Blogs

  • Does Codenames Pictures succeed as much as the original? What makes Cosmic Encounter the best game ever designed? Also, is Cosmic Encounter the best game ever designed? Argue about it with me this week on "Why Do I Own This?"

  • Can Doctor Who succeed in the Duel of Ages? Can the Lesser Houses improve an already great game? Find out this week as I ask, "Why do I own this?"

  • This week on Why Do I Own This?, join me as I talk about a game I actually don't remember getting, a monstrous game I'll never play enough, and two games from designer Friedemann Friese.

  • What makes Fury of Dracula and Dune some of the best adaptations of literary works in board game form? Is For Sale the best fifteen-minute game ever? Once more I look at a copy of a game like Gloom and think to myself, "Why do I own this?"

  • Hey, is that my fish? Or is it actually Haggis? It's hard to say, prompting the question, "Why do I own this?"

  • Whenever I see an announcement for a game based on a movie, TV show or book I love, I sit up and take notice. Most of you do too, admit it.

  • I have a question in my mind: Why do I make war on games?  Is it some violent and repressed feeling trying to set free the rage inside of me or is it simply a mental exercise that I engage in to test my mind against that of my opponnent?  But further more why I do like playing war? Am I a bad person for that?

    First I'll start by looking at myself and sorroundings; I live in Costa Rica which is a small country in Central America and we have no army, that's right for the last 50 years we've managed to survive without any army even though during the 80s the rest of Central America was inmersed in their own guerrilla warfare, you might recognize our current president Oscar Arias as a Novel Peace winner for having brought an end to those wars in the 80s.

    Even more the last time my country was at war was in 1948, when we had our civil war and before that the last time we were at war with our neighbors was on over a land dispute with Panamá about a century ago.  However, things have changed so much that our country is one of the most stable ones in Latin America and we enjoy good relations with our neighbors, having signed a Free Trade Treaty with the rest of Central America and being in the process of signing one with Panamá.

    So I was borned in a land in which neither my generation nor that of my parents have known what war is, I only get the stories from my grandparents and what it was like for them in their twenties living through the turnoil that an event like that represents for a country.

    I come from a very conservative catholic family and consider myself a practicant catholic who goes to church every sunday and confesses several times per year.  I have chosen to live a straightedge life so I don't drink alcohol, do drugs or smoke.  I have a clean record with the police as I've never had been arrested or have had any run ins with them, even more I've only been ticketed once by the transit police due to an expired permit.

    The only time I've been in a fight was at school when I was 11 years old, it was some stupid argument about a girl, the next thing I know I'm fighting a guy that's bigger than me, taller by a head and ended up breaking his nose despite of being smaller than him.

    So as you can see I am someone who tries to live by his values and who avoids unnecessary confrontation or troubles, however the games that I enjoy the most are about making war, the movies I like the most are gory ones, the music I love the most is heavy hardcore music and the books I like reading the most are about military history and horror stories.

    It would seem like a dichotomy to live so calmly but to have such violent tastes to put it in a way, however I am quite aware that the things I like do not dictate how I behave; not because I like the SAW movies I am a sociopath nor because I like my miniatures games do I own a gun or have gone to school and killed anyone.

    I don't know why I like those things, what makes me prefer playing Hybrid over Alhambra, Warhammer 40,000 over Railroad Tycoon but I do and I know I'll get bored playing Wealth of Nations but I'll get my hands in as many wargames, miniature games and adventure games as I can.

    Maybe some crazy shrink has already figured out what's in our nature that makes me and others like violent stuff, but after studying a bit of political theory I think I have two very helpful concepts.

     The first is called the "natural state" which proposes that man got together for their benefit because we are all violent by nature and the weak needed defending from the strong and the strong needed defending from the union of the weak, so it was mutually beneficial for all parties involved.

    This doesn't explain why I like violent things, it just shows that it's within our instincts, it's part of who we are.

    The other concept was exposed by the great english man Bertrand Russell, (from whom I'm taking the liberty to paraphrase as I don't have his writings with me right now) : he explained that man is basically violent but that as long as he gets to unleash this in constructive ways such as games, sports and other activities, then the need to be violent would be fullfilled and thus people would be able to engage in a more harmonious existance.

