Thursday, April 27, 2006

Monopoly Contest is Rigged!

So while I was scheduling my games of Twilight Imperium 3rd edition and Nexus Ops for ConQuestSF 2006, I noticed a link to visit the Hasbro website to help their designers come up with new properties for their new edition of Monopoly to come out this year called Monopoly - Here and Now. This is supposed to deal with all the major population centers in the present day United States and have one monument per city shown on their respective property title deed.

So the contest gives you three choices per city... right.

You tell me which of these you would choose to represent a given city in America.


San Francisco - The Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Ave., or Fisherman's Wharf?

Gimme a break! Who is NOT going to pick the Golden Gate? Sure enough, I vote for it and surprise! 80% voted for it. Circus Fantasticus! What else can fail to impress me today....

I know, let's try Las Vegas! -- The Las Vegas Strip, Tropicana Blvd., Hoover Dam?

Contest or joke? You decide!

It's gets better... get a load o'Phoenix -- Camelback Mtn., Copper Square, Desert Botanical Gardens. Now, talk about desperate! Phoenix is so devoid of modern wonders they had to scrape up this panoply of mediocrity. Camelback Mtn. got 78%. I never heard of it, I guess all the locals voted for it. Looks like a lump of orange rock to me.

Here's a puzzler even Klik and Klak from Car Talk would be hard pressed to solve: Seattle - Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, or Puget Sound. Where the hell is the Space Needle you dopes! If you can add in the Gateway Arch for St. Louis (and that got a whopping 95% cuz what else can you name in St. Louis?) you can certainly make room for the Space Needle in Seattle. What about Mt. Ranier? You put in Brokeback, er excuse me, Camelback Mountain for Phoenix. Not exactly man-made is it? Hasbro is a confederacy of dimwits (you thought I was gonna say 'dunces' didn't ya?)

I'm glad I hate Monopoly. Because this so-called public constest is so Hasbro-ized it's sick. Hasbro is to gaming what Microsoft is to operating systems. The Borg!

Anyway, if you wanna waste your time at the Hasbro site, do me a favor and look at the votes then vote for the underdog at each city. That way their pre-made tokens and cards for the Golden Gate will either have to be trashed and reprinted as Fisherman's Wharf complete with reeking whiff of seafood (which can cost the company a pretty penny) or make up some prevarications about how the contest was 'broken' or sabotaged by 'hackers', or they'll simply fudge the numbers to reflect what their ad agency already calculated last August during the company's 'creativity' session.

Think I'll play some Nexus Ops, instead.... (oops, that's Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast/Milton Bradley/Hasbro Inc.)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble...

I did something today I haven't done in a long, long time.

I played (not DM'ed) a game of Dungeons & Dragons (version 3.5). I played a first level human bard named Flaine Gilgahar (master of the mandolin) and within the course of the game, reached almost to the third level that same 12-hour session, which is quite reasonable.

John Peterson was the DM/host and together with his lovely wife, Audrey, they lavished heaps of food and drink to keep all six of us happy.

I am bad with names as you may well remember, so to eliminate embarassment I will refer to the party by their characters' names. We had a warforged scout (3' tall), Link, who is an investigator for the city of Cauldron with his celestial leopard companion; Laurel, an elven sorcerer from a prominent family within the same city; Montavi, a rogueish rascal who fronts as a fire safety inspector within Cauldron; Sir Galotte, an aasimar paladin who serves Heironeious; and myself.

