Sunday, November 18, 2007

Nixon Wins in '60!

Laurent and I got a chance to try out 1960:The Making of the President on Saturday. Here's a very brief rundown of how the game went and an early review.

The early game saw a lot of competition for the Issues, as we thought that having Momentum would be a very useful thing, used as it is to trigger your opponent's events. In fact, I think this is not a bad strategy in some ways, at least as long as you are remembering that in the end all that matters is how the votes come out. I neglected to remember that Momentum evaporates a bit every turn, so there were multiple times where I ended up losing a momentum I perhaps did not need to.

I did well in the debates as Nixon, largely because I managed to play a card that crippled Laurent's CP plays but forgot that I lost all three single CP tokens before the debate. As it was, because we did not understand the debate process as well as we might have the cards that went into the Campaign Strategy pile were often suboptimal. This gave me a seven-to-two edge in State Support, which I suspect helped me win.

The rules are very vague in spots. For example, it isn't clear that everything you put cubes on the board for requires you to first remove opponent's cubes. It's clear in some spots, but not others (such as issues - we couldn't figure out why it said to remove *an* issue cube from each issue, although we did play it correctly by removing one of each color when we just left cubes on the issues - it comes out the same mathematically.

There needs to be a tally board to keep track of who is winning on points. We had no idea until we did the final tally! I can imagine that it would be easy to screw it up, which tells me that this would be an excellent computer game. We also used the state tiles face down so that we could see the electoral number easily (the board's numbers are very small).

All in all, I'm looking forward to giving it another shot. The "all points scored at the end" doesn't bother me too much, although it's clear that the various support draws at the end can have a huge effect, and it's important to work to get support cubes into the bag on the last turn. A lot to think about in this game, and I'm sure that with such a short playing time (we took three hours with many rules lookups) it will see time on the table.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Whole Lot O' Gaming

It's been a while, but I've finally started gaming regularly again. With three sessions under my belt just in the last week, and even more to come with the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner, it appears that gaming has gotten back to normal. Except for WoW, strangely, which is hard to really get into with people coming over to the house every day to replace some essential element of my new home. This week it's been the electrical panel, the insulation in the ceilings and the RoD, the drywall in the RoD, several light fixtures (with only three to go! I hate light fixtures!) and a new quieter (and functional, something the old 3" version was not) exhaust fan for the master bath.

Last Friday, Laurent, Mike, George, son Sean, Randy, and son Byron all came over to inaugurate my new game room. I was a bit nervous as Sean is six, but he did an amazing job of staying with us for the two hours he was here. First up was Incan Gold, the Sunriver Games reprint of Diamant. This is a fantastic large group game that is easy to teach, fun to play (even when you've left the Temple of Doom), and has that great "what will the other guy do" element that I like so much. The winner? Sean, who was the only person whose plans we couldn't guess. I came in a close second, beating out Mike by a point.

Next up was Royal Turf, with George and Sean playing the part of the sixth player together. This, like IG, was a learning game for Randy and Byron, who are just discovering the world of Euros and really digging it. The usual fun was had, egging on horses that you'd bet the "0" tile on, groaning when your horse was moved one space and cheering when you rolled just the right symbol to put your 2 bet horse in the lead. Mike won this, if memory serves, with me in second.

By now it was a bit after 9pm, so George took Sean home while the five of us pulled out Manila. Interestingly, Randy's wife (and Byron's mom) is Filipina, as is mine, so they were interested in the theme. Unfortunately, the game puts Filipinos in a bit of a bad light, with all of the skullduggery, insider trading, and corruption of business in that country shown in a rather blatant light. My experience is that Filipinos are, overall, extremely hardworking, loyal, friendly, fun to be around, and will grab any advantage or swag they can even if it's something they clearly have no use for. But they might. Someday. A gross generalization, but I am surprised by how well this simple game captures that eagerness to have an inside track over the other guy.

The game went smoothly enough, although I got dealt two jade in the beginning and never really did get it going like I wanted to. Instead, it was one of the two commodities that stalled on the 20 space, and despite having a very good cash flow for the entire game I managed to come in second to Mike. Again. I like this game more every time I play it, and despite the fact that we were bidding in the teens to the low twenties for the Harbor Master position for the entire game, only Byron really found himself to be short of money and even then never leveraged any of his shares.

My next session was on Monday, Veteran's Day. Since Mike, Chuck, and Eric all had the day off, they invited me to come over to play wargames at Mike's. Eric and I played A Victory Lost, while Mike and Chuck finished their Civil War Brigade game, which I think involved one of the Manassas battles (but I'm not sure). They had a very large map with very few counters and a *lot* of paper for writing orders. Last I looked Chuck was doing pretty well.

