Blogs

  • Goozex Dinosaur or something.In earlier posts, I have tried to find a "BoardGameGeek" for my video game collection. That has met with some success , and while soliciting candidates, "Goozex " was mentioned to me a couple of times. As a database, it's not so hot. What it does do, however, is provide a pretty painless place to trade video games.

    I say "pretty painless" because most places that facilitate video game trading are either (1) Screwing you, (2) Have a small audience, or (3) Both. The "Screwing you" camp consists largely of brick-and-mortar establishments like GameStop. They will take your games for pennies on the pound and then immediately sell it for pound on the pound. You played that game already, so you don't care; but if you ever buy used video games from them--you should know that you are eating a big markup there. The store spends nothing but shelf-space and the practice is incredibly lucrative. The "Small audience" camp is other online forums or things like Craigslist.org that won't end up screwing you over on value, but may take forever to find someone willing to take that game off your hands for that other game that you want. If you aren't looking to trade Madden '08 for Halo 2, your audience may be shockingly small at any one site.

    So, by providing a service that minimizes the expense associated with B&M trading and proving a pool of Games Out and Games In for trading, Goozex has hit a nice middle ground. Here's how it works:

    You make a list of games you are willing to trade away. You can decide to trade away the complete kit (game + manual + box), just the game + manual, or just the game.

    You make another list of games that you want, and whether or not you'll accept just the game, the game + manual, or only the complete kit.

    Every game has associated queues of Requests and Offers and you get lumped into them as you set up your lists. If a lot of people are trying to trade away a certain game, you'll have a wait a while to trade it away. For example, 88 other people will be asked to trade away their Disgaea for PS2 before me. Similarly, 59 people will have BoomBlox sent to them before I get a crack at it.

    Here's the rub: Goozex decides what a game is worth, and games that trade as complete kits are not worth more points than just the game media on its own. So, you might think your minty fresh Wii control Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 with all the manuals and handouts and shit is worth 500 points, but Goozex disagrees and that's that--you trade it away, you get 350 points. End of story. Game valuation does trend downward. I got two notices that a requested game became "cheaper" in 50 point increments before I received it. There's no exposed algorithm, but the site clams it's a mix of demand, resale market value, and age. Because folks can Request top be sent only the complete package--there is a slight queue bonus for you if that's what you offer. If 80 people want a game, but 20 of them want only the complete package--someone offering only the game disc is going to get passed over every so often even if at the top of the Offer queue.

    Here's rub #2. Unless you part with games and/or $$$, you won't be getting any games back. To receive games you have requested, you must meet these conditions:

    1. You are at the top of the Request queue for that game.
    2. Your account has sufficient points in it (from trading games away or paying $5 for 100 points.)
    3. You have at least one trade token (gotten from trading away games and paying $1, you get one for joining the site, three for getting positive feedback on your trade, one if you talk someone else into joining using a referral link, or you can pay $5 for 5 tokens.)


    Shipping games is a snap. Goozex provides a service for USPS Priority mailing labels with delivery confirmation or even printable envelopes (pre-marked folds on the paper help you contruct it). They are hooked up to PayPal and a credit card service to handle the ~$3 mailing label charges too, and process gift cards and points purchases.

    Here's my testimonial:

    I signed up, got some envelopes at Target (about $0.60 each) used the Goozex USPS labels with shipping confirmation ($3 each) and shipped off the following complete kits:

    • Wii Play (game only) for Wii - 100 pts
    • LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga for Wii - 350 pts
    • New Super Mario Bros. for DS - 450 pts
    • Mercury Meltdown Revolution for Wii - 250 pts
    • Super Smash Bros. Brawl for Wii- 700 pts


    So I'm out $18 and five games, but I accrued 1850 points (their current value is 1800 pts--Goozex keeps track of how much you got and how much the games are now). I've received:

    • Grim Grimoire for PS2 (media only) - 350 pts
    • Battalion Wars 2for Wii (complete kit--in shrink no less) - 450 pts
    • Opoona for Wii (complete kit) - 500 pts
    • Super Puzzle Fighter II for GBA (media only) - 250 pts


    Four games back at a cost of 1550 pts (current value is the same, but one's gone up, another down).

    This is the experience you can have without buying anything directly from Goozex or whoring your referral link and praying for trade tokens to be reaped. We can compare this to GameStop and its ilk where I would have gotten about $56 in credit and not been able to find any of the games I wanted, and if I could, would have been able to get two of them. We can also compare it to eBay, which is a pretty rough place for sellers now. I'd expect to clear about $78 and pay about $7.50 in fees. The games I've received are about $45 + shipping ( so, about $65 or so).  The games I want aren't exactly widely available though--Grim Grimoire has had one auction in the last 60 days. 

    On the whole, I'm happy. The available game pool totally outstrips my neighborhood B&M establishments. At the same time, I know someone's getting and enjoying my traded-in games and the facilitator, Goozex, makes about $1 per trade for making it happen. So, if you have games you don't want, and don't live near a place like Luna Games , give it a shot. And get there using my referral link so I can't get more stuff.

    One last thing: My Referral Link .

  • A classic topic on gaming related websites as long as they have existed is the creepy gamer story.  With some of the extensive game store experience some of the folks on this site have, I am sure there are some hilarious tales of social ineptitude, personal hygiene failures, and all manner of gamer craziness. 

     I encourage everyone to regale us your tales of gamer creepiness.  There is only one rule in the creepy gamer story crypt- change the names!  The last thing we want is your stalker-rific, thinks he is a cyborg vampire, ex-dungeon master blowing up our servers on some mountain dew-fueled fantasy shadowrun.

     cryptkeeper.jpg



  • I am dead tired. It is a good tired though. It is the kind of tired that lab monkeys get when they electrify  pleasure center so many times that they pass out. It has been a whirlwind of activity until just now. The last guests are on their way home. The last beer bottle has been picked up. The last game has been shelved.

    I had made a ton of plans before everyone showed up – probably too many plans. One by one they got stripped away because of time/complications and what was left was just a bunch of fun people who were focused on a good time. And at the core – that is what the event was. Everyone was dead set on having a good time. Amazingly there was no drama amongst us (well except for me- at one point I was freaking out because I thought I had 13 people to get home and cars for only 8. It was 1 in the morning and my brain had stopped working 4 hours earlier.)


    I am so thankful that everyone came down and contributed to a wonderful time. It also makes the experience difficult to describe because the sum is greater than the whole. Everyone contributed to the weird party/gamer environment. It was like camp for F:ATties. I half expected pillow fights and ghost stories around a campfire. Thank God everyone was so easygoing because there were quite a few snafus. Despite little sleep and cramped quarters everyone stayed in good spirits.

     

    Everyone showed up almost exactly at the same time- the one hour I was away picking up BillyZ. Pete was driving me over to the Marta Station because my wife had the car (the other car broke down Tuesday.) Up until then it was just Chis and me. Me and Chris. Staring at each other. Chris wondering why I had gotten him down here all alone for a long weekend…

     

    But that all changed as soon as I left the house. I came back and everyone was milling around trying to figure out who was who. It was like speed dating for F:ATties. I threw out some games and food though and everyone reverted to game nerd mode. Years of conditioning has made gamers a well oiled machine. Just put table +food + game and they instantly know what to do.

     

    Once it got late people grabbed a section of floor. I had snagged lots of bedding and sleeping bags but still- that is not too comfortable. In the future I’m going to highly recommend the $16 air mattresses.

