Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pimp My Trias!

This was the source of all the trouble:

A tub of brightly coloured plastic dinosaurs and a game I like a lot. They belonged together. That's why I bought the dinosaurs several months ago with a vague plan of using them for a bigger version of Trias. Last week I bought a colour laser printer, and was interested in seeing what it could do. As, when I'd installed it, I'd got the scanner going as well, I had the necessary technology. For some reason, on Sunday, I got the motivation as well. I started by scanning the tiles:

I then cut out the images and printed out copies large enough to fit 4 of the plastic dinosaurs on. I stuck the large hexes onto two sheets of cardboard I had lying around from some ancient abandoned project using spray glue I bought at an art shop - aerosol spray glue is brilliant stuff for this sort of work. Here are the hexes for the two player game:

And here are the others:

That all took a while to dry, but I had housework to do anyway:

When it was dry came the long job of cutting the hexes out. It soon became apparent that it wasn't going to be easy, as the cardboard was seriously tough. In fact, on the second hex, my craft knife snapped in two.

What the heck, we had to do the grocery shopping anyway. I bought a Stanley knife and continued cutting. For hours and hours and hours.

Some time late at night, the cutting was done. My hand and back still hurt. But the hexes look OK.

The next evening, after a visit to the art shop, I spray-lacquered the hexes to try to protect them. The lacquer has had no noticeable effect on the ink.

All that remains is to get someone to play the game with me! Here's what a two player set-up could theoretically look like:

While I was at work Scrabblette tidied up the dinosaurs. Things are only neat if they're orthogonal. :-)

If I can do something like this, you can too.

Monday, April 21, 2008

New Games Played at ConVic

ConVic is a weekend-long games convention hosted by unhalfbricking.com in Melbourne twice a year. Scrabblette, the kid and I went down for the weekend - the third time that the kid and I have been. Every time we go we have a better time as we know more of the people from the previous time and are less stressed about dealing with Melbourne :-). This post is about the new games played on our trip, but I would like to mention what great guys brendanm, karlsen and aaronseeber are for giving us lifts around town.

Tier Auf Tier - For some reason I was enchanted by the pictures of this game and imagined it would be super fun. Instead, it was just a bit ho-hum. I tried my best to make life difficult for my opponents, but the structure seemed to be a bit more stable than made for a good game. However if a cute little kid asked me to play with them, I would.

Ingenious: Travel Edition - Scrabblette demanded that I buy this when we were visiting Mind Games in Swanston St. It is a lot more convenient than the big box of the standard game, and we played while waiting for dinner in an Italian restaurant. The scoring track could be better - sliders would have been much nicer.

Streetcar - I played a 6 player game of this which lasted a bit too long for my tastes, but with fewer players I think it would be OK. It seems to be very much my sort of game, but I found the other players interfered with every plan I tried to hatch, and I just got frustrated. Scrabblette says I should buy it, I say I might when I've learned to like it.

Flaschenteufel - I have played this before, but we used the wrong rules. We USED to play that whoever had the bottle scored all of their points negative, which meant people regularly spent the whole game negative. This time we played that only the kitty scored negative, which didn't scare Brendan at all as he manipulated the cards so as to claim the last 5 or so tricks, and the kitty was a minor inconvenience in comparison. THAT obviously wasn't right either. aaronseeber suggests that maybe the bottle means you score negative for the kitty and nothing for your tricks. We'll try that next time.

Himalaya - I've played this before as well - the first game I every played against CyberKev, and I remembered it fondly. This time I remembered that the other players kept ruining perfectly sensible plans, and my opinion of it dropped a little.

Axiom - aaronseeber was the brave man who tried to understand the rules of this game and explained it to me. It certainly is a brain-burner. We spent a few turns discussing what good and bad moves were. Then Darren came along and started discussing with Aaron how best to beat me. When they missed a potential attack by me I decided to win while I still could and claimed the victory to their shock. I'd like to play it again - it's quick and intriguing - but I might eventually end up disliking it.

