Monday, June 30, 2008

Two Armies, One Afternoon...

I've got to say I'm a big fan of Richard Borg's Commands & Colors system. I own and enjoy playing Battle Cry, Memoir '44 and BattleLore. The only one in this series that I have played but don't own as yet is Borg's ancient warfare version of the C&C system - Commands & Colors: Ancients.

I first played C&C:Ancients back in 2006 and thought it was perhaps the best implementation of the C&C system. In the past I've enjoyed playing ancients using various miniatures rules and I find that C&C:Ancients gives me just the same enjoyment but in a shorter time. So when I noticed an Australian mail order shop with a 20% off sale on wargames I finally made the decision to buy the base game and all three expansions - Commands & Colors: Ancients, Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #1: Greece and Eastern Kingdoms, Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #2: Rome and the Barbarians, and Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #3: The Roman Civil Wars.

The only problem is that they weren't all in stock. I've only received C&C: Ancients Expansion Pack #1: Greece and the Eastern Kingdoms. But that's alright as I'm also a big fan of Alexander the Great so it was fitting that I received this first.

As I had a day off work today I decided to prepare the game for playing. So this afternoon I sat down in front of the TV, put on the 3rd season of Deadwood on DVD, and stuck stickers on all the blocks.

I turned this...

Into this!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturday School Fete

It was Maddie's 7th birthday on Friday. We had a small family birthday celebration with presents at home last night but what Maddie was really looking forward to was her school's annual fete on Saturday. We'd bought her a wrist band which allowed her unlimited goes on the many amusement rides.

Saturday morning dawned clear and bright. It was a beautiful winter's day; blue sky, sunshine and a slight nip in the air (our winters in Australia are very mild). Along with myself were my wife Debbie, our 7 year old daughter Maddie, 2 year old daughter Georgia, and my Mum (AKA Grandma).

The school's Winter Carnival. The gridded enclosure is for 'Cow Pat Lotto'.

There were lots of rides and games for the children to play, as well as food, art, crafts and second-hand stalls for the parents. I picked up an old copy of the board game Battle for the Galaxy Zylatron for $2 from the second-hand stall (more for the components than the game itself).

Maddie on the giant slide

I couldn't resist the slide and took Georgia with me as an excuse

After some rides and games for the kids we made our way to the school auditorium where they had on display art from all the children at the school.

Maddie in front of her self-portrait entitled 'Happy - Normal - Sad'

One of the funniest things I saw was a fundraising effort for the school called 'Cow Pat Lotto'. For $20 you could buy one square in a 15 x 15 grid. Just after midday they would release a calf into the gridded enclosure. If the calf crapped in your square you'd win $1,000.

The calf with the $1,000 crap

They had lots of groups of children entertaining the crowds with dancing. One of the cutest was a small group of tiny ballerinas.

Mini ballerinas

We had lunch there. I had a particularly tasty baked potato with all the toppings.

Georgia was having a great time

Grandma, Maddie and Georgia enjoying the day

We went home after lunch. In the afternoon Deb went back to the school fete with Maddie and Nanny and Pop who had just arrived, for more fun including an evening outdoor screening of the movie Alvin and the Chipmunks. I stayed home to look after Georgia who was quite tired after the morning's excitement.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Good Customer Service From Mayfair Games

Back on 27 May I received a new in-shrink copy of Mayfair Games' Tigris and Euphrates in a math trade. On opening the game I was disappointed to find all the die-cut tiles were printed off-centre - annoyingly off-centre. The last game I'd bought that was published by Mayfair Games was The Downfall of Pompeii - and that was missing a vital playing piece. Was I just unlucky or did they have poor quality control at Mayfair? To be fair, Mayfair did replace the missing playing piece with minimum fuss.

So on 29 May I sent an email to customer service at Mayfair Games letting them know of the problem.

On 3 June Kim McBrady from Mayfair customer support responded:

I am sorry you received defective tiles in your game. I will send you a new set of tiles for your game free of charge in the mail as soon as I can.

Customer Service
Mayfair Games, Inc.

On 19 June a sturdy cardboard envelope arrived from the USA with a new set of neatly-centred tiles for me.

Great customer service from Mayfair Games and a big thank you to Kim McBrady

I was very pleased with the customer service from Mayfair Games. They acknowledged the problem, they apologised, and they offered to replace the faulty components free of charge.

Coincidentally, just the other day, I was reading an article by Yehuda Berlinger from back in June 2006 at The Games Journal. In this article, entitled Ethics in Gaming 6.0, he discusses the moral responsibility of game designers and publishers to their customers. I thought his comments on customer service and various types of good and bad apologies was spot on.

I'll reproduce part of the article below from Ethics in Gaming 6.0 by Yehuda Berlinger. Click on the link for the full article, it's an interesting read.

