peteg's blog - noise - games

... and that about wraps it up for The Sequence.

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I've been playing The Sequence on and off since I read the touch arcade review about a year ago. It's mostly fun but some puzzles are a bit too arcane. A huge break from it made it finally possible to nail the last two puzzles in the "core sequence." Those in the sandbox are a bit easier, and finding unimaginative solutions only took a couple of days of sporadic play.

Qwirkle

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I played Kate's homemade version of this with her in Brisbane: she'd taken some Scrabble sets and painted some coloured shapes on the backs of the tiles. This worked fine, apart from it being incomplete. Well, today I was at Bondi Junction with Dave and found the travel version at b.amused for $20, so I bought a couple of sets. The build quality is not high: the paint flaked off some of the tiles when I unpacked it. Oh well. I won my first game ever against Dave in Centennial Park later on.

... and that about wraps it up for Lode Runner.

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I've been fascinated by this game since I was a kid. At some point I bought a copy of the IBM PC version on a blue 3.5" disk that I still have. I'm sure I played it more on the Apple ][ back in the day however, and I never saw an official disk for that platform. Apparently there is an iOS version of this classic now. This time around I played all 150 levels in an excellent Apple ][ emulator: Open Emulator, which features all the monitor distortion you tried to forget, and the friendly sound the Disk ][ Drive makes while chewing your floppies. I chipped them €10.

Don't take the men figure there literally; I saved and reloaded frequently.

I always meant to check out Choplifter and so forth, but I fear I'll need a joystick to play them comfortably.

A Game of Thrones (second edition)

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Jérémie suggested that we play a strategy game and chose this one, which he'd played before. We (Sandy, Albert, Ilan and Jérémie's friend Carola) organised to play yesterday at Jérémie's flat on Oberon Street in Coogee. We delayed to today so I could meet Iain (now in Perth) at the ever-popular Courthouse Hotel in Newtown.

We started some time after 2pm. It took about 90 minutes to set up and go through the rules, and we played through to about 8:30pm with some breaks. We decided to stop at about 6 or 7 rounds (of the scheduled 10), and set 5 castles as the winning mark. Combat often took ages to resolve, and it has the funny mechanic that losing armies retreat instead of being destroyed.

I found it quite complex with little opportunity for coalition building beyond some obviously mutually-beneficial non-aggression agreements. Mine was the Tyrell (rose) house, so I got stuck with no ability to play starred actions (which make up about a third of the possible ones) for what felt like ages. As we didn't muster until the third or forth round I felt I was just levelling-up. At round 6 or so I spent large and ended the game with all three thrones and hence lots of power to shape the rounds we didn't play.

These games require more of an investment than I expected. I guess I was thinking of something closer to Diplomacy, which I still haven't played.

Pandemic

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I got Pandemic for Sandy, for her birthday last month. I thought it would be interesting to try something cooperative, unlike our usual fare. Albert, Sandy and Adrian and I played it at Albert and Sandy's place before dinner, which was a veggie risotto cooked by Albert, with much black tea.

Our first game went a bit cockeyed as we infected 3 cities per epidemic, and looked at the fresh (not discarded) card piles. We won relatively easily, with the Researcher (Adrian) and Dispatcher (me) combination working well, and the Medic (Sandy) keeping things under control. The Scientist (Albert) didn't seem that useful.

Our second game, after dinner, had Albert as the Operations Manager, Sandy as the Researcher, and me as the Medic. We played closer to the rules this time, but again it was an easy win; we scraped home with two breakouts left. Perhaps it would be more difficult if we didn't show our cards to each other. The rules are pretty clear once you have an idea how the game works.

Quite fun but enough analysis paralysis that one game is enough for a night.

7 Wonders

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Ilan and Nitzan bought this from the games shop in Bondi Junction. Nitzan checked out early, so it was Albert, Sandy, Ilan and me who got to road test it. It's a fun strategy game without too much analysis-paralysis. We ended up playing three rounds until about 4am. It goes much faster when you get to know the mechanics, which are ultimately pretty simple.

Portal 2 co-op

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I mentioned playing Portal 2 to Tom Sewell ages ago, and he told me that the co-op mode was where the action was. We finished it over two nights (this and about a month ago), taking perhaps 8 hours and 5 beers to reach the somewhere deflationary ending. It never got too frustrating, except when it involved knowing how close things were, such as stepping from one funnel to another; with the set-piece things (e.g. the launchers) you can just trust that the game designers got the distances, etc. right, but when I'm doing it with portals many don't look possible from where I'm standing. I had the same perspective problem with the solo version of this game.

We played at NICTA, but I'm glad we played it in-person and not over the net.

And that about wraps it up for Portal 2.

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That was also fun. Steam was selling it for $US15 over Christmas / New Year which is cheap enough for me. I'd forgotten my password and backdoor question and it seems their helpdesk went AWOL for those few days, so I created a new account. Maybe I'll do that for each game I buy.

The game played completely fine on the MacBook Pro and archaic one-button Apple mouse. I expected the last stage to be a repetition-fest ala Portal but instead I got it first go, which was both disappointing and a relief. I got stuck a few times but never for very interesting reasons; the pump station at the top of the aircon shaft was particularly irritating as they switch off the paint (at the base of the shaft) for no discernable reason! Finding just the right spot to jump from was totally banal.

As Tom Sewell observed there's a bit of overreach here: the need for narrative has killed the elegant simplicity of the original. The new mechanics look like a composite of the iPhone games the developers were playing in 2010... which are the games I'm playing now, of course. I quite enjoyed Where's my water?, which goes to show old-media Disney does know how to commission a good puzzle game. It's worth many a dollar, and they're only charging one.

And that about wraps it up for Portal.

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Yeah, that was fun. I enjoyed it right up to the final stage, which was a bit too repetitive (do more-or-less the same thing n times), and the time limit destroyed the casual pacing of the rest of the game (stop and read the graffiti!). The puzzles were generally easier than I expected, and I only got really stuck a couple of times.

Technologically I found the Steam client and Portal itself to be overly crashy on the new MacBook Pro, with the graphics subsystem often seizing up when I tried to exit or switch out of the game. This might be due to immature graphics drivers, or their inability to shuffle state transparently between the two cards. It also required a hack to get around its case-insensitive filesystem requirement.

Valve looks like they've overcooked Portal 2, with many more ways of getting around. We'll see in a few years time. :-)

Bang! with Albert, Sandy, a French couple.

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Sandy had been raving about this game a while now, and Albert managed to find the Bang! The Bullet super all-inclusive version at a games shop in the Sydney CBD. Today was the first run through at their place, and inevitably we butchered the rules: we required a player to have a gun in their possession before they could shoot, so I got killed in the first game before I got to do anything. In the second I managed to take a few life points off Sandy (who was the Sheriff both times) before I got annihilated, which was convenient as I did make it home in time for the rugby. There's got to be some payoff for these games where some people finish before others!

On that front Australia lost 23-22 to the Kiwis largely because Giteau was off with his boot; we should have scored at least another ten points. I feel so sorry for Deans, the coach... what more can he do? Also the backline has yet to wake up to the fact that Beale is going to have a crack from just about anywhere and needs mates when he does. Still, the Wallabies are on an upward trajectory that raises hope that next year's World Cup will be entertaining, at least.

Bridges of Shangri-La, Saboteur, Citadels with Pete R. and Rob.

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At Pete's place after the kids got put to bed. Bridges of Shangri-La is perhaps better with three players, but I got hammered early when I made a couple of poor Master placements, and as I therefore had no chance to win I ended up playing a kingmaker role, ensuring that Rob got over the line. I don't think Rob enjoyed it too much, it's a bit too dry.

Saboteur was good with three players. Pete cleaned up after a massive blunder from Rob and I at the start: we played some deadends around the start card, and Pete (as saboteur) managed to completely block us.

Citadels was better too; each player gets two characters per round and the strategy is a bit different. The game goes faster, with less dead time waiting for one's turn. I won due to some poor strategy from Pete and Rob in the final round: if you've got seven cities and have a competitive number of points then it pays to take high-ranked characters pretty much irrespective of what you've got in your hand: you're likely to avoid getting killed or thieved, and the payoff for finishing first is huge.

Saboteur, Citadels with Ilan, Nitzan, Pete R., Rob, Maria, Allan.

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Alan and Maria hosted the fortnighly meetup at their magic flat in Kingsford. Over a massive cheese platter and wine we opened with the traditional Saboteur and moved on to Citadels, which I missed about two-thirds of with shockingly poor judgement of character cards. The King got stuck with Ilan so Alan and Pete R. got almost no choice about characters for most of the game.

I can't remember who won but it wasn't me. I think we need some new games.

Bridges of Shangri-La with Pete R.

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I managed to draw against Pete this time, despite him plying me with three beers. The two-player game is wearing thin, it must be said; roughly the game comes down to how many of your opponent's pieces you can tie up as students in unreachable villages, and if you can leverage a "private" bridge, where she or he cannot place a student and hence blow the bridge. We also had an arms race, where two maximally-populated villages faced off across a bridge. This looks like a who-moves-first loses thing, but towards the end of the game having some extra pieces really helps, if they can be placed, so losing seven students is not so bad.

Set and Citadels with Albert, Sandy, Pete R., Ilan, Nitzan.

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This fortnight we played at Ilan and Nitzan's place in Maroubra. We started with Set, where one has to find three of the twelve cards on the table that, for each of the attributes, are either all the same or all different. (The nesting of quantifiers was hard for us new players to grasp, but became intuitively obvious after a few rounds.) The patterns are sometimes difficult to discern and it takes too much concentration to be a very social experience. Apparently there is a whole class of games like this.

After that we had a full game of Citadels, using just the basic characters. I ended up winning but not very convincingly; it seemed to be a waste of time to pick up cards, as the magician wasn't a very popular choice for everyone else. I think I used it for more than half my turns, collecting just a little gold and building as soon as I could. It took maybe two hours to finish.

Bridges of Shangri-La

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Finally got around to playing it with Pete R., at least in a getting-to-know-the-rules kind of way. He won, despite my conniving. It is certainly better with more than two people.

Saboteur and Citadels with Albert, Sandy, Pete R., Ilan, Nitzan, Maria, Allan.

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Huge turn out for the first games night I hosted, and for once Pete R. didn't spill his drink. We began with Saboteur, after which we tried to learn how to play Citadels. (I bought it at Mind Games in Canberra for Sandy, for her birthday.) Hopefully next time we'll get though a complete game of it. Fun, fun, fun...

I also bought a copy of Bridges of Shangri-La, which I will play when I can find two or three other people who are up for some anti-social analysis-paralysis. I have fond memories of playing it with Sus's husband Magnus many years ago.

Saboteur with Albert, Pete R. and Sandy.

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First games night in a long time for me, having been away and all. We played most of a game of Scotland Yard, abandoning it when it became apparent that with only four detectives it is just too hard to corner Pete R.. Afterwards was Saboteur, which was fun. I cleaned up by chance; it is a game where it pays to be stingy when others are generous or suspicious.

Machiavelli, a card game.

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I learnt this one from an Italian girl while I was in Nha Trang last year. You'll need two decks of cards, a fairly large table and a mate or two. Please tell me how I can improve this presentation of the rules.

Choose the dealer.

Oldest person deals the first hand, then winners deal successive hands.

Deal.

The dealer shuffles the two decks into one pile of cards and deals each player fourteen cards face-down.

Goal.

A player wins by being the first to play all the cards in their hand.

Invariant.

Initially the table is bare, with the pile of undealt cards placed face-down within easy reach of all players.

At the end of each player's turn, each card played on the table must be part of exactly one:

  • three- or four-of-a-kind, with each suit appearing at most once; or
  • a run, where each card is of the same suit. (The ace follows the king in a run, and cannot be placed before the two.)

Play.

Play proceeds in turns, going clockwise, starting with the player to the left of the dealer.

Initially a player must play (at least) a self-contained group of three cards. After doing so, and on successive rounds, a player may play as many cards as they like. They can adjust the groups of cards already on the table by:

  • adding cards to an existing group; or
  • redistributing existing groups and adding cards.

If the player does not play a card on the table, they must pick up a card from the top of the deck of undealt cards, after which play continues with the next player.

Note there is no notion of "ownership" of a group of cards on the table.

Wasting time wholesale.

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If you need to burn serious amounts of time, I suggest you try Desktop Tower Defence, a Flash game apparently similar to Command and Conquer, though I think it's better described as anti-Lemmings.

There's also a Scrabble application on FaceBook that is keeping many people endlessly amused.