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August recap: brave men run in my family

Sean Franco
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If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?
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Summer comes to an end, and with this ending comes a brand new wave of anxiety. As Mizzou opens, a flood of undergrads have swept into town from all over the state, nation, and planet, and pandemic precautions have been (let's say) nominal. I was really hoping to see some closure to isolating with my family, not because I don't like them, but because I do miss being out in the world and gaming in public. This seems less likely now. I honestly have no hopes for normalcy any earlier than about twelve months out from right now. I hope I'm wrong. But enough about the casual disregard for society; let's do the numbers.

New-to-me Games

Board Game: Perudo

Perudo
This variant of Liar's Dice was simple but fun. We played on the fairly straightforward BGA implementation. Nothing I would write home about, but it covered the player number we were trying to cover at the time.


Board Game: The Voyages of Marco Polo

The Voyages of Marco Polo
I like dice in my games, but generally and especially AT games (or thematic, if that's the polite term nowadays). I was never a huge fan of dice Euros. The Voyages of Marco Polo isn't a huge exception. It did have plenty of ways to mitigate any issues of luck, but I wasn't hugely impressed by the play patterns or strategy. It's not a knock against the game; it did what it did well, but I just wasn't interested in doing those things. The BGA implementation was very smooth.


Board Game: Niagara

Niagara
Here's another example of a game doing something I just wasn't very interested in. The game system was pretty neat, and constantly fighting the current was good. I think this one for me was a matter of scale: it was too short to allow for error, but too light to overthink. I found the BGA implementation a little confusing, but I imagine that someone playing the physical game would have a much better read on the board.


Board Game: Potion Explosion

Potion Explosion
Just so you know it's not all dour reviews this month, I was actually quite taken by this game. Each turn was a fun little puzzle to try to unwind, figuring out how to use completed potions and a little perception to maximize the marbles falling into your lap. My big regret here was not playing it in person for the first time. I have to imagine that the visual and tactile impact of the physical copy is even more charming. That said, the BGA implementation was pretty slick, although the specific click-procedure for using some of the potions was a little vague.


New-to-me iOS Games

Board Game: Finished!

Finished!
I don't usually review mobile implementations of games, and I don't even generally log plays of mobile games unless another person is actually involved (like a pass-and-play game). But seeing how I can basically get the complete experience of Finished! from the app due to it being a solo-only game, I thought it was worth mentioning. I've played this ten times on the app, winning twice and losing but finishing with eight cups of coffee twice. This is a clever game, certainly, and very much a puzzle. What I like is how many of the card powers seem fairly useless, until that one situation that it dramatically improves your progress. I like games that acknowledge that not all powers or effects should be created equally, and the challenge in Finished! isn't just completing the goal but learning how to use those small corner-case powers to your ultimate advantage.


Online Games

Board Game: Colt Express

Colt Express
I played this twice this month. I don't think I'm getting better at it, but I'm not disliking it. At the moment, I'm looking at it as an activity I'm watching and influencing, but can't really get a good grasp on actually playing.


Board Game: Carcassonne

Carcassonne
Played one game of this. I know exactly what move I had a choice in that I chose wrongly and cost myself the game. Beyond that, I played a clever farmer game and had some nice cities—but not the nicest city I could have.


Board Game: Food Chain Magnate

Food Chain Magnate
I played this three times on BoardGameCore, once asynchronously and twice live. My asynchronous game actually started on the tail end of last month. I made a couple mistakes just from not reading all the info between turns up to two days apart, and those mistakes added up and cost me the game. I think I was honestly about three actions behind from turning the corner. My live games went much better; I won both of those. I'm still a big fan of BGC's implementation, and I'm even thinking about learning a new Splotter Spellen game to try out on that site...


Board Game: 6 nimmt!

6 nimmt!
I played this four times, all with six or more players. I'm definitely better at it with three or four players.


Board Game: Downforce

Downforce
I'm still enjoying this game, but I think some at the meetup have cooled on it. The opinion (which I've not been able to test myself, as others have cooled on it) is that only the first auction matters, and being in pull position basically wins you the game. Only played once this month, but I'm still interested in trying more.


Board Game: Can't Stop

Can't Stop
I got one game in, but I'll think about it for a while for two reasons. First, I went from last to winner in just a few turns. Second, we had a rare 3-2-2-2 final score, which made busting towards the end of the game very, very easy. Good session with unlikely throws.


Board Game: Diamant

Incan Gold
We played this twice at the virtual meetup. I like this as far as push your luck games go, largely because I think it's hard to correctly choose when to quit. It's much easier to quit at an okay but not great time. The BGA implementation is solid.


Board Game: Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg
Last month we played this on Yucata with the expansion. This month we played it on BGA without. I think I like the actual play experience a little better on BGA, although I missed the expansion. I played a two-player game, which I don't think I had done before. It's a different experience, feeling both tighter and more scripted.


Board Game: Sushi Go!

Sushi Go!
I almost put this in the new-to-me games section above, since it is technically the first time I've played Sushi Go!. On the other hand, I own and have played Sushi Go Party!, which appears to actually just contain Sushi Go! within its myriad of cards. We played twice on BGA, where it runs smoothly.


Board Game: For Sale

For Sale
I rocked at this simple filler, doing well at the auctions and the purchases, with coins left over, something which rarely happens with me. I won the one game we played.


Board Game: Coloretto

Coloretto
Played once. There was a new player who was basically choosing random stacks for portions of the game, which killed some of the strategy I was trying. Yes, I'm making excuses for losing. And yes, I still think I'm right.


In-person Games

Board Game: Fuji Flush

Fuji Flush
I've not been going to any in-person meetups, but we still have occasional contact with my brother's family, as we trust each other to be taking reasonable and consistent precautions. My neices love Fuji Flush, so it gets taken out nearly every time we meet for dinner. We played twice. It was nice to play physical games with tangible people.


Virtual RPGs

RPG Item: Jim Henson's Labyrinth: The Adventure Game

Jim Henson's Labyrinth: The Adventure Game
We finished up our campaign after two more sessions this month. My horned beast named Trag got knighted, went river cruising on a giant turtle, successfully disguised himself as a goblin using only a pumpkin as a helmet, and used a table to surf across a floor of molten soup. Upon confronting the Goblin King, Trag found something he didn't even know he was missing: self-actualization (it was actually a touching conversation).

The game has replayability, I'm sure, although I'm not as sure if I want to be the person to replay it. I still very much like it, but I do want a little more meat and statistics in my games. It was a pleasant way to pass the time.


Acquisitions

Board Game: Merchants & Marauders: Seas of Glory

Merchants & Marauders: Seas of Glory
I found this on sale and grabbed it now that it's back in print (I think?). Merchants & Marauders is one of my favorite adventure sandbox pick-up/deliver games, and everything I see in the expansion modules looks like it will be even crazier and deeper than before.

Board Game: Lazer Ryderz

Lazer Ryderz
This was given to me for free, which is a reasonable price. I love the aesthetic and packaging; for that reason alone, I can see this staying in my collection. The game seems pretty reasonable as well, nothing ground breaking but fun.

Movies

Minimal movies, because we spent much of the month finishing the final few seasons of Ballykissangel, a show that definitely starts better than it ends.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian: My wife had never seen this movie, so we watched it. I much prefer Holy Grail to it, largely because I think the flow and visuals are better, but Life of Brian definitely has a more effective satire. My wife liked it, but more because of the boldness of what it had to say and how it was said than because of the humor, which I think is a fair assessment.

Books

Not a big reading month again; I was constantly distracted. I did read Cimarronin, a limited series comic about a Japanese ronin and a Spanish Jesuit who get involved in the Cimarron slave revolt in colonial Mexico City. While this is an intriguing premise, the story is far too short to create any depth in plot or character. This needed to be far longer than just six issues, and as such I just couldn’t care about anyone or anything involved. Stunning art could have saved this, but the art is merely passable, clearing the threshold of what published comics should have at a minimum. The story is ostensibly set in the universe of the Mongoliad trilogy, but I didn’t notice any connection beyond an ongoing focus on a specific fencing and combat style. I can only recommend if you’re a Neal Stephenson completionist.

Music

External image


Bad Moon Rising / Sonic Youth: I've been listening to a 1985 playlist a lot in the past few weeks. Songs from this album keep coming up. I'm constantly reminded of the influence that Sonic Youth had on grunge and alternative music in the 90s. But if you knew that, you've probably already heard this record. If not, try out "I Love Her All the Time" or "Death Valley '69."

Podcasts

Life circumstances have made pod listening opportunities much more conducive this month. There's a lot to go over. Chapo had a great episode where they reviewed the 1990 Barbet Schroeder film Reversal of Fortune, based on the nonfiction book by Alan Dershowitz and featuring Dershowitz himself as the main character. Given how Dershowitz has been in the news in the past several months, the story he told thirty-five years ago takes on a wild context. (It's also weird that at least two West Wing alumni have played Dershowitz in different productions.)

I've been listening a lot to I Don't Speak German, an anti-fascist pod. They've had a great run recently, with the past three episodes (1 2 3) being on Brett and Eric Weinstein and their relationship with the so-called "intellectual dark web."

In an early Halloween episode of The Bruenigs, Liz Bruenig outlines the biblical and class origins of vampires in a fascinating way. Her movie recommendations at the end are a bit weak, but the bulk of the pod is fab.

