Friday, August 30, 2013

Revisiting Cylon Leaders

The 3rd expansion for Battlestar Galactica came out recently and I got a chance to play a game of it today. We had 6 people, which isn't optimal for BSG, but they made even more tweaks in this expansion to try to balance things out more. A mutineer option which pits 2 cylons against 4 humans, but makes one of the humans particularly volatile and forced to either spend the game in the brig or take suboptimal actions every now and then. And a revamp of the cylon leader system. I really liked the idea of the cylon leader when it first came out, but the first implementation had some flaws. So I was eager to see what they'd changed and if it worked any better.

As initially released the cylon leader starts the game as a more powerful revealed cylon. They have abilities, drawbacks, and once per game abilities like any other character. They have the ability to 'infiltrate' the humans and go pretend to be a slightly weaker human character. They can take most of the standard human actions and can do what humans can do, like get thrown in the brig or play positive action cards. To direct the actions the cylon leader takes they would be dealt one of six agenda cards. Each card would indicate which side needed to win (humans or cylons) and extra conditions that needed to be met. The extra conditions were designed such that the cylon leader would want the humans to ultimately win the game but take a lot of damage along the way, or that they'd want the cylons to ultimately win the game but in a trickier way. The idea being that the cylon leader would need to both help and hurt the humans as the game progressed, making the game into a 2.5 v 3.5.

The problem was the extra conditions weren't actually well designed. A couple of them were really trivial, so the game would really shake out as a 3v3 or a 2v4 and not really be a terribly interesting game. It also felt like adding the cylon leader would make the game more fun for that specific person, but was worse for the other players. Possibly because having 1 in 6 or 1 in 3 games just be a blowout was terrible. (It's a similar reason to why I hate the 'extra loyalty card' rule added in the second expansion. Having 2 in 11 games get screwed with only 1 cylon just wasn't very fun when it came up even if it was slightly fairer in the long run.)

What did they do in this expansion? Well, instead of having one deck of 6 cards and giving the cylon leader a single card instead there is a deck with 14 motive cards and you get dealt 4 of them. 2 at the very start of the game, and 2 more during the sleeper phase when the rest of the players get their second loyalty card. Each motive card lists an extra condition on it, and a winning side. In order for the cylon leader to win they need to satisfy at least 3 of their 4 extra conditions, and among the conditions they satisfied they need at least 2 of them to list the correct winning side.

This changes a few things. For one, the cylon leader may not know what side they want to win the game from the beginning. In the game today I was the cylon leader and my initial two cards were a human wins card and a cylon wins card. If my next two cards were human wins then I couldn't have the cylons win the game. On the other hand if they were both cylon wins cards then I couldn't have the humans win the game. So I actually had to play the start of the game right down the middle. I couldn't let one side or the other get too far ahead or I might have no way to win. Assuming the deck is half of each type this situation will come up 54% of the time. On the other hand you'll double up 46% of the time, and doubling up may be really bad for game balance. Can the humans win if the cylon leader starts with a pair of cylon wins cards? I feel like it's going to be really hard for them, which may be terrible...

Another thing that changes is it becomes a lot harder for the other players to figure out what the cylon leader is trying to do. With only 6 potential options in the past it wasn't that hard to figure out the goal of the cylon leader by deduction. Now there are 1001 different options for what the cylon leader could hold. Maybe you could piece together one or two of them, but maybe not. This should make it harder for one side or the other to spite out the cylon leader, which I like.

The end result of the game today was I got dealt 2 cards for each side. I managed to achieve 3 of the 4 cards (and was really close to the 4th one) and the right side ended up winning so I won too. Woo! It felt more reasonable than most of my games with the old cylon leader rules. I spent the early game trying to keep either side from getting too far ahead, and trying to work towards the two conditions I knew about. In this case it was lowering population to 6 or less and making sure the humans jumped at least distance 7. So I was trying to keep the humans from falling behind early, but I was also trying to work over their population and was trying to slow them down once it really looked like there were no starting cylons.

But is it actually a good thing in the long run? I'll need to see it play out a few more times. In particular, I need to see what happens when the cylon leader gets dealt a pair of 'cylon wins' cards from the start. I also need to see how it plays out when I'm a regular player in the game with a cylon leader. Is it still the case where being the cylon leader is more fun, but being in a game with someone else as the cylon leader is less fun? Would it be reasonable to force the first two cards to be one of each, and then shuffle the remaining 12 cards up to deal out the last 2? This would certainly make it even harder for the cylon leader to win, but would prevent the blowouts I fear. Or maybe the conditions on the 'cylon win' cards are harsh enough that even with 2 of them at the start you need to play both sides? Only more tries will tell. At the very least I think it's worth future testing. Which is a step in the right direction, since using the old cylon leader rules was not very appealing to me.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Holdem Manager

I have a bit of an issue with the pursuit of perfection. If I'm going to do something I want to do it right! Unfortunately this often means that when I don't really know how to do it right I end up spending a lot of time thinking about doing things without actually doing them. Trying to get over that need is one of the reasons I started blogging (initially I wouldn't edit any posts at all because otherwise nothing would ever get posted) and it didn't kill me so I guess it's worked out a little bit at least? At any rate, trying to find the optimal option from a big list of confusing options tends to result in analysis paralysis for me, and nothing actually gets done.

That's where I am when it comes to giving poker a spin. There's a lot of different sites to play on, each with a huge variety of sign up bonuses. There's quite a few different stat tracking pieces of software. There has to be an optimal pair of site plus software that would be right for me. But how to find that out? Normally I'd turn to the internet and do some research but the internet is a little flawed here because most of the people posting about poker sites or software are getting paid to do so. Online poker has this whole crazy system of affiliates set up where the person who gets you to sign up for something gets a cut of what the something eventually makes off of you. And then those affiliates share some of that cut back with you. So the people who would normally be the ones talking about what is a reasonable thing to do end up being the people who make money if you listen to them. BLEH!

Earlier this week I decided to just say screw it. There may be an optimal solution but I'm not going to find it by reading books or the internet. So I picked a piece of software pretty much at random, installed the free trial, and went to play super low stakes to try it out. It didn't have a very good tutorial or anything, and it didn't seem to be working at all. It thought I was some other guy and couldn't detect a Ziggyny playing at all! Eventually I figured out that it gets the data it needs by reading log files and PokerStars defaults to not saving the log files. Turn that on and suddenly things started happening.
One of the many, many, many screens that HoldEm Manager has for stats. Of course this chart suffers from an incredibly small sample size. This was me just screwing around for a couple hours to get some sort of data and see what the software would do. I was even positive for a brief period of time! Woo?

More interesting was the stuff it was showing at the table itself. There was a screen with probably 30 numbers for each player, and I really need to figure out what those represent. But it also gave each person a little picture showing what the software thought of the way they were playing, and it would jot down notes about odd things they did. A fish, or a whale, or a mouse. It gave me a picture of a die.

The software also gives me a list of every hand I played, and shows the actions and results. It has an option where you can tag hands to look at later, which is nice.

I did have some issues with the software putting it's stuff over top of my cards. From one seat at the table I couldn't see my whole hand, which is a bit of a problem! I think I found a way to force PokerStars to always give me a specific seat when I sit down, which should help fix that problem. I know of at least one seat where I can see my hand properly!

Is this the software for me? Would PokerTracker or something else be better? Maybe! But I don't care! I have a starting point now, and the way to go from here is to learn how to use the one I randomly picked. Just having a path to walk along is the key, I think, and now I have one. Woo!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Game On 2.0

This summer a big video game exhibit came to Toronto and set up shop in the Ontario Science Centre. I got a chance to go check it out earlier this week and it was pretty interesting. A ton of consoles set up with games from through the ages. Combat on the Atari, Mario Kart on the SNES, Ocarina of Time on the N64. The last game ever put out on the Dreamcast. A really old punch card driven computer. Lots of cool stuff!

The very first thing they had was a set of Pachinko machines. They weren't plugged in/turned on/lit up and you couldn't try them out, but just seeing them brought back memories of my trip to Japan. I went looking for my pictures from that trip but it turns out I hitched my wagon to the wrong photo site back then. It would seem myphotoalbum doesn't even exist anymore, so all my captions and such are all gone. Boo! On the plus side I think I have a copy on an old laptop somewhere, and I'm a little motivated to find them now, so maybe I'll be able to dig them up.

The exhibit had a lot of video game systems, but unless I missed something I'm a little disappointed that I have at least two systems in my apartment that they didn't have. I can see skipping a Super Famicom since they did have a Super Nintendo and a couple of foreign games on other consoles but not having an Intellivision was pretty surprising. They didn't have a Colecovision either! They did have some other consoles with ridiculous controllers though, like an Atari Jaguar and a Neo Geo.

They even had a computer set up with World of Warcraft on it, and an account set up for the exhibit, which was pretty sweet. They also had a bunch of xBoxes set up to play, I think, 8 player Halo. A machine for Super Smash Bros Melee. A Kinect with a motion controlled version of Rez was pretty interesting too. They also had a gigantic virtual reality ball but the line to use it was going to be over an hour. I have a hard time with actual reality though, so I don't know that I wanted to get locked into a huge weird metal ball and roll around in a virtual world.

One thing I noticed is I apparently have a big gap in my video game knowledge. There were a bunch of games set up that I'd never played or even heard of. Not the old stuff... No, it's the stuff from '99 forward. I played more than my fair share of games while in University, but there it was mostly card games, board games, or SNES games. Josh used to get PlayStation games from StarCity so I did play a few somewhat recent games for a couple years, but even then it was just the subset of games Josh wanted to play. A very good subset, don't get me wrong (GALERIANS! GALERIANS!), but not a completely comprehensive one. So many games, so little time... And at the time, no money at all. And then after I graduate and started working I pretty much played World of Warcraft exclusively for many years. No regrets at all, just a little odd thing I noticed.

We also wandered around the science centre itself for a while. I'd never been there before, but it did remind me of the Crystal Palace Science Centre back in Dieppe. I wonder if that place still exists? Anyway, it was a lot like that, only way way bigger and cooler. And louder and brighter. And they have a Mars rock! Apparently there are fewer than 40 of them on the planet, and the Ontario Science Centre owns one of them. That's pretty awesome. They're apparently importing some leaf cutting ants from the rain forest. Or they will once customs lets them, anyway. They had plenty of cool experiments and things to play around with. A lot of it was clearly designed for kids, but I still really liked it. Maybe I'm just a giant kid. A giant kid with a freakishly large wingspan if I was a bird and a really high pulse. A giant kid with no endurance because man was I tired out after just 4 hours of walking around the place. And my feet hurt. Probably because I just bought new shoes and they aren't broken it/don't fit well/aren't very good? Which reminds me a lot of my trip to Japan, where I also had new shoes and where my feet also hurt a lot...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Black Cup Quarterfinals

My Human team has managed to win 5 straight rounds in a single elimination major tournament on FumBBL and is now into the quarterfinals. I have a game later today, between my team at 1860TV and a Wood Elf team sitting at 2270TV. As such I'm going to have 410k worth of inducements to buy before the game and I need to figure out how best to spend it.

My opponent has 14 people on his team, but none of them seem very scary. One of his wardancers only has tackle (and my team only has 1 copy of dodge) and the other one only has an extra movement and strip ball. My primary ball carrier has sure hands, so that doesn't bother me much either. He has a treeman with guard and grab who doesn't really bother me. I have a +AV lineman who can go play with the tree if I need to time him up. He has a super powerful thrower, but that's 180k worth of team value into a player that doesn't really do a whole lot. The best use for such a player is to hang back and then move the ball the whole length of the field, but if I induce a wizard I can make that move backfire since I have a catcher with 9 movement so I can probably get to the ball. He has a second, worse passer. Two players who are down both a movement and an agility, so they're like humans now. The big thing is that with 14 players my normal plan of squish some dudes and win with numbers is less likely to work.

On the plus side my team has really rounded into something solid. I have 4 players with an extra agility, so I can actually make some elf like plays of my own. A lineman with sure hands and block who carries the ball. My catcher with a move, an agility, wrestle and guard. A raw blitzer, and a skilled blitzer who has guard, mighty blow, and tackle. On top of that I have an ogre with block and a true killing blitzer with mighty blow, piling on, tackle, frenzy, and an extra armour to defend against the incoming fouls. A kicker with block and tackle. And two dirty players, though one is unfortunately missing this game and puts me down to 12 players.

I have that 410k to spend and need to figure out how best to do it. My default way to spend exactly that much money would be a chainsaw and 3 bribes. Especially against a low armour team, the chainsaw will do a ton of damage and the bribes would let me foul a lot. But my team has three guys with tackle, two of which have mighty blow, one of which also has piling on and frenzy. So the chainsaw probably doesn't get to blitz very often and is probably just on foul duty. He does get +3 to the armour roll, but nothing to the damage roll. A dirty player probably does more damage if I get a few assists. I'd also like a wizard, especially with his super thrower and my faux gutter runner. So an option would be wizard, chainsaw, bribe, babe. But is a bribe all that good compared to just another body? The bribe gives me a 5 in 6 chance to keep my guy around when he gets kicked out, but another body gives me the same guy around. So another option would be a wizard and two linemen with dirty player. That bumps me up to a 14 man roster and gives me 3 dirty players. Two of them would have loner, but dirty players don't take actions that can be rerolled anyway. And they could go play with the tree if they had to. I lose the babe this way, but other than the tree no one on the enemy team does real damage. One dirty player I guess, but he's not long for this world. Or I could get a wizard, one dirty player, and 2 babes. And in that case the dirty player could even be a thrower to pick up a second copy of sure hands just in case I lose my sure hands guy before he loses his strip ball guy. And having loner isn't so bad when you come with sure hands and pass!

Maybe what I should have done is recruited two linemen for cash dropping down to 310k in inducements and used that on a wizard and a dirty player but it's too late for that now. And I'm not sure I want the extra linemen going forward anyway.

Another option would be to get a wizard and Mighty Zug. He's basically a second Ogre with block and mighty blow but without bonehead. So that would give me 4 real hitters. If I could expect my opponent to not dodge away from them every turn that would be good. But maybe just forcing him to do so will prompt enough 1 rolls to eat up his rerolls and eventually give me the game. And he does have the two guys with only 3 agility who would be easy targets to mark and bash.

Still not sure what to do. Leaning towards wizard and two dirty players but I may well change my mind between now and 3 when my game is on.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Innovation Online

One of the neatest board games I've played in the last couple years is a little card game called Innovation. It has 105 cards representing technologies throughout the ages and it was mostly fun to see what cards were included and see what combos would randomly come up. But it seemed a little random. At WBC Pounder showed me a webpage for the game and I've been playing on it for the last month. The webpage has the base game and both expansion and with repeated plays (124 games on the webpage and counting) a lot of the randomness doesn't seem to be there anymore. There are good cards and bad cards to be sure, but when I first started playing I'd just use whatever cards I drew. Now I know enough to skip using some of the bad cards (or situational cards) and work towards something else.

At any rate, the webpage is awesome and you should check it out! It's on Isotropic.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bridge Match 2 - Board 15

Board 15 – Dealer South – NS Vul

Opponents convention card: Bridge World Standard 2001
Opponents playing strength: Intermediate

My hand: T 2 6 2 A T 9 8 7 3 K Q 5

I open a weak 2 diamonds. Partner responds 2NT. As I play it that should be asking me if I have a minimum or not, and to show a feature if I don't. With 9 points and a nice feature I think I'm good enough to bid something fun so I bid 3 clubs. Partner bids 4 clubs and I'm very confused. The best I can think of is he's cuebidding but skipped both majors so has nothing to show in those suits? I'm a little worried he thinks I was showing a long club suit and don't know what to do so I try to make the safest bid I can think of. 4 diamonds. Partner then bids 4NT which I decide is going to be Roman Keycard Blackwood 1430 for diamonds. I have one ace, so I bid 5 clubs. Partner then bids 6 diamonds which gets passed out.

After the auction I check out what all the alerted bids meant. 2NT was a relay, 3 clubs showed a feature, 4 clubs showed control in clubs for diamonds, 4NT was ace asking for diamonds, 5 clubs showed 1 or 4. So pretty much exactly as expected, except I'm really hoping he bypassed cuebidding the majors for some reason, since if he doesn't have control in those suits we're really boned in 6 diamonds.

West leads the 2 of clubs. 

A K 4
A J 5 3
Q J 6
A J 7

T 2
6 2
A T 9 8 7 3
K Q 5

West North East South
Pass2NT2 Pass 33
Pass44 Pass 4
Pass4NT5 Pass 56
Pass6 All Pass
1Weak Two
4Control in clubs for diamonds
5Ace asking for diamonds
6One or Four aces

Well, partner sure has the majors covered! I have 3 clubs, 1 heart, 2 spades, and 5 diamonds. I need one more trick from somewhere. The easiest place is picking up the diamond king. It may be the only place, actually. I can't ruff anything on board. If one of our hands had a 4th club we'd be gold, but that's not the case. I could conceivably score the J of hearts if West has both the K and the Q and is terrible, but beyond that I don't see how I avoid the heart loser. Maybe someone actually good at bridge will chime in on how I can force someone to guard both hearts and spades for some sort of squeeze but with only the 4 on board it really feels like they can both guard it if they have to.

Is there a better way to play diamonds than just finessing the king? Playing the ace first only works against a stiff king while finessing works against any K in East's hand (including half of the stiff kings). I really don't see any way around it. So my plan is win this club, finesse a diamond, and hope.

2-A-4-K. Over to diamonds. Q-3 of spades. Well, guess I'm down! I let West win the K and he fires out a heart. Do I engage operation: opponent is terrible? I don't see any other play. 7-J-Q-2. West doesn't ruff the return so I get to draw trump and claim down one. 

A K 4
A J 5 3
Q J 6
A J 7

8 7
K 9 8 7
K 5 4 2
6 3 2

Q J 9 6 5 3
Q T 4

T 9 8 4

T 2
6 2
A T 9 8 7 3
K Q 5

Half of the tables tried for slam (6 diamonds or 6NT) and all went down one. The other half played 3NT making up 2 or up 1. So we get 3MPs on the hand.

Captain Jack agrees with me all the way!

Ranking after board 15/60: 8/16 with 50.95%.

Friday, August 23, 2013

SolForge: Technosmith

According to Steam I've put 24 hours into SolForge so far, which is a pretty good number for me in a beta. I hate betas in general and this one is no better than average. Server stability is flaky, it's incredibly light on features, and a crazy launch day bug kept me from getting the starting cards for about a week.

Yet I keep playing every day in order to get my three daily bonuses. One for logging in, one for winning a game, and one for playing three online games. Some days my online time synchs up with James, Josh, or Jamie and I get to play my three games with people I know who's name starts with a J. Most days I play games against random people. And then beyond that I'll pop the game open and play games against the computer for fun to see how my deck runs.

It evolves with the free stuff I get every day and with experience playing the game and it's gotten to a pretty reasonable spot. I don't think I've lost a game against a random opponent online. I'm not sure how much that's saying, because I figure most of the people playing random opponents probably are doing so because they need the random reward and therefore have questionable decks. But even when I play against people I know, I find I'm winning almost every game that makes it to the late game. I get blown out by good fast decks, though!

I have a couple of brutally powerful cards that have incredibly weak first stages. A dragon that starts as a 0/6 wall and ends up as a 24/24 mobility 2 guy who hits all opposing creatures for 5 when it comes into play and a robot that starts as a 1/1 armour 1 dude and ends up as a 20/20 armour 10 dude. These are cards I find fun, so my goal was to build a deck that could survive in order to level them up a bunch and then draw the powerful versions.

The problem is by default you only draw 20 of your 30 cards each time through your deck. In order to resolve a tier 3 guy on turns 9-12 you need to have drawn it both of the first times through your deck and draw it the third time through as well. That's less than 30% for any specific card! And I don't exactly have a lot of super powerful cards. So when I was first getting started I kept finding that I'd play a 0/6, and a 1/1, and die. I wouldn't get the goodness of those cards, but I would get all the terribleness of playing terrible tier 1 cards.

I've added a few things to my deck to try to smooth things out. There's a 5/4 guy who draws you a card when you play him and I'm running 3 of those. It doesn't sound like much, but the 5/4 body is big enough to trade with most other tier 1 plays and the extra card is deceptively good. Assuming I play two of these guys I'm up to drawing 22 cards each time through my deck, not 20. On it's own that brings me up to about 40% of playing a specific card each of my first 3 passes through the deck. It's actually even better than that, since the tier 2 version of that guy draws you 2 cards when you play him and the tier 3 version draws 3 cards.

The other thing I've added to the deck is Technosmith, which I think may be my favourite common. It's a 2/2 guy at tier 1 which is pretty terrible but he can sometimes trade with things. The key to him is that when he comes into play I get to discard a card from my hand and level it up. This lets me skip the terrible tier 1 aspect of some of my best cards while still getting them to a better stage. 2/2 isn't good, but it's better than 0/6! His upgraded versions have reasonable bodies (8/8 and then 15/15) while continuing to let me level cards up. On top of Technosmith I have a legendary card which is a 1/9 that lets me discard a card every turn to level it up.

What is Technosmith doing for me? Well, he's also sacrificing the early game by being only 2/2 but he's really powering up my mid game. With a normal deck you'll level up 8 cards in age 1. You expect to draw 5 of those cards the second time through as well, so your age 3 deck expects to be 19 tier 1 cards, 6 tier 2 cards, and 5 tier 3 cards. On the other hand if you get 2 free levels each age by running 3 Technosmith (I only own 2, sadly, but the legendary fills in) then you rate to level up 10 cards in age 1 and rate to draw 6 of those to level in age 2. So your age 3 deck expects to be 16 tier 1 cards, 8 tier 2 cards, and 6 tier 3 cards. That's a pretty significant swing in power level. Things can get fudged by drawing all your leveled cards in one hand and then drawing hands with no leveled cards at all, but the second set will weather those storms better than the first too.

Combine them both, with drawing extra cards and leveling extra cards, and I find any game that goes long is mine for the taking. I don't get hands where I'm stuck playing tier 1 cards and my opponent does. Tier 1 cards have no hope of fighting off a 20/20 with 10 armour, or a 24/24. Or even just the 15/15 Technosmith body, really.

I think I need to figure out a better way to survive the super early game. I need some way to kill multiple Echo Whisps in one go. (A 6/1 that comes with a copy!) Maybe I should add more Magma Hounds to my deck? (A 4/3 that does 2 damage to something when it comes into play.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Actual Wanderlust: Rebirth

Wanderlust: Rebirth turns out to be possibly the smallest download for a game on Steam that I've ever seen. It installed before I'd even realized it was starting, which was a big difference compared to how long it took Robb to install the Civ V expansion! We ended up giving it a good try last night, with almost 4 hours of playtime.

The game did feel a little like Secret of Mana, but not exactly in a good way. I really liked that game, but my top memory of it is actually getting into situations where I wanted to go one way, and my brother wanted to go another way, and we'd get stuck because the screen wouldn't scroll unless we were both walking in the same direction. Eventually we ended up deciding the only way the game would work is if whoever was playing the main character got to always choose where we were going. Wanderlust: Rebirth isn't played on a single screen so it didn't quite have the issue that badly, but in order to advance to the next section of a level all 4 players needed to crowd onto a little door. With loot being individualized that meant that frequently someone would want to wander off to pick up stuff in a corner alone, but then we couldn't just advance to the next screen when they had their item. We had to wait for them to get to the exit too. Also some of the screens had secret walls to knock down or chests to bust open... It really felt like it would have been better if I could have gone to the exit while other people searched for secrets and when they gave up I could just advance instead of waiting for them to catch up. Or maybe a run button when there were no enemies on the screen or something.

The gameplay seemed reasonably fun. Hordes of enemies swarming in and 4 different character classes to choose from with vastly different ways of playing. I played the healer and didn't really have much in the way of offensive power but the heals seemed ridiculous. In an interesting twist from most games the healer seemed almost guaranteed to score the most points on the meters at the end of each level because the other people couldn't earn award for healing, rezzing, or having friends earn awards while buffed but I could. I was also less likely to suffer multiple deaths which were worth negative points because no one else could rez me. So if I died it was only once, and most of the time if I died everyone else did too.

The story seemed pretty mediocre and felt a bit like a cross between the worst of Diablo III's story with some Chrono Trigger mixed in. The world ended, but it was all just a dream. Bleh. Presumably if we'd gotten enough levels and gear we could have killed the final boss when he went supernova and gotten a different ending.

I did like leveling up, and getting gear seemed reasonable enough. It had crafting recipes wanting huge numbers of trash drops but we weren't allowed to share which sucked. I didn't get all the stuff for any crafting recipe while we were playing, but only because other people couldn't trade me their Fibers.

There was also a 'screw the story, just throw enemies at us' mode, which felt like a better game. But then I went and doubled down our loot on a pull of a slot machine and it came up skeletons which killed us so we got no levels at all for doing it which was sad.

There were sections that felt like WoW raiding all over again. One part had a bandit throwing bombs at us, with little icons lighting up the ground just before they'd land and we had to dodge around to avoid them. One boss was immune to damage until we tanked him under a falling rock to break his armour. By the end of the game I was too sleepy to actually dodge that stuff which was unfortunate but it was a good addition to the game I think. Some enemies exploded for 20 times Robb's max health in damage, so we had to learn to identify those guys and not stand beside them.

Would I play again? Yeah, I think I would. It was fun enough. I suspect if we weren't using Skype while playing it would have been worse. And I don't think the game is worth the full price at all. But at 75% off I'm happy I picked it up. And it had full controller support! Woo!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wanderlust: Rebirth

Wanderlust: Rebirth is a game that went on sale this week on Steam. $2, or 4 copies for $6.24. It describes itself as a four player co-op arcade action RPG. Those are all words I like! It then gets compared to Secret of Mana in the review section, and I liked Secret of Mana! Probably it's going to be terrible, but I talked Robb into agreeing to donate $1.50 to the cause. Since it's described as a 4 player co-op game it really seems like we want 2 more people who want to play an awesome terrible unknown game.

It feels like playing the game with fewer than 4 people is probably going to be wrong. So we're looking for 2 more people interested in playing with us to try it out and see what it's like. The sale is already over, but I bought the 4-pack bundle thing. So I have 2 more copies in my Steam inventory if we find interested people. Any takers?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Alan Wake's American Nightmare

Yesterday after posting about Alan Wake I decided to install the sequel and see what was happening to poor Alan. Well, four hours later I finished that game so I hesitate to really call it a full game. On the plus side it does have an 'arcade' mode where you can fight a horde of monsters for 10 minutes with no plot involved at all if you like the combat and don't want more story. I wouldn't be surprised if the arcade modes with their online score leaderboards actually gave a lot of extra game time to people who like the combat, so I guess it's a bit harsh to deny that this is a full game. It's just not a full game for me.

Alan Wake's American Nightmare actually had more enjoyable combat for me than the original did. They added a ton of new weapons and changed the way ammo boxes work in a very good way. Now instead of needing to find lots of little piles of ammo and being worried about running out you get full ammo for both of your weapons and your flashlight any time you hit an ammo box. On top of that ammo boxes are marked on the mini-map and recharge over time, so there was never any worry about running out of bullets. The special weapons like grenades were more limited so I hoarded those like there was no tomorrow, though! It also ot rid of most of the trash mob fights. I think that may be an atmosphere thing though... It's hard to paint a good horror picture of despair when you're stuck in the woods if you escape after two minutes and a boss fight. Things feel more real when you have to run 20 minutes through a forest getting ambushed along the way. More real, but less fun.

On the downside the story was significantly worse. Ok, maybe worse is the wrong word there. It was significantly different. The original game was all about crazy stuff going on and a desperate search to figure out what was happening and why. It was horror all the way, and it was very good at it. In the sequel I never really felt like I didn't know what was going on. I don't want to go into details without spoiling the first game, but what you learn over the course of that game is used in this one, but nothing interesting is really added to it. It felt more like a fantasy story where the crazy stuff was already spelled out for us and we just needed to see where it would lead. And it lead exactly where I thought it would go. I didn't feel like I needed to keep playing in order to see what was going to happen like I did in the first one. But at less than a third of the playtime I never really reached a point where I felt I should stop but couldn't because I HAD to keep playing.

It does make use of what may be my favourite story device, though: Groundhog Day! I need to play more games with this device. I remember playing a PS2 game my brother owned when I was visiting from University once that made great use of it. What was that game called? A search on Google for 'PS2 groundhog day guitar' brought up Ephemeral Fantasia and the cover looks right.

At any rate, I'm still happy I played Alan Wake's American Nightmare. It was worth playing, but I think it really pales in comparison to Alan Wake. Which may be saying more about how awesome that game is, actually...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Alan Wake

Last month during the Steam summer sale lots of games were on sale and I bought a fair number of games that I may well never get around to playing. Stupid sales! One game, Alan Wake, I bought because it was on sale, and because it has Steam cards, and because I saw a Facebook post where my sister told my brother it was awesome and that he should buy it on sale. On the weekend (after noticing I could add categories to my Steam games and therefore tagged it as something with cards) I decided to give it a spin.

14 hours played later I've beaten the game and both of the extra DLC missions that came with it. It's a first third person shooter, and that's a genre I don't really like in general. The core of the genre is two mechanics I don't like very much: consumable items and aiming. So if I don't like the gameplay why did I keep playing after picking up my Steam cards? Well, the story is absolutely fantastic. I had to keep playing because I had to know what was going to happen next and how stuff that had already happened would be explained. It's got a horror theme and the atmosphere was perfect. The first boss fight actually had me shivering in panic. And not just because I had to aim at something that was moving faster than anything in the game had moved to that point! I think the sound effects of the thing moving so quickly helped, and they fit in perfectly as well.

The game actually dealt with both of my concerns in decent ways, too. It would constantly remove my entire inventory which meant saving up items 'just in case' wasn't something I needed to do. I still did for most of the game, but eventually I decided to just use my super weapons on trash mobs because if I didn't use them they'd just go away. (Added bonus: an achievement for killing 50 things with each weapon!) Also if I died and respawned at the last checkpoint it would either give me my inventory when I hit the checkpoint or 12 bullets for my revolver whichever was more. So if I reached a point where I didn't have enough ammo I could just die and probably get enough back. Only once did this not work out for me, and I eventually made it through that section by running for my life instead of shooting everything in sight. Aiming was a general problem, but not as bad as in most games because there is no concept (that I could tell, anyway) of a headshot. Either you hit the enemy or you didn't, and that's that. It also did a good job of auto-aiming for me, so as long as I shot in the general area of an enemy it was good enough. I still had to worry about rotating to shoot in the general area and sometimes when I wanted to snipe an explosive barrel or something the auto-aiming was annoying, but it was still better than a generic FPS.

There were all sorts of collecting achievements that I didn't get. Coffee thermoses that are your standard 'just find all the junk' fare and pages of a book that explain some of the plot. Some of these pages could only be found on the hardest difficulty, which I didn't play, and I missed a bunch of the normal ones too. That makes me sad, because I want to read them all. I want to see all the TV shows you can find, and listen to the radio shows. But the trash fights in the game were plentiful and I really didn't like the combat enough to want to do them again. Maybe at some point, but more likely I should just look them up on the internets.

I was a little annoyed at the ending because it didn't really tie things up. But I guess since they were likely planning DLC and such that's to be expected? The DLC was hidden pretty well and most of the annoyance went away when I found how to access it and was able to see a little more of the story. They also ended on a cliffhanger, no surprise there, but it felt more closed off at least. And since I bought the sequel at the same time I guess I can find out what happens next anytime I get around to installing it!

I remember seeing the logo for this game somewhere, maybe in a tv commercial? I really like it. The way the main character is the dead space in the A in Wake is pretty sweet.

It is animated in game, too! The flashlight and gun are great!
I only have one Steam friend who has this game, and I think that's a mistake that needs to be fixed. Anyone who likes horror stories or unique FPSers needs to get this game. It's a shame it's not still on sale for $4!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bridge Match 2 - Board 14

Board 14 – Dealer East – None Vul

Opponents convention card: Bridge World Standard 2001
Opponents playing strength: Intermediate

My hand: ♠ Q 6  K J T 7 6  Q 6  J 7 4 3

East opens 1 spade. I pass as does West. Partner reopens with 1NT. I'm actually not sure what he means by this, or how it is different than doubling. I imagine he has a spade stopper? My 9 count is probably not enough to make a game, and I have help for partner's spade stopper, and I imagine if he had a good hand with hearts he wouldn't be bidding NT. So I pass too. West prevents us from playing by bidding 2 spades which gets passed back to me. I suspect they're making 2 spades on a cross ruff of some kind, but that we can make 2NT, so I bid it. Partner pulls to 3 clubs. I don't understand. Is this an attempt to find 5 clubs? Or is he so afraid of playing 2NT that he's pulling before we get doubled? Well, if we're making 3 clubs we're probably making 3NT and it's worth a heck of a lot more, so I bid that. It gets passed out.

East leads the J of spades.
8 4 3 2
A 4 3
 A K 8 5

Q 6
K J T 7 6
Q 6
 J 7 4 3

West North East South
1 Pass
Pass 1NT Pass Pass
2 Pass Pass 2NT
Pass 3 Pass 3NT
Pass Pass Pass

Hmm. I don't understand. No spade stopper, only 4 clubs... I really feel like we should be playing 2NT. Or maybe 1 spade.

At any rate, I fully expect to lose 5 spades right off the top. And a diamond for fun. If I can find the round queens I might have 9 tricks. If I can't then I'm down a bajillion. Should I cover the lead? I expect West has 2 spades, one of which is an honour. So if I cover then he'll just cover too and lead back the small one and I'm down. So I guess I should hold up and hope the suit gets blocked. J-6-9-2. East shifts to the A of diamonds. A-6-2-K. Now a spade through. 5-Q-K-3. And a diamond around. T-J-4-Q.

Ok, they have all of the spades and diamonds if they ever get in. I've taken one trick. If I can take 8 more I get to make. Now partner and I had 24 points, and East opened. West has already played a K. So if East has even 12 points to open West can't have a Q. So I should be able to pick up the heart Q and will need the club one to drop. That actually seems plausible. Hearts first! 6-2-A-5. 4-Q-K-8. J-9-3-3 of diamonds. T-2 of clubs-4 of spades-5 of diamonds.

At this point East has 5 cards left in his hand. 3 of them are spades. So if he does have the Q of clubs, I actually get to make. First the last heart. 7-7 of diamonds-5 of clubs-7 of spades. Over to clubs. 3-6-A-T. K-T of spades-4-9.

Well, I guess West has the Q of clubs. And East has a spade and a diamond. West has a diamond and the Q of clubs. So I don't see any way to win. Down 1.

 8 4 3 2
 A 4 3
A K 8 5

K 9
9 8 2
T 9 7 2
 Q 9 6 2

A J T 7 5
Q 5
 A 8 5 4 3

♠ Q 6
K J T 7 6
Q 6
 J 7 4 3

I actually had a way to make in the middle. I can play East for stiff T of clubs and lead the J of clubs off dummy before touching hearts. That feels like a worse play than what I did, though, so I don't feel bad about it.

4 different NS pairs went down undoubled in a variety of contracts. 3 hearts, 4 hearts twice, and 3NT. 3 hearts went down 2 on one board, so we get full points for beating them for a total of 5 MPs. The people that beat us were 1NT+1, 3 hearts, and 4 hearts.

Professor Jack disagrees with a lot of my bidding. He thinks I should bid 2 hearts over 1NT. He thinks I should bid 3 hearts over 2 spades. And he wants me to pass out 3 clubs.

Ranking after board 14/60: 7/16 with 53.06%

Friday, August 16, 2013

Civ V Multiplayer

I have now tried to play Civ V multiplayer a couple of times in the last month or so. The first time didn't go so well. Lino, Randy, and Matt had started a game with the 3 of them and an AI and were about to resume their game. I could tag in and take over for the AI. What could go wrong? Well, it turns out they were playing on an easy difficulty so the AI wasn't cheating. So my position was practically unplayable. The map was set up with two islands, so Lino and Randy were off on an island and Matt was on an island with the AI. And he took all the space. And built a huge army. I was way down in tech, and had no chance to survive if he decided to attack me. So I asserted that he wasn't going to attack me and tried to power up.

He attacked me. I died. A winning play to be sure, but not exactly a fun one. Especially since the game doesn't handle interplayer war very well. Normally it lets you all take your turn at the same time, so each turn takes as long as the slowest person that turn, not as long as the sum of all turns. But once war was declared there's the issue of simultaneous movement in combat. Alpha Centauri had this issue, and I can remember one game we played at Chateau Monterrey where Duncan was trying to attack me with a bomber but I had a fighter jet in my town. If he came out of his town and I noticed I could shoot him down before he got to me. If I didn't notice he'd get to demolish my stuff and get out safely. So the game devolved into the two of us not taking an action in the hopes the other one would blink first. So I can see why Civ V implemented things the way they did, but it really made things drag on. Because Matt would have to take his turn, then I would have to take my turn, then Lino and Randy could take their turn. Until Lino came over to help me, and then we were all taking turns serially. And the game freezes things in bad ways when it isn't your turn, so I couldn't even preplan while Matt was moving. I couldn't even see his units move until he was done. It sucked.

This morning Robb and I were looking for something to play and we decided to give Civ V a shot. There's a team mode, so we could play on the same team and I could explain the changes in Civ V from other editions while being able to see pretty much everything he was doing. We quickly discovered that science is shared between the team, and we could research the same thing together to get it done faster. We played against two teams of two AIs, and the way the map was laid out worked very well for us. One island with 4 people, one island with 2. Robb and I were together along with one member of each team. The weaker member, as it turns out, since Robb expanded enough to choke them out for space. It felt like the best way for a team to work was to have one person expand a lot, grab all the luxury goods, and be the science and military guy. The other person would have one city and focus on culture. I ended up winning on culture before any of the other victory conditions were even plausible. Military was an option I guess, if one of the other teams which were on both islands had been strong enough to win wars on both continents. But since Robb eliminated both of the AIs on our island that wasn't very likely to happen.

We played on King, which let the AI cheat a little, but I suspect the AI is really bad at collaborating the way we did. Having one player able to ignore military and defense and everything was pretty sweet. (Robb had cities on all sides of me, so I couldn't be attacked until he lost many cities regardless.) I did rush buy several of my civ's unique unit to help out in Robb's expansionary wars so I didn't do nothing for the team, but he really made most of the science and did most of the fighting. I just won the game.

It was fun, and reasonably fast, so I wouldn't mind trying it again on a harder setting. I don't know about full on multiplayer. The massive delays for interplayer war really felt like it was going to make things drag, and not being able to interact with the game while it's going on is frustrating. Maybe if I had a book to read when it wasn't my turn or something? I guess I'd be willing to try again, but maybe even in that case teams would be a better way to do things. Reduce the number of different wars that could take place to hopefully reduce the delays. Or maybe if there are only two teams of humans at least there won't be people who aren't in the war having their time wasted?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

More Rogue Legacy

According to Steam I've put in 33 hours on Rogue Legacy, though I suspect that number may have been inflated by the game running after installation on my laptop at WBC. (I started it installing and went out to play games and came back to the game running.) Or maybe the Steam number is only counting up for my desktop and the number is actually bigger. Either way, I've played a pretty significant amount of Rogue Legacy. I've beaten the game twice now, and it's gotten really, really hard.

The game has three versions of each enemy. The first time through the game most of the enemies are the base level enemy, but sometimes a higher level version will show up. You might have an eyeball that shoots a bullet. Or a palette shifted eyeball that shoots a stream of bullets. Or a palette shifted eyeball that shoots three streams of bullets in a cone. Running into the top tier version is a big problem the first time through! I had a hard enough time dodging a single bullet. Avoiding three streams was practically impossible.

Beating the game once started a new game+ mode which didn't have low tier enemies. Beating it a second time made all the enemies into the hardest version. On top of that things seem to do more damage. I went from having not much trouble at all in new game+ to dying in two hits in new game++. Vampirism was my main way of staying alive. I'd take plenty of hits, but when everything I kill heals me for 9 I could keep myself topped up pretty well. But when the enemies are cracking me for 150 a shot getting healed for 9 just isn't enough. I'm not sure if the solution is to stack even more vampirism or if I need to just get a lot better at dodging all incoming hits. In that case I'd want to dump the vampirism I do have for other stats. Running faster, or more max health, or something.

On the plus side enemies also drop 50% more cash for each time you beat the game, and I'm killing top tier enemies which drop lots of money to start, so I make a stupid amount of money. A good run has let me buy 5 or 6 upgrades at a time. I maxed out crit chance and crit damage and then shifted to working on health and armor. I don't last very long, but I did make it to the castle boss room once. He died on my first try attacking him. Turns out the bosses don't scale as much as the trash mobs do! Probably because the trash mobs leveled up their monster tier and the bosses didn't.

I'm going to keep playing the game for a while longer because there are still 3 achievements I haven't earned. The one for collecting all the blacksmithing patterns, the one for collecting all the rune patterns, and the one for playing at least 20 hours. I don't understand how I don't have that one. Maybe I got it on my laptop and it didn't share? It's annoying if that's the case.

Playing on my laptop at WBC was interesting in that saved games aren't stored online, so I had to start over. My game on this computer is all about beating down so I decided to try playing where I put all my money into making my spells better. It actually worked surprisingly well. It was a different way to play for sure, killing things at range with the spells instead of just charging in chopping with my sword, but it was fun too. My default is always to just chop things but it's nice to have the caster option be viable.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Barter Kings

Often when I'm playing video games I'll have the TV on in the background. Stand-up comedy, preferably, because I can not pay attention for 10 minutes and I won't have any trouble picking it back up. Beyond that I'll keep an eye out for Mythbusters and then maybe a wacky police show like The Mentalist or Criminal Minds. A&E sometimes runs a Criminal Minds marathon, so it's in my rotation of channels to look at.

At one point on the weekend I'd left the tv on A&E while playing a game (probably League of Legends) and when I eventually looked up it was a show called Barter Kings. I watched a little bit, and got sucked in. They were running a marathon that weekend and I ended up just watching it for something like 8 hours. The show is about two guys who make trades for a living. In an episode they might do something like start out with some used scuba gear and end up with an airplane. Which they then sold for $20k. The internet seems pretty convinced that the show is mostly fake, but it's an interesting premise and the way they use jedi mind tricks on people to get trades down is awesome and makes me feel dirty.

It makes me think about the economies in Diablo II and Diablo III. The Barter Kings guys keep using a variation on convenience to convince people to lose hundreds or thousands of dollars in value. They'll tell a fat guy who's fiance left him that he doesn't have any use at all for her $5000 diamond engagement ring, so he might as well trade it to them for a $2000 elliptical machine. He can get in shape and find a new woman, see! And realistically, if he wanted to do it himself, he'd have to sell it to a jeweller for more like $3500 or spend a lot of time tracking down someone who'd pay closer to the $5000 for it. And then he'd have to find a place to buy a top end elliptical machine. He probably comes out up a thousand dollars or two, but it would take a lot of time and effort. And for the people trading a $300 thing for a $600 thing it makes even more sense. They're providing a service by going around and doing these things. They have the knowledge to find items that the random dudes they trade with don't have. So the other people are making time and getting things they want, the Barter Kings are spending time but making money.

In Diablo II, that's how everything worked. Some people knew what stuff was valuable and how to track it down. Other people would get legendary items to drop and not know what to do with them. What is my sorceress going to do with a twinky bow? It would be nice if I could make it turn into a good sorceress weapon magically, but I couldn't. Possibly I could go to Sky or Byung and have them do it for me, because they were like the Barter Kings of Diablo II. But I was more likely to leave it sitting on an alt or vendor it for gambling money than try to find a trade myself.

In Diablo III the auction house made every single item into an easily exchanged commodity. Turn anything into cash, then turn the cash into whatever you want! Seems like it would fix my problem of getting a twinky bow dropping for my wizard. But in order to actually use the auction house properly I'd need to spend a lot of time learning the markets. On the plus side instead of just hoarding it myself or vendoring it for gambling money I'd probably just sell it for a quarter it's actual value and then buy something for twice what it's worth. With Blizzard taking a cut both ways.

It's almost like it doesn't matter if you're trading or using currency. Someone who puts in time and effort is going to profit and that profit is going to come from people who don't.

At any rate, the show is pretty entertaining. One of the two Barter Kings has Tourette's syndrome and I've found it interesting when they take little sidebars to talk about how it makes him do some 'weird' things like repeat the word Suzuki or snap his fingers. They also end up with going through some unique items, like in the episode I saw today...

Conga drums became a popcorn machine, which became an engine lift, which became a purebreed bulldog pup, which became a vintage tractor, which became a speedboat, which became $10000, which became a new air conditioning system for their store and $3000 cash to help keep the store running.

They traded for a puppy! And then they traded the puppy away for a working 60 year old tractor! Crazy!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Tonight I was in a Google Hangout session with my brother and sister and my brother started talking about a game he's playing that just went into open beta earlier in the day. The game is called SolForge and it's a free to play online collectible card game. He wanted to know if I was playing it. I'm against playing games in beta, and around launch time, and that have a bad free to play money scheme, so the answer was no. But then he had to go and play a quick game against the computer while I watched and got me wanting to play. He was on and it was working fine, so my big concerns with playing on launch day didn't seem to be an issue. And I'll always try a free game with someone I know. If the money making scheme sucks I can always quit!

It turns out that while playing against the computer worked fine, most of the other aspects weren't working so well. The webpage wasn't loading so I couldn't register for an account. A couple refreshes got through that hurdle. As the game was installing James and Josh sent me messages via Steam asking about my in game name and complaining about how multiplayer wasn't working so well. Eh, I was in the game by now, might as well give it a try, right?

We were able to play about 9 or 10 turns with some lag, but then things started going haywire. The solution James had was to log out and come back in and you'd be able to play another turn. That worked for us too, but it turned a 30 second turn into a 5 minute turn and stopped being worth doing. There's a 'first win of the day' bonus so I went and played a game with the computer. It's a CCG, but there are supposed to be a few different decks you can play without owning them. Turns out something is wrong so there's only one deck to use. Presumably the lag, the desyncing, and the deck issues will get worked out in a short period of time, but playing a game at launch is still proving to be a disaster. Then I was told they rushed the open beta to start for GenCon or something... Yay arbitrary deadlines?

At any rate, the game itself seemed somewhat interesting. When you play a card it gets removed from your deck, but you get a leveled up version in your discard pile for your next shuffle. So there's interesting decisions between playing a card that's good right now or playing a worse card that levels up in a better way. The combat itself reminds me of a Facebook game I played a while ago, but I don't remember what it was called. You have 5 lanes for cards. Each turn they attack whatever is in front of them, or the other player's life total if they're unopposed. Damage is permanent, so eventually a creature will die even if you have to put a bunch of chumpers in front of them. Each turn you get to play exactly 2 cards, discard the rest, and draw back up to 5 cards in hand. After 4 turns you reshuffle. So you'll see 20 of the 30 cards in your deck and then you'll shuffle the 12 discarded cards and the 8 upgraded cards in with the 10 you didn't draw. This makes games more random (if you build around a single card like the precon I can use, sometimes you lose when you don't draw it) but makes sure you can get your upgraded cards faster.

Ok, so it's a decently fun game and eventually I'll be able to play with other people without it sucking... How are they going to get money out of me? Well, every day that you log in you get some free cards. The first win (or first 3 losses) in a day get you some free cards. After one day I'm up to 7 cards. Given the way deck construction works I'll probably need ~60 cards just to build a legal deck. So in a week and a half if I stay on top of things I'll have a terrible deck of my own. There are 4 rarities of cards, and it really seems like I'll only expect to get commons and maybe a few rares. I got super lucky and got a legendary card for my first win of the day, but maybe that's standard? I'd guess before I could build a reasonable deck I'd be looking at a couple months of playing every single day.

What if I pay money? Well, for about $2 I can buy a booster with 8 cards in it. 5 commons, 2 rares and 1 heroic, with a chance of having one of the cards get upgraded a rarity if I get lucky. Or for about $11 I can get 10 cards. 3 commons, 3 rares, 3 heroics, and 1 legendary, with the upgrade chance again. My brother gave them some money a while ago when they were in alpha or something, so his account came with I think 60 of the $2 boosters. I think he's got full playsets (3 cards) of pretty much all the commons and rares and I know he got 3 of the same heroic he wanted to build a deck around. But I don't think he got even a single copy of the legendary dragon I randomly won. There's no trading, either.

I guess it's like Magic. If I wanted to go play constructed on Magic Online and if they'd turned trading off I'd be looking at needing to sink in hundreds or thousands of dollars to build the decks I want to play. That's how it feels here for SolForge. With no trading and no drafting (at least for now) it really feels like the idea of building real decks and of having fair matches is right out the window.

Not that I'm complaining about having a restricted cardpool. Shandalar was an awesome Magic game, and you really had a limited card pool when you started out there. But the ways to get more cards revolved around playing the game more and/or getting lucky with random event spawns. Not opening my wallet to shell out cash.

But I think about playing Magic as a kid, and I'm trying to find a difference here. But I can't. Magic was also fun with small numbers of cards, but it became very tempting to buy more and more packs to build better decks than other people. By the end of high school I was buying awesome cards in online auctions and starting to wreck faces with berserk and the like.

Clearly I am the whale, or at least I could be the whale here. But I don't want to be the whale. I don't think I'd be able to play constructed Magic the way I once did, and that's all there is in SolForge so far.

That said, the game is fun, even with just the one deck. So I think I'll keep playing, collect me free stuff every day, and see when I can eventually cobble a deck together. I doubt I'll be too happy playing with random people who own all the cards but maybe there'll be some way to play only against other bad decks? Or maybe they'll eventually implement drafts? Or maybe I'll get bored with the one deck and quit forever even though they'll eventually turn the game into something good for free players. Therein lies the problem for me with starting an incomplete game in a beta...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon 2

It's a little weird to start a series off of the second game but it turns out the original game was only released in Japan and I'm only playing games I can read on this marathon. It's still leaving me with plenty of new games and old favourites to play so I don't feel too bad about that! I'd never even heard of this game before creating my marathon page and I've gone out of my way to avoid reading anything about it so it's all new to me. I finally got around to starting it up last night. How did it go?

Well, I started off by not hitting any buttons in order to watch the intro movie. It had a cute chocobo wandering around in a cave. He ended up getting chased by a cute behemoth who eventually did battle with a cute dragon. The chocobo took that opportunity to sneak off and camp out with his moogle friend. It didn't give me any idea about what the gameplay was going to be like, but on the plus side it did have a chocoboey song running in the background. Let's see if I can find a youtube video of it...

The game itself started out by having me name the moogle. I'd assumed from the name and the intro that I'd be playing as the chocobo, but fine. The moogle can be named Nick. Then I get to name the chocobo. Bungo almost rhymes with chocobo so he's on the team! Then we stumble upon a MYSTERIOUS dungeon and since the moogle loves treasure they head in to get all the treasure for the moogle. That's right, Bungo. Go get me some treasure!

The game turned out to be a roguelike. I control the chocobo and have an autoattack button. I also have a limited inventory which can contain one shot items like fire books and map cards. I can find loot and food, but everything starts out unidentified. So I can either wait to leave the dungeon to identify it, or I can use an identify card on it, or I can just try it out to see what happens. Considering the incredibly limited inventory space I've just been trying stuff out. As such I'm stuck wearing a cursed weapon until I can figure out a way to decurse it. *sigh*

It really reminds me a lot of zAngband. Enter a dungeon, get a randomly generated floor, kill the monsters to level up and get loot. The twists so far are that the enemies are all cute versions of Final Fantasy monsters (instead of running into the letter p I run into a cute little black mage) and that I have computer controlled NPCs helping me out. The moogle follows behind the chocobo and will autoattack anything that ends up beside him. At one point I got separated from him and ran into a white mage. I got to name her too (hello Jo!) and then she started following me around instead.

I beat the first boss (on level 10 of the dungeon) and the dungeon collapsed into the sea. By this point I'd found the moogle (ok, the moogle tried to steal a crystal and that's what made the dungeon collapse) and the three of us retreated to a nearby town. It's where the white mage grew up, and it turns out she's the only human there and all the monsters are pretty racist against humans which makes her sad.

That's where I left off, but my hope is the town will have a way to decurse these stupid claws so I can swap in something better. Presumably someone in this town will point out another dungeon and I'll go play zAngband in it for a while. Kill a boss, repeat?

What I do know is I like roguelike games, but Ehrgeiz was also a roguelike game and I didn't like it. Mostly because combat tried too hard to be a 3D fighting game and it didn't work out well. In this game I only have an attack button and consumable items which actually feels like less options than Ehrgeiz, but it fits better. I had fun while I was playing it yesterday, so I'm going to play some more today and see what shakes out. I don't like that I can only save with consumable items, but maybe this town will sell more of them? I also haven't died yet, so maybe I don't need to save too often.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bridge Match 2 - Board 13

Board 13 – Dealer North – All Vul

Opponents convention card: Bridge World Standard 2001
Opponents playing strength: Intermediate

My hand:  Q T 9 3 2  J 9 8 7 3  5  K T

Partner opens 1 diamond. I respond a heart and west gets in with 1 NT, showing a strong NT without 5 spades. Partner bids 2 clubs. So he's got the minors, I've got the majors, and we probably only have half the deck between us. 2 clubs looks like as good a place as any to score positive so I pass.

East leads the 6 of clubs.

 A J T 7 6 3
A Q J 8 4


Q T 9 3 2
J 9 8 7 3

West North East South
1 Pass 1
1NT 2 All Pass

I have a heart loser, a spade loser, and some unknown number of diamond losers. I can ruff one of them but have no other way to get rid of the rest of them. I can't set up any tricks in the majors. I could finesse a diamond which only helps when West has both honours, but he did overcall 1NT so that's not out of the question. East should have 5-7 points though, so he can easily have one of them as well.

How many tricks do I have? Assuming I ruff a diamond I likely have 6 trump tricks and a diamond. So I need to set up a diamond trick for my 8th. It's also possible they'll set up a major trick for me, but I won't have any entry to it. Even still, cashing the A of diamonds and ruffing a diamond should reduce them to 2 diamonds left between them. I can probably set one up, right? Right?

The other option is finesse a diamond right now. I go down if it fails since they'll draw my second trump from dummy. But if it works I get my 8 tricks easy. I don't think it's going to work, so I'm going to just ruff a diamond and see what happens.

First I have to win the club. 6-K-5-4. Now diamonds. 5-2-A-4. 3-9-T of clubs-8. Now I need to exit dummy. I'll do it with a heart. 9-Q-6-5. West tries to cash a heart. A-8 of clubs-T-3. Back to diamonds. J-K-2 of spades-Q. East returns a spade. 5-9-A-6. Another spade. Am I up? They still have 4 trump between them. So I could ruff in, draw 2 rounds of trump, and be up if clubs split 3-3. Alternatively I can pitch here to set up a spade trick. Am I going to need to make 4 in order to get a top board? If clubs and diamonds both split 3-3 then likely yes. Otherwise I likely need this major trick. I think I'll pitch and see what happens. J-6 of diamonds-8-Q. Don't mind if I do!

Well, now I can only get more tricks if clubs are 3-3. So I might as well ruff a major card to hand, draw 2 rounds of trump, and see what happens. I choose hearts to do so. 8-K-J of clubs-7 of spades. I draw 2 rounds of trump, but West shows out on the second one. But for some reason instead of ruffing my diamond he pitches the high spade, then ruffs the last trick. So I make 3 instead of 2 thanks to truly inept defense.

 A J T 7 6 3
A Q J 8 4

A J 4
A K Q 4 2
Q 8 2
5 2

♠ K 8 7 5
T 5
K 9 4
9 7 6 3

Q T 9 3 2
J 9 8 7 3

2 clubs making 3 is a top board worth the full 14 points. 2 clubs making 2 would have been worth 12 points so that free overtrick was really relevant. 8 different results on this board, with my side going down in 2 spades, 3 clubs (twice), 5 clubs, and 5 diamonds doubled. The other side went down once in 2NT, and made 2 hearts up one.

Professor Jack disagrees with my 1 heart bid. With 2 5 card suits he wants me to bid the highest first. I actually wondered if I should do that when I was bidding. It feels like it's easier to show both 5 card suits by bidding 1 spade then 2 hearts and partner can still correct at the same level. But that only works when partner is going to bid 2 of his own suit, or 1NT? But since we're playing weak NT it doesn't even work there. If he bids clubs then hearts will be 4th suit forcing to game and my hand is _really_ not worth doing that. Committing to that line of play is what got 2 of the other pairs into 5 of a minor. I'm happy with my plan of passing low, and I think that means bidding hearts first and throwing spades away unless partner somehow can bid them himself or takes a really strong action of his own.

Ranking after board 13/60: 7/16 with 54.40%

Friday, August 09, 2013

2013 WBC Recap

Another year, another WBC. Here's the list of games I played over the course of the week:

A Few Acres of Snow - 4
Innovation - 4
Coup - 3
Le Havre - 3
Through The Ages - 1
Can't Stop - 1
Copycat - 1
Liar's Dice - 1
Facts in Five - 1

19 games played with only 9 games covered. Compare to last year where I had 57 games played in 23 different games and there's a noticeable drop. A third of a normal year, in fact. The bottom line is that being sick sucks. I didn't even get to play Toboggans of DOOOOOOOOM!

Oddly enough, despite playing in only 7 tournaments I still managed one of my better results. A 1st and a 3rd, with the win in a century event so I get a shirt for the first time since 2008. The win was even in my team game! Well, it would have been, if we had bothered to submit a team. But I'm sure that didn't matter, right? RIGHT?

Assuming we had submitted the same team as last year, with the same team games, we would have had a 1st, a 1st, a 2nd, and a 3rd. Robb might well have changed his team game again, and if he had it would have been back to El Grande which was his team event a couple times in the past. And he won that one instead of the 2nd in Dominant Species. So it's entirely plausible we would have had 3 wins and a 3rd. Of course actually having team games might have caused people to play differently, or it might have caused us to play differently. Butterflies in Africa and all that jazz. But if we were to ever have a year, this year was it. And we didn't bother signing up. I had several people come up over the course of the week and mention they were disappointed we hadn't submitted a team because they were going to bet on us to finish in the top 10 as a sleeper pick that the normal oddsmakers wouldn't have found. It would have paid off for them if we had! Oh well!

Thermos tech came home for the second straight year. I once again had to drink a Coke for the 9am Le Havre final, and I actually drank a fair number of Sprites in the room to keep hydrated and caloried up while feeling sick. But when I was playing events, or even just wandering around watching games, the thermos was awesome. Not having to go searching for water in the middle of a game is really key.

I was surprised at how well eating worked out. Red Robin was a real life saver. Eating steamed carrots seems like it isn't something I do, but with enough salt on them they were really quite good. And beef, cheese, and pickles wrapped in lettuce is actually really tasty. I was happy with the service at the Texas Roadhouse and surprised that the mediocre service at Waffle House didn't kill me. I also brought lots of gluten free snacks from a grocery store in Waterloo. No one except Ian would eat my cookies, but there are worse things in the world than having snacks other people won't eat. More for me!

GMing an event was in some ways better than expected, and in some ways worse. In my worrying before the event I was fretting a lot about needing to make a ruling on my own game and not having assistants around who were willing or able to step in fairly. What I should have been worried about, in retrospect, was how to deal with games going long. How to time them properly, and how to actually adjudicate them fairly. Having to come up with that on the fly for a game with alternate victory conditions like A Few Acres of Snow was a disaster waiting to happen. Not having enough copies of the game around sucked, and I also didn't have a plan for what to do when that happened. On the plus side I was surprised at how well received the demo was, and how many people thanked me for GMing. It's not something that ever crossed my mind in the past. Because I'm a selfish jerk who can't talk to people. Buying a box of pens and some index cards from the nearby Staples worked out well even though I really didn't need the pens. I ended up giving them to the Facts in Five event because everyone in that event needs a pen. But with 60 pens for $7 it's really hard to go wrong! I'm not sure I can do it again though. It made WBC feel like work instead of like a vacation, and I don't know that I like that feeling. But I'm not really sure how much being sick was impacting it. It's possible I would have been all good to go on Tuesday when my event ended if I was feeling fine. But it's also possible that being sick during the event kept me from freaking out more from the situation.

Next year WBC shifts to a week later because of the way our years don't have an even number of weeks. Aug 2 - Aug 10, 2014. More people need to go! So many games! So many tournaments! So many gamers!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

2013 WBC Day 9

Sunday, Sunday, Someday. Sunday is a pretty slow day at WBC. A couple of finals and a couple of very short events. (Including Attack Sub, which I had never played but which I'd read about so I knew it was a card game and not a wargame... This lead me to suggesting to the Hanabi players that they should play it in the morning so that Randy could squeeze in yet another event.) The first three years I went to WBC we played in finals on Sunday and in each case we ended up leaving Lancaster much later than Pounder wanted. Then we had a year where we slept through the alarm (or failed to set it) and left pretty late. And the year where Pounder's car died Saturday night on the way back from Waffle House and we ended up leaving really late. So ideally we won't play anything on Sunday, and we'll wake up early, and we'll leave on time, and Pounder will get home before midnight.

In a twist from past years, things actually went according to plan this time. Both Robb and I had stayed up later than we should have, so we were a little sleepy, but we managed a reasonable shiftwork setup where I slept the first few hours and Robb slept the rest of them. A reasonable delay at the border, two reasonable stops for food (another baked potato at Wendy's and an actual meal at Swiss Chalet) and no other issues at all. Normally we eat at a big buffet place for lunch before leaving Lancaster, but that really adds about an hour to the trip since eating at a buffet takes a long time for slow people like me. It also puts a break at a bad spot, right at the start, which isn't terribly useful.

So, no games on Sunday, but I can't blame that on being sick. Both because I felt fine, and because we don't normally play games on Sunday anyway. By the time Sunday rolled around I was actually feeling like I was ready for WBC to start! Terrible timing on getting sick, but next year will hopefully be different!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

2013 WBC Day 8

Saturday at WBC is a day mostly for semifinals and finals, or for more compact events. They run continuous tournaments for some of the more popular games for the people who can only make it for the weekend. Things like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Ticket to Ride. I'm not a big fan of those games anymore, so I rarely have much to do on Saturday. Sometimes I randomly play one of the few heats left running, which is how I got 2nd in Tigris & Euphrates a few years ago. Randomly show up, accidentally win a heat, keep playing because I have nothing better to do. But with being sick and having gotten up early on Friday for the Le Havre final none of that was on the docket this time around. I wasn't planning on playing anything, and just slept in quite late. And when I got up, I played Rogue Legacy.

6pm did bring the last seminar in the winning at life series so I went down to that. A lot of it was a rehash of the first seminar with talking about brain chemicals and how games work to make you feel good. She went into more detail about some things I'd heard before, about "free won't" and how working to say no to things wears down your ability to say no to other things. So avoiding getting into situations where you need to say no is a reasonable idea to keep in mind. Also a bit about how human multitasking is a myth and it's pretty expensive to keep swapping between tasks so if you want to be really productive it helps to limit distractions and just focus on the one thing at a time.

Unfortunately the room was booked at 7pm for Wits & Wagers and there was quite the crowd for that event so we got kicked out right on time, which unfortunately was a little before she was done. I like hearing about this sort of thing, and it makes me miss being a student.

I didn't stick around for Wits & Wagers. Instead I went and watched the end of the Agricola finals.

9pm brought Facts in Five, an interesting trivia game. 5 categories, 5 letters, name things that start with those letters in those categories. There are 5 rounds that get progressively harder. I was off to a good start with 15 points in the first round (thank you, Simon & Garfunkel) but things went steadily downhill from there. The worst was when a category came up for Dancing With The Stars which is my favourite television show and I didn't get a single one. I just couldn't remember any last names at all. Oh well! Some of the categories seemed familiar from previous years, like justices of the supreme court and islands in the Caribbean, but since they can change the letters I guess that makes sense. There's a lot of US centric categories which I guess makes sense since most of the people there are from the US but it sure puts me in a hole. I don't know US geography or justices or history. Except that we burned down their white house when they got uppity!

Pounder and Robb went out to eat while I was playing Facts in Five, but they brought me back a burger from Red Robin which didn't make me sick. Woo! Eating the same thing every time I go somewhere makes it feasible for people to order for me.

I met up with Sceadeau and Andrew after Slapshot which they may have played. I didn't. We wandered around a bit and finally gave in to learn a game from Jason Levine called Coup. You get dealt two cards which tell you which actions you're allowed to take. Except you can take all the action in the game as long as you're willing to pretend you have the card. After you declare an action anyone can jump in and accuse you of lying, with the losing side of that challenge having to discard a card. Last person with cards left wins. It seemed pretty terrible, since bluffing was a bad idea because it was so costly to get caught. We played a few times, though I didn't like it much, until Randy showed up with his proxied Hanabi deck. I didn't think 5 people could lean in well enough to play with it so I stepped out and watched. For about 5 hours. I played the role of coach even though I couldn't see two hands without moving, and I wasn't able to move. Then off to bed.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

2013 WBC Day 7

Friday morning brought the Le Havre final at the stupidly early hour of 9am. One advantage of being sick all week is I'd gotten plenty of sleep the last few days, so my sleep batteries were all charged up. I got around 6 or 7 hours sleep, woke up, bought a Coke, and was in pretty good shape relatively speaking. I was still a little sick and I absolutely detest waking up so I still wasn't in a very good mood and wasn't thinking perfectly clearly but compared to previous years it was just fine.

The format this year had 3 semifinal games with the closest second also advancing. One of the winners said he has a hard time waking up and might well just sleep through it since we wouldn't move it. Which provides a bit of a conundrum... If that happened, should the final switch to a 3 player game? Should they advance the next closest second instead? That would mean he needs to also wake up at 9am and might not even get to play. What if he doesn't show either? The next next closest second? How far down the chain do we go to find a 4th player? Any warm body? Making the situation even stickier the person who is 2nd in line is the GM himself. So if he rules that we keep taking people it's to his own benefit. But if he rules that we stop at him to avoid looking like he's ruling in his own favour he actually ends up ruling against himself which is really terrible. GMing is rough enough as it is, you don't need any rules swung against you. He ended up deciding to let #5 in if it came up, but was going to decline his own spot. I think that will seem fairer on first inspection for most people so it's probably a good thing, but I think it sucks for him. It ended up not mattering since the actual 4 finalists did show up.

The final table included one of last year's finalists (another Nick) and two people new to the finals this time around. Another Nick was on my immediate right and was one of the people in last year's finals who got screwed by iron parity, and was well aware that that was probably why he lost that game.

I was in third chair. I haven't yet found the time/inclination to work out which seats may have an advantage or not. I'm pretty sure first chair is strongest, especially if a wood tile flips up first. Which it did in this game. I believe second player got 3 clay, and then I got 2 wood myself. It also seems like people don't like to spend their early money, so I also got to buy the 4 cost building firm. Interestingly no one took money to buy the marketplace. Not only that, but first player who took wood also didn't build the marketplace! So when it got back to my turn I was able to build it with my wood. I mentioned how I got both the 4 cost building firm and the marketplace in the semis and how Robb imprinted in my brain how ridiculous a setup it is to let someone have both. And here I am with both of them again. Will it continue to be ridiculous?

The location of the iron tile meant that 1st and 3rd seats were going to have good iron parity. We would always get first crack at 2 iron until someone snapped and took the single iron. For the second year in a row the other finalists refused to take 1 iron, so myself and the guy opposite me got to scoop up 2 iron offer after 2 iron offer. On top of this source of iron, and my marketplace, I also decided that my conclusion from the last game with the hardware store was a reasonable one so I was jumping over to it as well which was giving me an absolutely ridiculous amount of iron. I may even have used the black market once to get 2 iron and 2 of something else!

One key play, for me, was how everyone seemed to be neglecting the harvest phase of the game. Another Nick quickly took 2 cows and a grain but no one else was harvesting anything at all. Which meant the cow offer kept getting bigger and bigger. Eventually I took it when it was at 5! As the second person to get cows that's mind boggling. Of course I didn't take it at 2, 3, or 4 either, so I don't know that I can say other people were making mistakes either. But that one action probably gave me the resources to score 60+ points.

I had marketplace control again, which meant I got to manipulate the special buildings. There wasn't one I wanted to keep buried this game, but there was one I wanted to make sure came out. Harbour watch, which is probably the single most game warping card in the deck. It's a building that lets you use any occupied building by paying them a dollar. This means you can't block people from building boats, or from getting in all the shipping phases they want, or from picking up coal in the colliery. It means you basically get to ignore the opposition for my preferred line of play. It also means owning the colliery is even more critical than normal, so as soon as I saw this building existed I went out of my way to make a plan to get the colliery. The colliery was buried under the clay mound and the arts center I think. My play ended up being go to the construction firm, build the arts center, sell the arts center, buy the clay mound, build the colliery. A short time later I got some money (maybe by going to the cokery) and bought the harbour watch. I tried to convince people that they should be using my harbour watch in order to use my colliery but it rarely happened.

A little later on the feed lot came out, and no one had much interest in it, so I was able to do a big shipping phase to get down to 2 cows and then buy it like in the semis. Then I got to make 2 cows a turn for a while for lots of extra things to ship.

As the game played out I pretty much ignored steel entirely. The steel mill was late to come out and Another Nick was waiting on it instead of building iron ships. I think this ended up setting him back way too far. When it finally did come out he was able to make 11 steel and then was able to start building boats and setting up to ship all the stuff he'd acquired over the game, but by that point I'd already flat out bought 2 of the 4 steel ships. Guy on my left had made 2 steel with the business office and had built one also, so there was only one left for Another Nick which was really bad for his position. I ended up with 2 steel ships, 2 iron ships, and a wooden ship. The 2 steel and the wood I had bought with cash money, the iron I had made with all the iron I'd picked up.

I was paying attention to when the town was going to build a building late in the game this time, and spent the money to buy the bridge over the Seine in order to force the town to build the town hall. One of the other players was set up to build it and I wanted to keep that from happening.

I also got a late grain offer with 9 or 10 grain in it, which let me bake the full 20 loaves of bread near the end of the game. I got to ship many, many times thanks to the harbour watch. Probably 6 or 7 times, with some of those times being for 16 goods. Lots of cows, bread, and coke. I ended the game with no goods left at all.

The other players at the table were pretty much ready to concede early in the game because I had such a big lead. I thought Another Nick could catch me, but he waited too long on steel and ran out of time. I don't remember final standings, but I think he did come second. I won, by a pretty good margin. Good thing we didn't submit a team this year, it sure would have sucked to win my team event. 8P

1 o'clock brought the single elimination Innovation tournament. The caffeine from the first Coke I'd had in many weeks was keeping me ready to roll and I wasn't really feeling super sick anymore. Still sluggish with a cough, but not like I wanted to die. So I went to that. I got paired up with Rob Kircher in the first round which is a bit of a tough draw because he's really good at games and I'm really good at games. I hardly play any Innovation and I know I'm a lot worse than Robb and Pounder so I didn't have terribly high hopes. Andy (the GM) came by to watch us because he said we were the tough match for the round. (There was a mulligan round, so a lot of the really good players weren't playing in this round at all.) I ended up in a relatively bad position and Rob had enough points to get his last achievement but needed to get a 7 into play. His last turn was to draw a couple 7s and I didn't have a way to make him discard both of them. So he was going to get to play one and achieve to win the game on his next turn. I had a bunch of cards in play and finally came up with a viable line of play. I could reveal a green card from my hand and steal all his green cards. If both of his 7s were green then this play would prevent him from winning on his turn. Also, if they were green I would get to meld them all, and all my green cards, which included the card that lets you auto-win if you have 10 or more green cards in play. I had 8 of my own, so if he had 2 of them I would win on my next turn! I'd seen 3 of the 7s, and none of them were green, so there was a non-zero chance this play would work. 1 in 21, I believe! It turned out his 7s were a yellow and purple so it didn't work, but it made me happy to at least find a line of play that had a chance of working. It's like I'm changing the rules for victory and gaining status even though I lost! Yay, dopamine!

Most of the games I would normally play are done by this point in the week. There are still semis and finals and such, but I didn't make any of those because I didn't play any games earlier in the week. And I still wasn't really feeling like playing a lot of games. So I just sat around and watched the rest of the Innovation tournament. I feel like I probably went to Red Robin with Pounder after the Innovation event, but I may be misremembering. Maybe I just ate gluten free cookies. Then I played some Rogue Legacy back in the room after doing a blog post.

11pm brought Liar's Dice. I couldn't turn down my chance to be the LIAR'S DICE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD!!!!!! even though I didn't want to be in a room with 1250 dice being rolled at once with my foggy brain. I played at a table with Robb, Sceadeau, Pounder, and a couple of random dudes. I lost very quickly. Sceadeau was very mean to me and knocked me out. I wasn't the first one eliminated in the whole event so I didn't get made fun of by the whole room but it was pretty close. Pounder 'won', but he didn't want to advance so he conceded to the kid at the table who was very confused about the outcome. It's a little sketchy to me (I'd rather have Pounder eliminate everyone and just not show up to the next round if he doesn't want to play) but with a game like Liar's Dice I don't think anyone actually cares.

Hanabi was the open gaming game of the convention and Robb was one of the few people who owned a copy of the game so he was swarmed by people to play it after Liar's Dice. I sat around and watched for a bit, and then was learning some weird Flower Fall game from Matt when Randy came up and asked if we'd go learn Copycat instead. I don't have the ability to interrupt the start of a game and convince the people in it to do something else instead, but Randy does, and I'd rather learn Copycat than Flower Fall so it was all good by me. Matt ended up winning the Copycat event later in the week so he was probably just fine with getting in an extra game too.

Copycat is a game that copies game mechanics from all kinds of games and tries to kludge them all together into a good game. Some of the people I talked to thought they did a great job. I thought it was very mediocre personally. It was incredibly bland, and while the mechanics from different games were all there it didn't feel like the fun parts of those games came with the mechanics. You build a deck like in Dominion, but with the game lasting at most 11 turns and with new cards only getting shuffled in the turn after you buy them it felt like building a good/fun deck didn't matter enough. There are decisions to make on which cards to buy and which cards to trash but the game didn't last long enough for it to really feel like it matters like it does in Dominion or even A Few Acres of Snow. That said, the game was still pretty long and felt like it was dragging. Worker placement from Agricola is probably at fault here. You're placing workers down on pretty minorly relevant spaces, but there are a bunch of them and you get presented with the illusion of choice. Do I want to draw a card, or make a dollar, or earn a point? But when it comes right down to it drawing a card is worth a dollar or a point and neither of those really matter either. So it again feels like you're making decisions (which takes time) but the decisions you're making have no theme or major consequence. Through The Ages and Puerto Rico show up with mechanics, but they didn't get the good ones out of those games.

Perhaps worst of all, I didn't get to end the game on the score track. I ended with a score of 91, but the score track went 90-92-93-94-93-95. No space for 91. I fell off into the abyss never to be heard from again.

The rules are also very badly written. It wasn't at all clear if we could do some of the abusive things we wanted to do, and that made the game experience suck for me. A lot of the cards and actions are about copying other cards or actions (the 'theme' of the game being copying stuff) and one of the rules shows up in bold talking about how you can only use the base of any given card twice total. Once for the card, once for a copy. That is all. But then the explanation text for a card goes on to say how you can end up tripling some cards. And there's a card that says it comes in as a copy of a different card, not that it copies the effect of a card. So can you play that card as a copy of a good card, and then use two copy effects to copy both of those? In some senses you're getting the base of the first card 4 times. In other senses you're getting 2 cards 2 times each.

No one knew how to actually resolve it, which meant part of me was stuck feeling like I'd been cheated because the other players had done some super copying, and part of me was stuck feeling like I should be able to do the same things but would be cheating myself. It just didn't feel good. Come back, dopamine! Come back!

We then went to Waffle House, but made the mistake of showing up at 2:30 am on a Friday night. So the bars had just recently shut down and all the drunk people were at Waffle House, filling it up and making service very slow. I was more than a little worried about contamination issues but they managed to keep me from getting sick for a third time with the scrambled eggs, hash browns, and ham.