Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Classifying the Game Industry 2

In the first part, I classified game companies within the game industry into
  • Suppliers
  • Publishers
  • Distributors
  • Retailers
After additional research, I see that I'm missing a few.

Suppliers must be split into
  • Component suppliers: including miniature makers, book publishers, plastics and shipping companies, and so on
  • Designers: including artists
  • Consultants: agents, design, marketing, legal, etc
Additional segments include
  • Information brokers: news sites, magazines, conventions, etc
  • Hosts: Casinos, game stores, online play, conventions, etc
The number of companies that directly or indirectly support games (non-sports, non-digital, only) appears to run into the millions. When you add the conventional paper, plastics, marketing, shipping, loans, insurance, and other support industries to this (considering only game related work), the worldwide revenue from the table gaming industry is vastly under-estimated.


The game hobby also overlaps a number of other hobbies, at least as far as the industry is concerned. I already knew about toys, sports, gambling, puzzles, bar games, and video games, but add to the list dolls, modeling (miniatures are used equally for both gaming and modeling), remote controlled vehicles, kites, comics, branding (marketing and design), books, education (science, finance, math, history), magic, media entertainment (TV, video, and movie tie-ins), drinking and sex, divination and spirituality, therapy, souvenir/gift, art, craft, cultural heritage, and satire. At least.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shabbat Gaming

At Nadine's in the afternoon, I played PitchCar x 2, It's Alive, and Puerto Rico (other games played, in which I didn't participate, included Casino and Scrabble).


We played two games, using two different track layouts. I came in second in the first game; I was ahead nearly a lap at one point, but I crashed a few more times than one of my opps did, and he was just able to overcome me in the final stretch. I came in first in the second game.

My success is rather odd, as I don't typically win this game, but I played rather slow and steady, and that seemed to work.

It's Alive

We played a five player game (not my favorite) and Nadine taught it to two of the players. As usual in a five player game, there was a lot of auctioning and pieces went for face value. I pulled at least three of the Villagers and a few too many low cost cards, which hurt my income and progress. Nevertheless, I played with my new "keep my coins at exactly half of my board value" strategy, and I came in second with 45. The winner finished was the one who finished, and he had a score of 57. So it's not a perfect strategy.

Puerto Rico

Rachel, Nadine, and I played this. Even though we played on Nadine's set, and she only has the base set and official expansion, we proxied most of my usual custom buildings. I was third player.

Rachel on my left took the first trade good, coffee, so I took coffee, too. Nadine took tobacco soon after. I had a fairly early Factory, and access to a tobacco plantation, so I simply took tobacco soon after, giving me a full Factory. Nadine had the other early Factory. Rachel was the only one who had Harbor.

I ended with an equitable amount of shipping points, three of the big buildings, and an embarrassingly high score of 69 to their 49 and 52.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Session Report, in which a new player joins and some of us play Steam

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation, Fairy Tale, Louis XIV, Cosmic Encounter, Steam, San Juan.

A new player joins, and she has previous Euro experience. I think we have more women than men now.

I get to play Steam again. Yay.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Philosophical Pig Tales

Philosophical Pig Tales: the Origins of Modern Ethics Explained Through Retellings of the Classic Story of the Three Little Pigs by Katie Hatz

I so want this. This is the funniest thing I've read in a year, at least. I laughed out loud at every page. The entire text of all three stories, about hedonism, stoicism, and nihilism, is online. Warning: the pictures are not all safe for children, as they include topless pigs and profane graffiti.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Weekend Gaming

Puerto Rico

Rachel, my brother Ben, and I played Puerto Rico on Friday evening. We used the basic building set with the following changes:
  • Assembly Line instead of Small Market
  • You mys move one of your colonists onto Hospice when you buy it
  • Factory was 8 instead of 7 and replaced University
  • Library was in the 7 slot
Library is an official expansion building which usually costs 8, but I don't think warrants the cost in a four or five player game. 8 is probably right in a three player game, but no one ever buys it, anyway. So I thought I would try it out at 7, with some trepidation.

What do you know, the first third column buildings that either Ben or Rachel bought were Library. Mine was Harbor. No one bought Factory. I'll say that the decision as to which of the four three column buildings to buy was a lot tougher. Library did quite well, and I'm not sure if it should be bumped back to 8 or left at 7. On the other hand, I won without it, so there you go.

