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Subject: Geek of the Week # 131: clearclaw (J C Lawrence) rss

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J C Lawrence
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jdludlow wrote:
It was the revelation that you could intentionally lengthen someone else's route that gave me the "head asplode" moment.


Yep, I remember the email. It is a fearsome weapon when used well. I've seen many a player stop agog after the last build and note plaintively, But I can't deliver ANYTHING!.

Ooops.

Quote:
I use a JC quote to start out my rating comments on Age of Steam.

clearclaw wrote:
"Let's get the basics down: First, this game doesn't like you. It doesn't like anybody else either, but it particularly doesn't like you. If you ever have a question on the rules or how the rules apply to a particular situation then pick the answer that hurts the most. You'll almost certainly be right."


Ahh yes, the old persecution speech.

Quote:
AoS: The Sun takes this up a notch. It's beautifully evil. On first glance, you see a wide-open map -- orange rolling prairies. In Age of Steam terms, it looks like kiddie-land. And yet, somehow, JC managed to twist this into the most brutal map I've played to date. (It's fun too.)


You know I thought seriously about adding in support for a spherical map akin to Alban Viard's Moon and Mars maps, but I decided to take pity on the poor players.. Well, I took pity after I noticed how powerful the map edges were in causing mayhem. It must be a personal weakness.

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Now I just need to stop JC from digging up more out-of-print train game gems that are impossible to find without a Brinks truck.


Did you end up getting Pampas Railroads? You'll like that one. I'm close to thinking it a better and more interesting game than Age of Steam.

Quote:
On the other hand, he was the reason that I knew about Wabash Cannonball at all before it went OOP. If you look back on the 2007 Essen coverage, JC was talking about Wabash before most anyone else. Brass and Container were making news as the econ games of the year. And while I have nothing against either game, it was JC who was quietly hinting, "Guys, Wabash Cannonball is the best game of Essen 2007, and it's not even close."


I am clearly the bellwether of true taste. You should all follow me slavishly -- but only after I've managed to buy the games I want first. Ahem.

Quote:
So yeah. Congrats JC.


Thanks mate. Wabash is brilliant, isn't it?
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J C Lawrence
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russ wrote:
Wow... all this time I'd actually thought it represented a yoga pose, with the person leaning forward over a bent leg with arm raised over their head stretching upward. It's like a Rorschach test!


One of the guys at work thinks it is a palm tree leaning over a swan.

Quote:
So that prompts a question: do you have any experience with or interest in yoga?


My mother is a practitioner, a carry over from her early years as an acrobatic dancer, and I've picked up a little of it by osmosis. I don't have much interest however.
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J C Lawrence
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Some people would say they don't mean the same thing. E.g., one of the numbered statements could be false, and another one of the numbered statements could also be false.


True, and I did think about also playing that game.
 
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J C Lawrence
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Orthodork wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
Do you include all the silly jokes and innuendos?

No. I have a huge stock of my own jokes and innuendos to draw from.


Ahh, you water down the master with second rate material? Zounds! No wonder they keep coming to me for the first pressing.

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And the deal was for $50, chisler.


And you just voided the contract. Gotcha!
 
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David desJardins
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clearclaw wrote:
True, and I did think about also playing that game.


And the statement that he did think about playing that game doesn't imply that he decided not to.

We could travel very far down this chain of wordplay.
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J C Lawrence
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OldestManOnMySpace wrote:
1. You rate no games a 1. Why have you not found a game that deserves that rating?


Dumb luck?

Quote:
2. You rate Caylus a 3, and your comment is: "It is clear why some people like Caylus. I however am not one of them." Could you elaborate on why you dislike the game?


Briefly: combinatorics plus snowballs do not make a game for me. I find it difficult to see what I would like in Caylus.

Quote:
3. You rate HeroScape a 3, but you leave no comment. You've played it twice, and you usually leave quite good comments, so could you explain your rating?


I have two masters plus a bunch of expansions. My kids like playing it and I play it with them occasionally (far more than twice, I must be behind on recording plays -- I'd guess about 5-10 plays). It isn't a terrible game, there are some redeeming defects and even some value, but it is also clearly not to my interests. There's a little bit of interest in the army drafting, but the opportunity cost of not getting what you want is usually larger than the value of breaking up your opponent's reinforcing set. Some of the tactics of activation order and positioning are cute, but again there's really very little there and what there is, is almost entirely lost in the luck of the dice rolls. Finally it just takes too long for so little game. If the whole thing took around 10 minutes, start to finish, I'd be fine, though shorter would be better -- I can even live with the dice -- but there's just not enough game there as-is. Now take out the dice, make the combat a little more interesting, simplify the special powers, lose the glyphs, and add per-player goals and you'd have a game...

I'll play Heroscape with the kids because they like it, but that's it. Perhaps I should draft a rating comment.

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I just read all your ratings, and they were a lot more interesting than any books I've read lately.


Thanks!
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J C Lawrence
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btw this skill is extremely useful for changing emotional responses to specific circumstances, and for changing habitual behaviours.[/q]

I'll take your word for it. I merely use it as a way of producing the things I want to produce.

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Seems to take about three months of continuous effort for something you feel/do every day though, so there needs to be a fair bit of motivation and a very short list of things to change.


The time required varies greatly for me. Sometimes it is merely the instant of decision that is required and it is done. Other items take months.

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Beats the crap out of any cognitive therapy though, in my personal experience.


Happily, I've no experience there.

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So to a question... JC it seems likely you would have employed your re-naturing skills to this sort of end. (?) Of your social or personal responses / behaviours, which have you successfully reengineered other than tastes in entertainments?


A few things come to mind:

- How I handle waiting in games. I used to be very impatient, constantly egging other players to hurry up and then taking my own sweet time on my turn. So, I changed my view of time in games.

- How I write the letter 'G'. At one point I was writing many hand written reports, I determined that a different way of writing the letter 'G' would be less ambiguous when written at speed so I changed my handwriting to fit.

- Sugar. I used to eat a lot of sugar and like it too. I decided this was contra-survival and went cold-turkey on sugar and actively cultivated a taste for both more sour and more complex flavours (I now happily eat and enjoy lemons and limes -- I'll often empty the lemon wedge cup at restaurants).

- Preemptory. A similar bad habit to my prior impatience in games. I would regularly cut off, talk over, and deliberately overwhelm the people I dealt with. This is not fully finished, but it is improved.

- Anger. I noticed that when angry I no longer truly observed the thing I was angry about. That is clearly stupid. Using similar time techniques to the above I just started ensuring that I always tracked and observed my targets clearly, focusing on comprehensively understanding them. As a result I'm less often angry.
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J C Lawrence
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DaviddesJ wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
True, and I did think about also playing that game.


And the statement that he did think about playing that game doesn't imply that he decided not to.


True.

Quote:
We could travel very far down this chain of wordplay.


Would you have me let all the cats out of the bag?
 
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J C Lawrence
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Stephen Glenn wrote:
JC, what's your favorite yogurt?


Probably kefir. I drink it often, a habit I picked up in the Netherlands. In the more standard styles I prefer the Russian or Persian yoghurts. Pavel is one local brand.

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Are you particularly pleased [or annoyed] that your initials are JC?


I've never had much cause to consider it. I only use initials because America is rather uncomfortable with using middle names rather than forenames.

Quote:
Tell me a joke.


A man is in the army when it is decided to hold a very large multinational wargame. Accidentally sleeping in, he is late getting in line to be issued a rifle for the wargame. When he finally gets up to the counter he finds out they've run out! "Not a problem!" the seargent assures him, "I'll just give you a pretend rifle," handing him some empty air, "and you can hold it up like a real rifle and say BANGETY-BANG! and everyone will know exactly what to do. This has happened before. Its no problem at all." After some argument, much of it consisting of calling the seargent a looney, he gives up, takes his pretend rifle and gets in line for a bayonet.

When he finally gets up to the counter, yep, they're out of bayonets. "Whaddya mean you're out of bayonets? What is this, some sort of joke? First the last guy game me a pretend rifle and now you're out of bayonets? You can't be serious! What sort of joke army is this?"

"Oh, you've got a pretend rifle? This is easy then! Just take this pretend bayonet, screw it into your pretend rifle like so, run up to people and go STABBETY-STAB STABBETY-STAB and everyone will know exactly what's happening and what to do. Don't worry, we've done this before!"

"You're all a bunch of loonies!" And he walks off with his pretend rifle and his pretend bayonet.

When he gets to the field of battle he's very embarrassed and hids in the middle of some bushes and sulks. The day passes, slowly, and he's tired, bored to tears and frustrated. He sees lots of people running about having a great time killing each other, but him? No. He has to sit in the middle of a bush with a pretend rifle and a pretend bayonet. Struth! It is clearly not fair.

As it wears on toward evening the battle moves on from his area and he's mostly all by himself. Alone. Well, almost alone except for one wandering lost enemy soldier way over there on that hill. With his back to him...

What the heck. He pops up, grabs his pretend rifle,aims at the soldier and semi-yells "BANGETY-GANG!" in a half-hearted voice and then drops instantly back into the bush in case anyone saw him. "Arrghhhhh!" The enemy back-flips and falls over dead.

Hmmmm. He waits a bit until another lost soul wanders a by. BANGETY-BANG! Arghhhhh! Dead.

Hmmmm. Next thing he's is running about like a madman having the time of his life. BANGETY-BANG! BANGETY-BANG! BANGETY-BANG! BANGETY-BANG! Arghhhhh! Arghhhhh! Arghhhhh! Arghhhhh! They are falling over like flies. He's mowing them down like grass before a combine harvester. BANGETY-BANG! BANGETY-BANG! BANGETY-BANG! This is really GREAT fun!

Next he screw his bayonet into his rifle and runs up to a guy and yells, "STABBETY-STAB!" "Arrrrrrghhhhhhh!" The guy falls over dead. What could be better? No heavy ammo, no heavy rifle and he's the most efficient soldier in the world! He's having the time of his life. STABBETY-STAB! STABBETY-STAB! STABBETY-STAB! STABBETY-STAB! BANGETY-BANG! BANGETY-BANG! BANGETY-BANG! BANGETY-BANG! STABBETY-STAB! BANGETY-BANG!

This is really great!

Pretty soon the evening is starting to get going in earnest and he's running out of people to yell at. Well, almost. You see, there's one guy walking really slowly over a hill not far away. One last guy. He pops up and yells BANGETY-BANG! Nothing happens. He tries it again, yelling louder. BANGETY-BANG! Nothing happens. He runs right up in front on him, screws his pretend bayonet into his pretend rifle and...STABBETY-STAB! And nothing happens.

This is most perplexing.

Taking his pretend rifle and his pretend bayonet he stands right in front of him and gets lined up for a real good STABBETY-STAB! when the man puts an arm in front of him, pushes him over and says

TANKETY-TANK, TANKETY-TANK

Quote:
If Jack helped you off a horse, would you help Jack off a horse? I'm just looking for a yes or no here.


Yes or no.
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J C Lawrence
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Eric Brosius wrote:
For example, play TransAmerica with all the city cards face up so everyone knows what the incentives really are. :)


TransAmerica isn't terrible.

An interesting variant for TransAmerica is to draft cities Citadels-style. It works surprisingly well.
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J C Lawrence
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Zimeon wrote:
Is there a game designer you feel that you specially respect for his/her beautiful design?


Toughie. I used to track designers but I've pretty much given up in the last years. I haven't found any designers who are consistently good in the current market.

Of the old lot, Sackson perhaps, or maybe Randolf? The current designer crop is much tougher and I'm not sure there's really an answer. Maybe Hutton? Or Wu? Perhaps the Ostertags? I've little idea. There are specific games I greatly admire, but I haven't carried that down to designers.
 
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Arthur
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That was a great joke.
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Seth Jaffee
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My first impression of clearclaw came from various threads on BGG, which I mistook for arguements and/or flames... one in particular was a protracted discussion of Hidden but Trackable Information: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/922176#922176

I briefly met him at KublaCon, and realised that in fact he wasn't really perpetuating a flame war or anything like that, he's just very opinionated.

Recently JC has been in the BGDF chat room all the time, which is where I basically live, so I've gotten to know him a lot better, and once you get through the odd language, I've found JC to be a really sharp guy. I look forward to KublaCon this year, where I intend to try Ohana Proa, and see if I can force clearclaw to sit through a game of Terra Prime with me

Ok, so I probably ought to have a question or something here... since I'm into game design, I'll ask a game design question or two, even if I already know the answer to some of them...

1. Getting started: Do you more often think of a theme and say "this could make a decent game," or more often think of some mechanic and think "This is pretty cool, now what might it be representative of?"

2. I bet you have a very mechanical sort of algorithmic approach to game design... What part of the design comes first, next, and last?

3. What major steps do you think are the most important for a game design to go through between inception and completion?

4. When do you consider a game design is "complete"?

5. Finally, which is more important for any game - that it satisfies the designer, or that it satisfies the target audience? Is it even possible to do one and not the other, or are they implicitly related?

And then a question that's less about designing a game, and more about the design of published games:

What are your biggest pet peeves in games? I already know you don't like HTI, but what other mechanics or design decisions do you dislike and why?

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this thread!

- Seth
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Hmmm, I am in the mood to play an 18xx game. Since I can't, I want to discuss it. Since you are GotW, this seems like a good opportunity to do that.

For each 18xx game:

1.) Which company do you prefer to open? Why?.
2.) Which comany is your favorite? Why?

For 18EU (which is currently one of my favorite 18xx games):

3.) What is your favorite minor and how much do you think it is worth?
4.) What is your favorite combo of minors?
5.) If you are bidding on a minor which works well with another minor you own, how do you value that minor?
 
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Ben Foy
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BTW, I met my wife in a MUD.
 
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Sheamus Parkes
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Congrats on GOTW.

So why not give out any thumbs? Always kinda irked me after I noticed that.
 
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Russ Williams
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Reading your user info, I saw this:
Quote:
Start player. I almost exclusively play the remainder game to pick start players. Number the players in rotation starting with 0. Have each player stick out some number of fingers on a count of three. Add up the fingers and get the modulo of the total number of fingers (remainder after division). The player with that number is the start player.

Why is that specific concrete system for picking a random start player so important? Would it bother you if other players wanted, e.g., to randomly pick from a handful with one of each player's pieces, or to have someone say "Clockwise starting from me" and roll a die to pick a random player?

On the subject of 18xx, have you ever played 2038? If not, was it because the nontraditional theme turned you off, or the small element of randomness, or simply coincidence that you haven't played it? (Do any of the other 18xx games have chance or hidden information? I know many do not.)

I had you pigeonholed as mainly liking heavier longer more complex games (like 18xx, AoS, etc), so I was surprised to read that Blokus is possibly your favorite game, and that you're also a fan of Rumis (and a few other such games)! Not because I disagree - I love Blokus and Rumis as well - but simply because most of your higher rated games, and the games I notice you writing about the most, seem to have more complex intricate rules and subsystems, while Blokus and Rumis have quite elegant and simple rules. What's up with that? Do you perceive yourself as preferring heavier longer games, or shorter more elegant games, or no preference? (And have you played Tzaar, the latest in the Gipf series?)

I was similarly surprised to see your strong liking for Once Upon a Time. Have you ever played it in a language besides English?

Your comment for Gipsy King says "The claims of pure prisoner's dilemma are inaccurate." What claims of pure prisoner's dilemma? This is the first I've noticed anyone mention Gipsy King and the prisoner's dilemma in the same sentence.

When playing Ubongo, we quickly decided the scoring system was a ridiculous distraction from what seemed the core of the game (rapid geometric puzzle solving), and so we simply play our boards in a rapid succession of rounds: whoever solves their board first keeps their board as a victory point, and the other player(s) throw their boards back into the box. When we run out of boards, the game is over and whoever has the most points wins. What are your thoughts on that Ubongo variant?
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"GAME OVER, MAN. GAME OVER!"
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Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence!
 
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Randy Cox
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1024x768 works just fine - Don't Wide the Site!
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clearclaw wrote:
Quote:
Are you particularly pleased [or annoyed] that your initials are JC?
I've never had much cause to consider it. I only use initials because America is rather uncomfortable with using middle names rather than forenames.
How so? Do other countries have less difficulty with the fact that someone is called by their middle name? I realize there is difficulty in it (I go by a nickname -- some might call a diminutive -- of my middle name), but I can't see how it's an American thing.
Quote:
I'll play Heroscape with the kids because they like it, but that's it.
So you are with your kids? How are they and how old are they? I got the impression from your intro that they weren't with you these days.
 
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I see you're a Golden Bough fan. That's great--it's the first time I've met anyone not from the Nevada City area that had heard of them! (I don't live there anymore.) I used to attend their Christmas concerts every year, though I suppose they've had three or four different fiddlers since then.
 
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Just call me Erik
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clearclaw wrote:
russ wrote:
Wow... all this time I'd actually thought it represented a yoga pose, with the person leaning forward over a bent leg with arm raised over their head stretching upward. It's like a Rorschach test!


One of the guys at work thinks it is a palm tree leaning over a swan.


I always thought it was a ghosty thing lashing out with its claws. I never once thought "Hey, that's a kangaroo!" Guess i'm not an art critic.

Congratulations on Geek of the Week! We don't always see eye to eye on games, but you are most deserving of the honor.

Additionally, a question: why are you so dead set against hidden but trackable information?
 
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Paulo Soledade
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Congrats on being GoW.

clearclaw wrote:


Now that's interesting! How did you know Carlos Paredes? He is our most brilliant portuguese guitar player ever.

This song is very well known by every portuguese although many of us don't know who plays it and what's the name of the song.

This song is called "verdes anos" which means by the book "green years" but a more open translation would be "early years".

You could also try to listen a more modern sound mixed up with classical portuguese guitar.

This terrific video is from a portuguese band called Blasted Mechanism with another master of portuguese guitar called António Chainho.
You should like it also. Give it a try!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIR6wMf_SS4

Once again congrats on this GoW and I hope you would like Brass one of these days!

Paulo
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Jay Pharis
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clearclaw wrote:

Ola Mikael Hansson -- We've talked on IRC. Also perceptive, experienced, conniving, and appreciative of good games. The fact that his doubtless charming wife (tinykitty) )comes from just down the road of the part of Brighton I used to hang out about in England is entirely beside the point.


IRC awaits the return of clearclaw. Well, and anyone else. I long for the days of mwchapel/clearclaw kerberos banter.

*sigh*

To be young again! cry
 
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J C Lawrence
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m_r_tyler wrote:
(space or no space between J and
C?)


Your choice.

Quote:
Your comments on Wabash Cannonball led me to make that fine purchase.


Should I charge Winsome a sales commission?

Quote:
Any particular reason you haven't handed out a tip, a thumb, or utilized the GeekBuddy Analysis feature?


I haven't found a use for them. I've very little idea what they mean and even less value for the little I do know. I find thumbs particularly perplexing. On the one hand they're used for a enormously wide range of reasons, and on the other hand I have almost no idea where they come from. I seem to have about 2,000 of them. I've little idea why (you try finding out from the index pages) except that I must be thumb-able kind of guy.

I've received a few tips but likewise don't really have much use or reason for them. In part this is related to the fact that I've no use for GG (yet I seem to keep getting it). I understand that I can use tips to mark appreciation of particularly good work, I suppose similarly to thumbs, but what would that be? I pretty much use BGG for 3 things: the database, game rating comments and forums. Of those three only the first two are actually useful and then as collections and not as discrete items. Every so often a file, usually a player aid or translation, sneaks in there but that's vanishingly rare.

Geekbuddies fall in the same hole. I don't see how they'd be useful to me. I don't particularly care what any given individual says about a game (or even what they say en masse). I've no interest in stalking specific individuals in areas I'm not already interested in and if I'm already interested in the area, why would I track specific individuals there? For the purposes of this site I'm far more interested in the subject matter (the games) than I am in the people who play/comment on them, so I track the areas and items I'm interested in and observe what is said there -- which is what I'm looking for: commentary on subjects of interest.

I also explicitly distrust geekbuddies for game research. Part of this is revulsion at the idea of "liking" something because someone else likes it, along with similar feedback loops. If I'm going to read all the ratings comments on a game anyway, why do I care if some of them are made by geekbuddies or not? If I'm already going to ready every page and element and reference within the first 25 pages of Google-matches on a game I'm researching, why do I care what specific individual wrote what? I'd rather do my own research (which I do already) and form my own opinions from the source data and commentary without attaching unnecessary weight to specific individuals.

Quote:
I'm guessing you aren't keen on party games.


Yes. There are two parts to that. The first is that I strongly dislike and strenuously avoid parties. I find them depressing, frustrating and ultimately demoralising. Layering on a wastrel activity like a party game does not improve matters.

Quote:
What most annoys you about party games?


Mostly that there's nothing there. They appear to be something that people do so that they can flap their gums and claim to have had a "good time" without actually having done or accomplished anything except emit pheromones and wander through a few pointless endorphin states. As pre-mating rituals they're simply egregious torture.

Quote:
Any party games you've found tolerable?


Not yet. I've taught myself how to survive parties as an exercise in tolerance and patience -- it will end eventually -- but that's about it.

Quote:
Why do you play games? (I'm looking for a phrase such as for the fun, for the mental challenge, to socialize, mindless entertainment, etc.)


For the understanding.

Games challenge the ways I think and the types of thoughts I have. At their best they force me to become something I wasn't previously in both the way I view the world and how I think about that world from that viewpoint. I'm a patterns person. They provide me with new patterns and force me to invent new patterns just to survive -- and that's worth a lot.

Quote:
I was amused by your answer above regarding playing Bang!...


Ha!
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J C Lawrence
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Coyotek4 wrote:
1) Among train games: Pick your top 5. (Expansions count as seperate games.)


The numbering is questionable:

1) 1860
2) Pampas Railroads
3) 18C2C
4) Wabash Cannonball
5) Age of Steam: Denmark

Games I'm extremely hopeful of but haven't played yet:

-- 1873 Harzbahn (just missed my opportunity)
-- 1848 Australia

Quote:
2) Among your Geeklists with less than 10 thumbs: pick your favorite.


They are all pretty much wastes of space, but probably, Martin Wallace -- Prairie Railroads series simply because I've spent a lot of time there lately researching the Early Railroad series.
 
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