Lost Horizon

Posted on 8th April 2008

For the past few months I've been playing Lost Cities on a site called YourTurnMyTurn. I've got into it so much I'm considering upgrading to a VIP account so I can play even more. I've tried some of the other games on there, but none have kept my interest as much as Lost Cities.

I'm hoping that they introduce a few more two player games based on German style board games, as they've certainly scored a hit with me for this. Kahuna and Pick And Pack aren't bad, but for me personally I got a bit bored too quickly. If I was playing them with someone in person, then it would probably have been alright, but playing remote lost the momentum for me.

I managed to get to the Quarter Final in my latest torunament, but unfortunately was up against a good player who managed to just pip me in the points. I'm playing in another 3 and soon to start another, so fingers crossed I can get further in them.

I've been playing it so much I haven't been playing Xplorers (aka Settlers of Catan) on AsoBrain for a while. Might even start entering some tournaments in that too at some point .. if I ever get the time!

File Under: games / website
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Turn, Turn, Turn

Posted on 7th February 2008

Last month I discovered a games site called Your Turn My Turn. They feature several online games, which are based on two-player games that are turn based. Several are quite traditional games, such as Backgammon, Rummy and Go, but they are starting to introduce some other games. One of which is Lost Cities, which I've enjoyed playing with DanDan, but wanted to play a bit more with more experienced players. Their online version follows the original game, although only one round is played. I won my first game, but it looks like I might be losing my second game. However, aside from the one-off games, they also hold tournaments. This weekend I decided that I would put my name to the Lost Cities tornament.

It all kicked off on Sunday and I've already got through several plays of each game in my group. I don't think I'm doing too badly at the moment, but it can easily go downhill rapidly when you get to the end game, as I'm discovering in my second one-off game. Still, it makes a difference to losing at Scabulous far too often recently ;)

File Under: games
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Games Without Frontiers

Posted on 17th January 2008

Last night was my first visit to the Halesowen Boardgame Club. A nice bunch of guys, and very enthusiastic gamers. In the end there were 8 of us, so we ended up splitting into two camps, one playing Power Grid and the other playing Brass. Seeing as Brass was a new game that Dave had brought along, and all of the group knew Power Grid, it was suggested I play Brass. I was quite happy to play either, as my intention for coming along was to get to play some new games, so I could see whether they were suitable for me to buy for DanDan and I.

Brass itself is a pretty decent game. The thing I like about it is that you can employ several different strategies throughout the game. All of us seemed to be trying very similar strategies to begin with, which is understandable, as we were all still learning how to to play the game. It meant there were a few points collecting strategies that weren't observed until much too late in the game. However, I think part of the problem with this was that we were playing with 4 people, and as such we got through the game cards fairly quickly on a per player basis, although the total gameplay took roughly 2 hours. I think if I ever play it again, which hopefully I will, I will be developing a lot sooner.

The game is in two parts, the canal phase and the railway phase. Observing the points scoring, at the end of the canal phase none of us really got any clear lead, and the final victory points at the end counted for a lot more. As such I think developing early would in turn set you up for later in the game. We also noted that the iron works and coal became much more important later in the game, and had we developed appropriately, it would have paid out much bigger dividends. Dave also built two shipyards in the last throes of the game and consequently bumped his score by 36 points. I had looked at building a shipyard, but not realising the large victory points it got you, ended up taking another track.

All in all, it was a great game and I would certainly like to get it, although it's probably a bit too advanced for DanDan at the moment. Dave noted that apparently the game has proved very popular and is in short supply at the moment. I'll have to keep my eye out for it, as it might be a good game to take to YAPC::Europe if I can generate enough interest for another Games BOF session :)

I'll certainly be visiting the club again, although seeing as they also meet on a Wednesday, I'll have to slot it between my Perl and Linux meetings. Hopefully I'll be able to make it once a month and catch up on even more new games.

File Under: games
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Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll

Posted on 14th January 2008

I got hold of Lost Cities last week, and this weekend DanDan and I played a game of it. We would have played more, but he has still yet to finish his homework :)

It's a fairly simple game and as a consequence pretty quick to set up and play. Although the box specifies a minimum age of 10, I would have said those younger can grasp the gameplay without too much difficult. DanDan certain understood the concept of playing and taking the cards, and building up the expeditions from investment cards to numbered cards. He hadn't spotted that he quickly ran out of time building the expeditions beyond the 20 points needed, as he spent time trying to build up all 5 expeditions. I did the same to begin with, but in subsequent rounds concentrated on 3 at maximum. It made a big difference. DanDan said he really enhjoyed the game, and Nicole liked it simply because it meant he had to do maths to play the game.

For reference, should anyone need them, an English rules translation is available online. It's a shame that The Games Cabinet no longer runs, as that was a great source of reference for the English language versions of the rules. I note there are links to other language versions (mostly Portuguese) on Boardgame Geek, as well as some other interesting resources, but they seem to forget that some of us buy the German versions of the games as they can be cheaper.

File Under: dandan / family / games
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The Hanging Garden

Posted on 7th January 2008

Yesterday I finally opened up the game Alhambra, which I brought back from Vienna. After a bit of searching for the games rules (the box contained the German language rules), I discovered that the manufacturers website has kindly translated the rules into several different languages with a PDF download for each. After downloading the English language version, DanDan and set about laying out the game peices and started playing. Unfortunately it wasn't until about half way through the game, that I read the slight variation for a 2 player game. The game took a little longer to play with the two of us playing the full rules, but it did help us to understand the game. Next time playing the two-player rule changes will not only make for a quicker game, but also might make it a bit more interesting in terms of the points. As it was DanDan wiped the floor with me, as I couldn't get the right money to begin with to buy what I wanted.

The game won Game of the Year in 2003 and I can see why. It's a fairly straight forward game and involves buying and building materials to make a palace, but is a very engaging game. For DanDan it's good for his maths as he has to calculate how much he can spend and what money he needs to buy the materials he needs to construct his palace. Considering he's only 7 and the age suggestion on the box is 8, I think he did rather well for a first attempt. He seemed to like it too, and it made for a nice change from Hunters And Gatherers. I think Alhambra will be getting played a lot this year :)

File Under: family / games
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Twenty Years On

Posted on 3rd January 2008

Ark Appreciation Pages

Ark Appreciation Pages

Sometimes it's easy to think we live in a small world.

Over Christmas I played a few games of Hunters And Gatherers with DanDan. It's a game he really likes and the rest of my games are little too advanced for him at the moment. As a consequence I don't get to play Settlers Of Catan, El Garnde, Rail Baron or Elfenland very much these days. Every now and then I think about going along to a local games club, but never seem to get around to it. On New Year's Day I decided to lookup the Halesowen Boardgamers website again, except it seems I found the old website. I've thought about going along a few times over the last 5 years or so, but with their meetings clashing with Perl or Linux meetings, it's not happened.

As the website I found (the old one as it turned out) hadn't been updated in a while, I felt prompted to check whether the group is still going and sent an email. It seems they do still meet, every Wednesday at the same venue. Then I got a second email from Dave, who helps run the club. He'd had a quick look at my website and was surprised to discover that I had been involved with the band Ark. It turns out he was the original drummer with Damascus, the band that laid the foundations for Ark, and I even had him listed on the website! He tells me he has lots of stories, photos and even some tapes of the early days, so fingers crossed some of them may materialise on the website at some point. If nothing else he says I've definitely got to come along to a club meet :)

Even though Ark ended over 12 years ago, there is still a lot of affection and interest for them. Band members still occasionally drop me a line to let me know what they're doing or help to fill in some of the gaps on the website. Fans often ask if I have various releases available. Every now and then I'll meet someone who has seen them live, usually at Edwards No.8 and will reminisce how much they enjoyed the gig. With Gel still playing locally with Bleeding Hearts and John Jowitt still playing with IQ, there is still plenty to keep the interest going. As such, this year more than ever, I plan to upgrade the Ark site. I have been doing bits in the background for most of last year, but I have so many photos and tapes I really should get a move on and make them available. Who knows may be it'll mean I get to meet a few more band members and fans.

Another music/techie crossover moment happen a few months ago when I was arranging some dates with Leicester LUG to go over as part of the 2008 Birmingham.pm World Tour. Gary who organises the meetings also happened to look at my website and discovered that I was involved with Prolapse. It turns out he knows Turk, and used to work with a few of the guys, and sees them occasionally around Leicester too. It's quite possible we've even met a few times at the gigs. I'll be doing a couple of talks for the LUG this year, so it'll be fun catching up with Gary to see what other stories he has to tell of the band :)

In these instances it isn't really a small world, partly as Haleowen and Leicester aren't that far away, and also that both Ark and Prolapse are fairly recent memories, but it is nice to cross paths with people who remember the gigs and have interesting tales to tell. Plus they were both great bands and are worth remembering. I'm looking forward to meeting up with both Dave and Gary, and hopefully it'll prompt me to sort out the photos and tapes I have of both bands :)

File Under: ark / games / gigs / music / prolapse / roadie
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