Thursday, November 11, 2004

Where do you play so many games?

In response to my October games summary Iain asked where I play so many games.
I've been meaning to write an entry that answers that as part of it, so here's that post.

I'm very lucky to live in Boston which has likely the highest
concentration of "German" gamers in the US. Further, I'm lucky in
that non-gamer friends tend to like to play games a lot even if not in
the overall quantities I tend to. Finally, my family (wife, parents,
brother, in-laws) all have some interest in playing games. This
combination of factors means I get to play a lot of games.

In terms of the particulars, my gaming occurs in a few venues:

  • Hosted Sessions. Lots of individuals in the greater Boston area hold semi-public sessions on a weekly or monthly basis at their homes. Further, there are a number of private sessions which often have a higher fraction of casual gamers.
  • Gaming Events. These are periodic public and invitational events like the Unity Games events and the Gathering.
  • Friends. These aren't so much "sessions" as having frineds over or being out with friends and playing some games.
  • Family. As I mentioned, my family enjoys playing games. These won't usually be involved sessions, usually 1 or 2 games in an evening.

Before my daughter was born we hosted a monthly private session with
usually about 8 people attending, typically half regular gamers and
half people who don't game outside of my session. I expect we'll
resume these at some point.

Of the four categories above, about 40-50% of my gaming is at hosted sessions and 15-20% in each of the other three categories. One friend runs a weekly session at which I play an average of about 3 games so that represents a good fraction of the monthly gaming alone.

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Election Analysis Errors

In an analysis
by Mark Newman
(currently down), he presents some interesting pictures including
some nice cartograms. His final graph presents a remarkable
observation: There are two Americas, but not the two we think. There
are a small but sizable number of counties (roughly 400) that went
extremely strongly for Kerry and the rest of the counties which were
less polarized to varying degrees. It's a striking result. It's not
true though.

Upon thinking about this histogram, I couldn't imagine how this could
happen. Was this some sort of odd gerrymandering? Almost no
statistics on this scale ever show the kind of dramatic "edge". It's
not impossible, just unlikely. I skimmed through the USA Today data
and couldn't find any of the 400 "super-Kerry" counties. So, since I
couldn't find the raw data anywhere, I did what Dr. Newman presumably
did: I collated the data from the href=>USA
Today site. Now, I don't know what tools he used, but I wrote a
couple of perl scripts to reformat the data for analysis. I ran it
through my scripts and I got a very similar result to Dr. Newman's,
though not quite the same: 362 counties voted over 98% for Kerry.
Wow. So, I decided to look at some of them, since I hadn't been able
to find one before. One of the counties was that of "Cape, NJ". I
went to the USA Today site to check out this county, to find it
doesn't exist. But, there is a "Cape May, NJ". Aha, there are 362
counties in the US with spaces in the names! Further, the balance of
those between 362 and his 400 is probably due to another data anlysis
bug caused by the fact that the numbers have commas in them.

In truth, there are no counties which voted more than 93% for Kerry,
never mind 400 which voted over 98% for Kerry, however I might wish
that to be true. There's only one voting region that went over 98%
for Bush: Glenwood Pit., ME. Maine
reports by town, not by county. There are two people there. They voted for Bush.

I'm sure this was an unintentional error (in fact, according to href=>post on MeFi he had
removed the histogram before the site went down), but I was surprised
at the extent to which it wasn't questioned. Outrageous results
shouldn't be uniformly dismissed because it's often the outrageous
that's important, but at the same time, it should be greeted with a
greater degree of skepticism.

October 2004 Games

30 games played, 27 titles (7 new to me) over 8 sessions with 33 different people.

Hot Games for October, 2004

Goa (1 play)
Some of the shine is beginning to come off of this, but it's still great.

Victory & Honor (1 play)
Clever, different, interesting trick taking game.

Goldbrau (1 play)
Fun combination of business and simultanous action selection.

Puerto Rico (1 play)
I somehow went months without playing this. I apparently forgot a great deal of strategy.

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1 play)
Another great and extremely clever trick taking game

Exxtra (2 plays)
An underplayed filler.

Ticket to Ride (1 play)
I managed to complete about 7 routes and still lose.

Crokinole (2 plays)
One of many perennials.

Ra (1 play)
Another old favorite.

Heroscape (1 play)
I continue to be surprised how much I enjoy this...

Thursday, November 4, 2004

A few Essen '04 releases

I recently played a few of the new Essen releases, "Tanz der Hornochsen", "Leapfrog" and "Pompeji". All of them were reasonably good, but none were amazing.

Tanz der Hornochsen. A boardgame (barely) version of "6 nimmt!" It's fun and it's got some good twists above and beyond the basic gameplay, which closely resembles 6 nimmt!,
but in the end, I'm not sure it adds that much. What does seem possible is that this may do better with fewer players while the original prefers more like 5 or 6 players. The tiles are a bit annoying compared to cards and the whole aspect of everyone having the option to buy cards before each turn really messes up the pacing. Fun, but I may mostly stick to 6 nimmt!, and I'm usually a big fan of novelty.

Leapfrog. A light little "race" game. It's not really a race game in the traditional sense, more of a second-guessing/simultaneous-selection game. Light, cute fun. It plays quite fast as well.

Pompeji. A game with a lot of luck, but a really nice bit of gameplay which involves running from the erupting volcano. Certainly not the deepest game, but there are interesting tactical choices and even some strategic planning. Some of the turn timing seems to introduce more luck than is warranted though. Running from a volcano is entertaining.