Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 - My Year of Gaming

On the last night of 2007 I'm going to take a little time to reflect on my gaming over the last 12 months.

In 2007 I played 75 different board/card games face-to-face and logged a total of 182 plays. Compare this to 2006 in which I played 107 different board/card games face-to-face and logged a total of 414 plays.

My gaming has noticably reduced in 2007 and the main reason for this is because I didn't attend any game clubs as I did in 2006. I've found that with parenting responsibilities (and disrupted sleep from having a toddler in the house) I just haven't had the time or the energy to commit myself to any regular gaming group. My wife also started her own business this year and due to this I'm usually taking care of the kids on the weekends. What this has meant is that I've spent a lot more quality time gaming with my family, especially my mother and elder daughter Maddie.

So here's my list of games played in 2007. I don't log games played online - only games played face-to-face.

Pass the Pigs8
Guess Who6
Battle Line5
Bratz Passion for Fashion5
For Sale5
HeroScape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie5
Amazing Labyrinth4
Gulo Gulo4
It's Mine!4
Der schwarze Pirat3
Fraidy Cats3
Chateau Roquefort 2
Downfall of Pompeii, The2
G.I. Joe Live The Adventure2
Go Fish2
Labyrinth Card Game2
Lord of the Rings - The Confrontation: Deluxe Edition2
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation2
Money Money Money2
Nobody But Us Chickens2
Old Maid2
Squad Leader2
Star Wars: Epic Duels2
Through the Desert2
Travel Blokus2
Balloon Cup1
Bitin' Off Hedz1
Crazy Eights1
Elefant Hunt1
Enchanted Forest1
Fairyland Adventure1
Hairy Maclary Game1
Harry Potter Hogwarts Dueling Club Game1
HeroScape Expansion Set: Thora's Vengeance1
Hide and Seek1
Lost Cities1
Mamma Mia!1
No Thanks!1
Pick Picknic1
Reiner Knizia's Amazing Flea Circus1
Snail Game1
Snakes and Ladders1
Star Wars: Episode 1 - Clash of the Lightsabers1
Tumblin' Monkeys1
UNO (including themed editions without new cards)1

Scrabble was my most played game this year and my only 'dime' (a game played more than 10 times), played mostly with my mother and a couple of times with my wife. My Xmas present of 2006, Battlelore, only ended up being played 8 times (although I'm undefeated against 3 opponents). Other games I really missed playing in 2007 were the Commands and Colors series - Memoir '44, Command & Colors: Ancients and Battle Cry, none of which were played at all!

My 2008 gaming resolution will be to reduce my game collection (currently 211) to under, say, 150 quality games, and also to get some more face-to-face gaming in with other players.

Well, 2008 is almost here. Happy New Year to you!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 45

My mother (Grandma to our kids) came over this morning for her weekly chat and gaming session. The rest of the family were out this morning which gave us the opportunity for some two player games. Young Georgia toddled between watching us play and watching Maisy the Mouse on DVD.

First up was a favourite of ours - Cartagena. We decided to play the Tortuga version which means all cards are face up on the table and there is a line of 12 face up cards from which you refill your hand. This is an interesting version because not only can you see what cards your opponent holds, you can also see in what order you will get cards when you choose to move your pirates backwards. This is much more of a thinking game than the normal version where all cards are hidden.

In this game I played green and mum played yellow. I ended up winning convincingly 6 to 1.

The pirates about to escape the prison in their boat. Yellow is feeling a little outnumbered.

Next up was another firm favourite of ours - Battle Line. This is a tense game of tough choices where you are constantly weighing up the odds of card combinations to either claim 3 adjacent flags for a breakthrough or 5 flags in total for an encirclement. Last time we played Mum beat me. I was eager to gain supremacy over her in this game but it was not to be. She won the battle with a breakthrough of 3 adjacent flags claiming victory with 4 flags to my 2 flags and 3 undecided.

The view from my side - another crushing defeat for my army...

After that I pulled out a game we hadn't played in a while - The Labyrinth Card Game. This is a cool little compact game that is ideal to take travelling. Essentially all you need is a small flat surface and the cards. An initial maze of four cards is laid and both players are dealt two cards. Each player takes it in turn to lay a card from their hand on to the maze so that the edge of the card laid matches the edge of the card next to which it is laid. On each card are two items. If you can draw an unbroken line along a passage from an item on the card you just laid to a matching item on a card in the maze you can take that card as a point. The only restriction is you can't take a card from the maze if it means that by doing so you will leave part of the maze disconnected from the rest of the maze. This is sort of like the 'one-hive' rule from Hive.

The ever-shifting card maze...

They say men are better on average at spatial visualisation than women so maybe it was this innate skill which allowed me to end up trouncing Mum 16 to 5. Then again, maybe the cards fell my way ;).

The rest of the family arrived home at about this time and Maddie wanted to join us for the next game. We chose another favourite - For Sale. This is a short card game where players bid on properties and then attempt to sell them for the highest price. Maddie enjoys it and she has even won on occasions.

Ewww! Who got lumbered with the outhouse?

Although the game only lasts about 15 minutes it's always fun. Final scores were me on $88K, Grandma on $64K and Maddie on $57K.

Maddie wanted to choose the final game of the morning. As she came back from the games cabinet I was pleasantly surprised with her choice - Ingenious. This is a really cool looking and fun abstract game. It's all about matching coloured symbols to gain the most points in six different colours. The trick though, as in several other Knizia-designed games, is that your final score is the lowest score in all of the six colours. So it's all about ensuring you are always trying to get points in your lowest scoring colour.

Lots of fun and pretty to look at as well!

At first it seems that there is plenty of room to lay your tiles. However, every time I play this game, I'm always aware of a specific point in the game when I come to the sudden realisation that (oh crap!) the space is fast running out. Once again, like other Knizia-designed games there are tough choices to make - do I make a grab for several points in a certain colour or do I try to block that colour from another player? It was a close game with Grandma winning with 9 (on a tie break) with me also on 9 and Maddie on 5.

