Saturday, October 31, 2009

Preparation Day

Leaving for the airport tomorrow evening, 8:00 pm. My ticket id isn't being recognized by online early check-in on El Al's web site, which has me worried.

My Apartment

I'm letting a Pardes student stay in my apartment in exchange for taking care of the dog and general housekeeping. My kids will also be coming in and out.

Call Phone

My boss handed me a Verizon Kyocera K127 pre-paid cellphone with no cash on it. He said I might be able to add cash to it. I tried doing that online, but Verizon wasn't recognizing the phone number.

Called Verizon, and they said that my phone, which appears to be barely used and can't have been bought more than a few months ago, was now an older model, was locked into their network, would not work with their network, and that I should throw it into the garbage! Holy crap.

I'm bringing it anyway, just in case I can find a way to unlock it or upgrade it an a Verizon location.

Meanwhile, I checked the rates for my Orange cellphone, and, if I use their special long-distance call rate plan, I can avoid the 19 NIS/minute calling rate and call for a measly 9 NIS/minute, which is around $2.40/minute. Holy crap. No thanks.

Shabbat Gaming

Friday night I was able to help our hosts who had been playing Blokus incorrectly and found the game to be boring (they were playing two-player on a full board, one color each; the game always ended in a tie).

Saturday lunch I brought games to Mace and kids. Ksenia and two of the kids played Tigris and Euphrates, however they seem to have played it terribly wrong. I think they fought all conflicts, internal and external, in red, and Ksenia picked six tiles at the end of each of her turns, rather than back up to six as she was supposed to.

Meanwhile, Mace, Shachar, and I played two games of Dominion. We had a nice set: Moat, Workshop, Village, Throne Room, Festival, Witch, Lab, Smithy, Remodel, Militia.

I still struggled to get to 5 for a while. Shachar seemed to be doing better than I was. Eventually I started sailing, with the occasional Throne Room/Witch thrown in for good measure. Poor Mace ended the game with 10 curses. Shachar gave me a few, but I remodeled all but two of them. I won.

Mace wanted to play again with the same set, as he was just starting to get a feel for the game. Wicth was only used once this game. Once again I felt that I was starting slowly, as the other two both got to 5 and 6 several ties before I did. And still I managed a win. Didn't hurt having 15 treasure and a Throne Room/Remodel one round, which allowed me to toss two golds for two provinces and also buy another province in a single round. I was pulling my entire deck. Shachar was, too, but he just wasn't remodeling right. Or something.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Session Report, in which we have a new player and I get to play Santiago again

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Year of the Dragon, Dominion, Settlers of Catan, It's Alive, Santiago.

All the games were enjoyed by a lively group.

I tried to make an appointment to tour the US Playing Card company in Cincinnati, but they have no provisions for this and wouldn't accept me. They used to have a museum in their old location, but they didn't reopen it in their new one.

Any other suggestions on what important game sites to see in the Cincinnati/Dayton area?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Game Design Consultant for Hire

I received the following email:
I found your name searching for a board game designer in Israel. My kids and I are working on a board game that is probably not ready to be evaluated. I wanted to know how much you would charge to sit down with me to discuss the development process ahead of us and get your recommendations on the best way to proceed.
I've reviewed many games, and I've told people what I thought of their designs, but I hadn't actually thought of myself as a game design consultant for hire. Still, we both figured that my advise was probably worth something.

I wasn't expecting much. On the other hand, the fact that this guy was interested in getting professional advice before investing time and money in developing the game was a sign that, at least, he didn't have self-aggrandizing stars in his eyes, like so many other wannabee designers do.

It turned out to be not a bad idea. Not my type of game (it's a party game), but it looked like it had potential: flexible, funny, engaging, pretty simple, sort of different but not too different from other games.

His big problem was his layering of overly complex wording in places where simplicity was called for, and overly complex components where frugality was called for. He already knew this, but apparently he needed to hear me confirm it. He was also as interested in the marketing aspects as he was in the game itself.

I suggested ways to simplify the components and rules, told him to stop thinking about the markets and expansion possibilities until he had a successful design, and told him to pick one audience and redevelop the game along these lines. If he makes progress while I'm away, I'll be doing more work with him after I come back.

I'm charging per hour. And if I end up making more detailed suggestions, I'll ask for design credit.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pre-Trip Firing Up the E-Pen

My trip to Ohio, Dallas, and Toronto starts in six days. Time to fire up the e-pen again. I think I've been posting less on this blog not only because I am concentrating on Purple Pawn, but because it's easier to post on Purple Pawn. News posts don't require as much original thinking.

I'm looking forward to the trip, and writing about the trip.

Pre-trip means taking care of the things I need to take care of before I leave for a month. Someone to stay in the house? Check? What to do with the dog? Check? Bills paid, items to be returned, house cleaned, passports ready? Check.

Wait. What's this book here on the "To Be Returned" shelf? It says "Return to Matan, August 19". Huh. Rachel must have left it for me to return.

I stopped at the office of Matan to return the book today.

Sec: "Can I help you?"

Me: "Yes, is Ms August 19 in?"

Sec: "Excuse me?"

Me: "I have here a book that says it must be returned to Matan, August 19. See? Is August around?"

Sec: "Uh, August isn't in right now. She left some time ago."

Me: "Oh, dear. Do you know when she'll be back."

Sec: "Not for a while."

