shannon_a: (Default)
A Night at the Movies (Friday: 23). Kimberly and I rarely go the movies, but Christmas is our definitive goto movie day, because that's what we did on several Christmas days in the '00s when we were keeping to ourselves. So we went a bit early this year, and saw Rogue One right after I knocked off work on Friday. Great Star Wars movie; one of the best. Great characters, great development. Yes, its tone is different, but it had a tone of sacrifice and danger that I think is missing from many of the core films.

The Journey Home (Saturday: 24). We got up bright and early on Saturday to go down to San Marteen for the holiday. That's been our pattern the last few years and it's been quite nice staying over and having Christmas with the folks. But it's quite long to BART down to Fremont, then drive to San Marteen: over an hour and a half. I keep praying for the southern BART stations to open, but Warm Springs BART is entering its third year behind schedule. It's apparently been built, but they're losing trains between Fremont and Warm Springs. Theoretically, Berryessa is going to also open in 2017, which is the exciting one because it's right next to many folks I know, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Tichu! (Saturday+: 24+). We often play games while down in San Marteen, and this time around I brought Tichu because the Wiedlins are big card-playing folks. Rob, my Mom, Bob, and I played a couple of games on Saturday, and it went over great. (Then Jason and Kimberly joined us for a game on Sunday.) Well, Bob had some rather humorous problems distinguishing the phoenix and the dragon; I'm not convinced he realized they were separate cards at first and he never quite figured out their scoring and use. But even with that, everyone enjoyed the game, and I believe multiple folks wanted to get their own copies. (In fact, my siblings later made up their own deck for New Years!) It's definitely going into my bag regularly for future South Bay trips (except that I need to get a fresh copy soon, as mine is pretty worn from ~20 games).

I Am the Ping Pong King! Ko-ko-kachu. (Saturday+: 24+). There is always ping pong at the Wiedlin household, and I managed to remain undefeated against Bob, Rob, and Jason. (Well, undefeated in two-out-of-three sets; two of them came down to the rubber match.) I'll also admit that two of my opponents were somewhat intoxicated due to the beer & pizza from just beforehand. Probably primarily from the beer.

It's Starting to Feel a Lot Like Christmas (Sunday: 25). Christmas morning at the Wiedlin house is fun and chaotic. Stockings for us kids and lots of presents that everyone is crazily opening their prezzies simultaneously. There was much loot, including a nice windbreaker, a nice jacket, some hiking shoes (all successfully tried out!), and a few games. Thanks parents and siblings!

Farm, Farm on the Range (Sunday+: 25+). One of the presents I got from Rob was Stardew Valley, a computer game that I'd mentioned, that he then ran out and gifted to me on Steam. I'd heard good things about this roleplaying farm-sim, and occasionally I play extensively through a game over my holiday break. This seemed like a good time to return to that old habit. Steam says I played it for over 20 hours, so it's definitely a success (and speaks well to my relaxing over the holiday!).

It's Starting to Feel a Lot Like Christmas II (Sunday: 25). At home, late on Sunday night, Kimberly and I had our own Christmas. There were more stockings (prepared by her this year, with just a little help from me because she was feeling time-crunched) and more prezzies. Nice Hawaiian shirts, a TARDIS mug, and more wonderful Kimberly-created bookmarks. Yay.

Hike Any Mountain (Monday: 26). On my Monday back from San Marteen I needed some restful, relaxation time, so I did my most common medium-length hike up in the hills behind us. I walk up to the rear of Strawberry Canyon and then loop back over the top of Panoramic Hill. It's about two hours, has a nice ascent, and great views. I also wanted to try out my new hiking shoes, and they worked great. No slipping, nor sliding, not even after I hiked down some places that usually give me problems.

A Night at the Movies II (Monday: 26). I got Kimberly a few DVDs for Christmas, and we watched one of them Monday night: JasonBourne. She was a big fan of the first three, and I'm happy to say we were both quite pleased with the fifth-ish one. It was nice to see Bourne's super competence expressed in a new way, through more thoughtful and tactical work. We had some problems with the pile of coincidences implicit in the main antagonist, but other than that, this was a fine movie. I have no idea why Rotten Tomatoes rates it exactly the same as The Bourne Legacy (the pseudo fourth movie), because that was a big "Who Cares?" while this was entirely enjoyable and provided some nice closure.

The MOMA Has No Clothes (Tuesday: 27). Imagine a room filled with black sand. On the opposite wall is a shattered mirror. Off to another side is a picture of a hand holding a bean, way up on the wall where it's hard to see. A voice intones deeply accented gibberish. Wait, there's no need to imagine, because this crap is actually an installation at the MOMA in San Francisco. AKA, the sort of crap that gives modern art a bad name. Also there, giving modern art a bad name: a pile of red, white and blue bicycles, a triptych of entirely white canvases, an entirely black canvas, and an entirely blue canvas. MOMA should be ashamed of displaying that sort of thing. But we also saw great mobiles by Alex Calder, interesting cityscapes made up of individual photos, some other nice collages, and a beautiful set of dodecahedrons made with string and some sort of metal. It was an enjoyable four(!) hours at the MOMA, but probably our last visit while we live in California.

It's Starting to Feel a Lot Like Christmas III (Wednesday: 28). Melody and Jared visited us on Wednesday to complete our trilogy of Christmases. We talked, we ate at Chevy's, and we exchanged gifts for gift cards.

Game On! (Wednesday: 28). This year I've mostly been coming home from EndGaming pretty early, because Kimberly has been going to bed early, but on Wednesday I splurged and told Kimberly I'd be home after she was asleep. As a result I got to play two long games: Orleans: Invasion and Key Harvest. Yay! It was a lot of fun!

Park Place (Thursday: 29). Kimberly and I like occasionally going out to Golden Gate Park, getting Andronico's sandwiches, eating them, and wandering around. So we did that on Thursday. I have a new appreciation for the park since I've been to New York, as it's so different from Central Park. It protects you from the city, whereas Central Park feels like a big bowl with city all around. Anywho, we walked around, and I kept getting turned around. It was fun. On our way out I climbed Strawberry Hill, and was impressed by the views.

On the Seventh Day He Rested (Friday: 30). After six days of running about, I mostly relaxed at home on Friday. Though I must admit I did a short climb above Clark Kerr (my 60-minute or so super-short walk up in the hills). And we ate dinner out. And we got groceries.

These Shoes Were Made For Walking (Saturday: 31). I had a casual morning on Saturday, but after lunch I decided to head out to Briones Reservoir, an EBMUD area that I've been wanting to explore for a while. Google tricked me into thinking Bear Creek Trail went right out to Bear Creak Road, but all that was there was an inaccessible fire trail. So instead it was another .6 miles up the road and 300 feet of ascent, which tired me out before the walk. The actual Reservoir is gorgeous with great hillside trails looping around it. And it was entirely empty due to EBMUD's policy of making it as hard as possible for people to use their trails. And best of all, there were benches every mile or so. I only walked about a mile and half out (then the same back), but I now really want to figure out how to walk the whole reservoir. It's 12.5 miles, or 14.5 if I don't bike up that steep hill, so it'll take some stamina and a full day. Maybe in Spring.

A Final Gift from 2016 (Saturday: 31). While I was out hiking, Kimberly was sickening with the flu. Thanks 2016, you rock.