We were investigating some strange kidnappings going on in Cauldron. My bard, Flaine, was 'not from around here' and therefore didn't have the edge that most of the others had on inside information, but it made for good roleplaying as I blundered my way about the city. It eventually, after four hours of picking up clues and interviewing subjects, turned into a dungeon crawl after we found the gnome who made all the masterwork locks which all the kidnapped people were using to lock their domiciles, thanks to a cryptic clue told to us by the clergy of St. Cuthbert. After my bard picked up some hints from the gnome locksmith that not all was as it seemed, that he might be in danger, we quickly left his shop and tried to see what might be threatening the gnome upstairs. Just as Mondavi was climbing onto the gnome's shop trying to peek into the second-story window, Sir Galotte shows up and berates us for having the audacity to break into a shop in broad daylight! We explain the situation to him, that there are four orphan children that have been kidnapped and it would behoove him to aid us. He quickly agrees and we then barge into the shop (once more with feeling) find the place empty then go past his curtains to fight a strange demonic creature called a Skulk. As the night progressed, it became evident that the paladin was becoming a 'skulk magnet'. We then cleverly put Link's celestial leopard in front of the party to allay that circumstance. By the end of the night, we had just cleared (almost) the entire first level of the lost gnome city of Jzanidun. We fought off the depradations of: many skulks, a medium-sized monstrous spider, a choker, a grell, a mimic, a ragymuffyn, and lots and lots of traps! Not to mention a convoluted snake of a dungeon! I mean, I have never been involved in a D&D game where even with the Master Map at our fingertips, we still had trouble navigating about the place. I'm still wondering why this was the case, but I think the gnomish joke keys had a lot to do with it. We also encoutered our fair share of lame illusions as well.

Truth be told, I had more fun playing this session than I ever had in recent memory. I hardly knew that twelve hours had elapsed. In most games that I have played in, I am either bored to tears or upset with the rules structure or something just doesn't feel right. But this game was different. What can I say? I had fun, and it certainly seemed that everyone else did as well.

Looking forward to the next game. Now for some well-deserved sleep.

Puerto.... Ricoooo.... Suave!

I have finally played the game Puerto Rico!! Hoop, hoop, hoop!

(and I came in last place) But that's not the point!! I had fun and so did all the wonderful players who decided to expend their evening with me. Namely, Ken Campbell, John and Audrey Petersen (I hope I spelled their surname correctly) and yours truly - the man with a thousand monikers - me.

So how did it go? All I remember was Ken talking and children screaming. Honest. This is all my Pentium brain can recollect. I discovered that a certain tile called The Governor was passed around the table. Whoever was The Governor got to choose what he/she wanted to do first whether that was Prospector, Craftsman, Mayor, Settler, Trader or whatever. Each choice has a benefit that only helps the chooser, but everyone else gets to do the same thing (sans benefit) in clockwise order. For example, (and boy we could use one), John is the current Governor and chooses the Mayor card. The Mayor card allows him to get two settlers (one from the colony ship and another from the supply) while everyone else gets only one (from the ship). This really cuts the downtime drastically since everyone is actively participating in the game even though it is 'someone else's turn'. I noticed (since I came from this angle backwards) that Twilight Imperium 3rd edition stole this idea wholesale. TI also has what they call 'Strategy Cards' and are used the same exact way as Puerto Rico's, even putting bonus chits on the unchosen cards to make them more desirable for the next round. (And I thought FFG really had something there... sheesh). The only difference being that the TI strategy cards also have the Governor card or as they call it, the Initiative card, as a choosable card not passed around in a clockwise fashion. However, the Initiative card cannot be picked twice in a row by the same person to avoid the obvious 'broken' state that would arise from such munchkinly endeavors.

"Ay Caramba Senor Perez! All these rules makes my gato scratch himself and pour tequila all over his wounds! Why are we in Puerto Rico in the first place? What the hell are we doing there? I would say for a fiesta, but I don't remember strategy cards at the Casa de San Juan, I only remember margaritas y chicas en la playa!"

Ah, yes. Good question...

Well, perhaps I should have mentioned that this is not modern Puerto Rico, this is Puerto Rico during its Spanish colonization...say around the late 16th century. And the point of this illustrious and oft-worshiped game is... (get ready for it...) Get 100 victory points (VP's again?? It's a eurogame, shut up). OR Run out of colonists in the supply area (there are 75 of them -- and they are brown... so what can brown do for you?) OR take up all the space on your building squares OR take up all the plantation spots on your island. If any of these conditions are met, the game ends and everyone tallies up their victory points. He who hath the mosteth... winneth.