Me: "Well, could you see that Ms 19 gets this book? My wife left it for me to return, and I know how she hates it when I forget to return things. She didn't put a date on it, so I don't know when it's expected back, but I hope it isn't overdue! My wife would be quite upset at me."

Sec: "I'll make sure that she gets it."

Me: "Thank you."

Well! One more good deed done, and on time, too! Rachel will be happy with me; I bet she'll give me a big kiss when I tell her!

I'm now thinking about all the games I will be bringing back with me, partially subsidized by contributions from the game group, and partially funded by selling off unwanted games from the current stock. My game shelf is looking practically anemic: the games nearly all fit on the shelves, and only some are on top in a pile.

Shipping and luggage fees being what they are, I am solidifying my buy list now, and I'll buy as many as I can in Canada, instead of picking them up at BGG.con and having to carry them with me from BGG.con to Canada. (My itinerary is Tel Aviv - Ohio - Dallas - Toronto - Tel Aviv.) I think I'm only allowed one suitcase Dallas to Toronto, but two from Toronto to Dallas. But who knows; the new restrictions are all so confusing now.

Items on the want list:

Dominion Intrigue
Dominion Seaside
Agricola Farmers
Pillars of the Earth expansion

(It's safer to assume that we will like expansions to a game we like, than new games, but yeah, I know)

Brass (probably too expensive)
Reef Encounter
Le Havre (probably too expensive)
Stone Age
Magic commons/uncommons from the latest sets, if the opportunity presents itself

Missing anything?


2009 Holiday Gift Games Guide

This guide includes games for young and old, for every sex, generation, temperament, and culture.

Whatever you do, and whatever you celebrate, there is no better way to spend a Christmas, Hanukkah, or what have you than together with friends, family, and neighbors with a warm cup of (fair trade) cocoa and a stack of casual board and/or card games.

The overwhelming majority of the games listed here are meant for newer players, non gamers or the like. I don't list the complicated, heavier games for gamers only.

I hope you enjoy the guide. Remember: the holidays are not only for sharing the warmth with family and friends, but also for sharing with those who have no one else to share with them. Give to your local shelters, hospitals, and so on, because that's the gift that keeps on giving.

Apples to Apples: Ages 9+, 4 to 10 players

Apples to Apples is a party game that is dirt simple to set up, learn, and play. There is no writing involved, and no board. And unlike many party games, reading all the cards doesn't ruin the game.

Each player has a hand of red apples (nouns) with which they have to match the green apple (adjective) flipped up. Each player has a chance to judge the best match. The cards you have in your hand never exactly match what gets flipped up; you have to do your best!

Antike: Ages 8+, 2 to 6 players

I'm not into confict games, so it was a big surprise to me how much I love this game. Risk is a long game of laying low, with player elimination and just too much in the luck department; this game is the perfect evolution to, and replacement for, Risk.

It plays quicker, there's dice-less conflict, no one gets to lay low watching while others fight, and - excepting truly poor play - everyone has a chance for most of the game. There's also a lot more to the game than just conflict, but the rules are short and elegant.

Backgammon: Ages 6+, 2 players

Backgammon is a classic game that can be enjoyed by children and parents alike. While there is a large amount of luck in the game, there are also many meaningful decisions, which makes this a good stepping stone to future games with more challenge, such as Checkers or Chess.

Blokus, Blokus Trigon, Blokus Duo: Ages 8+, 4 players (Blokus), 2-4 players (Blokus Trigon), or 2 players (Blokus Duo)

Blokus, Blokus Trigon, and Blokus Duo are recent abstract games with very simple rules. Each round you take a piece and place it on the board such that it touches any previous pieces you have played, but only corner to corner. It can touch other players' pieces along corners or sides.

The rules are easy, the components are beautiful, and it's a lot of fun.

Boggle: Ages 8+, 2 to 10 players

Boggle is the "other" word game, whose simple rules - find all the words you can within three minutes - make it a game that is both fun and quick. Adults can play with kids by restricting the adults to have to find words of four or five letters.

Carcassonne, variants, and expansions: Ages 10+, 2 to 5 players

Carcassonne is a fairly new game that is a bit more complex than some of the other games here, but the beautiful pieces and the fun game play are worth the time to learn. Pick a piece from the pile, rotate and place it so that it fits on the board (like dominoes), and then optionally place one of your pieces on that tile. There are several ways to score, some of which occur during the game and some of which only at the end of the game.

There are some more rules than that, but not too many more. The game play is engaging enough to make you want to play it more than once in a single sitting.

There are dozens of versions to the game, and some of the versions have several expansions. The one that I linked to is called "Hunter and Gatherers" and is a good standalone game to start with.

Checkers: Ages 5+, 2 players

Checkers is a classic, and rightfully so. The rules are very simple, although there are regional variations. Although the game often hinges on who makes the first major mistake, it is worthwhile learning the tricks and the care necessary to play well. With two experienced players, there is a lot of depth to explore.

It's cheap, and grandpa will play with you.

Chess / Xiangqi / Shogi: Ages 6+, 2 players

These three games, Chess, XiangQi (Chinese Chess), and Shogi (Japanese Chess), are all top-tier 2-player games that can occupy a curious mind for an entire lifetime. They also have wide followings, so learning the game is learning a language that will admit you to a culture of fellow players around the world.

Board and piece prices range from inexpensive to very expensive, and Chess pieces come in many different themes.

