November 16, 2006
Milton Friedman 1912-2006
Economist Milton Friedman died today. He was one of my top few favorite living famous people, so very sad to hear this.
November 13, 2006
Went to DougO's birthday gaming party Friday and Saturday and played a bunch of games and had a really good time.
Played Indonesia again and it just continues to hold up as a great game to me. All three of the other players were new and I think they all quite liked it too, despite my leading pretty much the whole time, particularly in the midgame. I generally prefer to be a goods producer in this game rather than a shipper, primarily because I dislike the element that often happens where a producer gets to choose which shipping player to give his money to (particularly as I am often doing well so am unlikely to get chosen very much). However, in this game I got a shipping line as the last available company in Era A and then someone merged it and I ended up buying the combined line, but pretty inexpensively. The interesting part, however, was on a later turn a player proposed a merger of a 2 ship line and a 1 ship line. I didn't own either of these but realized that buying them would give me a basic monopoly on shipping (6th/last line actually wasn't even owned yet) and I had the most money at the time so decided to seriously bid for it and ended up winning it. With this monopoly (which I had never seen before to this extent), I was able to really screw around with things and force people to do a large amount of long-distance shipping, and yet still often not be able to expand their companies. The other players should have done a SiapFaji merger to diversify the goods (and reduce their number) but didn't for an extra turn or so and I ended up making quite a mint off the ships. I had also forgot to mention to the other players (until the last turn which is the only time I have ever seen it done) the ability to upgrade someone else's hull capacity (I was keeping mine at 1). Not sure it really would have been in anyone's interest to do this at the cost of their own R&D (it would have helped them but also helped me and I think it wouldn't have been worth it for them - I was close to doing it myself and seems like if it is nearly worth it for me almost can't be worth it for them) but one player said he would have done it so I certainly am sorry for forgetting to mention it. I did at the end of the game misjudge the ending (ended a turn earlier than I expected due to tons of slots being opened by mergers) which cost me a ton of potential last turn money but I still won pretty comfortably.
As I mentioned in my post about Leonardo last week, this capacity in a game for drastic change (here going from a goods producer and minor shipper to having no goods and being a monopoly shipper) I just love, as long as it is not done in a chaotic fashion. The Merger rule in Indonesia, whether it happens a lot (as in this game) or only a little, is certainly the best rule in the game and turns what could be a pretty dry economic game into a bit of a roller coaster, in a great way.
Movies: The King
Posting this as a very strong anti-recommendation for the movie The King, which I found really distasteful and greatly regret watching. Had I known what I was getting in for, I would have stopped this in the middle but thought it might change course. The movie is not badly made, just the plot I found so negative as to be a trial to have watched and I now desire to completely forget the movie. I have no idea what got me to add this to my Netflix queue in the first place but whatever it was, was unfortunate. *1/2
Oh, Deep Discount Dvd (www.deepdiscountdvd.com) is currently having their 20% off everything sale using the code SuperSale if you want to order any DVDs. Not sure how long this will last. I just ordered Duma, Dirty Pretty Things and A Very Long Engagement among others, all of which I loved and commented on here before. If anyone local wants to borrow any of these, let me know.
November 03, 2006
Research Day - snark/snarky
I made a snarky comment today to a friend and then felt a bit bad about it and apologized to him but he didn't know the term and asked me the derivation so I guessed that it was from Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark.
Well, it turns out, according to Wikipedia, that I was wrong and there is no connection to the story. However, what makes this annecdote interesting to me is that it turns out there is a connection to Lewis Carroll because snark is actually a portmanteau of "snide remark" and it turns out Lewis Carroll invented the usage of pormanteau to refer to a compositing of words together in Through the Looking Glass with the word "slithy".
In Jokes in Books
From Eric Albert, a collection of In-Jokes, mostly from technical computer books. Some are very funny.
November 01, 2006
Essential German Games
At games last night, David & Melissa had just bought St Petersburg and I was surprised at David not having it already, given how complete his collection is. I noted that I thought it would probably make the top 10 of my list of Essential German Games and Melissa asked what else would be on my list.
So, today, I decided to actually make that list and see where it ended up and such. This list of course has some similarities to The One Hundred although I only went back and looked at that after I made my list. There is a pretty big difference in methodology of the two lists, however. That list was a composite of subjective preferences of a bunch of people really knowledgable about German games. This list is meant to be my as objective as I can opinion of the zeitgeist of the German games players. Also my list is meant to be more about starting assembling a "collection" of games and not about individually particularly liking game A or game B.
Anyway, here it is. The gaps indicate I think there is a bigger distance between the two games above and below than in instances without gaps. List ended up somewhat randomly being 23 games.
The Essential German Games to start a games collection
Ticket to Ride
Euphrat & Tigris
Princes of Florence
Lord of the Rings
Age of Steam
Magic: the Gathering
The ones I am least sure of on this list, for different reasons, are Tichu (hard to distance my subjective love of it), Caylus, and Ingenious (too new, particularly Caylus).
Games: Diamant and Leonardo
Diamant was interesting last night. Played two games, one 4 player and one 7. I was in the mine till the end all 10 rounds, mostly having horrible luck and in fact only coming out with gems once in the whole time. However, the one time I came out I came out with 50 which was enough to win - by far the biggest payout from a single run I have seen. In the second game, not only did I score 0 but two other players did as well and the winning score was like 14, by far the lowest winning score I have ever seen.
Also played the new Leonardo da Vinci for the first time last night and probably played the worst game of any German style game I have played in like 5 years. I made horrendous mistake after horrendous mistake, some bad play, some forgetting rules I knew, some just not paying enough attention. Amazingly, after all that I somehow ended up 2nd. Anyway, the game definitely is much more interesting than most German games, and is going to require at least one more play to really judge. It has been compared a bunch to Caylus but I really don't know why - it has much more in common with Aladdin's Dragons. I also do think it has some pretty innovative mechanisms, particularly the favors at the beginning of the game which make nearly as much difference as initial placements in Settlers, and the way workers are either working in the lab or going out and acquiring resources. However, I also have some troubles with the game. I think many of the decisions you make may end up being more frustrating than fun, as is pretty common in area majority games. Secondly, tracking the materials and therefore what inventions other people are aiming for is quite imporant and also quite difficult to do. I think I would prefer playing with open resources, but closed invention plans - for example giving players cards from 1-5 which they put under their workshop, instead of the actual resources, that indicate they are working on the invention in that slot on the board. Finally, I think the game is massively prone to opening move analysis and I am sure this is going to be done very soon, and is important because it is also a standard ramping up economic game with no leader penalties so getting off to a good start is vital. So, a very interesting new game (the most interesting I've played since Indonesia last November), but I am not sure whether it will be a fun game in the long run. Check it out for yourself. Given my questions about the game, I am holding off on rating it.
Thinking about this game in bed last night (always a very good sign), I realized that one of the things it really lacks (as does Caylus and in truth most German games), and that I think is really important to me in games but only consciously realized this last night, is it has no room for the dramatic play, a play that majorly changes the overall game dynamic. Euphrat & Tigris, for example, is the ultimate German game in this respect with their constantly being the possibilities for internal conflicts, disasters, and the huge impacts sometimes of external conflicts. Even if these don't actually happen all that often, the game is made vastly more exciting to me because of their potential. My favorite standard war game, Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage has the same constant dramatic potential in campaign sea moves and daring moves like crossing the mountains. Tichu, my favorite game of all, hugely has this as well mainly because of the breadth of different card groups one can play - allowing one to do things like calling Tichu when an opponent has only 1 card left and such. I think in fact almost all of my very favorite games have this element. Maybe I'll go through the whole list of my top 10-20 looking for the dramatic at some point.