Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I knew it was a bad idea to use a .css file that was hosted on a site other than Blogger. So I converted two of my weblogs over to templated from because I liked how it all looked. Now, that site has exceeded its bandwidth and so it stopped serving the .css file. It took a week to figure it out.

Oh well. So back to one of the standard Blogger templates until a better idea surfaces.

Ah, the distractions from publishing actual blog posts that people want to read... :(

Friday, May 26, 2006

Spoiled by Elegance

Chris Farrell says exactly how I feel about Caylus here. The key excerpt:

Maybe I would have gotten a kick out of [Caylus] 15 years ago, before I played Adel Verpflichtet, Modern Art, or Settlers of Catan, but today I crave something artful, something well-crafted, and something that is actually fun. And something that provides the intellectual and psychological challenge without making me do this much gratuitous, and fairly boring, work.
Now, what is "fun" is completely subjective. I think this undeservedly-ignored Geeklist "The Qualities of Fun" be Stephen Avery says it quite well (I was going to do a similar one but it would have been redundant when I found Stephen's offering.) Chris and I may share a sensitivity (although perhaps to a different degree - he's played far more boardgame than I have) to rough edges.

Caylus: Chris - 4, Rick -4
Power Grid: Chris - 6.5, Rick - 6
Age of Steam: Chris - 7, Rick - 5
War of the Ring; Chris - 6, Rick - 3
Reef Encounter: Chris - 8, Rick - 4

I can't speak for Chris other than to divine his thoughts from the quote above. The term I usually use in this instance is the much-maligned term "elegance." I take games in a wholistic sense - does the game work as a unified whole? Is there no wasted space? Are players given just enough freedom to know that they have control over their destinies, but not so much control that the game slows to a crawl?

Single elements of games don't tend to do much for me in terms of making up for less-than-stellar gameplay, just as much as a glaring weakness in my eyes will make a game intolerable. It all has to mesh.

For example, Wallenstein's cube tower is an element that a lot of people enjoy. To me, it's one of the worst resolution mechanisms in all of gaming. It's more annoying than Settlers of Catan's 2d6 production roll and The Game of Life's spinner. I can at the very least calculate odds on those two. There's no calculating the odds of a cube stuck in the tower coming out in a particular battle, or the odds of a cube thrown in getting stuck in there. Add in the thematic break of an army unit fighting on one end of the country teleporting to a battle on the other side of the country and you have a mechanism that I cannot enjoy.

Over to theme. Say what you will about "pasted on" themes, but a game's theme either works on that abstracted level (Knizia's Samurai, Torres, Amun-Re, Euphrat & Tigris) or it doesn't (RA, Medici, Beowulf, Cartagena). To me the more disappointing ones are the near misses like Wally, which would have been a more tolerable area-control/Eurowargame if it had used dice or cards for resolution instead of the gimmicky tower. I cannot tolerate games that are all flash and no substance, games that commit far more heinous crimes to my game sensibilities than Wally.

So, an "elegant" game in my book has streamlined mechanisms and a theme that's integrative but not necessarily all-encompassing. Caylus has neither. Similar to Chris, I feel that it's got a lot of mechanisms that don't necessarily add to the game, and its theme is breached in some places. (On the latter part I'm most bothered by the Provost and the Bailiff. They just don't make sense in the context of the theme.)

So I guess I've been spoiled by Knizia and Kramer and Dorn who consistently produce games that meet my criteria of "elegance." That doesn't mean other games will not be enjoyed by the boardgaming community. They just won't be enjoyed by people with game tastes similar to mine.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


From the exchange of emails between myself, Joe Gola and Gil Hova:

Joe, March 16:

I'm planning to bring Clash of the Gladiators and at least one or two other recent releases just in case. I tend to change my mind a lot at the last minute, though, so I may show up with something totally random. HOWEVER if fortune smiles upon me and a certain package shows up tomorrow or Saturday morning I'll have something VERY new and exciting to bring.

