Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 - My Year of Gaming

Happy New Year to you!

Well, it's the time of year when we all look back over the last 12 months. Here's how my gaming looked for 2009.

In 2009 I played 67 different games and expansions and logged a total of 143 plays. Compare this to 2008 where I played 92 different games and logged 184 plays. There has certainly been a reduction in board gaming in 2009 compared to the previous year.

One reason for this reduction in board gaming has been an increase in our family gaming with the Nintendo Wii. I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing as any time spent gaming together as a family is worthwhile, whether it be board games or video games. Wii games we most enjoyed playing together were the puzzle-solving of Pikmin and Pikmin II and the trivia challenges of Family Game Night. We enjoy the interaction that comes with board games but video games do have their place in our family gaming.

Blue Max 35
Commands & Colors: Ancients 8
Coda 5
Battle Cry 4
Formula Motor Racing 3
Haunted Castle 3
Loco! 3
PitchCar Mini 3
Red November 3
Wanted! 3
Battle Line 2
Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #1: Greece & Eastern Kingdoms 2
Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #2: Rome and the Barbarians 2
Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #3: The Roman Civil Wars 2
Diamant 2
For Sale 2
Glory to Rome 2
Go 2
HeroScape Expansion Set: Thora's Vengeance 2
HeroScape Expansion Set: Utgar's Rage 2
HeroScape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie 2
Metro 2
Palago 2
Risk Express 2
Tigris & Euphrates 2
WobBally 2
Africa 1
The aMAZEing Labyrinth 1
Axiom 1
Cartagena 1
Chateau Roquefort 1
Cloud 9 1
Coloretto 1
Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! - Russia 1941-1942 1
Deduce or Die 1
Dominion 1
The Downfall of Pompeii 1
A Game of Games 1
Gulo Gulo 1
Hangman 1
Heroscape Expansion Set: Defenders of Kinsland 1
HeroScape Expansion Set: Malliddon's Prophecy 1
HeroScape Expansion Set: Road to the Forgotten Forest 1
HeroScape Expansion Set: Ticalla Jungle 1
It's Mine! 1
Jenga 1
Labyrinth 1
Labyrinth Card Game 1
Mamma Mia! 1
Memoir '44 1
Memoir '44 - Eastern Front 1
Memoir '44 - Winter/Desert Board Map 1
Nobody But Us Chickens 1
Pick Picknic 1
Right Turn, Left Turn 1
San Juan 1
Der schwarze Pirat 1
Scrabble 1
Sherlock 1
Tipsy Tower 1
War of The Ring 1

The main gaming highlight for me in 2009 were a series of 14 games of Commands & Colors: Ancients played against Friendless early in the year. We played scenarios from the base game and the first three expansions and I thoroughly enjoyed each and every battle (even the ones I lost).

Things to look forward to in 2010 - My younger daughter turns 4 in January and I hope she can join in on some of the more simpler games we may play on Saturday mornings when her Grandmother visits. My elder daughter is now 8 and turns 9 in 2010. I'm looking forward to teaching and playing some more complex games with her over the next year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I'm on holidays

I've taken some accrued leave from today and won't be back at work until 1 February 2010. Woohoo! 39 days of summer fun to look forward to. Yeah!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Centaur has been found!

Two years ago I did a blog post on the sinking of the Centaur. The Centaur was an Australian hospital ship torpedoed and sunk during World War II off the coast of Brisbane by a Japanese submarine on 14 May 1943. 268 people died in that tragedy.

Today it was confirmed that the wreck of the Centaur has been located.

From News.Com.Au.

SHIPWRECK hunters have found the hospital ship Centaur which was torpedoed without warning in 1943 off the Queensland coast, killing 268 people.

Search director David Mearns has advised government officials of the exact location of the wreck and said filming of the wreck would begin in January.

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Australians and relatives of those who had been aboard the ship were grateful for the find.

"The discovery of the AHS Centaur will ensure all Australians know and commemorate the 268 brave nurses and crew who died in the service of their nation," Ms Gillard said.

