Friday, November 30, 2007

Reading, Writing, and Hating

My step-son is in Toronto this year with my wife. He's smart and independent, and as a result, never quite fit in with the traditional educational system.

Last school year in Israel, in 11th grade, he simply had enough, quit school and became a goatherd out in the West Bank for several months. In truth, the most important criterion for him about school is a good social environment. He hates cliques, pretenders, politics, ... basically anything other than kids who are straightforwards and nice.

So it was a challenge for my wife to find him a school in Toronto for the year that he would be there. Rachel eventually settled on Toronto's The Student School.

The Student School is an alternative school stemming from the student-empowering school movement in the 1970s (and before) that included Summerhill (also in Toronto). Students get to vote on school policies, the curriculum has unusual courses, and it organizes some unusual activities, such as "Purchasing a goat for a Rwandan village". Wikipedia's entry on the school mysteriously lists the likes of Cher as former teachers, without any further information.

My step-son was excited about it until after the first week, at which point he realized that he wasn't making any friends. He just didn't have anything in common with them. After a month or so he was again beginning to resist going to school.

That's when the trouble began.

A Lebanese student thoughtfully brought to school a Palestinian propaganda video (sorry, I don't remember which one) which the entire class watched.

We heard a little bit about the video from our step-son, and it sounded like a distorted one-sided view of a complex situation. For instance, the video described how the Palestinians were living peacefully in their own country until the Jews came out of nowhere in 1948 and kicked them all off of their land. Ever since, it's been one Israeli atrocity after another aimed at helpless Palestinians. (This is a second-hand recounting of the film.)

After the video was shown, a proposal was made to introduce a pro-Palestinian campaign into the school activities list, alongside their campaign of letter writing regarding genocide in Darfur. The campaign would include hanging Palestinian flags around the school, letter writing, and so on.

My step-son is pretty shy, and he's only a high-school student, but even so he tried to say something about how there are alternate points of view to this story. His objections were dismissed.

When he asked the principal of the school if there was room to speak about an alternate point of view on the issue, he was informed that opposing points of view on this issue were considered last school year and dismissed; it's too bad he wasn't here last year, but the alternate point of view isn't going to be raised again.

Perhaps it may also be of interest to point out at this point that, according to my step-son, the principal keeps a Palestinian flag on his desk.

My step-son made us promise not to directly confront the school over the issue while he was still there. However, my wife has withdrawn him from the school and he now goes to CHAT, the Toronto Community Hebrew school. The social environment appears to be better, and so far he has more in common with the other students, at least.


Update: My wife would like to clarify and correct my omissions and errors in the above:
The issue is "Stop Israeli Apartheid Now" and it's about boycotting certain organizations/stores like Indigo/Chapters which send charity funds to organizations in Israel.

The posters were all over the school when Eitan arrived. Eitan spoke up against "the cause" in front of all the staff and students of the school, in the monthly school meeting in October. That is when he was dismissed by the principal. In the second meeting in November, the film "Occupation 101" was shown and a movement forwarded to decorate the school with Palestinian flags.

The whole school saw the film but the "flag movement" was voted out. Another Jewish student voiced her discomfort and the policy was not adopted. The one Lebanese student who spear-heads this cause attends no classes at school (although she is registered) and has made it her full-time occupation to monopolize the political direction of the school. Many students and teachers are neutral or even critical.

The problem is that this is a public school, which tax payers are funding and it is a terrible misrepresentation of Israel without any redress. I am contacting the Board of Education in Toronto, even though Eitan is no longer in the school, to make sure they look into this affair and introduce some corrective.
Update: Two articles about this issue have now appeared in the Jewish Tribune:

Trustee probing anti-Israel programs in Toronto schools (Feb 21, 2008)

Article misleading, trustee claims (Feb 27, 2008)

Three Session Reports Up, with new games

I just posted three session reports from the Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club here, here, and here. Games played: Robo Rally, Schotten Totten, Bridge, Magic, San Juan, Cosmic Encounter, Bridge, San Juan, Power Grid.

First plays for Robo Rally and Schotten Totten.

Don't forget to subscribe to the jergames Google group if you want a chance of winning $300 worth of prizes next week. You can subscribe here.

Game News

Board Game Babylon is one of many people who talked about the Pirate Game [MP3] I created and ran at BGG.con. Listen about 3/5 of the way in. talks board and Eurogames. talks Eurogames.

Here's something that might qualify as board game art: an exhibit by Indian artist Prantik Chattopadhyay features Bollywood stars in a board game-like setting. If it's just that, I don't think it qualifies as "game art" according to my definition, since my definition requires you to actually have to interact with the game and its rules. This may be just one more example of board game irony.

Missouri junior defensive back Castine Bridges plays chess before football games to help him focus for the next day’s game.

Don't try to import Magiclean cleaner into Australia. The courts will think you're trying to make the illegal drug "fantasy" rather than using it to clean your Warhammer pieces.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Win Over $300 in Games and Prizes!

I'm giving away $100 dollars of my own games and gift certificates in time for the holidays.

Not enough, you say? How about another $200 of games, prizes, certificates from some generous sponsors?

It's That Time of Year

Yet, it is. The time when I give back to my readers. This money comes straight from the ads and affiliate links you have to put up with. It doesn't make enough to earn me a living yet, so I like to give it all back to you in appreciation.

This time around I've got a whole smörgåsbord of stuff to give away to you, including:

And there might be more! I'm still finalizing some details.

(Note: the items not marked as "from me" were donated by the listed sponsors.)

Everyone participating in this event will also get a discount coupon or two!

How It Works

I can't simply give away stuff in a lottery or a trivia game. How pedestrian! No, you're going to have to play a few games! Some will be trivial and short, some a little longer.

You must sign up to the Google group jergames:
Google Groups
Subscribe to Jergames
Visit this group

That's it for now. No, I won't use your email for anything else, and you can unsubscribe any time. You must be signed up by Sat night EST to play and win.

Sunday we start gaming!


2 Player Blokus Trigon

Blokus Trigon

I finally got around to playing Blokus Trigon. I played a two player game with my daughter Tal.

First impressions of looking at Blokus Trigon were very positive. It looked like a game identical to the original except that it would also play well with three. Pure improvement.

Opening it up, I noticed that the number of larger to smaller pieces was slightly changed, of course, but kept in pretty much the same ratio. Nothing radical here.

When I began to play, I discovered that blocking your opponent from spreading is fiendishly difficult. In the original, only two players can cross an intersection; now three can, and in multiple ways. In addition, in the original a flat side of one of your pieces can't spawn another piece; in Trigon, even featureless sides can spawn new pieces, since a triangle can be placed against it at a single point.

Which means that obstructing play becomes Sisyphean. You can take over spaces the other player needs, with difficulty, since the pieces fit in smaller spaces. But you can't really block someone from expanding.

We ended our game, playing with two colors each according to the rules, with nearly no pieces remaining. I had a single piece left in one color, while Tal had three pieces left in one color.

I'm not entirely thrilled about this result. I definitely want to play a three-player game (played on a smaller board) to see how that works. And maybe a four player game would also be somewhat more difficult, since in two players you can purposely keep a balance open for both of your colors.

New Games

I'm only now sorting through the new games I acquired in Canada and the U.S. They all look good, and I don't know which one to start with.

Unfortunately, I just opened one of the small card games I got in the math trade and promptly dumped all the cards on the floor. When I picked them back up and counted them, I found I was missing 10 cards from the game. I'm assuming that I have just misplaced the cards under the couch, somehow, but I'm writing the previous owner just to verify.

Game News

And we have a winner: Fortune tells us that Toys 'R Us is "making a comeback" with the previously-mentioned pink Hasbro games. It's not exactly the phrase I was looking for ("board games are making a comeback") but it's close enough. Suzzanne Kapner, you get the "I didn't know that board games have been said to be 'making a comeback' in dozens of newspaper articles every year for the last fifteen years" award.

