Sunday, May 31, 2009

Kicking it, old school

Scott arrived first, so we broke out the elder statesman of the Command and Colors system -- Battle Cry, the minor battle of McDowell, part of the Stonewall Jackson campaign (released as a supplement for Origins and GenCon in 2000). I took the outnumbered but aggressive union forces and got off to a decent start ... having 6 cards to 4 helps, but I had to discard one card each time I lost a flag. The early skirmish saw each side lose two units, a nearly broken union infantry rushing off the front lines to resupply helped keep things even. As the battle ground on we were tied 4-4 (first to five wins) and I held a reinforcements and a counter-attack. When Scott played an attack left, my counter-attack would be useless ... so I summoned my cavalry to threaten the center, but it was a bluff. The confederate attacked the center and broke the Union's will.

Tiffany had arrived, so we broke out my recently re-assembled copy of Gargon. Dropping a card game inside the big red bag (which has support rods and a surprising number of nooks and crannies) meant that it took me a year or so to find and count all the cards. Gargon is a big game of bully. All the cards show their suit on the back, and players can either play cards face down to battle or draw cards. In battle, high card wins but low cards score better. So the first player may lay down (say) a pair of two red cards. The next players can lay down any pair or draw cards. The last player can play or follow, but can't play any new suit. So the penultimate player may notice "Hm, nobody has played gold, and the last player doesn't have two gold, so I'll play the Gold zero and gold 1, and they'll win and score!". Like I said, picking on the weak.

Tiffany and I had 96 and 98, while Scott bullied us by about 20 points.

Next we had to herd the shy animals into the Ark. As always, for most of the game timid creatures had literally no space they'd enter (because of fear of carnivores, even if safely in another cabin). The end of the game had a burst of provisions placed, which meant the shy animals suddenly had cabins away from the carnivores. So of course shy carnivores were loaded first, scaring the rest of the shy animals. In the end, I snuck out a small victory, partially thanks to having placed lots of slow animals early on. This time we also managed to save the unicorn and dragon.

We also played the "Almost Citadels, but reversed" game of Castle. I really do need to think of a variant to make soldiers more interesting, but I still like the game.

Finally, Tiffany and I flicked moose across a river.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Weekend, Monday and voting!

Is anything happening? I guess not, since nobody has posted anything, but if there were pent up demand I could possibly host tomorrow.

As for Monday, I'll be there at the normal time

And it's almost June. That means that it's been almost a year since SABGers voted on their favorite games. And here's the 2007 list. So I'll compile the votes during all of June. For those who haven't done it before, just email me your top 20 games (ranked #1-#20), and I'll give them points. 40 points for a #1 vote, 21 points for a #20 vote. (So that way, any game on two lists edges out any game on a single list, but order still matters). We have more people this year, so I'm hoping that we'll have more lists. Last year there were eleven voters, I think this year we should get a few more entries .... no rush, but it's officially open!

Can we vote? Yes we can!

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday Gaming

While the portion that I attended does not exactly count as marathon it was still fun. I must start my adventure with the beginning -- driving. I have been avoiding Bandera road as much as possible. Especially where Bandera intersects 410. But I had heard on the news or radio or somewhere that the Bandera/410 entrance ramp project had been completed. And so I drove that way. And it was kinda cool -- entering the ramp on the left well before Wurzbach. And entering 410 right before the Babcock Callahagn exit. Weird. But kinda cool. Not so cool that i will go out of my way to do it again. But that was the driving entrance ramp game. Oddly enough, there is not an entry for that on BGG. Sadness is not being able to log a game that you played.

But I arrived to see Scott and Travis getting ready to play Acquire. And a very cute baby (Ezra I believe) watching the couch with the intent fascination of a 3 month old. Katy joins us for the game of Acquire and we are off on the first game of the day. Travis and Katy had not played before. I learned from my first play that you need to be in on the first merger. And I was. I ended up in on almost all of the mergers. Surprisingly I ended up winning, but Scott is correct, I think, in his assessment that if he had waited on the large merger I would have suffered more due to lack of money and he would have won the game. But it was fun. I like actually improving at a game. For once.