    And knowing this comforts me; I know I am not an evil spawn or a freaky psycopath bursting in the inside, but rather a perfectly normal man who'd rather satiate his violent needs through peaceful ways such as games than ignoring them and just one day simply burst and then leave everyone else perplexed because I was never violent.

    So when I think about these games I don't think about killing or maiming anyone, it's just about the challenge to beat my opponent, to have a better strategy and achieve victory through a superior application of tactics all the while making believe that I blow things up for the fun of it.

  • Gamer culture and me don't mix well, because while I don't mind the idea of games, the problem of power gamer culture is that "pwning" of "n00bs" poses a major threat to me enjoying myself. I guess I don't mind losing at a game, I just don't like it when my opponent gloats about it like he's a cast member of Jersey Shore minus the toned abs physique.

    I'll admit, I love games on a casual level, you'd never see me going to the Magic Pro Tour Championships but I do keep cards around in case I want to have a game. There are several downloadable titles for my PS3 I have ready for my personal amusement, and other games like Tekken 6 for when friends are over. But I can't help but think of myself as somebody who isn't a hardcore gamer despite being interested in games themselves.

    I don't hate games, I just feel like certain games mock my crippling inability to play for hours to get good at a video game without my hands hurting. I have respect for gamer culture, and for a while I really wanted to be a part of it - but even though busting out a video game or a board game with friends is fun, I don't really feel I'm good enough at games to reach a proper understanding or respect for the medium at an academic level.

    That's what really gets me about gamer culture - you have to be, well, good at the games to really understand on a deeper level just how far reaching into the psyche games as a hobby and or culture really are. Me, I spent a year and a half writing and editing a novel about internet culture, and believe me, it took a lot of effort to get that 250 pages done, not just in sweat and effort, but researching and understanding elements of that culture most people don't touch on.

    Because the last thing you want to look like while researching a subculture is a phony. Hunter S. Thompson knew this when he wrote Hell's Angels. Lester Bangs and Julian Cope knew this from the beginning about music culture. However, Takashi Murakami still doesn't understand that he doesn't understand otaku culture. At least I'll admit I don't understand it... at least not from complete personal experience... (sobs in a corner about his denial) - okay maybe I do know more about it than most people.

    Thing is about gamer culture - you have to play the games to an extent you live them to understand it. Me, I might own a PS3 but I sure as hell didn't pay $599 US Dollars for it. I won it in a Sydney Morning Herald competition. For an article I wrote about a video games legacy exhibition. Because back then maybe I wasn't quite as much of a gamer culture phony as I realise I am now.

    I tend to be an expert in things nobody cares about. I once got referred to on Australian public radio as an "Osamu Tezuka Expert" by John Safran himself - the most honourable description of me from a celebrity I ever recieved. That interview scared the hell out of me, but it was one of the defining moments of my young life. Because I realised for once how thin the line is between a buff or fan of something to being a nationally recognised expert in the field. Sometimes you have to be the only bloke they can find in time who gives enough of a damn about the subject.

    Oh yeah, I still play board games and the occasional video game. I just don't think I'm an expert on games, especially not video games. You have to be a certain age and background to call yourself a videogame expert, I'm no James Rolfe. I'm more of a barely-post teenage years Roger Ebert who in a parallel universe actually liked the idea of games enough to try them, and places them in the context of the literature and artworks he already understands.

    I don't want to be a phony games critic, I want to be an expert, on my own terms. And to do that I have to earn it.

  • Here my review of Bogdan Musial: Kampfplatz Deutschland: Stalins Kriegspläne gegen den Westen

    This book´s main contribution lies in the daring attempt to bring together all the developments relevant to the rearmament of Soviet Russia in the 1930s in one coherent frame. Furthermore, Musial contends that after the failure of autonomous revolution in the early 1920s, Bolshevik doctrine leadership under Staline became that the Red Army would be the instrument to spread the revolution by armed force. Finally, Musial gives an interesting view on the chain of events leading up to the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Despite Stalin´s long term intention to strike west, Hitler´s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 cannot be defended as a preventive strike.

     

  • In June 2011, I will celebrate my 40th birthday. When I hit human odometer rollover moment, I will have been gaming--videogaming, that is--in some fashion for more than 3/4s of my life. I remember being 8 or 9 years old and utterly enthralled by my 14-year old cousin's ability to dominate one of the first Asteroids machines to arrive in Pennsauken, NJ.  I've shoveled quarters into a Spy Hunter stand-up [raise your hand if you never saw an episode of "Peter Gunn" in your life but can somehow hum a 4kHz-quality of the that show's theme song damn near note for note], dismantled an Intellivision controller to try to figure a way to make the nearly-worn-through contact traces work just enough to get one more game in before begging Dad to order a replacement part, delicately untangled tape that wrapped itself around a spindle [or fumed because a friend's dumbass brother...or was it a classmate?...confused the game with some junk tape, taped over the punched-out "record tab" holes, and TAPED SOME FUCKING LOGGINS & MESSINA LP RIGHT OVER MY GAME], and spent hours, christ knows, swapping some 10,000 floppies, CDs, and DVDs, one after another, to install something that I just HAD to play that night, no matter how long it took.

  • A while back, I reviewed Tichu, the classic climbing game. For those who don’t feel like finding the review, let me save you the trouble: it’s a terrific game. You should buy it, okay? But here’s its one weakness: it requires four people. Yeah, I know you can play Tichu three-handed. But that’s pretty clearly not the way it was meant to be played. It involves dummy hands, switching partnerships, and individual scoring. It works, but it’s not ideal. And forget about even trying Tichu with two people. It doesn’t work. So what is the short-handed Tichu addict supposed to do?

    The answer used to be “play something else,” but that’s no longer the case. Because a couple of years ago, Haggis dropped like a sheep’s stomach full of tense play and climbing-game goodness. Haggis is essentially a climbing game meant for two or three players. By “climbing game,” I mean that it’s something along the line of Scum or President. The person who leads plays a certain kind of combination, and the other players must play a higher form of the same combination (like say, a higher set of three cards) or pass. The person who plays the highest combo takes the cards. Haggis has a couple of key points that distinguish it from other climbing games. First of all, each player has three wild cards, an unsuited Jack, Queen, and King. These can be used to form combinations, or as a bomb (more on those in a minute). This is nice because it keeps someone with the “best hand” from just steamrolling the other players. There’s always a possibility that those wilds will create something even bigger. Secondly, the hand combinations are a little different. Since there are five suits, you can play anywhere from a single card to five of a kind plus all three wilds, to make eight of a kind. If you play a sequence of cards, they all have to be in the same suit. You can also play two or more identical sequences in different suits. Those sequences are difficult to form sometimes, so the wilds are a welcome addition.

    Let’s talk about bombs. In Tichu, a bomb is any straight flush or four-of-a-kind. They can be played out of turn to win the trick, and then can only be beaten by a bigger bomb.  They are fairly rare, and it’s a cause of rejoicing when you are dealt one. In  Haggis, there are bombs that can be formed from your hand, but your wild cards can also be formed into a variety of different bombs. So everyone has at least one bomb in a hand. This isn’t a problem though, because people don’t often use their wilds this way. Why? Because winning with a bomb gets you the lead, but requires you to give the cards won to your opponent. All cards that can form bombs are point cards, so it can be a real wrench to give your opponent points from your hand to get the lead. Sometimes it’s necessary, but usually only as a last resort. It’s a terrific way to assure that bombs don’t throw the game off too much, and it makes for one of the most difficult choices in the game.

    One reason that Tichu works is because of the act of calling “Tichu!” If you think you can go out first, you can stake some points on it. Haggis allows for this as well. Before you make your first play you can make a big bet or a little bet, which will bet 30 or 15 points, respectively. If you go out first, you get the points. Otherwise they go to your opponent. In this respect, I feel that Tichu does better. Part of this boils down to the more complex combos available in Haggis, which make it more difficult to assess your hand and decide whether or not to bet. This gets better with experience, but it didn’t come as naturally to me as it did in Tichu. The other factor is that most of your points in Haggis come from going out. You receive five points per card in your opponent’s hand. So if you storm through and stick them with a hand full of cards, you will score more than you will from a bet. In Tichu, the bulk of points is scored from successful Tichus, so the temptation to call “Tichu” is very strong. Bets work in Haggis, but they don’t quite capture the same sense of risk.

    But overall this game works. It works really well, actually. Every aspect of the game feels very considered and polished. The designer posted several  design notes on BGG that really highlight his design process. There’s clearly a lot of thought in that little box, and the effort and care shows brightly. It does exactly what it sets out to do: create a Tichu-like experience for 2 or 3 players. It does so with aplomb, too. It’s tense, challenging, and very enjoyable. I would especially recommend it to couples who enjoy playing cards together. It’s seen a lot of play in our group lately, because it’s very easy to find two more players waiting for another game to start.

    That the game falls short of Tichu’s greatness is understandable. Part of the reason I love Tichu is because of how organic the whole thing feels. It’s not a folk game like the box claims, but it feels like it could have evolved over hundreds of years in the marketplaces of Beijing. Haggis feels much more “designed,” as if it was engineered to imitate perfection. You’ll notice how much I had to mention Tichu in this review. That’s because Haggis never really escapes from its shadow. It’s definitely it’s own game, and anyone who loves Tichu will probably love this one too. But you can’t discuss Haggis without mentioning its big brother.

    But if it’s in a better game’s shadow, it’s the shadow of one of the greatest games in existence. I have enjoyed Haggis immensely, and it’s got that same addictive quality as it’s big brother. Now I can get my climbing-game fix without having to look for two opponents to play with my wife and I. And like Tichu, Haggis retails at a very lean $15, so it’s a no-brainer to pick up. It’s become one of my favorite games of the past year. Even better, it fills the troublesome three-player spot as well as any game I’ve played since Ra. No true Scotsman would turn this one down.

    Also, I have a blog, The Rumpus Room. It's probably popular in Scotland too.


  • Alright, so after having a conversation with Dogmatix about the price of storage containers, I decided to finally break down and take some snapshots of how I have my stuff arranged for transport.  Below are photos that more or less cover 100% of my Wings of Glory WWI material, 30+ planes, decks for each, additional decks out the wazoo, damage decks, boards, sticks, rules, reference book for each aircraft, the works.  Only thing missing is empty boxes in case I need to mail stuff off to people.

  • Chapel
  • Witch of Salem is a cooperative game for 2 - 4 players that is based on stories by Wolfgang Hohlbein set in the world of H.P. Lovecraft's mythos. The designer is Michael Rieneck and it is published in an English edition by Mayfair Games. Players are helping Robert Craven, the powerful Witch of Salem, close the portals located around the city of Arkham and to banish the Great Old One imprisoned in the underwater city of R'lyeh. Opposing them are the evil magician Necron and hordes of evil creatures.

  •  

    2010 - Year of the Tiger poster

    EuroQuest 2010 in Pikesville, MD, has come and gone, and it’s safe to say that no territory went unconquered, no dungeon went unplundered, and no prostitute went unshaven.It was the convention where we squared the circle and dared to spit in the face of (a) darkness and (b) the morning breakfast buffet. The Hilton was a great new location for the convention (tons of space), but God knows why the staff let me close enough to drop peyote into the oatmeal.No matter, though - didn’t change the taste one bit.

    The highlights of the convention were a 5-hour, 5-player game of Conquest of the Empire with KingPut, IguanaDitty, and Co. (Friday) and a full day of reaping the AT harvest with Ska_Baron (Saturday).

    Friday:

    The CoE game was an event in which I nearly pulled out a win from a “dead last and shooting backward” position, although IguanaDitty ultimately pulled it out on the tiebreaker.

    It was also cool to try newer releases like Circus Train, Gosu, and Magical Athlete – plus classics like Quebec 1759 - with the regular gang of hoodlums who don’t mind stirring up trouble and stretching the bounds of sanity.

    Saturday:

    Ska_Baron arrived early, I snagged a few friends and shiftless ne’er-do-wells, and we managed to slice through a ton of AT games and Euros before 5 pm: Castle Ravenloft, Ring-o Flamingo, Unspeakable Words x2, Age of Empires III, DungeonQuest x2, Cosmic Encounter, Parade, and Lost Cities.Unspeakable Words - a Cthulhu word game where players can lose outright by failing sanity checks - was at least a minor hit, and the others seemed to be well-received.

    Also, there’s a funny story to go along with the DungeonQuest sessions. I tried to get a friend to join the game, but he introduced us to a friend-once-removed instead. The chap was a genuinely friendly and easygoing guy, although it was clear that DungeonQuest wasn’t up his alley. In fact, after he joined us for two consecutive games (he was a real sport), he remarked that he would probably rate the game a “1” on BGG.The next day, however, I briefly bumped into him again, and he mentioned that he was considering buying a copy of the game. He admitted that the game has a certain degree of psyche-damaging masochistic charm (his words), and he wants to see if he can eventually "beat that darn dragon".

    Like I said, a good guy.

    Games Played

    My personal list of games played for the entire 4-day convention: Quebec 1759 x2, Lost Cities x2, Ghost Stories, Alien Frontiers, Can’t Stop x2, Magical Athlete, Conquest of the Empire, Gosu, Circus Train, Troyes, Onirim (2-player Z-man coop), Survive! (new version – awesome), For Sale x2, Kings & Things, Isla Dorada x2, London, Jager und Sammler, and the aforementioned games from the Saturday sessions (Age of Empires, Unspeakable Words, etc.).

    Unusual was the fact that that I spent a majority of my time with timeless classics like Cosmic Encounter, Survive!, and Can’t Stop rather than newer offerings – but that was a nice change of pace.A great time, overall.

    Unsolicited Comments, and Thanks Officer but I Prefer Not to Step Out of the Car

    Below are comments on the games that were new to me, although let this serve as a warning that I have no problem being generally contrary and slightly ornery throughout.


    Jager und Sammler:

    One of the better "new to me" games played at the con, although that is the faintest praise possible given how ferociously awful most of the new games were.

    The mechanical similarities spelled out in reviews of Jager und Sammler are true (similar to Hey! That's My Fish!, etc.), but Jager adds its own twists and turns in the form of set collection, the possibility of eliminating other players' explorers from the second half of the game, and minor movement variations.

    I'm glad I played, and now I wish that I hadn't avoided Zombiegeddon (Sammler's evil twin) as strongly as I did.

    Status: Would play again

    Isla Dorada:

    A reworking of Elfenland that is mechanics-light and production-heavy.It's Fantasy Flight, so no surprise there.

    I can't stand Elfenland because players spend an inordinate amount of time planning their moves.All of that disappears in Isla Dorada because there's only a single moving expedition that travels by vote (terrain-based card auction).So it's move/score, move/score, etc. - a total of 16 times - until the game ends.

    The scoring is based on location-specific treasures (positives) and curses (negatives), although the treasure cards aren't unique.So voting the expedition into a certain location can end up benefiting other players more than yourself, but sometimes that's just the way the camel rumbles.

    Dorada has a ton of special cards, both benign and vicious.So it's a lucky, sloppy heaping of pot pie, to be sure, but when all is said and done the pie ain't half bad.

    [Though be aware that I won a free copy of Isla Dorada at the convention, so my opinion may be unduly jaded.]

    Status: Would play again


    Kings & Things:

    Speaking of zombie horror, it must be America's rekindled romance with zombie flicks that prompted Z-Man to resurrect this ancient corpse, as the reprint decision surely wasn't driven by the game's shining gameplay.

    The game does have some things going for it, though.The use of hidden units in a multiplayer war game is unique, but the analogy that ultimately applies is that playing Kings & Things is like playing a block game where (a) all of the blocks are face down, so that players are incessantly flipping game pieces to check and recheck where everything is, and (b) reinforcements are drawn randomly each turn from a recruitment pool in which unit quality ranges from awesome to completely useless.

    Without any exaggeration whatsover, I'd like to drive home the point that the need to constantly recheck the identity of units before, during, and after movement easily adds 30 minutes to the game's playtime.The genius who solves this logistical annoyance will have a load of cash coming his way.

    Unit shuffling aside, there are plenty of gaming issues in K&T that get in the way of fun.Units must be spread evenly across the terrain types to protect the support of existing units, for example, since a player's unsupported units vanish when revealed.That makes it tough for a player make a decisive attack against an opponent without opening up his/her territory to invasion by other players.

    Also, to hit the groove of my broken record one last time, a game this long (2-3 hours) shouldn't force critical elements such as player-hosing events, cash rewards, and hero recruitment to be resolved via die rolls and random chit pulls.To maintain any sense of fun whatsover, the more random the gameplay, the shorter the game should be.

