Monday, April 30, 2007

What Is It?

Several years ago I purchased this item from a garage sale here in Australia. I have no idea what it is. It is a slim wooden box with a slide-off back. It appears to be hand-made. It measures 28cm x 23cm x 2cm. The image below is of the front of the box.

The back of the box has a lid which slides off. The box contains 15 numbered wooden tiles measuring 6cm x 5cm.

The numbers are placed in a certain order within the box. I know this because whoever owned the box prior to me has pencilled in the place for each number on the inside of the bottom of the box. Each tile has two tiny nails on either side of the number. The numbers appears to have been painted on via a stencil. There is a space for one further number but as there is no pencilled mark in this space denoting a number 16 my assumption is that the space is there for a reason.

One other clue is that certain numbers appear to be more smudged in their middle than others. You'll notice that the numbers in the bottom right of the image appear to have been more handled than the numbers in the top left of the image. I'm assuming the smudging has been caused by fingers moving the tiles over the years.

My first thought was that this was one of those games where you slide tiles without lifting them to make a pattern or image. But if so, why aren't the tiles square? My other thought was that the tiles could be some scoring system for a game.

Has anyone got any ideas what this may be?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

4 Minute Showers

We're currently in the middle of a drought. Last week, our local Sunday paper, The Sunday Mail, in partnership with the Queensland Water Commission distributed a handy 4 minute shower-timer as part of the Government's campaign to get people to reduce their shower-time to four minutes and help meet the target of 140 litres per person a day.

Apparently, if southeast Queenslanders cut their shower times from seven to four minutes, it would save 90 million litres a day, enough to fill 90 Olympic pools.

It's interesting to see how long one actually takes to have a shower. I've found that since installing the timer I take approximately 3 minutes to have a shower. I guess that's been helped by recently getting a number 1 haircut (that's the shortest setting on the clippers) so that saves some time on the hair-washing. I need only the tiniest dab of shampoo to lather up the remaining 3mm or so of hair stubble.

So there's the new advertisement campaign for the Queensland Water Commission; everyone cut your hair short to reduce the time you spend in the shower. Sure, I make that comment in jest, but who knows, things are getting pretty serious.

Having said that I bet this time next year we'll be experiencing floods.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 16

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother and daughter. Highlight today was being joined by my wife for a three player game of Scrabble.
First up, Maddie, Grandma and I played Maddie's choice of Hide & Seek by Ravensburger. This is a children's memory game where players roll a die to guess which item is below that particular coloured wooden disc. I came first with 13, Grandma was 2nd with 11 and Maddie was 3rd on 6. Maddie normally does quite well on memory games but she appeared a little distracted during this game as her younger sister, Georgia, was toddling around the table making funny noises.

Maddie chose the next game as well. Gulo Gulo has been a favourite in our household since I bought it back around Xmas 2005. I'm always amazed at the dexterity Maddie displays with her tiny fingers, nimbly plucking out the smooth wooden eggs with ease. She's a bit of a showoff as well; she'll often select the most difficult coloured egg to demonstrate how good she is. With skill like that Grandma and I find it difficult to compete. Maddie went on to take the win.

After that we were joined by my wife, Deb. We agreed to play a three player game of Scrabble with her, Grandma and myself.

Turn 1 [Mum] MAIL 12, [Deb] B(A)BY 17, [Me] (L)ENT 8

Turn 2 [Mum] (Y)E(N) 8, [Deb] (T)OYS 7, [Me] (Y)ET 12

Turn 3 [Mum] (T)AN 3, [Deb] O(N)CE 21, [Me] CURVE(S) 19

Turn 4 [Mum] JUN(E) 19, [Deb] SPI(C)E 9, [Me] TOIL(S) 10
Turn 5 [Mum] GO(T) 6, [Deb] ROGu(E) 7, [Me] DU(O) 8

