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LOBstercon Nov 2012 Blog Post 4.5 of 5

Alec Chapman
United Kingdom
Lincolnshire
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I apologise for the half number, but after the epic description of our play of elect-em-up, Die Macher, I decided discretion was the greater part of valour. It's possible that you think that 5 hours of German politics is all you need for one day's gaming? You would think wrong.

Here's what else we got up to afterwards.

Tichu: Scott agreed to help me out with a 10:100 play, along with Chris and another gent called Richard. Thanks guys! Luckily we managed to get back into this game as a competitive partnership before the call for dinner happened thanks to a my first ever successful face to face Grand Tichu call.
I've made the call before - everybody gets desperate or excitied - but I recall being (very unluckily) bombed or unexpectedly trumped every time I had done so previously. This understandably makes me very reticent about taking the risk on our partnership's behalf unless a long way behind.
In this game, as you can guess, we were a long way behind and despite one very odd decision (namely to pass an Ace to my partner while receiving another in return) that made ridding myself of the 4 in my hand after the 2 quite challenging. Luckily things worked out and we got back into contention. Sadly this game was curtailed while we were still behind, but it served as a great reminder why I enjoy it.

Puzzle Strike: With everybody else at dinner, Chris and I played two rounds of this wacky combo builder. The puzzle chips were randomly drawn and there were plenty of attacks with only one blue chip available. In this circumstance the draw of characters can be decisive. I drew Rook and won easily using his Gem inflation skills and timing a couple of major 4 gem crashes alternating with combine/attack chains. Then he requested (as per multiple game rules) that I change characters - unfortunately for him I drew Argagarg, the attack specialist and butchered him again, raining gems into his pile far quicker than he could deal with them. Midway through this game we were offered teaching, by Jeff, of...

Dungeon Lords: Of course, I took him up on this immediately for two reasons.

1. Vlaada Chvatil. Galaxy Trucker, Through The Ages and Space Alert are three of my favourite games by this wizard of design, and I had heard good things about this one too. Since I have played most of his games and enjoyed them, this one had been on my radar - especially since it gives you the opportunity to smash up some irritating camp heroes.
2. Jeff. Despite both being fixtures (though in my case an increasingly absent one) at LoB we'd never met. Bizarre. This needed to be fixed and in the way that only playing a two hour eurogame with an evilometer can.

Luckily, Jeff knew the game like the back of his hand and despite Chris and I staring in ignorant impotence at the (extremely well explained) training scenarios like five year olds having their ice cream witheld until they answer all the across clues in the Times Cryptic crossword on a Sunday afternoon, a little bit of his training managed to penetrate our Die Macher fogged minds.

And so onto the game. We were joined by a fourth player of course, who i don't know if they are on BGG so I won't talk too much about them - but was excellent company in the way that only someone who repeatedly tells you they will lose can be (she didn't lose, either, if I remember...).

Now - Dungeon Lords is like other Vlaada games in that there are two distinct acts in each round. In Space Alert there is planning and resolution, in Galaxy Trucker there is building and flying (read: exploding). Unlike those examples where a frantic and desperate free for all is followed by something more structured, Dungeon Lords is split into a simultaneous worker placement game (building your dungon, hiring monsters etc) and a subsequent step by step hero bashing game using what you already built/hired.

Let me talk about the negative factors first - while by all accounts the rulebook is hilarious, there is an awful lot of front loading required on the rules to make the game playable. Also, I had a niggling feeling that there should be more options for the budding dungeon masters than a random trap or one of two randomly drawn rooms, but I am entirely sure that this would introduce too long a play time for a game of this type.

So onto the good stuff. As usual, the components are excellent and do their job admirably. Especial kudos is due for the imps being actual imps - the oddly shaped minions aside I found exactly the right balance is struck between functionality and theme.

And the gameplay is good too. The worker placement mechanic feels inherently higher stakes than the old fashioned "you place one, I place one" school and therefore I found it more compelling than, for example, Stone Age for this reason. It also has the added bonus of reducing AP time while the next player soaks up the implications (geddit? IMP-lications?) of your last placement. YAWN.

The evilometer is pure genius and it is the manipulation of this that managed to ensure I was visited by no wizards or healers for the entire game, only picking up a thief in year two after I had altered my method of hero munching to a very technical "Golem and Demon just punch them as hard as they can" strategy. Because of my canny use of the evilometer...
Spoiler (click to reveal)
I KNOW! I did something gamey! Watch out for porcine pilots!

I managed to only have the thief - who incidentally cancels trap damage - after discarding my last trap on "monster pay day", a day when i also fed my witch to the Demon, making my outgoings virtually nil in useful terms, the goblin and the witch being wholly superceded by the Golem's repeat attacks before I fed them to the Demon. I can only imagine what they thought as they entered the room with their "payment" only to find out they were the centrepiece for an all night buffet!