BGN tells us that Israel has a new brick and mortar game store. One of the owners is the only current importer of these games (Silver Stars), about which he has many exclusive importing agreements. I'm not entirely sure that this is fair to the other retailers (of which there are two, one brick and mortar and one online). I'm awaiting comment from Silver Stars for details.

The Cleburne Times Review yearns for more tabletop gaming.

The Daily Republic notes that grownups aren't too good at video games, and that may be one reason why parents dismiss video games as valueless.

Kids in Alabama are making board games. (thanks, Clay)

You can win a whole boatload of Hasbro games here.

The beautiful TV series Planet Earth is now also a DVD game. As Smartplanet ironically notes, "Just a shame it uses electricity to play it..."

There are dozens of hotels and resorts that include information about the board games that they provide for their guests. Last we heard board games will also be an integral part of a new UK train service, and now it appears that the Canadian Snow Train service is also getting in the game.

Finally, another card game shooting, this time in OH.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Sex Games

OK, kids, time for bed.

Are they gone? OK.

The subject of today's post is sex games, specifically sexual subject matter in non-electronic games such as board and card games. I'll cover a little about their history and then categorize them.

What do I mean by sex games?

There are games whose subject is about sex, games that are supposed to stimulate sexual desire, and games that are supposed to educate you about sex. There are games to be played before sex and during sex; I haven't run across any games yet that are meant to be played after sex ("Rate your lover's recent performance and move forward three spaces.")

Note that sex in electronic games (including DVD games) covers a wider variety of topics. Some video games reward you with sexual images, simulate virtual sexual activity, or are meant to stimulate you with minimal interaction on your part. These type of things don't happen in non-electronic games.

A thorough work on this subject called Sex in Video Games was recently published by Brenda Brathwaite, and you can read the entire brilliant first chapter online here (PDF).

What don't I mean by sex games?

The term "sexual games" generally has nothing to do with games at all, but connotes power negotiation within a relationship. I've complained before about how the word "game" is misappropriated for activities that have nothing to do with games per se, but does anyone listen to me? No.

Nevertheless, there is a relation between the above usage of the term "game" and its canonical meaning. A large number of "sex games" exist in order to help break down the power struggle of psychological "sex games".

Doing what the dice says in the context of a game is somehow more acceptable than doing the same thing when it's your partner who's asking. No requestor / requestee relationship, ergo the collapse of the power struggle. Of course, this assumes that the performer doesn't manage to muck it up in the small time it takes to perform the specified activity.

A lot of games "for adults" are not specifically sexual in nature, but deal either humorously or ironically with drugs, prostitution, the porn industry, cursing, crime, and so on, often mocking laws or inhibitions about the subject in question.


This is merely an overview, and not an exhaustively researched history.

There is evidence that human sexuality was not merely a response to reproductive need but a recreational activity from very early times. Sex toys exist from as far back as 30,000 years ago.

I don't really know what the earliest "games" were. Sometime in prehistory, grownups and kids raced each other or competed in non-lethal ways to earn prizes or status. And I don't know for sure, but I think it's a fair bet that sometimes those prizes or that status was sexual in nature.

Naked male Roman gladiators fought to the lustful admiration of both men and women. The same goes for the participants of the ancient Greek Olympics.

Throughout history, wherever there were adults and games, there were people taking their clothes off for money, a dare, or a loss, or to attract attention.

Physical activities such as sports were historically separated; croquet and gentler sports arising in the 19th century allowed for the mixing of genders and the obvious competition and flirtation that such mixing would allow. Even though board games existed well before the 19th century, women and men generally didn't mix over them. Women are known to have played Go and Mancala games for thousands of years, but not with men (unless perhaps they were married or siblings).

In the 19th century, genteel parlor games were often a rougher sort of sport involving blindfolded people running around the room grabbing people by whatever part of the body they could touch. These also occasioned many an "inadvertent" sexual flirtation or contact. In fact, these games had forfeits (or penalties) that would be considered racy today, such as kissing or other intimate physical actions.

Modern relationship, drinking, romance, and sex games came about only in the 1960s with the rise of sexual liberation and Playboy magazine, the latter of which featured ads for luxury gambling or sex games on occasion.

Modern sex games sometimes come complete with sexual aids, such as condoms or lube, edible clothing or spreadable chocolate.


The following is a rough division of modern sex games into types. These games are not hard to find on Google or other search engines.

Sex education

These are generally trivia or roll and move / pick a card games that purportedly teach you about sex, abstinence, protection, disease, and so on. Unlike most educational games, these might actually interest kids enough to read the materials. Like most educational games, however, the game play is beside the point and usually pretty bad.

I'm an adult, woo hoo

Some games mirror standard board or party games but include sexual language or nude pictures, such as the infamous pattern matching game Busen Memo (try to match two breasts of a pair), the sentence forming game Dirty Words, or playing cards with erotic pictures. Like drinking games which are not specifically sexual in nature, these are marketed as a prelude to lowering inhibitions before sexual play, but are also often played for simple fun in an adults-only environment.

Naughty trivia

As a specially prevalent example of the above, this is your basic trivia game, but all the questions refer to adult subjects. One clever take on this is Dirty Minds, where the clues are double entendres but the printed answers are actually clean.

Many of these are of a humorous nature, especially ones that pit sexes against each other, or about knowledge of the other sex.

Randomized romance

Dice, cards, or a spinner is used to instruct you on what you should say or do to your partner. The activities are generally of the romantic, esteem building nature.

These are straight out of modern marital philosophy. Marital therapy often includes activities such as: you and your partner write dozens of little notes about things that you want from your partner and each picks one from the other's pile on a regular basis. That's about what these games are like, except that the notes are pre-written for you.

A game that asks the players to tell each other fantasies, complement each other, or otherwise promote kindness to each other, can be just as erotic as a subtle or sensual sex game. In fact, probably more so. Meanwhile the usual sex games of simply doing whatever sex act the die roll says to do seems like it sets a couple up for the return of the power struggle when the act is over. It's not what you do, it's how you do it.


From adult versions of Mad Libs to competitive storytelling ala Once Upon a Time.

Truth or dare

The age old game of weeding children too foolish not to stick their tongues on an ice cold railroad track out of the gene pool. Those kids actually get off easy compared to having to listen to truths better left unsaid. Games range from mild to nasty.

Strip poker

With or without various accessories and "action" cards for when the clothing is already gone.

Move your body

Variations on the Twister theme, although the original game is hot enough for most people.

Random foreplay / sexplay

Dice, cards, or a spinner is used to instruct you on what you should do to your partner. I assume the science behind this is a) you may do something, or have something done to you, that you've always been afraid to try, b) you may gain complicity, or feel the need to comply, with something that you generally don't do because the game tells you to do it, and c) since it's not your partner telling you to do it, there's less of a power struggle involved.

In addition to the above randomizers, some of these games include darts, chips, or balls you have to toss, or other physical feats in order to secure an activity of your choice. There are also several revamped standard games where, as pieces are captured or points are scored, random instructions are revealed, such as Naughty Checkers.

I think it bears saying that just because the dice, cards, or spinner tell you to do something doesn't obligate you to do it.

Special Mention

These games warranted a special mention.

Indecent Proposal (

In this game whenever you land on a square you actually offer (game) money to your spouse for performing a task or collect from your spouse for acceding to a request. The object is to gain enough money to earn the right to do something that you really want to do.

I don't know what bothers me more: turning yourself into an actual whore, or the message that a healthy approach to sex is to persuade someone into doing something that they really don't like to do.


A strategy card game involving the playing of tentacle-like appendage cards onto a stereotypical hentai girl in order to perform unnatural sex acts. Actually has two published expansions.

1,000 Blank Cards

Every player creates their own cards with points, actions, and little drawings, which get mixed into a common deck.

While theoretically this is not a sex game, I've yet to see a completed deck that wasn't 95% penises, boobs, and bodily functions.

