Games I played in the first half of 2015

So far in 2015, I have played 28 unique board game titles. Of those, 7 are titles that I previously listed in Games I played in the summer of 2014:

  • 7 Wonders
  • Hanabi
  • Lord of the Rings: The Board Game
  • Love Letter
  • Puerto Rico
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Small World

And 4 are titles that I listed in Games I played in the fall of 2014:

  • Alien Frontiers
  • Bang! The Dice Game
  • Machi Koro
  • Village

New experiences

Of the 17 remaining titles, 6 were new games that I played for the first time this year. They are:

Castles of Mad King Ludwig
  • Castles of Mad King Ludwig – The box has a beautiful picture of Neuschwanstein Castle on it, but this is not indicative of the gameplay. Each player has different requirements for how they build their castle. The better they are able to fulfill these requirements, the more points they will get. Manage your money well by purchasing the rooms that give you the most bang for the buck, and you may have the highest score (if not the most beautiful castle) at the end of the game. A very fun game, though slightly on the long side.
  • Coup – Each player has two cards, indicating what abilities they have in the game. The catch is that you can lie about which cards you have, and perform abilities associated with a card you don’t possess.  If someone challenges you and catches you in a lie, then you lose a card. On the other hand, if you were telling the truth, then the challenger loses one of their cards. Lose both of your cards and you’re out of the game. The last player standing wins. Short and fun, this game is always popular.
Red 7
Red 7
  • Red 7 – Very unique. This game is just numbers and colors, but there’s a ton of strategy. Each color indicates a different win condition. Maybe you need to have the highest card, or maybe you need to have the most of a single number or color. Either play a card or change the goal each turn. If you aren’t winning at the end of your play, then you’re eliminated. If you are the only player left, then you win. This game can be played at various levels of complexity, making it ideal for beginners and experts alike.
  • Suburbia – This is designed by Ted Alspach, who is also the designer of Castles of Mad King Ludwig. While the games are similar, they are certainly not the exactly the same. Buy buildings and other locations with which to build your town. Manage your income and your population well, and you will end up with the highest score at the end of the game.
Ticket to Ride: Team Asia
  • Ticket to Ride: Team Asia – Yes, I have played Ticket to Ride many times, and on many different maps, but this is the first time that I have played with teams. It works surprisingly well. The team that cooperates the best will be triumphant.
Tragedy Looper
Tragedy Looper
  • Tragedy Looper – I am the bad guy, trying to make some tragedy happen. My opponents are the protagonists, trying to prevent the tragedy. I will succeed, and they will fail. The tragedy will occur. However, the protagonists are able to go back in time and try again. Use deductive reasoning to figure out what the tragedy is and how to prevent it. I love this game, but I haven’t yet found anyone else who enjoys it as much as I do.

Old favorites

The other games I have had in my collection for a while, and keep coming back to. They are:

Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge
Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge
  • Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge – Roll the die to pick an animal to add to the pile. Get three specific animals together to win. This game works great for adults and children alike.
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Tales of the Arabian Nights
  • Tales of the Arabian Nights – This is more of a shared experience than a game. Winning or losing is almost completely meaningless. It’s the journey that makes this game fun. Draw a card and consult the manual to determine your foe. Decide your response to the challenge, and discover the results. It’s almost always a surprise. This is somewhat like a Choose Your Own Adventure book that you all experience together as a group, and it’s Nora’s favorite game.
Defenders of the Realm
Defenders of the Realm
  • Defenders of the Realm – This game isn’t mine. It belongs to my sister, Laurel, and I’m always excited to play it with her. All the players work together to defeat the evil hordes plaguing our realm. It’s a difficult task. So difficult, in fact, that after several plays, I still have never won the game once. I have fun trying, though.
duck! duck! SAFARI!
  • duck! duck! SAFARI! – This box has several games in it, and several rubber ducks as well. Each duck is a different animal: Elephant Duck, Zebra Duck, Monkey Duck, and so on. My favorite game is a race that has surprisingly deep strategy, despite the cute trappings.
A Few Acres of Snow
A Few Acres of Snow
  • A Few Acres of Snow – This game is a recreation of the French and Indian War of the 18th century. One player controls the French troops while the other controls the British. Ally with the Indians and raid or attack your opponent. Each side has different goals, and different means to those goals. A Few Acres of Snow is a complicated but rewarding game.
Nuns on the Run
Nuns on the Run
  • Nuns on the Run – Another many-against-one game, Nuns on the Run is very different from Tragedy Looper in both mechanics and theme. One player controls the older nuns: the Prioress and the Abbess. The other players are novices, trying to sneak through the abbey on various missions without getting caught. I absolutely adore this game, but because of the complexity involved, there are very few people that I am willing to play it with.
The Resistance: Avalon
The Resistance: Avalon
  • The Resistance: Avalon – Each player is a knight and is either loyal to King Arthur or a follower of the evil Mordred. All the knights go on quests, and the evil knights secretly subvert the purposes of the good. If the good guys can ferret out the evil spies, then they will succeed in their quests. Otherwise, evil will triumph. This is a very short and fun game, but it requires a minimum of five players, so I don’t get it to the table too often.
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Sentinels of the Multiverse
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse – Each player is a different comic book hero, and all the heroes work together to defeat the evil villain. Strategies vary greatly from one hero character to another, and also from one villain to another. The heroic team that can best work together, making use of the strengths and abilities of each member, will successfully defeat the enemy.
Space Cadets
Space Cadets
  • Space Cadets – You are all cadets, learning the ins and outs of controlling an intergalactic space ship. Unfortunately, your services are required well before any of you have achieved competency. You are to be sent, wholly unprepared, on a deadly mission. Each player has a role: Engineering, Weapons, Sensors, Helm, etc. All the roles must cooperate to be successful. This game does an excellent job of making you feel like an incompetent fool who is in way over your head.
  • Timbuktu – Lead your caravan of camels through the desert, avoiding thieves along the way, to deliver goods at your destination. Use deductive reasoning to determine when and where the thieves will strike. The player who ends the game with the most valuable cargo of goods will win.
  • Whist – This is a classic Bridge-like, partner-based game for four players. I have consistently played Whist with my family since I was a child. I have never met anyone else who knows how to play, but whenever Marlene and I get together with my parents, it is one of our favorite activities.

– danBhentschel

Once upon a Black Friday

It’s Thursday, November 22, 2007, Thanksgiving evening. The feast is over, the food is in the fridge, and the dishes are in the dishwasher. My 4-year-old son and my 1-year-old daughter are at home, in bed, as is my lovely wife. It’s close to midnight, it’s 23 degrees outside, and it’s spitting snow. I’m on my way to Best Buy. Black Friday, here I come!

The deal

I’ve heard that Best Buy will be selling a Toshiba laptop, together with a Canon printer, for only $229. The word on the street is that the package will be incredibly limited, with only a handful available at each store. The deal is under-promoted, though. It’s not in the printed flyer, nor does it show up on most website listings. If I’m lucky, maybe there won’t be too many people there looking for this particular item.

The setup

I arrive at Best Buy, and there’s only a couple of cars in the lot. No one seems to be lined up outside the store. Yes! That laptop is mine! Or so I think…

I park my car and start walking up to the door when I’m stopped by a security guard. You can’t stay here. He informs me that there’s a line for Best Buy in the next lot over, in front of the Lowe’s building. I hop back into my car and head over. I soon see the crowd. Are they all there for my store??

Yes, they are. There’s a long line of people already. I fall in at the end and am immediately greeted by my neighbors in front of me. Can you believe this? Did that security guard stop you too? What are they thinking? What are you going to buy? Oh, you heard about the Toshiba too, huh?

The list

Some young lady approaches me and asks if I want to be added to an informal list that she is keeping. I’m number 17, she informs me. As long as your name is here, you can leave for a little while to go to the bathroom or get some coffee or something, and then get back in line again. You will be number 173 on the list. I give her my name and she adds me to the bottom and then moves to the next person in line…

The baby

…who happens to be a young lady with a three-month-old baby in a sling wrapped around her chest. Have I mentioned that it’s well below freezing and snowing out? What’s up with this woman?

