So it’s been almost three years since I posted here. The place isn’t completely abandoned, though it does show quite a bit of dust, and the air is dry and slightly musty. However, a little cleanup and a new coat of paint and the old blog should be back in tip-top condition in no time. I’ve already hung the new “dansomeone.com” sign on the front door. Can the crowds of adoring readers be far behind? (Don’t answer that.)
Another smallish gathering. Jim, Jesse, JR, Jason, and me. Four J’s and a D, which sounds like a bad 90’s sitcom.
Game the First
We started with a 5P game of Colonia, which we played two weeks ago. We had thought it was a good game, and it plays up to six people, so we decided to give it another go.
It turns out – funny story – that if you actually read the setup instructions in the rules, the game is very different from the way we played it last time. And a lot better. Here are the things we didn’t do the first time around:
Each player should start with 5 [units] of each of the game’s four currencies.
Each player should start with four randomly chosen resources.
Each player should start with one randomly determined finished good token.
The players have a number of family members (cubes) based on the number of players. With five players, we each got only 25 cubes instead of the full complement of 38.
Oops. When we first played, we had none of the starting money or materials, and we had all 38 cubes to use – which makes a difference, as we found. You may recall that you send cubes to take actions at the various stations during the week, and those cubes are unavailable until after that same action is resolved (with new cubes) the next round. When we played with all the cubes last time, there wasn’t really any cube pressure; nobody ever felt they didn’t have enough cubes to do everything they wanted, nobody ever had to leave resources unbought in the market, and nobody ever had to forgo their voting privileges in order to have enough cubes to send to the town hall in the first stage of the week.
Playing correctly, there’s a lot of tension about cube counts. Since you play a number card (from 3 to 8) at the beginning of the week to determine how any cubes you send to the town hall, leaving all your high numbered cards for the end can put you in a bind. As it happened, during three (or maybe four) of the six rounds, we had one player or another not voting because they had miscalculated how many cubes they would need to have left over at the end of the previous round.
Also, with starting resources and goods, it is possible to make some strategic decisions from the beginning – the resources you have may steer you toward some goods, the goods token you have may steer you toward a particular ship, and you may have a play on a relic in the first week (whereas last time we played, very little got accomplished in week one.
So in our first play we handicapped ourselves considerably on the materials side, while simultaneously giving ourselves a much easier time of it on the cube side. (Sorry, Joe, this means your previous victory will have to have an asterisk in Ye Offisial Recorde Boke.) Removing the “starting from nothing” aspect and putting meaningful limits on the number of cubes made for a much more interesting game. It was close until the last week when a combination of the available relics and fortunate speculation gave Jim the advantage. Final scores:
Game the Second
Jim and Jason both decided to call it quits after all that marketing, loading, and shipping activity. Plumb tuckered out, they was. Because we are idiots, JR, Jesse and I decided to learn a new game, a Polish economic game from 2012 called Mercurius. This is a straight-up economics/math game in which the players buy and sell shares of six different branches of the East India Company and six different commodities that the East India Company trades in. The meat of the game is in timing your purchases and sales, because the prices are always changing in semi-predictable ways.
Game play is simplicity itself. The share prices of the six company branches begin at a price of 10 [moneys]; the commodities begin at a price of 15 [moneys]. Each turn a player makes up to three “financial transactions” – each a purchase or sale of a share or a commodity token – and then plays a price change card to their personal board.
Each price change card affects one branch of the company and one commodity. For shares, the effect is either +1 or -1 on the main board; for commodities, it’s either +2 or -2, in the opposite direction from the share. Price change cards stay in play for three turns, which a player must take into account in making all decisions. Sell now, even though the price will go up again? Or wait and risk an opponent lowering the price? Purchasing and selling of shares or commodities is pretty basic, but if a player buys more than one of the same item (share or commodity) the price of each one purchased increases (+1 apiece to buy two; +2 apiece to buy three); and if a player sells multiples of the same item, the price decreases (-1 apiece if selling two; -2 apiece if selling three).
