quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (thoth)

Andy Norman, a philosophy professer at Carnegie Mellon University, led a team to create a game called Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher to teach critical thinking skills. It's a serious yet fun exercise in learning how to spot weak arguments and challenge shaky claims.

Yet, demanding that a person follow your personally-approved-of restrictions on what can be said, and why, before you'll bother listening is also a common silencing tactic, and it's particularly effective when employed by the entire status quo. You can tack on all sorts of arbitrary restrictions and make it sound like you're formalizing the discussion when your true goal is to stop people with different world views than yours from airing their points.


Jester: How many responsible, mature adults does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Responsible Mature Adult: This is not a constructive conversation. (leaves room)

If you wanted to have a rational, constructive discussion on gun control, for instance, you might keep things civil by excluding anyone who owns one, since they're obviously going to give predictable, tired anti-control arguments. And you'd exclude anyone who's been robbed at gunpoint since they're obviously going to be emotionally biased and make judgements based on personal preference rather than the Greater Good. You'd certainly exclude anyone who uses poor terminology. Anyone who calls a magazine a "clip" clearly doesn't understand the topic well enough to be worth listening to, and as for people who use the very word "gun" instead of "firearm", well…. "Gun" is both ambiguous (a pistol is a gun, but so are a Howitzer and a cannon on a pirate ship) and laden with negative emotional overtones. If a person says she desires a constructive, rational, intelligent discussion, but then uses poorly-defined, emotionally distracting words, she's either woefully unprepared to deliver on her promise or she's lying as to her true intent. Either way, she doesn't belong in that talk, now, does she?

Critical thinking isn't for determining who's right. It's for determining who has a valid argument. It's great for answering, "Who should I listen to?", but that's not equivalent to "Who knows the truth?" It's only a good approximation. There is always the Fallacy Fallacy to consider. Using a poor argument doesn't make you wrong, just unconvincing.

Solforge

Feb. 9th, 2014 07:03 pm
quarrel: (Default)

It’s taken me longer than I expected, but I’ve been looking into the free-to-play electronic CCGs that have been coming out in the past year, starting with Solforge.

The overall game structure is similar to Magic — hardly a surprise given that Richard Garfield was involved. You’re trying to reduce your opponent’s health to 0 by casting spells and attacking with summoned creatures. Creatures have an attack strength and a hit point count (not Toughness — creature damage is permanent), and they can’t attack or use activated powers on the turn they’re created. There are direct analogues of the Trample, Haste, Defender, and Deathtouch abilities.

But there are big differences too.

  • Creatures must be played into one of five battle lanes. Each lane holds only one creature from each player. Creatures can’t engage ones in other lanes and can’t avoid the one in their own. (There is no Flying analogue.)
  • Battle is mandatory every turn and causes all combat-ready creatures on both sides to attack whatever opposes them whether they want to or not. If nothing’s there, they damage the player opposite them. Your opponent’s creatures can hurt yours, and you, on your turn.
  • There is no mana or any other resource. Instead, players are simply limited to playing 2 cards a turn, each either before or after the mandatory battle.
  • You discard your unplayed cards and draw a fresh hand of 5 after every turn.

The good:

The distinguishing feature of the game, something that’s unique and clever and only possible since the game isn’t physical, is that every single card has three levels, each more powerful than the one before. All cards start the game at level 1. When a card is played for effect, it goes into the discard pile one level higher. Both players shuffle their discard piles back into their decks every four rounds, so these higher-level cards become available for play again in short order. Choosing which card to play on any given turn isn’t just a matter of what’s most effective at the moment. You must also consider which cards you want to draw better versions of later. This is a major strategic component of the game.

It’s designed with asynchronous play in mind. You never have to make decisions or provide input on the other player’s turn, so he can take his full turn even if you aren’t available. You can play timed games with 20 minute chess clocks, to enforce head-to-head live play, or untimed games where players have a couple of days to submit each move, for more of a play-by-mail pace.

The bad:

There is no trading and no singles market. This makes tuning a constructed deck expensive, time-consuming, or both, since your only source of cards is random booster packs and you’re at the mercy of luck getting the specific cards your deck needs. Until you spend well over $100 (one booster with a single guaranteed super-rare costs $12) or commit weeks to grinding out daily rewards, you won’t be able to make any deck you want and will be at a disadvantage versus players who have. (The only alternative to constructed matches is draft tournaments, and those require tickets to enter. You can win one per day by beating live players in random pick-up matches, or buy them for 50¢ each.)

Rarer cards are stronger.

quarrel: (gaming)

Orbus finally got to try Trains, which he’s wanted to do for a while. I realize now, in hindsight, that I didn’t ask him what he thought of it. D’oh.

Four of us played. Final scores were 33, 32, 30, and 25 (or 26?) I was third. I bought no extra station-building cards and only one extra rail-laying card (so late I never got to use it), and I paid for it with a smaller, less-developed territory than anyone else. Also, my high-level money never “clicked”. I found myself one point short of affording the biggest money or the biggest VP card more often than normal. Honestly, I’m not sure how I finished as close to the lead as I did given how far behind I was in the midgame.

Contrariwise, the player who finished second was distinctly in the lead throughout the late game (despite being distracted by work issues for several early turns, not understanding how strong the discounted rail-laying card was, and personally believing that he shifted from upgrading his economy to buying VP cards at the wrong time). There’s no question that luck played a role in Orbus beating him.

I enforced the rule about visibly marking everyone’s current point total all game. It was selfish, but it worked for me in the game I played at Foolscap. Strictly speaking, this tracking is unnecessary since it’s faster and slightly more accurate to tally points when the game ends, but displaying everyone’s score all the time helps the decision-making process for people like me who can’t mentally calculate and memorize four constantly-changing numbers and would otherwise do stupid things like make a 2-point move that ends the game when I have 15 points and someone else has 20.

More people had arrived by now, so five of us played Tongiaki. It’s a tight little game with dense, unique mechanics and a lot of replayability due to its random map. Players control early native settlers of Polynesia, which is represented by an explorable hex grid of sea and island tiles. Every turn, each player has to double his or her boat count on one island. Eventually this fills the island’s beaches, which forces all the boats on that beach to sail off together toward an adjacent tile. If it’s another island, the boats land there and spread out (which may fill its beaches and send more boats out…). If it’s a sea, it’ll have currents which the boats have to follow onto another tile. If that space hasn’t been explored yet, it gets filled with a random tile first.

