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.