I was first player, followed by Rachel and Ben. On the first round, I took Settler/corn, Rachel took sugar, and Ben took coffee (instead of indigo). That set the stage for the rest of the game:

Since Ben took the first trade good, I was bound to go for tobacco while Rachel was bound to go for coffee. I took tobacco, but Rachel never got a trade good, which is a tough position to play, even with a Large Market. She bought one, but it didn't do her much good.

Rachel had a sugar monopoly for much of the game, but I forced her to ship it at a crucial time. Until about mid-game, we thought she might be winning, but after that I passed her in money, and my Harbor caught up to her early victory point lead.

Ben traded coffee a few times, but he waited for far too long to lock a coffee boat. Which means that the Harbor that he took didn't do him much good.

Ben and I both ended with two large buildings, but Ben had little else on his board. Final scores: me 60, Ben 53, Rachel 51.


I taught my cousin's two teenage girls (15, 17) to play this, and Ben played as well. I had previously gotten them hooked on Bohnanza, and I think they had tried Settlers. Their father (my cousin) was holding discussions with my brother David about starting them on a D&D campaign.

Kingdoms: Chapel, Cellar, Moat, Workshop, Village, Militia, Moneylender, Council Room, Festival, Market.

Festival is nice, but it must be combined with card drawing. My most annoying hands was when I had the card drawing (but not the Festivals) and then I drew the Festivals but couldn't play them. Festivals are not exactly the same as money, after all.

Ben and I both Chapel's away from Estates early. He also took Militia, which he played often but never affected me in the least (either I had Moat, or I didn't care about tossing down cards). Surprisingly, I only took one Village; maybe I should have taken more.

The girls asked, round after round, nearly the same questions again and again: What can I do? What does this mean? What should I do? When I asked them back the same questions, they knew what they could do and what it meant; they just didn't want to decide what to do. Things finally began to flow smoother near the end.

Ben won 27 to my 26, and the girls each had in the high teens.

Princes of Florence

We stayed at a neighbor's apt, and, while looking around the room, I noticed that they had a copy of Ticket to Ride: Europe on the shelf. I thought that this would be a good second intro game for the girls, but David somehow convinced them, and Ben, to learn Princes of Florence.

Given the girls' lack of enthusiasm for making decisions in Dominion, I didn't think this would go over that well. But David sat beside them and helped them make nearly every decision as the game went on. In the end, the girls said that they liked both of the games equally well.

I won with three Jesters (one on the last round). I just squeaked to victory. One of the girls ended round 7 with the same score as me, and then we both played our prestige cards mine was half value at 4, while hers was half value at 3.

Final scores: me 60, cousin 59, Ben 54, cousin 51. The lower scoring cousin was unable to play her last profession.


I dropped this on the table for my aunt, sis-in-laws, mom, cousins, and other non-gamers to play with, and they all love it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Never Post When You're Feeling Mean

I redacted much of my previous post [1] because it wasn't really nice; I had written it in a bad mood. Most of what I wrote wasn't even true (and the truth doesn't warrant a blog post unless it's positive or has an important point to convey).

The weekend was pleasant. The meals were with only family and extended family, and (nearly) all of the speeches were in English, interesting, and not too long. The food was generally good. And I enjoyed reconnecting with my family.

My parents made it, and my father perked up somewhat over shabbat.

Tomorrow evening is the more formal celebration.

Sandra and Eli Berlinger
My parents, Sandra and Eli Berlinger

[1] Unfortunately, the original post went out on RSS before I could complete my redactions, so some of you may have read it. Moral: consider before you post!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Three Days of Peace, Love, and Berlingers

This afternoon we go to my nephew's bar mitzvah. The bar mitzvah, for family, is all of shabbat - Friday afternoon until Saturday night. The party is Sunday evening.

Or, as I like to tell Rachel, it's three days of peace, love, and Berlingers.

My father may be too sick to attend (and if he doesn't, my mom won't either), as he is seriously ill from cancer and getting worse. Keep Menachem ben Miriam in your prayer.

Of course, I was asked to bring games, so, when we're not eating, sleeping, praying, or listening, you know what we'll be doing.

Update: edited due to a sense of propriety.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Session Report, in which we try Mu for the first time

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: It's Alive, Tribune, Mu, Vegas Showdown.

