The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Quarter Master General: Air Marshall

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My copy arrived today and after looking through the game (and shoving pieces around) my gut tells me that I should lay off the Mexican food. Also, lots of fun. The expansion adds a more fluid tempo to the game. The Air units can be dropped (or moved) in addition to a normal play, and given up as defender instead of their base piece. This means that you don’t have “Build into a space,” “get knocked out,” repeat until one player runs out of relevant cards. The AF lets you build into a space & drop an AF, then take the AF as a casualty (but your opponent can sac their adjacent AF to then knock out the original piece) and then attack next turn.

Bolsters work similarly, just another card play that can happen in addition to normal ones. Combined with those you can have much faster expansions.

And the new opening is “Draw 12 discard 5.” (I still think a great idea is to take that as the core idea for a great simple wargame. Draw X, discard down to Y, play all the cards, repeat a few times.

With the much bigger decks (you add 8-11 cards, I think, but only draw 2 more at the start) that means that you risk not seeing a key status, but I suspect in increases variability. Once you really know the game I

Written by taogaming

July 30, 2015 at 8:39 pm

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BoJack. BoJack. BoJack.

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I play games, but only during the time when I’m not watching BoJack.

Now that I’ve finished watching BoJack, I watched the first episode of Mad Men because (and I kid you not), I saw an article that said “Now that Mad Men is finished, the show that is most like it is BoJack.” (A friend who has seen both thinks that article is full of crap).

So, I really want to write  a lot about this. But I won’t. I’ll just say I recommend it.

Not sure if you should watch the show still? How about I’ll tell you it’s a comedy then watch the opening credits.

Written by taogaming

July 28, 2015 at 9:01 pm

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Playing old games, still.

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Played two games of QMG tonight. Japan conquered California in one of them, Italy conquered India in the other. I’ve ordered the expansion, which should be here by next week.

Finally saw the Cat win Too Many Cinderallas. (Which took a misplay). Now I’m waiting to see a non-misplay version.

Played 5 games of Splendor. Really enjoying that.

Also, Churchill has shipped. I don’t remember seeing a charge for it, though. I wonder if I cancelled my order (which would be fine, as several other locals ordered it).

Also playing a lot of solo Mage Knight, just because.

Written by taogaming

July 27, 2015 at 9:41 pm

Summer Open Thread

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’tis summer break, the kids are at camp, so it’s like a mini-vacation. (And I am, in fact, back from my actual vacation, and drove 2,000+ miles over the last 10 days). So, what’s what?

The AVClub has a nice article on the world building of Sentinels of the Multiverse (which remains one of my most played games of the decade).

Just when I get charged for Churchill, I see another GMT P500 game I think I want to order. (Between those and QuarterMaster General, perhaps I’ll be set for quick-ish grand WWII games).

On the media front, I’m currently binging through the second season of Bojack Horseman. (And now that the kids are at camp, I’ll catch up on GoT. (Current joke making the rounds, “George RR Martin, Joss Whedon and Steven Moffat walk into a bar…“). I’ll probably buy the 2nd season of Rick and Morty when it comes out, and I’m sorely tempted to buy the S1 Bluray to watch again.

I finally got around to playing Splendor. It’s very dry, but I enjoy it.

Bridge — I played in the San Antonio Regional. I did not play well, but still managed to win 13-ish masterpoints, which are inflating at rates not seen since the Weimar Republic. (I’ve gained ~100 points in the last 12 months doing basically nothing of note, and missing about half of the tournaments I normally play). I did just make a nice play on BBO just now after bidding a hopeless 3N that I knew was well against the odds. I bid it b/c I was playing on BBO and expected the defense to toss a trick, which they did. Then I found the cards in the right place and a critical pinning play. As it turns out, I should have unblocked during the pin, but my opponents missed they killing defense at that point, so I made. [The one thing I got from the regional was one partner’s comment … “in a mixed field you need to more aggressively punish the weak”]

Movies: Ex Machina was ok. It Follows was very good. What we do in the shadows (vampire mockumentary) was meh, but I wanted to like it because it had that Flight of the Conchords guy.
And I saw (on 538) an interesting math puzzle from the International Math Olympiad.

Determine all triples (a, b, c) of positive integers such that each of the numbers: ab-c, bc-a, ca-b is a power of two.

Since it’s an Olympiad question, it’s not surprising I can’t solve it. (I was good at these things, but not that good). I do see that a,b,c must all be even or odd (and can’t be two far apart), but I’m missing a key insight or two. But I’m mulling it over.

So, summer open thread — What games are you playing, media are you consuming, and timewasters are you indulging?

Written by taogaming

July 22, 2015 at 9:44 pm

More Quartermaster General

I picked up my copy of QG last week. (Sadly, it was missing a card. Apparently other copies had a stray card or two, so I guess it’s the collating machine, but I’m assuming it won’t be a problem to get a replacement). I now have some strategy advice.

For the love of what’s holy, build on turn 1. I have now been murdered several times by dropping that cool status on T1. In the last game, I (as UK) dropped the ‘build in India as if it were the UK’ status on T1. German had, of course, built in Western Europe. And so on T2 the German Navy started Operation Sea Lion and I spent my next few build army cards rebuilding my home, staring forlornly at my useless Build Navy cards, because I lacked a Sea Battle.

And this went over as well with the locals as it did at the Gathering. Most of the players wanted to play again immediately, and four of them were willing to do a 3rd game right away….

I read the expansion rules, and I really like it. Adding in cards that can be played in addition means you have more fluid timing, and hopefully blunts economic warfare (since you can choose to not bolster, to conserve resources).

Written by taogaming

July 6, 2015 at 9:58 pm

Posted in Session Reports

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Screwtape discusses voting

My Dearest Wormwood,

After receiving your most recent letter, on your advice I watched the video on quick and easy voting for normal people. I am surprised that this comes as a revelation to you, since We who are down below routinely allow our charges to vote for a wide variety of things using what our patients semi-jokingly refer to as the Chicago Method (“Vote early and often”) and what your video refers to as Approval Voting.

And, as befitting our station, we scrupulously respect their votes whenever suits our mood. Which is more often than not, because all voting methods have flaws. Surely Our Father has taught you all the details of Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, which has dozens of applications to suffering and gaming. I myself learned it at an early age.

(A more pedantic member of our kind – although I doubt you will ever encounter one – may state that Arrow’s formal proof  does not  strictly apply here. Math is a realm of The Enemy – and as such I have no done no more than dabble, lest I be accused of heresy again –  but I believe the idea generalizes. I will check with several experts I am dining on tonight).

Whenever a vote is proposed, you should of course make sure the outcome is as you desire. The stakes are high!

The video numbers make for a poor example for more interesting applications, so let us juggle them a bit. Surely even a youngster such as yourself is familiar with creative accounting?

  • The five vegetarians prefer: Veggies, Burgers (w/Veggie option), Steak (in that order)
  • The three carnivores prefer: Steak, Burger, Veggie
  • The lone Burger guy prefers: Burger, Steak, Veggie

In all cases the 1st two are “acceptable,” so burgers get nine votes, and is an acceptable compromise.

First of all, note the obvious flaw with the system. It punishes excellence. This means that, despite all of its problems, you should suggest Approval Voting whenever possible. Your goal should be to promote mediocrity and lazy thinking in all aspects. Do this consistently and your patients will always dine out on the most milquetoast and bland meals possible, never taking chances, never risking sublime beauty!

Do not mistake my critique of this system – which is done as a general exercise to instruct my favorite nephew – for a serious criticism!

Now, let us make a small change.

If, on the final restaurant named, people don’t vote on something acceptable because they prefer the currently winning option. Now, so long as Burgers are listed last, Veggies will win, because the Vegetarians, being more delighted with the currently winning option (named first or second), decline to raise their hands for Burgers. Which will now lose 5-4, despite being a unanimous winner before!

Then simply force those shuffling carnivores towards their tofu. Demand their happiness while they respect the group’s decision. Be sure to smile broadly as you choke down your okra. Sing praises towards democracy, which levels all of our patients in the same way that water always strives for the lowest resting place.

(As to my prior criticism, I simply state that while Vegetarian restaurants can be excellent in theory, much like excellent non-alcoholic beer it does not occur in practice).

As always, he who sets the vote order (and he who votes slowest, deciding after others who have raised their hands) has an immense amount of control, particularly if they well judge the preferences of others.

These tricks (along with a few more which I dare not reveal, lest this letter is intercepted) will let you control the outcome with ease, which is why we are serving a slightly maggoty meatloaf for the thousandth night in a row instead of the exquisite venison or lovely pouched trout, both clearly visible in the cafeteria.

Your affectionate uncle,


[H/T to Chris Farrell’s twitter feed]

My first (semi-joking) comment was that the Tao of Gaming method was to have everyone list all their options, then reject them all and walk away. This prevents mediocre games, although I admit that also has problems. I had thought I tweeted a joke about that but, much like Screwtape, I prefer the old method and send my messages encoded in the pitches and volumes of screams, although I do keep up with the times and try to limit my conversation to at most 140 screams.

An amusing coincidence — I was already thinking about the Impossibility Theorem earlier today, since my side project incorporates a quote by Kenneth Arrow in the next chapter.

Written by taogaming

June 28, 2015 at 2:59 am

Mage Knight

Played my first game of MK in two months today. (Solo Conquest, cities of level 8 and a megalopolis of 16. Tremor is a very useful spell in this case, as I took both cities by walking in, casting Tremor and using Agility to convert my hand to move points, getting knocked out, but having 12-15 attack against lowered armor.

I’ll have to keep my set out, because the new expansion should be out in a month or two. Mmm. Death Dragons.

Written by taogaming

June 27, 2015 at 9:56 pm

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