The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

A full weekend of Bridge

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means a full weekend of weirdness. We had a day of pairs to knock of the rust to prepare for the North American Open Pairs Texas/Mexico qualifiers. (We did not knock of rust). We then played in the NAOP top flight and had a pretty good morning session and an atrocious afternoon to fall out of the running. Then we paired up with another non-qualifying pair to win the second bracket of the Swiss Teams.

I made my typical number of mistakes most days. In the NAOPs they were brutally punished and in the second bracket, they rarely were (unless the mistake did not require the opponents to do anything, like dropping the wrong card at trick 12).

Among other things:

  • I found a strip squeeze (for down one, of course), then the opponent discarded a suit he was guarding, which made me stop and recount … incorrectly. If everyone plays correctly, I’m off one. Defender plays incorrectly, so I should make; but my recount is wrong  — Down two. Typical.
  • Based on a mis-understanding, I doubled a cold 3N and then a non-cold 4m when they ran.
  • Partner held an all-black hand. S:AKJxxxxxx H:– D:– C:Q9xx.
  • Based on stupidity, I ran when they redoubled 4H. Amazingly, it may be possible to make it despite a 6-0(!) break. (Double dummy it makes, and the play may be railroaded into the right line).
  • You may remember Jeff Goldsmith’s Bridge without Sam columns. Met Sam.
  • Sam was playing a system that makes Polish seem pretty normal, a Blue-club style system except that instead of 1D, 1H and 1S showing 12-16 HCP, it shows 8-12 (in 1st and 2nd seat). Had an interesting hand where I knew everything I needed right away (it helps that I played Blue Club for a dozen sessions) but unfortunately all the information told me that I had a sure fire make if Sam held the club queen and would need a gross misdefense otherwise. (He did not, and they did not). On the other hand we got to a messy 3S instead of defending a non-hope 3H, but managed to make.
  • A deliberate dog walking by partner turned a likely  +620 /+650 into a potential +170/+200 and was rewarded with a double to net +1130.  (At IMPs!) Another hand I had a near game decision, chose to only invite, and was rewarded by being doubled in 3, but that was matchpoints, so just a top.

And finally, a single hand as seen by dummy:

I held a terrible S:xx H:J9x D:JT8xx C:xxx. LHO opened 2S in 3rd seat, partner bid 2N and I passed. The opening lead was a small diamond — jack, queen, discard by partner!

“No diamonds partner?”


“Uh, ok.”

He held S:AQxx H:AQxx D:– C:AQJx and thought the most likely auction after a double would be 3D be 2N (a weakness relay) followed by 3D (which was correct). That would have been the auction. As he said “”My choices were to bid 2N or to double and have to bid 3N.”

If I had 4 hearts and any values (or any 5 hearts), I could still bid after 2N. The only disaster would be if I had exactly four hearts and minimal values, I’d probably pass 2N. Risky, but correct today.



Written by taogaming

January 21, 2018 at 7:42 pm

Posted in Bridge

Fifty by Fifty update

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As man ages, he ponders the ever-decreasing chances of finishing his fifty by fifty challenge.

Vhojha Moi! Three years since I posted it. And almost no games added.

Some were probably over fifty when I posted, but I waited a few years to get a few more plays. There are a handful of titles sitting at 40+ plays. For those, a small effort will get me there, but probably no more than 5-10 more.

Which means I need to play 5-10 games 25+ times each in the next two years to make it.

Unlikely, considering my declining gaming habits. (And number of games played so far this year? Zero, not counting a bit of Bridge).

But …. 25 games is slightly more than 1 play a month for each game. The alternative is to find a new game and crush it. There may be 1-2 of those in the next year, but I doubt it. So, I think I’m going to replace most of my ‘new’ games in the bag with ‘classic’ games.

Probably won’t make it to fifty, though. Not in time.

Written by taogaming

January 16, 2018 at 8:29 pm

Posted in Session Reports

2017 Year in Review

Well, here’s the damage:

  • 70 different games (counting the various Quartermaster General titles as separate games).
  • 225-ish total games, including 75 games of Jump Drive and 48 sessions of Bridge

The low total is mostly accounted by the general malaise of the times, the TaoLing’s new schedule, and Factorio.