Now go take a shower.


Chitag 2007

I didn't attend the Chicago Toy and Game Fair as it happened on the same weekend as BGG.con . Some people who did:

Matthew Forbeck was a panelist and discusses meeting inventors and publishers.

Scott Tepper ran the Rio Grande Games booth, talks about introducing the masses to better games, and provides some pictures.

Mums the Wurd appears to be one of the masses.

The Playmakers were there. was there in all its Star Wars glory.

Chitag was primarily organized by Mary Couzin of Discover Games.

In other news, here's a gorgeous looking hand-made sarcastic game about relationships.

And a game by kids about beating bullies.

The Sunday Herald writes that board games are "enjoying a revival", which doesn't win the prize. I'm looking out for the article with the exact phrase "making a comeback", which I've see every year for the past ten years.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

As Long As We're Linking 26

My continuing series of newly discovered game blogs. These are blogs that have general interest to all readers (not simply a company's product listings), and are updated with at least some frequency.

An additional criteria I am introducing is that they have to have already posted more than one or two introductory posts. A lot of blogs never get past those first two posts. There are two or three blogs I'm watching in this category.

Blogs which no longer post about games, or which don't post anything for over three months, and don't say why, tend to get dropped from my blog roll. (Where did you go, Alfred?)

Adam - Adam, Austin, TX.

Applied Game Design - Brenda Brathwaite, Savannah, GA.

Dave Ex Machina Dave Lartigue, Springfield, MA. Also writes for Hardcore Ludography.

GamerChris - Chris Norwood, Graham, NC.

Grownupgamer - Mr Falcon, Houston, TX.

Karl Gallagher - Saginaw, TX.

Life is for Living, right? - Stephanie K., Los Angeles, CA.

Lifebox - Mark Majcher, Austin, TX.

musings - by currypot - Gary, Singapore.

Norwich Board Gamers - Group club blog in Norwich, UK.

Still Unpunched - Oliver Harrison, Calgary, ALberta, CA.

The Mine Shaft Gap - Paul Mackie, Sydney, Australia.

ubarose - Uba(?) Rose, New England. Red hair. AT fan. Also writes for F:AT.

Wheat Chit and Die - Chris Palermo, Ronkonkoma, NY. Formerly wrote the LIBO newsletter.

YABARGO - Isaac Bickerstaff, Taylors, SC.



Friday, November 23, 2007

50 Life Skills You Can Learn While Playing (even something dumb like) Monopoly

Once in a while I respond lengthily to a board game related post around the blogosphere. In this case, it is Wandering Ether's post on the unease about competition in board games such as Monopoly. "What skills are being taught through a game like Monopoly?" he asks in a response to my first comment.

I rattled a few off the top of my head:

1. That time together is important.
2. That winning fairly is more important than winning.
3. That cheating is unfair to both you and your opponents, over time.
4. That even a competition requires cooperation, namely agreeing on when to play, what to play, special rules, and making the game an enjoyable experience.
5. That gambling is unreliable.
6. That odds matter, and 2s and 12s roll much less than 7s, so count on 7s.
7. That taking turns makes the game fun for everyone.
8. That a move that will upset someone, even if legal, may not be the best move.
9. That money has to be managed.
10. That turns are resources, just like money.
11. That negotiation can get you what you want.
12. That mutual benefit to two players will help both of you over the other players.
13. That promiscuous trading is beneficial in games and life.
14. That games don't take priority over life.
15. That even when you're losing you can enjoy the experience, if only by setting goals for yourself.
16. When diversity in holdings is better than concentration, and when not.
17. That a game that seems entirely random is only mostly so; some parts of the Monopoly board actually get landed on more frequently than others, over time.
18. That even a good plan can sometimes fail.
19. That usually good planning works better than poor planning.
20. What mortgages are, more or less.
21. That games provide a safe escape from the real world, and are inexpensive, as opposed to, say, drugs.
22. That people who are powerless in many other situations can shine in a game situation.
23. That even parents have to play by the same rules.
24. That games are a creation, with artistic merit and design, some more than others. They also have interesting histories.
25. That creativity can sometimes help you when the numbers can't.
25. That future planning can save you big time.
26. That humor makes any experience more enjoyable.
27. That things don't get cleaned up by themselves, and organization matters.
28. That if you work hard at something, you can get better at it.
29. That good stories make for good experiences, and vice versa.
30. That your parents cared enough about you to share family time when you were young.
31. How to count more quickly, and that math builds your mind.
32. That variations can be fun or bad, and need play testing and cooperation from all participants.
33. That other people also want to win and have feelings.
34. How to express yourself.
35. How to have patience.
36. How to abstract future realities.
37. How to have good manners.
38. How to overcome obstacles and fight on.
39. How to deal with the consequences of our actions.
40. How to concentrate on a single activity and sit still.
41. How to make tough decisions.
42. Why rules matter.
43. That one person's win is sometimes another's loss.
44. That rents are high.
45. That fortunes rise and fall.
46. That if you don't take care of your games, you won't be able to play them.
47. That you sometimes need help, and you sometimes can help others.
48. How to read the cards and board.
49. What taxes are.
50. About Atlantic City, or wherever your version is from, if you take the time to notice.

Games are opportunities. Every game is an opportunity. Every game, every single one. Take advantage of the unparalleled attention you're getting from your child Right Now. When else does he or she pay attention to you for two hours at a time?

I added that Monopoly gives those uneasy feelings because there's a lot of luck to the game, and minimal strategy and tactics. There's some skill, mind you, but not a lot. And I recommended a few games which might give better lessons in the same time frame.

Add your own comments to mine in the original post if you want to help this guy's kids before their family leaves board games behind.

Game News

Speaking of life lessons, here are some life lessons on economics from a speech by a chess master.

Faidutti discusses the phenomenon of games published without much intent on their ever being played. I thought he might be referring to art games, but he's referring more to collectible games. Which might be the same thing.

"Not meant to be played" has always been Monopoly's legacy, where most copies bought are never meant to be played, and are bought only as souvenirs. To whit, the Monopoly Carlisle edition.
It is not necessarily being bought to be played. A lot of people have been saying they will be putting it away and keeping it as a memento. That is the feedback we have had from customers.

The Sacramento Bee covers the local Eurogaming club. Deseret News does the same.

Johnny Appleseed planted orchards. John Goon plants strategy game clubs, and has started clubs all over the Washington area.

Some idiot busted a cribbage game at a gathering of veterans in Maine because of new and difficult to interpret state gambling laws.

An ex-NYPD policeman was so annoyed at the response to Ground Zero's restoration progress that he developed a politically charged board game to mock the responses.

Hungry Hank is yet another board game to teach us about obesity.

In the sad state of journalistic affairs, any game that has a board must be similar to Monopoly. Here's a Christian board game that is supposed to help you employ Christian teachings to become wealthy. Says Meg Hibbert, the article's author:
The game board and path to prosperity is similar to Monopoly, with important differences. Players choose game pieces that they move around the board with the goal of being first to get to the middle. Each player is given a budget with which to make everyday life choices, the couple explained, and earn prosperity points along the way.

In other words, it's exactly like Monopoly, except it isn't in any way whatsoever.

The first Seinfeld trivia game called In Pursuit of Nothing.

Forgotten Lore notes some board games developed by traditional computer game publishers and compares the two industries development processes.

Luis compares board games to console games.

The Grinch has stolen Christmas in Fort Myers, FL, as thieves made off with walls of toys and board games from a Salvation Army intended to be distributed to the underprivileged. Maybe toss them a few dollars while you're buying your gifts this holiday season.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Back in Jerusalem

Aside from the usual troubles with koshers meals gone missing (Lufthansa managed to find some at the last minute, anyway), my suitcase of games gone missing (delivered only after I was filling in a missing bad report), and extreme tiredness, I'm home again.

