The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

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And whatever else is on your minds this Pre-Turducken weekend.

Written by taogaming

November 22, 2014 at 12:10 pm

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Progress …. isn’t.

A good idea (hey, lets just do the tech chart part of Civ!), marred by boring technologies, terrible rules (by inference, I didn’t read them, but a card game where a card has 5 parts, and no “anatomy of  a card” to decode meant we spent at least twice as long as necessary figuring it out) and highly repetitive gameplay.

Maybe I did something wrong, but there’s little chance I’ll try again (despite the fact that the TaoLing likes it).

Initial Rating – Avoid.



Written by taogaming

November 20, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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An Idea Stolen Nearly Two Decades Late

On the morning death-commute to another monday at work I heard an advertisement. Not surprising. For a TV show. Again, not surprising. But for a TV show that I’d heard pitched in the mid-90s by Peter Sarrett. That was new. (OK, it wasn’t a pitch so much as Peter musing that he thought it would make a great TV show, an idea I agreed with. I mean, who would pitch a TV show to a guy without money? Not someone as clever as Peter, that’s who).  It was for Celebrity Name Game which sounded for all the world like Celebrities. (Reading the Wikipedia page reveals that differences). And as a bonus, it’s by Craig Ferguson.

So, has anyone seen it?

Written by taogaming

November 3, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Posted in TV & Media

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Weekend Update

Knocked out (by a good team which won and was 2nd in the swiss, although it was my own fault) Saturday am. 2nd place in the afternoon pairs, 4th in the Swiss. If I could just stop the mental aneurysms every, oh, 8 boards or so I’d be dangerous, although I think real expert will elude me forever. (Let’s see … I need to learn to just bid 3N instead of creating a torturous auction that tells the opponents the killing leads, assuming I don’t confuse partner. Being content with the imperfect part score I’m in instead of improving, especially at IMPs). Still, while it wasn’t a great weekend (some mistakes sting) it wasn’t bad. And my mistakes are interesting. I played for a show up squeeze (Where you run all the cards to force a person to discard to a single card in a suit you plan to finesse in, so you know when to not take the finesse) and when the card didn’t show up I hooked anyway. The finesse lost (of course) but the person winning hand to return the suit … for the same result as if I’d just cashed out.
Partner — “Why’d you finesse, you played a show-up squeeze. You knew it would lose.”

Me — “It’s only a show up squeeze if I trust his early carding (leading K presumably from KQ). And LHO had a count and was good enough to lead K from Kx. And I needed the last two tricks to make, so playing for LHO to be tricky was my only real shot.”

Partner — “You had a card turned wrong. You only needed one trick.”

My combination of skill and chicken-addled brains is potent, indeed.

Incidentally, a lead problem:

1D*  1H   [*Limited
2C*  2S** [*Should be 9 minor cards, either one longer, **Artificial, game forcing, usually worried about spade.]
2N   3N

You hold
S:xxxx H:Axxx D:Qxx C:Kx

Doctor Who — Capaldi is great in the role, and despite getting off to a wobbly start, I think there have been a nice run of episodes. I’m now at the point where Moffat’s name on the script (as sole writer, at least) elicits a groan. Perhaps it’s just the case that the first season with a new lead is inherently novel.

The Wire — Very good.

Mage Knight — Played again last night, the standard coop with the TaoLing. Felt good.

As for the lead — A very good player (on the winning team for the Swiss) started off with his 4th best heart, but the only card that worked this time is the heart ace. That may very well give away the contract, but given that declarer seems happy with his spade stopper and has 9 minor cards, you have a decent shot of finding him with a stiff heart. In fact, his stiff heart is the Queen, and dummy has Kxxx of hearts, so the small heart lead presented declarer with a bonus heart trick, and any non-heart lead gives declarer enough time to set up his minors.

On the other hand, if declarer has 2-2-5-4 or so, a heart lead may very well set up the heart suit and you may need to lead a spade. But partner didn’t double two spades.  At the other table LHO decided to bid NT (instead of bidding 2S as fourth-suit-forcing) and act like a man with a spade stopper. Apparently they believed him, because he got a heart lead through the singleton queen — the heart ace murdered her and 3N went down.

So I’m confused. Sometimes the auction to get the right hand as declarer gives the show away, but sometimes it doesn’t and it saves you a bundle of IMPs. So many contradictory lessons….

Written by taogaming

October 14, 2014 at 6:26 am

Posted in Bridge, TV & Media

I can’t remember the last time ….

I walked into a game store and bought two games I’d never played.

Sentinel Tactics is the board game for Sentinels of the Multiverse. I was vaguely aware that this was coming out, saw it (and the expansion) in the store. I don’t have many rules, but one of them is that if I’ve played a game 75+ times, I’m not going to be too wary purchasing something else. Quick thoughts:

  1. It’s a nice amount of stuff and not expensive. Minis sold separately.
  2. The rules say “And once you master the basics you can play advanced scenarios.” But, unless I missed it, there are no basic scenarios. Presumably you divide into two teams and pound each other, but for how long? If you are incapacitated you just lose a turn and come back, so presumably you have to incapacitate the opponents some number of times?
  3. This feels like one of those games where everyone is overpowered. We played the “Baron Blade must go around the city and destroy some things before the heroes knock him out several times” and Baron Blade’s “Hey, I can teleport” card made it pretty easy, once I just gave up fighting and went rampaging. Then again, The Wraith’s “Hey, I ignore 6 points of range” or “Hey, I can retreat after attacks are declared” all some great. (Absolute Zero sucks, of course, but that’s just thematic).
  4. You don’t get the ridiculous number of combos of even the Sentinels base set, because the map is just a map, and doesn’t have cool random events.
  5. The insert might be the most useless one I’ve seen in a while.

Look, there’s no way that this is as cool as Sentinels. It’s OK. But it plays up to 8 players (although I suspect you’d have to love it to do that) and it’s relatively cheap (both base+expansion were $60 at full retail, which is cheap these days, especially for that value).

Rating — TBD. The first scenario was a bit of a snooze.

I really don’t read BGG anymore. I’m not sure it’s blocked at my new job, but I do know that they are more vigilant than at most jobs I’ve had and I’m actually busy most of the time anyway. But I’d heard of Machi Koro and thought “Why not?” (Going to a bridge tournament and spending $11/session makes a $30 board game seem cheap). All I remembered about Machi Koro is that it’s vaguely Settler’s esque. And it is. You roll dice, do the effects and maybe buy a card. Cards usually give you money. At some point you can buy improvements and if you buy all four of your improvements you win. The clever part is that you roll one die at the start of the game, but one improvement lets you roll two dice if you want (which opens up more buildings). I suspect there are dominant strategies (so much so that when I go to BGG to read the forums, which I haven’t done yet, I expect this will be the first complaint I see.

Hm… nope. I guess we’re just in a rut. (The TaoLing will often latch onto a strategy that wins until I decide to prove to him the flaw in it. His strategy was Convenience Store + Shopping Mall. Of course, in our last game he never rolled a four, which I guess is the problem with that).

However, I do see a variant where you don’t have all the buildings available at one time (“Deal out buildings until you have 10 piles, then stop, no matter how many are in each pile. Whenever you deplete a pile deal out more until you have 10 piles again”). But it may only work with the expansion.

Look, this is not a particularly deep game, but it’s a pretty fast one, and we’ve played four times for a game I’ve owned four hours.

Rating — Suggest (as a filler).

Written by taogaming

October 13, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Posted in Reviews

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The Better Bid, The Better Card

Holding s:Q8642 H:83 D:Q42 C:A72 with all vulnerable at IMPs, LHO opens 1D, partner bids 1S and RHO doubles (negative).

I should have bid 4S. It might make. It might be a good sacrifice against 4H. But I make our systemic “Good single raise” bid of 2H (alerted, of course). LHO bids 3D and partner bids 3S, competitive and not offering game. RHO and I pass (after all, we could be off the the first three diamond tricks if partner has xxx). LHO is back there with 4D, passed to me.

I should probably pass. Partner has made no strong big. However, I do have two extra spades. LHO’s 3D could have been frisky, but 4D after we stop in a part score should be a serious suit. Partner is probably short in diamonds. The opponents never got to hearts, so partner probably has 4 hearts, and I can take care of two of them. I don’t think 4S is a favorite, and but it might have some play. And the opponents are not the doubling type.

I bid 4S. LHO and partner pass and RHO bids 5D. I pass and partner doubles, ending the auction.

Partner leads the 3 of spades (3rd and 5th leads).

        S:JT H:JTxxx D:Kxx C:Qxx
S3 led                      S:Q8642 H:83 D:Q42 C:A72

Dummy plays the SJ and I play the queen out of inertia.

Oops. I realize a second two late that I know the exact spade layout. Partner is showing exactly 5 spades, and would never underlead the ace, so declarer has the stiff ace. I had a really nice play available …. I could have played the Spade Deuce. When declarer wins the Ace partner will know exactly two things:
1) Declarer’s ace was stiff.
2) I strongly prefer my clubs to my hearts (since I played my lowest of four spot cards).

But I played the automatic card and now I’ve muddied the waters.

Declarer leads the Heart King and partner wins the ace. (I’ve played my lowest heart). Declarer looks like someone with KQ of hearts to me. Apparently partner believes that as well because he leads a small club (showing an honor) I win, return a club to partners king and only then does partner try to cash his spade king. But now they are down one. Declarer (an intermediate player), perhaps influenced by partners double, misplays trumps to go down 2. +500.

If I jump to 4S directly, we’re -100. We can’t make 4S, but they really can’t double or risk 5D. My slow bidding was revealing, but only to partner. My misplayed card could have cost (dearly) if partner wins the heart ace and tries to cash the spade king and declarer reads teh situation. He ruffs the spade, cashes the heart queen (pulling partners trump) and then plays the HJ. If I ruff he over-ruffs, pulls my trump, and can use a low trump to enter dummy.

Fortunately partner was awake to the this possibility (why would I take the push to 4S unless I had undisclosed offense, which pretty much has to be long spades). And by that point at the hand, the club ace was the only significant card I could have.

Playing against weak players can make you sloppy, which is why I try to figure out all the mistakes I made in a session, even if I got away with most of them. Fortunately, this is probably my 2nd worst hand of the day.

(The worst hand I will not speak of).

We survived the knock out yesterday, easily beating the team of flight B players but losing to the experts (partially due to my worst mistake, partially due to our teammates worst mistake, and due to the experts making less mistakes). But 1-1 was enough to advance. Today we’re playing heads up against a team including two competent players and two immensely strong players, so I’ll have my mistakes revealed very quickly, no introspection required.

Written by taogaming

October 11, 2014 at 8:46 am

Posted in Bridge, Session Reports

La Granja

I much prefer my first reading of this title — “Ganja” (clearly the game of farming the best bud).

Anyway, La Granja is an imperfectly cromulent game.

It works well enough, has no obvious flaws, and has nothing to recommend it besides being inoffensive.

Written by taogaming

September 26, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Posted in Session Reports

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