Race For the Galaxy - Just like San Juan! Yeah, but with a crappy theme and more complicated. Yes, there was something interesting in there, but I'm not really a huge fan. I had the military starter hand and implemented a military strategy fairly effectively, but lost to aaronseeber's produce / consume / buy VPs strategy. Meh... I'd play it again.

Key Harvest - I really really wanted to play Key Harvest, so I put it on the table and as I hoped, some people came. This was a game I added to an order to get free shipping, and although I researched it pretty carefully I wasn't sure I was going to like it. It has strong connection elements, but I wasn't sure about the sales mechanism. It turned out I did like the sales mechanism (quick summary - I choose what's for sale and set a price, you can pay me that much for it, or I can pay the bank that much) as I set high prices which reflected what the field was worth to me, and when people paid it I felt I'd screwed them down. Brendan played a very good game and I think I beat him by a point. I like Key Harvest a lot.

Kingsburg - This is another I've done research on, and I suspected I'd like. I was right, and I like it even more than I expected to. I was taught by Neil from Albury. I was wary of the invasions, and pursued a defensive strategy which worked just well enough to win the game. I'm thinking about getting it - it's good, but is it good enough to be played regularly?

Pandemic - This was my number one priority to play, and when I had the chance I grabbed Randy and made him teach me. We played very quickly so as to finish before the Take It Easy tournament, and as Randy was the experienced player he made a lot of suggestions which I followed. He was the dispatcher and I was the researcher, and we won almost comfortably. I did like this, and will get my own copy if I can. It will be a good solitaire game, though I suspect as with most cooperative games it will suffer from the "do what the most experience guy says" syndrome.

Caylus Magna Carta - I didn't like Caylus much, but since Agricola came out I can see that it did some good things. I figured that if they could put the good things into a much shorter game it might work. Y'know... I really really hate the provost. If he just moved at a constant rate that would be OK, but I do not like the mechanism of being able to pay to move him backwards. That costs both games 2 or 3 rating points from me. Magna Carta was better than Caylus, but I think I still only rate it a 5.

Tri-Virsity - This is a rummy game with letter cards where your melds have to be words. Scrabblette suggested I buy it, and we've played three games of it already. It is a bit frustratingly random, as one player can go out on their first time and another player can have a fistful of consonants, but it's OK.

Best Days in Gaming by Gaming Group

We're back from Melbourne (more on that later, if I feel like it - maybe I've moved on?) and I'm playing with my stats program. Actually, what I'm trying to establish is whether any of the days in Melbourne counted as my best days in gaming. So I've extended the Best Game Playing Days list to 25 entries and made the game summary shorter.

  1. Friday, November 09 2007 - Gathering of Friendless
  2. Saturday, December 15 2007 - Critical Mass All-Day
  3. Sunday, January 20 2008 - On The Beach
  4. Sunday, June 11 2006 - Brisbane Independent Gamers AND visit to paulidale
  5. Saturday, April 07 2007 - Critical Mass All-Day
  6. Saturday, July 07 2007 - Critical Mass All-Day
  7. Monday, June 12 2006 - Two player vs Ozvortex
  8. Friday, June 01 2007 - Critical Mass
  9. Wednesday, April 09 2008 - Two player vs Ozvortex
  10. Saturday, November 17 2007 - gaming at home with Scrabblette and the kid
  11. Friday, October 19 2007 - Critical Mass
  12. Wednesday, January 23 2008 - On The Beach
  13. Saturday, April 05 2008 - Critical Mass All-Day
  14. Wednesday, December 27 2006 - Two player vs CyberKev
  15. Saturday, May 14 2005 - Two player vs the kid
  16. Friday, February 15 2008 - Gathering of Friendless
  17. Sunday, December 16 2007 - League of Extraordinary Gamers
  18. Friday, January 11 2008 - Two player vs aaronseeber
  19. Saturday, January 05 2008 - Critical Mass All-Day
  20. Tuesday, January 22 2008 - On The Beach
  21. Friday, August 17 2007 - Critical Mass
  22. Friday, December 15 2006 - Critical Mass
  23. Wednesday, February 22 2006 - Book Realm
  24. Sunday, January 07 2007 - Two player vs Ozvortex
  25. Monday, January 22 2007 - On The Beach
and the tallies:

