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November 29, 2004


I mentioned my new PBEM games earlier, so I thought I'd do an update.

Monrroyo (new link, now to the game's wiki which includes a story section, combining the posts into a reasonable narrative, thanks to the hard work of that section's updater) is off to a great start, IMO. My character, Ximun ex Criamon, is an interesting serious/comic blend I'm finding great fun to write for. He's got all the standard death (technically "Twilight") curiosity of Criamon, along with their obfuscation-filled manner (they are, as a house, far too wise and learned to speak clearly), plus more than a little arrogance. However, he also has found himself amidst of very, very Spring Covenant (it lacks a charter, a symbol, and even the most rudimentary Parma Magica) which is much in need of growing up very fast. I'm not sure his oft-cryptic advice is actually "help", but he intends it as such.

VQC (on the well-worth-the-subscription gaming site Dreamlyrics) is also moving along at a good clip. Thorn re-encountered an old "friend" from her last time in Cincinnati, who immediately tried to force her to do what he wanted, resulting in a nasty fight in and behind a crowded nightclub, one helpful mortal killed for his trouble (by the other guy, though Thorn was going to bleed him dry if she was given a chance), and an ugly grudge or two (I know Thorn has one... the rest is up to the other player). Now she's off to "sign in" with her clan Primogen (Cincinnati's become a very tight ship since her last visit, when she couldn't be bothered with such legalistic niceties). This puts her on a riverboat restaurant/club/casino where the Primogen should be but isn't. So she's being generally Brujah (one recent NPC description of her was "goth slut") and trouble-making, or at least was until the Primogen's protégé stepped in. He's keeping her suitably entertained at the moment with some flirtatious repartee and minimal gossip (she's not telling him anything about herself, so he's playing things close, too). Rosemarie is still "waiting in the wings", as it were, for a good time to rejoin the story.

In SBE (which wasn't mentioned in that previous post because it's ongoing, helped by a recent GM decision to require regular posting, though still at the relaxed pace that best fits the player group's time), Spook has almost gotten over his discovery that one of the new members of their survivor community has no mind (or, though Spook considers this impossible, is just invisible to his telepathy) and is ready to join in (he would say "lead", but the others are smart enough not to really put the cat in charge of anything) the mission to salvage some medical supplies so our docs (primarily the no-mind guy) can do their thing.

Posted by ghoul at 05:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

T'Con Day Eight (Supplemental) and Day Plus One

We closed off day eight with a handful more games of the highly-successful Cloud 9, teaching Luc and Julia to play as well (Julia isn't a big board-game player, but the Out of the Box games (or at least this and Apples to Apples) seems to be to her taste. The dynamics of the game change in interesting ways as you go to 5 or 6 players, since there's more card-gathering when your turn to pilot comes around less often. I should have expected this from watching tournament poker, but I underestimated the effect dramatically. I know there were at least two 25 point flights (though one made with me piloting was nearly useless, as Luc had already passed 50 and was more than 25 points ahead of me... I did jump from last to third, however), which hadn't happened even once when we were playing with four. This game gets high ratings from me for simplicity, speed of play, minimal downtime, and a nice strategy-to-luck ratio (just a bit to the "luck" side). Not a deep game, but a very fun pastime and well worth its (remarkably low for how pretty the game is) price.

Almost all of my "must play" games got onto the table (no Bang! or Axis and Allies D-Day, the former because I forgot to put it on the priority stack and the latter for pure time), and all were fairly well received. In fact, Luc (whose initial response was tepid) was asking about another Runebound game on Sunday evening, using our new understanding of the rules and the errata, but time just didn't allow for it. We also didn't get to any D&D (Gevrok was more than just ready for a good fight) thanks to the time War of the Ring took and to Grant's pulled nerve (no head turning or quick gestures... and a GM in pain is not a GM I want running me). Ahh, well... much, much fun was had, and more got done than I had any cause to expect, mostly due to aggressive "Well, why don't we do <fill in the blank>" promotion by Luc and Grant to prevent the "I dunno, what do you wanna do" that was common at past T'Cons due to simple vacation intertia. Of course, it also helps that Ryan and Bridget are now both to the age of mostly self-maintenance, so if they weren't in the game, there wasn't a need for someone else to sit out to keep an eye on 'em (or else the game needed to wait until after bedtime). One or both were usually in the game themselves, of course.

