Friday, May 28, 2004


This blog uses blosxom, a relatively minimalistic blog system
implemented in perl. I've played around with a few blogging systems
and have been fairly dissatisfied. I'm hoping blosxom will contradict
that experience. At various points in the past, I've used Squishdot,
blogmax, and my own persona wiki modified for blogging.
All were in varying degrees annoying to use, annoying to extend, and
ugly. Blosxom has some promise to be reasonable to use,
straightforward to extend and acceptably attractive.

This blog uses a heavily modified layout derived from "href="">pureSqueezed".
The stuff in the righthand column is the find plugin, the categorytree
plugin, the morentries plugin and the calendar and archives plugins together.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

2004 Spiele des Jahres Nominees

The nominees for Spiele des Jahres for this year came out a little while ago. They are:

  • Dawn Under (Dicke Luft in der Gruft)
  • Einfach Genial
  • Raja
  • Saint Petersburg
  • Zug um Zug (Ticket To Ride)

A lot of the online discussion seems to favor Ticket To Ride for the
win. Ticket To Ride is certainly a good game, but I'm not convinced
that isn't because it's the only of the list that's been widely
available in the US. I'm not convinced I have any special isnight
into the like selection of the Jury so instead I'll just comment on
the four out of five that I've played:

  • Dawn Under: This is a good memory game,
    especially beautifully produced, but I wouldn't give it any special
    credit. It's got a few interesting twists that make it a bit more
    than simply a memory game. While I've played many memory games that
    are more than kid's games, I would put this one squarely in the
    good-with-children category.

  • Einfach Genial: This is a light, entertaining and
    approachable multi-player abstract. I've only played it a few times,
    but it's been fairly universally well received. It seems like there
    is room for deeper tactical play, but it also lends itself well to a
    more casual analysis. It also is very nicely produced.

  • Raja: Haven't played it yet.

  • Saint Petersburg: I've played this one several times now
    and I'm no good at it. It doesn't feel especially novel, but the
    mechanics go together very nicely. With only a few plays, it already
    seems that there are several effective paths to victory, which bodes
    well for the games continued value. Despite all that, I'm not sure
    how it will hold up in the long run, but it seems it will continue to
    be enjoyed.

  • Ticket To Ride: I like Ticket To Ride, but I'm not ga-ga
    over it the way many people seem to be. It seems composed of
    reasonably standard mechanics and lucky selection of route cards seems
    it might overly dominate the game. Certainly it's no TransAmerica
    killer, as some have claimed. All that said, it's a good medium
    weight game which is nicely designed.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Recommended Variants

In general, I am a strong proponent of playing the rules as written. Most of the time, games have gone through extensive playtesting and there are reasons why the rules are in place. Introducing house rules more often than not reduces the quality of a game. Naturally, people should play however they find most enjoyable, but I'll be the first to admit it isn't always obvoius what is the "most enjoyable". All of that said, there's a few games where I've found a variant or house rule that substantially improves the experience. Some of these (for example, the Attika variant) are reasonably specific to my tastes. While I know several people who prefer my variant, others prefer the original rules. Others, such as the Vinci variant I haven't seen anyone prefer the original. So, on with the variants:


Vinci is an outstanding game, but it can have a bit of a serious engame problem. Specifically, it there is serious analysis paralysis as people maximize their score and minimize the score of the players who are doing well. This problem is completely and simply fixed by utilizing hidden scoring. At the end of a complete round, if one or more players have passed the winning point total, they announce so and the player with the highest score wins. I've played it many times this way and highly recommend it.


ZooSim has a rich-get-richer problem in that income is derived from the number of zoo tiles one. Naturally, this is somewhat offset by the fact that purchasers of the early tiles presumably pay dearly, but it's been my observation, even with experienced players, due to the blind nature of the bidding, it is hard to effectively force that payment and a player who wins two tiles in the first round is at a serious advantage. The variant I've played with that fixes this effectively is to have income simply be 3 units per round, regardless of zoo size.


I find the "connect two shrines" win condition dissatisfying. Additionally, I find it can turn into a game of chicken where other players try to avoid spending the resources to stop someone from achieving this condition, hoping their opponents will. Eliminating this victory condition reduces the amount of player interaction. After a few testing games, I've found that making the connection of two shrines grant that player 6 cards is effective. It's a substantial reward enough to try to connect, but not so much that it ends the game.


This isn't so much a variant as an interpretation of the rules. We now play with "passing by intent". What I mean by that is that as soon as you intend to pass and make any effort to do so, it is considered passed. That puts the onus on the receiving player to grab it and get on with their clue giving. It's also a lot less frustrating and essentially unambiguous which team gets the point when the buzzer goes. If you're in the process of passing it, it counts as in the next players hands.


This one is again, not so much a variant as a more complete set of rules. These are usually called the tournament rules.

The so-called "Tournament Rules" for Loopin' Louie are used in the Gathering of Friends tournaments as well as by many people in casual play. The rules are as follows:

  1. All players start with 3 chickens
  2. Louie is started and players play until only one player has chickens remaining. (ie, play 1 game by the standard rules)
  3. Louie is stopped. The player with one or more chickens remaining removes one of their chickens from play altogether. If this is their last chicken, that player is the winner.
  4. All players put all of their chickens that have not been removed from play onto their barn. Return to step 2.

As a result, for each round a player wins, it becomes more difficult for them to win the next round.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

New To Me Games

These are games that are new to me, with the newest at the top, along
with whatever ultra-brief commentary I have on them. I periodically
update this, but the post time will no longer change and it won't show
up as new in RSSI fees.



  • Der Herr der Ringe: Die Rückkehr des Königs Ugh. Uninteresting game of dice rolling.
  • Stapelei Simple, extremely compact dexterity game with a donkey.
  • Nuba Older abstract Knizia game worth a few plays

    April (Gathering of Friends)

    • DickeLuftInDerGruft Beautiful kids memory game
    • SunkenCity Light exploration and screw-your-neighbor game
    • Kaleidos Find words in busy pictures. Ok, but not as fun as I'd heard.
    • Masterdieb Amazingly produced geometry, memory and role selection game.
    • SmartyParty Fun party game with lists whose imperfections can be annoying
    • DestinationTresor Clever, novel and enjoyable deduction game
    • Tongiaki Somewhat chaotic but some real opportunity for interesting tricks.
    • PayoffMachine Old 1970s game with marbles. Rather Neat.
    • 5thAvenue Disappointing, but worth another play.
    • MaNiKi Very entertaining animal stacking puzzle game
    • Marco Polo Light but strong game of carefully timed cardplay
    • StPetersburg Few new mechanics but a very good game none the less
    • OldTown Older deduction game (sort of) with a very nice mechanic but very random results
    • Immer oben auf! Fun and cute animal stacking memory game
    • Goa Outstanding complex game in the mold of PrincesOfFlorence or PuertoRico
    • Zopp Fun dexterity game
    • RailroadDice Clever mechanics, fun game, but has some endgame problems
    • OhPharaoh Disappointing pyramid building game with some potential
    • PowerGrid Outstanding Funkenschlag rework
    • MangaManga Dull realtime cardgame
    • LostValley Beautifully produced but blandly mechanical game
    • Spy I liked this like Knizia cardgame but most others were unimpressed
    • Saga Interesting smallbox card game with a nice twist on influence games
    • LePasseTrappe Simple, fun, entertaining wooden dexterity game
    • MusicMystery Music trivia game. Not my thing.
    • Memoir44 BattleCry in World War 2. Fun and nicely produced.
    • BlueMoon Nice Knizia two player. Needs more plays, but I'm in no rush.


    • Alexandros Some nice mechanics but led to a bad kingmaker result.
    • SanJuan Very good. Lots of potential.


    • Hansa Not bad, but awfully monotonous commodity collection game
    • EinfachGenial Fun 2-, 3- or 4-player abstract from Reiner Knizia
    • Corsari Very light and seemingly overly-luck dominated card game
    • TicketToRide Nice middle-weight game of connecting cities and building rails
    • Maritim Interesting puzzle movement game. _Way_ too long with six players.
    • Landlord A "take that" game from Friedemann Friese. Not bad for a "take that" game, but...


    • Mississippi Interesting older Mattel game all about chain reactions
    • BalloonRennen Very chaotic and random, but we laughed a lot everytime someone slammed into the mountains.
    • Industria Pretty good, but feels a bit scattered. Worth another play.
    • UndTschuss Interesting, but I'm not sure what I think yet
    • Yinsh Very good




  • Wednesday, May 12, 2004

    Memory Games

    I'm not the biggest fan of memory games, but I find the most common attitude toward them is almost one of contempt. Compared to that, I love memory games. Some memory games exist primarly as a means of leveling the playing field with young children, but many games use it to good effect. Many games use it simply as yet another feature of the game. The most common reaction though seems to be that a memory element somehow diminishes the game. Part of the reason many games are enjoyable is that they act as interesting cognitive exercises; an auction game leads you to think about precise valuation; geometrical games cause you to exercise your spatial reasoning; negotiation games lead you to anticipate other players behavior. Yet, exercising one's memory is somehow a lesser skill. While I'd still rather play games that make for interesting player interaction and a variety of decisions, memory games deserve more respect.

    I created a list on the BoardGameGeek of many under-respected memory games. Below are the games that I put on the list as well as those that others suggested that I personally have played and enjoyed.

    April 2004 Games

    April, 2004

    Gamewise, April was dominated by the Gathering.

    115 games played, 69 titles (32 new to me) over 14 sessions
    with 110 different people.

    Hot Games for April, 2004

    San Juan
    I enjoyed this the first few times and am enjoying it more with successive plays
    Chaotic, but good chaos. Better with fewer players, perhaps ideal at 4.
    Better than Funkenschlag and that was pretty good
    Ma Ni Ki!
    Fun, amusing, quick.
    Length might be the only thing preventing this from being truly amazing.
    St. Petersburg
    Nothing amazingly new here, but very good
    Immer Oben Auf!
    Clever and fun memory game
    Le Passe Trappe
    Frantic and fun dexterity game
    Quack Shot
    Also frantic and fun, with well armed ducks
    Marco Polo
    More subtle than most people are giving it credit for