Sunday, May 28, 2006

Midway between Monopoly and Chess

First off, a side note about my reading material.

There but for fortune

My Mom sometimes gives me some of her old Discover magazines, some of which I took for reading material. It was going to be a long weekend with little Internet access, and I couldn't count on playing games, so I brought these, as well as a newspaper and the final book of a sci-fi series I was reading.

One of the articles in one of the Discovery's was this one on the physics of bras. In order to learn about how bras work, and to study the natural tendency of breasts to sag, some scientists conducted numerous studies of woman jogging topless or with dozens of different types of bras, with light diodes arranged over various parts of the breasts to track their movements.

And all I kept thinking while I was reading this was: holy ****, am I in the wrong line of work.

There but for fortune, 2

This feeling was repeated when we went to the jacuzzi. The jacuzzi and dead sea pools are free, but if you want to have your body covered in mud, have someone hold their hands over your back and move them in circles, or place hot stones on your head, you have to pay $40 to $90.

Mud. Circles. Rocks. What the hell am I doing working in computers?

The Trade Pact Universe

These three books by Julie E. Czerneda are top notch books that explore humanity through the lens of a number of different alien psychologies (as do many good sci-fi books). They are great pieces of solid writing and skillful sensibility. She never hits you over the head with messages or panders to baser thrills. Yet the stories are thrilling.

The second one is the weakest one, as the tension in the plot is not that tense, since the reader knows what is going on long before the protagonist does. But overall, just lovely. Seek them out.

Apples to Apples

Although we went on a hike on Friday morning, the company didn't provide any team-building experiences, which was a little odd. So it was up to me to bring people together. Luckily I had brought Apples to Apples.

I found Yoav and his wife again on Friday night in a mess of people inside the lounge. When I saw Yoav, he asked me if I had brought a game, and at the word game, several bored people in the group perked up their ears. We started with six players, and a seventh joined us midgame. There were several curious onlookers, as well.

It was a big hit. I really don't know why there is no Hebrew version of this, yet (Hmm, I think I'll fire off an email and find out), but Israelis love American culture and most can read English well enough, especially those working in a tech company. The truth is, I think the game is cute but not really all that cute, but they loved it.

Like most people, most of my cards weren't very useful, but I did have some beautiful matches. For "powerful" I played "television". The next word was "idiotic", and I couldn't replay the same card, but I did have "Barney". Another one was "marriage" onto the word "hopeless".

Because of this, I pulled in 4 cards first, but we just kept playing until it got late.

Midway between Monopoly and Chess

I'm getting better at describing my hobby in a way that actually engenders respect, as opposed to bemusement. My latest is as follows:

You know how in every field there are some people who seek out the absolute best of certain type of items? You know, like people who know the best wines, or collect the best art replicas? Well, that's what I do with games. I find and collect the absolute best games in the world; games from Europe, Britain, Germany, Italy, and so on, that you can't find at your local toy stores.

They are games for adults like Chess, but they look a bit more like Monopoly. Monopoly is a luck game, the best game for kids, but really, there's not much to the game. Chess is a game you have to study all of your life that has no luck. These games are sort of midway between Monopoly and Chess: full of strategy, but you don't have to learn them your whole life to enjoy them. And they are quicker to play, are culturally interesting, and a lot of fun.


I am always trying to find another game to play with Rachel other than Puerto Rico. It's not that we don't keep playing it, it's that the same game over and over can make one feel tired of it. When we get tired of it, that means that we don't play it for a week or so and then we play again.

It would be nice to have a second game. Actually, we also will occasionally play Scrabble. But I mean a second Eurogame.

I was hoping Caylus would do it, just like I hoped Tigris and Euphrates or Goa would do it. Rachel didn't connect with Tigris and Euphrates, and Goa she said was ok but fiddly, which is about what I feel.

She didn't like Caylus on her first play, she said that it reminded her of Goa, only worse; it's very very fiddly. Collect the little cubes, play the little cubes, collect the other little cubes, trade for coins, trade back for cubes, buy a building, place the house. And so on.

It doesn't help that the main mechanic of the game is to try to trick you into forgetting something so that you smack your head later and say "I forgot that I needed this/wasn't going to get that!" It just doesn't inspire love.

I'm also feeling a bit of that, although after my third play, now, you get used to the patterns on the board, the paths of play, and so on, and this becomes less of an issue. As this was her first game, I pretty well slaughtered her, which also didn't help, I'm sure.

She asked how Nadine felt about it, and said that she would be willing to try one more time, on the assumption that her feeling of fiddlyness may go down on the second play. But it doesn't look like Puerto Rico is in much danger of losing its throne any time soon.

Puerto Rico

To make up for this, Rachel insisted that we play PR later in the day. I brought out only our classic set of buildings. We started playing while I was completely distracted and the game wasn't even set up properly yet, and I picked two incorrect roles in a row (which I wasn't intending on picking).

I complained and we started again. This time I was more in control of the situation, and at least picked what I was intending on picking. In a two player game, I like to start with Settler/corn if it is available, rather than Settler/quarry (we don't play with Small Market). Unfortunately it wasn't. I took Settler/quarry, she manned her corn and my quarry, and I took Large Indigo.

I ended up with indigo and tobacco, while she had corn, sugar, and tobacco. No coffee. I got an early Large Business, and she took an early Hospice. Sometimes an early Hospice can be devastating (we play that you can move a colonist onto it immediately), but not this time. I mayored whenever it didn't help her, and settled whenever it didn't help her.

She bought a Discretionary Hold which never came into play. The colonists quickly dwindled, and I was ahead in cash. With Large Business, I was able to compete with shipping and build a big building. The game ended before she could do the same.

But it was a good weekend. Good food and too much of it. Lots of sleep. It felt like a real vacation. Of course, the sad part about vacations is that they end too soon.


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