Friday, February 23, 2007

In the Interests of Unbiased Journalism

I got home yesterday and the lovely Scrabblette had cooked me dinner and put Jambo on the games table. I've only played Jambo twice previously with the kid and it seemed like it had potential but it also seemed like the kid didn't want to play it again. I had to install a new DVD burner in my home PC and upgrade the Linux on it (the old burner couldn't read the installation DVD :-( ) so I did that quickly and surprisingly easily and we settled down to Jambo.

Scrabblette started by not coping at all with the limitations of the market stand and was going backwards for a while. She seemed to be trying to win by gaining 1 gold per turn by not using her last two actions. I got three utility cards into play quickly, but she killed the best one (one gold for one card) with a crocodile. I was left with stupid drums that let me trade a ware for a card and a tiger statue that let me buy a ware for 2 gold. The tiger statue was very handy when I could find an appropriate wares card. Scrabblette got a Supplies utility into play (draw cards until you find a wares card) which was very useful to her. I had a handy lead which evaporated when she bought 6 and sold 6 wares in the same turn. With careful trading we were both within striking range of finishing the game.

Finally Scrabblette announced she had reached 62 gold. I had 50 gold, and one more turn. As her last action, Scrabblette played a psychic who looks at the top 5 cards of the draw pile and keeps one and replaces the others. I had lots of wares and one card to sell 3 of them for 12 gold, so I needed to make one more sale to win the game (ties are resolved in favour of the first person to exceed 60). I spent 4 actions drawing cards but couldn't find a wares card to make a sale. I made my sale, got to 62, and Scrabblette won the game on the tiebreaker. Then she told me that the psychic had taken a wares card which I could have used... so the psychic won the game for her. Well played, but arrgh!

Umm, as I write this I realise I could have won the game. Can you see how?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

They Have Some Really Good German Games In Germany (Part 4)

Paradux - this is an interesting 2 player abstract which uses apparently the same pieces as GIPF. Your aim is to get 4 of your balls in a row. However whenever you move a piece, you must move an adjacent opponent's piece as well. I have GIPF, so I suppose I can try it out.

Piraten, Planken & Peseten - Another pirate game about walking the plan which comes with a cute little pirate ship. I don't care how you play it, that is just *too cool*.

Popeln - A 2 to 4 player card game about picking your nose. The BGG description says "The best picker is the one who optimally uses length, width and angle to fish out the fattest boogers". How can I go past that?

Spinnentwist - A 2 player abstract about male spiders trying to cross a spider web to mate with a female spider without getting eaten. Don't I know the feeling, buddy. It seems to be an abstract with a great theme.

Sputnik - A Gigamic game with even cooler bits than all the other Gigamic games I'm already in love with. Apparently we're trying to blast off our rockets and avoid black holes and big bangs and stuff. The rockets are so cool... and I trust Gigamic to make a decent game.

Subulata - Another 2 player abstract about being grasshoppers. Maybe something like Hive with a board? I just noticed a lot of these games are abstracts - luckily my attraction to abstract games coincides with "games that have no text and so can be bought from Germany".

Deities and Demigods, Volume 2

I showed Scrabblette the D&D books last night because she loves beautiful books as much as I do. We talked a bit about this formerly hidden sordid geek phase of my life and this morning I delved under the house to find my old character book. We played several times a week for about 4 years with rotating DMs and varying numbers of players, so I had a lot of characters. My character book carries the optimistic title "Deities and Demigods Volume 2".

I know there's nothing more boring than a role-player telling you about his characters, so you should stop reading this post now. I preferred to play thieves - characters with a wide variety of tricks up their sleeves, the occasional chance to do some exploring by themselves, and the occasional chance to rip the other guys off. I also had success with clerics and fighters, but never achieved much with magic users. Here are some of my more successful characters.

Hemo - elven thief - died in the Demonweb Pits. It was a right royal pain keeping an elf alive - they had to be resurrected rather than raised, which was expensive. Hemo was the perpetrator of the biggest rip-off I managed in my time. Together with Erica the Cleric he killed a frogemoth and stole the treasure which was over 100K gp if I remember correctly. Started a cafe called Hemo's Eat House which lasted longer than he did.