Each player also has three special cards that may be played once per game. Two of them substitute for all three of the player’s financial transactions that turn, and the third substitutes for a price change card. The Dividend card can provide an infusion of a small amount of cash; the Black Market card can avoid the multiple-sales penalty; and the News card can let a player clear undesirable price change cards from their hand.
Each player starts with 70 [moneys]. The game continues until the main deck of price change cards has been exhausted, after which the game goes two more rounds (with no card draws at the end of the players’ turns). At the end, all shares and commodities are sold for their full price on the board, and players total up their cash. Most cash wins.
I was fortunate, in that I got a handful of cards affecting one particular branch and was able to carry that branch long enough to declare a hefty dividend and then drive up the value to sell for a very sizable profit. That plus a reasonable diversity of other investments put me in the driver’s seat. Final scores:
Dan: 181 [moneys]
Jesse: 138 [moneys]
JR: 124 [moneys]
The game is a very mathy game, obviously, but we were all a bit surprised at how not-dry and not-dull the game was. There can be a lot of “take that,” as one price change card undoes the effect of another. The only strategy is “buy low, sell high,” but having to plan for three turns, and decide whether to wait to try to maximize value, or sell now to have cash, can be a complex decision. I think if it were a significantly longer game, it might have become a drag, but there was a point when we all realized, “Hey, the deck is getting quite low. This game is almost over. Uh-oh.” It moves pretty quickly, and I think it would probably be just as fast – barring analysis paralysis – with twice as many players (it can take up to six), because the deck size is fixed.
And so we bid adieu to another game night. More to come next week.
On Monday, I finally got a chance to play Viticulturewith the Tuscany expansion(s). This one has hit the table at Game Night two weeks in a row – an unusual occurrence for any game – and I can see why. No in-depth report here (I’ve made you suffer enough for one post), but I enjoyed the game enough to want to play it again soon.
Chris Pratt put up a very funny post on his Facebook page, pre-apologizing for the stupid, offensive, or inappropriate things he might say during his upcoming promotional tour for Jurassic World:
I want to make a heartfelt apology for whatever it is I end up accidentally saying during the forthcoming #JurassicWorld press tour. I hope you understand it was never my intention to offend anyone and I am truly sorry. I swear. I’m the nicest guy in the world. And I fully regret what I (accidentally will have) said in (the upcoming foreign and domestic) interview(s).
I am not in the business of making excuses. I am just dumb. Plain and simple. I try. I REALLY try! When I do (potentially) commit the offensive act for which I am now (pre) apologizing you must understand I (will likely have been) tired and exhausted when I (potentially) said that thing I (will have had) said that (will have had) crossed the line. Those rooms can get stuffy and the hardworking crews putting these junkets together need some entertainment! (Likely) that is who I was trying to crack up when I (will have had) made that tasteless and unprofessional comment. Trust me. I know you can’t say that anymore. In fact in my opinion it was never right to say the thing I definitely don’t want to but probably will have said. To those I (will have) offended please understand how truly sorry I already am. I am fully aware that the subject matter of my imminent forthcoming mistake, a blunder (possibly to be) dubbed “JurassicGate” is (most likely) in no way a laughing matter. To those I (will likely have had) offended rest assured I will do everything in my power to make sure this doesn’t happen (again).
Funny, right? Well, The Mary Sue thought so too, and laughed along at Pratt’s forward-thinking approach and his jab at the uproar caused by some of the cast of Avengers: Age of Ultron in their press junkets. But I think The Mary Sue misses a significant part of Pratt’s point. He may be making fun of himself and the AoU foofaraw, but he is also taking a fairly pointed jab at the Outrage Beast that lies in wait for celebrities on press tours, waiting for them to make a misstep and say something ill-considered or unwise, so it can pounce on them and do its best to rip them to shreds.
How do I know The Mary Sue missed this point? Because after lauding Pratt’s humor, the column goes on to say:
That said, I hope he doesn’t actually think this apology lets him off the hook if he does screw up. The point of apologizing is that you know exactly what you’re apologizing for, and can be very specific both about what you did, and to whom you’re apologizing. Instead, I hope that this humorous pre-apology means that, despite exhaustion or a need to entertain the folks around him, that he’s planning on being a little more mindful of what he says; that he’s thinking about that in advance, too – not just about preemptively covering his own butt.
