February 12 2003 RussCon Report


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Evening's Soundtrack
18 of us played 15 games. rec.games.board's RichardH paid a return visit, and sporadic attendee TimG reappeared.
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sue ellen's message sue ellen

RussCon received a friendly postcard from Sue Ellen, a bald eagle living at Jurong Birdpark in Singapore and lurker on the RussCon mailing list. Truly RussCon is becoming world-famous! Thanks to RussD and Pauline who might have given Sue Ellen some assistance mailing this postcard.

Speaking of people from other places, RichardH made his once every year or two visit this week, and brought the new game Clans which some of us enjoyed. He also showed me some simple interesting abstract strategy games he designed for which AI players have been made for Zillions (software I've often thought of buying but never have got around to doing).

Last week's mention of Barbuda prompted a note from DaveB:

I'm psyched that Russcon played Barbu!

Our group calls it Barbuda. I originally got the rules from Evan who played it in the basement of the Texas Union back when they had game night. The most popular place to get the rules is from "Card Games For Dummies" and there are a lot of variants floating around.

I have some comments on the variant listed at http://www.pagat.com/reverse/barbu.html

First off, I find Barbu much more satisfying as a gambling game rather than a ranking game. I don't like the odd end game conditions that can happen when someone determines that they need to do a lot of doubling to improve in rank. It adds a lot of variance at the end of the game that isn't needed. Also, even despite that, the last few rounds often don't need to be played out because the ranks are determined. You also get into situations that I don't like that involve hurting players rather than maximizing your own score. You can also get into kingmaker positions. Anyway, let's just say that I like it better as a gambling game. Another way we used to play was to use tokens (pennies) to keep score. Everyone would start with 200 pennies and then settle difference with pennies instead of on paper. That way you don't really know relative scores and often don't know relative rankings.

I found that the scoring system listed is a bit off. Having "No Tricks" count of -2 is just about meaningless. A really bad run doesn't generally take more than 7 tricks and even a really good run takes a trick or two. That makes the typical max difference about 5. That's only a 10 point difference. Also consider "No Last Two". I find that the strategy is non-obvious but once you get it, it doesn't require a lot of skill. Also generally the same person takes both of the last two so this game typically really screws over a single person.

We only allow people to double the declarer. Part of the fun of Barbu is groaning about your awful hand when the declarer declares. You can't groan if it will elecit doubles (mind games aside).

Another difference is that we play King-Jack insead of King of Hearts. In our version kings are worth something like -6 and jacks are worth something like -3.

I generally recreate the scoring system every time we play based on what people are in the mood for. Also we often leave off a game or two since it makes for a long game. If you want our scoring system, I'll mail it out. It often isn't zero-sum which isn't necessary as the author points out.

So anyway, it seems like this is all the same family of games with numerous variations, more commonly called Barbu than Barbuda, so I'll start calling the game Barbu from now, especially since that how it was recorded this week.

As hinted last week, the RussCon Report is now pure XHTML (something I'd been gravitating toward and got further nudging by friends with XHTML home pages). XHTML is basically the latest and greatest version of HTML, with most of the syntactic cruft cleaned up so that the document is actually valid XML. E.g. all elements must be closed (a change from HTML for elements like br, hr, img, etc.). If anyone's using older browsers that don't display these pages properly, I'm interested to hear about it and perhaps see screen shots.

Game Results

Blokus4RussW 3 JP 1 BobR -1 Clayton -3
Transamerica4RichardH 3 JP 1 RussW -1 Clayton -3
Barbu4BradS 3 MarkH 1 Ben -1 Dan -3
Citadels7JimG 6 TimG 4 Steve 2 Matt 0 Clay -2 William -4 JonathanC -6
Exxtra4MarkH 3 Dan 1 Ben -1 RichardH -3
Carcassonne4Steve 3 Clay 1 BradS -1 Clayton -3
Cartagena4RussW 3 JP 1 BobR -1 Clayton -3
Tichu2( Ben William ) 1 ( MarkH Dan ) -1
Transamerica3Clayton 2 Steve 0 BradS -2
ZirkusFlohcati3Pauline 2 Clayton 0 RussD -2
Titicaca5RussW 4 JonathanC 2 RussD 0 Pauline -2 RichardH -4
PuertoRico4TimG 3 JP 0 JimG 0 Matt -3
Clans4Steve 3 RussW 1 JonathanC -1 RichardH -3
Blokus4RussW 3 Steve 1 RichardH -1 JonathanC -3
Clans3Matt 2 TimG 0 JP -2

I won both games of Blokus, and so the universe is restored to its natural order. Yes, oh yes.

