Virtual Gaming Hoopla

September 25, 2011 at 6:58 pm (Gaming & RPGs)

So this weekend was the 2011 Gaming Hoopla gathering of board gamers – play board games for hours, meet new people that are into the hobby, and all the proceeds go to a cancer charity, which is the #1 item on my charity list.

I’ve been excited for months. I pre-registered. I signed up for reserved seats for TWELVE HOURS of non-stop board gaming. I didn’t even remember to give myself time to eat, but I didn’t really care (much… OK I was hoping something would run short and I could sneak a burger here and there). Speaking of that the food being sold was being grilled by members, not some bulk frozen garbage.

And then…. early last week, I noticed a little bit of a cold coming on. And then as the week progressed, the cold got worse. And worse. And the nastiest cough I’ve had in as long as I can remember developed. As of about Wednesday, I started worrying I may not be able to go on my pre-registered day of Saturday, but I still kept hope that my body would fight it off in time – normally my immune system does a pretty good job.

And then on Thursday, it still hadn’t gotten any better. And Friday – the cough was worse, and a mild fever was added to the mix. Yeah, I wasn’t going 😦

So I called in to work Friday and spent most of the day in bed, then on Saturday instead of going to the Hoopla, went to the doctor. And then back to bed.

I was already thinking that maybe as a consolation I could spend a good chunk of the day playing games online, especially since my fiancee was going to be out of the house for a day of bachelorette activities, but since I was barely able to sleep the night before from the constant coughing (first night living here that I slept on the couch while she slept in the bed, I wasn’t going to put her through a whole night of listening to that), so as a result all day Saturday was pretty much spent in bed trying to catch up on sleep too.

SO.

Come Sunday. I still didn’t sleep great but at least got a total of a few hours or so, and was up at 5:30a, which those who know me know is just insane f-in early for me.
I had a cup of coffee. And a bagel. And watched my rented DVD of The Prophecy with Christopher Walken. And ate a lunch of leftover deep-dish pizza before 10am hit.

And then I decided dammit, I’m going to get some gaming in, even if I’m stuck in the house.

I decided to start with Tobago, a game that was just picked up by the Boardgame Arena gaming site in the last couple of weeks. Its I guess a “semi-light” game where players compete to figure out clues that  show where various treasures are hidden on an island, with a few magical totem statue powers tossed in for extra spice.

My game was a three player game, and the rules were pretty easy to pick up. There is a bit of strategy to it in that as the clues narrow down where the treasures are, you need to position yourself somewhere nearby so you can grab it before your opponents do.
As this was my first game, it was probably not surprising that I was very bad at this, and came in dead last.
Overall it was still fun though, and I plan to give it a few more plays.

Next up came Troyes, which I wrote a much more detailed entry about a little while back, here.
I really enjoy dice games that make creative and interesting use of the dice (so no, I usually don’t find much enjoyment in junk like Yahtzee), and this is one of the best examples I’ve found.
My first ever game with all four possible players at the helm.

I figure I must be slightly improving at this one because I wasn’t dead last – I was second to last! Woohoo!

Then next on the itinerary was… well, I was really at this point considering it should be a nap, considering how little sleep I got the night before. But, I was in the middle of printing out the manual for 7 Wonders, as it was another game I wanted to try, and the printer was taking an amazingly long time to do it.
So I figured heck, let’s squeeze in a round of GOSU while I wait.

GOSU is another one that I wrote much more extensively about here.


I actually did surprisingly well, even after my tired brain got a term confused and made a move that made no sense whatsoever. I ended up not only winning, but actually “shutting out” my opponent – go me!

OK… and here I paused my virtual gaming day to try and get more rest. The attempt didn’t last long… I found that lying down just caused my coughing to become more frequent, making it impossible to really sleep or anything.
So, I watched on-demand episodes of Doctor Who, Top Gear, and Pawn Stars for my “rest period.”

I then attempted to sign onto Brettspielwelt.de (a German gaming site) to try out 7 Wonders, which allegedly is a great game, only to get so confused by their mess of a gaming interface (similar to problems I’ve had with other games there) and the fact that all of the system prompts are in German, and apparently I did so poorly that all 3 other players abandoned me after only about 3 moves. So, so much for that.

