Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thursday night gaming

Regulars Michael and Chris B. arrived and were ready to start. Lee joined us for a fast-paced game of San Juan. Michael played it cagey with a huge pile of cards under his chapel, and I pursued my build-all-the-time strategy.

As the game unfolded, newcomers Rodney (work friend) and R.J. (Houston Gamer buddy but first-time Thursday guest) arrived. San Juan ended up with close scores, and I beat Michael with a tie-breaker of having 3 cards in hand to his none.

Lee bowed out to let us decide what to play next. R.J. revealed his game box had a copy of Ra, which I immediately encouraged to hit the table. The explanation didn't take too long, and managed to cover everything. Chris and I had played twice a long time ago, and Michael and Rodney had never played.

The entire game took us maybe 90 minutes or so. Michael and Chris tied at 38 points, I had 36, R.J. and Rodney had around 30. Chris had the highest Sun tile, and thus won by the tie-breaker. None of us had seen that happen before and we had to look up the rule. Everyone agreed that it was a good, fun game.

So, 2 more gamers now know how to find our house. R.J's bag also contains Power Grid, Twilight Struggle, and one of the recent GMT block games that I can't remember. All in all, that promises good gaming in the future.

Gamecount: Individual game sessions played for the year = 84, New game titles played for the year = 17.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I am thinking of a number between pining away and going bankrupt

I am thinking of a number between zero and seventeen.

This number is the number of games on my "really think about buying" list. It ignores Holy Grail games, out-of-print monstrosities, anything longer than 3 hours, and anything I suspect will never hit my table on a regular basis.

I have played most of them, some more than once.

Since I've finally managed to get games going in my house, it's time for me to revisit the list and compare it to my Boardgamegeek want-list.

Oh, heck. Ubongo's not on the list. Make it 18.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Saturday fun at the Houston Gamers; also speculation on pricing

After a whirlwind tour of 12 garage sales and one thrift store with Alexis in the morning, I got the girls down for a nap and headed up to Enigma's to catch some mid-day gaming.

I was greeted with some surprise by the regulars, since these days I rarely arrive before 9 pm.

Ray Mulford, who runs the Houston Gamers website, was raring to teach Ubongo. He, Michael Denman, Maura, and I played. It took about 5 minutes to teach, and 15 minutes to play.

Maura and I then played again with relative newcomers Toni and Tyler. I can definitely see buying this game, although I might wait until an American version is released (there's evidently a Dutch and a German version). I checked 2 online retailers, neither of whom had it in stock. One didn't list it at all, the other listed it for $36.50. I guess I'd still buy it. If it were $18.50, it'd be an automatic purchase, though.

Toni, Tyler, and I then played Ra, the most complicated auction game ever. It's great. Tyler and I had played once before each, and we were still rusty. Tyler ended up collecting tons of monuments and absolutely destroyed us. Ra used to be out of print and hard to find, regularly selling for $70 and up. A recent reprinting has driven online prices down to about $25.

Yayy! Please keep those reprints coming!

Gamecount: Individual game sessions played for the year = 82, New game titles played for the year = 17.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Thursday Night Gaming

I made it to work early enough to make it to the post office and ship some N64 games I sold on Yay! Recovery of expenses not even close to original purchase price in store!

Other than that, Timothy, Crystal, Michael, and Chris made it over for boardgames. I got out my copy of Aladdin's Dragons, which Chris had played once. We played a learning game to 3 artifacts to get everyone up to speed, then played a full game. Crystal pulled out a final-turn lead and won with 9 artifacts. We were playing the no-magic game, instead of the full game where you have artifact powers and spell cards.

I'm a little underwhelmed by the basic game. Once the tiles are placed, you can walk away from the table for 5 minutes, because there's no decisions to be made, unlike in the advanced game where anyone can meddle anywhere after a round or two.

On the other hand, we started a full, basic game at 9 pm with 5 people, and finished up 51 minutes later. Everyone had a good time.

Gamecount: Individual game sessions played for the year = 79, New game titles played for the year = 16.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Sick again; also, I talk about Reiner Knizia and my Hypothetical Game Order

When I drink generic Tussin straight from the bottle, I get goosebumps from the awful taste.

