The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

A Dark Day in the Realm

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The Witch, Pilgrim and Captain had teamed up to go into the Borderlands to the Vault. There was a Demon and two vipers lurked in the Vault, and also the rotting corpse of the Sorcerer. The Witch had been cursed by the Imp to Ill Health, so she couldn’t rest. For a spell caster, this was devastating, so she’d offered her services to any group that could get her to the Chapel, but that required going through the Borderlands.

And the Borderlands contained the Lost City, which meant that (in addition to the aforementioned monsters), there were already Dragons present, and possibly other things.

The Pilgrim had the cloak of mist so he had an extra hide. The Captain had gotten the Living Sword, so while he couldn’t deal with tremendous (or heavy and armored monsters) by himself, the vipers were slow enough to pose no threat. At least, not a single viper.

It was a good plan. Certainly better than the original Druid’s plan, which involved risking his life on a single hide roll.

A 1/6 chance of death in Magic Realm is closer to 50/50. That Druid died on day 3.

But this plan was good, The Witch and Captain recorded “Follow Pilgrim” and the Pilgrim recorded.

Hide — Hide — Hide — Move — Move. We’d end on the Shrine hidden. If nothing untoward happened, the Witch would absorb the demon’s essence and the pilgram and captain would each ambush a viper.

No risk combat. If another monster appeared we could decide to risk it or just leave on the next turn. But that wasn’t a massive risk, because the Pilgrim had cast Peace with Nature. Most of the chits would not trigger.

The monster roll meant the Shrine’s guardian (the Troll) would appear. The Vault and Shrine were on the same space. That put a wrinkle into things. Failing all three hide rolls put a massive wrinkle on them.

New plan — panic!

Second plan — The Witch lured the Tremendous Troll. It was slow, so she could cast her spell and absorb it. The Captain lured a snake and the Demon and the Pilgrim lured a snake. The Demon’s curse thankfully only hit the Captain, rusting all his armor (ugh), so the Witch was free to absorb the troll. The captain and Pilgrim killed their vipers (as planned) and then the Captain had to dodge the Demon which was on him, hoping the Troll could grab the Demon.

Nope. The demon killed the captain and next turn grabbed hold of the troll, which meant that the result was a forgone conclusion. The Pilgrim ran away to avoid seeing the horrific final death.

Chance of failing three hide rolls = 11/36 ** 3 = 2.9%

Chance of failing three hide rolls and having a monster appear = 3% * 1/3 = 1%

So, it was about fifty-fifty.

One of the faster games of Magic Realm (for me, anyway).

Written by taogaming

January 16, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Magic Realm, Session Reports

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The Magician’s Final Day

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As the Magician spent the last day of the month meditating to prepare his Remedy spell (which would be used to lift the disgusting curse he’d gotten the prior day), the sounds of Dragons — plural — announced a problem.

He was hidden, but casting a spell would alert the Dragons to his presence. On a normal day, he’d just run away. But today wasn’t normal. Tonight he needed to cast a spell to finish his triumphant month in the Realm.

It was time for a risk. The Magician snapped the Withered Claw in half and asked for a wish, despite knowing a twinned curse would come. There was a risk since he could lose all his magic, but he Wished for Strength and the curse had no effect — he couldn’t be more disgusting than he already was. That was why he needed to cast Remedy in the first place.

The Magician quietly Transformed one Dragon, using his final purple essence in the process. If he transformed it into a squirrel (say), then he could quickly stab the other Dragon and kill it — thanks to his wish. Then the magician would finish off the squirrel (or not) and cast Remedy in peace. A triumphant end.

Sadly, the transformation turned the Dragon into … a lion.

(Lions are basically faster Dragons).

The Magician did kill the (untransformed) Dragon but that used up the wish and he did not escape from the Lion.

In hindsight, I should have cast Remedy on Round 1 to remove the curse. I would have become unhidden, but I could have used my purple magic (which I spent on the Transformation) to power the flying carpet and escape before melee in Round 2.

I missed that option. And honestly, once the wish roll worked I had something like a 75% chance to kill both Dragons and then remove a curse in the final night of a combat.

On a side note — I’m watching The Magicians on Netflix and (apart from being totally unrelated to Magic Realm) its pretty good. I liked the first book by Lev Grossman, but haven’t really gotten into the second. Probably read it during my beach trip later this year.

Written by taogaming

January 15, 2017 at 11:18 pm

Posted in Magic Realm, Session Reports

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Playing (poorly) at a Swiss I pick up:


My LHO is a (quote) life master (unquote) who is not at all good and (vhoje moi!) mentoring new players. She may even teach lessons. A nice woman, but just full of bad ideas and because she’s a life master she has a following amongst the other dear hearts who are just starting out.

