<< September 2006 | Main | November 2006 >>

October 17, 2006

Everything Fixed...

... except ...

The appointment was made, the (relatively unpleasant) estimate was in hand, and then the car was left to be repaired.

And, later that same day, the car was picked up, new window in place. And the final price "only" overshot the estimate by 10%.


This new window rolls itself back down if allowed to roll up all the way. The only way to keep it closed is to VERY carefully release the up switch at the right instant.

And, after an hour of the door being taken apart and re-assembled again, the "answer" was to make another appointment with a Toyota tech (rather than the body shop) to get another repair made. For which I'll be charged, since clearly the new problem is unrelated to the window replacement.


Posted by ghoul at 05:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 15, 2006

TurkeyCon Prep

I'm starting to pack games for T'Con this year.

I'll be doing my standard re-packing, replacing the air that fills all too many game boxes with other games as best I can manage. After all, I'm limited in volume I can bring along.

UPDATE: Well, the list below does manage to fit into my space. And I even managed to add a couple more titles (Palazzo and Caylus, with the later making it by sharing a box with Blue Moon City once the unnecessary insert is removed) and have some space left in case something captures my attention in the next four weeks (which is when I'll have to actually take the tubs to be packed into the van). My next step is to create some priorities...

Here's my early list of new (to T'Con) games going into the tubs. Small games are the easiest picks, as they will usually end up easily fitting inside other games!

Trendy (small)
Twilight Struggle (promised)
Command and Colors Ancients (must play!)
Shear Panic (too pretty, also fun)
World of Warcraft Boardgame (with expansion set; everyone else at T'Con plays the MMORPG)
Order of the Stick Adventure Game (long, but funny and OotS, so it comes along)
Great Wall of China (small)
Fairy Tale (small)
Thurn & Taxis (SdJ winner)
Easy Come, Easy Go (smallish)
Piccomino (small)
The End of the Triumvirate (how can I not?)

One advantage is that many of these games have rules available online, and with luck I'll manage to get someone to read them in advance (especially Twilight Struggle and C&C:A, both of which have rules at the GMT Games site). I'll also be trying to assemble teaching and play aids where I can (say, for WoW, as FFG games often become quicker with the addition of a decent play summary or turn flow aid).

Now, WoW doesn't actually fit into the tubs (too long by an inch or two), but I already asked for special dispensation to allow it to come along.

On the cusp are a few others, mostly a problem because of their box size, though sometimes it's length, number of players, or complexity to teach/learn that keeps games off the main list. Or are games I brought in the past but never got into the table (for various reasons).

Fury of Dracula (a bit long, but a classic)
Warrior Knights (another classic, surprisingly different this time, but maybe only appeals to 2-3 of us)
Masons (large, by just a bit)
Bolide (quite large for what it is, long)
Louis XIV (didn't make table last year, but now I know how to play and it's simpler than the rules look)
Pizza Box Football (didn't make table last year, two player only)
Blue Moon City (oversized box, but a very good game IMO)

And that's about where I stand. Old favorites and mandatory bring-alongs (like Formula Motor Racing and Cloud 9) will of course be in the boxes automatically. Though I'm hoping Incan Gold, the US version of Diamant, will be out by or at T'Con and it does a pretty good job of being better than Cloud 9 at almost everything Cloud 9 is good at (except the minimal bluffing element).

And that's where I stand. Advice or requests are welcome.

Posted by ghoul at 07:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 14, 2006

"Jack, It Looks Like..."

"... someone's broken into your car."

That's not what you want to hear when you're on your way to breakfast, riding in the back of a friend's car past your own parked vehicle.

And, indeed, it did look like that. The driver's side front window was shattered, spread around the blacktop and the driver's seat. But there was no sign of what broke the window, and both my iPod and emergency travel cash were where I'd left them, as were a few games on the passenger seat...

So it wasn't a break-in, or it was about the most futile and silly break-in ever, as nothing was taken or even moved around.

So it was probably something more mundane, like a rock tossed up by a passing car or even just the fist freeze of the coming winter.

Still, the drive back to Concord was two hours of loud, windy chill and I don't look into paying for this (which I have to because I have a high deductible on my auto insurance).

Really annoying.

Posted by ghoul at 04:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 05, 2006

10-4 Gaming

Another fun evening of boardgaming, mostly new games (to me, at least)...

More inside.

