Friday, August 31, 2007

Everyday Life in Victorian England

I was perusing a city thrift store when I came across a book entitled The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England From 1811-1901.
From the blurb on the back:
In this timesaving reference book, respected author and historian Kristine Hughes brings 19th century England to life as she leads you through the details that characterize this fascinating era. From slice-of-life facts, anecdotes and firsthand accounts, to sweeping timelines and major historical events, this guide presents the delightful and often surprising daily realities of Regency and Victorian England. With it, you'll craft a vibrant story as you learn:
  • What people ate, from pigeon pie and turtle dinners to syllabub and milk punch.
  • Where a prisoner would go if he were remanded to the "hulks".
  • The four coats a gentleman must have in his wardrobe, and other fashion requirements of the era.
  • The rules honored by decent society, from the proper way to promenade to the polite hours to "call".
  • How couples married and divorced, through churching, wife-selling and other practices.
  • What people did for work, from cottagers and climbing boys to milkmaids and manservants.
  • The meaning of common slang words like mawleys and moleskins.
  • What Cook's Tours were like and where they could take the adventurous.
  • Trends in entertainment, such as dandies, panoramas and more.

I've been fascinated with the 19th century for some time now so naturally I immediately bought the book. My interest in this era probably began through the reading of military history. Britain was involved in many conflicts during this period; most notably the Napoleonic Wars, the First and Second Afghan Wars, the Crimean War, the First and Second Sikh Wars, the Indian Mutiny, the Zulu War and the First and Second Boer Wars.

I'm also interested in genealogy and am currently in the slow and often disrupted process of tracing my ancestry. I have traced some of my English ancestors back to the early 19th century. To me, tracing my ancestors is more than just noting down dates from birth, death and wedding certificates, it's about understanding the times in which they lived. This book will be just another piece in the puzzle of building a picture of their environment at that time.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Solitaire Carcassonne

The other day I came across this thread on BoardGameGeek on a suggested way to play solitaire Carcassonne. Today at work during my lunch time I decided to try it out. I separated a random selection of original Carcassonne tiles and also the Inns & Cathedrals tiles into four piles of 19 tiles. I played the game over four rounds using the original starting tile each round plus one of the 19 tile piles for a total of 20 tiles each round. Each round, using only 4 meeple, I tried to score the highest points I could.

Round 1: 28
Round 2: 56
Round 3: 15
Round 4: 63
Total: 162 points

It took me about 30 minutes from set-up to to the game end. Although it was a pleasant diversion it didn't compare to playing against live opponents.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Under a Blood Red Moon

At exactly 8.37pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time) the Sun, Earth and Moon were in exact alignment causing a total lunar eclipse, also known as a "blood moon". It was the first total lunar eclipse to be seen from start to finish in the city's skies since July 2000. The next blood moon will not be visible until 11.45pm on December 10, 2011.

I managed to get a couple of photos of the eclipse before the moon became too dark to properly photograph.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 29

My Mum (Grandma to our kids) came over for her regular Saturday morning visit. After a cup of tea and a chat we sat down to a game of Scrabble.

I went first after drawing a W to Mum's X.

Turn 1 [Me] SMEARER 68, [Mum] FINGE(R) 20
Turn 2 [Me] (F)OOTY 22, [Mum] GA(Y) 21
Turn 3 [Me] JA(M)BS 34, [Mum] F(E)/F(E)Z 20
Turn 4 [Me] LO(O)N 10, [Mum] (R)UNT 5
Turn 5 [Me] (T)REY 14, [Mum] DARN(S) 10
Turn 6 [Me] (Y)EW 18, [Mum] PLAI(D) 14
Turn 7 [Me] ROUTErS/(YEW)S 70, [Mum] Q(I) 11
Turn 8 [Me] HO(U)R 33, [Mum] (R)IVEN 16
Turn 9 [Me] (D)RIVEN 10, [Mum] (J)UMP 15
Turn 10 [Me] HOTE(L) 24, [Mum] (H)ILT 8
Turn 11 [Me] (W)AX 26, [Mum] SI(X) 10
Turn 12 [Me] (D)I(B)/(S)I(N) 9, [Mum] DI(R)T 5
Turn 13 [Me] NEA(T) 4, [Mum] CLU(E) 8
Turn 14 [Me] EO(N) 6, [Mum] (P)EG 6
Turn 15 [Me] WAnE/n(EON) 33, [Mum] DIK(E) 18
Turn 16 [Me] (T)A 4, [Mum] B(E) 4
Turn 17 [Me] (N)O 4, [Mum] Pass
Turn 18 [Me] I(D) 3,