And so my Golem and my Demon wiped out the year two adventurers in short order, meaning I had only lost three bits of corridor throughout the whole game and since I had invested in rooms with bonus points for both the Golem and Demon, as well as for each title I received I ended up winning...
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Wait... I won? Yes reader, I know it's hard to believe, but I won a proper game of something. Have a lie down if it's all too much for you.

...by a considerable margin, obviously as a result of going against every natural instinct in my body and thinking about points scoring above all else.

I am usually a really bad winner so I attempted to keep my rising pride in check and went off to lose at something to restore the status quo.

Bausack: After a day with a play of Die Macher and another of Dungeon Lords in it, I decided (after a couple of dexterity plays of Riff Raff - a game far too average to write about) to indulge in another couple of plays of this wacky fun time. Bausack is a big bag of seemingly pointless wooden shapes, and enough different games to play with them to keep you diverted. We played both the auction variant and the building chain variant. I won neither so I knew we weren't entering the end times. While I like the actual building part of the building chain variant, I have to say the actual choosing of parts was a little bit drawn out. I do like this game a lot though, and knowing the parts well is a distinct advantage since I have experience of trying to be balance most of the parts on most of the others.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Top Tip! It's all about surface area down towards the bottom and having a place to put little tricky bits (in the egg cup, gaps in the building etc)


So Saturday turned out to be our most serious gaming day. This is the great thing about a major con style get together - you can experience the length and breadth of gaming and STILL have half a day left over at the end.

I'll post the final day's playing and my thoughts as a whole tomorrow. It's not much of a spoiler to say it is an entirely positive review!
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Mon Nov 12, 2012 1:44 am
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LOBstercon Nov 2012 Blog Post 4 of 5

Alec Chapman
United Kingdom
Lincolnshire
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Day 3: I may be the junior partner in this coalition, but at least I'm in government

By Day Three, Saturday, I think our hostess finally realised that Chris and I, rather than sharing a twin room out of mutual attraction, had instead taken what could best be described as "an extreme economical step" and booked a room together out of cheapness.

She seemed a bit less interested in us and what we were doing after that.

So, as I said in my last blog post, we had signed up for the monstrous eurogame of eurogames - Die Macher.

Now, if you aren't aware of Die Macher I can hardly blame you - it sounds pretty dry being about the way German political parties are elected and the importance of coalitions to that process; it lasts five hours; there are no explosions.

Because Die Macher is a serious game, I wore my reading glasses. Seriously. For two days of gaming I hadn't even put them on once until now.

All these negative and sterile sounding things that should be tempered by a simple statement: the game is awesome. Just freaking awesome.

Now, a few caveats.

First, the group should all get along and be good humoured. Holy cow I'd hate to play this game for five hours of passive aggressive sniping.

Second, the group should play at a reasonable speed and take breaks at the same time. This way a long game doesn't become an endurance exercise. I am pretty sure that in my previous game I jumped up a couple of spaces at the end (finishing, I think, third?) purely because the relevant opponents were close to expiring from mental exhaustion.

Third, don't get drunk. You will lose.

In this particular play only Soren and I had played before, and several years before at that so the loooooooooong rules explanation had to be gotten out of the way first.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

One of the friendliest aspects of Die Macher and therefore the easiest to get your head around is that it is essentially a series of contests over area control, albeit with a multiplier in the case of voting. This is also its weakness of course - you are essentially doing the same 12 step(?) process six times.

The thing I like most about it is that you can affect the future - so if you have a low chance of winning in the current election you can easily gain yourself an improved position on the next. BUT! you don't know the whole future, there being some hidden information right up until the end - it can be a risky business, betting on a future election!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

So in what ways can you gain points in Die Macher? It's important to keep these in mind because I didn't really follow the rule of scoring points in my first game, getting bogged down in enjoying the process and not really achieving any of the game conditions.

So... the ways you score points in this game are as follows:

1. Winning seats in elections
2. The number of party members you have (plus bonus points for the first and second highest count of these)
3. Sending media control markers from elections you won onto the main board
4. Matching National Issue Positions at the end of the game

So how can you actually achieve these? Well, I'll take them in turn.

1. To win seats you need votes.
You can gain votes through multiplying the number of party meeting cubes you paid to assign to the election by your current popularity in the region. (Popularity = Opinion score + matching issue positions - different issue positions)
You can also gain votes by sending one of your shadow cabinet members to get them - these are basically an identical deck for each party made up of powerful cards you can also use to get media control of an area, make an issue a "key" issue (doubling its value) etc. The more options on the card, the more expensive it is.

2. Party members are obtained by sacrificing an opinion poll or a potential party donor. There are also extra members available to those parties whose issue tableau matches the national board after each election. I hardly ever did this, hence why I had so few party members for much of the game.

3. You can move a media marker from an election you win (either alone or in coalition) onto the "national board". The early election wins get you more points on here - presumably because this story is out there for longer or something equally exciting. shake Neglect this aspect at your peril and also realise that in order to do this you have to have a media marker in the region to start with! Whoops cry

4. Throughout the game you will be trying to pander to local populations by switching your position on key issues at recent presidential candidate speed (bit of satire!). However, while this is all well and good, you will get a bonus number of party members (and at the end of the game, points) for keeping the national issues board in mind. To clarify what the hell an issue is - it's just a red or white card signifying whether you agree or disagree with particular policies such as GM crops (represented by the classic cuboid tomato) or defence (represented by a ridiculously unhelpful set of mini pictures) etc. You have a tableau in front of you with five of these (there are seven different ones in total so two of them are considered neutral) - representing your party platform. It is important that you balance the needs of building party members against the need to win local elections. This is central to the way the game works.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

If this sounds like a lot of moving parts, you will probably not enjoy the fact that all of these interact and all of them are affected by other aspects.

An example interaction: as well as giving you the ability to score points for victory in elections, numerical superiority in the media cubes additionally give you the ability to change one of the issues in the region - either to a contradictory one or perhaps to one that was not present in either white or red form before this change.

An example of an additional part: Opinion Polls - your popularity in a region can benefit or suffer at the hands of opinion polls. You bid for control of these and then decide to publish or not. If you publish you can move the popularity of a rival down, or assist a coalition partner or even, if you're like me - only bid for ones where you come out smelling of roses.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

I don't want to go into much more detail than this. You should be able to tell whether you would enjoy the game from these little details. It should be noted that like many modern games, the turns are multi stage and each player gets to do one stage before you move to the next, so there is very little downtime.

This is probably what is so exhausting about Die Macher. You are playing for five hours. Not playing for one hour and the others for the other four. Because of the way the parts interact most things you do will affect somebody's decisions - even if just that they give up on one election and move to the next.

We did not explore the coalitions aspect until half way through. There simply had not been any cards played that would make one happen.

This changed in election 6. Soren and I realised a mutual benefit of working together. Die Linken and Die Grunen (played by the two people at the table named Chris) had a coalition that looked unbeatable. I was sitting in dead last and Soren was probably in second. While I had played the elections reasonably, my national positioning had been poor and my party was quite small. In trying to regain some lost ground I had paid the price for a large external donation - a lot of my very few members had quit the party in disgust. It was pretty clear I was languishing in last place and something had to be done.

It made the most sense for Soren and I to combine our efforts, steal the election victory in number 6, get the media markers and favourable issues positions onto the national board. As it turned out, we annihilated them in the end, both of us getting the maximum number of votes before I realised I had not bought media in that area (ARGH!) which cost me several points though these would, in the end, prove to be moot.

We stormed the election in such style that we both gained 48 points and with a victory in the next election, Soren assured himself of a hefty victory. Did I kingmake? No. Because in the joint effort and due to our control of the issues board I secured myself a very creditable second place from dead last.

Sympathy has to go to the CDU/CSU who got everything blown off the issues board and replaced with contradictory positions just before the end, which cost him goodness knows how many points (I think around 80) - but politics is a cut throat game.

Final Scores:
Soren (SPD) - 351
Alec (FDP) - 288
Chris M.1 (Die Grunen) - 273
Chris M.2 (Die Linken) - 262
Richard (CDU/CSU) - 208

I wholeheartedly recommend this game to anyone going into it with open eyes and an open mind about the time and mental investment. It was perfect for the LOBStercon format and I reckon I'll try t again at the next one.

If you made it through all this I was going to include the rest of the day's gaming in this post but have reconsidered. Look out for post 4.5!
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Fri Nov 9, 2012 5:00 am
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LOBstercon Nov 2012 Blog Post 3 of 5

Alec Chapman
United Kingdom
Lincolnshire
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Day 2 - Today's Front Page Headlines: Junkie Babies and "Anya"

So after a very agreeable breakfast in the company of our misled, but increasingly aware hotelier we returned for our first full day of gaming. Chris went off with others to play Robinson Crusoe, and I got some other games played.

Innovation is a game I've wanted to try for ages. I'm a sucker for quick playing pseudo-civ games (such as URUK) and the splaying and the fact that the cards are all different made me very interested in it. I am pleased to report it lived up to my hopes, though the scoring system and achievements are a bit beyond my ken right now. The various cards symbols and dogma probably don't really call to mind the sorts of things that the titles do e.g. "Archery", but one game isn't enough to know for sure. The process was fun (and that is the main thing) and I only lost by two points thanks to the aforementioned Archery scaring Martin a bit - but it was all luck at this early stage.
I would be happy to get this game in a trade or for Christmas, say, but I don't think I would play it enough to make paying cash money for it worthwhile - even if the 10:100 stuff didn't ban me from that anyway.

