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Subject: Geek of the Week #90 - John Farrell (Friendless) rss

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Time to pass on the Meeple of Power to someone new.

I don't have much of a mind for statistics, tossing all those numbers around and getting something meaningful out of them eludes me. Our new Geek of the Week though seems to be quite adept at it. So much so that he's written a web page we can all stare in amazement and wonder at. http://extended.5gbfree.com/index.html

He and I don't see eye to eye on many games, either. There is only a measly .08 correlation between us when using the rating correlation device at http://www.lautapelaaja.net/bgg/correlation.php?user1=Mr_Six...

So how is it I've chosen him as the 90th Geek of the Week? For one thing, he hasn't made a contribution to the site that I didn't find at least informative and useful. He's written nearly 100 session reports on all sorts of different games and has more than once influenced a game buying decision. Include all his photos and geeklists and reviews and so forth and he's well on his way to 2000 thumbs. He must be doing something right. He's a handy man to have in the forums as well.

Plus, he plays games with his kid and in so doing maintains an interest in three different styles of games, Abstracts, Euros, and 'Ameritrash'. He seems uniquely qualified to talk about all three types and from a multiple of perspectives. How can you not like someone open minded like that?

So, without further ado, I give you this weeks Geek of the Week, #90, John Farrell, otherwise known as Friendless.

Friendless wrote:
I was born in Ipswich in Queensland, Australia, and lived around that area for the first 16 years of my life. We almost lived in the country but went to school in town so none of my "friends" lived nearby. For most of that time I only had one sister but another one came along too late to be much fun. My obsessions were cricket and numbers, in particular cricket scoring, so I was always inventing ways to generate cricket scores. I would bash a ball around the back yard for hours and carefully keep score. When I was 11 we moved to a closer school and I got some real friends and discovered that I wasn't very good at cricket after all. The prime minister of Australia described me and the millions of others who want to be able to play the game as "cricket tragics" and I think that applies in my case.

I learned to read at school, as opposed to before school as seems to be the fashion these days. By the end of grade 1 I was reading so well and so fast that my mother couldn't afford to buy enough books for me, so we joined the library in town even though technically we didn't live in the allowed area. Over the years I read massive numbers of books. When I was 13 or 14 or so I was looking through the electronics books trying to find some understandable explanation of NPN transistors while my Mum was hassling me to hurry up. There was a book there called BASIC, so I grabbed it. Basic what I had no idea, but if it was basic I figured I'd be able to understand it.

It turned out it was the BASIC programming language. That book was a revelation to me - here was a way I could turn my obsession with numbers into some form of creative endeavour. Unfortunately I hadn't actually seen a computer at the time - this was 1979 or so, and the TRS 80 hadn't made it to Australia (well, not to anywhere I went). The next year I finally saw a computer in Tandy (that's Aussie for Radio Shack) and when I was 15 my school bought an Apple 2e and told me I was allowed to use it.

Just a quick sidetrack on school - I won a scholarship to a private school for the first 3 years of high school. That school encouraged me to participate in maths competitions, and in year 8 I was 6th in Queensland. In year 10 my best mate and I both did so well in the exam we thought we'd won - but I was right and he only came second. So the school gave both of us access to the computer. Also at the time we started visiting the university once a month or so to get special tutoring from a professor there to make sure that we continued to do well.

Also in that year my uncle moved to near our place and bought an Apple 2e, so I spent half my life at his place learning how to program and also playing Colossal Cave. What a good game that was! I'm still interested in text adventures though I never play them any more. I think I'll play through Hitchhiker's with my kid if I ever remember to download it.

At the end of that year my dad got transferred (he was a policeman at the time) so we moved across Brisbane and so had to go to a different school. That school had another guy who'd done really well in the maths competitions so soon I met up with him and we sat a 4 hour exam together. Neither of us did significantly well. But after the exam his friends came to chat and they were talking about killing goblins. Huh? They were playing D&D Basic and invited me to join them. We played D&D for the next 4 years or so, until women and jobs and university caused us to drift apart.