"I hope by locating the final resting place of the AHS Centaur, the family and friends of those men and women who were tragically lost find some resolution."

The AHS Centaur was sunk by a Japanese submarine on 14 May, 1943 about 50 nautical miles east north-east of Brisbane. Of the 332 persons on board, only 64 survived.

The search crew has undertaken five high-resolution sonar tracklines over the target site, and is now conducting a further run to obtain a clearer picture of the wreck.

Queensland premier Anna Bligh said it was a time of reflection.

"It is timely to take a moment to remember those lives lost on that tragic day in 1943, and the devastating effect this has had on their families," Ms Bligh said.

"This morning's confirmation that the wreck has been found will hopefully provide some peace to the loved ones of those killed."

"We will now use this momentum to finish this task and film the wreck site.

"In early January, a remotely operated submersible vehicle equipped with a high-definition camera will collect high quality imagery of the wreck and the surrounding area."

Mr Mearns said the wreck is located approximately 30 nautical miles due east of the southern tip of Moreton Island (27 deg 16.98 South, 153 deg 59.22 East) at a depth of 2,059 metres.

The Australian and Queensland governments jointly committed $4 million to the search and officers from the Department of Defence and the Department of Premier and Cabinet provided oversight and technical assistance to the project.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gaming with Grandma - 106

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and 8 year old daughter Maddie.

Our first game of the morning was the excellent deduction game CODA (AKA Da Vinci Code - The Game). We played two rounds with both Grandma and I winning a round each.

Our second game was Diamant using my home-made version. This push-your-luck game is a family favourite and we always have fun playing it. Final scores were me 46, Grandma 18 and Maddie 16.

Our final game of the morning was the dexterity game Der Schwarze Pirat. I love the production quality of this game from the beautiful board depicting the ocean and islands to the little wooden ships. Grandma was the winner with 17 points, Maddie on 10, and me last on 9.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Xbox Live

I finally joined Xbox Live. My gamertag is Ozvortex360.

Now I'll be able to enjoy the online multiplayer action that I've been craving since I got my Xbox 360 two years ago.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Gaming with Grandma - 105

Grandma arrived early this morning at 7:00 am so that we could all go for a swim in the pool before the sun got too high in the sky. After a nice refreshing swim we decided to play some games.

Our first game was Round the Bend (AKA Labyrinth). My version of this popular solitaire dexterity game was produced in 1970 by Vic-Toy (a division of Invicta Plastics Ltd) and made in England. It's made of solid plastic and has two sliding arms that adjust the angle of the board to move the metal ball around the track. There are numerous holes in the board and one has to be very careful or the ball will disappear into one of these holes. Depending on the hole and direction from which your ball fell determines what score you achieve. If you can follow the track all the way around the board you can get to the final hole and score the maximum 50 points.

Maddie playing the game while Georgia looks on

It's a fun dexterity game and with practice you can increase your skill. We took it in turns, having three goes each, before passing it on to the next player. After about 45 minutes we decided to stop. I achieved the highest score of 31 out of a possible 50.

Our next game was Shaky Pisa Tower (AKA Tipsy Tower). This is one I picked up a year or so ago from a dollar store and I thought it looked interesting. We hadn't played it before so I decided to bring it out this morning.

In this game players place pieces onto a tower with a convex base. The shape of the base causes the tower to lean back and forth when a piece is placed on to one of the levels. Players roll a die with coloured faces and then must place a piece on to the level of that colour matching the colour rolled. If a player makes the pieces fall off then they must add them to their own pieces. First person to place all their pieces wins.

The tipsy tower of Shaky Pisa Tower

We weren't that impressed with this game. There are more enjoyable dexterity games using a similar balancing mechanic available so I may eventually get rid of this game. For the time being this game is being relegated to the kid's gaming cupboard.

Monday, November 30, 2009

New Games on my Radar

Every so often a new release game or game expansion catches my eye. Here's a list of games released in 2009, or due for release in the near future, that I currently have on my wishlist.

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics - Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm a big fan of Richard Borg's Commands & Colors series of wargames. The next installment in the series will be Napoleonic warfare and is expected to be published late 2010 or early 2011. Can't wait.

Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #4: Imperial Rome - I simply love C&C Ancients. This expansion pack provides more Romans and pits them against enemies such as the Parthians, Ancient British, Teutonic Barbarians as well as more Roman on Roman Civil War fun.

Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #5: Epic Ancients II - Rules, cards and battles to play this great game in 'epic mode' on two boards laid side by side. Two to eight players can enjoy these larger games.

Rush n' Crush - I enjoy racing games and I enjoy combat games. Rush n' Crush blends these two themes together nicely in what has been touted as faster, more bloodier, version of Formula De. Published this year by Rackham and AEG, Rush n' Crush is set in the AT-43 universe on the war-torn planet Ava, where the inhabitants have invented an auto racing sport involving armoured racing cars, twisted speedways filled with dangerous obstacles, and no rules racing. Sounds like a lot of fun for 3 - 6 players where there can only be one winner.

Letter of Marque - Recently published by Fantasy Flight Games and designed by Bruno Faidutti this is a light bluffing game with a theme of treasure, temptation and trickery on the high seas. I've enjoyed Faidutti designed games such as Red November and Diamant (with Alan R. Moon) so am looking forward to Letter of Marque.

BattleLore: Heroes Expansion - OK, OK, more Richard Borg and C&C goodness in the form of mighty Heroes for BattleLore. This expansion introduces player-created Leaders and Champions to augment your camp's forces in battles.

BattleLore: Dragons - This BattleLore expansion provides three deadly dragons to unleash on to your battlefields. Cool.

BattleLore: Creatures - This new BattleLore expansion includes sculpts of the previously limited Earth Elemental (now billed as a Rock Elemental with new rules), the Hill Giant (now a Forest Giant) and the brand new Hydra.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gaming with Grandma - 104

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and 8 year old daughter, Maddie.

Our game this morning was Formula Motor Racing, designed by Reiner Knizia and published by GMT Games. I'd purchased this game earlier in the year but had not broken the shrink wrap on it until today. For Grandma and Maddie it was their first play but I'd played it before.

I had fond memories of playing this game with some mates at the famous Young and Jackson pub in Melbourne back in 2004 before we attended the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix. (On a side note the pub is well known for the beautiful nude painting Chloé, painted by French artist Jules Joseph Lefebvre in 1875 - click on the link to see the painting, oh, and I do recommend the pub's own beer brand, Naked Ale, made in honour of Chloé).

We decided to play three races and the winner would be the team with the most points at the end of the season. Grandma was yellow, Maddie was purple and I was green. The non-player teams were red, blue and orange.

Game 1:
1st - Maddie - 10 points
2nd - Blue - 6 points
3rd - Grandma - 4 points
4th - Wayne - 3 points
5th - Wayne - 2 points
6th - Red - 1 point

So after Game 1 the teams were 1st Maddie (10), 2nd Blue (6), 3rd Wayne (5), 4th Grandma (4), 5th Red (1), 6th Orange (0).

Game 2:
1st - Grandma - 10 points
2nd - Wayne - 6 points
3rd - Maddie - 4 points
4th - Blue - 3 points
5th - Orange - 2 points
6th - Blue - 1 point

So after Game 2 the team standings looked like this - 1st Grandma (14), 2nd Maddie (14), 3rd Wayne (11), 4th Blue (10), 5th Orange (2), 6th Red (1).

Game 3:
1st - Wayne - 10 points
2nd - Blue - 6 points
3rd - Grandma - 4 points
4th - Red - 3 points
5th - Orange - 2 points
6th - Maddie - 1 point

Final season standings were 1st Wayne (21), 2nd Grandma (18), 3rd Blue (16), 4th Maddie (15), 5th Red (4), 6th Orange (4).

Going into the last race of the season it was still any one's game. Through clever play (and a little luck) I managed to pull out a win on the final race to gain enough points to push me to the final 1st place.

Grandma and I thoroughly enjoyed the game. Maddie said it was OK but wasn't too keen on the 'take that' aspect of the card play. You could see her enthusiasm for the game start to wane whenever she lost a car or had a bad card played on one of her cars. I suspect (and hope) that as she matures as a gamer she will come to enjoy games where one can interfere with opponent's plans.

I believe games are an important way to learn how to cope with challenges and setbacks. Always trying to help my children learn life lessons I pointed out to Maddie that both she and Grandma were actively targeting Daddy with bad cards throughout the three games. I explained to her that rather than getting upset I accepted that I would most likely not win but instead chose to enjoy the challenge of trying to do my best despite the odds stacked against me. Let's hope a little of that philosophy has sunk in for her.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Kids can sometimes take things too literally

I was sitting with my three year old daughter Georgia.

"OK, Georgie, imagine you had one apple and I gave you another apple," I said. "How many apples would you have?"

"Two!" she exclaimed.

"OK, now imagine if I took an apple away," I said. "What's left?"

She points to her left.

We all cracked up laughing.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Family Vacation

We got back on Saturday from a week-long family holiday at the beautiful Noosa region of the Sunshine Coast here in Queensland, Australia. We're very lucky that this area is only a couple of hours drive north of where we live in Brisbane.

We coincided the holiday with my friend Steve and his family and we all stayed at the Coral Beach Noosa Resort at Noosaville. Steve and his wife Fran have two little boys aged 6 & 4, so we had a combined gaggle of four kids aged 8 and under.

Maddie enjoying the beach at Noosa Heads

We all had a lovely time eating, drinking, relaxing, and swimming at the pool, saltwater lake and beach. Although I took along a few card and board games, none got played. We were all pretty tired at the end of each day, and after the kids were in bed we only had enough energy for a few quiet drinks.

A ferry trip on Noosa River looking towards Noosa Heads

I took my Xbox 360 along so was able to play some two-player Spec Ops missions from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare with Steve. I don't get the chance to do much co-op gaming and it was a very enjoyable experience. I may be tempted to get onto Xbox Live next year but the only problem is sparing the time.

Georgia and I having fun in the sun

We had a wonderful time on our holiday. The girls had a great time swimming at the pool and beach every morning and my wife and I enjoyed some delicious seafood and getting away from the everyday rat race for a while. Now it's back to work and dreaming about the next trip.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Modern Warfare 2

Today was the international release day for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. This is the sequel to the acclaimed Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare that was released back in November 2007. As it is the week of my birthday I decided to spoil myself and pick up this latest installment in the Call of Duty series.

I do enjoy a good FPS so while the wife and kids are asleep this evening I'll be firing up the Xbox 360, cracking open a cold beer (or three) and taking on those terrorists.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Gaming with Grandma - 103

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and two daughters. Our game of choice today was PitchCar Mini. This was a game I recently received in a trade offered for my Formula De Circuits 19 & 20 Suzuka & Melbourne by Tony Archer (BGG User aPilgrim). The trade went very smoothly and I know I'll definitely get more use out of PitchCar Mini than the game I traded away.

Maddie about to flick her car around the track

I've played both PitchCar and PitchCar Mini and enjoy them both. PitchCar Mini is probably more suitable for smaller children and saves on space required for set up. I would love to eventually get another set for larger tracks as well as some of the cool expansions.

The winner is the first player to finish three laps of the track. We played three games with 3 year old Georgia joining in on the 3rd game. Surprisingly she pulled off some great shots but still needs a lot of practice to perfect her flicking style. Maddie at 8 years old soon picked it up and Grandma improved well over the three games.

This track set up was fun with players being able to set up shots that would whiz around the curves and into the straights. I went on to win the first two games easily but only just pulled out a win on the 3rd game after coming from behind on the last lap.

