January 27, 2009
Race for the Galaxy: Contact Specialist
Contact Specialist does not work on Alien Worlds!!!
This post is purely an effort to try to ingrain the above in my head. I don't know why, but I get this wrong almost all the time, including last night and another game not that long ago. I have a really good memory in general for game rules (albeit not for much else unfortunately) but this one thing, in a game I play a lot, I just always forget. I'd probably post a note on my copy of the card if I regularly played with my own set, but I don't so wouldn't do any good.
January 20, 2009
Mystery Hunt 2009
Had a great hunt this year - thanks Bombers. Our team ended up only solving one Meta but were very close (although one might never have gotten) on two others and this honestly didn't surprise me that much. Most of the team did not want to win and it is hard for that to not influence things. In some ways this was good, as this year was definitely a more relaxed atmosphere but don't think it helped solving. For example, I went home every night for a full 8 hours of sleep and even doing a couple of other minor things at home too. By midnight Sunday, we only had two active solvers left - was glad to find Mike did finish this puzzle on his own at 3AM.
I worked on a bunch of puzzles and with the site not up not going to try to list individual ones. Every one of them I worked on with other people (particularly as usual Mike K. who is just brilliant and great to co-solve with), no solo-solves (which is totally fine with me, even great) but the Star Wars constraint problem I was basically the lead solver on with lots of help. That one I saw as right up my alley right away and got two color copies printed but then didn't get to working on it for probably two hours as other things distracted me and then Matt Z reminded me of it and four of us very quickly group-solved it.
I was also happy to play clean-up hitter on a couple of puzzles which other people did 90+% of the work on but didn't figure out how to end and to get several other puzzles like that to completion by bringing in other solvers to do the clean-up in just a few minutes.
My most amazing moment however was also a bit painful as my brilliantly lucky guess/insight into the answer to the Virtual Sectors Meta got wasted as we couldn't figure out how to actually produce the answer and the associated way to save Harold/Foggy. I managed to guess Mr. Mxyzptlk as the "wierd little guy" who had captured Harold just from that description and the vowels theme of the round somehow. I came up with this during a team meeting and went and googled to be sure I was right his name had no vowels. I then very sheepishly brought up this idea to the team but thankfully others on the team believed in it much more than I did and so we called it in. This clearly flustered HQ and they ended up having to call us back confirming it as the answer but saying we still needed to figure out how to defeat him (we had given this as "getting him to say his name backwards" even though we knew this was the "normal way" and thus probably wrong but had to say something). Unfortunately, we somehow never managed to find the way to produce this answer even with a bunch of us looking to produce the string "SPRMN". Turns out that quite late my colleague and friend Erik B. did find this string (but with two letters missing) but he didn't realize its importance and didn't bring it up to the rest of us.
My one bad note on this hunt was the "grid" for the Combat Simulator Meta. This was a great round in all sorts of ways badly hurt by using a completely arbitrary 7x8 (or 8x7 - don't know which) rectangle missing its corners as the grid to tile using 52 squares of Pentominoes. On the board of Inner Zyzzlvaria there were TWO much better 52 square grids (the 8x8 minus either the 12 white spaces or the Core Reactor and starting Pawn spaces). We really respect the Bombers and their elegant puzzle construction and just couldn't believe they had given us two great choices for tiling 52 squares and then intended us to use something as arbitrary as a 7x8 rectangle missing corners - we did try the 4x13/13x4 despite not liking nearly as much as the board. I talked to Foggy afterwards who did this Meta and he said they constructed this puzzle not having the board which I find completely understandable but still feel someone should have noticed when they added a grid to the game components that this would be what people would try to tile and was a much better thing to tile and switched things. I don't think you can fairly use a 7x8 rectangle missing corners as the tiling surface without cluing it. Anyway, though, an overall minor thing in a great hunt.
Also, huge congratulations to Beginner's Luck! which includes many of our ex-teammates. I personally am much happier you guys are constructing than that we are ;)
January 14, 2009
Had a really nice Holiday break, which ended up being a long 18 days. Spent Christmas and the few days after it quietly in Boston, having a really nice but quiet Christmas day with my Mom and setting up/configuring a new laptop and desktop machine which were gifts.
Then flew out to the Bay Area on New Year's Eve to have a quick lunch visit with my Uncle and Aunt in Berkeley and then a long gaming weekend at David's (thanks!). Was asleep for actual New Year having gotten up at what was 1AM CA time but then had lots of fun playing games for four days. Although we are originally connected through Titan, I unfortunately only got in one game (and was knocked out pretty quick although in a fun battle after amusing trash talk by Andrew) of it but tons of games of Dominion and Tichu and some of Race for the Galaxy and various other things. In addition to the Titan regulars, also got to play a bunch of games with Tom and Wei-Hwa and other locals which was fun.
I then headed directly to Las Vegas to meet my brother, sister-in-law and nephew. We had a really nice time hanging out and doing Vegasy things (although no gambling or poker for any of us while I was there) including me taking everyone to Love, the Beatles-themed Cirque du Soleil show, which was absolutely amazing but for me probably not quite as good as the unbelievably sublime O. We also went to see Penn & Teller which was also a really fun show. Other highlights were the Dolphins and incredibly active and playful young Tigers at the Mirage's Secret Garden and hanging out at the Venetian pools playing nerf football with my nephew, who is adorable and wonderful.
Movies: Man on Wire
This documentary about the wirewalk by Philippe Petit in 1974 between the Twin Towers in NYC is amazingly good. The background, actual walk, and aftermath were all fascinating and the film incredibly well put together and I was quite surprised at some of the early 'planning' footage. Watch this! Among the top 5 documentaries I have ever seen. *****