AAAARRRGGHH! I just found a bug in GeekMail - if you save a draft twice the original is retained. So I've just lost the story of my university days including an explanation of my Ph.D. topic. Let me summarise: honours maths - loved combinatorics, hated analsyis; first class honours in computer science; Ph.D. in functional programming; played quite a few games with brendanm, met a woman and married her, got a job as a lecturer, wife left me already, found another woman, didn't much like the job and got a job as a programmer in Sydney. Had a kid, moved back to Brisbane. Barely any gaming from 1992 till 2001.

I should tell the story of how I came to be called Friendless... in honours year (1987) I'd moved into a flat with some mates. At lunch time the honours students would go to lunch together but I would go to lunch with my flatmates. An itinerant Ph.D. student who was hanging around at the time postulated I must go off and have lunch by myself because I had no friends - I must be Friendless Farrell! At the time I was enjoying myself immensely in internet flame newsgroups, and Friendless seemed like an appropriate moniker for someone who behaved as I did, so I adopted it and it stuck.

In about 2000 the FLGS in Brisbane (Presents of Mind) opened a new store on the main road out to our place. I was enthralled - I REALLY WANTED a game called Carcassonne. My kid was enthralled too, but as he couldn't read he wasn't going to be much of an opponent. Then when my kid was in grade 1 another game store opened even closer (that was Wicked Games at Geebung). They had the Harry Potter TCG so I bought a starter and played it with my kid. At first his reading wasn't very good so he had to play with an open hand while I explained what the cards did. Sometimes Mummy would help and he could conceal his cards. The need to conceal his cards got him to learn to read them very quickly, and by the end of the year he was reading well. Also, Daddy had spent a fortune on Harry Potter cards.

After that we spent a couple of years playing computer games - Age of Empires, Age of Mythology and then Neverwinter Nights. I really enjoyed Neverwinter Nights - I think I played it obsessively for 18 months. Then in 2004 a couple of things came together. For one, I was working with some guys on a "for fun" programming project writing a version of Carcassonne. The game didn't sound so interesting by then. Also I saw a copy of Lord of the Rings Risk at Borders and bought it with the intention of playing it with the kid. While bored at work I was looking up these games, and this boardgamegeek site kept appearing. At the time it was very flaky, and it was several days before I could read what I wanted to. But when the site finally worked consistently I discovered an amazing variety of games and researched what I could play with my kid. I decided that Memoir '44 sounded like something he'd like. I was unable to get it in time for Christmas so I got Betrayal At House on the Hill instead. When I got Memoir we played it over and over until eventually it was taken over by other games.

My first order from an internet games stores was San Juan and Lost Cities, both of which turned out to be as good as I hoped. I was hooked. However I had a problem that I had a bunch of games and only one kid and a reluctant spouse to play them with. I pestered everyone I could find to play with me. Just in time, Critical Mass contacted me and said he wanted to organise a regular games night, so the kid and I went along to the first meeting of that and it has been a solemn commitment ever since.

A lot of things have happened since then! In March last year, on the day I finally bought my own copy of Carcassonne (and also Zertz, Poison and two other I forget right now) my "wife" (we never actually got married) told me she was leaving me. That was pretty bad, but for the best. She wanted to party and watch TV, I wanted to read books and play games, and apart from the kid we didn't have much in common. So I spent the next six months reorganising my life and trying to find someone new to disrupt it. We share care of the kid, and that's all working fine now.

The long (well, it felt long) search for someone new ended in September when Scrabblette contacted me through an internet dating site. I won't say too much about Scrabblette except that she's very much like me in temperament and intellect and ambition, but considerably smaller. Also, she gets on well with the kid and makes him eat his vegetables. She plays games with me and is smart enough to win some - actually she's smart enough to win lots but not experienced enough. In the 7 months or so that we've been together I've introduced her to over a hundred new games which is an awesome effort for a "non-gamer partner".

Another thing that happened recently was that my mum died. She had had Motor Neurone Disease (Lou Gehrig's disease) for a couple of years. There are several varieties of the disease. Stephen Hawking has a variety which paralyses limbs, but Mum had a variety which paralyses the throat and makes it impossible to speak, then eat, then breathe. She died in bed early one Saturday morning. She didn't teach me to read but she taught me to love books and to play Scrabble. I didn't beat her until I was 18! That's why Scrabble is a 10 for me, and always will be.