Turn 6 [Mum] RI(D) 4, [Deb] N(I)T 6, [Me] (O)H/H(E) 20

Turn 7 [Mum] A(R)E 9, [Deb] E(G)O 4, [Me] oXID(E) 36

Turn 8 [Mum] PIAN(O) 8, [Deb] (P)RAM 16, [Me] (oXIDE)S/S(O) 15

Turn 9 [Mum] FOR(M) 17, [Deb] HEI(R) 14, [Me] (O)WL 10

Turn 10 [Mum] WAD(E) 16, [Deb] NO(W) 18, [Me] SEL(F) 33

Turn 11 [Mum] (F)AT 6, [Deb] (T)AKE 18, [Me] Pass

Turn 12 [Mum] (A)VID 8, [Deb] QUA(K)E 18
Deb caused the game to end by playing QUAKE and using up the last of her letters. I was left with IGRZ for minus 14 and Mum was left with LT for minus 2, thus Deb got to add 16 points to her final score. Mum played JUNE on turn 4 and I only picked up on it being an unintentional phoney after she'd selected her replacement tiles so we let it stand.
Final scores were Deb on 171, me on 157 and Mum on 114. It was certainly a different feeling playing Scrabble with three players. There's an extra player to factor into your planning stage and I found Deb, who always went prior to me, often grabbed the spot I'd been planning on using. It was still an enjoyable game though.
After that Grandma and Maddie played Hive against each other. I taught Maddie to play Hive about a year ago and she quickly learned how each piece moved and had started to pick up the elements of game strategy. Grandma has played only a couple of games in the last year or so. I watched and advised on rules questions. Grandma won the first game and Maddie won the second.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Hammer For...What?

Last week I attended a two-day conference for the state leadership of the organisation for which I work. At the end of the conference we were given a large brown paper bag. I assumed it was to hold the many papers we had been given over the two days concerning the strategic direction for our organisation. When I opened the bag I found a small orange hammer made of the same squishy material of which stress balls are composed. The hammer is only about 10 cm (4 inches) in length.

You know what the first thing I thought of when I pulled out the hammer? It was the scene from Team America: World Police when Gary is being briefed for his first mission, Spottswoode prepares him for the fact that if he is captured he might want to take his own life. To that end, he supplies him with...a hammer.
As a stress ball it pretty ineffective. It's too thin to give a decent stress-relieving squeeze. I've tried bashing it against my temple and although this feels kinda nice, it generates strange glances from my co-workers.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Old West Buildings - Dry Goods Store

Here are some pictures of another of my old west buildings I have constructed for use in miniatures games. This one is a dry goods store. You can see more here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Postcards From Brisbane - ANZAC Square

ANZAC Day, 25 April, marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

Here are some photos of ANZAC Square and the Shrine of Remembrance in Brisbane, Australia. All photos can be clicked on to enlarge.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

LEST WE FORGET

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

William Barker - WWI Canadian Fighter Ace

I was browsing in a city thrift store this morning and came across BARKER VC - The Life, Death and Legend of Canada's Most Decorated War Hero. It's a biography of William Barker a World War I Canadian fighter ace and Victoria Cross winner. Naturally, I had to add it to my collection of WWI air combat books.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Australian Military Uniforms

I went for a walk to Anzac Square at morning tea today to take some photos of the Shrine of Remembrance. I'll post those photos on Anzac Day which is on the 25th of April.

I found that there was a service being held at the Shrine which was being attended by school children from around Brisbane. There were military personnel from all the services in attendance as well. Off to the side of the Shrine were standing three men in uniforms which I instantly recognised as being from previous wars.

Ian Sparke as a World War I Australian Infantryman - Western Front

I went over to talk to them. I thought at first they may have been a re-enactment or living history group but it turns out they were from a company called SparkeFilms which was founded by Ian Sparke (that's him in the photo above).

World War I Australian Infantryman with a Lewis Gun - Western Front

Ian explained that SparkeFilms is a history design company which is involved with the production of military history documentaries, films and mini-series. They have a large number of military uniforms, webbing and props from wars throughout history that they can hire out to film productions or even to the public.

Australian Infantryman - Vietnam War

They kindly agreed to pose for some photos. So there you go. You never know what you're going to see when you go for a walk at morning tea in the city.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

BBQ, Bar & Beer

Steve & Fran, old friends of ours, invited us over for a BBQ lunch today. We hadn't seen them since New Years Eve. It was also a chance for them to show us the result of some recent home renovations they have made. They've built a family room/bar in a room under the house, a deck in their back yard and a wooden fort/play area for their two little boys.
I've known Steve for almost 20 years. We used to play Dungeons & Dragons together. Even back then Steve had fantasised about having his own bar with beer on tap. Well, a wife, 2 kids and a mortgage later, Steve's fantasy is now reality.

He showed me around. He has a fridge with two kegs of his home-brewed beer hooked up inside. You can pour your own beer from taps on the fridge. We had the choice of a lager and a wheat beer. Both were quite nice. In the other part of the room he has a small home theatre set up.

Mmmm...beer!

Needless to say, we had a lovely afternoon. Deb was the designated driver so I was able to give Steve's bar the full attention it deserved.

I thought I'd post these photos as most blokes would appreciate looking at them. I know Steve is not the only person who would love beer on tap at home.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 15

Another Saturday morning gaming with my mother and daughter.