Sunday, September 06, 2009


One of my interests is family history and genealogy. I've done some research including family interviews and even had a subscription to for a year. I've been able to get some good info but had never done any serious research at libraries or a family history society.

Well, today I finally took the plunge and joined the Queensland Family History Society Inc. When I visited today the library assistant was very helpful and gave me a tour of the premises. They appear to have a wealth of information and I can't wait to get started.

The entrance to the library - image courtesy of Queensland Family History Society Inc.

The library is located at Gaythorne, a suburb on Brisbane's northside, and is conveniently only a 5-10 minute drive from where I live.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Gaming with Grandma - 102

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and daughters Maddie (8) and Georgia (3.5). We played two games today and they were both new for us all.

First up was WobBally published by Invicta Games. WobBally is a bright, colourful and ingeniously designed dexterity game. It is similar to Jenga in that on your turn you are trying to remove pieces (marbles) of a teetering tower. In this instance it's a tower made of marbles sandwiched between seven plastic rings in seven layers. A coloured die and a numbered die determine which coloured marble from what level is to be knocked out with a short plastic rod.

The trick is to use short, sharp, horizontal jabs to dislodge the marbles. Make sure you have some way of containing the many marbles that will fly everywhere when the tower collapses. WobBally is quite a fun dexterity game for up to six people. It has a very slight luck element but overall does reward skill and precision.

Georgia was the first knocked out and Maddie was the second knocked out. That left a showdown between Grandma and me. We played ball for ball until I eventually won when Grandma made the tower come crashing down.

Our second game of the morning was a board game version of Hangman. Maddie revealed that she really enjoys this game as her school class sometimes plays Hangman on the blackboard against their teacher. We played Grandma/Maddie versus me. I won 4-0 but did use some tricky words - Sandwich, joints, salves and syringe, trying to keep away from the more commonly used letters of T, R & E.

I was obviously hungry when I was thinking of an eight-letter word to use

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Reinforcements for Patton's Best

Back on 24 May 2009 my wife picked up some board wargames for me at a garage sale. Among them was one in particular I wanted to play. That game was Patton's Best, a solitaire wargame in which you command a solitary Sherman tank and it's crew during WWII. Unfortunately the game was missing some counters.

So I contacted Ken Miffitt (BGG user BostonKen) from Connecticut, USA, who had recently uploaded a nice scan of the backs of the counters to the Board Game Geek site. There was already an image on the site of the front of the counters from another user but unfortunately the image was of a lower quality than Ken's image. So I sent a message to Ken to ask if he could provide me with a scan of the front of the counters. Although Ken had already punched the counters he was happy to oblige.

So once again a big thank you to Ken and I was pleased that my GeekGold (GG) tip to him, combined with the GG he had already earned, allowed him to purchase a GeekBadge.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Gaming with Grandma - 101

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and eight year old daughter Maddie.

Our first game of the morning was Wanted!, an action card game published by Ravensburger. Cards are played to the middle of the table and if an action card is revealed all players must take the correct action associated with that card. For example, if it's the burglar escaping through the window with a bag of jewellery (as in the image below) all players must raise both hands in the air. The slowest person to do so must take the face up card pile into their own hand. The first player to empty their hand of cards is the winner.


I won the game.

Next up was Haunted Castle which was designed by Lucien Geelhoed and also published by Ravensburger. This is a card game of pattern recognition. Each player has a reference card in front of them depicting the eight characters. On a player's turn they turn over the top card of the deck to reveal a card depicting seven of those eight characters. First person to correctly guess which character is missing from the card gets to take the card as a point.

Haunted Castle

This is a fun game and there is a certain tension of trying to be the first to recognise the missing character. Final scores were me, Wayne, on 19, Grandma on 10, and Maddie on 4.

Our last game of the morning was the Labyrinth Card Game which was designed by Max J. Kobbert and was also published by Ravensburger. Ravensburger does publish some good quality games. This tile laying game is all about trying to lay tiles in such a way that there is an unobstructed passage from one symbol to a matching symbol.

