Wednesday, October 25, 2006

There and back again

I can't believe it's been so long since I posted. Two major-ish things have happened.

1) I got a promotion at work: Associate Editor. That's a loooong way from a temporary part-time copy editor covering someone's maternity leave. So along with the new title comes new responsibilities. I'm loving every second of it. I get to write and edit, stretching my creative muscles to make things read better.

2) My wife and I left our church. We'd been there for nearly 6 years, but we've recently felt God telling us it was time to move on. So we're searching, and trusting, and full of hope. We visited the local Wesleyan church, and liked it immmediately. And apparently the Squirt made quite an impression on the nursery staff. We'll visit again next week, and delve deeper into who and what this church is. It would almost seem too easy to find a church home so easily. Especially after it took us nearly a year to find the one we just left. It's hard to even write those words.

So both of these big changes have been a lesson in trust and patience for me. I say I trust God. Then I get to prove it by taking steps of faith. And if he's guiding our steps, we'll be in just the right place. And safe.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Target has the complete series of Firefly on sale this week for 19 bucks. For whatever reason, I'd put off buying the series, but it's paid off in a big way. What a deal.

I watched the "first" episode when it premiered on Fox—I had no idea they were already undercutting it by showing the third episode first. I loved it. I was never a fan of Buffy or Angel, but I always admired the dialogue and the writing. Even though Joss didn't write/direct every episode, his influence is on all of this fantastic series.

I admire writers who can write good dialogue. Elmore Leonard is a master at it, and Joss Whedon is very good. I've always wondered why people are so forgiving of writers who can write a good plot, but whose dialogue sounds more wooden than my coffee table. (Cough—Robert Ludlum—Cough)

I'll be trying out Stephenson's Rocket tomorrow night. I've read the rules at least 4 times, but I have no idea what a good strategy might be. This is one time where having read the rules beforehand will earn me absolutely no advantage. Still sounds interesting, though. And it's a Knizia...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Delivering mail to Blue Moon City

It was a good night. I got to play two new games that I'd been interested in, and they were both very good. (Sorry for you guys who played Conquest of Pangea—though I'd like to hear what was bad about it.)

Thurn & Taxis

This is a good game. It's a "connection" game a la Ticket to Ride, but there are much more meaningful decisions to be made here. (I'm not bagging on Ticket, I'm just saying that this is the next step up in complexity from that.) The board is gorgeous and very functional.

This one is all about choices: Whose help do you enlist each turn; which card(s) will you take; which city card to lay down; when to score the route—now, or wait a bit and get the VP chits; should you place houses in numerous regions or concentrate on one? The more I think about it, the more I see that this seemingly simple connection game hides lots of interesting decisions.

Thumbs up

Blue Moon City
Reiner Knizia is a genius. I honestly can't fathom how someone can create so many completely different games while maintaining such a high percent of hits.

So you're tasked with rebuilding Blue Moon City, and to do so you're using cards with 7 different "suits." What's intriguing is that while each card has a building value of 1-3, most of them also have a special power—and you can only use the card for its building value or power, but not both. As Dan said, it's full of killer "big moves" where you'll go in, complete a building for big points, but it costs you your entire hand, using values and power combos to do it. So you've scored lots of VPs, but you're now powerless. Or you could spread your influence far and let other people finish the building for you.

This was a great game. Lots of tension, lots of meaningful decisions, and (especially with the different set-up each game) lots of replay value—at least for a while. He's also integrated the Blue Moon universe into this well—for the most part, the powers of the races match their abilities in the regular card game. No small feat, in my opinion.

Big, big thumbs up.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

In Defense of the Re-Play

I love my game group...well, mostly. But if there were one thing I could change about it, it would be the tendency to play a game once and then move on to the newest and latest.
Some of this is undoubtedly because of the Davis Horde. When you have literaly any game you want at your disposal, you've got a lot of games to churn through. But I really think we're missing out on some gems by flying though them. Even when we play a major rule wrong, it's VERY rare for someone to suggest we play again with the correct rules.

So when I hear people like Mark Johnson talk about a Game of the Month, I'm very intrigued. I think I'm going to suggest something along those lines. We'll see if it gets shot down.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Power of Doubt I say "God stuff soon"...and it's now over a month later. Oh well, I think my wife's the only one who reads this blog anyway.