Finally, over the past couple months I've been listening to Blowback, a ten-part series outlining how we got to the Iraq war of the 2000s and what we've forgotten about it. Often funny and never forgiving, this was a great examination of history and how everyone was lied to for power and profit. Big recommendation here.

See you space cowboy...
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Tue Sep 1, 2020 3:10 pm
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July recap: progressing onward

Sean Franco
United States
Columbia
Missouri
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Loving you is like loving the dead
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If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?
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Microbadge: Ameritrash fanMicrobadge: Karl MarxMicrobadge: Climate change scienceMicrobadge: My Favorite Contribution to BGGMicrobadge: Devoted Father
Not much (or, to be precise, any) solo gaming this month. My daughter is a handful at four months, so that takes a lot of my time. Also, my wife has been long-term organizing various things on our table, so that takes up a lot of space. But enough about the void in space-time; let's do the numbers.

New-to-me Games

Board Game: Russian Railroads

Russian Railroads
This was an online play at BGA with three players. It took about half of the game to find everything I needed reflexively with the implementation, so not the best I've seen. My actual problem was with the game play. It felt very scripted as far as engineers go. The first few actions of each round appear to oblige players to take steps (get money action, turn order action, other turn order action) such that no player ever gets to three engineers, much less four. Allowing someone to get to three or four engineers gives a massive points boost, not to mention a power-level boost. I don't really care for games that artificially decrease your actual number of actions with this kind of punitive play; the fact that this process isn’t intuitive doesn’t give a great first impression to me either. Finally (and this is just a "don't judge a box by its cover" bit), I was surprised that a game about trains and laying track had absolutely no spacial interactive elements. I'd be willing to try this again, but I'd also be reluctant to suggest it.


New-to-me RPGs

RPG Item: Jim Henson's Labyrinth: The Adventure Game

Jim Henson's Labyrinth: The Adventure Game
I've not played an RPG since grad school (a fairly spectacular Spycraft campaign that deserves its own story at some point). However, my old roommate invited me to his online campaign for Labyrinth, and I jumped on the opportunity. Labyrinth was a beloved childhood movie of mine, and the system was (according to reviews I'd read) fairly direct on experience and low on bookkeeping, which is what I'd want from an online RPG my first time.

The game is great. Character creation was a breeze. I wound up with a horned beast named Trag who is inexplicably great at hiding and sneaking, and also has a close friendship with all water. Our party of four made it through four or five encounters in the first session. The encounters are almost like little board game puzzles, but instead of some weird mechanics that gauge if the puzzle is solved, there's a GM that decides how well you helped build the story of the solution. It was a cute, weird little system, and I look forward to finishing our campaign.


Online Games

Board Game: Downforce

Downforce
The BGA implementation is still great. We got a couple games of this in at the virtual meetup. I'm working on my betting strategy, since that seems to be the place you have the most control.


Board Game: Celestia

Celestia
This BGA implementation is less good. You can't ever see the whole board, and it's unclear where some of the numbers apply. We had fun, but also kinda agreed not to play it on BGA again.


Board Game: Carcassonne

Carcassonne
It's also been some time since I last played Carcassonne, and even longer since I have with regularity. (In general, I prefer Carcassonne: The Castle.) BGA's implementation is very good, though. I was happy with my play (although I only got second out of four), and I would try it again.


Board Game: Dungeon Twister

Dungeon Twister
I played this on BGA with a friend who usually plays it with me annually at Geekway. We had a great time, although I mis-clicked on the turn I was going to win and accidentally lost all of my actions. I won the next turn (by a different method even), so it was a wash, but I was a little peeved with myself. This is still my favorite two-player game.


Board Game: 6 nimmt!

6 nimmt!
This has been my virtual meetup's go-to opening game. Also, I think BGA used to say beefheads and now says bullheads; has anyone else noticed this change?


Board Game: For Sale

For Sale
This was my first time using the BGA implementation. It works very well. We played it twice, both times with a new player. I almost never brought this to live meetups as a filler even though I own a copy, and I'm not sure why.


Board Game: Saint Petersburg
Board Game: Saint Petersburg: New Society & Banquet Expansion

Saint Petersburg (with New Society & Banquet)
Like Carcassonne, it's been years since I've played this with any regularity. I'd also never played it with the expansion before. I spent most of the game angling for second place, but lost it in the very end because I forgot that money turns into points. The expansion had some cute new cards, although I was even happier with the adjusted cards. The Yucata.de implementation is very nice, if occasionally overly cautious and redundant.


Board Game: Industrial Waste

Industrial Waste
This was an asynchronous game that I actually started in June. I've rarely had this game go so badly for me. I attribute this to never having seen so many accidents drawn in a single game, and often exactly when I couldn't afford to have one drawn. I ended the game with a personal high of three loans, yet still managed to not come in last.


Board Game: Can't Stop

Can't Stop
We played this on BGA to close out a virtual meetup. I only busted once, but still finished the game with only two points.


Board Game: Food Chain Magnate

Food Chain Magnate
We played this asynchronously on BoardGameCore with four players. I opted for a advertising/freezer strategy, but couldn't get pricing going fast enough towards the end. We started a second game right after with three of the four players, which is ongoing; I'll report on that next month.


Didn't Play Games

Board Game: Imperial Struggle

Imperial Struggle
I got my P500 copy in this month. I've lovingly punched and bagged it, set it up a couple times, and read through the rules and playbook twice. This game looks magnificent, and seems like it could surpass Twilight Struggle for me. After the world is a bit safer, this is going to be one of the first games I hope to get out on the table for in-person gaming.

Movies

Hamilton (new-to-me): I've yet to see it in person, but I've been listening to the OBC recording for over four years. The staging is wonderful, and there are so many moments of humor and emotion that just can't come across in the audio alone.

Pain and Glory (new-to-me): I enjoyed this. The childhood and adult portions were fascinating for different reasons. Meta-art (books about writers, movies about filmmakers) can be hit or miss, but this was a success for me.

The Invisible Man (new-to-me): This wasn't the classic with Claude Rains (a great movie). This was the one from this year with Elisabeth Moss. This movie had no right to be as good as it was. It's not an adaptation of the Wells novel at all (although it had enough Easter eggs to amuse me), focusing instead on an original story of trauma and abuse. I really liked this one and have to recommend it.

The Lighthouse (new-to-me): I didn't get it. It was visually interesting, but I couldn't get into it or really care about the characters.

Little Women (new-to-me): Never read the book or saw any of the other films, so this was new to me. Great acting and script. A bit strange how all four of the women (little) were American characters played by non-Americans. Fortunately, there wasn't an accent problem. Unexpected Bob Odenkirk.

Books

Not a big reading month, but I did continue was trek through Irvine Welsh. Filth is the story of a police detective. If this book had been my only experience with Welsh, I don’t know what I’d think. The POV character is racist, misogynistic, classist, and even anti-papist. However, with some Welsh under my belt already, Filth reads as a lengthy satire and condemnation of the “polis” in Edinburgh, from the prejudice to the abuse of power to the coverup of the murder case that ostensibly drives the plot. I’ve used the word depraved a lot with Welsh’s characters, but Bruce Robertson is probably at the bottom of the barrel. Good stuff. (Notable cameos from Begbie of Trainspotting and Ghostie of Marabou Stork Nightmares.)

I also reread Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. I got it for my wife to read when she wondered about princess stories that didn't have a helpless princess. She read it and enjoyed it, and I went through it again one evening. It's just a very fun read, subverting tropes and setting up very clever situations. We agreed that this will be a great book for our daughter to read some day.

Podcasts

Some good episodes this month. One was an episode of True Anon where they talk about the Veiled Prophet Society. As a former STL resident, this was fascinating. It's also crazy how they appropriated various Mardi Gras traditions for racist political maneuvering, and how this nineteenth century local powerhouse is still active today.

I also liked this episode of The Bruenigs titled "Fuck Ron Haskins." It looks at the dismantled welfare system and the ways we define poverty. Probably something everyone should listen to, just for the simple exposure to the arguments.

Finally, I was a big fan of this week's episode of Chapo. No special reason; it was just very well done.

See you space cowboy...
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June recap: you could sit at home and do like absolutely nothing and your name goes through like 17 computers a day

Sean Franco
United States
Columbia
Missouri
flag msg tools
Loving you is like loving the dead
badge
If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?
Avatar
Microbadge: Ameritrash fanMicrobadge: Karl MarxMicrobadge: Climate change scienceMicrobadge: My Favorite Contribution to BGGMicrobadge: Devoted Father
My online gaming stepped up a little bit from last month, largely owing to my old meetup group (Microbadge: St Louis Boardgame Meetup participant) inviting me to their online meetups, complete with video chat. Gaming with friends who I usually only anticipate seeing at Geekway anymore was great; the old rapport doesn't die. But enough about the unexpected; let's do the numbers.

New-to-me Games

Board Game: Colt Express

Colt Express
I played this at an STL Virtual Meetup on BGA. I've played a few programming games before (notably RoboRally), but this one was a very different experience, largely from the somewhat public actions. The implementation left a lot to be desired, as there was no indication (not even by hovering over) what cards did apart from the iconography, which with a player aid or experience would probably be sufficient, but was lacking and confusing for a first play on BGA. Overall, I liked the game and would try again at some point.


Online Games

Board Game: 6 nimmt!

