NO, wait it is a .... (surprise)
Doug Mazur

Pacifica
California
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Is it a bird? a plane? No, wait, it's a ...

A) A first attempt at a geeklist. (yes, so be kind)

B) A personal memoir/evolution of gaming. (yes, with some interesting characters thrown in)

C) A puzzle. (yes, for those of you who spend way too much time here on the geek already! arrrh )

D) A contest. (yes. the first ultra competitive geek to comment with the correct answer to the puzzle, I'll send you something small and meaningless. I don't know what yet, some cool dice, miscellaneous mini's or something. Remember it's the bragging rights that counts)

E) A bloody waste of time and bandwidth (very likely, so if you want to skip my ramblings, feel free)

F) A tribute. (For my grandfather who turned 99 this month surprise )

G) All of the above! (yes, yes, yes)

My grandfather turned 99 this month. Don't ask me what day. We usually celebrate on the 10th but the actual date is an intentional mystery. My grandfather was born in Russia as a member of an ethnic and religous group that was not favored. It was common for the army to conscript young men of reasonable age, (reasonable being about 12), from this demographic, never to be seen again. One exception, was the first born males, (who theoretically would be allowed to inherit the family business, whatever that was.) My grandfather was not a first born male, and his parents feared that he would be taken, and disappear forever. They allowed him to be adopted by another couple in the village who had no children of their own, to be their "first born male." and hopefully exempt from conscription. Official documents were "lost". Eventually his adoptive parents where able to immigrate to the United States where they changed their names to avoid identification. (Ironically, he did disappear from his birth parents and never saw them again. )We are pretty sure he was born sometime in February 1910, but could not tell you for sure.

His story was similar to other hard working immigrants, the details of which are likely only to be of interest to those who knew him. I wanted to write a small tribute to him because although at 99 he is still physically hale, (he does not use a cane or walker, climbs up and down a flight of stairs every day, still goes polka dancing on occassion) his mind, unfortunately has sought refuge in a sanctuary inaccessable to the rest of us, my grandfather included.soblue

He was a brilliant man, who influenced me in more ways than I can count, and that is the man I will always remember!!
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1. Board Game: In the Beginning [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
 
Doug Mazur

Pacifica
California
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We probably played something as young kids, but the first boardgame I can ever remember playing, was Chess, compliments of my grandfather (you might have guessed)

He was an avid chess player, forming several chess clubs in Queens and Long Island in New York.
My parents were divorced when I was six. We went to live with my grandparents for the next 7 years. In those years, Grandma always had a bowl of soup and a sandwhich waiting for us when we got home from school, and grandpa always had the chess set out, set up and ready for a game. I think he had taught us how the pieces moved before we lived in his home. He always told us why he thought particular moves were good moves or bad moves, he always let us take our moves back that were a surefire disaster, he always gave helpful advice. "Control the center", or "develop more pieces" stuff like that, but he never "let us win" because we were young, it would be many years before we could enjoy that privelege, (and something my younger brother was able to do, sooner and more often than I could.)

It was a telling commentary that as his mind first started to fade away, many family members were in denial. It became obvious that something was wrong, when I could come home, having not played a game of chess in months or even years, and beat grandpa consistently in games that were no longer close.

Still, it was not a bad beginning for a geek's boardgaming life, and that was because of my grandfather.


clue - the perceptive will quickly notice that the names of the games on the list, do not match the images. The titles represent the period of time in my life, while the images are representative of the games played in that period.
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2. Board Game: Early Years [Average Rating:4.70 Unranked] [Average Rating:4.70 Unranked]
Doug Mazur

Pacifica
California
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My uncle taught us the staple family boardgames of middle America. Stratego, Risk, Monopoly etc.

I know our Monopoly games were so full of house rules, that I doubt I could tell you what the real rules are. I do remember however, that in negotiation and wheeling and dealing there were no limits to the deals we would make. Starting from, "you can land on any one property for free for the rest of the game" and culminating with "I'll be your personal slave for a month"

Whatever else you have to think or say about Risk, I know that Risk started a trend that would be reenforced by other military games later in life. That of, lessons in Geography. While I am sure that at some point they told us something about geography in school. I have to admit that, I truly don't remember anything particulary noteworthy about geography from school. Everything I know about geography, I learned from wargames.

