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Friday, August 31, 2007


Thoughts on gaming with children in an after-school setting

This does not concern playing in your home with your children's friends, nor with your kids and your gamer buddy's kids who have watched you play games every weekend since they were born. The dynamics in a volunteer setting are completely different and different games are appropriate for that situation.

I have volunteered to play games with kids for the last 3 years at the local Boys and Girls Club and at my kids' school. This topic comes up semi-frequently on the boardgame forums so I thought I would post my advice here for anyone who is interested.

I will add to this as new ideas occur to me.

Rules #1-3 are the only rules, everything else is merely advice:

Rule #1 and it is not randomly #1. This is the most important rule.

You can't compete with a TV.

I am sure you are a witty, likable, engaging person who likes kids and a person whom kids like. Even so you need to play games in a room with no television. TV is just too big a distraction for children.

If the television is on you will likely want it to remain on, just in another room. This will make sense after reading #4.

Rule #2. You are volunteering to play games with children.

People do not understand that there are thousands of games that aren't available at WalMart which are much more fun than WalMart games, and that you want to share your hobby..... and you are probably a man.

People do understand child predators. Their first thought will be, "An adult playing games with children? Hmmmm. What are his ulterior motives?"

Keep all doors open. Nuisance kids may drift in and out of the game room. The kids playing games may shut and lock the door to keep the nuisance kids away. Pay attention to this and make sure the door stays open.

Rule #3. Do not hesitate to correct bad behavior. Your stick is the fact that you are volunteering your time and games. That and peer pressure.

If the kids won't behave inform them that there are other groups of kids with whom you can volunteer your time. The kids who like to game will give the ill behaved kids what for.

A lingering look at a kid or group of kids with a raised eyebrow will often be enough to regain control of the situation. Make sure the kids help to clean up and put the game away. This will reinforce the notion that good behavior is expected.

#4. The first part of #4 is obvious, the second part is much less so.

Optimally you want to play in an environment with kids who want to play games as opposed to an environment with kids who want to play games because there is nothing better to do.

For example:

If you arrive and there are lots of activities occurring you will end up playing games with kids who are motivated to play games. The kids who want to do homework will do homework. The kids who want to run around screaming like banshees will continue to do so.

If you arrive and there are a bunch of bored kids doing homework, you whip out a cool looking game and all the kids will want to play. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but a) you may have too many kids to manage, and b) the kids who are only playing because there is nothing better to do will soon lose interest, start horse playing and be a distraction to the entire group.

#5 Don't stress.

Kids are much, much more forgiving of mistakes on your part than are adults. If you screw up a major rule kids are much less likely to throw their hands up in disgust and say, "Well that changes everything." Kids will likely take note of the corrected rule and continue with the game as if nothing happened.

#6 Related to the last rule. Don't overwhelm kids with rules.

It's better to get the game started and explain as you go. Kids do well, and don't mind, if you add rules as the game progresses.

For example: You are teaching Settlers of Catan. After you have played a few rounds and the kids are getting the hang of it you tell them that cities earn two resources instead of one. Many adults would get pissy and snotty that you waited to tell them this bit of information. When given this information several rounds into the game a child's eyes will light up and they get the ohhhhhhh-gotta-get-me-some-of-those looks on their faces. They don't tend to feel they've been screwed because you didn't fully explain every detail of the game before the first settlement was placed.

#7. If a game doesn't work even though you passionately believe kids should love it - leave it at home. Don't keep trying to re-introduce the game to the group. Works with adults sometimes, just turns kids off. (Just turns adults off too, if the truth were spoken.)

#8. If you expect children who start the game won't be able to finish, you should sit out and be the replacement.

#9. Don't dismiss a game out of hand because you don't like it. I hate Pirate's Cove and LotR. I do enjoy playing these two games with kids. Their enthusiasm can be infectious.

Games I have found to be the best bets (and otherwise):

HeroScape- Get a couple expansions and a very large group can play. Kids love it. Even though it is available at WalMart and some of the kids will undoubtedly own it, odds are they just use the figures as toys and don't know how to play. After they play they are usually surprised to learn that they like the game. My #1 pick for both boys and girls, ages 7-17.

Pirate's Cove- Always goes over well. Limited to 5 players, though. Again, works well for both boys and girls 7-17.