Charlemagne - human bard - not sure where he died. Spent some time in the service of Lolth in the Demonweb pits. Bards were hard to make, and not very much use, so Charlemagne mostly filled in as a crappy fighter. I do like the more obscure character classes though. I had a number of druids as well.

High Lord Paragon - human fighter 18 - retired. Paragon was originally a paladin but our campaign didn't really support the paladin class so eventually he fell. He was typically the leader of any party he was part of, and always fought in the front row without fear. In particular, he stood like a rock while wussy magic users such as Bon and Lysipius fell like flies. In one of his most famous battles he severed both legs of a nycadaemon in one round.

Saint Bernard - human fighter 16 / cleric 19 - retired. Bernard completely lacked any personality. With his intelligence of 7, dexterity of 7 and charisma of 6 (after Lolth deformed him), Bernard was often mistaken for a victim rather than a hero. Nevertheless he was always in the thick of the fighting and able to patch up the party afterwards. Eventually Bernard became the person to whom low-level characters sold excess magic weapons, and his armory now includes dozens of +1 and +2 weapons, Defenders, Unholy Avengers, Dragon Slayers, Giant Slayers, etc etc, and six intelligent swords all of which are smarter than he is.

Yuri (thief 8, deceased), Sophia (magic-user 1 / thief 2, deceased), Ivan (thief 16, retired), Vladimir (thief 18, retired) - half elven siblings. This family of thieves had varying degrees of success. They weren't quite as greedy or as much fun as Hemo.

Gryma Lars - human fighter 20 - retired. Gryma Lars was the brother of Grym Lars who died young. From the cold northern wastes, Gryma Lars was a taciturn killing machine. He was never as famous as Paragon, but he didn't have the sort of personality which attracted fame.

Kurin, KILLER OF GARILLARZ - dwarven fighter 10 - retired. Kurin makes this list due to his strong personality. He was known for his bravery, but in actual fact he was too stupid to know fear. ("He knows no danger, he knows no fear, he knows nothing.") If someone was needed to taste a suspicious substance, or open a suspicious door, or leap into a vat of boiling oil, Kurin was always the one to do it. Strangely, he always survived. He became known as killer of garillarz after fighting a gorilla known as "the ripper-aparter". He still has the head.

Hmm, that's enough. You should be asleep by now.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I've Gone and Done It Now

After several years of consideration, I just went and bought the Dungeons and Dragons v3.5 core rule books. I think I've been thinking about this for about 5 years. When this started I read the System Reference Documentation, and designed a high-level module. Then I got involved in Neverwinter Nights for about a year and a half and played LOTS of that. Of course I had several more ideas for modules. Now even the wonders of board gaming have been unable to stop me thinking about D&D, and as the kid seems keen to play I've finally bought the books. I expect we'll play at some stage, but even if I just read the books and dream about the adventures I could have in theory, I'll be happy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Crocodile Tears

Never, ever, give Scrabblette Jagermeister after 9pm. Particularly if you've just soundly flogged her at Cleopatra and the Society of Architects and she's in one of those bouncy, dangerously physical moods. With the kid to cheer her on, and armed with an obelisk, she can be dangerous.

Anyway... I got home this evening and Cleopatra was on the coffee table. Not the actual gorgeous Queen of the Nile, the game. Which is fortunate because she's been dead a long time. Scrabblette thought it looked interesting and had taken it out to read the rules. As she likes abstracts and word games, a Days of Wonder title was maybe not really her style, but as the kid can play it we decided to give it a go. Scrabblette learns much better by reading than by listening so she quickly read the rules while I organised the bits. There's a lot of bits in this game.

I explained to Scrabblette about the tricks you can do with the mosaic and the scribe, and sure enough that's what she did - she used the scribe to build a very nice sanctuary. I myself built two very nice sanctuaries but I had to buy two mosaic tiles at a time to do it - very nice combos which earned me more than 15 talents each while giving me a net decrease in corruption. The kid was playing totally wild as always and was looking like he would earn the most corruption easily. He understands the rules of games, but almost always chooses a really bad strategy.

In this case his really bad strategy got him eaten by crocodiles. At least it wasn't me. He would have had 50 talents, compared to Scrabblette's 51 and my 70. Scrabblette then threatened to string up a rope between the obelisks and hang me from it. In fact, Scrabblette was driven to tears by my habit of merciless wins, but they were only crocodile tears.

Boom boom.

