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.