Writing Like He's Running Out of Time (Saturday+: 24+). And finally, writing. In recent years, I've used my last week of the year to write really extensively, but this year (shocker) I decided to mostly relax instead. Oh, I did write whenever I was on a BART train, and there were quite a few. So I got a few histories done going to Fremont and back and bits and pieces on my other trips. But I'm probably a bit behind going into the new year. But, this post is done. My 2016 index for Mechanics & Meeples is done. My 2016 RPG year in review needs a double-check for important stuff and an edit and it's done. And then I need to see if it's possible to get a week ahead on my histories like I'd hope.

But carefully. I wouldn't want to lose my week of R&R.
shannon_a: (Default)
The funny thing about writing a journal entry a day is that I'm hoarding some topics. For example, I've been wanting to write an entry about how all my writing projects went in 2015 (summary: lots of middle). But there have been days when I had time, but didn't write it because I came up with something else to write, and so I want to make use of that material.

(Other days, like today, it feels like it'd take too much time and I have other stuff to do ... which is my most common reason for not writing a journal entry, and something I was hoping to figure out by writing here more often for this month.)

Here's one thing I've been meaning to write about since last Thursday: we finally pushed our Rise of the Runelords characters over to box four of Wrath of the Righteous in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. This is per Mike Selinker's instructions on running Wrath of the Righteous as Box 7 of another Adventure Path.

Now, Eric, Mike B., and I had previously tried out the first few adventures in Wrath of the Righteous, and we came to the conclusion that they were hard. I was pleased to see the same was the case when using our heroic characters from Rise of the Runelords in a later box. Some of the monsters gave us genuine problems! And we failed to complete the mission!

I was a little less pleased that the time seemed to have telescoped. We're usually able to finish two four-player sessions in a Thursday night evening, but our first try at adventure 4-1 took about three hours. Granted, there was tear down and set up and looking at our characters. I have every hope it'll come back to a reasonable amount of time.

So the whole play Wrath-4 as adventure #7 totally works. Now I hope we can actually get through it (trying again at the start of February).
shannon_a: (Default)
Last night we were playing Between Two Cities, a game where seating order is very important. It thus has cards that let you randomize seating order. I drew one which read "Alphabetical by the Last Movie You Saw". I immediately knew this was problematic and said, "Everyone raise your hand who saw Star Wars last". I think 4 of the 7 had.

I chose a different card to determine seating order (number of letters in your first + last names, one that almost always puts me last in the seating order because shannon + appelcline = 17, something I came to bitterly realize when I was signing those 200+ Designers & Dragons late in 2014).

And that's a lesson in exactly how much a cultural phenomenon the new Star Wars is.

Kimberly and I saw The Force Awakens the Sunday after Christmas as our yearly Christmas movie. Star Wars was probably my first SF franchise, because (I think) I saw it when it first came out, at the age of 5 or so. It was definitely my first comic book (Star Wars #1, but one of the bagged reprints, not the high-valued original). But over time it's never been my top SF franchise. That's definitely Doctor Who, with Star Trek (especially Deep Space 9) coming in #2. And there are a few others that I'm a definite fan of, like Blake's 7 and Babylon 5. Put a number in a SF show title and I'm there.

But I quite liked Star Wars 7. It was fun, it was exciting, and there was some point in the movement that sent nostalgic chills through me. (I can't remember the scene any more, but I teared up, and it had little to do with the current movie.)

[This part could be construed as a very general spoiler.] I was astounded how much Abrams cleaved to the original movie — not just with the plot beats (which were a little too cleaver at times), but also with the filming and style and directing (which was great). J.J. Abrams, Now With 95% Less Lens Flares (tm). What really astounded me, though, was how bad Star Wars 7 made the prequels look. In comparison with the maturity of SW7 they look like a bad kid's TV show or something.

Any who, the movie got me excited about Star Wars again, which was pretty much exactly what it needed to do. (Because it's all about me.) I'm currently reading the SW7 prequel novel (from the library) and have the SW7 prequel comic on my shelf (also from the library). I may even want to watch the non-trilogy film next year (though it'll depend on what else is out for our next-Christmas movie).
shannon_a: (Default)
The Cats. Lucy has started being increasingly aggressive toward Callisto lately. It's just hissing and growling, but there's more of it. Mind you, Lucy has never been very fond of Callisto, but this seems to be going in a bad direction at the moment.

I suspect that it's my office that causes most of the contention and annoyance, since both cats like to sit around my desk while I work, and there's also just one food bowl and water bowl in the room. So, I'm in the process of making my office last contentious.

To start with, I tried to deal with the boiling annoyance last week by locking Callisto out of the office during my Thursday and Friday workdays. Poor Callisto, but I figured she got the rest of the house and her mama. But, she yowled at the door for quite a bit. And then she started throwing herself at the door to try and open it (which actually works on our Family Room door, because it has an old lock).

And then she did the wackiest thing ... she ran into the Family Room and started trying to get into the closet that we wedge shut there. She indeed managed to get that door open, because it doesn't latch. Kimberly later said, "What was up with that?" My theory was this: in her little kitty brain, Callisto knew she was blocked by the door from getting into her office. So she ran to open another door, figuring it would lead the same place. Smart cat? Dumb cat? I think the former.

Anywho, this week I got in some cat pheromones to run in my office. I'm also encouraging Callisto to use an alternate lounging place and have moved a second bowl food and water in there.

So far, things have calmed down a bit.

The Bike. I bought my fourth bike computer last month. Those things keep dying. The first started responding incorrectly to button pushes, the second lost a button, and the third stopped recording the bike's movement. The cheapest one I had, by Schwinn, actually lasted the longest at about four years, while the better ones from Sigma lasted just less than two years and just less than one and a half.

Inexplicably, I got another Sigma. Well, it's not actually inexplicable. They have better feature sets, and their new one that I got has a feature I really wanted: an altimeter. Now, I looked quite a bit for bike computers before I decided on one, and quite a few of them have altimeters now, but they're almost all using GPS. And GPS sucks down energy like no one's business. So I decided I didn't want a bike computer that was unreliable because I had to constantly power it.

So I bought the new SIGMA ALTI instead. I have no idea how it actually measures altitude. Maybe atmospheric pressure or something? It's not entirely accurate. I find that it shifts quite a bit, just sitting in my garage. I might put it away at 180 feet and come back two days later to find it's now at 153. But, it certainly gives the general trends, and over the course of a single bike ride it stays reasonably reliable.

I've been enjoying it quite a bit. I've gotten to see the altitudes of many of the places I ride, and what the actual ups and downs are. (I wish it showed rise over time, so I could understand what slopes are the most difficult for me.) I've found it particularly interesting playing the what's-the-same-height game. For example I've learned that the Berkeley Rose Garden and Jewel Lake (on opposite sides of a ridge) are at about the same height. I've also been able to see which routes are more wasteful due to rise and falls. It's also served as encouragement ("Look at that, I'm almost up to 1000 feet, I can go just a bit further"), which is the same purpose served by the odometer on the computer ("I'm lagging, I should push up to at least 12 mph from this puny 10.")

Other Entertainment. I wrote this last section head just to be parallel to my last journal entry, where I wrote about "Other Roleplaying". So, what other entertainment have I been doing? As usual that's board games, TV, and books.

Board gaming continues to be my regular Wednesday + Thursday evening activity. My current obsessions are Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (which gets played once a month with my Thursday group) and Roll for the Galaxy (a great dice-rolling game).

TV is in the summer slumps, which means we're watching great things on DVD. Thus far this summer has included Good Wife (season 3), Newsroom (season 2), and Game of Thrones (season 4), with Newsroom (season 3 and final) and Dexter (season 3) on deck. We've also been slowly watching through Arrow (season 3) and Flash (season 1), now that summer reruns finally got us the start of the seasons on our Tivo Of them Good Wife slumped a little from its season 1 greatness and Arrow season 3 just hasn't been as great as what preceded it, while Flash is still developing its cast and mythos. But they're all at least good (with Arrow my least favorite of that bunch) and many are great. We're also watching the embarrassing Big Brother 14 because I can't give up my love of televised strategy games for the summer, even when the summer show is crap.

