Gaming with the Arizona Boardgamers (Night 2)

Saturday night I headed east from my hotel to Rob Smolka’s house for some more
gaming. I was pretty beat after 27 holes of golf and 3 hours of instruction
but I’m not complaining – I rarely pass on an opportunity like this. Rob and
Tammy have a great home for hosting, and by the time I arrived at 7pm there
were already two tables up and running. Rob, Tammy, Jason, and Bobby were
standing by waiting for me to arrive so we could start a game of El Grande. At
the other table a game of La Citta was also getting started. Again, I’ll
provide more pics than commentary.

El Grande

This one has been on my “need to play” list for some time, and I made a
special request to the Arizona
before coming down
to get this one out. First, the game is just beautiful – the colors fit the
Spanish theme well, and the colors are distinct enough to quickly count cubes.

El Grande is an influence game – players are trying to move their caballeros
into regions of spain to gain control by having a majority position. Actions
allow players to introduce new caballeros, shift their own and others’
caballeros, and interfere with the actions of others. Turn order can be very
important, and each player has cards numbered 1-13 that are played during a
turn order auction. Bobby, Rob, Tammy, and Jason joined me, with Jason doing a
great job explaining the rules. I’ve learned that I have a hard time focusing
on all of the rules at the start – I’m lacking any context from which to
understand the details, so I usually like to get started quickly and figure it
out as I go. As a result I usually have a poor showing in my first play of
most games (OK, some would say I have poor showings in most subsequent plays
as well, but that’s a topic for another day).

I was impressed with Jason’s play of this game – he clearly thought through a
strategy early on and stuck with it. Rob hung close most of the game, with
Tammy, Bobby, and I pulling up the rear. I wish I had a detailed game log of
this one to better understand Jason’s approach, but I’m fairly certain he
focused on getting a presence everywhere he could, even settling for second
and third in most of the regions. My greatest frustration was turn order – I
didn’t get some of the nuances around positioning leading up to each of the 3
scoring rounds, and I ended up still holding my 1 and 13 cards in my hand at
the end of the game. I didn’t do too poorly though – I finished third behind
Jason (see how far he got on scoring track below) and Rob.

La Citta

Not much to say about this one since I didn’t play it, but I do have a picture
to show. I think that’s Matthew on the left, and I think that’s Scott on the
right. Scott won the game.

Mamma Mia!

I really don’t like memory games. This is a cute little filler, but I just
don’t like games where I need to keep track of card counts in multiple
buckets. I don’t mind tracking broad strokes or trends, but detailed card
counting just isn’t my gig. I only managed to complete one pizza order, and
Jason won again.

Fresh Fish

Bobby asked for me to teach him this game, and Jason and Tammy joined for a
4-player game. I’m getting pretty good at teaching this game, and this was a
very sharp group so they picked it up quickly. As good as I am with the
expropriation rules, I still haven’t made it through a game without at least
one missed street tile placement. I am getting better at playing this game and
learning the right tricks to force street placement. Jason and Bobby were very
quick at picking up strategy, and it was a close match. Tammy got herself in a
bind early by being forced to place her fish shop before she wanted to. I had
a similar event happen as my last playing at Kevin’s house – I had three solid
positions cemented, then got a short route turned into a max route do to an
end-game misplay. Jason won with 7, Bobby scored 9, Chris 18, and Tammy 22. We
used gold for tie-breakers.


It was time for me to leave after Fresh Fish, but there was a game of Mexica
going on so I took a few pictures. I think that’s Matthew, Rob, Jeff, and
Jeff’s wife. If I screwed up any of the names, post a comment and I’ll

My thanks go out to the group for their hospitality, especially Rob and Tammy.
Let me know if you ever head up my way!

Day 1 of Golf School

It was a long, hot, but fun day here in the greater Phoenix area. Steve and I
spent the morning and afternoon at golf school with our great instructor Ubie
Gentile. It typically takes a few weeks for intense lessons like this to
settle in and impact my game in a positive way. For now I’m just a jumble of
different swing thoughts.