In other words, “Very funny, Mr. Pratt. But we’ve got our eye on you. And if you step over the line, we are prepared to let loose the Outrage Beast.”
Look, it’s easy to offend people inadvertently, and when it happens, the right thing to do is to apologize. But The Mary Sue’s commentary suggests that the site is actually looking for excuses to be offended, or at least is ready to be very quick on the trigger. And worse, is completely oblivious to the fact that such eagerness in the media is what Pratt’s post was about.
I am kind of interested in whether Jurassic World will be any good, given that I thought the original Jurassic Park was tolerable at best. And I wish Chris Pratt eh best of luck navigating the minefield that his press promotional tour has undoubtedly become. (Projected example question: “Why do you think they made the big bad dinosaur female?”)
There has been a lot of discussion this week about the end of last Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, titled “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.” I have been thinking about it, so why not throw my own two cents into the shark-infested waters? Warning: Long post with spoilers.
A small group. Apparently, people have Other Things to do sometimes. Slackers. Anyway, we started with Julie, Jesse, JR, Ocean, and your humble narrator, so we needed something that would work with five people. We settled on an old favorite, Keythedral from Richard Breese. The “Key” series includes some absolutely fantastic games, and this is one of the best.
In Keythedral, the residents of a medieval town want to build a cathedral, and naturally, contributing to the construction is a way for wealthy families to gain prestige and lord it over their rivals. So they send out workers to gather resources from the fields use those resources to buy pews in the cathedral. Early on, pews are cheap, but as the building progresses, they become fancier and more prestigious. At the end, whoever has built the pews with the highest total value will win the game and the right to sentence the other players to death. What? Don’t you play that way?
Never mind. The game begins with the players, in turn order, choosing a terrain tile at random, placing it on the board, and then placing one of five numbered cottages in the spaces between terrain tiles. Each player will wind up placing five terrain tiles and five cottages, and the resulting map will define the rest of the game.
Once the tiles are played, the game really begins. Each round, each player in turn will choose a number fro 1 to 5 (as available) and send a worker from their cottage of the corresponding number out into one of the fields adjacent to that cottage. So if the starting player chooses cottage #3, then each player will put a worker on an empty terrain tile next to their #3 cottage. When everyone has sent the appropriate worker, the next player chooses one of the remaining numbers and the process repeats, and so on through the fifth cottage number. Depending on the setup and the order of play, it is entirely possible – and all too easy – to be unable to send out a worker because all of the terrain tiles adjacent to the called number were filled with workers from prior players’ choices. This would be “F You Play #1.”
When everybody has placed all the workers they can place, everybody collects resources from the terrain tiles their workers occupy. There are five different terrain types, corresponding to five different basic resources (black, brown, green, red, blue – this is not a colorblind-friendly game). Hopefully, the players have planned well to get the resources they will need in the next phase.
Once all resources have been collected, the players, in turn order, take actions one at a time. Actions generally mean buying something in exchange for appropriate resources. The lowest rank of pews, worth four points each, will require a combination of two resource cubes. The higher up the cathedral the game progresses, the more the pews cost. Each pew takes a different combination of resources, and it is possible to plan to buy one only to see someone ahead of you in turn order snap it up. Aka “F You Play #2.” Since everybody’s resources are hidden, you may not be able to keep track of who is in a position to beat you to a prize.
Other actions allow the players to build a house – flipping over a cottage so that in the future, that number will send two workers to different terrain tiles. (Not guaranteed, of course; it is entirely possible for that number to be called after all the potential target tiles have been occupied. Or players can build fences between an opponent’s cottage or house and a terrain tile, preventing that opponent from sending a worker to that tile (“F You Play #3”); or they can remove a previously placed fence by spending two red cubes (wine – get the neighbor drunk enough and he’ll tear down his own fence); purchase a luxury resource cube – iron, cloth, and gold are all generally needed to build the upper pews; or they can buy one of two law cards available each round to get one of several one-time bonuses to use at some point in the game.
As soon as the last pew is taken, the game ends. Pew values are added up, along with some points for leftover resources, and the highest number wins the game. In our case, Ocean ran away with it with 55 points; JR had 45; and the rest of us tied at 44.
Ocean and Julie left, leaving JR, Jesse and myself. We had been eyeing a new game JR brought, so out it came: The Mystery of the Templars. It’s a very pretty game with lots of quality fiddly bits, and a beautiful board.
Did I mention lots of fiddly bits? Yeah.
The game is about Knights Templar trying to rescue (aka steal) relics from the Holy Land, transport them to Europe, and then, once the anti-Templar heat is turned up, move them to one of four havens in the distant corners of Europe. Starting from small holdings in Jerusalem and Acre, the players are meant to purchase buildings in cities around Europe where they can store goods, display relics, and recruit more knights.
The flow of the game is a little tricky to grasp. The game runs fifteen-plus rounds in three periods. Each period is five rounds (the plus is for endgame stuff that we didn’t get to… more on that in a moment), and during each round, the players will: assign knights to escort missions and excavation missions; optionally buy goods; deal with two events; load, move, and unload transports; and do a bunch of things in preparation for the next round.
We didn’t finish the game. We got just over 1/3 of the way through it before giving up. It was getting late, the rules are not terribly clear in many places and – as it turns out – the order in which events come up can make for a very slow developing game. Here’s why.
Each player starts with small holdings in Jerusalem and Acre.
Focus on the stuff in the middle of that picture. The “1” in a gold circle is my chapel, which can hold, at most, one relic. The middle building, with a stack of hidden tokens on it, is my Domus, which can hold up to six tokens (which may be coins in any of several denominations or goods). Finally, on the right is my castle, which can hold two knights. This is very limited space, but there is nothing I can do about that until I can buy a building in one of the European cities elsewhere on the board. Each city has two buildings, which can be of any of those three types. You want to buy buildings that match your needs – e.g., if you have several relics and want to display them, you will need more chapels.
Unfortunately, you can’t buy buildings in any of the provinces except when an appropriate event comes up during the events portion of the round. In the first period (five rounds), there are two event cards that permit purchase of buildings. The cards come out two at a time, so you don’t know when the card will come that activates a couple of provinces, at which time you can buy buildings for 3 coins apiece – if you have the coins sitting in your home Domus; or the other card that lets you buy buildings in active or inactive provinces. Worse, you can’t sell goods that you have transported from the Holy Land until you have a Domus in Europe. In our game, the cards came up late in the first period, so we were stuck with goods sitting on the board (having transported them somewhat speculatively). JR was the only one who spotted the one place in Europe you can sell goods without a Domus: Marseille. As a result, when the province activation card finally came up, he was the only one who could afford to take advantage of it and establish buildings in European cities. For Jesse and me, who had gone a completely different – and futile – direction, the game was frustrating and pointless.
Had we fully understood how buildings become available, and that Marseille is the only way to make money while waiting for that to happen, it might have been less frustrating (although again, since the events come out randomly, it is possible to get a situation where nobody can buy a building until 1/3 of the game has gone by; I’m not sure that’s a great feature). Also, since the event cards that make buildings available are keyed to specific provinces, it would have been nice to know which provinces were going to be affected during the first period. Speculation is not a path to success in this game.
I think there’s a good game in here somewhere. Its theme is very well-integrated, and the mission and transport mechanisms are (while fiddly and complex) interesting. Overall, while not impressed by the one play, I think it has potential, and would give it another shot.
This post is music-related, so it’s going to stand in for Friday Finds this week. The excellent news is that I found out how to get music from my library at home onto my new phone. Oh sure, it’s so simple that actual blocks of concrete can do it, but the point is I never did it with my old phones, so I had to ask the Internet how to do it.
Of course, I have 13,000 tracks sitting in my music library, and picking the subset to transfer over is a time-consuming process. But I need them there to be able to make ringtones from them, so I’ll make the sacrifice. I’m so brave, I know.
Oh hey, I haven’t told my erstwhile compatriots yet, but I’m thinking of rebooting The Coffee Thing this weekend. I should probably tell them, huh? I just want a reason to visit Bad Wolf again before it goes away at the end of the summer.
I got a new phone today, upgrading from a Galaxy S4 to an S6. I decided against the S6 Edge, because I couldn’t think of how I could extract $100 in additional value out of that beveled edge. Oh, you can program in five people with a different color each so if your phone is face down on the table, and one of those five people calls you, you’ll be able to tell from the color showing along the edge which one it is? Wow. Our long national nightmare is finally over.
Anyway, I had forgotten (since it’s been two years) what a pain in the ass it is to switch phones. Even though 90% of my account stuff was in the cloud, and even though Samsung has a nifty app for transferring data from an old phone to a new one, some stuff – including all my ringtones – got left behind, which really sucks. Also, I activated Yahoo’s Aviate launcher, which is nice, but I’d like to turn it off for a while to use a different one… and there seems to be no way to do so. The instructions on Yahoo’s site don’t work.
So I’d say my life is pretty much ruined at this point. On the other hand, it’s almost Friday.
Yesterday was National Cocktail Day or something of that nature, so before midnight, I put together a variant on my variant on an Old Fashioned (which I call a New-Fangled, of course). I didn’t have simple syrup, so I improvised with some candied lemon peel and some of its associated lemony sugar crystals. Not the most successful adaptation.
For those who wish to know how to make a real New-Fangled, here’s the recipe:
1-1/2 oz. aquavit
1/2 oz. simple syrup
a dash or five of Aztec Chocolate Bitters
serve over rocks, garnish with some variety of citrus peel
Proportions of aquavit and simple syrup may be adjusted to taste. I usually try to tone down the sweetness, seeking that perfect balance with the caraway flavor of the aquavit. (By the way, I am using North Shore Distillery‘s really lovely aquavit. I haven’t ever had the spirit before, so I can’t really compare it to anything, but I really like it.)
The New-Fangled can also be made with honey or ginger syrup instead of the simple syrup. Each variety has a distinct flavor profile, and they’re all excellent (if I do say so myself). My preference is ginger syrup, but I don’t have any of that around.
Once again, boys and girls, it’s time to recap what games got played last night. And by whom.
Ken showed up first, then Jim. The three of us began with Lost Legacy: The Starship, a card game from the designer of, and along the same lines as, Love Letter. Players are dealt a single card, and one additional card is placed face down beside the deck as the “Ruins”. On a player’s turn, they draw a card from the deck and then play one of the two cards they are holding. Each card has an effect – some of them may eliminate an opponent, or allow the player to look at opponent’s hand, the deck, or the Ruins, and so forth. If all of a player’s opponents are eliminated, they win. Unlike Love Letter, though, Lost Legacy has an endgame phase that comes up if more than one player is still in the game by the time the deck runs out: Investigation, in which players try to find the Lost Legacy. If a player finds it, they win; if not, everybody loses. There’s some deductive reasoning and cardplay strategy, and a lot of “Oh, shit” when you get caught with the wrong card in your hand. We played once with the base game, then broke out the Second Chronicle: Vorpal Sword & Whitegold Spire expansion, which adds two completely different decks (cards with different effects). Whitegold Spire also has a different victory condition, with a point scoring system. The decks can be mixed and matched to customize the game. It’s a fast game, suitable for multiple repeat plays in a single sitting. We played three or four times in about 30 minutes.
Next we set up Orcs Orcs Orcs, from Queen Games (and whatever you do, don’t ask Jim the story of his ordeal in finally getting it, unless you like twitching eyes and head explosions). The game is primarily a tower defense game: players are wizards standing atop a hexagonal tower, trying to take out goblins, orcs, and other nasty critters before they can get into the tower. It’s also a deck-builder: each player starts with a deck of eight cards, drawing a hand of four at a time, and can add more powerful cards – heftier attack spells or useful support spells – over the course of play. Each turn, new monsters enter the field, and the wizards move around the tower trying to do enough damage to defeat them. Players collect defeated monsters, which will be worth points at the end of the game. If a monster gets into the tower, the point value of that type of monster decreases; and if it gets into the tower on a side occupied by a player’s wizard, that player loses one of his previously captured monsters of the same type.
It’s a pretty fast-paced game, very simple to learn. There’s not necessarily a lot of “take that” interaction, but players can snap up spells their opponents want, or block their opponents from getting to a particular side of the tower. There are also randomized events that affect which monsters advance on the tower and may also screw up your plans for the round (e.g., by prohibiting wizards from relocating on the tower).
We played with an optional expansion that gives each player a secret goal to earn bonus points at the end of the game. Mine was that I would get three points for every four monsters I captured – which gave me incentive to go after a lot of the low-level/easy-to-beat monsters (goblins and orcs), which of course are worth fewer points.
In the end, Ken wound up being able to capture way more of the highest-value monsters and won going away. Overall impression: I want to play this again, now that I have seen how the cards work together. I think it’s a great game for younger players too. Jim has played it with his kids, and reports that they have had a blast with it.
While we were playing, JR, Jesse, and Julie arrived and played Valley of the Kings, a set collection card game. I watched the end, in which Julie apparently ran away with the victory.
Now we had seven, so we had to split up. Instead of a 4-3 split, though, Ken and Jim decided to play Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, a two-player strategic area control/war game that Jim and I have set up twice but never actually played.
The rest of us played one of JR’s recent purchases, Dirk Henn’s 2009 game Colonia. This one is fiddly, but quite good. Each player – it can play up to six – represents a family trying to acquire valuable religious relics. The game is played over six rounds, each round representing one week. Each week, each day from Monday around to Sunday is associated with a different action. Monday is the turn setup. On Tuesday, players play one of six cards numbered 3 through 8 to decide turn order for the week. On Wednesday, they collect resources, which get exchanged for goods on Thursday. The goods are loaded onto ships on Friday, which sail on Saturday, providing players with money. The money is used on Sunday to purchase relics – which are virtually the sole source of points in the game.
The really fiddly bits are: the number of goods that will be produced by craftsmen on any given Thursday is limited; only one to three of the four available ships will sail on Saturday; the money comes in four different currencies – each ship will pay in one of them; and each relic can be purchased with only one of the currencies.
At the end of the sixth week, everybody adds up the point values of the relics they managed to purchase. (It may also be possible to purchase a shrine along the way, which will double the value of one relic.) The player with the most remaining money in each currency will get a corresponding stained glass window worth two points.
This is not a high scoring game. Joe won with 11 points; JR had 10, and the rest of us had 8. There’s a high degree of randomness in the game – random resources in the market; random number of goods requests that will be filled; random available ships; and random available relics. It makes the game very unpredictable and hence more tactical than long-range strategic. There’s no engine to build; you try to match what you can get to what is available on the board for the week. Some thought has to go into deciding when to make a play for top of the turn order. Because of the way ties are handled in that phase of the game, it is possible to wind up going very late in the turn order despite using a high-value card; and conversely, it is possible to end up going relatively early with a low-value card. There’s enough mental juggling the players have to do – figuring out the resources -> goods -> ships -> relics cascade – that there is some risk of analysis paralysis. It works well with five players, albeit a bit long; as many as six can play, but that might be a tad too many. Overall, despite a certain level of fist-shaking frustration, I had a good experience with it and would definitely play again.
I have been having trouble keeping to my proposed bloggination schedule. For example, I haven’t come up with any recent music discoveries to justify a Friday Finds; and Sundays are supposed to be for political/current events rants cogent analysis, but I have yet to come up with anything in that realm that inspired me enough to write about. The only consistent blogging I’ve done – if you consider three weeks in a row the height of consistency WHICH IT TOTALLY IS – has been the Game Night Recaps every Wednesday.
So I have decided to throw off the chains I forged for myself – and the low-level anxiety that comes from failing to stick to it – and just try to put something up every few days, with the GNRs on Wednesday being a regular touchpoint.
I think I have a gee-whiz tech thing for tomorrow, so don’t touch that dial!
Also, I changed the theme, which you certainly will have noticed if you read this far.