Chinese Checkers: Ages 6+, 2 to 6 players

Another great abstract, and a pretty one if you find one with nice marbles. The rules are simple: move or jump your pieces from one side to the other. Finding chains of jumps is a thrill for all ages.

Connect Four: Ages 5 to 12, 2 players

Connect Four is a classic two-player strategy game, where the object is to get four in a row before your opponent does. Easy to set up, easy to learn, hard to master.

Carrom / Nok Hockey / Air Hockey / Billiards / Foosball, etc.: Ages 6+, 2 players

Carrom is the most played tabletop game in India. Like Billiards, the object is to knock pieces off the table area, which you do by flicking wooden disks with your fingers. Crokinole is another classic finger flicking game, as is a racing game called Pitchcar. All kinetic tabletop games, from snooker to billiards to foosball, are loved by players of all ages.

Playing Cards: Ages 3+, 1 to any number of players

Decks of cards, whether they are the well known Western type with 52 cards in 4 suits, or special European or Asian decks, are a great starting point for any number of wonderful games, including Bridge, Hearts, Skat, Cribbage, Pinochle, Oh Hell, Bullsh*t, Durak, President, Spades, Solitaire, and many others.

Check out for the rules to these games and to thousands of others.

Dominion: Ages 10+, 2-4 players

Dominion won nearly every major game award this year. It's a game based around deck building: as you play, you acquire cards which get shuffled into your deck. You need victory points to score, but too many early victory points will clog up your deck, making it harder to acquire more points.

A brilliant adaptation of a mechanic, it plays quickly and every game plays differently.

For Sale: Ages 8+, 3 to 6 players

For Sale is a quick bidding game in two stages: first you use money to bid on houses, and then you use your houses to bid on checks. The player with the most checks plus money at the end of the game wins.

The exact rules are a little longer, but the game is simple and fun, and the thirty house cards (ranging from a cardboard box to a space station) always get a few comments from new players.

Froggy Boogie: Ages 3-9, 2 to 4 players

Froggy Boogie is a brilliant game to frustrate grownups and please younger children. All you have to do is remember where the picture of the fly is, under the left eye or the right eye? The dice have only colors - no counting necessary. It's a perfect first game.

Go / Pente: Ages 6+, 2 players

Beyond Chess, Checkers, or XiangQi is the absolute perfect game of Go; it's so popular, there are twenty-four hour television stations dedicated to it, an anime series based on it, and it's considered one of the four arts of the Chinese scholar.

It really is that good, and the rules are easy, too. Best of all, a built-in handicap system allows two people of any skill levels to enjoy a challenging game against each other.

The link I provided is to a nice but expensive board; you can play with a much simpler board and plastic pieces for under $10.

Pente, a game of getting five stones in a row, can be played on the same board. The rules are just as easy as Go, and while the game has much less depth, it is also a little less intimidating to new players.

Hive: Ages 8+, 2 players

Hive is another new game with simple rules and cute buggies. Each round, you either add a piece to the table so that it is connected to the other pieces, or you move a piece. When you move a piece, you can't break up the hive while doing so. The winner is the one who surrounds his or her opponent's queen bee.

Each player has eleven pieces, with five different bugs and abilities. Its simple rules and nice pieces make this a game that generally gets several plays in one sitting.

Ingenious: Ages 8+, 2 to 4 players

Ingenious (sometimes called "Connections" or "Mensa") is another new and neat abstract game, where you score points by placing domino like pieces to create lines of colors. Your final score is whatever color you have the least of.

It's another pretty game with simple rules and a lot of replay. Amazon's copy is pretty expensive, and you should be able to find a less expensive copy in your local game store.

It's Alive: Ages 7+, 2 to 4 players

A little plug for my own game. This is a simple set-collection auction game with a Frankenstein theme. It fits in well with the other games on the list: easy to learn, quick to play, lots of replayability.

Of course, I may be biased, since I designed it. This game is published by Reiver Games.

Jungle Speed: Ages 8+, 3 to 8 players

There are several games of speed reaction / pattern recognition on the market; I chose this one because of the components. Players flip cards in turn and grab for the totem in the middle as soon as two matching cards are revealed. Don't play with friends who have sharp nails or finger jewelery.

Lord of The Rings The Confrontation: Ages 10+, 2 players

This is a game that plays similarly to Stratego, but it's theme and the special powers each piece possesses elevates the game to another level. It makes a tense exciting game of light vs dark, and it plays in a mere 10 to 20 minutes.

Mahjong: Ages 7+, 4 players

This is a rich version of a rummy game, using tiles. It is one of the games on this list that I have not yet had the fortune to play as of yet, but it looks great, and who am I to argue with a billion Chinese?

There are variants for playing with 2 to 5 players, as well as a solitaire game that can be played with the same tiles.

Mancala: Ages 5+, 2 players

This is widely known around the world under various names (e.g. oware), and the national game of many African countries.

The rules are easy: pick up all the seeds in one of your bowls and place one in each bowl around the table. If you land on an empty space on your side, you win the seed and any seeds opposite.

There are a few more rules, but that's about it. It takes a few games to get up to speed; early victories tend to be lopsided. Once you get the hang of it, you can play several, quick, challenging games in succession.