As for books: I continue with my massive Michael Moorcock re-read. I just finished Phoenix in Obsidian (1970) a couple of nights ago, and am working on my article for it. Other than that, it's what caches my fancy off my to-be-read shelf. I've just started one of the few Sanderson Cosmere books I haven't read, Elantris. Recently finished books include Ship of Magic (a reread of the classic Robin Hobb book, which is still classic), Scream of the Shalka (a Doctor Who book written just before the new series, by Paul Cornell, which was OK, but disappointing for a Cornell book), The Annihilation Score (the newest Scalzi Laundry book which was very disappointing because it took the series in an entirely bizarre and inappropriate direction), and The Girl with all the Gifts (a post-apocalyptic Mike Carey book which left a bad taste in my mouth).

Oh, and I've also been re-reading A Feast for Crows, following our conclusion of season 4 of A Game of Thrones. I pick it up every once in a while and read one or two hundred pages over the course of several days, then I put it back down and read something else. The problem is that nothing happens. It's just a bunch of people standing around and hoping that something happens, but with a few specific exceptions spread out over the book, it doesn't. So, there's no tension and no concern about putting the book down for a week or two. Pfah. The writing is still smart, the characters well drawn. But it makes me that much sadder that Martin lost his way and wrote these two books that just tread water without any purpose.

And that's some of my current entertainment.
shannon_a: (Default)
We have a nice BBQ grill in our backyard. It was a wedding gift from my roleplaying group, who snuck in it while watching the house while Kimberly and I were in Ireland on our Honeymoon. Sadly, it hasn't gotten any use for at least the last few years.

Cut to Eric L., one of my board gaming friends, who's apparently looked longingly at that BBQ out of our dining room (aka board gaming room) window. He asked if he could BBQ around his birthday, and I said, "Yes, of course."

Which meant that last Monday I had to spend a couple of hours in the backyard, clearing out debris from around the BBQ. Overall, our backyard is in pretty good shape right now, considering that it's always an untended woodland ... but we've had enough work done that I've cleared it a few times this year, and the workers crunched lots of weeds underfoot underfoot besides. But, the area around the BBQ still needed clearing. When I was done and I tested out the BBQ ... I was pleased to set it lit!

So for our Thursday night board gaming last week, Eric brought chicken and potatoes and corn-on-the-cob for the BBQ, and chips and guacamole. And Mike brought ice cream and soda and other stuff. And Chris brought salad. And it was all entirely delicious. Kimberly even joined us for the eating.

We did get a little gaming done, a short little co-op game called SOS Titanic. After that gaming break is when we actually ate the ice cream. And strawberries. And that was pretty much the end of the gaming for last Thursday. (And actually my only gaming for the week, due to a variety of other factors.)

It was a nice bit of camaraderie, mixing food (and food preparation) with our more staid gaming. It was also nice having the back door and side gate and everything all open, because it made the backyard feel like an organic part of the house, which is usually not the case. (The cats were of course, locked up.)

Hopefully this will be a modern Renaissance of Appelcline BBQing. By which I mean we might start using it a couple of times a year again. I've definitely told the board gamers that we should BBQ again before the summer season is over (once we get a few weeks of actual gaming in!). And I've been telling the RPGers for a while that we should do a BBQ day here. Maybe the next time that Endgame is full on one of our Saturdays.

Surprisingly the excess BBQ good all got left here. I finished the corn-on-the-cob last night and the ice cream after dinner tonight.

I think there's one soda left.
shannon_a: (Default)
Last Saturday was the Endgame auction, and as has been the case in recent years, I went there with the intention of staying an hour or two, seeing some friends, bidding on a few games, and not buying anything. I was successful in all these endeavors. But, man the auction was crowded this year! I arrived a half-hour early and it was standing room only! Next year it's gotta be get-there-at-opening or not-bother, I guess.

I seriously bid on Phoenicia and Seasons, but got neither. I was within a dollar or two of Phoenicia and might have stayed in if I'd realized it was out-of-print. Seasons was more of a whim.

During the auction I was super impressed by how good Aaron has gotten at the whole thing, managing the bids masterfully, knowing when to quickly jump, when not to, and when to move forward to include a more expensive game in the set of things being sold.

I sold 20 things (or really, sold 17 things, with the others being unpurchased), and got $161 in credit. On Wednesday I turned most that around into Tourney, new ships for Galaxy Trucker, and some new Stephen Feld game. Yay for less games in my house and yay for some fun new ones in my collection!

This last week I've been pretty obsessed with building a new fleet of machines for Skotos (or rather, building enough to test out all of our main platforms and make sure they work well). It's really intensive, puzzling work, and it's been a nice change of pace. I also like the fact that I'm building our machines from the ground up, so I should have a really good understanding of them, which has never been the case before.

The downside is that I've often ended the work day trying to figure out a problem, and thus I've returned again and again to it in the evening (usually figuring it out before I go to bed, but at the cost of much of my evening).

Unsurprisingly, the rest of my work has not been going as well. This was the week that I was going to get way ahead on various board game projects and my WotC writing, so that I could then have the time to finish up some dangling loose ends on Designers & Dragons ... and I didn't manage that.

And the next couple of days will be busy, as Friday nights are always busy, especially when I'm running a game the next day, and on Saturday I'm running a game.

Maybe next week will be the week I really get ahead ..
shannon_a: (Default)
So I always take the last week of the year off work, from Christmas Day to New Years Eve. I worked at some job or another that did this, and I liked it, so I've made it into a regular tradition. Some years I spend that week reading and playing computer games ... but it's actually been a few years since I did that. Some years I spend that week finishing off a major writing project ... which is what I did this year.

The major writing project in question was Designers & Dragons: The '00s. I went into the vacation week already done with all the primary writing, but with little bits left: introduction, bibliography, section heads. However the biggest thing I had to do was edit the whole book, and that took some excessive amount of hours over the course of my vacation. I'd guess about 60 hours over the 7 days; yeah, I worked more over vacation than in a normal work week.

It actually took me until New Year's Day night, but Designers & Dragons: The '00s is now done. In fact, I finished up all four books in the series over the course of the year: the first two on January 8th, the third sometime in Spring, and the Fourth two days ago. However, this was all part of a longer sequence of writing that date back to 2005 and involves finishing the book(s) three times: once in 2008 (I think) for the publisher who opted out of it, though I only got partway through the final draft then; one in 2010 (I think) for Mongoose; and once now. According to my notes, the Mongoose version of Designers & Dragons was 362,000 words, while the new one is 535,000 words, so that's a fair amount of text added in the last 18 months -- which is how long I've been working on the new edition for Evil Hat.

There's still some little bits of work to do: some more collection of cover art and some corrections for the '70s, '80s, and '90s books that I've built up while working on the '00s, but the major work is done. Whew!

Mind you, in the last week I've been making a list of additional histories I *could* write and thinking about topics for the RPGnet column from when the Kickstarter goes live, etc ... but none of that will take the same concentration as writing the full books did.

My other big writing project for the year was histories for the D&D PDFs published to I wrote 2-4 of those a week, for a total of 171 articles and 121,000 words. After some negotiation, the DriveThru folks were willing to let me retain ownership of the histories, so I'm planning to put a book together from them someday as an adjunct to Designers & Dragons.

