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.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Visit to Canberra

I had to fly to Canberra today for work reasons. You see we're introducing a new training management computer program and one of my roles will be the state coordinator of this system. So myself and a colleague from each state were scheduled to travel to our national office in Canberra to be trained in the new system. My wife asked me to take some photos so I thought I'd share them with you. For those of you who aren't already aware Canberra is the capital city of Australia.

It's 1268km (788 miles) by road from where I live in Brisbane to Canberra which would take approximately 16 hours to drive. Thankfully it's only a 90 minute flight. I've only been to Canberra once before and that was in 1987 to attend a gaming convention called CanCon.

Brisbane airport - my plane, a Qantas Boeing 737-400

So I was up at 4.00am after a total of only 4 hours sleep due to a sick little Georgia coughing for most of the night. My plane was scheduled to depart at 6.10am and I arrived at the airport at around 5.30am. As I passed through security I dropped my hand luggage on the x-ray conveyor belt and passed through the metal detector without any alarms going off. As I was picking up my bag I was approached by a female security person who advised me I'd been randomly selected for an explosives check. She waved what appeared to be some electronic sensor (an explosives 'sniffer' I assume) over my body. She then pressed a sticky tape on the end of a tool on to several areas of my bag. After that she peeled off the sticky tape and ran it through a machine. After an all clear I was on my way.

The view out my window of the pacific ocean far below

I would have loved to catch up on some sleep as we flew south along the east coast of Australia but unfortunately I find it difficult to sleep on planes. Instead I read a book - Prisoner 1167 - The Madman Who Was Jack the Ripper by J.C.H. Tully which I'd picked up 2nd hand at a school fete a year or so ago but had never read. It's an interesting read in which the author tries to link James Kelly, a paranoid schizophrenic who escaped from Broadmoor asylum, to the Jack the Ripper murders in the latter half of 1888. I was so engrossed in the gruesome details of the murders that the 90 minute flight flew by and before I knew it we were commencing our descent into Canberra. After landing I caught a taxi to my destination and managed to take some quick photos along the way.

We like to point out to tourists that Canberra is our national capital - not Sydney

Did you know that Canberra was the sister city of Nara, Japan? - No, neither did I

Lake Burley Griffin with Parliament House in the distance

If you look in the distance past Lake Burley Griffin you'll see Australia's Parliament House. See the white building in the center foreground on the other side of the lake? That's not it. Parliament house is the white building behind that with the 81 metre flag pole. Incidentally, the Australian flag flown atop that flag pole measures 12.8m by 6.4m which is about the size of half a tennis court.

The Telstra Tower on the summit of Black Mountain

We (meaning the taxi driver and myself) passed the Telstra Tower (AKA the Black Mountain Tower) on the way to Belconnen where our office is situated. The Tower, rising 195 metres above the mountain summit, is not only a landmark in Canberra but also offers panoramic views of the city and its surrounding countryside from a viewing platform or from the Towers revolving restaurant.

Almost there!

Belconnen is situated to the north-west of Canberra's city centre and surrounds Lake Ginninderra. As I had a little time to kill before the training session I decided to stop at Westfield Belconnen which is a large shopping centre only a couple of blocks from our national office.

Any game stores I wonder?

The first thing I did was check out the game stores in the shopping centre. Unfortunately all they had was a Toys R Us.

But do they have any Heroscape expansions?

I've recently bought the game Heroscape and frustratingly I can't find any of its expansions anywhere locally. Apparently Hasbro, the makers of Heroscape, are no longer distributing to Australia. I was hoping that this particular store would still have some expansions left. Alas, for after some searching, I was again disappointed.

After that I headed to the office. I won't bore you with the details of this suffice to say that I sat in a computer training room for 4 hours with 9 other people learning the complexities of the new program.

I decided to get out of the office at lunch time, so I walked a couple of blocks back past Westfield Belconnen to the shores of Lake Ginninderra where I found a nice spot to eat my lunch and read my book.