Next up, Martin had picked up an astonishing bargain in the form of Extrablatt at Essen and this game was great fun. You build sections of colour giving "stories" various sizes and trying to get the largest area of each colour and largest story of each headline. It is also possible to double up on a headline if there is a photo token available. There is a system for hurting your opponents by, wait for it, placing adverts for prostitutes (both male and female, ladies) in their papers.
A reprint was supposedly on the cards, but is in development hell apparently - though I would expect the prostitutes to be replaced with other adverts (for boring things like chocolate bars and oranges) which I think would ruin most of the jokes we came up with, but people are very sensitive on some subjects.
Again, this is a game I would play again but I would not want to own it - even a reprint.

I believe this is the point I went off and had some lunch. Not sure I can remember the main course, after the enormous chocolate sundae I ate immediately afterwards.

Today was the day I got my first couple of plays of Cosmic in. The main game today was extremely long (c. 2 hours I think) thanks to the presence of the Pygmy, the Poison and the Filth flare that kicks people off planets making points scoring very difficult. It also featured the first of JonD's wins (he won 100% of his Cosmic games, the b-----d!) when he stabbed Martin for the win while pretending to negotiate "just to get it over with". Great play.
I think this day also featured the game where the Winner got ripped to pieces and where we all decided that the Dictator is a terrible alien. He wasn't fun to play against and according to Jon wasn't fun to play as, either.
Obviously I adore Cosmic so I won't indulge my propensity to waffle on about how amazing it is.

Indigo was one we tried after coming back from Pizza. It is not very good, being a sort of alternative to Tsuro but with shared points scoring areas for board pieces rather than relying on last man standing rules. Essentially it is very average and is definitely the worst game I played all weekend.

Villa Paletti was my most played game (6 plays!) and was also played by lots of people over the weekend. I would say it was a huge success. Essentially a tower building game where you want your colour of pillars to get as high as possible, it has a pretty neat set of considerations that start with redistributing weight to free up your pieces at the bottom, continue with placing them somewhere they will not get trapped in future, all the while considering not only the balance of the structure, but which pieces contribute to its centre of gravity. I am not sure about the way it chooses a winner and there is a sort of first player advantage. Add to that the various different rule sets meant I had to come up with a middle way on challenging new floors being played (i.e. I'm pretty sure you can only move your own pieces, but at some point only other players' pieces can be moved). Despite its possible shortcomings as a deep strategy game(!) the dexterity element is compelling.
Only one game (one in which I was not involved, of course) made it to the top level, only to collapse when one player tried to place the final piece on top of another piece. Kudos to those players - though I doubt you were being as cruel as my games were!

Libertalia is, however, a game I can't see the attraction of. Ostensibly a game of pirate ships it seems more of a bidding game with an extremely irritating tiebreak mechanism. I don't want to be to judgemental since with only three hours sleep due to hail storms(!) i was pretty much collapsing with exhaustion during this one. I think I came last, but I don't really mind. Didn't like it - not looking to play it again. Oddly Indigo was less inspiring but that'll be because it had zero impact on me rather than a negative one.

However, as you can see, the attraction of a big get together like this is all the different games you can play and all the different people you can play with. Every single opponent was fun to play against (even the Zendo master from hell was a fun person) and great company. I only saw the good side of the hobby all weekend. Partly perhaps because of this particular group, maybe because of the games I chose to play - I like to think however I got a fair representation of the group actually.

The night ended with a fateful agreement - Soren, Chris and I would fulfil our commitment to play Die Macher, the 5 hour game of German elections, starting at 10:30 the following morning. To see how we got on (considering another 2am finish) check out my next blog post!

A
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Thu Nov 8, 2012 3:04 am
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LOBstercon Nov 2012 Blog Post 2 of 5

Alec Chapman
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Lincolnshire
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I am blogging all week on the excellent experience I had with London On Board down at LOBstercon in Eastbourne.

This is blog post 2 and, perversely, is about day 1.

DAY 1 - It's Napoleon vs Beowulf

Chris and I were planning to come down at lunchtime before his employer stepped in and made him go to a lunchtime meeting, meaning we couldn't leave London until rush hour, so we crawled along all the roads listening to Frank Zappa and Alan Partridge (one after the other. They never collaborated, sadly).

Best line from I, Partridge on the way down?
Quote:
"You effing b---h" his eyes seemed to say, I imagined.
Our twin room was just round the corner, at the Sea View Hotel, and we got the distinct impression that the owner thought we were a couple, advising us on a lovely place for dinner and then suggesting a walk along the beach. She was 100% lovely and 200% wrong, but it's nice to be appreciated. We spent all of 10 seconds in our room before grabbing the monstrous bags of games I had brought and heading to the York House to get started.

I had it in my head that since we were so late and dinner was pretty much starting that we'd have to concentrate on a two player game early on. Sure enough, everyone was already playing games when we arrived.

The slight error was that for our first game I had selected a monster 10 a side game of Duel Of Ages.

For the uninitiated, Duel Of Ages is a really simple system that goes on forever if you let it. It's core mechanic - comparing colours on a chart and then rolling less than the given target number on two dice - is so simple as to be insulting, and it is a monumentally fiddly game with loads of slightly different areas to score (all of which using that one core mechanic).

It only gives you any pleasure at all if, like me, you love the concept of Napoleon's team vs Robin Hood's team - of Attila The Hun riding a mountain bike and firing a bazooka at a Martian Flying Saucer.

But to reiterate. All that has to happen in your head, mostly because you're just rolling dice and trying to roll below a target number. For this reason we did not actively invite other gamers to join in. if they'd specifically asked, I'd have happily given up half of my team (keeping track of ten tiny, very similar chits is not that easy) Your average eurogamer would last half a turn I would think before running away screaming.

Unfortunately this and the fact we decided to spread out over three tables in the vast and empty downstairs area (mainly so I would not have to shuffle the fully expanded equipment deck, which got a table to itself) made us seem a little aloof on arrival, which we really weren't. I think we were just a little spaced out from the three and a half hour drive. Sorry to anyone who got the wrong impression!

In any case, in the game I went against my normal "smackdown" game plan (grab all the strong natural melee characters and kick ass asap) in favour of one where I had two characters whose core special ability was to give bonuses to others -
*Napoleon gives extra movement to colonial characters but is made of glass. I stuck him in my HQ and since I had four other colonial team members he was invaluable.
*General Gavin gives a bonus to honourable characters. I let him be more mobile and in fact he got the first kill of the game, sniping flicker on overwatch after grabbing the Spencer Carbine from the vault.

Having taken a casualty, and being behind in the modern and colonial labyrinths, Chris' team concentrated on stealing my lead in the royal tournament (which Sir Gawain and Grunt achieved easily) and dominating the future labyrinth. Beowulf used his almost unmatched melee skills to tear Billy The Kid (or Kidd?) in half, before getting punched in the face by Mick The Lion - who gets to match his opponents skill anyway, costing Beowulf any advantage.

In the end, the difference was the Ruins, where I took an early, and unbeatable lead. Final score was 3:2 to my team white, after two and a half hours.

There were a lot of dice rolled and I hesitate to recommend the game to BGG's typical user as it is a little random and old fashioned. I love it, though.

-------------

Then we played four rounds of Zendo, a game that I was recommended by several people.
They were right, of course, it was a great game - I already have some rule ideas (unoriginal, I am sure) I want to try out next time and will definitely be playing that again. I think everyone got so annoyed at the prime numbers rule they all went to bed.

Well either that or it was 1am already. I forget.

So it was a low key start to the proceedings, the highlight of the evening being Chris' accidental flirting with the waitress at the Chinese round the corner. We'd popped over to grab some food before kicking off the game of Duel Of Ages proper after setting it up.

Because we wanted to get back - partly to play the game but also because I was nervous leaving my stuff in the empty downstairs room - we sprinted through dinner and asked for the bill pretty quick.

The waitress asked "do you always rush?"
Chris replied a la Bond - "No... some things are worth taking your time over..."

What a legend.
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Wed Nov 7, 2012 1:33 am
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Designing a Cosmic Encounter Tournament Format - 1.0

Alec Chapman
United Kingdom
Lincolnshire
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OK, one may exist already, but following a seriously long Pitchcar tournament at LOBstercon I have been thinking about how to adapt my favourite game into a tournament while still keeping the length manageable.

My thinking so far is as follows is to follow the CE Online model:

* Tables of four players
* Four Planets per player
* No Flares
* No Tech
* No Hazards
* No Reward Deck

First round robin of games is to be played as and when suits the players, with a final for the top four scorers (more if ties exist) on the last day. The final would include flares and the reward deck for more epic play. I would also ban shared final wins for more than two players.

This simplification should help prevent a spiralling time frame. Lack of flares makes it feel less like Cosmic to some people, but their unpredictability make a tournament format in Cosmic even more of a joke. There is enough hand management and negotiation play in the game to make it worth these players while, IMHO.

Edit: Points would be awarded for how many players you beat, +1 for a solo victory. i.e. in a four player game, the solo winner would get four points, while the next two players share second place, so they only get one. A shared victory for two players is worth two points each. Perhps the third place player still gets one if he is on his own...

Ideally, a group of sixteen players would play, meaning we could have a first round in which no two players play each other twice...

Eight is trickier, but I should be able to ensure everyone plays each other twice.

Anyone got ideas / corrections? I assume the lack of flares may be controversial, but perhaps you can see my reasoning...
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Tue Nov 6, 2012 6:08 am
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Zendo: Total is prime - illegal rule, or just cruel? Plus a bonus game of Zendo to play at home!

Alec Chapman
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For those who don't know Zendo, I'll run through it quickly:

The box game (and the version I played at LOBStercon) was based around Icehouse pyramids, which are now known as the far less cool sounding "Looney Pyramids".
From these colourful pyramids one player, known as the "master" will build two constructions, known as "koans". One of these Koans conforms to a secret rule known only by the master, the other does not.
The job of the rest of the players is to ascertain the nature of the secret rule by building their own koans and finding out if they have the "buddha nature" or not.

Components note: You can play this with anything that has several characteristics in each piece. Looney Pyramids (I hate that name!) have three possible characteristics on their own (colour, size, orientation) and many more in combination (touching/untouching, stacked/nested, pointing towards each other/away from each other etc).
There is nothing to stop you trying the game for yourself with Lego or even just words (vowels, consonants, number of letters etc)

Questions over the theme aside, it's a great fun exercise in inductive reasoning. Great fun, that is, unless the master decides to be annoying rather than cunning.

One master told us that his rule was horrible but contained just four words. Alarm bells rang for me because I don't think the point of the game is to be horrible... but we went on anyway.

Thing is, Zendo can bog down into misery if you don't know the key, and at one point I got so testy I accused him of coming up with "there is no rule" - sorry about that, I was tired and grumpy!

The rule was, in the end, "The sum is prime" or something like that (to denote size, Looney Icehouse Pyramids have pips from 1 to 3 on them).

Now, in the back of my mind I remember that a prime number is a number that can be only divided by itself and 1 (1 is excluded by convention, despite him marking a koan totalling one as correct), but I am not a mathematician so my knowledge of that is purely trivial. I don't put it on the same intuitive level as, for instance, "odd" and "even" numbers.

It also opens up a can of worms in terms of the rules of the game.

The concept of "prime numbers" is not present in the Koans, while the total values are, and the point of the game is not to reference anything outside of the constructed Koans themselves. Does the concept of prime numbers fit the bill as being present within the Koans?

And I know that the concept of "five" isn't present either, but the pips that total the number five are. Of course, I wouldn't complain about odd and even so I am partially, at least, a hypocrite.

That being said, the rule "the pip total is even" can be expressed as "the pip total is divisible by two into whole numbers"
as opposed to
"the pip total is only divisible into whole numbers by the number one and this same number that the pips total"
which is clearly a far more complicated rule and clearly (imho) outside the spirit if not the letter of the rules.

Again, this is only for people for whom being prime or not is hardly considered a fundamental property of a number - in the same way that not everyone knows the Fibonacci Sequence or a Triangular Number sequence etc. A master should really consider his audience when designing a rule to ensure the experience is satisfying rather than frustrating

Ironically, me and Martin (qwertymartin on BGG) had just joked about this rule as being a ridiculously annoying one while the master was off writing his rule down.

Anyway, self serving rant over - have this little game of Zendo as an apology. You can play along if you want. Simply suggest another word and I will tell you if it has the "Buddha Nature". If you get it right you can guess the rule! (PS this is a gross simplification of the actual rules for the blog, but never mind)

"Involve" has the Buddha Nature
"Indeed" does not have the Buddha Nature
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Tue Nov 6, 2012 1:52 am
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LOBstercon Nov 2012 Blog Post 1 of 5

Alec Chapman
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This epic and demonstrably awesome event is now over, so I will be blogging on my experiences all week to try and encourage more events like this the world over. It was a great way of introducing one of my favourite opponents to the rest of them!

------

Before I went, I made several wishes for what I would achieve whilst down in Eastbourne at LOBstercon. How did I do?

Wish 1. 50% FULFILLED - "Lots of Cosmic Encounter - to playtest my alien design (MULTIFORM) and play a couple of games of team Cosmic."

Whilst I managed to play five games of Cosmic, team play and the homebrew did not come out. I am not as upset by this as I am by losing all five games, tbh. The homebrew needs a rewrite, as I discovered re-reading on the first day. Team play is a shame, but we never ended up with eight players so never mind.

Wish 2. 50% Fulfilled - "Get some 10:100 games played."

As well as Cosmic, Puzzle Strike and Tichu got to the table, as did (amazingly) Mah Jong on Saturday night when "draw one, discard one" was the only ruleset I could get my head around. We played it mainly two player with two dummy hands and it was surprisingly fun, still. I was victorious! The dedicated two player games (e.g. Twilight Struggle, Summoner Wars) didn't get to the table at all, and I would probably not bother bringing them again to this event. There were many more opponents willing to play games at any one time than I was expecting.