Thanks again to Luc and Grant for their fine hosting, to Ryan for giving up his room for a week, and to Bridget for improvising those yummy white chocolate and cinnamon chip cookies so I could enjoy her baking, too. Eight days pass way, way too quickly every year.

Now it's the next day and I'm on the train away from T'Con, heading from Cary to Greensboro. I'll be working in the company home office thru Thursday, when I'll fly to Providence, catching up with my games and more casual clothes. They are making their own way north in Julia and Lou's minivan (thanks again for the accommodation!). Then we (me, my games, and my more casual clothes) will then make the drive back to Concord. I hope to have 'net access once I check into the hotel this evening, but it might be Thursday (in the airport or perhaps even back home) before I'm online again.

[NOTE: Turns out it was this evening! Good thing, too, because I have a PBEM RPG post I also typed on the train and wanted to get posted before the game moved too far beyond that scene. In fact, that reminds me... (see next post).]

Posted by ghoul at 04:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 28, 2004

Staircase Bicentennial

This is post number 201. However, since I've deleted a post (because it was created in error in the early days of the blog and I had nothing to create to replace it), this is the 200th post on the Staircase.

Okay, that's not too many. But it's still a milestone of sorts.

Posted by ghoul at 07:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

T'Con Days Seven and Eight

Saturday we held back on gaming. John and Carol (and kids) visited and we chatted about RPGs, Grant worked on a D&D scenario that didn't end up being done (time ran out), we watched 2 more Firefly eps (which means there only 2 broadcasted eps and the 3 unbroadcasted they haven't seen).

Then I enlisted Ryan to help me set up War of the Ring. This took a good amount of time, and I also cleaned up and printed a couple of rules summaries from that link to help us get through the game.

On Sunday (the last day <sigh>), I invited everyone to a yummy pasta brunch, then Grant and I took to Middle Earth. An hour to survey the rules, then 3 hours of play later... The Shadow (me) managed to catch Aragorn and Pippin trying to rally Gondor after we'd laid siege to Minas Tirith. Rohan and the men (and hobbits) of the North were kept out of the war by well-made Threats and Promises (an event card), but I took too long to bring my armies to activity and rolled too poorly in the hunt for the Fellowship, so while I had initiated the attacks that would eventually give me my 10 VP, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum managed to sneak to Mt. Doom at 10 corruption (two points under losing the game). It was great fun, albeit most of the game was actually spent doing maneuvering that ended up mattering very little (which, as Grant pointed out, is much like the books).

And now, it's time to pack things up so Julia and Lou can drive it home and I can head to company HQ as well.

Posted by ghoul at 07:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 27, 2004

T'Con Days Five and Six

Thursday was, of course, centered around the Turkey Dinner. Yum!

Also snuck in during the festivities was a first play of Betrayal at House on the Hill. Luc ended up turning on the kids and I, but the Witch was no match for Ox's book-enhanced smarts and super-punchy fists, especially since the Traitor ended up many, many rooms away from the Witch's starting place and so unable to get in to help. A bit of rules and errata weirdness, but a good game in spite of that.

Later in the evening, we did lots of gluing of PitchCar tracks for future use, then setting up a game of Runebound. Numerous mistakes were made, and the game went a bit longer than we'd hoped. We actually finished (with a few rules fixes in place) on Friday AM. Lou and I raced thru the red encounters, with him requiring a very lucky movement roll to make the last... and he didn't! Victory for me! Unfortunately, we then found some errata that would have changed several more things. The game is a bit too solo for Luc's taste, though looking at the first expansion set and the Advanced Rules shows that the publishers are already working on that. I like the game.

Julia, Lou, Ryan, Bridget, and I got to play PitchCar now that the glue had set. Somehow, despite adding new narrow curves and choke points from the expansion set and a "play in order of age" house rule that started me off in the tail, I was able to blow far ahead of the pack, lapping most of them before winning the three-lap race. Go me! Two in a row! Bridget set up a few more tracks, and other games were played but I sat out lest I ruin my streak (and Bridget has a cruel streak when it comes to track-building!).

Ryan and I played a quick Blue Moon game, and he got some horrible card luck that frequently left him one point behind in fighting me. Still, I only won when he was forced to retire for lack of character cards, so it wasn't a complete blowout. Still... three wins for me!

We watched more Firefly (finishing disk 2, which puts the amazing Out of Gas next up on the queue!), then set up another game of Betrayal, this time with Lou and Grant playing in Bridget's place. We ended up placing every ground floor room we could, having a collapsed-room blocked second floor, and all being gathered in the basement to explore when Grant turned into a gateway for the Worm Ouroboros and tried to encircle first us, then the house, then the world! Unfortunately for the big, hungry snake, the other four characters were all only a room or two away, so we set upon the serpent with all we had, splitting up into two teams of two to each take one of the heads and smash it. The rules were unclear if you needed to cast the vulnerability spell on each head separately, but we did just in case. And so I was on the wining team there as well. That pretty much never happens at T'Con (I have a tradition of teaching people how to whup on me in games), but looks like it did this year!

War of the Ring is still just scheduled (I may set it up this evening so Grant and I can play Sunday AM). I think we're also considering hitting another game store or two today, depending on how friends' availability comes out.

Posted by ghoul at 08:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 25, 2004

T'Con Days Three and Four (Games Played and Miscellaneous)

And now, some reports on games played.

We decided Man Bites Dog looked simple enough to try after Alex's much-delayed plane landed and we watched the surprisingly long (but still funny) Definite Article. This was a mistake, as the game isn't nearly as good as its promise. Official dog game of T'Con, though fun was had once the rules were tossed out and a better game ad-libbed into being with the cards.

HeroScape was as good as we'd hoped looking at it. Very random and sometimes arbitrary in its rules, but a nice "run at the enemy and bust 'em up" sort of fun. Ryan and I teamed up against Luc and Alex, with me taking over the whole side when Ryan had to head out for his FluMist vaccine. Knock-down, drag-out fight ended up with my last figure and Luc's last toe-to-toe for the win. Unfortunately, hers was the biggest, toughest fig in the game (the dragon Mimring) and mine was the highly-random, potential-rich mind-controlling boney freak guy (Ne-Gok-Sa). But the '20' didn't come up on the d20 for me to successfully switch the dragon to our side prior to it biting me in half. An army fighting game that ends with the last two heroes battling for victory on the smoking remains of the battlefield is a successful game! And the bits are just SO pretty!

Cloud 9 is a game of brinksmanship, bluffing, and luck. Players take turns piloting a hot air balloon (by rolling dice and playing cards to match the result). At any point, you can show a lack of confidence in the pilot and jump from the balloon. But the longer you stay, the more points you get. Unless, that is, you stay until the pilot cannot match the roll; then you crash for no points. This is a quick, light game that can be taught in minutes and yet offers just enough strategy and decision-making to bring the fun. We played this in the afternoon and then, after the late-night Formula Motor Racing (Ryan snuck thru a bare win in the FMR -- he's evil that way -- and Lou managed -- as is his wont -- to lose to the unplayed color) and Apples to Apples (Grant ran to a lead early, then stalled with 1 to go, but still won out in the end) games, we pulled it out again for a couple more plays.

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is still pretty amazing, though I think I preferred their previous Raleigh-area location. We ate quite well, and came home in a state of quality carnivorous satisfaction.

Three very well received games so far (Ticket to Ride, HeroScape, and Cloud 9), and we have Betrayal at House on the Hill promised for the next time Luc and Ryan are both available to play (might be tomorrow, depending on how severe the post-turkey-feasting comas are).

Plus Grant and I must do War of the Ring. On this issue there is no compromise!

Posted by ghoul at 10:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

T'Con Day Three (RPG Purchases)

Initial note... I just stumbled upon this RPG Database. It gives me someplace nice to link to when I mention games, so it may become a regular haunt!

Wyrd is Bond - Okay, I know less than nothing about rap and hip-hop, but this game is very appealing. Gangstas with magic. Very clever die scheme. Wonder what I'll do with it?

Land of Og - 2nd edition game and expansion bought in a mega-discounted bundle (net cost, $1 each). I liked this one in the first edition at least $1 worth. Cavemen with limited skills and even more limited vocabulary (players are limited to around a dozen words in dialog). Silly but fun.

Ork! and Orkworld - another discounted bundle, this time of two unrelated but similarly themed game. Both are purchased mostly for light RPG reading not expected use.

Sorcerer (and the three expansions) - (Not listed on the database for some reason) I've been putting this off too long with all the good press it gets. Wasn't about to pass it up when the whole bundle (not significantly discounted) was sitting on the shelf waiting for a purchase.

Hearts, Swords and Flowers - Magnum Opus (creator-owned sub-license program) product for Big Eyes, Small Mouth designed to focus on shoujo ("girl's manga"). Nothing wrong with relationship-heavy play in my opinion!

Meddling Kids - Solve mysteries, unmask bad guys, scarf pizza, and avoid copyright infringement! Looks to be a fun game focusing on the classic "offbeat youth crimefighter" genre.

Trojan War - I love me some trojan wars! d20 versions are OK by me, and I was very pleased with the earlier Testament product in this line, which focuses on events of the Old Testament. I haven't read this yet (too many purchases, too little time), but I did scan the book and particularly the character write-ups, and none of them jumped out as "wrong, wrong, wrong!". Maybe Helen is a bit low on the CHR; she's barely even prettier than Valentin, and Val hasn't launched any ships at all. Though he is almost as constant in his affections as the beautiful Queen of Sparta Troy Sparta.

Posted by ghoul at 10:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

T'Con Day Three (Board Game Purchases)

Here's the game store results...

Man Bites Dog - as written, a dull game (we played it that night) and clearly written with point values to encourage people to use words in headlines we'd all use happily ("Naked" and "Priest" are both worth the max 50 points, as if it is hard to encourage someone to use both). Paste in some Apples to Apples-style voting for the "best headline" and it's an OK game, but no great shakes. Too bad there were three copies purchased on the promise it offered...

Cargo - Looks like a nice re-styling of Abalone onto a square board with a "Boston Tea Party gone competitive" theme and non-identical pieces (tea crates, normal dockworkers, big strong dockworkers, donkeys and the rarely-mentioned-in-history Boston Elephants).

Reiner Knizia's Relationship Tightrope - despite the gender stereotyping of the cards, this looks to be a very fun bidding/trick taking game. The object is to take as close to an equal number of blue ("guy stuff") and pink ("gal stuff") in each hand so as to keep things in balance. Oddest thing... it looks like the only card game I know where never winning a single hand is a winning strategy!

Succession: Intrigue in the Royal Court - purchased on the promise of Foglio art and no disappointment there at all. Play sheets are big, thick, and well-illustrated. No minimal, recycled sketches here! Haven't read the rules yet, but the look of the pieces is enough to make me happy.

Wings of War: Famous Aces - looks to be a nice abstract WWI dogfighting game, but hasn't been well examined yet.

Geek Wars: Battle for the Con Deck 1: RPG Gamer - This might be a good game once more decks are out (to add variety), but it's not yet really mature, IMO. In fact, it's only minimally playable with just one deck. Some great ideas are in evidence, so I'll be watching for the next deck.

Igor: The Mad Scientist's Lament - Funny, funny warnings all over the box ("Warning, this is a 100% matter product. Contact with antimatter will cause a catastrophic explosion.") and a company who did something great fun and creative in the past (no, I actually don't own it... I let Grant buy the copy for Luc) got the sale. I'll find out how the game plays once the rules bubble up to the top.

Also picked up for free...

Mystery Train - Small but clever expansion for the amazing Ticket to Ride that promises to add a few new twists. Maybe we can add these in and prevent another dominant performance by Ryan!

RPG purchases and games played on nights three thru five will come up later.

Posted by ghoul at 09:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


The power cord for my Powerbook stretched across a walkway.

This was not smart.

Now the plug is not quite the same shape as the socket for it.

Here's hoping I can borrow one until I can find an Apple store... (which I think I can).

Many game reports and such will follow if I can regain power.

UPDATE: deformation is older than I thought (just not noticed until now... I had noted that sometimes plugging it in didn't "take" but not why). But a little needle-nose plier work (thanks, Grant!) and all is well for now. I'll have that visit to an Apple Store deferred until I'm back in NH in a week and a couple.

Posted by ghoul at 08:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 23, 2004

T'Con Days One and Two

Relaxed days so far...

Sunday was quiet. We chatted and read, then we watched the Firefly pilot from the DVD set.

Monday was also quiet. More chatting, then some grocery shopping (I was making my smoked sausage chowder for dinner), then we went to see Luc's student's play, then back home for 2 more episodes Firefly and a game of Ticket to Ride. Grant, Lou, and I were taken out back and whipped soundly by Grant's just-teen son Ryan, who scored 119 points with a route all the way up the west coast then across Canada to Montreal. I had just barely passed 80 for second place.

Today there was game shopping (3 stores... 2 more still remain), the results of which I will detail later.

Posted by ghoul at 05:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not Shiny!

Here we are, introducing friends to the greatness that is Firefly and we get this news.

I don't know the Chinese that expresses my reaction properly.

Posted by ghoul at 05:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lunchtime Poll #2 -- Characters Are Strange

What’s the strangest character you’ve ever played?

I'll give that one to The Driver, a character in a CIS RPGames game that didn't last nearly long enough. Inspired (in name only) by the title of an REM song, he was the 8th "Defender of the American Interstates", driving a big truck filled with whatever the job required over the roads and fighting off attempts at sabotage or ill-considered changes. You see, the Interstates were actually laid out by Franklin and Jefferson in the early days of the USA to follow the lines of magical power across the continent, and so adding bypasses or such of mundane reasons like transportation or convenience are to be discouraged, since they damage the focusing of power that made America great.

As a character, The Driver was hyper-caffeinated (his role meant he didn't need to sleep... but it didn't keep him from getting tired if he didn't have enough java), laconic (it always takes too long to explain the crisis to anyone caught up in it, so he never bothered), and readily violent (if he didn't have a pistol-grip shotgun in each hand, it was because he'd stopped for coffee). Really, like the Driver before him, he was just a hitchhiker picked up the night his predecessor's last mission went wrong who learned everything on-the-job. The Truck told him where to go next, and he knew better than to fail at his job.

I have other strange characters (a groupie who accidentally becomes the simultaneous host for ALL of the muses when the gods return and no one of them is powerful enough to incarnate on their own, for example, and another PC's pet cat for another), but The Driver was my favorite. And, in that game, he barely even stood out... other PCs were an alien iguana-man and Elvis impersonator and the AI accidentally created when lightning struck the warehouse where the government was storing the computers taken in the SJG Raid.

Posted by ghoul at 05:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 20, 2004

We're Here! (T'Con Day Zero)

The drive went well, though it's a long way (14 hours). Of course, I didn't drive... I sat in the back seat and read graphic novels. It's a hard, hard life.

And now that the Gifting is done, I can add Heroscape to the high-priority games we'll be sure to play.

Gaming will start tomorrow (and DVD watching and other fun stuff).

Posted by ghoul at 11:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 16, 2004

Another Reason to Fear the Vengeful Star

Okay, our little silly nickname for Hardee's logo has been with us since that not-exactly-perfectly-cheerful logo was noticed during a T'Con drive a few years back...

