Thursday, December 30, 2010

Session Report, in which we try Dominion Prosperity

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Dominion/Prosperity, Settlers of Catan.

We enjoy Prosperity. Our two games (Dominion and Settlers) take a long, long time.

DHL's tracking service claims that one of my packages couldn't be delivered, even though I work from home and was home all day. And the other package, sent at the same time, is apparently on a plane over the Mediterranean, and has been since Dec 23.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Too Many Magic Cards

I have 5,695 magic cards, not including basic, non-foil lands and a handful of foreign language cards. That's about 4,000 too many cards for my needs. I'm offering them for sale first to my game group, and then to my readers and the Israeli public, and then to whomever.

Take a look. The quality ranges from very good to acceptable; I tossed out the unplayable cards, but a dozen or so of the remaining cards have noticeable corner bends, and around a quarter of the cards have whitened edges from use. I probably mislabeled some of the cards by the wrong expansion, but not many. Ask if you need to know.

Anyone interested in picking up any cards that my game group doesn't is welcome to email me.

Secret Santa

Rachel's luggage finally arrived, so I got my first secret santa gift which was mailed to her in the states: Canal Mania. The other secret santa gift is supposedly in transit, but it's been in transit for a month. Hoping it shows up eventually.

I also got Dominion Prosperity, Glory to Rome, and Gosu, which I bought for myself. And, on the way from, are Shipyard, Carson City, and Tobago. I would have added Die Handler and maybe Blox, but I had to face the fact that no one in my game group was going to play these with me. Several other games I wanted either weren't available on or couldn't be combined with their cheap international flat rate shipping. They'll just have to wait for another season.

Lastly, I got the game I need to ship to someone else in Israel as their Secret Santa. Somewhere along the way (or at the original point of purchase) one of the box cover corners split, which is a shame. Tikal is a fine game, however, so hopefully it won't matter.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Session Report, in which it's Just Me and Gili

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: 1955, Schotten Totten x 2, Race for the Galaxy.

Games are sometimes better when you play then with the correct rules; then again, sometimes they're not.

Merry pagan solstice to all of you who celebrate it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Session Report, in which we try Navegador and love it

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: 1955 x 2, Navegador, Louis XIV, Schotten Totten, Bridge.

1955 is on kickstarter, a game prototype. I think of the game as 1960-lite; of you like 1960 and want a shorter version, get this.

We love Navegador. I must get a copy for the group asap.

Shabbat Gaming

We had our good friends David and Sharron over, and we were all invited for dinner to reps of a local synagogue also happened to be my fourth cousin. Her husband had brought back a bunch of dice from China where he had learned how to play Liar's Dice (I thought that Liar's Dice was a slightly different game, but I was mistaken). He and David and I played most of a game, and he lost badly.

The next day, I taught Tal's friend Toby how to play Settlers of Catan. Tal and David and Sharron's son Yoni joined us, and we had some rollicking fun. After lunch I taught Sharron and Yoni how to play Shotten Totten (getting all of the bonus cards wrong) and they played twice while David, Nadine, Mace, and I played bridge.

And what did you do this weekend?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Game Notes

I gave each of my brothers' families a copy of Jungle Speed for Hanukkah. It's currently very popular among Israeli teenagers and children.

We didn't have game night this week, owing to Hanukkah, Rachel leaving for Toronto/Boston for two weeks, and Rachel and I taking a trip up north for Limmud Galil - she taught and learned, I worked. I brought a few games with me just in case the social opportunity presented itself, but it didn't.

I sent my Netrunner collection with Rachel to Toronto; it will be picked up by someone who bought it from me (at a steal, I think). Of the other games I wanted to sell off, Binyamin of my local group bought eight of them. Rachel will bring back a few games I bought (Dominion: Prosperity, Glory to Rome, Gosu, whatever my BGG Secret Santa sent me, and a game I have to send to someone in Israel as TDT's Secret Santa).

Last shabbat I played with my downstairs neighbors' guests' kids. We played Cranium Whoonu. Each player takes a turn to be judge. The other players play a card with an item or activity that they think the judge will like. The judge arranges the items according to likes most to likes least. The players receive points for having guessed well.

Then, oddly, each player passes half their cards to a player on their left, which means that you may know later as a judge who played what. I didn't actually look at the rules, so maybe the kids added that one themselves.

After that nonsense, I ran upstairs and brought down For Sale, which none of them had heard of naturally. We played twice, and one of them wanted to go buy it.

This shabbat I went to my mom's in Beit Shemesh. After lunch I played Parade with my hostess and her 20 year old daughter. They got it quickly and liked it. I won.

Later in the afternoon I played Scrabble with my mom. I had a bingo, and I thought I was doing much better than she was anyway, but discounting the bingo I only beat her by 20 points. Hmmm.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Session Report, in which Nadine wins a lot and we try 5 player Power Grid Benelux

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Dominion Intrigue/Seaside, Power Grid - Benelux, Phoenicia, Bridge.

First play of Benelux. We inflict Phoenicia on some newbies.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Session Report, in which we play a close game of Age of Empires III

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Parade, Age of Empires III, Vegas Showdown, Bridge.

We had a nice, close game of Age of Empires III.

Earlier in the week, Rachel and I played Scrabble. Rachel was tired, but still beat me 322 to 314. She had only two scores in the 200s, jumping from 199 to 224 to 261 to 304.

Do You Need Game Expansions?

Some game expansions are worth buying, and some are not. Before buying, consider:

- How frequently you play the base game

The less frequently, the less you require an expansion.

- How often you have already played the base game

If you don't play the game frequently now because you're tired of it, but you played it to death when it first came out, an expansion might rekindle interest in the game.

- How rich is the game play experience of the base game?

A game that's already wildly imaginative and plays differently each time doesn't necessarily need an expansion.

- How much game play the expansion adds

The price should be proportional to the change in the game play.

- How disruptive the expansion is to the base game

Does it offer more options, or does it entirely change the game mechanisms? More options is good if you like the base game but need more to keep it stimulating. New and changed mechanisms means a new game, which you must want to choose to play in place of playing the base game.

All of these questions lead to the ultimate question: how often will this actually hit the table? My track record for expansions varies wildly:

Age of Steam, Power Grid, etc. (maps): Train and other connection games that don't come with a randomized board setup can use expansion maps. These don't hit the table often in my group, so a few expansion maps is sufficient for us. Beyond that is a waste.

Agricola: Agricola comes pre-packaged with expansions, including the various decks. It needs no further expansions. I have successfully avoided them.

Alea Treasure Chest: This is a box with small expansions for seven Alea games, of which I own six of them. We use to play a lot of Puerto Rico, and I created my own expansion buildings for it, so I was open to playing the Nobles expansion. It's good, and will probably come out again.

I haven't tried the other expansions yet, but I suspect we will get to them. We don't play the other games all that often, so I don't know how often the expansion will come out even if the base game does ... unless the expansion significantly improves the game. In which case we will no longer play the base game without the expansion.

Apples to Apples: If you play often, additional cards can be fun. However, A2A is designed well, so that you don't really need expansion cards. No two hands are the same.

Blue Moon: I didn't find the base game all that interesting. I didn't try the expansions, but I doubt that you can play the base game too often without them.

Carcassonne: The standalone games such as Hunters and Gatherers and The City don't need - and don't have - expansions (there's a very small tile expansion for H&G). The base game required some expansions to spruce up some imbalances in the scoring. I don't know much about them, however.

Chess: Changing anything in Chess means playing a different game; Chess is Chess. Chess means memorizing openings and very specific evaluation strategies. Any and all expansions to Chess are simply abstract games played on a Chess-like board with similar rules to Chess. I prefer the variants.

Cosmic Encounter: Cosmic was built to have expansions, since the game is designed to be wild and full of surprises. The more the merrier. However, I don't like several of the expansions, notably the ones that disrupt the game play (moons, variable hexes, ...).

Cuba: The designer sent me a few tile expansions to the game. I don't play frequently enough to judge these. They don't disrupt the game, but I wouldn't have gone out of my way to buy them, either.

Dominion: Dominion is already a fantastic game, and several of the expansions are fantastic, if slightly-less balanced. There comes a point, however, when you have enough already to make every game different; at that point, the only reason to buy expansions is for the same reason you buy packs of Magic cards: you want a particular card. Don't do it. Pick two expansions and no more.

I'm going to violate what I just said by buying Prosperity; however, I could easily give up Seaside.

El Grande: I tried the King and Intriguant variant several times. The concept wasn't inherently bad, but some of the cards were annoying, and wouldn't you know it, every player played on of those cards at least once a round. In the base game, those cards can only come up once or twice. So I banned those cards in the variant.

Turns out that we simple didn't play El Grande enough to warrant the expansion at all.

Homesteaders: An amazing game space which I haven't come close to exhausting. But I think there's room for a set of expansion buildings. Just one.

Magic: the Gathering: This game, as all TCGs, is built around the concept of expansions. Luckily, making some cards rare meant making other cards common, and thus worthless. You can pick up thousands of "worthless" cards for a song, after which you don't need any more expansions.

The Pillars of the Earth: I bought the expansion, and the group played it once. We don't play the game enough to warrant it. Actually, I've grown sour on the master building drawing mechanism, so, unless this expansion fixes that, I probably won't be playing it.

Power Grid (deck): Unlike the maps mentioned above, the deck provides variant plants to acquire during the game. While it did, it had hardly any noticeable effect on the game.

Puerto Rico: I've already created half a dozen expansions to this game, and they keep the game from going stale.

Setters of Catan: The expansions to this game were a mix of additional options (Seafarers) to disruptive (Cities and Knights). I like C&K, but it's a different game, which doesn't come out all that much anymore (we played it to death). I didn't think Seafarers was worth the money, after playing it once. The 5-6 player expansions made the game long and cumbersome.

What's the moral of this post? While the Tribune expansion looks tempting, I don't need it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Session Report, in which we play La Citta for 4 hours

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Nile, La Citta.

Yeah, four hours for La Citta. We enjoyed it, thought we also remembered its (non-fatal) flaws.

This shabbat we said farewell (again) to our friends Bill and Shirley who are going back to the US for a year. Nadine hosted 21 people for shabbat lunch, after which we played.