Wish 3. FAILED "To tempt some people into trying Icehouse."

No such luck, sadly.

Wish 4. FULFILLED "To play Zendo for the first time"

As I expected I loved the "game" entirely. I do feel, however, that at least one player did not appreciate the game's non-confrontational nature and his "sum of the pips is a prime number" rule is a little unfair on those of us for whom prime numbers are a distant school memory. I may as well have made the rule "sum of the pips is the number of a house I have lived in" since that is just as fair. I will definitely be playing this again, and often

Wish 5. FULFILLED "To add a second play of Die Macher to my gaming experience."

This was great fun and I'll probably dedicate a whole post to it, so to save repeating myself I will say no more here.

Wish 6. FULFILLED "To introduce my podcasting co-host, Chris to the full depth of gaming experiences out there."

Chris spent at least a day playing with groups where I was not involved so I cannot speak for him in detail, so will update when we talk on the podcast.

Wish 7. FULFILLED? "To play one absolute monster game"

If you count Die Macher (5 hours) or Duel Of Ages (3 hours) then this was fulfilled. It's not quite the Virgin Queen or Here I Stand category though...

So there you are, most of my hopes were met and rest assured there were loads of other things I got to play that were entirely unexpected and entirely awesome, so I will talk about those during the rest of the week.

Thanks for reading!

A
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Tue Nov 6, 2012 1:09 am
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Gearing up for the big one

Alec Chapman
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I have been all but absent from boardgaming circles for quite some time now, concentrating on my other hobbies (in this case Art, Podcasting and recording my debut album). After all, I didn't call myself The Jaded Gamer for no reason.

So it is a great pleasure to take part in tomorrow's LOB-Ster Con in Eastbourne, where all the folks from London on Board take over a hotel and play tonnes of games.

As someone who does not measure the success of this con by how many different games I will play, nor by how many of them are brand new Essen releases, what do I hope to get out of it?

Well, first, it is only right to point out this is my first Board Game Con but since this one only contains gaming rather than events and sales floors it shouldn't be too different from what i am used to.

So here is my wishlist for what I achieve at this event:

1. Lots of Cosmic Encounter - to playtest my alien design (MULTIFORM) and play a couple of games of team Cosmic.

2. Get some 10:100 games played. Because of the lack of gaming focus in my life over the last few months, I have let this slide - which only puts back my plans by half a year or so. I am hoping to fix some of this.

3. To tempt some people into trying Icehouse. While the ruleset is slightly flawed and the system can be gamed (by uncool people) I remain convinced there is a good game hiding here. Unfortunately I cannot work out what is needed to rebuild it into something more sensible without a few plays under my belt with like minded people.

4. To play Zendo for the first time

5. To add a second play of Die Macher to my gaming experience. I played this once years ago and I remember it being fun, if LOOOOONG. Here's hoping it is as fun as I remember it.

6. To introduce my podcasting co-host, Chris to the full depth of gaming experiences out there. He has so far only dipped his toe into the gaming waters. I am throwing him in the deep end.

7. To play one absolute monster game. Virgin Queen or Here I Stand, perhaps? We shall see.
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Wed Oct 31, 2012 6:28 am
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Leveson and the problem with incentivised bias

Alec Chapman
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In the UK there is a little SNAFU regarding our governments possible/alleged/whatevergetsmeoutoftrouble in bed relationship with the press.

The problems for the public perception of this relationship can be summarised as follows:
1. The government benefits from a sympathetic press.
2. The press benefits from a sympathetic government.
3. This government is perceived to be sympathetic to the press, particularly News International.
4. News International publications in particular supported the government at the last election (that's not a perception - they actively campaigned).

Now, the first rule of statistics as I understand it is vitally important in this regard:
"Correlation does not equal causation"

Any of these things is capable of existing in a vacuum. The press could be sympathetic to a government that is clamping down on it and a government could be greatly supportive of a free, critical press etc etc.

The problems arise in the perception of these relationships where there is clearly a course of action that benefits both parties more than the isolated examples do. It is far more beneficial for Government and Press to support each other gaining both illicit favour and positive treatment. This doesn't mean it happens, but it is better for both if they can get away with it.

This is why when they speak of no agreements being made, people scoff - you don't need to make a specific agreement to recognise mutual benefit.

I have never made an agreement with the lady next to me on the train platform saying that she will not push me under a train and suffer a life of imprisonment and guilt. It does not take any interaction at all to recognise that there is more benefit to one course of action than the other.