I recently read a book based on the true account of a Polish soldier's escape from a Russian labor camp just prior to WWII. The places mentioned in the book, Yakutsk and Irkutsk to name two, brought back memories of stacking little wooden blocks in Siberia rather than a classroom setting.


clue - the answer to the puzzle is determined by the images used for each game in this geeklist.
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3. Board Game: Sixteen [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Doug Mazur

Pacifica
California
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When I was 16 a friend of mine in offered to teach 2 of us a cool new game called Dungeons and Dragons. Yikes!!! He was our first DM and a terrible one. My very first character was a Cleric named Eldor, and my Buddy played a Magic User named Rufus. Within 2 or 3 gaming sessions we went from first level to destroying the prince of demons with a sphere of anhilation. (I can remember standing on the table while our DM suspended a softball between us and our foe, marking how close we were to victory or death, in our psionic tug of war.)

The two of us were quickly bored with his over the top games, but we had been bitten by the D&D bug. We took turns running adventures for each other that were mostly, single character stories, with minimal fighting and lots of puzzles and mystery. We copied plans of real castles to include in our games and collected cool images from magazines to use as visual props (we didn't even know they made figurines and terrain for games). I remember a marathon session between the 2 of us that went on for something like 40 hours, eating as we played and only taking a break to use the bathroom. My buddy took a bathroom break that I thought was taking a while, I think he fell asleep in there, but I don't know because, I fell asleep myself, at the table with the dice leaving their imprints in my face. He woke me up a little while later, asking me why I was sleeping and we started playing again for another 30 hours before finally giving it a rest.


clue - If you found the correct listing from which each of these images is taken from, one letter from the correct listing game title, will be used in the answer to the puzzle.

As an example, in the second entry, the image is obviously of the game Risk. If the image was indeed taken from the images found under the game listing "Risk" then one of those four letters, (R - I - S or K) would be used in the solution to the puzzle. If the image instead was found under the heading of "Castle Risk" then you would have 9 letters to choose from rather than 4.
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4. Board Game: School Daze: College [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Doug Mazur

Pacifica
California
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Roleplaying continued to be a major player in occupying my time all through college, but I stopped playing D&D and started a home grown campaign that borrowed heavily from the early role master series.

I think it is safe to say that, it is the characters who played, that remain etched in our memories, more than the characters that they played. Here are a few from my past:

The University hosted a small local con, and the first game, at my first con, was a D&D scenario. I was one of the first ones to show up and I was given a random pregenerated character by the GM, a thief. A couple more kids showed up and either groused or grinned at their given characters. Then Felix walked in. He was given a character (an illusionist) but instead of pouring over his stats and posessions like the rest of us, he was sizing up the room. He decided to sit next to me, introduced himself, and immediately declared that we would never get anything done with 12 palyers in 4 hours, and that we would have to get rid of most of them. "You can't do that." I said, and then because it had never really occured to me, "Can you? Isn't it against the rules or something?" He told me you can do anything the GM lets you get away with, you just have to be sly. As players filed in, he whispered to me whether the player was going to survive or die, and in what order, within the first 30 seconds of watching and listening to them. Tom was the last to show up and was the only other player Felix motioned to come sit with us. Tom and I sat in awe over the next few hours, as Felix systematically "assassinated" 6 of the 12 player characters, without anyone but us and the DM knowing he was behind it all. Afterwards, the 3 of us talked for hours on games and campaigns we played at home and unlike my first DM, his first DM was a stingy detail freak. Felix had been playing the same character for over 3 years and was only 5th level!!, but it taught him how to get things accomplished without worrying about how powerful the character was. I cant applaud his scruples, but I always admired the skill in the way he mastered the situation (and the GM) time and again.
I never saw Felix again after that con, but to this day I still call any situation where players turn on each other as "the Felix syndrome".

I tried to transcend the gaming experience with my players as well. I gave experience for things like coming in costume, writing detailed biographies (which I could steal villians from their pasts, or present more compelling reasons for going on a quest, rather than you all just decide to group together again to risk your lives for a few gold peices and questionable reward and fame.) We had a regular gaming group that met once or twice a week, and the gang was pretty punctual and loyal. Mike, an engineering student, who played a trap master and who provided me with weekly scaled and detailed drawings of the many traps his character was able to make, was uncharacteristically late. First, the group was pissed, but as his lateness became almost an hour in length we became worried. Someone knocked on the door and told us that someone needed to see us outside. We couldn't figure out who might need to see us at outside, but since we hadn't started our game yet, we filed out. Of course it was Mike, but riding a horse bareback through the quad, dressed in animal skins that were tied to his body by rawhide strips. He was waving a sword in one hand and trotting around conversing with invisible comrades. He was spouting some nonsense about returning from his last adventure to make himself available for his next mission. We loved it! He gave the horse back to his pissed off girlfriend, (who owned the horse) to take back to the stables, (over a mile away) while we went in to start our game. He was the only person I ever advanced a whole level of experience based on non-game events.

Then there was Roy. Roy was the kind of guy who disappeared one day and you read about a few months later, that he decided to swim across the Atlantic or some such!! As a senior, I had moved about 10 miles off campus with some of the gaming crew. Roy, who always played a Barbarian type, stayed on campus, but always came out on game nights. Almost never by car or bus. He ran or biked, or if it snowed, cross country skied along the railroad tracks to our house. He never stayed the night but always heading home again after we were done, even if it was 5 in the morning, no matter what the weather was. So one day, he tells us that he is going to try and Bike 300 miles in 24 hours. The day before our regular gaming night he takes off on his bike, cut off shorts and a T-shirt, without water, headlamp, any supplies of any kind other than a hand drawn map of the route he wanted to ride. 24 hours later we are wondering if he is going to show for our game. Later, he shows up and we ask him if he made his goal or not. He is kind of shy and upset about it. He says didn't know. He got lost and had to detour an extra 15 miles and it took him 25 hours to get home, so he didn't know if he had made 300 in 24 hours or not. We all assured him he must have made at least 300 in the first 24 hours, I think because we were afraid he might just set off again immediately, to try it again. We hadn't started our usual session yet but assumed that Roy would need to eat and sleep and would not be playing. He told us, "Hell no, I'm here to play!! Let's do it!"


clue - the single letters that might be guessed from the images are arranged in the same chronological order as the images themselves.
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5. Board Game: Revelation [Average Rating:9.00 Unranked]
Doug Mazur

Pacifica
California
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Of course not all of my college time was spent roleplaying. I joined a game club that played all kinds of games that were a lot different from the Monopoly and Risk games I was used to.

Games like 1830 where you didn't have to eliminate anyone in order to win. What a different concept that was!!
Games like Ogre, Talisman, Advanced Squad Leader.
A whole slew of Avalon Hill games including Titan which is still one of my favorites because it is very difficult to gang up on the leader. (something that happens with great frequency at my house)

clue - Yes, the letters you get from the images are in chronological order, but that order is backwards. The first letter is suggested by the last image of this geeklist and the last letter in the puzzle is suggested by the first image in this list.
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6. Board Game: Barren Victory [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:5115]
Doug Mazur

Pacifica
California
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After my first college stint, I entered a period of experimentation and paradox. I played a large variety of different games but nothing really grabbed my imagination.

I had left my old gaming group and started playing with another gang, a more bloodthirsty gang. While I still ran my home brew campaign for them, it didn't have the same feel. We also experimented with other systems. The role playing gamut included, Runequest, Champions, Traveller, Paranoia and Cthulu.

I played more wargames during this time than any other, Tobruk, East Front/West Front and Russian Front. I think we may have started 6 or 7 games of Russian Front before ever finishing one.

And Boardgames too. Junta, Fortress America, Shogun, Car Wars, Civilization were ones we played more frequently.


clue - OK, so the order is almost perfectly reverse chronological. "Almost" because the placement of one single letter was transposed with one of its neighbors. Yes, one letter is out of place and belongs either one sooner or one later than its actual position.
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7. Board Game: A Fistfull of Miniatures [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Doug Mazur

Pacifica
California
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I went back to school, found a new gaming group and these guys were into miniatures. They painted too. Really well.
We got into Warhammer, Man-O-War, Bloodbowl, SpaceHulk, Harpoon, Micro Armor, Battletech and Star Fleet Battles.

Star Fleet Battles is the only 10 on my list at this time. While I recognize that not that many are attracted to it, I think it can be as simple or as complex as the players wish it to be. It scales easily for players of different skill level. It will accommodate any reasonable number of players and has limitless variety with various tactics for players of different personalities. With dozens of expansions and add ons it is easily my favorite game.