Even with four players, a busy shop and two rambunctious children shooting silly string in my eyes the game lasted for two hours. Not bad for such a strategy rich game. What I took away from it was the plethora of options a player has in accomplishing his/her goal. One game you could go for doubloons (cash), another time concentrate on selling tobacco or sugar. Next time you may want to go the quarry route and reduce the costs on all your buildings so you can build cheaper though not necessarily faster. It has a lot of angles to work out and that makes it a fun game as far as I'm concerned.

My verdict: I give Puerto Rico 5 out of 5 indigo barrels. Great game! Must play it again, soon.

"Ay Caramba Senor Per... ahem... Sacrebleu Monsieur Perez! I have heard terrible rumours that you have seen a coup d'etat in Carcassonne! Tell me, M. Perez, is this verite?"

Indeed. When I initially entered the Hobbytown USA establishment I was jonesing to play Carcassonne. I met two teenagers, Ben and.... man, I am bad with names. Anyway, and they had their grandmother with them and her name was Jean. Now, don't you laugh at this dammit! I thought it was cool to be playing this game with another family. If only all families were thus. For those with more than a passing knowledge of English, you might have noticed that the previous sentence was a fragment. That is true, but I did that purposefully in order to emphasize my point. Your internal moral dilemma can now end.

So Ben, that other dude, and Jean and I all played a two hour game (or 90 minutes) of Carcassonne. (I was in last place) But THAT'S NOT THE POINT! You know, sometimes I just play to play. Actually, considering I haven't won any of these games thus far... I guess I would have to. But the fun is in the trying. The measure of a man is not in reaching the top of the mountain, but in climbing it. Not in the destination, but on the road toward it.

Oh, who am I bullshitting? It sucks to lose.

"Toulouse? Did someone say Toulouse?"

Shutup and eat your Freedom Fries!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

"Keep Spinning the Wheel, Eddie..."

It was so nice of my employer-to-be to let me know that I didn't have the job one week beyond our interview. Thanks for telling me during the interview that I had it 'all wrapped up' and you would 'get back to me'. Thanks for letting me call you one week hence and discover that you had already found someone who lived in Modesto to take care of your job rather than my 'marathon' 30 mile commute. Thank you so much.
Back to square one.
So, what have we learned:
1) I don't care how much money you have saved up, don't leave a job unless you have another one lined up.
2) Either the current job outlook sucks OR I have skills that no one really wants.
3) I will have to be content to be discontent in life.
4) Long John Silvers is looking like a neat place to re-start my career.
5) If you want a decent job, apparently, Tracy is not the place to be.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

There are no Carcasses in Carcassonne! (wait, there is one...)

If I keep buying boardgames at this rate, I'll be broke by KublaCon.

I bought a new one today: Carcassonne! I will have to say one thing about euro-games, they're elegant. No masses of armies scrunched up at the border of some unpronouncable province ready to pounce upon the opponent with a flurry of die rolls that are as abstract as cubist art. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

The two games I have heard every boardgamer geek proclaim to the skies as 'god given'... actually, three games (so that we have a trinity, get it?) are Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Puerto Rico. I finally own two of them. Puerto Rico is coming....

Let's take a look at Settlers vis-a-vis Carcassonne: They are both tile games in that the board game is made of tiles that change after each session. With Settlers these are hexagons, Carcassonne has square tiles. But Settlers has a locked game-field whereas the board in Carcassonne can go anywhere, much like dominoes. In fact, Carcassonne has many similarities with dominoes in that there is a kind of 'boneyard' where the tiles yet to be played reside. Each player draws one and must play it (or else discard it from the game if there is no way to play it - this situation is rare). Each square tile is animorphic, that is, they are made to fit together but only in certain ways. As each tile's four sides end in either a road, city or field the odds of finding one that fits in any given board setup is 100% in most cases. One gets the feeling that you're constructing a spontaneous jigsaw puzzle with the notable exception that you have a stake in how the board ends up. You see, you have 8 followers. These are wooden stylized men painted in one of five colors (red, yellow, green, blue and black. They add grey in the Inns & Cathedrals expansion set which I will get into later). And after you place your tile on the table, connecting to another tile already in play you can place one of your followers on the tile you just laid. Now if this follower is in a city segment, it's a knight; if it's on a road, it's a thief; and if it's in a field, it's a farmer. However, if you have a follower in a cloister, then it's a monk. This nomenclature is really academic and serves to only add immersion factor to the 'medieval' theme the game evokes. The important thing to note is if a city, road or cloister is 'completed' - i.e. the surrounding tiles create a finished, whole city, for example, then the follower is put back into your supply and you are awarded victory points. Cities can be the biggest scorers with cloisters coming in second. Roads are the real wild card as their length determines their victory point worth, so it behooves one to make as long a road as possible if you have a thief on that road.

If you are confused with what I typed above, then you are a normal person. We boardgame geeks get a little 'into it'. As with most games, it is easier to learn the rules by playing the game with experienced persons rather than reading some yahoo's rendition of the rules. Be that as it may, the rules are quite simple and guess what? No dice! This is really a fun game with the only random factor being which tile you happened to draw.

My version of Carcassonne has a set of 12 river tiles added as a 'free expansion'. I have played with the river tiles and I really don't understand why one would use them. I saw no difference in game play except that the board looks cooler when 'A River Runs Through It'.

Sorry.... I thought that was funny. Guess not.

Settlers of Catan had me hooked (what am I saying? It still does!). As my previous post can attest, I even bought the computer game to bone up on my Catan mad skillz. I tried desperately to get my family to play this game (even bought the 5-6 player expansion set just in case) and again, I might as well have had Roy Batty stick his replicant thumbs through my eyeballs while I recite the mantra of 'Brick and Lumber make a Road' over and over while three monkeys from Java stick a white-hot poker up my kiester while simultaneously summoning Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, to slice my throat and send me down his barber chair chute to be the mystery meat in the next pot pie he makes for public consumption, rather than have ANYONE play a GAME of ANYTHING with me. Was I a tad harsh? Nah...

Actually, my cousins played a couple games of Munchkin with me, so that was cool. Especially when I won both games.

Anyway, the point is, I didn't play it this past Easter weekend. But! I did play it with a woman named Audrey and a couple of teenagers at Hobbytown USA this past Friday. Now, as a preface I should say that this Audrey was the same person who recommended this game to me. I should also note that this same Audrey RESOUNDINGLY KICKED MY ASS at Settlers of Catan.


This is what I get for listening to 'recommendations'. This is like going into a chess store and having Gary Kasparov recommend the 'Naploeon Set' and then when he offers to play a game with you he mates you in twelve. Gee, I feel better about this $220 purchase. Thanks Gary!

Thanks Audrey!

Of course, this is all comic hyperbole. I enjoyed the game and the chance to finally play it with human beings. My errors were in initial placement. Something that will be certainly corrected at our next meeting.