I also wrote three history articles for DnDInsider's Daily D&D, all toward the end of the year.

Both of these should be continuing into the new year. (I'd kind of prefer to be done with the DnDClassics, because they're a fair amount of regular work, but if I ever want to do a book, I really need to do *everything* so onward it continues).

For the new year, I've got two big projects planned.

First, I'm going to write a book about the works of one of my favorite authors. I'm hoping I can sell this to a mainstream publisher (and already have one in mind). It requires a lot of reading, so my hope is to have it done by the end of the year.

Second, I'm going to write a book about one of my favorite games, including all of its variants. I'm hoping that I can use it to create a market for actual Mechanics & Meeples books.

I'm probably not going to push too hard on either of these until at least February, but I'm excited about them both ...


Nov. 22nd, 2013 01:54 pm
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
We had a pretty horrible windstorm last night. Sustained winds up to 40mph and at least one recorded gust of 75mph, according to the news reports today. It's certainly not unprecedented in Berkeley, but we don't tend to see wind that bad more than once a year.

The funniest result was the effect on our gaming. Thursday is my usual board-game/test/review tonight, and last night we were playing Mayfair's new Global Mogul -- a pretty complex and intricate game that I liked far more than I expected based on the components. We were on the second turn or so of the six-turn game ... and the power went out. We waited around for a few minutes, but it stayed out (which is pretty rare for our house).

So the iPhones and other mobiles came out, with their new-fangled flashlight apps (which keep the camera flash on). For the next 2 hours or so (8-10?), we played the game entirely by mobile light -- which was pretty challenging given the large number of cards with smallish print. I offered to hunt up some candles, but no one was interested. The power finally came back on during turn 5 or so. It was a totally wacky gaming experience (and one that probably added at least 30 minutes to the gameplay!).

The cats both have been freaking out about the wind. It started in the late afternoon. yesterday. They were at their worst while we were gaming, because there was weird wind outside, and we were sitting around in the dark, which is pretty unusual too. So there was much chasing and hissing, and I finally had to go rescue Callisto. I sat her down in a chair in the Dining Room (where we were gaming) and she stayed there until the lights came back on. We still have more wind than usual today (though nothing like last night) and poor Lucy remains freaked out ... which means continued hissing at poor Callisto.

So it goes!

Busy Times

Aug. 5th, 2012 10:37 pm
shannon_a: (Default)

Times have been busy, but I haven't written a lot. Now that I use Facebook more, I understand why it's been harmful to plain blogging sites, because it's easy to write just a few sentences there if that's all that's really important.

Kimberly and I have had busier on Sundays lately. So last week we biked up to El Cerrito Plaza (the Greenway is still an awful mess with some parts not even started, though it's supposed to be about done, ) and visited Ross (to no success) then had a tasty dinner at Rubios. This week we biked out to Point Isabel where we watched dogs and read American Gods. Afterward we stopped by Target (where I got a third pair of jeans comfy for biking) and stopped by Out of the Closet on the way home (where I found three comfy light summer shirts, which is what I'd gone to Ross the previous week looking for).

This coming weekend is our anniversary weekend, and we have much more goodness planned for then.

As part of a plan to improve my fitness and lose some weight, I've continued doing evening rides up the hill. I'm trying to do so at least a couple of times a week. So today Kimberly & I biked out to Point Isabel, then after dinner I biked up to Lake Temescal. My total was 2 hours and 20 miles or something like that.

Over at work I finally got done with my crazy, crazy support for Infinite Canvas and was able to get back to Masters Gallery, the Modern Art Card Game variant I was scheduled to release in July. It went out August 1, which I'll call good enough. Starting on Monday is the next project: I'm hoping to get a 4-tile expansion out for Kingdoms by the end of the month, which includes building in-app purchases into our gaming libraries.

On the home front, I am continuing to clean the house of unneeded stuff as I can. Another large set of stuff went to Half-Price Books last week, when Kimberly was kind enough to accompany me downtown.

And finally I have three relatively large projects I'm working on:

1.) Writing toward what will someday be a second edition of Designers & Dragons, beginning with inputting all my corrections. Right now I've got White Wolf in front of me, because I'd flagged it to rearrange and break up some sections.

2.) Programming on the Armorica game for iOS, because I'm *determined* that work will not stop even if I get really embroiled in other stuff.

3.) General work on Mechanics & Meeples, which includes a lot of reposting of articles (though now I'm only doing that Monday-Thursday night, to try and balance out my various projects), but also new stuff too. I spent 3 or 4 hours this weekend preparing my article for Monday, which was a bit more than planned.

As I often say here: busy, busy, busy.

shannon_a: (Default)
A slightly busy Saturday.

Today was the annual board game auction at Endgame, so I headed out there in the morning. As usual, Aaron L. was back to MC, so I got to chat with him for a bit (which is one of the reasons that I've been attending the auction in recent years).

Afterward, I sat with Eric V. and Jon S., kibitzed, and watched the first hour and a half or so of the auction. I bid on three or four things, but the only thing I was really enthusiastic about was Wolfgang Kramer's El Capitan. Sadly, I dropped out at $15 or so and it went for $17 or $18.

That was one of the higher-priced euros. Generally, the auction seemed to be a buyer's market today. I expect I'll have less credit than I have in other years, but since the primary goal was to clean as much as I could out of the house, it's all good. (That goal is also why I didn't bid very aggressively on the stuff I bid on.)

While at Endgame, I was happy to receive compliments on Designers & Dragons.

Aaron said he was impressed by the neutrality of the Wizard's Attic mini-history, as Wizard's Attic was a company run by my great friend Eric R. (now sadly gone across the sea). I told him that I'd really striven for it in the book, and that though some earlier drafts of articles like FGU and Palladium came out less than neutral, fans and employees helped me out with that as they read drafts. I've actually seen quite a few compliments about the book's neutrality.

Jon also offered kind words about the book, which he'd quite enjoyed, I believe for its nostalgic value.

I should note how nice the bike riding was today. Nicest day of the year, up in the high 70s or so. It actually would have been a little hot if not for the breezes I worked up by riding. But totally beautiful.

(Aaron said he'd brought the weather from Boston, which was hitting 90 degrees before he left. Ugh.)

I had lunch out, picked up some healthier cat food for the cats (since I hope we can feed them healthier now that super picky eater Cobweb is, alas, no longer with us) then enjoyed the rest of the evening at home.

This evening, we received delivery of a custom built paperback bookcase from Fernand P., a local craftsman who sells bookcases at the Ashby Flea Market. That got installed in the hallway upstairs (where I'd taken away a bookcase for the games closet when I rearranged it a few weeks ago). It seems to fit my paperbacks well and now holds May through Zelazny.

Bolting the bookcase to the wall got me into the home improvement mood, so I also took on a long-delayed task: putting in a second curtain rod for our bedroom. The first was a real pain in the butt, between setting six anchors, then screwing the six screws into those anchors. Finicky, careful work that also took a lot of elbow grease (as power tools weren't useful for most of it). The second was much the same, but an hour later I had new curtains up. Hopefully these will keep Lucy from playing with the blinds in the morning and waking us up (and protect the bedroom a bit more from light, especially as we head into summer).

Tomorrow, I mostly have R&R planned. I've got some tax refund money to spend, since it didn't go to the auction, so I'll be browsing for books, CDs, and comics that I've been wanting, but haven't gotten. Fun, fun.
shannon_a: (Default)

Why a surprise? Because Kimberly and I were talking about whether we need to put Cobweb to sleep just before the weekend opened.

