The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Victory or Death

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Got in my first play of Quartermaster General — Victory or Death: The Peleponnesian War: The Quest for More Subtitles. (I agree with putting QMG in the title, as a marketing thing).

It was Quartermaster General, basically. Instead of playing one card you can play one card and then prepare another (basically, playing a response card), but playing the response costs you another discard. Ignoring events, you only have scoring after every three turns, and it’s much lower — 1 point per city. If you sac a city you get a point, so new cities have to survive two scorings to show a benefit. If you are more than ten points ahead after scoring, that’s it, or after fifteen rounds you score and also score some bonus points for key spaces, and that’s that.

You can also discard a card at any point to bribe a neutral space to make it yours (for supply purposes), and also some events let you convert neutrals you sit on (or are bribing) into cities.

But basically that’s it. Events, Builds, Battles, Responses, Statuses (not many), It’s an elegant system. This entry feels more fluid than base QMG, because you can play 1-2 cards a turn, instead of just one. (QMG + Air Force feels roughly equally fluid). I’ll probably buy this (or trade for it), I think which you prefer is a matter of taste or simply how many people you have at game night. With four, QMGVoDTPW. With six (or if you pay by the letter), then QMG.

Rating — Enthusiastic. What did you expect?

For the first game, there was a lot of “Oh, you can do that?” surprise. So no idea on balance, not for many games.

Written by taogaming

September 26, 2016 at 8:56 pm

Your Summer Media

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I burned through the first half of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season 1, but then it took me 3-4 sessions to watch an episode, as the amount of cringe humor grew. I’ll still probably finish it. Eventually. The songs are fun.

Grace and Frankie was a nice easy watch, and generally amusing.

Stranger Things was quite good, as you’ve probably heard. I think it was good in spite of all the period stuff, which I still consider to be a somewhat cheapening gimmick, although they can be quite useful shorthand about characters. But say one thing about the 80s — you don’t have to work hard to keep people from exchanging information in pre-internet, pre-cell phone era. So that solves one issue….

South Park just started, and its still good. (‘Member when we played Catan? I ‘member! South Park can always have a cheap joke, as far as I care.)

Watched the first episode of Penny Dreadful (liked it) and Mr. Robot (liked it) and Galavant (meh). I watched a few more episodes of Agents of Shield S3, but the TaoLing didn’t seem interested and I’m not. Done. He likes Supergirl, but I’m done when he is. I watched three episodes of Brain Dead, and that was enough of that — it looks like its trying to be a comedy without jokes. I think.

I watched two episodes of Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell (I remember liking the book, back when it came out, but not many details). I’ll probably continue it. I finished the Power Puff Girls. The last season is a slog, though. In general the things I watch 1-2 episodes of and like I’ll continue … eventually. I did also watch S3:E1 of Hannibal. Amazingly, Hannibal may be the most beautiful TV show I’ve ever seen (albeit grotesque beauty at times)  but I can’t plow through that show, I only have the rest of S3 left.

Reading — I read a book of Ted Chaing’s short stories. (The Story of Your Life and Others), and they were excellent. I’m also reading the new book by Robert Cialdini (Pre-suasion). Cialdini’s Influence is a must-read, not sure about this. I downloaded the original The Night Lands on Kindle. It’s ok, but the language shows the near century since the book was published. Very slow, even by my tastes. Possibly hurts that I have an idea where the story is going.

Written by taogaming

September 24, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Posted in TV & Media

Some more MK

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It’s been a few months since I played MK, and (as the TaoLing is away) I set up a solitaire game. My first one was … nicht so guht (full report). After lunch, I decided to play again (since the game was already set up). Solo Conquest with Braevlar (again), but since I’d just lost somewhat badly, I lowered the city strength to 7/14 (instead of 5/8). And I took pictures.

In the opening I drew one of my favorite starting tiles, the “Monastry + Dungeon” combo, I used Rethink to prep my hand and — voila! Concentration plus Swiftness. I went to the Dungeon on T1, attacked it (Shooting the Minotaur) on T2 and got the Diamond Ring + Blood of the Ancients (more cards, at the cost of wounds) and Braevlars “discard a wound for a mana” skill.

This is known in the trades as “a good start.”

I could have ducked to the monastery, but that would have risked having to backtrack (if a bad tile showed up). Since there was a familiar available, I went to a magical glade to recruit the familiar and also get rid of the wounds from Blood of the Ancients and incidentally kill an orc. I could have killed another near the glade, but I raced forward to kill a different orc, get a crystal, and explore, revealing a keep, monster den and ruins.



Position after Day One

The first night I sacked the keep. I could have probably taken the ruins (after recruiting) but again that risked having to backtrack and as it turns out I had a handful of movement. I went to the monastery and explored, then burned the monastery (for the Golden Grail). I grabbed Blood Rage for a steady supply of wounds to heal (for fame).  I went forward and killed another orc and grabbed some crystals. Still going fine.