While we were finishing up Acquire we had a few new arrival, Al and Pat, and then there were six. So the ladies split off into a game of Agricola while the guys played Kremlin. We have been playing with just the E decks on Monday nights, but since both ladies had played a few times, i decided to mix it up and we played with all decks. I managed to get an early third person which helped as I build my purple pumpkin kingdom. Though the place a field on the current count plus 4/7 and veg on the current round plus 4/7 helped a lot in allowing me to get the resources that I needed for other things.

Then I left for work. Which I do not wish to speak of. I think they were getting ready to play Vegas show down when I left, this is a game that I believe neither Pat not Scott had played, so it was a day of learning games. Which is fun :)

Beyond Angband... Stone Soup

So.... as of late I've become moderately obsessed with playing various incarnations of Rogue, most especially Angband, a popular version set in the Tolkien universe. A number of us have been playing this totally hardcore, unforgiving, old school dungeon hack/crawl of a game, with most of us dying bitter deaths long before completion. In fact, if anyone has successfully completed one of these games, even with cheating, I'd be very impressed.

Even more recently I discovered what is now my new favorite version of the genre, Stone Soup. This game has a number of very interesting features, that essentially make it, at least in my book, the Fall from Heaven 2 of Rogue games:

- Persistent levels, with the ability to set waypoints to navigate back up to interesting locations
- 25 diverse playable races
- 29 character classes
- 14 optional religions, each with rules to follow to get buffs or penalties for transgression.
- On-line play (solo) with a stat-tracking server
- Most levels beyond the first few feel like huge instances rather than randomly generated generic dungeons. My last character ran into a Gnoll castle on level 5, then a giant Orc cavern in Level 6... then suffered hot flaming death after he opened the door to the main Orc God temple. Very cool.
- Ultra-smooth, graphical inventory system, taking some of the pain of Angand away
- Auto-explore function which greatly speeds time between battle action
- Plus a lot more... part of the fun is discovery.

Anyway, if you're looking for a good time killer, give it a shot. I strongly recommend the tiled version (pictured above) for its good looks over straight ASCII.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Marathon Gaming

Saturday started with Ben and I breaking out FFG's 4th ed Talisman with the Dungeon expansion and the Grim Reaper tromping around. Scott, Travis, Michael and Tiffany showed up and while most looked at our game with bemused interest, Michael jumped in with a Dark Cultist and started loading up on craft. I had the Amazon (which Steve had guided to runaway victory the last time we played) and Ben had some fighty guy (the Gladiator? I can't remember). Once again, while Michael was becoming ever more crafty, the Amazon ran back and forth through the Dungeon and mopped up all the creatures, got some muscles, and ran to the Crown of Command for the win. The Amazon's ability to roll two dice for movement and choose one is much more powerful than it sounds. It opens up at least four spaces to land on each turn instead of the normal two, which is really a huge advantage since you never really have to go anywhere that is NOT productive. Plus, the Dungeon has a large complement of monster cards rather than just the events and places that come up in the main deck, so I think it provides a more efficient means of loading up on experience (and therefore ramping up stats) than the main regions. Still, I never once went into the Dungeon in our second game, so take that for what it's worth.

Travis, Scott, and Tiffany played Dune and I'm sure that the spice flowed. They can contribute their experiences in the comments section.

Brian and Jacqui showed up, and with Travis and Tiffany, they broke out Le Havre. (I heard that the game ended up with some playing pieces in Jacqui's clothes, so it must have been an entertaining game.) The rest of us broke out Battlestar Galactica and played with the Valley of Darkness variant ruleset (AKA the Human Meatgrinder in Space) that Brian linked to in an earlier post. It does a few interesting things:

1) It adds some new characters which got mostly favorable reviews (the character of Dee turned out to be surprisingly interesting, with both a Communications ability that was very useful and a Timid handicap that limits Dee to contributing cards to skill checks based on the maximum cards contributed to that point from any one source).

