The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Welcome Back, Pt 2.

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A few more hands from yesterday.

Holding S:AT97 H:A D:KQJ2 C:AQJ3 I’m not surprised when its three passes to me. I could open in diamonds and jump shift (and maybe I should, as this could easily be a minor suit slam), but I just decide to open 2NT. (The ACBL recently changed, so it is not an illegal agreement to open hands like this in NT, with a stiff honor). Partner bids 3 Clubs (stayman) and raises my 3 Spades to 4 Spades.

I get the 8 of hearts lead and see this.

Dummy S: Q654 H:Q752 D:87 C:K92

8 of hearts led

Hand: S:AT97 H:A D:KQJ2 C:AQJ3

We’ve reached a good game, with only three fast potential losers, but its tricky. I duck the heart 8, RHO playing the 6 and win the ace. I could play either opponent to have the long trumps, and perhaps I should play LHO for it, but the play of the spades in isolation is to lead the queen. Perhaps the opening lead should dissuade me, but if RHO had 6+ hearts in 3rd seat non-vulnerable, I suspect I may have gotten preempted. I lead a club to the king and play the queen of spades. RHO covers this easily so I win the ace and LHO drops the “ominous eight.”

I note that this means that (apart from the jack) my spots are high. I continue with the spade 9 and LHO does indeed show out, pitching the diamond ten (standard signals). RHO wins the jack and obediently shifts to a diamond, king-ace-small. A heart comes back (the four) and I cover with the 7, and ruff the 9.

This is annoying. I have 3 high trumps but I don’t see a way to get rid of my losing diamond (even if I could pull trump, which are blocked). I need RHO to follow to two more rounds of clubs and diamonds, and that can’t happen unless LHO’s heart lead was a lie and in that case RHO would have had to follow higher on the first trick).

But I can’t see anything better and I play for it, but RHO ruffs the 3rd club and I’m down one. I think this may still be OK because people who banged down the spade ace lost two trumps plus a ruff, but those that did that likely used the entry to ruff an extra heart before pulling trumps, so it was a wash. -50 was a very common score. Still, an interesting hand.

          S:8 H:H843 D:AT9xx C:T8xx

S:AT97 H:A D:KQJ2  [4S-W]   S:Q654 H:Q752 D:87 C:K92

          S:KJ32 H:KJT96 D:65 C:75

One final hand. Against a weak pair I pick up S:KQJx H:JTx D:JT9 C:xxx and partner opens 1 Heart. I have an easy raise to two hearts, but …. there are a number of points against it.

  • I’m 4=3=3=3. That’s NT shape and a downgrade.
  • I’m aceless and only one king. Another NT shape and another downgrade.
  • By the losing trick count this is a ten loser hand. Terrible.

Breaking with the field is a risk … we’re a strong pair in this field and to throw the dice on the bidding means possibly giving up all chances to win the board on the play. But I have a few “extra ways to win”. The most likely is that if I raise to 2H partner will bid a terrible game (or invite) and we get too high. Or she may have her bid but hearts break poorly.

And I’m also influenced by the fact that we play Flannery. Our 2D opening shows 11-15 HCP, four spades and five hearts. So I know that partner probably doesn’t have spade fit (if she does, she’ll let me know in either case). I decide to go with my instincts and downgrade this hand. It could turn out poorly, but i would consider that unlucky. So … rather than raising hearts or bidding spades, I bid 1 NoTrump (semi-forcing) and hide my four card spade suit (if partner has spades, I want her declaring). I think the most likely outcome will be that partner bids two of a minor and I bid two hearts — ending the auction in the same place while discouraging partner from going high on borderline hands (since she’ll place me with only two hearts). If partner tries for game after that, it will likely work and it will be easier to get to 3NT instead of 4H.

If partner happens to pass 1 NT, well that’s a higher scoring contract anyway (and I have no ruffing value in hearts). AND I’ll likely get a spade lead, as I’ve hidden my suit.

As expected, partner bids 2 Diamonds and I take a preference to 2 Hearts and partner passes.

Looking at the hand and traveler after the game, I see that I did in fact risk everything. Partner had a 16 count 2=5=4=2 with terrible spots (xx KQ8xx KQ7x AQ). My jack-tens were pulling a lot of weight. We have three aces to lose and maybe the king of clubs, and there’s a decent shot at a ruff, so our 24 HCP game was not a favorite, but neither a huge underdog.