I made a stop at the JSGC for the end of a game of Cosmic and four hands of Bridge. And now why I'm not in bed is beyond me.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

BGG.con - the mainstream news video

Star Telegram covers the con here:

This link probably won't work for very long, so get it while you can. Derk does some narrating, and mentions that one geek came all the way from Israel.


BGG.con 6 - Photos

My batteries ran out Thursday night, and I didn't bother to get them replaced. Here are pics of the first part of the con.

How did that get in there? This is yet another pink game for the ladies. I found it in Half Priced books, and it's still there, as far as I know.

The game library.

Vickie and co cutting up the name badges. A few moments later I was cutting up the pirate game badges.

Boxes and boxes of prizes and vendor graft.

Stuffing the bags. That's Derk in the middle back.

Chad Ellis of Your Move Games takes a break from teaching a prototype in the hotel lobby.

Friedemann Friese and Scott Alden.

The guys from Fantasy Flight Games.

Setting up Heroscape. I think more time was spent setting up than was spent playing.

Friedemann teaching Felix to his first group. Friedemann laughed after every round, regardless of whether the winner of the round got garbage or a gold mine of cards.

Jay Tummelson of Rio Grande teaching us Utopia.

The giveaways to every attendee.

People lining up on Thursday morning to be the first to pick from that pile.

Game hall in swing on Thursday.

Chris Brooks and Jim Ginn (on right) playing Hamburgum.

Greg Schloesser (facing) gets taught Geominos by the designers. I never actually got to play with Greg.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Upcoming: A Backlog of Posts

I have many board game news items to catch you up on since I left for BGG.con. I'd also like to tell you about what happened at Chi-Tag in Chicago, and my latest list of new board game blogs.

I also have some pics of BGG.con, although my camera went out about halfway through. And I want to post a summary.

You'll have to wait. I have extra work to do today and tomorrow, and then I fly back to Israel. I may not get to any of these until Friday.

REMINDER: If you want to promote your site here, I'm running a giveaway game/contest at the end of this month with over $100 worth of prizes and cash. If you want some promotion from me and good will going into the holiday season, I welcome contributions of prizes to give out to my readers. Email me with offers or for details.


BGG.con 5 - Pirates and Podiums


Shabbat was fairly quiet. Good food at hosts and shul. I played a few hands of Bridge with my friend David Friday evening, each of us taking two hands.

Saturday Gaming

Sat I arrived back at BGG.con at 8 pm or so, just a tad early to start manning the booth for pirate card entries, so I joined a game of Mexica, one of the three "mask" action point games by Kramer. It was good, just as good as the other games. For some strange reason, I haven't gotten either Torres or Tikal to the table in my game group, so I'm a little wary of buying this one, even though I like it as well as Tikal.

Pirate Math

At 9ish I headed up to the reception counter to start collecting sets of pirate cards for the pirate game, and people began coming in a steady stream. Not only that, I found out that there was already a box of entries already filling up from the morning.

People were really nice and said they enjoyed it, thanked me for running it, and so on. Apparently I had missed out on scenes over shabbat, when people began to take the game seriously. There were people collecting pools of cards and wheeling and dealing, just like I wanted. I'm sorry I missed it.

At 10:00 entry was closed, and I ended up with 54 entries. To my surprise, over half included special cards called Pirate Attacks, which, owing to a feedback system of that mechanic, meant that the best Pirate Attack entries were likely to win. And that's what happened for four out of the five winning values. The fifth one was won by a straight set entry, beating out even the Pirate Attack value in that slot.

I spent the next 2.5 to 3 hours calculating the relevant values on each card, then the number values for Pirate Attacks, and then the results of the Pirate Attacks. In the end, we had five our winners.

Pirates and Podiums

The next day at noon I and Scott announced the results. Each winner won Command and Colors and its expansion in a nice set. Sweet. I had to stand in front of the room with a microphone to do this. This doesn't frighten me, but I really don't have a commanding speaking presence.

I was pleased with the way it turned out. It could have fallen flat altogether, or been horribly unbalanced. but it gave some people a good time and some extra socializing, which was the main point.

Sunday Gaming

Sunday morning I played Hamburgum, a province building game from Rio Grande. The game was pretty good for about 2/3 of the game, while the remaining 1/3 was somewhat dull, as only one set of tasks remained to be done and a whole lot of endless cycling to do it.

I played half a game of Lumberjack, an abstract with fancy wooden pieces in a specifically stacked style. Points only mattered with which pieces you took when and when you choose to score them, but the other players had a good time building towers with the pieces. Seemed straightforward and ok, but nothing special.

I badly lost a game of Yinsh to Aaron Fuegi. Then he taught me Knockabout, which I enjoyed. It's a lot like Abalone, but the variable nature of dice pieces that roll strength each time they're moved makes a less rote style of play and gives more tactical interest.

Last I finally managed to pin down Coldfoot and some others for a game. With only an hour, we played a game of Oh Hell. Brian loves Oh Hell, too, even though nearly every rule he plays with is different from the ruleset I know. Truth be told, either ruleset produces a nearly identical game.

Return Journey

I met a family from BGG.con at the airport and we played a game of It's Alive, which I kept in my backpack for just such an occasion.

Airport security was just as stupid as usual. One line for hundreds of people, still checking shoes and liquids without even casually determining which people are a waste of time to check.

I ended up having to throw out a water bottle. This was after I went through security and they discovered it in my backpack. I even drank out of it to show them it was water, but they told me that I wasn't allowed to drink from it once I had gone through security with it. If I wanted to drink the water, I would have to go back through security again. Otherwise I could throw it out.


When I arrived in Toronto, I discovered my bag of games opened and spilling forth contents on the luggage carousel. I managed to collect most of the contents, waited for the carousel to go around again, and then collected a few more pieces on the return. I hope I got everything.

And last but not least, owing to carrying two large bags home by subway, I cut my head open on an overhead bar on the subway trying to hoist the bag onto my shoulder, and had to fend off two people who wanted to take me to the hospital when they saw blood running down my face. It was a simple cut, and head wounds just bleed a lot for a little bit. I wasn't feeling dizzy or anything. I just wanted to go home.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

BGG.con 4 - Shabbat coming in

I'm back at the place I'm staying for shabbat (5910 Harvest Hill), while BGG.con drones on without me.

It's not too bad. A little clearing of the head won't hurt me. I think if I hadn't already played Tuesday night and especially Wed night, I would be more irked.

I feel bad about all the people I haven't had a chance to talk with yet, such as Brian Waters, aka Koldfoot. We briefly said hello, but I was in the middle of teaching a game. Lots of other people I met were great, but I don't remember most of their names :-( . I got to play a lot with Chris Brooks, however, and also Jim Ginn.

Mischa Krilov has been my personal saviour during the convention, not only squeezing me into his room for sleeping, but also helping me out with the math trade and flea market tomorrow. I owe him a lot.

I've been asked questions about the pirate game, and even witnessed some trading and socializing going on, which is nachas. I've not been overwhelmed with questions, which I hope means that everyone understands the game, and not that most people aren't playing.

I don't know if Scott has publicised what the rewards you can win are yet, but you should ask him if he hasn't!

Today's schedule was pretty light. I played Thebes, which I really liked. During the game, however, I could already hear my game group complaining about some of the random draws and card flips. I liked the game so much, however, that I'm willing to get it and find a way around that.

I played Traumfabrik. This was the only game experience that wasn't really great for me. The people were perfectly nice, but they were too chatty and slow for my tastes. Not a good match for me.

Lastly, I played a prototype that Chris brought. It's essentially a route finding game of crossing bridges to pick up goods that get delivered to each bridge. You need to cross all the bridges, and pick up all the types of goods.

I really liked it quite a lot. Rio Grande may pick it up, which would be nice.

I miss my wife and kids. See you on the other side of shabbat!


