Twitter penalises existing Users

It seems that Twitter is penalising existing users who have bothered to customise their page! Twitter allows you to customise the look and feel of your “web presence” with them including the colour of the text used for your tweets to the background used behind. So many, like me, decided to individualise our accounts when joining. indeed I made a logo that I also use as part of my banner on this blog. Twitter then decided to implement a new interface to cover most of the background, I guess because they thought people wanted a wider side panel of info they didn’t need to be wider to cover up more of the background for those who hadn’t decided to change from the default.

This had been a bugbear of mine and some other twitters I know (plus lots I don’t), yet what I’ve just found out is whilst they are pushing users onto the new interface, unregistered viewers don’t get this stress and still able to enjoy the purity of true twitter. So my advice is to log in to tweet, but log out to view other peoples tweets. You will then be able to enjoy them in the version that the original author expected.

Is it a train … game, or book

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On Sunday I went to play some boardgames, which often includes games I have never played before. One of the games we played was Der Schwarm by Kosmos, which was carefully unwrapped by Jon as all looked on.
The Swarm (German ed)Kosmos is book publishing company so amongst the games they publish is a line of literature-based games of which The Swarm, to give it it’s name in English, is one. Based on the novel by Frank Schätzing where the world is facing an ecological catastrophe caused by previously unknown marine life forms. Each player represents a nation sending their scientists out to confront the threat. Although we played the German version, you may be pleased to know that Z-Man games have now published an English edition (the game itself is fairly language neutral, its only the rules and player quick-ref boards that were in German).

The game has a central player board on which shuffled tiles are placed face-down to form uncharted sea surrounded by land squares (where players may start from and form new bases on). The tiles show either 2, 3, or 4 connection swarm patterns and in the game you collect these then place them down to form connected networks. Around the edge of the board is a score track and each player starts on 20 research points, so obviously meaning they can go down when spent. Hmm this sounds like a train game. Around the edge of the board are placed Action Cards, and players rotate in player order selecting a card, the first available card costs zero, opting to take the second instead costs you one research point, the third instead two points and so on. Cards are shifted to close gaps after one has been chosen. So that’s why a positive point balance is needed at the start. The Action card line consists of 13 cards (which are shuffled and randomly placed each round) as we were playing 4 players, 3 or 3 player games have less, followed by two blue special action cards (the game has 6, 2 used each round), a green research station action,  finally followed by a stack of turn-order cards where you choose what order you want to play the turn at and select a special power for the turn. The action cards allow specific actions such as build research station (where you place a station and a researcher on that station), place/move a ship (so you can pick up undiscovered sea tiles into your hand), utilise a researcher (place additional researcher on a base, or place down network tiles upto the total number of researchers you have on the board), and monster moves.

The game consists of three turns, on each you take turns selecting action cards (paying the requisite research points if you opt to not take the first one available), once all action and turn order cards have gone you then (in the new turn order) take turns performing an action card. Each player also has a Joker card to give them an additional action that can be used so long as action cards are left to be played, which is nice as it allows any action to be carried out even if you don’t manage to grab the required card. Once all actions ave been carried out each player has their largest network scored. Then onto the next round. After the final round there are bonus points scored for having bases on 2,3, or all 4 sides and another if you have connected those bases to the central Swarm Queen square.

If you have played railway games I’m sure there are some aspects of the above that sound awfully familiar to you. It does have some nice aspects like the monster attack actions where points are deducted from whoever the monster attacks and added to your score, the number of points is dependent on how far they are along the track (and if they have chosen the special turn-order ability of reducing attacked scores by one). Mike, who won the game, decided it was best to keep his score down to avoid attraction of monster attacks but ultimately ignore their threat and concentrate on building a network.

On the initial reading of the rules, I wasn’t the only one who thought “hmm sounds like a train game” and Mike who I don’t mind admitting is better at train games than me got a winning strategy sussed. It was an enjoyable game, though I came third only because Richard who ended in 4th as the last action of the game did a monster attack on two  of my bases. That probably sounds bitter, and it isn’t meant to – I knew I hadn’t won and hadn’t done enough to secure 2nd, but it sounds dramatic if I say “oh if it wasn’t for that last action of the game by the player in last place”.

Having played the game once I would play it again, especially as I would now say “don’t be afraid to spend research points”.  I have played several economic train games where “money is tight” and a bad choice or two can lose you the game so I was over cautious on paying more than one or two points for an action. On hindsight it is worth doing if it allows you to complete what you need to do in the round. In the final round if I had spent 4 instead of 1 point to grab a researcher instead of a ship I would have been able to score 30 for 3 bases instead of 10 for 2 (plus  an additional 4-7 points dependent on which space it was placed) and been 2nd or even first if I’d denied Mike. Of course if Jon, who ended as second had done similar (he mentioned at the end he should have got another researcher as he ended with an under utilised ship action), then he could have won. Mike had said he’d gambled on a last round dash to win, and it paid off because he ignored monster attacks whilst others hadn’t (Jon stated he expected me to use a crab attack action to bypass my two bases, so he ensured he got the monster defence turn-order privilege, though I opted to use my joker to increase my network size).

TK Maxx the Queen of boardgames

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If you are wanting to go shopping for boardgames, where do you go? Maybe you normally shop online at one of the independent boardgame e-tailers or even amazon, which is fine but sometimes its nice to look at actual game boxes and smell the cardboard, or should that be smell the cellophane that encases the box holding in all that “new game smell” you look forward to once you get a game home and open it in seclusion – surely its not just me that enjoys opening games?

If you are out for some general shopping around town, especially with your other half, rather than going with specifically intention of visiting a games shop, then persuading them to visit your friendly independent boardgame emporium can be a bind (my usual suggestion is to split up and meet later, though this can prove expensive!). If you are a bargain-hunter type of person, and I am, then there is a sneaky alternative in the form of the bargain clothing chain TK Maxx. For those who don’t know TK Maxx is a German company and they seem to have some relation with Queen Games, so often stock some of their games hidden in the toy section. So you can now suggest you both go there!

TK Maxx have this policy of reducing items that don’t sell after six weeks, which can often mean you get boardgames that don’t interest the majority of their clientèle for a lot lower than elsewhere. I recently bought Sultan for £6 and Catch-a-Cash for £3, both under a quarter of their RRP, and went home happy.

Sultan is a bid-bluffing game where each player gets the same deck of cards 15 cards numbered 1-15 that they shuffle and draw 5 cards from for each of the 3 rounds. In each round a player draws 5 gems from a bag and puts 4 up for auction each player then placers one card next to one gem (so you may get some gems where more than one player has put their card next to, some where only one has, or some where no player has put next to), in cases where more than one player has put a card to it, highest value wins with rules for ties. Each gem has a point value (1-5 depending on colour) plus you get additional points for collecting multiples of the same colour. Its a nice short game and the gem selection option does mean you can try choose gems in the hope that there will be one that you want that others are less interested so you get it unopposed.

Cash-A-Catch is a set collection game with a bell! Each player takes the turn as auctioneer at a fish market and turns over cards until another player rings the bell and buys the fish for a flat fee of 10€ to the bank, the auctioneer gets a commission of 1€ per card bought. Each player has a player-board that depicts two crates, one ice crate, and a trash bucket. The three crates can each only take a single type of fish, and so if you buy fish you cant store in these they go into the bucket for negative points at the end of the game. An auctioneer can, before they offer up the new catch sell all of the fish in one or more of their crates. You get more money for larger sets, however you may decide to sell small sets early, because of what happens when you sell. When a type of fish is sold other players with that type of fish in their non-ice crates have to throw them in the trash. So you may sell to make other players trash or sell because you know another player after you will most likely sell. In addition to the fish types there are Octopus cards that act as jokers, a fish thief that allows you to steal the top card off another players crate, and one that allows you to discard two cards from your trash bucket. Cash-a-catch is a game I first played a couple of years ago and enjoyed and thought it would make a nice addition to my collection at some point, getting it for so cheap was a bonus. Although you pay a set price for the catch you buy it does play like a Dutch Auction game like Merchants of Amsterdam though instead of waiting for a lower price before stopping the bid you are waiting for the size and contents of the catch.

Navegador – a windrose of fun

Pic of Navegador in-game on Twitpic

Our game of Navegador in play

On Saturday 18th I played a game of Navegador at the games club Beyond Monopoly. It was introduced to me as the new game (published in 2010) in the ‘rondel’ series of games. Taken from the description of the game on GeekdoPlayers take actions such as contracting men, acquiring ships and buildings, sailing the seas, establishing colonies in discovered lands, trading goods on the market, and getting privileges describes the game theme quite well. On your turn you can perform one action (like build ships, hire workers, sail ships, form colonies, construct buildings (shipyards, churches and factories), and go to market) which are are segment spaces in the windrose (the rondel). You have a marker on one segment (the action you performed last turn) and can move 1,2, or 3 spaces clockwise and perform that action on your turn (you can move more by “burning ships”, i.e. taking them off the board, but that wasn’t advised as useful until possibly in the end game). This is quite good as it limits what actions are available to you each turn, but but can also influence what action you choose to take (by considering what action you may want to do next turn). There is no limit to how many players can be on an action segment, nor any space on the board – this is an economic not war game.

Each action appears once in the rondel, except the Market which appears twice. The market is quite good – there are market scales for the three commodities (sugar, gold, and spice) plus one for refined goods, though the current price markers only go on the three commodities. When you go to market if you have colonies you can sell unrefined goods from them at the current price, but the market price will then fall. So if the player before you has 3 salt colonies, you really don’t also want salt colonies and follow them to market. This is where factories come in – the price for refined goods from factories goes in the opposite direction, so when the market for unrefined goods fall the refined goods from factories rise. So having salt factories and following a player to market who has salt colonies can be quite good. In our game this seemed to be a problem in that one player felt that he was almost forced to mirror the player before him to ensure he went to market straight afterwards to get the best prices, and so the action he went on was dependent on what the player before him did. This could well be just a first game glitch though and tactics may be different on subsequent plays (“misjudgements” in the first turns allowed one player to monopolise in gold colonies).

There is also the Navegador card issued initially to the last player, but it then proceeds round the table that allows the player to perform a sail action on one of their turns. once you have been passed the card you have up to one full progression round the rondel to use it or you lose it – this means one player can’t hold onto it forever. Quite a nice aspect to the game and does allow you to move ahead quickly.

I enjoyed playing the game, though I was cash strapped for the first half of the game that severely crippled me. This was probably because I was last to market because the player after me had the opposite commodities to the rest of us. I’m sure this game will improve on subsequent plays and I hope to play it again next month at another Beyond Monopoly.

Cheap games at Amazon UK

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Amazon [UK] seems to be getting some good deals on board games – they obviously have the buying power to get a good bulk discount, which is why you see books well below RRP, but many retailers only look at games of the roll-n-move variety, or are willing to deal only in low quantities (so don’t usually sell much below RRP). Amazon has sold a wide range of “good games” but many have been through partner links, so actually having games sold directly, at discount, and free postage makes them attractive to those entering the hobby.

The Rio Grande Games version of Power Grid went on promotion at £19.27 with free postage and soon sold out. However, its now back to which we could guess maybe they bought limited stocks to see how it went and because it sold so fast, they’ve secured greater quantities. The RRP of this game is £34.99 and whilst some online games shops will beat the RRP, and even beat RRP once postage has been included, sub-£20 including postage is a whole new level.

Amazon have now secured quantities of Carcassonne, which they have sold before, but now have it for £11.99 with a free postage option, so saving £8 on the RRP of £19.99. I have the pre-river Carcassonne and recently bought the River-I expansion for under £4  including postage. If I hadn’t got the expansion I would have jumped at this offer, but now I have an option for Christmas presents for those casual gamers who seemed to enjoy playing Carcassonne.

Logo Design

WordPress comes with some standard themes, which is nice, but at the very least its good (in my opinion) to give it a bit of personalisation – one easy option is to replace the header image. So I went about this task; first I looked at boardgame related images and found a shot of some meeples that I decided to use, then I thought to add the blog username, 2boardgame, to it. I had the idea of flaming text as a friend had wanted me to do another image with flames on – so off a-googling I did go and found a tutorial at http://www.photoshop-dragon.com on how to do it in Photoshop. So an hour or so my new logo was born

Hello world!

Do people have all-encompassing blogs or do they split them up? I use  wordpress.org blog software on my narrowboat domain which I do talk about non-boating stuff, mainly deviating onto tech stuff, but what about boardgames? I had a canal based Twitter ID twitter.com/canals that I did start talking about boardgames on, but then decided a second ID for my boardgames stuff was conceived and 2Boardgame was born. The username came out of much deliberation that Boardgame was already taken. Could I have something boardgame related? I went through various combinations, some were available and some were taken. A short twitter name can be good as it means there’s more characters available when people send you an @reply. However you have to ensure the name isn’t nonsensical like Bgames, BoardG, IplayBG, bgme (well they aren’t nonsensical, but unlikely to appear in searches) so I wanted boardgame with minimal extra characters – I almost appended UK then decided to prepend the number 2 (to mean “to” – yes its obvious, but if I didn’t state it, I’m sure someone wouldn’t realise).

Then we come full circle – if I got a twitter canal ID mainly to add onto my blog posts (that I don’t do enough off), shouldn’t I get a blog ID for my boardgames? I put it off, but rather than get a new boardgame domain, I thought I’d try wordpress own hosting – after all I know the blog tools already.