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...