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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Monday, January 02, 2006

Scope Opera

At work, I manage mid-sized software development projects. So, I spend a large chunk of my time managing scope for my team, making sure that our goals remain well-defined and aggressive, while at the same time avoid unnecessary stress on my engineers. It is with this same spirit that I define my goals in my personal life. Now, it probably goes without saying that the importance of any of the below goals is totally dwarfed by those in the spheres of my career and family life. However, part of the fun of a hobby is looking forward to new aspects of it, making thinking about the hobby part of the hobby itself. Additionally, achieving objectives in a hobby can motivate you to do the same in other realms. With that said, here are my game-related resolutions for 2006

The Must-Haves

Complete development of my Silk Road-themed 2-player prototype. I created a working prototype a couple of years ago, and had it played a few times against a few opponents. I reworked the components and revamped one subsystem with the goal of removing excessive “fussiness” while retaining the best parts of the game. Hopefully, this will bring the playtime to the 60-90 minute range, in which case I will consider it D-O-N-E. I have no ambitions of getting published, but I took it as a personal goal to take one of my designs through completion.

Dump off at least two suitcases of games for the spring Rainy Day Games auction. Last year’s auction was great; I dumped off 11 games which sold for ~$180 of store credit. This year I will bring twice as many items, all in the name of clearing up space in our walk-in closet. I’m not even at the point where I would have to make really difficult decisions about what to part with, as, when originally building up my game library, I did so with an overly optimistic view of my future opponent base and a false extrapolation of my wargame tolerance.

Complete my GIPF collection. I already missed a chance at obtaining TAMSK once, and I know I would regret it if I did so again. I might as well also grab GIPF and PÜNCT while I can. All in the hope that my daughter will be a fan of abstract games several years from now…

Add comments to my BoardGameGeek collection. In late 2004, I deleted all of my ratings and comments from the BGG database. I have since added back in over 250 ratings, but no comments. (It is hard to believe that at one time I had the third-most rating comments on BGG, after Chris Ferrell and Doug Adams. I will never get close to that again; in any case, it seems they have dropped this stat.) I figure I am good for one comment a week, prioritizing games where my opinions run counter to the norm.

The Stretch Goals:

Do something special for Game Storm. In the past, running Euros at all was special enough, and there was a time when I was the primary (only?) person doing so at Portland's gaming convention. These days, there are several folks running Euros, primarily Rio Grande and Mayfair releases. Now that I am no longer feel obligated to run events the entire duration of the con, I can focus my preparation on a couple of titles. KC has done a good job at running 2-player tournaments on Friday nights, and Family Gaming events on Sundays. I have thought about running a GIPF tournament, but I would rather run a board game event or two and put a unique twist on it. I have yet to be inspired, but my ears are open if my readers have any ideas.

Find something to compliment the winner on whenever I lose at a game. In the past, after a defeat, my instinct was to waste words on explaining how I got screwed out of victory. Now that I have had the shoe on the other foot often enough, I realize that no victor wants to hear that. I have started to compliment the winner more in the past year, but I will try to do it each and every game henceforth. It is not enough to say “good game” or “you played well”, but to cite a specific aspect of their play that was noteworthy. Not only will this increase the good vibrations, it will also help myself and others to identify and imitate smart play!

Play Empires of the Sun and Pacific Victory twice each. The Pacific Theater of WWII has always been my favorite wargame setting, and I recently obtained these two great games. One of the main reasons I want to play each twice is so that I can start to both memorize and master the rules; this will help to make this an annual goal, as it will then be easier to motivate myself to pick up the game again.

Below The ZBB Line:

(See http://www.swb-inc.com/Zero-Base_Budgeting.htm. Managing a project is like playing poker: When weighing a bet, don’t think about how much of your money is in the pot already; your odds should consider only the additional investment required, and the expected returns on that investment. “Below the ZBB line” are projects or features that get cut. In other words, I ain’t doin’ these.)

Complete the design of and create a prototype for my circus-themed multi-player game. Like most of my designs, I started with an ambitious design, and then let my love of the theme result in the game developing into a sloppy sprawl. At times I think there are enough great things here to appeal to fans of games like Die Macher and Caylus. In the end, I think most folks are going to be overwhelmed by certain aspects, primarily the need to multiply two sums. My sole motivation to complete it at this point is to show it to others who can hopefully provide input as to how to streamline some of it.

Rebuild and document my Age of Empire II CCG decks. Each AOE2 CCG card is labeled with one of four ages (I-IV), and each AOE2 CCG deck is made up of four mini-decks, one for each age. A sub-deck of a given age cannot contain cards from a later age, but it can contain cards from an earlier age, and it is common that one would want to do so. As you play through the ages, all discards go into a singular discard pile, and can get shuffled into with later sub-decks. What this means is that, at the end of a match, all of your cards are mixed in together. I have built and played with several decks for this game, but failed to catalogue the deck’s contents each and every time, forcing me to rebuild my deck from fragmented memory. At this point, I refuse to revisit the game without making the disciplined effort to record the deck composition the next time I build decks. However, my CCG partner and I have picked up several other games in the meantime; even though AOE2 remains one of my favorite CCGs of all-time, the long playing time makes it unlikely it will get returned to.

Find additional, local sources for gaming. Starting this month, for the first time in years, RipCityGamers will no longer have a regular gaming session in the Hillsboro area (~15 minutes west of Portland), which is where I live. Until I have a vehicle and/or my child grows up, it will be tough to justify too many long weeknight treks to get in ~3 hours of gaming each session. The most likely way to supplement my gaming locally would be to get something started up at work (much like Chris, Eric, and Mike do), but I am afraid I am much too discreet (read "embarrassed") about my geeky hobby.

Speaking of embarrassing hobbies, here is a follow-up to my Positively Puzzling article: I did end up subscribing to Puzzle Japan, and am content with the value. They are offering free access (via a generic login account) to all puzzles from Dec 29th until January 5th. Be sure to check it out if you like logic-based pencil puzzles. There are plenty of familiar puzzles (Sudoku, Kakro (Cross Sums), Edel (Paint-a-Number)) but my favorites are Nurikabe, Slither Link, Lights Out, and the newly added Heyawake.


  • At 4:42 AM, Blogger Sean said…

    Great post. I think to myself, daily maybe, that I need to seriously sit down and find some gamers close by. My 5 month old is well behaved enough to bring along to most gaming sessions, but only if I stay close to home. I also need o get past the feeling that my "geeky" hobby is one that others will not enjoy. For me, the hardest thing to do is to sit down and finish all of the myriad of blog posts I have started. Again, thanks for the good article.

  • At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Rita H said…

    As to your prototypes, Dave, I look forward to seeing them. Stop hiding them in the closet or under the bed and bring them along to a game sessions some time.

    With regards to complementing the winner, I hope to be in that category some time when we play together!

  • At 4:18 AM, Blogger Puzzler said…

    check out this website for free online play of slither link:
    Slither Link Online


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