The notables:

  • The aforementioned 75 games of Jump Drive
  • A mere 48 sessions of Bridge
  • About 30 games of Mage Knight
  • 19 games of High Frontier, mostly in a few months around the Gathering
  • 9 games of Magic Realm, mostly in January
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse squeaked in with a dime, at 13 games, but probably 5 of those were last week.
  • Magic Maze gets a dime, as does Boggle
  • Other nickels: Android Netrunner, Fairy Tale, Bowling Solitaire, Power Grid the Card Game, Star Realms, and Poker.

The bad noteworthy

After buying the Colonists (based on a single 2-era game) I played only a quick learning game with the TaoLing. Poor showing for a new game, a poor showing. I managed to squeeze in 1846 on New Year’s Eve. With a ton of rules wrong. For older games, I also played a game of Combat Commander Europe. Not many purchases. Colonists, High Frontier, Jump Drive (technically that was right before this year, I think), Magic Maze, Wild Blue Yonder, maybe another small game or two.

Anyway, Happy New Year!


Written by taogaming

January 1, 2018 at 1:36 am

A missed super-criss-cross squeeze and Some random notes

Interesting bridge hand from today.

Dummy: S:T9xx H:Txx D:KJx C:AJx

Declarer S:AKQ H:AQ9xx D:Ax C:Txx

Contract 4 Hearts with the lead of the spade 7 from West.

Short story — winning, I decided not to take the diamond hook, since it was 50/50 and there may be a stiff spade. So Diamond ace, diamond king, small heart (catering to KJ tight) When the jack appeared without much thought and the queen won, I decided to drop the king and use the HT as an entry, which worked. At this point pleased with the results so far I forget to rectify the count  for a squeeze by ducking a club. I didn’t, and only made five (when spades were 4-2 and nothing particularly good happened).  I made a comment “there must be some Criss-Cross squeeze somewhere” (see link for details). So I was awake and yet brain dead at the same time. Typical.

Later on I realized I messed up even earlier. Given that I am not taking the diamond finesse, better to keep the ace in my hand and keep Criss-Cross positions in all three suits! This also has the benefit when I lose a trump trick that I may not get overruffed in diamonds (rare) or lose my DJ menace (common). Now when the hearts break I can lead a club right away (I need to lead the Jack) and then win the return and draw trumps. Assuming a spade return, I end up with

Dummy S:T9 D:Jx C:A

Hand S:Q D:A C:Tx

There has to be a squeeze here (unless a card is already falling under the ace). Since each suit is blocked, its a kind of super-criss-cross. Assume one player guards spades (Jx) and Diamonds (Qx). I lead the club ace and then it resolves to a criss-cross with spades and diamonds. If I think that one player guards spades and clubs, I lead the diamond ace, and if I think one player guards clubs and diamonds I lead the spade queen. (Of course, if one helpless soul guards all three, they have already been squeezed).

As in any criss cross, declarer must read the position correctly: not likely given that I botched the hand. (And a non-spade return also breaks up the criss-cross in that suit, so I may have to go to a less esoteric line). Still, I don’t think I’ve seen this before, but probably I just never noticed before.

(Update — As Jeff pointed out in the comments, this is all wrong).

I am also resolved to not bid any more grand slams in club games, even if I think it is highly likely. Only one pair bid the correct small slam, so even if the grand made (sigh) I was risking 9 matchpoints to gain 1. The hand was a rock crusher S:AKQJ H:Axx D:AKxx C:Ax.

Also played today — More Jump Drive, and Vast: the Crystal Caverns. Regarding the latter — some good ideas, nice asymmetry between the players, although it sounds like they aren’t well balanced. Good art, somewhere between Groo and The Grizzled. The TaoLing also played Illumat, which I must admit looks wonderfully gothic.

Written by taogaming

December 28, 2017 at 10:58 pm

Posted in Bridge, Session Reports

Round numbers

Just played my 111th game of Sentinels and logged my 777th session of bridge yesterday (undoubtedly low, but round numbers are round).