The twist with ocean currents is that some are only passable if the fleet contains a minimum number of colors, otherwise all the boats are destroyed. Thus, exploring new territory introduces an interesting decision: if you send a small fleet, it’s more likely to die, but if you send a large, diverse fleet, you’ll be granting better board position to more opponents. Also, intentionally filling a beach and forcing boats to sail into a known deadly passage is not just legal, it’s a common and powerful tactic.

Each island has a point value. When the map is complete, you total the values of all islands you have at least one boat on. High score wins. Final scores were something like 30, 29, 18, 17, 15. I was last. I can’t identify any major scoring opportunities I missed. I do know I got swept off two 5-point islands in the penultimate round, gaining only a 2-point island and a lot of dead ships in the process. Still, I’d only be in a distant 3rd place if that hadn’t happened.

Oddly, the 2nd place player is the same one who came in second in Trains, also by one point and also by a stroke of luck. The eventual winner had 26 points and a 50% chance of scoring either 4 or 0 on the final move. Getting within striking distance wasn’t luck, though. He was legitimately behind the leaders most of the game, but players focused on taking those leaders down and this left him in a prime position at the perfect time.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (politics)

“Wow. Did you see the Grammies? Macklemore did a stand-up performance of ‘Same Love’ while thirty-five mixed-gender marriages were conducted.”

Oh, God, did I ever. I had to shut the show off, I was so angry.

“Angry? At love and marriage and civil rights?”

No. Angry at poseurs and hypocrites and thieves.

“What?”

Alright. Let’s take this one at a time. First, he’s a white guy singing hip-hop. Hip-hop wasn’t created by white people. It isn’t theirs. Like Elvis, he’s just appropriating stuff from other cultures for his own use, which is something white people can and do do a heck of a lot because their privileged place in society lets them. Look at how many well-known white rap artists there are compared to black Country & Western artists.

Two, is he singing about equal marriage because he cares about people’s rights, or is he doing it for fame and money and little gold statues? Because he’s got the fame and the money and the little gold statues now, and it doesn’t look like he’s used any of those to provide solid, verifiable help to the people he says he wants to help. It’s kind of like Merrit Kopas’s complaint about men trying to create socially informative games about societal problems they themselves don’t suffer:

Really weird feelings about men making games about women's experiences because no matter how good they are about disavowing their "bravery", they'll still get credit for something women get harassed for. Basically, by choosing to do that, you're perhaps willingly deciding to benefit from sexism.
Just to clarify: this isn't even really a question of "authenticity" for me. It's a question of the reception a work will receive depending on the gender of its author. I'm not saying, "you shouldn't write about X if you haven't experienced it," though there's a conversation to be had there, certainly. What I'm saying is, a man who writes about violent sexism is likely to be praised, a woman is likely to be scorned, and any man who is conscious of that dynamic but still chooses to engage the subject is making a decision to benefit from it. Maybe it's part of a bargain, like, "I accept I'm benefitting from sexism but it's for some greater good," but I'm still suspicious of that.
Bottom line: if you want to help someone with an unfairly squelched, disfranchised voice get a message out, it’s just not appropriate to repeat their message in your own unfairly amplified voice. There’s much more integrity, and much less room for selfish ulterior motives, if you get everyone else to shut up and listen instead.

Three, look at the name of the backup band his agents lined up to play for him: Trombone Shorty. “Shorty” is a belittling hip-hop slang term for a young woman. Does nobody see the irony of taking a song that includes the very line, “If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me” and backing it up with a misogynistic-sounding band? Especially when there are a hell of a lot more women than gays in this country?

“The ‘Shorty’ in ‘Trombone Shorty’ is a man. It’s his nickname.”

So what? If his real name were Howard, would it be okay for him to perform under the moniker “Trombone Ho’”? No. This is the same thing.

quarrel: (gaming)

We dug into something crunchier than usual this week: Euphoria. It’s a Euro-style boardgame of — let me know if this shocks you — worker placement and resource management, set in a retro-futuristic post-collapse dystopia.

The turn structure of the game is simple. Each player takes only one move per turn: either assign a free worker to some task or call any number of committed workers back. A task will do some combination of: produce resources for you, raise one faction’s influence level (which may improve some tasks, activate some players’ assistant cards, or give some players victory points), work toward opening a new market, work toward unlocking new tasks, gives you an artifact card, give you a victory point, affect your hand size, or affect your knowledge penalty.

One interesting mechanic is that workers are 6-sided dice, and the pips represent knowledge. A few tasks produce different effects based on worker knowledge, but more importantly, every time your workers come off-duty, you reroll all of them, and if the total knowledge of your unoccupied workers exceeds a certain threshold, some of them leave permanently. This is both thematic, representing them assembling and realizing that the world is in a horrible state, and a balancing factor to keep players with more workers from outpacing ones with fewer.

Another is the markets. Markets are randomized and unknown until built, and each has a penalty (sometimes significant) that applies to everyone who didn’t help build it.

The game is listed as taking 60 minutes, but it took five of us two and a half hours, not counting setup and rules preview. (And the setup is significant; there are close to a dozen different token types.) None of us had played it before. Despite the duration, play went smoothly. We never stalled, and it didn’t feel like we’d played that long. Simple turns, clear iconography, and a lack of hidden information make it easy to plan your next move while others are playing.

Like many other rules, scoring is mechanically simple: everyone begins with 10 VP markers, and whoever places all of them first wins. Scoring was tight all game. No one ever felt or looked hopelessly behind, and until the top scores approached the 8-9 range, there was never a gap of more than 1 point between any two players. The final scores were something like 10, 8, 8, 7, and 7. I’ve since read comments criticizing this feature of the game, but response to it last night was positive, and we considered it a better design than many other eurogames where suboptimal play in the first few turns can permanently place you in an irredeemably unwinnable position.

It wasn’t a flawless game. Market penalties vary noticeably in severity, and there is likewise a large variance in the strength of assistant cards — both bad features for cards that come out randomly and all have equivalent costs. Also, a player who rolls duplicates on his workers can place all of them in a single turn, which felt like too strong a random benefit (although the one player who rolled duplicates significantly more often than average didn’t noticeably outperform the rest of us).