A relaxing half hour by the shores of Lake Ginninderra

If you're wondering about the photo above, no, I didn't ask someone to take a picture of me, I simply set my camera on the rock wall and pressed the timer button. That explains the odd angle. It was a beautiful day, not too hot and not too cool. What I really enjoyed was the lack of humidity in the air. Brisbane is often very humid during the warmer months but Canberra is more southerly and also inland so it's much drier. After eating my sandwiches and reading more of the awful murders which occurred in Whitechapel in 1888 I headed back to the office.

I struggled to keep awake through the afternoon session but before I knew it I was heading back to the airport by taxi to catch my flight home. Unfortunately my flight was booked for 5.45pm and I arrived at about 3.30pm. That meant I had about 2 hours to kill. I decided to head up to the departure gate to see if I could catch an earlier flight. This time as I was passing through security I followed the same procedure as the morning. I placed my bag on the conveyor belt while I walked through the metal detector. There were two metal detectors and just like in one of those 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books I chose the left one. I must have chosen incorrectly because the metal detector beeped and I was directed by security personnel to take off my shoes and pass through again. This time my shoes went for a ride through the x-ray machine while I again passed through the metal detector. Thankfully on this occasion there was no beep so I picked up my bag and put my shoes back on. It must have been the metal eyelets on my shoes which had set off the metal detector.

I checked to see if I could get on an earlier flight but they were fully booked. With a couple of hours until my flight I decided to head back past security to the lounge area where I bought a coffee and read some more of my book.

Come the time to pass through security again I chose the right walk-through metal detector. I must have chosen correctly because, bizarrely, that metal detector did not pick up the metal in my shoes and I walked through without any hassles.

By this time I was feeling pretty tired. It had been a long day and I always find training sessions to be quite draining. I still couldn't sleep on the plane so I just read. The plane touched down in Brisbane about 7.20pm and I caught a taxi and was home just before 8.00pm.

The sunset looking west out of the left side of the plane at about 6.30pm

Monday, October 15, 2007

A lost game is found

A couple of years ago I lost my copy of Buccaneer. I thought I'd taken it away on holidays with me and accidentally left it behind. I couldn't find it anywhere. You see, my board game collection is spread over the house in boxes, cupboards and bookshelves both upstairs and downstairs. I've spent many hours over the last few years looking for Buccaneer but to no avail.

Today I was going through my games considering which ones I'm going to sell.

Look what I found when I opened one of my HeroQuest boxes...

It was like opening a pirate's chest to reveal the treasure within!

Obviously to save space I'd put it in an empty HeroQuest but forgot about it! D'oh!

How much HeroQuest is too much?

Over the years I've picked up a few copies of the Milton Bradley board game HeroQuest at garage sales, school fetes and flea markets. I just can't help myself when I see them so cheap. HeroQuest looks like a fun board game which has both a role-playing feel to it as well as heaps of cool plastic miniatures. One day I'll paint up a set of miniatures and when my daughters are older run them through the scenarios with me as the Game Master.

A tower of 16 HeroQuest boxes

I'm going through a bit of a Spring clean with my games at the moment with the plan of putting a few of the less played games on eBay and opening up some shelf space for future game purchases. As I had today off work I decided to do a bit of a stock take. It was then that I realised I had 16 boxes of HeroQuest! I know I've had to ditch broken HeroQuest boxes in the past so I would estimate that I'd have over 20 complete sets within those 16 boxes. Wow!

I've had plans for cutting up some of the boards room by room and corridor by corridor to use as terrain for other miniatures or role-playing games. Other projects include painting and basing the miniatures for war games rules such as Hordes of the Things. These are all things I'm going to do when I have 'time'. Unfortunately free time is something that is in short supply when one works full time and has young kids.

I plan to list a stack of books, games and miniatures on eBay on Thursday 8 November. Anyway, back to the stock take.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 36

After a week of heat, humidity and evening storms it was nice to have a cooler change this morning. My Mum (Grandma to our kids) dropped by this morning for her weekly visit and gaming session. The other member of our regular weekly gaming session, my daughter Maddie (aged 6), had to go to a friend's birthday party so that left Mum and I considering what 2-player games we'd like to play. Meanwhile, my wife Deb was working so little Georgia (almost 21 months) sat on her Grandma's lap while I looked through the dining room game cabinet.

We decided on Through the Desert. This is a Go-like game of placing plastic pastel camels on a board to obtain points by various means, such as claiming water holes, reaching oases, having the longest camel route and enclosing areas.

I was green and Mum was orange

On an amusing (!?) note we'd just placed all the water holes and oases on the board and were into our second or third turn when Georgia grabbed the edge of the board and lifted it up sending camels, counters and palm trees everywhere. Ahh...the joys of playing when toddlers are about! We started again but as it was that time of the morning I laid Georgia down for a nap. We were then able to play in peace.

It was interesting that in this game Mum was striving to simply place camels to get the most points while I was trying to strike a balance between attempting to deny her points while trying to secure points for myself. I cut off a couple of her camel routes from being able to reach more than the one oasis while myself having a couple of my routes managing to reach two oases. I also was able to enclose a relatively large space while she managed a few smaller areas. She had 3 of the 5 longest camel routes but I was able to peg it back to 2.5 each on the last turn. Even so I though for sure I would safely win this one. It turned out that it ended up quite close. I won on 119 points but Mum was very close behind on 113 points.

Next up was Carcassonne. We played with the Inns & Cathedrals expansion tiles but as we hadn't played this in a while I decided to just teach and play the vanilla Carcassonne rules. For those of you who don't know, Carcassonne is a historic fortified city in southern France. In the game players randomly draw a tile and place it so that its edge matches the edge of an already laid tile. The tiles represent the castles and surrounding countryside of the Carcassonne area. Each player has 7 game markers colloquially referred to as 'meeple' which they may place on tiles they have just laid down (an 8th meeple is used as a marker on the scoring board). Depending on what sort of tile it is and where you place your meeple on that tile determines how many points you will immediately, or possibly later, score.

I was green and Mum was yellow

I haven't played Carcassonne that much but I understand the basic strategy and the importance of farmers. Mum and I played relatively 'nice', not really interfering with each other's tile placements. I say this only because I'm aware that Carcassonne can be played as a 'cut-throat' game in which you actively try to disrupt your opponent's plans. So this learning game was rather sedate with me, after explaining the rules, reminding Mum of her options each turn. I think after a few more games under our belts I'll increase the confrontation to spice things up. Final scores were me on 123 and Mum on 87.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


No, I haven't won the lottery or come into money or anything exciting like that. I dropped in at a thrift store this afternoon and picked up the card game Billionaire (AKA Pit) for $1. When I saw it on the shelf there were cards spilling out of it so I made sure to count them all and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was complete. I've played this game before and always find it to be a laugh. Loud, frenetic, card-swappin' fun is how I described it on BoardGameGeek. Billionaire is great as a filler and can be enjoyed by gamers and non-gamers alike.

Monday, October 08, 2007

It was a Dark and Stormy Night...

We had a storm this evening with a spectacular lightning show. I took the following pictures from our back deck.

A pitch black night is suddenly virtually turned into daylight

Lightning strike!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 35

Another Saturday morning of gaming with my mother and daughter. Today we had the opportunity to play some recent game purchases from Germany - Burg Appenzell and Der schwarze Pirat.

In Burg Appenzell (or Castle Appenzell) each player controls four cute coloured mice and tries to collect pieces of cheese from within Castle Appenzell. On their turn players spend action points to either put new mice into play, reveal corridors in the castle, move their mice, or push a tile which changes the maze and can possibly drop mice into the dungeons below. If on a turn any two of a player's mice are sitting on tiles that show the same kind of cheese, that player obtains a piece of this cheese. The first player with 4 different pieces of cheese wins the game.

Burg Appenzell from above - the various roof tiles hide the board below

On a side note, Appenzell is a region in north-east Switzerland. A cheese called Appenzeller has been made in this region for the last 700 years. My mother was born in Switzerland so it was interesting for Maddie to link the place where this game was set to her Grandma's country of birth.

The components are simply beautiful with nice thick cardboard, lovely artwork and cute mice tokens. The box itself doubles as the castle and contains a plastic tray with internal wells representing the dungeons.

Each player starts by placing one of their mice (did I mention how cute these mice are?) in one of the four castle towers. The starting player is the last person to visit a real castle. Out of the three of us that would have been me but the general policy in our house is that youngest player (in this case Maddie - aged 6) goes first. Maddie chose blue, Grandma chose yellow and I chose green.