Position after Night One

Position after Night One

For the second day, I explored the the final country tile and the first core tile, getting a Wizard Tower and Dragon. A modicum of murder later (hmm….) I had a fireball spell and another level. I explored and found the green city. Things were looking good.

Position after Day 2

Position after Day 2

On the second night I went to the village next to the city (which took a lot of movement) and got some heroes, graciously looted my hosts (-1 rep, +2 cards) and took the green city with relative ease. Once there, I got a few more followers then healed up (glade + grail)

During the 3rd day, I quickly revealed the white city, I decided to kill the nearby Dragon and then go around to take the keep next to the white city (for the hand size boost of +2, since it would be my second keep). Along the way I took out a Spawning Ground and luckily got the Horn of Wrath. (Best artifact for Conquest). Along the way I got the Regenerate which meant that once I took the keep I could clear a wound, refresh a follower and study my options.


The final battle (Note — I haven’t yet walked to the keep)

With the Horn, and an Ambush and a lot of blocking (skills and cards, and three physically resistant followers) I determined that I could attack and kill two white units (the 6 fire brutal and the 4 cold fire brutal/poison), while only taking a handful of wounds (Braevlar’s skill to make someone cumbersome came in handy here) and while keeping the Horn of Wrath for the final night. I used the final few turns of the day to clear out some wounds, and also using Blood of the Ancients to grab Decompose and turn tranquility into a few more crystals.

The final night was just a question of when I’d get the right cards. I spent a turn or two healing, decomposing, recruiting, then assaulted twice. The first time I didn’t have any siege, but a lot of blocking and attacking (combined with followers) took out the Altem Guardians (I hate those guys), the Golems and the fire heroes (while keeping my hand). I healed up and then attacked again (breaking my Diamond Ring to provide black mana for Firestorm, which added to the Horn of Wrath) finished off the stragglers. For my last turn I recruited the Guardians and healed the Firestorm wound.

Final Score:

  • 142 fame
  • 13 knowledge (11 AAs + a spell)
  • 8 loot
  • 13 leadership
  • 8 conquest
  • 4 adventuring
  • (No wounds)
  • 35 points from cities (10+10+15)
  • 11 timing (6 cards in dummies deck + 5 for the round not being called)

A nice solid score of 234.

Written by taogaming

September 24, 2016 at 2:24 pm

That old Black Magic

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Playing on BBO, you pick up a healthy hand. (IMPs, both vulnerable)

S:AJx H:xx D:AKQ9x C:A9x

Sadly, your RHO opens 3 Hearts. Well, there’s not much to be done about that, so you double.

LHO passes and the Center Hand Opponent bids 3 Spades. RHO has nothing to add, so its back to you.

No doubt about it. This is a sticky situation. You have a good hand, but only three spades. Partner may have four spades and a decent hand (7-9ish HCP) or five spades and slightly less. Or partner may be broke. You can’t tell. Well, maybe you can.

The old black magic applies here. Partner paused a bit before bidding 3S, which implies having a choice of bids. Now, strictly speaking, you are not allowed to take advantage of that information if you noticed. (But plenty of novice players — and some not-so-novice ones, take full advantage of “That old black magic.”)

My opponent holding these cards bid 4 Spades.

Now, I have no idea if this particular player noticed a hitch or just decided to take a shot at game. I noticed the hitch, but on BBO you can’t trust pauses too much. Some people get distracted. Network lag may play a part. For all I know, this wasn’t black magic, but just obliviousness.

I will say that four spades did not fare well.

LHO led the heart ace, then another heart (the Jack), ruffed by RHO (declarer playing the queen). RHO led the diamond Jack into dummy, and declarer crossed to his club king to lead a spade.

LHO showed out.

In real life, dummy would have to wait and wonder if spades broke 5-0 or 6-0 (whether declarer had 4 or 5). But on BBO, you can choose to reveal the hand at any time.

                  S:AJx H:xx D:AKQ9x C:A9x

S:-- H:AJT98xx D:Tx C:Jxxx    S:KQT7xxx H:x D:Jx C:QTx

                  S:xxx H:KQx D:8xxx C:Kxx

Spades broke 7-0. Offside.
The poor declarer had her hitch, a tough decision between the three unappealing bids of 3N (light on points), or 3 Spades or 4 Clubs. 3N would succeed because I couldn’t have led a spade and declarer can simply take 1S+1H+5D+2C=9 tricks. Four spades went down five.

I’ll never know if dummy was using black magic but — if so — justice was served because sometimes black magic summons demons.

The full hand record is online (for a few days, at least).

Written by taogaming

September 21, 2016 at 10:15 pm

Posted in Bridge

Another Bridge Note

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Apparently someone just proved that the current algorithm used to deal ACBL tournament hands are insecure. If you enter in the exact card for three boards in a row, a program can correctly predict the rest of the hands (for the 36 deals) because it can compute the supposedly random seed for each hand.