We play Mu for the first time, and discover new things in each of the other games.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blogging Progress Report

As much as I like the idea of blogging every day on this blog - to "get back into the grind" - it's too much of a strain to do that right now. I could easily do it if I weren't already committing myself to posting on Purple Pawn every day, as well as working on a much larger gaming-related project.

So this blog will, once again, continue on a sporadic basis, at least once a week and whenever I feel like posting. At least, until I win the lottery and I can quit my day job.

In my copious free time, I think I'll begin composing the poetic treatment of International (Humanitarian) Law, since so many people refer to it without the slightest idea of what they are talking about.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Games at Keshet Yonatan / Nahal J'ilabun

To the weekend shabbaton with my synagogue, I brought an assortment of games for all occasions: Antike (as a Risk-replacement) and Dominion for the boys, Pit, Scrabble, a deck of cards, and some other light games for the adults, Puerto Rico for Rachel, Nadine, and me.

We didn't get to play all of them, but I didn't expect to.


I've won the respect of the boys enough to get them to try Antike. Thanks to the combat nature of the game and the elegance of the rules, they got into it. I opted to stay out and only guide the turns.

The brilliant rondel was a source of frustration for the boys, who often wanted to get iron, arm, and maneuver all on the same turn, but it was also grudgingly respected already by mid-game. It took them all a while to figure out that points were to be gained from more than just building and moving armies, but the game also elegantly guided them in that direction. So it was all good.

Still, the game played out quite differently from the ones I usually play. For one, one of the boys got beaten down quite badly after neglecting to protect any of his cities. He never recovered from this, but he still said that he liked the game. The boy who did the beating won the game. With his massive number of cities, he spent three turns gaining 6 of each resource, and then a fourth gaining six more cities. After that he built a string of temples and destroyed those of his neighbors.

It all looked ideal, but it was actually very close. One other boy was just a few ships away from destroying two temples on his last turn, which would have given him the victory.


That was all they played. I took a nap, and when I woke up they had managed to find some girls staying in the field school who were willing to follow them around while they all discussed what they should do.


The adults played on Saturday night. With two other non-gamers, I tried Parade, but it didn't go over that well. While Parade has barely any rules, the implications were too confusing for one of the players, and not interesting enough for the other.

Finally, we played two games of Scrabble, one four player and one three player. The four player was a close affair that Rachel might have won if I hadn't brought only the Third-edition Scrabble dictionary with me. The other two players, both non-gamers, were overwhelmed by our modest Scrabble prowess and unfamiliar with any of the ridiculous Scrabble words. Rachel tried to end the game with QI, but the other players wouldn't accept it because it wasn't in the dictionary (it's only in the fourth-edition).

One of the non-gamers played truly pathetically, such as playing an R onto PURE to make PURER, with no bonuses. The other one played better, but had poor racks with lots of I's, and so wanted to try again. He, Rachel, and I played in the second game.

The second game I got ridiculously good tiles, including both blanks, Z, K, X, a few S's and all of the D's. I extended QUOIT to QUOITED, landing on a triple word score, placed TAX onto a triple words score (with the T turning HIS into THIS), and bingoed with a hand containing EGATION; I was looking for an N, but eventually found a free L. Their scores were close to each other (a few points), and I was impressed with his dogged determination.

Pictures and Thoughts

The weekend was lovely, as was the company of my fellow synagogue members.

This was a small pool created from a tributary spring that feeds into the Sea of Galilee.

Around this pool, though not entirely captured in my picture frame, were religious Jews, non-religious Jews, Haredi Jews, Bedouin, Christian Arab, Moslem Arab, and American Christian. Some rode in on dune buggies, some drove in, some hiked in, some smoked, some barbecued, some wore modest clothing, and some wore swim trunks.

The whole scene was a as cosmopolitan Israeli as one could ever expect to see, and it was all unremarkably peaceful and pleasant. Because that's what happens most of the time in Israel.

Rachel, the dolphin. Rachel is swimming 3.5 kilometers across a chord of the Kinneret this Wednesday, to raise money for Sadnat Shiluv.

Sadnat Shiluv encourages maximum integration of special people into the community. It works with children from kindergarten and elementary school until young adulthood. Currently, its only hostel houses six young adults and offers them a place to live, work, study and lead an independent life while being an active part of the Rosh Tzurim community.

