Die Baumeister von Arkadia, Alhambra Dice Game

I hosted our Tuesday night gaming session this week and got to break out a couple of Essen releases that haven't seen much action since my return.

Mike spied Die Baumeister von Arkadia on my shelf and we agreed it would a good choice for the 3 or 4 players we were expecting. I'd been staring at this game on my shelf for sometime wondering why I hadn't played it since returning from Essen - it was one of my favorites there.


The game taught and played very quickly. The one strategy I remembered to convey is to not wait too long to use your flags to cash in seals and get new workers - the game can end very suddenly and it is hard to win if you've not managed to get your works out generating seals for you. Peter got the knack of the game very quickly and won by a decent margin. We played the game in about an hour - great game value for time invested.

Arkadia Closeup

Next we played a press-your-luck chicken game that Peter made. It has some interesting mechanics to it but something wasn't quite right. We may have played a rule or two incorrectly. I'd be willing to try it again after some review.

Peter had to go so Mike, George, and I elected to play the much derided Alhambra Dice Game. Make sure you try this game before you write it off - it isn't nearly as bad as many are saying, and there are some interesting choices to make at times. Still, the luck of the dice rules and the best laid plans can be for naught if the dice don't agree with you.

Alhambra Dice Game

My one complaint with the game is that it is too long. It took 90 minutes to play a full game, and it doesn't hold up well alongside Arkadia. Perhaps a game with four rounds, scoring after the 2nd and 4th, would be better.

A Face for Radio

I've managed to have my voice show up in a couple of interesting places lately. First, my friends over at Distinction Communication had me record a radio spot for them promoting an upcoming public seminar. We've sent about 30 people through this training at Corillian - these guys are top-notch and if you need to up the ante for business public speaking you should check these guys out. This spot has been running for the past 2 weeks on 1190 KEX here in Portland.

Second, I was interviewed by good friend and co-worker Scott Hanselman for his Hanselminutes podcast Board Gaming for Programmers. In this podcast Scott, Eli Smith, and I introduce Scott's geek programmer audience to another world of geekiness - modern boardgames. Scott tells me he's focused on the WAF (wife acceptance factor) and introducing his wife Mo to 10 Days in Africa and hopes to try Jambo and Settlers soon. I think that's a good order - Jambo is a great two-player game (though not trivial to learn) but don't wait too long to try out Settlers!

Kid Stuff

Jacob and I spent Saturday and Sunday up at Nanitch Lodge with our Boy Scout troop. This is the sixth straight year I've been to a scout outing up on the mountain, but my first time spending the night in the lodge. We shared the lodge with three other local troops and had a blast. The weather was perfect (highs in the low 30s), we got a nice blanket of snow on Saturday, and the snow tubing was exciting as always (and no injuries!). Here's a great shot of Jacob getting some air.

Jacob Tubing

Last night Julie and I walked over to Matthew's school to see his big 4th grade play on the history of Oregon (__My Oregon Report by Ralph Nelson). Matthew played Thomas Jefferson - the guy who swindled Napoleon out of the Louisiana Purchase and set Lewis and Clark off on their way to Oregon. Matthew did a great job acting and singing and we are very proud of him.

Matthew as Jefferson

GameStorm 9 will feature Reiner Knizia

GameStorm link

GameStorm 9, March 30 - April 1 at the Portland Airport Sheraton, will be featuring Reiner Knizia as its guest of honor this year. There are several reasons why I'm excited to attend this year:

  • Dr. Knizia will be there
  • I will be running the Kniziathon
  • This location should be substantially better than the Red Lion last year. Our hotel room situation was a disaster last year, and I've already managed to book a nice room with 2 queen beds.
  • The timing is nice, coming right on the end of spring break for the kids. This will make it easy for Jacob and I to get there early on Friday and miss the often terrible cross-town traffic.

Through the Ages, ASL SK #1, Big Kini, Web of Power

Time to catch up on some recent gaming!

Through the Ages

Two weekends ago Jacob and I tried to take on the full game of Through the Ages. Jacob has been itching to play this again and I was happy to accommodate - this was clearly one of the top games I played in 2006.

The last time we played we tried the advanced game and we were excited to experience the full experience - mostly because we wanted to get Bill Gates as a leader.

Through the Ages

I did a much better job this time around managing my military. I wanted to make sure I didn't fall too far behind him and get sent into a downward spiral as we started to reveal events. This strategy worked out well, especially coupled with Michelangelo - I had a stable military with some accelerated culture production that allowed me to race away with the lead.

Four hours into the game, we were easily 2 hours from being done. I was so far ahead that we both agreed to stop the game. The game felt longer this time around, and I'm not sure why. Downtime wasn't bad at all, so maybe it was just unfamiliarity with the rules at the start. Still, I'm not sure I'm prepared to invest 5-6 hours for the full game.

ASK Start Kit #1

Time to revisit my nemesis ASL, via the second scenario of the Starter Kit #1 that introduces machine guns. If you recall, we made good progress last time we played this but I still expressed some frustration with the rules and jargon. I truly thought we'd be well poised to move on to the next set of rules, but in reality we were right back where we started. As I read the rules, I keep wanting to create my own abstractions to simplify things - I just don't care about the level of realism that the core system offers. The terseness of the rules is such a hindrance, and the index is nearly worthless. Case in point: we were trying to figure out ROF (rate-of-fire) for LMGs (light machine guns) etc. I understand the concept, but I could not for the life of me figure out how you determine if the gun gets another fire. Look up ROF in the index and you get pointed to MG section, but there's no clue there as to how ROF is triggered. Turns out this is explained in brief early on in the rules, and it took 5-10 minutes of reading and re-reading to figure this out.


Imagine how frustrating it is for Jacob to sit there wait while I dig through the rules trying to figure out this (very important) rule. This is where being terse is a huge hindrance for the rules - MMP should double the size of the rulebook and include redundant information as appropriate via callouts and other explanatory text. I'm sure the SK is big improvement over starting with the ASL rulebook, but I think there's room for improvement. After receiving Combat Commander: Europe last week I'm forecasting that ASL will never get played again in my household in favor for this lighter, more dynamic squad level game. More on that later.

Big Kini

I've played Big Kini 3 times in the past few weeks and I continue to be impressed with this mostly undiscovered game. Doug did a nice writeup of my last session playing this and brought up a good point about the human factors, but I wouldn't get too concerned about his issues. I think after a play or two the eye candy on the board gets to be pretty decipherable.

Web of Power

I finally got a chance to play Web of Power while over at Mike's a couple of weeks ago. Wow, what a fun but tough game to figure out (strategy-wise). I've been reading about Web of Power (and the related game China) for some time but never pulled the trigger on a purchase, primarily because I'd like to try before I buy. George had played before but needed some time to refresh on the rules, but once we started the game was over within 45 minutes. Matt did an impressive job taking advantage of connections between provinces (I didn't even notice the connections over sea lanes!) and easily beat us. A fun time and I'd like to try China now to see if that would be a good purchase option.