Customer Service

Try to ensure quality control on your product, and respond quickly and generously to people who have bought the product with broken or missing components.

Answer all customer queries with politeness, even those that are impolite themselves. The losers of any argument are the rude ones.

A brief aside about apologies

There are many incorrect ways to formulate an apology, but only a few correct ones. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is best:

  • "You can always take your business elsewhere." (1): Thank you, I will, and so will all of my friends.
  • "It's not our fault." (2): This is a non-apology, where you are not seeking to redress the issue, nor evincing any sort of sympathy for the injured.
  • "We're sorry that you feel that way." (3): This is also a non-apology, which roughly translates into "It pisses us off that you feel that way. If you didn't feel that way, we would be happy." It also doesn't take any responsibility for the problem, and places all of it onto the injured party. Be careful of any apology that starts "I'm sorry that you..."
  • "We're sorry if we did something wrong." (6): This is getting there, but doesn't really accept responsibility either. You are not acknowledging that you did anything wrong; you're still hoping that you haven't. You are offering an apology for appearances sake.
  • "We're sorry that this occurred." (7): You are sorry, but as a matter of principle you're still trying to insist that it wasn't really your fault.
  • "We're sorry that we caused this problem." or "We're sorry that we have let this happen." (9): This is a full apology, and is what the customer needs to hear. Frankly, it doesn't matter that it was really the post office's fault, and not yours; the customer doesn't care. Most people hearing this cannot help but respond with some sort of graciousness, such as "Well, all right then, these things happen. What are you going to do to fix it?" This is the target level that you want to hit for your customer service. But for the record, there is still one level to go. The complete apology is:
  • "We're so sorry that we caused this problem; we are really distressed over this. Please know that we take this very seriously. This is a huge oversight on our part. I will immediately notify my supervisor, and we will review our procedures to ensure that this cannot happen again. In the meantime, that is no consolation to you for our lack of service! What can we do to regain your trust? We will be sending you a little surprise as a token of our appreciation of having you as a customer." (10)

In truth, this little speech goes on until the customer interrupts. And it is followed by a few more apologies as the conversation closes, as well.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

RIP Sheena

A sad day for my mother as she had to have one of her two dogs euthanized at her local veterinary practice this morning due to kidney disease.

Honey (left) and Sheena (right) - Photo taken in October 2005 when we were caring for them when Mum was ill.

Blood Bowl Bargain

A quick post about a recent bargain I scored. My wife was at a school fete a couple of weekends ago while I was at home minding the kids. I received a call from her asking if I wanted her to buy me a copy of Blood Bowl which was selling for $10. The lady who was selling it said it was her son's and she thought it was complete.

I've been aware of Games Workshop's Blood Bowl for many years now and knew it was a popular game. I asked my wife what edition it was as I quickly searched through BoardGameGeek. It turned out it was 3rd edition with two teams - Humans and Orcs. She didn't complain too much when I asked her to check the contents (what a wife!). She said it appeared to be mostly complete but some miniatures were missing. When she pointed this out to the person selling they dropped the price to $2! Did I still want it? For $2? You bet!

When she arrived home I eagerly checked the contents.
  • Blood Bowl playing field (large mounted board) (present)
  • 12 plastic Orc players (present)
  • 12 plastic Human players (4 missing)
  • 4 plastic footballs (present)
  • Blood Bowl Handbook (missing)
  • The Blood Blowl Painting Guide (missing)
  • How to Play blood Bowl Guide (missing)
  • 50 sheet pad of Team Rosters (missing)
  • 2 Quick Reference Sheets (present)
  • 2 Team Cards (present)
  • 4 Star Player Cards (missing)
  • 2 Colour Dugouts (present)
  • 37 Colour Counters (present)
  • 1 Scatter Template (present)
  • 1 Range Ruler (present)
  • 2 six sided dice (present)
  • 1 eight sided die (present)
  • 3 special Blocking Dice (present)
I'm not concerned with the missing rules & guides as they've all been superseded by the Blood Bowl: Living Rulebook which can be downloaded for free. Most importantly I have the majority of the miniatures, the board, counters, dice and templates. The main concern is the missing 4 Human players but I should be able to find some spare minis to convert when I finally get around to playing this.

All in all it was $2 well spent!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 67

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and 6 (almost 7) year old daughter (AKA Maddie). We missed our normal session last Saturday due to me being ill with a bad cold. It's almost a week and a half later and I'm still feeling the lingering effects of the cold but I didn't want to go another weekend without playing any games!

We let Maddie choose the first game. No surprise that it was Bratz Passion For Fashion (groan!). This is a roll-and-move game with a memory element. Each player plays one of the Bratz girls trying to be the first to complete her outfit. The only problem is that the various clothes and accessories are hidden throughout four revolving wardrobes. I was pleased to see Maddie win with all 4 fashion items, myself 2nd with 3 and Grandma 3rd with 2.