On this hand, it happened to be cold and the field got there.

But! As it turns out I had one more way to win that I hadn’t dared hope for.

My RHO decided to balance into 2 Spades. I had an easy double and partner (knowing I may have four spades on this auction) had an easy pass. When the smoke cleared our +800 was an actual top. You need a bit of luck to win.

Written by taogaming

June 6, 2021 at 9:07 am

Posted in Bridge

Welcome Back!

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Playing in a (real) unit game I’m having a good session when we sit down against a Pro and his (expert, but non-Pro) wife who are the strongest pair in the field. We have two probably “touch below” average boards (I guess wrong on the first board; the pro takes the maximum number of tricks in a board that a few will get wrong) when I pick up:

S:A8xx H:J9xx D:9x C:Axx

With nobody vulnerable, it passes around to partner who opens 1 Club. With the opponents silent, I bid 1 Heart. Partner jumps to 2 No Trump, and I bid 3 Diamonds (checking back). Partner bids 3 Hearts, but I was checking for a 4-4 spade fit, so I bid 3 NT. Partner considers this and bids 4 Hearts. Uh-oh. We’re probably playing a Moysian, but I can’t correct it, so 4 Hearts it is. My LHO (the Pro) leads the diamond 8, but they lead second and fourth.

Dummy S:Kx H:AQx D:KQx C:KJT9x

Diamond 8 led

Hand S:A8xx H:J9xx D:9x C:Axx

I suspect LHO has led from ?8x of diamonds, but for now I have an easy cover with the king. RHO wins the DA and returns the diamond five to the 9, ten and the queen. This is ugly. I don’t necessarily need the king of hearts on side, but it looks like I need a 3=3 break. I’d like to come back in clubs, but that risks some ugly things so I think I’ll make the somewhat weird play of blocking spades and lead a small spade to the ace and then I take the heart finesse which wins, RHO playing the heart eight. That could just be suit preference, but it could also be T8x or KT8 simply waiting to see how I take the finesse again (the stiff eight is too ugly to contemplate).

I could just bang down the heart ace and a heart, playing for the 3=3 break. Then I’d have to ruff the diamond return and pick up clubs. But since I have to pick up clubs I think I’ll try to do it first. RHO has five diamonds (assuming that LHO wouldn’t lead 2nd from a bad four or five, which I think is true) so all I’ve got to go on is the principle of vacant spaces and the fact that LHO led from diamonds, so perhaps that was his safest lead and he didn’t want to lead from an honor. Both of this inferences make LHO more likely to have the queen of clubs, so I cross to the club ace and take the hook. When it wins (whew!) I play the heart ace and it goes 7-small-Ten. I don’t think I’m being jobbed so I play a 3rd round of hearts and when they break I claim the rest. Making five for an excellent score, as the normal 3N by partner will be have ten tricks on the (expected) diamond lead but not path 11, so +450 is the maximum. (Update — It being a club game this turned out to not be a top as a few pairs slipped up and let 3N make 5 (and in one case, six!) but it was still 14 out of 17 or so).

The rest of our session is solid (and our few questionable plays are never punished and in one case rewarded for +800 on a part score hand), so we get first overall. A nice return!

Written by taogaming

June 5, 2021 at 5:01 pm

Posted in Bridge

May Links

Written by taogaming

May 16, 2021 at 6:49 pm

Posted in Linky Love

Counterfeit Monkey

On a discord, someone asked about “That interactive game where you manipulate words” and someone answered “Oh, it’s ‘Counterfeit Monkey‘ a free-to-play text adventure (like Zork). From the introduction:

Anglophone Atlantis has been an independent nation since an April day in 1822, when a well-aimed shot from their depluralizing cannon reduced the British colonizing fleet to one ship.

— Counterfeit Monkey (by Emily Short)

I don’t love IF (bad memories of the Infocom games) but the newer games are more forgiving. And of course you have the WWW for help (online Invisiclues!). And the game is short enough to be done in a few hours. Counterfeit Monkey has topped some polls for IF games, and the reason it stands out is that it is a frankly brilliant idea. Many RPGs set up a magic system that is a giant box of rules. With the simple idea of linguistic manipulation, CM has built the best magic system I’ve seen. For example, if you have the “p-remover” you can turn a clamp into a clam …. (but can’t do anything to a lamp, because a ‘lam’ is nonsense).

A fireball has one use, but that p-remover opens up a world of imagination. Honestly, it would be impressive in an RPG, but in a programmed computer game (that had to code in all the possible interactions) is just impressive. (And the game keeps adding linguistic tools).

Even with only the barest of interest in IF, this was worth playing. And there are often multiple (multiple) solutions to any puzzle, with only a few things being sort of esoteric “try everything” options. (Often I was clear what I needed to do, but didn’t have the right inventory, so I’d use the invisclue to tell me where I needed to go. I’ve made my peace with easy mode).

Written by taogaming

May 7, 2021 at 6:37 pm

April Links

Update — A late link. An book review of Henry George’s economic theory that takes examples from Monopoly (literally based on his ideas), Magic the Gathering, the Settlers of Catan, EVE Online, and whatnot.

Written by taogaming

April 14, 2021 at 9:47 pm

Posted in Linky Love


I played Nidavellir on BGA last night, and I now feel what all the people who said “Race is too short” felt. The game gets going and then it ends. But as the game is merely OK, I guess that’s more of a point in its favor … this is a blind-bidding set collection game. There are three taverns, and one dwarf to be recruited (per player) at each tavern. You place one of your coins at each tavern, high coin gets first pick (with some tie-breaking rotation I didn’t follow).

Purple and Green Dwarves are identical, you just get a score based on the # you have (vaguely triangular in one case). Blue and Brown Dwarves just score their list points (averaging around 5 or so). Orange Dwarves score 0-2 points times the number of orange dwarves you get. And every time you get one of each dwarf (full set) you can recruit a hero dwarf with special abilities.

The only thing making this not a pure point salad is that if you use your “zero” coin, you can replace your (higher?) unused coin with a value equal to the sum of your unused coins. So usually you punt on one auction to improve your coins (which also are score at the end). Paying careful attention to tiebreakers is likely important.

Or not, since I tied and didn’t really understand the tie breaker rule (or most of the details) during the game. You play three rounds of recruiting (three dwarves per round), get some bonus for “Most of a color”, then do three more rounds and score. It is probably much less offensive online (which handles all the fiddly scoring — the tie was at 203, I think).

Rating Indifferent.

Written by taogaming

April 13, 2021 at 11:15 am

Posted in Reviews


Imagine playing Carcassone solitaire on the computer with Bob Ross painting a small Italian landscape with happy little boats, trains and (yes!) trees. Very chill. That’s Dorfromantik, a new game on steam. I felt that some of you may like it.

Written by taogaming

March 27, 2021 at 9:39 am

Links for March ’21

Written by taogaming

March 18, 2021 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Linky Love

Monopoly:Anti-Monopoly::Settlers:Spirit Island

I first had this thought when Spirit Island was released (“This is Anti-Settlers”), and having played through the Steam tutorial, I see no reason to change my mind. Spirit Island is also tapping into that Jungian “pre-industrial, back to nature, state of grace” current that made Avatar the biggest movie of all time (made solely on computer!)

Anyway, no deep thoughts on this, although I was idly wondering if there were any other game pairs where the second is an ideological reversal of the first. (I’m sure there are, but none jump out at me at this pre-caffeine moment). I “collect” such pairings. (My favorite in pop Music is “Look Back in Anger” by Bowie and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis).

So — Open thread for examples! (I’m sure there are many pedagogical games, but Settlers/Spirit actually work as games…just as Bowie/Oasis produced great songs….)

Written by taogaming

March 16, 2021 at 8:44 am

Spirit Island (& Handelabra Bundle) on Steam

Spirit Island was always one of those solos I wanted to try but never got around to acquiring. It’s now out on steam. I decided to upgrade to buy the full bundle by the developer which includes:

  • Sentinels of the Multiverse
  • One Deck Dungeon
  • Spirit Island
  • Aeon’s End
  • Bottom of the Ninth

Of which I’ve only played Sentinels. The bundle was $60 but for a number of solo games I’d been tempted to buy. I spent the evening playing One Deck Dungeon, its amusing. (Apparently this bundle is for base games only, which is fine, I may pick up DLC later). I’m reasonably sure I’ll get decent value out of this. Anyway, I figured this may be of general interest for people looking for solo games during the pandemic.

Written by taogaming

March 14, 2021 at 10:13 pm