It turns out that she’s also here to get a computer, though she has her sights set on a $199 eMachines desktop PC. Not a bad deal, considering that it comes with a monitor and a printer. But seriously? You’re going to stand in line for close to 6 hours in the snow, holding a 3-month-old baby, just to get a computer? Her husband is at home with their older child.

The wait

Time moves slowly. It’s cold. More people arrive. Some people give up and leave. I chat with my neighbors. Mommy feeds Baby. We all encourage each other. If I can, I’ll help you find what you’re looking for. Don’t worry. I’m sure that there will be enough.

The race

It’s getting close to 4:00 AM. Best Buy is supposed to open at 5:00. We see several sheriff’s office police cars pull into the Best Buy parking lot. People start murmuring. What’s the police doing here? Are they just here to keep the peace? Can we head over now?

List girl volunteers to jog over to find out what’s going on. Soon after she leaves, though, other cars start trickling into the parking lot. They’re parking. People are getting out. They’re not being turned away. What the??? They’re lining up in front of our store!

Where’s list girl? What’s happening? Everyone starts shuffling over towards Best Buy, but soon it turns into a mad dash. I stay with Mommy, who is moving as quickly as she can without jostling Baby too much.

More cars are pouring into the parking lot. The people behind us start to push past. I tell them, in no uncertain terms, that there’s no way they are going in front of Mommy and me. For a minute I think they’re going to try to fight their way past, but then they back down.

The confusion

By the time we get to the storefront, there’s a mob already there. People are everywhere. It’s kind of a line, but there’s very little order. No ropes, not a store employee in sight. More people are arriving by the minute, jostling for position. More cop cars fly in, lights flashing.

List girl is talking to a policeman, showing him her paper with a list of names. He’s not interested. It’s hard to tell in the press, but I estimate that there’s at least 500 people in front of me now, most of whom have arrived within the last 15 minutes.

The disappointment

Finally, Best Buy employees start to come out. They are walking up and down the line with stacks of tickets, handing them out to customers. Anyone want a Sony plasma TV? Who’s here for a washing machine?

I try to get some information on computers. Are there any Toshiba laptops left? The $229 one? No, that’s gone. How about the eMachines PC? Gone too.

Mommy and Baby leave. No computer for them. I decide to stick around. I’ve been here all night; might as well go in the store and look around.

The compromise

First $20 bill in my hand gets it! My head whips around. This ticket is for a $399 Sony laptop! Give me a 20, and it’s yours! I race to the man. There’s a crowd around him, but somehow I’m able to present the money before anyone else does. I don’t even know anything about this machine, but I came here for a laptop, and I’m going to get myself a laptop! Now I have a ticket.

The hero

Anyone want an eMachine? I don’t need this! I race in the other direction. This time, I’m the first one there. Where’s Mommy and Baby? How long ago did they leave? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? Maybe I can catch up to them. I jog back towards Lowe’s, but I don’t see her. I run back and forth between the cars in the lot.

There! There’s a woman in that car over there. Is that her? I bang on the window, and she jumps. Yep, that’s her, and she’s breast-feeding Baby. Oops. Mommy is very happy to have a ticket for her computer.

The laptop

It’s August 2015 now. I’m sitting in bed, typing this story on my (almost) 8-year-old Sony VGN-NR110E laptop. I’ve upgraded the RAM. I’ve replaced the hard drive. I’ve replaced the battery twice and the power cord once. I’ve replaced Windows Vista with Windows 7, then with an Ubuntu / Win7 dual boot, and just last week I upgraded to Windows 10.

Somehow, this old machine just keeps going. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t get the Toshiba. I’ve gotten my $420 worth from this Sony, and then some.

– danBhentschel

English: imprecise, chaotic, fun

I love language, in its many forms. I am a native US English speaker, and am also fluent in American Sign Language. I had 4 years of Spanish in High School, a couple of terms of Arabic in college, and have spent considerable time attempting to learn Japanese on my own.

I spent a couple years attempting to teach English to Chinese natives. During this time, I frequently felt that I was learning more about my own language than my students were.

I also thoroughly enjoy computer languages of many different flavors. I consider myself to be quite proficient in C, C++, Java, C#, JavaScript, Perl, and Bash, and I have written multiple programs in at least a dozen other languages.

So what, precisely, are you getting at?

English is an imprecise language, full of history, nuance, implications, and connotations. Given any mildly complex concept, there are hundreds of ways that concept could be expressed in sentence form, factoring in vocabulary selection, grammatical style, extent of descriptive language, and so forth. That last sentence was particularly tricky for me. Even though I knew exactly the thought that I wanted to express, it took several attempts for me to type it in words that conveyed the idea to my satisfaction.

Even a single English word can be ambiguous. If you have taken the time to read through a discussion I had with my friend Matt on the meaning of the word “offense”, you will see that it was a rather long journey for us to come to an understanding of how we each perceive the concepts imparted by that solitary term.

What did you really intend to say?

My son Tim (age 12) and I have had several discourses recently on the power and purpose of language. Tim has decided, as has many an adolescent before him, that the words uttered by another person must direct their intent. For example, if I were to tell him to wipe the table, he would very happily run a dish cloth over a small corner of the table and then explain at length why I should be satisfied with that interpretation of my command.

I have repeatedly attempted to explain to Tim that words convey intent, and that he should always strive to decipher the intent behind a person’s words, rather than stubbornly enforcing the first (or most convenient) interpretation that comes into his head.

That ain’t proper grammar!

The words we use don’t only impart meaning. They can also imply information about the speaker’s background, such as geographic origin or educational history.

Last week I had a dialogue with a colleague at work about the use of possessives when applied to inanimate objects. It is her assertion that an inanimate object can’t own anything, and therefore can’t take the possessive form, as in the car’s headlights.

After a bit of research, I decided that this is actually a commonly held misconception, but I also concluded that it’s best to avoid inanimate possession (as my co-worker recommended) because the impression of bad grammatical form is so widespread.

Awkward this sentence is.

As Yodish hyperbaton aptly demonstrates, many grammatically correct sentences just sound weird to us because they somehow deviate from linguistic norms. Not all awkward sentences are so obvious, though. Just tonight, Marlene and I were discussing a sentence similar to the following:

Jenny knocked on the door across from her and Jeff’s room.

I’m still not positive, but I think that the grammar of this sentence is correct. It sounds strange, though. If a reader needs to exert himself to parse a sentence, then the meaning behind the words may be lost.

Put it to the test??

I love the precision of computer languages. Ignoring the rare, random anomaly, all computers in the world respond to any given instruction in the exact same way. This truism has given rise to a practice called Test Driven Development (TDD). The core tenet of TDD is that the first step in writing a computer program is to write a test. This test ensures that your intent is getting through to the computer properly. Then all that is required is to fill in the language constructs that will make the test pass.

The TDD concept doesn’t translate at all to spoken (or written) language. How do you test the effectiveness of your words on your audience? Each person reading this very article will derive slightly different meaning from the words recorded in it. Even if I simplify the problem to an audience of one, that individual must use imprecise language to report back to me their perception of my intent. That’s not a very reliable test.

Would you please define “correct”?

One of the dirty little secrets of spoken language is that, despite what your 3rd grade teacher told you, there’s no such thing as “correct” and “incorrect” usage. What constitutes “correct” usage of the language is highly contentious, and is in constant flux.

The English language is continuously accruing new content: new vocabulary, new sentence structures, and new rules. If the sentence you have written is deemed to be somehow flawed, just wait 50 years or so. It may be perfectly acceptable then. Very rarely is anything removed from English. If such-and-such a famous author used such-and-such a phrase in such-and-such a composition, then it is a permanent fixture of the language.

Ultimately, “correct” English is determined by which combination of word will best convey the point you are trying to make. If you use words with ambiguous interpretation, then your essay will likely be misinterpreted. If you use confusing sentence structure, then your opus will likewise be confused.

For me, it’s like a game. Each sentence is a puzzle to be solved, and each paragraph an amusing conundrum. I admit that I am far from mastery of the language, but learning comes from experience, and the journey is, for me, an enjoyable one.

– danBhentschel