BTW, if you notice that the quality of writing of this blog changes, it may be the case that Scrabblette and the kid and my dog have quietly murdered me and continue to post so as to not arouse suspicions. If I stop being faintly amusing and slightly sarcastic, look for these other signs:
  • Extraordinarily good writing, enormous vocabulary and hyperlinks to The New Yorker - Scrabblette is writing my blog.
  • Extremely bad spelling, smilies and hyperlinks to MMORPGs - the kid is writing my blog.
  • Extremely bad breath, smelly tennis balls and hair everywhere - my dog is writing my blog.
In other news, when I post a story about my mother dying, it's not a joke. She's extremely ill with Lou Gehrig's disease which you do not recover from. I can't say she made me a gamer, but she made me a reader and I still remember the first time I beat her at Scrabble. She is at the stage in the disease where the paralysis of the throat could cause her to suffocate any day. But for the rest of us, life goes on.

To Scrabblette's family and friends who read this blog - has she always had a tendency towards violence? She is alive and well and just because she's not writing to you doesn't mean I have her tied up in the bed room. Though I might, at times. She is well looked after and well loved by all of us here. She gives us Schmackos every day and we lick her fingers to thank her.

Monday, February 19, 2007

By The Time You Read This, I May Be Dead

Dear Fellow Gamers,

By the time you read this I may be dead. I fear that someone is planning to take my life. I fear that someone is Scrabblette.

We played St Petersburg earlier this evening - Scrabblette, the kid, and I. In the last week Scrabblette has defeated me at Taj Mahal and Ingenious, whilst I have defeated her at Mystery of the Abbey, Goa and Blokus Duo. She also won Techno Witches when we played against sister and BIL. You'd think she'd won her fair share of games. Apparently not. I am now accused of playing a game once and moving on to something else just when she's learned the strategy, and I have been threatened with all manner of gruesome deaths.

I think she's still annoyed about Settlers where I took the Longest Road card from her the turn before she was going to win. Certainly she was annoyed at the time. But then she may also be annoyed about Mystery of the Abbey where I accused the right monk with a 1 in 3 guess when she'd correctly deduced him. I was called a "robber", "thief", "pirate", "pilferer" and "pickpocket" for that one.

Tonight after my glorious victory 129 to 79 to 51, she has gone one step further. I don't know how she's going to do it. Tomorrow morning you may find my head on one set of railway tracks and my knees in the other. Next week you may find me starved to death in the shower cubicle after it has been sealed with masking tape. Or, she may just eat me alive. I don't know how it will happen.

I'd like to leave my Tichu decks to CyberKev, Hamsterrolle to Mikey Hayes and C&C Ancients to Ozvortex. My Settlers 3D chest should be auctioned to raise geekgold for newbies in Africa, and Ryan Walberg can have his choice of my Knizias as a token of my esteem. It's been nice gaming with you all.

I love youse guys. :cry:

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Goa for Two, and Two for Goa

Scrabblette is quickly becoming an experienced gamer as we explore my game collection trying to find out what sorts of games she likes. Last night I re-read the rules to Goa and we sat down and played it.

Goa is one of those games that hasn't had a really good turn yet - the only time I played it was against the kid and he thrashed me. I had somewhat miserable memories of it after that and didn't rush to get it to the table again.

My first impression is that it's really quite complicated. I wonder if the game couldn't be simplified in these ways:
  • remove the auction. I suggest something like Vinci where there's a series of tiles and you can have the first one for free, the second for 2 ducats, the third for 4, etc. The auction feels like an unnecessary complication in this game, and it seems to add to the play time significantly.
  • forget about ships. The cool aspect of the game is the spices, the ships are just there to make moving the spices harder.
  • simplify the scoring mechanism. On the development track you get 1 VP for each spice used to upgrade, so why not have a VP track around the outside of the board that is updated as you score? The game has a lot of public VPs that can be calculated, but why force the players to do that?
OK, so with those suggestions the game would be significantly different, and appeal to a different audience. As it stands, Goa feels to me to be underdeveloped - Knizia would have taken a few more mechanisms out before he released it.

Nevertheless, it's a decent game. It kept me thinking quite a lot, but not full-time, hence my feeling that the game is too long. Tikal keeps me thinking all the time. Cosmic Encounter keeps me thinking none of the time. There's a high positive correlation between the amount of time I spend thinking and my rating of the game.