So I write a column for Group Magazine's email newsletter, and this month I tackled the subject of doubt and faith. I like where I ended up, and the fact that one of the magazine's other editors (and one of my good friends) vehemently disagrees with me. That makes it a good subject to write on. Anyway, here's the column:

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Well, Medina did get played and Verrater did not.
I'm not sure what to think of Medina. I liked some of the mechanics, but it seemed too short, and not I'll definitely try to get it played again, but we'll see if anyone bites.

Das Endes des Triumvirats was the big game of the night. I'm still not sure what I feel about it. There are some very cool mechanics going on. I really like games where there are multiple ways to win, and it's fun jockeying for position in something while watching out for someone else winning in another area. In the end, though, it seems to suffer from the multiplayer wargame problem of..."Ahh, you just won a big battle against the other guy. Well done. And now that your forces are depleted I'm going to waltz in and take it from you. Bwaa haa haa..." Like I said, great ideas, but I'm not sure I'll be buying. Plus, since Z-Man is producing it, it'll likely be at least $10 more than comparable games from publishers like Rio Grande Games. If you're going to overcharge me it had better be a great Reef Encounter.

I've been writing a lot about games. God stuff soon.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Games and More Games

It was a great Tuesday, in no small part because Daren and Cory made an appearance after a while away.

First we played Kreta. This was one I'd been wanting to try after hearing great things, but alas, it's only available as an import. It's an area-control game, which has been done to death, but this has some cool new twists: There are numerous different pieces, such as the Abbot, villages, and ships, each of which has different powers and influence. There are also cards from which you choose roles, allowing you to move pieces, and even control scoring, which is a very cool mechanic.I really liked it, but I'm not sure I need to go to the trouble to hunt one down. If an American publisher picks this up, though, I'm all over it.

Next up was Saboteur, a new filler I'd picked up. It's good, and lives up to expectations: A 20-minute no-brainer that doesn't overstay its welcome. Plus it's got hidden roles...which I like a lot.

Last was Keythedral. The first time I'd played this I'd liked it, but I wasn't wowed. This time was MUCH more enjoyable, and I count this a major success. My favorite thing is that it's a completely cutthroat game wrapped in a cute little package...I love that!

Tomorrow I'm hoping to play Medina and Verrater for the first time. We'll see.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


If there's one game that is almost universally loved on the Geek, it's Tichu. And being a fan of trick-taking games, I really wanted to play...until I played. You see, Tichu is one of those game where anyone who has played before has a massive edge over someone who hasn't. And as we decided what the teams would be it fell this way: Dan (who was the one person who'd played before) teamed with Randy (who has played more hands of Spades than everyone else I've ever met...combined). That left skippen and I as a team. We should have split them up differently, but we didn't. So it was a massacre.

The mechanics are alright, but very obtuse. We should have played at least one hand open, explaining why we'd want to do such and such. Instead, Dan's method of teaching was: Here's how you play. Now I'm going to crush you. Wasn't that fun?


I don't blame Dan, though, because the stupidest part of the game is the bombs. "Oh, you had an 11-card straight? That's nice. I just happened to get dealt four of a kind, so I'm bombing it. Ha, ha." What?!? How in the @#($*! is that fun? wasn't all bad because after that we played my very favorite game, The Princes of Florence. I adore that game. I once played a 5-player game that ended in a tie, and I won because I had one more florin than Cory. Now that was an absolute blast.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Hi Clay!!

My good friend, Clay, whom I don't get to talk with nearly as often as I should, has apparently found my humble blog. And since he doesn't know Amun-Re from shinola, I'll just devote this post to saying "Hi." I miss you, but you're where God wants I watch Scrubs alone--and think of you every time.

I'll endeavor to write more nongaming posts...and to write more often. But I've said both of those things before, with less-than-stellar success.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Finally Encountering the Reef

I've been wanting to play Reef Encounter for a long time, and a BGGer named Drew kindly offered to teach Daren and I on Spielbyweb. I feel like I'm someone who's generally able to pick up on rules and mechanics quickly, but this thing had me soooo baffled. The tile-laying and shrimp eating came along fine, but the alga container...whoa, that was impenetrable.

Then, on my next-to-last turn, it just clicked. I saw what things did, and how they worked. I'm still struggling to see the strategies, but I get the game now. And it's a good one.

Friday, February 17, 2006

First SpielbyWeb game...I actually won!

Anyone who has played with me will realize the importance of this statement. I'm one of those people who rarely win games, but have a heckuva fun time losing. So when I win, it's total gravy.

I'm intimidated by BSW, so finding a Web-based gaming environment in English was great. The only game I knew how to play was Amun-Re, so when Alfred mentioned in his great blog that he was starting up a game, I jumped on it.

Not sure what exactly I did to win, but I'm very happy. He and I are playing a second game, but I think I'm going to crash and burn on that one. That I'm used to. And Alfred, if you ever want to start another game, lemme know.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Tom Waits for no man

I was feeling really cruddy today. So to make me feel better about my scratchy throat, I decided to listen to someone who always seems to have one...Tom Waits. I've only got one of his CDs--Real Gone--but I listen to it constantly. If Don't Go Into That Barn isn't the creepiest song out there, I don't know what is.

It got me thinking about how much I like people who seem to have an exceptionally complex relationship with God. Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, Bruce Cockburn, Nick Cave, Bono, Bob Dylan--these people are fascinating to me. You'll never find their CDs in a Christian music store, yet the things they sing about and the sentiments they express are so much closer to my experience as a Christian than the syrupy stuff you hear on the radio. They wrestle, and doubt, and stumble, and fall (sometimes very, very far), and the answers aren't easy...and the Bible is full of just that sort of complexity. Look at David and the Pslams if you doubt that. Thank God there's room for those feelings on this journey. Thank God. white whale

There is no game that frustrates, eludes, confounds, and fascinates me like Santiago. Every time I play this game I lose...and I don't just lose by a little. I'm way, way, way behind everyone else. Not one decision I make ever seems to be the right one: I drop out at the wrong time; I pay too much; I pay too little; I choose the wrong crop; I put it in the wrong place; I misjudge where everyone is going. Yet I still love the game. It may kill me, but I'll get this game...or die trying.

I played the Moon/Weissblum game Oasis for the first time. It seemed an awful lot like New England--a game I hate. Some interesting mechanics, but it just didn't grab me. I have yet to play a game from this pair that I enjoy...with the notable exception of San Marco, which I really, really like 3-player.

And finally, I was able to play Oltre Mare. This was the much-lauded game that was released by a very small publisher in a very small edition. So when Rio Grande Games--God bless you Jay!--announced they would pick it up, I was anxious to play it. It was...just okay. This is the epitome of the hand-management game. But in the end it felt kind of clunky to me; like the pieces didn't quite fit together. I'd probably play again, but I'm glad I played before I bought it.

I find myself being less impulsive with game purchases now that I've come down off the yearlong high of finding Eurogames. I think this started when I was this close to buying Revolution: The Dutch Revolt sight unseen. I mean, it was going to be my next purchase, bar none. Then I was fortuitously able to play it on a Saturday all-day gaming session. Holy smokes did I dodge a bullet. It's not that it's a bad game--I believe that it's a well-done and well-balanced game (and that's saying something when there are 5 distinct powers at work). It's just not my type of game, and I didn't know that until I played it. All that to say that I feel blessed to have James and Sheila Davis in my gaming group. Knowing that I can play literally anything--even the impossible-to-find stuff--is an incredible boon.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sword of Rome

Our all-day gaming session was dominated by a 4-player game of Sword of Rome--GMT's card-driven wargame. I was anxious to play for many reasons--I've always wanted to play a card-driven wargame, I'm interested in the Ancients time period, and there are few multiplayer wargames. It's been marketed as an homage and multiplayer version of the classic Hannibal:Rome vs. Carthage. I've never played that one, so I can't comment on how it compares.
All I know is that I enjoyed myself. The rules and play took a full 7 hours, but I must say it went by rather quickly. As the Greeks, I was fairly isolated from the other three powers, and my only real conflict came in the form of the nonplayer power Carthage. They were activated by the other three players through card play, and then they just came and wreaked havoc on my plans.
As usual we underplayed some aspects, and got others flat out wrong. We made no alliances, we tried no interceptions, we didn't attempt to avoid battle, and we flubbed the rule that Carthage can never attack Italy. That always happens in wargames, though, so no big deal.
The "problem," though, is that this is the sort of game that only gets better the more you play it. Once everyone learns how to play each of the four powers, things will flow better and be even more tense. And then there's the fact that it would be interesting to play the other powers, because each power plays completely different. So where's the problem? Well, go back to the 7 hours of game time, and you get an idea of why I'm hesitant to buy this one. It would absolutely go more quickly the more familiar we were with the game, but you're still looking at 5 hours. And that just doesn't happen very often. So do I pass up this great game because I'll likely rarely play it? Or do I go ahead and get it, and live on dreams, like I do with so many other games? Whatever. In the meantime, I'll happily play this again; but this time I'm going to be tenacious in sending the Trans-alpine Gauls after Cory. Then, victory will be mine.