Memory: Ages 3 to 12, 2 to 5 players

This is a first game for kids and adults, and a great game for it, because kids get the hang of it very quickly and adults find it a real challenge without having to pretend. All you need are one or two decks of cards, but an infinite number of these games are sold with various different pictures and themes.

You can play with more than 5 players, but I wouldn't recommend it.

No Thanks!: Ages 7+, 3 to 5 players

This is an easy to learn and addictive little card game. A card is flipped up, and you either take the card and any tokens on it or place one of your tokens on it and pass it to the next player. Cards are bad, and tokens are good. But runs of cards only penalize you for the lowest valued card.

A simple and fun game.

Pit: Ages 7+, 4 to 10 players

I don't know if you can play up to 10 players with the original game, but you should. This is a loud trading game. The cards are dealt out, someone says go, and everyone shouts for what they need. The first player to collect a full set wins.

Raucous and fun. The deluxe version comes with it's own bell to signal the start of trading.

Poker: Ages 6+, 2 to any number of players

Playing for money is not a good habit, but a nice set of poker chips and some decks of cards is a great way to spend an evening. There are countless poker games, too.

R-Eco: Ages 9+, 2 to 5 players

This is another short and sweet card game, with simple clever mechanics that leads to enjoyable but no stress game play. Easy to learn and easy to play.

Rummikub: Ages 7+, 2 to 4 players

Another game of rummy, but a good one. And also playable with the grand-folks.

Scrabble: Ages 8+, 2 (or 2 to 4) players.

Scrabble purists will tell you that you should only play with 2 players and a Chess clock, but for casual purposes it can be played with up to four. It is The word game, and for a good reason.

My favorite way to play is to ditch the board and just play Anagrams: turn over tiles, and first to call a word gets it.

The link is to a beautiful deluxe version of the game, but you can also find less expensive versions on Amazon.

Set: Ages 6+, 2 to 10 players

Those who don't have it won't enjoy it. For those who do, it hits just the right spot in the brain. All you have to do is call out matches when you see them, but the matches have to match or not match in all four characteristics.

Settlers of Catan: Ages 8+, 3 to 4 players

This is the perfect game for beginning adult gamers that I use to hook new players into my game group.

All you need to do is collect ten points through building settlements and cities, connecting roads, adding developments and trading with your fellow players. A unique board that changes each time you play, constant interaction even when it's not your turn, and a great balance of luck versus strategy makes this The Game to acquire if you still think that board games are only for kids.

Shadows Over Camelot: Ages 12+, 3 to 7 players

A cooperative game, this is no feel-good game of cooperation. The hordes of Saxons, Mordred, siege engines, and sinister knights are out to destroy Camelot, and you have to work together to save it. But lurking among the players is a traitor who wins if you all lose. Or is there?

Pretty components, albeit more complex than most of the games on this list. But it's easy for people to join and leave midgame.

Stratego: Ages 6 to 15, 2 players

By the time I was in my teens, I had outgrown this, but it remains a seminal game for early players, a great introductory war game with all the basic elements: strategy, tactics, and bluffing. Avoid the electronic ones; they break and they're noisy.

Ticket to Ride: Ages 8+, 2 to 5 players

Many of my fellow bloggers think that this, rather than Settler of Catan, is The Game. I disagree, but who am I to argue? New players will probably find this a great intro game, with lots of choices and great game play.

There are several editions of the game.

Time's Up: Ages 8+, 4 to 10 players

This is the only other game on this list that I haven't yet had the pleasure of playing myself, but it consistently ranks as the number one party game on all of my fellow bloggers' lists. It's the number one ranked party game on Board Game Geek. Which says something.

Uno: Ages 6 to 12, 2 to 8 players

This could be a child's second game, after Memory, and before moving on to real games. There's not much in the way of thinking involved, but its simple rules, portability, and quick play make it an ideal game for younger kids in almost any situation.

Just be sure to move up to better games when the kids are ready.

Wits And Wagers / Balderdash: Ages 8+, 4+ players

These are party trivia games where knowledge of trivia is not so important. The question is asked, and each player writes down an answer. These are revealed and players then bid on the answers they think are best. The winning answer, and the winning bids, all score points.

Wits and Wagers does this in the form of a poker game setting, while Balderdash requires you to make up funny possible answers. Both have won awards and acclaim as a generation better than you-know-which famous trivia game.

Zooloretto: Ages 8+, 2 to 5 players

Winner of dozens of recent awards, Zooloretto is a cute game for kids and decent game for adults. Simply take the animals as they are revealed from the deck and try to fit them into your zoo without overcrowding.

A few extra rules and some clever mechanisms makes the game enjoyable for all ages.

I'll add links to other game gift guides around the web as they become available.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

2000th Post Contest Results and WInners

Thanks to my loyal readers who entered my 200th post giveaway contest. Participation was lower than many of my other contests, because a) I have posted less regularly this year, so my readership is probably down, and b) I didn't publicize the contest anywhere but this blog, since I wanted to reward my loyal readership.

Here are the results and the winners:

Game 1


5's are disqualified owing to duplication. 5.03 is disqualified as it's not an integer. 12's are disqualified owing to duplication. The winning value is 16, by Rob Williams. Congratulations Rob. Contact me with an email address to which to send the certificate.

Game 2


The winning value is 5, by Jesse Hallmark. Congratulations Jesse. Contact me with an email address to which to send the certificate.