So Scrabblette started with the flag and placed it in such a way that no plantations were auctioned in the first round. I won 4 colonists and she won some extra actions. That suggested to me that I should found the cost 8 colony. Scrabblette had no source of spices and had to try to found the cost 6 colony, but failed on her first attempt. I advanced on the taxation track and Scrabblette advanced on the expedition card track, setting the foundations of our strategies.

I was in the stronger position as my colony could produce any spice, whereas Scrabblette was limited to red/black. That seemed to be a minor advantage which I needed to exploit. I advanced in all development columns just because I could. I increased taxation as well, and usually had more money than Scrabblette, allowing me to control the flag. When I did lose the flag I really missed the extra action (particularly in the round where I forgot to tax before the auction), so I got it back again whenever I could.

When it came to the final scoring I was showing 21 points in development, 10 in colonies and 1 in plantations, compared to Scrabblette's 15, 6 and 1. However Scrabblette had 3 points in expedition cards and 3 points for the most money, making the scores 32 to 28. A victory, but not the convincing victory I was expecting. I learnt to watch out for her when we played Taj, and she continues to show that she's a worthy opponent. What will she be like when she's experienced and knows the rules??

I should compare this victory to the way the kid defeated me. When I played the kid in May 2005 (so he was nearly 9 years old then), he got 22 points on the development tracks, 10 points for colonies, 1 for expeditions, 3 for most money and 3 for the mission... 39 points to my 29. That was a truly crushing victory. I think in that game we started with plantations so there were more spices in the game early, the economies were kick-started, and I refused to use the taxation track and he used his money to win all the auctions. I think I get the game now. I want a rematch.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Taj for Two, and Two for Taj

Scrabblette and I had a quiet night at home last night which included our first playing of Taj Mahal which arrived only on Wednesday. Yes, I know it needs 3 players but we used Shane Laporte's two player variant and that seemed to work OK. Scrabblette got the purple guy special card with the elephant on and dominated the elephants in the middle of the game (she got 8 elephant tiles, I got 4). I focused on building palaces, collecting bonus tiles, and keeping a card advantage. My strategy didn't work very well, particularly as I ran out of palaces (something which can't happen in 3+ player) and was unable to build any in region 12. By the time I noticed how many points Scrabblette was getting from elephants it took a couple of turns to get the elephant man away from her, and then she took him back again.

Scrabblette won, 69 points to 60. My feeling is that the 2-player variant successfully preserves the essence of the game, though the grand moghuls are next to useless. We should play with the kid and gang up on him...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


There are a number of new games out and about that I'd like to comment on.

Caylus Magna Carta - Rick Thornquist reviewed this and it sounds like a streamlined card game version of Caylus. What good news that is! I may be tempted to play it.

Tannhäuser - I don't know what appeals to me about this game, I think it's the grim theme and excellent artwork. It may be something like Doom: the Board Game but without the ripped-off Space Hulk mechanics. I don't really like war theme, but when you add demons to it that changes everything. Check out the publisher's promo material.

Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg - this was reviewed on The review explains the game well and I want it pretty badly now. Oops, looks like BGN has gone and exceeded its CPU quota again.

Thurn & Taxis: For Power & Glory - this is an expansion to Thurn & Taxis which is a game I like to look at but don't much want to play. The map on the expansion looks just as pretty as the original. Do I buy it just to look at?

Martijn van Steenbergen is Awesome!

In response to my earlier article about Quoridor, Martijn van Steenbergen left a comment pointing me to his downloadable Java implementation:

I downloaded it and confused myself with the controls. I couldn't figure out how to place walls where I wanted, and then I discovered I needed to right-click and I just didn't feel comfortable with the targetting. Martijn agreed it wasn't as intuitive as he hoped, so I wrote some new wall-placing code and sent it to him. Martijn has now integrated that code with his implementation, and it works just like I'd want it to. So you should all download it and play it.

The computer opponent is pretty good. I've only managed to beat it once. With a few plays I should be a seasoned Quoridor player and then the challenge is to write a new AI. Cool...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Scrabblette's gaming education continued last night with the introduction of an old classic - Settlers of Catan. I was particularly keen because I have the anniversary edition and I felt it was important that Scrabblette knew why that chest lived in our lounge room. The kid was sort of keen to play - he prefers Cities and Knights - so we had three players. (By the way, Settlers is not the most expensive game I own. I will tell you which is at the end of this story.)