    Dave rolled in at 1:30. I felt so bad for him. Atlanta has like 50 roads named Peachtree and 50 more with the word “Ferry” in it. He probably saw them all.

     

    We woke up every morning rehashing the jokes the night before. Early risers like me would get in a game downstairs at the dining room table while others would stumble in bleary eyed. Because we were carpooling there was a lot of hurry up and wait and people would shoot the shit about comics, games, and geek culture while the stragglers got ready. It was like reading the forums and I visualized Rick Moranis’ face as JoshLook spoke about Marvel titles he liked.

     



    The clubhouse was already rocking though I was surprised that quite a few locals weren’t present. It was a good thing though because 2/3 of the air conditioning when out. The clubhouse has an annex to it that was nice an cool but it is also all tile and VERY LOUD. Frank had brought a bit of weirdness Chaosle, which is destined to never be a big hit despite the cool figs and sculptural board. We spent a lot of time that day bouncing between loud/cool and comfortable/hot. Aaron Tubb and his wife rolled in. He had some amazing games with him and we played a bunch of them. First up was his Thunder Road (with his pimped rules and micromachine cavalcade of cars.) Then we had an extremely entertaining game of Fireball Island. Fireball Island has moved to my “MUST HAVE” list and I’m already thinking of how I can fabricate a board.

     

     I got  in a cycle of gaming with Paul Geradi, Zev, Janna Nelson, and Aaron Tubb. Janna always volunteers to play AT games ever though she is a dedicated Eurogamer. This time I insisted she pick a game- any game and I would play it. She chose Karnaxis (pronounced karn- AX-Is -then you cross your arms in an X) which is the eurogame equivalent of the game of life complete with tax accountants and insurance policies. I had set a private goal to myself of never getting a job. It is not part of the game- just something I wanted to do. About half way through the game I was up to my eyeballs in debt and struggling to pay yearly taxes. Suddenly though I had an epiphany- I could use my special powers to blackmail the other players. I took control of the stock market and threatened to reroll  the stock die (my special power) if people didn’t cough up $5. You should have seen the look on Janna’s face. Her eyes went hard and her movements went stiff as I racked my fellow players over the coals. Then I bottomed out all the stock then took out the maximum loan and bought $1 stock and flipped it. We still had another hour left in KarNAXis when everyone realized that I was going to dick them over and had broken the game.

     


    By Saturday the A/C was working again and I was starting to realize I couldn’t pound beers and still stay awake through the day. We broke out Omega Virus, Cosmic Encounter, magical Athlete, Summoner Wars, and Epic Duals (with the Hirst space station.) Mostly though I spent time BSing and ended up killing a lot of time at lunch (Moes) and dinner (Outback Steakhouse.)

    By that point I could have spent the rest of the night sucking down brews but instead finished out the evening as the bad guy in Mousquteers du Roy. I love that game and had a great time raking the Launius over the coals.

     

    Sunday we had planned to go to Franks but Frank's grandfather had passed away.  instead I was going to host and had lined up some peeps to come join us. Then at 3 in the morning Will Kenyon called and volunteered to host. He lives right next to the airport and the more I thought about it the more sense it made. We could pop people over to the airport then jump back into gaming. So we all headed down.

    The only problem is that he didn’t tell his wife- She was pissed! That is classic Kenyon. Ida was a good sport though and decided to vacate. After the dust settled we ended up playing Cosmic Encounters and Alien Frontiers. Both games let me prove what bastard I am though Cosmic went to Chris Tandemieyer (a strange Aeon) who turns out is also a bastard. After Zev, Paul, and Billy flew out we returned home for some Nexus Ops and Dinosaurs of the Lost World.

    Loter, Joshlook and Bernie decided to drive through the night. I felt confident the Loters upbeat teen pop music would keep them rocking the night away though the absence of the Macerana could have possibly been the dealbreaker.

     

    The very last game played by anyone was “Quest for Shan Gri La” which is the Insane Clown Posse’s version of Talisman. Chris was absolutely infatuated by the game. I was just happy to have my character Killnor have a huge posse of homies decked out with 9’s and shotguns. We were jacking juggalos and rednecks left and right, and though we didn’t play the full game, I’m sure I could have taken down the mystic ninja with ease.

     

     All in all, the whole thing was a ton of fun and a big success. In retrospect I wouldn’t have changed a thing…Well possibly the toilet exploding. That was just nasty.

     

    Steve”Mr. Plumber”Avery

  • Trasfest NW posterFor years I've had to endure yearly posts about FATties gathering en masse for the tribal rituals called TrashFest; a call that brought FATties from all parts of the globe including my beloved Canada. Even the bloody Brits got in on the act a couple of years ago and they don't even have dentistry for Baal's sake. Well rest easy friends, all my pent up angst was finally quelled on Feb 15th of this year when I held the NorthWest’s first TrashFest in Vancouver, BC.


    The Fest got underway at 9am, when two of my gaming buddies showed up (one of them being the ribaldly hilarious Keith of the awesome Ask Keith Anything blog . Being that it was early morning, naturally we wanted to ease into the day with something light so we chose Blast City’s Mushroom Eaters (c’mon this is a TrashFest, what the fuck did you expect Mediterranean Spice Merchants?). I have a review of it in the works, but I will say it’s a really good old school Euro game with a unique movement sequence.

    dudes playing Mushroom Eaters board game



    FATtie JonJacob arrived later with his buddy Noel and they launched into a game of X-Wing, while at another table Rampage was set up with the inevitable carnage to follow.


    due setting up Rampage

    At this point Mushroom Eaters wrapped up, more gamers arrived and new games were started. I ended up with JonJacob, Noel and Shannon (founder of Vancouver’s newest gaming con Terminal City Tabletop Convention ) in a tight game of Clash of Cultures.

    dudes playing Clash of Culture

    Here Merchants and Mauraders was being tabled with my regular gaming crew of Mark, Scott, Vuong and his buddy.

    dudes playing Merchants & Marauders

    Keith, Brendon and his lovely wife Bree were going head to head…to head with my second favourite deckbuilder , the lamely named DC Comics Deckbuilding Game. Rune Age, my favourite deckbuilder unfortunately didn’t make an appearance that day.

    dudes and dudette playing DC Deckbuilding game

    As the day went on people came and went but gaming was consistent throughout.  
    Small games like Perudo (yeah!) and Ricochet Robots (blah!) were busted out.

    dudes playing Perudodudes and dudette playing Ricochet Robots

    Two dudes were introduced to the crazy ass world of Magical Athlete and loved it of course. What other roll and move hobby game can elicit such amazing reactions like laughing and cursing so consistently? None I tell you.
    dudes playing Magical Athlete
    At some point a few of us were drunk-taught A Study in Emerald. That’s a TrashFest requirement, no? I had no idea what to do in the game but I’d be willing to give it another go in the future, albeit without the drunk instruction (love ya Rob!).

    By the 10th-ish hour what had once been at max 14 people was down to 6. That meant bringing out a group favourite, Total Rumble the wrestling card game. I was cool on it in my initial review, but since then it has risen sharply on my non-existent top 5 filler game list.

    dudes playing Total Rumble wrestling card game

    In the end, the Blacksmith (Vuong) walked away the Champ with the Strap in tow.  

    Vuaong sporting the Strap

    TrashFest NW came to a close the way it started with myself, Keith and Mark. We battled it out kaiju-style in King of Tokyo.

    dudes playing King of Tokyo
    My wife asked if I thought it was a success and I honestly couldn’t answer her. I really hope people had a great time and I was overjoyed that even one person showed up let alone fourteen. My reasons for doing this were purely selfish ones; I got to play a shit tonne of games and hang out with people new and old that I really really dig for 12 STRAIGHT HOURS!

    So I guess my answer would be; hell yes. See you bitches next year!

     

  • Board Gaming Goon

    Another TrashFest NW come and gone! This year saw a new set of faces as well as old haggardly ones and there were a few surprise guests in attendance. This year's event was to have been held in February but due to  a couple major boardgame conventions starting up then, I thought it was wiser to move it to January. I think this month will be chosen for future TFNWs. 

    My mind midway through the day was kind of foggy so details will be sketchy and I tried to get pictures of as many games as I could but I probably missed a few.

    I was hoping to start the day off with something a bit more off the beaten path as last year the first game played was The Mushroom Eaters. As there was a new person joining in the early festivities we chose King of New York. For some reason this took away longer than it should (1hr+) and in the end I think all monsters were destroyed.

    Kaiju of New York

    A few others showed up around the end of this game, including a dude who I never met before and assumed he was a buddy of someone's. 

     

    UNKNOWN DUDE: Hey, I'm here for TrashFest.

    ME: Cool, are you a friend of Jacob's?

    UD:  Uhh..., no I'm Dave from Fortress Ameritrash.

    ME: HOLY SHIT! ARE YOU ALMALIK?!

    UD: Yeah.

    ME: HOLY SHIT!!!

    First surprise. I just have to give a little backstory. Almalik and I have exchanged PMs about trying to meet up for a couple of years, but life happens and it never panned out. I invited him to TF last year but he didn't make it out. I kinda teased him about it and then felt totally bad. I invited him this year but didn't hear back from him. I'm not a super social guy so i get it. That being said I really dig my people here on F:AT and get childishly anxious at the prospect of meeting you all in person. (I'm already sweating about the possibility that Superfly and Stormseeker may try to make it out next year.) 

     

    Anyhow, Dave is AWESOME (naturally) and I had a great time gaming with him. Here he is (on the left) playing Galaxy Trucker.

    Galaxy Truckers

    Next up for me was a 4 player game of Sons of Anarchy, which I really dig. I enjoy Spartacus more but the playing time for Sons is more manageable.

    Sons of Anarchy

    Over at another table my buddy Keith (of the Ask Keith Anything blog) taught Colossal Arena to a group which included a precocious 11 year old (our first child attendee, I think he went away with a few new words added to his vocabulary).

    Colossal Arena

    Almalik explored the 'Verse during a game of Firefly.

    Firefly

    After Sons, I joined Keith, the boy and his Guardian (Rob Bottos of BottosCon) to play Space Hulk: Death Angel. We were destroyed in the penultimate room quite quickly.

    Space Hulk: Death Angel

    Almalik and I joined in a game of my just sold copy of Cyclades (to the dude on the right). The dude on the left snuck out the win.

    Cycl-ass-des

    Surprise number two:early in the afternoon my brother (artist and musician called Talwst) who was in town on business dropped by unexpectedly. The last time he played games with me was about 20 years ago when I convinced him and our other brother to play Talisman with me. He's not a gamer and eyed the stack of games cautiously but fortunately Keith roped him into a game of Skull and Roses which he really dug. (Yes, jokes of "Is that your "brother" or is that your"BROTHER" gleefully filled the hall.)

    Yes, that is my BRO-THA!

    FATie JonJacob came out again this year and set about playing Wings of Glory.

    Wings of Glory

    Almalik and I played Mysterium. The dude on the right expressed what I felt inside. It's Clue and Dixit mixed together. My least favourite game of TFNW.

    Mysteri-SNORE

    JonJacob teaching my brother and others Love Letter. Another hit with my brother. 

    Love? Let her.

    Magical Athlete was a blast of course. My favourite moment was a race that was being won by the dude on the right (Andrew Laws, a scenario designer for Combat Commander) and as his athlete neared the finish line we were all chanting "one" "one" "one", on his turn, He rolled. 1. Cheers went up. Next time around for him. Chants. Roll. 1. Cheers again. Next time around, Chants. Roll. 1. Were were fucking hysterical. He came in second but boy, those rolls were classic Magical Athlete.

    Magical YES-lete

    Things were winding down at this point (7pm) when (surprise number three)I get a call from none other than FATtie mikecl! When he finally found the place he showed up with XIA, the Drift System (?). It looked amazing but I think most people were looking for lighter fare at this point.  I would love to give it a go at some point.

    Jonjacob (second from left) , mikecl (third from left), and Almalik (in red) ended up playing Skull and Roses. I had to get this shot to show the historic gathering of the Four (okay, I wasn't in the picture, but still) Horsedudebros of the FATpocalypse (Western Canadian Division) really happened!

    SKULLZZZ

    Shortly after the game ended people started heading out. Almalik had to catch a ferry back home. This blew my mind that he came all the way for my stupid little event. Thanks Dave!

    To end the night Keith and I played the DC Deckbuilding game which I really enjoy despite not being a DC fan.

    Last two jerks standing...or sitting.

    All in all I think everyone had a good time (at least I hope so) and by my count there were 17 of us. I'm not one who takes initiative to organize things but this? I fucking LOVE doing this. Thanks to all that came out and thank you Fortress Ameritrash for giving me inspiration to do this as well as giving me a little space of the internet to call home.

    See you bitches next year!!!

  • Trip is going well. I need to sit down in the evening and upload photos. Been to Whisky museum, spent two afternoons in the National museum, and hoofed it all around town. Now have a very nice bottle of Isley 8 year old whisky. Wales played Scotland in Rugby Sunday, and beat them, lots of red shirts in town. Chatted with old men at the bar, which was fun.

     

    Tonight going to go to a listed boardgame night upstairs in a bar (there was a link on TOS for it) and try inflicting Battlelore on Scottish buddy. Now off to see the castle. will try to do the underground thing later this week!Also Zoo, and some dungeons?

  • My lunch group at work has played a lot of games, but we mostly gravitate towards trick-takers and Magic. As a result, and because I got bored playing Spades and Rook all the time (see below) I've accumulated a number of good and unusual trick-taking games, and thought I would write them up.

     

    You won't find Tichu here because I don't like climbing games much.


    will always play


    These are all great for one reason or another.


    Spades and Rook

    I wouldn't mention these except to note that we have modified both of these traditional games extensively so they are much crazier.


    Was Sticht - 4 player

    First you draft what contracts you are going to try to make (take exactly 2 tricks, the most tricks, the least, etc). Then each round you draft your hand while trying to deduce what trump is. The dealer, who knows what trump is, has to prevent someone else from making their bid while doing it instead, which is pleasingly hard to do. Cardplay is standard. Surprisingly easier to play than it sounds, with a good balance of luck and skill.


    Mu - 4-6 player but best with 5

    Learning this is a bit of a challenge (the iOS app helps) but it really isn’t as complicated as it seems. The bidding system is what makes this game; you bid cards from your hand and whoever wins gets to pick one of the trumps based on what she played and a partner based on what everyone else played. The runner-up gets to pick the other trump and can't be partner. This makes bidding very exciting once it gets going, although we've toyed with forcing everyone to bid at least one card to give it a boost. Groups that are more aggressive with bidding won't need this. Cardplay is pretty straightforward, really this is about the bidding.


