Saturday, January 28, 2012

Windows 7 problem solved (?)

I know this is mostly a gaming blog, but I really wanted a place to make something publicly searchable, for people experiencing the painful issue that recently happened with my wife's Toshiba laptop.

I have been working on this problem since 4pm yesterday; it is now 10:30am, I haven't slept, and I'm fairly confident that I found the answer.

The symptom:
Her machine was acting strangely and slowly...
So what do I do, but go over to Windows Update and see if I can install a patch.
I saw Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) had not been installed yet, so the genius that I am I chose to install it.
Boy was that a bad idea.
The machine wouldn't boot; it got caught with some Fatal Errors failing to install some patch.
I tried rebooting to a recovery partition. I tried running the standard Restore tools; they did not work. I tried 'sfc /scannow', and it said it couldn't fix everything. Obviously I also did not have a good Restore Point to go back to.
Rebooting, I got either "Fatal Error C0000034", or some other Fatal Error number, or the machine would simply stall at the "Starting Windows" screen and then go black after about 20 minutes.

This was so frustrating...
Eventually I must have found the magic search terms.
After booting with a Linux LiveUSB and backing up the whole drive to a server, I finally found THIS:

It involves what is basically a System Restore of registry entries back to the very original state.
Somehow, this "just worked"! The machine booted, it's happy (so far) and all of the programs and data are intact (so far).
I still don't really understand how it fixed things without breaking other things...
...and I'll be damned if I try going back to Windows Update any time soon; my wife is graduating at the end of this semester and needs a working laptop during that time.
So maybe in June or July we will find our install discs and reinstall from scratch just in case. But for now, so far so good.

If there is any other detail (or failure) that I need to add, I will post it in the comments. Please read.

I hope that people of the future get some use out of this post. Please comment if you found your solution here.

I leave you with the wisdom of XKCD:

Friday, January 13, 2012


I should mention TempleCon here, if I haven't already)
I'm going to it. February 3-5. (still not sure where I'm sleeping, at least on Friday night)

I've been at TempleCon every year since its inception, and have played in the major VTES tournaments there.
But I haven't played VTES since last TempleCon, and I did preregister for a "full-priced, not secret-VTES-code" badge.
While I'm planning to participate in VTES -- at least the Saturday tournament -- I also want to get some boardgaming in.

Obviously, it isn't the best venue to bring Risk Legacy to (...or is it? we might have 3 or 4 of our original 5 there hmm), and I probably don't want to play in anyone else's Legacy game if they've opened up stuff I haven't seen yet.

But I will definitely be up for games of Dominion, 7 Wonders, Cosmic, random-game-I-haven't-played-yet... with strangers or with friends.

Who reads my blog and is going to TempleCon -- for VTES or otherwise?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

7 Wonders for 7 Players

Happy (belated) New Year, Team Grr!

Over the Holiday Season, one of my gifts was the game "7 Wonders". I've been waiting to play it for weeks.
At the most recent PlayGamesWithJosh™ meeting, we were scheduled for 5 people, in which case we were going to continue our Risk Legacy game.. but then a 6th piped in, and a really-last-minute 7th.

Aha! 7 Wonders takes up to 7 players. Perfect!

Some of us were passingly familiar with the rules but hadn't really played; most of us hadn't played before at all.

Just around 7:45pm:
We assigned one person in charge of the rules (I'm a terrible game teacher), went over them a little bit, and decided to just start playing. We used all 7 wonders (obviously) on their "A" sides.
As soon as we had our first hands of cards, there was an immediate screech to a halt, questions popping up everywhere about what symbols meant what, how things interacted, etc etc.
Oh crap, this game is going to take all night!

Not so..
A few rounds in, a few mistakes made, we started getting the hang of things (except Science).
We finished the first game in under an hour, even with our slowdowns (including the inevitable part of the Third Age where everyone has to look up symbols again) and the arrival of pizza.

Then the Rules Guy actually explained how Science was scored, and that made a bit of a difference.

So, we went on to Game 2, wherein we would start with a fresh understanding of the game.
Of course, some of us decided to go more heavily into Science in Game 2 (especially me), and it showed.

After Game 2, "wow, that went fast."
We played a third game, this time with everyone using Side B.
This game really flowed well, and felt solid.
I can't wait to play again.

Specific personal opinions:
I like the fact that you can "do your own thing", but still have to be aware of what the guys on your left and right are doing. What resources they have, how much military they've got, and (to some extent) "hate-drafting" (taking a card just so the guy to your left/right doesn't get it).

I like the fact that it is a FAST game with SEVEN players. Damn, dude. A 7-player game of BSG could take 6 hours :)

I like the fact that the meanings of the icons are intuitive, after you've seen a few. The colors, the arrows, the numbers, you could easily see a new card and immediately know exactly what it does.

The rulebook could use some work. When questions came up in the game, we eventually did find the answers in the rulebook, but they weren't always where you expected, and sometimes were in "aside statements". (Like whether you could build 2 buildings of the same name, or whether you could build multiple parts of your Wonder in the same Age, for instance).

But 7 Wonders gets a GRRRRRR (that's good) on the arbitrary Ossian Rating Scale :)

Plans for next time:
I think I'll try to make "starting player packs", a ziplock baggie with 3 coins and 2 of each positive military point, to make setup faster. (Unfortunately there aren't nearly enough "-1" chips to give everyone the potential maximum of 6 for their own pool).

Need to figure out a smooth way to randomize "side A/side B". It doesn't seem like it would work really well to rely on the facing of the Wonder cards; I don't know how to fairly randomize that. Some ideas out there?

One burning question:
Why is Science listed before Guilds in the rulebook, but after Guilds on the scoresheet?

Should the game get exercised several times before buying the Leaders expansion, or is it worth diving straight in?

Any other commentary?