An interesting aside. At this time, one of the guys discovered a funny new card game called Magic. We played it a bit as a filler. We never got obsessive about it, but the collector in me enjoyed collecting the sets. I was out of Magic after the Legends set came out, but by that time I had full sets the original beta cards, Arabian Nights and Legends. I may have spent $500 or $600 on the cards at the time, (always buying in box quantities) and later I sold this collection for $13,000. Perhaps, I could have gotten more, but that one fact alone usally quiets those that shake their head in wonder, about how I "waste" so much money on useless games and other collections of stuff.


clue - The answer is actually two words.
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8. Board Game: Geeks: The Convention [Average Rating:4.66 Overall Rank:13948]
Doug Mazur

Pacifica
California
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I was really into Star Fleet Battles. I thought I was pretty good. I heard they had a convention where they had a national championship for the game. I had to go. I entered my first Star Fleet Battles tournament and got my butt handed to me in the first round, by one of the ranking national players at the time. Instead of gloating in victory at my demoralization, this player took time between games to discuss my errors, show me what he knew were basic tactics, but were still new breakthroughs for me. I saw how small my experience had been with the game, but I learned to love losing. If I lost to a better player (there were lots of them) and I learned something to improve my game, I valued that more than winning. I lost a lot. I learned a lot. I became a regular at Gen Con and Origins for the next few years. Eventually, my game improved and I lost with much less frequency. In '99 I made it to the final round of the Patrol Tournament at Origins, with an undefeated record. I lost that last game, but it remains a highlight of my convention years having beat many players that once squashed me into cosmic dust.

When Gen Con stopped having Star Fleet Battles Tournaments, I entered Axis and Allies tournaments, always playing well as the Japanese. I discovered more miniature games like the clix games, Wargods of Aegyptus and Rackham's Confrontation (I think the metal Confrontation mini's were my favorite of all time.)

I also started to re-visit the traditional board games. I found myself spending more time playing Robo-Rally, Settlers of Cataan and games like Carcassonne.


clue - All these games have something in common
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9. Board Game: Renaissance [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:6062]
Doug Mazur

Pacifica
California
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I married into a an instant family with 2 teenagers. Only the boy was interested in any of my games. My wife and daughter would play, but only reluctantly.

Then about 2 years ago I discovered the BGG and it has been and amazing resource and curse... ahem, I mean boon to my collection. I am not yet a math trade addict, but I have added a lot of quality games to my collection. With the variety and quality of many of the games available now, my wife and daughter play games with me more often than my son does. (He has been hooked by the computer games, which he feels are much cooler these days than my stuff). My wife likes Blokus, Bang and Cleopatra and the Society of Architects. My daughter likes of all things, Vegas Showdown, and I currently favor Power Grid, because of the mechanic which limits the run away leader issues of many games.

My family calls me names when we play. Names like, "ruthless", "evil" and "competitive", maybe because I don't let them win. (A lesson from my grandpa, I bet). My wife and daughter will always trade, align and support each other, rarely making a move that would inconvenience the other and happily sharing a victory if they could. And while they call me competitive, they don't care as much for the cooperative games where everyone wins or loses, they like the gang up on Dad games. I actually don't mind trying to win a vistory as the trod upon underdog. I am not sure why I am the "competitive" one, when my wife is the only one who gets upset if she loses. Go figure.

clue - always remembered
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10. Board Game: Generations [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Doug Mazur

Pacifica
California
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We are blessed with a newer five year old addition to our family. Daddy has been working on the early conversion to geekdom. We play all kinds of games, from the early kids stuff like Kerplunk and Don't Break the Ice to games that even come out of Daddy's closet. He plays Settlers of Cataan without much guidance at all. Though his objective in winning is to build all his road pieces to the exclusion of all else. He "wins" when all his roads are built. He also does surprisingly well at Robo Rally if we remove the timer and the damage effects from the game. He also even wins at Detroit/Cleveland Grand Prix with no help. When the family plays, daddy is the only one in the group who is willing to trap or cut off his car, and when people have to choose which cars to advance in addition to their own, lo and behold his car is often picked.

We are also home schooling him, and use games to teach geography (where have I heard that before) abstract thinking, patience, math, turn taking, logic etc. He is pretty good at math. He can count to 100 and add easily to 12 but he doesn't care for dice games too much. So instead of rolling to move (in games where that system is used) we have flash cards. He has words he needs to read. If he gets the word right, he can move the number of spaces equal to the number of letters in the word. He gets 2 cards for 2 dice etc. A wrong answer equals a "roll" of one. It works out pretty well.

Oh, did I forget to mention, I'm teaching him to play chess! I think my Grandfather would have approved.

clue - even better with great friends
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