But in Settlers of Catan, there are a pair of six-sided dice which determine which hex tiles produce resources (wool, brick, lumber, ore and grain) also known as (sheep, clay, wood, mines, and wheat). Don't ask me why people do this. I said DON'T! And those resources are used to build roads, settlements and cities. These, in turn, award victory points (there's that dreaded euro-game element again). Ten victory points is Victory! The game is one of probabilities and odds. As any craps player can tell you, the two dice produce a bell curve with 2 and 12 having one possibility in 36 and a 7 having a hefty 6 chances in 36. To further make this basic statistic plain to even the most mathematically inept player, the makers of the game have made the 6 and 8 bright red in color. These numbered tiles are placed on the hex tiles during board setup in a set sequence (the number tiles have letters on them and you place them in alphabetical order counter-clockwise on the hex tiles). Now each different hexagon (hills, mountains, fields, pastures and forests) has a probability attached to it as to how often that hex will produce the given resource. Got it? Good. Being that each player starts with two settlements and two roads, and each settlement is worth 1 victory point each, that means each player needs to accumulate only 8 more to win. There are no battles or skirmishes in Settlers of Catan. The closest thing to anything resembling combat is the Largest Army card which grants you 2 victory points.

So, how do these games rank against each other - or even objectively?

I would have to give Settlers of Catan 5 of out of 5 meeples. It has good replay value, little to no downtime due to the extensive trading going on between players even when it's not their turn. No sleepytime here, bucko! You snooze, you lose. Not to mention the savvyness of being shrewd on trading and being stalwart on your choices. Wavering in your plans can get you in last place pretty easy.

Carcassonne... I give it 5 out of 5 meeples as well. It also has superb replay value. Downtime is not a factor of constant interaction as it is in Settlers, but the turns are so fast plus you do have a say in where others' tiles may end up that it would behoove you to pay attention during an opponent's turn. (I mean, why would you not? If your TV is on during a boardgame, I would recommend turning it off. I mean completely off. Unplug it and chuck it out the plate-glass window. Please).

Hope this helped. Next time, I'll deal with the Inns & Cathedrals expansion for Carcassonne and the 5-6 player expansion for Settlers of Catan.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Settlers of Catharsis

Yo Yo Yo, what's the dealio?

I'll tell ya...
Earlier today, after I received word that I actually have a job (hooray!) working for Ross Perot, I celebrated by going to Hobbytown USA in my hometown of Tracy, CA and purchasing a boardgame, because that's my current addiction and getting a job gave me an excuse to spend more money uselessly. What game to get?
I told the lady who owns the shop that I had heard a lot about Settlers of Catan, but the box looked lame and the pieces looked gay. How can this game be as fun as people suggest? I was stuck between Power Grid, Settlers of Catan and Ra. She said without a flinch, in fact, before I could finish my question, Settlers of Catan.
After her lengthy and excited explanation of the game I decided - what the hell - why not? (She also recommended Carcassonne and Puerto Rico but I only had enough for one game). So I shelled out the $36 for the game (I know, I could have got it $10 cheaper at, but I like to support my local game outlet - call me stupid). So I bring it home, tear it apart, set up the game and read the rules. Easy to understand rules booklet, nice 'almanac' actually it's a glossary of terms. Simple yet complex, the way I like my games. So far so good. But guess what? It comes with a free trial version of Catan: The Computer Game!
Now, for a person that has to bribe his friends to play boardgames with drugs and alcohol, playing on the internet sounded like the fix I had been looking for. What better way to learn the game! So I install it. No prob. Except that you can only play it for an hour (which is basically one game). Damn! It was so addicting! How much is the full version? $29.95! After hemming and hawing I finally give in and pay the exorbitant fee. I rationalize it by thinking, "Hey, it's half what you pay for a video game these days, right?" Now, I can play against AI and other players across the world. Awesome! So, I go to MSN games which is hosting Catan, and guess what? I have to pay ANOTHER $10/year to play! Ridiculoso! I have been raped by the Catan Robber!
What a racket.
Well I hope Herr Tauber is enjoying his life designing his new games under the Tuscan sun because I sure helped him to live it.
I love the game. I just think this bandwagon is getting a bit out of control. Much like Magic: The Gathering did (much to its detriment, and that was another good game). So that was it.
My vent on a soapbox.
Anybody else get burned on this? Lemme know... we can commiserate.
Oh, on a side note: As I was setting up the game, my roommate (a Hungarian lass my age) noticed the game and asked a few questions about it. After hearing my half-ass rendition of the basic idea of the game she chimed with, "Oh, so it's like Monopoly?"
Here's the kicker: My other roommate (a nice older lady who works as an RN at a local hospital) also noticed the game an hour later. She asked about the game. I told her. She gave forth a comment: "So it's like Monopoly." I grimaced, showed her the Development Card labelled 'Monopoly' and said, "Yeah. You got it." Sometimes I can take only so much... Forgive me.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Two posts on the same day? Darth_Tanyan, you madman!
Keep your bloggin' hat on Dear Reader, I merely wanted to tell you about my THREE DAY LANPARTY at my friend Dean's place.
From Friday to Sunday, SuNdAY, SUNDAY!!!
I brought my computer down and Dean and his son, Wyatt, already had theirs (of course) and we hooked up and, well, generally we just killed each other multiple times over a three day stint.
This is how LanParty geeks show the love...
This is how such love manifests itself:

Step One: Bragging and Bravado -- Each Lanner (btw, for those not in the know, LAN is an acronym for Local Area Network which is where our myriad of video games take place) talks incessantly and sometimes untruly about the accomplishments and abilities of their personal computers. Of course, these days, Dean and Wyatt win those contests as their computers are CLEARLY head and shoulders above my piddly outdated dinosaur that STILL plays Battlefield 2 without a hitch (albeit in a lower resolution, so shut up).

Step Two: Willie comes over -- This was an added step and unique to this three day contest. My friend Willie came over to Dean's to get some internet instructions from Dean's wife about how to navigate the CA state's website. This fucked up most of our day. But the evening was saved from complete ruin when Willie decided to play a few rounds of Battlefield: Vietnam with us. We were playing Co-op but Wilhelm (Willie) felt compelled to play against us on the AI side as VC. He won once, but the other games were close, though the USA still won overall.

The next day the contest really started. We played some Battlefield: Vietnam, then got some lunch. Next, we played Raven Shield (we would have played Athena Sword, but not everyone (Wyatt) had the disks). We played some Battlefront 2 for a while, but again, only two of us could play so that didn't last long. Then, about 8:00 pm, we broke out Dungeon Siege 2 and we had a blast from dusk till dawn. We stopped playing at 3:30am Sunday. We went from 11th level (Wyatt was 7th) to 14th level. If Wy-guy (Wyatt) would stop dancing around in front of the party and chasing encounters in, we'd be better off. But in the end it worked out fine. A good time was had by all. Unlike most Lanners, we enjoy very few head-to-head matches. We enjoy co-op games where we're up against the AI, which in most cases are quite formidable.
Sunday morning I had a couple raspberry Pop-Tarts and watched a couple episodes of Season One of Robot Chicken. Then we got to playing again. This time we experimented with various games like Flight Sim 2004, Battlefield 2, The Movies, The Sims 2: Nightlife, and Google Earth. We then played more Raven Shield. I love it when we go in with silenced weapons and Wyatt comes blazing in like Wyatt Earp (hence his name, I guess) with a L85A1 assault rifle with no muzzle brake. Hip hip! Eventually, we got to RTS's. We tried to get Empire Earth 2 to run, but no dice. Everyone needed a disk. So we played Dawn of War: Winter Assault instead. We played one game with Annihilate and Control Area with Shared Resources; three PC versus three non-teamed computers on Hard level on the map called Fury Island.

