The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

I could be gaming

But then I would be denied reading Sumo’s words.

Let me just say, in passing, that American Airlines is a vile jobbing coxcomb, a mewling company destined for the scrapheap decades ago and only reprieved because bankruptcy law does not punish failure so much as reward incompetence. (But apparently does not rewards it enough, being too good for the numerous banks and auto builders that so richly deserve the vampire’s kiss). I don’t know where the fine print was that said “After paying for this ticket months in advance, we can tack on whatever fees we like at the gate” but I have high hopes that the (presumably Catholic) CEOs & Lawyers who wrote it will find themselves at the pearly gates being informed that while they had indeed confessed their sins and done penance, there were some last minute rules changes and some unpaid fees, and if they would just get in line to see the service agent (easy to spot because if his lovely tan, and screams of anguish from his satisfied customers) they’d work this out. Then St. Peter could apologize for any inconvenience.

And, say what you will about auto dealerships, but it only cost me $16 to fix having the bottom of my car fall off (not counting inconvenience). Donuts were provided, and they may have actually taken a loss on the deal. Time elapsed — 30 minutes. Or, as I like to say, 1/3rd of a flight delay. No, wait, 1/5th. No, 1/10th. And counting.

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Written by taogaming

April 9, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Posted in Non-Gaming, Rant

22 Responses

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  1. Sorry we didn’t get see you all at the Gathering. I was looking forward to RFTG deathmatches between you and Wei-Hwa! I hope that you are able to attend next year.

    tom lehmann

    April 12, 2009 at 6:29 pm

  2. Sorry to have missed you. I brought 7 Ages and didn’t get to play it. Next year!

    The games I particularly liked that were new for me were Small World (improved Vinci), Finito (a 5-minute filler), and Roll through the Ages. A bunch of other stuff was just OK, nothing special. Of those, probably Diamond Club was the best, but I don’t have the urge to play it again. Four of us (me, Mark, Lou, and Josh) tried Android. It’d be a very good 2-hour game. At 5-1/2 hours, not so good. I almost took it from the prize table just to try to fix it.

    Lou won the po-ker tournament. I doubled up against him with two tables left, but it didn’t cripple him. He made a nice comeback at the final table. Shortly after taking a big chunk of Lou’s money, I caught someone speeding. Unfortunately, he had enough chips to force me all in to make him pay. Of course, he drew out on me. So it goes.

    JeffG

    April 13, 2009 at 2:33 pm

  3. I missed meeting Wei-Hwa? Bummer.

    In fact, Lou was going to skip the po-ker tournament to pick up Jacqui and I from the airport … our bad luck was his gain. I believe that makes him the first 2 time winner (and that gives him, what, four final tables?) [*I just realized why you did that].

    Reading through the reports does indicate no clear consensus game. Nothing I’ve seen or read makes me salivate. I do want to try Snow Tails, though. Pretty lukewarm on most of the rest. [I own Vinci, so I’ll certainly try Small World …]

    Brian

    April 13, 2009 at 2:48 pm

  4. If there was a consensus, I never saw it. Fits did seem to go over well with everyone, I suppose.

    My favorites of the 2009 crop to date are Alea Iacta Est, a cute die rolling game from Alea, and Keltis: Der Weg der Steine, which is a nice filler. Nothing else has made it above my purchase line; there’s not even an early hit for me at the Hanging Gardens level.

    There are a few games with a chance of release at Essen of significantly more interest, though…

    Joe Huber

    April 13, 2009 at 10:01 pm

  5. Yeah—FITS appeared popular. Finito was the “let’s play again” game of the week, I think, but since a game only takes 5-10 minutes, that’s normal. Barbu had a pretty surprising buzz—five games during the week.

    Snow Trails is OK, nothing special. It’s a quick racing game with a minor twist or two. It hasn’t changed much from the prototype, in case you played that last year.

