A periodic blog about Games, Books, Movies, Pop culture, Technology and whatever else I happen to feel like writing about...

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Queen's Gambit

My best friend Colin's son Kristian is my godson, and he is in town visiting his dad. The last time he was in town, we were supposed to play some games and didn't get the chance, so this time, Colin's wife Amy and Kristian picked me up last night, and I brought over a few games.

When Kristian saw Queen's Gambit, he just had to play it, so we set it up on the dining room table and had a game.

Kristian wanted to play the Trade Federation, and I explained the Annakin timer and how the game would end, and that he had to have a majority in the palace at the end to win.

I saw a few things happen that are good to remember:

1) Never split the damage in the Jedi battle. Darth Maul inflicted heavy damage on both Qui Gon and Obi Wan, but failed to kill either. If he had concentrated on one, he would have killed him and still done some damage to the other. (realistically, only one of the three jedis should survive)

Once Kristian saw both Obi Wan and Qui Gon running into the palace with their Move of 12, he got very anxious!

2) Never ignore the Gungan battle. If the Gungans can start ganging up on Battle Droids, they will eliminate them (4 droids in a group, three gungans, one grey battle die each. So, if two gungan groups can fire on the same droid group, they get 6 dice to try and score four hits)

The Gungan player has to move the catapults up to the edge of the shield. From there, they can target the tanks and MTT`s in the back row, with three red dice and one grey.

If the Gungan player can eliminate the battle droids and super battle droids on the battlefield before the trade fed can take the shield down, he has effectively won the battle, as the tanks and MTT`s cannot fire or move through the shield. All the Gungan has to do is to take pot shots with his catapults whenever he can.

If Darth Maul dies, then the Naboo player does not have to occupy the throne room, he just has to have surviving characters in the palace. I had only lost Captain Panaka, and had both queens, both jedi and a ton of guards on the first floor, targeting the hexes that he could bring reinforcements into.

3) All Move Annakin cards have to be played to move Annakin. There are barely enough in the whole deck to get him through, and I had almost burned the whole deck to get him through played.

If you are playing trade fed, you have to aggressively move droid groups to attack the shield generator and the catapults. Super Battle Droids should be moved to the palace and used to target the tougher characters, like the queens and Panaka. You can also use them if a jedi gets into the palace, but you might lose the SBD to the Riposte die.

The Trade Fed player should block the easy window accesses to the throne room with droids, and should move the droids on the third floor to cover the door.

The Trade fed should also play as many starfighter cards as he can to block Annakin. If the game goes on long enough he should win, providing he can eliminate the naboo force in the palace.

It takes a little while to set up, and a few hours to play, but Queen's Gambit is a very fun game, especially for Star Wars fans.

AVP - Red Dead Revolver

After an unexpected day off on Friday (the water main near the office was drilled through, and the lack of water pressure meant that the building was not safe enough to work in) that Karen and I spent together doing a few things and having a good, relaxed time, she went to visit her family and friends in Montreal, and I settled into a weekend with my seldom seen room mate, Cim.

Cim is a great guy, and we share a lot of interests. He likes to play board and video games, and he enjoys science fiction. Since neither of us had plans for Saturday, we decided to call the boys to see if they wanted to play some board games. That fell through, so we decided that we had to go see AVP.

We headed out to the AMC, so that we could load up at Denny's before the movie. As always, Denny's big breakfasts are BIG! We hit the Future Shop, looked at some cool toys, then we hit the movie.

Going in, I expected it to be bad, real bad, LXG bad. I was pleasantly surprised. It was no where near Aliens, but it was a fine summer turn your brain off movie. The only thing I would have liked better is if it had taken place around the same time as Aliens, so that we could have seen some Colonial Space Marines kick some Predator butt.

When we got back home we played some DOA2 Hardcore Vs. fighting on PS2. I won't go into details of who won what, but after a while, Cim decided that we had to play something else. We had played some Red Dead Revolver, and were at the train stage, so we decided to play some more.

We got through the train, then we made it to town, talked to some people, bought some weapons. Next mission was pretty cool, though Pig Josh was proving to be difficult. That was, until we figured out that if you ran up to the Gattling Gun, he would never come up to attack you while you were using it. So, you took a bead on a spot close by that he would run past, and you hit him with the gattling . While he was being hit, he would stand up more, so you could shift the aim of the gattling to do more damage. Then, he would run away, and come back to get shot again.

We should have tried to get head shots with the Gattling, we might have been able to take him out that way. The best we did was to take away around 75% of his hit points with the Gattling. Then, Cim got the brilliant idea that we should run down, across to the building that you see when you use the Gattling. From there, we were able to hit Josh with a few rifle rounds to finish him off.

The Bad Bessie level was tough, until I figured out how to take cover better. Then, it was pretty easy to snipe the enemies on the early parts of the level. The rock hurlers were a pain, but if you got to the right cover, they couldn't hit you with the rocks. Bessie herself was a bit of a pain, but I saw she was only following a fairly set pattern. I lured her past the rock step into her area, and she got stuck. She turned away from Red, and could not climb the step. Bye bye Bessie...

The Ghost town level was pretty cool, and it was mostly taking cover around corners, and the odd strafing gunfight. The Undertaker dude with the Gattling gun was a pain, though. I was able to take out his henchmen fairly easy, but I was having a hard time putting serious damage on him from any range with the rifle. Once I bit the bullet and got closer, I was able to take him out by constantly strafing and using the pistols.

Now we are saved at the start of Annie Stoakes level, and it looks pretty cool. Red Dead Revolver is a great game, once you get used to the controls and you get a better feel for moving and fighting. It has a lot of atmosphere, and it really makes you feel like you are in a Clint Eastwood movie.

Oasis, Meuterer

Last Thursday evening, I ended up at uber spielfriek Mike's place to game with some of his friends. They were finishing a game of Royal Turf when I got there, so I chatted with Mike's girlfriend Julia while she was playing FFXI on PS2. She seemed to be really enjoying it, and she was kicking creature butt while I watched.

Once Royal Turf was over, we started a 5 player game of Oasis. It was a typical majority control game with a few twists. One is that your score is the number of tiles of the type that you controlled times the number of scoring tiles that you had. The other was that you had a hand of action cards, and you offered cards to the other players. Players were able to claim the offers that they wanted in turn order, as specified by the disks that they had, so, if you made a good offer that the first player took, you would be first player next time. Neat.

As with most control type games, I managed not to come last. It always takes me a few games to get the hang of what I should be going after in these things.

After that, I finally got a chance to play a 4 player game of Meuterer, a game that I own, but never had a chance to play. I have to say that I was very impressed with it, the game packs so much into just a deck of cards. It can be very tense wondering if you should play another good or take the merchant role, or whether or not the 2 points that the captain is offering to the mate is a good deal.

I was able to eke out a victory when I was able to sell some goods and get 2 points from being ship's boy in a successful mutiny. I did not have the swords to take Mutineer myself, but luckily, the first player to drop out did, and so I was able to see that the Mutineer was taken when I dropped out of the goods race. An excellent, tense game that I will definitely suggest that we play the next time we have four players.

As always, it was a pleasure gaming with Mike and his friends

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

David and Goliath

There were some severe thunder storms yesterday, so Marc, Paul and I decided to play cards at lunch. They had enjoyed Sticheln, so we decided to try David and Goliath, a similar, yet different game. With three players, the deck was composed of five suits of 1-9 each.

David and Goliath is a trick taking game with a twist. Players must follow the led suit, if possible, but can play off suit if they have no choice. The highest card is the card with the highest number played, regardless of suit, and the lowest is the lowest, also regardless of suit. If two players tie for either highest or lowest, the last card played breaks the tie.

The twist is that the player who played the low card takes the high card as the prize, and the player who played the high card takes the rest. Players then arrange their taken cards so that all players can see how many of each suit they have taken.

Scoring is similar to Sticheln, with a twist. If a player takes one or two cards in a suit, they score the face value of the cards. If a player takes more than two, then each card taken is worth one point. As you can see, the game becomes one of trying to add cards to other players' high singles and pairs so that they can't score big points for them.

We played a very tight three way game, and the scores were competitive throughout. Even though I was the only player to score more than 1 point per card in the final round, I fell just short, and Marc and Paul tied for victory at 84 points to my 82. If only we had played one more hand.. 8-)

David and Goliath is an accessible trick taking game that most card players should enjoy, with enough of a difference to make it enjoyable for gamers.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Lake Catchacoma - The Island Adventure

The extra long weekend is over, and it was an excellent opportunity to take it easy with some fine friends. Karen's family cottage is very rustic, on an island on Lake Catchacoma that has 7 cottages. We had all the amenities that we needed, but mostly we had each other to laugh and relax with. The 7 castaways on this island journey were: Larry, Nadine, Claire, Nell, Susan, Karen and Mark.

Since the weather was a bit cool, it was apparent that we would be playing some games, which was fine by me!

We arrived at the cottage much later on Thursday evening than we anticipated, so it was time for a quick drink then off to the assigned beds. People were tired after the drive and then lugging the two loads of people and food and luggage across the lake.

We awoke to a crisp morning, with a cloudy sky. It was to be cool for the first few days, and we were glad that the cottage had a new wood stove, which we did use in the evenings to provide that warm glow. The girls are all marvellous cooks, and Larry and I did what we could with our assigned BBqing, so I am happy to say that we ate well, even extravagantly for four days. It was pointed out that we should all go on a clear liquid cleansing fast upon our return to civilization. Luckily, Vodka and Gin are clear liquids! 8-)

It should also be pointed out that Larry jumped into the water at an insanely early hour that morning, and started fishing early. Larry and I would have some success fishing, but we never caught anything even close to being big enough to keep.

We fell into an easy rhythm of lounging, reading, chatting, cooking, eating and cleaning. Everyone pitched in, and it seemed that everyone did what they could to make the time pass well.

During one of the mostly group reading activities, Karen, Larry, Nadine and I played Modern Art, and we all had a good time. I explained the rules quickly, and we started on the auctions. By the time the first round had finished, everyone understood the rules, and then we were well and truly off to the races.

For much of the game, Larry and Nadine seemed to be trading vast sums of money back and forth, prompting Karen to muse that they were in fact running some kind of art scam. In the end, Karen (the accidental capitalist) had the most money, due in large part to some very lucrative sales in the last round. Nadine was second, followed closely by me and Larry.

After Modern Art, we all decided to play In Pursuit, which we dubbed Trivial Pursuit meets Survivor. We used the Millennium Edition questions, but found that they were fairly Amerocentric. The game was fun, though there was not a lot of team switching and leader deposing.

By the luck of the draw, I was the leader of the red team, and Nell the leader of the blue. The red team pulled into the lead, which prompted Karen to switch teams successfully to red. We got closer and closer to the end, and Claire was able to take over the leadership when I was unable to answer a question on her turn. Her plotting and careful attention led her to the eventual win when I did not have an opportunity to win back the leadership.

In Pursuit is a fine trivia game, but the next time that we play we might use the three minute Boggle timer to reduce the amount of time teams have to confer about the answers.

We capped off the evening with a spirited game of Balderdash. Some highlights of note were the word "smatchet", which is a bad child, and the made up definition which involved 18th century Welsh pirates. Karen did guess that boanthropy involved a condition where the affected person believed that they were a bull or ox. If I hadn't convinced her that it couldn't mean that, we would have been tied with Larry and Nadine when the game came to an end, and not in second place.

The next day there was some swimming, but the weather was still cool and cloudy. Larry and Nadine packed up and had to go, and the 5 hard core islanders settled down for some serious relaxation. After another excellent dinner, Karen, Susan Nell and I decided to play Clue, the Great Museum Caper. Karen was the thief, and even though she almost left her thief exposed next to Susan's pawn just as she was about to move, she managed to escape with three paintings after she was seen by Nell. Karen almost looked relieved to have been seen, she was getting so nervous skulking her pawn around the museum.. 8-)

The weather improved the next day, and there was some tubing, some swimming and some fishing. Reading and lounging were also popular, and that evening, it was decided by Nell that Intrige must be played. And so, colours were chosen and the rules explained. Nell, Karen, Susan and I played, and there was much cajoling, bribery, threat and banishment to the island. Feckless relatives were relegated to lowly 1,000 ducat jobs, and the unshakable Nell-Karen alliance was strong. Susan had some of the most entertaining admonishments, and was the most accomplished at bribery (perhaps something she learned at work?), but in the end, Karen the accidental capitalist triumphed again, with Nell in second place, me in third and Susan in fourth.

Of note was when Susan compared the game to Kremlin, and when Karen evinced her astonishment that Susan played Kremlin, Susan said "Well, we have geeks in Toronto too, you know." One of Susan's friends was to be playing that weekend at the WBC, and is a former Kremlin champion.

Karen and I then played a quick game of cottage staple Othello before bed. I remember having played a lot of Othello with my younger sister Shelley while we were growing up, but I don't remember ever having a system. I was able to capture victory from the jaws of defeat by changing a good portion of the board black in the final few moves where Karen had to pass.

The next day, the day we were to leave, the weather started out the nicest, and so more swimming, tubing and a surprise water skiing demonstration by Claire had to be undertaken. Claire had not been able to get up on the skis the last year that she tried, but this time she made it up first time like a pro! My apologies to Nell, I really wasn't trying to kill you with your tube ride!

After all that boating, we realized that the boat's gas tank was almost empty, and we prayed to the gods of gasoline that we would make it back to the marina with the fuel that we had left. Luckily, our shameless island rituals must have pleased the gods, and we made it on the final fumes.

It was a great extra long weekend, one that I was very happy to share with Karen before her September posting to Brazil.


Thursday, August 05, 2004


So, today after work, a bunch of us are heading up to Karen's family cottage near Bobcaygeon, http://www.kawarthalakes.net/bobcaygeon.htm

We are going to spend four days enjoying the lake, max relaxin' at the cottage. Since the weather reports aren't the most promising, it looks like some games will be played, including The Great Museum Caper and Kill Doctor Lucky.

The official drink for this tour is the Caipiruska, the vodka version of the Caipirinha, which is a Brazilian drink made with Cachaca (sugar cane liquor). http://cocktails.about.com/library/howto/htcaipirinha.htm

The official dance music for this tour is Salsa, so some of us can finally practise what we were supposed to be learning in Salsa class... 8-)

Have a great weekend, everyone, I know that we will!

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


Marc, Paul and I played Sticheln at lunch today. It was my first attempt, and we played three hands. I thought that it was a very neat game, as it forces you to think outside of the normal trick taking genre, since you want to take as many tricks as possible without taking any that have your misery colour.

Marc and Paul caught on quickly, and soon they were taking every opportunity to foist misery cards on opponents. It was a close game, with Marc scoring 26, me 33 and Paul getting the big win at 35.

I haven't quite got the game figured out yet, and I will probably try to play a few more games this weekend during the cottage trip. It is probably insanely chaotic with 4-6 players.

The weather report for the weekend is looking iffy at best, and it might not be optimum beach weather, so gaming might take on more importance than we thought it was going to. Since most of the people who will be coming up are government types, there was a half serious request to play Diplomacy. If the weather reports don't start clearing up soon, we might well end up in a game.