As Matt Thrower mentioned in his comments to my first blog entry in this series, public accountability can keep the pressure on. Right now I almost feel like this is all that is keeping me going. Our energy has begun to lag on this project as the weather turns hotter making the process more uncomfortable, and we get tempted by fun summer activities and more interesting projects.
Everyone is doing their Essen 2007 - what I bought and how it has held up over the past yearblog thing. I didn't go to Essen 2007. I didn't buy a creepy number of games. I never posted a list of all the games I played, and bought, and what I ate and who I met, and how long I had to stand in line. People who write these lists often tell us how challenging it is to navigate Essen. They tell us how you need to do your home work and plan out where you need to go and how to get there and when to be there, otherwise you are likely to miss out on that hot game you really wanted. Oh the horror.
Even though I have never been to Essen, and probably never will, each year I am faced with an Essen challenge of my own.
All those games that get buzz as a result of all those Essen posts, will eventually show up at my game club, often in multiple copies and everyone will play them almost exclusively for a few meetings, until the next buzz game shows up in someone's mailbox. Therefore, I must do my homework in order to succeed at the year long challenge of navigating the Essen buzz games, or risk spending an evening involved in a game so mind numbingly dull it is akin to smacking your head on the pavement. Additionally, if I am fortunate, and get a little good advise from friends, both F2F and online, I may be able to sift through the sand and find a few overlooked gems.
For others the question is how did the games hold up over the year? For me the question is how did I hold up? So here is how I did.
I have been running full out since before Thanksgiving - cooking, sewing, packing, shopping, wrapping. The Man keeps asking me to play with him, but I've just been either too beat or too busy.
We did get to game club the Sat. after Thanksgiving. I think that all I played was Incan Gold and Apples to Apples with the kids. Incan Gold isn't as good as our own home made version which includes the "Taco to the Eye" disaster. I hate Apples to Apples. God-o-god-o-with-peanut-butter-sauce that game sucks.
My copy of BSG finally arrived. The Man took it to wrap, so won't see that for a couple of weeks. I was also expecting Red November, but got an e-mail from Amazon that it wasn't going to ship until March - WTF?
There are a couple of other games being wrapped, but I won't say what they are on account of who reads this blog. However, I will say that if Megafauna Dan doesn't create some kind of wish list somewhere, he's gonna get stuck with something lame.
We are looking forward to vacation, which will be a week long party of board games, video games, and movies. Megafauna Dan and KingPut will be visiting, and we expect Francie and some folks from game club to drop in. If you are in the neighborhood, stop by - however, we are down to floor space only, so bring your own air matress.
Last Sat. at game club I mangaged to participate in debates about Dr. Who, Batman, Watchman, and the classic "Original Trek vs all Other Trek." What is it about gamers and Sci-Fi/Superheroes/Fantasy ? And why are we all so f-ing opinionated and passionate about it?
A little over a year ago, we decided to move from Blogger, and create our own website. We agreed that we didn't want the site to become anyone's full time responsibility. There would be no coding, no babysitting servers. As Ken mentioned in a recent article, our honest expectation was that we would have about 50 members, and get maybe 15,000 page hits a month. We figured that for a site that small that for around $300 we could buy some software, a template, register a domain, pay for some cheap server space, throw the site up and basically let it take care of itself.
As of December we were getting 700-1000 unique users per day and over 2 million page hits per month.
Okay, here's the deal. This site was not coded from the ground up by any of us. It's like none of you coded your browser. If you want your browser to do anything that it doesn't do out of the box, you find and install plug-ins. So for example, if you want to be able to see Flash content, you probably have installed the Adobe Flash plug in. Every so often you go to a site, that tells you that your Flash plug in isn't up to date, so you have to download the new version and install it. If a new plug-in starts crashing your browser, you probably don't go in and hack the code to fix it. You probably uninstall it, and wait for a patch or a fix to be published. Well Fortress Ameritrash is like that. It's a core program with plug-ins, like the forum, added to it. I make small bug fixes. I might hack a few trivial things here and there, like the forum and comments doesn't display your real name, and you aren't required to enter a title into every comment you make, but for the most part, the core functionality of anything if let alone. If any of us got into that, this site would become a full time job.I get a lot of requests to add things or change the way certain things in Trash Talk work. Trash Talk happens to be a plug-in component called Fireboard. It also happens to be a major headache. It's not production stable. It sucks down huge amounts of CPU, it is fairly buggy, and as of Jan 1st the developers disappeared. Trying to change it's core processing, or enabling something like embedded youtube would be like trying to balance a rock on a house of cards, especially considering that we are essentially on probation with our server provider.
In fact, we are stripping a lot of bells and whistles out of the site just to keep it viable. If one of your favorite features or functions has gone AWOL, feel free to let me know, but
I was totally surprised to learn that a game I liked had won the Kennerspiel des Jahres Award. Several months ago The Village had some buzz among the women in the internet board game community. It was almost totally based on the game's theme and a brief description of the game play. Only a few gals had actually played it. It seemed like something my Euro-loving gal gamer friends might like, and since I' m always looking for a good compromise game so I don't have to be polite and sit and smile through another hand of Dominion or the horror that is Hawaii, I tracked down a copy and bought it. I figured worse case scenario I didn't like it and could sell it or give it to one of my friends who did.
Friday night we had a rare evening sans Spawn, which meant we got to go to the movies. When you only get to go to non-family movies a few times a year, picking which one to see is an extremely serious matter. You don't want to waste the opportunity on a movie that sucks. I was therefore hesitant to suggest we see The Wolfman, as it has received mostly crappy reviews. However, with some prodding and teasing, I finally confessed that I wanted to see it, despite the reviews, and was willing to suffer the endless taunting if it turned out to be awful, like that sucky movie I picked out a few summers back where the bird flew into the windshield, but we can't remember anything else about it.
Happily, I made the right choice. I adored this movie. Maybe I just have really terrible taste in movies. I certainly can't argue with the reviewers: it is slow, it is not scary, there is really nothing much new in it, the CGI is imperfect. But it is beautiful and tragic.
The Wolfman is an old school monster movie, and old school monster movies aren't so much scary stories as they are tragedies. I always cry when the monster comes to his terrible end, whether it be a werewolf, Oedipus, or Rodan.
And it is oh so beautiful. Colin Covert wrote: "A lavish coffee table book of a horror film, “The Wolfman” features visuals so beautifully planned and executed that each frame begs to be savored."That it is.
So fortunately I won't have live with endless teasing for picking another "bird hits the windshield" movie. I have asked for a copy of the DVD when it comes out. Considering how poorly this movie has been received, I shouldn't have to wait too long.
OK, so I served a "celebrity sentence" but let me tell you, jail sucks. It's like walking into a gigantic, festering staph infection that smells like pee and you can't even stand up without being told by a man with a gun to sit down. There's a harsh psychological element to every aspect of incarceration, and even just a taste of it is plenty for me, thanks.
So I for some unknown reason agreed to play Puerto Rico last night for the 1st time in ages and it was one of the least fulfilling game experiences I have had in a while. I am not sure what I, or anyone for that matter, ever saw in that game.
It is making me cranky. I would like to go home and kick some stuff in the head - like maybe kill some hopping Vampires. But I am stuck in the office until 5:30pm and then I have to go to the grocery store, and then I have to make stupid food.
Barnes is a sell out war gamer cranky pants. We played Tomb last night and it was fun. If Tomb had been published when Barnes was 11 years old, he would have played the crap out of it.
I do agree that just randomly filling in the crypt cards is the way to go. Having the players do it is just long and boring.
We came up with our own family version. My sweet spawn was the crypt master and put out all the crypt cards. Having someone play the CM negated some the character's special powers and some of the cards, but it didn't matter. It was kind of a hoot trying to think like a 9 year old to figure out what she might have placed where. She did some pretty funny things, like one crypts was all traps.
We have a friend whose three little boys have been playing the heck out of an old copy of Talisman. Our friend tells us that he comes home from work and the three boys are playing, and they are all up to like a strength of 15. He says, "Why don't you all go up already and try to win." The boys answer, "Because we don't want the game to end." HA! The Man wants to invite this friend and his sons over to play Tomb.
I have a headache. I stayed up too late last night playing games. Now I'm trying to work, but just can't concentrate. All the tiny numbers keep blurring together.
About a week ago, this gal at work, the one that I went to the organic farm with where I got poison ivy, she says to me that she saw a Battlestar Galactica game at Barnes and Nobel, and was thinking about getting it for her husband for Valentines Day, because he's totally into Battlestar Galactica. So I told her, in an off hand way, that I had it. I figured that would be the end of that topic of discussion, but then she asked if it was harder to play than Scrabble. I said no, on account of Scrabble requires that you know spelling and addition. BSG, you only need to know lying and addition. She chewed on this answer along with her sandwich for a while, so I finally said, "If you want, you could come over and try it out for yourself."
I always tell people they can come on over to my place, because it's the polite thing to say. They usually answer, "Yeah. We should do that sometime." Because it is the polite thing to answer. But then we don't follow up on it, because that would require actually making a plan and doing something.
However, this time the answer was, "When?" A sincere and eager "When." So I said, "Next week?" And she said, "Thursday, after 6:30?" So I said, "Okay."
So that's how I ended up with Organic Farm Gal and Husband at my house playing BSG. It was pretty much a disaster. Organic Farm Gal got stuck in the Brig for much of the game. We got hammered by Cylon ships, lost a bunch of civilian ships, and the game was over before we could even make a second jump.
So I say, "Well, let's just call that a learning game. We'll have to play again sometime now that we know how to," fully expecting the usual non-commital, "Yeah, we'll have to do that sometime," followed by the polite but hasty exit. Instead I get, "When?" So I say, "How's about next week."
By now it's after 10pm so the Man says "Well, should we move to the living room and have a drink?" The couple just exchange a glance, so the Man, who's got some serious social skillz, says, "Or we could play a short game." The couple nod in agreement to the short game.
"What do you like?"
