Friday, May 30, 2003

Chris Lawson provides an excellent set of expanded rules for "Lord of the Rings", and lots of other goodies as well.

And this article (pdf) from David Farquhar gives an insiders view of the game's design process.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

We can now play Cosmic Encounter online! (via Terminal City Gamers)
I would love to be a writer - successful, famous, and (most importantly) popular with the ladies - but this sort of thing is just so difficult: 12 Exercises for Improving Dialogue (via Sashinka)
I am going through a bit of a Knizia phase, but in order to convince myself that this hobby isn't really that expensive, I have ordered Ra and Taj Mahal from Discount German Games at amazingly low prices. Slight drawback - these are the German versions, but shouldn't be too much of a problem....

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Last weekend I walked the Clarendon Way between Salisbury and Winchester. It took me two days, with an overnight stop in Nether Wallop, to travel the 30 miles. Every morning I drive 45 miles in roughly the same direction to get to work. It's a weird feeling to pace out with aching muscles and blistered feet a stretch of country that usually slips past the car windows so effortlessly. Who says England is densely populated? - it doesn't feel like it when it takes two days on foot to get from one town to its nearest neighbour.

Lots of beautiful scenery, especially the heavily wooded, folded country near Tytherley. One highlight of the trip was finding a slowworm on the path (until he crapped on my hand). Another was the Wykham Arms at journey's end. They have a pot of HSB sausages behind the bar which they sell with mustard for 45p each. This is the ideal accompaniment for a pint - now I never want to drink beer any other way.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Xiangqi: Chinese Chess: Xiangqi, or Chinese Chess, is an extremely popular game in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is currently played by millions (or tens of millions) in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and other Asian countries. Xiangqi has remained in its present form for centuries. It is believed that both Xiangqi and Orthodox Chess derive from the original Indian game of Chanturanga.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Beat Simon at Euphrat & Tigris last night, thus avenging my humiliations at Hay. Dave dropped by to give me a bottle of wine, then John dropped by and drank it! It was interesting playing E&T with just two. It was a real knockabout game with lots of conflicts, much of it over one big kingdom, battered by catastrophe tiles and strung out along the board. A close result, 20/19 - much better than the 3 that I scored last time I played!

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Isn't the internet wonderful? Going round Hay-on-Wye's second-hand bookshops I was looking out for a children's science-fiction novel I remember clearly from my early years, about a voyage to Mars made by a professor in a home made space ship launched from his garden. I had completely forgotten the name or author of the book, and have never met anyone else who knows the book. I can still clearly remember the beautifully drawn illustrations. It was one of those books that I desperately wished to believe was true.

Anyway, I finally got round to searching the web for this book - 15 minutes with Google last night turned up the details, thanks to David Drake for whom it is also an early literary memory. The book is "The Angry Planet" by John Keir Cross. David's description brought it all flooding back:
The Angry Planet is in form a typical children's SF novel of the period. A Scottish scientist builds a spaceship in his back yard. He and a writer-friend fly to Mars in it. Three children in their early teens, staying with the writer, stow away on the spaceship.

The atmosphere of Mars is breathable. The planet is inhabited by the Beautiful People--willowy, intelligent folk with a fringe of cilia which serve them as hands--who inhabit glassy cities, and their racial enemies, the Terrible Ones--massive, tentacled monsters; also intelligent but utterly evil.

The humans visit the Beautiful People's city; one of the children is captured by the Terrible Ones but escapes; and there's a climactic battle in which the humans aid the Beautiful People against the monstrous foes. The humans return to Earth.

The really strange aspect--for a children's book--is the theme. The Angry Planet is a clear story of the battle between Good and Evil. Evil wins.
Even better, thanks to AbeBooks I have tracked down a copy in Leigh on Sea for £5, and I now know that the talented illustrator was Robin Jacques. I wonder what else he did? Time for another Google....
This week's game of Euphrat & Tigris is looking less hopeful - maybe I will play Taj Mahal Online tonight instead. It looks beautifully done, and it's a chance to play before I purchase (as Taj Mahal is next on my insatiable game craving list).

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

And Chris Lawson's excellent Euphrat & Tigris FAQ - plus other stuff including the rules in English.
And Euphrat & Tigris page at BoardGameGeek, with loads of material, including some useful play-aids.
And Tigris & Euphrat stuff from Carl-Gustaf Samuelsson (and large numbers of other Eurogames too).
I'm hoping to get a game of Euphrat & Tigris this week so if I intend to win (which I do) I need lots of stuff like this - Euphrat & Tigris strategy tips from Chris Farrell

Monday, May 19, 2003

News just in from Phil (who obviously hasn't got quite enough to do at University these days):
A hungry ferret has caused panic on a train by racing around carriages and eating the driver's lunch, a train company says.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

I have a lot of respect for David Warren, especially his refusal to accept received wisdom and his willingness to kill sacred cows. His latest contribution to public sanity is to unmask the "Baghdad blogger":
Salam is the scion of a senior figure from Iraq's Baathist nomenklatura. He was brought up at least partly in Vienna, which is the OPEC headquarters; his father was therefore an oilman, and possibly a former head of Iraq's OPEC mission. Another clue is a hint that his grandfather was an Iraqi tribal chief; from which I infer that his father was one of the Iraqi tribal chiefs that Saddam Hussein rewarded for loyalty, outside the Tikrit clan.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The nimrods weekend at Hay-on-Wye passed off successfully, with no-one getting murdered (although William came pretty close). Things that surprised me about our weekend away together:
    Everyone turned up. I was expecting one or two last minute dropouts from unreliable people.

    Dave was drunk within about one and a half hours of arriving.

    You can't get take-away food in Hay on a Sunday.

    I didn't win a single game. Not one.

    Hay-on-Wye has a game shop.

    John turned up in a brand-new Mercedes.

    Walking was popular - I had plenty of takers for long walks on both Saturday and Sunday.

    Tikal ended with an argument.
Things that didn't surprise me:
    Nick consumed an unfeasible quantity of booze and fags.

    Nick spent large amounts of money on books about coins and archaeology.

    Before we left Dave stripped the fridge of leftover food and drink to take home with him.

    I ended up doing all the washing up.

    No-one wanted to play The Napoleonic Wars.

    Everyone wanted to play Liar Dice variants.

    Kill Doctor Lucky ended with an argument.
All things considered it seemed to be a successful weekend. The bookshops and the countryside both provided welcome relief from the gaming tables. People were already talking about when we could do it again, so I think everyone enjoyed themselves. I think I did too.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Greg Costikyan offers us a free game:
Dot Boom is a satirical card game of the Dot Com era. Each of up to five players takes the role of a major venture capital firm (like Eine Kleine Perkins or noidealab!), investing in dubious companies like iPotemkinVillage and Thiefster, and trying to take them public. The game is over when the "dotCrash" card comes up, at which time the player with the most money wins.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

I don't understand this website but William says it's "really good" - GameWyrd - Battle Imps - The Battle!
Lost Cities for 4 Players:
Partnership games are particularly fascinating, as the interaction happens on two levels, within the partnership and between the opposing groups. Whenever I play a partnership game, I wonder why I design so few of them (only Digging springs to my mind). When the question was raised, if Lost Cities could be extended to more than 2 players, I seized the opportunity.
It's come at last - the Nimrods weekend starts tomorrow, as eight of us (Steve, Dave, John, William, Nick, Simon, Phil and myself) find our way in various cars trains and buses to Celtic Lodge in Hay-on-Wye. The place sleeps 10 max, so we have nearly maxed out. I'm amazed and really pleased by the take-up on this. Hopefully it will be a big success (ie nobody gets murdered) and perhaps we will do it again next year.

Anyway, last night I was compiling my final list of games to take, with lots of suggestions from Dave - "You've got to take x"...."Oh, and you've got to take y".... "Oh, and you've got to take z (kids game in enormous box)"..... Ignoring most of Dave's suggestions the list is looking like this (dependent on how full the boot looks):

Formula Motor Racing (fluffy but fun)
Hammer of the Scots (short absorbing wargame)
Puerto Rico (I haven't begun to play this enough)
Euphrat & Tigris (a gamer's game)
Aquarius (more fluff)
Chrononauts (fluff)
18xx (anti-fluff)
Battle Cry (for a tournament?)
Hera & Zeus (I feel like a 2-player euro)
Settlers card game (and another)
Lost Cities (and another)

Quite a lot of short games there, not many wargames. I think these choices are a big reaction to last weekend's 14-hour Krieg marathon.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

It was good to see Gavin - my estranged son - over the weekend. One of the pleasures of growing older is sitting in your favourite pub sharing a glass of beer and a chat with your son. This was something you dreamed about years ago when you were banished to a freezing, empty room round the back of some "family-friendly" pub out in the sticks somewhere, trying to enjoy your half-pint (because Dad was driving of course) with a couple of bored and fractious kids.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Chris Farrell's Top 14 Overrated Games
Advanced Civilization took a classic, if overly long, game (Civilization) and eliminated the strategy and player interaction elements, increased the length and complexity by 25-50%, and turned the whole thing into little more than an accounting exercise - all in some bizzare quixotic goal to add "realism" to a game that was never intended to be, and still isn't. It's amazing to me how much the intervening 10 years has increased my understanding and appreciation of good games; were Advanced Civilization to be released today, I would probably be able to immediately identify all the problems and avoid playing it, but I was just blissfully unaware at the time.
I played Nick at Krieg! over the weekend, wasting 14 hours of glorious weather on Sunday and Monday crouching over a map of Europe. And basically I regret it. It's not just that I was well on the way to losing (with Moscow fallen a Soviet collapse was on the cards.) I enjoyed the fighting retreat across Russia (especially the bit where I destroyed an overconfident Panzer Army), I enjoyed the seesaw of fortunes in North Africa, I enjoyed inserting a Soviet tank corps into Konigsburg and later holing them up in the Pripet marshes where they stubbornly refused to die. But it just takes so long - after two solid days of gaming we had only reached summer 1942 for goodness sakes. Sorry Nick, it was fun (in parts), but I just don't see why I would ever play this again when I could be playing Barbarossa to Berlin instead.