Dramatis Personae:
Dean: Blood Ravens (Space Marines)
Darth_Tanyan (Brian): Goldar Legion (Chaos Space Marines)
Wyatt: Vendoland 101st (Imperial Guard)
Comp 1: Eldar
Comp 2: Imperial Guard
Comp 3: Orks
I had Dean to my left and Wyatt to my right so I was safest starting out. Dean was fighting off Eldar from the get-go while Wyatt was fending off the IG. Because of that fact, he didn't grab enough Strategic Points and our requisition was slow and ponderous. I had to send all 10 of my Heretic squads on Wyatt's porch to grab requistion and help defend.
I tried grabbing the central Critical Location (just to see how long I could hold it) and it lasted for about a third of the game before the IG came in and killed me off after a prolonged and heated battle. I started building Khorne Berserkers en masse seasoned with the occasional Defiler. Then Dean complained about no one building power generators. So, I built another and maximized the tech on them (I had a total of three running as Chaos doesn't really need a lot of power until the third tier). I then went on the offensive and moved them north to help secure the center. After that, I aided Wyatt against the IG then moved to take out the Eldar pounding on Dean. With our combined strength, we simultaneously converged on the Eldar home base and pounded it to oblivion. Then the Eldar Avatar showed up and we found an outpost further south near Wyatt's base. We moved there and all three of us blasted it to kingdom come.
The End.
It was quite a game and we all talked about it for some time afterward (as all good games tend to do) and then it was hitting 10:00pm and Dean had to work the next day so....

Step Four: Cleanup
I got my gear, threw it back in the car, and made the two hour journey home. I made it home by midnight.
Damn. Lanning sure is fun, but that weekend goes by like it's a single day. I still wouldn't pass on it for the world. Gotta do it again, sometime.

Episode CXXII: A Newer Hope

Waddaya know? I got another interview! It's slated for the end of this week, but this one looks promising. I get to work on HP and Lexmark printers for hospitals throughout the greater Modesto area. I have to use my own vehicle (no corp van this time around) but Hey! I'm not complainin'.
Therefore, my mood has improved somewhat. So that's something.

On another topic: What do I have to do to get someone to play ONE boardgame with me? Enslave whole populations? Bribery? Blackmail? Bait and switch tactics? I have this small enclave of boardgames just sitting there in my closet (or sometimes I act like there is someone out there that might mention boardgames in passing, so I stuff my trunk with them on weekends). I guess no one cares. Yet, I see and Boards & Bits and notice that there is an extensive network of people out there (intelligent ones, I might add) who are as bonkers about these things as I am. I have put my feelers out there and tried to connect, but most don't live in my area. Despite the fact that in Tracy we have a gaming outlet! Someone is buying these games! Who is it? Tell me now!!
Okay.... I'm cool. Everything's fine now. Alright. (whew!) Glad that episode was over. Now time to work on the sequel: Episode CXXIII: The Settlers of Catan Strike Back!
(And if you don't catch the reference, then you are not a Boardgame Geek - shame on you).

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Don't Be So Surprised!

This is my latest niece. She came into this world last December. You may recall my previous posts mentioning her.
I introduce you to Lauren.
Ain't she a cutie?
Just makes me wanna pinch her cheek and call her softee!
Btw, the reason her hair is 'made to stand an end like the fretful porpentine' is because she beheld my visage whilst I was taking this photo.
Just kidding...
My mom took this picture.
I haven't seen her in a while. I should drop by this weekend and see how she's doing. I think I will.
I found out the name of that elusive song on the Jaguar XJ commercial that's playing ubiquitously right now. It's called "I Turn My Camera On" by Spoon. Download it. It's tres cool! Sounds like old-school Prince.
Trying to ameliorate myself with the gameboard geek crowd... again. No details, just a statement of fact.
I'm still working on my novel... why? I dunno. If all I have is time, time is all I have.
No new news on the job front. I mailed off a boatload of resumes and only one company has e-mailed me a response that they even received it. I don't have much time, so I may have to kick it up a notch.
I watched Fellowship of the Ring part II today (the extended version). I'm so glad this film has such staying power. Much more than the Matrix movies did. I mean, I watch The Matrix: Reloaded or Revolutions and I feel like I've watched it before, but with LOTR it's like watching it again for the first time. Of course, I don't watch it too often so that may have something to do with it. Guess I'll go back to writing my novel. See ya later.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Mundane Miscellanea