Crypto is hard. The ACBL is already migrating towards a better hand generator.

Written by taogaming

September 14, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Posted in Bridge, Misc

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The latest Bridge Brouhaha

Spain defeated USA today in the World Bridge Games in Wroclaw (in the Round of 16) but the big news was that Spain accused a US Pair (Bathurst-Lall) of having an undisclosed agreement and refused to start the 5th set (racking up penalties until they were seated, at which point the 32 IMPs of Penalties were lowered to 10).

The agreement in question (according to Spain) was “B-L always open 3rd seat Non-vulnerable.”  I do not assume B-L are doing anything unethical (I think I’ve probably Kibitzed Lall in a local regional), and always is an overbid (a counterexample has been found), but “almost always” is probably right. An exhaustive analysis is ongoing.

There are a lot of issues here. But even at my level, I stretch to open 3rd seat NV (and V, but not nearly as much) and players who are stronger than I am typically stretch more. Playing Polish I am protected somewhat because if I don’t open 1C partner knows I’m capped at 17 and can’t bury me (since he’s probably capped at 10, or ugly 11-12s).

Last weekend I held the following in 3rd seat

S:Jxxx H:AQ9x Qxx xx (approximately, the minor shape may be flipped)

I opened 1 Heart. (We play 5 card majors, but our convention card marks that 1 Heart and 1 Spade could be 4 cards in 3rd/4th seat. ACBL cards don’t show differences for 3rd seat and 4th seat). That was the first time I’ve opened a 4 card major and a 9 HCP hand in a long time, but it does have a lot going for it.

  1. Lead direction. I’d love a heart lead
  2. I also have spades. If partner has spades, thats fine and I can pass. If they have spades I have defense. And if spades are even around the table, I’ve preempted the auction nicely. I’ve prevented a one of a minor opening and may steal the hands. In short, my stealing chances went way up.

Is this an undisclosed agreement? Well, we disclose it. We aren’t totally safe (unlike, say, the 1D precision opener) since responder can bury partner … we can respond 2N or mini splinter and drive the bidding to the three level (or higher). On the hand in question, partner did drive to the three level in the competitive auction, as it went

 P-(P) - 1H- (2m)
2S-(3m)- P - (P)3H-(P) - 3S- AP

But 4m was cold and 3S off one or two was a decent score.

Now — I would have no sympathy with a world class opponent (or even a random expert) who accused me of cheating. That really isn’t my point.

The interesting question is: how much sympathy should I have for random club game opponents? The old S.J. Simon advice is not to psyche against weak players, because you do better than they do. Why make it a guessing game? But playing a system where partner is (unlikely/unable) to hang me for opening hands like this (or lighter) and being in a partnership where both partners are capable of opening hands like this (or weaker) in 3rd seat and knowing that this opening gives me a lot of upside with minor downside, why should I not press my advantage? But the opponents may (sometimes later) feel like they have been bullied. If a Flight C player argues that I should alert this, that’s not an argument I feel like I can dismiss lightly.

At what point does it become alertable? Even if it isn’t, should I alert against weaker opponents? Technically not, because the alert itself may fluster and be considered a bullying maneuver. In fact, at what point does alerting do more harm than good?

The ambiguity in the procedures themselves seems to be part of the problem. I’ll have to pull out my Convention Card and examine it. Should I list this under Psyches as “3rd seat —  light openers possible?” “Very light?”

Hm. I will ask this at Bridge Winners, I think.

Written by taogaming

September 11, 2016 at 10:06 pm

Posted in Bridge

A Small Chess Puzzle, Answered

So … that puzzle.

White to play and win


The first move is relatively easy to find.

  1. a7! (Threatening to queen the pawn)

The obvious reply does not work.

  1. … Rg8?
  2. Bg3+ And either the rook must take the bishop (and the pawn queens), or the bishop moves to B8, protecting the pawn.

So, the entire threat is based on the unfortunate position of Black’s King, as Pedro pointed out.

Black can counter with a few checks, and if White isn’t careful, Black wins.

  1. … Rg1+
  2. Ka2 Rg2+
  3. Ka3? Rg8!
  4. Bg3? Rxg3+ and now Black wins by going back to g8 after white moves

(Even if White avoids Bg3? now Black can play …Ra8 and ….Rxa7 to draw).

After I had been shown that response (…Rg1+) I started thinking again about handling it, and I got it eventually.

  1. a7! Rg1+
  2. Be1! Rxe1
  3. Kb2 Re2
  4. Kb3 Re3
  5. Kb4 Re4
  6. Kb5

And Black’s King is again in an unfortunate position. Note that White must not stay on the A column (although Ka2 is ok) because if (for example, 5. Ka4 then …Re1 6. a8=Q Ra1+ wins the Queen)

Written by taogaming

September 11, 2016 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Misc

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