Happens every time, and it's a surprise every time...

Oh, and by the way, I've played Reiner Knizia's Poison a couple of times. It is a thoroughly mediocre trick-taking game. I see there are a bunch of copies on Ebay right now, all with no bids. It's got a box full of air, a paper mat with three witches' cauldrons printed on it, and a small deck of cards. Yayyy!!! Not worth $15, that's for sure.

I recommend his game Money instead. I keep saying I'm going to buy this, and I never do, for some reason. Shoot. Hypothetical Game Order is Money, then Mogul. Hey, Mogul's by Michael Schacht, the same guy who made Coloretto. So buy everything except Poison, you'll be happy.

Other Reiner Knizia games I own (he's designed and published at least 200 games. Collecting his stuff would be a full-time job in and of itself):

Tigris and Euphrates - harder to explain, not for casual gamers. It's an almost-great game for me, but it's Just Too Damn Hard.

Dragon Land - one of Knizia's minor works. Entertaining enough for adults, probably a good kids-and-adults game, too.

Amun-Re - Yeah, almost everybody says this is really good. It's pretty tricky, with at least two mechanics that together will take a couple of games for people to figure out. "Hey, everybody, let's play an auction game that takes 2 hours, then play it again for another 2 hours, then we can start knowing what things actually should be worth in the auctions!" Let's all get started on that right now, okay?

Medici - One of my favorite auction games. Hard on the new players, since they don't know what to bid on anything, but that only takes a scoring round to work out.

Blue Moon - A two-player card game. I've only played a couple of times, and this has been sitting on the shelf a lot. It's not to my wife's tastes, so eeh, it's not going to hit the table often. It's expandable with extra decks, but not TOO expandable. I hear good stuff about the Blue Moon City boardgame, too.

Lord of the Rings - Honorable mention as the second-physically-heaviest game I've ever owned. Had it, played it, traded it off. The game looks cool, but to me it felt too scripted, and wasn't fun. Everyone flips over timing tiles and plays cards so the hobbits can advance to Mount Doom and it's a cooperative game and zzzzzz.... oops, drifted off writing this. I hear it's really good if you buy two more $40 expansions. I took the liberty of buying $80 of other good games instead, which also worked out great!

Modern Art
- I hear this is a great auction game for 4 or 5, and okay for 3. Strangely, I already have a great auction game for all those numbers, Medici, but hey, Reiner Knizia! I vaguely remember that I got this on sale, and also bought it mostly because I had free shipping after a certain point. Yayyy free shipping for a game I didn't really want and that has sat on my shelves for at least 2 years!!!

Res Publica - I played once. There's an interesting trade mechanism, but not much more. The grand strategy is, "Uh, trade with people poorer than yourself." Thanks, Reiner! I only played Settlers of Catan one meeeeeelion times, but removing the board and resource aspects and making an entire game centered around a trading phase, that's freakin' ingenious!


Notice what's missing here? I don't own Ra, Through the Desert, The Merchants of Amsterdam, New Games In Old Rome, Samurai, Stephenson's Rocket, or Taj Mahal, all Reiner Knizia titles that are rated very highly. I've played some, but at most of the Houston Gamers meetings, someone's got a copy of Ra and Taj Mahal, minimum.

Ra is probably Knizia's most complicated pure auction game. I'd like a copy, er, eventually.

Through the Desert is a pure abstract with little pastel camels. Never played, not interested in pure abstracts regardless of cuteness.

Merchants of Amsterdam... haven't played. Sounds interesting, though. I would rather have Goa, which is not by Reiner Knizia, but which I have played, instead.

New Games In Old Rome is a collection of little games, in the Cheapass games vein, except really expensive. Definitely a play-before-I-buy game. Haven't played, so won't buy.

Samurai is all Japan-themed, and a brainburner. Nevertheless, I think I've played enough games of it.

Stephenson's Rocket is a 3-4 hour train game. Keep walkin', trainy.

I don't like Taj Majal. I've played several times, and I just don't get it. There's a healthy division of opinions on this one in the boardgaming world, and I come down on the Just Don't Get Taj Mahal side of the line. There are worse places to be.