After this brain-consuming exercise, we cleaned our palates on Zombie Dice. It’s a lightweight push-your-luck game about consuming brains. On your turn, you pick three random people dice from a central pool, roll them, and set aside any that show a brain or a shotgun blast. If you’ve accumulated three blasts, your turn ends and you score no points, otherwise you can choose either to eat the brains you’ve got and end your turn or refill your hand up to three dice and roll again. First player to eat thirteen brains wins. As an added wrinkle to keep decisions from being too predictable, some dice are high in brains, others are high in shotguns, and they’re all color-coded.

quarrel: (gaming)

There was a slew of new games to be had at the first game night after the gift-getting season.

While another group broke out String Railway, three other players and I tried Love Letter, which I’d heard a lot of good talk about. It’s a quick, simple game: everyone gets dealt a one-card hand from a deck of about sixteen cards. Each card has a number and an effect. On your turn, you draw one card, then play one card (many of which can knock someone out of the game immediately). The last player standing, or the one with the highest-numbered card in hand when the deck runs out, wins.

It’s quick, brutal game — so quick that you can be knocked out before taking a turn, and where you have to win four games before really winning because each individual “game” is more like a hand of poker.

Frankly, I don’t see why the game is praised. It’s extremely luck-dependent. One player was knocked out three rounds in a row by the one card in the deck that auto-kills you if you ever hold it and another high-value card in your hand together. I won, scoring four victories after only five or six total rounds, and I can’t say what I did to deserve it. I even made a statistically poor play on my last hand, but it won me the round.

Unless there’s some über-deep level of triple-reverse psychology involved in deducing what cards other players have, and we were all so green that we missed it, I don’t see the appeal here.

Next we tried Smash Up. Actually, first we tried Seasons, but determined it was too complex for all of us to learn from scratch.

Smash Up is about capturing bases for points. Players form their attack decks by shuffling together two unrelated factional forces, like Pirates and Fairies or Dinosaurs and Magicians. (There is some theming to the factions: Pirates stress movement, Fairies hurt people who hurt Fairy cards, Dinosaurs have strength boosts, Magicians have more card draw, etc.) On your turn, you play one unit card onto a base of your choice, or play one action card and do what it says, or both. Once there’s enough total unit strength on a base, it’s captured and gives varying victory points to the players with the most, second-most, and third-most strength on it. First player to score 15 wins.

Shaterri won, with me at 13 and the other two players at about 9 and 6. A big part of Shaterri’s success came from two Pirate units who can shift to another base after they help capture one instead of getting discarded with it as usual.

The game felt slow. There’s a good deal of analysis paralysis from the fact that every card has a special effect. There are no vanilla units, and even bases have added effects while they’re in play or when they’re captured. Capturing one base feels like it takes ages when their defenses are in the low 20s and most units only have 2-4 strength. Bases do get captured faster when multiple players compete for them, but not that much faster since your opponents don’t just race to pile on their units too — they also play actions that knock your units off. It left me with a feeling that progress is hard to make and isn’t reliable.

On the flip side, I see lots of room to find clever combos between cards, in a Magic booster draft sort of way. That’s the sort of thing that rewards repeat play and skilled players.

I need to play this one more before I form a solid opinion of it.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (thoth)

Disney just released a new movie titled Frozen. It’s getting rabid praise for turning a number of societal and Hollywood princess tropes on their heads. Women in the movie are self-determined, they turn down marriage proposals, they’re loving and supportive of one another, they talk about things other than men.

Read more... )

It’s all an amazing progressive step for what is ostensibly the most heteronormative media company out there, right?

Right?

Well, sure. If you compare Frozen to other Disney princess-centric movies, it’s a breath of fresh air. That all changes when you compare it to the fairy tale it’s (loosely) based on: “The Snow Queen,” published in 1845 by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s about a boy who gets brainwashed by evil magic and kidnapped by a Snow Queen, and the girl who insists on saving him even though it’s treacherous and most people don’t even know where he is and think he’s already dead anyway. The original tale has a grand total of zero strong, prominent male characters. There’s the boy, who has zero agency and whose personality is compromised for most of the story. There’s the devil who created the evil magic, who appears only in the prologue and is barely a character at all. There’s a Prince, who also shows up for only one of the tale’s seven chapters and is mainly notable for meeting the Princess’s exacting marriage standards. And that’s it unless you count a couple talking animals.

On the flip side, the tale is full of powerful and/or respectable female characters, from revered grandmothers to the aforementioned Princess to witches to highway robbers, and there’s no sense that any of them got to where they are with someone else’s help. There is even explicit admonition that everything the little girl accomplishes, she accomplishes because she is inherently capable of it, not because of assistance or altruism.

”I can give her no greater power than she has already,” said the woman; “don't you see how strong that is? How men and animals are obliged to serve her, and how well she has got through the world, barefooted as she is. She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has, which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart.”

From one point of view, by eliminating the boy from the original tale and rewriting the snow queen’s backstory to something more expansive, Frozen gives us a fully-formed, three-dimensional character to explore who isn’t simply “female” nor simply “evil” nor simply anything else.

From another, Disney has taken a story about a girl who rescues a boy from a kidnapper all by herself and changed it into a story where a girl strikes out with a boy (because girls need help to do things) to help a girl (because a boy wouldn’t have needed help) who can’t control her emotions (because girls are too uterusy — I mean hysterical).

So if Frozen is treated as such a huge step forward, is that because we’re starting from so far behind or because folks are by and large rather naïve about the whole deal?

quarrel: (prinny)

Gaming Friday this week was a touch weird. Being a holiday, it was slightly more crowded than usual, which means more activity, but Shaterri and I were in the mood for less excitement than usual, as we were fatigued from a cold, damp day of forest hiking. Also, our host ducked out for half the night due to a surprise invite to some wedding-related event.

Cards Against Humanity was winding down as we arrived. We had too many people at this point for a single game, so one table started up Forbidden Desert and I broke out my new copy of Trains with three other people.

Imagine Dominion. Now imagine playing a simple territory-claiming board game simultaneously, but you can only expand or upgrade your territory if you play a card in the Dominion game that lets you. That’s Trains. It really is someone disappointing that so much of Dominion is copied straight over, to the point where roughly half the cards are identical in cost and effect. I totally understand that common criticism. The marriage of games works well, though, and both halves are simple enough in their own rights that learning both at the same time isn’t hard.

The game isn’t confrontational. You can’t block off other players’ expansion — you can only make expanding more expensive. The card game half lacks Dominion’s attacks that discard, destroy, and steal other players’ cards. It doesn’t even have attacks that add extra junk cards to opponents’ decks, though in this case it’s because all players already give themselves tons of Waste cards as a side effect of building. At the end of the game, all four of us felt that there was enough interaction that it didn’t feel like four-player solitaire, but not so much that opponents made it impossible to play.