    I’ve made the final table three times; I was 10th this time, which wasn’t quite there—they broke at 8.

    If you have Vinci, Small World is only a small increment, but it is shorter, less fiddly, and more fun. If you play Vinci regularly, it’s probably worth the upgrade.

    JeffG

    April 14, 2009 at 2:28 pm

  6. Yeah—FITS appeared popular. Finito was the “let’s play again” game of the week, I think, but since a game only takes 5-10 minutes, that’s normal. Barbu had a pretty surprising buzz—five games during the week.

    Snow Trails is OK, nothing special. It’s a quick racing game with a minor twist or two. It hasn’t changed much from the prototype, in case you played that last year.

    I’ve made the final table three times; I was 10th this time, which wasn’t quite there—they broke at 8.

    If you have Vinci, Small World is only a small increment, but it is shorter, less fiddly, and more fun. If you play Vinci regularly, it’s probably worth the upgrade.

    JeffG

    April 14, 2009 at 2:28 pm

  7. So sorry you guys couldn’t make it, Brian. I missed getting together with you.

    Probably the closest thing to a consensus pick this year was Small World. As a Vinci fan, I was skeptical of the changes, both in the rules and graphics, but I thought just about everything DoW did worked. Definitely worth checking out and I’m glad there’s now an accessible version of this very good game.

    My game of the show was very clearly Automobile, which, after 3 games, I’m putting right up there with Brass and just behind AoS. Of course, I’m rapidly turning into a huge Wallace fanboi, so make of that what you will. My second game was with Tom and Lou and listening to them discuss what they perceived as the game’s flaws while I was still grinning over an exhilerating (and victorious) game somehow made the experience all the sweeter. Most of the people who played this that I spoke to seemed to rate it very highly.

    Those were the highlights for me. Masters of Venice, Frank DiLorenzo’s new gamers game, was quite good, although there’s a lot of stuff in it (possibly too much). Confucius is fascinating, but again, a lot of rules. I’d love to find a group willing to put in enough time to properly expore this, but I doubt my group qualifies. And Bonnie and Clyde is very good, despite the poor graphics, but I asssume you’ve played that earlier with Mike Fitz.

    Of the lighter games, Masters Gallery (which is Modern Art without the auctions) plays surprisingly well. It’s reminiscent of the older Knizia fillers that he used to do so well. Fits is also surprisingly good (particularly for fans of Tetris) and many of us are predicting it will make the SdJ short list. I’d also recommend Cities, which is the love child of Take it Easy and Carcassonne. Finito got a lot of play, but I thought it was lighter than helium.

    Larry Levy

    April 14, 2009 at 2:32 pm

  8. So sorry you guys couldn’t make it, Brian. I missed getting together with you.

    Probably the closest thing to a consensus pick this year was Small World. As a Vinci fan, I was skeptical of the changes, both in the rules and graphics, but I thought just about everything DoW did worked. Definitely worth checking out and I’m glad there’s now an accessible version of this very good game.

    My game of the show was very clearly Automobile, which, after 3 games, I’m putting right up there with Brass and just behind AoS. Of course, I’m rapidly turning into a huge Wallace fanboi, so make of that what you will. My second game was with Tom and Lou and listening to them discuss what they perceived as the game’s flaws while I was still grinning over an exhilerating (and victorious) game somehow made the experience all the sweeter. Most of the people who played this that I spoke to seemed to rate it very highly.

    Those were the highlights for me. Masters of Venice, Frank DiLorenzo’s new gamers game, was quite good, although there’s a lot of stuff in it (possibly too much). Confucius is fascinating, but again, a lot of rules. I’d love to find a group willing to put in enough time to properly expore this, but I doubt my group qualifies. And Bonnie and Clyde is very good, despite the poor graphics, but I asssume you’ve played that earlier with Mike Fitz.

    Of the lighter games, Masters Gallery (which is Modern Art without the auctions) plays surprisingly well. It’s reminiscent of the older Knizia fillers that he used to do so well. Fits is also surprisingly good (particularly for fans of Tetris) and many of us are predicting it will make the SdJ short list. I’d also recommend Cities, which is the love child of Take it Easy and Carcassonne. Finito got a lot of play, but I thought it was lighter than helium.

    Larry Levy

    April 14, 2009 at 2:32 pm

  9. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention Snow Tails. I’m a big fan and I normally strongly dislike racing games. I think the central mechanic is wonderfully clever and elegant. It provides just the right balance of control and chaos for a racing game. The courses are evilly designed and there’s lots of variety. Plus, it’s just plain fun, particularly when things go wrong. I still think it has a genuine shot at winning the SdJ. I definitely recommend trying it out, with the more players, the better.

    Larry Levy

    April 14, 2009 at 2:41 pm

  10. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention Snow Tails. I’m a big fan and I normally strongly dislike racing games. I think the central mechanic is wonderfully clever and elegant. It provides just the right balance of control and chaos for a racing game. The courses are evilly designed and there’s lots of variety. Plus, it’s just plain fun, particularly when things go wrong. I still think it has a genuine shot at winning the SdJ. I definitely recommend trying it out, with the more players, the better.

    Larry Levy

    April 14, 2009 at 2:41 pm

  11. Obviously my favorite game was Pok-er. This was my best played ever. I needed a couple races to go my way (most notably when holding 22 vs Ax and KJ when I was all in with $2k at the final table and 500/1000 blinds), but, unlike the first year I won, that 22 hand was the only time I went all in and saw the flop as a <50% favorite. From the point of that triple-up I was very happy with my play, especially as the table size reduced. Worst play was, as Jeff noted above, taking 73o on the button and running it into his AA Big Blind (live cards though, and a 12.6% win chance). I should have folded to his pre-flop re-raise as I only had 80% pot equity.

    As those above noted as well, Small World was #1 and my first prize table pick. All the fun of Vinci, which I’ve always liked, plus a way better theme, better art, better rules (3 minor tweaks…all improvements), and Flying Skeletons, Commando Sorcerers and Pillaging Halflings.

    Of other games I liked Diamond Club, although I only played it once. The bidding for actions mechanism was great and the game played fast. But my game was a runaway so I didn’t get a feel for the endgame.

    Roll Through the Ages was fun, but I kept feeling it was less than it should be. I questioned the balance of Pestilence, and was disappointed all the dice were the same. I’ll be happy to come back to it after an expansion.

    Finito is an easier to teach, play, and score game in the mold of To The Limit, and for at least the foreseeable future I’d expect to always choose it instead. Light but fun.

    Automobile was, as Larry notes, a complicated experience. By the end Tom and I were both dissatisfied, although for different reasons. It’s a strong concept, and I liked making and selling cars, but it seemed incomplete and fussy.

    I played two of Friedmann’s games including a very elegant little card game that took a couple of plays to start understanding (unless you are Wei-Hwa). It was quite clever and hard to stop thinking about.

    Finally, two ‘older’ games I’d never played were Lost Cities the Board Game, which I really liked, although, to hear it, not as much as I would like Keltis (due to the rule that runs can go it either direction). And the other was Dominion, which was better than I expected (the shuffling was a non-issue in multi-player), and a close call to get with my prize table pick.

    Two last notes, my 2nd round prize table pick was War of the Ring, which was also on my top 5 pick list, and it by far and away the best game I’ve ever gotten with #2. The other funny prize table story was this though. Last year my #1 went for Batman Gotham City Mysteries (picked for me by Jacqui). It got >40 plays this year, easily winning the award for most plays by a #1 pick ever.

    Lou

    April 14, 2009 at 5:03 pm

  12. Hit post instead of preview. Two corrections. Should have said ‘my best played pok-er tourny ever’, and the Finito comparison was to Take It Easy, not To The Limit.

    Lou

    April 14, 2009 at 5:05 pm

  13. Hit post instead of preview. Two corrections. Should have said ‘my best played pok-er tourny ever’, and the Finito comparison was to Take It Easy, not To The Limit.

    Lou

    April 14, 2009 at 5:05 pm

  14. Folding to the reraise would have been automatic except for that it was so small; it was 17% of the pot and since it put me all in, there was no danger of having to fold later. And knocking me out would have been so satisfying πŸ™‚

    I didn’t find Finito to be at all like Take it Easy. It’s one-dimensional and much shorter, for two differences. They are each puzzle games, I suppose.

    I agree that Roll through the Ages isn’t as much as it could be, but note that the box says, “The Bronze Age.” Assuming it sells, there’ll be expansions. Hopefully, they will be far less than $30. I wonder how well the wooden dice will survive repeat play.

    40 plays is great for any pick. Or at least it’s infinitely better than I normally do. This year’s first pick is the first one I have played at all after picking it (played it that night) for the last five prize tables. Might have been worse than that…I don’t remember six picks ago.

    I also only played Diamonds Club once, but our game was not a runaway victory. The winner was the player who invested in animals. Not surprisingly, he filled his board first, which ended the game sooner than the folks who invested in income or improved shipping would have preferred. I don’t see how it involves “bidding for actions.” The core mechanic is unusual, so maybe that’s as good a description as any. The idea is that everyone starts with ten chips per turn. The board (which varies from turn to turn) is a grid of actions one can take. To take an action, one must place chips on it. The catch is that one must place as many chips as all the chips on orthogonally adjacent actions plus one. (So if nothing nearby has been taken so far, an action costs one chip.) Overall, the obvious strategies seem reasonably balanced; if someone gets to do one unopposed (as our winner did), he’s likely to win. I think, however, Diamonds Club is missing that je ne sais quoi that is the difference between a functional game and a great game.

    JeffG

    April 15, 2009 at 11:44 am

  15. Folding to the reraise would have been automatic except for that it was so small; it was 17% of the pot and since it put me all in, there was no danger of having to fold later. And knocking me out would have been so satisfying πŸ™‚

    I didn’t find Finito to be at all like Take it Easy. It’s one-dimensional and much shorter, for two differences. They are each puzzle games, I suppose.

    I agree that Roll through the Ages isn’t as much as it could be, but note that the box says, “The Bronze Age.” Assuming it sells, there’ll be expansions. Hopefully, they will be far less than $30. I wonder how well the wooden dice will survive repeat play.

    40 plays is great for any pick. Or at least it’s infinitely better than I normally do. This year’s first pick is the first one I have played at all after picking it (played it that night) for the last five prize tables. Might have been worse than that…I don’t remember six picks ago.

    I also only played Diamonds Club once, but our game was not a runaway victory. The winner was the player who invested in animals. Not surprisingly, he filled his board first, which ended the game sooner than the folks who invested in income or improved shipping would have preferred. I don’t see how it involves “bidding for actions.” The core mechanic is unusual, so maybe that’s as good a description as any. The idea is that everyone starts with ten chips per turn. The board (which varies from turn to turn) is a grid of actions one can take. To take an action, one must place chips on it. The catch is that one must place as many chips as all the chips on orthogonally adjacent actions plus one. (So if nothing nearby has been taken so far, an action costs one chip.) Overall, the obvious strategies seem reasonably balanced; if someone gets to do one unopposed (as our winner did), he’s likely to win. I think, however, Diamonds Club is missing that je ne sais quoi that is the difference between a functional game and a great game.

    JeffG

    April 15, 2009 at 11:44 am

  16. “I didn’t find Finito to be at all like Take it Easy. It’s one-dimensional and much shorter, for two differences.”

    Much shorter? Interesting. I must admit, I’m struggling with the concept of how to be much shorter than a game which typically finishes in under 15 minutes…

    Actually, there’s a big similarity between the games which, in my experience, leads to similar play times – each game offers a limited number of version constrained choices. In Take It Easy, it’s always 19; in Finito, it’s typically just a bit less than that – say 17. Both games could be played by 100 – or 1000 – people simultaneously, at no loss to the gaming experience.

    I just need to develop a stupid habit for Finito and I’ll be all set. (Playing Take It Easy, I always place the first tile in the center, for no particularly good reason.)

    Joe Huber

    April 16, 2009 at 10:18 am

  17. “I didn’t find Finito to be at all like Take it Easy. It’s one-dimensional and much shorter, for two differences.”

    Much shorter? Interesting. I must admit, I’m struggling with the concept of how to be much shorter than a game which typically finishes in under 15 minutes…

    Actually, there’s a big similarity between the games which, in my experience, leads to similar play times – each game offers a limited number of version constrained choices. In Take It Easy, it’s always 19; in Finito, it’s typically just a bit less than that – say 17. Both games could be played by 100 – or 1000 – people simultaneously, at no loss to the gaming experience.

    I just need to develop a stupid habit for Finito and I’ll be all set. (Playing Take It Easy, I always place the first tile in the center, for no particularly good reason.)

    Joe Huber

    April 16, 2009 at 10:18 am

  18. 15 minutes is pretty fast for Take it Easy, I think, but I admit that since Take it to the Limit came out, I’ve not played the original, so maybe my memory is faulty. Or I consider the setup time for Take it Easy; Finito’s is roughly zero. One night last week, we played twenty games of Finito in an hour and a half. That’s 7-1/2 minutes each.
    7 minutes might not be “much,” but 50% is. And by the end, we were probably playing in under 5 minutes.

    OK, I see the similarities—the game is place pieces somewhere and try to get them arranged in a row. They are quick abstract puzzle games. But Take it Easy is far more complex, I think. Finito has player-to-player randomness (though I suppose one could play duplicate Finito), so if 100 players played at once, not all would have equal chances. OK, they are pretty similar in essence; they just feel different to me. I think the difference in complexity can be summed up simply: Grab the 19 Take it Easy tiles you’ll use from a game and try to make the best score possible. Do the same with the 20 Finito tiles.

    JeffG

    April 16, 2009 at 11:19 am

  19. 15 minutes is pretty fast for Take it Easy, I think, but I admit that since Take it to the Limit came out, I’ve not played the original, so maybe my memory is faulty. Or I consider the setup time for Take it Easy; Finito’s is roughly zero. One night last week, we played twenty games of Finito in an hour and a half. That’s 7-1/2 minutes each.
    7 minutes might not be “much,” but 50% is. And by the end, we were probably playing in under 5 minutes.

    OK, I see the similarities—the game is place pieces somewhere and try to get them arranged in a row. They are quick abstract puzzle games. But Take it Easy is far more complex, I think. Finito has player-to-player randomness (though I suppose one could play duplicate Finito), so if 100 players played at once, not all would have equal chances. OK, they are pretty similar in essence; they just feel different to me. I think the difference in complexity can be summed up simply: Grab the 19 Take it Easy tiles you’ll use from a game and try to make the best score possible. Do the same with the 20 Finito tiles.

    JeffG

    April 16, 2009 at 11:19 am

  20. My games of Finito were averaging a little over 4 minutes, with the low just over 3.

    frunk

    April 17, 2009 at 1:03 am

  21. I can’t do arithmetic, it seems. 20 games in 90 minutes is 4-1/2 minutes each. Probably by the end they were under 3 minutes, too.

    JeffG

    April 17, 2009 at 12:18 pm

  22. I can’t do arithmetic, it seems. 20 games in 90 minutes is 4-1/2 minutes each. Probably by the end they were under 3 minutes, too.

    JeffG

    April 17, 2009 at 12:18 pm


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