[soapbox] Of course, this raises the importance of independent regulators, but that seems to be a dirty subject these days. [/soapbox]

----

To avoid shooting off too far in this direction, think of Kingmaking problems in games and how it relates to this. I personally hate the accusations of king making that fly around all the time.

This is especially true in games without elimination. If you're having a tough time of it, it can get very irritating to have branches lopped off your decision tree by the axe of social pressure every time someone scores a point. I love an extended metaphor, by the way.

An extreme example:

When you think you are third in Tigris and Euphrates on your turn towards the end of the game and need to choose a target for attack, it is possible that you believe your chances of gaining points are pretty even attacking either of the two players who are ahead of you.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
(the situation is different between hidden or open scoring, which complicates things somewhat, but the social outcome is the same)


So which target do you choose? If you swing one way or the other your integrity can be questioned and bias/"king making" can be claimed, simply because there was no difference so why did you choose to do what you did? Tigris and Euphrates is a particularly good example here because the hidden information leads to a lot of non tracked input. Your opponent seems nervous, but the other seems confident. Does this mean something? Were they aware of the expression or will they accuse you of a false justification?.

However, inaction can be just as bad - deciding to pass or take a non aggressive action in such a situation may break the game, which is designed for the number of turns and players that naturally come to pass. Through inaction, you could end up just determining the victor by tiebreak instead of direct effect.

Whatever you do in this situation, you affect the outcome of the game. In the case of T&E, your opponents are responsible for putting you in that situation and, in my opinion, don't have the right to complain whatever you do. If they do, get more reasonable opponents!

Likewise, and to attempt to join these threads together, if a government decides in the favour of someone with the very real, proven power to destroy them, it is likely to be suspected of bias even if it genuinely did so objectively. That's the nature of mutually beneficial outcomes.

----

What with being a judge in the voice of experience contest and with some of the discussions we've been having about the figures there, the problem of having a mutually beneficial relationship between reviewers and the review subject reared its head during a conversation about how much of the scale to use (which is a subject for another day!).

There's clearly a mutually beneficial loop between professional reviewers and the people who provide their employers with material to review, exclusive interviews and previews as well as copious amounts of advertising revenue.

I truly believe that the vast majority of reviewers are hard working, honest people who would never consciously prefer something just because of the possibility of the next big scoop being withheld, but does your feature writer really want to face Brad Pitt after your reviewer gave his latest movie one star? Brad Pitt almost certainly doesn't care (he got paid, after all) about a features writer, but its got to smart.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
I remember Mark Kermode getting chewed out by Russell Crowe during an interview regarding Robin Hood for a critical review of Romper Stomper that Crowe believed Kermode had written years and years previously (actually he didn't write it but worked for the publication involved at the time), so it does happen


That's why people are suspicious of reviews that are of big banner releases. When a certain movie magazine released a five star review of Attack Of The Clones (by any measure an imperfect beast), I smelt a rat that was only made more whiffy by the far more measured three star review the DVD release got. Did they get carried away? Was the Yoda fight worth three stars extra on its own?

Who knows? Perhaps the reviewer really does put Attack Of The Clones in the same bracket as I put Back To The Future, Seven Samurai and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's a subjective business, is reviewing.

My point is that where there is aberrant behaviour and mutual benefit is present, half the perception battle is already lost. I celebrate subjectivity and as a result my favourite reviews all contained a good sense of who was talking, something a simple five or ten point rating system would not capture in their review.

Important VoE contest integrity note:
It may seem disingenuous, but I should clarify that I believe these problems simply did not occur for me in the VoE contest judging however, since there was simply no incentive to cheat the system. I have not received, been offered, nor have I asked for any reward for being involved. In addition, as much as I love you all, I don't lie awake at night worrying if BGG users like me. While the ten point scale was not my preferred method of reviewing in general, it was the only practical way to aggregate several scores and take an average.


A

edit: clarified the Tigris analogy
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Fri Jun 15, 2012 12:10 am
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Er, what did I lie to you again?

Alec Chapman
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There are two major lessons I have learned since my first game of Diplomacy back in April that may be of interest to readers.

1. Never include the phrase "the counter intelligence I have been feeding our enemy" in one of your communiques. Your fellow player will expect you to explain what you said. shake

2. Diplomacy doesn't work with four players. Even slightly.
I'm always suspicious of when people set a minimum number of players on a game like the classic "it's pointless playing Diplomacy with fewer than seven". In many instances (T&E being one) this amounts to lazy snobbery or mixing up personal preference with reality, but in this particular case it is crushingly obvious that four is too few. Five wasn't too bad and six I could see working pretty well with Italy being given Tunisia from the start. Four players is, however, a bridge too far.

Seven is clearly best but I would hesitate before telling anyone not to give the game a go with 5 or 6. Any lower, however, is utterly pointless.
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Sun May 20, 2012 11:25 pm
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