Game 3

$6.45 (Dice Set + Dice Bag)
$8.45 (Battle for Hill)
$10.95 (Mu & More)
$11.90 (Deadwood + Another Day/Another Dollar)
17 [Disqualified, as it's not a game]
$22.95 (Pandemic: On the Brink)
$27.95 (Roll Through the Ages)
$27.95 (Roll Through the Ages)
28 [Disqualified, as it's not a game]
$31.95 (Pandemic)
$43.90 (Dominion:Seaside + Card Sleeves)

The winning entry is $6.45, by Itai. Itai, contact me for details.


The winning entry for this is Itai's friend; can't beat someone about to have brain surgery. Itai, contact me about this, too.

I'm surprised at how few entries there were for this one. Maybe next time.

Thanks for playing, everyone. Don't forget to buy your Amazon and FunAgain items through my affiliate links, and support my supporters.


Weekend Gaming

Friday night

It's Alive

Two of my 18 year old guests stayed to play after dinner. One had previous experience with The Settlers of Catan, while the other had no real game experience.

I brought out It's Alive and set it up without letting them see the box cover (and thus the designer's name). We played the basic game, which I won. I asked them how they liked it, and they both liked it and wanted to play again. Sweet.

As we were setting up to play the advanced game, I let them know who the designer was. I won the advanced game 58 to 48 to 43.


They liked the theme and the game. Thankfully, I didn't win this one, too. The score was 13 to 7 (me) to 5.


The Talpiot neighborhood gaming scene is growing. I hosted a lunch of some of the local gaming fellowship: Bill and Shirley, Abraham and Sarah, Eitan and Emily, Nadine, and Adam. With company like this, I expect game night will continue even while I'm away in November.

El Grande

Eitan, Emily, and Sarah had not played El Grande, and Abraham had played only once. I told them that it was a required staple game. Nadine has a history of kicking butt in the game, and I told the other players that they could consider their score a "win" if they score at least 2/3 of Nadine's score.

Three hours later shabbat was over and they had finished round 6, whereupon they all quit. Nadine had something like 72 points, and her closest competitor was Emily at 47. So no.

Modern Art

Adam loves this game and wants to play it whenever he's over. We hemmed and hawed about it, but eventually I said let's do it, since I hadn't played it in a while, anyway.

The rest of us aren't fans of Modern Art. There are several problems with the game. The auction prices are too high for "once around" auctions. For a pair of paintings worth 100, anything player A bids, other than 99, is going to be outbid by player B and player C. The "name the price" auctions always favor the player to the left of the person setting the price, which, if your left-hand opponent tends to play, sucks for you. The double auction cards are always game breakers if one person gets too many of them; we fix this by dealing them out evenly to all players.

Other things that look like problems may not be. It appears that you should never win your own auctions (below half the value of the item); however, letting the person who is winning gain 49 to your gain of 51 may not be worth it. It might be better to gain only 35 and have your opponent gain nothing. Also, it's always best to be the one winning the auctions, so long as you gain 1 (obviously you want more, if possible). But the evaluation of prices adds a bit of complexity into the auctions, so you can't always know exactly where that gain of 1 is. And turn order matters a great deal; what's worth one thing to your LHO is worth something entirely different to your RHO, since your LHO is about to play the next painting, so gets to affect the valuations more directly.

So it's a tad more interesting than it seems. But I still don't like the auction price variance for once around auctions, and I don't like "name your price" auctions.

Adam won, but not by much. He had 567, Shirley 552, me 537, and Bill 480-something.

Pillars of the Earth

I taught this to both Bill and Shirley.

This game doesn't have a tremendous amount of luck, but the luck sometimes goes screwy and kills me. This time it didn't, thankfully, and I simply lost due to my own shortfall and Shirley's good play.

The game hinged on the last round. None of us had any money, so none of us could utilize the pay for VP cards. However, the craftsman who converted metal and wood to 6 was available on the board to a master builder. None of us had any metal. There were two locations to get metal: the usual taxes location, and one of the personalities. And places to get wood included the location that takes a cube from the market, and the personality who gives a stone and a wood. (I don't think anyone had a Woodworker, so none of us could buy the wood.)

When my master builder came up first, I paid my last 7 to take the taxes location in order to secure one of the metals. Really dumb; I should have secured the craftsman itself. Of course, if I did, both of the metals might have been taken by the other players, but at least none of them would have gotten the craftsman. Shirley took the craftsman and then both personalities without much difficulty. I sold the metal at the market and could buy 1 other good, but was one coin shy of buying an additional good.

Shirley won by one point, 54 to 53. Bill had around 45.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Session Report, in which we decide that Vegas Showdown is a keeper

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Dominion x 2, Vegas Showdown, Puerto Rico, Magic: the Gathering.

Dominion continues to keep us highly amused, and we decide that Vegas Showdown is a very good oft-neglected game.

And you all have very little time left to enter my 2000th post contest to win cash and prizes.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weekend Gaming

I spent the weekend at my brother's.


Friday night I played this two-player with Ben. I don't remember much of it. Laboratory was the most exciting card. I won by 1 point. Ben likes the game, and it's only one of a few new games he's liked in a while.

Saturday I played three-player with Ben and Tal; first play for her. it took her about a third of a game, and then she really got into it.