Written by taogaming

December 27, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Misc

A bit of Wild Blue Yonder campaign & thoughts

As advertised, I set up the easiest campaign (Rommel Attacks) and played both sides through the first mission. If you’ve played Down in Flames (or just skimmed my review) you’ll have a rough idea of how dogfighting works. The simplest campaigns are Land campaigns, which comprises 3+ missions. Here’s how it works (after you pick the campaign and sides), by walking through the first mission:

  1. You draw a card to get your target and starting aircraft. Since I was playing Stage I of Rommel Attacks, that campaign had a chart and said the Axis were trying to bomb an airfield at Gazalla. The airfield is the target, and it shows flak ratings (both area flak, and over target), and how much damage each hit, direct hit or vital hit (from the bombs) does to the airfield, and the VPs for various damage levels to the airfield. The scenario noted that Gazalla had less flak than a typical airfield.
  2. The card drawn also shows the base airplanes for each side. In this case, the Luftwaffe had a leader + a wingman in a Bf 110 E, and the allies had … nothing.
  3. Now, each player gets to pick a resource. There are 3 resources (and three mission) so you get to pick each one once. Each of the Allied resources includes a Hurricane Mk I Leader + Wingman. The allies took that (and nothing else) and the axis took a Bf 110C.
  4. The scenario sets the duration — 9 “target-bound” turns, and 7 “home-bound” turns. (There’s always an ‘over-target’ turn in between). (In reading the rules again, I missed something. This is the base time, but is reduced by the speed of the slowest attacker … so instead of 9-1-7, it should be 3-1-1. A big change!)
  5. If your planes have special pilots (as a resource) you get them, otherwise you draw for bonus pilots. The axis 110E’s wingman is good, so he gets +1 Performance (basically an extra offensive card in his mini-hand). To balance, good pilots that get shot down cost extra VPs.
  6. The 110E’s are loaded with bombs (the extra planes are escorts). There are a number of penalties for “loaded” planes, but the most important is this: You can’t inspect your hand until you need it, and you can’t attack unloaded planes unless they began their turn engaged with them. So the Bf 110 E’s can’t target the Hurricanes until they drop their bombs (or jettison them, which costs VP). Loaded planes also can’t play some cards (Full Throttle, Half Loop or Scissors) and wingmen have reduced offensive rating.
  7. The airplanes all choose their altitudes (depends on the mission), but I just picked medium for everyone.

So, here we go. The German’s Bf 110E’s (simply “E”) are loaded, so that hand goes face down. The Axis go first and the Bf 110 C (“C”) wingman doesn’t go (the very first wingman skips their turn). The leader tries a simple burst and fails, having a hand full of only attacks. He discards another card to replace.

The Hurricane’s Wingman (“H”-W) attacks the C’s leader. The hurricanes could maneuver to attack the loaded E’s, at which point the C’s could attempt to intervene to cancel the attack, or the E’s could take it and pick up their hand. This would let the E’s also start discarding and redrawing, but that’s skipped while the hand is face down, so in my judgement the Hurricane’s should focus on the escort for a while. The wingman gets a small burst and hits. The H-leader fires a more dangers burst at C-L, and now C-L responds an cancels. The E’s turn is skipped. The next Target Bound Turn (you count down) has some maneuvering (all cancelled) and the hurricane’s do a bit more damage. Both sides have their maneuvers cancelled, but eventually the Hurricane’s get the advantage and damage the C-Leader. Another two turns of dogfighting and the C-leader is down in flames, promoting the C-wingman.

All this works exactly as the dogfight game. If the Hurricane’s target the E’s, then intervention applies.

The rest of the Target bound turns see the Hurricane’s trying to finish the escort. (Part of that was due to my misreading of the VP rules). Finally, at the end of Target Bound -1, some special rules apply. Normally, only aircraft planning on bombing go over target, since there is flak. The E’s get an “over target” marker and the other planes don’t.  The Bf 110E’s take some minimal area flak (only card against each, but you can’t respond!) but are in luck — no damage.

During the over-target turn, the planes not over the target dogfight normally. The scrappy C-leader (former wingman) gets a cockpit hit on the Hurricane wingman, which doesn’t do much damage, but keeps him from drawing any more offensive cards. Nice! But the Hurricane leader damages the C wingman, so he flips over. The E’s take their turn, they drop to low (required to bomb) and then draw a mini bombing hand, based on their altitude, target and plane bomb rating.

Each card has a four bomb results “Miss,” “Hit,” “Direct,” and “Vital.” In order each plane draws its hand, and then British draws a flak hand. Flak can do two things: Some cards “Spoil an attack” which turns the best opponents card into a miss. The cards may also do damage, but can be responded to. But … the attacker is considered loaded when responding, and will also reduce one of their hits one level).

So — a minimal “mini hand” is drawn for each side and played out, mostly luck, but possibly some decisions (respond and lower your damage, or not). The mini hands I draw have no options, since the minimal flak does not spoil any attacks or even damage the planes. The Germans do enough damage to earn 3 VPs, but are down five for losing a plane and two more for a damaged plane. The E’s then have to take area flak (which again, is just a draw they can’t do anything about) on their way out and get a scrape or two but nothing serious.

The next turn the hurricanes try to finish the remaining Bf 110C but narrowly fail. The E’s are now unloaded and they climb up and engage the hurricanes. The hurricanes take one last shot at the damaged C and then shrug and climb to high, then vertical roll to very high, above the German planes’ ceiling. The Hurricanes could try to voluntarily disengage (there’s no VP penalty for this during non-dogfight missions) but that’s risky and by going very high they can effectively time out the game, so that ends it.

VP are mission VP (3 VP for the damaged airfield for the Axis) and then damaged planes (7 VP for the allies). But there’s a somewhat confusing rule I didn’t notice earlier that could be interpreted a few ways, but in this particular case every reading gives the Axis 4 VPs since both planes struck the target and ended undamaged, so that’s 4 more VP for the Axis.

It’s a draw!

Of course, If I had realized that I got the number of turns wrong and the VP bonus for each plane that bombs the target, the Hurricanes may have decided to charge the bombers.. Ah well, I played it solo to get the rules right eventually, not right “This time.”

Now — the campaign missions could get more complex than this. Rules I haven’t touched include:

  • Formation bombers — these act like wingman and typically can only defend (and bomb). This leads to a lot more
  • Intervention — It could have happened this game, but it didn’t. Perhaps that was wrong on the part of the Hurricanes.
  • Fuel — This is an optional rule.
  • Special rules — some campaigns have a page or so of rules, or some missions that may show up that have special rules.

There are also progressive campaigns, where you keep the same pool of aircraft between missions, deal with weather, and don’t have a fixed number of missions, but VPs until either it times out or one side wins.

Anyway, it will take a few more games to work the kinks out but the game didn’t take too long (even though I played 11-13 turns instead of 5!, and recorded some notes), so I think this is playable once you are willing to invest the time….

Written by taogaming

December 24, 2017 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Session Reports

Tagged with

Some thoughts

  1. I picked up Civ VI as my holiday computer game (counting Portal Bridge Constructor as my pre-holiday computer game). $30 until end of the year. I like, but I prefer the old, easy to read graphics. Also, the tutorial can be multi-hour and has no save. Sheesh. But the split of research into science (technology), civics (governments and improvements) and faith (religion) plus great leaders all having their own points seems correct. It may be overgilding the lily.
  2. Speaking of, I’m about 40% of the way through P.B.C., fine for a game that cost $10. It’s difficult already.
  3. The Wild Blue Yonder Solitaire campaign does not capture any of the joy of the game. I’ll probably play both sides in an actual campaign to learn the rules (I hope). Not great solitaire, since its an action-response basis and I’ll know both hands (somewhat); acceptable as a rules exercise.
  4. I may write a Year In Review, but this wasn’t a big year for gaming (for me).

Happy Holidays!

Written by taogaming

December 23, 2017 at 10:27 pm

Posted in Misc