Friday, November 16, 2007

BGG.con 3 - found my notebook

I found my notebook, but I'm still blogging from a computer without picture uploading. I'm not reading anyone else's reports, so you're probably getting their pictures anyway.

I found my notebook. To fill you in: yesterday's FF game was called Felix, and he's puching it a lot at the con.

Thursday morning showed long lines for the registration. The first to register, the first to pick your free game from the pile. There were some issues getting the Pirate Trading game off the ground, as the rules were nowhere to be seen for a while, and some people wondered what the cards they got in their bag were all about.

Eventually rules were hung, and then eventually available for perusing. I went around pushing it, too. It may be picking up some steam. We'll find out when people try to hand the cards in Sat night.

I played way too many new games, which just makes my head hurt:

Wabash Cannonball, a pure math train game, where I whined on turn three that I already calculated that I had no chance to catch up and tried to prove it, much to the other player's annoyance. I was right, but still. Rating: not sure, but not good if I'm right. The mechanics were otherwise good enough.

Crokinole, which I had played at the last con. Fun, but hurts the fingers the first time you play.

Tamsk, the orphaned GIPF game, which was ok, but not really that interesting, even with the timers. Meanwhile, Tamsk's replacement Tzaar, was excellent, on par with Dvonn and Yinsh.

I listened to someone explain a prototype to me from one of the one-game game companies, and about five minutes into it I told him he was terrible at explaining games. Maybe rude, but I then proceeded to systematically ascertain the rules and give him pointers on how to explain the game in a more cohenrent manner. I met the guy later in the evening and he thanked me and said that I really helped him. The game was an area control game in Great Britain.

Antler Island, the deer mating game by Lamont, creator of Shear Panic, is pastoral, but didn't inspire great love. It did inspire a lot of rude jokes. However, we didn't play with the full combat rules. It's on the level of Shear Panic, and may be even better with more intense combat. And not too long.

Before the Wind, was essentially Puerto Rico lite, maybe even more so than San Juan. It was really a nice game, but we did something wrong with the bidding, because something was ridiculous and ruined the game. We had a post discussion and discovered that the way that we originally though that it should be played, but then thought otherwise, was in fact correct. So in the end, it seems to be a really good game.

Airships, a game by Andreas Sayfarth, is also a neat game, but it's main mechanic is lots of dice rolling. But but but but .... why? If you don't mind dice rolling (prety controlled rolling, but still dice), the game is a good marriage of dice to Eurogame.

Catch-a Fish is a marriage between Bohnanza and Ra. Keep flippinf up fish cards until someone rings the bell and buys them, which he then has to plant into his three fish fields without changing the order. On his turn, he can harvest a lot of fish to free up a row. Basically.

I finally got tired of new games and wanted to play something I knew already, so I taught three other people how to play Puerto Rico and we had a nice foursome. I won, of course, but they really seemed to enjoy it.

Geominoes is another game from a one game company that seems around the same niche as 24/7, a cute game of tile laying and scoring points, although points here are bad for you, and you have to rotate the shapes to score the least points.

My only other note is that the hit game seems to be something called Agricola, which is supposed to be the next Caylus-killer. I might give it a go if I have a chance.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

BGG.con 2 - Wednesday

BGG.con really starts on Wed evening. Anyone not here on Wed evening is missing out on prime gaming time.

I seem to have misplaced my blogging notebook, which means this will have to be short.

Wed morning was a simpe affair of buying food and stuff, and Wed afternoon I headed over to the hotel, hoping to find space to crash for Wed and Thur night. I ended up staying with Mischa Krilov Wed night, and we'll find something for tonight.

Wed afternoon was the massive set up job, helping Aldie arrange his 1300 games which he had shipped over here by movers. Then lots of cutting out of name cards, cutting out the Pirate Trading game cards, and stuffin envelopes.

I met lots of nice people. Game publishers and authors were alredy on hand, such as Friedmann Friess with his spiky green hair, the guys from Fantasy Flight with his spiky blue hair, Jay Tummelson of Rio Grande Games, and so on.


I started with FF's Essen game. I forget the name. It's a quick Geschenkt like game. Each player has a hand of cards. Each round, players put face down one card each, and you bid on the entire row with chips, gradually revealing cards as people withdraw from the bidding. You get more and more gold for withdrawing, and only the last pays. It's more bluffing and luck than Geschenkt, but nice. Not for my group, I think.

Then I joined Utopia, taught by Jay. Utopia is an area control, monument building game, which has some reasonable mechanics; I would probably call it on the San Marco level. However, the game design is so poor that it wrecked the game for us. Each round, you're placing people on the board, with the aim of converting those people to their corresponding building. Unfortunately, there is no key card that tells you which people go with which building. And it's not in the rules, only on certain cards in the deck. Since this conversion is key to the game play, it is simply impossible to play.

Add to that confusing colors and a busy map where you can['t see your pieces placed sometimes, and you have a problem. All it needs is a little cheat sheet card showing which people go to which buildings and you have a game.

I play Gypsy Kings, which is basically a Samurai light, neat area control game, and really short. It's nice. Would play again.

Last was Tichu game, where I opened the first hand with a bid and made Grand Tichu, followed by another Tichu on the next round. In the end, we lost anyway. Oh well.

Sucks not having my notebook. Sucks not being able to upload my pictures.

I'll see what I can do tonight or tomorrow.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

BGG.con 1, or further adventures in transportation

I spent about 10 hours travelling today, I guess. I have to guess, because the first thing that happened to me today after I got on my first bus was that my watch battery died.

My schedule was to arrive in Dallas for the con on Tuesday early afternoon, which would give me plenty of leeway time. I could miss flights, take a long time travelling, and not really care, since I only really had to be anywhere Thursday morning. Still, I wanted to get to Tuesday night's game night in Dallas (which was not at the place it was last time), and Wed night's gaming at the hotel. And in between, some shopping.

Caught a bus in Toronto at 6:40 to take me to a 9:10 flight out of Toronto Pearson to Dallas Fort Worth. The aim was to get the bus, to the subway, to the "Rocket" airport bus at 7:18, arriving at the airport at no later than 7:40. I had to arrive an hour before the flight, according to the ticket.

Unfortunately, the subway took longer than expected, and the next bus was only at 7:38. The 7:38 encountered more traffic than expected, and I only got to the check in at 8:08. Good thing, because the clerk told me that 2 minutes later and she would have denied me access to the flight.

Things went rather smoothly after that, at least until I was in the air.

The plane was a small tube with 4 seats across. Big jumbo jets have big wings, where your only concern is that the laws of nature will wake up while you're in flight and remember that heavy things fall. Little jets have little wings, where your concern is that they'll snap off if a breeze hits them.

The plane had the same on air entertainment system that my last one did, so I got to watch a few sitcoms I had never seen (time spent checking out sitcoms on an airplane doesn't count toward wasting time).

The big difference between big and little planes is what happens to the little plane when the plane hits turbulence, which can only be described as the difference between a male and a female orgasm, except not in a good way.

No problems landing in Dallas, no customs even. Ground transportation assistance has improved just a smidgen since last time I was there. They still don't know anything about transportation in Dallas or Fort Worth, or anything at all about Dallas or Fort Worth, actually, but she was able to make me a photocopy of a piece of paper which explained how to get to the train that would take me either to Dallas or Fort Worth. Last time, she couldn't even do that.

With no plan, I had several options. What I needed to discover was how I was going to manage the rest of the week traveling back and forth to Dallas proper from the airport area, if some kind soul didn't put me up on various evenings (got a tentative offer from someone as of now, by the way).

My first thought was to take the free shuttle to the airport Westin, i.e. the location of the con. There, I would drop off the games I was bringing so that I wouldn't have to lug them around Dallas, maybe sneak a few pictures of the rooms we would be playing in, and maybe scope a free ride to the other Westin, if they offered this as a service.

