Monday, April 23, 2007

Stag Party heaven

Last weekend was my stag party, organised by my son Phil who is also my best man. I didn't have the usual routine of paintball, go-karting, tequila slammers, strippers and waking up next morning chained to a lamppost in Glasgow. No, my stag party was.... a weekend of boardgaming! Phil specified retro games were to be played (because I'm an old classic presumably) although we didn't stick strictly to that rule as you can see below. My gaming friends Dave, John, Steve, Les and Simon turned up at Saturday lunchtime, as well as my son Gavin. Phil produced an amazing joint of roast rib of beef with all the trimmings, followed by an erotic apple pie (possibly a world first) to compensate for the lack of strippers. Here's a summary of which games were played and how I rated each experience (out of 5 stars):

Merchant of Venus
Experience rating: *****
Winner: Phil
I finished: 5/5
It's been too long - many years - since I last played this. I loved this game. Interestingly, so did Phil, who wasn't so keen when as a child he used to be pressganged into games with me. Sadly we had to stop after two hours so that Phil could make a start on cooking dinner.

Homeworlds (2 games)
Experience rating: ***
Winner: Phil, Phil
I finished: 2/2, 2/2
Played this for the first time ever. I lost the first game almost immediately by vacating my homeworld! Next play went better but I was overwhelmed by Phil's cunning aggressive play. Interesting game this, I love the theme and the luckfree tactics are interesting. I want to play it a few more times to clarify my opinion.

IceTowers (6 games altogether)
Experience rating: ****
Winner: Phil, me , Gavin, Gavin, Me, Steve
I finished: 2/3, 1/3 , 2/3, 3/3, 1/4, 3/4
Various people played this at different points over the weekend. It was very popular - easy to teach, quick to play, interesting tactics. Embarrassingly, I forgot a small but important rule - that you are not allowed to mine from a tower that you already control. Steve spotted my omission on the very last game of the weekend, so we were playing it wrong all weekend! Oh dear!

Experience rating: **
Winner: Who knows?
I finished: probably 5/5
The dark side of retro gaming. Lots and lots of fiddly bits, fiddly rules, trash-talk and whining, and long, long, looong. We stopped at midnight and carried on next morning. Finally canned it after 4 or 5 hours total of play - no end in sight for at least another 2 hours. Not for me.

Railway Rivals
Experience rating: n/a
Winner: Steve
I finished: (I didn't play in this one. Steve beat Dave's and Les's scores combined!)

Blue Moon
Experience rating: *****
Winner: Les
I finished: 2/2
When everyone had left Les and I indulged in a quick game of Blue Moon. This time Les's Mimix ground down my Aqua. This game is just superb, every time I play I appreciate it more.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Thursday game session

Last night's game session was at Janet's, so at her request we were looking for games at the friendlier end of the complexity spectrum.

First up was Les's Fearsome Floors, which turned out to be a bit of a brain-bender. It seemed to bring out the analysis-paralytic in all of us. Though the theme is fun, the actual game-play seemed rather dry and hard-work to me. Having finally played it, I'm pleased I traded my copy last year. Les won easily. Perhaps the fact that I did terribly didn't help me feel well-disposed to the game?

Next I introduced IceTowers. I've never played it before, but it was simplicity itself to explain. Everyone got into the game with gusto. The only problem was some clutzy tower-spilling incidents with 6-players all reaching at once to make an urgent move - it sometimes resembled Twister more than anything! Good fun, and Janet proved to be the clear champion after 3 rounds.

Finally we played Diamant, a fun little game which I enjoyed (and won - that always helps!)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Now We Are Six

Another year, another blog birthday! Six years on, this has become a habit. Some months I'm more enthused than others, but it's hard now to imagine life without this little public outlet. I enjoy talking about myself (who doesn't?), and it's always great to get some feedback in the comments section. It shows there are real readers out there (not just stats). I get a buzz every time a comment is posted - keep them coming! And I will try to write something worth commenting on. Is that a deal?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lent is well and truly over. Easter has been celebrated, and I consider myself free to buy games, books, CD's, DVD's - all those toys - again.

It was a good exercise - good for me to focus on the games already on my shelves and enjoy those without spending all my hobby time researching what to buy next. And it was good preparation for this autumn when I plan to leave my well-paid job at IBM and become a Masters student at London University. A year without game purchases can now be anticipated without too much anxiety.

Meanwhile, the fast has been broken with a purchase I have been holding off for a long time - poker chips! Finally decided that I really have to have these for 1825, Merchants of Venus, Acquire etc etc. I never thought I would be patronizing a site called (I hate gambling) but they were very helpful, sent me sample chips of two kinds - pricey NexGen chips and the cheaper 11.5 chips that have gold numbers hot-stamped on each side - and when these got lost in the post they promptly sent another sample. The cheaper chips (£1.50 for 25) looked fine to me, and the hot-stamped denomination is important to me, so I went for those, along with a bargain genuine alligator skin (simulated) case. Very pleased with them - can't wait to try a money game now!!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Mid-air with a model glider

I had a frightening experience today at Butser Hill. About 4 in the afternoon I was soaring the north face of the hill, having a great flight in light but thermic conditions, getting high, about 130ft above takeoff. I was the only paraglider in the air - there was one other pilot on the ground packing his wing away. But there were 4 or 5 model gliders flying the same ridge.

Suddenly - a model glider swooped out of nowhere and smacked into the top of my canopy, then tumbled off the trailing edge groundwards. "Shit!" I shouted, heart pounding, but was surprised to find I wasn't spinning or dropping. Looking up I examined the canopy and lines carefully - no damage! So I continued flying for another couple of beats, but I was rattled and had lost my rhythm, and did a clumsy slope landing a couple of minutes after the incident. (I probably should have landed straight away - wasn't thinking straight.)

I packed up slowly and walked back up the hill. I approached the model flyers (politely!) but apparently the guy who flew his model into me had already left. I was feeling angry at this point - at least he could have had the courtesy to stay around to speak to me!

Driving home, and thinking about it this evening, I have started to feel scared by the thought of what might have happened. 150ft above ground - hardly enough space to deploy a reserve. I always told myself that if I experienced a serious incident while paragliding I would quit the sport. Is this that incident?

I have filled out an incident report and will send it to BHPA tomorrow.

I feel like there was nothing I could have done to avoid this collision (a paraglider moves too slow to avoid a fast little model!) except maybe never fly at sites where models are flown. But that excludes nearly every site in S. England! Not sure what to do with this experience......

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Nuptial games

My wedding to Sue is rapidly approaching. Rather than paying out thousands of pounds to caterers etc we are going for a more DIY approach, which has its stresses let me tell you - as we tactfully approach lots of friends with requests to bring a pudding, reorganise tables, or reheat curries for us. Oh well. At least everyone will feel involved. FULLY involved!

I can confirm that there WILL be a games session at this wedding. My lovely wife-to-be suggested this! It will happen in the interlude between eating the cake and the evening entertainments. About an hour and a half is scheduled for this (or other chillout activities, such as a walk in the woods), which allows time for a quick game of Ticket to Ride or Settlers - ideal relaxation after the stress of the speeches! Any other suggestions anyone for a good wedding-day game?