Monday, December 17, 2007

How I got my new Xbox 360...

Today I made the leap into the 21st century and upgraded my fourth generation gaming console, a Sega Mega Drive (AKA Sega Genesis in North America), to a seventh generation gaming console, a Microsoft Xbox 360.

My old Sega Mega Drive

Yes, my last game console, a Sega Mega Drive, was purchased way back in 1991. It was fun in it's day and is still going fine. In fact now, 16 years after I bought it, I've recently dusted it off and have been enjoying playing Sonic the Hedgehog with my 6 year old daughter Maddie. It's been fun but it's made me think about what the current state of gaming consoles is like. The only other computer gaming I've done recently is some 4-5 year old PC games I've picked up at garage sales or flea markets. I felt it was time to round out my multi-gamer needs.

A couple of months ago I became aware of a game called Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I've watched the trailers and gameplay on YouTube and I've simply been blown away. This first-person shooter looked so realistic. I was intrigued. Through watching the YouTube videos I became aware of other really cool games. From that I then researched the different gaming consoles and available games. There are a number of great systems available at the moment; the Nintendo Wii, the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Microsoft Xbox 360. After a lot of time weighing up of the pros and cons of all the gaming systems I finally chose the Xbox 360. However, a purchase of this financial magnitude was not to be taken lightly. It required spousal permission...

Let's stop for a moment and go back in time about eight years. In the late 90's I attended a gaming convention in Brisbane. At a bring-and-buy second hand stall I bought the original set of the three Against The Giants series of AD&D modules. These three original modules were written by Gary Gygax and were the first modules ever printed by TSR in 1978. I paid $7 each for them. I knew they were old and that I'd eventually resell them, but I had no idea of their real value. A couple of weeks ago I listed my $21 investment on eBay and they sold for $601.00! Woohoo! I now had the money to buy my new gaming console! And as I would be funding my new Xbox 360 from the sale of existing gaming possesions it met with spousal approval :)

I turned these into an Xbox 360!

So, I had the cash to buy the Xbox 360, however, during my research I became aware that Microsoft had recently changed the internal electronics of the 360 by reducing the 90 nm CPU to 65 nm. This new chip was codenamed Falcon and was rumoured to be produced in consoles manufactured from September 2007. This change will obviously reduce the manufacture cost for Microsoft but will also reduce the internal heat of the console which has been blamed for the poor reliability of the Xbox 360 since it was introduced in late 2005. The only problem was that nobody really knew with any certainty which consoles would have the Falcon chip. The other new change was the introduction of a HDMI port which the 360 previously did not have.

So I've been patiently reading the appropriate forums and checking the manufacture dates of boxes in stores and waiting for the Xmas rush to flush out all the older systems. From my research I was finally fairly certain that I would get a Falcon 360 if I found one that had been manufactured in November. I knew 360's with manufacture dates as late as 5 November had been purchased in Brisbane. As I had today off work it was the perfect opportunity to go and buy my new Xbox 360.

My first stop was the local K-Mart. It was the closest store to me that sold Xbox 360s. I took with me the latest Big W catalog as they were selling the Premium bundle for the cheapest price that I could find at $498. K-Mart had $538 on the same bundle but when I showed them the Big W catalog they agreed to match the price. I was ecstatic when the first box they brought out had a manufacture date of 21 November 2007. That was only just over three weeks ago! Woohoo! Not only that but they gave a further discount and reduced the price to $494.

My new Falcon Xbox 360!

When I got it home I did the flashlight test to confirm I had a Falcon. Yep! It also had the new HDMI port. My patience had paid off and I had my Falcon!

The Premium Xbox 360 came bundled with two games - Viva Pinata and Forza Motorsport 2.

The two games bundled with the Premium Xbox 360

Ahh, but what about the game that had been the catalyst for the purchase of my Xbox 360? Just 6 weeks ago when it was released, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was selling for $109. Last week in the Big W catalog they had it on sale for $78.84. I was prepared to pay that but when I was at K-Mart I checked their catalog and they had it for $69! Woohoo! Unfortunately, my local K-Mart were sold out.

I then drove to Big W and bought another of the games on my wish list - Tom Clancy's Rainbow 6: Vegas. They had it reduced from $68.84 down to $40. I then drove to another K-Mart where I purchased Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare for $69.

Two cool games to scratch that first-person-shooter gaming itch

So that's how a couple of old AD&D modules paid for my new Xbox 360 and 2 new recent-release games. The only problem now is that I've only had the Xbox 360 for barely 12 hours and already my elder daughter and wife have each clocked up more game time on it than I have! Doh!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Final eBay Auction Results

Well, over the last few weeks I've listed 32 auctions on eBay of my games and game-related items (29 sold). I listed the auctions in two stages; the first lot ending on 18 November and the second lot ending on 9 December. My goal in doing this was to 1) to sell some games that I no longer have either the time or desire to play, 2) make space for future games and 3) make some cash prior to Xmas.

For those of you who are interested in how much these items sold for and where they went I've provided the final combined list below. All prices are in Australian dollars (1 Australian dollar is approximately equivalent to US$0.86 at the time of the auctions).

AGAINST THE GIANTS (The original 1978 TSR printing of these 3 AD&D adventure series G1 - G3) - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $601.01 to buyer in Hong Kong.

ALIENS APC 1.35 MODEL KIT - Late 1980's Halcyon kit - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $102.56 to buyer in United States.

AXIS & ALLIES - Milton Bradley boardgame - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $31.00 to buyer in New South Wales, Australia.

THE BARBARIANS: WARRIORS & WARS OF THE DARK AGES - Reference book - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $8.50 to buyer in New South Wales, Australia.

THE BISMARCK 1:570 MODEL KIT - Revell - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $18.50 to buyer South Australia, Australia.

CRESCENDO OF DOOM - Avalon Hill Squad Leader expansion - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $20.50 to buyer in Australian Capital Territory, Australia.

DAWN PATROL - TSR boardgame - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $43.85 to buyer in New South Wales, Australia.

DIPLOMACY - Avalon Hill boardgame - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $21.65 to buyer in Australian Capital Territory, Australia.

EUROPE AT WAR - Jedko Games boardgame - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $31.00 to buyer in New South Wales, Australia.

GIVE ME THE BRAIN - Cheapass boardgame - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $9.95 to buyer in Western Australia, Australia.

HEROQUEST - Milton Bradley boardgame - Sold on 18 Nov 2007 for $39.05 to buyer in Western Australia, Australia.

HEROQUEST - Milton Bradley boardgame - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $36.01 to buyer in New South Wales, Australia.

HEROQUEST - KELLAR'S KEEP - Milton Bradley expansion for HeroQuest boardgame - Sold on 18 Nov 2007 for $36.00 to buyer in Netherlands.

HEROQUEST - KELLAR'S KEEP - Milton Bradley expansion for HeroQuest boardgame - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $36.00 to buyer in United States.

HEROQUEST - RETURN OF THE WITCHLORD - Milton Bradley expansion for HeroQuest boardgame - Sold on 18 Nov 2007 for $37.00 to buyer in Netherlands.

HEROQUEST - RETURN OF THE WITCHLORD - Milton Bradley expansion for HeroQuest boardgame - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $33.00 to buyer in Queensland, Australia.

HUNDRED DAYS BATTLE - Avalon Hill boardgame - Sold on 18 Nov 2007 for $12.37 to buyer in New South Wales, Australia.

KILL DOCTOR LUCKY - Cheapass boardgame - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $10.50 to buyer in Western Australia, Australia.

KINGS & THINGS - West End Games boardgame - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $44.55 to buyer in New Zealand.

MHING - Mah Jongg-style card game - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $10.50 to buyer in Western Australia, Australia.

REGATTA - Avalon Hill boardgame - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $9.95 to buyer in Victoria, Australia.

THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN - Jedko Games boardgame - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $49.50 to buyer in New South Wales, Australia.

RUNEQUEST - Chaosium Games Role Playing Game - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $71.00 to buyer in United States.

SAMURAI SWORDS - Milton Bradley boardgame - Sold on 18 Nov 2007 for $84.00 to buyer in New South Wales, Australia.

SKELETON WAR MACHINES - Chariot/Citadel miniatures kit for use with Warhammer Fantasy Battles - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $36.44 to buyer in Japan.

SQUATTER - Jedko Games boardgame - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $9.95 to buyer in Western Australia, Australia.

SUMO - Hasbro boardgame - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $15.53 to buyer in Queensland, Australia.

TANTRIX & TRI-OMINOS - Two abstract boardgames - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $22.02 to buyer in South Australia, Australia.

U.S.S. NEW JERSEY & SHINANO 1:1200 MODEL KITS - Revell - Sold on 9 Dec 2007 for $20.50 to buyer in United States.

The three items which did not sell were The Best of Dragon Games (boardgames), Baa Baa Black Sheep (children's boardgame) and Trivial Pursuit (boardgame).

All in all the final price of all items sold was $1,500.84!!!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 44

My mother (AKA Grandma), my daughter Maddie (aged 6.5) and myself got together for our weekly gaming session. Also in attendance for most of the morning (at least until she went down for a nap) was Georgia (aged almost 2). My wife was at work.

First up was a game of Battle Line between myself and my mum. This game replicates an ancient battle fought in a line along which are nine key points represented by flags (red wooden tokens). Players play cards one at a time along this line at the flag points to try and achieve combinations (similar to poker) to beat the opposing card combination. If a player wins 3 adjacent flags or 5 flags in total they win the game.

The battlefield viewed from my side

Battle Line is always a tense and exciting game for me. Although I go into these games feeling confident that I can beat my mum, she is no pushover. Like she demonstrated today. I was trying to achieve a breakthrough (3 adjacent flags) but she thwarted my attack at a key point which meant that it then looked like either of us needed 5 flags in total for the win. It came down to the last 2 flags with her eventually winning 5 to my 3 with 1 flag left undecided. A great game!

Maddie joined us for the next game and chose The Simpsons Slam Dunk Card Game. In this game one player lays down cards one at a time while the other players wait until there are enough cards that they want to take. At that point the first player to hit the slam dunk pad and shout "Slam dunk!" takes the cards. That player then places the stack of cards face down in front of them and becomes the dealer. In a three-player game players are only allowed a total of four stacks. When all the cards have been dealt the cards are scored on their points and combinations. Highest points wins the hand. Victory goes to the player who is the first to win two hands.


This is another Reiner Knizia game and, similar to Ra and Razzia, there is an initial learning curve on what are valuable cards and at which point it is worth taking them. However, unlike Ra and Razzia, there is no auction involved which makes this game a little more quick and easier (and fun!) for children. Having a Simpsons-theme just tops it off for me and at only $2.95 new on clearance at Mr Toys Toyworld it was a real bargain.

Maddie and I tied for points on the first hand on 32 each with Grandma on 27. The second hand was won by Grandma on 46, myself then on 11 and Maddie on 25. That meant any of us could win the game by winning the third and final hand. Grandma slam dunked her way to the win of a close fought hand with 33, leaving myself on 28 and Maddie on 20. A great final victory to Grandma winning two hands and myself and Maddie winning one hand each. I enjoyed the game that much that I decided to raise it from 6.5 to 7 on my BGG ratings.