Moving on from that, I switched gears a slight bit and put in a round of Thunderstone over at Yucata.de.
I’ve played this one a few times before and remain fairly iffy on if I actually like it or not, but figured I’d give it another shot today.
As with every other time I’ve played, I completely got my butt handed to me for reasons that I’m still not entirely sure of. There’s something about the strategy to this game that just absolutely eludes me – most games I at least have an idea what needs to be done to improve, but almost every time I play this I’m completely lost.
So yes, I lost, and I’m unsure I’ll care to play again.

Then the last game for the night was TransAmerica, what is essentially a fairly simplistic abstract game with a railroading theme pasted on top.
One of the games I was looking forward to at the Hoopla was Empire Builder, a railroading game that I’ve been wanting to try for years and has a strong following, and actually has game play that makes it feel like you’re in control of at least the basics of operating a railroad.
In TransAmerica, it’s just connecting lines across the board, that’s it. Now that I think of it, it reminds me a little bit of the Hex type games that I both hate and really suck at (and trust me, there are plenty of games that I suck at but still enjoy playing).
Anyway, it took less than 15 minutes for my butt to get handed to me in this one.

Ending Thought:

Lastly, as I mentioned, the Gaming Hoopla was a fund raiser for cancer research, and near the end of Saturday night’s activities they had scheduled a pause to go outside for a luminary ceremony, to remember those close to use who we’ve lost.

As I was sick and unable to attend, here’s how I shall end my day of “Virtual” Gaming Hoopla:

Love you, Mom, and miss you.

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So, H.G. Wells Was A Gamer

September 1, 2011 at 9:54 pm (Gaming & RPGs)

There’s actually a lot about HG Wells as a person to not like. He was a hardcore socialist. Based on his writing it seems he was racist and sexist. From what I’ve read it sounds like he was probably generally a jerk.

But he wrote some good stories, including some very well known ones such as War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and The Invisible Man.

Anyway, I spend a gosh awful lot of time at work listening to podcasts and audio books. Probably at least 7 of the 8 hours I spend at work is spent with headphones on. And a lot of those audio books I get from sources like Librivox, where through the work of tons of volunteers, a huge selection of public domain books have been recorded.

Wells is one of the few science fiction writers whose work is old enough to now be public domain, and as a result I’ve listed to quite a few of his works, both the popular ones and the not-so-popular.

And how surprised I was to found two books about gaming in his list of works.

Floor Games and Little Wars are both somewhat similar books in that they tell stories in detail about games played with things like little toy soldiers and improvised structures and scenery; one focusing on the games his children liked to play, the other on war games devised by he and his friends.

Unfortunately another similarity between the two books is that they are both excruciatingly boring. Serious snooze-fests, both of them. ]

But still, I thought it was an interesting bit of trivia for game nuts like myself.

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Games I dig: GOSU

August 28, 2011 at 12:31 am (Gaming & RPGs)

GOSU (short for “Goblin Supremacy”) is a card game through which 2-4 players wage war by building armies with the 4 different factions of goblins – the Ancients, the Alphas, the Dark, the Fire, and the Meka.

GOSU

Each player starts with a hand of cards each representing a different goblin, two activation tokens, and a random player is given the “advantage token.”

The cards are played onto the table, forming a grid 5 cards across by 3 high – for these reasons:

Each goblin card has a number of traits – the faction (color) it belongs to, what level it is (1-3), how many “battle points” it is worth (for use for the “big battle” at the end of each round), how much it costs to mutate (more on that later), and finally any special abilities it may have.

You start out on the first row by playing only Level 1 cards – these tend to be less powerful cards worth fewer battle points. The first card is free, and any cards from the same faction/color as that first card are also free – but if you want to play a card from a different faction, it’ll cost you 2 discarded cards from your hand.
You’ll have to decide if you want to focus on one or two factions, or try to use more even though it’ll cost you in trashed cards.

Level 1 cards are important, because without them, you can’t play Level 2 cards. Up to five Level 2 cards can be played on the second row, right above the row of Level 1 cards – however, there can’t be more Level 2 cards than Level 1, and you can’t play a Level 2 card from a faction that isn’t represented on Level 1 (If you want to play a Level 2 Meka card, for example, there needs to be a Level 1 Meka card already in play first).
This rule continues for Level 3 cards – to play one, that faction/color has to be represented on Level 2 and Level 1.