We had Chapel, Gardens, Militia, Feast, Bureaucrat, and very little special, again. No xx actions. I took an early Chapel, as usual, but had horrible luck using it. After trashing 3 coppers and an Estate, I could not get the Chapel in the same hand as my other two Estates for the rest of the game. Ever. Instead, all of the action cards just kept bunching up. And the Militias also made life difficult.

Ben won the game with 27 points, Tal and I each had 23.

We played another game with different cards. This time we had Festival, Village, and Market. Still had Gardens, and also Black Market. Tal took Black Market and added some fun cards to her hand, and tried for a Garden strategy (took Thief from Black Market to aid her in this). Ben and I went more traditional.

I think I was a tad more focused than Ben. But I ended the game by buying a Province and a Gardens - the Gardens was worth only 2 points to me - and I only beat Ben by 1 point again. Tal was about 10 points down.


Been a heck of a long time since I played this. I played again Ben's 6 year old. I set up my pieces randomly, but still won. For a 6 year old, he played quite good. He tried to lure my 1 into a trap with his Spy, for instance, only it was a bit transparent. Still, quite remarkable for a 6 year old. After I nailed his 1 and spy, my 1 basically killed anything that moved, until I could take out his bomb/flag at the end.

Other games played over the weekend include The Menorah Game and Labyrinth. Saarya asked to play Cosmic Encounter, but it was already getting late; I feel bad about that, as he doesn't ask to play games that often.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Session Report, in which we gain new Dominion fans

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Bridge Troll, Traders of Carthage, Magic: the Gathering x 3, Cities and Knights of Catan, Dominion x 2, Tichu.

The group decides that Bridge Troll is not for us (I still like it :-( ), three-player C&K takes three and a half hours, and Eitan falls in love with, and badly loses, Dominion.

Almost: a cooperative-competitive game for 3+ players

Almost: a cooperative-competitive game for three or more players by Yehuda Berlinger.

Components: pencil and paper, ten bidding markers for each player

For N players, the game is played over N-1 rounds.

On each round, each player secretly selects a number to bid, by placing some number of bidding markers in his or her fist. Reveal all bids simultaneously. The player who bid the lowest unique value wins a number of points equal to his or her bid.

For example: if two players bid 5, one bid 6, one bid 7, and two bid 10, then the player who bid 6 gains 6 points. It is possible that no player gains points for a given round.

All players who score 10 or more points win the game.

Players may discuss their bidding strategy before each round. It is recommended to place a time limit on these discussions. All players must bid every round, and the minimum bid is 1.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2000th Post: Free Stuff

I recently posted my 2000th post on this site, and I have gifts for you, as usual.

Thank you for reading and commenting, for linking and discussing. Without you, I'm just another fool writing to himself in cyberspace. Thanks to you, I am encouraged to write.

Since this is primarily a game blog, I'm going to give it back in the form of games, as well as one donation to a worthy cause. Let's get started.

Game 1: I'll send an gift certificate to the person who sends me the lowest unique integer value between 5 and 50. The value you send will be the value of the certificate.

I get a few bucks from Amazon when you buy things after clicking through a link on my site (such as the one above).

Send me an email with the subject "Game 1" and your entry. Deadline for entry is 8:00 am Israeli time, Friday, October 23. You may enter only once; only your last entry counts.

Game 2: I'll send a gift certificate to the person who sends me the lowest unique integer value between 5 and 50. The value you send will be the value of the certificate.

I get a few bucks from FunAgain when you buy things after clicking through a link on my site (such as the one above).

Send me an email with the subject "Game 2" and your entry. Deadline for entry is 8:00 am Israeli time, Friday, October 23. You may enter only once; only your last entry counts.

Game 3: I'll send any item from Starlit Citadel to the person who asks for an item (or combination of items) whose value is the lowest unique value (maximum $50; you must pay shipping; if you would like me to simply buy and reserve it and you can add it to some other shipment, let me know that.)

Starlit Citadel is a long-time sponsor of this blog. They are a Canadian online game store with great selection, prices, and service. Thanks!

Send me an email with the subject "Game 3" and your entry. Deadline for entry is 8:00 am Israeli time, Friday, October 23. You may enter only once; only your last entry counts.

Donation: I'll send a copy of my game It's Alive to any deserving recipient you name.

It's Alive is an easy game for new game players, but also fun for true gamers. The theme is appropriate for Halloween, but may be unsuitable for those averse to, or too young for, cartoonish depictions of severed body parts. Due to the pictures, it is recommended for ages 12 and up, but I find that kids as young as age 8 or even 7 love the game.

Name a recipient: someone hit by the economy who needs cheering up, or is sick, or otherwise. I'll pick one to send to.

Sorry, I wish I could send to all of them. If I'm feeling particularly generous, I may send a second copy.

To enter this contest, LEAVE A COMMENT on this post about your recipient, without giving identifying details. The reason for doing it this way is that I'm hoping other generous readers will offer to pick up the baton and send something to those recipients to which I'm unable to do so. Deadline for entry is 8:00 am Israeli time, Friday, October 23.

I hope you'll stick with me through the next 1000 posts and continue to comment, link, and enjoy. Thanks again.


Contest details: Contest is run as-is and complies with no laws of any country. I reserve the right to discriminate based on sex, religion, race, disability, eye-color, personality type, or anything else I so feel like. Entrance is permitted to whom I say and may end at any time without awarding anything. The judging will be run in a highly partial and unfair manner, and the judge will accept all offers of bribes and flattery, and may respond in a cowardly fashion to blackmail. Prize value is not guaranteed. By entering this contest, you agree to all rules written here as well as all rules I wrote in Sanskrit in a secret file on my son's laptop. If you are reading this, you are too close to your monitor.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On Assertiveness

I regret all of the times I've been rude.

I regret occasionally times I've let myself be taken advantage of.

I regret none of the times I've been assertive.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Shatner and Nimoy at Dragon*Con

Even casual Trek fans MUST watch Shatner and Nimoy's panel from last month's Dragon*Con, embedded below. Absolutely hysterical.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Game at Nadine's, and Other Holiday Gaming

I don't hold a JSGC game night on the same week as Games Day, figuring it's overkill. But Nadine decided to have over some guests on her now free Wed night, and they were all JSGC members. So we held an unofficial JSGC game night at Nadine's on Wed.

Participants: Nadine, Jon, Bill, Shirley, Eitan, Emily, Abraham, Sarah, Adam, Noa

Noa was Abe and Sarah's guest, and not generally a gamer I surmise. Adam, Bill, and Shirley didn't make it to Games Day, so it was nice to see them.

The centerpiece of the evening was Battlestar Galactica, which lasted approximately six hours. The players were Adam, Bill, Shirley, Eitan, Emily, and Abraham. Abraham was the only player who had played before.

The Cylons won in a close game that came down to a die roll. Bill and Abraham were Cylons.

Meanwhile, a few other games were played.

Nadine, Sarah, and I played Agricola; first play for Sarah. Scores: Jon 41, Nadine 39, Sarah 30.

Sarah had a natural planting strategy, and she played a whole bunch of occupations. She got almost no animals, however, and too few of the other points. Nadine managed to get two additional workers in round 11, and had a sizable animal collection, but not many bonus points. I was slower than usual with both planting and house building, building to only three rooms (I usually get to five). I had good pastures, and was unobstructed in getting miscellaneous points I needed in the end. Mostly, I had all my people and a lot of bonus points.

The game was fairly quick.

I then played two games of It's Alive with Sarah and Noa, while Nadine took over for Adam, aho had to leave.

First plays for Noa. In the first game, I won by a good amount (61, 46, 41), which made me fairly confident. Noa liked it, and wanted to play again. In the second, I scored the lowest I ever scored, ever. I only had two tiles! Noa won (43, 41, 19) and was very happy about it.

Thursday evening, a neighbor invited me over to play. She's a non-gamer sort, but likes to play some traditional games like Rummy. I brought Boggle and was shocked that she had never played it. I taught it to her, but it was kind of lopsided in my favor for the few games we played.

We switched to Rummy. There was a lot of confusion as to which Rummy we meant, because she used to play "Gin Rummy", which turned out not to be Gin Rummy at all. We played one hand of Gin Rummy as I know it (without knocking). Then her husband joined us and we played one hand of what she called Gin Rummy, but was something more like 500 or Rummikub.

We had to pull the rules out of her, one by one, as she simply assumed that we knew them at each turn where they were relevant, even after I warned her that there are hundreds of variations for the game. Her rules:
  • Two decks of cards.
  • Can't meld until you have a minimum of 50 points.
  • Each round, you pick and play out.
  • Only the top card of the discard pile is accessible.
  • Face cards are worth ten each, aces worth 11.
  • Up and down to the ace, but not around.
  • Can add to other players' melds, by sticking the cards into them.
  • No duplicate suits in kinds.
  • No points; first to go out wins, and that's it.
Rules 2-4 made melding a difficult affair, and I'm pretty sure she remembered the rules wrong. I called it Frances Rummy, and each time we pulled another rule out of her, it was "That's how you play Frances Rummy!"

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Pink Games 3

Here's a whole new set of pink games to make your life happy (happier) (not so bad).

Don't miss Pink Games and Pink Games 2.

A different set of Bicycle Pink Playing Cards, some of the proceeds from these cards, like many other pink games, goes to breast cancer research.

Pink Go Board, with pink and white stones. Nexus Gadgets carries a line of classic games in pink, including pink dominoes, mahjong, backgammon, and chess.

Pink Bingo Wand and Chips

Sex And The City Game

Scrabble Pink Flower; unlike the Designer's Pink Edition, this one doesn't appear to be in support of cancer research.

Find It Games Glitz & Glamour - Pink Ends, one edition of the game.

Pink Treehouse; Treehouse pyramids are components in a game system that has tens or hundreds of user-contributed games. They come in various colors, and this year came out in pink (cancer research).

How to Get Your Pink Card, about living the gay lifestyle.

Gayopoly; gay, along with female, is apparently stereotypically associated with the color pink.

Pink Stories, a story and deduction game with "girl themes".

Mother - The Game, a tongue-in-cheek trivia and acting game about mothers.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Encounter in a Dark Alley

I've always felt closest to God while in motion.

To me, the most obvious sign of the hand of God is when He blocks my car with a sudden slow car, or eases it with a set of perfectly timed lights. This is His way of ensuring that what needs to happen, happens, and at the right time.

When walking anything more than a block, I always experience at least one meaningful encounter: a lost person, a sudden object sighting in a store window, an encounter with a neighbor. Last night's was a little more meaningful than others.

Walking to meet friends on Emek Refaim, I nearly passed by the dark alley that connects two larger streets, but decided in the end to turn down it. The alley begins with three small steps down into it.

