Chess Wrap-up

The chess season for me is officially over for school year 2006-2007. It was a fun year and a first chance for me to start getting involved with the program at Sherwood Middle School (where Jacob goes now). I took a break from teaching a morning chess class at Archer Glen Elementary to focus on the Game On! games class Julie and I taught twice per week, but still managed to run an after school chess club that was the nucleus of our tournament team.

Our tournament season kicked off with our own Sherwood elementary friendly competition - the Jack Weeks Cup, named in honor of the man who really got chess started in Sherwood (he recently moved to central Oregon). Archer Glen managed to retain the cup this year, but it wasn't easy - we had to go to seven rounds to find a team winner. Our team was very balanced with all but one of the 10 team members scoring four points or more. This photo shows all three teams from Sherwood:

Sherwood Chess Rocks

I also helped out with Jacob's middle school regional event where the team managed to tie for first and qualify for state. Jacob just barely missed the qualifying cut to join the team at state (they can only take five players to state) but as a 6th grader he'll have two more years to qualify.

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Archer Glen did decently well at the regional tournament (posts for 2006, 2005, 2004) finishing just above the middle of the pack in what is probably the biggest and strongest region in the state.

Archer Glen Chess Team

While the team didn't qualify for state, Matthew had an outstanding regional and went into the fifth and final round with a perfect score of 4 points. He faced off against what is one of the 2 strongest players in his age group in the state (he has about a 1300 USCF rating, Matthew is unrated). Matthew lost the game but qualified for state and had a blast competing there.

Matthew in Regional Final

Our last event of the year was a local chess tournament, the Whitford CMCC tournament. The kids had a great showing, finishing second overall. One of the middle schoolers I brought, Brogan, finished with 4 points and took home a top 10 trophy.

Archer Glen Takes Second

1889

I used a pretty heavy hand with Jacob last weekend in an attempt to get him to try out an 18xx game with me. After witnessing my marathon game of 1825 at GameStorm he was convinced this was a game he would not like and that would be way too long. I did my homework with my local group of resident 18xx experts and settled on 1889 as a nice intro 2-player game that could show him the true light of the 18xx gaming world. Eric was nice enough to loan me his copy, another high-quality production from Deep Thought Games.

1889 takes place on Shikoku Island in Japan. Plenty of challenging terrain, but a small board size and simplified rules made it perfect for a first game with Jacob.

Jacob organizes his companies in 1889

The game was very easy to teach despite this being the first game I've played without a more experienced player at the table. Other than some of the quirky rules around laying tiles, I think the game system just makes sense if you have a basic understand of markets, banking, and business. And if you don't know those basic concepts, what a great way to learn them. Jacob caught on very quickly to the basics and even started to see some of the benefits of "synergistic" operation of his two companies. With only two players involved there wasn't a significant amount of cross-company benefit. Of course we also played a few rules wrong - significant rules that altered the course of the game but in the end didn't matter in terms of enjoyment and desire to play again.

What did we screw up?

  • We blew past the certificate limit one turn because we just weren't paying attention. We knew the rule, had discussed it, but we just forgot. Fixed it with a sell-off the next turn.
  • The bigger issue: we missed the 60% maximum individual ownership in a company rule. I should have known this but missed it and this had a pretty big impact on the game. You can see from the picture below how missing this affected company ownership.

1889 Game Board

This caused some companies to be fully sold out when they probably would have stayed with a few shares in the bank, pushing their stock up artificially. Maybe it was a net no-effect on the two players, but it was still a pretty big mistake that we'll fix next time.

Speaking of which, there will definitely be a next time for Jacob as he loved the game and has brought it up a few times since we played. I'm going to buy 18FL as I think it is similar scale with more familiar terrain and he's looking forward to getting into another game soon.

GameStorm 2007 - Kniziathon

I decided to turn this post into a tutorial as well as a report on running a Kniziathon. I suppose the idea could be transferable to any game designer with a significant library of games (Moonathon, Teuberathon, etc.), but it certainly helps having not on a large number of games in the collection but a wide range of lengths and depths of games.

The first thing you need to do if running a Kniziathon is to check out Kevin Jacklin's Kniziathon guide over at the Convivium. This is where I learned everything I needed to know, and we were lucky enough to have Kevin in town to provide some friendly guidance along the way.

Most of my preparation work involved preparing materials to provide on-site as well as for publication online and in the GameStorm program. I'm including these materials online, so feel free to copy / revise /extend as you see fit.

I thought it was important to have an HQ area - somewhere to learn more about the Kniziathon, turn in scoresheets, and look for pickup games. Jacob and I set this area up early on Friday morning, including a set of about 25 Knizia games from my personal collection. I took a risk and allowed folks to use my games for pickup sessions without any sort of formal checkout process. I put mailing return address labels in each box and didn't have any wander away. Hopefully they are all still complete!

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I recruited a set of willing volunteers to man the HQ with me from 8am - midnight on Friday and 8am to 4pm on Saturday. Despite several no-shows, this worked out fine and people were able to get the information they needed, play ad-hoc games, and turn in scoresheets with or without my personal presence. Having Kevin around to teach and play games certainly helped.

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KC and I ran the two-player all-Knizia tournament Friday night - a great way to increase participation in both the tournament and Kniziathon. Having 20 participants over 3 rounds produced around 25-30 scoresheets. After the tournament it was time for tabulation of the first day's results, a process that took about 3-4 hours and kept me up until 2am Saturday morning. I used a custom database implemented in DabbleDB which made the process mostly easier - I say mostly, because the responsiveness of a web-based application can sometimes slow down the rapid data entry process I'm comfortable with. Still, the app made tabulation and final scoring a snap.

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Saturday was much easier - not as many scoresheet turn-ins, plus most of the players were already in the system so data entry only involved entering game scores and not new players. Final tabulation took place from about 3:30pm to 4:30pm, giving me plenty of time to prepare for the awards ceremony with Reiner.

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GameStorm donated a 2008 registration, Maginor, Atlanteon, and Dragon Parade. Reiner and Kevin showed up with three nicely designed trophies. We didn't have a prize or trophy explicitly for the youth winner (my own Jacob!), so it was nice having four available so that Jacob could choose first. He chose Dragon parade. It was a huge highlight for him to shake hands with Reiner and get a dollar bill signed by him. The dollar bill was handed out to the players that tied for fourth overall after I said they "didn't finish in the money" - Reiner quickly interrupted, reached into his wallet, and handed each player a dollar bill that he proceeded to autograph.

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The winners were Tim Shippert, Tom Powers, and Zontziry Johnson (results are also posted over at the Convivium). I was proud to be a part of this event. Thanks to all of the volunteers that helped me out: KC, Ken, Doug, Jacob, George, Mike, Kevin, the GameStorm staff, and of course Reiner Knizia.

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Spring Break in Bandon

It had been far too long since we had been family camping, so back in January Julie and I decided to book some time in a Yurt in one of the Oregon State Parks. Ever the crafty planner, I chose the Bandon area knowing that I could probably squeeze in 18 holes of golf at one of the world reknowned courses at Bandon Dunes. Bullards Beach is about as convenient to Bandon Dunes as you can get without staying at the resort, so we stayed there (great article on Bullards Beach here).

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Yurts in Oregon are ideal for off-season camping. Weather on the Oregon coast is unpredictable at best, and for extended camping (we went for four nights) a tent can turn into a somewhat miserable experience when dealing with high winds, sleet, and hail. All of the cooking is still down outdoors and you can experience campfires, hiking, etc.

Bandon is a bit of a long drive from Portland - around 4 hours or so. We weren't in a hurry leaving Saturday and departed around 11am, stopping for lunch in Albany. This was my first experience locating a restaurant with my new Blackberry 8800 / GPS / TeleNav and it worked like a charm, finding us a cozy Mexican restaurant with outstanding service.

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On Sunday we visited the West Coast Game Park, a smallish zoo with an expansive petting area that exceeded our expectations. I don't think I've ever seen a better big cat exhibit - they had three lions, 3-4 tigers, 5-6 black panthers, and other assorted smaller cats. Matthew is in heaven when he can get up close and pet the animals and had a blast directing the deer herd.

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On Sunday afternoon we took a horseback ride on the beaches south of Bandon. This was probably the highlight of the entire trip for all of us - beautiful horses, beautiful scenery, and an excellent guide resulted in a ride to remember. My horse was the most eager of the bunch and was always quick to trot and race ahead, an event that Jacob and Matthew always anticipated as their horses would often accelerate to keep up with me.

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Monday morning brought my golfing adventure and an early 8:30am tee time at Bandon Dunes. The weather started off spectacularly clear but cool, but after four holes things went sideways quickly. Literally: the winds picked up to 25-30 mph and the hail and sleet came in. This lasted about 3 holes and I was very thankful to have good raingear handy (a must for Oregon golfing). My caddy was excellent, and I recommend getting one for your first visit to the course unless you are there with experienced Bandon golfers. He really helped me through a few of the holes and had me putting from off the green whenever I had a clear line to the whole and was within 15 yards of the fringe. I stayed within myself and shot an 89, not bad for my first time on the course with some bad weather.

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We ate entirely too well on the trip, trying out many new dutch oven recipes that I suspect will start turning up on Jacob's menus with his patrol in Boy Scouts. The menu included fresh baked biscuits and sausage gravy, Mexican casserole, homemade beef stew, and cherry dump cake.

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The trip closed out with a driving tour south of Bandon. I would have liked to have made it all the way to Gold Beach, but the rest of the family wasn't too keen to spend that much time in the car. We hit some fabulously intense weather along the way, getting gusts in the 50mph range when stopping to check out another lighthouse.