I showed up a little early, so Eric and I decided to try out Robber Knights, which I'd been bringing for a while but had never quite made the table. It's a game I'd wanted to try since picking it up at GenCon because I really couldn't tell how it worked. The game consists of playing tiles, some of which are open plains, lakes, or mountains, while others are villages, towns, or castles. Those last three are worth points to the player who claims them, and claiming is done by sending knights out when a castle is placed. The trick is that only the last knight claiming a tile matters. So there's lots of following other players' actions and trying to arrange blocking terrain as a defense. The first game featured Eric cleaning my clock, 35/20. While we were playing, Ray arrived, and as we were setting up a three-player follow-up, Jim arrived. So it was a four-player follow-up instead! At four players, there's a lot more options each turn, but also a near certainty that if you leave a weakness, someone will take advantage of it. So this game was much closer, and essentially came down to who was most careful and slow playing out their tiles. You see, you must play one each turn, but you can play as many as 3, and the game ends when every player is out of tiles, so the last player will get extra turns with no need for defensive play any longer. Eric was that player, with 3 or 4 tiles left when I ran out, so we ended up at 29/28/22/22. Games that close can't be bad, even if you don't come out on top.

We knew some others would be arriving soon, so we decided on a relatively quick game next. Eric pulled out his original Japanese Fairy Tale deck, offering another game I had read but never played. This is a tricky little game of scoring cards (which often work best in complex combinations), with an added trick from a drafting mechanism, where players are dealt a hand, but only keep one, passing the rest around the table. And repeat until you've taken 5 cards (2 from your original hand, the one you choose and the one everyone else rejects, plus one each from everyone else's). Then you play 3 cards, discarding the other two. 5 rounds are played, then whatever cards you have out (and still face up, as some cards force others to be flipped and thus taken out of scoring), you score. Somehow, everyone failed to notice that I was collecting several cards that fed each others scoring, even passing me just what I wanted even in the last round. The scores reflect that lopsidedness, as I won 82/47/41/36, with most of my points coming from 8 cards, 4 that are worth 3 points each, and another 4 that are each worth 3 times the number of cards of the first type I had in play. So 60 points just from those! The rest were just gravy.

By now, Dave and Jon had arrived, as had a newcomer, Barbara. Eric proposed Around the World in Eighty Days, a game I'd read about but never played. Linda, Jon, and Barbara joined in. The game consists of playing cards (1, 2, or 3 based on the icons on the map) to move from city to city along the route of Verne's novel. Just which cards you play, and just which available card you take to refill your hand, decide how many days each step takes and what, if any, special effects you get to use. Barbara took the "race ahead, moving as quickly as possible" strategy, which is a good one. She ended up back in London 4 turns before the rest of us, and not too long past the 80 day "goal". Eric, meanwhile, lounged back a bit and took advantage of several "last player to arrive" bonuses to keep his score low. In the end, he and I were right beside one another... but thanks to a lucky draw on my last turn, I was 1 day quicker. Final score 74/75/85/89/X (due to bad luck drawing, Jon was still in New York when the game ended, unable to reach London to score).

To bring everyone together in a more social game, we brought out Time's Up. I had fun playing, but after a second play, I'm pretty sure Charades-style games are not my strong suit. The only thing Barbara and I had going for us in the end was consistency, scoring 6 points each round. But that put us in a very weak 3rd place in the 34/28/18/16 final score.

Ray had brought along Oasis, a game he'd apparently been trying to get onto the table for nearly a year, failing because he really wanted to play only at 5 players. I can understand why, though. Having read the rules but not played the game, I also suspected the game really only comes into its own at more players. We got a full table, with Matt, Jim, and Dave joining us. This game involves a very odd bidding style, where you offer cards from a stack you manage (but don't see until you flip them up in the act of offering them). Each turn, you try to attract the choice of the player with an early turn order marker (the #1 marker is extra good because it gives an extra bonus), but you don't want to offer too much because it 1) enriches the other players too much and 2) drains your stack so you'll have less to offer next turn. Once you take cards, you trade them in for the right to either place tiles of 3 terrain types or camels on the board, add cards to your stack, or gather scoring tokens. Scoring tokens are associated with the terrains and the camels, and in the end your score is the product of the number of the appropriate tiles/camels and the associated scoring tokens. I took a strategy of ignoring one type completely and focusing on just 3, and that worked quite well. Unfortunately, I got more scoring tokens in my #2 tile type (rock) rather than my #1, camels, so I ended up in second to Ray, you got the right match. Still, it was very close, at 103/99/78/50/38. OK, very close for the two of us, at least.

Lots of fun, and I was mostly competitive (except for that first game of Robber Knights and Time's Up). Not a bad evening at all!

Posted by ghoul at 05:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 01, 2006

September Boardgaming Summary

Covering gaming nights on September 13, 20, and 27 (I missed the 6th dealing with some late-day work meetings). Includes several new games (to me and in general).