First up was Ingenious. This is a game designed by the famous Reiner Knizia. It's all about taking turns placing double-coloured tiles onto the board to try to score points. You score points by placing your coloured tile near similar coloured tiles. Each player has a score chart that shows how their individual scores are progressing in each of six different colours. You must try to score points in all six colours because at the end of the game everyone compares their lowest scoring colour; the person whose lowest score is the highest of all the players wins.

Every turn I reminded Maddie to try and score points in her lowest scoring colour. I let her place her own tiles as she saw fit. She was able to also calculate what her score would be each round. And guess what? She won! Final scores were Maddie 1st on 10 (won on tie-break), me 2nd also on 10 and Grandma 3rd on 8.

The next game we played was The Amazing Labyrinth. This is an easy game to handicap for play with kids. Each of us are trying to locate 8 items within the shifting labyrinth. The adults can only look at their top card and that is the item they must find before moving on to the next card. As Maddie is only 5 years old we let her look at her top four cards.

I always enjoy this game. There are elements of luck, bluffing plus also a good dash of strategy. The problem is that the more players there are, the more chance your cleverly planned move will go awry. I came 1st with all 8 items, Grandma came 2nd with 5 items and Maddie came 3rd with 3 items.

After that game Grandma and I sat down to a game of Scrabble together. I went first after selecting an E to Mum's G.

Turn 1 [Me] HONE 14, [Mum] (H)AVE 20

Turn 2 [Me] (HONE)S/SHOOTER 73, [Mum] SIE(V)E 12

Turn 3 [Me] ST(O)OGE 14, [Mum] Q(I) 21

Turn 4 [Me] N(E)XT 22, [Mum] (T)IDE 10

Turn 5 [Me] (D)UD 10, [Mum] (S)IN 3

Turn 6 [Me] LU(R)E 6, [Mum] (H)IP 8

Turn 7 [Me] L(I)/I(N)/LIAR 10, [Mum] (R)YE 6

Turn 8 [Me] (N)UDE 9, [Mum] WI(E)R 21

Turn 9 [Me] Ze(D)S 69, [Mum] LA(W) 6

Turn 10 [Me] BANA(N)A 10, [Mum] (B)YE 12

Turn 11 [Me] PRA(Y) 27, [Mum] (R)AT 5

Turn 12 [Me] LU(N)G 7, [Mum] FOA(L) 14

Turn 13 [Me] MOT(I)F 20, [Mum] B(O)W 16

Turn 14 [Me] K(E)N 14, [Mum] (K)ID 8

Turn 15 [Me] JO(I)nT/n(O)/T(A) 42, [Mum] (BOW)ER 12

Turn 16 [Me] (RAT)IO 5, [Mum] C(O)N 8

Turn 17 [Me] (U)M 12, [Mum] Pass

Turn 18 [Me] (A)G(E)/(A)G 11, [Mum] Pass

Turn 19 [Me] F(LAW) 14, [Mum] -

I had used all my letters and Mum was left with a C, R and V for minus 8 points. I got to add those points to my score. Final scores were [Me] 397 and [Mum] 174. I averaged 20.89 points per turn. Using a 3-minute egg-timer has helped me to hasten my moves.

Probably the most obscure words I played were KEN (knowledge, to know), HONE (to improve or perfect), UM (an expression of doubt or hesitation), AG (agriculture), MOTIF (a recurring subject, theme or idea), ZEDS (the plural of the letter Z or zed), LI (a Chinese unit of distance) and TA (thanks).

I was extremely pleased to get a bingo (i.e. laying all 7 letters down on one turn) with the word SHOOTER on turn 2. Unfortunately, I couldn't get it on a double-word score but at 73 points it was my highest ever score on one turn.

I got both blanks and three S's which I could attribute to my higher tile turnover per turn than my Mum. The more tiles you play the more you draw thus increasing your chances of drawing valuable tiles.

And to top it all off 397 was a personal best for me.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Old West Buildings - Undertaker

Well, here's some eye candy for whoever happens across this blog.

I've always been interested in the tales of the American old west. Over the years I've built up a collection of second-hand books on the subject. In the mid-to-late 80's I played a role playing game by TSR called Boot Hill. My friends and I had lots of fun using the rules to stage gunfights. We didn't have any miniatures but instead used cardboard counters to represent our characters and fought across a map of a town which came with the game.

I discovered miniatures about ten years ago. My plan was to find some good skirmish rules so that several players could run small groups of gunfighters against each other. This time instead of cardboard counters I'd have painted miniatures to play with. Instead of a paper map I'd have actual buildings my miniatures could use for cover.