2) It removes Roslin's auto-scout ability, making her almost unplayable (her only advantage now is her card draw selection). I can live without Roslin in every game, but the handicap is pretty severe.

3) It nerfs Investigative Committee by moving the ability to "face up" the Destiny Deck cards to a blue strategy card instead. I like the handicap of the IC, but I think it was also put in with the aim of making blue cards more useful, and it still doesn't really do that, since almost no one draws blue cards.

4) It moves the sleeper phase to the middle of the third jump. A wash.

5) It adds a second crisis to the second point on the jump track. This was clearly the biggest balance change in the game. Two crises back to back without a chance to reload on cards is hard enough. The fact that ships activate but jumps don't make these crises almost sure wins for the Cylons every time. Again, the verdict on this was mixed. I think Michael didn't mind this change, but Michael was a Cylon both times we played (I know--who would have ever believed it?). Jon and I found it to be maybe a little too much of a beatdown. Time will tell on this one. I wil say that this one rule dimmed my eagerness to play with it again. Still, time will tell.

Both games we played were five-player affairs, with Ben, Scott, Michael, Jon, and myself playtesting the new ruleset. The Cylons won the first game in probably the bloodiest massacre I've ever seen in this game. Two Cylons (Michael and Jon, who sat next to each other) were dealt out on the initial deal, and both being Cylons from the beginning and sitting next to each other is already a pretty significant advantage for the Cylon side. With the extra detrimental crises and an extreme lack of jump track advancing crisis cards (I think we counted 7 advances out of 20 crisis cards played), the outcome was determined pretty much by the end of the second or third turn. (At one point, 14 light raiders were activated, with 6 of them taking out the cowering civilian fleet and 8 of them taking potshots at Galactica.) Frakkin' toasters.

The second game featured Scott and Michael (also sitting next to each other) as Cylons. Although the extra crisis each jump hurt the humans, the good guys almost made it to Kobol. But with victory in their hands on the last turn, the navigation computers were a bit off (the choices were a 1 jump when the humans needed 2, or a 3 jump that would have consumed all remaining fuel). Galactica stopped just short of Kobol, where the Cylons caught up to them and picked off enough civilian ships for another toaster win.

Travis departed at the end of Le Havre, and Scott, Michael, Jon, Ben and I played a second game of Talisman while Brian and his family played Quirkle (if I recall correctly). People came and went, with Brian playing the role of The Toad, Tiffany playing the role of Everyone That Had To Abandon Their Characters Due to Family Obligations, Michael trying desperately to teach spellcasters the error of their ways with a reflection spell (he finally taught himself the lesson of not healing someone else), Jon getting the quick heave-ho from the Grim Reaper, and me as the Prophetess building a pretty balanced character and turning Michael, my closest pursuer, into a toad while stepping through the Portal of Power into the Inner Region and winning by concession. The victory conditions get easier and easier--I think we're officially down to setting foot in the Inner Region as the auto-win. Again, Jon really really likes this game. Or he really hates it--I can't remember which.

The next game was Small World, with Brian, me, Michael, Jon, and Tiffany. Tiffany started out well with the Hill Wizards, but Brian came in with Diplomatic Sorcerers and cut off her routes of conquest. Jon got the pesky Ratmen and ran wild across the top half of the board. I got the Flying Skeletons. Skeletons move very slowly--they get an extra counter for every two occupied regions they conquer. This means they need four conquests to get two additional tokens every turn, which means twelve attacking counters each turn (two per region, one per the minimum occupier to count as "occupied"). Needless to say, this doesn't ever happen, so they essentially need help from the reinforcement die (which as a rule is very unhelpful--I swear five sides are blank, I just can't find them all when I count them), or they get only one extra counter a turn (assuming two occupied regions conquered a turn, which is doable). When you're forced to attack every turn to take advantage of your racial power, you don't make many friends, so you tend to lose at least one counter a turn, which means the racial power is pretty much a wash. Bottom line--I'm not such a big fan of the skeletons. (My first turn was 3 VP and my second turn was 5 VP when most other people were earning 7 or 8.) But I made up for them with the Merchant Amazons. An extra 4 armies when attacking and 2 VP for every occupied territory is nothing to kick out of bed. Again, they're another race that really has to keep conquering to generate VP (in other words, they can't play defensively), and they make enemies quickly as well, as witnessed by my getting knocked down from 7 occupied spaces to 1 occupied space between my turns and almost getting completely exterminated by both Jon and Tiffany.

Michael, meanwhile, played the game of misdirection perfectly, playing his defensive Trolls in a quiet area of the board and playing everyone off everyone else. With his Trolls too formidable and too unreachable to really attack (and only 8 turns to play, giving us precious few opportunities to bring new races onto the board), he squeaked out the win over Brian, 89-87.

While the others were Rock Banding and eating, Tiffany and I played another game of Small World to try out the two-player mechanic. I got fortunate with a Spirit race on the first turn (sticking around even with a second race in decline--invaluable at the beginning of the game, not so great at the end) as well as Merchant Amazons (again) and won the game. Brian reminded us that Vinci involves an auction for first turn, and I think this is probably a good idea, as our game largely came down to me winning the right to go first. I'll have to remember to try an auction next time.

Steve came by and we fiddled with a hi-def antenna with the Worst Instructions In The World (tm) because apparently Time Warner Cable's cables don't like rain. (The cable came on every time we started seriously reading the instructions to bypass the cable with the hi-def antenna, which was a little disconcerting.) We watched some basketball for a while then broke out Ticket to Ride: Marklin (Steve, me, Brian, Tiffany, and Jon) while Michael rooted on his Nuggets and provided us musical accompaniment with some of the more difficult Rock Band songs. The passenger mechanic adds another dimension to your planning in this game--not only is the dilemma one of "Do I draw cards or place my track," but now is also "Do I draw cards, place my track, or run my passenger?" I ignored the passenger mechanic for most of the game and just collected cards. Fortunately, everyone else fought over the short routes, leaving me time to pile up cards and lay down long routes without much competition. A fortunate draw of an already completed long route on the last turn helped me get enough points to win, although I'm sure that drawing tickets away from everyone else's routes helped me a lot more.

We finished the night by watching Kobe Bryant do a strange jaw thrust and a swan dive onto the court, the Lakers scratch out Carmelo Anthony's eyes, and Kenyon Martin inbound the ball to the wrong team, all adding up to a Laker victory in Denver to take back home-court advantage in the series. That was well over 12 hours of gaming. Thanks to all who came over--it was fun (well, maybe not for Carmelo).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Monday Gaming

I can host Monday starting around 10:00. I live near Alamo Heights and Terrell Hills. For directions, email me through bgg, username: squatting monkey. I have plenty of table space and am open to whatever doesn't get played on Saturday.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Let's Play Some Games! Saturday, May 23, 2009

This picture just makes me want to say, "Shoryuken!"

Alright.... my kitchen pass power meter is almost maxed out, and I'm feeling the need to spend a day playing something fun. There has been preliminary talk of various fun things, and I know several members have expressed similar interests. So..... who's in?

Here are a few other rambling thoughts....

I'm getting the sneaking suspicion that My Brute is the absolute suckiest fighter in the game. Tonight my enemy stole my guy's stick, then proceeded to beat him to death with it while the enemy's pet bear stood there and laughed. Almost to Level 8.... one XP at a time....

