Sunday, July 30, 2006

If It Doesn't Hurt, You're Not Doing It Right

So many casual gamers seem to play games as a mere exercise, or just to kill time. They would never think of trying to steal your city in Carcassonne or blocking your route in Ticket to Ride. Many lighter games have enough luck that such play styles go unpunished.

But where's the fun in that?

For me--with most games--the fun is not the challenge of the mechanics, but of the opponents. They are trying to win, and trying to keep me from winning. If my opponent is not going to make my choices difficult, he is not doing his job.

The best games are the ones where I go, "Ouch! What a great play!" Do I block you, and sacrifice my own position? Or do I ignore you, and do what's best for me tactically? Can I do both?

A game cannot be great unless it has tough decisions. Opponents cannot be worthy unless they present those tough decisions to you. Do them a favor and give them the same consideration. Make them earn their victory. A game well-played is a win for all players.

[Princes of Florence image by Silke und Andre.]

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Recent Gaming

Saturday was game day. I finally managed to get 5 players together at the same time. From my previous session report, they were eager to play...

Shadows Over Camelot: We played this twice--once as a learning game without a traitor for 3 new players, and a second time as a real game. For the real game, we shuffled only 6 loyal cards plus the traitor. From the learning game, everyone understood what a traitor might do. The cries of "traitor!" were flying around the table in jest at every suspect action. Near the end of the game, I had my suspicions narrowed down to 2 players, but did not have enough evidence to accuse. The party was defeated by evil, and the real traitor was none of my choices! He observed that the party was doing poorly enough that all he needed to do was pretend to over-react to every situation, and simply waste time moving around rather than actually help any quests. I suppose we attributed it to being new. Let him try that again! Everyone had a great time with this one.

Manila: I had just played through a solo game the day before, but was eager to teach it. Manila is rather mechanics heavy, and the disorganized rulebook doesn't help either. Being the only one who knew anything about the game, I was also the only one willing to bid up the Harbor Master on turn 1. I bought a share of nutmeg, and ended the round with only 7 pesos. No one was quite sure what to think of my actions. I passed up the HM on the second round and played conservatively to accumulate some cash. As the values of goods increased, players started to catch on that buying a share is very important. By the third and fourth rounds, the bidding became more intense. Players were also seeing the subtleties of where and when to player their workers. More than once, cheers (and groans) erupted as the dice sent the punts to Manila or to the shipyard. Overall, a very good time. It was so-so for one player. Did I mention this game has the coolest freakin' coins?

Masons: With game day over, I went back to playtesting some of my newer games. I had Masons on the table when Mary Ann walked in. "Ooh! Let's play that!" You don't have to ask me twice. The mechanics are very simple. The cards take a couple of times to get used to. More than once we got the "outside of all cities" property backwards. Undo! Undo! I was worried just a little by all the talk on BGG about the randomness. Sure, there are cards worth more than others at any given point, but that didn't bother me at all. There is so much mitigation potential in this game. I just loved it. Some cards have fixed value(s), so you use them when/if their conditions are met. Some are worth more early on, and some are worth more later. If you hold on to the former too long, or player the latter ones early, that's your own problem. If you have mediocre cards, choose not to score, discard one, and draw 2 new cards. Then you will likely be in last place and can get rid of a bunch of cards you do not like. I think the randomness in Masons is perfect for a light game.

Kreta: The next day I was playtesting Kreta, and again Mary Ann walked in and wanted to play. "Remind me to setup new games more often," I said. Kreta is a fairly elegant design. Even with the German names on the cards, it only takes about 2 scoring rounds to understand what they all do. The (translated) rules are not the best in their explanation of provinces with 7 figures, or the use of Abbots, but overall are good. Kreta is a very fluid game. As the current and subsequent scoring locations are competed for, players shift their Villagers, Abbots, and Ships around the board, and agonize over building fixed Villages and Forts. The power of scoring (playing the Kastellan card) is somewhat balanced by the fact that it costs you a turn. I think I triggered scoring 8 of the 11 times. My early lead of about 9 points slowly eroded. The game came down to the timing of the final scoring. I could have scored for a tie, but chose to use the Feldherr (Commander) card to move 3 Villagers into the scoring provinces. Mary Ann could not counter this to keep the tie going. Again, we had a blast.

Overall, a great series of games, and a lot of fun for all. I'm looking forward to getting more of my newer games out.

[Shadows Over Camelot image by Ted Torgerson.]
[Manila image by fungry.]
[Masons image by Moviebuffs.]
[Kreta image by garyjames.]

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Making the Most of BoardGameGeek

There are five big reasons I can think of that people would use BGG: entertainment, community, altruism, research, buy/sell/trade. How can you make the most of your time at BGG in each of these areas?


This is perhaps the most difficult one. Everyone has their own idea of a good time. For sheer humor, you can read GeekLists and some Session Reports, or hang out in some of the subforums.

If you just enjoy reading various content, similar to reading a newspaper, add the GeekLists, Forums, Game Forums, and Image modules to your front page. If you want to see content that other users have given "thumbs up", then select the Hot view. If you want to see content chronologically as it was submitted, then select the Recent view. If you want to see content chronologically based on the latest post, then select the Active view.


BGG is part of an incredible community of gamers: young and old, serious and casual, euro and war, and of all nationalities and professions. The community is in constant contact through the writing and reading of content at BGG, other boardgame sites, blogs, and podcasts. I don't think it would be too far-fetched to say that BGG is the hub of most of this activity.

Even if you do not use the excellent GeekChat interface, there is still the sense of community because of the content that is constantly streaming into the site. You can click refresh every minute of the day or night and see new stuff.

You can ask questions about game rules, and be answered (in some case, by the designer) within an hour. You can post a comment, thought, or suggestion, and get immediate feedback.

You can participate in online games of Euphrates & Tigris and Auf Heller und Pfennig, and Werewolf.

Users each have an online identity through the use of avatars, badges, supporter bar, tags, flags, and the recently-added micro-badges. User profile pages are overflowing with information. BGG also supports GeekMail.


People submit content for many reasons: to rave about their favorite game, to hype up a game on the horizon that they are excited about, or simply to provide information that someone else can use. This type of content is not just limited to reviews and session reports. It also takes the form of users' game collections, ratings, and comments.

Other types of altruism occur in the forms of GeekMod, GeekGold tipping, and forum feedback. Which game should I get? What's the name of this game? Where are the rules for Ticket to Ride? How do you break ties in Samurai?


If information exists about a game, it's either on BGG, or BGG has a link to it. Whether you are looking for information on a specific game, or looking for a non-specific title, BGG is the place to start...and probably to finish.

Dive into the content. Read all the game stats: name, designer, publisher, playing time, number of players, ratings, weight. Read personal comments, reviews, sessions reports, general discussion, rules questions, variants, news, and rules. Look at images and files.

Get some GeekBuddies. Don't just add your friends or users you like. Add users whose opinions are useful to you--good or bad. For any game you can find someone who loves it, and someone else who hates it. The important thing is how those users match your tastes, or how well those users put their opinions in context for you. A carefully-constructed GeekBuddy list makes the Analyze feature very powerful.


I don't do anything myself in this area, but it is quite active. The front page has modules for: eBay, GG Auctions, Marketplace, Trade Forums, and Trade Geeklists. Each game page has a Marketplace module as well. As with eBay, users are able to rate their experience with other users. For out-of-print and otherwise hard-to-find games, this is a great place to look.


Support BGG. It's Aldie's full-time job. Throwing a few dollars his way means nothing to you, but means a lot to him and the community.

Use feeds. BGG is somewhat a victim of its own success. There's too much information for anyone to digest it all. BGG offers direct XML and BlogLines links on game pages, user profile pages, as well as individual forums. Using feeds, you can get a single-page summary of all new material for the topics/games/users of interest to you. This eliminates the need to poll 100 places on BGG every day looking for new things. Note that this does not completely replace the value of "BGG surfing".

Take the road less traveled. Do not take the opinions of others as your opinion. Use their information, and make your own choices. Do not only look at the 50 top-rated games. Do not dismiss a game because it has a certain mechanic, or is designed by someone whose games you generally dislike. Make informed choices. Be willing to spend the time learning about games different from your normal selection. Ask someone to teach you a game you do not know.

Know your gaming group. If you are one of the people who buys games for your group, use your group's taste to help make decisions. I would rather play a game that's a "7" for me and have a great time, than a game that's a "9" for me and have a mediocre time.

May all your Meeples be red.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Second Game Order Has Arrived

I am again happy to report that the second of 2 packages has arrived. I placed the order with Games in a Box on Thursday and it arrived on Wednesday. The games are: Masons, Mykerinos, and Vinci. This was my first order using this vendor. I chose them because they were the only ones still carrying new copies of Vinci.

To my initial dismay, the UPS driver handed me a box that looked like it had come from a war zone. The top was crushed at least 2" (5cm) causing one side to buckle. There was a large grease spot on one side like the bottom of an old pizza box. And there were what looked like bullet holes in one side. I would not have been surprised to see scorch marks.

I quickly opened the box, and dove into the foam peanuts checking for casualties. Fortunately, all 3 games were perfectly intact. There was also no sign of damage to anything inside the boxes. And like my first order, everything was in good shape and nothing was missing. Hurray! Things of note:

Masons: My initial count showed that I was missing 3 houses of every color. I thought perhaps the rules were including the palaces in the house count. Then I realized that 60/5 is 12, and not 15. Thump!

Mykerinos: The rulebook background is incredibly annoying. It's like trying to read a palimpsest. Perhaps it came back from the printer a little more pronounced than they had hoped? The tiles are really nice. I had expected thicker cardboard, maybe like Samurai tiles, but these are like Carcassonne tiles.

Vinci: The board is bigger than I expected. Very cool. If I could change anything, it would be to make the discs just the slightest bit thicker. While counting them out, I had a hard time picking them up from a flat surface, and I have small fingers.

[Vinci image by Debate.]

First Game Order Has Arrived

I am happy to report that the first of 2 packages has arrived. I placed the order with Boulder Games on Thursday and it arrived on Tuesday. The games are: Aton, El Grande, Goa, Kreta, Manila, Quo Vadis?, and Timbuktu. El Grande and Goa were the games that triggered this order, having just been re-released. Kudos to Rio Grande Games for doing this.

I am also very happy to report that this is the first time I have placed a large game order with not a single thing wrong! No box damage. No bent boards or rules. No missing bits (yes, I counted out every one). Not even a truly bad insert. Things of note:

El Grande: Ok, this game is huge. The board and cubes are much bigger than I expected. Very cool.

Manila: These are the coolest freakin' coins ever! Zoch could make a fortune selling these in various denominations for use in other board games.

[El Grande image by garyjames.]

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Movie Quiz Answers

Well, I didn't get much feedback on this one. They were either too difficult, or no one cared to respond. Either way, here are the answers:

1: doctor continue yesterday tomorrow
2: thirty packages ketchup
Big Daddy
3: waterfront explosion fake limp
The Usual Suspects
4: separated twins camp
The Parent Trap
5: stapler
Office Space
6: shrubbery
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
7: nuke space only way
8: stupid chocolate shrimp
Forrest Gump
9: lightning sand
Princess Bride
10: flux gigawatts
Back to the Future
11: red ryder
A Christmas Story
12: i got you babe
Groundhog Day
13: bishop monk curse mouse
14: boy death lady life
Harold and Maude
15: give me my detonators
Die Hard
16: bigger boat
17: pies fly organized
Chicken Run
18: droogs
A Clockwork Orange
19: nine percent top five
High Fidelity
20: we ate pancreas
Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Monday, July 17, 2006

I am not a monster!

I'm certain that at least one of the people in question in Tom Vasel's latest BGN post is me. I do not have a BGN account, so rather than take this to BGG and start another flame war, I'll post here. I welcome all feedback.

Apparently, this comment:
"Of the 10 BGG users who modded your review, 9 gave it 3 GG, and 1 gave it 1 GG. Or something like that. Personally, I would have accepted it for 1GG."
...and this one:
"Which is exactly why I would have voted for 1 GG. In my opinion, a "standard" review is written by someone who knows the game well, and is much more detailed. Your review is also bland in layout and is kind of cluttered. I don't mean to be critical, just to explain why it might be considered below average by many."
...among others, led Tom to make this remark:
"In two separate threads, new reviewers were told rather harshly that their reviews were not up to snuff ... in which a few very vocal people suddenly decide that their opinion is the actual opinion of the masses and make sure that they say so, loud and vocally."
...and this:
"...I a’m tired of seeing internet bullies push around new folk."
I believe Tom's rant is unfair and way over the top. At no point in any thread in which I was involved did anyone, including myself, get mean or intentionally try to tell new BGG users to go away. Two sentences with the intention to give fair constructive criticism (especially to someone who is asking for feedback) is no reason for vilification.

Tom feels strongly about what he said (or he would not have said it), just as I do when I post about controversial things, so I have to respect his opinion. But I feel it is painting a very unrealistic picture.

Those who know me better know that I am a nice guy and a fun person, albeit blunt. I help anyone on BGG who asks for it, whether it be with finding information, getting feedback on a games list, or even learning a new game. I have taught people who I've never met online before how to use BSW and how to play various games there.

I am not the owner of BGG, nor an admin, nor even anyone in particular there other than that I have been around about two years, and am pretty vocal about a number of things. My opinions are merely mine, and I enjoy the debates. If you think something I said was mean, please call me on it, and I will clarify. I promise you it wasn't intended to be mean. I sincerely feel like this whole thing came from out of nowhere, like I was helping an old lady cross the street and was arrested by the police for assault.

So please judge me on the whole, and not because of some quick misinterpreted comments in a single thread. I have nothing against Tom, nor those with whom I debated in the threads. I sent a private message to the user who said he "was leaving" trying to clarify my statements and to apologize that they offended him. He's apparently still around, but he has not replied to me.

Game on...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Learning Curves

The more you play a game, the more you understand it. In fact, each time you play it, your understanding of the mechanics becomes closer and closer to perfect. With light games, this may take only 1 play. With heavier games this may take many.

The blue line shows an understanding of the game increasing over time.

But does it really feel that way to you with heavier games? I know with games line Princes of Florence or Amun-Re, it feels more like a "curve" with many unusual bumps in it.

The red line shows perceived depth over time. This is how deep the game feels to you over time after playing many times. When you are learning a game, the depth is more about putting the mechanics together. The more you play and observe the results of your choices, the more you appreciate the intricacies. You perceive a new plateau of depth. This may happen more than once.

The shaded area shows the difference between your understanding of the game and the depth you perceive. When you first learn a heavy game, it looks complicated. After a play or three, you start to settle in to the game. At some point, something clicks and you see more depth than you originally thought.

This graph shows the original 2 curves, and the difference between them represented as a line. This matches my experience in many heavier games, and is something I appreciate quite a bit--the notion that working to understand the game will yield a richer underlying game.

Do your experiences match mine at all? If not, please elaborate. In what games does this kind of thing happen for you?

Friday, July 14, 2006

New Game Order!

My new game orders are on their respective trucks! I was unable to find one retailer that had all 10 games, so I split the order between Boulder Games and Games In A Box.

I was trying my best to wait for the release of Taj Mahal, but it keeps creeping away from my grasp. By then I'll have too many games to order at once. So I decided to go for it when El Grande and Goa showed up. The games will arrive next week!

Aton: I love 2 player abstracts. This one has multiple victory conditions and a semi-player-controlled end-game trigger. Yummy!

El Grande: I love San Marco, but some of my gaming opponents don't care so much for the "I cut, you choose" mechanic. I think this one could be a huge hit.

Goa: A heavier auction game that plays well with 2.

Kreta: A pretty and unique area majority game with multiple piece types, and player-controlled scoring.

Manila: I was waiting for Winner's Circle forever. When the comments started pouring in about the box, the colors, and the horses, I was on the fence. After reading the rules to Manila, it was easy to make the replacement. I will enjoy the heavier and higher quality game.

Masons: I read everything about this one, including the comments about the "heavy" luck factor in scoring cards. This would only be a factor for me if the game felts heavy. My intuition tells me that I can play this almost as a filler.

Mykerinos: 3 in a row from Ystari.

Quo Vadis?: I overlooked this one too long because of the simplistic looking board. The word "Knizia" on the box should have been a clue. Fantastic sounding negotiation game.

Timbuktu: The first time I read the rules, I didn't see where the game was. After following the reviews and sessions reports, it started to click, and I gave it another chance.

Vinci: The only game on this list that I have actually played. Each civilization having a pair of unique properties is a really nice system. The civ selection mechanism provides mitigation to "perceived" imbalance.

The following games are on my hot list and will be ordered around September:

ASL Starter Kit #1: I'm quickly becoming an ASL junkie. I've only played Scenario 1 so far, and it's not getting old yet. I've taught one person what I know, and am on the hook to teach two more. Fun stuff.

Antike: I'm kind of disappointed with the new bits, but I still find the game play compelling.

Die Macher: After Scott Nicholson's killer video review of this one, I am now considering picking up a copy, if only to hold it tightly and drool.

End of the Triumvirates: Played this once. Strange and unique game with asymmetry and 3 victory conditions.

Gheos: Incredible sounding game! Carcassonne-like tile laying and connectivity. Euphrates & Tigris-like kingdom formation, merging, and splitting. Martin Wallace-like system where all colors can be shared by all players. Go Z-Man!

Iliade: Another CCG-like "game in a box" that has an obvious Condottiere flavor.

Medici: Knizia classic that is accessible to casual gamers.

Taj Mahal: My only 10. I want it now!

It's really been a great year for gaming. All the games I missed because I started too late are being reprinted. I'm finally catching up. And there are so many unique new games.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

4 Word (or less) Movie Quiz

Each line below contains up to 4 words that "uniquely" identify a movie. They may be obvious words from the movie, or in some cases, more subtle references. None of the words are names of the actors or the characters.

Good luck! No rewards for the first to get them all, except the awe and admiration of all.

1: doctor continue yesterday tomorrow

2: thirty packages ketchup

3: waterfront explosion fake limp

4: separated twins camp

5: stapler

6: shrubbery

7: nuke space only way

8: stupid chocolate shrimp

9: lightning sand

10: flux gigawatts

11: red ryder

12: i got you babe

13: bishop monk curse mouse

14: boy death lady life

15: give me my detonators

16: bigger boat

17: pies fly organized

18: droogs

19: nine percent top five

20: we ate pancreas

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Call Me A Content Cop

Call me a whiner. Whatever.

The new GeekMod system for reviews--which I am partly responsible for advocating--has become a haven for GeekGold whores. New users can now spend about 20 minutes typing random sentences and acquire 30 GG virtually overnight.

What is GeekGold for?

It is an incentive for users to submit content. Period. Before GeekMod, the admins had to approve all content of this nature. They were the sole authority on the value of submissions. Now the users are, and as a consequence, the threshold of quality has gone way down.

What is quality anyways?

A quality review can be written from many different angles. Most users put in a rule synopsis, a component overview, and thoughts on play. However, I've seen other types of equivalent value. For example: a review comparing one game to another, or a new version to an older one.

So where do we draw the line? I think a review should show some minimal amount of effort. I don't care what game it is. Ten sentences is not sufficient. If a review would fit better as game comments, then that is where it belongs. It has more value and use there than as a thread in game reviews. Furthermore there is no acceptance subjectivity.

Personally, if I'm not willing to spend a thoughtful hour on a review, I would be too embarrassed to submit it.

What's the root problem?

The first problem is that the default reward for a review is 3 GG. I think too many GeekModders just blindly click ACCEPT without thinking much. This makes any review, no matter how short, tend to get close to 3 GG. The other related issue here is that GeekModders are allowing too many reviews through--ones that would not have made it through when the admins had control.

The second problem is that votes to decline a review do not count as a vote for 0 GG (I confirmed this with Aldie). If 50 people vote 3 GG for a review, and 50 vote to decline it, the reviewer gets 3 GG. This is absurd. This is why I suggested that we be able to accept a review for 0 GG. So now when I see a really pitiful review, I know it's going to be accepted. My best option is to accept it for 1 GG. The current system is seriously flawed.

The third problem is that users now know they can submit crap and that its chance of being accepted is very high. This promotes abuse, which creates GG inflation. If you are thinking, "So what? It's only fake money," then you can stop reading now.

Why do I care?

As the GeekMod system starts to lower its standards, the quality of submissions goes down. It becomes harder to find reasonable reviews in the noise. Every user will have an UberGeekBadge and disable ads using GG. I've spent 100's of hours on my contributions to get my badges. To see a user with a similar reward and virtually no effort is insulting.

It's not pride or ego. I suppose to some degree I am trying to assert my own levels of quality on others. I feel embarrassed on their behalf because they seem to have no shame. I'd like to at least see every submission up to the old standards of the admins. The group-think mentality of GeekMod is eroding this.

Some examples

Sorry to pick on specific users, but I want to make my point.

This review was submitted twice. It got 2.5 GG each time. GeekModders wake up! The second one was deleted, but the author still has 5 GG total for the two reviews.

This ridiculous review was accepted for 1.78 GG! Not only that, but an admin is defending it!

Other sample non-reviews: here and here.

Check out this review thread in which it is suggested that "nice guys" be allowed to submit crap. Ignore the usual thread-trolling pedantics [sic] of David desJardins.

What does a good review look like? Check this one out. I'm not suggesting that every user put in this much work. This is just an example of something that makes BGG a great place.

In summary

I call upon the powers that be at BGG to keep quality in check, and upon the users who submit content to have some self-respect. If you are only going to spend 1 minute typing a "review", please put it in your game comments.

[Edit: Excellent post by Eli Smith.]

Vote for Pedro

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Timbuktu: The Failed Theory

I read the rules to Timbuktu last year, and promptly filed the game in my mental drawer labeled "Not Interested". Either I truly would not like the game, or there was something that wasn't clicking. Since then it's been on my "Occasional Glance" list.

After reading this excellent review, I decided to give the rules another go. I think I have changed my mind. I can see the game here now, and I can at least imagine the fun of it.

But I didn't write this post to tell you this, or to plug the game in any way.

After reading the rules again today, I immediately asked myself, "Is it ever possible to intentionally give up a good (by moving to certain pens) and end up with a point swing in your favor?" This seemed like an interesting mechanic, if it indeed worked.

Certainly, you can increase your own result by doing so. The greatest area with a given perimeter is a square. So if you have more goods of a type (plus one) than have been removed, you can always increase your net points by "spending" one. For example, if you have 7 goods and 3 have been removed, you have 21 points. If you lose one (6 and 4), then you have 24 points.

Does this work relative to the other players though? Say we have 3 players holding a number of one type of good: A, B, and C. Let V be the number of goods removed (the value of the goods held by the players. Points can be calculated as:

Pa = AV
Pb = BV
Pc = CV

If A gives up a good, then A decreases by 1, and V increases by 1:

Pa' = (A - 1)(V + 1) = AV + A - V - 1
Pb' = B(V + 1) = BV + B
Pc' = C(V + 1) = CV + C

Now we take the difference between the new and old values:

dA = Pa' - Pa = A - V - 1
dB = Pb' - Pb = B
dC = Pc' - Pc = C

The only time we make a relative gain is if our difference is more than all other players' difference:

A - V - 1 > B, and
A - V - 1 > C

The 3-player game starts with each player having 7 goods, so this is true:

A + B + C + V = 21, or
V = 21 - A - B - C

Substituting, we get:

A - (21 - A - B - C) - 1 > B, and
A - (21 - A - B - C) - 1 > C

Which reduces to:

A + C > B/2 + 11, and
A + B > C/2 + 11

If we start with the maximum value for A (7), we get:

C > B/2 + 4, and
B > C/2 + 4

This results in the intersecting lines in the image. The solution set for the math is such that my theory works only when:

B > 8, and
C > 8

This is clearly beyond the limits of the real problem, so it is not possible. Replacing A with smaller values results in the lines crossing even farther away from the origin. The theory is a flop, but I think the game is not.

Interesting exercise. Is my math correct? Anyone have a more elegant solution?

[Timbuktu image by Ricchan.]

Monday, July 03, 2006


As anyone knows who reads this blog, I read a lot of game rules. I like to think that I can discover the essence of a game by doing so. However, for me there are 2 states of mind when playing a game.

The first is when I am thinking about playing the game, setting it up, or between turns. I suppose some might call this strategy, but for me it's more about the flow of the game.

The second is when it's my turn. This is what I call HeadSpace. It's when the metal meets the road. I know the goal of the game. I know the situation on the board. How do I get there? Do I take actions now to reach that goal? Do I take indirect actions? Do I invest now for a larger payoff later?

Great examples of this concept are the games Caylus and Torres. I rate them both 8.

In Caylus, I absolutely love the HeadSpace. There's some AP since you have to make sure you are going to have the resources for the things you are building (and in the proper sequence), but I tend to make my larger choices intuitively. Caylus would be a lesser game for me without this HeadSpace.

In contrast, I dislike the HeadSpace in Torres. I spend most of my time doing "what if" scenarios, multiplying and adding lots of numbers. It is very difficult to use pure intuition. However, I love the flow of Torres. As strange as it sounds, Torres would be a greater game for me without the HeadSpace.

What games have exceptionally good/bad HeadSpace states for you?

[Caylus image by auschwito.]

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Shadows Over Camelot: Travel Board

Don't ask me exactly why I did this. Just for fun? An attempt to strip all theme and aesthetics from the original game? To provide a way for people to play the game with minimal space? To prove that the game still works without all the over-designed components? Perhaps a little of each.

Here's what you need to play a complete game of Shadows Over Camelot using this system:
  • 8.5x11 printout of high-res image
  • all Black/White/Loyalty cards
  • 72 cubes
The cube breakdown is as follows:
  • 14 colored cubes, 2 per player
  • 24 black cubes
  • 34 white cubes
It is unlikely you will ever need to use all the cubes since every quest is not usually near full at the same time. Standard 8mm cubes fit nicely on this board. They can be found in many games. Of course, you don't need to specifically use black and white, but dark and light colors will help you remember which cubes are evil and which are good on the board.

I think the board is mostly intuitive. However, I will provide an overview of how to use each section:

General: Solo quests have a single knight icon. All others have 3 knight icons. Each quest has a legend showing the win/loss results. W = white sword, B = black sword, C = white cards, L = life point, SE = siege engine, and * = the relic of the quest. The 4 black arrows show where black cards are placed for the respective quests. Note that the board represents white cards in play using cubes, but the cards themselves must be kept in a pile beside the board until the quest is over. Do not mistakenly discard them or you will be changing the dynamics of the game.

Camelot: The knight icons are where a knight cube of each color is placed. The "Square Table" has space for 12 black/white cubes representing the swords. Place a single black cube on the Siege Engine track to show their number. Place the other colored cube on a row for each knight. The 1-6 die icons show the knight's health (4 is shaded as the starting value). The 3 relic icons are spaces to place the white cubes from their respective quests when a knight wins one or more of them.

Picts/Saxons: Place black cubes onto the Pict/Saxon symbols as the respective cards are drawn. Place and move a single white cube from 1 through 5 as you play White cards.

Excalibur: Place a single white cube on the Excalibur icon. If Excalibur is won, move the white cube to the Excalibur space of the appropriate knight.

Holy Grail: Place a white cube on the Grail icon. Place white cubes starting from the "win" space as Grail card are played. Place black cubes starting from the "lose" space as Despair cards are drawn. If the Grail is won, move the white cube to the Grail space of the appropriate knight.

Black Knight: Place a white cube on each 1-5 track indicating the value of the card played. Place a white cube on the 1-2 tracks indicating how many cards of that value have been played.

Lancelot/Dragon: Similar to the Black Knight. Place a white cube in the Lancelot's Armor box, and a black cube in the Dragon box. The single knight icon indicates that the Lancelot quest is a solo quest. The 2 shaded knights indicate that the Dragon quest can be occupied by all knights. The shaded boxes are only used for the Dragon quest. If Lancelot's Armor is won, move the white cube to the Armor space of the appropriate knight. Subsequently, the presence of the Dragon cube indicates that the Dragon quest has not been completed.

If anyone actually tries this thing, please let me know how it worked for you, and if anything needs tweaking. The sheer number of cubes needed to maintain all the information may be more cumbersome than the game itself.

Of course, another possibility is to print the board on cardboard and laminate it. Then you could use a grease pencil (or some other erasable marker) to place circles and filled circles in the spaces. This option would remove all 72 cubes from the requirements.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Family, friends, cliques, groups, age, sex, classrooms, careers, hobbies, sports, politics, gangs, religion, language, race, physical appearance, and nationality. Positive or negative, most things in our lives tend to polarize us, to set us against each other in some mental, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, or physical way.

In most cases, these choices are made for us at least partly by chance. Our family is obvious. Our friends may be chosen, but they are usually choices of local convenience. We form ties with people whom we learn with, whom we work with. We tend to adopt the sensibilities of our parents, friends, and neighbors, be that political party, religion, favorite sports teams, etc. We learn the language(s) of our parents.

All these things in our lives--chosen or assumed--we defend with a certain zeal that is a bit hypocritical. We improperly rationalize our stance. A person in the Red Gang defends it against the Blue Gang, not realizing that if he had been born 2 streets away, the situation would be reversed.

So at this time of the year in the United States with slightly increased thoughts of patriotism, I would urge you to remember what we are: a nation formed by people trying to escape various societies where they did not feel welcome, where they were persecuted, or worse.

Do not hide behind blind patriotic elitism. The fact that the country you happened to born in is the most powerful in the world (or any other appropriate superlative you care to insert) is not a reason to be proud; it was random chance you were born here. If anything, you should feel fortunate to live in a country that tolerates dissention.

Celebrate that. Celebrate freedom and diversity. You can do what you want, and say what you want. Don't you let 'em forget it.