The biggest problem has been her regularly peeing outside of the litter box. What I hadn't realized was that Kimberly was interpreting that as Cobweb doing very badly internally, which I'm not certain is the case. However, I must acknowledge that she's also largely stopped purring in the last month or two. On the other hand, she doesn't seem to be hiding. After some back and forth, we eventually decided to do what one of Kimberly's friends suggested, which was to talk to our vet and see if she might be able to offer any pointers as to how our cat might be doing.

While I love Cobweb dearly, I do not want to keep her around if she's at a point where she's not happy living. I actually have a lot of trouble ever accepting death as a better state than life, but in the case of an animal largely driven by instincts and not intelligent enough to understand why she might be sick, I can kinda see why that animal might prefer to not be around. So, I want to do my best to keep Cobweb around if she wants to be, but not just because we want her to be. It's just tough to figure that out.

Hopefully Kimberly's talk with our vet tomorrow will help.

Anyway, on to the nice part of the weekend.

Yesterday, my normal RPG group got canceled and so I decided to do something that I do just once or twice a year: I went to Endgame's monthly last-Saturday boardgame day.

Also unusually, I took BART due to rain. I can't remember the last time I did that, but I'd gotten plenty soaked already in March. It was a nice change of pace, and it allowed me to drag along an entire suit case full of games for the upcoming auction (part of my multi-pronged clean-the-house plan, now underway).

I got to play two longer games while there, the new Lords of Waterdeep (a great D&D/euro, which has gone on my must-buy list, though I have some qualms over the valuation of the quests) and the older western Homesteaders (which I'd brought). I don't think I won a damned thing, but I quite enjoyed the games and the chance to game with some different folks than I usually do (Josh, Brad, a different Eric). 

I stayed about four hours and headed out around 4pm, which still gave me plenty of day left. When I got home I went out and biked about 3 miles (as the sun had come out and the day was nicer if not glorious) and then had a restful evening of Chuck,Once Upon a Time and plenty of reading (Captain Britain Volume 1A Game of Throne [for the third time or so], Stephen King's 11/22/63).

Which brings us to today and our noon tickets to see The Pirates of Penzanze at the Berkeley Playhouse. I think it was my first Gilbert & Sullivan and I found it generally enjoyable, if at times puzzling.

The puzzling mainly came from the fact that there's plenty of satire in this work, and that doesn't always survive the test of time. I also found the music not as easy to understand as in most musicals, I suspect because of the operatic elements.

The directing was absolutely wonderful. I especially loved the rock-and-roll sensibilities brought to the show which gave it a great energy. The pirates themes in particular were heavy metal, which made "I am a Pirate King" in the first act the best song in the entire production. Lots of thumping and guitar riffs -- totally awesome. (Though the heavy rock & roll was part of what made the music hard to follow at times because it sometimes ended up louder than the voices).

As always, there were lots of good actors in the play too, especially the Frederic (who was quite funny) and the Mabel (who was a great singer with a stunning range).

Overall, another fun musical at the Berkeley Playhouse, though Seussical remains my favorite.

Let's see, what else did I miss? How about a picnic lunch of Subway sandwiches before the play. It was a bit chilly, with the wind up, but we got to watch dogs having lots of fun.

We also watched the last three episodes of Chuck season 3 over the last two days. It was another great series finale. One of the things that particularly impresses me about the show is how they ended each season (so far, for us) with real growth and change for the main characters, and then didn't walk any of those changes back in later seasons. Seeing what appears to be a whole new MO opening up for Chuck reminds me of the whiplash changes that that-other-spy show, Alias underwent. Alias was never graceful at all while Chuck has been three years (so far, for us) of believable, graceful, and elegant evolution.

And now it's back to the various clean-ups ongoing (games for the auction, old books for eBay) and probably to A Game of Thrones (with Chuck season 3 done, season 1 of the HBO series is next on our list, so I'll get a double-dose very soon!).
shannon_a: (marrach skotos)
My newest iOS eurogame was released today, Michael Schacht's Web of Power Card Game: The Duel. I think it's our most strategic game to date, with the most robust AI as well.

There's already a BGG Thread on the game.

By chance, today also saw the publication of an iOS Blog Entry by me. It's pretty introductory, talking about basic classing techniques, but ones that are much like what I've done in my iOS games to produce a reusable "GameTable".

Otherwise, life continues on.

Right now I'm taking a little bit of time out at Skotos to try and grab some of the low-hanging fruit that might be in my iOS game TODO lists. Pretty soon, though, I need to move that toward pass-and-play as a step toward Game Center.

Cats are still stick and taking care. Munchkin went to the vet today for her one-month-later checkup following the diagnoses of her kidney problems. Cobweb, meanwhile, has started peeing inappropriately, which is one more trouble that I would have liked to avoid. We're trying to figure out how to get her not to do that. The vet says it's probably behavioral.

So it goes with old cats. Our vet explained that it wouldn't be a problem if we just had Depends for cats.

I've been juggling some work for Designers & Dragons right now. On the one hand I'm continuing to go through the book with a red pen, in case Mongoose decides to reprint. On the other hand I'm working on a setting history article for Glorantha and collecting notes for some Arduin-related company histories. Those are all for the online column.

My TODO-in-my-free-time list reminds me that I also have Eric Vogel's Armorica, the next AP for Kingmaker, and taxes all on my horizon.

And coming up, it's my birthday. And Kimberly's birthday. And the cats' birthdays. We're going to have some fun dinners out and other such over the next week, so I'm looking forward to that.

That cats will probably get pills. And needles.

Except Lucy. But it's not actually her birthday. I think she was born in April sometime while our other cats are around March 26.

shannon_a: (Default)

Had a nicely relaxing three-day weekend. The last year or two, I've tried to be better about actually taking holidays off, and I think that's starting to pay off in my feeling more rested and balanced. It's now been two weeks since the Christmas vacation, and I still feel largely rested, while I've simultaneously been getting good work done.

Amusingly, this was both the weekend of time spent at Endgame and of boardgames.

Saturday I went there for a new session of our Dresden Files game, and when that fell through, our group instead played Small World: Underground and San Francisco Cable Car. Then on Sunday I went back to Endgame to talk with Fred H. and Evan about some of Evil Hat's upcoming board game work. When that ended earlier than I expected, Evan was kind enough to put Kingdom Builder on the table, and we played that twice before I left.

(Because I couldn't spend time at Endgame without gaming could I?)
(Actually, that's a rhetorical question, as I have at parties, auctions, and times I just stopped in.)

That brought my total plays of Kingdom Builder to four, and made me decide that I liked it enough that I didn't want to wait for the Endgame Auction to buy one. So I picked one up and brought it home, along with some tasty Dim Sum. Kimberly and I have already played it twice.

(The game, not the Dim Sum.)

The weather over the weekend was totally schizophrenic. On my Saturday ride to Endgame it was bright and relatively warm and beautiful. It felt like we were in a second Summer (which had been the case for a couple of weeks). Then on Sunday it was gray and cool. The sun didn't even come out until 1 or so. Tonight Kimberly and I biked over to Boston Market for dinner (thanks to a gift card from her brother which had been a Christmas present) and we both commented frequently on how friggin' cold it was.

(Still is.)

I also did some writing over the weekend. I polished up the second half of my Designers & Dragons discussion of D&D comics and I also wrote a couple of thousands words on iOS5 for an upcoming blog (which I did as much as anything because it was a nice way to get my name more noticed in the field). I still want to write a card game review for the week and I definitely need to write up the AP for our last Kingmaker game, but I think I'm saving those for tomorrow (and will probably finish up the AP later in the week).

(And after that, I need to figure out my Designers & Dragons article for March.)

Some reading too, of course. Right now my biggest project is the sixth Malazan Book of the Fallen. I often have problems with longer books because I have a flitting little attention span, so I'm really impressed by how much The Bone Hunters is enthralling me. I thought that Erikson was a strong writer from the first, but I think he may have gotten better as time has gone on. Though I've thus far pushed through the Malazan series at a rate of just two books a year, I may want to read more this year (but I have so much more that I want to read too: the Doctor Who series I'm working on, Wild Cards from the beginning, more Moorcock, Larry Niven's Known Space, the rest of Thieves' World, and much more, so that may be a reason not to read these books that take me a month at a time any faster).

Any way, good stuff.

shannon_a: (Default)

Ah, the vacation, she is gone. Which is a shame, as I got very relaxed, calm, and comfortable after a week of worrying about very little. I'll just have to try and hold on to that. (So far, fairly good.)

Jason & Lisa. Last night we had my brother & sister-in-law over for a games night. I'd been wanting to do this for a while, but Jason actually was the one that suggested it, as he has time off before going back to classes (which I suppose makes it still vacation from his point of view). I suggested a handful of possible games, and Lisa somewhat excitedly said that Teamplay Ticket to Ride Asia sounded fun. So, that was what we played.

It was my second experience with the team play rules, and if they weren't as amazing as they were the first time, it was only because they weren't so wonderfully and surprisingly novel. It still was a totally great way to play the game. Lisa and I lost to Kimberly and Jason. Tactically, it was because Kimberly took a chance and drew tickets on her last turn, which gave them the 14 points needed to win (10 from tying us for most completed tickets, 4+ for the ticket), but strategically it was because they had a superior train route that hit three corners of the board.

Overall, good fun.

With real-life running again, I'm reminded that I've been wanting to write about a few ongoing things ...

Cobweb. Our faithful grey tiger-stripe is still with us. It's been 10 months or so that we've been giving her subcutaneous fluids on a daily basis and that's been enough to keep her system going. If anything, for me at least getting her to eat is the larger battle to be fought every day, as we tend to lock her up with food for an hour in the afternoon, then feed her again in the evening. And, it's not just the battle of placing her back in front of the food several times, but also figuring out what she'll eat on a weekly basis as she's constantly tiring of one food or the other.

Despite all that, Cobweb is either continuing to lose weight or else has landed at a lower weight than I'd like, I'm not sure which, but her ribs are relatively pronounced again. We're trying not to worry about it too much and to continue on with life. It works for the most part.

Trees. So I've written very few updates about our exciting trees out in front of our house. Sadly, the windstorms in December stripped them of all their leaves. I just hope they return with the Spring. Because of our unusually dry Winter I've been out watering them once a week, which I didn't expect to have to do for several months. Go figure. I've also been doing my best to keep all grass/weeds a foot or two out from the trees. (I'd hoped to keep the whole front strip clear of foliage, but now I must laugh at that; in any case, the care guide for the trees said to keep this amount of space free, so it should be good.)

Games. Went to Endgame today, and had a good time. It marked the start of my new gaming theme for 2012. Not as exciting as the Year of Knizia, the Year of Alea, or the Year of Wallace, but in '12 I plan to "PLAY OR DIE". Basically, I want to get old games to the table to be replayed. If I don't really like them when I replay them or if I don't manage to replay them at all, then I'm going to consider really hard about putting them into the '13 Endgame Auction.

(OK, some will be saved because they're great games or they're set aside for my RPG group when appropriate or they're tiny card games, but there are lots I'll be applying this criteria too.)

Tonight I actually played two games from my shelf. Streetcar was probably never in danger, as I play it at least once a year and love it. Atlantis might have been. Surprise, surprise, I rediscovered that I really like it too. So, two games that won't DIE.

And finally, a special holiday editions of companies-that-suck.

Roku. Our Roku was our worst tech purchase of '11, and really one of my worst tech purchases ever. For those who aren't familiar with it, it's a box that you put on your TV to pick up streaming. I wanted it for Pandora streaming and Netflix streaming into our Family Room. The problem: its networking SUCKS. In our first weeks, I found that it usually dropped off of Pandora after just a few songs. I was about ready to send it back (as it was still in its trial period), but then we started watching some Netflix TV shows and that mostly worked OK.

Well, except about 1 time in 10 when it'd totally lose its networking and we'd have to reboot it to get it working again.

That's gotten considerably worse lately, now that we've used it for 6 or 9 months. Lately, 1 in 2 times we try and watch something, it just locks up during some point of networking. Sometimes it can't find the wireless hub (about 12 feet across the room) and sometimes it can't connect past the hub to the internet. And, even worse, I can reboot everything and it still doesn't work sometimes. 

Very frustrating.

I'm about ready to toss the piece of crap out of window to see if it'll explode when it hits the street. More notably, we're also considering dropping our Netflix streaming since we don't have a device that adequately shows them (actually, we have several, but they're all computers, iPhones, and iPads, not really conducive to group viewing).

(I should see if I can get our Tivo linked up to Netflix, but I was having problems with the wireless [again], though in this case it's more understandable because it's on a  different floor.)

Westfield Comics. These guys have been in mail-order for a long, long time. I remember ads from them in Marvel Comics from the '80s or so. So, I'm surprised how tone-deaf they are about Internet orders. Basically, I tried to order a big omnibus from them a week ago, on the 29th. They waited a full week to process my order, then told me they didn't have it. Which is pretty unacceptable in itself. But the cherry on top was the fact that they took my money (which may have been illegal, as they did not actually have the item to sell), they did not issue a refund, and instead told me they'd given me credit at their store.

Fortunately, I always pay relatively unknown companies with Paypal if I can, and thus I have no doubt that I will be getting a refund, if the idiots at Westfield Comics like it or not.
shannon_a: (Default)

Games that you played five or ten times in a year (five and dimes) have been used as a barometer of the board gaming world for years. Here's what made my five and dime board gaming list in 2011:

Dominion — 19 plays

My winner for the year was Dominion, which made 19 plays, many of those after the releases of Cornucopia and Hinterlands. This also made Dominion my most-played board game ever, with its 94 tabletop plays edging out the 93 plays across all variants of Ticket to Ride.

Generally, Dominion is a good game that really shines due to its variability and its ability to support good expansions. Though, to be honest, its newest expansion Hinterlands didn't thrill me: a lot of the cards seem to make the game drag, while I found neither the new mechanic nor the theme (was there one?) very attractive. For me, Seaside, Alchemy, and Cornucopia remain the top Dominion expansions, in that order.

Though Dominion is a juggernaut, I think it could do even better. It's held back—and this seems really silly to say—by its box. When I want to bring Dominion to gaming, I have to choose a single box, and that doesn't always reflect the most exciting way to play. Because of that, Dominion often doesn't get put in my gaming bag at all. I've seen other players face this problem, and as a result Dominion has almost entirely faded from the gamestore scene. The sad thing is that the publishers of other games like Thunderstone and Ascension have figured this pretty simple problem out: they've made boxes that can be used to hold multiple expansions. I wish that Rio Grande would get with the program.

7 Wonders — 18 plays

I was pretty surprised to see that newcomer 7 Wonders almost outpaced Dominion in '11, but it does feature some elements I love, like a huge variety of cards which together make every game dynamic, exciting, and different. However, 7 Wonders really excels in the new idea it brought to the game table: simultaneous play.

Sure, there's been simultaneous play before, usually in the selection of a single card or a single option. 7 Wonders really changed that up by making its entire play simultaneous, vt taking steps that would usually be played one at a time, and trusting players to do them all at once.

7 Wonders could have been a good play with a more normative structure, say with cards being selected simultaneously, but then revealed once at a time. But, it would be long and you'd have huge problems with downtime when the player number mounted. Instead, 7 Wonders literally took a 1-2 hour game and pushed it into a 30 minute package, and that's why it succeeds so well.

Ascension — 10 plays

As I wrote this summer, the iPhone Ascension is what really won me over to the game (though I'd sort of liked it before). I feel like it's the one other early deck building games that really got it. Where most other deck builder games added complexity and made their games too long as a result, Ascension kept things quick and short, so that you're always wishing you had more time—not happy that it's finally done.

I bought 2011's small-box expansion, Return of the Fallen, and that's been a great 2-player set for the wife and me, but we're also looking forward to the new Storm of Souls supplement due out two weeks ago or so.

Lost Cities — 9 plays

This is an old standby for the wife and me that excels because it's tiny and so can be brought on vacation and it can be played even when we're both tired. It's racked up 67 plays over the years and is my #3 all-time board game after Dominion and Ticket to Ride(s).

Unpublished Prototype — 8 plays

Several folks regularly put prototypes on the table at Endgame: Eric V. (author of Armorica, Cambria, and Hibernia) and the design team of Denbaum, Lytle, and Ruggiero (authors of the upcoming Race to Adventure). All told I've played more good games than bad, so I'm always happy to take a bit of time to play & comment on a prototype.

Plays this year include Race to Adventure (on which, more shortly) plus some others.

Eminent Domain — 7 plays

Years ago, the deep-filler category got started with San Juan, a role-selection card game that allowed some deep play in a very short time. Then the category got redefined with the release of Dominion, which offered a very specific type of deep filler—the deck-building game—which has eclipsed some of the neat role-selection fillers that had preceded it.

Eminent Domain was a pleasant surprise because it went back to the deep-filler source by mixing role-selection and deck-building into a coherent and interesting roles. (Basically, you pick roles each turn to get actions, then the cards matching those actions go into your deck for future usage.) It also builds to the same strengths as Dominion and Ascension by producing a game that plays quickly and shortly.

I don't think that Eminent Domain has the same replayability as the traditional deck builders because it has a much smaller set of cards, but I've nonetheless enjoyed seeing the deck building mechanics in a slighter more constrained context (and the fact that it shows up on my five and dime list says that it certainly is repayable enough).

Race for the Galaxy — 7 plays

Speaking of deep fillers, here's one of the classics.

I feel like Race for the Galaxy was the best expression of the San Juan style role-selection game. Even without deck building, it has great variability and replayability due to the fact that you expend most cards as "money" in any game (rather than seeing every card actually played). The expansions just helped that.

However, I also feel like the expansions for Race for the Galaxy had a big downside: complexity. Each one made the game harder to play and harder to teach. In fact, the game dropped out of favor in my gaming groups following the release of the third expansion, because no one wanted to learn the new prestige rules.

I finally learned them in 2011, and felt they added to the game, as did others—hence the seven plays. Still, I'm not convinced it's the optimal way to expand a game.

Carcassonne: The Discovery — 6 plays

A number of variant games have been released for the Carcassonne rules, and I believe that they've generally offered good variations on the core game. However, for me the best two were the ones created by outside designers—Reiner Knizia and Leo Colovini because those designers were the most willing to really think outside the box about the Carcassonne design.

Colovini's game, Carcassonne: The Discovery, unfortunately got pretty poor attention because of an online exclusive deal which kept it out of game stores until a year past its release—by which time fans had moved on to other things. Which is a pity, as it's a pretty neat game, as I rediscovered this year when I pulled it out of mothballs.

I think it does two things right.

First, it makes meeple placement into an economy. You can place a meeple or remove a meeple on your turn. Meeples no longer get stuck; instead you have to judge when you should remove an unfinished meeple because you don't think it's terrain will close; and you also have to think about when to remove a finished meeple, because you judge that no new opportunities are as valuable as getting that piece back.

Second, it creates terrains whose values are based on other terrains, with mountains scoring based on cities in adjoining terrains. Not only does this require you to think about Carcassonne in a different way, but it allows you to create complementary terrains (or glom onto those of opponents) in a way that the original game did not.

Ubongo — 6 plays

This is a fun game because it's exciting, it's quick, and it's unlike most other games. (FITS, Rumis, and Pueblo scratch some of the same itch.) I've got 18 plays total recorded for Ubongo. My most recent game was on Christmas Day, as I gave it as a present to one of my brothers and his wife, which should tell you how well I respect the game.

Race to Adventure — 5+ plays

I'm not sure how many times I've played this upcoming Evil Hat game, because the first plays were recorded as "unpublished prototypes". However, I've logged 3 plays since it appeared on BGG, so I'm pretty sure I played it 5 times or more over the course of the year.

Suffice to say, I'm looking forward to it, because it's a quick game that requires some careful strategy and has a lot of variability.

Galaxy Trucker — 5 plays

Recently when people have asked me what my favorite board game is, I've answered Galaxy Trucker. It's got a high level of excitement, much like Ubongo because of its real-time element. However, there's also a raw creativity implicit in the game that I've only seen in a few other games like Factory Fun (which unfortunately doesn't quite work because it's got its real-time element in the wrong place) and more recently Mondo. I love creating my own ship. The excitement of seeing how well it does afterward is almost irrelevant.

Make more games like this!

Almost Made It: Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon (4); The Castle of the Devil (3); Fairy Tale (3); Glen More (3); Hibernia (3); King Arthur: The Card Game (3); Mondo (3); Times Square (3).

A Busy Day

Dec. 11th, 2011 11:02 pm
shannon_a: (Default)
Went out to Endgame this morning for my friend Eric's release party for his two games Cambria and Hibernia. There was tasty catering and fun games to play. I've played a lot of prototype games over the years, and I'm happy to say that many of the ones I've played at Endgame (Armorica, Cambria, Hibernia, Race to Adventure) have been top-rate, and the sort of things that I'd be interested in playing even if designed by people I didn't know. I did horrible in my one game of Cambria, but pretty much sharked both Hibernia games I played.

My Dad called in the late afternoon, which he often does on Sundays. We chatted for a good hour on this and that, which is always a pleasure.

I picked up the Ascension card game while at Endgame today and introduced it to Kimberly tonight. She's been a big fan of Dominion (having played the game more than I have, I'm positive, and I have almost 100 plays under my belt), so I've been wanting to introduce her to another of my favorite deckbuilding games--except I didn't own it until today. I'm very happy to say that the experiment was successful, as she liked it, even after I got out a rampaging horde of Mechana Constructs.

My Mom called in the evening, and we're going to go visit her for Christmas Dinner on Christmas day. We haven't done that in many, many years, but with a relaxing week afterward and plenty of notice on the plans, I was happy to say yes.

Whew! Which is why I say busy. I was going to do some more writing tonight (on the AP for my Pathfinder game, which is now done for the year) and some programming (on the iPhone version of the aforementioned Armorica game, which is nearing feature and UI completion, but still has no AI), but I got knocked off track when my dad called around 3.45, and it's now much, much too late. So instead, I'm going to relax, finish the volume of Scalped I've been reading (#7), and do some other assorted reading.

So. Tired.

Nov. 30th, 2011 11:34 pm
shannon_a: (Default)
Weather report said there were going to be sustained winds of 15mph coming from the north today, and so I knew I'd have a hard ride back home from Endgame. Sure enough. It was my hardest ride from Endgame EV-AR. I even had to stop and rest once by 24. But I didn't know how damned tired I was going to be when I got home. I just about collapsed. Whew!