Today I took a big step. I actually canceled a P500 order from GMT when, after reading about half the 30-page near final rulebook, I realized there was no way in the foreseeable future I was going to get around to playing the game. This game, PQ-17, looks fun and interesting enough, but with particularly complex rules and no provision for solitaire play, I think this would be another closet queen. If someone else in the group is particularly excited about it, let me know, but otherwise, I think I'll invest the discretionary bucks in something more likely to return the investment.

Speaking of which, I do have a couple new video game related buys: a Hori Arcade Stick (for the upcoming Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on XBL) and finally a Gamecube, mainly to play some Star Wars Rogue Squadron II (old school). Anyone want my Sega Dreamcast?

Alright.... here is a little discussion question: Read any good books lately? As for me, I'm finally reading Heller's Catch-22. So far, I love it. I should finish this week.

Hope to see everyone this weekend. If not, have a great holiday!


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Saturday, May 16, 2009


Just another manic monday.... monday, monday, so good to me ... they call it stormy monday, thank you ....

Ok, I've run out of songs. So, gaming monday?


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Daydreaming about the Next Box on my Doorstep...

Yes, I totally agree, the image posted with the last posting is quite disturbing if you look at it for more than a second or two. So, moving right along...

Anyway, here is a little discussion question (hence The Riddler's image here):

What is the next game you think you'll buy (or, if counting pre-orders, which will show up next)? Why do you want it? It could be board, card, miniature, video, whatever.

My answer is GMT's Ship of the Line, which should appear any day now. Its a huge expansion to Flying Colors, covering tactical ship-to-ship combat in the age of the fighting sail in the North American theater. The expansion also includes revised and updated rules for the game system. Why do I want it? Because I can't resist getting expansions to base games I enjoy, and some of the battles, such as Quiberon Bay, are incredibly interesting to learn more about.

How about you?


Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Okay, not to jump to any conclusions.... but it appears someone has revoked my Admin privileges here. At least at the moment I'm still an approved author... I suppose its even possible we've been hacked. Hopefully the other trusted Admin didn't experience a similar downgrade.

Dear Evil Agent of Chaos whoever you are:

I'd appreciate a restoration of Admin rights at your earliest opportunity. As the original creator who breathed the first spark of life into this little place of fun, I do have somewhat of a sentimental attachment to it. Perhaps you'd be willing to take Lord of the Rings Trivia off my hands in exchange?

In related news, FFG just announced a new LotR game. Perhaps its sort of like Runebound: LotR, which would suit me just fine.

I suspect ye olde kitchen pass will be sufficiently recharged for some Memorial weekend gaming. Perhaps we can start planning something fun?


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Marvel vs Capcom 2

It looks like it will finally make it to the 360 this summer for 1500 points. Sweet.

Monday, May 11, 2009

EDIT: There were card sleeves on Tanga for Euro games. Now there are not.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Monday planning

The drill, you know it.


Friday, May 08, 2009

Green Gaming: Turning the compost.

I have apparently had more free time than I'd care to admit. Back in November, I picked up Tenjo, a Japanese Samurai, regional-domination game from BGG for $5.00. The game has nice bits, some ambitious concepts, however due to an abstract board design (too bland) and a lot of luck, the game is pretty bad. I decided to create a map-based, terrain board for the game and tweak the rules to make it playable. There were some good variant ideas which mitigated the luck and added a mission-oriented element to the game. I will try to coerce the wife into a two player game this weekend. I will post the results of our experiment. Everyone have a wonderful Mother's Day weekend and --if you game, don't get caught!!!