    Cosmic Eidex - 3 player

    This game is insane and probably my favorite in the genre. The game is absolutely as complicated as it seems - cards are worth different point values whether it's a trump hand or no-trump hand, and no trump even has top-down and bottom-up varieties. You can trump at any time...except when you can’t. Overall you're vying with the others to be closest to zero points or closest to 100 without going over (lots of mental arithmetic). And then there's the special powers which is where the Cosmic comes in. Every game you get a special power which can vary from the mild yet occasionally powerful (change the direction of play twice per hand) to the completely game-changing (whoever gets the black jack loses this round, nothing else matters). It's definitely not for everyone and I love it.


    Tekeli-li - 4-6 players, best with any

    This game is on the keeper list because it’s ridiculous and yet stays fun to play. This is a game where the loser will become “frighteningly havocked”. Gameplay involves trying to go nil (take no tricks) as much as possible, which is one of my group’s favorite things to do in a trick-taking game. The game stays interesting for four reasons I can think of. One, the high cards in each suit can cancel each other so they are no longer taking the trick, which adds just enough of a wrinkle. Two, there is a “long trip” card which causes the trick to last one extra card from each player. Played at the right time this causes great reactions. Three, the person to the left of the trick winner leads, which is infuriating and fantastic. Finally, the hands you think are the best are usually the worst and vice versa, which is entertaining. Still, of the games at this tier this is the one closest to dropping down to the next. I don’t think I could play this every day.

     


    once in a while


    Sticheln - any number

    aka "the pain game" - so named because you want to avoid your pain suit and take everything else. Cleverly you can play any card but everything other than the lead suit is trump, so you often don't want to. With lots of players (inevitable with our group) you learn the gotcha plays very quickly and it becomes rather rote with only one pain suit, so we of course up it a notch to multiple pain suits, some of which are picked randomly or are hidden or both. This has the side effect of making it somewhat random. We keep a low score sheet with this to make it more entertaining (no one cares who actually managed to score positively).


    Trump, tricks, game - 3 or 4

    Stupid name aside, this is a neat game that requires a different approach. The cards you take every round are your cards for the next round; however the suits that are worth points also change from round to round. There's also a bonus the last round for each suit which is unfortunately always the same, and randomly the suit that is worth the most at the end always seems to be the suit worth points in the last round as well, which spoils the endgame a bit. Still, there's a nice balance between trying for immediate scoring and shooting for a large endgame bonus. After about a week of this I'm sated for awhile, so I guess there's something missing, but I can't think what.


    The Hobbit - 3-5

    Worth a laugh now and then because it's short, has player elimination, and features the world's most useless dwarf. What to play is pretty apparent most of the time but it's still fun to assign damage, especially when a player has to do so randomly and inevitably kills his own team off. Stupid Thorin. May have run its course after about 10 games.

     


    ok but something is missing


    Pala - 3-5

    The draw here is that the suits are different colours and you can meld them together like the colour wheel to change the suit of the trick. Which is almost really cool, but by the rules as written it doesn't really happen as much as I'd like. If you lead a primary colour, everyone has to follow suit and not meld, which means by the time you can meld more than half your options are gone. I want to change that rule but I don't think others are interested enough to try it. We've only played the going nil version of the rules, so I don't know if the other version works better.

    This still gets play at lunch, so it does have its fans.


    Chronicle

    The descriptions I read of this made it sound right up my alley, where every card value has a special ability and the goal changes from round to round. In practice though we found every hand playing out similarly and the whole thing repetitive and a bit tedious, and it didn't have the humour or cleverness of Tekeli-li.


    Stich-meister

    The players determine, from various goal cards they play, what trump, scoring, and other possible rules are in effect every round. Crazy! Limitless possibilities! But ultimately not that exciting. Because the rule cards have to effectively be standalone, they really can't be all that complicated, and it turns out that the occasional perfect craziness of 3 great rules interacting is offset by the more usual mundanity of 2 of the rules barely interacting and the 3rd just being there, or effectively clobbering one of the others. Possibly a handcrafted set of more interesting rule choices would make this great, but I haven't put the effort in yet.


    The Bottle Imp (Flaschentueful) - 3-4

    It's kind of sad to put this here because I like the way it ties to the story and the little wooden bottle it comes with, and to an extent the gameplay. It's just that it feels like there's one correct way to play and once you figure out the strategy...there's nothing more. It's the same puzzle every time.

     


    needs more play


    Victory and Honor - 4 player

    I like this game a lot. You play three simultaneous tricks, your cards have different and interesting abilities without being overwhelming, and ultimately you're trying to take cards that fit well with what your partner has taken. The learning curve is steep and I think really that's the only reason this hasn't gotten more play.


    Day of the Dead - 4 player

    Had to mention this of course. Thanks Frank! My wife and I played this several weeks in a row with the same couple and really enjoyed it. I like the powers each number has (compare to Chronicle which has much less interesting powers) and the theming tied into the scoring. Need to bring it out with the lunch group and see if it gains traction.


    You Suck (a tick taking game. hyuk) 2-6

    It's fun just having this game on a shelf at work.

    Positive initial impressions but it hasn't come back out. Playing multiple simultaneous tricks is neat. I'm not sure if the various special powers you can earn are interesting enough, but they might be fine.

     


    absolutely terrible


    Myth: Pantheons

    I got this because there were somewhat positive mentions here on F:AT. Holy fuck this game is terrible. It is incredibly convoluted, much more so than even Cosmic Eidex because it adds a ton of completely bizarre and annoying chrome, made worse because the rulebook has insane terminology and buries necessary rules in obscure places. In addition, there’s some component problems - a good number of the tokens are indistinguishable, even at close range. When we finally struggled through a game, there just was very little point to all of it. The extra chrome bogged the game down in uninteresting ways and it seemed to be very easy to get into broken states. After one play I was willing to give it another go but no one else was.

     


    would like to try


    The Dwarf King seems like a light take on Barbu, which I've always wanted to try anyway.

    I've waffled on gettingDie Sieban Siegal (also published as Zing!) for ages but now that I've typed it up I think Was Sticht may be better anyhow.

    ebbes, in which you don't know what trump is until partway through the trick, sounds good.

    Njet! mucks with bidding in potentially agreeable ways.

    Trick of the Rails may be too much train game.

    And finally,Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (aka Twilight) has piqued my interest forever but unfortunately not enough to get it and now it's basically out of print except in Germany.

    And of course anything anyone mentions that sounds cool.

  • Trying to define “the board”

     

    On LinkedIn someone asked if there were industry definitions and names for the various aspects of a game board.  There aren’t any that I know of, but it’s worth trying to analyze what we actually have in a “game board”.

     

    We’re accustomed to thinking that a video game has an interface, but so do tabletop games.  The interface enables the player to see what’s happening in the game, and to manipulate the game, to tell the game what the player wants to do.  This is non-technical in tabletop games but still exists, and can still be better or worse depending on how it’s arranged.  The board is the principle part of the interface that reveals what’s happening, whether it’s a physical board or on the screen in a video game.