And here are his Two Truths and a Lie:

Friendless wrote:
1. In the AT/Euro debate, I'm firmly on the Euro side.

2. I love playing Runebound 2e and Arkham Horror solitaire.

3. My favourite number of players for gaming is 1.



Traditionally the former GotW gets to ask the new one the first questions. So here goes:

1. What game are you looking at adding to your extensive collection next and why?

2. If you could make your ideal game, the one that represents everything you love about board games, what would it be like?

3. Pick a feature. Add it to the geek. What is it and why?

Enjoy your week Friendless.
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Robert Wesley
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Yeah, and luckily for HIM, then we have the "Geek Buddy" system, so that he can remain "friendless" and still BE in "good company"!
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Congratulations Friendless!
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Congratulations! A very well deserved Geek of the Week. The extended stats have made my long for statistics so much easier to quench. I'm guessing #3 is the lie.
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Congrats John! Im going to start with guessing #1 as the lie.

From reading many of our comments here I've learned that you really like Mystery of the Abbey. Is there a particular strategy that you use while playing this game? Any special way you keep track of all the information that people reveal during the game? Do you try to rob cards from other players by going into their rooms? Do you use the confessionals much? What do you think is the best Bibliotheca card? And lastly what do you think about Pilgrim Chronicles?
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Awesome.
How about that. The first GOTW that I actually know.
This will be fun.
Enjoy it John.
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Congratulations John! I am with Jonathan in guessing no. 1 is the lie...
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Friendless wrote:
1. In the AT/Euro debate, I'm firmly on the Euro side.

2. I love playing Runebound 2e and Arkham Horror solitaire.

3. My favourite number of players for gaming is 1.



Well, No 1 has to be the lie - why? 1 and 2 contradict each other. YOu can't firmly on the EURO side and name two AT games as "love playing". SO it is the one or other. At the same time 2 and 3 pair together (solitaire play), so #1 must be the lie...
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Mr_Six wrote:

1. What game are you looking at adding to your extensive collection next and why?

2. If you could make your ideal game, the one that represents everything you love about board games, what would it be like?

3. Pick a feature. Add it to the geek. What is it and why?

Enjoy your week Friendless.


Thanks Brian, it's a pleasure to be here! I always dreamed that someone somewhere cared what I said, and now I've found you.

Question 1: I'm trying to go slowly with the game accumulation at the moment, simply because I've acquired so many new games in the last month that I haven't played them all yet. My next serious order will probably be from Germany because I want to get Waldschattenspiel for someone's bithday. In that order I may put in Fragile for myself, or maybe Aztec. Other games I'm thinking about buying at the moment are Metro (because Scrabblette and I both like it) and Roads And Boats (to play solitaire). On the other hand, I need to move house very soon and that could complicate both my finances and my storage ability, so I'll just have to see what happens.

Question 2: My ideal game... would be a heavily mathematical word game with lots of pretty colours and deep strategy. I have no idea how those would work together.

Question 3: The geek could subsume my stats so I could find something else to work on. Aldie has actually done some of them (look for the Stats tab on your profile), but I then removed those features. I have heaps more stupid features Aldie needs!

BTW, I'm a programmer myself and I think Aldie does a great job. Also, giving up his day job to commit to this site required cojones muchos grande, and I salute him for that. Pardon my Spanish.
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BTW, I'd like to thank Critical Mass for starting this tradition. The first GotW I knew was the first one, Melissa.

KSensei wrote:
From reading many of our comments here I've learned that you really like Mystery of the Abbey. Is there a particular strategy that you use while playing this game? Any special way you keep track of all the information that people reveal during the game? Do you try to rob cards from other players by going into their rooms? Do you use the confessionals much? What do you think is the best Bibliotheca card? And lastly what do you think about Pilgrim Chronicles?


Can I take a vow of silence on this?

I like MotA because it's a social game that people are prepared to like - on average you'll get a much better reception from non-gamers than if you suggest a game of checkers, or TI3, for example. Also I like Brother Cadfael and The Name of The Rose. Strangely many people I teach the game to have never heard of either. Also the board is pretty, Bruno Faidutti seems like a nice guy, and it has a litte bell. So many things in its favour!