Labyrinth Card Game

A piece of non-slip matting is essential for games like this as these tiles would easily slide out of place on the smooth wooden surface of the table. Final scores were me, Wayne, on 9 with Grandma and Maddie sharing second place on 4 points each.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Once upon a time in Nazi occupied France...

I saw Inglourious Basterds this evening.

Wow, me going to the movies twice in one week. Now normally I'm someone who waits to rent films when they come out on DVD. As a parent with two young kids I rarely get the opportunity to go the the cinema, and when I do go it's by myself. Going to see a movie by myself is actually something I enjoy and I only do it for movies that my wife doesn't want to see and that I want to view on the big screen. So far this year it has been Bruno, District 9 and now Inglourious Basterds.

I'm a fan of Quentin Tarantino's scripts and directing ability. Of his feature films my favourites are Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill 1 & 2, and less so Jackie Brown and Death Proof.

I did enjoy Inglourious Basterds. It was a long film at 153 minutes and was heavily subtitled (I don't mind subtitles). One of the things I enjoy most in Tarantino's films is the dialogue and although a lot of it was in either French or German I was not disappointed. As with most Tarantino films there were scenes of brutal violence. There were also some scenes that were extremely tense and yet other scenes that broke the tension and had the audience laughing out loud.

Of the actors, the most enjoyable for me was Christoph Waltz's brilliant performance as the villainous 'Jew Hunter' Standartenfuhrer Hans Lander. He really was good. Some actors did jar for me, most probably because I've seen them in other genres (i.e. comedies). I'm talking here of a heavily made-up Mike Myers (of Austin Powers fame) and B.J. Novak from The Office.

Inglourious Basterds is a movie that I will be seeing again and one that I suspect will eventually make it's way into my rather small and select DVD collection.

Highways and Dieways

Maddie has been bugging me to play Heroscape for some time now. The problem with Heroscape is that it takes time to create the map board and as we always played on the dining room table we had to dismantle it at the end of a game. I wanted a more permanent solution so that we could create a board and then leave it in place so that we could play it a number of times.

Over the last few months I've slowly been cleaning out and tidying up our downstairs rumpus room (aka game room, rec room, play room) so we now had space to erect a table. I had a 5' x 3' table with detachable legs that had been stored in the garage for years that was just perfect for the job. The other advantage of having a table set up downstairs was that I would be able to set up and play some of my solo wargames that I've been wanting to play.

So my wife suggested that we invite over her girlfriend's son (who is also Maddie's classmate and friend) for a Sunday afternoon Heroscape battle. I've known Jackson since he was born and as he is currently Harry Potter-mad I suspected he might enjoy a game like Heroscape. Besides, Maddie wanted to team up with Jackson against her dad. So it was on; me versus two eight year olds.

First I needed a map. I headed over to the fan site and perused their Battlefields of Valhalla section. These are maps designed by fans that have been voted the best tournament maps. I selected Highways and Dieways, a map that required one Rise of the Valkyrie Master Set and two Road to the Forgotten Forest Expansion Sets.

There is a free Heroscape battlefield editor program called VirtualScape that allows you to create and view your maps in photo-realistic quality 3d images (as shown above). This is a really handy program as it allows you to see at a glance what your battlefield will look like. You can also nominate starting positions for the armies (as shown above in red and yellow spaces).

Maddie and I set up the battlefield while my younger daughter, 3.5 year old Georgia, played at making her own map with spare terrain pieces. Below is an overhead picture of the Highways and Dieways map we created. I chose not to use the two glyphs as this was a training game for Jackson.

When Jackson arrived after lunch I gave him a brief description of the game and then let them choose their armies. Jackson chose Kelda the Kyrie Warrior, Emirroon and the Izumi Samurai (total 220 points) and Maddie chose (Raelin the Kyrie Warrior, the Nakita Agents and Jorhdawn (total 300 points). I decided to choose an all-Marro force of Ne-Gok-Sa, Me-Burq-Sa, two squads of Grok Riders, one squad of Marro Drones and the Marro Warriors (total 500 points). So it would be Maddie and Jackson fielding a combined Jandar, Uller, Vydar and Einar army of 520 points versus myself fielding an Utgar army of 500 points. My two young opponents would have a slight army points advantage but more importantly they would have the advantage of a combined 6 orders per turn versus my 3 orders per turn.

