Chess for Success 2006 Regional Tournament

Saturday was the regional tournament for Chess for Success, the Oregon-wide organizational body for scholastic chess. Laurie and I chose our team from the top performers in the advanced and intermediate classes we teach at school (we also teach a beginner class with K-3). I knew we had a strong team this year and held out some hope that we could qualify for state (like we did two years ago), but knew the competition would be fierce.

Archer Glen Chess Team

Our team was very well balanced and scored 14 points, good enough to secure a tie for 3rd place (out of 13 teams). No player scored below 2 points, and Jacob led the way with 4 points (out of a total possible of 5). Matthew continued his track of improvement, scoring 3 points. He's got two more years at this level and given how much he enjoys the game, I hope he'll be one of the 4-5 point players in the next two years. I was particularly proud that after losing his first two games he came back and won his final three.

Matthew in Final Round

It was great having Jacob back this year after his illness last year. He suffered a loss in his third round but came back strong to finish as one of the top 10 players in the tournament (out of about 120). Next year he'll move on to middle school where things will get quite a bit more competitive.

Jacob in the Tournament

GameStorm Game Day

GameStorm Logo

After Jacob's Game Maker class two Saturdays ago (January 21) we drove up to northwest Portland to attend the GameStorm game day. I was pretty amazed at the number of people attending - I counted at least 30 people there by the time we left in the early evening. There was quite a variety of gaming going on, including Caylus, World of Warcraft, Liberté, and Ticket to Ride.

Eager to knock a game off my burndown list, I brought out Ark of the Covenant and snagged a few players to join me. This is just another Carcassonne variant, but it combines several aspects of other expansions that I like. Now I should have read the rules a bit more carefully ahead of time, because there are a few easy-to-miss scoring rules (scrolls in cities, oasis by the road) and you ALWAYS have to check how unfinished roads and cities are scored. Nonetheless, this is a fun variant and we had fun moving the ark around. Jacob one handily if I recall.

Ark of the Covenant

One of my main reasons for attending (I skipped a Roads and Boats session, after all) was to get in another play of one of KC's classic prototypes, Isla Nova (aka New Eden 2 aka Edenborough). Ken and Carey joined Jacob and I and it was as fun as I remember - definitely one of our short-list games to try out in an upcoming playtest day.

Isla Nova

This is a tile-laying game and is quite abstract, but it is rooted in a colonization theme where different communities or tribes are establishing competing industries. The game played in just about an hour and felt very rewarding.

Isla Nova Closeup

Next, Jacob and I played a 2-player prototype of Carey Grayson's new game 24/7. This is a light abstract designed primarily for 2 players and it involves laying down domino-shaped tiles on a 7x7 grid. You score points when you lay a tile that creates a sequence of tiles (in any direction) that add up to 24, 7, form a sequence, create 3 or more of kind, etc.

24 7

The game was quite fun and had Jacob and I captivated - plenty of tension, easy to teach, and great potential. I hope Carey can get this into mass production.

Pizza Box Football and Doom: the Boardgame

Turns out I'm the Geek of the Week over on Boardgamegeek. Check it out and feel free to ask some questions.

Time to catch up on some session reports. Two weekends ago, the boys and I broke out Pizza Box Football to play during the conference championship games (Tivo'd, of course). We played a simulated playoff (Steelers vs. Broncos, Seahawks vs. Panthers) and Superbowl using the expansion rules and teams.

Pizza Box Football

This is a great little game - one of the best football simulations I've played. I'm not sure the expansion rules add much other than confusing extra cross-references, though the choices of more offensive plays (play action, screen, draw) and higher risk defenses (blitzes) are a nice touch. Some may say simulation is too strong a word for this game as it doesn't even try to simulate individual player actions. What the game does simulate is the play-calling of football.

Yes, there's a decent amount of luck in the game. I was reminded of this repeatedly in my game with Matthew.

Pizza Box Football and the Luck of Matthew

Yesterday the boys and I tried out scenario 2 of Doom: the Boardgame. This game hasn't seen very much action, partly because it is a bit longish and partly because it seems pretty hard for the heroes to win. I've also been seriously thinking about trying to trade it for Descent, a game I think would come out more frequently.

Doom the Boardgame

It was rough going for the marines this time around; perhaps I was too hard on them but I just can't hold back. They made it to section 2 but were soon overwhelmed and I accumulated 6 frags to end the game. It was a fun experience and I don't want to sound too harsh on the game.

1st Annual Jack Weeks Challenge Cup

It has been almost a year since I posted anything about the chess program I run at Archer Glen elementary here in Sherwood. We just kicked off tournament season and had a warm-up session last week during school with the two other Sherwood elementary schools at the local YMCA. Chess is a big deal in Sherwood, largely through the efforts of Jack Weeks, retired school counselor who initiated the chess programs in the local schools. It therefore seemed appropriate to award the Jack Weeks Challenge Cup to the school that wins the tournament each year.

Jack Weeks Trophy

I ran the tournament team swiss style and we managed to squeeze in seven rounds between 9am and 2am. I was only able to attend until about 10:45am, but we had more than ample adult support on hand to keep things running smoothly. Jacob and Matthew both had solid days, scoring in the 3-4.5 point range. One of Jacob's best games was a match against Hopkins Elementary's best player - you can see the endgame below where they squared off with K/R and two pawns each. Jacob got his rook lured into a trap in the back corner and lost it, leading to a loss in a well-spirited game.

Jacob on First Board

Matthew did very well and finished in the top 3 for third graders. This is his third year playing in the tournament circuit and should be a powerhouse by the time he hits the fifth grade.

Matthew in the First Round

Archer Glen pulled out the team victory as well as the top 2 individual players. This coming Saturday is the big regional Chess for Success tournament. If we can pull out a 1st or 2nd place at regionals then we'll advance to the state championship.

Another SimplyFun Night

Julie and I attended a SimplyFun party last Friday night at Eric's house, with Mike Deans providing the consulting power. I didn't expect to see much new but I did want Julie to experience one of these parties (she missed mine). Plus, well, it was an excuse to hang out with friends and play games.

We started out with a game of Handy. I'm generally a big fan of dexterity games, but this one just doesn't do it for me. It is the type of game you play through a round and say "Oh, I get it. Can we play something else now?"


While half the group played a game of Walk the Dogs (you can clearly see one the players employing the infamous poodle strategy)…

Walk the Dogs

we gave the new(er) game Texas Roll'em a try. This is a Richard Borg design and derivative of the classic Liar's Dice (which is itself derived from Perudo). The theme and bits are cool, but the game fell flat for me. What's different from the original?

  • There's more open information in the form of a "flop" of three dice that are use in conjunction with the rest of the hidden dice. I suspect that the net effect of these additional dice is nill, but I'm not a statistician and I might be missing something.
  • Anyone can call "bluff" (or "liar") on a bet, not just the next player in sequence. This isn't a bad variant.
  • After a bluff has been called, two more dice (the river I guess) are rolled and are added to the total. This adds a level of randomness to the game that, in my opinion, takes away from the elegance of the original design. Especially as the total number of dice decreases and these two become more impactful.

Texas Roll'em

The final game of the night for us was the new Darryl Hannah design Liebrary. This is a derivation from the classic parlor game "dictionary", aka Balderdash. The difference here is that players are given the title and author of a literary work (in one of several categories, including classics, kids, horror/sci-fi/fantasy, and a few others) and must come up with the first line of the work. The judge player takes all the submissions and reads each one aloud along with the actual first line. As expected, you get a point for guessing correctly and for each other player that chooses your fake answer.

I found the game to be more challenging than Balderdash as you need to try and mimic the voice of the author. It won't be right for everyone, but I enjoyed it enough to make it my only purchase of the evening. The components for the game are very cool - the box looks like a giant book that folds out to reveal the card holders and the game board.