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ekted's brain dump

Not as article-based as my real blog. Not as stream-of-consciousness-based as Twitter. Let's see how this goes...

Archive for Jim Cote

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Mahjong

Jim Cote
United States
Maine
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Mahjong--in particular Riichi Mahjong (the Japanese version)--has become a new obsession. And although I rate two other Asian games--Go and Shogi--10's as well, Mahjong is nothing like either of them. It feels like a card game played with tiles. The nice thing about tiles is that you don't have to hold 13 cards in your hand. And there's something comforting about heavy blocky pieces. It's the most asymmetric game that I know (in an abstract way), but I'll post more about that in the future.

I started out my learning on YouTube, then proceeded to play using the MahjongTime client. It was too buggy and customer support was giving me the run-around. At the prompting of BGG Mahjong players, I switched to the Japanese Flash client at Tenhou. After reading an English guide to the client, and a couple of hours of play, it was perfectly comfortable.

I've had some really bad games, cursing the shuffling algorithm, and of course my own mistakes. This is my most recent game (61 in 5 weeks), where my opponents were probably cursing my luck.

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Sun Feb 15, 2015 10:02 pm
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BGG Needs Flags

Jim Cote
United States
Maine
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There are a number of people who I know that subscribe to me. Quite often, I'd like to alert them of something that I found on BGG (game, thread, image, etc.). But I'd prefer not to make a post just for that purpose. I should be able to click a little flag icon that simply says, "If you like the things I like, check this out." and the BGG subscription system would take them to the item of interest.

That being said, I recently stumbled onto Heavy Cardboard. Check it out.
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Sat Sep 13, 2014 4:27 pm
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What Are the Current Grail Games?

Jim Cote
United States
Maine
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I don't even know how to define a grail game, but we can all name them for ourselves.

Magic Realm
Glory to Rome
Dune

and maybe a nicely done English version of:

Die Macher


What are other current common grail games? What are yours?

Looking through the top 500 games, some possibilities for others might be:

San Marco
Princes of the Renaissance
Can't Stop
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Thu Sep 11, 2014 2:09 am
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I predict...

Jim Cote
United States
Maine
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...that in a few days: 11652 -> 22

I wanted to post my prediction without giving away what it is. Stay tuned.
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Sun Sep 7, 2014 6:55 am
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Selling all my games for $1

Jim Cote
United States
Maine
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I guess I'm just sick of all this stuff. Worker placement, auctions, CRT's, shuffling endless cards, and all the damn pizza at game nights. So I am selling all 272 of my games as a single bundle for $1. Free shipping to anywhere in the world.
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Tue Apr 1, 2014 4:05 am
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Ten Things About...Amun-Re

Jim Cote
United States
Maine
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This is the first post in a series of "Ten Things About..." an arbitrary topic that I pick. These posts are simply off-the-top-of-my-head ideas intended to promote discussion.



Today's topic is Amun-Re. I got a chance to play this gem yet again at LobsterTrap 2013. It shares a privileged place along with twelve other games that I rate a 10.

Its rank is 130, and 84 among strategy games. It's Reiner Knizia's 5th-highest-ranked game on BGG. It has over 20,000 recorded plays and almost 6,000 owners. It is generally unavailable without paying inflated prices.

It boasts many mechanics. BGG lists its only mechanic as Auction/Bidding. This is a little misleading. It also has Economy, Resource Management, Hand Management, Area Majority, and Simultaneous Sacrifice (my name). On the surface, these systems are clunky and detached. It's only when you are clearly focused on the goal that it comes together as a cohesive whole.

The map is 4x4, but only has 15 regions. Two are merged into a single region. It's fairly obvious that this was done in order to make the number of regions a multiple of 5. In this way, every region appears by the end of the third and sixth rounds.

There are 2 teams. For the purposes of the harvest (and every decision directly or indirectly related to it), players either want lots of gold per former or not. If it's 3v2 (in a 5-player game), it's a tense struggle to maximize your own benefits while minimizing others'. If it's 4v1, then you better not be the 1; you probably made a poor choice earlier in the round.

The bonuses are an individual luck element. This is most often a bad design choice for a euro game. However, in this game and Princes of Florence, there's a nice increase in risk over time, and the points are not out of line. Players get insight into the probabilities and possibilities of their future plans during the second and fifth rounds.

Always buy at least two cards if you can. Two cards costs 3 gold. They are worth 2 gold for simply turning them in, and one is usually worth more than 2 gold to your situation.

The free card symbols count towards the "7 Cards" bonus. Some people forget that huge, yet subtle rule. Also, extra farmers do not occupy farmer spaces. Also, the "8 Gold" card makes the province you play it on worth a total of 8 gold, not 8 extra gold.

Watch the backs of your opponents' cards. Every card has an "up" orientation on the front except money. Upside-down cards are probably money cards.

The starting player figure is Steve Holt.

Red is the best color.
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Fri Dec 6, 2013 12:03 am
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Back Online Soon

Jim Cote
United States
Maine
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My old computer hardware died several weeks ago, so I've been using my work laptop. Tomorrow my new computer arrives! I plan to "get back to normal" by starting to blog here more often. I'll spend a week or so getting the thing installed and configured. Then I have a 4-day game convention. After that, I'll hopefully blog about the con. I've also thought about starting a bunch of random and/or weird top-10 posts.

Stay tuned!



Edit: I've been inspired, in part, by N/A.
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Tue Nov 5, 2013 1:27 am
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Designer Diary: SFARPBG #8 - Killing

Jim Cote
United States
Maine
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In classic RPG's, the game master is omniscient. Encounters might include pre-rolled monsters. When you have dealt X hit points of damage, the monster is defeated. But in a solo game, when you are running the system yourself, this is a problem. You don't really want to know that "1 more hit point will finish this beast off".

Therefore, instead of fixed hit points (or even rolled hit points), I am going to use a sliding system of (usually) increasing probabilities for a kill. The chart for a given monster could look something like this:

Damage: 6-8 | 9-10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14+
Roll: 10 | 9 | 8 | 6 | 4 | *


Each time you inflict damage, you add it to the total inflicted so far. Look up this number on the "damage" row, and find what you need to roll to get a kill. The roll is, of course, good old               . To this roll, you add the damage you just inflicted. If the sum is greater than or equal to the required roll, you have killed your foe. Once you reach the starred damage, the monster is automatically dead.

An example using the above chart: You do 3 damage. 3 is too small for the chart. The monster lives on. On a later attack, you do another 2 damage, for a total of 5. Again, still alive. You do another 3, for a total of 8. The target roll for 8 damage is 10. You roll the 3 dice, adding 3 (for the damage you just inflicted). 10 or more is a kill.

The nice things about this system are that, 1) you never usually know how far you are from a kill, and 2) larger amounts of damage in a single attack increase the kill chances.

You can do some cool things with the charts. Imagine some kind of slime that has no discernible head:

Damage: 3-9 | 10+
Roll: 9 | 8


You could poke at it for quite a while before hitting something vital.
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Mon Jul 22, 2013 11:47 pm
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Designer Diary: SFARPBG #7 - Damage

Jim Cote
United States
Maine
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This is mostly a brainstorming article.

In the back of my mind, I've been thinking all along that the basic damage system would be attack roll versus defense roll. So, for example, an attack of           versus a defense of      would result in damage as the difference of the two roll totals, in this case (2 to 6) - (1 to 3). Once I started thinking about how this would play out in practice, it's not really as cool as it sounds. It's actually quite boring.

The attack is always the same range, meaning that all you care about is increasing your total attack numbers. The same holds for defense. Don't think of attack as only weapons and defense as only armor at this point. They are simply "things that can hurt you" and "things that protect you". In Dungeons & Dragons, when you are not truly role-playing, you examine the weapon and armor lists quantitatively. What does the most damage? What provides the best armor class bonus?

I wanted to give a slightly more qualitative nature to my systems, even though in the end, everything reduces to numbers. I have come up with the following: the colors rolled for defense can only negate those same colors rolled for attack. For example, if you are wearing red/green armor, it will not protect you at all from an all-yellow attack. If the attack is yellow/green, then the green portion of the attack can be canceled by any green defense.

Thematically, you could maybe think of green damage as the fast small stuff (daggers, claws, stings), the yellow as medium speed gashes/punctures (swords, arrows), and the red as slow bashes (hammers). Weapons that have more than one style of use (slash and jab) or different kinds of damage (mace = bash and stab) would span the colors.

However, because the numbers on the dice are organized in increasing range and values, they aren't easily assignable to a wide range of attacks and defenses unless I go one step further. And this is where I hope I don't go over the deep end in complexity. I propose to add two new concepts for rolling the dice and calculating the results as points (beyond the color attribute already mentioned):

One, add a fourth "color" which is not represented by a physical die. Call them "white points" or "bonus points" or whatever. These points cannot be canceled by colored points, only by other white points. White points can also cancel colored points. So for example, 2 different kinds of shield/protection spells might be 1) 1 white, and 2) 1 green, 1 yellow, and 1 red. The former gives you a constant reduction of 1 damage from all attacks. The latter offers broad protection that works best against attacks across more than a single color.

Two, add the ability to generate a huge range of values in various colors. I can't show it all simply using BGG's formatting options, but here's the gist:

    : Roll a red die to generate red points.

 2 : 2 green points (no roll). This might be better as 2.

 +1 : Roll a yellow die and add 1 to generate yellow points. The problem showing this as     +1 is that it looks like +1 white point. It's clearly a graphic design problem as much as a design problem.

 -1 : Roll a red die and subtract 1 to generate red points.

 [ ] : Roll a green die to generate white points. This one would need to by symbolized very carefully. Maybe a different outline on the icon of the die and/or a pattern to the green color. Maybe white points are never generated by die roll, but that gives up some of the potential of the system.

With all of the above, you can create some nice thematic elements:

- Monsters that are tough to hit with slow lumbering weapons (rats, bats) could have red defense. Likewise, monsters that are generally resistant to being stabbed (skeletons, stone-based creatures) could have green/yellow defenses.

- You might choose weapons/armor based on what you expect to encounter (related to a quest?).

- Attacks that do more broad-style damage (and some spells and other game effects) can include white points. Monsters that are tough across the board (or tough just to hit at all) can include white defense points.

- I don't want to get into encounters/combat yet, but this system also allows for the possibility of monsters having different kinds/styles/frequencies of attacks. For example, in D&D, some monsters have claw/claw/bite.


Next: Designer Diary: SFARPBG #8 - Killing
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Sat Jul 20, 2013 11:53 pm
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Designer Diary: SFARPBG #6 - Time and Weather

Jim Cote
United States
Maine
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In Solo Fantasy Adventure Role-Playing Board Game, time and weather are not simply thematic window dressing; they are tightly tied to everything else in the game. I picture the campaign game starting on a random date, with time ticking away as each day passes. I would also encourage players to keep a journal of their adventures, noting the date, weather, and interesting events.

So how does time play a role in the game? Time determines the seasons. Seasons determine the length of a day and the average temperature. The length of a day determines day and night.

Month Day/Night Temperature
Winter 1 --------********-------- --
Winter 2 --------********-------- -
Winter 3 --------********-------- --
Spring 1 -------**********------- --
Spring 2 ------************------ ---
Spring 3 -----**************----- ----
Summer 1 ----****************---- ----
Summer 2 ----****************---- -----
Summer 3 ----****************---- ----
Autumn 1 -----**************----- ----
Autumn 2 ------************------ ---
Autumn 3 -------**********------- --


Within a single day are 8 time periods, each 3 hours long, the names of which will be something like the following. The time of day determines the deviation from the average temperature.

Center Range Name Temperature
12am 11pm to 2am Midnight -1
3am 2am to 5am Small Hours -1
6am 5am to 8am Dawn 0
9am 8am to 11am Morning +1
12pm 11am to 2pm Noon +1
3pm 2pm to 5pm Afternoon +1
6pm 5pm to 8pm Evening 0
9pm 8pm to 11pm Night -1

The sum of these two produces an average temperature graph like the following. The large curve represents the warming and cooling of the seasons. The smaller curves represent day and night.



Temperature and daylight might affect travel, encounters, quests, commerce, danger levels, and weather. You might play differently when the days are short, or cold. Some things might only be encountered in the dark, when it's cold, etc. Maybe certain divine spells only work in the light of the sun--not just during the day, but full sunlight. You get the idea. That brings us to weather...

So far, I have determined 4 direct components to weather: temperature variance, clouds, wind, precipitation. A fifth indirect component is ground cover, which is a function of the other components over time. When a weather icon appears on an event card, the weather state is adjusted. The following is a quick attempt at the kind of chart you would use to lookup the changes using a series of the now-famous                rolls.

Roll Temp Clouds Wind Precip
3 -2 0 -2 -2
4 -1 0 -1 -1
5 0 -1 -1 -1
6 = -1 0 0
7 0 +1 0 0
8 +1 +2 +1 +1
9 +2 +2 +2 +2

If you rolled a 4 for temperature variance, you would lower the current actual temperature by 1. If you rolled a 6, you would reset the current temperature to the normal temperature for the current month and time of day. If you rolled an 8 for clouds, you would increase the cloud cover by 1, etc. Note that precipitation is limited by cloud coverage. So if it's partly cloudy and precipitation is at its maximum value, you can still only have a rain/snow shower. Cloud coverage also (partially) blocks the sun and moon (see below), making it darker among other things.

At each change in the weather, the ground cover is also updated. Rain causes mud. Snow builds up over time, and melts over time when it's above freezing.

I would like characters to experience discomfort in various ways because of time and weather. They will perhaps plan for it and/or acquire clothing/equipment based on it. It might be slower traveling at night, or over snow cover. You might get tired faster when it's hot, and need fire/shelter when it's cold. Do I want to deal with mundane sickness from the cold?

Obviously, the sun goes around the world (heehee) once per day, bringing day and night. But on Earth, our moon does not exactly match this speed. Relative to the sun, it moves west to east across the sky about once a month. I don't really want to model this in this game. The position of the moon doesn't really serve any thematic purpose other than its visibility. So I'm going to abstract the moon a bit. It will still have phases, but will simply "be there" at night (clouds and phase permitting), and will have exactly a one-month cycle. Note that months are exactly 4 weeks long as well.

Dates Phase (these will be images)
1- 2 New
3- 6 1/4 (waxing)
7-10 1/2
11-14 3/4
15-16 Full
17-20 3/4 (waning)
21-24 1/2
25-28 1/4

So new and full moons are 2 days each. The rest are 4 days each. The cool stuff with the moon relates to its visibility (easier to see at night) and its phase (appearance of monsters, spell effects, quests?). You might have a quest to acquire the hide of a werewolf. But maybe they only appear on nights with visible full moons. So every month when it's a clear full moon, you make a point to patrol for them. Dammit! It's raining again.

All of the above sounds quite complex, and it's been the source of a lot of focus for the design. As I said, each day has 8 time periods, 3 hours long. During each of these time periods, the character has a number of units of time in which to carry out actions. Right now I'm thinking this number is 12, representing approximately 15 minutes each. Some actions will cost no time, some 1 unit, and some multiple units. Once you reach (or pass) 12 units of time (which may be tracked on the game state board), bump the time of day marker. Adjust the temperature if necessary. If you hit midnight, adjust the day, and possibly the week, month, year. At the end of each time period, you will draw an event card. Among many other things, if it has a weather icon, adjust the weather. This should not happen very often, probably less than once a day.

The effect is that you will spend most of your game-playing time thinking about your actions, and only perform most of the mechanical things when prompted by an event. Time, light/dark, and weather should be in the background, but feel pretty natural. Of course, there's always the possibility of a powerful spell if you really don't like the weather...


Next: Designer Diary: SFARPBG #7 - Damage
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Sun Jul 14, 2013 5:14 pm
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