Maddie and Jackson's initial deployment

My initial deployment

It was a fun battle. I did give advice and talked through options and tactics with the kids but let them make the final choices on where they moved their figures and who they attacked. I didn't pull any punches with my game play though as I was playing for a win. That said, it was a very close game and the lead swung back and forth several times. There were shouts of excitement from the kids (and myself) when great dice rolls were made and there was even a bit of trash-talk (at an eight-year old level).

Ne-Gok-Sa's final stand

Maddie and Jackson went on to totally defeat the evil hordes of Utgar in a climactic final battle on my side of the board. Their victory did not come cheap however as Jackson only had a wounded Emirroon left and Maddie only had two of the Nakita Agents left standing.

This particular battlefield was designed for one versus one tournament play and I found it to be just the right size. The game took around 2.5 hours to play and we all enjoyed ourselves.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gaming With Grandma - 100

The players this morning were Grandma, Maddie and me, Wayne. Our first game was The Simpsons Slam Dunk Card Game (AKA It's Mine) designed by Reiner Knizia.

This game is similar to Ra and Razzia and having the Simpsons theme is kid-friendly. The winner is the first player to win two hands and it turned out we only needed two hands to determine a winner.

1st hand - Grandma 41, Maddie 19, Wayne 12
2nd hand - Grandma 35, Maddie, 32, Wayne 21

Final scores were 1st Grandma, 2nd Maddie, 3rd Wayne

Our next game was Risk Express which is also designed by Reiner Knizia. Risk Express is a light, dice-rolling game of world conquest that captures the tension and distrust of the original Risk but in a refreshingly short play time.

Final scores were Grandma 1st with 15 points, Wayne 2nd with 13, and Maddie 3rd with 8.

Maddie suggested we next play our old family favourite Gulo Gulo. This charming dexterity game from Hans Raggan, Jurgen P. Grunau and Wolfgang Kramer is a great game for adults and children to play together. I watch my daughter nimbly pluck the coloured eggs from the bowl and then when it's my turn I always curse my (comparatively huge) adult fingers.

I was able to position myself to be the first player to examine the stack of tiles containing Gulo Junior however fluffed it when it came time to draw the purple egg. Maddie went on to win.

Our final game of the morning was Mamma Mia! (yes, the exclamation mark is part of the game name). This is a card game designed by Uwe Rosenberg and is all about making pizzas (no wonder I feel hungry every time I play this game). Players have hands of ingredient and order cards and the game is all about memory and timing as you try to play order cards when you think there are enough ingredient cards that have been played to fill your order.

The game is played over three rounds and at the end of each round the discard deck that players have been playing cards to is turned over and the cards are flipped over in the order they were originally played. When ingredients are revealed they are sorted into piles and as a player's order card is revealed the ingredient pile is checked to see if there are enough ingredients to fill that specific order. If so, that player gets a point. The player who has the most points at the end of three rounds is the winner.

Round 1 - Grandma 3, Wayne 2, Maddie 2
Round 2 - Grandma 2, Wayne 3, Maddie 2
Round 3 - Grandma 2, Wayne 2, Maddie 1

Final scores were Grandma 1st (on tie break) with 7 points, Wayne 2nd with 7, and Maddie 3rd with 5.

Well done to Grandma who won three of the four games played this morning.


Saturday morning at our house means family gaming. This usually involves playing a variety of board games from my collection with my 8 year old daughter and mother (who visits for a couple of hours every Saturday). Because my wife is at work and our younger 3.5 year old daughter is too young to play we choose games that allow three-players.