I taught Homesteaders to Cliff, Mace, and Adam. Still one of my favorite games. The final scores were me 63, Mace 43, Adam 41, Cliff 34 (or something like that), but the others still really liked the game. Though I won by a landslide, I still feel like I'm not playing anywhere near optimally. I took both 10 point buildings, though I took five debt to do so; I only managed to pay off two of those debt at the end of the game.

Other games played include Castle Panic, Race for the Galaxy, and Ticket to Ride.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Movie Reivews: Scott Pilgrim, Social Network, The American

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: This is probably the best movie of the year. It's utterly charming, original, captivating, stylish, quirky, and relevant. The acting, storyline, direction, effects, and production are all fantastic. The movie is quotable, sometimes hysterically so, from beginning to end.

The movie is a straightforward presentation of the graphic novel of the same name by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Michael Cera plays Scott Pilgrim, a 21 year old dating 17 year old Knives Chao but who sees - in his dreams and then in real life - a funky girl closer to his age named Ramona Flowers. To win Ramona, not only does he have to ditch Knives life a man, he has to fight Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends. In the movie and book, this is done physically in video game fashion; in both, this transparently represents the not-too-deep metaphor that people have to overcome past relationship crap before they can move into a healthy one.

The movie is not for everyone, just like The Breakfast Club was not for everyone; it's geared to a young generation, immersed in modern culture. It's not incredibly deep. But oh, man, is it entertaining.

Entering movie quotes legends: "We are Sex Bob-Omb and we are here to make you think about death and get sad and stuff."

The Social Network: For a movie about a hacker and the lawsuits he defends against after creating a successful website, the movie is surprisingly appealing and accessible to the general public. I suspect that hackers and their ilk will find that their sympathies lie more with the protagonist of the movie than do members of the general public.

I heard that the movie was a negative portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg, but aside from social awkwardness and conning his friend and initial backer out of his rightful share of the company, Jesse Eisenberg's Mark is a hacker hero. The Winkelvoss's, Harvard students who ask Mark to create a website for them but provide him no code or design - just an idea - and yet end up extorting him out of $65 million when Mark "steals" their idea, raise no sympathies at all. Their claims, as seen in the film, appear to be entirely ludicrous. At best they should receive $650.00 for breach of contract, or something.

The story is told as flashbacks from the two lawsuits he faces. Acting and direction are good. Women don't have much of a role to play in the movie, other than as eye candy. The script takes you from the night that Mark creates a girl comparison site called Facemash to the night Facebook cracks 1,000,000 registered users.

Mostly I learned how big a role that Napster's Sean Parker played in Facebook's development. It was a fun movie, for Facebook fans.

The American: Like the last two George Clooney movies I've seen - Up in the Air and Michael Clayton - this movie is a straightforward drama without any high pretensions. All three felt short, like adaptations of short stories. All were well acted, tightly shot and directed, clean and cold. Clooney plays loners on the edge of society and barely cracks a smile in any of them; when he does, it's usually in response to irony.

In The American, Jack is a guy who can craft precise weapons, which he does for a nefarious contact. He tends to have a problem forming relationships, sometimes having to kill people who get close to him if he suspects that they are trying to kill him (which turns out to be the case, occasionally).

He wants out, and you know what that means. He's going to have trouble with his contact. A simple thriller, with good acting and direction, an appealing prostitute, and well done. And that's about it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

TEDx Talpiot

TEDx is a locally-organized conference based on, and with the blessing of, the TED project. TED's rules for TEDx are that the event not be for profit, not promote any political, national, or religious agenda, and that it stick to the premise of "ideas worth spreading".

TEDx Talpiot, held yesterday evening at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, was a successful and enjoyable event. Around 300 or so people heard six speakers and two musical interludes, all but one of which ranged from good to great. None of the speakers were as mind-blowing or jaw-dropping as the best lectures you can find on; but, after all, those are the best of the best, so that was to be expected.

The event was partially sponsored by ROI Community, which gathers Jewish innovators, and Leadel, which does the same.


The organization was good, especially considering that the event was free. I assume that the food was donated, as they had cookies, drinks, and a catered bagel meal for everyone. Sweet.

Every attendee had a personal QR code on the back of their name tag, which, when passed very carefully in front of a smart phone with the appropriate software from, loaded the owner's information into the phone. These were harder to use than the software maker would have you believe; the phone and tag had to be held still and at just the right distance; not as good as RFID. But they worked.

The sound, lights, and projection had occasional snafu's. Nothing cataclysmic. Wifi didn't work inside the hall.

Everything started and finished on time, and the speakers stuck to their time frame, for the most part.

The Content

Read the abstracts

1. Eti Katz (he): Something about visual learning.

My Hebrew is not very good, so I had some trouble understanding Eti's talk, but it looked good.

Essentially, different children have different ways of understanding the world. We must teach them each according to their understanding. She presented pictures of people outlines with different, funky pictures in them, and went on to explain each case of a child and his or her relationship to it.

While interesting, I couldn't see anything remarkable about the content; then again, I may have missed it. The presentation was fine, but also unremarkable.

2. Zvia Agur (en): Virtual patients

This speech was allegedly about the development of a personalized, virtual patient, used to test the effectiveness of drugs on a patient before administrating a course. That would have been interesting on its own. However, this was covered only in the last few minutes of the speech.

What the speech was actually about was freakin' bizarre.