She opens 1 Heart which is passed around to me.  With this partner I haven’t played much but he’s an expert. We did make out a card and our balancing NT is 11-14. Over a major that can stretch upwords a point or two, but even discounting the compact spade honors I like the fact that my hand is bulky. I think its too much.

I double, planning on bidding 1NT over 1S to show a good hand.

LHO bids 2 Hearts then partner bids 3 Diamonds. RHO passes and that’s enough for me to shoot 3 No Trump. Even if we’re light on points I know a lot about the hand. It goes all pass and I get a small spade lead.

          Dummy S: xxx H:A8x D:K9xx C:xxx

Spade 4 led

          My hand S:KQJ H:QTxx D:AJT C:KJx

This goes to my hand and I win RHO’s Ten with the queen. OK, I have 24 HCP and I RHO will have roughly 4 at most. I could attack hearts, but I think that I’m going to want to endplay LHO in hearts and clubs. I could finesse into the safe hand (LHO) in diamonds, but I think I’m going to finesse against LHO, even though she’s likely shorter in diamonds. RHO may have the queen, but even if I used my entry and finessed, I couldn’t do it twice. I may want to finesse in clubs. And LHO has the bulk of points.

The Diamond queen is points. Maybe she has it.

I lay down the diamond ace and LHO plays a small heart. Well, I was right about her more likely to be short in diamonds. I let the diamond jack ride to RHO and he returns a small spade without much thought.

That has to be good for me, much better than a club through. LHO wins the spade ace and I don’t see how I’m going to make this, even assuming an endplay or squeeze for the final trick. Hurm. Two spades, three diamonds, if the club queen is onsides then perhaps….

I hadn’t gotten far when LHO tabled the club ace. I follow all low. Next comes … the heart nine?!

I maybe played poorly earlier, but now I see nine tricks. I let the heart ride to the ten (LHO shows out, of course). Small heart from hand and LHO has to split and play her jack. I win on dummy and cash the diamonds (pitching my club jack) and then I can lead the heart eight and when she wins I show my hand of good spade king, good heart queen and good club king. The opponents just shrug and score it up. Her partner isn’t good enough to realize she’s given the hand away.

Later on, same match.

RHO had opened 1 Spade and I’m looking at: S:xx H:AQJx D:Qxx C:xxxx.

With nothing to see, I move along and pass. She goes into a communion with her bidding box and emerges with Four NT.

RHO answers 5 Clubs and she grumbles, grouses and then bids six spades.

Her entire demeanour indicates she’s gambling (she lacks a poker face, but at least I can say that I don’t think her partners can read her. There’s nothing unethical going on here).  I ask what five clubs shows and she says “We play 1430” (so five clubs shows one or four).

Honestly, getting barely by in a solid Flight A event feels better than crushing team, because what I do may work or not for entirely random reasons. At least if I lose at the NAOP’s, I feel like I deserve it. Here I make 3N because she can’t defend passively, and now I’m on lead and I can’t tell anything from this auction. Ugh.

This slam was not rationally bid, therefore it comes down to a simple cost-benefit. If it turns out we can beat the slam cashing the first two hearts, I will murder myself if we don’t.

If my heart ace gets ruffed by dummy on opening lead (and I swear … scout’s honor, that this thought crossed my mind before I led it) then I will simply shrug and say “What can you do against lunacy? It gets lucky sometimes.” More rationally, the heart lead may set up declarer’s king, but if partner has an entry I don’t care if I get one heart or two, and if I give up the timing … oh well.

I lead the heart ace and she grimaces and says “I guessed wrong,” as she tables dummy.

Dummy has (and let us pause to savor this) S: AJx H:Kxxxx D:Kxxxx C:–

Right idea, but I misguessed her void. (Do not bid Blackwood with a void is apparently another lesson she has missed). All thankfully follow and partner is violently discouraging hearts and it suddenly hits me what she meant.

She was guessing whether her partner had one or four key cards.

She doesn’t know that she could just sign off, safe in the knowledge that a partner staring at four key cards the Spade King and three aces (plus who knows what else), might push onto a slam after a strong auction by partner and should let the auction drop.

Then again, if she doesn’t know that, how could the person (who — again — she is mentoring) know?

I lead a diamond to the king and partner takes his ace and shifts to a club. RHO wins the ace and I’m now expecting down two (since that’s he keycard) but no, RHO shows up with both remaining key cards so they are only down one. I missed if he apologizes for pulling out the wrong bid.

We destroy this team but now I’m feeling guilty that I didn’t sign up as a mentor.

That conflicts with game night….

Written by taogaming

January 15, 2017 at 10:49 pm

Posted in Bridge

Got in another game of Magic Realm

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That seems to be standard for the TaoLing and I during a long weekend (he has Monday off of school, and some appointments, so I’m taking Monday off, too. My arm was twisted).