Star Wars Epic Duels- Always goes over well. Often too well. This game also accommodates large groups. Kids have to be able to read and understand the text on the cards. Some 8-9 year-olds can read the cards, some 12-13 year-olds struggle. Also, some younger kids who can read the text just can't understand the difference between attack value and defense value.

Knizia's Lord of the Rings- Works very well with the right group - which almost always consists of boys only.

PitchCar- This game works well to distract the kids who want to play boardgames because they are bored. Set up PitchCar to distract the marginal kids so you can play a serious game with the boardgame kids.

Surprise! No one showed up today! It's just you and one other kid. Always bring YINSH, and LotR: Confrontation just in case.

Apples to Apples- Their PE teacher (or some touchy-feely teacher trying to teach children about group interaction) thought she stumbled upon a great game for children. She had them play this game one time. They hated it then, they hate it now.

Settlers of Catan- Younger kids may be able to play with adults, but a group comprised entirely of children younger than 8th grade will break down into a popularity contest despite your best efforts.

Carcassonne- Don't use farmers.

Bohnanza- Older kids only. But always a flop in my experience.

Gulo Gulo- Good for younger children and non-boardgame-enthusiast older children, saaaaaay up to 12. Good game to set up for the littler kids. They can play with very little supervision while you play a good game with the older kids.

Bamboleo- I have found this to be very good with very large groups of kids of all ages. Line the kids up, have them take turns taking off a piece, then go to the end of the line. If the game collapses they are out. Game progresses until there is a winner. I realize this is not how the game is supposed to be played, but it works very well. By the time the game is over the kids who are only playing because there is nothing better to do will be filtered out and you should have a more manageable group, although it is possible that they had so much fun they all want to play again. The game doesn't seem to go over well with a small group playing by the rules.

Villa Paletti- Good, but only good for four.

Ticket to Ride- US version works best in the US. Older kids will play one time. It doesn't excite them.

Suggestions welcome.

Do not argue with me that Bohnanza is a wonderful game for children. It probably is in your home. It just doesn't work with a random group of kids who aren't familiar with good games. If you feel compelled to disagree with me I will probably ignore any other statement you may make. People have tried to persuade me otherwise for years and I am quite tired of it. The discussion on this topic always seems to devolve into whether Bohnanza is a good game for kids. I agree, it is. It just isn't a good game in the setting to which I am referring.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Suggestion for Mike Rowe and the Producers of "Dirty Jobs"

Restroom undercover cop in the Minneapolis Airport.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


You Can't Handle the Truth!!!!

I know you are all waiting with baited breath for my analysis of the Larry Craig scandal.

An undercover cop with no political motivation arrested a man who he did not know who happened to be a Senator and started a gay sex scandal.

Can you imagine the dirt/extortion material foreign governments, organized crime and big businesses with motivation and nearly unlimited funds have on our elected officials?

Can you?

No you can't.

A gay sex scandal is nothing. A romp with an intern in the Oval Office is a mere diversion for the ignorant masses.

These clowns in Washington are arrogant and corrupt bastards. It is time for another revolution.


Passenger Rodham Clinton

Had the best seat in the house for the lunar eclipse on Tuesday morning. Sky was clear and for the first few minutes of the event the northern lights were quite brilliant. No pictures here, but let me direct you to a local blogger who photographed the event http://wannabemusher.blogspot.com/ and a local professional photographer http://words-spoken.livejournal.com/849903.html

It's been awhile. I suppose I had better tell a cab story. This happened last night.

Background: I am quite patient and will usually not start the meter until a person gets into the cab, or they tell me to start the meter. If it takes too long for a person to get into the cab I will usually drive off, leaving them to wait for another cab instead of arguing about the wait time.

Picked up an older lady in the middle of the night whom I had never before seen. Took her forever to get downstairs and into the cab.

The first words out of her mouth:

Indignant "I have never seen a cab driver put the time on before I was even in the cab." Complete lie. She was obviously expecting the meter to be on. I'm probably the first driver she ever encountered who didn't start the meter.

The meter showed $1.

"The meter is on, but it isn't running."

"It's up to a dollar already."

"It starts at a dollar. Here, I'll start it over." I reset the meter. One dollar again appeared.

"Oh never mind, if you are going to be anal retentive about it I'll pay the extra charge."

I start backing out of the driveway, "The meter wasn't running. Anyway, where do you need to go?"

She told me, but at this point I started to smell vinegar.

"What do you have in the bag?"

No answer, but a few seconds later she asked me to roll up the windows.

In those few seconds the smell had strengthened significantly. It smelled like dirty socks marinated in vinegar.

Again, "Can you roll up the windows, please?"

Again, "What do you have in the bag?"

"Just my laundry. I'm getting cold could you roll up the windows?"

"Uhhhhhhh. That laundry doesn't smell good (polite understatement) we need to put it in the trunk or keep the windows down."

"It doesn't stink, and I'm not putting it in the trunk."

"Something stinks. It's either the laundry or you. My guess is that it's the laundry."

"I'm not putting my laundry in the trunk."

"Well then we need to keep the windows down."

"Take me home."

Sure thing. I spun around in the street and went the 1/2 block back to her house.

We pulled into the driveway, "How long will it take for another cab?"

"Five or ten minutes. That will be $1.50."

"A dollar fifty? You are kicking me out and charging me."

"I'm not kicking you out."

"But you refuse to roll up the windows."

"And you refuse to put the smelly laundry in the trunk."

"So you're kicking me out because I won't put the laundry in the trunk?"

"No. We came back to your house because you requested to come back. I'm not kicking you out."

Indignant "I have never been kicked out of a cab in my life."

"OK. What was the address again? I'll gladly take you there."

"No. I'm getting out."

"That'll be $1.50."

"Fine, but I won't have enough money for the next cab driver."

"I will warn him about that. You may have to walk the last buck fifty."

"Here's your money. Call me another cab. Damn you Fairbanks men are all anal."

The next cab driver was a woman. She later informed me that this particular lady had been her passenger a couple times in the last few days and she was a vocal man hater with nothing but venom for Fairbanks men.

To keep the story short and coherent I left out several venomous tidbits.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Spent the weekend in Anchorage. Played a couple games of Twilight Struggle with New York Sean on Friday night. Hadn't played this game in a couple years and was eager to try again since it is so highly rated on Boardgamegeek. It was slightly better than I recalled. Upped my rating from a 5 to a 6, which means it is slightly better than average. I don't see Twilight Struggle staying in the top 10 or even the top 20 once the new batch of Essen games hits the market in several months. I must admit that the allure of this game evades me.

Played Imperial with five players on Saturday night. Got my butt handed to me. Still is a great game, though. I must admit that I suck at Imperial, I just can't get my head around the basic strategies. I stand by my assessment that at 2-3 hours the game is just too short. I still give it a 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


The Last to Know - or - Mystery Solved - or - Do Whack a Do

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Fairbanks ten years ago was the abundance of taxis. I have lived in several towns the size of Fairbanks and cabs are a rare sight. There were cab companies in the other cities, but taxis were few and far between and usually parked at the airport.

On a busy winter day in this town of 30,000 residents there might be close to 100 taxis on the road at the same time. That includes cabs from the big companies and numerous independent operators who hang out at the airport.

Cab drivers come and go so fast that it is hard to keep track of names. Personally, I don't know the names of 1/4 of the drivers in my own company with whom I work at night, and in the busy season (winter) I might only know half of the drivers by name. The only day shift drivers I know by name are the guys who have been with the company more than two years. The drivers who do stick around are fairly tight, at least as tight as independent bastards can be. I have been pushing hack in Fairbanks for six or seven years. I know by sight, if not by name, all of the drivers who have been around for more than a couple years and I'll stop to shoot the breeze with them regardless of which company they drive for.

But there is one driver who I did not know.

His name is Whacker and he is a legend in the Fairbanks cab world. Whacker has been driving cab in Fairbanks for many years longer than I have. Other drivers have described to me what he looks like, which cab he drives, and other tidbits which should have helped me identify him, but I could never put a face to the name. To further complicate the situation Whacker bounces around between cab companies and alternates between day and night shifts as the mood strikes him.

Whacker was once known by another name, but ever since he got caught whacking in cab he has been known as "Whacker". As long as he lives in Fairbanks he will be known in the entire taxi business as Whacker.

Every cab driver in town knows Whacker, passengers know Whacker, even new drivers know Whacker, but I didn't know Whacker. I should add that the whacking incident occurred at the company for which I drive and Whacker has never been welcomed back.

I finally figured out who Whacker is.

Don't know why I couldn't put a face to the name after all these years. I've known him, have talked to him and even given him numerous cab rides over the years.

All of this could have been avoided if he had just introduced himself as Whacker. It's as though I met Bono and he introduced himself as Paul Hewson. Who the hell is Paul Hewson? Does Bono's mother even call him Paul Hewson?

My wife introduces me as asshole. I'm fine with that.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Sigh. Summer is too short.

The nights are getting dark enough to see a few stars, yesterday I saw geese headed south, and my first delivery of home heating fuel of the season arrived.

But these are not bad things. I prefer to think of them as precursors to the indoor boardgame season.

Monday, August 06, 2007


Do you remember these?

Ahhhhh. Music from an age when musicians wore suits and pedal steel guitars were still in style.

Still farting around with YouTube. Found a few more songs that weren't too bad quality. These are posted mostly for my own sake. I grew up listening to these songs. When I was growing up the radio was always tuned to KMON, country music broadcasting from Great Falls, Montana. I haven't heard many of these songs in years, and it was great fun perusing YouTube listening to some of the oldies. I suppose I ought to buy an I-Pod and download my favorites, but until then I'll just tune into my blog.

Just ignore me. I'll post some game content when summer is over and it gets cold enough and dark enough for people to put their fishing poles away and stop fishing all night.

A link is provided for each of the songs that you must go to YouTube to view.

How in the world did I forget this one: Larry Gatlin: The Lady Takes the Cowboy Everytime
Smoooooooooooth talker
Somethin' somethin' somethin'
Hmmmmm hmmmm hm hmmm hm
'cause she's just dyin' to do the Texas Two Step
She just can't wait to strut her stuff dancin' to the Cotton Eyed Joe


The Statler Brothers - Do You Remember These


Moe Bandy - Hank Williams You Wrote My Life




Gene Watson - Memories To Burn



Kentucky Headhunters - Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine



Conway Twitty - Hello Darlin



Walk On By


♠Long Haired Redneck♣


Loretta Lynn - Blue Kentucky Girl


Joe Stampley- Roll on big mama

I have no idea, nor do I care, what movie the video is from, but I love this song.


Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms


Hank Snow - I've Been Everywhere


Don Williams - Amanda

Saturday, August 04, 2007


Coldfoot's Country Jukebox

Been fooling around with YouTube. Found a few songs that weren't terrible quality that I haven't heard for years. OK, the Johnny PayCheck video isn't good quality, but shut your eyes, it's a good listen.

And I tossed in a couple John Prine duets at the end, just because... Hey it's John Prine... John Prine, Bonnie Raitt, and Iris Dement, three of my favorite artists and the quality was very good.


Buck Owens - Buckeroo - Act Naturally - Memphis Tennesee


North to Alaska-Johnny Horton 1960


Jimmie Dale Gilmore - Just A Wave Not The Water


The Flying Burrito Brothers-Six days on the road


Dave Dudley - Six Days on the Road


Foggy Mountain Breakdown - Bluegrass Banjo

12 year old girl playing a Bluegrass classic


She's All I Got - Johnny Paycheck


Johnny Russell - Rednecks, White Socks And Blue Ribbon Beer


Bonnie Raitt and John Prine: Angel From Montgomery


John Prine and Iris DeMent - In Spite of Ourselves


From the Indianapolis Star

They ought to put him in a dog pit with a pork chop glued to his 'nads.

I'm sorry. Did I say that out loud?

Innocent until proven guilty, that's my motto. In cases like this it's just a matter of how much money it costs to buy innocence before you are found guilty.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Is there a grain of truth in those New Zealand jokes?

Here's a story about vegan New Zealanders who refuse to have... uh hmmm... "relations" with meat eaters. They are called Vegansexuals.

This blogger wonders:

Are there enough vegans to have a viable dating pool?

Is this just the first step toward decriminalizing sex with sheep? (After all, sheep are vegans.)

Is buggering sheep a crime in New Zealand?

And what do they do with all those sheep if they aren't eating them?

When will this catch on in California?

On the plus side if this trend takes off and we ever have to go to war with New Zealand we will be fighting a bunch of spindly, iron deficient, asthmatic pansies who would never kill anything but an unborn child, nor admit that their chronic problems are related to diet.

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