first. This despite me having gone to Tel Aviv twice, and them having made a number of nice mock-ups of the game.

And the strangest thing is, is that the game is still saleable to any number of other companies; it is not specific for one company. Just slap on a similar theme, and sell it to them. Why decide not to use the game altogether?

I think that some combination of them, or their lawyer, none of whom has any experience in the game world, decided that they have to get tough and move quickly, and that they don't have time to deal with someone who doesn't just take whatever is offered and leaves.

They were under no obligation to publish my game. But they told me so often how much they like it that I feel used now that this is not going forward.

On the darker side, despite how nice they seem, I am also aware of the fact that they now have a well-balanced and playable set of game rules, which they assure me that they won't use, and I have nothing. There is the possibility of shady dealings here. I kind of knew this was a possibility when I started off, and I hope it doesn't come to anything worse.

Oh, well. Now I get to send my ideas off to other companies. Still, I was pretty close, and then ... crash!


Just got off the phone with Chris Brooks; looking forward to seeing him tomorrow. The rest of you are also welcome to visit. Just drop me a line.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

Session Report Up

On my site. Games played: My game prototype, Dvonn, Starfarers of Catan, Tikal, Web of Power.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Driving Around, You Can See All the People ...

I was in the area, yesterday, so I agreed to drop by the game publishers to run through the game one more time with them to ensure they were playing right. And they weren't. Good thing I showed up.

Unfortunately, the three corners I had to turn to get back to the main highway - less than 2 kilometers - took over 50 minutes of traffic just to get me to where I could see the highway. And when I finally got a view of the highway, I saw that the traffic going off far into the distance. I would still be there right now if I hadn't manage to break off from my lane and meander my way through the city streets to a different highway.

Chris Brooks should be stopping by on Saturday afternoon/evening. Directions to my house are difficult, and I don't answer the phone from Friday evening until Saturday night, so ... good luck getting here, Chris. (I did send him the best directions I could, as well as a pointer to an interactive online road map of Israel.)


Monday, June 13, 2005

Second Place Two Times

Two more games of PR with Nadine and Rachel - today was Shavuot (Pentecost to you English bible readers), which is a main Jewish holiday (along with Passover and Sukkot (otherwise known as Tabernacles)).

We played with some different variant buildings the first game:

Farmer's House (1/1 take one of the remaining unselected plantations, like a poor man's Hacienda. Actually, if there are no plantations left, because two people have the building, it functions like Hacienda after the plantation pick.)

Bazaar (2/1, during mayor, exchange gp/vp/barrel for colonist; during craftsman, exchange gp/vp/colonist for barrel; during trader, exchange vp/colonist/barrel for gp)

Exchange House (5/2, end of trader phase, swap one of your barrels for one in trading house.)

Specialty Factory (7/3, +1 GP for each barrel of one type that you produce - can't be corn.)

And others that have mostly been mentioned before.

Rachel took Farmer's House and did quite well with it. She didn't only get indigos and junk, but several times corn, which showed up in bushels. She was producing 5 or 6 corn by game end.

I took an early Specialty Factory, which gave me 3 GP most of the game for indigo, and I didn't have to produce four goods to get it, only three indigo. (I strengthened this building because I never play with Aqueduct anymore.)

Then I realized something cool with Bazaar and Specialty Factory - I could exchange a gp to get an extra good, and then get the gp back for producing an extra good. Rachel and Nadine both nixed it, unfairly in my opinion, simply because I thought of it midgame. Instead I took Exchange House, which Rachel and I both knew was fairly powerful, but I used it to its full extent. Nadine also claimed that the building is unfair. My intent was to make a more powerful Office, which is how it functions, but what it does is give you an unlimited supply of high priced trading goods, which I agree is a bit much. (It also helps with shipping in late game)

Still, Rachel ended up winning with her vast shipping. 57 - 53 - 49 (Nadine).

Nadine then insisted we play another game with regular buildings (I asked to play another game, she insisted on regular buildings.)

In this one, I took the early Small Market as second position, but then ended up with several indigos, so I bought a Lg indigo building. I couldn't get my hands on a trade good, so I got Lg Market. LM and corn and indigo is great, but not when you have to wait a long time for the TH to empty, so I got coffee, too, and ended up with a coffee monopoly when Rachel and Nadine both got Harbors. At one point I took Trader with 2 gold and traded coffee, for a net gain of 10 GP. Nadine had tobacco monopoly, factory, guild hall, and ended in first place on the tie (*sigh* boring usual strategy with boring buildings). I had second place on the tie with three large buildings. Rachel had some timing problems during the game, and couldn't get a big building.


Saturday, June 11, 2005

Weekend gaming

My daughter Tal asked me to play a game, so I taught her my game prototype, which she liked, and then asked to play two more times. I should note that she won the first two times.