When you play a card, many cards have special abilities that come into play as soon as you place the card on the table. It may allow you to remove an opponent’s card from play, allow you to draw more cards, “trap” (or disable) a card for that turn, or any of a number of things. Special features like this can also sometimes be “activated” through the use of one of the 2 activation tokens you were given at the start.

In this, the game reminds me a fair bit of a very popular card game (at least at the time) that I used to play back in the late 90’s, Magic: The Gathering. The game was (and I suppose is – it still has a strong following) somewhat similar in that most cards had their own unique abilities printed on that card. GOSU, however, is not a “collectible” card game as as MTG is – you get everything you need in one box without the need to constantly buy “booster packs.”

So anyway, as I mentioned, each of these three rows is restricted to a maximum of five cards across. So what happens if you get a really good card in your hand, but there are no empty spots left to play it on? Well, that’s where mutation comes in.
Goblins who can mutate into other goblins allow you to replace that card with a different one, usually at the cost of 2-3 additional cards discarded from your hand. Not only is this good for getting new cards out, but some goblin cards have special abilities that are triggered when they are mutated – for example when one of the fire goblins mutates and is removed from the game, it takes one of your opponent’s goblins with it. (Another interesting bit is that the Dark goblins have a special ability to mutate into a discarded goblin – thus raising the dead from the grave, so to speak!).

So, eventually you’ll get to the point where you either can’t or don’t want to play any more cards – either your hand is empty, or you have cards left that you want to hold onto until the next round.
When this happens, you pass. Your opponent can now continue playing if he/she wants and is able to, or that player can pass as well. When all players have passed the “big battle” begins!

The battle points of all cards you have in play are added up, and the one who has the most wins a Victory Point. If there’s a tie, the person who is holding the Advantage Token wins.
And the game goes onto the next round.
First player to get to 3 Victory Points wins.

It’s a very fun game that keeps you on your toes and thinking, trying to figure out the best way to use the abilities of your goblins as best you can, while at the same time trying to figure out your opponent’s strategy: is he light on battle points because of a bad draw, or does have have a trick up his sleeve that he’s holding to thrash you with later?

This is a game I don’t own just yet, but it’s on the wish list to pick up at some time when I get the chance – in the meantime I’ve been playing online.

Interested in trying it out? I’ve been playing it online at BoardGame Arena – click here to sign up and check it out (this link also gives me referral points).

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Games I dig: Troyes

August 24, 2011 at 9:44 pm (Gaming & RPGs)

So I have two primary hobbies right now: board games and woodworking. And gaming has nearly become an obsession – I think about it all the friggin’ time… what I could be playing if I wasn’t busy at work or dealing with some project at home, what games are out there I would like but haven’t picked up yet (currently my collection is around 170 or so, but there is always room for more, is what I say), what games my friends would really enjoy on the very rare occasions I manage to get them to play, etc.

The one that I’ve been obsessing over the most lately, even though I don’t actually own it yet (and have doubts that I ever will), is Troyes.

Although Troyes does have a board that is used extensively during the game, I would have to say this could be described as primarily a dice game.
Each player gets a bunch of dice, and then what that players does with those dice determines how he or she fares in the game.

But it’s just the sheer number of things that you can do with those dice that make this game so interesting.
Players start by placing a few meeples (or pawns) on three different buildings shown on the board. Based on the number of pawns you have in each building at the start of your turn, you are given that number of colored dice that are specific to that building; for example, red dice to indicate military units, white dice to indicate religious units, and yellow dice to represent civil units.

Also at the start of your turn you are given an income, which can go up or down based on various factors in the game.

In general, the goal of the game is to gain the most victory points by the end of the game. There are a huge number of ways to go about this, and figuring out the best way to do this is of course the heart of the overall strategy.
When your turn comes around, all of the dice you were given are rolled, and then those dice can be “spent” on various actions depending on how high they rolled. For example, the red (military) dice can be used to ward off an attacker to the city. The white (religious) dice can be used to build part of a chapel, or the yellow (civil) dice can be used to set up a merchant, just as examples; each of these choices has pros and cons as far as the effects on your income and influence, and it’s up to you to figure out how best to reach your goal.
Don’t have the right dice? Well, buy them off of another player, if you have the cash – whether they like it or not.

“My Goal? You mean getting the most victory points?” you may ask. Well, yes, but that’s not all – for you see, each player is assigned a “character” that also has his own specific goals – such as having more money than anyone else at the end of the game, or the most military victories, etc – and each game you have to figure out the best way to do that – so it’s different every game.