Now we haven't played many board games over the last couple of months. The main reason for this is that we have been engrossed in playing Pikmin on the Wii console. Pikmin was originally released for Nintendo's GameCube video game console back in 2001 but was re-released and became available in Australia this year with new play control for the Wii (conveniently just in time for Maddie's birthday in June).

Pikmin is a real-time strategy video game where you control Captain Olimar, a tiny space-faring astronaut from the planet Hocotate. Captain Olimar has unfortunately crash-landed on a planet and your goal is to help him locate the missing 30 pieces of his crashed spaceship so that he can rebuild it and return to his family. There is an urgency to this as you only have 30 days before his life-support system is exhausted.

Captain Olimar soon comes into contact with strange alien beings called Pikmin. These small creatures have characteristics of being half plant and half animal and they follow Captain Olimar around and do his bidding. They come in three colours - red, blue and yellow. Each colour has it's own special abilities and Captain Olimar must discover how to use each type of Pikmin in the most efficient way to help him locate and then transport his ship pieces back to the main ship.

Even though it is a single-player game it is fun to watch and has a nice soundtrack. Being more adept at the controls I usually play while Maddie and my mum (AKA Grandma) give advice. It feels like we're all playing together to achieve a goal. I have to admit that at some points in the game, where I have been unsure of how to proceed, it has been my 8 year old daughter Maddie who has made a suggestion that has then allowed us to progress. So this is really a great problem-solving game for kids as well as adults.

Pikmin shares many elements of what I enjoy in board games. It's has worker placement, resource management, puzzle completion, and heck, it even has combat. With beautiful graphics and easy game play with the Wii remote, this is a game I highly recommend.

Maddie has already written a note to Santa that she'd love Pikmin 2 as a present. I'm also excited to learn that Pikmin 3 is currently in development. Here's a link to the official Pikmin site. Search YouTube for Pikmin game play if you're interested in seeing how the game plays.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

You are not welcome here

I saw District 9 this evening.

Best movie I've seen in a long, long time...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Alien Plants

I've recently noticed a certain type of plant that grows wild in places along the embankment of the railway line on which I travel to and from work. It's a strange plant and I do not know its name. Its long leaves grow and curl into such positions to suggest that it is animated. I can imagine those leaves flailing around, searching for food, and then closing on a hapless bird or small animal that has wandered too close. John Wyndham has a lot to answer for.

The specimens in the photo above are about 3 metres (10 feet) in width. I'm always on the lookout for things to inspire me for miniature scratch-building projects. These plants look suitably alien and I could imagine them as perfect terrain for some futuristic miniature tabletop skirmish game.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Solar Halo

I took the family for a day trip up to Tamborine Mountain last Sunday. One of the cool things I saw that day was a rainbow ring around the sun. This is an optical phenomenon known as a 22° halo and forms when sunlight is refracted in hexagonal ice crystals suspended high in the atmosphere.

The photo was taken with the camera pointing directly at the sun. The ring was observable with the naked eye and was even more spectacular than the photo suggests.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

All the Fun of the Fair

It was a beautiful winter day today. In Brisbane Australia that means a cool crisp morning, warm dry day and a clear blue sky. The perfect day to head outdoors and get some fresh air. So me, my wife Deb, our two girls Maddie and Georgia, and Deb's Dad (AKA Dah) hopped in the car and drove to a local school fair.

I was pretty impressed with what was available at the fair; jumping castles, a mini-Ferris wheel, putt-putt golf, huge slippery slide, tea-cup ride, swinging chair ride, outdoor rock climbing tower, a laser tag course, not to mention the amount of food and activity stalls, white elephant, trash & treasure, and books to name a just a few.

If I was a 10 year old boy I could have spent the entire day playing on the awesome laser tag course which had sandbagged barricades and other obstacles to run around. The laser guns looked pretty cool as well.

The girls had a great time and we spent about three hours wandering around enjoying ourselves before heading home.

On the gaming side I picked up a some board games - Loopin' Louie, Tank Battle and Tip-It for only a couple of dollars. We all had a great time and it was fun to get out of the house and do something different in the fresh air.