I ended up winning with 44 points, with second place at 40 and the other two players roughly around 35 and 28 (I think). Dominion familiarity definitely helped my performance. I focused on improving my money production early, which let me develop big-ticket card drawing in the midgame and big VP cards at the end. I also started in an isolated corner, which kept other players from sharing my territory points.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (fables)

One day, the Hero came upon a burning house. A crowd of townsfolk watched from the yard.

“Help me!” cried the Homeowner from an upstairs window.

“Call 9-1-1!” said the Hero.

“We did,” said the crowd, but the fire trucks were not yet there.

“Save me!” yelled the Homeowner as smoke poured from the window.

The Hero moved toward the house, but the Blacksmith stood in the way.

“Let me by,” said the Hero. “I need to save the Homeowner.”

The broad-shouldered Blacksmith stood fast. “Think it through. If we do the firefighters’ job, they will get lazy. Saving the Homeowner now will make more of us die later. We don’t want to die.”

“But the house is on fire!” said the Hero.

The Fishmonger stood beside the Blacksmith. “Think it through. The less the Homeowner gets hurt, the less careful people will be about fire. Saving the Homeowner now will make more of us get hurt later. We don’t want to get hurt.”

“Save my cat!” begged the Homeowner, cradling a frightened tabby.

“At least let me catch her cat,” said the Hero.

The Schoolteacher stood beside the Fishmonger. “Think it through. For every cat that dies, two wives are beaten and three children go hungry. Saving the cat means letting other problems harm us. We don’t want to be harmed.”

“You’re crazy!” said the Hero. “Why won’t you let me help?”

“We’re rational,” said the Blacksmith.

“We’re responsible,” said the Fishmonger.

“We won’t let you hurt us,” said the Schoolteacher.


And so the Homeowner died a hero.

copyright

Nov. 27th, 2013 01:33 am
quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (thoth)

The company making GoldieBlox used a reworded version of the Beastie Boys song Girls in a sales ad. Upon being contacted by the band (presumably a direct or veiled legal threat, since the band has a strict policy of not licensing any of their songs for commercial purposes), the GoldieBlox company went to federal court to get a judge to declare preemptively that their version was a parody, and thus permitted as a fair use exception to copyright law and outside the control of the song’s original creators.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article on the matter that comes down staunchly on the GoldieBlox side, based on four main points: GoldieBlox didn’t copy more elements of the song than they needed to, they changed enough to make a legitimately new creative work, the band has already made all the money they’re going to off the original song, and no one will get the two versions confused.


The majority of the Senators and Representatives directly pushing SOPA and PIPA — bills ostensibly aimed at preventing wholesale digital copying of commercial media — had unattributed, uncompensated, copyright-infringing background images on their Twitter home pages or official campaign websites.


In 2008, artist Matthan Heiselt designed stickers for the board game Dominion that let it be played using wooden poker chips instead of its native cards. Game designer David Sirlin used Heiselt’s component choice and graphic design as a starting point for a Dominion-style game he subsequently created and sold commercially.

Here are some of Matthan’s chips:


Here are some of David’s:


Sirlin admits to starting from Heiselt’s work, but when confronted with accusations of outright copying, Sirlin responded that only one of Puzzle Strike’s five chip types — Actions — bears a strong resemblance to its analogous type in the Dominion chips. The rest either don’t look like their analogs or don’t have analogs. So those aren’t copies.

And all chip designs, including the look-alike Actions, went through dozens of iterations over weeks of live playtesting. Effort went into confirming that the graphic design was good, as well as tuning it to the finest detail — effort that Heiselt probably didn’t expend when he put his layouts together originally. So even the copies aren’t just copies.

Finally the only graphical elements Sirlin claims he took from the Action chip layout were A) using an icon of a circle to represent drawing an extra chip, B) using an icon of an arrow to represent taking an extra action, and C) putting the chip’s title in a ribbon-shaped banner. The first two concepts are so basic, so obvious, that criticizing someone for using them just because Heiselt used them first is “sad”, and the third element is something that Heiselt himself copied from Dominion’s original card layout. So even the not-just-copies aren’t copies of anything that took thought, effort, skill, or originality to create in the first place.


Patents in the U.S. were originally limited to 14 years. So were copyrights. The idea in both cases was to balance two goals:

  • Incentivize creators to create by making sure no one else benefits from them risking their time, money, and effort devising new ways to make things or new things to make.
  • Get the general public benefiting A.S.A.P. from building off the works of others.
(Oddly, the second aspect has strong proponents on both the far right and the far left.) Most practical applications of IP law I run into these days drift into one of those dimensions. The fundamental idea that, when you make something, it’s yours because you made it fades into the background as an idealistic afterthought.

quarrel: (gaming)

Once or twice, as a young kid, I played an old board game at my grandmother’s house. I recall very little about it except that it involved taxi cabs picking up little round passengers. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to find out its name and discovered copies for sale on eBay. I contemplated buying one for nostalgia, then decided to go for it when I read the rules online and saw they weren’t half-bad. After watching prices for a couple of months, I got a copy at a decent price with a few pieces missing. Some Sculpey work took care of most of that problem.

The game is Cabby! It was originally released around 1938, though according to BoardGameGeek, most existing copies — including the one I have — are from the 1950s.

Players roll dice to move their own cab and police car around a city roadmap. Cabs pick up passengers and run them back to the depot. To expedite this, cabs may do “illegal” things like speed, go the wrong way on one-way streets, and pick up passengers from the wrong side of the road, though this puts them at risk of a rival cop landing on them and arresting them, which costs them all their passengers and sends them to a penalty space. Passengers are worth varying points depending on how far they start from the depot. The player who delivers the most points’ worth wins.

Everyone who played agreed it was a decent game for its era. It was a little slow-paced, and it dragged a bit at the end (neither of which was surprising), but the mechanics were a tight match to the theme and movement decisions were interesting. The squad cars felt a little weak, though I don’t know how much of that is because they have a hard time moving far and how much is because cabs near them simply choose not to break the law much. The latter isn’t necessarily a problem. I suspect a smaller, more interesting map would improve the game more than tweaking the movement rules.

All in all, all four of us enjoyed it. Thank you, Grandma.