Sound complicated? Well, it is. It took me a couple of games before I even really understood the basics, and now that I’ve played a number of times I still have not figured out any good strategies – every time I play I totally get my butt kicked, usually by a wide margin.
But the thing is, even with this complexity (it’s often referred to as a “gamer’s game,”  which I’m usually not a big fan of, the game keeps calling me back. It’s both complex and fun, which in my experience can be hard to do in a game.

Oh, and a quick bit of trivia: the name Troyes is French, so it’s not pronounced “Troy-ez” which is how us Americans really want to say it. It’s pronounced “Trrwah” or something like that.

Interested in trying it out? I’ve been playing it online at BoardGame Arena – click here to sign up and check it out (this link also gives me referral points).

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Game Group: Found

September 17, 2009 at 9:16 pm (Gaming & RPGs)

So I did some digging around the forums at BoardGameGeek and ran across a guy in the area who gets together with a few people every week or so for gaming – board games on a weeknight and RPGs on the weekends.

RPGs I don’t really care enough about at this point to go try to do it with a bunch of strangers, but meeting a few new people over a board game or two I figured I could deal with.

So I messaged back and forth with him a couple of times, and found out that they play usually weekly at one of the local comic/gaming shops, and it was perfectly fine with them if I wanted to stop by and check it out.

So – although I ended up having to work late and thus missed about 1/4 of the time they were there, I stopped in, introduced myself, met a few folks, and played a couple of games.
We started with Mission: Red Planet which was a somewhat interesting game about getting to Mars and then fighting over resources once you get there. A sort of odd mix somewhere between poker and Risk that was interesting, but I’m kind of undecided if I’d go as far as to actually say it was fun or not.
That took most of our session time, but we finished off with a quick round of Felix: The Cat in the Sack which was a fairly fun little bidding game.

Anyway everybody seemed nice enough and seemed pleasantly open to the idea of me joining them again for future sessions, so I’m thinking this may end up becoming a regular thing – sort of my equivalent of the poker night or bowling league night or whatever other types of nights people tend to have every week.

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Game Club

August 25, 2009 at 10:06 pm (Gaming & RPGs)

I’ve been putting a little thought into trying to start a local gaming club.
At least based on what Google can find, either the town (which has over 300,000 people, for heaven’s sake) doesn’t appear to have one yet, or if there are any they’re so small they managed to escape notice from the ole’ interwebs.

I’ve been playing several board games online, mostly in “e-mail me when it’s my turn” format, at sites such at Yucata.de, GamesByEmail.com, and YourTurnMyTurn.com, and while I suppose it’s better than not playing at all, it certainly can’t match playing over an actual board with actual people.

I’ve tried inviting friends over for a game night a couple of times in the past, and it always goes over like a lead balloon. They were quite happy to get together now and then to play an RPG, but for some reason board gaming just don’t fly, and I’m not sure why.
So, unless I can manage to talk friends into it, which doesn’t appear likely, I’m probably going to have to see if I can get together with random strangers for a game now and then.
I suppose if I really beg and plead, I might be able to get LabGirl and/or maybe my teenage nephew to attend a session or two as well.

I just know I’ve been seriously jonesing for some actual face time over a game. LabGirl’s family will play cheesy party games once in a while, and they’re not horrible, but it’s just not the same.

I need some serious time with some beer, some pretzels, and some Settlers of Catan. Or Carcassonne. Or Axis & Allies. Or Terra Nova. Or Wiz War. Or Zombie Plague. Or Roller Coaster Tycoon. Or Metro. Or Draco & Co. Or Before I Kill You, Mr Bond. Hell, I’d probably take friggin’ Risk or Monopoly at this point – I’m jonesin’ that bad!

Of course my main problem is – where the hek do I find the people? And what can I do to try to weed out really scary people? Ugh.

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Gaming Update

June 7, 2009 at 4:22 pm (Gaming & RPGs)

Starting to get back into the board gaming, at least in an online PBEM fashion (though I did manage to recruit LabGirl and a couple of family members into playing Carcassonne a few times which was cool; now if only I could get them to try pretty much anything else…) – and still pretty much continually getting my butt kicked, but still having fun with it.

