Alec Chapman(ALGO)United Kingdom
Lincolnshire"She said the same thing about waffles."
Gaming and the BGG blogging community has had to do without yours truly for a little while - I'm a little disappointed it didn't all collapse without me, but you can rest easy now.
Over the last year we have been recording, tinkering with and generally smacking about the single most important project of my life so far - it is a full album of music and all the details about it can be reached at the following site
(youtube, Spotify, iTunes and Amazon links all present on there)
Sorry for the self promotion, but every little helps - and Spotify is virtually free anyway. I'd suggest you begin by listening for free and then buy the ones you like. It's a bit, um, eclectic.
So onto gaming - I have serious withdrawal symptoms caused by, variously, the work with the music and my usual opponents having screenwriting courses and new girlfriends getting in the way. Selfish scumbags!
I've also relaxed my trading rules a bit and reorganised my gaming shelves. This means I have managed to shift some RPG books (which would NEVER get used) and obtain a couple of new games - Stronghold, Flash Point: Fire Rescue and Hanabi.
Flash Point is obviously another variant on the Pandemic co-op genre (puire co-op in this case, unless they decide to introduce a rather tasteless Arsonist expansion) which involves putting out fires rather than curing diseases. It uses dice instead of cards and I prefer this greatly - sure, the price of using dice is streakiness and an increased feeling of randomness - I find I actually prefer those to shuffling things back into the deck and waiting for them. Also, I sort of own Pandemic anyway, in the form of Defenders Of The Realm, so there was no reason to get the big P in the collection.
Of course, I am increasing the number of co-ops in my collection deliberately, since they are the only type of game I can reliably get Mrs Algo to play with me. Flash Point was going pretty well until the Dog died first, then she described it as the "darkest game (she'd) ever played. Especially when I explained that burning to death was "the dog's karma for drinking out of the toilet".
Hanabi went down pretty well too. With the simple act of turning your cards around so you can see everyone's but your own, I think it's one of the most impressive designs of recent years - and despite her tendency to cheat quite outrageously - "That one is VERY blue" - she really enjoys it, with just the right amount of stress and tension being generated.
Stronghold is a silly idea for the collection, really, since I may get to play it very little (Mrs A took one look and just gave a big sigh) as it isn't really solo-able. I mean, sure you could solo it as there is very little necessary hidden information on the board - but I doubt it would be that much fun. The idea of the game is simple but a little misleading, the equipment and setting imply a siege mentality but that is exactly wrong. The invading forces need to smash the defence as quickly as possible to achieve victory. I like the bits, the clarity of production and the rules, while being organised pretty poorly and failing to give any sense of what playing the game is actually like, do manage to answer every question, once you know where to look.
I'll monitor this one as I go forward as it is likely to be either a real favourite or go the way of all the other games I've traded over the years.
I've also put feelers out to obtain the rest of the GIPF collection. I'm enjoying abstracts right now (Go especially, natch) and I haven't met a Gipf game I didn't enjoy. Yet.
So it's TZAAR and DVONN to find - as well as making / obtaining the potentials sets. But that's for another day.
For now, how are you lot doing? What did I miss?
Opinions, not always positive, on the gaming world.
Archive for Off Topic
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For many of us, changing our Avatar is like having plastic surgery; there was usually nothing wrong with what you had before and nobody can work out why you went through with it.
There are a couple of reasons. Firstly, this is actually very likely to be a temporary change while I come up with a brand spanking new permanent one (probably a doctored photo of myself, in fact) and secondly because it is the cover for my first album - to be released on 25/02/13. Go to bitterpolitics.weebly.com to hear some clips if you haven't already stopped reading in disgust.
Of course, there's hardly any point trying to advertise a musical project on BGG - it's waaay off topic, but this may serve to explain the presence of a very specific zero where previously you saw the floppy haired superhero I used to be.
Which zero is it? Well, since anyone who isn't from the UK may not recognise it immediately, a clue is that it is only half of the actual number involved (but which is an oddly protected trademark, I believe) and it is from a particular place.
I doubt anyone is particularly heartbroken by the loss of the old one, but if you are, please let me know, and if enough people do, I'll restore it.
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Well, while I love games, it has been a funny old month for me since my last post. For Christmas my presents pile() contained a single game - Merchant Of Venus - and while I enjoyed my single learning game of it so far, I have been very distracted by everything else going on at the moment so have let the gaming suffer a bit.
First of all and the major distraction, I have an album coming out! Projected sales may be in the low double figures but this is the end of a very long road. People who want a preview of the coming works can go to bitterpolitics.weebly.com
Secondly, I have been transforming into a new type of worker. From now on I'll be doing night shifts so a lot of gaming will be PBE if any gets done at all. Luckily, this will take the form of four shifts on, four shifts off (basically meaning I am off work for four days at a stretch, usually). Which should make long overnight gaming possible in a way it hasn't since I've become a desk drone.
So it's swings and roundabouts really. The 10:100 project is still going on, though I am pretty sure none of the games have been played for two or more months. I simply get no desire to purchase things any more (sob).
Why am I telling you this? Well, I need some recommendations for games to play by email. I don't know much about it as a format so lets see if anyone knows anything. I may well have been spoilt by playdiplomacy.com's handling of the great old game - but I assume that abstract perfect information strategy games are probably the only way to go.
In fact, maybe it's time to learn Go and Shogiat long last. Any volunteers?
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First of all it is only correct and nice of me to thank everybody who has contributed to or thumbed my blog over the last few months. Even those who have vehemently disagreed with me have been appreciated. Thank you.
So my (probably) last post of the year is about managing your expectations over Christmas. As proud members of the boardgaming community, it is easy to get swept up in this period of enhanced openness to frivolity and enjoyment for its own sake.
After all, every family plays board games at Christmas, right?
Well, there's a trap here of which we must remain aware. I think I've talked about it before, but our choices here are absolutely crucial if the eventual aim (yours may vary) is...
"To generate a permanent increase in the tendency of someone outside the hobby to agree when we suggest playing a board game we like"
While this sounds entirely selfish when put in these bald terms, the basic point is that obtaining the willingness to play a single game at Christmas is barely an achievement on its own. One should aim, if this is one's wish, to focus on ensuring that the other players have a good time and leave the table with as positive an experience as possible. The reason for this is obviously to try and create new players and thereby to increase the number of opportunities to play.
If you want to get altruistic, we could also say that we are acting as a "fun wrangler" for our friends - opening them up to new alleys of enjoyment that are clean and pre watershed. Nice.
Of course, in this capacity a little selflessness is crucial. I managed, through some major cajoling, to play Android with my family (including my 60 year old parents) one New Year's Day. Generally everyone had fun and my mum asked for a second game on the next day(!) but in hindsight this was an absurdly risky tactic. Certainly it has put my dad off forever.
Simply wanting to play a game we like is a selfish act - wanting to supply enjoyment to other people is more selfless and it is this that we should aim for. It is very likely that my family would have had considerably more fun by playing several simpler games (I had more lasting luck, for example, with Power grid, I'm The Boss and Small World) which, while being maybe less fun to me, would induce a higher total level of fun for the group and are more likely to lead to permanent increases in openness to gaming.
So, if trying to take some of your friends beyond Monopoly (with apologies to the owners of that name) this Christmas, I will repeat some of my advice from an earlier post.
1. Know your audience - you can destroy your chances by bringing a game with Orcs and Goblins in it to your Tolkien-phobic friends. You can also screw things up by skewing too complicated. If they've only ever played Scrabble and Cranium, don't jump to Agricola. Start with something they can relate to better, like Wits and Wagers or Say Anything. Baby steps all the way.
2. Pick something short - Christmas involves alcohol and people develop very low attention spans after a few drinks. We'd do well to give a brief view into the world outside Cluedo than a three hour game of Steam. If they want more, play the game again - they'll enjoy it even more the second time. Don't necessarily switch to something else. Having to learn yet another new game may simply be irritating.
3. Be forgiving of mistakes - Alcohol again, but even more fundamentally these games involve concepts a new player may never have experienced before (things like worker placement, jostling for turn order etc.) so if they mess up and it can be undone without too much hassle - do it. Just let them know that they can't always do so.
4. Pick something that can be taught quickly - attention spans again. Even if teaching Agricola it is better to give the very basic method and smash through a round or two rather than frontloading everything. You can always restart once everyone has got the hang of it.
5. Again, eliminate/limit frontloading - This is DEATH to getting new players, so I've written it twice. Avoid where you can. Get them into the hobby before melting their brains!
6. Play well, but don't worry about who wins - us gamers are a competitive bunch, but with new players try your best not to splat them to death in their first play. I'm not saying you should throw the game or anything, but I prefer to take the least aggressive option where one is available for this reason. Even better, sit out the first game and teach it to everyone so they have a level playing field. If you can bear it.
7. Be prepared for stupid questions - and WHATEVER YOU DO, don't huff at the obvious stuff. It may seem obvious to a regular gamer how the selection works in Puerto Rico, but to these players it isn't, so be generous of spirit.
So, basically, my Christmas message is that in this situation one should be selfless, kind and generous of spirit. All very appropriate, I should think.
I am not religious, but whatever Christmas means to you (even if it means little or nothing) I hope you and yours have a marvelous time.
Thanks again to everyone and Merry Christmas!
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One of the great things about having a Blog is that you can concentrate on the things that you actually care about. I am extremely grateful to everyone who has thumbed my recent posts (especially those who did so despite disagreeing with my opinion) as it gives me encouragement to keep on with them.
Today, let's look at another phenomenon that makes my blood boil.
Let's be clear, to start with, what I am annoyed about. I am not angry about people who determine the outcome of games when they cannot win. I am annoyed by people who insist on making this a big deal - accusing the crucial move as "king making".
Firstly, and to avoid being disingenuous, the phenomenon the accusation relates to definitely exists.
Of course, all this represents is a single instance of a truism: the play of non-winners also affects the overall outcome of the game. This would seem self evident to me but as we shall see, many people seemingly do not understand how games work - leading to the epithet that annoys me.
So let's be very, very clear.
The accusation of "King Making" is never, in my experience, used to describe what actually happens in games. It is used as a complaint, translated as "I/Player X would have won if you hadn't done that, how dare you do that".
BGGers have come up with a few ways for the players who cannot win to avoid being a "kingmaker" and choosing the winner (e.g. as long as you are gaining more points, etc) - but I say that's misdiagnosing the problem and the REAL issue is not with the "kingmaker" but the accuser.
Basically what the call amounts to is an abdication of player responsibility.
So let me be unequivocal for a moment - If you're in the position where another player can choose whether you win or lose, it's your fault*.
I am required by the demands of reason to say that you can't necessarily have avoided it in all cases it by simply playing better, maybe you did almost everything right, but the fact your victory is not in your hands is down to what you did in combination with the plays you allowed the other players to make.**
Let's take the extreme case where you did everything right as the toughest test of my point of view. All it takes is for somebody else to do everything right as well for you to be in a potentially low control position.Spoiler (click to reveal)As an aside many modern (style) multiplayer games make it very possible for everyone to play well and reach similar scores without bashing each other through the use of different "paths to victory". It is not hard to believe two players can play a game equally well, but in different ways, thus leading to a low control situation.
So what happens in a "kingmaking" situation? Well, let's look at the options:
a. Player C performs an action that benefits Player A
b. Player C performs an action that benefits Player B
c. Player C performs an action that benefits Player C
d. Player C performs no action.
The important thing that we need to remember is that NONE of these exist in isolation. Unless the game is very, very low interaction - where Kingmaking wouldn't be an issue anyway - anything you do OR the choice to not do anything (if available) has an effect of some kind. Player C doing nothing can be just as influential as Player C benefiting player A. By NOT benefiting Player A, Player C indirectly assists Player B, etc etc.
Even more importantly than that - everything you have done FOR THE ENTIRE GAME has had an effect on the current situation. in the three player set up above, the four options available could have taken place at any time. An identical action two turns earlier probably received no comment and may be the actual determiner of victor in some cases - even where the accusation of king making is not made at all.
Now, I am not denying that some people attack one potential winner just to be assholes.
(Often this person is used to this style of play and if they have a regular opponent in the mix it's probably that person who got it in the neck.)
I am saying that anyone who wants, purely because they couldn't get a big enough lead by the last turn, to alter the way someone else plays and accuse them of being somehow a bad person if they don't agree is just as big an asshole.***Spoiler (click to reveal)(To the player in the kingmaking position I would say this: be true to yourself, don't be vindictive, remember that you may want to play with these people again. But it is YOUR decision. Ignore the haters.)
The winner of any game is determined by a sequence of decisions made by each player for an entire game, not by the final action of the player coming in third, fourth or lower. Grow up and accept it.
Here endeth the lesson.
* I tried to think of something less mean than "it's your fault", but everything I thought of involved too many words. basically, it is down to your play.
** Of course, it's important to remember in that case that maybe you missed an opportunity to play suboptimally, but damage your opponent(s) more than this suboptimal play damaged you, but hey, whatevs.
*** As it happens I don't think either is a particularly BIG asshole in the scale of Saint to Saville, but you get my point. People in glass houses shouldn't get naked, etc etc (I think that's the saying? ).
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Gawd bless the genii at xkcd:
This reminds me of one of my all time major pet hates in the board gaming hobby.
If a game is not fun, I'm quite happy for people to make their conclusions about that game after a single play, after all your gaming time is precious and I'm not some crazy self flagellation proponent!
One thing that makes me absolutely livid, however, is the habit people have of assuming their first play experience (or limited experience, in the case of games like Chess and Go) is enough to sum up the game's strategic merits and shortcomings.
Often these arise, as in the cartoon, from a justification of failure to win. There is a point after the game where a chat about how you felt the game was is enjoyable - but don't assume that just because your strategies didn't work in the game you just played...
a. The strategy you tried will never work
b. the game is fundamentally flawed
After all, while you may have the wrong end of the stick, part of the journey with any new game is to find these things out. The world is full of people parroting the old adages about a game being "broken" or "the <insert wooden cube type here> strategy is overpowered".
If I haven't played the game multiple times, I'll try(!) not to fall into this trap. Rather than the above explanation for the failure of your naive strategy, I would tentatively submit these, more reasonable explanations:
a. You chose an inefficient or substandard strategy
b. You played a good strategy but at a substandard level.
c. Your strategy is good in combination with another one, but you missed the connection
d. you took a chance and it didn't pay off
None of these alternatives is embarrassing. After all, you are just getting to know the game and different people do this at different rates.
There's an old truism in gaming that "when both players are of equal skill, the winner is determined by luck or first player advantage" and since this may be everyone's first game, skill levels should lead to far more luck determined outcomes than skill.
For example: my experience with Twilight Struggle has been an increase in streaky luck as we enter the late war, simply because we do not know the cards as well. This means that relative skill is closer and luck takes more of a hand.
Perhaps a judgement of the game's strategic shortcomings are a misguided attempt to explain bad luck? The motivation for this? Good old childhood entrenched embarrassment avoidance! (see preachy earlier posts)
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Disclaimer: It's disappointing to have to write one, but the odd person is taking this personally. Like many people born post-1900 I tend to use "you" in place of the more correct "one". Don't assume I am getting at you personally when I am clearly being general.
I am not trying to come into your life and snatch your wallet away, but to recommend some ways of thinking about game purchasing that I have hard earned, which may or may not be helpful. I do not believe it is possible to argue that "think before you buy" is controversial advice - all I am doing is developing from and explaining the reason for, that simple message.
and a rather crucial quote from myselfQuote:"There's nothing inherently wrong with buying more games. My position is that in some cases, there is self reinforcing feedback loop of irrational impulse buying in the hobby. So long as you have a genuine reason for the purchase and your copy will get played a number of times you believe is reasonable, I can't think of any sane objection."The crucial point in my position is that whenever you decide whether to make a purchase, you should ensure that you have a rational reason for making it.
Important note: The fact there is no rational argument against something is not an argument in its favour.
Anyway, move along, nothing else to see here.
Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:41 pm
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I have been all but absent from boardgaming circles for quite some time now, concentrating on my other hobbies (in this case Art, Podcasting and recording my debut album). After all, I didn't call myself The Jaded Gamer for no reason.
So it is a great pleasure to take part in tomorrow's LOB-Ster Con in Eastbourne, where all the folks from London on Board take over a hotel and play tonnes of games.
As someone who does not measure the success of this con by how many different games I will play, nor by how many of them are brand new Essen releases, what do I hope to get out of it?
Well, first, it is only right to point out this is my first Board Game Con but since this one only contains gaming rather than events and sales floors it shouldn't be too different from what i am used to.
So here is my wishlist for what I achieve at this event:
1. Lots of Cosmic Encounter - to playtest my alien design (MULTIFORM) and play a couple of games of team Cosmic.
2. Get some 10:100 games played. Because of the lack of gaming focus in my life over the last few months, I have let this slide - which only puts back my plans by half a year or so. I am hoping to fix some of this.
3. To tempt some people into trying Icehouse. While the ruleset is slightly flawed and the system can be gamed (by uncool people) I remain convinced there is a good game hiding here. Unfortunately I cannot work out what is needed to rebuild it into something more sensible without a few plays under my belt with like minded people.
4. To play Zendo for the first time
5. To add a second play of Die Macher to my gaming experience. I played this once years ago and I remember it being fun, if LOOOOONG. Here's hoping it is as fun as I remember it.
6. To introduce my podcasting co-host, Chris to the full depth of gaming experiences out there. He has so far only dipped his toe into the gaming waters. I am throwing him in the deep end.
7. To play one absolute monster game. Virgin Queen or Here I Stand, perhaps? We shall see.
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In the UK there is a little SNAFU regarding our governments possible/alleged/whatevergetsmeoutoftrouble in bed relationship with the press.
The problems for the public perception of this relationship can be summarised as follows:
1. The government benefits from a sympathetic press.
2. The press benefits from a sympathetic government.
3. This government is perceived to be sympathetic to the press, particularly News International.
4. News International publications in particular supported the government at the last election (that's not a perception - they actively campaigned).
Now, the first rule of statistics as I understand it is vitally important in this regard:
"Correlation does not equal causation"
Any of these things is capable of existing in a vacuum. The press could be sympathetic to a government that is clamping down on it and a government could be greatly supportive of a free, critical press etc etc.
The problems arise in the perception of these relationships where there is clearly a course of action that benefits both parties more than the isolated examples do. It is far more beneficial for Government and Press to support each other gaining both illicit favour and positive treatment. This doesn't mean it happens, but it is better for both if they can get away with it.
This is why when they speak of no agreements being made, people scoff - you don't need to make a specific agreement to recognise mutual benefit.
I have never made an agreement with the lady next to me on the train platform saying that she will not push me under a train and suffer a life of imprisonment and guilt. It does not take any interaction at all to recognise that there is more benefit to one course of action than the other.
[soapbox] Of course, this raises the importance of independent regulators, but that seems to be a dirty subject these days. [/soapbox]
To avoid shooting off too far in this direction, think of Kingmaking problems in games and how it relates to this. I personally hate the accusations of king making that fly around all the time.
This is especially true in games without elimination. If you're having a tough time of it, it can get very irritating to have branches lopped off your decision tree by the axe of social pressure every time someone scores a point. I love an extended metaphor, by the way.
An extreme example:
When you think you are third in Tigris and Euphrates on your turn towards the end of the game and need to choose a target for attack, it is possible that you believe your chances of gaining points are pretty even attacking either of the two players who are ahead of you.Spoiler (click to reveal)(the situation is different between hidden or open scoring, which complicates things somewhat, but the social outcome is the same)
So which target do you choose? If you swing one way or the other your integrity can be questioned and bias/"king making" can be claimed, simply because there was no difference so why did you choose to do what you did? Tigris and Euphrates is a particularly good example here because the hidden information leads to a lot of non tracked input. Your opponent seems nervous, but the other seems confident. Does this mean something? Were they aware of the expression or will they accuse you of a false justification?.
However, inaction can be just as bad - deciding to pass or take a non aggressive action in such a situation may break the game, which is designed for the number of turns and players that naturally come to pass. Through inaction, you could end up just determining the victor by tiebreak instead of direct effect.
Whatever you do in this situation, you affect the outcome of the game. In the case of T&E, your opponents are responsible for putting you in that situation and, in my opinion, don't have the right to complain whatever you do. If they do, get more reasonable opponents!
Likewise, and to attempt to join these threads together, if a government decides in the favour of someone with the very real, proven power to destroy them, it is likely to be suspected of bias even if it genuinely did so objectively. That's the nature of mutually beneficial outcomes.
What with being a judge in the voice of experience contest and with some of the discussions we've been having about the figures there, the problem of having a mutually beneficial relationship between reviewers and the review subject reared its head during a conversation about how much of the scale to use (which is a subject for another day!).
There's clearly a mutually beneficial loop between professional reviewers and the people who provide their employers with material to review, exclusive interviews and previews as well as copious amounts of advertising revenue.
I truly believe that the vast majority of reviewers are hard working, honest people who would never consciously prefer something just because of the possibility of the next big scoop being withheld, but does your feature writer really want to face Brad Pitt after your reviewer gave his latest movie one star? Brad Pitt almost certainly doesn't care (he got paid, after all) about a features writer, but its got to smart.Spoiler (click to reveal)I remember Mark Kermode getting chewed out by Russell Crowe during an interview regarding Robin Hood for a critical review of Romper Stomper that Crowe believed Kermode had written years and years previously (actually he didn't write it but worked for the publication involved at the time), so it does happen
That's why people are suspicious of reviews that are of big banner releases. When a certain movie magazine released a five star review of Attack Of The Clones (by any measure an imperfect beast), I smelt a rat that was only made more whiffy by the far more measured three star review the DVD release got. Did they get carried away? Was the Yoda fight worth three stars extra on its own?
Who knows? Perhaps the reviewer really does put Attack Of The Clones in the same bracket as I put Back To The Future, Seven Samurai and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's a subjective business, is reviewing.
My point is that where there is aberrant behaviour and mutual benefit is present, half the perception battle is already lost. I celebrate subjectivity and as a result my favourite reviews all contained a good sense of who was talking, something a simple five or ten point rating system would not capture in their review.
Important VoE contest integrity note:
It may seem disingenuous, but I should clarify that I believe these problems simply did not occur for me in the VoE contest judging however, since there was simply no incentive to cheat the system. I have not received, been offered, nor have I asked for any reward for being involved. In addition, as much as I love you all, I don't lie awake at night worrying if BGG users like me. While the ten point scale was not my preferred method of reviewing in general, it was the only practical way to aggregate several scores and take an average.
edit: clarified the Tigris analogy
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Howdy! If you're anything from the sort of reviewer who looks deep into a game's soul and comes away with a deep understanding to a guy who is keen to share a long term favourite game , you need to enter the linked contest.
There are several compelling reasons to do so.
1. There are big freaking prizes! Not small ones! BIG ONES!
2. It is adjudicated by some of the most exciting judges in BGG history.
3. I am also a judge.
It is all part of the loose movement (easy, innuendo fans) towards the establishment of a solid critical structure for gaming, but you don't have to be a Cult Of The Slow member to join.
All game reviews welcome with the proviso that they must be newly written and you must have played the game at least ten times. We're after deeper insights and tales of discovery.
Hit us up here and shout "I'm In" from the rooftops!
Edit: Punctuation fail.
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