6 nimmt!
We played this near the start of both virtual meetup events I went to, as it's extremely flexible in regards to player count. I won the first game with conservative play but did terribly in the second game a few weeks later. This second game was the first time I had played with nine players, which was far more chaotic and far less easy to play the odds on. Still a solid filler.


Board Game: Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico
It had been a while since I had last played this classic; it certainly isn't anymore the ever week game it was a decade ago. We played with five during a virtual meetup. I went with a tobacco/purple strategy, eventually maximizing a factory. I got two big buildings, but this game confirmed for me that it's always in your interest to build the Customs House even if you aren't shipping a lot; denying it to the shipper is just as good for you. I was a turn-order late for the Customs House and was ultimately shy of victory by just a few points. Solid session with all experienced players.


Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy

The Castles of Burgundy
I played this asynchronously with some high school friends on Yucata.de, a first game for the rest of them. It went down well. The implementation was fairly well done after I figured out where the various pieces of the game were hidden in the window, although I'm generally unhappy with how Yucata.de doesn't keep a game log for several of their games.


Board Game: Dungeon Twister

Dungeon Twister
I also played this with a high school friend whom I had taught this game to in person some ten years or more ago. This remains my favorite two-player game, and the BGA implementation is pretty solid. I want to delve into this one more since the online play is so smooth.


Board Game: Downforce

Downforce
We played this twice at my second virtual meetup. The implementation on BGA is great. We played with five for both games. I did fairly well in both games, though did not win either. I'm still experimenting with this game; for the first bet, I tend to always choose myself, because if I'm not going for the win still that early in the game, what the hell am I even doing there?


Board Game: Industrial Waste

Industrial Waste
We played this on Yucate.de during a virtual meetup. I was one of two experience players who helped teach two new players. The implementation (apart from the continuing lack of game log) is pretty good. I like this game a lot; it's a delightfully cynical look at capitalism and economics. I eked out a good win at the end, because of the end-game accident as well as making material auction bids prohibitively high for the other experienced player in the penultimate round, preventing them from fulfilling an order during the final round. (I'm in another asynchronous game of this right now, but I'll report on it next month.)


Movies

Waves (new-to-me): Interesting pacing and flow. Also feels like two very different movies just shoved together. I enjoyed it but don't feel interested in rewatching.

Bombshell (new-to-me): This wants to be a The Big Short or Vice version of the Fox News and Roger Ailes story. Amazingly acted, and it gets the visuals down pat, but it felt a little lacking in substance.

Richard Jewell (new-to-me): Well acted and interesting plot, but hard to take seriously when the goal appeared to be to demonize the FBI and other institutional safeguards. I won’t defend those things myself without restriction, but given the recent political climate and events, this seemed like a specific cultural battle Eastwood wanted to fight.

Jojo Rabbit (new-to-me): Absurd but sentimental coming of age story. I'm not sure that depowering Nazis by making them hapless and goofy is a solid strategy, especially given how sympathetic the film makes characters like Sam Rockwell's, but there were some good moments here.

Moneyball: I read the book this is based on last month, so I felt like rewatching the film. The movie puts a lot of narrative responsibility on Jonah Hill's character so as to not have to explain three decades of backstory, but the movie is still great. Solid performances from Pitt, Hoffman, Hill, and Pratt.

Iron Man: My wife wanted to rewatch some comic book movies. (There will be a trend.) This is a great movie, but you can really tell how this is a Bush-era comic book film as opposed to the Obama-era films that come later.

Iron Man 2: I actually like this more than the other Iron Man movies. I like the villain more, especially since he actually is highly successful at his goal: he proves that heroes are capable of being beaten.

Captain Marvel: Everyone kicks ass in this movie. Plus, the soundtrack and general 90s aesthetic serves the movie well. I'm looking forward to whatever they do with Carol Danvers in the future.

1917 (new-to-me): Beautifully shot film. I love what they do with the sets in this film. Very tense and satisfying.

Underwater (new-to-me): I don't usually become uncomfortable by watching movies, but this had me on an edge. It was surprisingly good (and surprisingly funny), but being trapped six miles underwater struck an unexpected chord of horror for me. Also did not expect the mythos at the end.

Books

I read Bringing Up Bebe. I had read one baby book before my daughter was born and read many selections of a second, but both of those focused largely on the birth process. Now that we’re past that, I opted to read a book about childrearing, albeit one which was probably equal parts memoir as well.

Pamela Druckerman, to her credit, leads off by acknowledging her economic privilege. She also notes that the bulk of her observations are built on broad generalizations. That being said... there’s a lot to admire about the French childrearing experience. A lot of this is due to the widespread and largely subsidized healthcare in France, as well as public institutions like the crèche or the maternelle that want to facilitate childcare and development without bankrupting parents.

However, without these natural human benefits available for us, there are still valuable lessons. French parenting, she says, is based largely on maintaining authority within a strict structure (the cadre), but allowing tremendous freedom within this structure. This freedom allows the children to both respect their position in society as well as be respected in the same way. It also allows them to fully feel and experience their world that they’re finding their place in. There are a ton of other differences, largely cultural, but there doesn’t seem like a good reason to reject this French method. I’ll certainly be keeping much of this in mind over the coming months/years to see what we can adapt. Caca Boudin!

In 2018, I decided to read all thirty books by Iain Banks. By my count, Irvine Welsh only has sixteen books, but I’ll still try to read through all of them. Full reads of Scottish authors may be my thing.

So I’m starting off with my only reread of the lot, Trainspotting. This novel contains a lot of what I’m led to believe are Welsh’s hallmarks: phonetic Scots dialect, sprawling stories, and fully repulsive characters. Amongst the cast, there are some sympathetic characters, but almost none I could wholeheartedly say was a good guy. Much of this is due to the depravity of the drug use (mostly heroin) and what this drives the characters toward, but plenty of the characters are not on heroin and are just bastards. Narration changed over a half dozen times through the book, and there’s not so much a plot as there’s just events that happen to the same group of characters. Do I recommend this? Not to everyone. Many people I imagine wouldn’t enjoy either the act of reading this or the content.

The Acid House is a short story collection. (Arguably, so was Trainspotting, but that had consistent characters, while The Acid House doesn’t.) Continuing the themes of repulsive and depraved characters, most of the stories revolve around drugs, crime, and/or depression. Standout stories for me were “The Last Resort on the Adriatic,” “Snuff,” and “The Two Philosophers.”

The back 40% of the volume is a novella. Generally, they would name the whole book after the novella, but this novella is titled “A Smart Cunt,” so I see how that might be detrimental to marketing the book. This book is set in the Trainspotting universe, as evidenced by a few appearances of Spud. It’s just as unfocused though, and the ending revelation feels unearned and accomplishes little. A fair read but seemed lacking.

Marabou Stork Nightmares is the first Welsh book I’ve read that feels like a proper novel. One narrator, just a few consistent plot threads to follow, and an actual building to a climax: these are all things lack in previous long-form works.

The book reminded me, in both premise and structure, of a novel by another great Scottish writer, The Bridge by Iain Banks. Both involve narrators in comas who have created fantastical worlds to live in while they process their comas. The similarities end there, but that’s a lot of overlap for two random books.

The unorthodox structure of the book works very well, in terms of plot and visual arrangement on the page. I’m often skeptical of books that buck standard paragraph structure, but this did it in a very smooth readable way. And for the actual content... It’s good, but it’s not about good people. I think what makes it interesting is there is a moral threshold in Roy Strang for what he will not do, but this is paired with an obliviousness towards his other crimes and immoral acts. I’m still not sure if he deserves what he gets in the story, but his constant desire to be better while doing terrible things is fascinating and good reading. (Also, another Trainspotting cameo, though only for one sentence.)

Finally, Ecstasy is a volume of three broadly unconnected novellas, all involving romance and taking ecstasy. “Lorraine Goes to Livingston” is the lightest of the lot. It’s also probably the funniest, despite the wrecked marriage and necrophilia. I liked it. “Fortune’s Always Hiding” is also a revenge story, but a little more disjointed in structure. It’s neat to see everything come together, but it took a bit to see how it was coming together, and the ending was rather abrupt. “The Undefeated” was also disjointed. It bounced between stories told by Lloyd (who was interesting but didn’t see to develop) and Heather (who was fascinating and had actually character progression). Generally, I enjoyed all three. Also, cameos from Renton and Spud in different stories.

Podcasts

I've gone through several quality ones this month, but here are two standouts. The first is from Cedric Phillips, Magic pro, content editor for Star City Games, and play commentator for SCG and WotC tournament streams on Twitch. He's also a young black man with some reactions and opinions on the George Floyd situation, as well as the recent allegations of racism that have recent been leveled against WotC. A quality perspective.

The second is from Elizabeth Bruenig, who discusses the historic Bubonic Plague, providing indirect commentary on our present pandemic situation. Entertaining and informative.

See you space cowboy...
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Wed Jul 1, 2020 4:15 pm
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May recap: the world turned upside down

Sean Franco
United States
Columbia
Missouri
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If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?
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This has not been a big gaming month for me. Scheduling difficulties prevented me from playing as many board games online with my friends, and similar issues prevented as much solo gaming. On the other hand, my daughter is sleeping more readily and for much longer stretches at night, so that part of my life has calmed down. A welcome consequence of that has been that I've had more time and ability to read in bed at night, drastically upping my reading output. It's all been a good distraction from the goings-on in the world, which if I didn't have a newborn, I would be much more actively involved in. But enough about civil unrest; let's do the numbers.

New-to-me Games

Board Game: Not Alone

Not Alone
I'm generally a fan of one-vs-team games. This one fell flat for me, but I think it was probably not the game's fault this time. We played it online, on BGA, but instead of playing it live, we played it as a turn-based game over several days. Without voice chat to provoke active discussion and bluffing, there wasn't much to the game other than playing a random card and hoping it worked. That said, the game did come down to the last turn; either team could have won on that turn, had the cards come up differently. I'm willing to give Not Alone the benefit of the doubt and try it again, but I wasn't very impressed with what I saw in my lone session.


Online Games

Board Game: El Grande

El Grande
With the same group, we did play El Grande live on Yucata.de with four players. It was the first game for the other three, but they took to it quickly. I took an embarrassing second place, as I lost by two points, and I know where I left four points on the board in the final round. Overall, a great session and a good time.


Solo Games

Board Game: Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game

Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game
Progress is slow with WQ. Part of the issue is that I'm not actually following the campaign rules. I'm not doing each scenario once and moving on with the consequences of my win or loss. I would happily do this if I was playing with another player, but playing it solo, my interest is much more based on if I'm actually able to beat each challenge. As such, I'm stuck on scenario 3 right now, which requires an intense combination of speed and focused damage, and that's a difficult balance for me to find right now. I'm still experimenting. Played four times.


Board Game: Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game

Dead of Winter
I tried out a solo scenario I found in the forums. I wonn on the fifth round. I feel like I was lucky, but it passed the time nicely enough that I’ll try it again to see if there’s any challenge in there. I could see that some of the events and item draws came up very lucky for me, and I had no real morale threat. All of that could have easily played out differently.


Books

As I noted in intro, my reading has gone back up to 2019 levels, probably the best reading I've done since I moved to Columbia. There was one pre-pandemic library book, but I'm also the sort to own many books that I'm going to read "someday." That day(s) has come.

I started with The Chapo Guide to Revolution, written by the current and former hosts of the podcast Chapo Trap House. The book lacks the sharp analysis of the podcast, resorting more to absurd satire and parody. It’s also less of a guide and more a series of comedy hit-pieces on a variety of subjects: liberals, conservatives, the media, &c. The book passes the time well enough, but did not quite satisfy my expectations. I still recommend the podcast though.

Next was Modern Masters of Science Fiction: Iain Banks by Paul Kincaid. It’s been a while since I’ve read a critical survey of an author, since grad school at least, this slim volume looking at Iain M Banks. To a lesser degree, it also examines Iain Banks. (The difference is that books published with the middle initial tend to be hard science fiction, often space opera. Books without the middle initial could be anywhere from realism to the fantastical.) All of the Culture series is looked at closely, with additional attention paid to his pre-SF novels that have SF conceits, his later novels that lean heavily into the fantastical, and his non-Culture hard SF. Kincaid does a deep dive here, looking not just at Banks’ bibliography but at a number of other critical works examining Banks’ books (although he acknowledges near the end that there’s been a dearth of published criticism and research on him). A few bits disappointed me. There was no examination of The Crow Road (my favorite Banks book), which makes sense to a degree as it has basically no SF or fantastical elements. Kincaid is also very hard and sometimes dismissive of Banks’ output after Look to Windward. This period had some of my favorite Culture novels (and others), and it felt like sometimes that the grave sins of Matter or Surface Detail were that neither were Use of Weapons. Overall, a solid read that at least highlights and expands upon the major themes in each of Banks’ SF works.

I then started a sequence of three books by Michael Lewis. Moneyball was great. It spoke to me on a few levels. First, it’s all about the Oakland A’s. I grew up as a fan of the A’s; I had a team poster with Canseco and McGwire in my bedroom. Second, it highlights the ways that we really know very little about things with high consumption and interaction. Bill James, Billy Beane, and Paul DePodesta (amongst others) all understood that in baseball:

• the most easily attainable and referenced stats can be the most misleading or useless, and
• most institutional knowledge is maintained by inertia and not results.

Hence, Billy Beane plays the game of moneyball and finds statistically valuable players that are not valued highly by institutional standards. His process is definitely the interesting, as are the varied backstories of players, managers, and analysts that spin off of Beane’s story. (I also was a fan of the film adaptation, which features Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, although it does expand to several scenes some conflicts which are resolved in a single paragraph in the book.)

The Blind Side is a very different book than the film, to its benefit. Maybe half of the book is about Michael Oher. The balance is about the history of offensive line tactics, as seen through the context of Lawrence Taylor, Bill Parcells, and Bill Walsh. The New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers are examined for how their respective defensive and offensive players helped change pro football (and later college football) from as rushing game to a passing game, and how left tackles became the most financially valuable players on the team.

Contrasting this discussion is the story of Michael Oher and his time in high school and college. It’s kinda an unbalanced story, since apart from emphasizing Oher’s physicality and athleticism, there’s not a direct connection between the two halves of the book. Oher’s troubled childhood and eventual adoption by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy is also detailed. Lewis neglects mentioning his lifelong friendship with Sean Tuohy until the author’s note at the end of the book, so he lacks a critical eye when looking at the relationship between Oher and the Tuohy. The book seems oblivious to the Tuohys social privilege, and only addresses the white savior narrative in as far as the potential adoption scandal investigated by the NCAA. As a result, the story is a little disappointing, as there’s obviously a lot of criticism and commentary that could have been picked up for the Oher story that would have better matched the parallel historical narrative in the book.

Finally, I read The Big Short, an examination of the build up to the 2008 financial crisis and those who got rich betting that the economy would fail. Briefly, you should read this book, or at least watch the excellent film adaptation (itself a very good vehicle for breaking down economic jargon and explaining exactly what happened). Here’s the premise: for years, banks had been loaning money in the form of subprime housing mortgages. By definition, these were risky loans, otherwise they wouldn’t be subprime. Investment banks then bought these loans as bonds, packaging them as diverse rather than risky so that credit ratings agencies would label them as high-value, low-risk investments. These bonds would then be seen invested in by retirement funds and other accounts that were restricted to only AAA investments, which these subprime mortgage bonds appeared to be. When the interest rates of the original mortgage loans were jack up from the low teaser rates to predatory rates a few years in, it created a domino effect, causing funds that didn’t even know they were invested in subprime mortgages to fail.

Here’s the spoiler for the end of the book. Despite investment banks causing the crisis through either ignorance or indifference, no one of note went to jail. Many of the banks still exist, and the too-big-to-fail banks that did fail were simply bought by the surviving banks. In fact, just like those that bet on the economy and subprime bonds failing, those who caused the problem generally came out richer. It was the average American who didn’t even know that their bank or retirement funds or any other investments were even tied to deceptively and erroneously labeled subprime mortgage bonds that wound up being the real loser.

It seems from reading these books that the economy appears to be simultaneously very important and a wholly fictional construct. Investment markets look like a house of cards that shouldn’t exist, and no one should have or control as much money as these bankers do. Yet, over a decade later, we’ve already forgotten the crisis that banks brought upon themselves.

See you space cowboy...
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Mon Jun 1, 2020 3:10 pm
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April recap: solo games and online games and little lambs eat ivy

Sean Franco
United States
Columbia
Missouri
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Loving you is like loving the dead
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If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?
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Microbadge: Ameritrash fanMicrobadge: Karl MarxMicrobadge: Climate change scienceMicrobadge: My Favorite Contribution to BGGMicrobadge: Devoted Father
If I were to say this has been an unusual month, I probably wouldn't surprise anyone. It's probably obvious, given what most of us are going through. I do have plenty of tasks to occupy my time, given that my daughter is just over a month old now. Newborns are time consuming (again, obvious to anyone who's ever been in similar situations), but not in a structured way. As such, it's hard to get reading done, as I like to settle down and focus on a book. It's a little easier to get gaming done, since I can step away for a second, but everything remains on the table, laid out in its place until I return, and probably being turned over in my head while I complete whatever necessary parental duty has arisen. This is even easier with some online board game implementations. Specifically, I've played around some with BGA. But enough about how I'm dividing my time; let's do the numbers.

New-to-me Games

Board Game: Chainsaw Warrior

Chainsaw Warrior
This was actually lent to me about a year ago, but then the friend who lent it to me moved to Canada. Strange how things work. I'll give it back if/when I see him again, but until then, this was a good opportunity to try this classic out. This is a solo-only game, about as pulpy and comic book-y as you can imagine (the backstory is actually provided in a comic book in the box, separate from the rules). This game shows its age in character creation, not even attempting to balance out potentially poor rolls for stats. It reminded me of old school D&D in that regard, as well as reminding me on how forgiving modern RPG character generation can be. My game went generally well. I randomly drew a chainsaw as one of my equipment cards, and it's easy to see why they named the game after it; it was very powerful and versatile. Unfortunately, in my journey through the haunted (by inter-dimensional zombies) house, I cam across the chasm with no way across, requiring me to back track all the way out and basically eating my remaining time before losing the game. This was a solid experience, delightful in its unfairness.


Board Game: Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game

Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game
And this is another game that had been sitting unplayed on my shelf for a while. I had been wanting to play it coöp with a group, but decided to go solo instead. The rules recommend playing with two of the four characters while playing solo (with double actions), but I forwent that in favor of just playing all four characters myself. I've played through the tutorial and the first two scenarios so far. This is an interesting puzzle of a game, with enough randomness to make it not perfectly solvable. I like the interaction between the characters and the balance between exploring the dungeon and fighting the monsters. I kinda wish there was another axis to solve beyond just these two things, some kind of more thematic puzzle or quest; on the other hand, the game is difficult enough. Regardless, I look forward to finishing this campaign over the next few days.


BGA Games

Board Game: 6 nimmt!

6 nimmt!
This was a game I had played a few times last year in person. The online implementation is actually very smooth. It's takes care of the minor tedium of "where does this card go?" and animates it as well, making it clear what was happening each turn. I played 2 five-player games of this in succession, which is the most I've ever played with. I'm still curious to play this with ten people, just to see what it's like.


Board Game: Red7

Red7
I've played Red7 several time in person. This was my first time online. I'm not sure I was as big of a fan of the implementation here. It was functional, but not intuitive. This followed our 6 nimmit! games, so the contrast was clear. The game played fine, but I'd rather do this one in person in the future.


Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization

Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization
I never get a chance to play this, so playing it turn-based over a few days actually worked out really well. The UI is great for this game, as is the rules enforcement. I played 3 games total: 1 four-player game with my groomsmen and 2 two-player games with a local friend of mine who was up for learning. To my own astonishment, I won the four-player game, which no one would have predicted in the first two-thirds; I was very behind in both culture and infrastructure. I also won the first game against my local friend, who was still learning. He won the second game; we both agreed it was because of a single hidden scoring card at the end of the game he had played that gave him 20 unanswered points. Even with this, he only won by 3 culture, so I still feel pretty good about how I played.


Solo Games

Board Game: Welcome to Centerville

Welcome to Centerville
There's not actually a solo-mode of this game, but there is a robot to enhance the uncertainty of the two-player game. I decided to try two robots to see how it well it worked. It did technically work, but it did not work well. I scored 106 points, which is well above anything I've ever seen in this game. It was not competitive at all. It passed the time, but I'll have to see if there's a more developed solo mode for this game that someone else has created.


Board Game: Race for the Galaxy
Board Game: Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm

Race for the Galaxy (with The Gathering Storm)
It had been a few years since I played the solo game against the robot that came in the first expansion. The robot was actually the main reason I bought that expansion, but I found it so brutally difficult to not be satisfying. I wound up liking the extra cards and goals a lot, so I kept it. I tried against the robot again, losing once and winning once, both on easy difficulty. I'm still not sure how to keep pace with the robot in non-military strategies. I might keep diving back in, but I'm not sure if it's rewarding still. It's certainly easy to play, mechanically. Just rough to play, morale-wise.


Board Game: Runebound (Second Edition)
Board Game: Runebound: Shadows of Margath (Second Edition)

Runebound (Second Edition) (with Shadows of Margath)
I've only ever played this game solo. I like it a lot for this mode, though. It's absurdly easy to setup and just knock out a game, with enough puzzle and risk to keep it interesting. I don't know how I'll ever like the game if I play it with other people; I imagine there would be much more of a race to certain encounters and markets, but with the travel hazards variant, I'm already encouraged to not dawdle.


Board Game: Tapestry

Tapestry
The robot (or Automa Factory) that comes with this game is actually pretty good. It provides an interesting challenge, with a very simple interface to use. I am still impressed with what it does with just a deck of cards. I had a solid win with the Militants over the Conquerors, which obviously led to a very confrontational game. This is still a charming game, and I like the solo play, but it does lack some of the broader narrative of playing it multiplayer.


Board Game: Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game

Castle Ravenloft
While most coöp games can easily be played solo (including this one), there's actually a challenging little scenario in this game designed specifically for solo, titled "Adventure: Impossible." You send in one of the five heroes to explore, attempting to find the three bosses that have been randomly seeded into the map. When that hero dies, send in the next hero. You basically have only five lives to find and kill all three bosses. The Ranger over-preformed in this session, as usual. Without the Ranger, I'm not even sure how you kill the Werewolf (which I randomly drew for this session). I won the game on my fourth hero, so I was fairly happy with my play.


Podcasts

I've had a lot more time for podcasts, since I can listen and take care of baby stuff as the same time. Here are a few pods that stood out to me.

This episode of The Bruenigs had a fascinating look at the economic stimulus, but specifically through tax policy. There's a great look at tax preparation services and the deliberately oblique nature of tax credits.

There were two episodes of Chapo that stood out to me. The first looked at the heavy metal scare of the 1980s, especially through the context of Tipper Gore, the PMRC, and her book Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society. Very good analysis and very funny.

The second was an interview with a Teamster, looking at how UPS is handling the pandemic from the worker perspective and the problems that labor are experience which have become exasperated by the current situation. I have family in the Teamsters, so this hit pretty strongly with me.

See you space cowboy...
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Fri May 1, 2020 4:05 pm
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March recap: love in the time of covid

Sean Franco
United States
Columbia
Missouri
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Loving you is like loving the dead
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If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?
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Microbadge: Ameritrash fanMicrobadge: Karl MarxMicrobadge: Climate change scienceMicrobadge: My Favorite Contribution to BGGMicrobadge: Devoted Father
I'm not the only one this has been a wild and unpredictable month for. There's global crisis, ambiguous leadership, and uncertain future. Social gatherings for gaming have vanished for most people I know of, and this was an essential outlet for contact and entertainment for many, including me. We will persevere, though. This blog post will be a little slimmer than in the past, and I imagine that my April post will be even slimmer itself. Although I've not done much gaming since 12 March, I have been fully occupied. So, before we do the numbers...

New-to-me Family

From gallery of logopolys

I'm a father now! My wife and I welcomed our first to the world, a wonderful little girl. Objectively, she is the best baby ever; I will not respond to contradictions to this statement.

Some Games

Lord of the Rings: It'd been over a decade since I had last played this UR-coöp. We lost badly once and respectably once. Played 2 times.
Welcome to Centerville: Still my favorite dice game. I branched out more into river strategies this time, and it paid off. Also got a rare five-office score. Played 2 times.
Trains (with Rising Sun): Introduced this deckbuilder with a board to the group. They liked it. I got a strong second place. Played 1 time.
Pandemic (with On the Brink): If this is a forecast of the real world, things are dire. Fortunately, we're just not that great at this game. We used the purple mutation virus and get-2-keep-1 roles. Played (and lost) 3 times.
Beowulf: The Legend: This went down really well last month, and went down really well this month. My group loves how it combines push-your-luck with auctions. Played 1 time.
Race for the Galaxy (with The Gathering Storm): Had some face to face games of this, and also one game on BGA with my groomsmen. We've been trying to explore online board gaming when we have time. Played 3 times.
New York Slice: The tastiest filler for six players. Taught a few new people, went down well. Played 1 time.
Fuji Flush: Taught this filler king to a few new players. Played 2 times.
Fortress: Taught this to three new players. They thought it was interesting, but were not as enamored by the Fast Forward system as I was. Played 3 times.
Suspend: Got in a game with my nieces before the quarantine started. Played 1 time. Also GMed about 5 games of Slide Quest for them and my brother.
Can't Stop: Played this abstract with my groomsmen on BGA. Played 1 time.
Futuropia: My first dive back into solo during the quarantine. I did the upgraded expert game. I started with the solar power apartment, alternate 12 food generator, and low subsidy start. I ended with 154 points. Played 1 time.
Jaipur: This is one of my wife's favorite games, so I stuck it in my bag. We played in the hospital the night before my daughter was born. I rocked the first round, she rocked the second round, and the third round was very close, determined basically by camels. Played 1 time.

Movies

The Farewell (new-to-me): This was really good. It had a great mix of funny and sad, and did a wonderful job of highlighting and contrasting so main cultural norms. I recommend.

Goodfellas: One of my favorite gangster films. The pacing and editing is relentless. I love it.

Drive: This one always has a strange atmosphere. I like it's use of archetypes.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: I know this isn't the best movie, but I saw it a lot growing up. Along with the Disney fox cartoon, this is my Robin Hood. I'm not ashamed.

Ex Machina: Second viewing after a couple years. Still stands up, even knowing the ending. Almost more brutal this time.

GoldenEye: This good-not-great Bond film says something about the 90s, but probably not what it wants to say. Still fun.

My wife and I have also been rewatching the State of Play miniseries. We both love it; it's probably her third time and easily my eighth or more. I've also been solo watching DS9 for the first time. I'm in mid-season 3 presently.

Music

External image


Music for the Jilted Generation / The Prodigy: When I was still driving around a lot earlier in the month before quarantine, this was the jam. I've not been driving as much, and not playing any loud music with my daughter around, but this was the start of March for me. Check out "Their Law."

Books

Our library closed a few weeks ago, but I had a couple books checked out and a bevy of books of my own to read or reread. I started out with a reread of Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. It's one of my favorite books still, examining the weird intersection of hacking, religion, and linguistics.

I also read Open Borders by Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith. It's a nonfiction comic book arguing in favor of global open border policy. It has a clear thesis of how open borders advantages everyone economically, then spends a few chapters trying to address the major arguments against open borders. If it had stopped there, I would have been satisfied and would have happily recommended this book to everyone. Caplan starts to lose me time in the second half of the book though, starting with his chapter on keyhole solutions. Here, he proposes a number of discriminatory ideas to make open borders more palatable to those who would oppose it, repeatedly arguing that as discriminatory as they are, these ideas are still technically better than the status quo. I was completely lost with this presentation of capitulation and incrementalism. He also lost me when he veered off-topic to attack leftist systems. I understand that Caplan is a staunch capitalist and anti-socialist, but he has a full chapter that tries to demonstrate how open borders appeals to every political and philosophical ideology... but never addressing socialism and open borders, only addressing socialism as a threat.

Finally, I read The Chapo Guide to Revolution, a political comedy book from the guys who do the Chapo Trap House pod. It was absurd and silly, kinda what I needed right now.

See you space cowboy...
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Wed Apr 1, 2020 6:38 pm
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February recap: leap day, still play

Sean Franco
United States
Columbia
Missouri
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Loving you is like loving the dead
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If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?
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Microbadge: Ameritrash fanMicrobadge: Karl MarxMicrobadge: Climate change scienceMicrobadge: My Favorite Contribution to BGGMicrobadge: Devoted Father
Early in the month, I was still recovering from and riding the high of Geekway Mini (last ish —Smilin' Stan). Things soon settled down again into the normal routine. There was fortunately a lot less travel this month and I stayed local, free to relax and prepare for the chaos next month. But enough vague-posting; let's do the numbers.

New-to-me Games

Board Game: Era of Kingdoms

Era of Kingdoms
This was a thematically interesting tableau builder, playing up standard tropes of the middle ages. It visually hit a lot of the beats that I would want from the theme. The game play was a different story. The tableau building was very straight forward, placing cards based on having passed a threshold of matching symbols and often leveling up previously played cards if you have the right card. There was also a mechanic for paying direct left and right neighbors to borrow their symbols, similar to 7 Wonders or NEOM. There wasn't a lot of interesting choices, and a lot of the variance seemed to come from luck of the draw rather than player agency. I might try again, but my one play didn't inspire me to go find a copy.


Board Game: Byzanz

Byzanz
This was an interesting auction game. You develop sets of goods for points, but you win new goods by bidding goods in your hand. This forces hand-management decisions concerning whats good for cash and what's good for points. Cards spent for cash don't go away though, since they can be claimed at the end of the round as goods again. For a fast auction filler, it was alright. The decisions were interesting, and there was plenty of variance to not feel bad about poor decisions.


Board Game: Slide Quest

Slide Quest
This four-player dexterity coöp was goofy. Generally, each player can tilt the board in a unique direction, causing the shared knight token to slide around. Often, you want him to follow a narrow path. Sometimes, you want him to push enemies into holes. The game rocks a video game sensibility, with twenty unique maps with different 3D furniture setups, a life counter with ways to regain lives, and boss battles every five levels. It was gleefully goofy, and I approve of it as both a light dexterity and a light coöp.


Other Games

Big City: This was a game I won of copy of at Geekway Mini. I think I'm improving at it, and it still has a hell of a table presence. Played 2 times.
Suspend: Whenever we play this, even the Magic players get distracted from their games. This looks big and weird, and it's immediately clear what the goal is. Played 3 times.
Race For the Galaxy: I've had an itch for this for some reason, so we've kept playing this in the past couple weeks. I've had a good run, only losing one game recently. Played 4 times.
Urban Sprawl: This was requested by someone who hadn't played, but they didn't show up. We played anyway. I had three political offices at the end of the game, and their bonus points gave me the win by two points. Great session and close game. Played 1 time.
Shadows Over Camelot: It's been several years since I've played this, and it was burning a hole on my shelf. We lost badly, partly due to the traitor starting with the Fate card and using it almost immediately. Played 1 time.
Zendo: I introduced this to a new player with more experienced players also playing. After a couple games, they wanted to try a Difficult rule. They gave up almost an hour later, not coming close. Played 3 times.
Dominant Species: I scheduled a four-player game and wound up with Insects again. I maintained a lot of majorities, but few dominations. The Bird player won overwhelmingly through favorable Dominance cards, beating the rest of us by some 80ish points. I was able to scrape a second place win, one point ahead of third and two points ahead of fourth. Played 1 time.
Fuji Flush: Played with my brother and nieces. It's a game they really like from my collection. Played 1 time.
Taj Mahal: I'd been bring this to meetups as a possible five-player game, and we were in a five-player situation. I was able to lead the first half of the game, scoring 10 points from the Princess alone. I struggled in the second half, having no viable network connections and little luck grabbing elephants. I ultimately came in third. Played 1 time.
Coloretto: This was an easy five-player filler. There were a couple of new players, but it was well received. Played 1 time.
Red7: I played this with three. We each won a game, and then I lost the tie-breaker game. Played 4 times.
Modern Art: Someone had been asking for this and I had been bringing it, but I never want to play with three. We meant to play with four, but it turned into five. I happened to never buy a painting and lost, only tripling my starting cash. Still had fun. Played 1 time.
Beowulf: The Legend: I think this Euro has a slightly maligned reputation. I've always liked it. I especially like how, for an auction game, you can just go nuts on pushing your luck with the risk system. We had a blast with this. Played 1 time.

Movies

Parasite (new-to-me): I've watched Korean films for some time now, and this was my third film I'd seen made by Bong. I loved it, for its humor, its darkness, and its class commentary.

Django Unchained: Habitual rewatch. This is one of my top Tarantino films, largely on the strength of Christoph Waltz's performance.

The Lives of Others: It had been a while since my wife and I watched this. The Stasi are an underutilized entity in crime and espionage film, and they work really well here.

Bill Hicks — Revelations: It's funny. The goat boy bit wears thin, but his comments on marketing and drug policy are great.

Wargames: This stands up as a film. I get a lot more than I understood when watching this as a kid. Also, John Spencer is in the beginning scenes!

Snatch: Not as good as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but it makes use of its A-list cast effectively.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (new-to-me): This was a heart-breaking film. I almost knew how it was going to end when it started, and somehow it had a lot to say about the gig economy without ever mentioning it. I recommend.

A Few Good Men: This is another film I just watch habitually. The lack of realism is made up by the strength of Sorkin's script.

Ready or Not (new-to-me): Cheesy horror comedy. It's a bit more gore than I tend to like, but the uniqueness, humor, and legit weird ending kept me interested.

We've also been watching more Ballykissangel, and I've started The Good Place.

Music

External image


Blue Lines / Massive Attack: This is such a quality debut album, and I've had on repeat in my car for weeks. There's so much going on, from the production to the guest vocals to the casual, lethargic rapping. Try out "Five Man Army."

Books

My dad had gotten me the third Red Dwarf novel for Christmas, so I decided to read the first two first. Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers is probably the closest to the show. Better Than Life is wildly bold, especially if you expect a reset to normal by the end of it. Last Human follows this path even more divergently, making me wonder if this was written in one of the times they thought the show was canceled. In general, all three books draw deeply from the show, but establish better and more realistic backstories. They also try to play the science fiction aspects as straight as possible. This is counter-pointed by trying to rework the physical comedy and visual gags into the text, which just doesn't work. Overall, I would recommend if you like the show, or if you like books that are trying unsuccessfully to not simply ape Douglas Adams novels.

See you space cowboy...
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Sun Mar 1, 2020 4:20 pm
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Geekway Mini 2020 recap: "working 9 to 5"

Sean Franco
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Geekway Mini 2020 was great. This was my first time to the winter "Mini" convention as my usual experiences are with the main summer Geekway convention. This was obviously much smaller, with no vendor hall and few play areas (but enough for the number of people here). It was great to see many of my old friends from when I lived in St. Louis; even though it had been seven or more months since I left, it was like I had never been gone while we were playing games. But enough nostalgia; let's do the numbers.

New-to-me Games

Board Game: It's a Wonderful World

It's a Wonderful World
I got two three-player games of this in on Thursday, the night before the convention officially opened. This was a Play & Win. Using a dystopian/utopian theme, this game is based around card drafting, but only for four rounds. The cards you acquire can be discarded for resources or played in front of you to possible be built. If they are built, they can provide resources per round, one-time resources, and/or victory points. However, with so few rounds, the game ends right when your engine gets going. This is obviously a deliberate design choice, but it didn't quite work for me. Also, the cards are designed to easily be splayed to show what resources you earn at a glance, at the cost of covering up all of the art and card name, effectively removing what little theme there was in this game.


Board Game: Azul: Summer Pavilion

Azul: Summer Pavilion
The original Azul was alright, but it never wowed me or found me suggesting a game. This one has a little more meat to it. I played this with three-players on Thursday and with two players on Saturday. This was a Play & Win. Manipulating sheer quantity of specific tiles that you need is much trickier, since you need ultimately twenty-one tiles of the same color to complete most of the sections. This is complicated by the fact that different colors are wild each round, which actually makes it more difficult is acquire tiles, since wilds can only be selected individually and not en masse. These little details make Summer Pavilion a better game, as does the increased and scaled first player penalty. I'm still not out to buy this game, but I did like it more.


Board Game: Big City: 20th Anniversary Jumbo Edition!

Big City: 20th Anniversary Jumbo Edition!
I played this twice, with three players on Friday and with four players on Saturday. This was a Play & Win. I never go to play the OG Big City, so I was looking forward to this. I actually liked it a lot. It felt a lot like Acquire without the stock shares system. Obviously, the game is way over-produced because it's Mercury Games, but that does mean that it looks very nice. I won a Play & Win copy at the end of the convention, so I'm looking forward to introducing this to my Como crew, probably later this week.


Board Game: Imagineers

Imagineers
First of all, isn't the title of this game a Disney trademark? I wonder how long this will be in print. I played this once on Friday. This was a Play & Win. It's about building an amusement park on a shared board, while also developing a roller coaster on your personal board. Patrons move through rides in a Mancala method, but there are ways (like moving people to performers or disrupting them with janitors) to manipulate who is in what group before movement happens. This is one of those games that I didn't mind playing, but cannot see myself ever playing again. It passed the time.


Board Game: KLASK 4

KLASK 4
This dexterity and magnets game is apparently a four-player edition of a different dexterity and magnets game. We played three times on Saturday. This was a Play & Win. It was neat. I learned a lot about my lack of reaction time and was duly impressed with the abilities of others to manipulate their piece so precisely. Seriously, I played with one guy that made that piece virtually break-dance. Again, not a game I'm going to try to pick up, but one I'd be happy to play again. The biggest drawback: it seems to require exactly four players.


Board Game: Roll for Adventure

Roll for Adventure
We played this dice-placement coöp twice on Saturday, losing the first and winning the second games. This was a Play & Win. There's some interesting push your luck choices here, especially since you have to usually commit your dice for some number of turns before they return to your pool. Something I always look for in coöps is how well does the whole "now the board fights back" part goes. The monster deck was actually very effective and led to interesting choices on when to go kill the monsters. A little dry for my taste, but I can see myself recommending this to certain kinds of players.


Other Games

Board Game: Dominant Species

Dominant Species
I was invited by a buddy to fill in the sixth spot on Friday. I drew Insects as my animal. There were only two new players, so a lot of clever play got to happen. The final turns were brutal overall; between the third-to-last and last turns, approximately 80% of the species and 90% of the elements were removed from the board through Dominance cards (several, I'm glad to say, played by me). It was a rough game for Amphibians, who were in top two until this point with quintuple water on their sheet but no water on the board at the end of the game. I was able trick some players into trusting food chain order before suddenly hitting speciation and competition. I came second ultimately, which I was happy about overall. Probably my favorite session of this con.


Board Game: Runewars

Runewars
I have played Runewars at every previous Geekway, so the tradition continued on Friday. I played as Uthuk Y'lann, the chaos berserker faction. I had some very bad luck with events, and also made a couple of stupid attacks during the first turn, the combination of which basically removed me from contention. I never got higher than four of the six required runes to win. This was also a very grindy and difficult game for the other three players (two of whom had played before). I had never before seen the game end due to running out of turns instead of hitting the necessary victory points, but we finished year six this time. I was dead last at four. The other three players were tied at five, so we went to the tie breaker. The tie breaker is influence, which all three were still tied in. The second tie breaker (apparently) is starting influence, so the Elves won. This was a very weird session of one of my favorite games.


Board Game: Zendo

Zendo
I have a friend that loves puzzles, social deduction games, and mystery games. She had never played Zendo, so I roped her and her guest into some games. We played seven times on Saturday, initially with just us three, but then up to five active players and another six or more spectators chipping in suggestions in the final round. Obviously, I started with several easy cards, before moving on to two medium cards and two difficult cards. One of the mediums took almost a half hour and the final difficult took just over an hour. Everyone had fun with this many new players diving in and trying to make sense of the logic of the game.


Board Game: Xia: Legends of a Drift System

Xia: Legends of a Drift System
I had played Xia once before but didn't care for it. I was persuaded to give it another chance by a friend who was scheduled to play on Saturday (and then actually didn't play, but that's another story). I like several pick-up-and-deliver games I've played, most significantly Merchants & Marauders. I still don't care for Xia though. I feel like there's too little few interesting places on the map, and getting to those places is too aggravating. Part of that is being a roll-and-move game and part of it is the plethora of hazards. Also, the map feels pretty empty, whereas M&M can have more NPCs than players, which can severely impact how you play. Finally, Xia has some very bad downtime per player, exasperated by playing with the full five. I got a solid second in this as well, but it didn't change my mind.


Board Game: Tumblin-Dice

Tumblin-Dice
After that long Xia game, I unwound by drinking some Schlafly stouts and participating in a big six-player game of Tumblin-Dice. Savvy readers may note than the game typically only plays up to four, so we sent someone to check out a copy of Roll Player from the Geekway library (a game with several dice of several colors of the right size). The game last six rounds. I came in second (again!), but it was the exact right game to finish of the night for me.


Board Game: Food Chain Magnate

Food Chain Magnate
I had a friend who hadn't played this yet, so I set up a three-player game for Sunday morning. It was a solid session. Each of us went with distinct opening strategies: the new player went with the freezer, my other friend went with infinite advertising, and I went with hiring/training. We had $800 in the second bank, expanding to four CEO slots in the process. There's a lot of working 9 to 5 in this game, prompting my friend to play the appropriate Dolly Parton song on his phone during the game. I came in last; retrospectively, I can blame losing on, in the next to last round, selling an unexpected hamburger (my last one) to a small house and failing to be able to serve a luxury house a burger and two pizzas. The other two players fared better, finishing within $2 of each other. A very good way to end Geekway.


And now I cannot wait for Geekway Prime in June. It's a fantastic con that focuses entirely on play experience, so I would recommend trying to come out if you can, especially if you're in the midwest.

See you space cowboy...
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Tue Feb 4, 2020 4:15 pm
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January recap: Coffins a-plenty

Sean Franco
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If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?
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I'm recapping January a little early since I'll be off to Geekway Mini at the end of the month. In the mean time, I've had a huge chunk of gaming in the past few weeks. Many of my big games were scheduled ahead of time through various groups, emails, and texts, including plays of three different FFG coffin-box games. But enough about how they were scheduled; let's do the numbers.

New-to-me Games

Board Game: Startups

Startups
This is the fourth Oink title I've played, and probably the best. There's a tense give-and-take going on. Waiting for other players to commit is tricky, especially since you don't know if you'll overtake before the end of the game. The hand-management in this game is basically the whole game; the hand size restriction really cuts into your ability to plan ahead, which is a good thing. Startups is a game of reaction and hoping, and it works. We played this three times.


Board Game: Ankh'or

Ankh'or
My cousin bought this game last weekend, and we opened it and played it with three players that night. For obvious reasons, it's strongly reminiscent of Splendor, a game I generally don't care for. However, Ankh'or wasn't too bad. I think the spacial puzzle of tile laying, combined with the non-automatic market refresh really raised this one up a notch for me.


Coffin-box Games

Board Game: StarCraft: The Board Game

StarCraft
This was scheduled for more people, but we had an ice storm, so only three people showed up. Regardless, that's enough to showcase all three factions. My friends who showed were enthusiastic about playing, but had absolutely no experience with the StarCraft video game (and honestly, familiarity with the video game does translate to understanding the board game a lot). We got to the third era with my Terrans in the lead in conquest points, but everyone constantly on the verge of their special victory conditions. Ultimately, the Protoss were able to take advantage of the Terran/Zerg war to eek out a win.


Board Game: Runewars

Runewars
We got the full four for this one. I drew Elves; the other three were new players. This was an odd game. The seasonal events were working against me; we had droughts, storms, and a long winter all at the exact wrong time for me. The Humans player managed to take about half of the hexes without a problem, and could hold them pretty well too, due to good terrain placement and a lot of luck recruiting neutral monsters. However, the Humans player could not convert that to runes at all. In the mean time, my quests were working out well for me, and I was able to knock my objective out in a few years. It came down to me and the Undead player, and I was one action away from winning the game when a Winter event simply awarded him his last rune. Very close game.


Board Game: Twilight Imperium (Third Edition)

Twilight Imperium 3
I started scheduling this back in November, and with good reason apparently. We got the full six players: four newbies, one guy that played a lot during college, and myself (who had only played once before, about ten years ago). It took about eight and a half hours, which I feel like was pretty good considering the casual pace we were going. Unsurprisingly, the guy who took Macatol Rex for the first half of the game (one of the newbies) won the game. Everyone had a lot of fun, although I was reminded why I didn't like this particular brand of dice combat.


Other Games

Red7: The filler king returns. Played 6 times.
Terraforming Mars: A buddy of mine just got his copy in with all of the expansions. We played it with three others who were new to the game, with only the Prelude expansion. I built up a big money strategy and just bought big projects the whole game. Powerful cards are powerful plays, and I won. Played 1 time.
Coloretto: End of the night game with five. Played 1 time.
Zendo: Still loving this game and showing it to new players. We've not had enough time for a difficult clue yet, but I'm waiting. Played 17 times.
Tapestry: Played as the Craftsmen in a four player game. Had a good game until the Futurists grabbed two more civs in the last era. Came in second. Played 1 time.
El Grande: Played with five, all basically new to the game apart from me. And yet, my experience doesn't translate to skill. And yet, my inability doesn't translate to unenjoyment. Played 1 time.
Merchants & Marauders: Taught three new players, then had to bring it back the next week since they liked it so much. Won the first game handily as a merchant, but lost the second game as a pirate due to making too many decisions that would have made sense as a merchant but not as a pirate. Played 2 times.
Chinatown: Brought out my Alea copy and played with four players. I had some impressive businesses at the end for decent deals, but the winner was a harsher negotiator. Played 1 time.
Tichu: I watched the other teach call Tichu in four hands and only fail at it once. We got smoked. Played 1 time.
Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension: This was the post-TI3 game, for those who weren't burnt out. Much more relaxing of a space game. Played 1 time.
Futuropia: Played with three. We had about forty-five minutes before the shop closed and played a speed game of this. I won by buying out the last of the upstairs before the other contender could. Played 1 time.
The Castles of Burgundy: Played with three. I reviewed this game in my head some, and I'm not sure what I could have done differently; I was pretty happy with my choices. I also lost by one point. Played 1 time.
SpaceCorp: Weird game for me. I built virtually not bases (only three total on the first two boards) but still had a healthy second place out of four finish. There's a lot to explore in this game still, even before the expansion comes out. Played 1 time.

Movies

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (new-to-me): My wife got this for Christmas from her sister. It's apparently a favorite movie of theirs. I dig musicals, though not country music, but I was willing. This is such a strange movie. I'm kinda disappointed that basically the bad guys win, then Burt Reynolds decides to remove all agency from Dolly Parton. The dancing was good, though.

The Two Popes (new-to-me): This was fantastic, one of the best movies of 2019 that I've seen. Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce are both brilliant here, tackling very big issues in very human ways. I'd recommend.

Drop Dead Gorgeous: We needed something light after a long day. This was my wife's second time watching it, but already one of her favorites. We both feel like this should have had a bigger impact when it came out; it's very smart and very funny.

Booksmart (new-to-me): Pretty great movie. A galmance movie, I heard someone say. Lots of funny bits, and also a bit of wonderful cringe (the Lyft ride comes to mind).

Joker (new-to-me): Broadly a disappointment. It's a movie with a message but not an ideology, which makes the message empty. It's a movie informed by the horseshoe theory of politics rather than one willing to make a stand. It's a movie that demonizes mental health problems. Finally, it's a movie largely without the Joker, which is a bit disappointing considering what it says on the tin.

We've also been watching the show Ballykissangel, an Irish show from the late 90s about a Catholic priest in a small town. We're a season and a half in at this point, and loving it.

Music

External image


Fantastic Planet / Failure: This, on repeat. This is one of the greatest 90s alt-rock albums that virtually no one talks about, and I don't know why. This rocks all the way through. Seriously, listen if you haven't. Try "Smoking Umbrellas" or "The Nurse Who Loved Me."

Podcasts

Here are two random episodes from this month I'd recommend. The first is from something called Skullduggery, which I'd never listened to before, but at the 37 minute mark, they start talking to the Chapo Trap House guys. It's a fascinating discussion between two perspectives that might both be lumped together as left-wing but turn out to be so very different from each other. The Chapo boys make some solid points, and it really doesn't feel like Yahoo News guys were prepared.

The second is an episode of The Bruenigs where they discuss Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and how it actually manifests as a trad religious metaphor. This was a wild and goofy listen, and slightly terrifying how much sense it made.

See you space cowboy...
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Thu Jan 30, 2020 4:10 pm
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December recap: Tidings of comfort and joy

Sean Franco
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If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?
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A crazy month for me. End of semester tasks took up a lot of time, and then I was out the door on a twelve hour drive to see family for Christmas. Just over a week later, it was twelve hours back. I got to see a lot of family and a lot of friends, and a good many presents were given and received, including several board games, many of which I'll talk about below. Also, next year I plan to transition this to weekly or biweekly instead of monthly, depending on the amount of content. But enough messing around; let's do the numbers.

New-to-me Games

Board Game: History of the World

History of the World
This isn't actually the first time that I've played this, but it is the first time I've played this edition. Previously, I have played the Avalon Hill/Hasbro edition. We played with the full six player count. I enjoyed this game previously (as well as this time), but I came to a broad realization about it after this play: the most important decision you make is during the drafting of civilizations, and that decision is severely limited by the randomness of the cards. After everyone has civilizations, it's generally pretty trivial what the best plays will be, and it's just a matter of how lucky are you with the dice. I'm sure someone will argue this point with me, although I will not that this broad lack of agency does not make the game less fun for me, just less strategic.


Board Game: Impulse

Impulse
I also played this at the full player count of six. The pitch of this game was that it was a low-component fast-playing space 4X game. This is generally accurate. The game distills all function from narrative and just directs you to follow a series of instructions that you've had minimal input into. I feel like the game could be way too random with starting hands and starting surround systems, but randomness isn't really a problem in 4X games, so that may not be a legitimate critique. If anything, Impulse's largest flaw is the inability to plan ahead with any significance (despite there being a whole mechanic called "Plan"). This covers all of the raw elements of a 4X, but not really the experience.


Board Game: Rubik's Race

Rubik's Race
This is a quick little abstract that I played a couple of times with my niece and nephew. It's a competitive sliding tile puzzle. Fine components, but no real deep game play.


Board Game: The Magic Labyrinth

The Magic Labyrinth
I got this for my nephew for Christmas. It was played several times that week, but only twice by me. Mechanically, the game is ingenious. I loved the way that it simulated the invisible walls. It was slightly trying on me, as I'm not great at memory games to begin with, but I was able to puzzle my way to a victory in one of the games. This was a good success.


Other Games

Red7: One of my BGG Secret Santa gifts this year. I taught this to several people in the last month, two of whom then bought copies. Played 27 times.
Food Chain Magnate: My other BGG Secret Santa gift. Had two- and three-player sessions, winning one and collapsing completely in the other. Played 2 times.
Fuji Flush: The eternal go-to filler may have been challenged by Red7... Played 3 times.
Tichu: Actually got a good game going of this with four. Now that it's out there, I think I'll be able to do it again. Played 1 time.
Acquire: Played a five-player session. Still one of the best stock games out there. Playing this helped me understand the housing bubble. Played 1 time.
Rune Age: This is one of my top-two deck-builders. Ran through the Dragonlords scenario easily, then completely failed at the coöp scenario. Played 2 times.
Coloretto: End of the night with two players. Got pretty lucky and only had one card of negative points. Played 1 time.
Stratego: Played with my nephew. By all rights, he should have won (he had way better pieces than me at the end), but I was able to bluff him into leaving his flag open. Played 1 time.
Kids of Carcassonne: Played with my niece and nephew. A good starter title for tile-laying, as there are no illegal plays, only strategically poor ones. Played 1 time.
Zendo: My wife got this for me for Christmas, and I was able to play it with two different groups during our trip. I was almost always the moderator, but I have fun doing that. This game was a big success with everyone who played. Played 12 times.
Deep Sea Adventure: The game that teaches you about greed. I like this one, but I'm not good at it; I had about fifteen points across 3 plays.
Insider: Another Oink game. Played it through with four players. This is a tricky social-deduction game, but its uniqueness is why I like it. Played 4 times.
13 Dead End Drive: My nephew got this for Christmas from Santa, so I helped assemble it. It's a goofy anti-Cluedo, with lots of killing going on. Played 2 times.
Taboo: Played at a party. This was an older edition; I was the only one in a room of early-30s who knew who Ben Bradlee was. Played 1 time.
Guillotine: I wanted my sister to play this, since she's a French teacher. She also isn't into dark humor too much, but she and my nephew really enjoyed it. Played 1 time.

Movies

Silver Linings Playbook: It's Christmastime, so we watch Christmas movies. This one ends during Christmas, so it counts. I love the performances in this one; everyone is delightfully unnerving.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: I could see the jokes in this one not aging gracefully, but it's still hilarious to me. I don't generally ask for sequels, but this deserved one.

The Muppets Christmas Carol: This is the best Christmas movie. If you disagree, you are wrong.

Die Hard: I didn't actually seek this one out, but the TV is never turned off at my in-laws' house. We usually watch it this time of year anyways, so no big loss.

A Christmas Story: This is another I didn't seek out. I've never cared for this movie. It always seemed too mean-spirited to be Christmas-y.

Ghostbusters: I got this for my wife for Christmas, so we watched it after we got home. I'm not sure that Bill Murray does anything to advance the plot; he's just comedy gold in every scene, while the movie just happens around him.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (new-to-me): So...
Spoiler (click to reveal)
My complaint at the end of The Last Jedi was that I didn't know where the story was going to go from there. They had killed off the big baddie, and only Kylo Ren was around to fight. So bringing back the Emperor was unexpected, necessary, and mostly disappointing. Everything from the first two films gets hand-waved away with "Palpatine planned it," which isn't a satisfying answer. They dealt with the loss of Carrie Fisher nicely; it felt like a good way for her to go. I wholly did not expect appearances from Lando or Han; both were amongst the high points of the film for me. Finally, why wasn't there a great lightsaber fight? There was one okay one, when Ren and Rey were fighting on the ruins of the Death Star, but there wasn't a fight that wowed me, which is fairly disappointing in an already middling movie.

Music

External image


RENT / Original Broadway Cast: My wife and I burned through plenty of musicals in our big road trip, but the one we kept returning to was RENT. It's seasonal, in an ironic sense, but it's also just a lot of fun. This is the first Broadway show I saw in person, so I'll always have a soft-spot for it. And it's just damned good.

Books

I finished the Campion series! I read the short story collection The Return of Mr. Campion and the posthumous novel Cargo of Eagles, both by Margery Allingham. That took me several months longer than I expected it to, but I've moved onto another series, starting with Berlin Game by Len Deighton. I actually read this one in high school, but never carried on the series. I have a stack of nine more of them, so I don't have an excuse now.

Podcasts

Five Games For Doomsday: With all my travel, I generally neglected my podcasts, but during my last week of the semester, I listened to more than a few episodes of this board game pod. (The Matt Thrower episode is particularly good.) I'm sure I'll have more to listen to when I go back to work next week.

See you space cowboy...
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Wed Jan 1, 2020 4:05 pm
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