You have to contact the hotel from transportation assistance to get them to send their free shuttle. I had no problem contacting them, but the shuttle took 30 minutes to arrive. So don't count on that being a quick thing. I succeeded in my first mission; I dropped my games off at the hotel in safe keeping. Unfortunately, the rooms had not yet begun being set up, since they were still being used for other things. So no pictures of the game space to come.

Also, they don't offer shuttle service between Westins, or between their hotel and downtown Dallas. They also can't get the airport shuttle service to pick you up at the hotel on the way to downtown. The only option available from the hotel is a taxi, around $35 to $45.

On the other hand, you can get a free ride back to the airport and then take an airport shuttle for $17. Since I had time to explore, I decided to try the cheap route again: go back to the airport and take the train. A day pass is $5. But train service is very infrequent, sometimes as little as once every hour and a half. It took a good 20 minutes to get to the train station, and I had an hour to wait for the train. I spent the time reading a discarded newspaper, so I wasn't put out.

Finally got to downtown Dallas, Union station. What you want to do from there is take either Blue or Red line up one stop to West End and walk into the DART information center, at which you can get information and schedules for all the bus routes in the city. I got information on how to get to Half Price Books (the big one), Cafe Brazil, site of tonight's game night, and the location I would be staying at (Preston and Harvest Hill).

All of this had taken a heck of a long time, of course. And there's no direct route to Half Price Books or the Cafe Brazil from downtown. Both require a red train line to a stop, and then a transfer to a bus and another short ride. From one to the other would require bus/train/bus. And buses are notoriously late. I tried the service going to Half Price Books, and it took about an hour.

All in all, my options for getting back and forth to the con were as follows:

- Take a taxi every day for $40 each way. Time: 20-30 minutes each way.
- Take an airport shuttle for $17 each way, and then a free ride to the hotel. Time: 1 hour each way?
- Take a bus to the train to the TRE (train) to two buses to the free shuttle, for $5 total both ways. Time: 3 hours each way.

Bleah. The only good choice is to bite the bullet and sleep at the hotel, if possible.

Anyhoo ...

I only had an hour at Half Priced Books, which is pathetic, as it is by far the best book store in the world. No other store compares, and that includes Powells in New York which just looks pathetic in comparison. There were over thirty full length shelves simply devoted to game and humor books, not to mention actual board games. Sadly, I couldn't spend all day there.

By 5:00, I had had enough of public transport, and even though I could have spent another two hours traveling for free, I decided to take a cab. So instead of spending the extra money from the airport to Dallas, I ended up spending the extra money inside Dallas itself.

Finding the Cafe Brazil was not easy, as the staff weren't quite sharp enough to tell me the first time what the best way to get there was. I ended up circling with the taxi meter running before calling again and getting better directions. For the record: north on 75, get off on Campbell exit to the north access road, continue across Campbell, up the ramp immediately to your left, over the highway, and back down again onto the south acces road. The cafe is right after a bowling alley.

I could only eat potato chips, bottomless glasses of root beer, and strawberries at the cafe. Hopefully I'll stock up on better food tomorrow.

I arrived and dragged some people into It's Alive, which I won fairly handily. They seemed to enjoy it enough. Then I saw that everyone else was in a game, except for two people who didn't want to play for some reason. They were waiting for someone else? I ended up alone and reading a book for quite some time. I was a little annoyed at that.

Finally I roped someone into playing Cribbage with me. After one round, a third player finally agreed to play and he showed us how to play Notre Dame ( I had just read the rules). I really liked it, and I have a feeling that our group will, too. A good discovery for me. I also won.

Next we found ourselves with five people, and a few games from which to select. Despite my request for Puerto Rico, we ended up playing Winner's Circle. OK, why not? I won that too, but only because I scored a great victory on the last round. In the second round, one of the horses had a 20 movement for caps, and it moved twice, coming in first place.

Lastly, we played Yspahan, by the makers of Caylus. It felt a bit like Goa to me, and I can see why Ameritrash lovers hold this game up as a standard of ridicule for its themeless, mathematical, wooden cube movement. Nevertheless, it's an ok game, but nothing that struck me as wonderful. I have a feeling that my group will like it rather more than I did. I came in last, because I ignored several important tracks that shouldn't be ignored.

My friend picked me up, and here I am.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Off to Dallas and BGG.con

I'm heading out early tomorrow morning to Dallas, where I will play at Dallas gamers, at the Westin hotel lobby, and then at BGG.con .

I will be staying with a friend Tuesday night and over shabbat, at least. If kind souls offer me a place to crash in the hotel on Wed, Thurs, or Sat nights, I might take them up on it, if it isn't too much more expensive than the fare back and forth to central Dallas.

And if any of you gamers get a little bored of the scene on Sat afternoon and want to head out over to central Dallas for some games in a quieter setting, you're more than welcome. I'll send you the address I'll be staying at. I made this offer last year and no one picked it up, but I'd thought I'd offer anyway, just in case.

I'm bringing a copy of It's Alive, the games I've arranged to trade in the math trade, and the ones that didn't, just in case. And a deck of cards for the airplane, just in case.

My time at the con will be split between managing PiratenHandler, which should be the occasional interrupt to accept a submitted set and a few hours on Saturday night when I need to count the results, and just gaming. I think I may be slotted to play a few games at specific times, but I'm not too sure.

I'm looking forward to meeting all the people I've already met before, all the people whose names I know but have never met, and everyone else, too.


Game News

A great article about a Baltimore game club and their members who span the generations.

Most people playing video games are still playing board or card games.

DateDire waxes euphoric about board games and how to choose them.

F-email is the latest to attack sexism in all types of games. Strangely, the example board games she chose are from the sixties, while the examples from the other games she chose are all current.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Space and Science Fiction Themed Games 1: Vintage

It's been said that some game publishers are, or used to be, not keen on publishing science fiction themed games because they don't sell well.

Apparently this is a throwback to the days when TV and films also were reluctant to publish science fiction because they didn't sell. Nowadays, this thinking is old-fashioned, as science fiction succeeds admirably well today in books and films.

Modern science fiction and space games date to the beginning of the space race, and only sporadically from before this. Science fiction novels predate space exploration by a good fifty years or so if you count back to H. G. Wells and co, and even further if you include Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and other works of cautionary morality. But not so much with games.

As with any list of this sort, one has to ask what I left out: fantasy, horror, astrology, psychic, and superhero games. The pictures were brazenly stolen from BGG.

Pre 20th Century - Astronomy Games

A few games dealing with astronomy predate the modern era, such as these two games from Persia.

Astronomical Tables

This is kind of a space-themed Backgammon game with seven tracks.


This is a roll and move game from Persia where you score points based on the positions of the planets after each roll.

Star Hopping

A roll and move game of collecting tokens from 1830.

Early 1900s - Pre Space Race

Just a few games here cashing in on popular pulp books from the era.

Martian Chess (Jetan)

Essentially a chess variant from an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel.

Buck Rogers (1930s)

Three games in one, with cards and playing pieces.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1930s)

A children's card game.

Spaceship (1940s)

No idea.

1950s - Exploration

The '50s games reflect the nostalgic and optimistic thinking of their times. Games are family dramas about exploration and discovery, where nothing bad can ever happen to you and there are no conflicts, because everyone is American and everyone likes to be conquered by them.

Astro the Wizard from Mars

No idea.


An around the world game with rocket ships and a scrolling game board that rolls around two spools. Published as a non-space themed game called Sky Lanes.

Blast Off

Roll and move game of extracting minerals and returning to Earth.


A nuclear themed version of Battleship. (1959)

Captain Video

A spin and move game based on a TV show. Explore the solar system.

Leave it to Beaver: Rocket to the Moon

Roll and move game themed according to the show.

Magic Robot Quiz

More of a toy than a game, a robot rotates around from the question to the answer based on magnets. With only 14 questions, this makes for rather little in the way of replay value.

Melvin the Moon Man

Roll and move game of collecting moonbucks.


Keep passing cards until someone has a complete set.

Rocket Control Magnet Target Game

No idea.

Rocket Race

Some sort of race game.

Rocket Sockit

Shoot the rockets at the target with a toy gun.

Rockets Away

A dexterity game like Tiddley-Winks with rockets. Land on planets to claim them.

Space Bug

Roll a die and put a peg on your space bug until all your bugs are pegged.

Space Chase

Collect parts to build your rocket and then land it.

Space Chess

This is simply 3-D Chess, and called Space Chess because Star Trek featured 3-D Chess in one of its episodes. here are a few special rules added.

Space Game

A spin and move game, where the spinner game you two choices of numbers. Explore space and collect treasures.

Space Line

This is simply 3-D 4x4x4 Tic Tac Toe.

Space Mouse

Some sort of card game.

Space Pilot

A spin and move game, where the planets you land on give you cash (points).

Space Race

A card game where you draw cards and hope you get numbers from 1 to 10.

Space Race

A colorful game of rockets and boosters with cards, dice and a board.

Star Games

An astronomy game, which includes going outside to actually find the constellations.

Steve Scott Space Scout

No idea.

Walt Disney's Tomorrowland Rocket to the Moon

A roll and move game, where the last act is to flick your piece and get it to land as close to the moon picture as possible.

Wipe Off

Space themed battleship, possibly the first space-themed combat game. (1959)

1960s - Politics and Space Race

It took the Space Race, the slow rise of war games, and the movie 2001: A Space Oddity to disrupt the notion that all is well within the science fiction universe.

Astro Blitz

An abstract game with some sci-fi theme.

Astro Launch

A space-themed game of Pachisi.


Card game of racing to the moon by building sets.

Atom Ant Saves the Day

Based on the TV show character.

Beyond the Stars

A spin and move game with special cards.

Blast Off

Not sure, but the game included some neat minis, and a rocket that actually launched.

Blast Off!

Explore nine planets, and force other player's ships to return home.

Buck Rogers

No idea.


Roll and move space exploration game.


Simulating the Appolo space mission, roll and move game to collect space parts and launch your rocket.

Fantastic Voyage

Roll and move game based on the movie.

Flash Gordon

Rescue the five imprisoned generals of the Hawkman Lancers.

Frankenstein Mystery Game

Not properly belonging on this list, I'll list it anyway as Frankenstein was more sci fi than horror.


One of the few non-space games in the list, this is a game of answering questions about the future and then comparing your answers to top futurologists from the 1960s.


An exploration game of flipping up tiles and trying to find the mountain tiles. Some movement calculations make this a bit more than a simple luck game.

Jetsons Fun Pad

A dexterity game of placing cars on a pad and trying not to tip the platform. Based on the TV show.

Jetsons Out of this World

Roll and move game based on the TV show.

Jetsons: Rosey the Robot

Spin and move game based on the TV show.

Know the Stars and Planets

A trivia game about stars and planets.

Lost in Space

A spin and move game based on the TV show.

Lost in Space 3D Action

Another spin and move game based on the TV series, but this one has three levels making it visually more interesting.

Major Matt Mason

A spin and move game. Based on a line of toys. Discover signs of life.

Men Into Space

A spin and move game of rescuing a space colony.

Moon Probe

A spin and move race game to the moon and back.

My Favorite Martian

Roll and move game based on the TV show.

Nuclear War

Satirical card and spinner game of annihilating your opponent.

Outer Limits

Card game themed on the TV show.


Another space themed battleship.


An abstract 3M bookshelf board game (1970).

Rendezvous in Space

An electronic game of space exploration with transparencies and instructions lit up on the board.

Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots

Probably the only well known game on this list, a dexterity game of pushing buttons until the other guy's robot head is knocked off.

Solar Conquest

Cards and dice space race game, where you can sabotage other countries.

Space Checkers

A 3-D Checkers game.

Star Trek

The board game based on the TV show. Play cards and roll the dice to move and refuel, visiting three planets.

The Time Machine

No idea.


This is merely an abstract game with stills from the movie 2001.

1970s and on - War and Aliens

War games defined the gaming geek world, and at the end of the decade roleplaying began to spread. The 1970s brought with it a host of new science fiction movies and TV shows to the public, such as Star Wars, Logans Run, Battlestar Galactica, the Bionic Man, and so on, all of which spawned games.

To be continued.


Toronto Back to Average

Today's outings were discovered by a visit to, torontolife, and livewithculture. Among the various events listed was a play and an exhibition which looked fairly interesting.

Antigone and the War on Terror

The play is called Antigone Insurgency. It is playing at the Walmer Center Theater, put on by the One Little Goat Theater Company. The story of Antigone, a play by Sophocles, is about Creon who becomes king and orders an insurrector's body to remain unburied as a warning to others. The dead guy's sister, Antigone, decides to bury her brother out of a higher ethic than the king's law. For this, there is a confrontation and an eventual tragedy. Antigone happens to be Creon's niece, as well as fiance to Creon's son.

The play is not only an early feminist work, it is also a challenge to the idea of a king's law superseding some unwritten higher moral ethic.

More importantly, and the point of this adaptation, is that it implies that there is no way to balance the strict draconian laws needed for the state's protection against the outside threat of terrorism. Sound familiar?

Canada may be an American ally, but Canadians pretty much loathe the American gung-ho attitude towards proscribing civil liberties, state secrecy, and the practice of exporting Democracy. Despite a middling attempt to give voice to the other side, the adaptation basically equates the war on terror with Creon's tragic despotism, equates terrorism with those who respond to it too forcefully, and blames the reactors to the instigators of the violence. All of which I pretty much expected. The play also asked the audience to start thinking about the type of response that Canada should give when terrorism finally hits Toronto.

The acting was excellent, but I was bored on a number of occasions. The play spends a lot of time not taking itself too seriously by talking about itself, thereby undercutting its potential power. It has too many long speeches which should have been cut in half. And it's just a tad offensive when it equates people who bring terror on innocents without provocation to those who react inappropriately.

It's a "modern" play which is kind of the equivalent of "modern" art, so we also got disembodied voices on tape recorders, references to modern music, the occasional curse word, and so on.

Rachel and I enjoyed it, but we were not overwhelmed.

Downtown Toronto, College Town

We next attempted to see what I thought was a gallery exhibit at a bookstore called She Said Boom!, but which turned out to be only a window installment. The installment is called Anything is Possible, which is a series of small paintings that look like the advertisements you used to see in the back of those comic books promising you the most ridiculous products or super strength - that kind of thing. It was a disappointment to find only a single window with a small amount of items instead of a room full, as you can see at the above link. The ad about the exhibit didn't make that clear at all. Now I know better.

It turned out to be an interesting used book and music store, however.

Rachel and fall colors

Anything is Possible window installation

Graffiti commemorating the death of the only victim of the great Toronto fire, who died while checking an explosive set to bring down a damaged building.

Graffiti close by commemorating something else, I suppose.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

The World's Largest Strategy Game: Piratenhändler

I've designed what I believe will be the world's largest simultaneously played strategy game: Piratenhändler. Every participant at BGG.con will be handed cards to play, and the game will be played continuously over the course of three days. Of course, I don't guarantee that every one of the 600 participants will be interested in playing, necessarily.

While more than this number of people have taken part in strategy game events, such as Bridge tournaments, those are multiple games which aggregate results into a single overall score. This is in fact a single strategy game being played the entire time.

The game began as a version of the game Haggle originally designed by Sid Sackson, one of last generation's greatest game designer, but now sadly passed on. I really liked the idea of the game, and I worked on creating a version of it to be played en masse by the readers of Gone Gaming around a year and a half ago. The version I created would have required my constant interaction with all participants as a moderator and card distributor, constantly selling new cards in exchange for each player's limited point capital. Since I didn't have a few solid days where I wasn't working to devote to it, I decided to put it on ice.