In my game with Eric, we managed to get to turn 7 in about six hours, not too bad for Eric's first game. I had most of the rules internalized by now, even the river stuff, and we had very few lookups over the course of the game. Eric played the Russians quite well for his first game, with me taking the Germans for the first time. I have yet to figure out how to get an effective breakout for the Russians that will imitate the historical gains (the Russians pretty much sweep the board in the first half), and indeed, while Eric did quite well in the middle and south he got bogged down with all of his units in the far north against my Hungarians, and put most of his efforts and reinforcements there. I had gotten 1st Panzer safely across the Don, although Eric's three activations of 2nd Guard in a row in the early game had left me a bit weak in that area. Eric was just crossing the Donets at it's Easternmost bend, and was doing some serious damage to my Hungarians in the north, and I had lost too many units to mount an effective counter-attack, but with three turns and 14 points down it didn't look good for Eric and we hung it up halfway into the seventh turn. An excellent game, and one I've got set up for solo play in my gameroom as we speak so that I can start working up a good Soviet opening.

The third session (yikes) was the usual RCG Tuesday nighter, this time at Chris's. He is now 15 minutes away, or would be if the road between Wilsonville and Sherwood was not closed for construction for the next year. As it was, even with discovering that I couldn't get where I needed to go via the route my GPS system in the car was suggesting, it only took 30 minutes to get there, more like 20 or less with the back roads out of North Wilsonville.

Present were Chris, Ian, Mike, Carey, Matt Riley, new guy Jeff, and myself. Jeff, Matt, Carey, and I all played together for the evening, starting with Darjeeling (a pretty cool game that borrows a bit from, of all things, Fossil), which I managed to take second in to Jeff. I am always the bridesmaid, I guess. The components are a bit over-produced (I hate switchback scoring boards, which take up about half of the game space), and it seems to be trying just a *bit* too hard to be a Big Game for what it is, but my initial reaction is still Thumbs Up. Of course, there were the usual jokes about teabagging, and our now-classic Tim-ism ("You know what I've heard about this game? It's better when played briskly!") is particularly apt. Unless you've never heard Lipton Tea's motto, of course. Jeff won handily after stumbling across the notion that you could do well even with moderate scoring if you did it often and kept others from doing the same.

For our final game of the evening, we played a wacky Ameritrash title called Red Dragon Inn, or something along those lines. This is a hilarious four-player game where you play a cartoonish fantasy role-play character who is trying to drink the other cartoonish fantasy role-playing characters under the table. Or make them run out of money, whatever works for you. I was the rogue, doing my darnedest to win at gambling and surprise people with sneaky actions. Unfortunately, I ran into a run of really powerful drinks about halfway in and ended up being the first player eliminated. Carey was right behind me (despite having hung on by his fingernails for a good chunk of the game), and I'm not terribly sure who won between Matt and Jeff. All I know is that it was the first game I didn't come in second in (not counting AVL, which to be fair could have gone either way had we finished) the whole week. Amazing!

Thanks to all for playing and hosting and all that stuff. It was sure great to get out and feel normal again, and now that Mel is working on Thursdays instead of Tuesdays it seems that I'll have many more chances to get out on Tuesdays. About time.

Oh, one last thing. Our inspector, the one who had the knee surgery, called me yesterday to let me know that he couldn't read very well yet (the drugs were making his vision fuzzy). Please. As if someone couldn't read a contract to you. I pointed out yet again that were I to start spreading his name around to various real estate agents that this true story would cause considerably more damage to his business than just making me happy. He is going to call me back, but I suspect that come next Monday I will simply call, say that I'd like to have an answer in 24 hours, and then go from there.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

This House... Is Clean

Got the results for the mold tests, and they are much improved. There was a single stachybotrys spore left in the Room of Death, down from over 400 originally. That's not quite perfect, but given that there was one last jet engine running in that room for nearly three days after the fact, I'll take it. Moisture readings were down to 15%, which is what I'd expect given a lack of insulation in the room. We'll keep an eye on these things with a regular check up next year, but at least now we can start getting the roofers in to ensure we don't have any leaks, plus get the flooring and electrical work done. Once we have that it's time for insulation and drywall, and then we'll have a place for our computer equipment. Total cost, borne entirely by us: $5000 for testing and remediation. I'm estimating finishing the room to be another $2000, although some of that has already been spent as we'd paid to have the wallpaper removed and the room painted.

The upstairs bookcase system will take a little longer, six weeks. I was hoping to get the books put away before Thanksgiving, but I'll take anything at this point. I also need to get a couple of folding tables and lamps for the game room. Quite a bit is out of the room, which is excellent news, although the extra bedroom is unusable for now and my sister-in-law will need the room long before we get the bookcases. What a puzzle.

I did get the new Starcraft boardgame up and run through one turn. For a Risk-type game, it looks very promising, although a bit of a brain burner (mostly because of the quasi-FILO-stack type execution of orders - each planet has orders that are executed in *reverse* order that they were placed in, although each player gets to determine which of his exposed orders will be executed). There are a lot of rules, especially for special cases, but I sense that the game play will be fluid and interesting, although there is the usual rich-get-richer problem that seems to be the bane of Risk/A&A. The quasi-3D modular board also looks very interesting, with some pretty good ideas to make it easier to parse. Definitely one I'm looking forward to trying out, even though I'm thinking the box is *way* too big for a game with this component set. Get this - no Plano, as every faction will get it's own quart-sized Ziplock with all of their pieces.

That's it for today, I'll post again once I have some more from the Bad Inspectors.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

House Update

Well, things seem to finally be heading in the right direction. We have gone an entire day without anyone coming to fix something in the house. This is not to say that there isn't still much to do, just that I am starting to feel like I live in a home instead of a vocational arts project. Some things that have improved in the past couple of days:

1) My health. I only needed the Ambien for a few nights to get my brain out of overdrive, now I seem to be sleeping pretty well (other than a nagging neck ache from sleeping in the wrong position last Saturday - not sure how I did that, but it makes everything else more difficult). Saw my doctor yesterday and had a variety of BP readings, from 136 up to 152 for the systolic reading, and 70 up to 88 for the diastolic. 152 isn't great, but it's a lot better than 168, which is approaching head popping range. I'm now on beta blockers to try to control my blood pressure and reduce stress, which I've only used before to deal with rare performance anxiety. No, not *that* kind of performance, I mean singing technically difficult Bach arias in performance. So far today I can't even tell that I'm on something different. I am seeing a cardiologist to look into some basic heart issues, but so far all signs point to my chest pains being something more like a hiatal hernia.

2) We've fixed several things in the house as of this morning, including getting up towel bars in the master suite, putting up the rest of the light fixtures in the master bath and closet, and getting that one last hanging bar for the closet, which takes the last of the wardrobe boxes out of the dining room. I got all of my games out of boxes, even the Euros, and to my surprise they all fit in my bookcases. It's an impressive collection with everything more or less in one room, and now I just need to get the other boxes in that room either emptied or removed, which will be much easier once the Room of Death has been refloored, drywalled, insulated, and returned to service. We have also ordered 3' tall bookcases for the 14' of hall in the Skybridge that is going to no good use, with a very good chance we'll order another 11' worth for the other side. This will get rid of the 12-15 boxes of books that we have nowhere to put right now. I also installed a new thermostat once I realized our old one was 17 years old. Strangely, the house seems a lot warmer, especially this morning, probably because I set on/off times and temps that were logical for us instead of a 90 year old. They had their thermostat down to 62 at night, that's just asking for frostbite.

3) We seem to have finally found a good balance for work/relaxation. We'd gotten down to just a couple hours of disk space free (for HD material, which takes up about 8x the space as standard def), but we've been aggressively going through the various programs. It may be very difficult to get through five or six hours of Dexter, an excellent Showtime series about a "good" serial killer, but I think that we're just a few nights away from having the TV shows back under control. Of course, I expect quite a few to be cancelled before that time, but for now I'm enjoying most of them. We did drop Bionic Woman, despite the relatively glowing reviews, and I'm pretty close to dropping Grey's Anatomy with Private Practice right on the edge. Damages ended with a bang (as you might expect), and I strongly recommend you watch it on FX's web site or pick up the DVD set when it becomes available - it is perhaps the most compelling television I've ever seen, and these 13 episode seasons eliminate the whole "what do we do for an entire 26 episode season?" problem that most network material falls into (24 is an excellent example - a show that would have been twice as good had it been "12").

4) Our Bad Inspector called me yesterday as I was leaving the doctor's office, saying that his boss is still under various meds for pain, muscle spasms, etc, and isn't in any shape to make a decision. I've given them a little more time, until next week Wednesday, but then I'm going to have to start insisting that someone make a decision. I get the sense that there is a little shining on happening, but the simple fact is that I have them by the short hairs and they are fully aware of it. If it takes them a little time to figure out how to proceed, that's just fine - I've documented everything I need to document, and know I will win a court case. I can't imagine any of them want to go to court over the holidays...

5) Finally, while I'm not expecting to get out and do a whole lot of gaming between now and next week, I fully intend to spend a good chunk of Saturday playing *something*, probably solitaire. That will be the moment when I start to feel normal again, I think.

We have a few more projects that need doing between now and the end of the year, including reinsulating the ceilings, replacing the plumbing between the valves and the faucets, getting the electrical system looked at and the circuit breaker replaced, and maybe replacing the crap fridge we have if there's any money left over after all of that. Unlikely! The big project for next year will be replacing the back deck and putting in a normal roofline where the upstairs deck/water leakage source is now. That will be a chunk of change, and we'll have to put off the kitchen and bathrooms for now, although I'm already thinking that we may need to redo the master bath sooner rather than later.

Like I say, there's a lot to do. Today, at least, I feel like we're moving in the right direction. Hopefully my next post will be about gaming again. Remember when I thought that was getting to be a boring topic? :-0