Maddie quickly picked up the action-point mechanic and used it to lift roof tiles to reveal cheese tiles below and move her mice. Roof tiles cover 2 to 4 spaces. There is an element of memory involved because as soon as there is no mouse in an area at the end of a player's turn the roof tile is replaced thus hiding any cheese tiles below. There is also the element of sliding tiles like in the Amazing Labyrinth. The cool part is there are 3 tiles with holes in them that can be used to drop opponent's mice into the dungeons and take them out of play.

One of Grandma's mice is headed for a one-way trip to the dungeon

I took an early lead and mentioned to Maddie and Grandma that I already had 3 pieces of cheese. I was proud to then see Maddie whispering in Grandma's ear about ways to stop Daddy from winning. As I was so close to winning we all decided to change the required number of cheeses to 7. I did eventually go on to win with 7 pieces of cheese, with Grandma on 5 and Maddie on 3. Burg Appenzell is a light fun game for adults and children.

My winning haul of cheeses. Mmmm....cheese.

Next up was Der schwarze Pirate. This was another beautiful game with great components. The board is formed by four pieces which interlock like a jigsaw puzzle. I was concerned that the edges of the board pieces may not lock together properly or perhaps be warped but was relieved to find they fit together extremely well and lay flat. There are raised edges around the edge of the board and also raised areas on the board which represent islands.

Each player is assigned a coloured wooden ship with cloth sails which starts on a predetermined space in the middle of the board. A black pirate ship starts in a predetermined bay on pirate island. The aim of the game is to move your ship around the board by blowing it with a rubber puffer or bellows. On the various islands will be gold coins which you will collect if you enter the bay (represented by a lighter blue than the surrounding ocean) of that particular island. When all the available coins have been collected the player with the most coins wins the game. Maddie chose red, Grandma chose yellow and I chose green.

Maddie placing a coin and trying to blow her ship at the same time

On their turn the player will roll two dice. The first die will show how many puffs of the bellows you can use to move either your own ship or the pirate ship. The possible outcomes are 1) move your ship 3 puffs, 2) move your ship 4 puffs or 3) move the pirate ship 3 puffs. The second die determines onto which island you will place a coin. Sometimes two coins will be placed on two islands.

Moving ships with the bellows is the cool part of this game. Experimentation will reveal that it is best to blow at the more stable wooden base of the ship rather than the cloth sail. Blowing at the cloth sail will often result in a capsize which ends your turn and forces you to place your ship back on its predetermined starting space in the centre of the board. Maddie took a little while to perfect her bellows-style but was soon as proficient as the adults.

If your die roll means that you move the pirate ship you can choose either of two tactics. Either move the pirate ship into the bay of an island (like you would do with your own ship) and claim all the island gold for yourself or try and move the pirate ship so that it touches an opponent's ship. The player whose ship was boarded by the pirate ship must now take 3 coins from their bag and place them hidden in their two hands (either all 3 in one hand or 1 in one hand and 2 in the other). The pirate player then selects a hand and gains all the gold in that hand.

Hoping the winds of fate will blow me into the bay of that island to claim the gold

As the placement of the coins is randomly decided by a die then you will find yourself having to try and navigate around the raised islands to seek your glory. Dexterity games like this are fun with all players cheering when a particularly well-placed gust of wind sends a ship flying towards its target.

Once again this was another quality game from Germany with a beautiful thick board, lovely cloth bags, gorgeous yellow wooden coins and stunning wooden and cloth ships. Fun for adults and kids alike. Final scores were me on 18, Maddie on 10 and Grandma on 8.

Our final game of the morning was my hand-made copy of Diamant. This is a fun quick game of push-your-luck. Players are adventurers exploring 5 caves which hold gems and hazards which are determined by revealing cards. Knowing when to leave and take your accumulated gems is the key to this game, although sometimes pushing your luck and outstaying the other players can pay off. Its all about managing risk versus reward.

My home-made version of Diamant

The photo above was taken on the second card draw of round 1 before I realised that we had forgotten to share the gems before moving on to the next card. Final scores were me on 51, Grandma on 48 and Maddie on 25.