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Archive for February, 2007

Off to Korea…

Posted by Brian on February 28, 2007

I’m off to Korea tomorrow morning to go back to work for the next 5 months in preparation for grad school in September. My next post will be from the Land of the Morning Calm.

Oh yea… Korean hottie Lee Sung-hee had a small but explosive role on Lost tonight. She was playing a Japanese woman,  though.

Posted in Personal | Leave a Comment »

Board Game Review: Ciao Ciao

Posted by Brian on February 25, 2007

I’m a big fan of Alex Randolph’s games because of his knack for taking a simple concept and spinning it into a fun game. Take his Ricochet Robots, for example. Here’s a game that involves moving robots around on a map while trying to get one robot from point A to point B. It sounds dry as hell, but it works splendidly as a multi-player experience (in fact, it’s one of only four games that I’ve rated as a 10). Ciao Ciao is another such game with a simple idea that makes for a surprisingly fun game.

The game is simple. The bottom of the box is lined with cardboard showing a host of man-eating plants on the floor of a humid jungle. A small cardboard “bridge” is placed on top of the game box, resting on two sides of the box’s rim. Each player has seven pawns which will try, one at a time, to cross the bridge over the danger below to find sanctuary on the other side. Beyond the bridge is another cardboard tile for placing the pawns should they make the dangerous journey across the bridge. To start the game, each player places on pawn on the starting side of the bridge.

The only other component to the game is a special dice tumbler. It’s a small cardboard tube with a clear plastic cover on one end, with a special d6 sitting inside; it’s designed so that the die roller can roll the die and get a result secretly. The die inside is distinct in that it is labeled 1-4, with two sides with a large X. On a player’s turn he’s to roll the die and look at the result without letting the other players know what he rolled. If the result is 1-4, he simply says the number out loud as shown. But if an X turns up, he needs to bluff by giving his opponents a number from 1-4. Once he gives a number (either truthfully or otherwise), the other players have a chance to challenge his or her statement. If no challenges are made, then the player can move his pawn across the bridge a number of spaces equal to the number he called (and again, the player may have lied). If someone challenges the die roller, then the die result is revealed to all and someone’s pawn will take a dive. If the die roller was telling the truth, then the challenger’s pawn is tossed over dramatically and the die roller can move his piece across the bridge in accordance with the rule above. If the die roller was bluffing, then his pawn is pushed off the bridge and the challenger gets to move his pawn a number of spaces equal to the number called by the die roller. Play proceeds in this manner until one of two ending conditions is accomplished.

The simplest way to win is to be the first player to get three pawns across this bridge, though this condition isn’t reached nearly as often one might think. The challenges come fast and heavy, with pawns constantly taking a dive into the box of death. It just isn’t likely that one player will have the luxury of getting 3 pawns across the bridge without any sort of challenge from his opponents. The other victory condition, should no player get 3 pawns across, is based on the order in which the successful pawns crossed the bridge. The cardboard tile playing home to the pawns that made the crossing is numbered form 1 to 8, with the first pawn across placed on the 1 spot, the second on the 2 spot, and so on. Should no player get 3 pawns across, then the pawns on this tile are scored for points based on the order in which they finished (1 point, 2 points, and so on), meaning that a late finish is worth more points than an early one.

My description probably makes the game seem more complicated than it really is. It actually is quite simple and moves along quickly. Its main asset is the fun that ensues as people make lousy attempts at bluffing while the rest consider the risk of challenging or not. It is, however, nothing more than a roll-a-die-and-bluff-if-you-have-to game, meaning it can be a fun diversion but nowhere near meaty enough to warrant more than the occasional game. It could also serve well as an introduction to gaming for non-gamers due to its simple gameplay and fun theme. Though a special caveat is in order for all the lousy liars out there: you will do very poorly at this game, though with the right mindset that doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a bad time.

Nevertheless, I find Ciao Ciao to be a fun game that deserves an occasional spot on the old game table. It’s light, quick, and fun, which are all good qualities for an occasional filler game.

Posted in Gaming, Reviews | Leave a Comment »

The Conservapedia…

Posted by Brian on February 24, 2007

Via Balloon Juice

Tired of Wikipedia and Google, with their hardcore liberal bias? Then perhaps the Conservapedia is the information source for you:

Tired of the LIBERAL BIAS every time you search on Google and a Wikipedia page appears? Now it’s time for the Conservatives to get our voice out on the internet!

Conservapedia began in November 2006, as the class project for a World History class of 58 advanced homeschooled and college-bound students meeting in New Jersey. Conservapedia has since grown enormously, including contributors nationwide.

Conservapedia already has over one-half the number of entries as the Oxford Dictionary of World History. Conservapedia is rapidly becoming one of the largest and most reliable online educational resources of its kind.

Now you can get the real, undiluted scoop on such topics as the Democratic Party:

The major tenets of the modern Democrat platform include cowering to terrorism, treasonous anti-Americanism, and establishment of an amoral, atheistic, Communist state. However, contempt for all the founding principles of America is not yet an official prerequisite for entry into the Democrat party.

Liberals:

Modern liberals are treasonous and generally hate America .

Bill Clinton:

Bill Clinton managed to serve two terms without botching the prosecution of two wars, manipulating intelligence, engaging in a systematic program of torture, or mishandling the federal response to flooding of a major American city. Obviously, he is the devil incarnate. Clinton also attempted to use the American military to kill Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, an action which was properly seen as a mere attempt to distract the nation from the Monica Lewisnky scandal.

(Wait a sec… how did that one get in there? I sense shenanigans are afoot)

The many biases of Wikipedia:

Wikipedia often uses foreign spelling of words, even though most English speaking users are American. Look up “Most Favored Nation” on Wikipedia and it automatically converts the spelling to the British spelling “Most Favoured Nation”, even there there are far more American than British users. Look up “Division of labor” on Wikipedia and it automatically converts to the British spelling “Division of labour,” then insists on the British spelling for “specialization” also. Enter “Hapsburg” (the European ruling family) and Wikipedia automatically changes the spelling to Habsburg, even though the American spelling has always been “Hapsburg”. Within entries British spellings appear in the silliest of places, even when the topic is American. Conservapedia favors American spellings of words.

Some bloggers can’t escape the notion that it might be a epic parody of what passes as conventional wisdom in the right-wing universe. And judging from the Bill Clinton entry pasted above, it looks like ideaological opponents are already playing games with its open-source nature. That’s unfortunate, but perhaps if the entires didn’t diverge so far from reality it might not have set itslef up as such an easy mark.

Posted in American Issues, Humor | 1 Comment »

Did you know?

Posted by Brian on February 23, 2007

Did you know that Iraq “coalition” “partner” Slovenia, one of the many of the so-called “coalition of the willing” that President Bush liked to brag about as some sort of international strike force, has a whopping four soldiers in Iraq? That’s right… four.

If they ever need redeployment they can give me a call… I’ll swing by in my Nissan Sentra and pick them up. The back seat might be kind of tight, though.

Posted in American Issues | Leave a Comment »

Enough with the sunglasses!

Posted by Brian on February 21, 2007

This is one of the reasons I dislike CSI: Miami so much:

I can barely stand watching David Caruso act. His acting is just so Shatnerian with his over-reliance on dramatic……… pauses when speaking and idosynchratic body language. And that sunglass thing is just a joke at this point. He just comes across as very arrogant in a way that rubs me the wrong way.

I also dislike CSI:Miami because, much more than the other CSI shows (which I don’t mind watching), the secondary characters seem like nothing more than one-dimensional foils for Horatio Caine to display just how smart and intuitive he is. While the other two CSI’s show a lot of teamwork, CSI: Miami might as well be called CSI: Horatio Caine.

I don’t like it… <puts sunglasses on> one bit.

Posted in Movies/TV | 3 Comments »

Lost for good?

Posted by Brian on February 20, 2007

Like a lot of Lost fans, I’m unhappy with how the third season is shaping up. But is it really this bad:

“`Lost’ is the tragedy of the season,” said Marc Berman, TV analyst for Media Week Online as well as a fan aggrieved by what he considers ABC’s bungled handling of a favorite show. “They really prematurely put the nail in the coffin. It’s too late to save it.”

The first season was fantastic. The second was good, but it seemed like the weirdness and mystery of it all went a tad too far, to the point that the casual viewer might just throw his hands in the air and change the channel to TNT in order to watch tried and true Law and Order reruns. But this season? No thanks.  Jack, Kate, and Sawyer have never been among my favorite characters on the show, so with the rest of the cast on vacation while the three of them hog all the screen times as captives of The Others, I’m having a hard time maintaining my interest.

I think at this point a lot of fans want some payoff… they want some questions answered.

Posted in Movies/TV | Leave a Comment »

Told you so…

Posted by Brian on February 20, 2007

This is from a speech Barack Obama made in October 2002:

Now let me be clear — I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.

With this kind of prescience, Obama just went up a few notches in my Presidential Dem-o-meter. My current preference is Edwards, then Obama, then everyone else, with Hillary at the bottom. But that changes if Gore gets in.

Via Altercation.

Posted in American Issues | 2 Comments »

Board Game Review: Richelieu

Posted by Brian on February 18, 2007

I’m a bit more selective about what two-player games I keep around. While I’ll play just about any game with the right group of people, playing a two-player game requires that I like both the person I’m playing with and the game itself. Oftentimes, I’ll buy a two-player game, play it for a bit, then unload it on someone else. Michael Schact’s Richelieu is a two-player game that I decided to keep. It’s a fun one.

The two players are vying for control over 17th century France. The game comes with 48 playing cards, all done with thicker than average card stock, that represent different regions of France. Each card has either one or two shields on it, and some cards with one shield have an icon indicating special influence in the military (sword), church (cross), or politics (tower). Each card also has a large number on it that represents the total number of shields there are for that region.

Players also begin the game with 3 Property Markers. These markers can be placed on the cards on the board to indicate a special entitlement to that tile.

The final game element is a set of 14 round markers that are used to add an element of randomness to the game. These markers show a regional shield, a sword, a cross, or a tower. In addition, two of them are specially marked and can be used to reacquire spent Property Markers.

The 48 cards are placed between the players in four rows of 12, face-up. Then 8 of the 14 round markers are chosen randomly and placed face down on 8 of the cards (the rulebook describes a certain pattern but I won’t go into that).

Once the cards are laid out and the other markers placed and distributed, the game can begin. The players take turns taking cards from the table for scoring at the end of the game, following these rules:

• A player may only take a card or cards from the outside ends of the 4 rows.
• A player may take two cards but they must be of the same color and can contain no more than 2 shields between them.
• If a player takes a tile with a special marker, he receives the marker and saves it for scoring later
• If a player wishes to take a card with his opponent’s Property Marker on it, he can, but he must sacrifice a Property Marker of his own.

Following these rules, the cards are removed from the middle one by one until all are gone and each player has his or her own set to score. Scoring is done as follows:

• For the 9 regions, each player counts the number of shields he or she has for each region. The player who has more shields receives that number of points towards his final score. Remember, the round markers can also count towards the shield total. In case of a tie, no points are scored. And if a player has no shields in a region he is penalized by 5 points.
• The Swords, Crosses, and Towers are scored as well, in a manner similar to the regional scoring as described above.

Once scoring is done, the player with the most points wins.

Richelieu is a tricky game in that it requires the players to keep track of lots of different elements. It’s easy to fall into a trap of fixating on the cards that you need while ignoring the fact that you’re opening up cards for your opponent to draw (which, I think, is the mistake I usually make). A prudent player won’t draw a needed tile if it will allow his opponent to make an even better draw for himself.

Richelieu is a good game for any two gamers, but it also does well as a couple game. Playing against women, I’ve found that I usually lose, offering further proof to my hypothesis that women do better at multi-tasking in games (see Lost Cities for another example).

I recommend Richelieu highly to any gamers looking for a fun, simple, quick two-player game.

Posted in Gaming, Reviews | Leave a Comment »