Here is my first attempt at a western building. I found some pictures of western buildings in a wargames magazine and off I went. They are constructed from a base of 3mm thick cardboard which I've then overlaid with thin planks of balsa wood which were coloured using a wood stain. Everything was glued using white, or wood, glue. The roof tiles were cut from cereal packets. I made the roof removable in case I ever needed to put miniatures inside the building for any reason. I'm considering changing the sign to read 'Undertaker' rather than 'Funeral Services' to give it a more western feel.

The miniature is a 25mm gunfighter from Old Glory that I painted using acrylic colours. He's the first 25mm scale gunfighter I painted. In fact, he's the first (and only) 25mm scale miniature I've ever painted! Prior to this particular miniature I'd only ever painted in 15mm scale. I was reasonably happy with the result but I still have a lot more to learn about painting in this scale.

All photos are clickable for a closer view.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Computer War Games

My wife picked me up some computer wargames from a local thrift store today.

• Lords of the Realm III - 2003
• Imperial Glory - 2005
• American Conquest - Fight Back - (French version) 2004
• Tin Soldiers - Julius Caesar - 2005
• Kohan II - Kings of War - 2004
• Crown of Glory - Europe in the Age of Napoleon - 2005

I don't really play many computer games and I have no idea what these ones are like. What has me excited is that they're all wargames of one genre or another. Now, hex and counter wargames with complicated rules, that take many hours to play and require the trouble of finding a willing opponent, do not interest me. Computer wargames may scratch my wargaming itch and fit my particular current gaming lifestyle. We'll have to wait and see what they're like.

The whole lot only cost AU\$15.00 which was very reasonable.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Scrabble Bug

You know you've caught the Scrabble bug when you are about to post a comment on someone's blog and then find yourself attempting to anagram the word verification!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My Front Lawn

You know how I mentioned we're currently in the middle of a drought here? Well, here's a picture of my front lawn. The grass could colloquially be referred to as being 'drier than a dead dingo's donger'. Still, nothing that a good solid downpour won't fix. But sadly we're heading towards winter here in the southern hemisphere, which just happens to be the period of lowest average precipitation. Sigh.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Magna Doodle?!?

I was walking past my 5-year-old daughter, Maddie, who was sitting in the living room drawing on her Fisher-Price Magna Doodle. I happened to catch the drawing out of the corner of my eye and did a double-take. I was shocked by what I saw.

"Maddie!" I exclaimed. "What are you drawing!?!"

Maddie looked up at me and smiled. "It's a long love-heart, Daddy."

She turned it around to show me and I could see she had started to colour it in.

"Aaaaahhhh." I replied, visibly relieved.

"Er, um, nothing honey!" I said over my shoulder as I quickly exited the room.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Level 5 Water Restrictions

We're currently suffering a drought here in South-East Queensland. You may remember an earlier entry when I discussed level 4 water restrictions being put into place on 1 November 2006. Well, things haven't improved and so the Queensland Water Commission introduced level 5 water restrictions on Tuesday, 10 April 2007. Water restrictions only apply to the use of town water. All outdoor sprinkling and hosing is banned.

For existing gardens and lawns watering is only permitted using a hand held watering can or bucket filled directly from a tap at the following times:
• Odd numbered houses/units: 4pm - 7pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
• Even numbered houses/units: 4pm - 7pm on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday

You can only use town water from a bucket filled directly from a tap to:

• wash car mirrors, glass, number plates and potentially damaging marks - not the rest of the vehicle (except at a commercial car wash)
• flush an inboard or outboard motor or vehicle's brakes to prevent corrosion and maintain safe operation

clean external areas of houses and paved areas:

• for health and safety reasons
• during pre-painting and pre-sale preparation activities
• to maintain external surfaces once every year
• to maintain roof surfaces once every three years

Outdoor showering is not permitted (eg. at beaches).

Consumption of water is now limited to 140 litres per person per day, with chronic over-users facing heavy fines and their shower pressure reduced to a trickle.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 14

My Mum, Grandma to our kids, dropped by this morning for her weekly visit. After a cup of tea, Maddie, Grandma and I sat down at the dining table to play some games.

First up this morning was the Bratz Passion for Fashion game. I don't enjoy this game but play it because Maddie loves all things Bratz at the moment. Maddie came 1st, having collected all four of her fashion accessories and made her way home, I was 2nd also with all four of my fashion accessories and Grandma was 3rd having collected only two of her fashion accessories.

After we'd finished, Maddie went off to play. Grandma and I sat down to a game of Scrabble. I'd previously downloaded the full 2 and 3-word lists off the Internet so I gave an extra copy to Mum to take home with her to study.

I borrowed a Scrabble dictionary from the library so we used that as our reference. I'm still considering which Scrabble dictionary to buy. Scrabble Australia states that all Australian tournaments are adjudicated according to the Official Scrabble Words International (OSWI) word list. OSWI is published by Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd but may soon be superseded by an equivalent reference from Collins.

Mum went first after selecting a V to my X.

Turn 1 [Mum] DOG 10, [Me] HOLD/(O)H/(G)O 24

Turn 2 [Mum] (HOLD)S 10, [Me] Exchanged 6 tiles - kept the X

Turn 3 [Mum] RO(D) 4, [Me] FISHE(R) 20

Turn 4 [Mum] (GO)D 9, [Me] (E)X/X(O)* Challenged off

Turn 5 [Mum] (F)EW 10, [Me] TEXT(S) 20

Turn 6 [Mum] WA(S) 12, [Me] BOA(T) 12

Turn 7 [Mum] FAM(E) 13, [Me] (FAME)D/D(O) 16

Turn 8 [Mum] (D)UNG 12, [Me] MUSINGS/(GOD)S 72

Turn 9 [Mum] Exchanged 3 tiles, [Me] (M)INTY 28

Turn 10 [Mum] (F)AKE 16, [Me] POU(T) 12

Turn 11 [Mum] Z(I)P/(U)P 17, [Me] JA(W) 39

Turn 12 [Mum] B(O)LT 6, [Me] CO(A)T 24

Turn 13 [Mum] (JAW)S 15, [Me] (C)ANALIER* Challenged off

Turn 14 [Mum] (T)A(X) 10, [Me] RE(TEXTS)* Challenged off

Turn 15 [Mum] (FISHER)Y 16, [Me] NA(P)E 21

Turn 16 [Mum] (J)ET 10, [Me] (T)AR 9

Turn 17 [Mum] (G)IVER 13, [Me] LO(R)E 12

Turn 18 [Mum] CO(V)E 12, [Me] (R)EVUE 9

Turn 19 [Mum] Passed, [Me] ENUN(C)IAR* Challenged off

Turn 20 [Mum] Passed, [Me] (C)AIRN 8

Turn 21 [Mum] Q(I) 11, [Me] NE(W) 12

Turn 22 [Mum] (N)IL 3, [Me] U(N) 4

Turn 23 [Mum] (Q)I 13, [Me] (L)I 4

I had used up all my letters and Mum was left with 3 tiles, IRR, for minus 3 points. These points were added to my score. Final scores were [Me] 349 and [Mum] 219. I averaged 15.17 points per turn with 5 of those turns being non-scoring turns.

Highlight of this game for me was achieving my first ever bingo (that is, placing all 7 of the letters from your rack on one turn). It was MUSINGS. However, I only did it with the help of two blanks (the U and S) so I'm still looking to get a bingo with no help from the blanks.

Probably the most obscure words I played were EX, OH, UN and LI. Proof that being aware of legal two-letter words can really help your Scrabble game.

I had a few words challenged off. ENUNCIAR (one who enunciates?) was not legal. CANALIER
(as in, 'Venice is canalier than Brisbane') was also not a legal word. RETEXTS is also not a valid word. I was hoping for a SUB or PRE to add to TEXTS but the letters never came my way. Now these weren't intentional phoneys, I was just trying my luck to see if they were actual words.

Mum reckoned she had pretty bad tiles so my wife, Deb, assisted her during the last few turns. My wife had remembered me telling her about QI (Chinese life-force) being a legitimate 2-letter word and helped Mum out with that and a couple of other words. That was fine with me as I'm always pleased when Deb displays an interest in games.

My low-point of this gaming session was the amount of time I took on my moves. The game lasted a couple of hours which is unacceptable. I was just trying too hard to look for bingos and make the highest scoring move I could each turn. I truly suffered from analysis paralysis most turns. I've made a vow to decrease the time I take on moves and will be timing myself in future.

It will be interesting to see if Mum's game improves next week after she's had a chance to peruse the 2 and 3-word lists.

So, this evening, having noticed my wife's interest earlier on, I asked her if she'd like to share a bottle of wine with me over a game of Scrabble. I was pleased when she accepted, however she would only play if I promised it would be a quick game. She'd seen how long my game with Mum had taken.

So, after the kids were in bed, we opened a bottle of wine and sat down to our game. I got one of the 3-minute hour-glass sand timers from my game of TAMSK to ensure I didn't take too long on my moves. We agreed that if either one of us had not commenced to put down a word by the time the sand had run out then that person forfeits their turn.

My wife went first after selecting an I to my O.

Turn 1 [Deb] GAG 10, [Me] TWE(A)K 13

Turn 2 [Deb] WI(T)S 9, [Me] HEAL(T)H 24

Turn 3 [Deb] F(A)N 12, [Me] TWEAK(ED) 15

Turn 4 [Deb] N(E)VER 16, [Me] (R)AID 10

Turn 5 [Deb] OVER(T) 16, [Me] CRA(V)ER 19

Turn 6 [Deb] MAULE(D) 13, [Me] W(A)NT 33

Turn 7 [Deb] (H)OLE 14, [Me] *Timed out - Forfeit turn

Turn 8 [Deb] DOO(R) 10, [Me] *Timed out - Forfeit turn

Turn 9 [Deb] ZOAR* Challenged off, [Me] MIN(E)/(O)N 8

Turn 10 [Deb] (R)OAR 5, [Me] *Timed out - Forfeit turn

Turn 11 [Deb] I(L)L 6, [Me] *Timed out - Forfeit turn

Turn 12 [Deb] F(L)Y 17, [Me] T(A)B 14

Turn 13 [Deb] I(T) 2, [Me] (M)ENU 8

Turn 14 [Deb] Q(U)IZ 22, [Me] (QUIZ)ES 24

Turn 15 [Deb] (Z)IP 28, [Me] JOTS/(ZIP)S 37

Turn 16 [Deb] (J)UMP 24, [Me] DOSE/S(QUIZES)* Challenged off

Turn 17 [Deb] (T)ENT 5, [Me] S(P)A(T)E 21

Turn 18 [Deb] B(RAID) 8, [Me] *Timed out - Forfeit turn

Turn 19 [Deb] (B)RAG 8, [Me] (G)OOD 8

Turn 20 [Deb] Y(O)U 12, [Me] AX(E) 10

Turn 21 [Deb] Q(I) 13, [Me] A(I) 6

Turn 22 [Deb] (A)C* Challenged off, [Me] (ON)E/E(R) 5

I had used up all my letters and Deb was left with the C tile for minus 3 points. These points were added to my score. Final scores were [Me] 258 and [Deb] 247. I averaged 11.73 points per turn however 6 of those turns were non-scoring turns. It was a very close game and highlighted for me that I really need to improve my ability to anagram quickly. I think I'll continue to use the 3-minute hourglass as a guide to reducing the time I take to make my moves.

A pleasant evening of gaming with my wife and a good bottle of wine.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Happy Little Vegemite

Vegemite is a cultural icon of Australia. It is a dark brown, salty food paste made from yeast extract and is used mainly as a spread on sandwiches and toast.

A "happy little Vegemite" is an Australian slang expression for a happy person. It is based on the lyrics of a popular Vegemite commercial jingle.

This is the result of giving Vegemite on toast to a 14-month-old child...

...and apparently Vegemite can be further enjoyed by rubbing it around inside one's nostril.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Enter The Dungeon

My 5-year-old daughter, Maddie, and I played Dungeonquest today.

DungeonQuest is a fantasy boardgame in which you play a hero braving the terrors of Dragonfire Castle. There are four characters provided with the game, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The game may be played solo or with up to four players.

I have played it a total of three times previously; the first two games solo, and on the third occasion with Maddie. In our last game of Dungeonquest, Maddie's first, she was able to make her way to the Treasure Chamber, steal a staggering 4,490 gold pieces worth of treasure and escape from the dungeon with only 1 turn to spare before the sun set. According to the rules you have approximately a 15% chance of achieving such a feat. I perished in that particular game, as I have in all the games I've played so far.

I won the initial dice roll to see who was the 'first player' and was thus able to choose my character first. I decided to choose El-Adoran Sureshot, a character I had not played before. This is the only character to carry a missile weapon, a bow, which allows the opportunity of attacking a monster and killing it before it gets a chance to hit you. El-Adoran had high Agility and Luck scores but the lowest Life Points (11) of the four characters. Maddie chose Volrik the Brave, a roguish character with high Agility and Luck scores and reasonably good Life Points (15). Each character then gets to choose a magic ring to assist them in their quest for treasure. Maddie chose to take the Ring of Healing and I chose the Ring of Opening.

The game lasts for a maximum of 26 turns. Each turn represents a phase of time with the final turn meaning the sun has set. The rules state "it is better not to ask what happens to those characters who are still in the dungeon at nightfall..." The character who has exited with the most treasure from the dungeon before nightfall is the winner.

The initial board set up. Maddie started in the lower left tower and I started in the lower right tower.

Turn 1
[Me] Starting in the lower right tower the first room I draw is empty.
[Maddie] Starting in the lower left tower, the first room Maddie enters is a bottomless pit. Maddie must roll a D12; if she rolls her Agility score (which is 7) or lower she makes it across the pit; if not her character dies and she is out of the game. She rolls a 6 and just barely manages to jump across the chasm.

Turn 2
[Me] I enter the next room to find an Orc standing guard. I choose to immediately Attack him. The corresponding Monster card shows that the result is that we enter Combat and he has 6 Life Points. We fight and I kill him but am sorely wounded, losing 4 of my own Life Points in the battle. I proceed on with only 7 Life Points remaining.
[Maddie] Maddie enters a corridor which allows her another immediate draw from the room tiles. She finds the corridor leads to an empty room.
Turn 3
[Me] The next room I enter is a crypt. I have the option of doing a free search and find a potion bottle. I keep it for later. When I drink it I will find out what it does. It could be a healing potion or it could be poison.
[Maddie] Maddie enters her next room only to find the roof caves in! On her next turn she must roll a D12 or retreat back the way she came.
Turn 4
[Me] I enter the next room only to find a portcullis slam down behind me cutting off my retreat. Luckily the room is empty. The exits continue to lead toward the heart of the dungeon - and the waiting Treasure Chamber.
[Maddie] Maddie decides to risk moving forward instead of retreating. She must roll a D12 and roll her Agility score (7) or lower. She rolls a 9 and is trapped by the cave-in and misses her turn.

Turn 5
[Me] I enter the next room and once again a portcullis slams down behind me. I'm starting to get the feeling that the Dragonfire Castle does not want me to escape alive. The room is empty.
[Maddie] Maddie tries to escape the cave-in. She rolls a 7 and manages to make it to the next room which is empty.

Turn 6
[Me] I enter the next room and suddenly a trapdoor opens below my feet revealing many sharp stakes below. I must roll my Agility (8) or less on a D12 to avoid the trap. I roll a 7 and jump back just in time.
[Maddie] Maddie continues on to find the next room is a dead end. However, before she can retreat she finds it is actually a Rotating Room and the room rotates 180 degrees thereby cutting off forever the way she has come. She continues on in the direction of the Treasure Chamber.

Turn 7
[Me] I enter a corridor which allows me another room tile draw. I enter the next room and another portcullis slams down behind me. That's three portcullises barring the way I've come. To open a portcullis I need to roll my Strength (3) or lower on a D12. Fat chance of that!
[Maddie] Maddie's next room draw is another Rotating Room! She's definitely not going back the way she came in!
Turn 8
[Me] I am one room away from the Treasure Chamber! Unfortunately the room I draw has no exit matching the entrances to the Treasure Chamber. I must go back a room and try approaching the Treasure Chamber from another side.
[Maddie] Maddie enters her next room which at first appears empty. Then from the shadows a Death Warrior leaps out and does a Sneak Attack on her. She must roll a D12 and subtract her Luck (8) to see how much damage she takes. She rolls an 10 and loses 2 Life Points. She enters into combat with the Death Warrior who has 5 Life Points. Maddie defeats her enemy but loses 5 Life Points in the process. She is down to 10 Life Points.

Turn 9
[Me] I spend the turn moving back to the previous room.
[Maddie] Maddie uses her magical Ring of Healing to heal back the 5 Life Points she lost in the battle with the Death Warrior. She may not use the ring again as it only works once.
Turn 10
[Me] The room tile I draw has an exit leading directly to the Treasure Chamber! I enter the room only to find a Mountain Troll blocking my way. I decide to use the special feature of El-Adoran - his bow. I have one opportunity to shoot the monster before we enter combat. If I roll a 5 or a 6 I will kill him instantly. I roll a 5, the arrow piercing his brain - he falls dead at my feet. I am now free to enter the Treasure Chamber on my next turn. I can hear the heavy breathing of the sleeping dragon guarding the piles of gold and jewels only feet away. My destiny awaits...
[Maddie] Maddie is about to also enter a room adjoining the Treasure Chamber. She walks in and a trap door opens beneath her feet. She must roll her Agility (7) or lower on a D12 to avoid the trap. She rolls an 11 and falls through the trapdoor taking a D6 worth of damage. She rolls a 6 and loses 6 Life Points. She now has 9 Life Points remaining.

Maddie has drawn a trapdoor. Each of us is about to enter the Treasure Chamber.

Turn 11
[Me] I cautiously enter the Treasure Chamber being careful not to wake the sleeping dragon. I get to pick twice from the treasure tile cup. I draw a total of 2,390 gold pieces worth of treasure. What a haul! I am thrilled but then I go cold as I remember I must also draw from the dragon tile cup. There a 8 dragon tiles; 7 are sleeping dragons and 1 is the dragon awakened.

What a haul! El-Adoran will party tonight! If he gets out alive that is...

Thankfully I draw a sleeping dragon tile. Phew!

[Maddie] Maddie also enters the Treasure Chamber on the same turn as me. She draws twice from the treasure pile. She chooses well, receiving 3,700 gold pieces worth of treasure. She has the highest amount of treasure and is technically winning. But she must get out alive to win.

Maddie scores more treasure than me on this turn.

Maddie is stealthy and does not awaken the dragon.

Turn 12
[Me] I decide to leave and not take any more treasure. There are 6 dragon tiles remaining which means that I would have a 1-in-6 chance of waking the dragon. And if Maddie also stayed she would have a 1-in-5 chance of causing the dragon to awake. If she woke the dragon I'd take the brunt of his fiery breath as well as I'd also be in the room. The risk is too high and I've only got 13 turns left to get out, and my way is barred by three portcullises. I go out into the room I came through.
[Maddie] Maddie states she will take more treasure. I carefully explain to her that she has a 1-in-6 chance of waking the dragon. She understands and chooses to take the risk. Maddie draws two more treasure tiles adding a further 840 gold pieces worth of treasure to her total. She is now sitting on 4,540 gold pieces worth of treasure. This is 50 gold pieces more than the total she escaped with in her previous game. I marvel at her luck.

She takes a deep breath and draws from the dragon tile cup and...

Oh no!

...she wakes the dragon! I see the tile a split-second before she does and I yell out. This sudden shout gives her a fright and she jumps in her seat. She looks at the dragon in shock and then she looks at me and says "You really scared me when you said that!" I smile to myself and think how the fright was a cool role-playing experience. Not that I did it on purpose, mind you, I was upset to see she'd pulled the woken dragon tile and couldn't help my exclamation.

Maddie immediately loses all her treasures. The dragon's breath causes D12 damage to her. She only has 9 Life Points left. She rolls an 8 on the D12 leaving her with only 1 Life Point remaining! She runs northwards out of the Treasure Chamber, with no treasure and badly burnt.

Turn 13
[Me] I go back the way I came in. I enter the first of the rooms blocked by a portcullis.
[Maddie] Maddie's luck is running out. The room she enters suffers a cave-in, obviously caused by the terrific energy blast of the dragon's breath. I know she is dead. First she must pick a number between 1 and 6 and say it out loud. If the number she picks is rolled she is dead, if not, she rolls a D6 and takes that many Life Points of damage. She is only on 1 Life Point so she is dead either way. She bravely plays it out. She chooses a 2 and rolls a 5 thus surviving the first part of the cave-in. She then rolls the D6 and takes 3 Life Points of damage. Poor Volrik the Brave dies in the cave-in.

Alas, poor Volrik the Brave!

Turn 14
[Me] I can still make it out alive with my 2,390 gold pieces worth of treasure. I spend the turn to use my one-shot magical Ring of Opening to open the portcullis blocking my way. I move into a corridor which then leads into an empty room. I plan to keep moving south until I pass the two remaining rooms blocked by portcullises and then join back on to my existing route to exit the way I came in.

Turn 15
[Me] The next room I enter contains a Champion of Chaos. I take a shot at him with my bow but the arrow misses. I choose to Wait and See what he will do. The Monster card reveals that he has 4 Life Points and will Combat me. We fight and I kill him but take 3 Life Points of damage in the battle. I now only have 3 Life Points remaining.

Turn 16
[Me] The next room is a Dead End! No! Thankfully it is empty but the only way for me to continue on is to do a Search on my next turn and hope I locate a Secret Door.

Turn 17
[Me]
I search the room for a secret door. As I'm searching a Giant Centipede leaps out and bites me. I must take D12 worth of damage. I only have 3 Life Points remaining. It is too late to take a swig from the potion bottle I've been carrying around since Turn 3.

Ack! A Giant Centipede!

I need to roll a 1 or 2 on the D12 to survive. I roll a 5 and the poison kills me.

El-Adoran Sureshot dies, so close, yet so far, from the exit.

Even though our characters died we both had a great time. Maddie handled her character's death quite well. I'd like to try HeroQuest when she's a little older and a few years down the track introduce her to Dungeons & Dragons.