Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Some New Games

I have lots of new games to talk about, but only a little bit of red wine and a little bit of time before bed. So here are some of them.

Flicochet - Phil Harding's new game is a cross between Crokinole and lawn bowls, and could easily be a huge hit. Crokinole boards are expensive (especially in Australia) and his game provides most of that fun for a tiny fraction of the price.

Finca - a very cute game, and easy to teach, but I couldn't figure out how I might play well. There's sort of an easy level, then maybe a mega-genius level which I cannot approach. I have no malice towards it, but I don't think it's a great game.

Carcassonne: the City - like Hunters and Gatherers, a completely dull variation on Carcassonne. The original was great, it doesn't need a swarm of mediocre epigone.

Sticheln - a nasty card game, but with 7 players like we played it, it seemed kinda random as well. Probably better with fewer players. I like Flaschenteufel a lot, and this is probably a similar game.

Thunderstone - Thunderstone is the fantasy dungeon crawl based on the Dominion engine. Unlike Dominion, it doesn't work sweetly. Our game dragged, and I found myself wishing that Valerie and Dale had played a billion trillion games of it to make it right.

Say Anything - a very party game in which you get points for knowing what people like. Randy, who knew us least well of anyone, managed to win. By the way, my favourite ethnic cuisine is Thai, which I admit was not obvious.

Caption If You Can! - Phil Harding's party game, which I played immediately after Say Anything, and felt similar and not quite as good. Still, it worked.

Archaeology: The Card Game - the third of Phil Harding's games to appear in this list. Phil certainly is a diverse designer - a party game, a dexterity game, and a card game. Archaeology was pretty annoying, as Amanda got sweet card draws and I got shafted by sand storms and thieves. I'd seen some kids playing this, and that's probably the target demographic, because it drives us computer programmers nuts.

Tales of the Arabian Nights

There are a few literary works which are worshipped in our house. Examples include the complete works of Hergé, Goscinny and Uderzo and all derivatives thereof in all languages, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" by Edward Tufte, and the Tales of the Arabian Nights. I know, when I see something related to the Tales, that we will end up owning it. Hence it was quite astonishing that in the middle of January this year we still did not own the new edition of the board game. The only possible reason is that Scrabblette had been so busy with her thesis that she hadn't had time to think of acquiring it, or encouraging me to.

I played it at GenCon Oz last year, and though we had to cut that game short I could tell there was some magic in there. Characters seek their fame and fortune, and find it. They can become miserably wretched or fabulously fabulous. The game is astonishingly well done, and if you don't care that it's kinda random, it's lots of fun.

The day Scrabblette left Canberra I realised that Mind Games had it on sale for 20% off. That's a significant saving on a necessary purchase, but I was still in a quandary because I had limited baggage space back to Brisbane. I bought it anyway. As it turned out, TotAN was only about half of my carry-on luggage quota, so I was able to fit the kids' game Queen Melissa gave me in there as well.

Aaron, Amanda and I played Tales at OtB, and I was quite surprised when Aaron won. My first experience suggested it was a long game, but I'm beginning to think it speeds up a bit as it goes along. If you haven't played it, it's like one of those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, but much prettier, much more complex, and not so fucking mindlessly stupid. Players have skills (e.g. Seduction, Magic, Courtly Graces, Story Telling) which they can add to over time. Many encounters either require a skill, or you gain one when you fail miserably. In that way characters advance over time, and as you gain skills you improve your ability to gain Destiny and Story points.

I've noticed that characters benefit more from assertive actions than from aggressive or timid ones. It's probably better to AID the Old Woman than to ATTACK her or HIDE from her. Of course, I haven't tried a combat-oriented character, maybe they get better results from attacking. It also seems that characters go one of two ways - they either succeed and become wealthy and powerful and have a chance to win the game, or they fail and become enslaved, ensorcelled, envious, outlawed and imprisoned. I thought at first either option was a valid way to play, but honestly, life seems to remain miserable for the characters who take the second path.

In my game at OtB I managed to walk a middle path. My bad luck started when I beat an old woman for no obvious reason. I became an outlaw. If I returned to such-and-such a town I would be captured and imprisoned (bad). Then I got lucky in Africa and a rich prince fell in love with me (I play yellow, the yellow character is a girl, I am totally not gay) and I had riches showered upon me. However my home town became the town where my prince was, and that was where I was wanted. I was required to return home to have babies etc regularly, but if I did so I would become imprisoned. I think I actually managed to deal with that, then got pulled overboard by a merman in Timbuktu. Timbuk-fucking-tu. Then I ended up on a desert island (in fact, Ireland) which is of course what happens when one falls off one's boat in Timbuktu. Anyway... then Aaron one.

Coincidentally, BGG user ibn_ul_khattab was flying through Brisbane on the weekend, and TotAN is one of his favourite games. Brisbane is only on the way between two interesting places in the entire world (Singapore and Auckland) so I was very lucky to be able to game with him. ibn, the kid, and I gave TotAN another whirl. The kid fell into the trap of over-extending himself (you know how these young people are, they think they're bullet-proof, then along comes a djinn) and all sorts of horrors befell him. However ibn and I took the path of Having Good Things Happen, and I won on the turn before ibn would have, and then only because I had the ability to go back and choose something better than the mediocre thing that was going to happen. The game only took about two hours.

That suggests to me that Tales might even be the sort of game you can play competitively, if you're in the mood to not do odd things. That's not really in the spirit though - the fun is in finding out what you can get away with.

Anyway, I'm enjoying that game. When Scrabblette is done with her thesis (again), I look forward to trying it out two-player. I wonder when they're making the board game of "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information"?

Hard Work January

Goodness me, how busy life can be! I'd barely returned from India when I was off for a week to the Australian Games Expo and On the Beach. It seems I rarely get a chance to blog these days, even though I'm weaning myself off Mafia Wars.

The Australian Games Expo is a gaming convention held in Canberra on the Australia Day weekend. It was originally conceived by Phil Davies of Mind Games Canberra and Albury as a retailers' convention to be held in Albury. There were a couple of flaws in the plan, e.g. Albury is quite hard to get to for people like me, and the retailers all agreed to sell games at regular prices. So I would travel for 24 hours to get to the middle of nowhere to pay full price for games? I didn't attend the first few times.

Luckily, Australia has charismatic gamers such as Queen Melissa and Neil Thomson (from Albury), who organised free gaming in the vicinity of the convention, and made it attractive to people who just want to play games and can't fit any more in their suitcase on the way home. It also moved to Canberra, which is more annoying than Albury but easier to get to. This year as well, we organised the Australian Maths Trade to finish shortly before the convention, and Julian from unhalfbricking organised for geeks from all over the country to drop their games at his stand. That was a very clever move, because he got to meet the ones who weren't already his customers.

Phil has decided to hand administration of the con over to a team of young professionals, and I wish them the best of luck. I do hope they recognise that the Australian gaming community is not a mass of faceless consumers, it is in fact a well-informed, well-organised network. The leaders of games clubs know each other from BGG and increasingly Facebook, and increasingly in real life as well. Any Australian board game con is enhanced by the presence of Giles (caradoc) working for Rio, Mickey and Mike from Paradise Games, Alison and Neil from Caterpillar Games, the Albury front-row forwards, and of course Her Majesty Queen Melissa and her royal court.

Scrabblette was in Canberra the day before the con started for a conference in her field, so she spent the weekend in Canberra with me. That meant I wasn't able to go feral and game myself into a blithering mess of caffeine and pizza; instead I went to the National Library and the Art Gallery (impressionists display) and the Botanical Gardens. Consequently I spent most of my time at the con just chatting to old and new friends - Shingo, Tim Woodhams, Sacha Spinks, gmcnish, Da Pyrate, sbszine, Phil Harding, Alvin, mr_lunch, fFish, tiggers etc... people I'd desperately love to see more of, if only Australia was a smaller place.

Once Scrabblette left for Brisbane again I got a chance to play some games, and the first was Tobago which Giles taught to me and some guy called Nick. Wow, that's a cool game. It's just at that level of being pretty easy, but you can still apply thought to increase your chances. The deduction aspect is so much fun. We managed to borrow fFish's copy to play at On the Beach, so I enjoyed it twice more. After Tobago I was looking to play Maori, but couldn't find an opponent. I noticed a table of guys trying to figure out Stone Age, so I decided to play with them and teach them that game. Stone Age is a pretty easy game to teach because the theme works so well. I discovered as I was playing that two of my opponents were BGGers... but the other guy won. I also managed to play Finca, which I would play again but I hesitate to say it's a good game. It's just outrageously pretty.

After the con I was off to On the Beach with Julian etc. Julian was quite stoked with the sales he'd made, and had good information on what new games he needed to stock, e.g. Tobago. Nevertheless, there was a lot of stuff to put back on his trailer, such as all the unwanted Martin Wallace games. I rode up to Jindabyne with Brendan Mahony from Adelaide, his daughter, and AJ.

A few people have asked what On the Beach is. It's sort of like an Australian Gathering of Friends. It grew out of ConVic (Julian's convention) where a few of us saw the Australian gaming community being born, and had the idea of getting together for a week each year and being good buddies and playing a heck of a lot of games. The theory is that we hold it somewhere in the middle of NSW where people from Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney can congregate with maximum inconvenience to everybody. We're very limited for space, because finding accommodation for a week in country Australia is limited to shearing shed dorimtories and suchlike. At the moment we've found a nice ski lodge which is happy to have customers in summer. Because space is limited, and because we don't want to spoil a good thing, we're very very selective about who gets invited - generally we want people who want to play lots of games, and aren't psycho bastards, no matter how many times you get blocked out of a city - because, we're going to be there for a week, we can't afford group dynamics problems.

Anyway, I had a great time at OtB this year, and there is very little evidence that I was actually the psycho bastard everyone hated. My good geekbuddy aaronseeber and I played a few abstract games, CyberKev coerced us all to play his party games, and Julian and Brendan played their Martin Wallace games in a back room where nobody could be grossed out. Peter Hawes was tirelessly teaching his games, as always! M. Squelart was an astonishingly good breakfast chef, while Brendan had the bacon and eggs under control. Aaron Seeber cooked some lovely dinners then AJ did the dishes. Randy (genesteeler) and Melissa (not the Queen, another one) were invited as well, and I thought were great people to have around. It helps that my gaming tastes tend more towards Melissa's than towards Brendan's or Kevin's :-).

I played 68 games in 6 days at OtB, including 18 that were new to me. However, that will have to be for another blog post.

Monday, February 01, 2010


71 plays on the trip away, but playing loads of games still doesn't make up for acquiring 4 new ones (net). Utilisation is down by 0.17%.

There are 429 games in this collection. The BGG average rating for this collection is 6.39. Your average rating for this collection is 6.91.

On average you have played each of these games 6.75 times. Your Friendless Metric is 1 (89 games played 10+ times, 48 games never played.) Your Continuous Friendless Metric is 3.26 which corresponds to an average utilisation of 52.87%.


I just spent the last week gaming myself stupid. I wonder what effect it will have on my stats?

There are 425 games in this collection. The BGG average rating for this collection is 6.38. Your average rating for this collection is 6.92.

On average you have played each of these games 6.75 times. Your Friendless Metric is 1 (88 games played 10+ times, 48 games never played.) Your Continuous Friendless Metric is 3.28 which corresponds to an average utilisation of 53.04%.