Organic Farm Gal says she really mostly only knows Scrabble, so I open the game cupboard and let them pick. The Husband chooses Daytona 500. After we play, the Husband asks Organic Farm Gal if she thinks he should get Daytona 500 for his dad.
Anyway, I got to bed pretty late, and now I have a headache. I might also have a date to play BSG again next week with some people that I really like.
What I have concluded from all this is:
When people find out you have cool games, they will angle for an invite to your house to play, and they will bring you offerings of beer and Kahlua drinks.
Woman like to play board games, especially ones with Science Fiction themes where they get to fly around in space ships and blow stuff up.
Kahlua drinkers really do explore their curiosity.
Everyone regrets the Kahlua drinks in the morning.
Okay, just kidding on the conclusions. Well except for the last one. You will regret the mudslides in the morning.
My local gaming club has fallen from the dizzy heights of about eight regular members when we started six months ago to a paltry two. But Rob and I keep slogging on, rain or shine, to get down the pub to play games and drink beer religiously on a Monday night. There are a couple of others who come on rare occasions but everyone else seems to have vanished. They don't even answer emails. Either I'm too abrasive or they were just too much of a Euro loving crowd. I did try to please them. I even agreed to play Race for the Galaxy for fucks' sake.
But for now it's just me and Rob. The two good things about this arrangement are that Rob & I have a fairly similar taste in games, and that he owns hardly any games which means I can inflict whatever I'm feeling like that particular evening on him without feeling guilty about it. Last night I exposed him to Nexus Opsfor the first time.
Our first game was unfortunate as a learning experience because I had the majority of the mines on my side of the board, and whilst he struggled valiantly to raise victory points I just swamped him with troops, and managed to keep the Monolith for most of the game. The second was rather more competitive. This time it was me who couldn't get on the Monolith for love nor money - one battle we hard ended up with everyone on both sides dying but he played a Force March card on his turn to re-occupy it. Seeing it was a lost cause I gave up, and focussed on fulfilling those secret objectives instead to the exclusion of all else, even defending my mines. I raced up to 11 points in double quick time, and had four rock striders against a human to take my last point and win the game. And all four dice fluffed! Disaster! That sort of thing would be infuriating in a longer game, but in Nexus Ops it's just funny.
So we finished the night with honour even and one game apiece. But I came away with a newfound respect for Nexus Ops. Although I've always thought it fun to play, the lack of metagame and the rather repetitive nature of the cards and units lead me to label it as a game with a poor shelf-life. Now I'm not so sure: there's actually quite a bit of subtlety and creativity in the tactics, and there's some hard choices on offer too. The fact it's short and simple is just the icing on the cake.
Rob wants a copy, but I've no idea where he'll find one in England. Anyone have any ideas?
Flailed through a learning game of Touch of Eviltonight. It's kind of Talismanlike. You need to get a lair card instead of a Talisman, and then go fight the big bad. We flubbed a couple of things, but mostly got it right enough to get a sense of the game. I liked it, but the Man was disappointed.
I have to play it a couple of more times to really judge, but in the light, 90 minute horror themed, beat on monsters game class, I think Buffyand Last Night on Earth are more fun. But ToE will get played, since it is a different style of game. It's a bit more subdued, and requires very little brain power to play.
I'd say it would be another good game to play with middle school aged kids, but the boys I know would much prefer to play LNoE, and the girls won't come near my horror games. When I was punching Betrayal at House on the Hill, one of them saw the counter marked "pool of blood" and went screaming out of the room. Now, when she comes to visit, I use the pool of blood counter to chase the girls out of the room when I want them out from under foot.
Last night I demoted Touch of Evil. I took all the bits out of the fancy organizer boxes I had put them in and bagged them into regular old baggies. I also reclaimed the card box. Touch of Evilwas then put on the shelf in the back room. Gak, this game was a huge disappointment. Just looking at the pictures of the guys wearing two jabots sets me off. It will probably go up on my for trade list when I get around to it. I always feel a bit guilty when I trade off a game that I think sucks.
The worst is that I had pre-ordered not just one, but two copies based on the strength of Last Night on Earth and the early buzz. I gave the second copy to my brother Strider a.k.a. Douchie Boy, as a birthday gift. I hope he likes it more than we did. He might as, his gaming interests and needs are different than mine are.
One of the chit boxes was moved to my new darling, Ghost Stories. Most of my "fancy" chit boxes are found items, like the tiny sectioned case that was the packaging for some picture hanging hardware. This one was for a tiny first aid kit. It is just 5" x 3". All the chits for Ghost Stories fit in the top section, and everything else, except the ghost figures and cards fits in the bottom.
To set up, I just lift the top section out of the box, and it becomes the "bank." I know that sounds totally OCD, but if you like a game, it's going to get played often, and having the bits well organized makes set up and clean up that much faster. Plus, the room that we play in has an oriental carpet and an upright piano, so dumping bits out of baggies onto a table and watching as one escapes and rolls off the table is a nightmare.
We decided to cut the cable and trade in brain dead TV and annoying commercials for the Roku and instant downloads of Nymphoid Barbarians in Dinosaur Hell.
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.
This is the stuff you have been waiting for.
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