I was Yasmin and I have a passion for fashion! (Which one of you biatches has my top?)

Next up was another game Maddie enjoys (and I suffer in silence) - G.I. Joe - Live The Adventure. This is a basic roll-and-move game where each player takes it in turn to roll a die and move the single G.I. Joe counter around a circular track fighting the evil C.O.B.R.A soldiers. The aim of the game is to be the first to win six medals. You win a medal for every time you defeat an enemy in combat. Combat is simply a choice of 'aim high' or 'aim low' cards for the attacker and 'hit the dirt' or 'jump up' cards for the defender. If you hit you defeat the enemy and gain a medal and if you miss you lose one of your three initial energy points. Run out of energy points and you are no longer able to fight and must try to land on an energy space to heal back all your points. The luck was with Grandma this game with her winning with 6 medals, Maddie 2nd with 1 and myself 3rd with 0.

When in doubt, empty the magazine! Hooah!

Although I'm not too fond of the previous two games I do enjoy playing with them with my daughter. I figure the time I put in now means that when she's older she'll want to play games with me. The other advantage is that now Maddie can read quite well she'll be able to teach and play these kids games with her younger sister when she's a bit older.

I was pleased when Maddie chose our third game of the morning - For Sale. This is a great little auction game that we've played quite a few times over the last couple of years. In this I game thought I played really well. I knew I was ahead of Grandma because she'd been stuck with a void cheque two turns in a row. I felt certain that I'd outplayed Maddie on most turns as well. However, when we added up the points we found Maddie had come 1st with 85K, myself 2nd with 75K and Grandma 3rd with 54k. I was so surprised at the result that I thought I'd made a mistake in my addition. After checking the scores twice more (just to be sure!) Maddie was declared the winner. Naturally she was very happy (and rightly so). I was proud of her.

Did I increase the bid to 4 or just take the motorhome for free?

Maddie decided to go do something else at that point so Grandma and I were left looking for a 2-player game. I chose one of the games I'd recently picked up in a math trade - San Juan. I'd only played San Juan twice before and that was back in February and April of 2006. Both of those were 4-player games and I remember not being overly impressed with San Juan on both occasions. However, I am aware that this game has been in the top 50 games on BoardGameGeek for a few years now so I suspected there may have been more to it then I'd had the opportunity to discover in those two plays. I felt that with a better understanding of the rules and a better knowledge of the abilities of the cards I'd probably enjoy the game. So when I saw San Juan up for grabs in the recent math trade I decided to offer up a copy of HeroQuest (which I'd picked up for about $5 at a garage sale) for it.

So Mum and I sat down to a game of San Juan. I'd read the rules and felt I had a better understanding of the game play. What I didn't have was an understanding of the strategy of building combinations and role selection. That's fine because trying different strategies is half the fun of learning a new game.

What to role to select? What building to build? Nail-biting choices!

I started producing a little earlier than Mum. I was able to build a Sugar Mill and Tobacco Storage fairly early. A Smithy also went down early which helped me build more production buildings in the later part of the game. I also had a Chapel under which I was able to slip three cards before the end of the game. Then came a Silver Smelter to try and produce a better quality of goods. I also built a Prefecture mid-game which assisted me in keeping more cards during the Councilor phase. I think my 8th or 9th building was a Guild Hall which allowed me to get 2 victory points for every production building I had (which was 5 at that point). Mum overtook me in buildings at some point. When I had 10 buildings she had 11 (the game ends after the building phase in which one player builds their 12th building).

I think Mum's 11th building had been a Triumphal Arch which gives victory points based on the number of monuments one had. She laid down her 12th building (a Palace) to end the game with me only having built 11 buildings. Unfortunately for Mum, she had no monuments so the Triumphal arch was wasted (she'd mistaken her Tower and Triumphal Arch cards as monuments). She scored 20 points but it wasn't enough to stop me winning with 34 points (12 of those points were from my Guild Hall with six production buildings).

I really enjoyed San Juan as a 2-player game and am curious to play it again with more players. Mum also commented on how much she enjoyed it. I'd spotted several different strategies I'd like to try so I'll see if we can play it again the next time she visits.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Last of the Math Trade Games

Well I knew it would have to end sometime. The last of my games from the recent math trade have arrived. I must say that I've really enjoyed receiving new games every few days or so for the last couple of weeks.

I met Friendless this morning for a coffee and he gave me Um Reifenbreite from BGG user Scholle, and Clash of the Gladiators and Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers from BGG user Kopje Koffie.

The final haul - Um Reifenbreite, Clash of the Gladiators and Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers