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June 29, 2006

Airport Fun

No visible problems for me this time, as I was on time (even early) for my 8:35 flight. It's currently before 7 and I'm already at the gate. But I'm rather happy with the situation, as there's a decent breakfast option right near the gate, free wireless, and even a bit of entertainment. Okay, it's just a guy who left his bag behind to go to the Men's Room and somehow missed the last 4 years so was surprised and angry that his bag was confiscated.

Well, I thought it was fun.

Home tonight, with any luck.

Posted by ghoul at 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 28, 2006

Meeting Sessions Completed

The various meeting sessions are done, discussions completed, and socializing pretty much past. I chose to fly home tomorrow rather than not arrive until midnight (Eastern Time) today, so I have another evening here in Vegas, which I plan to spend quietly.

Yeah, I know that's not the norm for here, but I've had about as much flash and loud as I need for a bit, and I want to be ready for The Black Road on Friday. I've already started jotting down some useful notes for my games, based on the characters I've gotten pre-con in email, and I expect to expand on that a bit more this evening and during the travel home tomorrow.

The meeting was not much different than I'd expected, a couple sessions somewhat disappointing in their depth and/or connection to their nominal topic, but in general, and especially for the tightly focused follow-up session yesterday afternoon and this AM, very useful.

Some interesting parallels between this and TBR... Like TBR relative to AmberCon, this smaller actuarial meeting has only a small number of breakout session choices per timeslot (3 or 4 rather than 10-12), and that means it's much easier to be stuck without a terribly appealing choice. So when one turns out to not be what it described itself as (as happened here twice out of the 6 sessions, in my opinion), disappointment is inevitable.

So, since I experienced that here, I'm expecting I'll be free of such at TBR. That's fair, right? (Though, to be honest, there's far less chance of disappointment at TBR, given the games I'm scheduled for... I can't see how fun will not be had in any of them, except maybe if I flub GMing one of mine. And then it'd be my fault anyway.)

Posted by ghoul at 07:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 25, 2006

Barely Managed Travel

I got a slightly late start today, but nothing terrible. I was on the road with plenty of time before my flight.

Or so I thought.

I failed to include the possibility that the Southwest booth would be mobbed with around 100 people all trying to check in the same time I did. Which meant, after waiting in line, I had 25 minutes between check-in and take-off. 15 of that went to the next line for security, so there was no time to stop for breakfast (though I was able to gaze longingly at the Dunkin Donuts beside the security check-in line).

And then, just for fun, I was directed to the wrong gate, and almost failed to notice the last call for the flight I was meant to be on, two gates away. I ran over just as they closed the doors, and they were nice enough to let me on, though since it was a Southwest flight (no reserved seats), I had the choice of a really bad seat or a couple of even worse seats because I was so late.

But, all that drama behind me, I'm safely in my Lake Las Vegas hotel room and going to take a break and catch my breath for a bit.

Posted by ghoul at 03:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 23, 2006

Well Deserved

He's not nearly as well known as he should be these days, but it's always good to see Stan Freberg recognized for his outstanding careers. Yes, I have to say more than one, as we are talking about a man famous for pupettering ("Time for Beany"), voice-acting in animation (mostly with Warner Brothers, including the only classic WB 'toon I can think of where Mel Blanc isn't given solo voice credit, "Three Little Bops") , recorded parody and comedy (I especially like the Dragnet parodies and his rip on Elvis singing Heartbreak Hotel), radio comedy (my step-father had two albums of sketches selected from "The Stan Freeberg Show" that were my introduction to his work, some 25 years ago; now I own the complete series on CD), radio and television advertising (IMO, La Choy brand chinese food and Jeno's Pizza pretty much owe their existence to his work blazing their brand into people's mind).

If you don't know Freberg's work, I can't recommend it highly enough. The 1961 "Stan Freeberg Presents The United States of America" album is an absolute scream (though, sadly, the 1996 "Part Two" material isn't nearly as strong).

[Originally spotted at Mark Evanier's blog, though I searched up a slightly more detailed article to link to.]

Posted by ghoul at 07:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 22, 2006

Pinging Again

Well, apparently the last few entries didn't actually ping anyone that there'd been an update, so I'll bet no one noticed.

I think I fixed the problem, so let's see if this works. Anyone who notices that I'm posting again (today, if perhaps not again until next Friday), drop me a note!

Posted by ghoul at 03:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 21, 2006

Briefly Busy, Then TBR

Of course, I chose to re-start postings here just in time to hit a rather busy patch.

This Friday evening is a bi-weekly game, which I'm much looking forward to because it's been a month since the last session. I'll have to write about that game and my character at some future date...

Then on Sunday I fly to Nevada (not exactly Las Vegas but pretty darn close) for an Actuarial Symposium, returning on Thursday. And, oddly enough, I'm actually looking forward to that, as dry as it might sound.

That gets me home just in time to The Black Road, Friday thru Sunday.

I'll be home on Monday July 3rd, but I expect I'll pretty much sleep through that day and well into the holiday on the 4th.

How much posting there'll be between now and then depends on how many gaps I manage during that relatively crowded ten day period. I certainly hope to be able to report on what happens at The Black Road reasonably as things happen.

Posted by ghoul at 06:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 19, 2006

Unplayed Boardgames

I've been acquiring boardgames at, if anything, an accelerated pace during the last few months, assisted by my discovery of an excellent store in southern NH, Myriad Games. Such acquisitions have vastly exceeded my time to PLAY new games, so I've got quite a list of "try to play this one sometime soon" games backed up. Here's a few major highlights...

Fury of Dracula is a re-design of an older game we used to play to death back in the day. Most of the changes seem sound. There's an extra player (Mina, complete with her psychic link to the Count), a card-based hidden movement system for Dracula (rather than the original screened-off map) and, in general, a greater use of cards (cards being far easier to custom design and print now than they were pre-Magic). I've seen a few complaints online about some odd places on the board where Dracula can accidentally corner himself and be unable to move without triggering the "cheating" rules and I expect the balance is still closer to by-player than by-side (that is, Dracula will not win half of the games, but closer to the 1-in-5 ratio that he has to the other players), but I really want to try this one out for myself. It looks to be far less disappointing than the cluttered-up and overly lengthened Arkham Horror re-do by the same company. I'm also pretty sure their other Games Workshop re-do, Warrior Knights, will also make my "must try this one soon" list if I let myself read through it again, but it hasn't quite made it there yet.

Twilight Struggle is an intriguing entry into the "card-driven wargame" style that its publisher, GMT Games, has been impressing with for some time now. But this entry isn't really a wargame, it's a Cold War game. As such, it isn't troop movements you need to manage but rather political influence. Oh, wars are important, but they're abstracted, usually to just a quick die roll. What you manage in this game is your political resources, and in particular the game forces you to deal with good and bad news, both anticipated and unanticipated. It does this via cards, each of which has a political point value (which you can use to fuel the basic actions of the game) and an event. When you play a card, you can play it for either purpose if it's biased toward your side (USA or USSR, if the sides in the Cold War aren't obvious to you) or neutral, but if it's biased toward the other side then you MUST let them have the "good event" it represents. The balance of power clearly shifts through the game, as the initial deck is somewhat biased toward the USSR but over time additional cards are added that are strongly USA-biased. Knowing what might be coming and preparing for it is a critical skill, and being completely prepared is well beyond the limited resources either side has to deploy, based on my reading, so it looks like there's always somewhere you'll be vulnerable. The game has a definite political bias (for example, I think it credits politics and, in particular, certain politicians too much and simple economics too little for the eventual result of the Cold War) and it's littered with annoying typos and unclear verbiage, but the underlying ideas are very solid and quite interesting. I really, really want a chance to give this the several plays it looks to want before it's understood.

