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Tuesday, May 29, 2007


QToG: Pillars & Lifeboats

Here's hoping you had a good Memorial Day weekend, and didn't lose sight of the reason for the occasion.

Quick thoughts on games. The first new games I have played in a couple months.

Played Pillars of the Earth twice now, both times with four players. Players compete to hire the best workers to contribute the most valuable items to the church that is being built. The game is based upon the best selling novel by Ken Follet.

Pillars of the Earth is an okay game with four players, however it is rather hard to plan your moves from round to round with that many players. I want to play with 2 or 3 players to determine if it becomes less luck driven and more fun.

The process by which tokens are blindly drawn to determine turn order screwed my wife a couple times during the second game. At one point there were only 4 tokens left in the bag and 3 were hers. For reference, each player has 3 tokens in a bag. The tokens are blindly drawn one at a time. The player owning that token gets to place the token on the board. There is a balancing mechanism by which tokens become less expensive to place on the board, but my wife still got the shaft no matter how you slice it.

By my own admission, several games will be required to determine the optimal ways to integrate workers into your master plan. However, my wife likes the game, so it will probably hit the table a few more times in the near future.

Bottom line after 2 plays: Despite the comparison to Caylus Pillars is not Caylus-lite in my estimation. It is a much better game. Still it is only an average game.

On the other hand I was very impressed with Lifeboats. I was not expecting much, just an average game that could be played with kids but possibly a game with a distasteful theme for children. After playing with a mixed group of kids and adults, I see that it is a fine game for cut-throat adults.

The ship has sunk. The lifeboats have been launched. Every round a lifeboat springs a leak. Which boat springs a leak is determined by a vote of the players. After the boat springs a leak one sailor aboard that boat is thrown overboard. That is also determined by a vote, although players who control more sailors on the boat get proportionally more votes. Players with no sailors on the boat have no votes. After throwing a man overboard the sailors start to panic. Each player must select one of his sailors (from any boat) to jump into the water, they then climb aboard a different boat. If at any time a boat has more holes than sailors, the boat is lost due to the sailors being unable to bail fast enough. Lastly players vote for one boat to advance toward the islands. Sailors aboard boats that reach safety score victory points.

Lifeboats was a lot of fun. After one play I changed my opinion that it was going to be a good children's game, not because of the theme, but because children aren't good at cajoling, threatening, and forming alliances, which is (by far) the most interesting part of the game.

Bottom line: With a few more plays Lifeboats could become my favorite filler, and my favorite negotiation game. That may seem like two categories that are mutually exclusive, but Lifeboats integrates the two very well.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Bring on Alec Baldwin

This is my favorite cab story, but it just doesn't translate well to the written word. It is a much better story when told verbally. I have tinkered with the story for months, but I'm just not happy with it. The more I tinker with it the worse it gets. So here it is.

These two guys got in my cab. One was a complete drunken jerk, the second was apparently his personal assistant. I quickly deduced that the jerk was a rather rich, successful business man or possibly some celebrity who I would have known if I watched TV. Whoever he was he rated having his own personal assistant. Might I add: he had a very good personal assistant. He also seemed to have a bit of a drinking problem. I wouldn't have been surprised to learn excessive drinking frequently got this prima donna into trouble.

The second guy was a nice guy with an amazing ability to smooth things over when the jerk started insulting me. I gathered that he had a lot of experience with that sort of thing. I figured it was his job to keep the jerk out of trouble, and I had a feeling he was paid handsomely to do so. I must admit that he was good at his job.

On the way to their destination the drunk asked if I took credit cards. I said no. He started getting belligerent. "Just run it through the thing there," he said indicating the meter.

"Sorry, we don't take credit cards in Fairbanks."

He started shoving his credit card in my face, and telling me how incompetent I was to not know how to run a credit card machine.

The guy in the back assured me that he had cash and would pay the bill as he tried to calm down the drunk.

The drunk would just not let up. "They take credit cards in Denver, and Denver is the most backwards city in the world. You must take credit cards."

"This is Fairbanks. No cab driver in Fairbanks will take a credit card. Now put a cork in it buddy."

The guy continued to rant, and got personal several times. The guy in the back did a very good job keeping me from losing my temper.

Anyway, we got to our destination. The drunk shoved his credit card at me. The guy in the back paid cash.

A couple hours later I picked up the same guys. Same thing. Jerk sat in the front and was shoving his credit card at me, ranting about how backward Fairbanks was. Again, the guy in the back did a remarkable job keeping me from losing my temper.

Finally I had had enough. I told the drunk that if he didn't get his credit card out of my face I was going to chuck it out the window.

I warned him a couple times. I had time to palm one of our business cards. The assistant in the back seat was grabbing the jerk's arm, trying to get him to put the card away. It wasn't working.

I grabbed the credit card. In one fluid motion I took the credit card and flipped a business card out the window.

The drunk was speechless for the first time that night.

"Stop! Stop! I need to get that," screamed the assistant.

"I warned him. Now he's gonna be walking back to get it."

The drunk was still speechless.

"I need to go get that card!"

I said, "I ain't stopping and I recommend cancelling that card as soon as you get back to the hotel."

That move really took the wind out of the drunk's sails. The rest of the trip was eventless. Even the assistant was quiet. I slipped the credit card back to the assistant when we got back to the hotel. I'm still kicking myself for not looking at the name on the card.

Friday, May 18, 2007


Leprechauns and women who love them

Two ladies were talking in the back of my cab. They were talking about odd people.

One lady started telling a story about a guy who actually thought he was a leprechaun. This goofy leprechaun would get drunk, ride his unicycle and make balloon animals.

Now I'm thinking to myself, "Hey, I knew a guy like that," but the guy I knew who pretended to be a leprechaun lived in the lower 48, and that was 12 or 15 years ago. The more they talked, the more I thought that it sounded like the guy I had known, but it seemed as though the guy they were talking about lived in Fairbanks.

I interrupted their conversation, "How long has this guy been in Fairbanks, anyway?"

"Oh. He doesn't live up here. I knew him in the lower 48."


"Billings, actually!!! But he spent a lot of time in Missoula. You know him?"

"That guy annoyed the hell out of me."

"He was a dumb ass, but he was so cute when he was drunk."

"He used to annoy customers in the restaurant that I lived above. They were kicking him out all the time."

"I can't believe you know him...."

Likewise lady.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Just for the sake of game content Here are my top 5 favorite games of all time.

#1 Tigris and Euphrates T&E is the crowning achievement of prolific game designer Reiner Knizia. Herr Knizia shows no signs of slowing his output of games, so with a little luck the mathematician turned game designer might just top this crowning jewel of his illustrious career.

I must admit that I did not care for this game the first couple times I played it. I had read much about the game prior to purchasing it, in fact it was out of print when I first read about it. I bought it as soon as the reprint was available. T&E was the most frustrating, cut-throat game that I have ever played.

About half way through the game I always get the feeling that I've screwed myself beyond recovery, and have completely lost control of my position. Fortunately my opponents feel the same way. Usually I am able to get a grip and do what I need to do to win, or at least not embarrass myself.

This game does not get played enough 'round these parts. My wife won't play, and it's a little too deep for kids and adults with short attention spans. My main game partner won't play this game with only three players. That makes it even harder to get to the table, although it is a solid three player game, in my opinion.

#2 Taj Mahal My second most favorite game is also by Reiner Knizia. If this were a list of my top ten boardgames I would speculate that Reiner would hold an additional 2 or 3 spots on the list.

I stand by my assertion that Taj Mahal feels like the boardgame equivalent of poker. I had owned the game for a couple years prior to first playing at BGG.con. I had never kicked myself so hard for not playing a game before or since. I had read the rules numerous times, and I was familiar with the general gameplay. The rules belied the intense game of brinkmanship, bluffing and balls that TM is.

#3 Puerto Rico Best game ever as judged by the ranking on Boardgamegeek. Need I say more?

#4 Euchre First played this card game when I was in the army. After my first two years in the service I was bored, bored, bored playing Spades, Hearts, and winning the occasional poker game. Those were the only three games most soldiers knew.

I taught some of the guys to play Pinochle, and one of them taught us Euchre. That was it for us. We had our own little group that played Euchre and Pinochle exclusively. I loved this quick little card game from the moment I first played it.

I know it has a reputation as a game to be played while drinking heavily, but for me it is an enjoyable sober experience that I could play for hours.

#5 Pinochle This is the game I cut my teeth on. My parents spent many an evening playing pinochle with friends and family when I was a kid. When I was little I would just watch them play for hours, often foregoing playing with other kids. I lived with my grandparents for my senior year of high school, and we would play 3-handed pinochle every evening. Every evening. I would not have missed that nightly game for the world. When I was older my (now) wife and myself would drive to her grandparents house every weekend for a game or two of pinochle.

Don't get to play much anymore. The lure of a good pinochle game is the main reason I return to Montana to visit my family.

I must admit that I am a bit of a pinochle snob. I only enjoy playing with competent opponents, and I refuse to play double deck pinochle, which is the main variant with which most people are familiar. Double deck has crazy scores and is nearly entirely luck-driven.

Just missed the cut (in no particular order): Cribbage, El Grande, Roads and Boats, 500.

Monday, May 14, 2007


2 Mother's Day Cab Stories

Picked up two intoxicated ladies at a low rent apartment building. One was loudly and indignantly complaining to the other that her boyfriend had cheated on her.

"Can you believe that bastard?"

"Well you cheat on him."

"Not like that."


They both started laughing.

These two ladies were looking for someone, so I drove them to several different locations. In the course of their continued conversation about the cheating bastard it came out that they were looking for the one lady's husband.

The husband of the lady with the boyfriend.

No kidding.


Short conversation:

"Boy you sure have big crows up here."

"We sure do. Still, they are only half as big as those ravens you are looking at."


Hope you all had a happy Mother's Day.

Monday, May 07, 2007


Double Dang

Still haven't had the opportunity to play many games, so here's a short taxi story, and another short story.

Went to the Alaska Bar Association's annual banquet with the wife last week. Got to shake the hand of Chief Justice John Roberts, and heard him speak that evening. Even got my picture taken with him, although I can't prove it.

One of the attorneys my wife works with introduced us and told the Chief Justice it was my birthday (which wasn't much of a stretch, my birthday was a few days previous) and asked if we could get a picture. I guess the Chief Justice does not do photos, his aide was clearly ready to say no, but Justice Roberts said, "Well, since it is his birthday."

The wife and I posed with Justice Roberts, our attorney friend snapped the picture, the camera flashed, and the low battery signal came on. No picture.

Dang, dang, dangity, dang.


Picked up a lady at the University. She was going a fair distance, would have been a 12-15 dollar trip, I suppose.

First thing she said when she got into the cab was to ask me to turn the radio off.


"I don't want to listen to it."

Now this was a conundrum. Ian Punnitt was interviewing Saint John Hunt (not a real saint, but his real name) on Coast to Coast Live. Saint John Hunt is the son of E. Howard Hunt of Watergate, and CIA fame. For the first time ever Saint John was airing an audio tape his father made concerning his recollection of events leading up the JFK assassination.

JFK assassination. A CIA agents memoirs of multiple meetings leading up to the big event in Dallas. Interesting stuff. Very interesting.

I tried to cajole her, "This is a very interesting story about the CIA's involvement with the Kennedy assassination."

"I don't want to listen to it."

"This is the memoirs of E. Howard Hunt. E. HOWARD HUNT from Watergate."

"Can you turn it off?"

I was torn............ It would be less than a 10 minute cab ride, but I would miss 10 minutes of the show.

"I'm going to listen to it. Want me to get you another cab, or do you want to call a different company?"

"Well if you have to listen to it you can call me another cab."

"I have to listen to it."


"Have a nice evening."

At that point, and for the next 10 minutes, there was nothing but commercials.

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