New Year’s Gaming, Day 1

Friday was the kickoff day for our weekend gaming at Salishan with the Rude and Humphrey families. That makes 13 bodies in all, so there are plenty of opportunities for a wide range of gaming. Our goal is usually to bring out games we haven’t played yet or rarely get played in our normal sessions. Here’s an example of the games with the potential of coming out this weekend.

Games to Play

I picked up Ra at BGG.Con in a trade with Keith Blume. My first play of this was less than favorable, but given how popular the game is I figured I was missing something and took a chance on getting my own copy. KC, Rita, Ken, and I sat down to play it as our first official game of the weekend.

Playing Ra

KC and Rita have played this game quite a lot, but Ken and I were essentially playing for the first time so we took some time to learn/explain the rules. I must admit the mechanics are very simple, the game is streamlined and easy to learn, and I quite enjoyed playing. The fact that I edged out KC for the victory 44-42 might have something to do with it. I really did enjoy the push-your-luck element combined with the auctions. There’s a decent amount of luck in the game but that’s OK as you can take steps to mitigate this effect through the bidding process.

Ra Closeup

Julie and Justin committed themselves to resuming their speed duels. Justin tells me he’s up by three games now.

Julie and Justin Prepare for Speed

After our game of Ra, I suggested we try out the Sid Sackson classic Venture. This is a copy I purchased on eBay from Sid’s personal collection. Not a bad little game – there are some similarities to Acquire in that players build out corporations, there are takeover mechanics, etc., but the game certainly does stand on its own. There were a few oddities in the rules that don’t make much sense – money from proxy battles goes to the bank, not the player you steal the corporation from. Shouldn’t the money go to the player? Also, as you run low in cards you get penalized even further, because if you can’t afford to buy anything you must discard a card. I realize this is a mechanic intended to force players to keep cards in their hands, but it seems a bit harsh. The game went on a bit longer than we would have liked, but it was enjoyable and might be worth trying again with some rules tweaks.

Venture

Justin, Josh, Rita, Julie, and I then played the SimplyFun game Plext, an interesting little word game that was challenging and fun. You shuffle a set of 14 dice and reveal them arranged in a linear sequence. Players are then challenged to come up with a series of words that use all of the letters in sequence order, inserting as many letters as needed. For example, if the sequence was “EQRPI” then you might write down “EQuestRian PIe”. As soon as a player thinks he has a competitive (small) number of words that use up all the letters, he can call out his bid (the number of words), puts down his pencil, then starts the timer. The other players then have that much time to come up with their own bid, which can be any number of words. When the timer runs out, whoever had the first lowest bid gets the first shot at solving. If his solution was correct (valid words, used all the letters), he wins victory points totaling 10 minus the number of words. Repeat for eight rounds to determine the winner.

Plext

While we were playing Plext, KC and Ken played a game of Jambo. I think KC won.

Jambo

We gave Barbarossa as a gift to the Rudes, so Julie, Jenna, Chelsea, and Brandon decided to give it a try. Brandon says he enjoyed it very much, possibly influenced by the fact that he won.

Barbarossa

KC was eager to pull out McMulti, one of those hard-to-find holy grail games that often goes for $200+ on eBay. The game took us close to 3 hours to play and while it was enjoyable, it is a bit too much of a luckfest for my tastes, especially for a game that long.

McMulti

There are some creative mechanics in the game, especially for a game from 1974. My favorite is the cross-referenced die rolls that give production to the players on the right and left of the active player. The economic system is pretty cool as well, though we played with a variant that throttles the economic cycle a bit. KC, Ken, and I were all pretty close to each other, all surpassing the $1MM mark by the end of the game. KC ended up the victor with Ken a close second.

McMulti Near Endgame

Our last game of the night was partnership Tichu, Ken/Chris vs. KC/Rita. This was my first time through a whole game of this, so it was nice to get the rules and basic strategy ingrained. I’m ready to try again, especially to get a chance to avenge our loss to KC and Rita. It was a close match with both teams close to 600, but they shut us down two hands in a row pulling out the victory.

Tichu

Rest in Peace Grandma Brooks

My grandmother Brooks passed away earlier this week. While she was my father’s step-mother (his mother passed away at age 11), she was always my grandma Brooks and she will be missed. This is her obituary; services were held earlier this morning.

Meta Jane Brooks, 91, of Shelbyville, died Monday, Dec. 26, 2005, at Morristown Manor, in Morristown.

Born Oct. 8, 1914, in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, she was the daughter of the late George and Imogene (Virden) Masters. She married Louis Brooks Dec. 8, 1951, and he preceded her in death Dec. 25, 1981.

Survivors include four sons, Michael (wife, Lynne) Brooks of Shelbyville, Tom (wife, Linda) Brooks of Cedar Falls, Iowa, John (wife, Ann) Brooks of Green Valley, Ariz., and Dan (friend, Jeri) Brooks of LaSalle, Ill.; five grandchildren; two stepgrandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and two stepgreat-grandchildren.

Mrs. Brooks graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College, where she received a bachelor of science degree in home economics. She was later awarded an honorary doctorate degree from that school for her work in developing the science building on campus.

She was a home economics teacher, retiring in 1985 after 16 years in education.

Mrs. Brooks also was employed as a county home Extension director in Iowa; as director of home economics for Borg Warner Corp.; as a home economics teacher in LaSalle, Ill., where she founded the food service vocational program; and as a school bus attendant in Melbourne, Fla.

She was a member of the PEO and Alpha Xi Delta sorority.

Mrs. Brooks moved to Shelbyville in 1999 and was a resident of McKay Manor until she moved to Morristown Manor two years ago.

Friends and family may gather at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Carmony-Ewing Harrison Street Chapel, Freeman Family Funeral Homes, 819 S. Harrison St.

A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the funeral home, with the Rev. Dr. Mary Lundgren and the Rev. Corlis Dees officiating.

Interment will be in Forest Home Cemetery, in Mount Pleasant.

Memorial contributions may be donated to Hospice of Shelby County, 110 South Harrison St., Shelbyville, IN 46176.

Hiking: Harts Cove

Last week before Christmas a group of us drove up 101 past Cascade Head (we hiked there earlier this year) to try out the Harts Cove Trail.

Harts Cove Trail

Karen woke up wanting to take a “mad hike”, whatever that is. We came to learn this means running as much of the trail as possible. The entire crew included, left to right, Karen, Mike, Powell, Julie, Dave, Lisa, and me (taking the picture).

Group Shot Before the Hike

The first 3/4 of a mile or so is straight down via switchbacks, about a 900 foot drop in all. We started the trail with a brisk walk, but soon Karen turned it into a jog and Mike and I joined her. We ran for about the first 1.5 miles or so, slowing down as we started to encounter a lot of tree fall. The trail closes down on January 1, and I see why as the trail will soon be impassable. The trail passes through beautiful stands of giant sitka spruce and groves of the ferns all too common on the Oregon coast.

After about 2.5 miles, the trail opens into the final meadow revealing the coast and Harts Cove. Karen and I continued down to the volcanic rocks bordering the rough coastline.

Chris, Mike, and Dave

You can see the stream flowing into the cove in the background of the picture below – this cascading stream is how Cascade Head got its name (Harts Cove is on the northern side of Cascade Head).

Chris and Karen Near the Falls

On the way back we walked for about a mile then Mike and I resumed our jogging. I fell twice, bruising my knees, and twisted my right ankle something fierce (it swelled up into a baseball sized lump later that night) but managed to run about a mile or so and walked the final death march back up the car. A fun but difficult hike and highly recommended.

Podcast Roundup

I continually tweak my podcast subscription list based on interests, quality, word of mouth, and time budget. I posted previously giving an assessment of the boardgame-related podcasts, but the landscape has changed quite a bit and my subscriptions have expanded. One of my favorites has disappeared completely… will it return?

Gaming Related

This remains my favorite category and occupies most of my car listening time.

  • The Dice Tower – Somewhat begrudgingly, this is my favorite podcast. Tom and Joe grow on me and I believe they are just genuinely good guys and fun to be around. They are diligent about their production schedule and I like their top 10 lists. If you can get past the mispronunciations, there’s a lot to like about this show.
  • Boardgames-to-Go – Mark has tailed off during the holiday season but I’m confident he’ll sustain a good production schedule in 2006. I like his intelligent, self-deprecating approach and meeting him at BGG.Con only confirmed that he’s such a nice guy with interesting things to say about games.
  • Have Games Will Travel – I’m glad I discovered this one, as I get more out of Paul’s RPG reviews and commentary than boardgames. His reviews are encouraging me to consider leaving the D20 realm with my RPG gaming group as soon as the kids are old enough to explore some more advanced themes and systems.
  • Pulp Gamer – A bit too much of a beer-and-pretzels game focus, but I love the interviews they’ve landed (James Ernest, Margaret Weis) and the show continues to improve.
  • Geek Fu Action Grip – On the fence here, as Mur is a bit too much on the comic / sci-fi fringe for me. She’s an outstanding writer though and her essays keep me coming back. I wish she would do more game reviews.
  • Board Game Speak – Where art thou?

Digital Photography

I’ve committed to myself to increase my photography skills dramatically in 2006, both on the shooting front and digital dark-room post-processing front. These podcasts along with some reading study are helping me along the way.

  • Tips from the Top Floor – Still my favorite photography podcast, somewhat reinforced by the fact that I got to meet Chris in Germany last December. I am concerned that Chris spends too much time on meta-speak about the podcast itself – he needs to stay focused on photography and his tips, perhaps putting meta-speak at the end of the show.
  • Secrets of Digital Imaging – This one got off to a rough start, with Dennis having similar meta-speak issues, but this one gets better and better. I especially enjoyed Dennis’ workflow series and I even bought his Photoshop Elements workflow reference card. Keep up the good work!
  • Two Minute Photoshop Tricks – A nice podcast focused on Photoshop, it would be better if I would listen to it while at a computer instead of in the car.

Technology

  • Ruby on Rails – Whoa, this one had a rough start in terms of audio quality and content, but Geoffrey Grosenbach continues to improve with each show. I especially appreciate the recent post on Smalltalk / Seaside, a nice change from the “cult of Rails” insularism that may be imminent.

Comedy

  • Ricky Gervais – I’ve listened to a few of the shows and give it about a B. I’ll likely unsubscribe to this as I just got… an XM radio for my birthday! Woot!

If there’s anything else I should be listening to based on what you see here, post it in the comments!