I then taught her how to play Gin Rummy. Sad how deficient her education has been up to this point if she still doesn't know Gin.

In the evening we had the usual PR game with myself and Nadine. Rachel was hoping to make up her abysmal show from the last game. We played mostly the usual set of my buildings mixed with the regular buildings. Rachel had an early Factory, but only produced corn, indigo, and sugar. Nadine had an early Large Business (8/3, give Builder and Captain privileges), and a tobacco monopoly. I had a coffee monopoly and Discretionary Hold (6/2, like Storehouse, plus can ship a single additional barrel onto any full ship). I let Nadine get an early tobacco trade by taking 2 GP on craftsman and then captain; in any case I knew that my sugar would get around to trading. Rachel got blocked from an early trade or two, but then got in some good ones.

Still, Nadine and I managed to get the odd Big Buildings. All said and done, we all had approximately the same amount of shipping points (24,25,28) and the same amount of building points, with the arrangement in Nadine's favor - 58, 55 (me) 52 (Rachel).


Friday, June 10, 2005

Game mock-ups

Within two days, the publishers sent me provisional mock-ups of the game. Wow, they looked really neat. They are cartoony, but professional. And there was my name, in little type, on the back cover, as "game designer".

The theme of the game had been completely changed, which doesn't bother me. They still intend to use the theme as developed to sell to a particular company in Israel. But apparently their ultimate intention is to sell in America, so that is what the first mockup is for.

They are starting out by trying to produce inexpensive (read: $1) games in mass distribution (read: +50,000 units) to dollar stores. As soon as we have a title and a distribution deal, you will be the first to know the rest of the details, including where and when to buy it.

Hmm, I will ask them if they will let me sell copies myself. Shipping from Israel for a game of this size is only about $1.50, anyway. I just don't know how this will all work. Still working on the agreement.

The frightening thing is that I'm also still finalizing the game design - some of the fine points of the rules need to be polished.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Session Report Up

Session Report Up on my site. Games played: my game prototype, Dvonn, Cities and Knights of Catan, Traumfabrik, Web of Power, Puerto Rico.


Monday, June 06, 2005

Game Publishers Come A'Visiting

The couple forming a game company finally came to see me and my game design, and they seemed to be impressed by the game. A good design to me is a game that I want to play again, and I wanted to play the game again after the first run-through.

There were several criteria it had to fill, including a specific educational design, simplicity of components, range of players, and age suitability. Of course, it had to be my own design. The entire rules fit easily on a page (without illustrations or examples). The entire design, from conception to playtesting, took about eight hours.

I hope things work out, for all of us; we essentially only have a verbal agreement that they won't actually produce it without a more formal agreement. We shall see. I wish I could say more about it, but that will have to wait until the sale goes through.


P.S. While I was doing this, Eitan was in the other room with his friend working out their own game design, which looks like a hodge-podge cross between ASL, Starfarers of Catan, and Age of Empires.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Comments weren't working ... and now they are.

And some of my other settings were changed. Odd.

Rules regarding my article on ethics:

1. You may not disagree with me. I am the law.
2. If you disagree with me, explain why. If you convince me, I will change the article. Then see rule 1.


May Gaming

We missed a game session owing to Jewish/Israeli holidays, so a light list of games. This list is for the group, only, not my personal gaming.

Advanced Squad Leader - played by my son and a fellow Jerusalemite, both of whom play no other games. They have decided to start playing at game night as a convenient place/time to play.

Crossword Squares (Maven) - from the book New Rules for Classic Games, I found out that the entry for this on BGG is "Maven". Basically, players alternate calling letters, filling in a 5x5 grid and trying to make words. Fun, and certainly better than Tic-Tac-Toe or Hangman.

El Grande + King and Intriguant - inflicted on a new player. EG is a great game, and K+I is great too, with a little tweaking.

Geschenkt - the quick filler.

Magic the Gathering - the two player filler. We play this by Rochester draft. I score my first victory in many sessions against David.

Puerto Rico - the staple.

Settlers of Catan - the staple for new players.

Starfarers of Catan x 2 - first playings, and pretty good. Something like C&K in complexity, and full of tough choices. Any path you take means giving up on something else, and all paths look pretty even to us at the moment.

Tigris and Euphrates - great game, but not quite for this game group.


2 Games PR

With the wifey, 1 win each.

First game, I flubbed the very first round, taking builder/small indigo first off, and then not getting anything for it. I decided to go radical and stock up on quarries, eventually buying enough buildings to offset the vp loss versus Rachel and winning.

Second game, a lot of low key strategies played out. Nobody traded for most of the game, and no buildings in the third column were bought. Despite my better resources, she still managed to outship me, and this time had enough buildings to secure a victory.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Session Report Up

On my site. Games played: My game prototype, San Juan, ASL, Settlers of Catan, Princes of Florence, Tigris and Euphrates.