For the first time I didn't use the recommended board set-up and made my own. I think I made one mistake - there was one location with 9, 8 and 5 which was pretty lucrative for Scrabblette over the course of the game. I started with two inland locations and the kid started with two harbours. Scrabblette and I both had settlements on the 8 sheep, I was on a 6 wood by myself, the kid was on an 6 ore and an 8 wheat by himself.

I could tell from the start that Scrabblette and I were going to clash roads. I chose to do that because Scrabblette is less aggressive than the kid, and if he tried to cut off my roads he'd succeed at any cost. So Scrabblette and I found a compromise where she built a long road around the water and I built through the middle. My early plans were foiled when she built a settlement just where I wanted to, and for a long time she was out-producing me. It didn't help that 6 was rolled only once in the first half of the game and 5 and 10, which Scrabblette did very well out of, were rolled a lot.

The kid pursued his usual strategy of buying development cards to get the largest army. One day I'll play so as to force him to do something else and see if he can cope. He did get a lot of knights, and succeeded in using them to extort resources from Scrabblette. I called his bluff and he confessed he was trying to extort resources using a cathedral. Nice try, kid.

I was trying to build rather than buy development cards so didn't have any knights and rarely rolled any 7s, so I was able to avoid most of the arguments with the robber. I encouraged the others to attack each other, of course, but most of the time the robber was on Scrabblette it was on the 8 sheep that we shared anyway. Because no 6s were being rolled wood was quite rare, and there was a bit of 4-1 trading going on. The kid was spending all of his resources on development cards and wasn't using his harbours.

Scrabblette was doing very well. She claimed Longest Road and had 5 settlements. The kid had 3 settlements and Largest Army. I had 5 settlements. Finally, the 6s started coming. In about 4 rounds we rolled 6 6s, giving me a total of 18 wood over that period. Scrabblette was desperate for wood, so I traded her 2 wood for 2 brick, and built 3 roads, making my road as long as hers. On my next turn I built another road and claimed Longest Road.

You should have heard the shriek. In fact, you probably did. Scrabblette had the resources to build a city and was ready to win on her next turn. Losing Longest Road cost her the win. She dumped her city plan and started building roads to claim it back. Whew, that was close. I started to wonder if I could win.

Scrabblette did claim Longest Road back, and got a Progress card to build two roads for free to rub it in while I just kept building cities. The dice were starting to fall my way and I was getting some good resources. The kid even started building cities, which is very weird behaviour for him. Scrabblette wasn't getting resources from all the 6s which were being rolled which kept her poor and unable to build a city.

Eventually I found myself in a good position. I'd managed to wrest Longest Road back from Scrabblette with all of my wood, and had 9VPs, 3 sheep, 2 ore, 1 wheat and some wood. I generously offered to trade some of my wood to Scrabblette for a sheep, and she accepted. I used my sheep port to get another ore and another wheat, built a city and won the game. Maybe Scrabblette shouldn't have made that trade?

But then the kid was annoyed too! He had 2 cities, a settlement, Longest Army and 2 VPs on development cards, so he was on 9VPs as well. Wow, he was in with a chance of winning! It turned out to be a very close game, with me on 10, the kid on 9 and Scrabblette on 7, down from 9. We'd all had our chance to win. It turned out to be a good close game, the best the kid has played, and a very good effort from Scrabblette for her first game.

Finally, the most expensive game I own in terms of price paid is the Harry Potter trading card game. I spent $A500 on Settlers and probably a bit more than that buying endless boosters. I don't think any other game I own cost more than $A200 including expansions. The kid had to learn to read so he could play Harry Potter without showing me his cards, so it was worth it!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Playing With My Dog

I've just embedded a video in this page. It was taken by Scrabblette yesterday at Margate Beach (NO ANIMALS ALLOWED) where we went to play with my dog and eat pizza. Yes, my dog will swim through surf chasing a stone, or stick, or ball, or frisbee. Scrabblette wasn't aware that the movie she was making was going to be world famous the next day, so didn't take care to use all of her directorial skills.