Around 100 women will be participating, each of whom must raise at least 2,000 NIS. Rachel's entrance fee was sponsored by my employer, Tech-Tav Writing and Documentation Services.

Some of our synagogue members relax on a hike in Nahal J'ilabun.

Nahal J'ilabun

Nahal J'ilabun

Me (note the flower in the hair)

More pictures on my Facebook profile

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Orange cell phone service (an oxymoron)

There is no telephone number for any Orange cell phone service station in Israel. You can call Orange phone customer service, but the actual service stations do not reveal their phone numbers and are not allowed to talk to anyone on the phone.

Rachel needed my permission to change something in our service while she was sitting at a station, and the service person refused to talk to me in order to get my identity number and last four digits of my credit card, which is what the phone customer service requires when they need to ascertain my permission.

Instead, she tried to fax me a power of attorney to sign and fax back. She tried to fax twice, and neither went through. Then the Orange fax began faxing me, repeatedly, for the next two hours. During that time, I received the fax 8 times, and I only received the fax 8 times because I then turned off the fax. Of course, during that time, I couldn't fax the signed form back to Orange, because their fax was continuously busy (calling me).

For two hours, the phone was ringing, the fax was shrieking, and the service rep and her manager blamed our fax for the problem, and refused to help Rachel. After three hours, and threats to cancel all of our service, Rachel gave up and left. When she got home, she called Orange phone service to complain, and they interrupted her, blamed us, and told her that she would have to go back to the station to finish what she started if she wanted any help.

Which she eventually, reluctantly, did, whereupon they bamboozled her into an 18 month contract for services that we don't need.

Go Orange.

This Weekend

This weekend is a synagogue shabbaton in the Golan at Kesher Yonatan, so I (probably) won't be blogging Fri and Sat.

I've been assigned to bring games. I'm taking that to mean: games for the kids, games for those who want to play games, and "games" meaning quiz or trivia or icebreakers of some kind. I'll bring all three.

And I'll try to remember to take my camera.

Session Report, in which we try Sticheln and teach Puerto Rico and Power Grid

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Dominion/Intrigue/Seaside, Homesteaders, Power Grid, Mr Jack x 2, Tichu, Sticheln, Puerto Rico.

We try Sticheln, and it's strange but intriguing.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Six Movie Reviews

Kick-Ass: Roger Ebert, and several other reviewers, call this a morally reprehensible movie for its over-the-top, unremitting violence, lack of emotion displayed by any characters in committing this violence, and profuse use of swear words by, let's face it: not only the 11 year-old character in the film, but the 11 year-old actress.

As far as morality goes, I'm kind of in agreement with them. It's pretty morally reprehensible, but so are a great number of comic books, video games, and so on. And this movie is simply a live-action version of those comics and games. I would prefer that no media portrays the kind of in-your-face blood and killing that this movie portrays, but it's not really any worse than those others. As far as the swear words go, the actress Chloe Moretz said in an interview that she would get punished if she said any of those words at home, and that she's heard her four older brothers use them. Her parents were on the set and ensured that she didn't do or say anything that made either her or her parents uncomfortable. In fact, her mother was the one to put the c-word back into the script (from the original comic strip).

The movie's faults, however, suffer from more than poor morals. The movie, like the second Indiana Jones movie, can't seem to make up its mind as to whether it is supposed to be realistic fiction or fantasy. All of the plot-line about a normal kid pretending to be a superhero falls apart when there are people going around whose skills and talents don't exist outside of the most fantastic martial arts films. And eventually, the normal kids take scene after scene of punishment that should permanently disable anyone, but scene after scene he blinks, gets up, and walks away to fight again. It's a comic book. Which is fine, but then what was all that about a normal kid?

While there are snippets of what could be some good plot development with this normal kid and a girl on which he has a crush, those snippets surface only briefly, while the rest of the time we just see ass kicking. Kind of a waste.

An Education: A sweet romantic coming-of-age story set in the 60s in England. They get a lot of the 60s atmosphere down pat. Carry Mulligan is fantastic in the lead, and channels Audrey Hepburn. Excellent performances and directing.