Just finished the D&D game this past April 1st (no, this is not an April Fools' Joke) (Also, as a side note, April 1st is International Atheist's Day... I would celebrate it, but what's the point?). My brother's wood elf fighter/rogue, named Apoth, died fighting a couple of drow fighters. Our ranger/sorcerer, Ariel, also went down but didn't die. It almost looked like a TPK (Total Party Kill) in the first encounter of the night, but Loni, a priest of the Grand Incinerator, came in at the last moment and fended off the drow clerics and fighters.
The game was decent. We had two players leave for two hours and then return. One player came in late. And my brother lost a character in the first hour of the game. So, it was quite an arhythmic game. I tried to test out Colossal Arena with them, but it never happened. I did, however, test out a new boardgame -- twice! with my friend Dean and his son. It's by Avalon Hill (Hasbro, Inc.) and it's called Nexus Ops. Quite an interesting game.
It's for 2-4 players of ages 12+, and in it you play one of four greedy corporations (Ares Inc., Black Helix Enterprises, Galactic Syndicate and Zyborg Technologies) who are trying to conquer an area of a newfound moon in a far distant planetary system in the year 2315. This moon has rubium deposits which I suppose is a very rare and valuable mineral (maybe it runs their hyperships or something, the background doesn't necessarily say). You recruit the native lifeforms (Fungoids, Crystallines, Rock Striders, Lava Leapers and Rubium Dragons which breathe plasma) to take over rubium mines near a monolith on this nameless moon (maybe it's called Nexus?). But if you play this game like Risk or any of it's offshoots you will lose this game more often than not. The key strategy in Nexus Ops is to complete the Secret Missions that are given to your corporation as cards every turn. Some are worth 1 victory point, others are worth a whopping 4 VPs. The winner is the first player to reach 12 VPs. That's it.
Combat is done by the round (in other words, it's not like Risk or Axis and Allies where you keep attacking until either the attacker decides to stop or the defender is destroyed), so it is quite common to have 'contested' hexes on the gameboard where neither player gains by possessing it. Winning battles ON YOUR TURN is the name of the game and even if you don't have a Secret Mission to complete for it, winning a battle will always earn you at least 1 VP.
The pieces are kinda weird. I am assuming that they are made of some strange petrochemical concoction because they look like gummi bears, have the feel of soft plastic, and smell terrible...
Maybe AH made them smell terrible on purpose to keep people from wanting to eat them. Who knows? Anyway, the game seems like chess on steroids. You have the pawn - the human, who can't enter magma pools or the Monolith and has the worst combat stat - must roll a 6 on a six-sided die (d6) to kill anything. Then the Fungoids and Crystallines are like bishops: just as chess has bishops on black squares and white squares, Fungoids fight well in Liquifungus Forests and suck in Crystal Spires spaces. The converse is true with the aptly named Crystallines. Next are the knights, the Rock Striders, who can leap through or into Rock Plains hexes. The rooks: Lava Leapers who can bounce two hexes from any magma pool hex and can kill on a 3+ on a d6 and if it should roll a 5 or 6 the Leaper player chooses the casualty rather than the defender which is the norm. Finally, the queen: The Rubium Dragon which can blast adjacent hexes with it's plasma breath and fight in battle with a 2+ being lethal.
There are other rules and strategies to consider, but all told, it was a very interesting game. And any game that Dean would want to play twice in two days has got to be good.
In other news... my brother is now officially ADDICTED to Dungeons & Dragons Online. God help him. I refuse to play games that I have to pay monthly fees for, diehard gamer that I am. Evercrack has finally hit home.
As far as the upcoming Kublacon, I did not pay the 'special rate' of $102 a night for a room at the Hyatt Regency. I live in Tracy, CA for God's sake. I'll just commute, thanks.
I wonder if any gamer chicks are gonna be there... (probably, but will they be SINGLE?)