It was an interesting setup: Wood’s Girl, Druid, Elf and Wizard. The Girl and the Elf both took Peace with Nature as their starting spell, and the first turn the Druid enchanted a wood and both characters cast their spell, so suddenly 3/4 of the characters did not summon monsters (except from treasure chits).

But the treasure chits were brutal. The Wood’s Girl died to the Demon (she could have run away, but we had a mental error and didn’t notice until later). (Since it was early, the TaoLing took the White Knight as a replacement). The Druid should have had an easy time with the Imp, but he got hit with a Wither curse, which fatigued something like eight or nine of his chits, including his auto-kill. He managed to kill the Imp, but multiple Dragon’s had shown up so he had to regroup. The Wizard took a risk going for the Alter in a Cavern and got murdered by a Demon for his trouble. (No replacement).

The Elf had a slow start, he went to the Cairns but left after the Spider showed up, then went to the Altar and worked around the Demon, but for little gain). Eventually he sold the White Knight some information for gold, and then went off and cast Persuasion (his other spell) to befriend the King’s Guards, whom he hired in the last week.

This let him go back to the Cairns (since the Guardsmen could lure Tremendous Spider and actually kill it, which they did), and I got a few more treasure, then raced to the Wizard’s resting spot and killed the Winged Demon and managed to loot a treasure right as the game ended. The combined gain from the final kill and treasure meant I eked out a score of +1 VP. The White Knight wound up with zero, but then realized that not selling a few things would mean losing 1-2 gold VP but gaining more fame/notoriety. Since he’d looted a ton of stuff, he ended up with around 5 VP.

The Druid had managed to learn 5 spells, because he had to (he’d put Spells as VP condition) and lucked out because he got the Good Book, which had Exorcise, and he had a source of White Magic. The net result meant that the 3-4 curses the Druid took could be easily removed. We’ve started to realize that reading runes is something non-spell casters should probably do a bit more of, at least if they have a source of the right color magic. The Druid really missed his gold requirement, and ended with -20 points in Gold, so finished negative (but not as much as you might expect).

We may very well play another game this weekend (since the set is out).

Written by taogaming

January 14, 2017 at 6:26 pm

Posted in Magic Realm, Session Reports

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Mac Daddy Bridge

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Yesterday Hank and I qualified for the finals for the North American Open Pairs, the Mac Daddy event (of the ones that I attend, anyway).  Last year we came in 6th (after some bad results that I detailed in a geeklist). We qualified with a small margin of error (hindered by a few blunders and several legitimately unlucky results). In the early going today things are not improving, but I pick up a hand guaranteed to brighten some spirits.

S: AK H: A6 D:Q65 C:AQJT96

I could open this 2 No Trump and call it a balanced 21-22 count, but it wouldn’t take much to make a club slam, so I put this into a Polish 1 Club opening.

LHO bids 1 Heart and this gets passed back to me. I bid 3 Clubs which shows a great hand with clubs. LHO asks and is told that 3 Clubs is “almost forcing,” rather like an Acol 2 bid. He passes, Hank bids 3 Hearts, asking if I have a heart stopper.

I do, so I bid 3 NT, ending the auction. LHO doesn’t seem to care, he’s leading the heart king.

          Dummy: S: T982 H:J93 D: AJ4 C: 832
Heart King led
          My hand S: AK H: A6 D:Q65 C:AQJT96

Nice hand, partner. I particularly like the heart Jack. I win the ace. At IMPs, my hand is easy. Lay down the club ace, continue clubs. I’ll take five clubs (six if the king is singleton), and two hearts, two spades and a diamond. Assuming the heart queen is onside (pretty safe, given the auction and opening lead) this guarantees the contract.

At matchpoints, it’s not so easy. I could finesse in diamonds and win, then finesse in clubs (twice if necessary, thanks to dummy’s 8). That would get me 12 tricks if both finesses are on. Or I could go down if they aren’t.

Could they both be wrong? Sure, give overcaller QJx KQTxx xxx Kx. Of course, the auction would be the same if the minor kings were reversed. I seriously have no idea if I should play this wide open.

On the other hand, the opening lead has given me a trick. If my hand opens 2N, I suspect there won’t be any interference, and LHO may be reluctant to lead from strength. (He may have been reluctant to do so in this auction, but an attacking lead may be called for, particularly if he isn’t looking at the club honor).

I think about it, but I don’t see any clear indication. I decide that since I may be a trick ahead of the game, I’m going to play it safe. I lead the club ace (all follow small) and then the club queen. LHO wins with the king (Good decision!) as RHO follows, so clubs were 2-2.  LHO gives it some thought then cashes the heart queen, then exits a heart. I win in dummy and toss a small diamond. RHO followed twice, so hearts are five-three.

I could take the finesse in diamonds, but I’m in no hurry, I play two rounds of clubs. RHO pitches a two spades and LHO tosses a diamond, then a heart. I play another club and LHO pitches a diamond and RHO pitches another spade.

Has something good happened in spades? I don’t think so, but lets check. I cash one spade and both opponents follow low. Here’s the current position

Dummy S:T9  D:AJ

Declarer S:A D:Qx + a good club

Perhaps I should cash the spade ace, playing to squeeze LHO, but  I don’t think that works. He has a heart left and three cards. If he has Kx of diamonds the finesse works. If he has QJ (or Qx or Jx) of spades left, then he’s out.

But there is … as befits the Mac Daddy … a Criss-Cross squeeze possibly.

I could lead a club and then pitch dummy’s diamond jack. Now, if either opponent started with QJ of spades and the king of diamonds he can’t keep everything (or if he started with Honor-x-x-x-x of spades + Kx of diamonds).

If he pitches his small diamond I cash the ace of diamonds dropping the king, then use the spade ace as my entry to the queen. More dramatically if he pitches his last spade spot (from Hxxxx) I play the spade ace fetching  both spade honors (one from each opponent) setting up the spade ten, with my diamond ace as the entry.

And the criss-cross squeeze works against either opponent…..

If I read the end position correctly.

I think I’ve got the suits of the discards right, but I haven’t been watching the spots … not that I think I’d get a good read on those.  Can a Criss-Cross work? LHO can’t have started with five spades (he’s already shown up with five hearts, two clubs and two diamonds. He’s got a heart and three cards left, and if they include the QJ of spades he’s bared his (assumed) diamond king.

Can RHO have it? Well, that would be 4-6 points and a heart fit, which may have raised hearts. I could cash the spade king to get a better read, but I didn’t think it would help and it would risk losing more than one trick if the diamond finesses is off.

In fact, if I cash the king of spades and LHO shows out, I’ll know that RHO has S:H D:?x and LHO has H:T D:?x. If I’m wrong with the finesse I lose two tricks.

So, still undecided, I played my final club, hoping for a read on some squirming by LHO. But he pitched his heart, leaving him with three unknown cards. Decision time.

If I pitch the diamond jack I’m playing for the criss-cross. I have to be able to read the hand.

At this point I decide that a) I still might be ahead of the field, b) LHO did bid and c) I’m not entirely sure I’ve counted correctly, so I probably won’t be able to read the hand, so I pitch a spade and take the diamond finesse.

After it looses, and I claim the rest. As we’re putting the cards away, I ask RHO — would the Criss-Cross have worked?

“Oh, yes.”

At Trick 11, here would be the position (with RHO to play to trick 10).

          Dummy S: T9  D: AJ

LHO S:J D:xx                RHO S:Qx D:Kx

          Me:   S: A  D:Qx

I could have simply played for RHO to not have discarded deceptively, and cash the ace of whatever suit he pitches.  Should I have played for the Criss-Cross? Honestly, I’m still not sure. If spades are 4-3 (quite possible) it only works if the K of diamond hand has both queen and jack. The fact that LHO discarded two  diamonds (and no spades) should maybe place him with Hx of spades. (With 1=6 spades, perhaps I’d have heard a weak jump shift), but I’m not sure if these are trustworthy inferences.

And that’s how my day went, full of interesting card plays that I did not get right (as well as more mundane mistakes).

We end up twelfth-ish.

Written by taogaming

January 8, 2017 at 10:21 pm

Posted in Bridge

It is over!

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It is over!


Actually building the rocket only took five hours, which involved two power outages, an entire rework of the chemical factory network, and an iron shortage that meant that I was running the last few hundred steel from a hastily rebuilt smelting plant. I may start up a ‘real’ game (with non-passive aliens) after this weekend’s bridge tournament.

Or, you know, before.

Written by taogaming

January 6, 2017 at 5:46 pm


After 30 hours of Factorio gameplay of the current campaign, I have finally discovered how to build a launch silo! Almost there. Then I read the equipment. Building the silo itself takes the following:

  • 1000 steel pipes (which I have around) and some pipes (ditto)
  • 200 Electric motors (not easy, but I do have a single factory making them, and most of the precursors built
  • 200 complex electric circuits (I have a chain for that, I was pumping those out for speed modules)
  • 1000 Concrete (which I’ve never built, sigh)
  • Some modules

Then once the launch silo is built I have to feed it:

  • Ridiculous amounts of rocket fuel (which requires petrochemicals, my supplies of which are meager just wiped out a hive to grab more crude oil, but now that oilfield is under attack).
  • Ridiculous amounts of solar panels
  • Ridiculous amounts of everything else, including stuff I hadn’t ever heard of (like “Low density matter”)
  • Ridiculous amount of rocket parts.

Why do I get the feeling I’m only halfway (if that) into the game?

Written by taogaming

January 3, 2017 at 8:53 pm

Posted in Artificial Opponents

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