Friday, February 09, 2007

They Have Some Really Good German Games In Germany (Part 3)

Gezanke auf der Planke - This is a game about pirates not wanting to have a bath, because it seems the traditional way for pirates to have a bath is to walk the plank. The bits look very cute, and it reminds me a lot of the kids not wanting to have a shower.

Hexago - An old abstract game which looks like 3-player 5-in-a-row. It's very ugly but I'm interested in how well it works.

Kayanak - A cute kids' game from Haba in which the players are fishing through ice. The ice is represented by a sheet of A4 paper which you actually punch holes through. What a cute idea!

Kippit - This seems to be some sort of balancing game similar to Hamsterrolle but with a seesaw instead. Why would I need it? I don't know - you can't ever have too many beautiful dexterity games, can you?

Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg (Coach Ride to Devil's Castle) - A hidden role game with teams and traitors and a cool spooky theme that takes from 3 to 10 players? Yes, I think so. The art work reminds me of an illustrated edition of Dracula. My want-list is more bloated than my belly...

Letra-Mix - You have some dice with letters on, and a timer. Roll the dice and make words before the time runs out. Really sounds like my sort of game.

I Like Word Games But...

On the recent trip down to the Blue Mountains I played a great many games. I was badly beaten at Maharaja, Mu, Expedition, and more. They were all games I didn't really get into, couldn't concentrate on, and played badly at. We also played a couple of word games - Milleranagrams and Knizia's My Word! In those I played much better... in fact everyone conceded they were playing for second place. I was grateful that I was able redeem myself and prove that I was good at some games, at least, but it's a little disturbing that most word games I play aren't even a close contest. It makes it difficult to get opponents.

Here are some other word games I play and my thoughts on them:

Scrabble - I like playing this, and in the only game I've played recently other than at Scrabble club Mrs CyberKev beat me. The Scrabble club is a source of people who are good at word games, but how many 70 year old ladies will come out for a games meeting?

Milleranagrams - I may own the only copy of this existing in the world. I think it's an Australian thing, and my mum bought it in the 70s. The rules are somewhat vague, having been written by a crazy professor, but you can make enough sense of them to play a decent game. If you've ever played Snatch, it's like that with turns.

Snatch - Scrabblette recently bought a copy of this which we played last night, and that's what got me thinking about word games this time. In games where you steal words from other players, I do that all the time. Thank you Scrabblette for not stabbing me in my sleep.

Man Bites Dog - A game of making newspaper headlines. I thought it desperately needed some house rules to make it interesting, but the kids didn't mind playing it.

Scrabble Card Game - I previously blogged about playing this. It's a decent substitute for Scrabble but I'd like to play it again before I make any definitive statements about it. Scrabblette got badly screwed by the random distribution of the bonus cards.

Lexicon - An anagramming game where you can be screwed by bad hands of cards which evens it up a little. I think Scrabblette won this when we played with the CyberKevs. It moves a bit slow for me - I can tell when there's just not a word to be had, and then I have to wait for my turn.

Pass the Bomb - A quick thinking game where you have to think of a new word following some pattern while passing a bomb around. Whoever's left holding the bomb when it goes off loses a point. It works OK but with a group of good players it's all luck. I gave a copy to my sister for Christmas and we played with the kids which was pretty funny as they made up words and tried to fob the bomb off to the next person.

My Word! - The Knizia game where cards are laid on the table and people call out words made from 3 or more of the cards. When CyberKev was doing the card-laying he went quite fast which made the game fairly chaotic. I don't really like the rule that if you call out a wrong word everyone else gets a card, but I can't see a better alternative.

Wordigo - Wordigo is a strange multiplayer solitaire word game where players compete to lay words along individual tracks. I had a solitaire game which presented some difficulty. I'll have to try it again, I don't remember so much about it. Heck, that was before Christmas that I played that!

Smart Mouth - Smart Mouth comes with a cute little gadget that spits out two letters - one that starts the word and one that ends the word. First person to say a valid word scores. The trouble with this game is that after you play it a few times you know words for the 400-odd combinations it can throw at you, and if you can spout them out in half a second you won't be beaten. The words you need to remember are NAWAB and MEMSAHIB.

Boggle - I feel like I don't play this very well, but the time I played against the kid and his mum they vowed to never play against me again. I have an electronic version in the glovebox of the car but I probably shouldn't play it at traffic lights.

