Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Big Magnus Spiele Order

Following my series of articles earlier this year (last year?) "They Have Some Really Good German Games in Germany", I rounded up some of Brisbane's most spendthrift gamers and made a big order from Magnus Spiele. The first box arrived on Friday so I carefully took photos so you could all share in the excitement.
As you can see, the box was wrapped in brown paper and sealed with wax, as well, so it was obvious customs / quarantine / drug lords hadn't opened it. Feeling like Howard Carter, I removed the outer layer of wrapping.

A perfectly preserved box! Wondering what treasures lay inside, I carefully cut the tape with the knife previously used on hundreds of IKEA flat packs.

Inside I found newspaper (German, I presume, though I didn't look) and plastic bags full of authentic German air. The very air that Einstein breathed! Hundreds of German air-borne viruses! If a butterfly's wings can cause a tornado, what disasters will result from this disruption of the natural order?
Nestled inside, the treasures themselves! Also, some German games catalogues and a Ticket to Ride Lite edition software CD. Should I play it myself or share it with the guys?
With trembling fingers I extracted the games themselves. Then I applied name stickers to each of them, while Scrabblette told me I was going to be late if I didn't have dinner the VERY INSTANT. I bet Howard Carter didn't get that.

Anyway, more news soon. Because the order was so big Magnus Spiele had to split it into two boxes. This is the small box.

BTW, the kid says "nothing happenin here. at shatoe manshion thing love u 2 bye!"

Thursday, September 20, 2007


The Gathering of Friendless Episode 2, "TAKE ME AWAY TO MARSEILLES", occurred last Friday. The kid was off to the south of France with his mum the next day so he visited me for one last gaming session before he went. (He'll be back next month.) All of the ladies invited declined their invitations for various reasons, e.g. Scrabblette had to study, so there were just five boys.

We started with Hamsterrolle while we were waiting for CyberKev to arrive. Some careless play by the kid and I saw our side get beaten badly by Ashley and Hubertus.

We then took advantage of Scrabblette's absence to play a game she hates - Ca$h'n'Gun$. It seems some female people have a real problem with a game where you points guns at people. I don't like guns at all (guns don't kill people, Americans kill people) but I can see the cleverness in the design. In the first game I was killed very quickly - obviously I should have chickened out a bit more but I couldn't believe how vindictive my opponents were - and Ashley won with $130K. In the second game we used special powers and I was the super-coward (+$5K for each chicken-out) so I was able to play defensively enough to survive and aggressively enough to win with $130K.

We then went on to the flagship game for the evening - Urland. I bought this from the U.S. when Scrabblette was there in April and hadn't played it yet, so I was itching for it. We eventually figured out why there were too many gene cards when CyberKev asked "John, did you buy the expansion?". Oh yeah, I remember there was an erweiterung in there somewhere. So I gave a fairly poor rules explanation - i.e. I read the rule book out - because although I'd read the rules they hadn't made enough sense to stick. The dummy player is a strange concept to me, and although it seemed to work OK I still don't really get it. The way the game progressed was that Ashley, Hubertus and the kid bid very high for gene cards, and CyberKev and I were much more conservative. CyberKev got no genes throughout the game, and I only got one. Mine was a good one though - FEET. Soon I was running all over the board and had an ictho in every area. It turned out that CyberKev and I had played right, as we were contending for the win coming into the final scoring. Luckily the rules favoured me, and I won with 35 points compared to CyberKev's 33.

Careful not to look at the clock, we gamed on. I suggested Cartagena which I think is a great simple game, easy to teach and intriguing for new players at least a couple of times. CyberKev said he never wins, so I thought I probably would. However he did win, by maybe 6 cards, over me. As expected, the newbies weren't competitive. The game rewards experience, but I think there might be a plateau where all players play at roughly the same level of ability.

It was then midnight but we were going strong. I suggested The Battle of Lanka, a card game which Scrabblette brought back from India. Don't you wish you had an international games courier :-) ? CyberKev and I and our lady partners had played this game 4 times earlier in the year, so CyberKev and I needed another play to get it onto our nickel lists. In the first game CyberKev won narrowly over me, and in the second game I won by a fair way over everyone else. In the second game I had a card CyberKev desperately needed but I discarded it for the kid instead. It's not a brilliant card game, but it's easy and asuras and rakshasas make a change from dwarves and elves occasionally.

Anyway, the next day the kid went to Dubai (Hey at Dubai goin 2 London now say hi 2 every 1 4 me by!) and London (Hey y'all how u goin? Goin 2 france 2morrow. london i amazin. tower sweet, lords huge, madam 2sards scary (4 me!) (is he alive?!) lol! bye!) and will be in France soon. "Gimme the sound of the rollin' dice, gimme a whiskey don't think twice, deal me the cards that take my blues away... TAKE ME AWAY TO MARSEILLES!"