Last game of the morning was Jenga. We'd picked this up at a garage sale for only $4 several years ago. This is a classic dexterity game and one which I was surprised to find my mum had never before played. Straight out of the box the tower comprises 18 levels of 3 wooden blocks on each level. Each turn a player carefully removes one of the blocks from a level below the topmost level and then places it on the top level. As the game progresses the tower increases in height but also increases in instability. We ended up getting the tower to 29 levels before I made it topple, giving the much-deserved win to my exultant daughter Maddie. And so she should be proud of that victory because I was playing to win.

An early photo of the teetering tower of our game of Jenga

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 43

Another Saturday morning gaming session attended by myself, my daughter Maddie (6.5) and my mother (AKA Grandma). As my younger daughter Georgia (almost 2) took ages to go down for a nap our gaming session was delayed somewhat. However, we did get to play a game I haven't played since the 23rd September 2006 - Balloon Cup.

In Balloon Cup, the players compete in several short balloon flights (hops) to collect the coloured cubes associated with each hop. Four landscape cards, two Plains alternating with two Mountains, are laid out and 1, 2, 3 or 4 cubes in assorted colors (grey, blue, green, yellow, red) are added. From a hand of 8 Balloon cards players must try to pass each landscape by adding cards matching the coloured blocks onto their side of table. High-valued balloon cards are played on the Mountains and low-valued balloon cards on the plains. Whoever has the respective higher or lower total of cards wins the hop and takes the cubes on the landscape card. When a player has collected enough cubes of a given colour, he earns the Trophy card for that colour. The first player to earn 3 trophy cards is the winner.

Maddie watched as Mum and I played the game using the optional rule that you must fully complete your set of cards on your side of the landscape card before you could play cards on the opponent's side. We also chose not to use the rule of cashing in 3 cubes of other colours for 1 cube of the colour you wanted. It was a close game with me scoring 2 trophies on the final turn to win 3 trophies to 1 trophy.

While it's an enjoyable game, Balloon Cup's mechanics compete with two other excellent and similar card games in my collection - Battleline and Lost Cities, both of which were designed by the prolific and talented Reiner Knizia. For me, Balloon Cup just doesn't generate the tension and excitement of those two games. In fact, Balloon Cup was very close to being listed on eBay with my recent auction. It was only reprieved when my wife stated that she'd enjoyed Balloon Cup when we'd last played it together (18 months ago?). So Balloon Cup remains in my collection, saved by a kind word by my wife. Don't get me wrong - it's not a bad game - it's just that it may not make the final cut of what I want my lean, mean, future board game collection to be.

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the game due to my wife being out and having the camera with her. We also only had time for the one game today.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Werewolf at Work

I was asked to run a team-building exercise for my section at work today. Someone in my area had remembered that five years ago I was in a trainer role and had run the game Werewolf with groups of new starters to our organisation. My manager suggested I use that game in our team meeting today as a team-building exercise.

There were fifteen players not including myself as moderator so I ran the game with three werewolves. I got the players to randomly select their roles from an envelope and I then spent a couple of minutes explaining the game. These are all non-gamers to my knowledge and the majority of them enjoyed themselves. The game took around 45 minutes and ended up with the werewolves winning with no loss to their number.

It's interesting watching co-workers play games - their personalities certainly come out, especially when involved in a role playing game such as Werewolf. The individuals I suspected who would get into the game did and the ones I suspected would not kept relatively quiet. Overall, it was a success with everyone committing to have more fun in the workplace.

Now it's up to me to show them what fun really is...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

More Games on eBay

I've put some more games (and game related items) up for auction on eBay. I now have the following items due to finish next Sunday evening (Australian time).

  • SUMO!
  • BISMARCK Revell 1:570
  • ALIENS APC HALO1 Halcyon 1:35
  • SKELETON WAR MACHINES Citadel Miniatures
  • THE BARBARIANS Warriors & Wars of the Dark Ages
  • U.S.S. NEW JERSEY & SHINANO Miniships Revell 1:200
  • MHING Classic Card Game based on Mah Jongg
  • AXIS & ALLIES MB Games
If you're interested you can check out me eBay page here.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 42

My mother came over for her weekly Saturday visit this morning. Maddie (6) was excited to not only play games with her but also to have Grandma present while we put up the Xmas tree.

Our first game of the morning was Der Schwarze Pirat. The components, from the wooden ships with cloth sails to the raised islands and blue ocean gameboard, are visually stunning. In this game players use a rubber bellows to blow air on to their ships to move them around the islands collecting gold. The two dice dictate how far you may move your own ship or if you will take the role of the dreaded Black Pirate for that round as well as onto which islands gold will be placed. Being the Black Pirate will allow you to try to board other player's ships to take their gold or use the pirate ship to collect gold from islands as normal. It's just such a fun game to play. Final scores were me 17, Grandma 10 and Maddie 9.

Maddie blows her red ('No, it's pink, Daddy!') ship

Our final game of the morning was The Amazing Labyrinth. This is a great family game which has really stood the test of time. Of all my games this tops the list of 'games played in the most months', up there with Gulo Gulo. It's also a really easy game to handicap when adults play with children. Maddie is 6 and a half years old and we always let her look at the top 3 cards whereas the adults may only look at the top card when searching for an object. I love the shifting maze and trying to make moves to connect corridors to get where I want to go in the most efficient way. There is also the element of chaos caused by other players shifting the maze again prior to your next turn. Final scores were me 8, Maddie 7 and Grandma 4.

The shifting corridors of The Amazing Labyrinth

Summer's here!

For those of us in the southern hemisphere, today, December 1st, marks the start of summer.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Game Culling Continues...

I decided to put some of my less-played games up for auction on eBay this evening.

Here is a link to my eBay site.

I have the following games for auction:
  • Regatta
  • AD&D Against The Giants G1-G3
  • The Russian Campaign
  • HeroQuest
  • HeroQuest - Kellar's Keep
  • HeroQuest - Return of the Witch Lord
  • Sumo!
  • The Best of Dragon Games
  • Dawn Patrol
  • Diplomacy
  • Kings & Things

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Huntsman Spider

Huntsman spiders are fairly common where I live. This one was on a wall downstairs and at only about 5 cm (2 inches) in length is only a baby. Adult males can attain a legspan 25 - 30cm (9.8 - 11.8 inches). My understanding is that although they are venomous a bite will only cause local swelling and pain but I'm not in any hurry to test this out. They tend to be most common in the garage and around trees in the yard.

Huntsman spiders don't build webs because they hunt and forage for their food. Their main prey are small insects. These spiders are very fast and are also occasionally found on walls and ceilings in the house much to the horror of the females in my family. I'm the one that captures them and lets them go in the garden (while having a quiet chuckle at the hysteria one little spider can cause).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Culling Begins...

My boardgame collection has grown a lot over the last few years. My profile at BoardGameGeek shows that I own 224 games. I'm at a point now where I have a pretty good feel for what games are keepers and which aren't. I also have a number of old games which I've never played and I'm fairly certain I never will. On top of this I also have collections of role playing games and miniatures games which are unlikely to hit the table any time soon (if ever).

The forces of time and space were the catalyst for me reviewing my gaming collection. Time is precious and with a family including little kids I do not have time for games that take over about an hour. That pretty well accounts for all my role playing games, miniatures games and wargames.

Space is the other consideration. Games take space. As our kids grow more of the house will need to be family area. Although I have a limited area to store my games it is now overflowing. I want to restrict myself to this area so that when future gaming purchases are made some of the less played games will have to go.

So with all that in mind I recently put some games up for auction on eBay. This is what they sold for:

Heroquest (to buyer in Western Australia- Australia) - AU$39.05

Heroquest - Kellar's Keep (to buyer in Netherlands) - AU$36.00

Heroquest - Return of the Witch Lord (to buyer in Netherlands) - AU$37.00

Samurai Swords - (to buyer in New South Wales - Australia) - AU$84.00

Hundred Days Battles - (to buyer in New South Wales - Australia) - AU$12.37

Although I made over $200 the sad part is that I only reduced my BGG games owned from 224 to 223 by the sale of Hundred Days Battles. I still have more copies of the others.

Back to the culling.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 41

Another Saturday morning gaming with my mother (AKA Grandma) and my daughter (AKA Maddie).

Our first game was chosen by Maddie - Burg Appenzell. In this game your mice run through the castle looking for matching cheese tiles. If you have two of your mice on matching cheese tiles you receive that cheese. First player to find 4 different cheeses wins the game. Grandma won with 4, I came 2nd with 2 and Maddie came 3rd with 1.

On a side note I was surprised to see that Burg Appenzell's name has been changed to Chateau Roquefort on the BGG database due to that being the title of the Rio Grande English language printing of the game.

Our second game of the morning was For Sale. This is one of our favourite short games. In the first part of the game each player bids on property cards and then in the second part of the game they try to sell their properties for the highest cheque values. Maddie came 1st with $80,000, I came 2nd with $72,000, and Grandma came 3rd with $66,000.

Our final game of the morning was Razzia! This is the German version which I recently got in a combined order from Germany with some other Brisbane gamers. I had the English rules translation and the components are language-independent so we were good to go. We decided to only play one round.

This a Reiner Knizia designed game. I've heard it's similar to his other games Ra (which I've played only once) and The Simpsons Slam Dunk Card Game AKA It's Mine (which I've played 3 times). I can definitely see the similarity in attempting to gain (and deny your opponents) certain cards which are worth certain points individually, in combinations or in quantity. There are a lot of things going on which you have to be aware of in this game and I believe there is also a bit of an initial learning curve in understanding the value of the cards and when to call auctions.

The scores after round 1 were Maddie 26, me 19 and Grandma 4. I think Maddie was a little bored with this game (she's only 6 after all) but Grandma and I both commented that we had just started to see some strategies and that this is one game that would definitely benefit from repeated plays to unlock its gaming goodness.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 40

My mother (Grandma to our kids) came over today for a visit. Maddie wanted to play Guess Who with Grandma so they both sat down at the dining room table played 4 games. Maddie won three games and Grandma won one. Guess Who is a simple deduction game that can be made more interesting by each player having more than one mystery person to guess.

After they'd finished I chose Cartagena for the three of us to play. Maddie chose red, Grandma chose yellow and I took green. I positioned Grandma on my right to make it more difficult for me. Cartagena is one of those games where it does make a difference who precedes you in the turn order. Grandma led for most of the game with me making a comeback in the last few turns to take the win. Final scores were me on 6, Grandma on 4 and Maddie on 1. An exciting game.

The final game of the morning was Heroscape. We were able to use some figures from the recently purchased expansion set Thora's Vengeance (Wave 5). I took Grimnak, Ne-Gok-Sa, Marro Warriors, Tarn Viking Warriors and the Deathreavers. Grandma took Krav Maga Agents and Warriors of Ashra. Maddie took Raelin the Kyrie Warrior and the Nakita Agents.

Once again it was going to be Grandma and Maddie against me. This time I had an army the same value as both of theirs combined. However, while they each had one set of order markers for each of their armies I only had one set of order markers for my combined army. This meant they had twice as many orders as I. This certainly affected the game balance.

Of course I was totally outgunned. To even up the balance next time I think I'll run two armies rather than one big one. To handicap myself I'll adjust the values of my armies rather than limit myself with reduced orders. Even though I lost I still had heaps of fun.

Fun, Fun, Fun In The Sun, Sun, Sun

OK, so I lifted the title to this blog entry from the Red Dwarf theme song lyrics but I felt it captures the essence of the last couple of weeks. You see it's late Spring (almost Summer) and I've been on vacation for the last two weeks.

During the first week we stayed at accomodation in lovely Noosaville which is only a few minutes drive from gorgeous Noosa Heads. We went with some friends and their two little boys who are around the same age as our girls.

Some highlights:

  • Celebrating my 40th birthday
  • Drinking a case of one of my favourite beers - Hoegaarden
  • Seeing our younger daughter, Georgia, experience the beach for the first time
  • Playing Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation - Deluxe Edition and BattleLore with my mate Steve

Georgia's first time at the beach

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 39

Friday Family Game Night was cancelled last night due to myself and Georgia being ill for most of last week and I was just too tired. This morning saw my mother (Grandma to our kids) drop by for a cup of tea, a chat and some games.
Mum and I sat down to play Star Wars: Episode 1 - Clash of the Lightsabers, a 2-player card game recreating the battle between Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul on Naboo in The Phantom Menace. Each player has a deck of cards which are either attack cards of a value between 1 and 5 or power cards which have special functions.

The game comes with two pewter miniatures representing the combatants and these are used as scoring tokens. Each battle is fought over 3 rounds of cards. Win 2 of the 3 rounds and you win the battle allowing you to move your playing token along a row of 5 battle cards. The first player to move their playing piece on to the 5th battle card wins the game. This game has a certain amount of luck in the draw of cards but there are some tough choices on when to concede a round and when to fight for it.
Mum went on to win, 5 to my 3.
Maddie joined us for our second game and requested Hive. I pointed out that this was a 2-player game but she insisted. Grandma said she'd watch, so it was Daddy vs daughter. I'd taught Hive to Maddie a year or so ago when she was 5 and she quickly picked it up.

We played two games with me explaining the reasoning behind my moves and pointing out options for her on her turn. We played two games which I won but the 2nd game was close.
After that we all decided to play Gulo Gulo. This is a great family game for adults and children to play together. It's certainly been worth it with a number of plays over the years and it's still being requested. Maddie went on to win.

After that Maddie requested we all play her game Bratz Passion For Fashion. I inwardly groaned but realised that it was a game she enjoyed and it was important to play games she likes. As it turned out I won! Yay me!

Last, but not least, we played Pass the Pigs. Final scores were Maddie 1st with 100, Grandma 2nd with 76 and me 3rd with 75.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Star Wars Halloween

I first saw the movie Star Wars in 1977 when I was 10 years old. I instantly fell in love with it and one of my obsessions from then into my early teens was collecting and playing with Star Wars action figures. I still have my action figures in a box in a cupboard and now my daughter Maddie is of an age where she is starting to play with them (under my watchful eye of course!).

Anyway, as it's Halloween I thought I'd post something horrific and yet amusing at the same time. I came across the image below somewhere on the Internet. I don't know who created it but whoever they are they're very clever. It's a fake Star Wars action figure blister pack of Owen Lars & Aunt Beru (Charred). I must have a sick sense of humour because I find it hilarious.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Laminating Heroscape Army Cards

Heroscape is a pretty durable game. All the components are plastic - plastic terrain, plastic miniatures and plastic tokens. You could easily play this game outside in the rain (and I've seen a photo of some guys actually doing this!) except for the fact that the army cards are made of thin card.

As I'll most likely be playing Heroscape with kids who'll be munching on snacks (and are notoriously messy) or adults who will be drinking (probably beers which can be knocked over) I thought I'd better do something about the potential vulnerability of the army cards. This is where my trusty laminator came in handy!

My Heroscape: Rise of the Valkyrie army cards are protected!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I Love My Laminator

A couple of years ago I bought a hot laminator from K-Mart. It was pretty cheap (under $30) and it has served me well. It laminates A4 (210mm x 296mm) sheets of paper or card.

I've mainly used it to laminate cards for home-made games and also for downloaded game information sheets. It's handy for laminating kid's drawings and craft items and I've also used it on photos. It's quick and easy to use and it will seal and protect your paper or card sheets. If you're a gamer or a parent I'd certainly recommend picking up a laminator.

My GBC Creative Laminator A4

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 38

My mother (Grandma to our kids) dropped by for her weekly Saturday morning visit. This morning, Maddie (aged 6), Grandma and myself sat down to a game of Poison. This game seemed appropriate considering Halloween is only 4 days away.

In this card game players are dealt potion cards with values of 1, 2, 4, 5 & 7 and poison cards with values of 4. Each turn a player must play a card from their hand into a cauldron. No cauldron may contain potions of another colour. Poison cards can be played on any cauldron. If a player plays a card which makes the total value of cards played on that cauldron exceed 13 then the player takes the previously played cards. The aim of the game is to have the fewest points at the end of a number of rounds equivalent to the number of players. After a round you score 1 point for every potion card and 2 points for every poison card you have. The scoring is cleverly adjusted by the designer Reiner Knizia because if you have more of a potion colour than any of the other players you get to discard those cards and they are not scored against you.

The cauldrons bubble away...

Round 1: Me 5, Grandma 2, Maddie 4
Round 2: Me 2, Grandma 11, Maddie 7
Round 3: Me 2, Grandma 6, Maddie 4

So, I came 1st with 9 points, Maddie came 2nd with 15 points and Grandma came 3rd with 19 points.

After that Deb and Maddie went to see a play at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre over at Southbank. That gave Grandma and I a chance to play a 2-player game. I looked for a game we hadn't played for a while.

Battle Line is another Reiner Knizia design. In this game players are fighting over 9 flags represented by red wooden pawns. These flags represent points along a line of battle. The artwork on the cards represent Alexander the Great with his Macedonians vs Darius III and his Persians. To win, a player must claim 3 flags in a row for a breakthrough or 5 flags in total for an envelopment. You can also play strategy cards but we chose not to do so for this game. Flags are claimed by laying a 3-card combination that beats the opposing 3-card combination. Combinations are equivalent to poker hands (flush, straight, 3-of-a-kind, etc).

