Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Great Fete Flogging

A week or so ago I ran the second hand book stall at the school fete. For those of you who don't know what a school fete is, I have included a photo. The lady seated on the right is selling jewellery - for some reason she ended up squatting in my tent. Anyway, it's a fund raiser for the school, and I have cunningly determined that the best way to find the good books at the second hand book stall is to run it myself, so I have been doing that for three years now.

Anyway, I knew Cyberkev was coming along to the fete, maybe on the off chance that there was a trash'n'treasure stall with a heap of secondhand Euros... dream on. So as to not disappoint Cyberkev, I took along a couple of games, and after he'd failed to find anyone who even knew what a Euro game was (except me and the kid, of course), he came back to the secondhand book stall and we had a game of Blokus Duo. First rule when playing against Cyberkev - pay attention and think about your moves. I had previously only played 2 player Blokus against the kid, and you don't need to think very hard to beat him. On the other hand, Cyberkev recognised my careless moves and made me pay, big time. I could tell from about half way through that I was going to lose, and lose big. It was then a matter of defence. The final score was 25 to 5 or something stupid.

OK, here's the tips. When you're really serious about Blokus, you have to think about the places you can play. An effective way of attacking your opponent is to play so that he can't place a piece on the few places where he would legally be allowed to place a piece. So when you place you want to think about blocking those places AND think about limiting his ability to come around some other way. And when you choose a piece, think whether that piece leaves you options to play a next piece.

Basic stuff, I know, but not what you're focused on when you're selling secondhand books. Next time I will take it a bit more seriously.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Stirring the Poison Pot

Since my recent changes in circumstances I have been being particularly financially responsible, and not buying new games. On Friday, I fell off the wagon. I popped into Myer in the city (Brisbane) and they had 20% off all toys including games. So I grabbed Poison Pot, Megalith, Deluxe Scrabble and a stand for the Games Collection games. What would I have done with that money if I hadn't spent it on games? Well I would have saved it and spent it on games later.

So I went along to Book Realm on Friday night and played Poison Pot with Joe and Andrew. It takes 2 or 3 players, but seems to be equally good with each number. As we played, we figured out what a cunning little game it is. On each move you can try to set yourself up, or screw your opponent, but you don't really know what you're going to be able to do until you've moved a pot. So you need to make moves which are good for you no matter what colour pot you draw. I kicked butt in the first game, but Joe figured out that if he helped my group expand he could force it to expand into the Poison Pot, and so he attacked me by helping me. Very clever, but I fended him off in the end. In the third game I wasn't paying attention at the end and badly screwed up a move which gave the game to Joe. I like this game a lot, and it only cost $A24, and looks good on top of the wine rack.

In other news, in my new role as a single man I have been meeting a lot of single women. My advice to them, particularly the younger ones, is to learn to play board games. It's a male-dominated hobby where the males are on average pretty smart. What more could a girl want than a nice board gamer? Lost Cities, everyone? Actually miniatures war-gaming is even more male-dominated than board gaming, so if a lady knows the difference between a tyrannid and a mech she's hot property. I hope you guys appreciate my efforts to promote the hobby...

Monday, May 22, 2006

A Cosmic Encounter

We played Cosmic Encounter on Wednesday night at Book Realm. Cosmic is not really my kinda game, but forces conspired against me. You see Trevor had managed to buy the ancient 2nd edition complete with all expansions in useable condition for $A5, when it's worth up to $US300. We know this because Cyberkev is a Cosmic guru, so when Trevor and Cyberkev and RealmKeeper and Ozvortex and I sat down to play, I thought it only fair that we try out Trevor's treasure.

First discovery was that although the cards and special powers were present, the tokens and "who you have to attack" counters were not all there, so we cannibalised some bits from other games. We took the pirates from Cartagena and put them in the draw string bag from Ingenious to decide who should be attacked. I used influence markers from Go West as my tokens, and RealmKeeper and Trevor used pretty glass stones from Magic as their tokens.