The Great Debaters: A true story about the first black debating club to take on the white debating clubs in the early twentieth century. While some of the plot elements fall too pat into place (a little more mess would have been more realistic), and the outcome is a foregone conclusion, it's well acted, directed, and shot. Not really a gripping movie, though, as I didn't really love any of the characters.

Loving Leah: There have been a few movies that explore the clash between the Hassidic world and the secular world. A Stranger Among Us was the Hassidic world's Witness, showing lots of love for the community, though it messed up near the end when it showed the secular world as having too much temptation for the Rabbi's son. A Price Above Rubies showed the Hassidic world is an ugly light, though it messed up the ending by being semi-happy. That's what happens when secular Hollywood Jews get their hands on the Hassidic world; they think that all of us religious Jews are always tempted and want to be secular, but for a daily struggle to resist that temptation.

Loving Leah is more toward the former than the latter. A religious woman ends up married to a secular man because he refuses to go through with halitzah after his brother's death. While an accommodation between the two would have been fine, too much accommodation occurs in ways that are too secular. Despite this, it's a good movie about culture clash, the lead actress is fetching, and it's a good romance.

The Lake House: A story about lovers separated by a two-year time warp, somehow communicating through a mailbox. Makes no sense, and the plot holes are big enough for Keanu Reeves' paycheck to fit through, and the ending is pretty dumb, but the actors have decent chemistry. Not a complete waste of time.

The Blind Side: I've never been too impressed with Sandra Bullock, since she always seems to act like Sandra Bullock. In this movie, the first minute in which she appears I had the feeling that we were going to see more of the same, but after that scene and for the rest of the movie she rose to the occasion. This is her finest performance, and the only one that I can remember that really shows her talent. Kudos to her for not descending into overdone sentimentality each time she realizes what a poor life the kid has had compared to her own wealth and comfort; she simply gives a poignant look and a troubled face.

The movie is based on a true story and is touching and inspirational. Everyone on the cast does a great job. However, the daughter was under-utilized, and they dramatically downplayed the Christianity. And there was a pointless scene of gun violence near the end.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Board Game Blog World Roundup

New blogs come to my attention since my last post. I also dropped at least a dozen more that haven't updated in at least three months.

Boardgames in Blighty - Mark Rivera, somewhere in the UK. Board games, sessions, etc.

Game Design is about Structure - Eero Tuovinen of Arkenstone Press, Upper Savo, Finland. A mix of gaming types.

Geek Insight - Some guy from La Mirada, CA. All I know about him is his profile pic and that his wife is a geek, too.

Go Forth and Game - Tom G, and no further info. Hey, Tom, how about putting up some info?

Sieze Your Turn - Kevin E. Schlabach, Philadelphia, PA. Twitter links to other stuff on board games.

The Game Whisperer - Richard Bliss, San Jose, CA. Game industry.

Toy Reviews and News - A group of people talking toys and some games.

ToyXplosion - Todd and Julie Bonner and kids talk toys and some games.

Unboxed - Chris Bowler, Stockport, UK. Concentrating on reviews.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

It's Been a Long Time Coming: Puerto Rico with Rachel and Nadine

Our first game since last July.

We played with:
  • Assembly Line 1/1: When occupied, all of your production buildings may hold an additional colonist (and thus produce an additional good when matched to an additional manned plantation.
  • Hacienda
  • Small Fashion District 2/1: Trade indigo at +2 doubloon.
  • Small Warehouse
  • Hospice: When you buy Hospice, you may move one of your colonists onto it.
  • Large Market
  • Trading House
  • Discretionary Hold 6/3: a) May store an additional three barrels. b) At the end of the Captain phase, may add a barrel of any type to the "Hold" of every full ship for 1 VP each. If two players have DH, alternate adding barrels to full ships. Each ship's Hold can store only a single barrel.
  • Large General Workhouse 7/3 (2 circles): Produce any types of goods with matching plantations. This building is usually 8/3, but wasn't getting enough action, so I moved it down to 7/3.
  • Factory 8/3: Usually 7/3.
  • Large Business 8/3: a) -1 building cost. b) +1 VP on first shipment during each Captain phase.
  • Wharf
  • Cathedral 10/4: +1 VP/3 red building points.
  • Fairgrounds 10/4: +0/1/2/3/5/7 VP for 1/2/3/4/5/6 different plantation types (including quarries).
  • Fortress
  • Custom's House
  • City Hall
Looking at the tableau, the buildings in the 3's column, which is usually where the power buildings sit, all looked to be about 1/2 a doubloon more than we really wanted to spend for them. Only one of the buildings was bought in the game.

Rachel on my right had an early tobacco and a Small Fashion District. She maintained a tobacco monopoly and was able to trade both good several times, as well as keep a tobacco boat going most of the time. She also took Discretionary Hold, which ended up being the sought after power building. And she won with two large buildings and 20 shipping points.

Nadine on my left had a coffee monopoly and the other Discretionary Hold. And she also ended with two large buildings, and 27 shipping points.

Meanwhile, I should have taken a tobacco to compete with Rachel on  my left, but somehow I never did. In fact , on the very first round I could have taken a coffee instead of a second corn, and that was the root of all of my problems. I also never took Large Market. I eventually took a Large Business and a few quarries, but it was too late to help much. I ended with 22 shipping points.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Why I Hate Politics, News, and the People Who Generally Talk About Them

Thousands of TV segments, news articles, and blog posts have been written about the Gaza flotilla disaster, and I've yet to see a single one - from the mainstream news to the personal blog - that is anything close to fair and balanced. And I'm not at all surprised.

OK, I'm a little surprised that Boing Boing's coverage is entirely one-sided. But Jon Stewart at the Daily Show is at his usual form, as were hundreds of similarly left-leaning talking heads. Fox news, Michelle Malkin, and hundreds of right-leaning talking heads were also at their usual form.

I'm fairly certain that very few people have seen or read opinions from both sides, except when those opinions are briefly quoted out of context in order to mock and ridicule them. But, even those who write the one-sided pieces, and therefore have read or seen in entirety the articles that they quote out of context in order to mock and ridicule, can not find a single thing with which they can agree on the other side. Isn't that odd?

How is it that a few million people see only cowering civilians, wooden clubs raised in self-defense, and a suffering ruins of a civilization that desperately needs relief, while an entirely different few million people see only trained terrorists using lethal weapons, and a well-fed population whose lack of certain amenities is purely political showmanship?

Isn't it odd that so many millions of people can dismiss EVERY statement, picture, video, argument, and piece of evidence as obviously wrong, completely unjustified, and so absurd that it is worthy of mocking and ridicule? Isn't it odd that these same millions believe every single piece of evidence that supports their own position, entirely support every argument on their side, and find not so much as a strain of credibility in their own positions?

Isn't there one thing you can see that your side did/does wrong, that should be acknowledged and corrected?

Friday, June 04, 2010

Building a Community Out of Gamers

Last night I went to a birthday celebration of someone who used to belong to my game group, but who had moved to another town. Several other gamers who have played in my group, or in his new one, were also at the party. This was not a coincidence.

I started my game group over ten years ago, and I'm now friends with a good percentage of those who have passed through its doors. To look at a typical game night, you might think this a bit odd. At group sessions, we don't often talk about personal lives outside the group. Most of our conversations revolve around what we're playing, what we want to play next, and whether anyone wants to get in on an order of takeout.

Yet, in the last several years, I have eaten at the houses of people whom I met at the group, and they have eaten at mine. I've gone to their childrens' weddings - or their weddings - and other celebrations. And it's not only me; fellow members have done the same for each other. I know that former attendees of my group have started a half-dozen groups in other towns; in all of these, the same dynamic occurs.

I don't claim that there is necessarily anything special about gaming in this regard. I'm sure the same happens to people who attend knitting circles, book clubs, and, of course, religious community centers.

I don't personally connect with my Facebook friends who are neighbors more often than I do with those who live across the world from me. When I meet fellow bloggers or online gamers at a conference, some of whom I've had email correspondence with for years, I say hi, but I don't sit down and talk with them more frequently than I do with strangers at the conference. There's something about face-to-face interaction that breaks down layers of distance. I know the people with whom I sit at my table; people on the screen are one-dimensional.

They're my community.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Happy Birthday, Yitzchak

Former JSGC gamer Yitzchak turned 40 today, and his lovely wife Cigal threw him a surprise birthday party. Yitchak only stopped coming to my club because he moved to Beit Shemesh and attends their club.