Zvia said that swings have frequencies, and that pushing harder doesn't make the swing go back and forth at a higher frequency, only at a faster speed and higher height. If you push at the same frequency, the swing swings higher; if you push against the frequency, the swing slows. So far, so good.

Then she dropped this one: A population's size has a frequency that can be contrasted against the frequency of disasters that befall it. If the frequencies match, the population thrives. Otherwise, the population falls. What????

From there, she went on to say that the same applies to cell growth in an organism. And that this mathematical frequency theory can be used to time the application of chemotherapy to the rhythm of healthy cell growth: the frequency matches the growth of healthy cells in the body, which means that the healthy cells will continue to grow well, but works against the frequency of cancer's cell growth, which means the cancer cells will suffer.

She said that her experiments have proved a double survival rate using this theory. But it was hard to get funding in an academic or medical institution due to skepticism. So she and some others have developed their own research company and pharmaceutical company to test and develop these.

In the process, they have developed a virtual cancer patient. They extracted information from a patient with aggressive cancer. They used their math to design the virtual patient. Used virtual treatment models to treat the virtual patient. Tripled frequency of one of the drugs. The patient improved for some time.

I had no idea where she was going, and she didn't back up what she was talking about, so disses to her confusing presentation. But the content was certainly fascinating.

3. [someone] Lipshitz

Played piano. Tchaikovsky

A fantastic piece played by a fantastic musician.

4. Prof Avshalom Elitzur (en): Beauty of Quantum Design

An introduction to quantum theory, concentrating on how the observer works.

Light = waves, but only when the photons are not observed closely. Talked about the Mach-Zehnder Interferometer. If you shoot photons one at a time, it works. But shoot the photons and observe them, it doesn't work!

An application: the Elitzur-Vaidman bomb testing experiment. Test a bomb without having to explode it.

Another weird thing: Two particles, one up and one down. Judge whether a particle is entangled with another gives you some yes and some no; but even when the particles not entangled, they are, by forcing them both to either be entangled or not.

I wasn't sure how much of this was revolutionary, but it was interesting. Presentation was ok. Most people didn't understand him, and he didn't present any compelling universal benefit for his research.

5. Dr. Oren Harman (en): Evolution of altruism

Where does kindness come from? Some animals appear to have evolved to behave to their own detriment. For instance, an antelope that jumps up and down when they see a lion, sacrificing themselves so that the rest of the herd can escape. Certain bees and amoeba. Etc.

Types of altruism:

- Nepotism: I.e. survival of the genes. W.D. Hamilton.
- Reciprocation: Which invokes game theory. Robert Trivers.
- Group selection: Group evolution sometimes trumps personal evolution. (several people)

What is the relationship between biological altruism (I lose something to give you something) vs psychological altruism (the intent matters). All still under research. Several false leads.

The story of George Price (Oren summarized the book he wrote about him). George ran away from his life and then published a seminal paper in Nature without any background in the field. Claimed that psych altruism is always selfish in nature. Then tried to argue against his own findings by being overly altruistic with his life, to prove that spirit triumphs biology. Failed and committed suicide.

An interesting but not revolutionary talk, very well presented.

6. emotiv - TED TV presentation

This was simply a video presentation of Tan Lee and her mental headset. Available on TED.

A great presentation, but I don't know why they showed it here.

7. Maurit Beeri (en): Fixing babies is more than medicine

Healthy babies today, and in the past, all develop at roughly the same pace. Modern technology doesn't make them grab or walk any faster. They don't need specialized playthings.

Kittens raised in darkness until five months never developed sight in the brain. More generally, developing children need many different stimulation, not a small set of the right ones.

Babies can survive adverse early conditions so long as they get love and stimulation eventually, but within a certain time window. Babies' early reflexes must be replaced by learned patterns to fill the same needs. Otherwise, if still young, they need pediatric rehabilitation and specialized playthings. If the window of opportunity is closed, they may never acquire the skills. A baby fed through a gastro tube may learn to eat if the tube is taken out before a certain age, but not after that.

It's not enough to fix physical problems without considering the neurological and psychological effects.

Interesting content, adequate presentation

8. Musical interlude

A dude played a Chabad melody on a saxophone. All of two or three minutes.

9. Joseph Dadoune (he): Film, architecture, desert.

A truly awful presentation by a likely talented artist who might have done some good work, but I couldn't sit still while he talked endlessly about himself. I heard from those who stayed until the end that it didn't get any better. He showed a picture of a house.

Overall, it was a great event, one that I hope will be repeated. I assume the videos of the presentations will make their way online, eventually.

Pictures From Sukkot Games Day

It's been a while since I've dumped my memory chip, I see...





Shachar and Mace

Mr. Jack

Mr. Jack: Jon and Michael

Agricola: Shachar, Mace, and Elijah

Homesteaders visits Agricola

Agricola: Shachar and Mace

Homesteaders: Jon and Oren



Homesteaders visits Agricola

Puerto Rico: Yardena and Mace

Puerto Rico: Mace, Rachel, and Oren

Antike: Shachar

Antike: Elijah and Michael

Antike: Shachar

Session Report, in which we play El Grande for 3.5 Hours and the New Player Wins

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Yinsh, El Grande, Puerto Rico with nobles expansion.

First play and thoughts for the Puerto Rico nobles expansion.


