Thursday, November 12, 2009

I Can't Give You Water Because We Sell Water

Or, Adventures in Cincinnati

Half-Priced Books

I drove along small roads, because I couldn't figure out how to get onto and off of the major highways. Cincinnati's highways look like an overturned bowl of spaghetti. Look at your hand with your fingers spread out. That's what the end of I75 looks like, only, each finger has another hand coming off of it, some fingers merge back together, and there's no telling which ones go left or right around the bend.

Driving the small roads was, aside from a lengthier drive, a tour of the underbelly of Cincinnati. It's not pretty, at least the part I drove on (mostly Rt 27). But I discovered a Half-Priced Books. I loved the Half-Priced Books in Dallas. This one was ok, but only a third of the size of the one in Dallas.

I used to buy a lot of audio media: now I cycled through the records (my player doesn't work anymore), the cassettes (too fragile), and the CD's (I'll get these on occasion), and discovered that I'm really not in the market for audio media anymore. It's not that I don't listen to audio. It's that I can find any song for free, legally (a video, a promotional website). And, more importantly, I have access to so much music today, that I don't need any one particular song. I like genres of music now, not particular songs or artists. OK, I still like some artists more than others, but there are so many great artists that I'm not going to miss any one if I don't have their music.

That left games and books. I found one or two things I would consider reading, but nothing I would consider buying.

Newport on the Levee

Newport on the Levee promised shopping, an aquarium, movies, and I wasn't sure what else. Not really a fantastic choice. I think the zoo or Krohn Conservatory would have been better bets (and there's supposedly some downtown fountain area that I don't know much about).

Parking was $2, which was fine. I hit the aquarium, which was $20, which was about 50% too expensive.

It's a nice aquarium. Nice setups, interesting fish and slimy things, with the occasional out of place display (what's an owl doing here?). Staff are friendly. But it's smaller than I was hoping for. No jumping dolphins or whales, no sea shows. Little in the way of hands on exhibits. In short, it was worth $10, not $20.

Some pics:

This display included "four-eyes", little fish that hover at the surface of the water like submarines, their bubble eyes only above the surface, with split vision below the surface as well. You can't really see them in this picture.

I've got Australia and I'm going to wait you out.


Bark bark. (These animals go a bit crazy in here.)


Birds at an aquarium. Whatever.

This guy was mammoth, and was slithering his way through the electric cables in the ceiling, crunching the light fixtures in his way.

The jellyfish display was the nicest part.


A shark ray, pretty rare. She just got a mate, and they are trying to play matchmaker.


One of the few hands-on displays, you could pet these sharks.

Help, I've fallen and I can't get up. (Which reminds me: What did Jesus say when he wasn't allowed into the Disco club? "Help! I've risen and I can't get down!")

The gift shop through which they force you to walk was ok, but there was only one game on display: Oceanopoly. Hey Z-Man! Try sending them a few copies of Reef Encounter. Actually, I think I'll write to Zev about it.

It's Not Me

After the aquarium I went to the attached mall, which is mostly a waiting room for a multiplex cinema. Not much here, but they had free wifi.

Here is what life is like in America, for those of you who don't know:

Me: "I'd like some water, please."

Pleasant counter person: "I'm sorry. We sell bottled water, so I'm not allowed to give you water."

Me: "The sink is right there. There's a plastic cup right there."

PCP: "I'm sorry. It's not me. Those are the rules."

Me: "You realize that this is not good for PR, or for business?"

PCP: "It's not me."

Me: "Thanks, bye."

PCP: "There's a water fountain right over there."

Me: "So you can't sell me water, but you can point me to the water fountain?"

I sat down and connected to the wifi, but my battery was running low. There was a plug on the wall, behind a stand at which you stamp your parking ticket if you've been to see a movie, so that you can get some of your parking money back. The stand was not really close to the wall or the plug.

I plugged in.

Pleasant Mall Worker: "I'm sorry, sir, but you can't be back here."

Me: "I'm just plugging my computer in."

PMW: "It's not me. They just don't want anyone behind the stand."

Other than the mall work staff, there was no one else in the mall.

Me: "... Ok, I'll just sit here, a few feet away and not actually behind the stand."

PMW: "That's ok then."

I sat on the floor near a doorway into some shop, Christmas lights dripping over my head. Unless they stick a turkey into the manger, I think Thanksgiving decorations are no longer functional. Out came a shop worker.

Pleasant Shop Worker: "I'm sorry, sir, but you can't sit here. You're blocking the shop door."

Me: "I am?"

PSW: "Yes, it's not me. They don't want anyone blocking the door, so that people won't trip."

I scooted a few inches back toward the stand.

Me: "How's that?"

PSW: "That's fine. It's not me, you know. That's the rules."

Game Night at Yottaquest

Yottaquest is a game store in Northern Cincinnati, run by an amiable and well-loved guy named Matthew. Goodman Games chose it as America's favorite game store in 2009. They have plenty of space for gaming, and a newsletter.

And they have good taste in games (note the game on the left).

There were some 20 to 25 people gaming ...

All night gamers playing Descent ...

Euro gamers playing Power Grid ... (including me. I trounced them, playing somewhat unusually. I started with plant 4, and then, seeing the competition for cheap places to build, I rushed to build more cities than I could power. No one contested me for early high capacity plants. That let me rush through to stage 2, and pretty much end the game while others were scrambling for capacity.

The player on the left gave me the most competition, but he hung back in cities, not expecting me to push through to stage 2 so quickly.)

Playing Dungeon Lords ...

Playing Endeavor, which I really wanted to play, rather than Power Grid.

And, in the back room, playing miniatures ...

And role playing.

After Power Grid, I played a filler card game for 2 to 6 players called Alice and Wonderland Parade. The game has zero to do with Alice and Wonderland. It is a simple avoidance card game like Geschenkt.

There are 6 suits, each with cards numbered 0 to 10. On your turn, you add a card to the end of the parade and draw a new one from the deck. You then may have to take cards from the back of the parade and place them in front of you (negative points). You take cards as follows: Let's say you place a card of value N with a color of C. E.g. a 7 Red. You ignore your own card and the most recently placed N (7) cards in the parade. For all other cards in the parade, you take all cards of value N (7) or less, as well as all cards of the same color C (Red) as your card.

The game continues until the deck is exhausted, and then all players play one more turn without drawing any new cards, which leaves them each with four cards in their hand. Each player chooses two of these cards (simultaneous select and reveal) to add to their board in front of them. Then points are counted.

Count the face value of all cards. However, in any color in which you have, or are tied for, the most cards, you score only one per card. Lowest score wins.

On first play, the mechanic, like Geschenkt's, appears to be brilliantly balanced. There are no good or bad cards, but how you play them is quite interesting. It plays quickly and for up to 6 players (though I suspect it is best with 3 to 5). I loved it.

The cards were really thin and pathetic, unfortunately. I'll probably just play it with my set of Sticheln cards. Sorry, designer/publisher. And what's with the meaningless theme?

After this, I joined a Dominion game. Several games had already been played throughout the evening. We played with a mixture of cards, but many were from Seaside, with which I have no experience.

I got thoroughly trounced. The set contained very little in the way of bonus coin value; only Pirate Attacks gave dependable coinage boost, but I didn't recognize that until too late and they were all gone. Some other cards let you draw Silvers and so on, but the Pirate Attacks just robbed them away from you, especially in a five player game where you might be hit by three attacks by the time it's your turn again.

There were also no bonus actions, except for the Pearl Diver, which didn't do enough.

I ended with 6 points, while everyone else had at least double digits. The winner had 24 or 26.

I showed some people how to play It's Alive, but, again, I didn't see how it went, and, again, they didn't choose to play it a second time. Hmmm...

Another nice group of people and some fun gaming.

No comments: