.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


New daily blog in town. RoboRally review.

There is a new, nearly daily game blog for your reading enjoyment "A Gathering of Engineers" http://pdxgaming.blogspot.com/ . The contributors include established boardgame bloggers Chris Brooks, Mike Deans (Chairman Mike) and Eric Landes (Incunabula). I guess all the contributors are from the same game group, Rip City Gamers, (is that correct?) and all hail from Oregon. I'm looking forward to reading another daily boardgame blog.

As with all Oregonians, all I want to know is... Can they pump their own gas? There are two levels of Oregonians, those who can run a gas pump, and those who were born there. Those who can pump their own gas are actually Californians who moved north at some point.


I got to play RoboRally several times this last weekend. I played with one other adult and two of his kids. The kids loved it. I liked it.

RoboRally is a reprint of the 1994 version of the game of the same name. I understand that boards are compatible between the old and new versions, but I am not certain.

In RoboRally each player controls a robot. Each robot is preprogrammed with 5 moves. The first robot to finish an obstacle course is the winner. Robots must touch a series of flags in order to complete the course. The catch is that robots can push other robots around, thus rendering their preprogrammed moves moot. Certain obstacles and robots fire lasers at other robots, causing damage. When a robot receives 9 points worth of damage, drives off the board, or falls into a hole the robot is dead. A robot can come back to life 2 times before the player is eliminated.

The owner of an undamaged robot will get 9 cards from which he chooses his 5 programmed moves. For every point of damage that the robot incurs, one less card is dealt to the player. If a robot receives less than 5 cards, he makes less than 5 moves. A player can choose to powerdown his robot for an entire turn in order to take away all the damage points.

Certain obstacles, such as conveyor belts and gears, move robots in a predictable fashion. Although it is a chaotic game, it is not a luck based game. Although players do draw cards that will determine what his preprogrammed moves will be, the cards aren't too limiting unless a robot has received more than 3 or 4 points of damage. A sand-timer is included with the game, when there is only one player left contemplating what his preprogrammed moves will be the timer is started. Downtime is not the issue with the game that you might expect.

There are certain spaces on the board that will gain a robot an option card if he stops on them. Option cards represent powerful pieces of equipment that give the robot a significant advantage. I found the option cards to take a relatively luck free game and crank up the luck factor. I would recommend at least playing a learning game without the option cards. Kids will like the options because they cause more chaos and mayhem. I don't find games with chaos and mayhem to be fun. RoboRally is already right on the edge of enjoyable to me. Any excess chaos would tip it to an unfavorable rating.

The various game boards can be combined in many different combinations. Flags are placed on the game board anywhere the players may choose, so there are nearly an infinite number of courses that players can construct.

I wouldn't suggest playing with a group of adults, but it is good fun for a mixed group of kids and adults. The game is a fun way to kill an hour, but I wouldn't call it mindless fun. Calculating moves can be agonizing, but it is in no way a brainburner either.

Good game. I'll give it a 7 for now. It will never go any higher, and it will probably slip to a 6 after a half-dozen plays.

Give it a 5 with the option cards.


Sunday, August 28, 2005


Kremlin: brief comments

School started last week. Since it started I started doing the Thursday night game group at the Boys and Girls Club, again. Unfortunately, the club will be closed this week and I won't have a weekday evening off for the next couple months. Brought Niagara and Blood Feud in New York last Thursday evening. Ended up playing Niagara with 3 others. Two kids had to go before the game was finished. That left me and one kid. I hadn't brought any two player games, so we continued with Niagara. Then he had to leave before we finished.

After a dozen or more plays, I have to reiterate that Niagara is a very good family game. I haven't played any of the other Spiel des Jahre nominees, but Niagara was a good choice to win the prestigious award. Kids really like the game, and adults won't get bored with it either.

I also got a chance to play my second game of Kremlin with 4 other adult gamers, not kids. It is a classic game published by the old Avalon Hill. In Kremlin players vie for control of polititians, power, and the party in a game based upon the old Soviet empire.

I've tried for two days to write a synopsis of the game and can't come up with anything that I like. Here's the description from Boardgamegeek, it is better than anything I came up with:

A game of political intrigue set in the Soviet Politburo. Players secretly influence politicians, using them to expunge other players politicians to Siberia, promote their own, or wheel and deal. The player who successfully gets their controlled Party Chief to wave 3 times at the May Day parade wins the game. Nice balance of chrome and playability, and the theme fits tightly.

Yes, the goal of the game is to wave 3 times. It is not near as hoaky as it may sound.

After two plays I don't think I will play again. It is a clever game. As the description says, it is a very nice balance of chrome and playability. I understand the appeal this game will have to many gamers, in the heyday of Avalon Hill Kremlin must have been an outstanding game.

I can't really put my finger on all the reasons why I don't care for it, but it is just too long and chaotic for me. If it was only a two hour game it would be much better. Unless a player gets lucky and waves 3 times early, the 10 rounds of play will last 3.5-4 hours. It's just not interesting enough to hold my attention for 4 hours.

Good gaming.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Of Games and Cleavage

Don't tell my wife, but I just scored the reprint of RoboRally. It should go over well at Thursday night gaming with the kids.

I also picked up Tower of Babel. When I bought ToB I saw Rheinlander sitting next to it. Rheinlander is a game that many of my geekbuddies have rated, but few have felt compelled to comment on. They rate it an anemic 6.3. Chris Farrell rated it a 7 with the caveat that it could be better than a 7, but no one in his group wanted to play more in order to find out. That pretty much sums up my geekbuddies comments.

I'll have to get Rheinlander. I'll hate myself when I buy it, but I'll end up getting it. I think it sounds like a good game. I appreciate Knizia more and more as I get more chances to play his games. There is no doubt, Knizia is the Babe Ruth of game design, and by that I don't mean that he is the womanizing, boozer of game design. Maybe I should say he is the Picasso of game design. Wait... Hemmingway... no... the John Barrymore... no... Hunter Thompson... no, no, no. Jimi Hendrix... Hank Williams... John Coltrane... no. The Mozart of game design? Anyway, the guy is brilliant, and I doubt he is a heroin addict. He certainly hasn't died a tragic death at too young an age, but it's only 2005.

Why are all great men associated with tragedy? Or womanizing? Or both? Anyway, at $50 I will be able to hold off until it goes on sale. Truth be told, it looks like the kind of game that will stay on the shelf until I buy it. I pretty much am the German-game-market in this town. If anyone else buys a German game (except if it is Settlers related, or an inexpensive card game) it's because they played my copy first and liked it. (That is only a slight exaggeration... really).

With the upcoming ASL tournament, looks like most of my gaming will be ASL related for the next month. They may need me to fill in if there is an odd number of players, so I need to get trained up. My wargaming buddies need to brush up on ASL rules too, but at this point I would only be a warm body in any tourney.


It was 27 F. (-2 C.) last Saturday morning at our house. That will bring an end to the cleavage season and usher in the parka season. At least we got in 3 good months of cleavage this year. Who knows? We might yet get another warm spell. Although trees have been turning yellow for a couple weeks now, they are far from bare. Since it froze the leaves will disappear fast, as will the spaghetti straps and the above-the-knee skirts.


I really want to post some more pictures to my blog, but my digital camera has bitten the dust. Until I get a new one (for Christmas, my wife informs me) I'll have to settle for linking to Valette's blog for pictures of smoke in the air, and Mary's blog for cleavage shots. I might have to borrow a camera for game-shots.


The smoke is thick. The fires are hundreds of miles away, but there are something like 100+ fires burning in the interior of Alaska right now. Significantly less than a dozen fires threaten private property, so significantly less than a dozen fires are being fought.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


ASL tournament in Fairbanks

The official announcement was just sent out. The Advanced Squad Leader tourney will be Friday and Saturday September 16, and 17 near Fairbanks. People who wish to stay through Sunday are welcome to stay and play more games then. Accommodations shouldn't be a problem and there is a restaurant on site.

Several people are coming up from Anchorage. If you live down south you should contact Tim at HobbyCraft for more information. He might even be able to hook you up with a ride. (Note: I have met Tim once, and I am sure he doesn't remember me. Dropping my name will get you no where, but he is one of the organizers. He's a nice guy, you won't be imposing.)

One fellow from Whitehorse, Yukon is interested in coming in case you live in that direction. Don't know that fellow myself, but you could contact me if you want to split gas money with him. I don't know if he would be interested in sharing a ride or not, but we could ask. He might be flying for all I know, but since he is an ASL player my guess is that he is driving a '79 Corolla with a trash bag for a back window and one good tire.

If you live somewhere else north of the 60th latitude and you are an ASL player you can contact me and I will put you in touch with the organizers.


Or leave a comment here.

House cleaning: Concerning my last entry.

:-P ......... I went into work. No one said anything to me. We'll see what happens on Monday.

Stay tuned. If I get fired I'll give you a few more lurid details that will have you laughing out loud. If I don't get fired I will share them with you after tempers have died down a little. Fairbanks is a small town. I can't give out too many details.

Good gaming

Friday, August 19, 2005


Professional Driver on a Closed Course. Don't try this at home.

Nothing game related here.

A couple weeks ago I recommended that you just walk off a job once in your life if you have never done it before. Of course you don't want to do it without a very good reason, but if you have a good reason it can be very satisfying.

Now I have an even better recommendation, but it only works within relatively narrow parameters.

If you have a truly incompetent boss, and I'm not talking about a run of the mill boss who inspires everyone below him to grumble. If you have a boss who is truly incompetent. And if said boss is an arrogant ass. Ohhhhhhh, say he is arrogant enough to use the word "demeanoring" in a sentence, then argues with you whether it is a word, and later tells you he found it in the dictionary and he was using it correctly. And if you are a long time employee with no history of problems. And if said boss is routinely in trouble with his bosses. And if said boss calls you into his office for "counseling". And if you know that your head will explode if he counsels you about anything. And if you will be damned if you will let that ass tell you your faults. And if you have time to prepare a counseling statement of your own. And if there is at least one other person around. And if you don't care if you get fired. You might try this.

Prepare a counseling statement of your own. When you get to the boss' office wait until he comes to greet you. Then tell his secretary, or anyone else who might be around that you are here to counsel Bob on his professionalism. Ask the secretary to accompany you into the boss' office because this is the second time you have had to counsel him on professionalism and that you would like a witness this time.

When you get into the office let the incompetent ass have it with both barrels. Take the ball out of his court. Then whip out your counseling statement and ask him to sign it. Don't make any outrageous statements on it, just say that Bob was counseled on his unprofessional attitude and that by signing the statement he neither agrees nor disagrees with it, he is merely acknowledging that the conversation took place. Of course he won't sign it. Just remember, a truly incompetent ass will already have a bad reputation with his superiors. There is a good chance you won't get fired for it, especially if his boss has a sense of humor.

I'll let you know soon whether or not his boss has a sense of humor. I'm eager to find out myself.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Fall is in the air here in Alaska. The lean gaming months are coming to a close. In the summer in Alaska no one has time to play games. Time is spent fishing and preparing for next winter.

Leaves are well on their way to turning yellow, the fair is over, and there is dew on the windshield of my car in the morning. It won't be long before the dew turns to frost. Dame Coldfoot and myself are spending our free time cutting firewood. Let me tell you guys, she must have been a lumberjack in a previous life. All she needs me for is to keep the kids out of the way while she clear cuts the dead spruce near our house.

In my spare time I've been reading the rules to 7 Ages. I'm really looking forward to playing this game. I've ordered Revolution: The Dutch Revolt from the local store, and I've been eyeballing Dungeon Twister. I've been able to play 2 games of Ticket to Ride: Europe, and I must say that it is significantly better than Ticket to Ride. I'll give it a 7, with the caveat that it a fun social game, rather than a gamer's game.

Since I walked off my cab-driving job I've had to find something else to fill the gap. The "something else" interferes with Monday night gaming, don't know how long I can tolerate that. I hate to quit the new job, though. I've lost 10 lbs. in the last month by just not sitting on my butt. At this rate I'll be down to my fightin' weight in just a couple years. Sadly, I can't afford to earn convenience store wages for very long, especially since I have two other jobs that pay significantly more. I could go to full time at either of those jobs, not to mention that I have a Para-Legal degree that I am not using, and also not to mention that I could make good money just by going back to driving a cab (although the price of gas is cutting into the profit margin in that field).

Enjoy the rest of your summer,

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Two (old) new games.

I've owned Alhambra for almost two years and I finally had a chance to play it. It was a game I bought because it was a "Spiel des Jahres" (German Family Game of the Year) winner in 2003. I hadn't read much about the game prior to purchasing it and after reading the rules I was left unimpressed.

After one play I must say, 2003 must have been a weak year for games.

Here's the list of 2003 SdJ nominees lifted directly from Erik Arneson's "About" page:

Alhambra by Dirk Henn, a tile-laying, city-building game.

Amun-Re by Reiner Knizia, in which players compete to build pyramids and grow crops in ancient Egypt.

Attribut by Marcel-Andre Casaola-Merkle, a party game about guessing the opinions of other players.

Balloon Cup by Stephen Glenn, a tremendous two-player game about hot air balloons.

Clans by Leo Colovini, in which individual huts are moved together to form villages and no one knows for sure which color their opponents are.

Coloretto by Michael Schacht, a very light and quick set-collection card game.

Dracheninsel by Tom Schoeps, which requires players to work together to haul treasure back to their ships.

Edel, Stein & Reich
by Reinhard Staupe, an update of the gem-collecting game Basari.

Fische, Fluppen, Frikadellen by Friedemann Friese, which finds players collecting fetishes to free the princess, sometimes jumping from table to table to do so.

Paris Paris by Michael Schacht, his second nomination this year and a game in which players compete to own shops and bistros in the areas most popular among the tourists.

Richelieu by Michael Schacht, his third nomination this year.

Die Werewolfe vom Dusterwald, a public domain game best known in the United States as Werewolf or Mafia.

I haven't played any of these games except Werewolf, and it is a public domain game that doesn't require a board or game pieces. I will eventually acquire Amun-Re, but I'm in no hurry. I've considered a couple of these games for play at the Boys and Girls Club, but in the end I didn't want them enough to spend my money.

Durch die Wuste (Through the Desert) was released in 1998. It was a SdJ nominee that year. The '98 Spiel des Jahres winner was Elfenland.

The 1998 SdJ nominees included: Basari, Caesar & Cleopatra, Canyon, David & Goliath, Die Macher, GIPF, Minister, Tigris & Euphrates, Through the Desert, Tonga Bonga, and Tycoon.

Now that was a fine year for games. Every one (except Tonga Bonga which I have never heard of) is either a game I have played and liked, or a game I want to play.

"Through the Desert" is a fine game. It is an excellent, pure strategy game with several paths to victory, yet you aren't overwhelmed with choices. I've played a couple more times since the first outing, and I know it will see more plays soon. I've rated 160+ games on Boardgamegeek.com, "Through the Desert" will be my 5th "10" and only my 3rd stand-alone boardgame to receive that rating.

If you don't already own it get the reprint. There is a reason pastel camels have become a running joke in the boardgame community and it has everything to do with this being such a memorable game. It will sell out soon.

Good Gaming

Wednesday, August 10, 2005



I've owned Wallenstein for a year or more, but haven't had a chance to play. I was finally able to play a 3-player game this last weekend.

My initial impression is that it is a good mix of wargame and German game. Even though the war aspect is the smallest of the two, it seems to dominate the game. From a purely mechanic point of view, combat and building armies account for less than 50% of the strategy. Building improvements and acquiring money to build combine to form the more significant portion of strategy.

Victory is partly based upon the number territories one controls, but again, that is the smaller of the factors used to calculate scores. The larger factor is the number of buildings each player owns and who owns the most of each type in each region. Yet somehow, preparations for war and war are the two things that dominate the flow of the game.

Could be because I'm playing with wargamers.

I am looking forward to playing again, and with more players. It does seem that with more players the game would be even more of a wargame. That is not a bad thing, I just think it is worth pointing out.
Word is that there might be an Advanced Squad Leader tourney in Fairbanks this fall. A couple of my friends are talking about getting me trained up in case they need an extra player. I'm indifferent. I've played a couple times, my curiosity has been satisfied. On the other hand it wasn't a bad game, on the other-other hand, I doubt I would be able to take the training wheels off in time for a September tournament.

As small as it is, the ASL community in Alaska seems pretty tight-knit.

Good Gaming,

Monday, August 08, 2005


Candamir: The First Settlers

I got to play Candamir for the second time this weekend. I'm still not impressed with it. There is so little similarity to Settlers of Catan that it almost feels like false advertising to use the name. Even Entdecker resembled Seafarers of Catan more than Candamir: The First Settlers resembles anything Catan.

I understand that the English version of the game is misprinted. I think that there are supposed to be more resources available on the exploration tiles, but I am not sure. Not knowing exactly what the misprint is we added two house rules: players who explored tiles with one resource and one experience would get an additional resource of the type listed, and tiles that had 2 resources and an experience would get a second experience point added.

With these house rules we whittled the playing time down to 3+ hours. There was still next to no trading between players and it is still too long of a game for the amount of entertainment it provides.

But wait, I've had an epiphany. I am now eager to play the game again with new house rules. I wonder if more trading between players would be fostered if exploration tiles were worth significantly more resources. For example, if two resources of the same type were added to each tile (cattle and goats excepted) resource trading might actually become part of the game, and the game might be shortened by another 30-45 minutes.

I like my idea. I will report back.
My brother sent me this. If WWII was an MMORPG. http://www.4guysfromviewpoint.com/?p=76
I don't even know exactly what MMORPG stands for, but I find it humorous. You might as well.


Saturday, August 06, 2005


Short OT. No swearing, and only a couple unpleasant words.

Some people were wondering what happened with my car. Well, I traded it in. Since I won't be in court over it, here's the whole story.

Bought a 2001 Kia in '02. Never had any problems with it. It always started, even on the coldest day. I was very impressed with the discount car.

Then I moved to a house with no garage and things changed.

Let me give a little background information. When we bought the car we were charged for "the winterization package". Aurora Motors winterizes every car they sell and tack on about $400 to the price. Fair enough. It is Alaska. They're making a sizable profit off the deal, but oh well. If you buy from them you don't have a choice, and the car needs to be winterized anyway.

The first two years we owned the car we had a garage. The car was protected from the extreme cold most of the time and we just plugged it in when we were away from home. No problems.

When we moved to a home with no garage the catalytic converter started going out, and kept going out every couple months. It is a $400+ repair. The car was still under warranty, and we had a third car to drive when the Kia was in the shop. It wasn't that big of a hassle.

Then we brought the car in for an oil change one frigid winter day. When the car was up on the rack a bright-eyed service mechanic noticed that the car wasn't winterized. There was an electrical cord dangling out the front of the car, but it was only connected to the oil pan heater, a minor component of the "winterization package". The plug heater wasn't even installed, neither were the other minor winterization package components.

We had been cold-starting the car for several years in temperatures the were frequently below -40 and didn't know there was a problem. The car always started right up. That says a lot about Kias. Despite the problems I've had with Aurora Motors I wouldn't say bad things about Kia.

Several mechanics (including the mechanic at Aurora) told me that all that cold starting is probably what lead to the ongoing problem, in the absence of an obvious reason that is. They are probably right. Six catalytic converters later I don't really care what caused the problem, I'm just glad it isn't mine anymore.

One other note. I mentioned in the previous post that Aurora was trying to extort payment out of us even though the car was covered under warranty. Luckily we had a third car and never caved in to their extortion, but this fact lead one observer to note that they were probably trying to "double dip", that is get payment from us and the warranty company. I hadn't thought of that, but now I wonder myself. As I noted before, Aurora Motors is a den of pricks. The desk staff in the service department are the most arrogant bastards I have ever encountered. Arrogant bastards think they can get away with anything, and they usually do because good people are afraid to stand up to them.

You have been warned.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Wizard Kings

I've really wanted to play Wizard Kings for some time now. I picked up Wizard Kings, Extra Wizard Kings maps, Victory, Pacific Victory and Bobby Lee at a store in Anchorage that was liquidating its Columbia stock over a year ago. The other three games are still in the original shrink wrap.

I was finally able to play with an experienced wargamer. So far I'd only played Wizard Kings with kids age 12-14. It was a little dry for them even though they understood the rules and did quite well. I suggested the game after we finished a game of "Hammer of the Scots". I sold him on "Wizard Kings" by stressing it was based upon the same system as HotS, and that there were no exceptions to the exceptions to the rules to keep the game historically accurate.

We had to knock off early because of time constraints, but he was impressed with the fact that it was expandable for multiple players (I have several different armies that I ordered directly from Columbia). He took the game home to study the rules, I'll take that as a good sign.

I'm not sure I like the game, though. The defender has a pretty significant advantage. For one thing there is a stacking limit of 6 units per hex. There are no limits to the number of units that can cross into a hex that has no combat occurring. Only two units can cross a clear hexside into a battle. Only one unit can cross a hexside with non-clear terrain if there is a battle occurring. It is fairly easy for the defender to see where an attack is coming and build up units in that hex. It is much harder for an attacker to maneuver his units into the hex.

The second advantage the defender has is that he rolls first in combat, and all hits are applied immediately. For example; there is one attacking unit that rolls 3 dice and scores a hit on any 1 or 2 and one defending unit of the same strength, the defender rolls one 1 on his turn, the attacker takes the damage, because of the damage the attacker now only rolls two dice in the battle.

To read my description of the game you might not see that much difference between it and Hammer of the Scots. The big difference is that Wizard Kings has no winter phase, that makes a big difference. HotS discourages "turtling" and encourages offensive play because of the wintering rules. The English player loses many of his units at the end of the year whether they are at full strength or depleted. During the winter phase players must redistribute their units so that there are only one or two per territory or they lose them. There is no mechanism in HotS to build up a huge army for more than a couple turns each round, players must play with an eye toward dispersing his units at the end of the round. These changes make HotS a more offensive game.

Wizard Kings is a game where you want to pick your battles. Seems like the main strategy is to hold back, build up a huge army, and trust your fate to dice rolls. I want to like the game. I like the fact that it is expandable and that there is no minutiae to keep the game historically accurate. I think I will be playing Wizard Kings again, and soon. I will report back.

Good Gaming

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Unexpected day off.

Got a call from work this morning. They had too many employees scheduled to come in this afternoon. They didn't need to ask me twice, I haven't had a day off in over 10 days, and they've been long days.

It's been a couple weeks since I've even played a game. Right now 2 of my main gaming buddies are off at WBC (The World Boardgaming Championships) in Pennsylvania. I'm trying to get something going this evening gamewise, but it's not looking promising.

The newest block game from Columbia games looks promising, though. I got a message that it would be shipping soon and pre-ordered copies could be picked up at WBC. I was going to have my friend pick up my copy of "Crusader Rex" while he was there, but I forgot to ask. Guess I will have to wait a couple more weeks.

Shouldn't have a problem getting "Crusader" to the table. "Hammer of the Scots" (a similar block game) proved to be a popular game with my group once I was able to talk them into playing. In fact, the HotS tournament was the event one of my friends was most anticipating at WBC.

Speaking of block games, the last time I played "Hammer of the Scots" I played the English. I went 6 rounds without getting Edward into the game. When I finally drew his block it was too little, too late. I drew a bunch of "1" cards and text cards the round that I did get him. When he wintered in Scotland he only had 3 or 4 other units with him. One of the units was Welsh or Irish, I forget which. I lost that unit on a loyalty die roll early in the year. That was a lousy scenario for the English. May it not happen to you.

That's enough for now. I need to get a group together for a game tonight.

Good gaming,

Monday, August 01, 2005


Check this out.

I am thrilled. Several of my favorite boardgame writers and myself have started a cooperative blog. You won't believe who all agreed to contribute.

Today, August 1, I posted the introduction. The first real entry will be tomorrow. The goal is to have it updated daily. We've been organizing things for the last week. That is partly why I haven't updated my blog in so long. The other reason is that I was swamped with work.

Stop reading this and get over to see who else is involved. You won't be disappointed, unless you are an Alaskan who is reading this because of the Alaska connection. If you don't know who Joe Gola is you might be disappointed.

I asked Ralph Nader to contribute to the cooperative blog, just so I could get Alaskan Bloggers to look at it once in a while, but he was busy. His press secretary is a real bitch, btw.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?