Friday, September 07, 2007


Everyone in my address book has been invited to join Don't do it! It's a virus. I caught it from esteemed blogger Yehuda:

and there's more about it here:

P.S. I just had a thought. If you did give it your email account password, start emailing people NOW and telling them not to join up. That's what I should have done.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Three New Word Games

Scrabblette and the kid and I, and my sister and her family, went to beautiful Bundaberg on the weekend to visit my baby sister and her baby daughter. And Pete. PETE HUNGRY! PETE EAT BABY! Here's a gratuitous baby photo because she's so cute:

As there were a lot of us (7 and a dog) we rented a house for the weekend, right on the beach. So close to the beach that Miss Swimming Fanatic heard the ocean as soon as we arrived (at 11pm) and begged at the door to be allowed out to go for a swim. There was a lot of this:

DOG SMELL LIKE FISH! PETE EAT FISH! By my count, I took the dog to the beach 4 times, Scrabblette took her at least twice, and Uncle Scott took her once or twice. And she still spent most of her time sulking about not being allowed to go out.

Anyway, on with the story. The games I managed to play over the weekend were all word games and all were new to me.


Wordrop is a simple game for 2 or 4 players, though I really don't understand why it wouldn't work for 3 or even 5. You have a plastic frame like a Connect 4 frame and you drop letters into it - one letter per turn. You score one point per letter for every word you make that includes that letter, reckoned upside down, inside out, backwards, forwards, any which way. With a well-placed I it's easy to make 9 points with IF, IT, ITS and ID, so we figured it was primarily a game of making 2 letter words.
When all 100 letter tiles are placed the game ends and highest score wins. This game was a bit unusual in that there is no randomness - players get to choose any tile they want. However I doubt two games will be the same.

I think Wordrop is a great game for learning two letter words for Scrabble, but otherwise not very interesting. In my game I beat my sister by about as many points as she forgot to score.

Pick Two!

Pick Two is a crossword game. There are 240 letter tiles. Each player (from 2 to 6) starts by drawing 8 and arranging them into a crossword using "valid" words. When someone has completed their crossword they say "pick two" and everybody takes 2 tiles and has to rearrange their crossword to fit them in. When you've run out of tiles to draw everybody scores points (and that's bad) for the letters they haven't placed into their crossword yet.

I liked this game because it was very tense. I was playing against Scrabblette using only 180 tiles. She started off very fast and called "pick two" quite a few times while I was stuck with stupid Vs. She also got a lot more wilds than I did! I got my act together and caught up as she drew some Qs. We only played 1 round of a recommended 5.

Scrabblette didn't like it so much because there was no player interaction. I liked it because I totally trust Scrabblette to make legal words and I felt under pressure for the whole round (maybe 10 minutes?). When a game gets me pumped like that I enjoy it. Scrabblette suggests a cooperative variant may suit her better, whereas I'd like to try it with 6 players.

Word Jam
The final game we played for the weekend was Word Jam. PETE wasn't around to EAT GAME, and Trixi doesn't know any words yet so she didn't play either. However everyone else did, from the 6 year old to the venerable Scrabblette.

In Word Jam you deal 5 consonant cards. One of those consonants is worth 1 point, one is worth 2, two are worth 3, and one is banned. There's also a random category that you must make words from, like Scattergories. In the picture W is worth 1, H worth 2, G worth 3, L worth 3, and S is banned. The category was "singers". I thought of the Wiggles, which contains an S and so is not allowed. "George Thorogood" would have been worth 11 points (3 Gs, 1 H) and would have won me the game if I'd thought of it then! "George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers" would be worth 0 points because of the S.

Anyway, each round new consonants and a new category are dealt. Players then think of a word until someone thinks they have a good one and says "Open Sesame!". That player then becomes Ali Baba. The other players then choose to side with either Ali Baba or the thieves. Players then have 20 seconds to think of a better word. If one of the thief players can give a better word he becomes Head Thief. If Ali Baba had the best word, he gets some points and the players who sided with him get fewer. If the Head Thief beat Ali Baba, then he and the other thieves get some points. As the game proceeds the points awarded become higher. After 8 rounds whoever has the most points wins.

I didn't go for this game particularly, as the Scattergories thing doesn't attract me at all. On the other hand, even the 6 year old was able to play a creditable game, and that's got to be good for a word game. In fact, in the last round only non-gamer-elder-niece and 6yo-gamer-nephew scored any points at all. Sister won this game fairly comfortably. My strategy was to always bet on Scrabblette finding a better word, but it appears this sort of game is not her forte either and we went down together.

Not long after we had to start the long long drive home, only stopping in to visit my dad for Father's Day. PETE DRINK ALONE. YEAH WITH NOBODY ELSE.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Gathering of Friendless

I'm behind in my blogging but I should mention that I've started my new game event, the Gathering of Friendless. For the inaugural meeting Scrabblette was keen to play and the kid was with his mum so we invited people who liked to play word games and their husbands. The attendees ended up being me, Scrabblette, CyberKev, Jane and Hubertus, and we didn't play any word games at all.

We started with TransAmerica which ended up as a tie between Scrabblette and me. Then we moved on to Bamboleo which ended up as a tie between CyberKev and me. Then we played China which ended up as a tie between CyberKev and me until CyberKev managed to find, scribbled in the margin of the appendix to the codicil of the coda of the amendment to the German edition of the rules that if there was a tie then he won because he'd played the fewest pieces. Pah!

Then it was time to go to sleep, and we all agreed we should do it again.