Details below the cut.

On the 13th, I arrived at Eric's to find he and Dave playing a very interesting looking game with Eric's mother and brother (who I'd been told would be there, visiting Eric). The game was on a square table-like board, but I could see it was divided into square "cells" in which balls of 4 colors (and a couple oversized black balls) rested. The underside was fabric, not wood, and the players each had long-handled mallets. I was, at once, intrigued. The game, I was told, was Pirate Billiards (and, yes, there are pictures at that link). Their game was just ending and Eric stepped out to let me take a spot, after explaining the rules. The game involves moving the balls across the board by means of striking the underside of the board with the mallets, hopefully shifting the ball the way you want it to go, either toward the opposite side or to land in (and capture) other player's balls. I wasn't very good at the game, managing only one point. Eric's brother Russ won the game with 8. But this is one I want to try again!

I had brought along Cloud 9, which I've always found to be a fun, light game of "press your luck". No one else had ever played it, so I taught the rules, we dealt the cards... and I only managed 3rd place, as Russ and Dave pushed each other to a serious lead. 51/46/32/21/7. This would hit the table again later in the evening.

Eric wanted a quick game to fill time before a couple more people arrived, so he brought out Transamerica. I'd read the game, but never played it, and two other players were new to the game as well. Which doesn't explain how one of the new players (Matt) won handily while the other two of us (myself and Russ) were way in the tail. The game is about building links to various cities (based on the goal cards you're dealt), and while I did well enough, I had a terrible last turn (only partly due to a bad draw, one city far isolated from the others) and completely fell apart. 9/8/6/1/-1/-3. Yes, the -3 was mine. Ouch!

Eric brought out Diamant now, saying it was a solid game for 8 players (which we now had). I think he's right! This was my first time at this one, another "press your luck" game much like Cloud 9. Here, you're a team of miners, deciding each round if you're happy with the take so far or want to push on to get more, hoping that nothing goes wrong. But things will go wrong. There are as many hazard cards in the deck as treasure, and once the hazard cards match, this mine is done and anyone not yet backed out gets nothing. Repeat over 5 mines. A lot of luck involved, though good decision-making of when to pull out is vital. If you NEVER pull out, you will score nothing. In the end, Eric won with a solid score, 20/16/14/14/13/11/10/0. I had the 11, so wasn't all that competitive. We set the game up again, as a new player, Christine, arrived (a couple others left the game to set up another table). I didn't do any better the next time, but I definitely got a feel for the game by this time. Joe won with 17/16/16/15/10/5/0, with Christine and Max the two scores right on his tail while I was the 10. Linda, BTW, was the 0 both times... but the slightest bit of better luck could've won her either game, as she was always taking the greatest risks.

Bohnanza was pulled out next, and while I tried, I simply did not compete Max pulled out a win in the end, 16/15/13/12/11/11, with me one of those tail-enders. I gave away far too much and got far too little in return. A poor showing.

We played Attribut next, and I'm still undecided if this is markedly better than Apples to Apples or just behind it. I guess it really depends how you want to play. I confused my words several times, including once playing what I meant to be an opposite when I was supposed to be matching... but Linda picked it anyway and we both got a point we didn't deserve. I wasn't quick claiming other's words, which kept me score back, but I ended up in 2nd to Eric, 14/12/11/11/11/10. It was very close...

Cloud 9 was brought out again, with some more teaching so Max, Linda, and Christine could join. This time, the gambles came out fairly close, but I think people found it to suffer in comparison to Diamant (which I just might agree with, as much as I like Cloud 9). I did manage a win, 59/44/38/35/34/31. And, with that, I called it a night.

The 20th meant a gathering at Dave's, and the first game was a new one Eric had brought along, Nottingham. This is a clever card game where the players are the agents of the infamous Sheriff, sent out into the wood to gather valuables so he can pay for another year in office and you can become his right hand goon. Actually, the theme is rather thin, and the game is more a set-collecting card game with some very interesting restricted trading rules. In effect, every type of card has a unique way in which in can be given to another player in exchange for something (a card at random, a chosen card, a card just as it's being played, etc.). Our particular play ended up with lots of "ambushes" (that last sort of "trade", where you take a card away as someone tries to meld their set) being established, so everyone was afraid to play cards for much of the 2nd half of the game. In the end, Dave won and I took 2nd, 68/63/61/43/35.

I then joined Eric, Jim, and Linda as Eric showed us how to play Shear Panic, which I'd picked up at GenCon but not gotten to play yet. The game has some of the prettiest pieces I've seen, large and heavy sheep to move around in various patterns, trying to achieve certain positions. The game plays in 4 "rounds", each with its own goal. Get your two sheep together, get to the front of the herd, get near the black sheep, or get to the back of the herd. It took all of us a bit to get a handle on the odd rules, and I had a bit of a disadvantage by moving first (a disadvantage because none of us really knew how things work!). In the end, I came third behind Eric and Jim, 29/26/23/22.

Linda then went to join people in the other room and Jim, Eric, and I gave a try to Bison, which I'd picked up at GenCon and Eric had played once before. It's a tricky game of area control, with some map-building and economic management tossed in. I got off to a bad start and didn't get much better, locking too many of my pieces in low-return territories and too far from the real valuable hunting grounds so Eric and Jim really controlled the game. 29/23/19 shows how far out of the game I was.

(On the 27th, I forgot my game notebook, so I don't have as complete of notes as usual... but we played 7 games, most of them new to me, so it needs to be commented on!)

The 27th opened with just Eric and I, so he offered a new two-player game, Voltage. It's a bit similar to the very enjoyable Balloon Cup, with enough unique traits to make it stand on its own. It's also much simpler, which isn't always good. The object is to have either the higher or lower total on your side when 5 cards gather at one of the 4 play locations ("circuits"). You can play to either side, and circuits can change from High to Low unpredictably. A lot comes down to luck, but just as much it's a game of gathering resources and knowing when to start cashing them in. This game, I took a gamble and started a rush for the win while Eric was still gathering. I didn't have what I needed, but I managed to draw the cards when I needed them, so I won 5/3.

Eric brought out an unexpectedly odd game next, King of the Dicemouths. Yes, there are dice, but the game is actually a physical race game. Each player gets a cardstock "mouth" atop a ramp and a die. On your turn, you drop the die down the ramp and your move is as far as the die goes. More rolling dice (d12 or d10) have shallow ramps, less rolling (the d4) have sharp ramps. The race is around several posts, then back to the finish line. Most of the game comes down to how you set facing when you move your Dicemouth, how you use your mobile obstacle to adjust your die's path, and good or bad bounces. I had the very rolly d12, but not the best of luck. I was a rather distant 2nd.

Eric brought our Ca$h 'n Gun$ next, and I'm wondering how I missed this beauty so far. Every player gets a toy gun, the loot is split into 8 piles, and each pile is turned up, one at a time, and everyone goes into stand-off. Guns are pointed, people back down or get shot at (though each player only has 3 shots for the 8 rounds, so there's lots of bluffing). The object is to get rich, but staying alive (that is, not getting shot too many times) is critical as well. The first game, we forgot to charge people $5000 for cowardice when the back off, so two of us got an early lead and then just cowered until the end of the 8th round. I won that round, by a hair. The next round, we added the "special powers" rules, so each of us had little ways to "cheat". This time, I didn't get quite the edge I wanted, and even contributed to the winner's lead because he had a card that scored extra point for every kill, and I used my last action to eliminate Dave for less $$ than that power's payoff.

With the number of people we had, we went for Formula De next, using the Monaco track. I started off 3rd from pole, and made a few good moves, but that wasn't enough as first place went to a nearly perfect driver, more than 20 spaces ahead of my 2nd place at the end.

Traumfabrik came out next, and I now very much regret not snagging a copy of this when I had a chance 2 years back. The game is one of studio heads trying to make movies, bidding for directors, actors, music, effects, etc. Actual studios, movies, and actors are used (as are 4 directors), which won't be true in the soon-to-be-released US edition. The game itself is a nice bidding game, with occasional breaks for "parties" where everyone gets a resource. And, since you pay your bids to the other players when you make them, eventually they win because you won. Personally, I had fun with very appropriate and every inappropriate castings (I put Boris Karloff in the guest star role of Bambi, for example), but that isn't worth any bonus points, so I ended up in 2nd to Max, 5 points behind, 69/64 (and I don't have other players' scores).

And, finally, I joined Eric and Matt in a game of End of the Triumvirate. We were all new to this game, and it showed with several hesitant moves as Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus fought over control of Rome as the Republic reaches its end (a struggle that never quite got this far in real history). Eric as Caesar dove across the Med to attack Crassus's (my) North African territories, and that ended up locking us in a battle that left Pompey (Matt) just able enough to avoid to muster his political power and take the win on the first move of the 3rd year. I really like the workings of this game, even though I did very poorly in my first try, eventually left with almost no forces and few political resources in the end. I want to get a few more plays of this one under my belt, which means it's VERY likely to come along to T'Con in 7 weeks.

And that is 3 weeks of boardgaming. Lots of fun, even if it contains very few wins by me.

Posted by ghoul at 02:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack