Friday, November 30, 2007

Race for the Galaxy

R.J. got back from the BoardGameGeek convention in Dallas (held the week before Thanksgiving) with a copy of Tom Lehmann's Race For The Galaxy. R.J., Chris, and I gave it a spin and enjoyed it quite a bit.

Tom Lehmann helped design quite a bit of San Juan, which all 3 of us own and rate highly. Race For The Galaxy takes all the mechanics were stripped out of San Juan and expands them into a more complex game, still well worth the effort.

San Juan has a set of five role cards where each player takes a turn choosing a role, and then all players execute it, with the player that chooses the role getting a bonus (picking Builder means you build at a discount, etc.). In Race For The Galaxy, all the players have a set of role cards, and roles are selected simultaneously. Every phase that is picked executes (so not all phases execute every round), and you get the bonus in the phase you selected. That's a major change. No longer is turn order a major consideration - I rarely felt constrained by the cards in my hand, and never broke the hand limit of 10 cards (San Juan's limit is an oft-painful 7).

Also, in San Juan, all the players have an identical starting setup, while in Race For The Galaxy, the starting planets handed out at random have different powers.

Production and trade mechanics have also been tweaked, with the addition of victory point chips gained during the "Consume" phase of Race For The Galaxy.

Our game finished with scores of Todd 47, Chris 46, and R.J. 37 or so. We all used different strategies that all appeared viable. The cards are almost all different, so spending cards means you're likely to never see the card again, unlike in San Juan. It also feels like the pressure to build every phase, no matter what, has been removed. Bluntly, I love this. We spent a lot more time than a San Juan game, perhaps 90 minutes compared to 30-40, but the variety of cards and upgrade paths made the longer time enjoyable and reasonable.

We weren't totally without issues. R.J. missed the rule where we were supposed to only have 12 victory chips out per player, which was minor. Chris is fairly color-blind, and that was a big deal. He managed to get by, but many of the Settle and Produce cards involve tiny colored icons, which was a challenge for him...

Speaking of icons, the cards are a sea of them, and it's hard to see from across the table exactly what is going on with your opponents' abilities, broken down by round. San Juan makes this easier because the smaller number of cards, lowered uniqueness, and simpler powers all make for faster association with powers. Of course, this also makes the San Juan winner and loser cards easier to spot and easier to get in every game.

It's also worth noting that expansions for Race For The Galaxy are in the works. That'll make it even harder to get a grip on things for new players, but enhance replayability even more.

My rating after 1 play: 8 out of 10, compared to my rating of 10 on San Juan. If Lee can sit through an explanation of Race For The Galaxy, and likes playing it, I'll bump my rating a notch.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Power Grid on BSW

I played two games of Power Grid on BSW (German word is BrettSpielWelt, English is BoardGameWorld). After setting my login to use English, it wasn't difficult to jump in and lose a 2-player game, then win a 4-player game.

Fun stuff, still won't replace face-to-face play:
  • Decent but still limited game selection
  • Harder to keep learning with the same people
  • Newest, hot games not present

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

ddclient - get your IP address from behind NAT, without configuring your router

As previously mentioned, I had downloaded ddclient and was trying to make it work, but was getting errors because of NAT on my router.

My router's not specifically mentioned as one of the Linksys routers ddclient supports, and I played briefly with trying to set ddclient's options to log into my router, with no success. I wasn't patient enough to try every ddclient router option and see if any worked. Time to try a different option...

I can get my IP address in a webpage easily enough, using

apt-get install curl (since it wasn't installed already on my Debian box)

curl -s

This gives a fine, fine page showing my IP address with all the headers. Chop it down to size with head and tail:
curl -s head -c -16 tail -c 13
(Notice here, I decided not to use the cut command, which would introduce a subtle bug if my IP address changed).

You can feed ddclient an IP address like so:

ddclient ip=
So, we can use good ol' page 4-4 of "Unix In A Nutshell" to do command substitution. We use the `` quotes to shove the IP address into the ddclient command:

ddclient -ip=`curl -s head -c -16 tail -c 13` -v
Notice that this still will give an error in both the Debian-okayed version of ddclient and ddclient version 3.7.3, but not a fatal one, as we can see with the -v (for verbose) flag. Success!

Feedback welcome, certainly. If you're putting this in as a cron job, don't run it crazily often. It's not like your IP address changes twice a minute. Thanks to the generous folks at DynDNS for providing such a useful tool, and thanks to the good people of ZoneEdit for the Dynamic DNS page that got me started on this path.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

ddclient woes

I am having some trouble getting ddclient to work with zoneedit.

So far, here's my config file:

use=web, web=, web-skip='Current IP Address: '\

protocol=zoneedit1, \, \

login=myusername, \

password=mypassword \

Anyway, I'm still getting "WARNING: unable to determine IP address" errors that probably mean I need to get my IP address directly from the router.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Forum up

I successfully made phpbb2 work using apt-get, and then "dpkg-reconfigure phpbb2-conf-mysql"
to create the tables. I also had to change the admin password in PHPmyadmin, which was really easy.

Aaugh. I am suffering here. I can either switch over to the "new" laptop, or stick to the other computer, stay on Blogger, or some combination of the 3.

This puts me somewhat in the position of the man with two watches: I have two blogs now, and one forum. Do I renew all my domain names, and go from there?

To move or not to move

I gave up on using apt-get to install wordpress, and pulled down a copy using wget:


#tar -xzvf latest.tar.gz

I had already created the wordpress user, so I edited the wp-config-sample.php file:

#vi wp-config-sample.php

and copied it into place:

#cp wp-config-sample.php wp-config.php

From there, it was a quick trip to my url:
which worked!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

x-http/php error solution when phpbb won't work

Apache 1.3 is braindead and doesn't pass the MIME-type headers correctly. This fails in Firefox 2.X and IE 6.

Solution: uninstall apache 1.3 and get apache 2 instead. Note that you can do this on Debian easily via "apt-get remove apache" and "apt-get install apache2"

Tried to install wordpress on laptop, getting PHP errors again. Apt-get should work, people, outta the box. When it doesn't, I am a sad cheese.

Debian floppy drive images

I should probably mention I got the floppy drive install images for Debian Etch here. I only had one floppy around so I re-wrote each image on it in sequence, then let the net-install take over.

Very cool.

Memoir '44

I did a bunch of computer stuff on the dinky computer. Trying to install Wordpress through the magic of apt-get failed, failed, failed, by the way. I also installed Debian on an old laptop with only a floppy drive and a semi-broken screen. That was pretty cool. Other than the broken screen, it could be a nice little mailserver or webserver.

Chris and I played Memoir '44, a World War 2 boardgame, on Wednesday. It was interesting and more fun than I thought it would be. There are three zones in the battlefield, right/left/center, and you have a hand of command cards with things like "Move 2 Infantry in the RIGHT zone."

We kept making jokes about it: "Just like in the real World War 2." By the end of the night, it was a running gag. "I can't reach the cookies. Just like in the real World War 2."

Friday, November 09, 2007

That was easy

I downloaded ssh via "apt-get install ssh" and I think I fixed any other problems with the /etc/hosts.allow file already.

Next step: get a decent graphical interface for my Windows box so I can schlep files around more easily.

Debian newbie woes

I've installed Debian on an old computer I had lying around, and while the webserver seems to be working correctly, I am getting "Connection refused" when I try to use PuTTY from my Windows machine. Ports seem to be forwarded correctly to it.

Questions: On Debian, how do I check that sshd is running? It doesn't look like it is. How do I restart it if it isn't, or failing that, install it using aptitude.