Stopped by my friendly Rainy Day Games store over lunch today to pick up two new games: Balloon Cup and Quicksand. I walked in planning to get just Balloon Cup (I played it with Angela last month), but the owner gave such glowing remarks about Quicksand that I just had to pick it up. Since it is such a new release, I'll try and write a review sometime over the next few weeks.
I’ve made great progress on development over the past week. Quick status update:
- Core engine is essentially complete. At least complete enough that I feel good moving on to the first UI.
- The scoring algorithm was a bit tricky, but turned out to be very similar to the expropriation algorithm. In fact, I’m going to be looking for some refactoring opportunities in both sets of code. What I really need is a “street traversal visitor” of some sort, but I haven’t thought it through enough yet.
- I’m up to about 30 unit tests right now – they’ve been instrumental in supporting some pretty heavy refactoring efforts.
- My first UI will just be a standalone, Windows forms, hot-seat client to validate overall gameplay.
- My next UI will probably be a web-based, real-time interface.
- Finally, I plan to make a winforms-based networked real-time interface. Hmmm… maybe I’ll use web services for the client protocol.
I might post another source drop this weekend in case anyone wants to see the core engine. I’ve got two weeks of vacation coming up at Keuka Lake so I hope to have a working beta by the time I get back.
I'm working on an online version of the game Fresh Fish by Friedemann Friese. Some folks have asked to see early versions of the source code, particularly the expropriation algorithm. I'll post more thoughts on the design and implementation right here in a sort of development diary, so stay tuned. You can download the source right here.
TechEd is essentially over for me - I'll be driving to the airport tomorrow morning and should be home by around noon. It was a good week - though only about half of the presentations I attended met my expectations. I was able to use the week to write some long overdue white papers on integrating .NET into the Corillian Voyager platform, as well as play with some message-based concept code I've been working on with our chief architects, Scott Hanselman and Bradley McLain. Clemens' talk on AOP cemented many concepts I've been thinking about incorporating, particularly relating to session management and audit logging. If only this stuff was baked into the .NET framework today.
The highlight of the show for me was Scott Hanselman's presentation (that's Scott on the left schmoozing the crowd before his talk): Learning to Love WSDL. Granted I'm a bit biased, but damn he's good at this. He has a way of blending humor and personal stories with great content.
On a much lighter note, I ran into Scott Ladewig (that's Scott on the right, I'm on the left), a college roommate and old friend (well, he's young, but we've been friends for around 17 years I suppose). Scott manages the IT infrastructure at the Washington University School of Business. Scott and I lived in the same dorm freshman year, then shared a suite our sophomore year. Scott was a ChemE and one of the smartest engineering students I knew at Wash U. He worked for Exxon for a while, but decided he liked computers more so went back to WashU for a couple of graduate degrees and ended up working there. I was absolutely floored when I ran into him at the show, and I'm glad we got some time together.
Scott and I wrapped up the evening at the closing TechEd party, featuring Smashmouth and the Wallflowers. The Wallflowers were amazing - I've been a fan since their first album and they didn't disappoint. Great way to end the week.
My streak of hooking up with extremely cool groups of gamers across the USA continued this week. I'm in Dallas, TX for Microsoft TechEd, and managed to hook up with The Card Benders, a group of about 6-10 gamers that meets twice a week. Member John Haley was kind enough to respond to my query for groups on spielfrieks, so I joined them at a local Borders.
Turns out my timing was perfect - they had 7 show up, but 5 of them desperately wanted to play Mare Nostrum, but were reluctant to leave the other two to fend for themselves. I made three, so everyone was happy. I spent the evening gaming with Tim Isakson and Charles Schwope. On to the games:
We kicked things off with this game about dinosaur migration and plate tectonics. This one reminded me of Clans, but I enjoyed this more. I think the theme works, and I enjoy games with evolving playing surfaces. I felt that I could wrap my brain around the shifting out of tiles, and I think I played fairly well. I had a shot at winning, but Charles pulled ahead at the end with some strong moves. Might have to pick this one up.
I've been wanting to play this one since reading the Gathering reports, so after spotting this in the bag-o-games, I requested we try this one next. In Paris Paris you are trying to open businesses in strategic locations in Paris to take advantage of the tourist bus lines. Some call this game light, but there's clearly a strategic element to this game and I want to play some more. Most likely I'll give it a try on BSW a few times before purchasing. I got crushed in this game - don't recall the score, but I was in third and down by at least 8 points.
(Good Deal Hunt)
This is a very unique trick-taking game. Rather than just trying to take the most tricks, or trying to avoid certain poison cards, players are trying to accumulate specific face values (the target changes throughout the game) or melds of other face values. For example, I might start the game trying to accumulate 3's, but will of course accumulate (by taking tricks) other numbers as well. The goal is to consolidate the collection of other cards to as few distinct face values as possible. Scoring at the end is calculated by subtracting the number of "other" cards from the number of targets accumulated. After each hand, players can exchange cards in their bad pile by sending a single face value back to the deck. Players get to transfer any cards in excess of three to their good pile. The result is that early in the game players are trying to take tricks and accumulate groups, while later in the game players are avoiding tricks, dumping cards from their hand, and trying to take only tricks that help them get target cards or consolidate their holdings. I was happy to score zero; I believe Tim won.
This is a fun, light card game where players are trying to accumulate sets of cards, and players get the choice of choosing one of a set of face-up cards or flipping until a better one shows up. If a card is turned up that is the same suit as an existing card, then that card is discarded and the player loses a turn. Scoring is straightforward, but just read the BGG entry to see more. I just learned that the Star Wars: Attack of the Clones card game is the same game - my kids will like this one. Tim won this game easily.
The group playing Mare Nostrum finished at about this time, so we sat around chatting about gaming, geekness, and Oregon. We somehow got on the subject of train games, and Randy Shipp shared a hilarious story about a letter he wrote to the designer of Tracks to Telluride (John Bohrer) about what he (and the group) thought were some design flaws. Apparently John didn't think too highly of Randy's comments and questioned the sophistication of his American gaming audience. You'll have to ask him yourself for the whole story and the punchline.