But now they offer us this... How can you not see the malevolence in that grinning five-pointed danger sign now?

[First Spotted on The Blog That Goes Ping]

Posted by ghoul at 11:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 15, 2004

T'Con Game Priorities

Following up on yesterday, here's my personal priorities among those games I've packed...

Sure to be played (returning faves)

My Priorities

If Time Allows and/or By Request...

I think there'll be fun had!

Posted by ghoul at 04:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 14, 2004

Preparing for TurkeyCon

With the middle of November passed, Thanksgiving is coming, and so it's time to prepare for another TurkeyCon.

Okay, it's only kinda a Con, more an annual gathering of friends to socialize, game, watch, and eat. By this time next week, it'll already be started. I, for one, can't wait! And yes, barring any unexpected developments, there is full connectivity from T'Con, to there will probably be daily updates like there were last year.

This year, I'm going to be following T'Con with a week at my company's HQ, which means 13 days away from my home and cats, but it also means two fewer vacation days used up by the trip (usually the following Monday and Tuesday are consumed by the drive home). Yeah, it means a train trip from Cary to Greensboro on Monday morning and a flight back to New England on Thursday, but I think I can make that work. Connectivity is a maybe, though... The Marriott in downtown Greensboro was adding broadband last time I was there (and not yet charging for it), but it wasn't yet in all rooms. We'll see how things have progressed.

I have every hope of continuing to post in all the PBEM games I'm currently active in.

I'm mostly packed for the trip already (this was my laundry and packing weekend)... Those who know me are probably not surprised that my major bring-along to T'Con is as many board and card games as I can fit into the (strictly limited) space granted to me in Julia and Lou's minivan. Two big tubs are currently packed as tightly as I can manage to maximize choices...

Details are below the fold.

Tub 1

Blue Moon
Grave Robbers from Outer Space (with 3 expansions)
San Juan
Cthulhu 500
Bang! (with both expansions)
Formula Motor Racing (a T'Con favorite)
Flea Circus
Queen's Necklace
Betrayal At House on the Hill
Greed Quest
Balloon Cup
Runebound (with first expansion)
Axis and Allies D-Day
James Earnest's Totally Renamed Spy Game

Tub 2

Master and Commander
Duell (the new edition of En Garde, a personal favorite)

Apples to Apples (with expansions)
Memoir '44 (for BIG GAME PLAY, as there's already one copy there)
Arkham Horror
King's Breakfast
Ticket to Ride
Wooly Bully
War of the Rings
Mare Nostrum
Magna Grecia
Pirate's Cove
Cloud 9

Not in tubs, but coming anyway

Pitchcar & Pitchcar Action Set

I'm still fiddling with a few tricks to squeeze in a couple more space-efficient games as well.

Posted by ghoul at 06:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 05, 2004

It Keeps Growing And Growing...

Thanks to a shipment that arrived today, my BoardGameGeek collection has reached 700 titles.

The 700th is one of these three... Early American Chrononauts, Cloud 9, or Pirate's Cove.

I'm leaning toward saying it's Pirate's Cove, as that looks like the best of the three, but Cloud 9 gets points for its simple yet (from a quick reading) appealing approach to brinksmanship gaming.

Hmmm... and in two weeks, the annual week of fun, friends, and gaming that is TurkeyCon begins! I need to find a little more room in my game tubs...

Posted by ghoul at 05:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I don't care how good you think Pixar is.

I don't care how good you think Brad Bird is.

I don't care how much you're expecting of The Incredibles.

I don't care how many times you've watched the trailers and wondered how it all fit together.

Because it all doesn't matter.

You are just not ready for how good this movie is.

Think Spider-Man 2 is the best superhero movie of all time? It's not even the best superhero movie of 2004, my friend.

Go. Watch. Be amazed.

And be warned, you who are making Fantastic Four, that the bar has been set really, really high. You do not want to be thought of as a second-rate Incredibles rip-off, but you'll have to work very hard to avoid it. Get cracking!

Posted by ghoul at 05:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack