Where’s Chris?

I’m back in San Francisco – it has been a crazy week.

Nice photo from the top of a downtown SFO building.

  • Tue – in Columbus, OH visiting customers.
  • Wed – traveled to Los Angeles (Ontario actually).
  • Thu – Gave a brief talk at the California Bankers Association Annual Electronic Commerce Conference in Ontario. Jumped on another plane to head to San Francisco for a reprise.
  • Fri – Will give the same talk at the northern Cal episode of the conference. Fly back to Portland.

I was in San Francisco last week for our board meeting. I took this photo from
the office building of one of our board members – amazing view from there of
most of downtown SFO.

Will be nice to get back home – baseball games for both of the boys on Friday
night, some gaming on Saturday, and an anniversary dinner Saturday night (12
years!).

Reading Masters of Doom

I picked up the book Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and
Transformed Pop Culture

by David Kushner this week while in Columbus. This is a great book – right up
there with The Soul of a New
Machine
and Show-
stopper!
. Having lived
through this era (Wolfenstein 3D to Doom to Quake), it is especially nostalgic
to recount the impact Carmack and Romero had on our culture. The first time I
ever played Doom deathmatch was actually on an SGI box while working at Wright
Labratory for the USAF doing cockpit research.

Session Report – An Evening at Plenary Games World Headquarters

I traveled to Colorado Springs this week for a business trip, and had the
pleasure of spending an evening at Plenary Games headquarters with Angela Gaalema. I’ve
been a gamer for most of my life, but have only recently become engaged with
the boardgaming world. These games are indeed wonderful, but it is clear to me
that the reason this community is so vibrant is the people. I spend way too
much time on the road, but it is amazing how easy it has been to hook up with
folks in the gaming network no matter where I travel. In the Seattle area I
managed to hook up with two guys in a brewpub for an evening of gaming; a
month later in Redmond I joined the crowd at
WizKids for a great
session
. While in
Providence, RI I had a chance encounter with Lawrence Whalen of Face2Face
games
. And of course right in my hometown of
Portland there’s a great presence of regular gaming groups, like
PortlandGamers and the
crowd at
Benjamin’s.

Angela was very quick to answer my email letting her know I would be in
Colorado Springs and was kind enough to invite me to her home and company
headquarters. I purchased Fresh
Fish
recently
directly from Plenary , so I was very curious to see how she manages her
operations (and of course to play some games).

My visit started with a tour of her warehouse, which sits on top of a recently
covered indoor pool. Angela assembles all of her shipments (from the source
components) by hand, and she has certainly been very busy lately keeping up
with her orders (I think I recall her mentioning that she shipped around 250
copies this week). Her warehouse is full of big empty boxes for shipping,
unsorted stacks of tiles, wooden bits (yes, including the often maligned
red/orange ones), game boxes, inserts, rules, and game boards. I asked many
questions about the business and Angela was extremely forthcoming about the
challenges she faced getting the game shipped in such short order – the
project didn’t even start until around October of last year. She is clearly
envious of the higher quality printing available from German printers – even
though it would be cheaper for her to send her printing overseas, she is
(understandably) unwilling to give up the control and predictability of
working with American printers. In any case, her first offering is a great
first effort and I look forward to seeing the future releases from Plenary.

Angela then showed me her game collection (allowing me to further rationalize
my meager collection and feel safe that I’m not nearly as much of a gaming
geek as my wife might think) and we spent some time talking about her recent
trip to the Gathering of Friends. Then we spent some time gaming.

Balloon Cup

Having read about this game for some time on
spielfrieks, I was very eager to
try this (still hard to find) offering by Stephen Glenn and Kosmos/Rio Grande
Games. I don’t get the theme and how it relates to the game (well, I guess I
do, but it is not a natural linkage), but I think the game is fantastic. In
this two-player card game, players compete for color bits that vary in rarity
– if you accumulate a certain number of bits (smaller number for the rarer
bits) of a certain color, you win the corresponding trophy card for that
color. Win 3 of the 5 trophy cards, and you win the game. At any given time,
there are 4 landscape cards on the table with 1, 2, 3, or 4 bits of varying
colors on each one. Depending on the card, each player is trying to accumulate
the lowest or highest score of a set of cards matching the colored bits on the
landscape card. So if a card has a “high” goal with a red and blue bit on it,
then each player is trying to lay down the highest combination of a red and
blue card to claim those bits. Player interaction and disruption comes from
the ability to play cards on your opponents side of the table (e.g., play a
high card when the goal is to achieve a low score).

Angela got off to a flying start in our game, and while I managed to claw my
way back to respectability, she easily won the game. This is a fantastic
2-player game that I will be sure to pick up as soon as I can find it.
Funagain claims
that they will have it in stock by the end of May.

Clans

Clans is an interesting game. It has a theme of nomadic groups that
consolidate to form groups and villages. There is a hidden element to the
scoring in that players do not know what color (tribe) each other player is
trying to push forward, but this game mostly plays like an abstract strategy
game with a nice theme and pretty bits. Angela beat me handily in this game,
but I can’t say I was terribly engaged – a bit too abstract for me. Not a game
I plan to add to my collection.

Kupferkessel

(Copper Pot Company)

This is a beautiful two-player card game – the theme revolves around wizards
trying to accumulate ingredients for spells. There is a memory component to
the game, as each player is trying to consolidate on a few sets of ingredients
– players in general are rewarded for collecting multiple instances of a
particular ingredient and penalized for getting only one of a specific type.
The catch is the players are not permitted to inspect their stack of collected
ingredients, so it is important to memorize what has been collected. There is
a small degree of player interaction – there are certain cards that can force
the top card of the opponent’s ingredient deck to be discarded. I finally
managed to win a game against Angela – this game played very quickly, and I
enjoyed the mechanic and loved the theme and artwork. I’ll definitely play
this again and may consider adding it to my collection.

Mush

Angela wanted to try this older game by Alan Moon – in fact, she was given
this by Alan Moon himself at the recent Gathering of Friends. Mush is
essentially a roll-and-move racing game set in the theme of dogsled racing in
Alaska. I’m not a huge fan of racing games, and the mechanic felt very cliched
– players can decide to rest or move (or even press their dogs after they’ve
moved). The harder players push their dogs, the slower they will ultimately
go. I won this again, but we were both eager to get it over with. Nice theme,
but not my cup of tea.

Puerto Rico

It was pretty late (12:15am or so) by this time, and I was preparing to go
when I mentioned how much I liked Puerto Rico. I’ve only played about 4 times,
but I like the game enough that I’m sure I could play at least daily (I really
need to start playing on BSW – my handle is
CaptainCaveman in case you care). Angela offered to play me using the two-
player variant where each player plays two separate boards. I’m still trying
to grasp some of the strategic subtleties of this game, but I had a blast
losing to Angela (she claims to have logged over 300 BSW games last year).

Session Report – Sunday Gaming in Sherwood

I scheduled a fairly impromptu afternoon of gaming at my house this Sunday –
Doug and Mimi joined us, fresh from their trip to the Gathering of Friends in
Columbus, as did Kevin Graham.

Games Played: Goldland, Amun Re, Bohn Hansa, King Lui

Goldland

Played By: Chris B. Matthew B. Jacob B.

Game Length: 60 min.

Jacob, Matthew and I decided to give Goldland a try while we waited for our
guests to arrive. This is one of the nicest looking games I’ve seen to date.
Very high quality cardboard cutouts, solid wooden pieces, and fantastic
artwork. This just arrived on Saturday and only had the German rules so I went
to the ‘geek and printed the very well done English
version
.

Matthew’s strategy was to get to the “goal” square as quickly as possible, get
his amulet, and take the pool of reserve gold. Jacob spent his time finishing
as many adventures as he could, then working his way to the amulet. I never
quite made it to the goal to get my amulet, but focused exclusively on
finishing adventures. On the second-to-last turn, I managed to steal an
adventure token away from Jacob, which put me in the lead for good. My initial
rating is 8 – especially since it will be easy to get the kids to play this
one again.

Winner(s): Chris B.

Finish: 1-Chris B. 2-Jacob B. 3-Matthew B.

Amun Re

Doug and Julie at Amun Re.

Played By: Chris B. Julie B. Doug W. Mimi W. Kevin G.

Game Length: 120 min.

This was a first play for all but Doug and Mimi, who had played this recently
at the Gathering of Friends in Columbus. I had specifically requested Doug to
bring this one. Julie decided to join us.

Wow – lots of choices to make in this game, and I can’t comment too much on
strategy – if you want that, talk to Julie since she smoked us! In the first
era, she focused on getting many farmers and managed to remain pharoah each
round. In the second era, she built pyramids like crazy and ran way with the
victory.

I want to play this a few more times before I consider purchasing it. Given
the choice between this and Puerto Rico, I think I would choose PR.

Winner(s): Julie B.

Finish: 1-Julie B. (48) 2-Doug W. (41) 3-Chris B. (40) 4-Mimi W. (39) 5-Kevin
G. (37)

Bohn Hansa (Bean Trader)

Matthew getting ready to play Bean Trader.

Played By: Chris B. Matthew B. Doug W. Mimi W. Kevin G.

Game Length: 90 min.

Kevin was eager to try this trading game, based loosely on the popular card
game Bohnanza. Matthew decided to join us. This was a bit challenging for him,
though afterwards he said he loved it (though not as much as Goldland). My
strategy wasn’t too involved – finish as many of my contracts as I could,
trading as necessary along the way. I had a few fortunate “invitations” that
brought me closer to my target cities, and managed to win the game. I’d like
to think there’s more to this game than that, but I don’t think there is. I’ll
give this one a 6 – I’d play it if offered, but won’t seek it out.

Winner(s): Chris B.

King Lui

Played By: Chris B. Doug W. Mimi W. Kevin G.

Game Length: 30 min.

We played this very light card game as a closer. The deck contains cards
representing dishes of a king’s feast (ham, wine, turkey, etc.). Each turn, 8
cards from the deck are laid out in front of the players. In turn, a player
chooses one of the dishes to add to his collection (there may be multiples).
Any cards not taken go to the king’s table. At the end of the game, you get
points for each card of a particular dish – the points per card being the
total number that the king holds. So, if you hold 3 wine cards in your hand
and the king ends up with 5 on his table, you would get 15 points.

The catch is this: if you have more cards than the king, you don’t get any
points for that dish. There is also the dragon cards, which you can play to
eat some (two cards) of a particular dish from the king’s table. This is how
you can mess with your neighbor.

Fun game – suspect my kids would like it. I’ll give it a 7 – comparable to
other lighter fare like Fluxx.

Winner(s): Chris B., Doug W.

Session Report generated by GameTracker ((C)Goldraven 2002)

Session Report – Sunday in Sherwood, OR

I hosted my first open gaming event on Sunday, April 13, at my home in
Sherwood, OR. We had a great turnout, we three folks I’ve gamed with before
(Ken, Brandon, and Kevin) and three newcomers (Matt, Jeremy, and Elliott)
joining the fray. I’ll do this again sometime in May, so let me
know
if you’d like to be on my notification
list.

Attendees: Chris Brooks, Ken Rude, Brandon Rude, Jacob Brooks, Matthew Brooks, Julie Brooks, Kevin Graham, Jeremy Hauss, Matt Riley, Elliott Mitchell

Games Played: Carcassonne – Builders and Traders, Apples to Apples, Settlers of Catan, Drakon, Piratenbucht, Wyatt Earp, Landlord

Carcassonne – Builders and Traders

Played By: Chris B. Jacob B. Matthew B. Julie B. Kevin G. Jeremy H.

Game Length: 60 min.

This was everyone’s first time playing the new Builders and Traders expansion
for Carcassonne. We played with The Expansion as well (helpful since we had 6
players). This was a light game given the variance in age and experience in
the group.

Builders and Traders adds a great new mechanic which creates a sort of “co-
opetition” – there’s now an incentive to finish certain buildings that supply
trade goods. No longer is it a no-brainer to ensure your opponent’s buildings
remain incomplete. If there are special tiles in the building for trade goods,
if you finish the building you get those goods. The player with the most of a
particular good at the end of the game gets 10 bonus points.

There are 2 new “meeples” in the game: Pig (we call him “piggle”) and Builder.
The Pig is placed like a farmer, but doesn’t score points on his own –
instead, he increases the value of each of the cities supplied by your farmers
in the pig’s region. The builder is placed on either a road or a building, and
when you extend the builder’s road or city, you get to take an extra tile and
place it.

In this game, I got over-committed to one particularly large city with a
cathedral that I ultimately had no hope of finishing. I finished second-to-
last, barely edging out my 6 year old son. Jeremy, clearly a seasoned
Carcassonne player, played a disciplined game and scored some bonuses for
trade goods. He won by a good margin.

Winner(s): Jeremy H.

Apples to Apples

Played By: Chris B. Jacob B. Matthew B. Julie B. Kevin G. Jeremy H. Matt R.
Elliott M.

Game Length: 45 min.

Since the bulk of the group had arrived (minus Ken and Brandon), we decided to
play a round of Apples to Apples “by the book”. i say by the book because
within the family we usually don’t play with the timing rules. I’ve found
that, particularly with large groups, the timing rule (last card played
doesn’t count) really speeds the game along. This was a fun game – great way
to get to know the new guys (Matt, Jeremy, Elliott), but I was ready to move
on to something a bit meatier.

Winner(s): Matt R.

Settlers of Catan – Cities and Knights

Played By: Brandon R. Jacob B. Matthew B.

Game Length: 60 min.

The Jacob and Matthew decided to teach Brandon how to play the Cities and
Knights expansion to Settlers. Needless to say, a 6 and 8 year old explaining
this non-trivial expansion to a 12 year old was a bit tough, but they got
through a few rounds. They tired after several rounds and decided to go play
computer games.

Winner(s):

Finish: Brandon R. Jacob B. Matthew B.

Drakon

Played By: Chris B. Ken R. Kevin G. Jeremy H. Matt R. Elliott M.

Game Length: 90 min.

Everyone wanted to stay together for our next game, so we had limited choices
for 6 players. I had seen Drakon played when I was at the WizKids store in
Redmond and thought it looked interesting, so we gave this a whirl.

Drakon is a dungeon-crawling game that reminded me of Zombies, though it does
have a bit more depth. There’s a degree of strategy, but not enough to keep me
interested. Testament to that is the fact that I had to go to the restroom,
and my opponents were able to play my last two turns for me (I ended up
winning). I’d play it again if forced, but don’t think I’ll be buying it
anytime soon.

Winner(s): Chris B.

Piratenbucht

Played By: Ken R. Kevin G. Jeremy H. Elliott M.

Game Length: 90 min.

This was the first play of my new copy of Piratenbucht – unfortunately I
didn’t get to play! I spent about 15 minutes explaining the rules, showing off
my english language tavern cards, then set them on their way. There was some
rule confusion at times, but they found their way through it and had a great
game. Ken came from behind in the last round to win the game. They played the
semi-random Blackbeard variant, where he moves either 1 or 2 islands forward
each turn after players have chosen their island.

Winner(s): Ken R.

Wyatt Earp

Played By: Chris B. Julie B. Matt R.

Game Length: 45 min.

I love this card game! I first played it with Andy Christensen up in Bellevue
WA and had recently bought a copy for myself. Julie, Matt, and I only had time
for 1 hand since Matt had to get going. I think Julie and Matt enjoyed the
game.

Wyatt Earp is a rummy-style card game with a Western theme. Melds represent
your efforts to capture an outlaw like Billy the Kid, Jesse James, etc. Turns
out we were not exactly playing by the rules (we forgot that you can only play
one sheriff card per turn and that each outlaw starts with a $1000 reward).

Winner(s):

Finish: Chris B. Julie B. Matt R.

Landlord

Played By: Chris B. Ken R. Kevin G. Elliott M.

Game Length: 60 min.

Kevin introduced us to this light closer – interesting theme, since I just got
out of the landlord business myself. The opportunity to get revenge on tenants
was mighty inviting.

The game was mildly enjoyable – I’m fairly certain that Kevin won, but I can’t
quite remember.

Winner(s): Kevin G.