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

Monday, April 25, 2005

Weekend Geek-A-Thon

The weather forecast for this past weekend was for rain and chilly temperatures, and for once, Environment Canada was pretty much on the money. At one point on Sunday, the rain was so heavy that it was all you could hear, almost drowning out the PS2! It was definitely a weekend for all things Geek.

When I spoke with Uber Spielfriek Mike on Thursday, he informed me that he was being given orders by Julia to get out of the house all day on Saturday while she studied for an exam. As an avid supporter of higher learning, I had no choice but to invite Mike over for some games. Cim was down with the plan, as long as no games would start before morning yoga and breakfast at the local diner, so we were off to the races. In order to be even better prepared for all contingencies, Cim had borrowed a VGA projector, just in case we wanted to play some PS2 larger than life or get that real theatre experience.

That morning, we let Yannick and Wanda know that we would be playing games that day, and they said they might drop by after they finished cleaning the house. Mike, as usual, dropped by around noon, with some games in hand. Of course, he was looking a bit damp by the time he got to our place, but he definitely seemed to be happy to have arrived in one piece.

There was a brief technical interlude while I helped Mike install some software on his PS2's hard drive, and the operation was a success. Then, we got down to some 3 player games.

We started with a new game that Mike had brought, In the Shadow of the Emperor. It was a decent game, but a little hard to grok at first, as there was a lot going on. By the time Cim and I had really figured it out, it was just a bit too late to catch Mike. The interesting/weird part of this area control game is that you don't get points for keeping control of an area, just for winning it. Of course, some areas grant special abilities, like a free heir or the use of a previously chosen card, but you only get points when you win control of an area. It was a decent, but not great, game, though I would probably need a few more plays to make a more informed decision.

After In the Shadow of the Emperor, we decided on a three player game of Power Grid, using the German side of the map. Three player is interesting, as no one can get cut off totally, and the German side of the map seems to have some very expensive connections. It was a tense fought game, but Cim and I spent too much time trying to be last, in order to get better commodity and building placements, and we did not build up fast enough to catch Mike. As always, Power Grid is a great gamer's game.

As we were finishing Power Grid, Yannick and Wanda came over, and we hooked them up with some DOA2 Hardcore vs. mode play on the projector. They seemed to really enjoy the game, and they got into it as they were happily beating each other up on screen.

Then, we all decided that something lighter was in order, so we broke out Saboteur. This would be my first time trying out this game of Miners and Saboteurs, and it proved to be a very interesting experience, especially playing with Yannick. At one point, even though he was a miner, he made a play that just screamed Saboteur, and he seemed to be having more fun screwing up everyone else than actually trying to get to the gold. Mike was able to win again, narrowly, and he ended up as the big winner of the day.

After Saboteur, I convinced everyone to try Midnight Party, a recent thrift store find. As I brought out the game and explained the rules, Wanda exclaimed that this was just a kid's game. Then, as we played around 4 rounds, she was the one who was laughing the loudest and cheering for Hugo the Ghost. Later, Cim and I figured that Midnight Party's true calling was to be a drinking game, having to take a drink each time Hugo captures one of your pawns.

After Midnight Party, We set up a five player game of Settlers. We don't often play five or six player games of Settlers, preferring 4 player, but this was a good opportunity. One thing, in the standard setup of the larger board, two 11's end up beside each other, and in this case, they were both on brick. Yannick had placed on the intersection, which in probability terms should not have paid off near as many times this game as it did. My sensible, statistically more likely numbers did not hit as many times as his 11's or his 4's, which just goes to show that, in Settlers, when you win, it's because you played well, and when you lose, it's because the dice ran cold. 8-)

It was a hard fought game, with Yannick winning with 10 points, and Mike and I tied for second at 7 points each, followed by Wanda and Cim.

After Settlers, we decided to watch Enterprise, and Wanda and Yannick wanted to catch the episode again. Mike decided that it was time to head home, and we kicked back to watch the evil universe version of Archer and his crew. When they found a TOS era Constitution Class cruiser, the Defiant, and when they beamed aboard to a reconstructed set, props and dead redshirts, I bemoaned the fact that this show only has a few more episodes left before it ends for good.

And so, another day of camaraderie, gaming and good natured joshing came to an end.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Battlestar Galactica

Like many young geeks, I was a big fan of Battlestar Galactica. I have fond memories of seeing the original pilot as a theatrical movie at the drive-in with one of my friends and his father. (Of course, in the theatrical release, Baltar dies at the end!)

I was frankly not expecting much from the new series, especially when I heard that Starbuck was going to be a woman. I mean, Starbuck had always been Dirk Benedict, the happy go lucky, cigar smoking, pyramid playing, womanizing pilot.

Since I was a geek teenager, he seemed like a damn fine role model at the time. At least he got dates! (For the record, I was more like straight arrow Appollo, and I had no dates)

Well, I am not ashamed to say that I was wrong. The new Battlestar Galactica is a great show, one of the best SF series to come around in a long time. Even though the budget is minimal, advances in computer generated special effects mean that the show looks great, and the actors do a wonderful job of bringing the essential humanity to their often conflicted characters. Edward James Olmos is fantastic as Commander Adama, the military leader of the remnants of the colonial fleet, while James Callis, as Gaius Baltar, is doing an amazing job of portraying what has become one of the most interesting characters to come around in a long time. We can really see him being torn by his loyalty to humanity, his involvement with the Cylons and his own personal greed and desire to save himself.

Having avidly watched all thirteen episodes of season one, I can say that I am very much anticipating season two, and am very curious how the writers will deal with some of the issues that they have raised.

So say we all.