Acronymia (unplayed) - An acronym making game. I haven't even unwrapped it yet so I don't know whether it should be on this list.

My Word (unplayed) - Received in a trade from OzVortex. It looks like Carcassonne with letters instead of towns and roads.

Super Sentence Cube Game (unplayed) - I have a suspicion that this game is totally broken. It contains things that aren't words, and the bits are falling apart. Maybe I should play it with my nephew, who can't read anyway.

WildWords (unplayed) - A Scrabble variant with wilcard tiles and negative points for playing on some spaces. Looks pretty chaotic, I hope it works OK.

Word Tower (unplayed) - I like the look of this - you encode a word as a series of coloured disks and the other players try to find a word that matches. I haven't found anyone else interested in it at all.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Friendless Metric

I discussed my New Year's ambitions and the Friendless Metric in an earlier post. I have since amended the Friendless metric so that a negative number indicates how many of your unplayed games you need to play to get your value to 1 (so I think it's impossible to have a Friendless Metric value of 0). Mine is currently at -29. I have to play a lot of new games even if I don't buy any new games at all this year! Scrabblette, please help me! Six of those games are ones that you brought back from holidays.

They Have Some Really Good German Games In Germany (Part 2)

More games from the Magnus-Spiele catalogue.

Chinagold - this is a two player abstract that looks very pretty and that I'd really like to try. Only 26 Euro! Must be real gold, I guess.

Digit - is an older game where you draw cards that have stick patterns, and you have to adjust your current stick pattern to match what's on the card. Maybe something like Make'n'Break in Flatland? Only 9 Euro.

Dschamál - those wacky Germans are at it again with this one! You have a bag of bits. Two players simultaneously put their hands in the bag and try to find the bits they need. There's a camel-shaped bit and some other shapes and colours and you get points depending on the set you collect. Sounds interesting in the same way as Bamboleo and Bausack. For 25 Euro I expect the camel will clean up after itself.

Fragile - I'm a sucker for nice bits, and this game has got me sucked in Big Time. It's gorgeous. It's about dock workers in Shanghai pushing boxes around. I just can't stop looking at the photos. Only 44 Euro, but oh, so pretty!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

They Have Some Really Good German Games In Germany (Part 1 of More Than 1)

I had a bit of a blogging drought in the middle of January, and it's not all due to Scrabblette's return. What happened was that I visited Magnus Spiele's website and resolved to check out every game in their catalogue. Wow, what a lot of games they have in Germany! If I ever see another 10 minute memory game about bunny rabbits from Haba I think I'll throw up! But I made a list of all the games I was interested in buying, and there were only 67 of them. So if anyone has 1300 Euro to spare, please let me know. I need to tell you about some of the really cool ones I found.

Akaba is a children's dexterity game. Each player's piece is a magic carpet, and you use an air pump to blow the pieces around the board. How cool is that?! I should get that to play with my son and niece and nephew, just as soon as we've played all the other games I bought to play with them. Only 20 Euros!

Aztec is a beautiful 2 or 3 player abstract strategy game. It seems to be something like Rumis but with even nicer pieces. Only 50 Euros! I guess the pieces are very very nice.

Bunte Runde is a very pretty game which seems to be a sort of kids' version of Tutankhamun. I didn't like Tutankhamun, but I'd give Bunte Runde a go. Only 11 Euro!

Buzzle (also known as Runes) is a game where you deduce words based on the shapes of the letters which make them up. I like word games, so I'd like to try it out. Only 12,50 Euro!

That's enough for today - more fascinating German games when I get time.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Designers That Are Not As Good As Kris Burm

There are a few designers that get me excited - Bruno Faidutti, Friedemann Friese, Doris & Frank, Mike Fitzgerald, and of course Kris Burm. Reiner Knizia does not - I've played too many of his crappy card games to not be wary. Klaus Teuber doesn't either - although Settlers is a masterpiece he seems reluctant to try something really new. Wolfgang Kramer doesn't either - although he's made some masterpieces such as Tikal and Gulo Gulo, he's made some dross like Australia and 6 Nimmt! as well. However there are a number of designers that I just can't get emotional about either way, and it's those that I'd like to discuss today.

