Salishan

Last week Julie and I, along with her mother (Jan) and stepfather (David), closed on a home in Salishan, near Lincoln City, OR. This was originally an idea Jan had they'd been thinking about a vacation property for some time, and after deciding against building a place in Utah not far from their home in Las Vegas, they decided on the Oregon coast. It probably helped that we confirmed with them how much we love this area and how we have no plans to leave...

Given the proximity of the home to ours, we thought it would make sense to join in the investment and split things evenly, and as of last week the process is complete!

First, a bit about the general location. Salishan is a peninsula that forms around Siletz Bay, creating an amazing blend of rugged Oregon coast, a tidal bay, and estuarial wetlands. There are some amazing homes in Salishan, and while we certainly bought in at the low end, we couldn't be happier with the location. The home is on the bay side in a pine forest, so we have very little direct wind and sea spray exposure. This should ease maintenance on the home and makes it very comfortable during all hours. The beach is a short 2 minute walk away; though beaches in Oregon are public, given that the peninsula is fairly difficult to reach by the general public we have found the beaches to be very quiet.

A satellite view (courtesy of TerraServer USA) from around 2002, showing our home and the convenient beach access available. The bay is to the right of the home.

The house certainly needs some work, but it has tons of character and a very interesting floorplan. There are five levels to the home, arranged mostly in split-level fashion, with the ground floor being quite a ways up from the driveway and carport. The main floor is close to the treetops of fairly old growth pine forest, creating an almost treehouse effect. The deck on the main floor is most impressive, offering panoramic views of the bay and some fabulous bird watching early in the morning. There also an elevator (!), currently not functional but on our list to repair. This is mostly to transport groceries and other goods from the carport to the main level, but it is designed to carry a single person.

View of the home from the stairs leading up the driveway. You can see the main deck above, the deck for the entryway below, and the elevator to the far right.

This place will be a money sink for a while as we replace flooring throughout most of the house, do repairs, and furnish the place. It is only about a 90 minute drive from our house, making it an easy trip for weekend visits. Given the horrible traffic on most Sunday afternoons (mostly due to the casinos between our house and Lincoln City), we will likely stay through Monday early morning many days.

Runebound

About a week ago, Jacob and I joined Ken and Brandon at the Rude household for a game of Runebound, the fantasy boardgame from Fantasy Flight Games. This game is right up our alley great theme, easy to learn, some dice rolling, and plenty of action.

Each player takes the role of one of twelve heros, either randomly or by mutually agreed choice, and the objective is to complete a quest. In the case of the scenario included with the game, this means defeating the evil lord Margath or collecting three dragon runes (usually by defeating three dragons).

Gameplay is very straightforward. On a player's turn, he rolls movement dice (5 if in a town, 4 otherwise) to determine the allowable terrain through which his hero may pass this turn. This creates some limitations and often dictates what a player will try and do. Most of the game is spent going to towns to heal or hire allies or purchase goods, or attempting to defeat encounters (usually monsters). Encounters are color-coded depending on difficulty, and defeating an encounter gives the hero experience and some additional reward (gold, an item, or perhaps an ability to use later).

Closeup of the hero counters. You can also see some of the encounter chits (green, yellow in this case).

We played the basic rules and found the game very enjoyable, if a bit too long with too much downtime. Four is definitely the most I would play with, 2 or 3 would be even better. We found ourselves multi-tasking a bit, having the next player roll and start his move while the previous player finished his turn.

Combat was very confusing to learn at first it isn't always clear what choices you have and what is mandatory, especially when you are joined by allies in battle. We worked our way through it though, and I'm fairly sure we got things mostly right based on some reasearch I did after playing. Make sure you read the FAQ!

There's plenty of luck in this game, and it can be very frustrating! Jacob had a very difficult time at first and fell behind quickly mostly due to poor rolls in his first few battles. Goes with the territory in a game like this. We stopped before the game finished after about 3 hours of play, and gave the Ken the victory as he was the only one who had collected a dragon rune.

There is a planned expansion coming out soon which should keep things interesting. Jacob, Matthew, and I plan on playing this weekend, and we will certainly try out the advanced rules this time to raise the challenge bar and complexity a bit.

Gmail is pretty sweet

I was fortunate enough to get an invite to open a Gmail account from my friend Scott Ladewig. Gmail is Google's answer to Yahoo, Hotmail and others: free internet-based email for the masses.

I'm generally a POP3/IMAP sort of guy and avoid web-based email, but the convenience of a solid web mail solution with a nice interface is very attractive. That's why I joined Oddpost about 9 months ago - it has an amazing web-based interface (IE only) and decent enough IMAP/POP3 support. As good as Oddpost is, I've moved everything over to Gmail and plan to stay there. Several reasons:

  • Oddpost has had some notoriously bad outages. Service has improved, but I still see more downtime than I should.
  • The client is a bit buggy. I've had a number of Javascript issues, mostly (IMO) due to synchronization challenges. I don't think Oddpost likes IMAP clients very much.
  • The way Gmail handles conversation threading is groundbreaking. I liken it to gmane, though I think Gmail is even better. I subscribe to several high traffic email lists, so by managing the threading effectively Gmail lets me filter out a lot of noise. If don't care about a particular thread (like the rules arbitration for Goa and Maharaja happening on spielfrieks right now), I can delete or ignore dozens of messages at once my skipping a conversation.
  • Search. It is Google after all, right?
  • Tons of storage. 1GB for now, and I doubt I'll need more any time soon.

My major complaint right now (like others): lack of POP3 and IMAP support. Hopefully they'll offer a paid service with this support in the future.

Back to Some Gaming

Last week our annual vacation to Keuka Lake finished (perhaps I'll post a few more pictures this weekend), so we are gradually working ourselves back to some degree of normalcy. It was a busy weekend however, as our Cub Scout pack was running the dunk tank at the local Robin Hood Festival here in Sherwood. This is a decent fundraiser for the pack (usually nets about $500), but there's a ton of work to set up, run, and tear down the tank. Sunday was a particularly long but fun day, starting with the annual Corillian golf scramble. My team did well, tying for the best score at-8 but losing in the tiebreaker. After the tourney I joined a few other folks from scouts to tear down the tank and return it to storage. I thought my day would be over at that point (around 4:30pm), but Ken Rude called up asking if we were up for some gaming how could I resist?

Foppen

I've come to enjoy this light trick-taking game quite a bit, and so is the family. It came out twice while we were at Keuka Lake and was a big hit. So Ken, Brandon, Jacob, Matthew and I started things off with full game. This game is fun if you don't think and try too much poor hands can be very frustrating and can set you up for a certain loss very early in the game. This is because recovery is so difficult the most you can gain on a given hand is 10 points, while it isn't unheard of to get set-30 or-40 points on a hand. I know if the game is played well this shouldn't happen, but I've been trapped in a hand before where it became nearly impossible to dump high cards. For example, if you are holding a large chunk of the high value green cards and are unable to capture the lead, you may never get an opportunity to dump them. Still, this game is easy to teach, is a great introduction to trick-taking card games, and is always fun to play.

Hoity Toity

Matthew has been begging for this game to come out, and Ken and Brandon agreed as they had never played before. I'm not wild about the game, but had been looking forward to playing with more than 4 players. In case you aren't familiar with the game, I'll give a brief overview. Each player plays the role of an English lord obsessed with showing off their antique collections. The game plays quickly and has very few decisions. Each player is dealt 4 antique cards at random, with each antique having an identifying letter (from A to G I believe). An antique collection must consist of a consecutive run of letters (e.g., AABC). On a turn, players first choose where they want to go: the Auction House (to buy more antiques) or the Castle (to show off their exhibits). Players reveal their choices. Those that chose the auction house then decide to bid on one of two pieces up for auction with cash, or play a thief to steal from the till. The player with the highest bid wins the auction and chooses one of the two items up for auction to add to his collection. If a single player played a thief, she steals the cash used to pay for the auction. If more than one player played a thief, or if nobody bid on the auction, nobody steals anything.

Those that chose the castle have similar choices: exhibit, play a thief, or play a detective. Of the players that exhibit, the best two exhibits will advance on the scoring track. Each of the thieves played get to steal an antique from each of the players that exhibited. If any thieves were played, and at least one detective is played, the thieves will go to jail and be unavailable. The detectives also advance along the scoring track based on their current position (5th place advances 5, 1st advances 1, you get the picture).

That's it not much strategy involved, and this is mostly a rock-paper scissors type guessing game. I've heard of people being very good at this game, but for me I think the random approach would almost be the best strategy. I just have a habit of making the wrong guess. Somehow in this game, though, I managed to come from behind and win the game, with Ken finishing a close second. I didn't expect to have much fun, but I was pleasantly surprised and would play again with 5 or 6 players.

Memoir '44

The kids went upstairs to play on the computer, so Ken and I brought out my new copy of Memoir '44, the fantastic two-player tactical wargame by Richard Borg. We played scenario 8 Operation Cobra. I played the Allies, Ken the Axis, and we found the scenario to be pretty balanced. My feelings on the quality of this game haven't dimished this is a fantastic light two-player wargame.

I got a bit too aggressive early on with two of my tank units and almost gave up the game, but I was able to regroup and reinforce on my right flank. I pulled ahead 4 medals to 2 when Ken played an airstrike command card and wiped out two of my infantry units, pulling the Germans even at 4-4. Luckily, I had just drawn my own artillary strike command card and was able to destroy another of his units to pull out the victory. There was lots of tension in the game, as well as some frustration at the card draw. The Axis player is short handed unit and card-wise, but Ken played it smart and stayed put most of the game waiting for me to advance. I look forward to playing more scenarios.


Tonight, we had a rare evening free so it was time for some family gaming. Julie wanted to join us and I wanted to try something new (and unplayed), so I pulled out La Strada. I hadn't read the rules before, but this game is easy enough to learn on the spot. This game plays very quickly I would compare it to Transamerica (which I also like) with a bit more strategy and challenge. I'm curious to see how player order affects the outcome of the game in the long run (the first player appears to have a distinct advantage), but win or lose everyone had a good time. Julie and I tied with 24 points each, I won the resource tiebreaker. Matthew was third with 20, Jacob 19.

Jacob, Matthew, and I then brought out Tongiaki. After a quick rules refresher, we were off and running. Matthew plays this game in an interesting way: he gets very focused on sailing to new islands at any cost, often abandoning islands to his opponents. I guess he needs to work on his strategy a bit, but everyone still had fun. Final scores: Chris 30, Jacob 27, Matthew 13.