Game 2: Cheapass’s Fish Cook. Players spend the first half of every turn buying fish and other ingredients from a dwindling market of ever-increasing prices, and in the second half they cook those items into seafood dishes for a profit. If you cook a recipe off your own menu, you get bonus money. If you cook one off another player’s recipe, they get the bonus but you might steal the recipe. Whoever has the most money after a fixed number of turns wins.

There was a bit of analysis paralysis on turn 1 as three new players took a long time planning what recipes to buy ingredients for. It’s not a clear game to develop a strategy for, in general, since profit margins are so tight, and this particular round had a weird mismatch of recipe requirements and available fish. Things kicked into gear after that, though.

I ended up winning this one with $211, $3 over another player I was expecting to surpass me. I’m chalking it up to successfully scoring a lot of end-of-game bonuses.

quarrel: (Default)

A fellow on Twitter pointed out a few problematic things with the Child’s Play charity.

1. It’s strongly associated with Penny Arcade, a webcomic whose creators have been front and center in a number of misogyny and intolerance scandals.

2. The original goal of the Child’s Play charity, stated as a matter of public record by one of its creators, was to benefit people who play video games. It was not conceived with the primary goal of helping kids. It was conceived with the primary goal of challenging the popular public opinion that gamers are worthless, violent dregs of society, using charity as a means to that end.

2.a. On top of that, gamers may not be physically violent on the whole (or even by a significant minority), but broad swaths of them really do behave in generally repulsive ways.

3. Fiscal irresponsibility within health institutions is one of the major reasons American health care is so expensive yet so substandard. A respectable charity to help sick people would not involve buying something for them so the hospital they’re in doesn’t have to. That reduces pressure on hospitals to responsibly spend the money they do have — something they need to do well but are currently terrible at.

4. Video game hardware, such as iPads and Xboxes, is manufactured in intolerable sweatshop conditions by slave wage laborers in developing nations. AAA-level video game software is created by developers who notoriously require abusive amounts of crunch time from their employees. Supporting either industry is a horrible thing to do. Supporting both, well….

5. A street customer donating a commercial item bought at full price is cost-inefficient compared to the manufacturing company donating it directly. This is especially true in the case of digitally distributed games, which have zero marginal cost.

Therefore, if you want your philanthropic efforts to go exclusively toward helping sick kids, you should do something that helps them but doesn’t financially aid corrupt medical and entertainment mega-institutions or improve the public image of discriminatory, misogynistic, bigoted organizations. Help the needy without helping those who don’t need and don’t deserve.


This isn’t the line of thinking we used in our decision to stop attending the annual Child’s Play charity dinner. That came exclusively from PA’s track record of consistently acting without empathy in the wake of hurtful incidents caused by themselves or close professional associates, to the point where it makes my skin vaguely crawl.

I’ve heard the arguments defending PA’s behavior by attacking the accusatory arguments. They don’t ring true to me.

I’ve heard the dramatically polarized general claim that anyone who asks someone else not to say or do or think or sing or write or draw anything, no matter how he asks and no matter why, is squelching free speech, stifling creative freedom, and imposing his will on others unduly. It’s the radically libertarian idea that if a woman were to walk down the street yelling “Goddamn faggots!” and a little boy were to ask her to stop, please, the boy would be the greater threat to society. I don’t think that level of idealism is remotely practical, regardless of whether it is, in theory, accurate and attainable in some perfect alternate dimension (which I doubt anyway).

I’ve seen the argument that the original Dickwolves strip is not technically a rape joke, even though it involves rape, because a) the main actor in the joke is neither the perpetrator nor the victim, and b) because the joke does not require that the offense be rape specifically, but rather uses that deed as an exaggerated stand-in for a generic “bad thing” and would work just as well swapping in any other personal ordeal. I see where this argument comes from, and I concede its pedantic terms, but I find it just that — pedantic. I am certainly unconvinced by the accusation — levied without evidence — that the majority of journalists and bloggers who claim the strip is a rape joke do not do so because they actually think it is, for rationally defensible reasons or even as honest opinion, but, rather, that they know it really isn’t and only say it is in a deliberate attempt to instill a preemptive anti-PA prejudice in first-time readers who aren’t familiar with the scandal’s background. “What? A webcomic I haven’t heard of makes rape jokes? Thank you for the warning, Ms. Random Blog Person. I’ll stay away from them and believe all the bad things I hear about them from now on.”

But here’s the Bizarro World twist to that last claim: the person who made it is a firm believer in women being discriminated against in society in general and the workplace in particular, much of it unintentional and subconscious. In companies he’s run, he’s even set policies of blanking names on resumes before they’re evaluated to avoid gender bias. Not what I expected…unless you accept that a person can truly believe that discussing a topic less often or in fewer ways is always bad. That it’s always unproductive. That the people who rail against the prevalence of “lighthearted” rape humor and prejudicial banter in casual conversation (because they believe that treating these subjects too lightly prevents society from believing that assault and harassment are common and serious) are actively working away from a solution rather than toward one.

Even author John Scalzi is involved. Scalzi, who is friends with PA’s creators, made gender-political waves in July when he announced he would not attend conventions unless they had an anti-harassment policy, made it known to all attendees, and had the ability to respond immediately to all reported incidents. The entirety of his response to PA’s checkered past is that he won’t be terminating his friendship over it, and that’s all he’ll say. Also not what I expected.

quarrel: (gaming)

We played only one game this week: a four-player round of Castle Dice. I Kickstarted it at the Print-and-Play level: enough to get a set of its custom dice but not the entire game. The rest required supplying my own tokens and printouts.

It’s a dice drafting game. Players select which custom dice to roll based on the resources they want that turn — brown dice produce varying quantities of wood, yellow dice make coins, red dice make iron, etc. Resources buy various Villagers (which help your production) and Buildings (which are mainly worth victory points). Dice might also produce livestock, which have inherent bonuses and can also be traded in for more cards, or barbarians, which steal resources. The drafting comes into play after the roll. Although players independently select which dice to roll, they don’t keep their rolls straight up. Rather, the dice are rolled into a community pool and the players take turns collecting them one at a time until none are left.

The final scores went 8-9-9-10, with me winning. Part of it was me being most familiar with the game, and part of it was luck: other players drawing too many expensive cards mid-game, me drawing Walls before drawing cards that work better based on your Wall count, me drawing the perfect combination of cards on the last turn to reach a bonus condition I’d been stymied on the turn before.

Overall, it’s not a very good game. It’s inelegant, with lots of small rules that feel tacked on and too many tiny phases to the turn. The card rules are overbearing. There are three decks of random cards (in a dice game!) You can hold a maximum of five cards, combined, from the first two, but any number of the third. (This was obviously done to prevent players from getting stuck with too many Villagers when they want Buildings, or vice versa, but it’s still a kludge.) Also, the variety of cards within each deck is low. Even though the game runs a fixed seven turns, it felt like it drug out. (Some of this was due to most of the players being new, but not all.) Two of the players complained there was too much luck involved, and a big part of that is the drafting: you might get unlucky and roll poorly, or you might roll well but have some of “your” dice drafted by other players who want the same resources you do. Several ideas for fixing the game got tossed around, but nothing conclusive.

In the line-up for future game nights: Trains, Hanabi, and a vintage board game from the late 1930s.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (thoth)

Since they became commonplace, free-to-play games have been criticized as unethical, greedy, manipulative, pathologically damaging…you name it. (And the more famous ones are.) It’s something that I’ve been dwelling on for months, given that for the last year and a half, my job has had me making exactly the sort of game that hits all the low notes: free to play initially, with the ability to pay real money to hasten progress or buy performance-enhancing items. If I didn’t quit my job over it, it’s mainly because I don’t know where else I’d apply and don’t think I could make a living wage as an independent.

But as kneejerk distasteful as I find several aspects of what I’ve been doing, nearly every time I focused on a specific marketing or monetization choice, I saw common sense behind it. Take this example: giving the player one or two free uses of an upgraded game feature that normally costs extra. It’s nothing more than an unscrupulous way to get players hooked, right? It’s like drug dealers do: “the first hit’s free”. Well, maybe, but it’s also unreasonable to expect a potential customer to buy anything from you when they don’t know what it is or what it will do. And the best way to teach that to the customer is to let him try the thing out. It’s certainly better than simply throwing it into your game’s store screen with a brief text description like “This totem pole produces an extra 2 Jujubees a minute” or whatever. If that’s unethical, what about test drives? Demo versions? 30-second song snippets on a music site? Samples at the cheese counter? How skeezy must all those be?

When it comes to making sure your game will make money, the conventional wisdom is that you are, at best, unsavory if you incorporate elements into it that have made other games profitable or that you know from personal testing will increase your own revenue. You are told to go by your internal sense of ethics and your personal expertise as a professional, and not place too much faith the objective measure of what customers pay the most money for because that measurement is so easily manipulated. The methods of hijacking human psychology are familiar, proven, and more widely understood by companies like Zynga every day. Companies are criticized soundly for retaining game elements that they know are used heavily rather than accommodate vocal minorities that call for their removal.

Yet when it comes to designing what players can do within the game rather than what they can buy about it, we find a parallel situation with opposite advice attached. Here, playtesting and player observation are king. The designer who produces a mechanic or a control scheme or a tutorial level purely from intuition invariably creates a bad game. What you think players will want or do is invariably less accurate than what they say they want or will do, which in turn is notoriously far off the mark of what they actually want and do.

Got that? When you’re designing a game, it’s smartest by far to base your decisions primarily off what players do, and less so on what they say they want or what you think is best. But when you’re selling your game, following that exact plan — basing your decisions primarily off what players do pay for, and less so on what they say they want or what you think is best — makes you evil Evil EVIL!

I’m not sure why this is. Possibly it’s because human purchasing behavior is more susceptible to influence than play behavior is. At least, that might be a common first-order explanation. But consider:

  • The designer of Canabalt made the deliberate decision to allow the player to jump not only while his feet are on solid ground but also for a fraction of a second after running off the ledge of a building, when he’s technically in empty air and has already fallen a tiny amount. He did this as a result of so many test players mistiming their jumps and getting frustrated at the game for being oversensitive and unforgiving.
  • SounDodger and other “bullet hell” games have a convention where only the center point of your ship is vulnerable to collision, which leads to the satisfying feeling that you’re dodging death by the skin of your teeth as you sneak past enemies by mere pixels. (Actually, they’re so close that they’re overlapping you. It’s more like you’re clipping through them than sneaking by, but it still feels like skill.)
  • City of Heroes and at least a few installments of the Civilization series had custom random number generators to avoid outcomes that were mathematically valid but felt unintuitive or unfair to people, such as attempting something with a 75% success chance and failing twice in a row.

The common thread behind all these kludges is that players find games much more enjoyable when they blame themselves, not the game, for failing or losing or dying. Tweaks like the above are all accommodations to avoid the player feeling like the game is buggy, or arbitrary, or unpredictable, or too hard.

They’re also all psychological tricks.

So maybe designing games to be the most fun actually is precisely as unethical as selling them to make the most money. Maybe they’re both laudable. Maybe they’re both reprehensible. They certainly both can be more concerned with being believable than with being honest.

I don’t know. I just don’t. Every time I approach the issue rationally I get results that don’t match how I want to feel about it, and that’s a problem for someone like me who doesn’t want to believe things by fiat. I’m not sure how to evaluate this rationally. I can’t go by other people’s opinions because all possible opinions on the matter exist, and in effectively infinite (and therefore equal) numbers. If, ultimately, it comes down to me needing to decide for myself whether I’m ethical (as, you know, “one of those things no one else can do for you”), well, what’s to stop me from affirming myself the Dalai Lama from the get-go?

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (thoth)

Jonathan Blow (Braid) and Markus “Notch” Persson (Minecraft) conspired to bring some game freakonomics to Twitter.

Take two hypothetical games. They’re identical except for how they’re supported. Game A doesn’t cost any money to play, and there’s nothing to buy within it either, but it includes ads. Game B has no ads, but you have to buy it to play it. It costs $10 up front.

If you were to play only one of these games, which would result in you spending more money on average?

According to Blow and Persson, it’s Game A.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this is mathematically impossible. How can the average of a bunch of zeroes be greater than the average of a bunch of tens?

But re-read the question. I didn’t ask how much you’ll spend on the game. I asked how much you’ll spend. Period. On anything.

The only rational reason Game A’s creator would monetize it via ads is if some ad company offered a deal comparable to what Game B is expected to make. And the main reason when that happens is that said ad company thinks it’ll be able to sell that ad space for even more money to outside businesses. And the main reason for those businesses to be willing to pay that much is that they expect the ads in question to generate an even larger increase in revenue than what they cost.

