Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bits and Boards and the Art of Fly Fishing

You may remember that I went out and bought a fishing tackle bag, with space for 4 Plano 3750 tackleboxes, in order to cart around my game bits.
The plan was to keep all of the boards, rulebooks, and larger bits for 3-4 games in one single box, and carry around the bits separately.

Especially with my last influx of games, this plan has kind of been neutralized.

Small World was really the impetus for the plan, and most of its current bits still fit in one tackle box, but there are enough large lumps leftover that I've brought back its box (but not the insert) to keep all of its own stuff separately.

I kinda forced Galactica into the plan, but now that I have Pegasus, the tacklebox has definitely filled out a bit. If I wanted to go to the effort of printing up 100 little tuckboxes, I could throw all the cards into the box, but as it stands, the Pegasus box is just the home for the boards, books, and character sheets.
This one may have to be modified in short order, as soon as get my grubby hands on Exodus.

The third of the original tackleboxes found a home when I brought home Power Grid. Not only does Grid have a lot of bits that need to be separated, but the box is exactly the right size to fit a Plano 3750 inside it. Was a very cool discovery.

The fourth original tacklebox still has a lot of my VTES counters of various types in it, but is bound to get repurposed someday.

I'm just thankful that Pandemic, with its expansion, fit in the original box which is smaller than one of these tackleboxes to begin with. Good on Z-Man games for providing some pretty awesome storage stuff (as well as shrinking the pawns down and re-issuing a full set) in the expansion box.

And ah yes, Dominion.. I've just finished sleeving the whole of Alchemy and Prosperity; everything fits in just the original box (with some slight modifications) and the Alchemy Box (with its insert; the "starting cards" fit nice and snugly here).

I can't wait to actually play some of these games again, after spending so much time storing the bits.. :)

Gametastic Friday

So, today (technically yesterday now) a whole lot of games arrived.
First, my Thoughthammer package which I've been waiting for since August has finally arrived! Sleeved most of the new Dominion stuff already, and played a few games with my wife. I'm so relieved to not have to bitch about that anymore.

Secondly, my copies of On the Brink (Pandemic expansion) and Pegasus (BSG expansion) also arrived today. But I didn't check that until just now; I saw the package had arrived but assumed it was something less-interesting that I had ordered.. Heh.
So hopefully we'll take the opportunity to check out at least OtB this weekend.
For the moment, Pegasus is just $25 plastic basestars ;)

More interesting posts coming.. I just wanted to get that out.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More birthday gifts...

Amazon credit has been applied and some of it spent on Pandemic On The Brink, and BSG Pegasus.
I'm not actually sure if I will ever get a chance to play with my own copy of BSG with Pegasus in it, but I'm so excited about Exodus, I want to give my money to FFG :)

I may end up getting more boardgames with more credit soon, but I am also saving money for my other (HTPC) project, so I should pace myself. Plus, I still have to catch up on actually playing some of the games I've got. i.e. Power Grid.

Josh's Birthday Boardgaming Night Brief Report

So, the afternoon/evening turned out pretty well. Not as many people showed up as I thought would, but that's alright, we had a good core.

The game-playing itself started with Race for the Galaxy; not my favorite game. I like San Juan, but I have never been able to wrap my head around all the extra complexity of RftG. But I give it a chance whenever Matt wants to play it. There were only 3 of us, and 2 of them play this game A LOT 2-player, so I knew I had no chance while I was more "moseying for the galaxy".
In the first game, I was going for a "Rebel" strategy, but really spent more time collecting things with the Rebel keyword than paying attention to my score.
In the second game, I started with an "Alien" strategy, but (as Jen pointed out) if you buy an expensive Alien location on turn 1-2, you spend the rest of the game Exploring and you lose.

Next came a game of Small World, when some more showed up. We played with the Necromancer Island expansion, so there were 4 "regular" players and 1 Necromancer.
The jury is still out on this variant. It seems like the only way to prevent Nerg^H^Hcromancer from winning is to sit there and be peaceful, and only attack as much as it takes to keep your slight edge in coins. The basic thing is, whenever a unit dies, it becomes 25% of a ghost. And when 14 ghosts are on the board, Necro wins.
Now, the game did last until the last turn, and the Special Necro Powers were particularly useful for a "Necromancer sits on his hands and is unattackable" strategy, but he still ended up winning.
I can't say I'm entirely faultless; I chose a few super-aggressive race/power combinations and "had no choice" but to keep attacking.
There may be some other subtlety of the NI rules that we missed; I'm willing to try it again.
It also worked out pretty well to use the Leader Tokens as randomizers for the races, although we didn't actually incorporate the Leader mechanic.

After that, we played a game of Citadels. Not much to report about that one.
Except the whole crew was getting pretty punchy by this point.

Then, most people went home, and it was down to me and Mike (Talita had also gone to bed). We played a couple of 2-player games of Pandemic before calling it a night. We lost the first one due to too many outbreaks (with some killer chain reactions), and we won the second one. Parts of the game do seem anticlimactic (at least with 2 players), but I still like it.

Dominion was suggested, but not played. That one will come out next time, really really hopefully with the expansions I'm missing.

If I think of anything else to add, I will probably re-edit this post, so please watch this space carefully.

Who knows when I will be able to do something like this again?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pandemic Report #1

Not quite enough to say about the game yet to justify a BGG Session Report or Review, but Talita and I just played 2 "intro level" games of Pandemic, and I really quite enjoyed it.
We won the first game, but it seemed tense, lots of Outbreaks.
The second game started out seeming easier, but we ran out of cards; discarded too much Yellow early and didn't realize it. :(

I have heard that people think the Operations Expert is underpowered, so much so that the expansion gives him more abilities.
But this role was in both of our games, and I found him to be pretty useful, mostly for curing a disease when you have the right hand without moving.
Maybe after a few more games, I'll notice it.

But yeah, so far, I rate Pandemic a GRRRR

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Birthday present

And my latest birthday present, Pandemic, will get played this weekend, and hopefully before then.. :)
That is all.

Just so this isn't a dumb twitter-like post, here's a question:
Is the Pandemic "On the Brink" expansion considered to be ESSENTIAL, or is it something like BSG Pegasus where it changes the game but you can always play the normal way?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Be Not Afraid...

...the new Small World expansion and mini-expansion have arrived!

So now the only thing I don't have for SW is Tales and Legends, which is stuck with the Dominion Prosperity shipment :(

But I have all of the "normal" expansions, with all the races and powers.
And all of the bits still fit in my tacklebox (more or less).

Will be happy to play this one on Saturday.
Necromancer Island should be interesting...

Monday, November 8, 2010

More like FARThammer

If you're reading this, take my advice:
Do not ever order gaming materials from Thoughthammer ( ).

I'm sure that when things go well, they go well.

But when there is a problem, their customer service department is completely unwilling to assist.

In my specific case, Dominion Prosperity is still very much delayed and this so-called "September release date preorder" probably won't arrive before my birthday gathering on November 20th. (Even if it does, I don't take these comments back)

This order of mine contained a couple of other items that are long-since released. The least they could do for people in my situation is offer to split the shipments. However, when "Carrie" at Thoughthammer was presented with this option, she said this was only possible if I paid shipping for both orders separately. And she and I both know that's not what I meant.

I've had good luck with other companies giving back something to the customers when there's trouble, but Thoughthammer's not getting any more of my business.

Wah wah wah wah wah wah, I'm a nerd ranting on the internet, I know.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Media Center Musings, Chapter 3

With amazing timing, it has been announced that Playstation 3 is getting an app to access Hulu Plus, which was a piece of my home theater puzzle.
I had been thinking about Google TV, Boxee, and Roku, but if the PS3 can access Hulu itself, then that's the one major source that I was going to need.

After a test watching a streaming video last night on the ps3, the fan sound wasn't that distracting.

And today, I went out and bought a TV antenna (which looks more like a laptop; a big flat black shiny thing). Will hook it up tonight and see what kind of Over-The-Air content we can get...

So now I'm thinking, if the Over-The-Air quality is good enough, maybe the solution is not a box that streams the content we're missing, but a box that can replace what we're really losing; the DVR component?

The saga continues...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Media Center musings continued...

Since it would start saving us money pretty soon, there is another option.
Google TV is, obviously, a "bit" more expensive than boxeebox.
And neither of them does 100% of the "media center stuff" that would be ideal.

But in the same price range as Google TV, there is the option of these "roll your own media center" boxes.
I explored this idea a long time ago and I don't know why I abandoned it (maybe price, maybe forgetting to factor in the lack of cable box).
It's basically a half-size computer, with graphics and network optimized for video streaming, just as much (or as little) local storage as the google/boxee options, runs linux and/or windows (and can run boxee software for sure), can run a normal browser for Hulu/Netflix/what-have-you streaming without workarounds, has remote control all ready to go, and even a DVD (or Bluray?) drive for disc playback, etc etc.

I think this warrants further investigation, but it for sure involves more setup and involvement in maintenance than the other ones. And again, is probably about twice as expensive as the BoxeeBox itself.

Rambling on... this may not be the last entry on the subject....

A non-gaming post: On Home Media and the evils of Cable TV

I have a lot to say about this, and I have a blog, and a lot of gamers are tech geeks, so here's a bit of a digression.

Recently, a lot of options have opened up with "home media players" that stream content directly over the internet, or allow you to watch your own content easily, which can completely eliminate a cable box1. We pay almost $100 a month just for the TV portion of our cable bill, and really don't watch all that much TV, so this is an avenue the whole family would love to explore.

I've been weighing the pros and cons of a few of them lately, especially between Google TV and the "Boxee Box".

Now, being an Android2 fanatic, I was all excited about Google TV! Android apps and a Chrome Browser on TV! Holy crap that sounds awesome!

But after doing some research, it looks like Google TV is too much and too little at the same time. It does more than a media center does, but doesn't have the prettiest interface and also doesn't support all the codecs you can throw at it.

So, Boxee is actually better, for my needs.

Now, Boxee is free software that I could run on a computer. Why spend $200 on that? Well.. first of all, the computer I could really run it on has a fan that makes some noise. Second of all, it would involve installing an IR port, linux drivers for an IR port, and getting some generic Universal Remote and needing to program it, etc etc, which probably would cost far more than $200 of hassle to set up in a way that doesn't require an engineering/CS degree to use the system.
(Never mind all of the background stuff it might be doing). I am a fan of dedicated hardware, at least in this idiom.

There's another option:
We have a PS3. The PS3 is equipped to run limited Media Center Client Software.
In fact, other than the XMB interface being a teensy bit ugly, that would almost work. I can even run a PS3-specific back end media server to automatically play my own video files in a format that the PS3 is happy to play.
Unfortunately, what PS3 lacks is the ability (for contractual reasons, not technical ones) to connect to streaming sites like Hulu.
There are back-end solutions to this, but the only one I really know about is PlayOn which requires yet another piece of server software specifically running on Windows somewhere3, and makes the experience a little uglier as well. It's cheaper than a boxee box ($80 for a lifetime subscription), though.

I think the best solution for us is a combination of these:
TV Antenna, for watching over-the-air realtime content (unfortunately without DVR capabilities)
BoxeeBox, for watching all the internet streaming media.
PS3/DVD player4, for watching disc-based content and occasionally stuff that Boxee doesn't support but PS3 somehow does.
(all with a back-end media server application running on my linux server, to handle some of the content)

There is a lot of overlap between what Boxee and PS3 can do, especially if we traveled down the dark road of Torrenting TV shows ("poor man's DVR").
So it's possible that we can experiment with that for awhile too.

Another factor is fan noise.. The PS3 can get awfully loud when playing a bluray disc; if it is always going to make that level of noise while playing streaming content, then it's not much better than the "move the desktop machine into the living room" option anyway.

I think I'm babbling in no particular direction now.
So, well, your thoughts?

1other than a few things that Must Be Watched Live like sports, but let's face it...)
2the portable device platform, not the boardgame or literal robots
3of all of the machines we have in the house, what we don't have is a Windows machine that could dedicate itself to serving this sort of content, especially on a wired connection.
4Our Home Theater Receiver has a built-in DVD player, which we usually use to play DVD discs because it's a 5-disc changer; in the ultimate future plans, that will go away with a replacement receiver that can handle more variety of inputs, but for now it is part of the setup.