Command and Colors: Ancients is also from GMT Games, but it couldn't be more different from Twilight Struggle. This game is a third design based on a very clever, reasonably simple tactical wargame system previously used for the games Battle Cry and Memoir '44, covering the US Civil War and WWII, respectively. This take focuses primarily on the Punic Wars, Rome vs. Carthage (with a forthcoming expansion which will add other armies of the broadly-defined "Ancient" era, including the Greeks and the Persians). Deceptively simple rules control movement (units are activated by cards which indicate the part of the battlefield or the type of unit the commander may select units from this turn) and combat (roll lots of dice, look for the icons that hit with the unit you're using), but the real meat of this game seems to be in the features of each particular type of unit. Some offer ranged attacks, some speed, some durability, all by very slight changes in the movement and combat options. Unlike its two predecessors, which used plastic soldier figures, this game uses dozens and dozens of wooden blocks, to which stickers with illustrations of the appropriate unit are applied. A unit on the battlefield is made up of multiple blocks, which lets the game indicate casualties in battle by slowly removing the unit, block by block. And after the hours spent applying the hundreds of stickers, I really want to put this one on the table and fight out a few battles!

Rheinlander fills out the all but mandatory Knizia entry on this list. This game casts players as factions of the nobility along the Rhine River, slowly building and combining kingdoms. Cards are played to control where you can place your knights, either on the number you play (there are two land spaces and a river space for each number, with the river space available only if both land spaces are already occupied) or next to any other of your knights (in which case the number played doesn't matter). Groups of two or more knights create a duchy, ruled by the majority faction. Cities, castles, and cathedrals modify the scoring, defensibility, and political influence (respectively) of the duchy they abut. If a new knight changes the majority faction in a duchy, the old duke's player gets points before he's kicked out, but most points come from holding duchies at game's end. Sounds simple, but thanks to the subtlety of castles and cathedrals, a map that is deceptively simple and that has cities, castles, and cathedrals shuffled randomly each game for variety. This looks like a very solid game of abstract strategy.

Battleground: Fantasy Warfare is the last on my current "priority" list. This clever game takes the essentials of miniatures games but replaces the expensive and hard to transport miniatures with very reasonably priced and easily carried cards. And, for a nice additional touch, designs and coats the cards so important game notes can be written right on the surface with the appropriate tools (wax pencils or dry-erase markers). Also, all ranges used in the games are expressed in card sizes (half or all of a short or long side, or a combination of several), which is quite convenient. I've looked through the four armies currently in print and I'm quite impressed with the variety and range of the armies. And the Undead army looks quite fun to play, which is always a plus in my book.

There's half-dozen others I'd like to get onto a play table as well, but these are the heart of my current priority list.

Posted by ghoul at 08:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 18, 2006

Black Road Prep

In other recently overcome laziness, I sent out my character creation suggestions for my two games at The Black Road this weekend. Just barely in time, since the Con is in two weeks. And I've already heard back from one player in each game, proving that they are far, far less lazy than me!

For those somewhat interested who won't be at the Con, here's a brief summary...

I'm running another iteration of my Teenagers from Outer Space/Amber crossover "Nine Princes in High School" which promises to be a lot of fun. I can admit that right now I have only the vaguest of ideas what will happen in the game, but I'm sure it'll come together as I start seeing what characters I'll have. I really love GMing TFOS, and this gives me a chance to inflict that on semi-suspecting Amber players.

I'm also running a game I dedicate to all the "first chapter purists" in the Amber community. "On the Job" casts the PCs in the role of investigators trying to work out the escape of one Carl Corey from the Greenwood Private Hospital. Just what they'll find isn't certain. I'm using the InSpectres system, which means a lot of what we find will be up to the players. Also, since this game follows the first few chapters of Nine Princes in Amber, it is set in 1970 (the year the book was published). Which offers a very different style of investigator than the InSpectres norm.

As a player, I'm going to get a shot at the Shab-al-Hiri Roach and Dogs in the Vineyard for my Indy games fixes and a bit of Zeppelin Pirate fun in Fortune's Fool: The Ebony Hand.

It'll be a fun weekend, I can tell already!

Posted by ghoul at 05:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Back From the Nearly-Dead

No, nothing's been wrong.

I just haven't been posting.

Call it laziness, because that's mostly what it's been.

I can't promise it will get much better, but I will make an effort to not go 5 months between posts too many more times this year.

(Let's see... at worst I could only do it once before December, so that's a pretty easy promise to keep...)

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