     

    Typically, in a tabletop game we have something that lies flat on the table that stores information that we call a board.  In video games the board is frequently an array in memory, and each pixel on the screen may be a slightly different location, or a more conventional square or hex grid might be hidden from sight but still in use. From the player’s point of view the screen is the “board.”  Recently some tabletop games have gone from a shared board to individual boards, often called player layouts, that store information.  Team sports have “boards” that we normally call fields, as in a football or baseball field, the ice in hockey, the court in basketball, the pitch in soccer.  They are still places where information is stored, but because the athletes act on the field we tend not to think of those fields as boards.

     

    A traditional game board - and an athletic field - records the results of maneuver, placement, and location of “pieces.”  In most board and video games the board is digital, that is, it has discrete parts/locations, whereas sports fields tend to be analog, with continuous flows rather than discrete separations, though we also have discrete locations in, for example, the penalty area and six yard box in soccer or the bases in baseball.  Maneuver always involves location because what makes maneuver important is the spatial relationship between “pieces” in their locations on the board.  Placement (as opposed to maneuver) provides the spatial relationship but without the possibility of moving pieces that are already there.  Instead pieces are placed, as in Tic-Tac-Toe.

     

    Insofar as many games represent warfare, and warfare is largely about maneuver, it’s not surprising that most classic games are games of maneuver and location, though some (such as Go and Tic-Tac Toe) are games of placement rather than maneuver.

     

    Area control in modern Eurostyle boardgames is a matter of placement and spatial location, and sometimes of maneuver as well.  Worker placement, on the other hand, is usually a matter of storing status information, not of spatial activity.  For example, in cases where placing a worker at one point means someone else cannot place one there, you could just as well use tokens or cards to keep track of which functions have been allotted to which players.

     

    More recently in some tabletop games, boards have only stored status information having nothing to do with maneuver, placement, and location.  The board is used to record the state of various kinds of information that have no spatial relationship to one another, as in Kingsburg.  On a roulette “board” for example, players store the bets before the ball rolls.  In the inventory of a video RPG, the player stores his items in various “locations”, but there is no spatial relationship between one and another, even though items must (in some games) fit the shape of the storage area.

     

    Typically a player layout in a tabletop game is of this type if only because none of the other players has any assets on this “board,” so that a player layout is rarely used for maneuver.  (Maneuver typically implies maneuvering against pieces of other players, although technically the word does not necessarily include that aspect.)

     

     

     

    What do we call the parts of the board?  Generally where maneuver, placement, and location is important you have some kind of “grid.”  The most familiar grid is an area layout, like a map of the 50 United States or the countries of Europe.  The grid may be regular, as in squares, it may be hexes or a brick pattern that amounts to the same thing as hexes, it may be a series of concentric circles divided into areas.  It may be irregular, as in a connectivity diagram such as Merchant of Venus or Masters of Orion II or many board wargames.  In every case the grid amounts to an array showing connectivity between and consequently spatial relationships between locations.  (I made a connectivity diagram for the Britanniaboard once; but it’s easier to play on something that looks like a familiar map of Britain, than on a connectivity diagram.  Yet the so-far-unplayed card version of Britanniauses region cards placed in a pattern that amounts to a connectivity diagram.)

    [I’ll try to insert that diagram here, if not you can use this link (case sensitive): http://pulsiphergames.com/britannia/images/ConnectivityDiagramBrit.gif ]

     

    A special instance of this grid is the track, as in Monopoly, Parcheesi, as in Olympic swimming (each player has a separate track), and in many other race games.  A big difference is that even though the track amounts to a connectivity diagram, it is linear, there is no choice of where you can go, so practically speaking there’s no maneuver.  In fact you can see a track as more status track - where are you located right now - than anything like a playing field.  Yet some race games allow maneuver on the track, perhaps a going from inside to outside in a car or chariot race game.  This might be called a route rather than a track.  The classic game Careersuses a track that offers periodic choices to follow a different route into various “careers” that lead back to the main track.

     

    Aside from grids and tracks/routes we can have places on the board where something tangible is stored, as in the locations on the Monopolyboard where we store the cards.  In a data flow diagram these would be called “data stores”.  Perhaps we could call them “depositories”.  They provide a location for storage of something physical, such as cards, or something virtually physical, as when a boardgame is computerized but you can still draw “cards”.  A “magic shop” in a computer RPG also amounts to a not-wholly-random depository.

     

    Then we have all the locations that store status information, for example which worker has been allocated to which task.  A time record track or turn track stores status.  In every case, it should be possible to reflect the same storage by using cards or other tokens, but it’s often easier for all the players to see when laid out on a “board” of some kind.  I’ll call these the “status” or “status tracking” parts of the board.  (“Conditions” might be another choice.)

     

    Many boards also contain pure “information displays”.  These may be orders of battle or appearance of new assets (as on the FFG version of Britannia, along the eastern side of the board), they may be combat or other tables, they may show turn order, and so forth. They may remind players of specific rules.  (Ideally, allof the rules of a game would be on the board; but that’s rarely practical given limitations of space and eyesight.)   Status changes; information displays never change.

     

    Of course, we can also say that many game boards display information about terrain, economic values, and so forth even as they provide a grid for maneuver, placement, and location.

     

    These areas can be mixed, as in Monopolywith its track, depositories, and some information (the price of properties, the amount you get for passing Go); or Britanniawith an area grid, a status section (where players keep track of saved Increase Points), and an information display (the turn-by-turn appearance); or computer Civilizationwhere we have a square or hex grid, plus many, many status areas (if you click on cities), plus information displays.

     

     

    Must the board to be a single large layout?  I’ve mentioned games where there are player layouts, which means we have several “boards”.  What about card games where the spatial relationship of the cards is important, for example card Solitaire or Canasta?  (Most card games do not have the spatial relationship, for example Texas Hold‘em.)  These are boards of several parts.

     

    Then there are tile laying games, with tiles effectively substituting for cards, and all of it ultimately derived from dominoes.  The result of laying the tiles is spatial relationships: these are placement and location games.  For all practical purposes this is a board that is constructed as the game proceeds.  So cards can certainly be used for a board, whether they are laid out ahead of time or laid out as the game proceeds. 

     

    Settlers of Catan has a randomly tile-laid board: there is a spatial relationship, but not one influenced by the players.  Once the board is laid out, it becomes a grid for placement and location.

     

    When cards/tiles/dominoes are used as a board, almost always it will be a spatial board, one for placement (or even movement) and location.  It’s unlikely to be a board that will help keep status, or a depository.

     

     

     

    What is essential to a board?  Depositories don’t need to be on a board, we can place draw decks, piece supplies, the Monopoly bank, more or less wherever we want rather than on a board, without too much inconveniencing the players.  (Remember, this is all part of the interface, which is supposed to make it easy for the players to see what’s happening in the game, and to manipulate the game.)  Information displays can be on separate play aids, in a rulebook, in the software’s Help files.  But to improve the interface we may want some of this information on the board where everyone can easily see it.  Status tracking areas can be on individual player layouts rather than on the board, or may use tokens or cards, but once again the question is what’s most convenient for the players, what makes the game easier to play, status recorded on a central board, or on a player layout, or somewhere else?

     

    The one thing that almost has to be on the board is a playing field/grid, when the game involves maneuver/placement and spatial relationships (location), because the interactivity amongst the different players’ pieces just about requires a common visual display.  It’s not surprising that the boards of classic games like Go, Chess in its many versions, Parcheesi, Backgammon, Nine Men’s Morris, Tic-Tac-Toe, Hnefetafl, are all playing fields and nothing else.

     

     

    Some people will argue that everything we might do with a game board, can be done with arrays in a computer.  That’s likely true, but the purpose of a board, which is a major part of a game interface, is to make the players’ tasks easier, to help them see what’s happening in the game.  Putting all of that in a computer array hides it.  The assumption in a boardgame is that all information is visible.  The state of a computer game is that nothing is visible until a programmer causes the computer to make it visible.

     

     

    To go back to our original question, we have:

    •       regular or irregular grids or tracks/routes
    •       depositories where physical (or virtually physical) things are placed
    •       information displays, and
    •       status tracking areas.

     

    I should think someone has tried to define areas/functions of boards before, perhaps someone can point me to those attempts.

     

     

     

    My book “Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish" is available from mcfarlandpub.com or Amazon. (Books-a-Million has an eBook version at http://bit.ly/PQQqh3.)

    I am @lewpuls on Twitter.  (I average much less than one post a day, almost always about games, not about other topics.)  Web: http://pulsiphergames.com/

     

     

     

     

  • Well, 6 months after getting publisher feedback, I finally finished revising Thrilling Tales of Adventure! It was a lot of work, taking up every last minute of spare time that was already at a premium since we had welcomed a new addition to the family in December. The biggest change was throwing out the old movement system and replacing it with one that would theoretically tie in better to the other game systems, but I made a host of other changes as well. I brought the map size down about 20% to open up more table space, redesigned the basic card layout, and tweaked nearly every other aspect of the game in some way.

    I decided to produce two prototypes at the same time, and with the generous production assistance of some of my students, finished them up earlier this week. Then, on this past Wednesday and Thursday nights, we ran two playtest sessions concurrently.

    The first night took the wind out of my sails, since the new movement system generated a number of problems. It's definitely easier and more  intuitive than the old one, but there were still issues with getting around and completing Adventures within the prescribed turn time limits. A couple of players had frustrating experiences, which I tend to take pretty hard because I'm so concerned with people having a good time. By the end of the Wednesday session I was demoralized, thinking about cancelling the Thursday night session, and contemplating giving up on the whole project altogether.

    Luckily my students encouraged me not to give up, pointing out the positive aspects of the design and the ways in which they hadbeen having fun. They convinced me to carry on with the Thursday session. I went home, thought about what short-term changes I could make to the design, and came back the next night with notes and newly-printed combat tables in hand.

    I'm happy to report that the Thursday session went much, much better. There are still some issues, but a few small changes steered us clear of what had been disastrous about the movement system the previous night. One of the two games was taken to the end, coming down to a face-off between Rockwell Jones and the Arch Villain Baron Zero in his fortress in the Gobi Desert with the military occupation of Eurasia in the balance. It was right down to the last die roll, and Rockwell won it.

    We had to cut the other game short  at 1a.m., but the Heroes had a satisfying final Adventure that took them into the depths of the Earth beneath Atlantis, where they fought Mole Men and the Death Sphinx before defeating General Midnight in his subterranean bunker. That game took longer because it was a learning game with four players who had never played before.

    So, overall, it turned out for the better. People were having a lot of fun, there was a lot of laughter, and a lot of dramatic tension. After collecting everyone's feedback and seeing how the new systems work (or don't), I am once again faced with the task of producing another prototype. Luckily it will be a case of tweaking everything that's already there, so it won't be as big a production as this last version was, but it will probably still take me another couple of months. In the meantime, the two prototypes that I do have are workable, and we'll continue to test them as we have the opportunity. Onward!

    Many thanks to all of my awesome students and friends who have contributed their time, effort, and encouragement to this crazy project!

  • Herewith is the first installment of attempt to document a recent playtest session in its entirety. I'm going to try to keep it narrative, but actual cards titles will be indicated by boldtype, and notes on mechanics will be appear in brackets throughout. After the last chapter runs, I'll post a rundown of the positive and negative conclusions we drew from the playtest. If you're not familiar with my game, here's its page on BGG .

     

  • Read chapter 1 here

    ---------- 

    CHAPTER 2: PERIL IN PETROGRAD 

    Meanwhile, in a cluttered Magician's Garret [Home Base] in snowy Petrograd, the Amazing Uri is rehearsing his magic act when his concentration is broken by insistent knocking. Irritated, he throws opens the door only to find the hall empty, but notices an envelope at his feet. Inside are a handful of ruble notes, about which Uri immediately notices something strange: on the face of every bill is an engraved portrait of what looks like an American gangster.

    Intrigued by the obviously Counterfeit Cash, Uri throws on his overcoat, checks to make sure the Pistol in his coat pocket is loaded, and catches a carriage to the local Newspaper Office, to consult with his contacts there. No sooner has he entered the newsroom when a monstrous creature lurches out of the stairwell in the hall and crashes through the door after him. Uri nimbly evades the thing's clumsy first strike as a roomful of stunned reporters look on, and a flashbulb goes off as one quick-thinking photographer captures the action on film [By attacking here, the Arch Villain takes advantage of  the Newspaper Office's "Infamy" effect, which grants extra Villainy points].

    "Am I not beautiful?" cries the monster as more flashes go off. "So what if everything but my head came from other bodies!" [This quote is the flavor text for this Minion, Maldehyde's Bride]

    As a typing machine flies past his head, Uri realizes with a shock that his foe is female - if that word could fairly be used to describe a patchwork assembly of mismatched limbs. Regaining his composure in the midst of the chaos, he further understands himself to be the quarry of the abominable Amazon, and that the best way to avoid unnecessary injury to onlookers would be to make a quick exit. The next time a flashbulb goes off, there is a puff of sulfurous smoke, and the Amazing Uri is nowhere to be seen [After two rounds of combat, Uri makes use of his "Puff of Smoke" special ability].

    As the staff runs screaming from the building, Uri emerges from a broom closet in the basement and takes a survey of his surroundings. Some dark smudges on a wall near the coal chute appear on closer examination to be large Fingerprints, no doubt left by the shambling she-devil as she staggered into the building. In the snow outside, he finds a trail of oversized footprints and sets off to trace them to their point of origin.

    Within a few blocks he has reached the service entrance of Petrograd Hospital, whence the monster appears to have begun its trek. He draws his pistol, slips inside, and stealthily climbs a set of stairs to find himself near the entrance to an operating room. As he edges closer to the doors in order to peer through one of the portholes, a shadow moves across his field of vision.

    Someone is behind him!

    ----------

    Tune in next time for another exciting episode of Thrilling Tales of Adventure! 

  • Read the first chapter here .

    Read the previous chapter here

    CHAPTER 3: DOLLAR'S DIAMONDS

    The deafening roar of gunfire fills the hospital halls, and a spray of bullets tears across the wall, drawing a ragged line of death where Uri had stood just a second before. The magician, having dived to the floor at the last possible instant, rolls to face the direction of the gunfire and fires off two shots before he can even get a clear look at his assailant. A Thompson submachine gun clatters to the tiles and its owner, a Gun Moll, slides down beside it, her trench coat stained with blood. Uri reflects for a puzzled moment on the fact that he has been assaulted by two women in the same evening. [Uri wins this Challenge in one round, getting a lucky roll with his pistol against the Gun Moll's "Tommy Gun" ability].

    Knowing that anyone in the vicinity would respond quickly to the sound of gunfire, Uri leaps through the doors to the operating theater in hopes of surprising any foes within, and finds himself face to face with none other than Boss Dollar, the notoriously vain and well-dressed kingpin of crime.

    "When my work is done here, the only face you'll see on a ruble is MINE!" hollers Dollar, squeezing off a few shots from his gold-plated .45 into the plume of acrid smoke that billows where Uri stood an instant before. The overhead lights flicker and go black, plunging the room into darkness [Uri uses his special ability on the first round of the Challenge]

    "Where'd ya go, Russkie?" shouts the kingpin.

    Suddenly anxious, he pats his jacket, feeling for something that was just there am oment ago. "Hey! My rocks! MY ROCKS!"

    Enraged, he starts firing blindly into the dark, turning the room into a deafening echo chamber. 

    Uri crouches down behind the printing press that takes up one half of the operating theater as bullets ricochet off of it. He hefts the fist-sized package purloined from Boss Dollar's vest pocket before slipping out the door on the far side of the theater.

    Two mounted police officers clatter to a halt and dismount outside the hospital's front entrance on Liteinuy Street just as Uri dashes down the steps.

    "Gentlemen," the magician says calmly, holding his hands in the air as the policemen reach for their sidearms, "If you move quickly and with care, you will find within the American embodiment of vanity and greed – a man driven tonight by these twin evils to perpetrate more than one crime against the pride of Petrograd!"

    Uri opens his left hand, and dozen golden bullets cascade into the snow at his feet. A small burlap pouch appears suddenly in his right hand, and he tosses it towards the nearest policeman, who catches it.

    "Luckily, he is now both out of ammunition and in need of funds for his enterprise."

    Both officers, their eyes momentarily drawn to the thrown package, are shocked to see no trace of the stranger when they look back to the place where he stood only seconds before.

    The officer with the pouch empties it into one gloved hand. Something sparkles in the light of the nearby streetlamp.

    "What is it?" Asks the other policeman.

    "Rocks. No… wait. Diamonds! Uncut Diamonds!"

    Flakes of snow catch and dissolve on the cluster of stones in his hand.

    ----------

    Tune in next time for another exciting episode of Thrilling Tales of Adventure! 

  • With the relative calm of a four-day bank holiday giving us a little time to sort out baby stuff and sit down and watch some TV, we got the chance to catch up with some of the big new shows over the weekend.

    First was the new series of Dr. Who with a new face for the doctor and a new head writer. I had my doubts about Matt Smith as the Doctor, especially following in the footsteps of David Tennant who has seriously got to be a contender for the best Time Lord ever, but on the whole the episode delivered. Smith's take on the character doesn't seem to be quite as compelling or believable as Tennant's but it's solid and has it's own unique angle, painting a personality that is both child-like and slightly psychotic. I was also impressed by his new companion, Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, if for nothing else than her brilliant wide-eyed, hard-mouthed "shocked face" which simultaneously conveys surprise, fear, awe, and a serious intention to kick whatever caused the shock in the bollocks if it comes any closer. This being Dr Who and she being a poor ignorant earth-girl she got to use the face a lot. Surprisingly, given that the new head writer, Stephen Moffat, delivered some of the best episodes of the previous series, I was a lot less impressed with his work here. The aliens - a giant eyeball and a monster eel that could apparently hang in mid-air and travel around without the aid of arms, legs, wings or other appendages (we never got to see it's rear end) - were a bit silly. And although the episode plot hung together well, I couldn't quite believe the clumsy handling of the meta-plot for the series arc, something that was handled with incredible subtlety in previous runs. Having the first episode talking about "falling silence" and "cracks in time and space" is the dialogue equivalent of smacking the audience in the face with a plank.

    I'd been waiting for The Pacific ever since it was announced many years ago. Watching the first two episodes it's clear that the team behind it took some of the criticism of Band of Brothers to heart and worked hard on ensuring the new series didn't fall into the same trap. Each episode is now introduced with a short history lesson narrated by Tom Hanks in order to set the scene, which I found a huge boon since my knowledge of the war in the Pacific is very poor compared to my understanding of the war in Europe. It also focusses down on a much smaller number of characters, three main ones and a small cast of their closest companions, which makes it a lot easier to follow. The characterisation, historical accuracy and action sequences were all very much up to the standard set by it's predecessor and yet on the whole I felt The Pacific fell slightly short of the benchmark set by the previous series. Why? On reflection I think it's very simple: whatever the flaws introduced by trying to writer a series about an entire company of soldiers, Band of Brothers simply seemed to hang together better as a story about a group of people that slowly evolved together as they travelled and fought through Europe. It simply offers a more cohesive emotional and historical narrative. In The Pacific the action takes place against the backdrop of the entire 1st Marine Division and the story of the War in the Pacific as a whole is lost because from the Marine's point of view, it was a series of isolated island landings, which makes it feel more impersonal and punctuated.

    Still, the criticisms of both are relatively minor. They're well worth watching and you can bet I'll be sitting down to the remaining episodes of both whenever I get the time.

  • This is the stuff you have been waiting for.

  • Now that my daughter is a little older and life is a little less fraught I find that I have enough free time to go out and game on a fairly regular basis - about once a month, sometimes twice if I'm lucky. So what with this being a blog and all I figured it was probably about time I actually used it like a blog and do what all blog writers do and bore you to tears with irrelevant and pointless observations about the minutiae of my daily life. Or at least do this after each time I go out and get some gaming in. I know this is "just" a blog post rather than a custom-written front page article but I'm sticking it on the front page anyway for two reasons - firstly as a heads-up to everyone that I'm going to be posting these things once or twice a month and secondly because I have the power to inflict my inane ramblings on you lot at the click of a button so I'm damn well going to use it. I love admin rights.

  • From the past couple of weeks... 

    Dead of Night

    A couple two-player games at my friend's place. He made absurdly delicious Mexican food (tortilla chicken casserole main, intense home made salsa) which we enjoyed with fresh margaritas, and a crisp German beer I've been enjoying recently (Holsten). First scenario: We tried to make a quick escape from the zombie horde by hotwiring the car. The hotwiring worked, but since the car was a mini and since we didn't do anything to clear zeds away from the exit the car was overwhelmed by a mob and it crashed. I consider it a victory that we managed to slide out of the car and escaped back to the house alive. The new plan was to hide in a washroom until sunrise when the army would arive. But just as I got the house I got grabbed and chomped, and spent the next few rounds trying to delay my inevitable transformation into a zed. It didn't take long. Second scenario: We had much more success here. When we arrived in the mini, we drove around the area running zeds over (my friend is a Car Wars freak, so that strategy came naturally). Then we each found fire axes and were able to make short work of the zeds with those.  Music: various horror soundtracks, tunes from some Swedish death metal band (forget the name) that produced an album of horror music.

    Battlestar Galactica

    Played at my &  my partner's place with 3 other friends. Since I was still thinking about the awesome Mexican food from the previous week, I decided to try to make something like that. Baked enchilada burritos, a few different fresh salsas, a couple of salads, organge/mango spritzers, Holsten. The food worked out really well. It was the first time playing BSG for our three friends, so we decided to shorten the game a bit (humans win if they jump after reaching 6 distance, sleeper phase at 3 distance). For the first half of the game the friends were a bit overwhelmed with the rules and details, but by the second half they were really into it. I was a human Baltar, and I knew that Agathon was a cylon. But I didn't realize that my parter was the other cylon, which sucked for us humans because she was Saul and had both president and admiral titles. Agathon revealed and dropped a massive assault super crisis card on us at a time when we already had 2 fucking basestars on the board and centurions close to the end of the track. Humans had no chance, especially since one of us was Boomer in the brig. It was the centurions who got us in the end. It was awesome, and the friends liked it. The next game will go much better now that the learning curve is over . One of my friends brought a bunch of fresh cherries which were surprisingly yummy with the after dinner scotch I was drinking. Music: various Brazillian tunes (album of tunes selected by David Byrne), PJ Harvey, Bob Dillan, Chet Baker, Coltrane.

    Next up: Napoleon's Triumph



  • Two military/political aspects of the ancient world hold a fascination for me, because I've not found or seen a really satisfactory way to represent them in games.  These are the problems of "the bump" and of tribute.

    The Bump
    The first of these is what I call "the bump" or the push.  This is the way that horse barbarians migrating out of Central Asia pushed other barbarians before them.  Sometimes the pushing continued until ultimately some of them crossed over the borders of the civilized world.  For example, the Huns pushed the Goths into the Roman Empire in the late fourth century A.D., and helped push the Vandals/Alans/Sueves/Allamanni/Franks as well.

    In historical games that have the benefit (or curse) of hindsight/foresight often the player representing the Goths, knowing the Huns are coming, moves into the Roman Empire on his own.  But in terms of causality that is backwards, a flaw that's a consequence of putting history into repeatable gameplay.  Also there can be cases where the player is not certain that the Huns (or whoever) are coming, or are coming immediately (this turn).  But there's rarely a mechanism in games to enable the Goths to react immediately according to what the Huns do.

    If the nation is not allowed to vacate an area until actually attacked then some of the hindsight/foresight problem goes away.  But if they're not allowed to flee and attack somebody farther up the line that we don't have a true bump.

    I have tried various rules that allow horse units to withdraw from combat without fighting and move to another adjacent area to cause a fight there, more or less replicating the pushing action, the bump, on the steppe.  But this can be complex and time-consuming whken there are multiple simultaneous bumps, and I've never found it satisfactory; and it doesn't reflect more subtle pushes that affect foot barbarians farther on (the other Germans).

    Confederations and Submissions
    Associated with this problem is the problem of shifting tribal confederations.  Historians believe that the typical large tribal groups that attacked civilized areas were confederations made up of many tribes, including tribes of varying ethnicities.  So the Huns were not all Mongols - or is it Turks, nobody's really sure - but some were Iranians (Sarmatians, Alans) and some were other peoples that they'd picked up in their travels.  The Franks were a confederation of many tribes, although probably all German tribes.  The Vandals famous for sacking Rome in 455 A.D. were actually much more complex, with two kinds of Vandals plus hangers-on from other tribes including even the Iranian Alans.  Along with them into Iberia came the Suevi who were themselves a confederation of Marccomani and Quadi (IIRC), but again mostly Germans.
    This also extends to the long-term submission of one barbarian tribe to another, as of the Germanic Gepids to the Huns.  (A confederation including Gepids finally took down the Hun empire after the death of Attila.  The Lombards and Avars later did away with the Gepids.)  Yes, there are submission rules in Britannia, but those don't reflect the reality that tribes submitted to the Huns made up a considerable part of Attila's force that invaded Gaul in 451.

    How do we represent the coming together (and sometimes coming apart) of these tribal confederations?  How do we keep track of who is who?  How do we decide when a tribe submits and when it unsubmits?
    Tribute
    The second fascinating aspect of the ancient world is the interaction between tribute and control, especially in the ancient Near East.  It seems that most warfare was not actually intended to conquer new land but only to raid adjacent nations into submission, both to gather loot and so that the victims would peaceably pay tribute in the future.  The Assyrian empire especially was known for this, and only gradually did they take full control of areas they raided as their tributaries again and again reneged on their promises, especially when a new king came to power.  Typically an Assyrian king went on campaign almost every year in order to chastise some opponent by raiding their lands.  Sometimes the Assyrian kings raised stele that described in detail the loot they received in the tribute they extracted.  And when the king died it was often necessary for his successor to go back and raid areas that had been tributary but stopped as soon as the strong King passed away.  In most ancient Near Eastern empires the borders we see on maps represent tributary areas rather than a year-round control, though a few maps differentiate the two as best we can with limited knowledge. 
    In the Middle Ages, Charlemagne's Empire had some aspects of that tributary nature, but this often took the shape of feudal military obligations rather than actual payment of money and goods. And once the empire was no longer expanding, no longer collecting loot for the army, those obligations were more often not fulfilled.  In contrast, in "modern" (post-Medieval) times in European warfare nations nibbled at the borders of their opponents, taking control of fortresses and small areas, or colonies overseas, and rarely resorted to tribute.  Only occasionally as in the partitions of Poland did the attackers conquer large areas.
    The Assyrians resorted to mass exportations of population to help gain control of new lands.  In the end perhaps there just weren't enough Assyrians to control all that they had, and when there was a long fight over the succession after the death of a strong ruler such as Ashurbanipal, this could drag the Empire down, to the point that it was destroyed by its many enemies in the late seventh century BC.  Thereafter there were still people around who called themselves Assyrians, and to this day there are people in Iraq and elsewhere in the region who call themselves Assyrians and proudly hearken back to the Assyrian Empire, but there's never been an Assyrian state of any note since 605 BC.

    In an ancient Near Eastern game I'm working on I have a simple tribute mechanism, that armies can temporarily vacate an area (which is not normally allowed) in order to attack an adjacent area and extract tribute, afterward returning to the areas they came from.  The owner of the raided area can decide to fight or can simply give up the tribute, which is one victory point to the attacker but no loss to the defender.  It's the no loss to the defender that doesn't quite fit the historical situation, but in this game the economy is very simple and it's not worth trying to represent economically that the area was raided.  The very long time scale - the game covers about 2,200 years in less than three hours for 3-5 players - makes it difficult to represent something that changed year-by-year in actual history.

    For whatever reasons the ancients were not inclined to completely destroy enemy cities the way the Romans destroyed Carthage in 146 BC and Corinth in Greece in the same year (when he entered Corinth "Mummius put all the men to the sword and sold the women and children into slavery before he torched the city").  A common culture may have contributed to ancient reluctance; I think the Assyrians were more willing to destroy cities of enemies who were not part of the ancient Near Eastern culture dating back to old Babylonia and Sumeria.  The Greeks may have had similar reasons not to destroy cities.  The Spartans refused to destroy Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian War, but Alexander the Great - a Macedonian, which is somewhat different from a Greek though the Macedonians liked to think they were Greeks - razed Thebes to the ground after the Greeks rebelled at his accession.  On the other hand, centuries earlier the Spartans had destroyed Messenia and enslaved the entire population, who nonetheless retained their identity as Messenians.


    All of this can come into play in the great mystery of history, the extraordinary effect that good or bad leadership can have in ancient (and medieval) times.  Assyria fell when a three-way succession struggle following the death of a strong leader went on too long, but it wasn't the first time Assyria had suffered because of doubtful succession.  The Roman Empire's great problem was the succession, and I wonder if more Romans were killed by one another in succession struggles than were killed fighting barbarians.  Again and again and again you see the vast difference between outstandingly good and outstandingly poor leadership.  I have leaders in Britannia, but their effect is not massive on its own; the Major Invasions have a much greater effect, and those are sometimes a result of leadership.  In the much-shorter version of Britannia that I intend to be one of the new editions, you can only move half your armies when you don't have a great leader, a stronger effect added to the leader's bonus in battle.