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Session Report, in which we try San Fransisco

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Dominion/Intrigue/Seaside, R-Eco, Settlers of Catan, Tigris and Euphrates, Mr. Jack, San Fransisco.

We get T&E on the table after an absence, and we try San Fransisco for the first time, with some trepidation.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Guest post: 7 Tips For Improving Your Chess Game

The following is a guest post:

Chess is not your typical board game, as not much is left to chance except maybe when your opponent "chances" to do something stupid. Becoming a skilled player involves an ability to devise a strategy (with adequate back-up plans) and some capacity for anticipating your opponent's next moves. The more you play and study the tactics of skilled players, the better you will become at developing your own unique strategies. A few best practices, however, are well-known and can be applied by any amateur player who wishes to take steps to improve their game.

1.) Don't underestimate the power of your pawns. These little guys are a great protective measure for your king, and work great in chains for organizing an attack. However, they're close to worthless when they're isolated from each other on the board or if a chain of them is blocking powerful players, like your bishops and rooks. It's usually a good practice to build inverted V chains of pawns rather than going for V-shaped chains, which are weaker. Try to maintain the pawns in the middle of the board, while remembering to open up chains for your power players.

2.) Get your knights in the middle when the board is still crowded so they can wreak more havoc against your opponent. Too many novice players leave their knights close to the sidelines where they have a more limited range of motion from which to make their L-shaped attack.

3.) Remember that bishops and rooks are much more useful in an endgame scenario than a knight or a pawn because they can cross vast distances if need be on the open board. If you're forced to sacrifice a knight or a bishop early into a game, sacrifice a knight.

4.) Don't take the queen too far out too soon. She may pack a punch, but she's also your most valuable asset.

5.) Castle your king early. This will help protect you from an early checkmate.

6.) Attack invisibly. In other words, your opponent is more likely to anticipate an attack from the piece you move. Attacking invisibly often means you move a piece merely to free up another of your pieces to attack on the next move. Your opponent is less likely to organize a defense for the invisible attack and you are more likely to capture the piece you're after.

7.) Sometimes offense is the best defense. When you're cornered and a piece of yours is about to be taken, see if you can position yourself to capture a more valuable piece from your opponent. Your opponent will then face the decision of whether to rescue his or her own piece or proceed to take your piece as originally planned.

This guest post is contributed by Angelita Williams, who writes on the topics of college courses. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: angelita.williams7

Amazon Welcomes You to the 16th Century

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Four Games and a Funeral

We had Abraham and Sara over for the weekend. At the same time, Nadine invited several local gamers for a gamers' lunch. So the weekend was filled with games.


Friday night after dinner, Abraham and I played against Nadine and Sara. Sara had played two hands prior to tonight's game, and she was iffy on the game. She got into it tonight and enjoyed it.

I'm seen as a better Tichu player in these parts, so Nadine joked that her team would only need 500 points to win while we needed 1000. We took a commanding lead with me making two Tichus and a double down hand, starting us off at 540 to 60. Soon it was 810 to 90.

Then a strange thing happened. Nadine, who has probably only called Tichu two times ever, called Tichu three times straight. In the first two hands, she and Sara went double down both times, giving them +600 points. Now it was 810 to 690. Unfortunately, she missed her third Tichu (I had almost called it, but I was lacking one round's control). I then had an embarrassingly good hand, with all four aces, two kings, two queens, and the Dragon. In the final two rounds, we finished them off.


Emily and Eitan had never played this, and I was happy to teach them. Abraham and Bill joined us. Abraham has a history of aggression in this game that does not actually lead to his winning.

I ended up as Greece in the middle of the board and first player. I nearly always start with gold or marble, but this time I started with iron to see what would happen. Since it was a five player game, I was a little more concerned with space. Everyone diversified nicely over the next few rounds (Emily and Bill shadowed each other for a while).

This is another game at which I tend to do well, sometimes winning by three or four points. In this game I was sweating a lot harder. The Know-hows were shared by all the players and the others were keeping pace with me. At one point, I was one point behind. Oh no! Luckily, not for too long.

I pulled ahead by building a third temple and leaping two levels in sailing (for one point), which made my massive fleet now in range of several temples. I would have left conquering a temple for the final point I needed, but Abraham built too many ships too close to me, and I didn't trust him not to attack me. I took out most of his ships and one of his temples. After that I only needed one more point to win and I didn't care what the others did to my cities. I was one or two rounds from winning in either of several different paths. The others could have delayed me if they had made a concerted effort, but that would have left the field open at random to any of the other players and they still could not necessarily have gained two points before I got my last. Scores: 7 to 5, 5, 4, 4.

Castle Panic

I didn't play this, so I can't tell you about it. However I head Nadine enjoying herself. She apparently likes cooperative games. Castle Panic can be played as straight cooperative, cooperative with a single winner, or one against the rest, so it offers some flexibility with regards to taste.


Played after shabbat with Abraham and Sara. This is a game that Abraham and I like, but the others don't so much.

Abraham appeared to be pulling away rather sharply with the intermediary points. It was hard, but I managed to cut some of his islands off from him. Although I could see that Sara and I were on larger islands near the end, I feared that it wouldn't be enough to catch him.

In the end, however, we all ended up with 30 points. Abraham won on the tie, for having used less dinosaurs.