Here are a few of the things I need to work on for my own references:

  • My setup with my irons and fairway woods needs to be more balanced. Currently I have too much right-tilt, which is appropriate off the tee.
  • I need to lower my hands in all of my full swing shots. Let them hang down naturally to find their proper position.
  • My grip was a bit too neutral – need to be a bit weaker.
  • With my height and flexibility, I need to be careful not to over-swing. Ubie recommends about a 75-80% effort on my swings to get more under control and maintain repeatable ball flight.
  • Perhaps my biggest challenge right now is a lower body that is too busy. Work on keeping it still, particularly my knees.
  • Maintain a strong finish.

Today we played 18 holes at Las Sendas after our lessons, 9 of them with Ubie.
Playing the course with the pro is always the highlight, since I appreciate
hearing about course management, shot selection, and dealing with the variable
conditions on the course. Tomorrow we’ll play 9 at Last Sendas and as many
holes as we can stand at the Arizona Golf Resort.

Gaming with the Arizona Boardgamers (Night 1)

I was able to stay awake late enough tonight to join the Arizona Boardgamers at Gamer’s Edge in Chandler. It was a fun, welcoming
crowd and I look forward to seeing some of them again tomorrow. I’ll give a
quick rundown of the games with some pictures.


My first play of this game, and I enjoyed it very much. Players are tycoons
jetting from major city to city to build hotels, factories, gaining money in a
number of ways:

  • Having the highest or second-highest number of hotels in a city.
  • Having factories in a city.
  • Having a broad distribution of presence in the 9 cities.
  • Bonus points for having factories in the city with the most number of hotels built out.

Hotels are worth more in some cities than in others. One interesting mechanic
– the more built out a city gets, the more money the leaders in that city get,
up to a point at which their value degrades (over-crowding I suppose). Fun
game – it flowed quickly and had a diversity of methods to score.

Jeff won, followed by Junior, Chris, and Rob.


Steve, Jason, and someone else that left early played Java. I don’t think they
finished the game, but I think Steve was in the lead when they had to stop.

New England

There were six of us left at this point, so we split into two groups of three.
Jason, Steve, and I decided to play New England. This one surprised me – I
enjoyed it and look forward to playing it again. I started developing quickly
and raced to a substantial lead, but Steve’s plan to build an early income
source by choosing villagers and using his cash to develop valuable properties
in the mid- and end-game. Steve won, with Jason and I finishing very close.

Anno 1452

Junior, Jeff, and Rob played this game, which I had never seen before tonight.
The board reminds me of
Wallenstein, and Rob
Smolka even referred to it as “Wallenstein Lite”. I left before the game
finished, but they looked like they were enjoying themselves.

Off to Arizona

Tonight I’ll be speaking at a Software Association of Oregon Web Services Panel, then tomorrow morning I take an early flight to Phoenix, Arizona. Next
week is the American Banker Online 2003 conference at which
I’ll be on another panel where
we’ll discuss the future of online financial services.

Never one to miss out on a chance to mix some fun with business, I’m leaving
tomorrow morning so I can spend a couple of days learning how to (better?)
play golf
I’ll give a report sometime this weekend on my progress.

Also, Saturday night I hope to hook up with the Arizona
, who were kind
enough to invite me over for some gaming fun. Hopefully I won’t be too dried
up from the blistering
to enjoy myself.

Julie’s Recipes

My wife happens to be an amazing cook. On the few nights each week that we are
actually able to site down as a family and eat together, Julie treats us very
well. She also knows how to cook for a crowd (I could never get the multiple-
dish-timing thing down) and our friends and family often ask for copies of her
recipes. She keeps track of them electronically so I’ll post them here (254.92 KB). I thought about taking
the time to turn her recipe list into some sort of RSS feed, but for now you
can deal with the plain text.