Rudiger Dorn (Goa, Jambo, Louis XIV, Traders of Genoa) - I own 3 of Dorn's games, and have played Louis XIV as well. Strangely, Goa and Traders of Genoa are games that I've only ever played with the kid, and been unable to motivate or organise myself to play with anyone else. My favourite of his designs so far is Jambo, and it's by far the simplest as well. Maybe I find his games a bit too complex?

Martin Wallace (Railroad Tycoon, Age of Steam, Runebound) - due to his tendency to design long train games, and my loathing for them, it's a wonder that I'm including Martin Wallace in this list at all. However it's an enigma to me that he also designed Runebound, probably my favourite high-Ameritrash game. I should keep an eye on his releases in case he comes up with another gem. (Note that Francis Tresham is not on this list at all.)

Dirk Henn (Alhambra, Metro, Timbuktu) - I used to own Alhambra, but it has the distinction of being the first game I ever traded away. I just thought it was boring. Timbuktu looked very exciting but three and half hours later I'd played more of it than I ever wanted to. However Metro is quite a neat little game although it's in the class of "CyberKev owns it so I can play his copy enough to satisfy me". It's possible that one day there'll be a Henn design that I really really love.

Alan Moon (Ticket to Ride, Diamant, Elfenland, Happy Dog, Pony Express, Union Pacific) - I've previously blogged about Alan Moon and his train games. The poor gentleman suffers from choosing a genre I don't like very much, as demonstrated by my very high opinion of Diamant and Elfenland. Sadly Happy Dog was an unfortunate Kniziaesque crappy card game. (Crappy card game is almost a genre by itself, isn't it? I might write more on that one day.) Maybe one day Mr Moon will design something that really hits the spot for me. Maybe San Marco is it?

Sid Sackson (Acquire, Bazaar, Can't Stop, I'm The Boss) - OK, so the man is a legend, but so is Boy George and opinions vary on him as well. I find Acquire to be mostly a bookkeeping exercise, which is not really what I want in a game, and Can't Stop gets a bit dull after a while - I find Diamant to be a much more interesting example of that genre. However I like Bazaar a lot, and I'm The Boss is a very clever and fun game. I look forward to trying out more of his designs.

Stefan Dorra (Amazonas, For Sale, Hex Hex, Pick Picknic) - I like Amazonas a lot - nobody on BGG rates it higher than I do. It feels a lot like Elfenland or Ticket to Ride with a theme that I enjoy. For Sale and Hex Hex are a bit worn out for me, but I still like Pick Picknic. My nephew thinks I gave it to him for Christmas 2005, but if so why does he only play it when I'm around? A Dorra design is always worth investigating.

The designers I've discussed above have some good designs - enough to keep me interested - but not enough to get me really excited about a new release. Maybe they have great games that I haven't tried yet? If so, please let me know and I'll hunt down a copy.


I'm a fan of the Gigamic games, partly because they look beautiful and and partly because I admire simple designs. But mostly because they look beautiful. I've previously blogged about Quoridor, and I think I mentioned buying Batik recently. A couple of nights ago Scrabblette and I sat down to play Quarto! I'd previously played against the kid and didn't understand what was supposed to be so good about it.

This time though, Scrabblette handed me my ass on a platter. Well actually, in the first game I just made a stupid mistake, but then she beat me twice more to prove that it wasn't just my fault I lost. Here's a quick summary of the game: there are 16 pieces, each with 4 attributes - black/white, tall/short, round/square, hollow/solid. Each possible combination of attributes is available on one piece. On each turn, your opponent chooses a piece and gives it to you, and you must place the piece on the 4x4 board. If you make a row of 4 pieces with any attribute the same on all pieces, you win.

It seems easy - you just don't give your opponent any piece that will let him make 4 in a row. Of course your opponent is trying to force you to give him a piece that allows him to make 4 in a row. Scrabblette hasn't given up her secret to winning yet (note to self: try new interrogation techniques), so I'll have to guess at the basis of the winning strategy. You want to give your opponent a piece such that no matter where they place it any piece they give back to you will allow you to win. So if you give them a piece which forces them to leave a row with 3 whites AND a row with 3 blacks, then you will win. It's astonishingly hard to do that. In fact, despite the complete absence of CnH2n+1OH in my bloodstream, I was unable to achieve it. At least in the second game, Scrabblette did it.

I might have to start calling her Quartette!