I won't go through the specifics of the game, because I can't remember them, so I'll tell you about the special powers. I was Boomerang. This meant when you attack me, I get to attack you first. That seemed like a quicker way to die, to me, but as Cyberkev pointed out, it means you get lots more opportunities to capture bases which is how you win the game. Trevor was Skeptic, which meant that he was constantly telling people "I don't think you can win", and on several occasions they agreed with him and backed off. Cyberkev was Vulch, meaning that he picked up all of the used Edicts. So if you wanted to use something against him, you had to give it to him. Andrew was Delegator, meaning that he could change the primary player in conflicts. I found that so annoying that I didn't call him as an ally very much. Ozvortex was the Will, meaning he could choose the opponent and planet he wanted to attack. It didn't seem to help though.

So the Delegator was by far the most annoying. Realmkeeper got somewhat shafted because he had bad cards and after a couple of times where he switched someone's attack out from under them he didn't get invited back and wasn't able to use them up to get new ones. Ozvortex had a fist full of cards, and once I managed to take 4 of them as consolation. Shortly after, I compromised with him, and as giving me a base would have won the game for me, I convinced him to give me his whole hand instead. Both times, I got a heap of Edict cards, and had to spend time thinking about how I could use them to my advantage.

Eventually, as will happen with sort of game where it is so easy to pick on the leader, we had 4 bases each. I attacked Trevor on my turn, and he called for all allies. The Delegator joined in, and made Cyberkev the primary opponent rather than Trevor. We played our cards, and I was well and truly defeated, which I had expected because I had such bad attack cards. But I did have an Edict that said both of those attack cards were Compromises. That meant Cyberkev and I had to make a deal, so we traded a base for a base and shared the win.

I was pleased that it was Cyberkev I had dealt with there, as I thought he would take the win. Trevor might have refused, because he likes to fight. Ozvortex probably would have agreed, Realmkeeper could have gone either way depending on his whim. But I thought Cyberkev would find it very hard to refuse a chance to share a win. As it was, I think he considered his chances of winning some other way, and decided that sharing a win with me was his best outcome, on average.

So that was my second game of Cosmic, what do I think? Well my 6.5 rating at BGG remains unchanged. It's an alright game, but I just can't get into the negotiation of allies. Sure, I could try to be charming or friendly or loyal or intimidating or whatever to try to gain support, but I know that most people I play with will ally with me based on their best interests, not my personal skill. So it was no surprise to me when all 5 of us had 4 bases, because nobody was stupid enough to let someone else win. We might as well shorten the game and play for 1 base each. I definitely prefer analytical games, where I can harness the resources of my massive brain to crush my opponents... or not.

Coincidentally, on Thursday night we played Mall of Horror which requires much the same negotation skills as Cosmic. Sadly I was so tired on Thursday night because I couldn't sleep Wednesday night because Cosmic Encounter had pumped me up so much, that I was flat all through the game. I made a bad mistake to get my gunman killed, and fell out of contention 2/3 of the way through the game. Mall of Horror is another game that I would play again, but wouldn't rush to.

Probably my favourite of this genre of game is Ca$h'n Gun$, maybe because you can always chicken out when you've got guns pointed at you, and that means you only die if you're not careful, and the game becomes a struggle to balance caution and greed. Also it's a bit quicker, so there's less time spent negotiating, and it's funny to shoot kids.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

How Many Subscribers Do You Have?

I read blogs using bloglines, which is a pretty handy and free aggregating service. I just realised that when I look at the latest news for a blog it tells me how many people are subscribed to that blog using bloglines. I have 17 subscribers! Woohoo! I thought I might have that many readers total - bloglines of course does not know about people who just pop in to look every now and then.