    Another issue: Players can get repeatedly knocked back to prevent them from winning, without any one player making any real progress towards ending the game.This points to the need for the game to have some sort of timing mechanism to JUST MAKE IT STOP.

    To conclude, Kings & Things is another example of a game that fails to beat out Nexus Ops - which itself is merely good, rather than great - as the light- to middleweight multiplayer conflict game of choice.If a particular title is neither shorter nor more fun than Nexus Ops - and Kings and Things is neither - then why bother?

    Or if it's randomness you want, get yourself a copy of the recent Cosmic Encounter re-release.It's tons more fun than K&T and a much shorter game, to boot.

    Status: Would give the design team a stern talking to (and possible time-out), if they can be located


    Circus Train:

    If you care about winning (I stopped at some point), you can occasionally make short-term plans in Circus Train that come to fruition.However, the remaining 92% of gameplay involves desperately hoping that circus shows, entertainers, and victory points will randomly drop from the sky into a nearly space.

    Note that I'm not entirely opposed to gratuitious chaos.I can appreciate DungeonQuest, for instance - which is completely and gleefully random - because the entire purpose of DQ is for players to groan and laugh as a sadistic underground reality beats on hopeless adventurers until they die.But the same degree of stupidity in a 90-120 minute game that pretends to be, well, a real game just sucks.

    Oh, and Circus Train also includes random events and die-based recruitment attempts that dramatically affect players' opportunities for success.I'd hate to give you the impression that there is anything predictable or strategic about CT, after all, so I certainly want to come clean about that.

    In sum, I felt like I was playing one of those lame corporate throwaways printed on the back of a cereal box, given both the quality of components (Winsome-style) and the sheer hopelessness of it all.

    Caveat: I only played the basic game, but there's no way I'm giving this a second chance with either the advanced game or the expansion.

    Status: KingPut and IguanaDitty like it, so what the hell do I know.

    Troyes:

    I find it amusing that there is a Troyes version of Monopoly, which I am 100% sure is the better game of the two.

    The path to victory in Troyes:As early in the game as possible, identify one of the degenerate card combinations on the board and run in endless victory point circles until the game ends.

    In my case, starting on round 2 or 3, I literally repeated the same two or three dice actions over and over again until I won, which was fun for absolutely no one at the table.Moreover, others did exactly the same thing; it just happened that my broken VP combo was a tiny bit better than theirs, as were the hidden endgame VP goals that I lucked into accomplishing.

    I'd sooner cut out my tongue than ask to play this again.

    Status:Tongue-free, like I said, is the way to go in this instance.


    London:

    This is my least favorite Martin Wallace game by a good stretch.Mr. Wallace has his ups and downs, like other designers, but this one drops to the bottom of the barrel for me.

    London is essentially a pointless contribution to the Race from the Galaxy school of game design, in which players build their solitary, completely noninteractive tableau of cards and then squeeze money and victory points out of them.

    What makes London significantly worse than those games (which I already dislike) is the following:

    Players spend a lot of time (I mean, a LOT of time) staring into space waiting for their turn.

    Players can randomly draw cards (Huguenots, Jewish Immigrants) that bestow double-draw benefits.There are also Pauper cards whose only purpose is to clog up players' hands with dead draws; these cards are, of course, also drawn at random.

    Some cards are strictly worse than other cards, the only difference being that some cards are available for drafting later in the game due to the A/B/C deck structure.

    In my first/last game of London, I found myself frequently hoping that I would draw a certain color card so that I could play its color-mate sitting in my hand.The game's potential reliance on a hope-based strategy is just rotten, and is certainly a hallmark of a bad game.

    The board is barely necessary, as its only purpose is to keep track of action/VP areas purchased.The game could be revised to eliminate the board entirely, which if nothing else would drive down the price to a reasonable level.

    The game is fatally flawed, in that the endgame trigger (when the last card is drawn) can completely screw players who need to play their last few cards and run their cities/tableaus one final time to be competitive.

    (You don't get the final turn you need to win, and there's nothing that you could have done about it?Too bad.Go play a good game instead, and all will be better.)

    Status:Would prefer to set on fire.

    Conclusion:

    I will end this literary travesty with a famous quotation, which you should do yourself a favor and heed for all time:

    “Stop staring at my hot girlfriend and get one of your own.”

    Long live the tiger.

  • Running a board game store and trying to fit all my other interests in without overwhelming myself is an interesting balancing act, and one that I'm constantly attempting to fix.

    Among the many hobbies I have include the martial arts (swordplay specifically right now), reading, role-playing, hiking (and other outdoor sports) and of course board gaming.  In between all that of course I have to fit the young lady of my life in (or is it the other way around... hmmm...). And of course, the generic 'see your friends / family' that I have had to do way too much of lately.

    Devoting about 3 nights a week to swordplay is slightly above the bare minimum I need to progress.  And I'm loath to give up my only form of exercise.  It also helps destress me a great deal and deal with some aggression issues.  As the wife points out, I'm much less irritatible when I've been fed and been beating on other people (or, often, vice versa).  So that leaves me with about 2 weekday evenings and 2 weekend days for other things.

    Add a day for gaming (technically for our Shadowrun campaign, but about half the time ending up with board gaming);  and that leaves pretty much 2 weekdays evenings and 1 weekend days.  And if I take any more time out that doesn't involve the young lady... well, I'll have a lot more free time.  Frown

    Unfortunately, that means all my other interests and hobbies drop by the wayside.  And every time I try to enjoy one of my other hobbies, like getting a good series of books to read; works suffers because I just don't have that much time.

    Worst, it also means that I don't actually play that many board games any more.  I generally have to plan a gaming day a couple of weeks ahead, and my other more 'serious' gaming group all have busy lives too.  So when I'm free, quite often they aren't.  And vice versa.  In fact, the only times I do is because I'm purposely repurporsing 'work' time to test out new games.  Or occasionally my gaming group lets me test new games on them.

     It also doesn't help that what I consider an 'average' work week is 60 hours.

     On less whiny notes - the next small publisher contest is up.  As is our on-going review contest .

  • So a couple weeks ago, I played Age of Empires III.  It was an okay enough game but it is basically yet another worker placement game.  I don't mind worker placement so much except for the whole, "Well you can't do that because my piece is already there".   At least they are kind enough to put a spot so you can jump ahead in the turn order, but you still have to burn an action to do that and depending on the timing, it may not help anyway.

    In some places, it kind of makes sense but most of the time it doesn't make sense.  Gee, I'm a sprawling empire and the sun never sets on my flag but France got to the shipbuilding yard before me, so I wont be able to build any ships.   Or, I'd love to plow the fields but my neighbor two fields down got the plow before me and we only have one plow....right.  But the most annoying version is the one in Caylus where you might place your worker somewhere but some jackass is going to point out the flaws in your work and make you stop before you do anything...Gah, where the hell does this one come from?  Is he supposed to be the OSHA inspector or something?  I didn't think they had one of those back in the 1700's or whenever Caylus is set.

    I prefer games where you either A)  Have a set number of actions (Puerto Rico) or B)  Everyone can do the action but someone may get a bonus or C)  The number of things you can do is based on the amount of resources you have (Axis and Allies, Shogun) or D)  You have cards that allow you certain actions.  This way your plans are no foiled by some passive aggresive asshole who takes the action spot because well he can.  Instead it's foiled by poor planning on your part (Man I'd love to build this 100 bombers...but I didn't take Hawaii last turn, so I'm a little short....).

    I think it boils down to the fact that worker placement often doesn't make thematic sense.  In Age of Empires III, you can convert your wood carrying guys to soldiers as long as someone isn't occupying either the soldier space or the $5 space.  If both are happening, you're SOL.

  • My family was out of town this past weekend so I got in several plays of solitaire wargames from World at War magazine. World at War is a spinoff of Strategy & Tactics published by Decision Games and is all World War II, all the time. I recently picked up a lot of issues spread throughout the publication's run so I will be able to look a bit at the development over time.

  • I'm awesome, you suck, here's my picks.

    Make a bracket and let me laugh at you. 

    http://games.espn.go.com/bpredictor/en-us/group?groupID=39205

    Group: FortressAT
    Password: excitedman

    Six FATties in there already! 

    unf! unf!

    The power of Excited Man compels you! The power of Excited Man compels you!

     

    Also a Pick'Em game at ESPN...

    ames.espn.go.com/soccerpickem/en-us/group?groupID=5645

    Group name: FortressAT
    Password: excitedman