While waiting for him to show up and be surprised, I taught my brother Ben and one of his neighbors how to play Parade. Avri who runs the Beit Shemesh group joined us. Ben won with 4 points, I had 8, Avri 15, and Rachel 19. 19 for a low score isn't too bad; I often end up in the 40s.

Since I was using a Sticheln deck to play, but had never played Sticheln, Avri taught us how to play. We didn't get through an entire game, but I got the gist. Like David and Goliath, the game doesn't necessarily revolve around having higher or lower cards. However, it definitely relies on what position you are in the trick.

Although I only played half a game, I could already see the patterns forming. I'll have to try a few more times to see how deep the game goes.

Last, someone at the party organized a Newlywed Game with five couples. They ranged in length married from a few years to thirty-five years. Unsurprisingly, the couple married 35 years had a harder time remembering what was worn on their first date.

Some of the questions, such as "What does your spouse find most annoying about you?" are bound to lead to some kind of further discussion between the couples later tonight.

Session Report, in which we play Torres and we lose ingloriously to Miriam in Settlers

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club session report is up. Games played: Dominion (+Intrigue + Seaside) x 2, Dvonn x 2, Torres, Settlers of Catan.

We dust off Torres, and Miriam, attending for her second time, whoops us in Settlers of Catan.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Scrabble with Rachel / The Gaza Flotilla

Rachel and I had our first Scrabble game since her return. I won by a few points. No bingoes.

Rachel played out her last four tiles to end the game, only to discover that there was a tile left in the bag. She wasn't going to win, anyway, so we just ended.

The Gaza Flotilla

I would write something about the Gaza flotilla, but what's the point? No one knows anything, except a few edited snippets of grainy videos and what the propagandists claim happened, and nobody wants to shut up about it long enough to hear.

Look at the thousands upon thousands of comments on Youtube videos, news articles, and blog posts. Every comment is some idiocy claiming to know exactly what the truth is ("it was international waters", "it was illegal", "it was unjustified", "it was terrorists", "it was a lynch", "it was a massacre", "it was humanitarian supplies", "it was a provocation") and all of them getting their information from one or another side of the propaganda machine, supplemented by their own personal bias.

International law is complicated. Terrorism is complicated. Combating terrorism is complicated. No one knows for sure who hit whom first, what was in the boats, or whether the actions or reactions were justified. Every staged conflict in this region has a history of deliberate media manipulation, photo and video distortion, and outright lies.

The only things we know for certain is that: some of, if not most of, the so-called humanitarian supplies could have been delivered without a floating flotilla, so this was about the blockade, not about the supplies; and that deadly, or potentially deadly, violence appears to have been committed by both parties.

And my saying so isn't going to make a damn bit of difference to anyone, because the anti-Israel machine is already running, and the narrative has already taken over. Soon it will be as much a part of myth as the shooting of Mohammed al-Dura (staged), the massacre in Jenin (didn't happen), or the starvation of the Palestinians in Gaza (they aren't).

Competition and Failure

"I don't play games, because I* am too competitive."

"I* get too involved in playing and it always leads to an argument."

"I* can't stand losing."

"I* cheat."

[* I could be I/he/she/we/they]

Overly-competitive might be a matter of personality. But it's no surprise to find that there is a lower incidence of arguments, sore-losers, and cheating with some types of games than with others.

If a game is a series of dice rolls over which you have no control, and ends with but a single absolute winner, and the rewards for winning are high, then it's understandable that those who play care for nothing besides the win. Competition is heightened, sometimes to a potentially dangerous level.

In contrast, if a game requires important decisions or trainable skills, provides a score against which you can measure your progress from game to game, or if the rewards for winning are not (much) higher than the rewards for good playing, then competition still exists, but the spirit of the game is also prominent. Winning is important, but it's not worth cheating and chronic argument. There's joy to be found in the game, other than winning alone.

Certain games reflect certain values. Some games push the game win over the game spirit. The values in these games are reflected in the culture of modern entrepreneurship, boards of directors, and financial traders. A drive to win is good, and so is competition. But competition can reach a dangerous level, if it leads to an unhealthy necessity to win, and a loss of fun, fairness, and other important values.

Failure to win is not equitable with failure. Rather than devastation, a failed attempt is a necessary step on the road to discovery and growth. It is not a sin to attempt and fail; it is a sin if there is nothing to gain from the attempt other than success, and some players must fail.