Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I just bought the Buka Invasion deck for Blue Moon. Some interesting new ideas - you can play a card upside down as a bluff, with a value of 2. Your opponent can call your bluff and win a dragon if he catches you out! They also have ships that you can load up with cards and then dump them all in one go.

Les and I are planning to have our first Blue Moon deck-building contest. Not sure if we are going to use the Basic deck-building rules, or use the Emissaries and Inquisitors decks? Either way the Buka gives me a few extra options and maybe the chance to catch him out!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Something doesn't want me online any more

Recent events have been conspiring to evict me from the internet.

First my BT line stopped working, so my phone and my broadband router no longer work. It's going to be a week or two before I can arrange for an engineer to visit when I am at home.

And now my PC has died as well. I switched it on last night while I made some phone calls (on my mobile of course). Went back to it half an hour later and found it still rebooting - again, and again, and again.......

I think I know how it happened. Last time I was closing down I went to switch off power at the wall, and before I had thought I had switched off in the middle of its closedown sequence. So I am pretty sure I crashed the disk.

I have a recent backup of data, and a less recent backup of my photo library. So I may have lost some recent photos.....

I may have to buy a new disk (which I needed anyway) so I can rebuild the system without formatting the old disk. Sigh. That will be a day's work easily. I don't know when I will have time for that before January.....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Our very own Essen

Last night - two of the hottest games from Essen! Just me, Keith and Trevor, at Trevor's home. First up was Space Dealer. I've been anticipating this a lot ever since I first heard about it. First impressions - it's a bit confusing, easy to make mistakes and build something you can't power, or set off in the wrong direction or with the wrong goods. Atmosphere of knock-about fun, together with hastily-made strategic decisions. I enjoyed it, but need to play a few more times, and with the advanced rules, to get a clearer idea. Just beaten to a win by Keith with 19 points to my 18.

Next was The End of the Triumvirate. Like Space Dealer, this immediately gets into my good books with its theme. If I can't be a space freebooter, then surely the next best thing is to be a Roman politician-soldier! I liked this a lot. I very much liked the simplicity of the mechanics, the tricky interplay of the various sub-games, the short run-time, and the clear and evocative components. After one play it gives the impression of being well polished and balanced, but time will tell of course. Easily an 8 at the moment, and very keen to play this again.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Welcome to anyone visiting from today's Guardian interview. I hope you're not feeling too confused - this weblog is mainly about my other pastime, boardgaming. But I do occasionally write about paragliding too, as at here, and here, and here. I hope you can stick around......

Thursday, November 16, 2006

MidCon notebook

I am usually nervous when I walk into a convention for the first time (unless it's one I organized myself). Will there be anyone I know? Will it be a friendly con? Will I get invited to join a game? Or will I spend hours and hours wandering around friendless watching other people play games?

I needn't have worried. Within minutes of walkimg into the game rooms at MidCon I was greeted by a cheery Nick Kinzett whom I know from ManorCons gone by, and I was quickly sitting down to a game of The World Cup Game. Great fun this, with some clever ideas, like the simultaneous resolution of all the group games. I am not a fan of sports games, but I enjoyed this one. We were playing Nick's 1966 board, and my Russians got knocked out by W. Germany in the semi-final's, who went on to take the cup.

After that it was Railroad Tycoon, a 3-player game with Nick K and Steve Jones. I have heard people raving about the physical presentation of this game, but I have to say I was not impressed. Some of the worst faults:

- Gratuitously huge board with lots of wasted space. I spent the whole game stretching over the two tables to reach my network on the East Coast.

- Warping boards. A huge gap kept opening near Washington, a particularly busy area of the map.

- Terrible colour matching. It's especially easy to get confused between blue and purple.

- Some very impractical bits. Those plastic locomotives everywhere, falling over and slipping off the track, and making the situation impossible to read at a glance.

- Some just plain ugly bits. All those brown plastic water-towers. And the "elephant" - a black wooden locomeeple? Surely we could do better than that?

Nevertheless, it's a very interesting and challenging game, and I enjoyed it very much, despite losing hands-down.

Next up was Tara , an abstract game set in Dark Ages Ireland. The box said about an hour. Three hours later the four of us finally gave it up - it seemed impossible for anyone to make a bid for that second throne without the other three players thwarting him. Surely we were playing a rule wrong?! If not this game, though pretty and clever, is sadly broken.

Next morning: a late start, a huge breakfast, then a long day of uninterrupted gaming....

Um Krone und Kragen. So far I've not had much success introducing this to new players. But it was a minor hit here at MidCon. I was first of 5 to reach the King, but Dave Dudley snatched him from me in the final round.

Nottingham. This is rummy with thieving - a lot of thieving! About half a dozen different ways of stealing cards off your opponents. Great fun. And I won!

Then another game of Railroad Tycoon, with no less than 6 players this time! I started building in the New York/Washington area, competing with Nick Kinzett. I took an early lead in VPs, and from then on Steve Jones was relentlessly chasing me to catch up. By the end of the game he was only 5 VPs behind. I had failed to meet my Tycoon criteria, and I felt sure that he had. I was right, but it only gave him another 4 points, so I won by 1 point!! This was the highlight of the weekend for me, a very gratifying victory against stiff opposition. The whole game took about two and a quarter hours - not bad for a 6-player epic.

Last game of Saturday was 5-player Puerto Rico. I was feeling a bit rusty. Josh (2 seats to the right of me) was a PR newbie and getting a LOT of coaching from the other 3, so it took a lot longer than it should have. I came in 2nd with 37 points. Enjoyed this in spite of the length - I had forgotten what a good game PR is.

Retired to bed about 10:30, so Sunday morning was not such a late start. But breakfast was huge again!

First game of the new day was New England, ably taught to us by Mike Head. This looks a bit drab and unintersting out of the box, but the game play is subtle and interesting without being overtaxing on the brain. I would definitely play this again. I came 3rd out of 4.

After this another game of Um Krone und Kragen was requested. There were 5 of us this time, including Lindon Gordon who was new to the game but proceeded to win.

This was all I had time for sadly, After spending a happy hour unpacking and reading the rules to my newly purchased Space Dealer, I had to leave to catch my bargain basement train reservation back home.

On the buying and selling front, I sold Scotland Yard for £10 in the Bring and Buy sale, gave away Slick! (yes I gave away a game - makes me feel chilled just thinking about it!), and bought Space Dealer (which I am very excited about) with a convention discount.

It was a very sociable and friendly con for me, thanks to Nick Kinzett and the guys from the Halesowen Boardgaming Club. I will certainly be looking to go again next year if at all possible.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

MidCon newbie

I am off to MidCon tomorrow, the annual convention organised by the British postal diplomacy hobby, held in a hotel in the centre of sunny Birmingham. MidCon was already a familiar landmark when I joined the hobby back in 1992, but strangely this is the first time I have ever got round to going. I have missed ManorCon for the last few years, so I'm really looking forward to being back in a Con environment, with a long weekend of solid gaming to enjoy.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Talking of play-by-web, there's a new readers-only game of Samurai at MaBiWeb. "Howl's Moving Castle", password "nimrods". See you there!
I've been enjoying my dip into Play-by-Web gaming. Samurai on MaBiWeb with nimrods readers was great fun - we cracked along at several turns a day, and got each game finished inside a week. I lost the first one badly, came close on the second, and won the third.

I've also been playing a pick-up game of Shadow of the Emperor on MaBiWeb. This is going much slower, but even so I am enjoying my first ever run through this one, as I have never managed to persuade anyone to try it face-to-face. (You can watch it here.)

I have also started a game of Amun-Re on SpielByWeb (here) with friends from London Mennonite Centre, which took about 6 months just to get started. (This is what you might expect from Mennonites and their leisurely style of decision-making.) The interface on SpielByWeb is nowhere near as pretty as MaBiWeb and does not have the option to confirm or reset your move. On the other hand MaBiWeb has been suffering from outages the last couple of weeks.

All in all, this is a great way to get some Euro-games played without setting aside dedicated time online to BrettSpielWelt, and I plan to continue with it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

At last! The recognition I deserve

I was interviewed by a journalist from the Guardian last night about my paragliding hobby. It was a phone interview - she does a small weekly column on people with ordinary jobs but extraordinary pastimes.I really enjoyed the experience - I don't often get the chance to talk at length about one of my obsessions with someone who genuinely wants to hear my answers! Most people nod politely for a few minutes then change the subject. It will probably go out in the Monday Guardian Media section in two or three weeks time. I will keep you posted....