Well, when a bike ride actually tires me out, I figure I'm building more muscles.

But. So. Tired.

Endgame was good. I had a rare event where I played everything I brought. That was Galaxy Trucker and Artus. Galaxy Trucker has definitely become one of my favorite games. Artus is a new purchase. It's a Kramer & Kiesling that's very abstract, very tactical, and very interesting. At times it reminds me of Australia (because it's similarly a tactical game where you get two actions a turn) and Torres (because it similarly has "master" score cards that require you to align things in specific orientations).

Both fun.

I should bring Torres next week.

I haven't written yet that we're losing our local Andronico's, which is currently in the throes of a going-out-of-business sale. I'm not heart-broken, as Kimberly and I started avoiding it at most-costs a year ago or so. That was around when they started tagging two-thirds of their items with fake on-sale stickers, which really just said, "Everyday Low Price", but before they ripped out two of their aisles and replaced them entirely with booze, because (apparently) the preferred Andronico's customer is a rich alcoholic.

So, it's been some place we've gone lately only when it was pouring rain or there was some other catastrophic problem that kept us from biking the mile and a half to Safeway.

Best case, a real grocery story replaces Andronico's and we cheer heartily. I've now heard multiple times that Fresh & Easy is interested, so that's promising, though I don't know how they'd compare to the low prices of Safeway or the super-low prices of Target. Couldn't be worse than Andronico's, though.

Worst case, something totally inappropriate goes in there, and we're left with two sort of far away and crappy choices: Berkeley Bowl, somewhat overpriced (unless it's produce) and home of violently aggressive cart drivers and union busters; or Whole Food, grossly overpriced and run by people who support whatever hateful right-wing cause you could think of. CVS is apparently interested in the Andronico's space, which could lead us down that route.

Fingers crossed.

shannon_a: (Default)
Last night, I was more determined than ever to go to Endgame, as it was the day of Occupy's idiotic General Strike. Now, I'm as progressive as the next person--strike that, I'm probably more progressive than the next American--but as I've written before I fail to see much use in Occupy Wall Street's tactics. Being homeless and smoking pot in public places just doesn't seem to be a good methodology for enacting political change. I could be wrong, however, and I'll admit that.

However, I'm much more certain that this General Strike won't make a bit of difference to the big corporations that Occupy is supposedly standing up against. Instead, it hurts all the small businesses in the area, some of which appear to have closed in general support of Occupy, but some of whom seemed to close out of fear. Endgame, however, was open, hence my decision to go out there for regular Wednesday night gaming.

When I got down to the area of the civic center, I discovered that Broadway was entirely blocked by thronging crowds and shaking with open-air music. I was newly shocked by Mayor Quan's giving in to lawlessness. I mean it's not like Broadway is the main thoroughfare through downtown or anything ... oh wait, it is. So I circled back over to Clay and behind the convention center, where I found the polar opposite: a ghost town. Lots of shut businesses and lots of open but empty ones. Endgame was mostly empty when I walked in, though I soon discovered that a few early arrivals had stepped out to get some dinner.

So I went over to Smart & Final, and found it strangely ghostlike too. The aisles were empty. There was a checkout line, but that was because there was only one cashier, and he was incompetently dealing with a single woman for an extended period of time. I soon discovered that some of the people around me were from Occupy Oakland. They were all buying either lots of water, lots of booze, lots of cups, or some combination thereof. I can't see where all that hard alcohol could go wrong for demonstrators in possible conflict with police.

The guy behind me was monologuing about how he was part of Occupy Oakland and he was now living on the plaza. He said that a lot of people say, "Yeah, Occupy Oakland, but it's just full of crack heads." This was the point where I expected him to deny that, but instead he said, "Yeah, but you gotta ask why there are so many  crack heads. Did you know that there's more crack heads now that at any other time in the history of the world?"

Hello! Crack Cocaine invented in the '70s, so it's not a surprise that it's use is growing after only 40 years of existence! Also, more people on Earth now than at any point in history. For that matter, more people living now than have died since the rise of civilization about 7000 years ago!

Meanwhile, Crackhead Occupier was on to talking about how he's living in the plaza now, but when they kick everyone out of City Hall, he's going to be living on the top floor, and then all the city council persons will be living on the plaza. And I had to pause for a second, struck by the fact that this insane man really, really believed what he was saying.

I got some cash back along with my bottle of Chocolate Milano Torani syrup. It came as two $5 bills which had clearly been crinkled and crushed to within an inch of their life. I gingerly put them into my billfold, trying not to think of where they'd been before coming to me.

I'd hoped to buy a copy of Designers & Dragons at Endgame that a friend had requested, and to offer my support to help my local business being unjustly damaged by these occupations and strikes. Sadly they were down to just their display copy, which I did not want to take (plus some remaining holds). They're going to check and see if the distributor still has any (but generally the book seems to be doing well; a friend noted that Black Diamond Games in Concord had sold out of their original order too). Though I ended up not buying anything of substance as a result, that same friend picked up 5 new games, which sounded like a pretty good help-small-businesses shot in the arm.

And, gaming was good. I played Galaxy Trucker, which I've decided is my favorite board game. As usual, Eric V. managed to stay just ahead of me. I often don't concentrate enough on cargo.

Saw a number of police cars on the way home, all conspicuously parked to the sides of Telegraph, but a ways from Uptown. Though the sensationalistic and lazy press would have you think otherwise, Occupy is creating almost no danger downtown. I felt much more threatened by the Oscar Grant riots of a few years ago.

To put it in perspective, some of our lazy local papers highlighted some rock throwing and fire starting that occurred in the wee hours of the night. About 10,000 people marched during the day (or in many cases, were bussed, it turns out: OCCUPY SCHOOL BUSES!). About 70 got into it with the police in the night, of whom 40 were promptly arrested by Oakland police during their job.

But people continue to ask, "Where is Jean Quan?"
shannon_a: (games)
I cancelled my normal Kingmaker game today and instead went to Endgame's Xth anniversary party. I had a good time, playing several fun games with quite a few people that I don't get to game with enough (Aaron because he no longer lives in town, Bob, Brad, and Robert because our times don't tend to sync on Wednesdays). I think that in the future I'll go ahead and plan to attend these anniversary parties, even though they're not the big X (and not just for an hour or two before RPGing, like I did the last few years).

Games Played included: Ascension (with a win that proved I was able to take skills from the iOS game to the tabletop); Maharaja (also a win, but also a game that showed me Maharaja is usually too thinky for me); Sun, Sea & Sand (a game that I really enjoyed, especially thanks to the SimResort theming, which goes great with Oh Zoo Le Mio by the same author); team Innovation (which is the only way to play the game with 4); and Race for the Galaxy (my second play with the prestige rules, which sent one of the players right out to buy the expansion that includes them).

Between biking and about 6 hours of gaming and interacting, I'm pretty tired out, but will probably read for another hour or so before bed.

Oh, and congrats to Aaron, Chris, Chris, Anthony, Finn, and everyone else at Endgame for 10 years and for running one of the premier gamestores in the country for community and for fun.
shannon_a: (games)
Endgame has been impressively jammed each of these last Wednesdays. Both nights I looked up around 8pm to see almost every table filled. Today it was a step further, though. We finished up our first game of Eminent Domain (which seems like a winner at first cut, at least once we got the rules right) and had 6 people to arrange for our next games ... only to discover that there were only 4 or 5 available chairs in the whole mezzanine. Yowza!

(Three of us ended up going downstairs to sit in the lounge area with the postage stamp sized table. We were able to barely fit a second game of Eminent Domain into that space.)

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