Why do I care? Well I don't mind knowing who I'm talking to here. In theory, the whole world can read this, but I reckon I appeal to a niche audience :-). For comparison, Boardgame News has 83 subscribers and Gone Gaming has 91, Mike Doyle has 21.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

It's Here! It's Here! (Part 6 of 6) (and why that makes me sad)

Finally, AT LAST, after 13 or 14 weeks, my BIG parcel has arrived. Here's the contents: Settlers of Catan Anniversary Edition, Polarity, 7 Runebound Expansions, and The Adventures of Harley. The Settlers game is thankfully undamaged, and I have hardly even looked at the Runebound expansions yet. We played Polarity several times tonight at Book Realm, and it is a WILD game. To see all of the magnets on the board quiver as you take one past to make your move just blows me away. I showed an 8yo kid how it worked this evening, and his jaw just dropped when he saw the magnets standing up. It really is stunning. One flaw is that the linen game board is crumpled, so I'll need to iron it in the morning to improve the quality of play. The Adventures of Harley is a game aimed at 4yos, and it really is pretty much at that level - not much for Dad in there. However I had to buy it because my kid's name is Harley, and I thought he'd be impressed. Also it is about a dog, so the game will see at least some play with the cousins. And one day there might be actual 4yos to play against.

The Settlers game though, makes me sad. Back in February when I ordered it, my life was very different. I was (as far as I knew) living in a happy 3 person household, and would continue to do so until the kid finally found a wife and got out of our hair. So I had a good 10 years planned of playing 3 person Settlers with this magnificent set. Regular readers of the blog will see the flaw in this plan - the kid's mum had been thinking about leaving me all year, and told me so the same day I bought Carcassonne (mentioned in an earlier post). So now I live in a 1.5 person household, which is pretty sad if you have the nicest 3-4 player game in the world. Cyberkev, Ozvortex, assorted other Arnold Horshacks: you're welcome to come play with us, but you'll never replace her.

While I'm maudlin, I'll continue with that theme. It's not *just* losing a wife, it's the breakup of my family game group. See, now you're all crying! I had been carefully teaching and nurturing this game group for a year and a half, and although Mum didn't much like games, there were some she would play with us. Mystery of the Abbey, Wyatt Earp, Mystery Rummy Rue Morgue, Mystery Rummy Jack the Ripper, Gang of Four, were all games that we three played together and that I will associate with her for a long time yet. Lost Cities and Mystery Rummy Jekyll & Hyde were games that she and I played together - games which I bought in an attempt to spend more time with her and so come closer to her. I bought Frank's Zoo because I thought she'd love it, but it seems even a thoughtful idea like that isn't enough to bring someone back when they want to go.

Ah, life goes on. I have been quite happy for the last few days, revelling in the thought that I could meet my next love at any moment, and occupying myself with assorted projects such as interior decoration, getting a decent car that won't try to steal Cyberkev's games, and learning how to feed the kid; but this reminder of how content yet ignorant I was in the recent past has been an unexpected hiccup. Praise the Lord for juniper berries...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Train Games and Alan R. Moon

Oh, the anguish... we were gaming last night at Cyberkev's place and he suggested Union Pacific. It's an Alan Moon train game. I have been lukewarm on train games since the Great 1830 Trauma of '87 (or so). I have been lukewarm on Alan Moon train games since I played Ticket to Ride. So I wasn't particularly keen on Union Pacific, but I trust Cyberkev and Pushing Tin Phil to choose decent games, and agreed to play.

I can hear you screaming "back up! back up! What was that about Ticket to Ride?! You didn't like it?" No, I didn't like it, much, it's the train thing. But also, it's nowhere near intense enough for me - I like brain burners. I would play Ticket to Ride, but with gamers I would prefer something like Tikal or E&T or Through the Desert. Having seen recent SdJ winners, I think TtR is a deserving member of that sequence, but those are not my sorts of games. Niagara was MUCH worse.

Anyway, then I discovered that Union Pacific was ALSO a stock game. Oh dear... the 1830 thing was coming back to haunt me, not to mention my incompetence at majority control games... Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound. Unless I suddenly found out it was also a stripping game - I was NOT gonna go there.

As it turned out, the game was kinda like Ticket to Ride crossed with Acquire, and it was alright. Cyberkev and I got into a pissing war over the Union Pacific shares, which he won, as he always does with pissing wars (must remember to exploit that if I can). Strangely and stupidly, neither of us remembered to play them in time for the first UP scoring, and Trevor and Phil got big points they didn't work hard enough for. Other than that, I did particularly well in the third scoring with first or second place in the top 3 or 4 companies. I don't quite know how I managed that - I had decided that playing shares was a very worthwhile exercise, and nobody was able or willing to go with me. I also had the only share in one of the smaller companies, and made good money there.

Anyway, I managed to win the game. I seemed to have good shareholdings most of the time, although why they were better than other people's I don't know. It was pretty tight, something like 117, 109, 104, 96. Overall, I would say it is a decent game, I just wish it wasn't about trains. If only Alan Moon would come up with a game on some different theme, say elves or something, I would think he was great!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Go West

We tried out Go West at Book Realm last night. This is a Colovini game which I always explain by saying something like "just because I tell you the rules doesn't mean you'll know how to play it". The other players were familiar with Cartagena, so I told them to expect about as much theme as that, i.e. none. Go West delivered on both counts.

I found it very difficult to make any progress. I started with no cards for the East region, so I couldn't figure out how to get region markers on there. I had a few for the second region, so I made a point of moving wagons out of the first region and into the second. Of course, that attracted other people's region markers, and so didn't help for long.

Andrew seemed to know what he was doing, and initiated a scoring round where he turned his advantage in the East region into a points lead. I was able to organise myself enough to initiate a second scoring round where I helped Andrew about as much as myself, but made a break from the other two guys. However after that my dominance in the second region (Great Plains?) crumbled, and I struggled to score anything.

As Justin and Phil and Andrew again scored, Andrew's lead mostly just grew bigger and everyone pulled away from me. Justin did peg him back, but only a little. In the end, Andrew was a runaway leader and I was left wondering what happened.

I think it goes something like this: the East region is going to score several times, so an investment there pays off more than anywhere else. The Great Plains will pay off, but maybe not quite as much as the East. The Mid-West and the West pay off less. An early investment in a region will pay off, but probably only once as more region markers come in and you get pushed off the region track. A late investment is consequently likely to be easier to maintain. That's all I can think of.

I am undecided about this game, which is not really a good thing. I will have to play it a couple more times to see whether it grabs me.

Now the curious question is, we played three games last night and I won the other two. Why wouldn't I write a session report about one of those?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

My Game Shelf

With the recent removal of a truckload of junk from my house, there's a whole lot more room on the shelves for games. So I have moved many of them out of their plastic boxes and onto the shelves. I took a bit of a photo, but it's hard to get far enough back in the study. Also, there are still some in boxes, some in the car, some on shelves downstairs and some on shelves which didn't fit into the picture.

Back on the Air, Again

Sad day at my house... the kid's mum is moving out. The kid thinks it's a big adventure, but it's pretty traumatic for me. Luckily we mostly agree on what she should take. But it hurts. I have removed Girl's Night Out and Cranium from my collection at BGG. See, there's a bright side to everything. Also, all of the flowery shit / candles / relatives photos / crap has gone from every flat surface, so I can decorate the place in a way I like. Do you think it would be pretentious to leave a half played game of Through the Desert lying around to look beautiful? Hmmm.... Hamsterrolle has to go on display somewhere, and Settlers 10th Anniversary edition if it ever turns up. Any other suggestions?

I have also got my computer running again, after performing my very first motherboard transplant. Nothing can stop me now! Except that I hate messing with computer hardware. I will go now and run the extended stats for all the new people who were asking about them.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Matthew Marquand is Ingenious

I've been playing a bit against Matthew Marquand's on-line Ingenious implementation. I'm ashamed to say it beat me in 2 player the first few times, so I need to practise. Excellent work!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

It's Here! It's Here! (part 5 of 6)

Return of the Heroes arrived yesterday from Boulder Games! I unpacked it all and it looks very nice, although the rule book is kinda hard to follow. Still only waiting for the BIG package including the Settlers 10th Anniversary Edition and other stuff.

In other news, my family is back from running away and we are organising what's going to happen next. My wife has found a place nearby and she'll be moving in there on the weekend (so I'll miss QUGS!). We will be sharing care of the kid, which he seems to be completely fine with. So at least I will have a half-time game buddy. Now I am just looking for a lady friend who likes 2 player games... like Gipf, for example :-).