At the bottom of the steps, a man with a tattered cast on his right arm lay with his feet on the steps, his body prostrate in the alley. He was white-haired and thin, dark-skinned (Arab or Sephardic, I can't always tell), and shabbily dressed. While briefly concerned about a trap to steal my money or the possibility of acquiring swine flu, I nevertheless stopped to ask if he needed help. He said, groggily, that he did.

I tried unsuccessfully for several minutes to get him to his feet. His face had scars and his lip was cut, but otherwise I thought the standing problem stemmed entirely from the alcohol I smelled on him.

After several minutes, by which point I had him sitting at least, another man stopped and looked at us from the mouth of the alley and asked if we needed help. I said yes.

We got him to his feet, but he couldn't walk on his own, and could only stand by leaning against a wall or person. I tried to ask where he was going, and he said down the alley to the other side. I asked if he lives near and he said yes. I asked his name. He said Yechiel.

About this time a couple stopped at the mouth of the alley and asked if we were all together, to which I said no. I started walking the man down the alley, a few steps, and then resting. The other guy followed. After a few of these steps, the woman said that she had called an ambulance (I wasn't entirely sure why, yet). A few more steps and then we stopped in a slightly more lit circle within the alley.

Only then did I see the circle of blood on the back of his head, under the white hair. The guy kept smiling, occasionally cursing (Israelis curse by saying "sheet"), holding my hand and leaning. He was very unsteady, but not entirely incoherent. We waited for the ambulance.

For some reason, a minute later two police showed up; do they monitor calls to the ambulance? They asked the guy questions (somewhat harshly, to my ears): What happened? Can you walk? Do you need help? I had to point out the head wound to the police.

With all these people around, and an ambulance on the way, I decide that I was no longer needed and could make my way to the rendezvous with my friends. So I don't know how it ended.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Games Day Session Report

The Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club hosted another successful Games Day. Session report is here. Games played: Amyitis, Antike, Battlestar Galactica, Bridge, Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, Checkers, Chess, Cosmic Encounter x 2, Dominion x 4, Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation, Magic x 3, Market of Alturien, Notre Dame, Pirate's Cove, Pitch Car, Princes of Florence, Puerto Rico, R-Eco, Race for the Galaxy: the Gathering Storm x 5, Rock Paper Scissors, San Juan, Shadows Over Camelot, Yinsh.

Some 25 participants. 13 hours of gaming.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Board Game Blog World Roundup

I maintain a comprehensive list of all English board and card game related blogs and podcasts on the internet, so far as I know. To be on this list, a site must:

- Have an RSS feed
- Have been updated in the last 3 months, unless a post indicates a specific hiatus.
- Update at least once a month
- Be primarily concerned with board and/or card games, in general (generally not only war games, minis, or RPGs)
- Contain content of general interest to the world, and not simply list new inventory for a company
- Post primarily in English; there are plenty of non-English sites around the web on this topic, but I don't track them

The list is located on the sideboard of my blog. I just dropped fifteen blogs/podcasts from my list. But don't despair; I have another fifteen I'm adding since the last update:

Publisher Perspective: Byron Collins of Collins Epic Wargames. About game publishing.

Clever Games for Clever People: By the owners of a UK store called Zsuaro. No further information.

Consoles and Cardboard: Podcast by Jon, John, Scott, ... About digital and tabletop games.

Death of Monopoly: Eric Martin, Kitchener, ON, CA. Not from BGN.

Downtime Town: Reviews, videos, podcast by Robert Florence, UK.

Game Kastle Blog: Various musings from the employees (and friends?) of Game Kastle, Santa Clara, CA.

Game Mechanic For Hire: Phil Kilcrease, Salt Lake City, UT, a member of the Game Designers Guild. Posts about game mechanics and their variants.

Games for Educators: A cross venture of the Chicago Toy and Game Fair (Mary Couzin) and Live Oak Games. All about games and education, with various contributors. For instance, Teaching Strategies is a podcast on the Games for Educators site by Tom Vasel and Giles Prichard.

Games With Garfield: Richard Garfield (yes, the designer of Magic: The Gathering) muses about new board and card games.

Margin of Victory: John, Russ, and Rick. "In-depth" look at board game workings.

Paper Money: Podcast from Ben Clark from Imagigrafx and Rett Kipp, a marketing consultant. All about the board game business and publishing.

Science of Board Games: Christopher Swenson, OK. Also looking at game design.

Simon Dice: By Simon Dice, Mount Pleasant, DC.

The Game Aisle: Positive game reviews only from Kim Vandenbroucke, a mainstream game designer and developer.


Friday, October 02, 2009

Shabbat Shalom

I just spent 24 hours with my son Saarya, hiking Nahal Arugot in Ein Gedi, BBQing on the Dead Sea beach while circled by 13 hopeful cats and listening to British yeshiva students sing Hebrew songs, and watching Keeping the Faith on television back at the room in the Youth Hostel.

31 days until I take my month long trip to the US/Canada, including seeing Rachel again for the first time in 3 months and hitting BGG.con .

Games Day is on Sunday.

Time to attend to the house.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Session Report, in which we try Hacienda one more time

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Report is up. Games played: Geschenkt x 2, Hacienda, Year of the Dragon, It's Alive. And a teaching session for Robo Rally.

I fire up Hacienda once more to see if we want to keep it. Verdict is still out.