Joe, March 17:

The ones I'm particularly enthusiastic about are Merchants of Amsterdam and Tower of Babel, and if both of you guys are interested in Atlantic Star, then I'm fired up to play that one as well. Naturally I'm also very excited about the MYSTERIOUS GAME OF MYSTERY.

Joe, March 18:

By the way, the MYSTERIOUS GAME OF MYSTERY has ARRIVED! It is (supposedly) sitting at my house right now. I may have to leave work early.

Just to tantalize you further I will let you know that the MYSTERIOUS GAME OF MYSTERY is a brand-new big-box Nuremburg game from a very well-known designer and a very well-known publisher. Two of the previous collaborations between this designer and publisher are in the BGG top 50. The game only just became available in the U.S. two days ago and has less than ten plays recorded on BGG, so to say that we will be on the "cutting edge" when we break this out this tomorrow will be completely accurate.

And it's not Celtica.

Rick, March 18:

Dammit I was guessing Celtica!

Maybe either Blue Moon City or Bison or Thurn & Taxis?

Damn you Joe for making me look for the MYSTERIOUS GAME OF MYSTERY.

Gil, March 18:

All the games sound great; I don't think I'll bring
any of my own, in fact. We should have plenty to do
with what's already been mentioned.

Rick, March 18:

G'night and see you both tomorrow!

1. My first guess (after Celtica) was correct. THE MYSTERIOUS GAME OF MYSTERY (tm) was:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

2. Gil lied. He did bring a good-sized bunch of games, including THE PROTOTYPE WE SHALL NOT SPEAK OF which we played!

3. That was a very good day of Quizno's subs and gaming. I wish Quizno's would franchise out to this corner of the world.

Over to the next post.

SNAFU and Haz

Thanks to "Mr. ekted" Jim C., I noticed that the template of this weblog broke for some reason. It took a bit of time to reconstruct the template, so the promised post will have to wait until tomorrow.

Just to have a bit of game-related content on here, we finally got to play some (Ha Ha) Hacienda (or plain Haz to us) over the past few weeks. It's not Wolfie's greatest game ever (that's good ol' 555), but it meshes a lot of game mechanisms into a nice package. The ones that ususally stand out to gamers are the card drafting mechanism (popularly attributed to The Moonie) and the "score points by connecting to an adjacent hex" thing used by Reiner in Through the Sausage. Honestly, it's nothing like Zug um Zug or Durch die Wuste.

Haz has an economic engine that's powered, interestingly, by the game's spatial element. You get money based on contiguous tile sets. There's no virtuous or vicious cycle here. It a novel way to get around the rich-get-richer characteristic that most economic models in games possess.

I'll revisit Haz with a proper review in the future. For the moment, color me satisfied. (BGG Rating: 7/10)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Yes, I've Been Away

I've been away in several ways. I was away physically, being in three different countries over the course of two weeks. I was away mentally, with the jet lag killing all semblance of a routine and events forcing me to play catch-up with my own sense of equilibrium. I've also been away spiritually, choosing to give some of my life to other pursuits in the interim. There was no weblogging for about ten weeks. There was a lot of time with my family and friends and other hobbies. There was some vacation and travel and beachbumming and walking around in the rain.

And yes, there was some game playing. We'll get back to talking about games in the next post, now that my fingers have gotten reacquainted with the feel of writing with the electronic pen again.

I've tossed out the piece I did on the fateful convergence of myself, Gil Hova and Joe Gola. I didn't like it. During the time away I guess I got in touch with the artist squirreled away in the recesses of my brain, and he thought that my writing (especially my game-oriented writing) was tremendously boring.

Joe did this. Gil did that. Rick scored this many points. Joe laughed. Gil gestured. Rick won. Pah. Boring. Deleted.

Granted, rewriting the story of The Day We Played the MYSTERIOUS GAME OF MYSTERY (tm) from my fading ten-week-old memory will be a challenge. It's a good bet that I won't remember any details about where Joe moved his silly Blue Moon token, or how many points I scored when playing Gil's prototype, or how strange we thought Rotundo's theme was. What I DO hope is that the things I remember will remain interesting for myself to write, and for those few patient readers of this weblog to read.

It's coming up within the next 24 hours.