I only feel the loss with Money, because I'd like to play it as a filler with my home group (which probably needs some kind of title or something).

Time to console myself with generic Tussin.

Thursday Night Gaming: lots of people

I'm behind on this post. I'm sick, the kids are sick, bleah.

I taught Chris and Matt how to play Attika, my current fascination in gaming. The two-player version is more of a brain-burner, since you're always feeling time pressure. With three people, it's lighter and more forgiving. I haven't gotten in any 3-player games since I bought it, and still haven't gotten in any 4-player games with my copy. It's variable, is the problem. If you blunder, or someone else makes a great play, well, they win, you lose. Might be after 15 minutes, might be an hour in. Maybe you'll all have to just keep on placing buildings efficiently.

Crystal, Tim, and Michael played San Juan in the other room, and then Lee joined them for 6 Takes. As it turns out from a phone call today, this is Tim's last visit for a little while - he's got shingles, which is caused by the same bug as chicken pox. Since the girls aren't up to a bout of chicken pox right now, I guess we'll see Tim in 4-6 weeks.

Gamecount: Individual game sessions played for the year = 78, New game titles played for the year = 16.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Google Adsense vs. Amazon Mechanical Turk

Without revealing numbers, a few 1-hour sessions on Amazon Mechanical Turk have given me more in Amazon credit than a year's worth of Google Adsense on my blog has put forward.

I'm still keeping the ads.

There's an interesting article on Steve Pavlina's website on monetizing your blog. There are a lot of tips that would help this site expand.

I'm torn:
  1. I'd rather be self-hosting, which means picking and buying a domain name and getting Wordpress up and running.
  2. I get more money out of selling my old videogames and books on, which is satisfying, too.
  3. The two kids have made our lives busier, and so all my hobbies get shorter shrift.
If you could make money at doing anything, what would it be? Great. Try it on a small scale and see what works. Even if you never make a dime, it might be fun, and you might learn something.

I (heart) Francis Heaney post #2

When you comment on Francis Heaney's blog, this is the message you get:

"Because I get many, many spam comments every day, all comments must now be manually approved by me. This usually happens pretty quickly, because I spend approximately 90 percent of my life at the computer, and at least half of that time checking to see if I have any new e-mail (which includes new comment alerts). And yes, this will happen every time you comment, until I come up with some other solution. I think you'll agree that commenting on my blog is such a thoroughly satisfying experience that this is a small inconvenience to endure."

This is both true and amusing - which is Francis' particular talent.

Convention blues: I am old and no fun anymore

I have had a lot of fun running board and card game events at tournaments in and near Houston. I love certain aspects of the hobby, and some of the people. If I'm hosting a game at a convention and the right people show up, BAM total entertainment explosion.

All that being said, I'm not running events right now, and for the near future. It's too jarring. I'm 31, I've got 2 small children, and I want to be at home with them.

Most importantly, the people and conventions sometimes suck. I don't mind running games with only a couple of people, but not when they're being jerks. The perennial complaint that arises in the Houston Gamers is: why pay to have fun, when I can show up at a club meeting and have fun for free?

Of course, the answer to that is: Run enough games at the convention to get in for free. But seriously, if I'm spending $30-60 on gas to get to and from Austin, College Station, Dallas, or San Antonio, plus forced to pay a parking lot $6-15 to park, well, that's not free anymore. Unless I'm actually playing games that are the equivalent of pure heroin, that's starting to look like a pretty expensive little junket. If we ever get a bullet train or equivalent, awesome, I'm there.

I hate driving anywhere, parking and wandering around always sucks, and in general, the external planning required is just a pain. Ever run a half-mile in the rain across a college campus with no umbrella and hundreds of bucks worth of water-soluble stuff? Ever had to decipher a campus map drawn by a sophomore with no car? Yeah, I volunteered for it. I'm hanging up my GM hat for a while.

Yes, there are awesome people at conventions. More and more, I don't want to talk to the players. I want to talk to the game designers, the organizers, and the dealers. Real-world questions like, "Are you making money?" "Is this better or worse than last year?" "This looks cool, why should I personally buy it?"

I'm at the point where even my games have to have a deeper meaning.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Alex is 2, plus a Houston Gamers quick trip

Today is free comic book day. Once a year, the publishers all come up with big stacks of free comics and send them to your friendly local comic book stores.

Of course, I had to host a birthday party for Alexis first. This involved about a hundred individual trips to and from the clubhouse a few hundred feet from our house. Toddlers are like astronauts in that it takes about 20,000 pounds of support gear, even for shorter trips. We took 4 portable child seats, even though we only have 2 kids.

We ended up with 6 short kids, 3 medium kids, 1 big kid, a bunch of parents, and one lone single person who wandered in almost by accident. (She also brought the big hit birthday gift: a hula hoop. Oh, man, if those kids had guns, there would have been a firefight.)

I have one last unfrosted cake in the kitchen and about 2 pounds of sliced brisket in the fridge.

After all that was cleaned up as well as could be managed, I headed over to the Houston Gamers.

I narrowly missed getting in on a game of Mogul, a fine auction nominally about railroad stocks prior to 1929, but mostly about hoarding and viciousness. It's cheap, runs under an hour, and has a couple of great mechanics: must bid or pass in auctions, when you pass you get the current bids on the table, 1st and 2nd place bidders get something but 1st place person decides who gets which reward, sorta-closed money system with option to get more, etc.

I DID play Mesopotamia, which is a newer game by Klaus Jeurgen-Wrede. My first thought was: he's got a hyphen and an umlaut, this is going to rule! It was kinda cool, I guess. Even with 4 players, 3 of whom were new, it still played out in an hour and a half easy.

Kevin and Debra were trying to recruit for more gaming and food tomorrow, and it ain't happening. The continued isolation is the worst part of parenting. Yes, you're sleep deprived. Yes, you will have to deal with bodily fluids. Yes, you'll be around a little germ monkey. Big deal, I've had all that before. Deliberately having to pass up regularly occasions for fun, all the time? Yeah, that is new.

Gamecount: Individual game sessions played for the year = 77, New game titles played for the year = 16.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Goal updates

Thinking about my goals for the year:

So I'm up to 78 games played in the year, or short about 50 games so far. If I stay at the current rate, I'll finish out the year at about 225 or so, which is nothing to sneeze at, but definitely not 365.

I'm at 15 actual new titles ever played for the year. The problem here is that I've picked up most of the "easy" gains in this area, such as games on my shelves we hadn't played yet. I am going to have to make better use of my Houston Gamers time to explore deeper into the giant plastic tubs of games that float around.

I participated in the company weight-loss contest and lost almost 6% of my body weight in 3 months, mostly by switching to water or diet soda instead of full-calorie soda, vaguely cutting down on meat portions, and trying vaguely to eat more vegetarian fare, which mostly has meant big batches of hummus. It is worth noting that the top prize was less than $700. The winner lost almost 20% of his body weight. There are better ways to come up with $700. The two runners-up both lost over 18%.

I have donated blood twice, and will be eligible to donate again next week. I'll easily beat my goal of donating four times this year, unless I get hell-flu or something.

As for the game-purchase moratorium, eeh. I bought Attika and got in a bunch of plays so far, and I'm considering buying Mogul, along with a replacement/duplicate copy of Empyrean, Inc. I am at the point with trading where everything I have is mediocre or worse. With the price of shipping going up, it's becoming not worth the effort to trade unless you start really high. "Uh, let's both ship these $30 games across the country to each other for $12 apiece!" "Yeah, we're totally sticking it to the man now!"

Thursday Night Gaming: lots of people

Chris, Timothy, Crystal, and Michael came over and joined Lee and I for some gaming. We played Medici, which was new to three people at the table, then Twitch, which was new to everyone but me (Lee sat out as she is not a big fan of Twitch).

Medici is a calm auction game, and Twitch is an action game, mostly about flipping cards into a bowl and arguing. Great stuff.

Gamecount: Individual game sessions played for the year = 76, New game titles played for the year = 15.

So, uh, I'm not going to make it on either game goal for the year unless I really adjust my plans.