Gathering of Friendless - 2
Critical Mass All-Day - 5
On The Beach - 4
Critical Mass - 4
Ozvortex - 3

Given that I've only held 13 Gatherings of Friendless, that's a decent hit rate. I suspect that 5 would be EVERY Critical Mass All-Day that I've been to. On The Beach is a week-long event which we've attended twice, and has produced the goods consistently, and Critical Mass continues to be a great gaming night. Ozvortex is a great guy (for me) to game with, and makes an awesome individual contribution. CyberKev makes only one individual appearance, and that was on a day when he was explicitly playing MY games, but he was present at most of the group events.

There are no ConVic dates in that list, which I suspect is because when I'm at ConVic (a) I'm not playing my games, and (b) I'm often playing new games, which on average suck. OK, I'll see if I can get motivated to make another post about the new games I played over the weekend.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I REALLY Went to Fraser's House and REALLY Played Ingenious!

Yesterday was a big day of travelling - Scrabblette and I have come to Melbourne to attend ConVic. I'm not very good at planning holidays - by the time I've organised everything it feels like a plan I need to work through rather than a time to relax - but this one is going well so far. The flight was fine, the accommodation is fine (with broadband!), and we're getting around the city pretty easily. All you need is a tram ticket and a satellite navigation system.

Scrabblette is a big fan of art galleries, so our first outing yesterday was to the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. The only map we had was a tourist map which conveniently omitted the dozen or so blocks we needed to walk. I tried to get Emily the satav to help us, but she just said "GPS is off". The walk was so long though that we figured out that Emily has a flap which needs to be open before she can see satellites.

After the ACCA and the VCA (Victorian College of Art) Gallery we got to the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) but were too footsore and hungry to stop. Instead we found a stall at Flinders St station selling choc-coated churros, and we scoffed far too many of those while watching the Victorian Police Jazz Band in Federation Square. Then we poked around the city for a while, looking for bookshops, before catching the tram out to Fraser and Melissa's real house. I just told Emily where they lived and Emily told us when we were nearly there and hence had to get off the tram. Very cool.

While Melissa rushed around with Biggie and Otto, Scrabblette and I played Tier auf Tier and Ingenious with Fraser. Tier auf Tier looks very cute, but I didn't find much interesting tactical play in it - I guess it really is for little kids. After Gulo Gulo being such a cool game maybe I expect too much of kids' games. Scrabblette then suggested Ingenious, which she loves, and Fraser proceeded to wipe the floor with us and chuckle evilly while doing so.

Then Melissa came back, and we met the girls (Biggie maybe remembered me from a couple of years ago), and went down the street for dinner. Melbourne is such a cool place, at least in the bits I visit - going down the street for dinner in Brisbane is often difficult because there is nowhere to go to! Yes, the baba ganoush is very good. Then Fraser very kindly took us home via all of the suburbs named after AFL teams (don't have that in Brisbane either).

The kid arrives today, and ConVic starts tonight. But right now, we need to get soome breakfast.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Not Dead Yet!

I just saw the plastic surgeon who had the pathology results which said the excision of the melanoma was successfully completed and there were no other abnormalities. So this adventure with cancer has cost me maybe a thousand bucks and a big scar on my arm and I couldn't be more pleased. :-)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Am I All of a Sudden Good at Taj Mahal?

In the last week I've played two games of Taj Mahal and won them both. The first was against three newbies and an experienced player, the second was against four newbies. On the other hand, these were only the second and third times I've played, and tonight's game was the first to use the correct rules :-).

First game was at Critical Mass where we played a 5 player game with almost the correct rules - we were allowing players to play two coloured cards instead of a coloured and a white. White cards are much more important with the correct rules! I've got no idea how I won that game - I collected a few bonus tiles, had minor trade goods points, minor connection points, and probably about 12 points from the yellow +2 girl, and 7 or so from cards in hand at the end of the game. I won by one point.