Mum was left with C & V for minus 7 points. This was an exciting game with me getting 2 bingos in the one game (a first for me). The first bingo was on my very first turn when I was extremely pleased to find in my initial rack the word SMEARER. My second bingo came on turn 7 when I put down the word ROUTERS with the help of a blank. Probably the most obscure words I played were FOOTY (paltry), JAMBS (plural of jamb, i.e. the vertical portion of the frame onto which a door is secured), LOON (a diving waterfowl), TREY (a three in cards, dice or dominoes), ROUTERS (pluralised form of a scooping tool), DIB (to fish by letting the bait bob lightly on the water) and ID (a part of the psyche). Final scores were [Me] 392 and [Mum] 184. I averaged 21.78 points per turn which is another personal best.
After that, Maddie (6) joined Grandma and I for a game of Der Plumpsack Geht Um (AKA Sherlock). It's a memory game where players must memorise the cards on the table which are then turned over. The player to your left places the plumpsack card next to one of the face down cards and you must guess what item is on that card. If you guess correctly the plumpsack is then placed next to a face down card as per the instructions on the just-guessed card. For example, there will be an arrow pointing left or right and a number stating how many cards away in that direction. Your turn continues until you fail to guess correctly. If you keep guessing correctly you will eventually be directed back to a face up card you had previously guessed. You then take that card as a point and another card is put in its place from the draw deck. The play continues with the player on your left. Games are normally played with the winner being the first player to achieve a certain number of points.

We played one game with 6 cards with the winner being the first player to get 3 points. I came first with 3 points and neither Grandma or Maddie scoring a single point.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 28

My Mum (Grandma), my daughter Maddie (6) and I got together for some games this morning after a two week break.

First up, Mum and I sat down to a game of Scrabble.

I went first after drawing a D to Mum's L.

Turn 1 [Me] HOT 12, [Mum] (H)OT 6
Turn 2 [Me] YE(T) 14, [Mum] NOIS(Y) 10
Turn 3 [Me] (O)X/(O)X 34, [Mum] PU(T) 11
Turn 4 [Me] NI(P) 5, [Mum] CA(N) 8
Turn 5 [Me] GI(N) 4, [Mum] (G)ROG 7
Turn 6 [Me] (HOT)EL 9, [Mum] (E)D/D(E)AN 8
Turn 7 [Me] (C)ROUPY 26, [Mum] (HOTEL)iER 30
Turn 8 [Me] HEA(P) 13, [Mum] (HEAP)ED 12
Turn 9 [Me] (H)INT 21, [Mum] (D)EW 15
Turn 10 [Me] TO(i)L 5, [Mum] (W)AD 7
Turn 11 [Me] BI(D)S 30, [Mum] (I)F 9
Turn 12 [Me] MAG(I) 14, [Mum] LI(M)E 12
Turn 13 [Me] (DEAN)S 12, [Mum] KIN(G) 10
Turn 14 [Me] JO(K)E 45, [Mum] (S)ELF 7
Turn 15 [Me] BE(GIN) 14, [Mum] CA(B) 7
Turn 16 [Me] (L)IVE 14, [Mum] M(E)N/(A)N 13
Turn 17 [Me] QuART/A(MEN) 75, [Mum] S(LIME)/S(CAB) 15
Turn 18 [Me] VOT(E)D 34, [Mum] R(O)W 6
Turn 19 [Me] (QuART)ER 15, [Mum] A(N) 4
Turn 20 [Me] (I)F 7,

Mum was left with Z,U,U and A for minus 13 points. Probably the most obscure words I played were CROUPY (affected with croup, a disease of the throat) and MAGI (plural of Magus, i.e. magician). I was pleased to see Mum get IER on to the end of HOTEL to score HOTELIER on a triple word score. Also impressed with her turning CAB and LIME into SCAB and SLIME with a single S on the same turn. Unfortunately she only scored 15 for that placement but it was a cool move nonetheless.

I was very happy to put QUART down, scoring both with the Q on a double letter square and the word on a triple word square and also simultaneously scoring the word AMEN. I scored 75 points for that combination which is my highest ever single turn score since playing Scrabble. I also scored a personal best final score in this game, finally cracking the 400 point score. Final scores were [Me] 403 and [Mum] 184. I averaged 20.15 points per turn.

After that, Maddie (6) joined Grandma and I for a game of Fraidy Cats. This is always a fun game to play with kids. There is always that tension as Mugs the dog careens around the board. We played two games. Game 1 - 1st Grandma, 2nd Maddie and 3rd Me. Game 2 - 1st Me, 2nd Grandma and 3rd Maddie.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I was perusing BoardGameGeek recently when I came across a GeekList entitled 'How Bolide save my life..... or your favorite games that you can play with pen and paper to keep yourself from going mad!' Bolide is a racing game which uses no cards or dice to move the cars, rather it uses a revolutionary mechanism able to reproduce the real accelerations, decelerations and inertial movements of the cars during the races. I really enjoy racing games and Bolide had been on my radar for a while but I'd never really done much research on it. So, curious, I checked out this GeekList.

Now, as GeekLists go, this one was unfortunately pretty spartan. It only had the single game entry for Bolide to explain how the user, TGov, had used the rules, sheets of graph paper and a pen to play the game during a particularly boring work conference. What really interested me was that he mentioned the mechanics were based on an earlier public domain paper and pencil game called Racetrack. I love it when GeekLists such as this alert me to cool games of which I was previously unaware.

The Wikipedia site for Racetrack states "Racetrack is a paper and pencil game of unknown origins, played by two or more players. It is also known under names such as Vector Formula, Vector rally or Vector race, or Graph racers, PolyRace, Paper and pencil racing, or the Graph paper race game. Racetrack is played on a squared sheet of paper ("quad pad", e.g. Letter preprinted with a 1/4" square grid, or A4 with a 5 mm square grid). The game simulates a car race. As the cars have a certain inertia, one must e.g. slow down before a dangerous bent in the track. Thus, the game requires foresight and planning for successful play."

I'm always interested in games that can be played with paper and pencil. There was also a link to a Java-based game called Vector Racer. I went to this site and played the game. I soon got a feel for the rules and was amazed out how elegantly this game mimicked the inertia of race cars. It really promotes gaining the 'racing line' just like in real car races. Click on the link and check it out for yourself.

So at lunchtime today I played a solitaire game of Racetrack. I made up a track (see below) and used three different coloured pens (blue, red and black) to represent the three race cars. I tried to win with each car but used slightly different tactics with each one. I tried not to think too far ahead and tried to play fairly quickly. It was quite fun and I crashed a few times.

Although I suspect there may be a runaway leader problem to this game (as there can be in real life races), I think the mechanics model the movement of race cars very well. I've been looking for a suitable set of rules to use for racing my Star Wars podracers. I think I'll play around with the Racetrack rules a little.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My Replacement Battlelore Dice Arrive

My replacement Battlelore dice arrived in Australia this morning, exactly 1 week after Days of Wonder confirmed they had sent them. That's great service.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Battlelore Replacement Dice Update

A day after I ordered my replacement Battlelore dice from the Days of Wonder site I received the following email.

We are pleased to inform you that your Days of Wonder order ##### was shipped on 08/06/2007. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any problem with your package. We shall be happy to assist you. Again, we thank you for your order, and hope you will enjoy our games.
Best regards
The Days of Wonder team

Days of Wonder are renowned for their great customer service and this is another example. It's not the fact that they must have packed and posted my replacement dice within 24 hours of receiving my order (I may have been just lucky that it coincided with their weekly shipment), no, it's that they promised to send me an e-mail when my dice were shipped and they did.

Compare this to an earlier experience I had with Mayfair Games. On that occasion I emailed Mayfair to request them to replace a missing piece from my new copy of The Downfall of Pompeii. Although I received a standard automatic response within 90 minutes stating that they would send me an e-mail when my order was shipped, I heard nothing until a month later when the replacement piece turned up in my mail box. Now for that entire month, as I had not received my promised e-mail, I was wondering when, or even if, I would receive my missing piece.

It may only seem like a minor difference in my two experiences, but those experiences do affect customers, either positively or negatively. Hey, I'm blogging about them for goodness sake. The lesson for those in business is very clear - communication, and managing a customer's expectations is vitally important.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Ordered Replacement Battlelore Dice

Back in a post on 29 December 2006 I wrote about the problem Days of Wonder had identified with their first production run of Battlelore dice. Although I took the precaution of spraying my dice with a protective coat of laquer, I wasn't that satisfied with their quality straight out of the box. Unfortunately, for various reasons, I haven't had the opportunity to play Battlelore as much as I'd hoped this year, so haven't experienced the wearing of the dice to the extent that other people have. Due to the initial lack of quality of the dice, I'd always had the intention of taking Days of Wonder up on their offer to replace them, however, I thought I'd wait until the hubbub over the issue had died down.

Well, today I ordered my replacement Battlelore dice. It was very simple. My copy of the game had the relevent Battlelore Web Card access code commencing with BL-10 so I was eligible for the offer. I just went to the site and input my details.

This is the message I received:

Order Confirmation
Thank you for your order. Your order reference is:
You will receive an e-mail when your replacement dice are shipped. Shipment occurs once a week. Dice are shipped via regular mail, so it will take several days to reach you - up to several weeks if you are located outside US, France or Germany. There is no use to contact us: as these shipments are not tracked, we would not be able to give you any useful information beyond "Yes it shipped, check your mail and wait". Thank you for your patience and your understanding.