Monday, December 9, 2013

Purchases Made

So, after the gaming weekend (see the synopsis below), I have indeed made some purchases.

I decided to buy Lords of Waterdeep! And even though I hadn't tried the expansion yet, I figured I'd just go ahead and get that out of the way, along with the single promo card available on BoardGameGeek.
Hopefully the game will arrive within the next few days, and even more hopefully, maybe I can convince the wife to try it out ;)
(It may even be on my son's level sooner than I think...)

I also threw Love Letter into the order, because I've been meaning to. It's a $10 game that keeps coming up on suggestion lists...

Maybe you can come by sometime and play with me? :)

Chris-A-Con Recap

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of being able to play lots and lots of boardgames.

Spoiler: No BSG!

Here are the highlights; if you want pictures, I have a few, but most of them are blurry or not very interesting.

First up was Smash Up, a game that is on my wishlist because of its silliness.
Zombie Bear Cavalry (me) vs. Ghost Wizards vs. Steampunk Pirates vs. Ninja Dinosaurs.

Not sure if Zombies + Bears was a good combo or not. Zombies like to be destroyed and come back, and Bears like to be indestructible. But whatever.

It was a fun game, but it lasted a lot longer than expected.
The rules are a little bit unclear on what happens when there's a tie, so we kept playing until somebody had the most points for an entire round around the table. This led to some semi-cooperative strategies, where 3 players would work together to make the game go on longer.  So it was about a 2 hour long game.
I don't think that usually happens.

Ossian's review: GRRRR . Would play again, but might not buy.

Sentinels of the Multiverse came next. A cooperative superhero game. It is beautiful, but I'm not sure about it.
We played against the easiest villain (according to the experienced players; Baron Blade?) and it was a little too easy. We reprised the game on Sunday and played against Miss Information, and the game was a lot more tense (we did win but barely).
As far as pure cooperative games go, it told a good story but I wish it could be tweaked just a little bit so the bad guy could make choices, a sort of traitor mechanic.

Ossian's review: GRRR . Would go along with a suggestion to play this again, but wouldn't go out of my way for it.

And then came Takenoko , a game I brought. My gardener's head snapped off in a 5-year-old incident, so this was the "Chewbaccanoko" version. Still, gameplay was great, and it was a nice little filler-with-some-strategy game. My first time playing with 4 players and I loved it.

Ossian's review: GRRRRR. I own it, and I recommend it.

After that came Lords of Waterdeep, a game I specifically wanted to try out, and Dan had brought.
We played the base game, and I really liked it.  I don't play very many Worker Placement games, but I thought that there were plenty of interesting choices, and while I lost, I had a good time. I had the Lord who wanted me to build buildings, and maybe focused a little too much on that, for not enough reward.
Had an excellent time with this and will buy it.

Ossian's review: GRRRRR. More fun than anticipated. Will buy, and consider blindly buying the expansion as well.

The final game of the night was Super Dungeon Explore. I actually picked this game to play, and I think I regret it.
It was a nice-looking game, and the theme is cool.  But the game might be one of those where it really doesn't get fun until people really understand the rules. Too much fiddly "what does this keyword mean?" etc for not too much gain. By the time I had figured out what was going on in any way, my character was dead.
I'll pass on this one, especially for the price.

Ossian's review: GRR. I don't want to play this again. But it's a game, and I'll play it if it's the only option.

On Sunday, as I said, we played Sentinels of the Multiverse for a second time.
Also played an incomplete game of Agricola (we stopped when one player was clearly far ahead and more people had shown up so we could switch games).
I had never played Agricola before, surprisingly.. but after playing Lords of Waterdeep, the Worker Placement mechanic was still fresh in my mind.
I have to make direct comparisons between these 2 games because they are so similar yet so different.
Lords has a more-focused goal, where Agricola is all over the place.
Every Lords card follows a pretty small set of rules, where Agricola cards can have a ton of text.
Comparing these games is like comparing San Juan and Race for the Galaxy. In that case, I much prefer San Juan because I don't have to worry about what all those icons and special rules mean.
In the case of Agricola and Lords, it's not quite as clear of a distinction.
I liked both, but I think I liked Lords more. I would totally play Agricola again, but probably won't buy it any time soon.
If I do ever buy Agricola, I'll also feel compelled to collect all of those mini-expansions. It's just my nature.
So I'm safer staying away from buying it.
That being said, if you see it on my amazon wishlist, I wouldn't be disappointed to receive it ;)

Ossian's review: GRRRRr. Would play again. It was really good. Maybe I'm a bigger fan of Worker Placement than I realized. May buy in the future, but not yet.

So, that's basically it for now.

As some bonus content: One game that we did not play, which I still might buy, is Formula D. It's a game about car racing, which of course my 5-year-old son is really into anyway. When I think he can handle something slightly more complex that his rule-less playing with Hot Wheels, maybe I'll pick this up. Perhaps an appropriate Father's Day gift... :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Breaking Bad ending predictions...

So yeah, that spoiler thing seemed to work. If it did, click the button below to see more. If it didn't, and if you care about plot points up through the second-to-last episode "Granite State", do not read below this line:

Saturday, July 27, 2013


When Google announced the Chromecast a few days ago, at first I shrugged it off as "interesting, but whatever".
But then when I realized I could get it from Amazon with free Prime Shipping, and it came with 3 free months of Netflix even for existing customers, (sorry, the Netflix offer expired after they realized how broken it was) I just couldn't resist! A grand effective total of $11. I've paid more for stupider things.

So, because of Prime Shipping, it arrived only 2 days later.

Setup was simple. I did it from the Android app; it sets up an ad-hoc wifi network so that you can enter the real wifi credentials, and then you are ready for business.

And, for what it is, it does what it does well.
I installed the Android app, the Windows app, and the Chrome extension (on both my PC and my wife's Mac)
I was able to stream youtube from both my phone and both PCs with no problem.
For Netflix, the first time I tried, Silverlight crashed. But the second time it was just fine.
For "tab casting", I had some trouble, but it turned out that it doesn't work so well with AMD Switchable Graphics, which is exactly what I have in my primary laptop. I get mixed results there, but it does work with Chrome on the Macbook. I'll just have to sit tight and wait for them to fix that other bug.

Tab Casting is pretty interesting. The number one reason is -- at least for now -- free Hulu works! Even in Full Screen!
So we can project Hulu videos -- or videos from any site that doesn't have an "app" interface for the Chromecast -- onto the TV with the greatest of ease.
For Hulu specifically, I suspect that will be getting blocked as soon as they figure out how.

What I haven't tried yet is playing a local video file in a tab and pushing it to the Chromecast. This allegedly works...

Now the downsides:
Other than the bugs, which I hope are getting worked on, and the limited number of things that work with it outside of the Chrome browser..
1) It isn't really easily controllable.  It's not for everyone. You still need a PC or smartphone to control the content, and especially with broadcasting a tab, it means controlling it from the actual webpage on your screen. This isn't as easy for Netflix as using the PS3 remote, which my 5-year-old can do by himself.

2) Video quality -- well, this could be psychological, but we noticed that some videos seemed to be lower quality.  That being said, the "tabcasting" feature caps at 720p so that might have something to do with it, but it was even the case with Youtube. It's too early to tell whether that was just a matter of the videos we chose, or a real issue.

That's all I can really say so far.
Do I recommend it for nerds? Sure.
Will I use it every day? Probably not.
Do I recommend it for normal people, over some other streaming box?  Maybe not until more content is directly supported. Even though it's a mere $35, I think you might still be better off spending more money on something easier to use.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"What's a MOBA?"

Last night, after failing to resume the previous week's Civ V multiplayer game because of a combination of general Steam issues and an apparently crappy "set up multiplayer game" UI (according to the host), I was told to download and try out League of Legend.
Kevin explained to me that it was a "moba" as if I would know what that word meant. He didn't even give me room to ask, so I had to google it and find out that there's a rich history behind this specific type of game.
Apparently this is a whole class of games that already has a huge lexicon associated with it, and players on public internet games who are nothing but newbie-hating dicks.
The tutorial told me "Get In Your Lane" without explaining that terminology, for example.
And the tutorial even called me bad names for idling too long when I went to talk to my wife just getting home from work. It said it might flag me for bad behavior -- in a single player tutorial!
I didn't play long enough to say I've formulated a full opinion on the game, but I didn't seem to understand what the big deal was after playing through the tutorial.  I'll have to try it.

The same Kevin tried to get me into a similar, but turn-based, game on iOS. I think maybe it was called "Hero Academy"? I got bored of that one pretty quickly too (not just because I kept losing, but because there wasn't a lot of variety in what you could do), so maybe this just isn't my style of video game.

(Ironically, a game like Hero Academy in boardgame form might actually be fun for me. I dunno why)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

BSG Personal Goals Variant

Ooh... gaming content!
Here's a little idea I had about BSG rules, which may be rendered completely obsolete by something in Daybreak. But hey..

Cross-posting to the boardgamegeek forum:

I really don't like Personal Goals, conceptually.
They are completely backwards.  Most of the time, even though it's called a personal goal, you have pretty much no incentive to fulfill its conditions unless the listed resource is specifically low. And due to the replacement clause, you are unlikely to even think about some of them until after Distance 6.

So here's my simple idea, instead of "Lose this resource at the end of the game" clause (untested):

At the end of the game, reveal all unfulfilled Personal Goals.
For each unfulfilled Personal Goal, destroy one raptor. If there are no raptors, lower one resource with the lowest value by 1 instead.

Note that this still only matters in a "Humans Win" situation. An unrevealed Cylon with a Personal Goal follows the same rules.

I think that this simple change isn't overpowered, yet still gives players just enough push to try and fulfill their personal goals early and often.

It also gives more incentive for protecting raptors after scouting is irrelevant, if you have Goals that may not be achievable.

Your thoughts?

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Next Doctor.. sort of..

This post is kind of spoilery about the latest stuff known about Doctor Who..
So, if you're a fan and you're not up-to-date, skip it.
And if you really don't care for Doctor Who, skip it.

So here's what we know, or what we think we know:
* Clara has become The Impossible Girl, but is still appearing in the next season somehow.
* John Hurt is probably some regeneration that We Don't Talk About from the past, between 8 and 9. Possibly the Shalka Doctor?
* Matt Smith is leaving the show after the Christmas Special.

Here is what I want to happen:

At the end of the Christmas Special, the Eleventh Doctor dies. But they don't show him regenerating.
Cut immediately to the Eighth Doctor -- special guest star Paul McGann -- regenerating into John Hurt.
John soon encounters Clara Oswald, although yet another incarnation who is a stranger to the Doctor.
What ensues is the darkest, grittiest season of the show yet. We see the Time War. We see the atrocities committed by Doctor 8.5, as Clara tries desperately to stop him and keep him under control.
During this season we HATE the Doctor. He is a villain in the extreme. Maybe he even uses a different name. We see Time Lords dying. Maybe his own family. Maybe an encounter where The Master is portrayed as the good guy.
And then, as the darkness of the Time War comes to a close, the John Hurt doctor finally meets his death after a single season, regenerating into special guest star Christopher Eccleston.

Then we fade back to the "present time", where Eleven is in his death throes, and begins regenerating into.. someone new, but that's not important right now.

How does that sound?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pi Ramble

Oh hey, in gaming news, I actually played a couple hours of PlanetSide 2 (and got one kill!), and a little bit of XCOM and Jet Set Radio. I must say that the newest video drivers for my Radeon are quite an improvement -- no more weird slowdowns in the middle of animation so far).
I really hope I get some board gaming soon...

So yeah, I have this Raspberry Pi.
I have managed to shut down my main linux server (which used to also be an occasional media front end) and replace 90% of its functionality with this tiny little box.
It's pretty awesome.
I've had to do some compiling to get a few packages on there, but it's exceeding my expectations. I can see it acting a bit slow on some tasks, but the point is not super power.

It's currently got berryboot, dual-booting raspbian and (about 1% of the time) the XBMC-optimized distribution OpenELEC, both fully on a 16GB sdcard.  I have plans on expanding the space onto a USB hard drive, but haven't gotten around to that yet.
My mongodb instance, which is mainly used for my silly VTES IRC bot "Gramle", has its data in a ram drive which is slightly faster than the sdcard.
(Some mongo data from my old machine wasn't yet imported; mainly the stuff in my never-quite-begun BSG PBF Moderator tool which is on hold until Daybreak).

If you have any questions at all about my experiences with the Pi, feel free to ask.

And now, silly old me is worried about the hostname. :)
Right now, the machine is named "raziya", named -- purely as a pun -- after Raziya Samater, a classic combat weenie VTES vampire.
But at some point, I was attempting a Battlestar Galactica theme of machine names:
I've got baltar (the Linux server that is going into semi-retirement but isn't dead yet), who (cleverly) has a (rarely-used) Windows XP virtual machine inside him named six.
And I've got my "gaming laptop" named boomer , who (again, so cleverly) is named athena when booted into the rarely-used Linux partition.
I also used to have machines called cally and tyrol, but both have been long since retired.
My ipad was onced called leoben, and then husker, until I felt an obligation to have one machine named ossian (also not a BSG reference, but my dear readers should understand it), so that's that.

My main domain names have nothing to do with BSG, but that has never stopped me from arbitrary themes before...  and no other "named" machines have names having to do with BSG at all. My wife's laptops have had names chosen by her for her own reasons, and the machines that don't really have incoming connections (phone, ps3, etc) don't get special names.

(You can see why this is on my blog and not posted to social media, as frivolous as the concern is ;) )

So now I'm thinking, perhaps I should name the machine scar . Coincidentally, my son has been watching Lion King lately, so that's also remotely related..

What do you think?
Any other suggestions?
Do you want to call me insane for blogging about this? :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I really want to play some games...

We are still in a "moving-in" state in our house... so I haven't had much chance to play any games.
I actually got to a Pathfinder session this week (!)
But I'd like to get into PlayGamesWithJosh again.. or at least PlayGamesWithChris.
And video games.. oh video games. My laptop is already getting "old" :) and I think I'm still in the middle of an Xcom game from 4 months ago.
I need to catch up on Steam, PS3, and maybe even pop some emulators onto my new Raspberry Pi.

Speaking of the Pi:  Yes, I've got one.
There's not a whole lot to write about it but it far exceeds my expectations for under $50.  It's running my whole Linux Server subsystem right now (everything that doesn't require a hard drive or video processing) and I couldn't be happier.

Thinking about getting a second one...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I am still here!

I have things to say.
I hate apologizing in every post.

But I am moving this week, to a new home.
Throughout the early days of this move, I hope to be documenting both my gaming experiences (including a resurgence of PGWJ, I hope) and my home theater experiences (which will involve some changes, after lessons learned at my current home)

Watch this space!

If this is still the latest post in a few weeks, please leave a comment to tell me to say something interesting!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Home Media Stuff part 2: the Huluization

I should edit the previous post to match the current state of things, but in case you are reading, here's a slight update on that:

We were Netflix customers before they offered streaming.
When they started their streaming service, we held on to the DVD side as well.  By the end, this was just so Talita could catch up on True Blood. And there are still a bunch of things on Netflix DVD-only (the HBO series probably will remain that way).

But we really weren't using that aspect for anything else recently, and it was, of course, costing us extra money for that privilege.

So we canned the Netflix DVD half, sticking with their streaming side.

On the other side of things, one of the reasons I had for keeping Linux+XBMC around was for "free Hulu", which requires a computer.
Ever since its creation, I have been convinced that the "Hulu Plus" service, when running on a non-computer device, was not actually "Free Hulu, plus paid content", but *only* the paid content. I have loudly voiced this as fact whenever someone asked about home media setups.

... So when we decided to try out Hulu+, at least for the free trial week, I was pleasantly surprised.
After loading it up on the PS3, everything seems to be there! I'm happy with this turn of events.

So now, without paying any more money than we were (because of the "trade" of services), there is even less of a reason to hold on to the TV-connected Linux Box.
Sure, XBMC is still great, and still necessary for playing "local" content, but like I said, we really don't watch much of that.
I bet we could totally pull the HDHomeRun device out of the chain, shut down mythtv, and we wouldn't even notice.

And, at some point, we can relegate XBMC to a "plug in to the TV when needed" role.
There's no rush on that, especially since I have to keep that box always-on until I find a reasonable replacement for the non-TV bits, but it is an interesting consideration...

The idea of AppleTV, mentioned in the other post, might come to fruition or might hold off.. we'll see, really have to look at what it adds. And now that CES is showing off a bunch of 'smart TVs', maybe that's the right direction instead.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Home media stuff

This is about how we watch TV, and what we want to do about it.
(Not even one of the things on my list of possible topics! But a good place to dump my thoughts)
Sorry if it gets long and boring.

A few years ago, when we were considering options to cut out cable TV while still getting our content legally, we really didn't know what we were doing. And also, the options were more limited.

Long story short (and yes this is the short version), this is what we have ended up with for watching various media on the TV, and pretty much what our setup is today:

  1. Regular old "over-the-air" TV (which is still currently coming in over the comcast wire, allegedly something called ClearQAM which we may lose at some point)
  2. Playstation 3
    1. Blu Ray drive for watching disc-based movies
    2. Netflix/Amazon/VUDU/sometimes PS3-store streaming video
  3. Roku (rarely used since PS3 got Amazon video, mostly used for Pandora)
  4. MythBuntu Linux box
    1. MythTV
      1. HDHomeRun device, actually physically separate, takes in the stream of "over-the-air" TV so that MythTV can DVR it.
        1. Note: We are really down to DVRing about 2 shows, and watching the rest on Amazon or "free Hulu" (
        2. The signal coming in to the HDHR (and to the TV for that matter) is not consistent. Sometimes channels are available on one, on the other, or neither or both.  Something to do with the way we split the signal for sure, but this is still an annoyance. 
          1. We can't complain to Comcast about this because, despite it being legal for us to have the stream, they still might send a truck over to shut off the TV stream. It's complicated, as far as I can tell from reading about ClearQAM.
      2. Very rarely, watching live TV through MythFrontEnd or Mythbox (4.2.1). We don't use "pause live TV" functionality as much as we originally thought we would.
    2. XBMC, remote controlled by "Official XBMC remote" app for mobile devices, amongst other things.
      1. Mythbox add-in for watching MythTV-recorded shows.
        1. Note: The team-xbmc PPA version of XBMC 11 is stale and doesn't have necessary updates to properly communicate with MythTV 0.25. So the Live TV functionality, and playing Myth recordings "from the server", are gone unless I decide to install XBMC from source instead. I could do that, but I don't want to have to maintain my version of XBMC every time something changes. It reduces the convenience factor.
      2. Local video files
        1. We have a good chunk of these, but in practice we watch them so rarely that we don't need an always-available solution.
      3. Tons of streaming plugins
        1. Notably, Hulu
          1. Hulu's free side requires you to be watching on a "computer" and not a "device".
          2. XBMC's Hulu plugin is not perfect (don't even try to pause it!) but it is better than exiting the software to run a browser or the Hulu Desktop software.
          3. (I'll get back to this in the epilogue): The Hulu Plus service, which costs money and works on anything with a screen (including XBMC of course), is not a complete superset of Hulu. Most of the free stuff is not a part of Hulu Plus. I have been very stubborn about keeping Hulu available on the TV screen. Yet, in practice, we also don't watch the 'exclusively on free Hulu' streaming stuff very often.
          4. Hulu's policy on what recent TV is available for free, and what requires Plus, seems pretty arbitrary. For example: Fringe and Bones are both Fox shows. Fringe's latest episode is only available on HuluPlus, and 4 or 5 episodes before that are available for free. But for Bones, the reverse is true: The latest episode is free, and the previous 4 or 5 episodes require Plus.  Wut?
      4. Airplay and DLNA
        1. XBMC support for the Airplay protocol is impressive, but incomplete and somewhat buggy.
        2. It is really convenient to "send to XBMC" pretty much anything from an Android phone, though. Photos, videos, music, youtube, etc.
      5. Note: When XBMC crashes, it sucks. And sometimes it crashes just from being idle too long. And I have to kill -9 it and restart XBMC.  I can do this remotely, but again, it reduces the convenience factor of watching stuff when I'm not home.
    3. HDMI audio in Linux is a pain in the ass. Enough said.

That's the end of the "intro".  Still with me? Any questions?

(Oh, I should also mention that our house is slowly being infested by Apple products, culminating in my wife's recent switch from Android to her beloved iphone5)

So.. overall, despite being easy to control 90% of the time, the Linux box is just not working out for us.
And aside from that, we already can source most of our content from elsewhere.

What I'm thinking is this:
We could break down and subscribe to HuluPlus, and then get all of our "available recent TV episodes" without mucking with Free Hulu or XBMC quirks. HuluPlus will run on the PS3 certainly. (And of course, codec-limitations aside, the PS3 can also play content sent to it over DLNA, so we don't completely lose that aspect of XBMC). We could also get an AppleTV device (rather than a BoxeeBox or GoogleTV or whatever), which would play nicely with all of the apple devices and of course (the necessary evil) itunes.
Considering those things, I think we could significantly reduce our reliance on the TV-connected Linux Box.
Yes, it will cost us a bit more money, but convenience and stability also has a price while trying to stay legal.

All of this would also allow me to scale down my Linux server. I can't completely get rid of it because I use it for other things, so of course the content will still be there to freely stream or whatever. But, at least the machine wouldn't have to be video-connected to the TV, which adds some flexibility. And eventually I could rebuild it and turn it more into a file server.

And then there is the wildcard of "companies are working on this stuff", like Intel's plan for a-la-carte TV, and the media center feature advancements of newer consoles (I'll skip the WiiU but I am intently watching for whatever the next Xbox comes up with). And we have to replace our amp/receiver eventually, and half of those are also magically network-connected too. So there is stuff.

Added bonus content for you who read all the way to the end:
There's an additional factor.
Sooner than later, we're going to move out of our condo and into -- hopefully -- a proper house. It might even be this year!
One of my very immediate plans for a new house, where we own all the walls, is to put ethernet jacks everywhere and have a proper wiring closet.
That's a dream of mine, so that the wired-network-connected devices don't all have to be clustered around the cable modem -- which at this point means they all have to be clustered around the TV. I would be so happy to be able to hide file servers out-of-the-way in random rooms and such....

Moral of the story: YES we are STILL HAPPY that we don't have cable TV anymore. It's just that once the system evolves over years of patching and adding, you have to re-assess the situation and simplify what you can.

Any questions/commentary at this point? Something I'm missing?
Assume piracy is not an option.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy New Year

Oh, hello there, 2013!
I think I owe you some posts.

Things I should write about:
* PGWJ session reports
* Steam game stuff (P.S. I won XCOM!)
* Red Dwarf X BluRay review (it's coming next week, theoretically)
* PGWE (Playing Games with Eli!) -- everything from Just Dance 4 to Forbidden Island
* Geekifying Eli -- such as reading The Hobbit

Maybe I will get a post up some time soon.
Anything that my faithful readers wish to hear about, specifically?