I have no particular strategy, but I am very good at deduction games. I suspect I rarely miss an implication of an answer, and I can even make guesses about implications of questions. For example, if I have a Franciscan brother I'll ask you how many Franciscan brothers you have because your answer might tell me more than it tells other people. So often when people ask me a question like that I'll ask it right back in case they're using that tactic.

Other than that I feel that I play pretty randomly. But what I am very good at is stealing wins. At least 4 times someone else has known who the killer was and I made their accusation first. I got my son once with the return question "are you going to the capitulum to accuse Father Bruno?" and when he said yes I took my next turn and accused Father Bruno myself. Last time I played Scrabblette was to my left and I knew she was going to accuse, so in the preceding round I asked some very blatant questions ("Do you have Father Bruno?") and narrowed the field down to 3 suspects. One of them was someone whom another player had tried and failed to locate earlier in the game, so he was my best chance. I went and accused him with a 1 in 3 plus gut feel chance, and got it right. Scrabblette was furious. She had to resort to foreign languages to find enough epithets for me. But I do steal wins regularly by knowing what other people are thinking. I don't know how...

There are 2 Bibliotheca cards we take out - I think they are swap hands and look at another player's hand. I played with 3 players a few times and that would be too big an advantage.

I use confessionals, cellula, parlatorium, scriptorium. whatever... I think most information is gained by following other monks around anyway.

Pilgrim's Chronicles is pretty good - some of the cards are clever and amusing, and it doesn't mess with the game. It's like all the things your funny clever game buddy thought of.
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When you play scrabble do you play quickly or take your time? Do you go for long words with the bonus points for using all your tiles or short words with triple score squares counted in two directions...or both?
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Mr_Six wrote:
How can you not like someone open minded like that?


That's kinda funny. CyberKev was berating me during the week for only liking analysis games, i.e. the type where you can think hard and make a good move, e.g. Trias, Tikal, Torres, GIPF. I have to admit I don't go for party games so much. Where's Admiral Fisher?
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Critical Mass wrote:
When you play scrabble do you play quickly or take your time? Do you go for long words with the bonus points for using all your tiles or short words with triple score squares counted in two directions...or both?


At the Scrabble club I play at (infrequently) games are allocated a 50 minute slot and are always 2 player. That's the best way to play Scrabble, IMHO. You've gamed with me Andrew, and you might have noticed that I rarely take much time to make a move no matter what the game. I seem to make longer words than many other players, but I think that's because I know a lot of words and am good at anagramming. When I played ORNERY one night my opponent had never heard of it. Has he never listened to Waylon Jennings? I've seen some very impressive moves with lots of 2 letter words but I don't know all of the 2 letter words so I can't do that so much. The considerations for a move in Scrabble are (1) points and (2) rack management, and given that I'll do whatever it takes. As for TWSs - take them when you can and it's worth quite a few points to not let your opponent have them.

I think I'm a pretty decent Scrabble player but those old ladies at the club are seriously impressive. I can't wait till I'm an old lady so I can be that clever.
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I didn't know you were a Brother Cadfael fan. Martin from Belgium who came aong to games night once or twice was living at my house thi year and I lent him a Brother Cadfael book. a couple of months later and he had read all 21 of them. There is something comfortable and familiar about reading Ellis Peters formulaic action/romance/mystery books...it helps that her characters are so likable.

Which books were your favourites from the series? Whih characters do you like the best?
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Congratulations !!

Nice to see Buster Keaton here again and again! He`s my favourite of all silent movie comedy stars. Have a look at "Sherlock jr." or "The General" and you see "modern" cinema in its beginning. Stupendous philosophical gag stunts and stories with depth. Chaplin to me is too sentimental and romantic and not - yes, not "true". Keaton is. I watch my Buster Keaton video collection (almost everthing he did in his great years) over and over and these films never get old - Chaplin films do.

Is "Go West" your favourite one or is it because of the name ... ?
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Congrats on GOTW! It's great to know more about you.

My guess for the lie is #3. I suspect you play games solitaire when you can't find decent opponents, but you'd rather play multiplayer.

You mention that you're a big fan of deduction games, but I don't see any rating for Sleuth, the classic Sid Sackson game of nearly pure deduction. Have you had a chance to try it?

It would be great to meet you in person some day. Do you think you'll make it to BGG.CON or Essen some day?

Have a fun week, and thanks for all your contributions to the Geek!
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When you are an old lady I'll nearly be an old lady and I'll play scrabble with you. I'll have to force myself to play fast though. That is one game where I definitely suffer from more AP than any other game. It is not because I lack the vocabulary to think of any words but that I have a good enough vocabulary to think that if I think for just a little longer I will be able to find the word that uses all my letters (QXZFKJP -and what a good scoring word it would be too). I used to play with both my Grandmothers so I know what you are taling about with the old lady comment.

Do you keep track of your best scores? or your best combined score with your opponent?

Do you ever have games where both playes are so defensive that it is hard to add any word to the tight block of words in the middle?
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Critical Mass wrote:
I didn't know you were a Brother Cadfael fan. ...

Which books were your favourites from the series? Whih characters do you like the best?


I haven't read any of the books - I've only seen a couple of the television episodes. I have both seen and read The Name of the Rose, and I can only recommend the movie.
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duchamp wrote:
Is "Go West" your favourite one or is it because of the name ... ?


I hate to break it to you but I've never seen a Buster Keaton movie. I was called Friendless for years before I discovered that character from "Go West". I keep an eye out for it in stores but haven't found it yet. I'm not a big fan of movies in general.
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caesarmom wrote:
My guess for the lie is #3. I suspect you play games solitaire when you can't find decent opponents, but you'd rather play multiplayer.


Nobody ever believes I don't have any friends. At their peril!

caesarmom wrote:
You mention that you're a big fan of deduction games, but I don't see any rating for Sleuth, the classic Sid Sackson game of nearly pure deduction. Have you had a chance to try it?


No, I haven't tried it yet. I've come close to buying it a couple of times but there was always something shinier.

caesarmom wrote:
It would be great to meet you in person some day. Do you think you'll make it to BGG.CON or Essen some day?


Yes, but who knows when? Scrabblette wants to go to Germany this year and would be happy to fit in with Essen, but between buying a new house and hopefully getting a new job that may not be possible.
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Critical Mass wrote:
if I think for just a little longer I will be able to find the word that uses all my letters


I know what you mean - even worse is when you've found the 7 letter word and you can't put it on the board. I believe though that winning should be a secondary consideration to having a good game. In many games the analysis is doing my head in so I just make what I think is a decent move. I probably lose some games I might otherwise win, but I don't care and nobody gets bored.

Critical Mass wrote:
Do you keep track of your best scores? or your best combined score with your opponent?


I keep my club score sheets and the highest score I can see here is 435. I got 63 for ROUNDLET, 86 for STONING, and massive points for quite uninteresting words. That was using social rules where I was allowed to consult the dictionary, but of course in a 50 minute game you don't have time to browse for words. Social players get to use the dictionary because otherwise how would they learn anything? The combined score for that game was 758.

Critical Mass wrote:
Do you ever have games where both playes are so defensive that it is hard to add any word to the tight block of words in the middle?


Yes, some games are free flowing and some are constipated. And that's exactly how it feels when you're playing such a game.
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Friendless wrote:
BTW, I'd like to thank Critical Mass for starting this tradition. The first GotW I knew was the first one, Melissa.


And happy GotW to you, John!

Are you going to the Australian Games Expo?

Like everyone else so far (it seems), I vote #1 as your lie.
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John and his scripts rule!

Congrats John!
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Friendless wrote:
Mr_Six wrote:
How can you not like someone open minded like that?


That's kinda funny. CyberKev was berating me during the week for only liking analysis games, i.e. the type where you can think hard and make a good move, e.g. Trias, Tikal, Torres, GIPF. I have to admit I don't go for party games so much. Where's Admiral Fisher?


Well, to be fair, it was for "mainly abstracts and games you can play with children."

Upon further reflection, though, I realised I was just expressing disappointment that you weren't as fond of a good numer of games that *I* like.

Nonetheless, you're one of the people I like playing games with, John. Your passion for our hobby shines through.

Congratulations on getting GotW! Long overdue, I believe.
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Congratulations on Geek of the Week. I was wondering when you would be chosen. I agree, it's much overdue. I keep up with your blog so I really don't have any questions but I do think #1 is false.
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