Now, sure, not all marketing campaigns result in a company bringing in more than $X of additional revenue for every $X it spent. Also, some expenses are like car insurance: people will have them regardless, and an ad will only change how they spend their money, not whether they spend. But as a general trend, advertising works. We know this because companies use it, and have for centuries.

So the safe bet is that, for Game A, a mathematically significant number of players really, truly will be influenced by ads to buy things they wouldn’t have bought if they hadn’t played this totally free game — so much so that the average ad-inspired expenditure across all players will likely average out to more than $10 a head.

A couple days later, Blow went on to tweet:

Sitting at a cafe overhearing a random person…try to explain tower defense games to his friend. It turns out the point was to explain how it seems lame to pay-to-win in an f2p game. I give this business model 1.5 more years. We need to make a "pay up front, no microtransactions, no ads" seal of quality that games can display or stick in their icons. (Also: this game will not ask you to rate it, or send push notifications of any kind, or refer you to other games).

He’s still pounding his “games should be honest about how much they’ll cost” drum, citing integrity and “non-lameness” as justification and alluding, once again, to the mathematical fact that any game that costs $X to acquire (for X ≥ 0) but also tries to get you to buy other things (whether it be by mentioning other games, popping up Coke ads, or offering more stuff for itself as In-App Purchases) will end up costing its players more than $X on average — and that makes the $X price tag a lie.

So could Mr. Blow’s pipe dream of unscrupulously ethical pricing pan out? Would his ambitions for non-deceptive up-front pricing in games survive contact with actual customers? Personally, I doubt it.

In February 2012, J.C. Penny shifted cold-turkey to a “Fair and Square” pricing strategy that got rid of all the seasonal sales, secretive discounts, web deals, preferred customer coupons, hidden surcharges, and so on — something that the CEO at the time called “fake pricing” due to how the price on the tag was almost never what the customer paid — and simply made prices much lower on average for everyone all the time. It failed so badly that the board of directors kicked that CEO out. The customers who used to seek out deals and only bought, say, a $20 shirt when it was on sale for $8 didn’t bother buying it now that it was always $9 because they didn’t feel like they were saving money anymore, and the impulse buyers who bought shirts regardless of price were now generating half as much revenue.

Distimo, an app metrics developer, stated that as of February, for every $1 spent to buy an app, $3 was spent to buy something from inside one. Giordano Contestabile, a business-type guy who’s worked for Popcap and ArenaNet, cited proprietary sources to update those figures to $1 and $19 as of August. In other words, these days only 5% of all revenue from apps is from people buying the app itself.

In light of all this, game developers are pretty much locked out of irreproachable levels of pricing integrity if they want to stay in business.

(to be continued)

quarrel: (gaming)

TSR originally made Dragon Dice back in 1995, in the midst of a collectible-things-that-aren’t-cards-game wave that followed in the wake of Magic: The Gathering. Wizards of the Coast acquired the game when they bought TSR, then later, on the verge of discontinuing the game, sold the license and backstock to a tiny company in Evanston, IL which has kept it alive ever since. I played a demo of it at PAX and finally decided to pick up a starter box — if nothing else, it’s one more game to look at in my Quixotic quest to find the perfect dice game.

The game makes heavy use of — you guessed it — custom-printed dice. Dice of various sizes and sides represent military units and their magic items. Depending on the custom symbols marking its faces, each die might generate points for manipulating Terrains, causing melee damage, causing ranged damage, preventing incoming damage, or casting spells. The symbol mix varies from die to die. Designing your armies to have specific mixes and using them to maximum situational benefit is the core of the game.

The object is to either eliminate your opponent or capture two of the three Terrains. Each Terrain has a state that determines which attack action can be used by armies there. An army can try to change its Terrain’s state, either to make a new action available for its own use or to deny the old action to the opponent (or both). Changing a Terrain all the way to its final state also captures it. Players distribute their units among the Terrains in any arrangement during setup, and can move them more or less freely during the game.

The Good

The good points are few but strong.

The game is about rolling lots of dice. Brilliant!

The core mechanics are elegant. Plenty of dynamic decisions naturally arise from Terrain adjustments and army movements. Should you focus all your Maneuver-heavy units on a location to keep control of it, or would it be wiser to mix in some heavy armor, thus sacrificing some Maneuver potential for more damage Saves? Should you work a Terrain toward its final state to capture it or leave it on an intermediate value so your archers can keep shooting from it? Should you pull more units into your reserves to cast stronger defensive spells, or will that leave your front lines so thin that your opponent walks right over them?

The Bad

The iconography is confusing. Not only does each race have their own symbols for standard results, but some races have multiple symbols for the same thing. For example, Undead cavalry show a horseshoe for Maneuvers, but Undead infantry use a bony human footprint. Also, on some die faces, each icon is worth one point of whatever it stands for, while others have a single icon worth a number of points equal to the die’s value.

It’s a collectible game. Playing with the contents of a single starter kit is like playing sealed Magic theme decks: it’s okay for scratching the surface, but the full depth of the game requires owning multiples of everything and lots of experimentation.

Lots of funky promo dice with special rules have been produced & discontinued over the years.

There are no explicit and few implicit restrictions on mixing different races in your army, leading to a lot of patchwork min-maxing. Imagine how much more “customizable” Magic decks would be if you could use any color mana for anything. It’s a little like that. (Hint: That’s not an improvement.)

Some dice colors are confusing. Many dice are two colors speckled together. It is difficult to tell whether dice are blue/green, blue/yellow, or green/yellow, especially if you don’t look at them side by side. The fact that different shades of plastic have been used in different production runs over the years makes things worse.

The rules are often imprecise and unintuitive. The game’s new stewards have spent a lot of effort balancing the game and collecting accumulated rulings, but little on fundamental rewordings or systemic redesign. For example, summoned dragons will fight each other instead of your armies if there are more than one and they’re different colors. But other than their breath, which they have only a 1/12 chance of using, all dragon attacks are worded to apply against armies only. Read strictly, the rules say that most of the time dragons just have harmless slapfights with each other. The interactions of multiple modifiers are likewise a mess of patchwork rulings and balance kludges. Let’s say you’re playing Coral Elves, who can count Maneuvers as extra Saves. A spell that doubles your Maneuvers can produce more Saves for you, but a spell that gives you +5 Maneuvers won’t. That’s because you process all multiplications first, then all racial powers, then all additions.

quarrel: (gaming)
Gaming Friday

Between me having viral bronchitis for a whole frickin’ month and the usual host being away at WorldCon, weekly gaming has been on hold for a while. But no more.

Game one was a two-on-two team match of Krosmaster: Arena. It’s a tactical board game from the makers of the online RPGs Dofus and Wakfu. Shaterri and I saw it for sale at PAX and recognized the art style since the property has a tie-in cartoon we’ve watched a great deal of.

The game itself is a fantasy gladiatorial fight on a grid of squares. It has a strong feeling of Final Fantasy Tactics or a less crunch version of the D&D tactical boardgame. The formal rules determine winners with a victory point mechanic, but we played by simplified rules and kept going until one team was eliminated. The losses were fairly even all game, but my team was eventually whittled to a single mostly-melee character against two ranged enemies, which pretty much decided the outcome.

From the very few times I’ve played it, it seems melee characters have a tough time doing well given how difficult it is to get next to an enemy who’s trying to avoid you and how their attack powers aren’t harder-hitting than ones that can strike foes three or five spaces away. More plays and practice should reveal whether I’m missing something and whether playing with the standard powerup items changes things.

Game two was the boringly-named DC Comics Deck-Building Game, also with four players. It doesn’t innovate much from Dominion or a one-resource version of Ascension. Each turn, each player draws a hand, plays any cards that have special effects, then counts up total buying power to purchase additional cards from a central supply or, if lucky, defeat and take a powerful Supervillain. Every card is also worth Victory Points, with Supervillains possessing appreciable amounts and nearly everything else being worth only about 1. When all Supervillains are defeated, the game ends and VPs are counted. High player wins.

Every player gets a specific Hero card with a special ability, like an extra +1 buying power for each unique Superpower card you play or an extra draw for each Villain you buy. This encourages different play styles from each player, even if the powers aren’t all good thematic matches with their Heroes.

In the end, I tied for first. It was a surprise, and I still felt a bit confused and frustrated despite scoring so well. The other high-scoring player generated lots of buying power in straightforward fashion and bought multiple Supervillains. I struggled all game to build up my bank, mostly without success, but I had managed to buy four copies of a parabolically-increasing minor villain card and got a huge boost from them. It worked, but it strikes me as gimmicky and easy for other players to stymie.

It was a simple game to learn. There is less variance from game to game than Dominion has since there is no variability in what cards are available for purchase. There’s also less deck-tuning, and fewer and weaker combos. That makes the game a lot more luck-driven, which might very well be a light, fluffy aspect that the designers were looking for.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (thoth)

Here an issue that truthfully stymies me. Time and again I hear that video games don’t need to be made less violent because research has perpetually failed to find any causal link from game violence to real-life violence. But time and again I hear how games do need to be more inclusive and representationally respectful toward women and other minorities because they're reinforcing stereotypes and misogynistic behavior. I’m going to be frank here: to a non-expert-psychologist such as me, this looks like a double standard at first glance, and that in light of the former, it makes sense to investigate the latter rather than take it on faith. I don’t know where to do that, though. Every forum I can think of that hosts the appropriate expertise would kick me out for trolling or chide me for being too dense to see how the situations aren’t analogous.

And another. There is concern (justifiable, IMHO!) about the ever-increasing division between the products and marketing techniques that toy companies employ with girls versus those they reserve for boys, and the resulting messages it sends kids about what it is and isn’t appropriate for them to do with their lives. Of course girls are going to grow up thinking their sex makes them bad at math if boys get more Legos and Tinker Toys to practice building bridges and latticework.

Engineer Debbie Sterling got so fed up with this state of affairs that she designed a construction toy that would appeal to girls. In the behind-the-scenes video, she says this:

A lot of companies try to take their construction toys, then make them pink to appeal to girls. And while, yeah, it’s true, girls do like pink, I think there’s a lot more to us than that. So I’ve spent the last year researching this. How do you get girls to like a construction toy? It all kind of came down to one simple thing: boys like building, and girls like reading. So I came up with a really simple idea. What if I put those two things together? Spacial + verbal. Book series + building set.
And I thought, “Girls do like pink”? “Boys like building, and girls like reading”? This is the opposite of the talk I expected to hear! These statements are the very same alleged myths that we need non-boy-biased math-and-science-toys to correct, aren’t they? I’d like to ask Sterling or some equivalent expert whether she feels these different characteristics of girls and boys is more Nature or more Nurture. Is it that:
  • Girls are currently so biased by existing societal mores that it’s more effective to play to their existing notions rather than ply them with a toy they’ve already been conditioned to dislike?
  • There really are significant, unignorable psychological differences between the sexes?
  • Sterling did poor research?

I don’t know. I might never. I don’t foresee anyone in the know volunteering good-faith effort at answering my questions about this.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (thoth)

If this is crazier than normal, I can blame it on my fever.

There are arguments about how innocent-until-proven-guilty, freedom of speech, protection from unlawful search & seizure, and so on give disproportionate benefit to people with little influence in politics because big, connected majority groups would still have the wherewithal to protect themselves if such laws weren't on the books. It's a pretty plausible argument.

But the opposite argument is also plausible. We've known since Roman times that people tend to arrange laws to help themselves first and other people either second or never. And we've known for longer than that that some demographic groups have more political power than others. By Occam's Razor, the most plausible explanation for why things like the First and Fourth Amendments have lasted as long as they have is that they've disproportionately aided enfranchised groups, and any benefits they provide to groups like women, immigrants, and people of color are coincidental.

quarrel: (prinny)

Two Game Nights ago:

I had the honor of gaming with bard_bloom and family, including their precocious offspring. I ended up dominating in King of Tokyo (with five or six reserved players, going aggro gets you pretty far). Then we did two rounds of 7 Wonders by popular demand. First game went 33-37-46-53 with me on top by virtue of strong military and assorted other random bonuses — oh, plus me being the only one who’d played the game a lot. In game two, the scores ran 32-40-55-59. I was the 40. Early attempts at building military were quashed by both neighbors outpacing me and I never developed a good alternate strategy.

Last Game Night:

Our host had several more friends over than usual, including a new coworker and his girlfriend, so we stuck with large social games. I initially jumped into a giant game of Channel A that ran with ersatz dropins/dropouts until the pizza came. I netted zero points, which I don’t feel too bad about given that we got up to ten players or so and only played halfway around the table. Fox & Chicken came after that, so I bowed out.

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