After that game I was a bit interested and read some strategy articles on BGG which suggested that having no particular strategy wasn't the best plan. Apparently there is a connection strategy and a goods strategy. I didn't have a clear plan this evening, but in about round 5 it was clear that I had the basics of a connection strategy going. I checked out what order the remaining numbers were in, and realised I needed to connect in 10 and 12 to get good points, but could afford to slack off in 7 and 11. As it turned out I was able to get trade goods in two regions where I didn't need to connect, and then got all the connections I needed, plus 7 points for cards in hand at the end. It all worked beautifully and I won by about 10 points.

Considering the same opponents had just ALL thrashed me at Puerto Rico I felt pretty good about that. I must be hyped, I'm blogging at 3am.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Triple Triple!

After 120-something games of Scrabble, I've finally scored a triple-triple! That's where you play one word on two triple word scores. Preferably, it's a bingo as well - mine was. Sadly, it was in a solitaire game where the competition was slightly more forgiving than a real opponent would be. Nevertheless, I'm really on a roll today. Here's the final board:

Words played (bingos coloured pink in honour of Her Highness Melissa, Queen of the Geek):

BIZ 53
EXO 40
OM 21
FE 10

That was by far my highest play in a game of Scrabble. My total score was 977 from 24 moves. I guess 1000 is a possibility! Now... to play a triple-triple in a real game. I wonder if Merric Blackman has made his move yet...

AGONY, and other words

I think AGONY is a harsh word to describe the pain in my arm, but OW is certainly accurate, and those were the first two words I played in my Scrabble Cards solitaire games today. Scrabblette has taken the day off work to look after me (because the hospital made me sign a form saying someone would keep an eye on me for 24 hours) but she still has work to do. If only I'd got the hospital to make the form say she had to play games with me...

Anyway, I was playing by my usual solitaire Scrabble rules which are that your score is your average points per turn. I haven't soloed Scrabble Cards before so I didn't have a benchmark to compare to. Anyway, I decided a good strategy would be to use as many bonus cards as I possibly could, as they give you points and then you get another bonus card. I found that the bonus cards then sort of guided the game as the board position does in normal Scrabble.

Anyway, a few moves into the game I found the letters pictured above in my hand. It might not mean much to you, but my friend Bren Caperon died of cancer a few years ago, and I still find myself sometimes wondering what he's up to, and realising that's no longer a valid question. I hope people don't think the same about me in future!

It seems Bren brought me good luck, because I then noticed a bingo waiting for me - 61 points! On the next turn I played ZONKED with a "contains Z" category card for 35 points. I managed to keep the Z card on the table and scored from it for the next 4 turns, including a TWS and a DWS.

Eventually I had to let the Z go, and I scored slowly for a few turns as I couldn't even use my bonus card. (Note that under my rules taking a turn to swap the bonus card would decrease my score, so it's better not to, I think.) However the X came out and I had a lot of fun playing with that - DAG was a DWS on the G for 37 points, and I later played FAST with AX as a cross-word and a "contains X" category card for 33 points.

My final score was 620 points from 26 turns, and I used all of the category cards. The words played were:


A couple of hours later I got motivated for another bash, and dealt myself another hand. The start was unspectacular and after 4 moves I was 7 points behind the pace of my previous game. I found myself with AELNTW + blank and thought "there must be a bingo in there!". I pondered for a few minutes - WANTLESS? FAWNLET? LAWNETTE? until I figured out WETLAND.

I'm usually very bad at finding composite bingos like that, as the letters don't follow the patterns of the language so closely. Is there any other word with ETLA in the middle? SHETLAND... but it's almost a composite as well. So I was fairly pleased that I found WETLAND.

I then drew a V which I always find a painful experience, but I was able to play VARIED, and next turn I could make DUSTED next to it. Not great points, but fun to find. When the Z came out in this game I was looking to repeat my success with it from the previous game (I scored it at least 7 times), but my letters weren't helpful - you need Os and As - and after only scoring it twice the Z went away. After 10 turns I was 25 points off the pace.

However the game turned. I played BASHO on turn 16 for 22 points, and then drew the X and beautiful letters to go with it - I had MOXIE and a D as well so I could have made OXIDE. However MOXIE fit better and with the TWS it scored 80 points. Woohoo!

My next bonus card was a DWS and I was able to lay JAKE below MOXIE for 63 points. Woohoo again! BTW BASHO had to stay on the table because the B and the A were both in use - if it had been only one of them then the other letters would have been removed.
My luck continued - I drew a blank and could make PUDDIES for 79 points. Then I drew more good letters and made POLARISE through the A of BASHO for 66 points. Then there was only one card left and I finished the game with 661 points from 21 turns, a much better score than in the previous game. The words I made in this game were:


Back to bitching about my injuries, things I'm looking forward to include:
* alcohol (this evening - but in moderation, as digestion of alcohol and digestion of paracetamol don't happen at the same time)
* finding out how much pain is caused by the injury and how much by the dressing (tomorrow)
* washing my hair (tomorrow)
* typing with all my fingers (don't know)
* sleeping on my right side (don't know)

Monday, April 07, 2008

Never Was a Truer Word Written on a T-Shirt

I'm operating the computer left-handed but otherwise feel fine. The next worry is the pathology results which will say whether they got it all. The one on my neck was a basal cell carcinoma which is nothing to worry about at all.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

If I Go All Quiet...

I'm going in for surgery on the melanoma at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning. I've got no idea whether the surgery on my arm will affect my typing - you'd have to think it would! I'll go under general anaesthesia so don't expect to hear too much from me on-line for a couple of days.

I'm not looking forward to this! Still, it's better than playing Niagara.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

My Bestest Bestest Buddies

I finally realised that Mikko Saari's correlation calculator could produce a list of geekbuddies for me. Go here to do it for yourself.

friendless Add Profile 1 599
fehrmeister Add Profile 0.7 120
Ozvortex Add Profile 0.67 109
dysjunct Add Profile 0.65 106
redgamer Add Profile 0.62 108
sailsa Add Profile 0.62 143
larrykruger Add Profile 0.6 125
sviney Add Profile 0.6 116
asimpkins Add Profile 0.59 102
erik2point0 Add Profile 0.57 139
amwiles Add Profile 0.57 144
ssheasby Add Profile 0.57 138
checkmate123 Add Profile 0.57 104
SybotCB Add Profile 0.56 152
ping9x Add Profile 0.56 195
shade_jon Add Profile 0.54 141
latindog Add Profile 0.54 211
otrex Add Profile 0.54 118
jeffwiles Add Profile 0.54 168
jayjonbeach Add Profile 0.54 169
Nap16 Add Profile 0.54 145
shotokanguy Add Profile 0.54 110
sbszine Add Profile 0.53 146
Jon Waddington Add Profile 0.53 163
i97sala Add Profile 0.52 112
iansc Add Profile 0.52 131
mateybob Add Profile 0.52 113
shaveandahaircut Add Profile 0.52 157
juuzzom Add Profile 0.52 122
Sifu Add Profile 0.52 105
fnord23 Add Profile 0.52 246
phelonius Add Profile 0.51 115
efreeman Add Profile 0.51 138
seppo21 Add Profile 0.5 141
mcross Add Profile 0.49 177
fellonmyhead Add Profile 0.49 156
Thommy8 Add Profile 0.49 165
klausbh Add Profile 0.48 117
TheCat Add Profile 0.48 134
seandavidross Add Profile 0.48 140
BasL Add Profile 0.48 111
ludosophicus Add Profile 0.47 190
Lexi Add Profile 0.47 115
unitoch Add Profile 0.47 127
doomfarer Add Profile 0.47 184
CaptainDamon Add Profile 0.47 102
modboy Add Profile 0.47 209
Scrabblette Add Profile 0.47 197
Romain Add Profile 0.47 113
heli Add Profile 0.46 257
PBrennan Add Profile 0.46 315

Of those people Ozvortex lives just down the road (and should come out to game more!) and Scrabblette lives quite close. I've been in Pat Brennan's game room, and there's definitely a good correlation there. The rest of you will just have to invite me to your place at some mutually convenient time.