November 22, 2005
Twenty-Five years of Nightline anchored by the great Ted Koppel ends tonight
I've been watching Ted Koppel and Nightline since the program began in 1980 as America Held Hostage covering the Iran hostage crisis and since almost the very beginning Ted has been my favorite journalist (from before my time Cronkite and Murrow are the other two great TV journalists). He is both an amazing interviewer and a very interesting thinker in his own right. I was probably one of the happiest people on campus when he was chosen as the commencement speaker for my graduation from Penn in 1991.
For years I was a regular watcher of Nightline but at this point I am actually glad Ted is leaving it. For a long time, he has had replacement anchors (who are not nearly as good or interesting IMHO) much of the time and now competes with Charlie Rose (whose long interview with Ted last night made me realize that tonight is Ted's last night as Nightline's anchor) who I don't think is as good as Ted but does a full hour program without commercials while Nightline is only like 20 minutes, only sometimes has Ted, and does a fair number of lesser stories. My guess is that Ted will leave to do irregular specials but these will allow his editorial comments through more (which I really like) and only be the interesting topics and not the grind of _having_ to put out a show every day.
Thanks for the 25 years of Nightline and I look forward to what is to come.
November 21, 2005
Top 20 Geek Novels
Theres a list of the top 20 Geek novels since 1932 on the Guardian site. This is based on a poll. Interestingly, I've read the top 18, own the 19th and had never before heard of the 20th afaik.
November 18, 2005
The One Hundred is Complete
The One Hundred list is complete and I think serves as a great German games recommendation list. Turned out that 12 of my 15 entries made the list (although I only voted for 2 of the top 10 - Tichu and E&T) which is about average (unlike what I said in my previous post - just wasn't thinking straight). The only game I voted for which I am surprised didn't make the list is Black Vienna which of course isn't that well known but among those who do know it is highly regarded and I would definitely have thought it would be on the list. Was I the only one who voted for it? Did Joe and others let me down? He's going to release some more stats later so I'll probably get to see. I'm of course particularly happy with Tichu's #10 slot (on my list and the BGG list it is around #40), helped along of course by my first place vote. Probably will encourage a bunch more people to learn it.
The highest rated game I have not played is #51 Go and I also haven't played #65 History of the World, #68 Ave Caesar (have played the similar auto racing game), and #90 Dune. I kind of have no interest in History of the World but would be happy to fill in the other holes at some point.
Thanks to Mark and Snoop for the list!
Movies: Fever Pitch and the Interepreter
Watched both of these in the last couple of days and both were very good.
Fever Pitch is a sweet romantic comedy centering on the miracle 2004 Red Sox season, whose surprise ending the filmmakers nicely adjusted to. Fallon and Barrymore are both very funny and likeable and just a very fun film. ****
The Interpreter is filmed in New York and inside the United Nations building (first film ever allowed to do so) and is also excellent. The plot is a bit confusing at times but the performances of Kidman, Penn and Keener are all very strong. Previously, I have never been a fan of Nicole Kidman but here she is VERY good and also prettier than in any other of her films I've seen. ***1/2
November 08, 2005
The One Hundred
The combination of Stephen Glenn and Mark Jackson are posting The One Hundred, another Top 100 games list, but this one fairly different. First, ratings only come from a set of 65 'experts' (me included) and each person only submitted a top 15 list so every game is in somebody's (and hopefully several somebodies) top 15. I'm enjoying it and the comments are interesting. As of today, 41-100 have been posted.
You can also read snarky comments on the list at Brian Bankler's Tao of Gaming. Having contributed, I'll avoid those but have been pretty happy with the list so far. I wonder how many of my 15 will make the full list (apparently 300 games were named by somebody so the average person will only get 5 but I think I'll be much higher). San Marco and Capitol are probably the only two so far that I really think don't deserve to be on there. For me personally, my 100th favorite game is rated a 7.5 I note which makes sense since I own only a little more than 100 games and my general rating number at which I want to buy a game is 8.
My own comments I probably would have written a bit differently for this format but had mostly already written for something else and didn't bother to change. With this format, I would have been more inclined to only note the positives - after all every game I listed I do think is a great game.
Back from BoardGameGeek.Con on Sunday and figured I'd write quick reviews of the new games I played. Was also great to see and play with so many people I either knew before but hadn't seen in a long time or knew by name but hadn't met. It was particularly nice playing with David, Peter, Ted (who I hadn't met or heard of before but was great to play with and an excellent game teacher and player), Michael, Derk and Aldie, Daniel, Ray (who I also hadn't met before) and many others. I unfortunately didn't get in games with Mark Johnson or Chris Brooks, but was glad to meet both of them.
Travel was uneventful and I arrived Wednesday but unlike other cons I have been to there seemed to be no pre-con gaming going on but I helped Vickie and her elves with setup for several hours before the exhaustion of travel and having gotten very little sleep the night before caught up with me and I crashed. Given things, probably would have been smarter to not come till Thursday and save the vacation day and hotel room cost and only miss a few hours of gaming.
The rest of the days were mostly nonstop gaming with only one excursion out of the hotel zone for a great Texas all you can eat barbecue dinner. Played mostly new stuff during the days and Tichu from midnight on. I unfortunately got very few good hands during the Tichu games and only went 2 and 2. David was my partner for three of these games and had very bad luck with his Tichu calls, running into a ton of bombs (particularly from Peter in one game) and other bad luck and must have missed at least 60% of his calls overall but I am not sure he was wrong to try most of them.
Peter's game show software and mc'ing were absolutely excellent but the actual clues were not really up my alley and some of the answers were stretches in my opinion but we had a good time and at least finished in the top half - was also hard to see the screen for many teams, including ours, and hard to chat with the team to combine the shared knowledge needed to answer many questions. The poker tournament also was fun although I got poor cards (AJs and 77 were my best hands of the night and I was in from 90 players down to 30) and the blinds went up fast enough that playing tight-aggressive and waiting for cards (my usual style) wasn't great and I did a poor job adjusting. The hand I went out on was kind of annoying the way it played out. I was in the big blind at 100/200 with a 900 stack and two players were up to 900 (one all-in also with exactly 900) when it got to me and I decided to take my shot with A8s. They had 77 and AJo and I had the worst shot with the 77 having the plurality chance. Flop came Axx and the 77 was in trouble. Turn came an 8 and now I had to dodge only 5 cards to triple up but the river was a J and two of us were out. A friend of mine, Brian, ended up winning (had like half the chips when got down to final table), having never really played at all even in home games but a very smart guy and had watched lots of the WPT. He did have to get an 80-20 suckout when all-in pre-flop with TT against QQ to make it that far but very nice job and the tournament prize of $200 in gift certificates and a bunch of other lesser things was nice for a freeroll tournament.
This has gotten long enough I'm going to put the reviews in a separate post which I'll post first so the order makes more sense.
BGG.Con Games Played
New games to me played (in order of rating) at BoardGameGeek.Con this past week. Surprisingly, I played no actually bad games (or at least don't remember them - lost my list and had to reconstruct it). Games are listed by highest rated first. The only two I am inclined to buy are the first two, which are unfortunately 60 Euros and immediately sold out at Essen, respectively, so I'll see. If anyone has a suggestion on getting either, let me know.
Indonesia - 8.5 - This is the newest release from Splotter (Roads & Boats, Antiquity, etc...) and I think by far the best so far. It is still a bit fiddly but not nearly so much as their other games and the elements left are all important - it really feels like they put a lot of effort into removing unnecessary complexity. The upgrade track, merger mechanism and forced shipping rule are all absolutely excellent. The only thing really lacking in this game is the graphic design of the board, where the artist went too far with script and curvy lines, but we found it didn't really detract from the actual game. Also, on the plus side was the very smart decision to use both cardboard chits (for 1s and 5s) and paper money (for higher denominations) as the 5 counters make shipping payments much easier to track and the paper money makes the larger sums hidden and more space efficient. Kudos again to the upgrade track where all the different upgrades seem really well balanced and the track rewards neither specialization nor diversity, allowing players to pursue very different strategies and hopefully all be competitive. This game is quite long (say 3 hours) but with lots of interesting decisions and I was never bored. One of the players in our game was already in another game of this the next day I saw him and I was kind of envying him. 60 Euros is outrageously expensive (although the components are nice) but I will still probably buy it. Definitely the game I am most looking forward to playing again. Still it is long and complex enough that I can see my rating shifting up or down by a full point depending on how future plays go. As with other Splotter games, this is a game for the analytical types - one player in a game of this I watched just didn't get the game at all and was just frustrated the entire time and wanting the game to end so definitely not for everybody.
Shear Panic - 8 - The pieces in this are unbelievably cute and absolutely do seem to come straight out of Aardman Animation (the Wallace & Gromit studio). Looking at them, one expects a very light game but that isn't at all what one gets. This is in reality a multi-player abstract with intricate and changing scoring systems throughout and a lot to think about as you try to guess what other players will do and carefully look at their boards to see what they can do. I really enjoyed this and the sheep really are the best bits in any game I have seen in years. Surprisingly, the other elements of the game (score track and player action sheets) seem to be just laminated laser prints or something but who cares with these amazing sheep?! Apparently this was only like $15-20 at Essen and if I was there I would have bought a bunch of copies but no surprise at all it sold out - hopefully it will be reprinted or I can get a copy some other way.
E&T cardgame - 7.5 - The rules are very similar to the boardgame but the play isn't nearly as much and I don't think there is room for nearly as interesting plays to happen. Also, the scores both times I played were too low and too close such that very small changes could have had any other player win - I don't think this one has nearly as much room for skillful play. Also, of course it doesn't look nearly as nice as the gorgeous Doris board.
Caylus - 7 - This game got played a ton, due to the early hype and that there was one woman at the convention actually being paid to teach it to people (apparently taught it to 12 groups and this is a 2-3 hour game). Many really liked it but I wasn't one of them. It is slow, actions are too unbalanced, going first is too much of an advantage, the provost moves are too powerful and unpredictable (and how much negotiation you play with will make a big
difference) and there are endgame kingmaker problems. In our game, 3 different people could have won depending on if the game had ended when it did or a turn earlier or later and this was largely in the control of the uninvolved players. There is no way I can see this keeping its current BGG rank. I'll play again I'm sure but will not be suggesting this one.
Havoc - 6.5 - I was taught this by KC Humphrey, the designer, and we played a short version of it and I enjoyed it a fair bit. However, I must admit to being quite annoyed at the very unintuitive second tiebreaker, particularly after pretty nicely playing a very risky strategy of having to win both final battles and succeeding to get into the tie. The second tiebreaker, however, turned out to be fewest cards (troops) in hand which makes absolutely no sense to me (KC said it was to reward "efficiency"). If at the end of a war, two kings remain and one has significantly greater troop strength, which do you think would get better terms in a peace deal? This also led to the ridiculous situation of the other player throwing away troops in a totally losing battle just to get them out of his hand for the tiebreaker - utterly ridiculous IMO. Reverse this tiebreaker, KC.
Lucca Citta - 6 - Reminded me quite a bit of Palazzo. The mechanism of using the shields to determine turn order but then spending them to build the building works quite well but basically the result seems like it will be pretty random.
Ark - 6 - New Doris & Frank game. Cute as usual but not as cute as many of their other games. The luck of the draw/flip of the player before you may play a bit too much of a role as does the advantage gained by the player on your left using lots of action chips. In our game, I also found the Shy animals exceedingly difficult to play and got stuck with 3 of them in my hand at the end.