The battlefield from my side - I achieved a breakthrough in the center

I always find the choices in this game agonising and tense. It's a great game and I was able to achieve a breakthrough in the center with some good planning and lucky card draws.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Family Gaming - 1

My wife, Deb, and I have previously discussed starting a tradition of family game nights. It would be nice to turn off the TV one evening a week and spend some time together playing games. It would also give Deb a chance to play some games with us as she's usually busy with her business on the the weekends. Although we're usually both tired by the end of the working week we decided that Friday evenings would be the best time.

So tonight was the first of our official family game nights. Both girls were bathed and in their pyjamas and we'd had an early dinner. In attendance were my wife, Deb, our 6 year old daughter, Maddie, our 21 month old daughter, Georgia, and myself. By popular demand (well by Maddie demand) we chose Der Schwarze Pirat as our first game. Maddie chose red (closest to pink), Deb chose yellow and I chose green.

Georgia - The Dice Keeper
Georgia was too young to play but she got to hold the dice between rolls which kept her relatively happy and amused while the rest of us concentrated on moving our ships around. We tried to teach Georgia how to roll the dice and on a few occasions she rolled our moves for us. She still needs some more practice on letting go of the dice in a controlled manner (or letting go of the dice at all!).

Deb took an early lead with some great moves considering this was her first play of the game. I capsized my ship a couple of times much to Maddie's glee. It was interesting to watch Maddie. On her turn she was so excited to move her ship that she often forgot to roll the dice. Her over-enthusiasm did cause her to capsize her boat a couple of times (like Daddy).

Deb takes an early lead

There was one point in the game where I was trailing (come to think of it - I was trailing the entire game!) and I noticed that one island had 7 gold coins on it. I rolled a move 3 and made it within millimeters of entering the harbour. On Maddie's turn she made for the same island with a move 4. She was quite a distance away and I didn't think she'd make it. With some skillful squeezes of the bellows she just made the harbour, pushing my ship out of the way, on her 4th squeeze.

Maddie enters the harbour to take the treasure while I consider keelhauling my crew

Maddie receives her treasure!

The pirate was rolled quite a bit during our game. For some reason my ship always seemed to be close by when there was pillaging to do. I was pillaged by both Deb and Maddie and I lost at least 6 gold coins due to this.

Final scores were Deb 1st with 24 gold, Maddie 2nd with 11 gold and me 3rd (last!) with 1 gold. We all had fun and look forward to our next family game night.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Custom Terrain Tiles For Memoir '44 - Snowy Hills

Memoir '44 is one of my favourite games and over the years I've bought most of the expansions for it. One great expansion is Memoir '44 - Eastern Front. In this expansion you get to fight Soviet versus German battles and some Soviet versus Finnish battles. Half of these battles were fought during winter. I knew that if I was going to fight battles that were fought in winter I needed the Winter/Desert Board Map which had a snow-covered battlefield map board.

Looking at the scenarios in the Eastern Front expansion I noticed Scenario 41 - [Stalingrad] Red Barricades Factory Complex - October 22, 1942. The thing that immediately jumped out at me were a line of lush green hill hexes along the top of the map. The rest of the board was snow-covered with snow-covered factories and ruins. Huh? Why hadn't Days of Wonder produced some snow-covered hills for this expansion?

The Eastern Front expansion did come with snow-covered city ruins, snow-covered trenches, snow-covered villages, snow-covered forests, snow-covered ravines, snow-covered marshes, snow-covered factory complexes, snow-covered forested hills and snow-covered hills with villages. Unfortunately, there were no plain snow-covered hills. As a result of this players had to use their green hills from the master set which were really meant to represent summer green hills from western Europe. These green hills on a winter map board look just plain odd.

The lush green hills of Stalingrad!?!

So I decided to do something about it. At first I thought about attempting to create my own snow-covered hill tiles. Then I had the bright idea to check if anyone else had already done it. A quick search on the Internet revealed someone already had - someone by the name of DirkGent had created sheets of custom terrain tiles, one of which was entirely of snowy hills.

I downloaded the tiles and printed them out on to a sheet of A4 paper. Next, I glued this sheet on to an old game board I'd picked up at a garage sale. After the glue had dried I carefully cut around the hexes with a craft knife. Voila! - Instant snowy hills.

The finished product after gluing and cutting
So I re-set up the game board exactly as the first photo above but instead of the green hills from the original game I replaced them with my custom snowy hills.

Much better!

In writing this entry I wanted to provide a link to DirkGent's site where he had many more custom terrain tiles for Memoir '44. Unfortunately, his site is no longer available. If you are looking for snowy hills there is a single snowy hill in the files section of the Memoir '44 - Eastern Front page at BoardGameGeek.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How To Kill a Vampire

I was sitting on the couch next to my 6 year-old daughter, Maddie, when I noticed a number of mosquito bites on her leg.

"You've got a lot of mosquito bites," I commented.

Maddie rubbed her leg. "Yes, I have 10 of them, Daddy."

"The mosquitoes must like your blood," observed Mum from the kitchen.

"Just like vampires," I teased. "I bet a vampire would like your blood."

Maddie just glared at me.

Out of interest, to see what her knowledge of popular fantasy culture was like, I asked her "And do you know how you kill a vampire?"

Maddie thought for a moment.


My wife and I burst out laughing.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Garage Sale Goodies

My wife and I used to enjoy going to garage/yard sales on Saturday mornings. However, that involved getting up at the crack of dawn, getting the paper for the listings and then driving from location to location around the local suburbs. Now that we have little kids it's virtually impossible to do this activity together any more. So now it's just my wife who goes while I look after the girls.

I've given my wife a standing order to look out for items that may interest me, things like miniatures, games or books. Nine times out of ten she'll come home empty-handed. Every now and then she'll come home with a surprise for me. Like yesterday morning for instance.

Garage sale goodies!

Shogun (AKA Samurai Swords) - $1

Field Marshall - $1

The Russian Campaign - $1

Axis & Allies - $1

Wow! Four games at only $1 each! I thought she was pulling my leg when she told me but that's what she paid. After I got over my shock I sat down and went through each game and they appeared to be complete.

Well, onto eBay they go to fund some future game purchases.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 37

My Mum (Grandma to our kids) came over today for another Saturday morning gaming session. It was her 63rd birthday earlier in the week so we all (myself, my wife Deb, Maddie (aged 6) and Georgia (aged 20 months)) celebrated with a birthday cake and presents. Along with a bunch of red roses Grandma received the latest Scrabble dictionary and a magnetic travel Scrabble game.
After that it was on to our gaming session. Maddie requested that we play Heroscape. I'd played two games of this with Maddie last weekend by ourselves and she had been wanting to play again all week. She also stated that she was going to create the battlefield for us. She made the comment last week that "this game has two fun bits - making the ground and fighting with the miniatures." I couldn't agree with her more.

Maddie placing the terrain tiles to create her battlefield
Grandma and I sat and watched as Maddie enthusiastically began to create the battlefield. I'd occasionally remind her to make sure there were enough elevated areas but she chose where every terrain tile was placed.

Maddie's finished battlefield
We then chose our armies. Grandma and Maddie would team up against me. I would play a mainly Jandar army and they would play an Utgar army. As it turned out their combined armies totalled 350 points and my army was 300 points.

My Jandar army (L-R) Agent Carr, Krav Maga Agents, Syvarris

Maddie's Utgar army (L-R) Zettian Guards, Deathwalker 9000

Grandma's Utgar army (L-R) Ne-Gok-Sa, Marro Warriors
I set up my miniatures near a ruin and a raised rocky area. Maddie's were to my right near another elevated area and Grandma's were dispersed opposite me on the the other side of a small lake.
Maddie won initiative on the first round. She moved her Zettian Guards towards Syvarris my elven archer who was atop a large rocky outcrop. Syvarris shot twice at one of the Zettian Guards but did no damage. Grandma started moving her Marro Warriors towards my Krav Maga Agents. Both Zettian Guards moved within range of Syvarris and fired away. The first Guard wounded Syvarris and the second killed him! Maddie high-fived Grandma in glee as I moved poor Syvarris off the battlefield to rest on his army card.

Syvarris is outgunned by the Zettian Guards
On the second round Maddie again won initiative. Her Deathwalker 9000 was out of range so she used her first turn to move him closer to the action. I sent two of my Krav Maga Agents to the top of the rocky outcrop where Syvarris had fallen. They both blasted away at a Zettian Guard and managed to eliminate it.

My Krav Maga Agents avenge the death of Syvarris. In the background Deathwalker 9000 advances.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ruin Grandma had advanced a couple of her Marro Warriors who were attacking Agent Carr and the female Krav Maga Agent. The special ability of the Krav Maga Agents to cancel all hits from an attack if they roll a single shield certainly was coming in handy. She managed to take out one of the Marro Warriors with a well placed shot. My Agent Carr moved closer to some advancing Marro Warriors and took out one with a swing of his mighty Sword of Reckoning 4. Grandma's Ne-Gok-Sa then raced towards my two Krav Maga Agents on the rocky outcrop.
Maddie again won initiative on the third round (can this kid roll or what?). Her first action was to move Deathwalker 9000 into range of my two Krav Maga Agents who were valiantly defending the rocky outcrop. Using Deathwalker 9000's special ability of Explosion Special Attack she sent a missile directly at my Krav Maga Agent on the right. The explosion of 3 dice also affected the other Krav Maga Agent who was adjacent. Maddie rolled 3 skulls. The first Krav Maga Agent died in the fiery explosion while the second barely survived due to rolling 1 shield.

Deathwalker 9000 sends a missile at my Krav Maga Agents killing one of them
Meanwhile, Ne-Gok-Sa, seeing only one Agent left on the rocky outcrop raced towards him. He reached the base of the outcrop but had had no more movement that turn.

On the fourth round guess who again won initiative? Yep - Maddie! Deathwalker 9000 opened up with his machine gun on my remaining Krav Maga Agent riddling him with bullets (much to the disappointment of Ne-Gok-Sa who was waiting to attack him as well).

Deathwalker 9000 takes down my second Krav Maga Agent from 7 hexes away
I only had Agent Carr and the female Krav Maga Agent left and I was starting to worry about my chances of winning. At this point in the game I'd only destroyed two of the four Marro Warriors and one Zettian Guard. Seeing that Ne-Gok-Sa was the immediate threat I moved Agent Carr forwards and fired at him. Unfortunately I did no damage. Grandma meanwhile had moved her two remaining Marro Warriors into the water and used their special ability to clone more warriors. She rolled the required numbers and was able to clone her two dead Marro Warriors back to life so to speak. My one remaining Krav Maga Agent fired her handguns at one of the newly-spawned Marro Warriors and was able to kill it.

You go girl! My female Krav Maga Agent takes down one of the advancing Marro Warriors

I then moved Agent Carr to attack Grandma's Ne-Gok-Sa. Although I rolled 3 hits on him he was able to block two of them. He then counter-attacked and rolled mostly skulls. It was enough to kill my already wounded Agent Carr. That left me with the one sole remaining female Krav Maga Agent.

A triumphant Ne-Gok-Sa stands over the lifeless Agent Carr

There were Marro Warriors on either side of my female Krav Maga Agent. She soon fell under a hail of fire from their alien guns.

The last stand by my female Krav Maga Agent ends in defeat

And so the Jandar army was defeated by the foul Utgar army. We all enjoyed the game and even though I lost I had a ball. I look forward to experimenting with the special abilities of some of the other characters in our next game. Maddie has already insisted we break out the terrain from the second Heroscape master set we own to create an even bigger battlefield next time we play.