A few weeks ago I decided to revisit the idea for BGG.con, since I thought my take on the game was still interesting. This time I created it in such a way that no moderation on my part would be necessary, since I'm going to be away from the con on shabbat.

Haggle's traditional format is that there is a master set of rules, and each person gets ten cards and one rule. People trade cards and information about the rules and then hand in what they think will be the best set of cards.

In my version, each card has values for five different rewards, so there's no single best set. Each card has an ability that modifies one or more of the values on one or more cards you possess.

Add to that a pirate theme and hundreds of original rules ala Magic for the card, optional combat and luck mechanics for those who want to try them, a few math and logic puzzles, and you have a game with dozens of viable strategies and directions to play. Even I haven't a clue as to the best way to win this.

I asked Aldie for permission in introducing the game, and he agreed. Then he agreed to print up the cards for me. Then we began to clarify the card wording, tighten the theme, tweak the names of the cards, and so on. He came up with the name and card design. So Aldie and co have contributed a lot to the game's theme and design, not to mention the prizes that will become the awards.

Of course, will people really play it, or will it sit unplayed? Will the game really work like it's supposed to? I'm so nervous! I hope it goes well and gives people something extra fun to do during the con, not to mention bring together groups of people who might otherwise not interact.


Another nice shabbat. We went out to some new friends and were 14 for dinner. I had several conversations that went, almost identically:

"What do you do?"

"I play games."

"(assuming that I'm kidding) Ha ha! I wish I did that for a living!"

"And I run a game group."

"Wait, you're serious?"

"And I design games and I blog about games. Mostly I blog about games."

"That's so amazing. Computer games?"

"No, board and card games, on the table top."

And the usual litany of games they like, which generally means Scrabble.

It's nice to be able to have that conversation.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Session Report: Gaming at TABS

Bus Woes

First off, I take back everything I said about Toronto yesterday; well, at least about Toronto's transportation system.

Like I did in Dallas two years ago, I managed to take the bus going the wrong direction for a good distance before figuring out my mistake. In my defense, I got the wrong information from both a passerby and a bus driver.

As such, I only made it to the Two-Headed Dragon at around 7:00 pm.

The Two-Headed Dragon

Unlike last week's game location, Dueling Grounds, this week's was a tad hard to find. The door is a little door stuck in between two normal shops; the place is on the second floor over one of those shops. There is a plastic banner strung on the top of the building which is visible, but out of one's general line of sight and not attractive enough. And there's a small poster outside the door reading "Games" which I walked past at first.

The reason for this, as Eng the co-owner told me, is that they invested a good chunk of change in a nice sign and then the guy fled with their money.

Eng told me that the business is very tough, especially in the last few years when the industry has fallen to 60% of what is was a few years ago. They are hurt, naturally enough, by online competition, but also by other stores which start up their business by trying to undercut the competition. When these businesses fail (duh), they then sell their stock at even lower prices which results in a double whammy for stores trying to stay in business.

Their smartest move would be to drift over into the video game business, which is what everyone else does. But they have been resisting (I didn't quite figure out why). The video game industry doesn't make much from the initial sales, but makes a lot more from used or resales. As it is, THD make bursts of money from new Warhammer players, and then trickles of steady money from CCG players. The board game night has a few loyal and regular customers.

They're nice guys, anyway.

In other news, this was my second attempt to meet Sonja from BGG, but she didn't show again. Oh well.

Cutthroat Caverns

When I got there, there was one group playing Buck Rogers, which looked like it was going to take them all night (and it did). Another group was playing Amun Re. Four others were playing Magic. And a last group was learning this game. They let me join.

Cutthroat Caverns is eerily like Munchkin, except even more chaotic if you can believe that. A monster is attacking all of you, and only the one who strikes the final blow gets the points. Therefore, you spend all your time and cards preventing anyone else from striking any blows, except the one that will set you up.

Oops, you tripped. Oops, critical failure. Oops, your weapon slipped. And so on. it's funny for about a half an hour, and then you just want the game to be over as soon as possible. And look, it's still the middle of round 2 out of 9.

We ended up quitting the game at that point. We were six players; perhaps the game might be somewhat quicker with only four.

It's Alive

I took the opportunity to teach this to three others, and we played well enough. The final score was quite close, with a high of 49 and a low of 43 (me).

They weren't exactly engrossed with the game, however. Sometimes that's just what happens. On the other hand, it might also have been because someone was trying out Eye of Judgment behind me.

Eye of Judgment

Wow does this game suck, and I didn't even play it. Now hold on, please; I've rated close to three hundred games, and I've never uttered an opinion about a game I didn't at least try. This is my first time.

The entire game is as follows: Spend a long time and a lot of money setting up this thing that tracks your physical cards as you play them.

Look at your mat. Play a card. Look at the screen. Wait 10 seconds as the machine reads your card and does lots of tacky cliche animation to show your creature entering play. Watch for 20 seconds while your card does something cliche. Watch for 10 seconds while the machine resets the view. Look down at your mat. Play another card. Repeat.

Sounds stupid? Well it gets much much worse. This entire time very LOUD heavy metal music is playing non-stop. Over the heavy metal music is very LOUD explosions, roars, clashing weapon sounds, and other cliche trash. Over all of this is the most cliche deep overly-excited narrating voice telling you what's happening.

And there's some game play, but I didn't learn how it worked.

OMG, is it annoying. I'm not always quick on the uptake, but this is one of the biggest disasters I've ever seen in a game, and I predict it's days in the sun are numbered quite small. All of you people who forked out a lot of money for this because it's cool are going to be kicking yourselves in the near future.

Note: EoJ has one redeeming factor in that you can play against other people across the internet using your physical cards. I just don't see how this can compete with other existing and less cumbersome networked games. It's merely a bump in the road toward full-featured electronic gaming tables.


Speaking of debacles, this game is a short-lived collectible Wizards of the Coast game released this year and already discontinued. It's actually not a bad game, but it has one truly awful thing about it that makes me want to shoot the designer: it's a mini game where the special abilities of each creature are printed on the bottom of the base of each figure.

I'll let that sink in a moment. Just imagine what a typical game scene looks like for a new player. And remember that each of your dozens of creatures is entirely unique, and different from your opponent's as well.

The game is played on a 5 by 5 grid, where you enter your creatures on your side and try to occupy spaces in the second row of your opponent, or the middle row, or kill your opponent's creatures.

Whoever scores the most points each round wins the round, and the game is over as soon as someone wins six rounds. Lots of dice rolling, special abilities, and the usual wargamey tactical maneuvering. Owing to how points are scored (being alone in a space that scores you points), some odd tactics gave me a whole lot of won rounds during the game, even when I had the far inferior force. But I lost the game 6 to 5 anyhow.

Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot

Eng taught me this game at the close of the session, and the deck included the standard yellow expansion and an additional red expansion on top of the standard blue deck.

You could hardly expect a game with this name to be serious, and it wasn't of course. Each round you revealed the card on top of your queue, did whatever it said, and then put a card onto the bottom of your queue. Owing to the wild and unpredictable effects of cards you draw or play, you have no hope of knowing whether a card you put in your queue will actually do something when it is finally played.

Still, it's amusing enough for what it is. I'm not going to go out an buy it, though.

And that was game night.

Games Already Acquired

I haven't even yet made it to BGG.con, but I've already acquired the following games, though purchasing and trades:

750 Magic commons
Vegas Showdown
Blue Moon
Arkham Horror
Robo Rally
Mr Jack
Dungeon Twister
Power Grid: Benelux & Central Europe
Schotten Totten

And I've traded away:
Shear Panic
Colossal Arena
3 Lord of the Rings expansions

Game News

Diamondback Online writes about North Star games.

Gamer Help writes about why we play games. Compare their list to my own reasons why we play games.

It's more a lottery than a game, but the New Paltz Oracle reports on a school using a game to inspire more activity participation.

The Waterloo Chronicle slips in a pitch for Stonehenge in an article about a local toy store.