Currently I’m digging the following (with links to online play):

Axis & Allies
Lost Cities
Arkadia
Balloon Cup
Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers
Tally Ho!”

Unfortunately I have not yet found a play-by-email version of Settlers of Catan, or I’d be all over that puppy.

There are also a few games out there that seem like they’d be interesting, but have obnoxious rule books, and I am just finding that more and more if it seems like it takes longer to read the rules than to actually play the game, I’m going to lose interest by about the third paragraph. Games falling into this category are Vikings, Oregon, Yspahan, Peurto Rico (which has gotten great ratings from players for ages but that I just have not had the patient to sit down and read all the rules for), Reef Encounter, and Tikal.
Maybe if I get really, really, really bored some day and have nothing better to do I may sit down and try to figure out the rules to these neat-looking-but-complicated-sounding games – otherwise I’m going to stick to just getting my butt kicked at the ones that have simpler rules but are fun to play 🙂

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Feeling a bit of the RPG bug

December 9, 2008 at 5:49 pm (Gaming & RPGs)

A little bit ago I was watching a movie called The Gamers: Dorkness Rising which was, by the way, so funny it had me in tears and I may have to look into buying a copy. You won’t get it unless you’ve had some experience playing D&D… but if you have… OMG. Hilarious.

Anyway, it gave me a hankerin’ for some RPGing again, and I’ve pulled my GURPS books off the shelf in hopes of maybe some inspiration for putting together a new Traveller campaign – I had a lot of fun with the last one but I don’t think it was focused enough – a game that allows space travel is just way, way too vast to be able to handle all changes on the fly (especially with the group I play with, who fly off on a lark at every opportunity it seems like) so I’m going to have to devise some ways around that.
And then maybe if I get something together I could maybe get some folks together to actually play it after the holidays…. hmmm……

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Catching the Poker Bug

November 7, 2008 at 12:05 am (Gaming & RPGs)

Well, I’m a little late since the huge fad phase for the game passed a year or two ago, but I’ve gotten slightly hooked on Texas Hold’Em Poker.
It started out on MySpace with their versions, but I’ve since “branched out” onto poker-specific game sites where you can actually win stuff.

I’ve opted for the web sites that allow you to win prizes without actually having to take a chance on losing your own real cash. You can actually win anywhere from small cash prizes, or sometimes gift cards, all the way up to thousands of dollars in online tournaments, without risking a dime of your own money.
I don’t think I’m quite that good yet, but I’m working on it and seem to be doing a decent job of not losing my virtual arse.

There are a lot of poker sites out there, and I’ve looked through a whole bunch of them. Right now I’ve got two that are favorites, although I’m still tinkering a little with a couple of others.
The criteria I like are:
-Gives you the chance to win real prizes, preferably cash ones
-Can’t have a ton of annoying ads flashing, making noise, etc while I’m trying to play. I don’t mind a couple of ads, but I don’t want them annoying or distracting me while I’m trying to think about how to play.
-Can’t require Windows software. I am one of an estimated 29 Million Linux users. Thus, I can’t use your damned Windows software.
-If it’s Flash based (which is probably is if it doesn’t fall into the prior category), it can’t be all crash-y all the time. I’ve found that some sites like to crash Flash for some reason.

So – the sites I prefer?

1) PurePlay: Several game options, simple interface, doesn’t crash often. The one time it did the support staff was very quick and friendly about refunding me the tournament credits I lost when it happened….

2) PrizeWagon: Pretty similar setup, a little more thematic maybe.

If anybody’s interested in playing a few hands let me know 😉

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A quick gaming site mention

October 28, 2008 at 11:28 pm (Gaming & RPGs)

Just wanted to mention that Yucata.de is a dang cool PBEM gaming site, and has been my favorite for quite a while now.

Been playing a whole bunch of Carcassonne H&G, Balloon Cup, Tally Ho, and others there, and have a few others I’m about to try out such as Down Under and Vikings.

Actually decided that considering I get at least a few minutes of fun out of their site pretty much daily that it was time to cough up a few euros to donate – which doesn’t get me anything special except the knowledge that I’m helping support the site, and a special little symbol by my player name (OooOOOoooo!). And hey, it was only a few euros and the euros were easy to pay out using PayPal, so all’s good.

I’ve also heard good things about SpielByWeb, but checking that one out will probably have to wait until I have free time to learn new games.

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