The Funeral

I'm pretty sure that there were several hundred people there, and by several I don't mean 2 or 3, more like 6 or 7. We packed the hesped hall, out into the parking lot,. People stood outside around the sides of the building trying to hear through the windows.

The hespeds didn't start until 10:15 or so, and several Rabbis, friends, and relatives spoke. Frankly, I think three hespeds is sufficient, and could have done without a few of them. The most important were the first - a young Rabbi who knew RivkA well (forgot his name) - and her brother, father, and husband. Moshe (the husband) spoke with a mix of anger, grief, shock, and loss. You had to have had a hard heart not to have been shedding tears by the end. He could have gone on for some time, too.

Near the very end, someone - I think responsible for the funeral hall, but possibly a member of another funeral party - accosted us to tell us that we're taking too long and have to leave. Apparently another funeral was scheduled for 10:30, and it was now already 11:20. As it was late, crowded, and threatening to rain, I didn't stay for the actual burial.

I must have seen 1/3 of the people I've ever met from my twenty years in Israel at that funeral. From every walk of life, from every disparate circle, from current friends and acquaintances to people I haven't seen in ten years. And we couldn't really socialize. It was like a room full of random Facebook friends.

Friday, October 29, 2010

RIP RivkA Mattitya

(image source)

RivkA Mattitya, a friend and fellow blogger died this morning after a long battle with cancer.

RivkA was an ebullient, warm, caring person, fervently in love with Israel and Judaism, and a bat-torah. She was also a loving friend, mother, wife, sister, and daughter. I know, because I've met her friends, children, husband, sister, and mother.

I remember RivkA from 1991, shortly after I made aliyah. We, along with another twenty or so people, went to a park every Friday afternoon to play ultimate frisbee. RivkA always made sure that everyone else was having a good time, and that everyone had a chance to participate.

In later years, a smaller group of us used to meet every (American) Thanksgiving to eat a scrumptious pot-luck meal, listen to Alice's Restaurant, and play Cosmic Encounter. RivkA mentioned a few times that she wanted to come to my game group, but she never had the time or, in later years, the strength.

Over the last few years, I saw her at the Jewish bloggers convention, occasional simchas or lectures, and when we met one afternoon to say hi to a mutual visiting friend whom RivkA was hosting (allowing to help out).

If there are any incontrovertible things to say about RivkA it is these: her smile was infectuous, her Zionism and faith were unwavering, and her life touched and inspired many people in her family, in her country, and around the world.

In Rivkah's words:
I am different.

I have a different type of cancer.

My cancer is responding to treatment.

I am young.

I am strong.

I have a great attitude.

Blah, blah, blah....

Cancer Sucks.



Thursday, October 28, 2010

Session Report, in which I come up with a solution to kingmaking in Steam

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: It's Alive, Steam, Princes of Florence, Notre Dame, Dominion Intrigue/Seaside.

I come up with what I think may be a solution for the kingmaking problem in Steam. Nadine teaches two games, and we play some cards from Seaside for a change.

Rachel is off to America for a week. This shabbat I will be having a number of gamers over for dinner and going to Nadine's together with a bunch of gamers for lunch.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Session Report, in which we try Nile again and like it a bit more

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Nile, Year of the Dragon, Agricola, Antike, It's Alive, Dominion, Vegas Showdown.

We try Nile again and like it a bit more than last time. But still not too much. We play fairly quick games of Agricola and Antike.

Earlier in the week I played Scrabble with Rachel, beating her by over 100 points. Of course, I drew the Q, Z, X, J, K, and two S's, as well as decent letter combos. Rachel had mostly vowels.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Scrabble: The Two Letter Words

With the introduction of the words QI and ZA, casual players may want to have a handy rule around to let them play with the Scrabble zealots.

You could not allow or not score two-letter words. Unfortunately, several good two letter words should score (such as AX), and near the end of the game you may not have much else to play.

An alternative is to limit the legal two letter words to those that an actual human might use in day-to-day life.

Here are the currently legal two letter Scrabble words. Words with an asterisk (*) are candidates for exclusion from casual games. Words with a question mark (?) are borderline cases.

AA* a type of lava, what you say when going over a cliff
AB* abdominal muscle
AD advertisement
AE* one
AG* agricultural
AH sound of surprise
AI* a sloth
AL* an Indian tree
AM opposite of AIN'T
AN singular
AR? the letter R
AS comparative
AT locational
AW cute overload
AX chops wood
AY* shortened form of AYE, not what Fonzie says
BA* the soul in Egyptian mythology, not a baby ball
BE or not
BI bisexual
BO* shortened form of beau
BY positional
DE* from (like in foreign names)
DO or do not, there is no try
ED shortened form of EDUCATION
EF? the letter F
EH Canadian punctuation mark
EL* elevated subway, where a Cockney tells you to go when he's drunk
EM? the letter M, or a printer's mark
EN? the letter N, or a printer's mark
ER hesitation
ES* a shortened form of the letter S
ET* past tense of eat
EX where my money goes
FA note in the musical scale
FE* a Hebrew letter
GO move or start, and a nice game
HA sound of amusement
HE him
HI hello
HM* sound of consideration, shortened form of HMM
HO? sound of surprise, not a loose woman
ID part of the mind
IF conjectural
IN locational
IS existential
IT object identification
JO* a sweetheart
KA* the spirit in Egyptian mythology
KI* the Chinese spiritual force
LA note in the musical scale, or word substitution in a song
LI* a Chinese measurement
LO and behold
MA your mom
ME not you
MI note in the musical scale
MM* sound of satisfaction, shortened form of MMM
MO* shortened form of moment
MU? Greek letter
MY possessive
NA* not, shortened form of NAH
NE* born with the name, shortened form of NEE
NO negative
NU Greek letter, also sound of impatience
OD* hypothetical force of natural power
OE* whirlwind of the Faerce islands
OF originating from
OH sound of surprise
OI* alternate for OY
OM* sound of a mantra
ON positional
OP* style of art, or shortened form of OPERATION
OR logical alternative
OS* various obscure definitions, such as a bone
OW sound of pain
OX moo
OY sound of despair
PA your dad
PE* Hebrew letter
PI Greek letter, 3.14
QI* alternate for KI
RE note in the musical scale
SH* shut up, shortened form of SHH
SI* alternate for TI
SO what
TA* sound of gratitude (this is a ? for some cultures)
TI note in the musical scale
TO directional
UH sound of hesitation
UM sound of thinking
UN* one
UP locational
US collective
UT* a note in an archaic French musical scale
WE collective
WO* shortened form of WOE
XI* Greek letter, alternate form of CHI
XU* Vietnamese coin
YA* you, or yes
YE you, archaic
YO it's my art center
ZA* shortened form of pizza

Note: If you allow QI and ZA, you should reduce the values of the letters Q and Z to 8.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Session Report, in which we discover that we like Mu after all

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: San Juan, R-Eco, Taj Mahal, Magic: the Gathering x 4, Mu.

We discover that we like Mu after all, and even still like San Juan. I lose badly in Magic, yet again.

Earlier this week, Rachel beat me by some 35 points in a Scrabble game; she had one Bingo to my none.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Session Report, in which we continue to enjoy Phonecia without really getting it

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Dominion/Intrigue/Seaside, Phoenicia, Tichu.

I floundered two games of Dominion and Phoenicia. Oh well. At least I still know what I'm doing in Tichu.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Shabbat Gaming

At my mom's for shabbat.

With Tal, I played a hand of Gin Rummy, which she won.

Then she forced me to play Go Fish with her. Wow. I won 7 sets to 6. I'm not sure we played correctly. On your turn, you called a number in your hand. If your opp has one or more cards of that number, you get them, and may call again. If you fail to collect any cards from opp, you end your turn by drawing. If you collected any cards from opp, you don't draw at the end of your turn. If you drew, and it was the card you called, you take another turn.

It's not an entirely brainless game, compared to War for example, because you have to decide what to call. That takes memory of what your opp has previously called, as well as some odds calculation as to what remains in the deck and what they might have pulled on their last few draws.

Still, I'm glad it was over quickly.

In the afternoon, I taught Homesteaders to two Beit Shemesh game groupies, Gavriel and Yaakov. As usual, I had a great time and I won the game without a clear understanding of why. I knew I was doing some things right, but I also thought I was doing many things wrong. Every time I play, I'm shy something critical at mid-game, either trade chips, cash, or all of the better commodities. In the last half of the game I begin calculating the number of points I'm actually able to gain each turn, which focuses my attention.

It's definitely an overwhelming amount of calculation for the faint of heart, so it's not for everybody. After 7 or 8 games, I've grown familiar with the exchanges so I have a better idea of what I can't do, freeing my thoughts to go after what I can.

Both of my opps played well. Gavriel took a heavy railroad tie strategy, with four houses giving bonuses for railroad ties and six railroad ties by the end of the game. He only netted 45 points total, however. Yaakov had some good buildings and victory point chips, but little in the way of bonus points from buildings and no high valued commodities left over. Also 45 points.

I had a few good buildings, thirty victory point chips, and a number of high valued commodities at the end; the latter because I was shut out of bidding in both of the last turns (bidding went to 21 in both columns). I earned my three points from the railroad track and kept a few commodity points; while Gavriel ended up paying as much in money and commodity points as he gained from the building, for a net of 0 points, Of course, it prevented me from getting the building which would have netted me around 13 points.

I ended with 58 points.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Simchat Torah Gaming

A few teenagers who came for lunch were willing to try some games while we waited for the others to come home from ultra-long services.

I taught them Pit. One of the girls heard that it was a trading game and said that she didn't want to play, but I convinced her to stay in and to try. She won the game, and said that she liked it. "It's an interesting game".

I also brought out Set, which instantly gets players even without any formal declaration as to who is playing. I'm still pretty good, but I suspect that I may finally be slowing down.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Games Day Session Report

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up for Games Day, Fall 2010. Games played: Age of Empires III, Agricola, Antike, Dominion/Intrigue/Seaside, Homesteaders, Magic: the Gathering x 2, Mr Jack x 2, Parade, Puerto Rico, Scrabble.

Light attendance for a Games Day, but still fun.

Earlier, I played Puerto Rico with Rachel and Zeke (former game club attendee), and lost terribly: Rachel 61, Zeke 48, me 38. I also played Progressive Rummy with my mom and Tal; my mom beat us: Tal by a small amount, me by a lot.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Board Game Blog World Roundup

Yes more board game blogs, old and new, I have recently noted or rediscovered. See my sidebar for the current list of all regularly updating and active board game blogs.

A Game Comment Journal - Gerald "Linnaeus" Cameron, Nova Scotia, Canada. Also blogs at My Play.

Board Game Reviews - Monsieur Lapin, Calgary, Alberta.

Die Meeple Die - Alan Gaskell, Lancashire, UK. Reviews.

Forest of Games - James, Lincoln, NE. Reviews.

Game On! - Podcast out of OR, a different podcast than Game On!

Gameopolis - Podcast by Mark and Jeff.

Here Be Gamers! - Podcast by Marty and Nathan.

Inspiration to Publication - Jay Cormier, New Westminster, BC. Game design notes.

JP's Gaming Blog - Omaha, NE.

Nevermore Games Blog - Bryan Fischer and Corey Phillips company blog. Design notes.

Ninja vs Pirates - Company podcast with game designer interviews.

Point 2 Point - Jason and Scott. Probably the premier war game podcast.

The Adventuring Party - Shane, humbug, Liam and Cillian podcast.

The All Things Fun! Podcast - Ed Evans, Wes & Jess podcast.

The Board Broad - Shelda, Lincoln, NE. A woman's perspective.

The Game of the Day - Bryan Gahagan, Lincoln, NE. Movie and game reviews.

The Gaming Gang - Jeff McAleer, Elliott Miller, James Engelhardt. Reviews and more.

The How to Play Podcast - Ryan Sturm, Lancaster, NY. podcast on instructional subjects.

The Little Metal Dog Show - Michael Fox, Milton Keynes, Bucks, UK. Podcast.

This Week in Wargaming - Ken and Troy podcast on war games.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


A merry Sukkot to you all. That actually makes sense, since some of the Sukkot decorations they sell in Israel are Christmas decorations whose packaging comes decorated with Santa Claus, reindeer, and Merry Christmas, sold to a public often unfamiliar with these icons.

No game night this week, but next week is Games Day. The Janglo mailing list is no longer the force that it once was, so I don't know how many people to expect.

Got new bookcases.

Got the book Pente Strategy, which I intend to devour.

There is much confusion and busy work in the Berlinger Adelman household in preparation for past and future holidays, so I'll just say be well and be good.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Session Report, in which I finally get fed up with the master craftsman mechanic in Pillars of the Earth

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Dominion, Tichu x 2, Pillars of the Earth.

A new player joined us.

Last shabbat afternoon Rachel, Nadine, and I played Puerto Rico. I don't know what I did wrong, exactly, but I fell behind early and stayed that way. Rachel won with 53 points to Nadine's 46 and my 39.

The week before last, Tal and I played Scrabble, and she surprising beat me (with a little assistance from me). I helped her place a 100+ point bingo onto a triple word score.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Games Exist in Dreamland

This morning, I walked from point A to point B beside someone else walking in the same direction. I reached point A first ... but I didn't win. Because we weren't playing a game. We were, physically and mentally, in the real world.

Games don't exist in the real world.

In the real world, things simply happen. Objects lie still or move according to the laws of nature. Living things lie still or move according to their needs or desires. Metabolic processes exist in the real world: work, sleep, sex, love, competition. Even play - not imaginative, but physical play that is jubilant or vigorous, such as a cat playing with a ball - exists in the real world.

The real world is where things exist because they exist. Consequences are natural. Amazing, important, fun, or tragic things happen; they are what they are.

Games exist in dreamland. An observer views reality and imposes onto it abstract consequences that do not exist in the real world. A game cannot exist without an observer, a recognition of change, and an evaluation.

That walk becomes a game when I decide that I "win" if I reach point B before - or after, or at the same time that - the person next to me does. If my boss acknowledges me for completing a project. If I am happy that I've found love - not happy from love, but happy from the finding.

Other things also exist in Dreamland: hopes, plans, imaginations, dreams, stories, myths. Worthy neighbors.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

2010 Holiday Gift 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 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

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.

Unfortunately, it's out of print, so it's a bit hard to find, and pricey when you find it.
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 a 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 "Hunters 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 and last. 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. The game now has several expansions, all of which are good.
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 (aka Weiqi); 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.
Magic: The Gathering: Ages 8+, 2 players

After a decade and a half, Magic is still The Bomb when it comes to collectible card games, although Yu-Gi-Oh sells more cards. These are not easy games to learn, but quick start guides can get you off the ground fairly quickly, and then you have months and years of challenging game play ahead of you.

Don't get sucked into having to buy endless amounts of boosters; to play the game outside of a tournament, you only need a few hundred common cards which can be picked up for a penny each on various sites.
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.
Puerto Rico: Ages 10+, 3 to 5 players

Go is my favorite two-player game; this is my favorite multi-player game. I hadn't included it in previous years because I thought it might be too complex for the beginning player, but I think I've been underestimating people. I've seen new players pick it up and love it.

It's not easy to learn, but it's not that hard, either; it's just hard to master. A brilliant, brilliant game engine.
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

A 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. A similar, recommended game is Bananagrams, where players race to create their own crossword boards.

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.

Another recommended co-operative game that made a splash last year is Pandemic
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 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.

It plays a lot like the parlor game Celebrities.
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.