Okay, Katy and I spent a couple of hours fortifying checkpoints, conquering resource sites, and building new castles. Overall things went surprisingly well, we seem to have found a nice balance between combat and politics. There was a single, random incident that destroyed Katy's castle, sent her Daimyo's fleeing from her kingdom, and her samurai ravaging the countryside as Ronin. There will definitely be a fix for this --it was far too random and undeserved to be that severe. However, within a year, she was making a comeback. The overall mechanics seemed to work well, she complained that the combat rules were a little heavy on math, and these can be simplified. The mission oriented aspect, wherein each player tries to persuade the emporer to favor the objective that they are aiming to achieve, allowed for some tension and deceit-- always fun. I will post a link to a modified rulebook and anyone who enjoys reading through rules and spotting loopholes, flaws, and general oversights can lend a hand.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Free Bridge Lessons

For those of you who are interested, Turtle Creek Duplicate Bridge Club is having free lessons on Friday nights (from 7-9pm) starting this week (6 weeks). You can check their website (assuming its up .... its not right now) or email (I also have a phone number, but I think it's a personal #, so email if you want it.


The Joys of Home Ownership

So I got home from my vacation to discover several gifts awaiting me. First, my car has a tire that won't hold air for more than a day or so. Second, my shower has a constant leak from behind the tile and masonry. And Mr. Black still needs a trip to the vet for his hind leg.

Unfortunately, when you have full days of appointments or surgeries scheduled at work usually weeks in advance, you can't really just take a day off to handle this kind of stuff. So, I'm trying to swing a fair amount of this stuff before and after work on Friday, and then have the plumber come over on Saturday to take down the shower wall and locate and fix the leak. This means no gaming for me on Saturday. I hopefully can have people over on Sunday, though, if there's interest (and no additional plumbing); say, maybe, 10am-4pm?

Monday report about games and our new overlords

Roll call -- Me, Scott, Sean, Pat and Jeff.

Scott and I started with San Juan and Race. By the time those were done Sean and Pat had arrived so we tried Ausgubremst, which is like slightly advanced Ave Caesar. I think I want to play with a slightly less fiddly version, but I'm not sure how to do it. Differences:
  • It has 8 tracks instead of Ave Caesers 2 (16 if you go clockwise /anti)
  • You can customize your deck (which we didn't do), choosing a "slow", "Medium" or "fast" deck (I think they have the same pips but I haven't looked). The slow deck has fewer sixes, so less likely to get stuck.
  • You remove cards from your deck for the shorter tracks
  • Pitting is optional, but adds back enough cards to pretty much ensure you'll make it.
  • You split your deck into four parts (of your choice) and can pick from either deck, but you only have a two card hand.
All of these sound pretty good in theory, but add a fair amount of time. And I don't think the deck is quite lean enough (compared to the tracks). Also, four decks (with only six units) is clearly too many. I think just playing with a single deck (and three cards), but being a bit more brutal (making sure that the deck has enough points to finish if you don't get bumped outside too often) would work. And maybe we just played a care-bear track. Like I said, I'll have to look. But maybe tweaking some of these rules for Ave Caesar.

Anyway, the robots crushed us pretty well. They go first (not last) and one of them kept it almost until the end, when Pat raced by for the win. At this point Jeff had shown up, so we broke out Puerto Rico. Technically that makes it a theme night (with SJ and Race). So there.

After that, Scott bailed, so we settled in for a game of Phoenicia. Despite Sean's dada-esque luck (receiving roughly 1 '6' a turn and no fours until later in the game) I managed to pull out a win by getting an early City Center and public works. Sean's grotesque production (6 cards on the penultimate turn, I think, and seven on the next) couldn't overcome the 7 VP lead ...

After that the group broke up, Sean and I played Race and discussed implementing a genetic algorithm for a computer game. (Thanks for the tip).


Sunday, May 03, 2009

Monday DL Gaming?

I am probably in for Monday DL Gaming; will anybody else be able to attend?


Friday, May 01, 2009

Emergency Gaming?

We haven't had gaming in a few weekends, so I'm thinking there may be some possibilities. Jacqui and I will host an afternoon session (1pm until whenever), assuming that people are interested. And what do we have to offer? ... Well, look at those cute little fellas. They are from Jacqui's new game. It will be here....

UPDATE -- TaoffEnuff is level 10, so I created the SABG clan!