We tried a variant of Transamerica at RichardH's suggestion wherein players choose their city cards, passing the sorted colored decks to the left, which seemed to work all right but added to game length without appreciable fun improvement (for my taste).

We played Titicaca, which just might be RussD's favorite game. Oh, wait, I mean most-despised game! It is certainly unforgiving of newbies who aren't as sure what they're doing. RussD and RichardH both overbid a lot of money in auctions, from which it can be hard to recover. I will say that the game moves much quicker now than when none of us knew how to play it. I still enjoy Titicaca (and not just because it's fun to say Titicaca!), though it might be useful to try doing sequential instead of simultaneous auctions. However, in this latest game there were fewer places where I think the unpredictable luck/chaos of sealed bids actually hurt the game much.

Clans is a new game by Leo Colovini (who did Cartagena). Clans has a little more chrome and special cases than the very simple elegant Cartagena, but Clans is still fairly simple rule-wise. The map starts with huts of 5 different colors uniformly dispersed, one per territory, and then the players start merging them. It seemed to start slowly, then suddenly accelerate and was over sooner than we expected. Steve & I enjoyed it more than Sea Biscuit and Richard, and we all agreed it's one of those games where the strategy is rather nonobvious the first time you play it. I want to play it more to see how much control there really is early on, or if it's all too chaotic and unpredictable.

hall of shame A reminder: please write and spell clearly when recording game results, make the scores and ranks clear, and remember last initials for people with common names like Mark, thanks! I'm pretty sure MarkY didn't show up to play one game of Tichu late in the evening, right? I assume this was MarkH... (If you were here, MarkY, sorry I didn't notice you :)


New Multiplicative Rank Ratings:   
 5.7683 320.0000 RussW (6)
 3.6889 40.0000 Steve (5)
 2.4849 12.0000 TimG (3)
 1.9459 7.0000 JimG (2)
 1.0986 3.0000 MarkH (3)
 0.4055 1.5000 Pauline (2)
 0.1178 1.1250 JP (5)
-0.1054 0.9000 Clay (2)
-0.1178 0.8889 Ben (3)
-0.1178 0.8889 BradS (3)
-0.2877 0.7500 Matt (3)
-0.4055 0.6667 William (2)
-0.8109 0.4444 BobR (2)
-1.0986 0.3333 RussD (2)
-1.6740 0.1875 Dan (3)
-3.0445 0.0476 JonathanC (4)
-3.4012 0.0333 RichardH (5)
-4.4466 0.0117 Clayton (6)
New Multiplicative Win Ratings:
 5.1930 180.0000 RussW won 4 of 6
 1.9253 6.8571 Steve won 2 of 5
 1.6582 5.2500 JimG won 1 of 2
 0.8755 2.4000 Pauline won 1 of 2
 0.8267 2.2857 TimG won 1 of 3
 0.6931 2.0000 BradS won 1 of 3
 0.6568 1.9286 Matt won 1 of 3
 0.5390 1.7143 William won 1 of 2
 0.4055 1.5000 MarkH won 1 of 3
 0.3001 1.3500 RichardH won 1 of 5
 0.1178 1.1250 Ben won 1 of 3
-0.4418 0.6429 Clay won 0 of 2
-0.4576 0.6328 Clayton won 1 of 6
-0.5754 0.5625 BobR won 0 of 2
-0.6286 0.5333 RussD won 0 of 2
-0.9527 0.3857 JonathanC won 0 of 4
-1.2685 0.2813 Dan won 0 of 3
-1.5562 0.2109 JP won 0 of 5

I am the Devil! Steve is Vice-Devil. Tim & Jim are Co-Vice-Devils; they should play TimJim games! Mark and Pauline are Co-Vice-Vice-Devils.

Meta Game

Sea Biscuit was the Meta Devil. Here is the Meta Game he mailed out:

Another great last-minute no-preparation metagame: Games that rule rule! Play games that are rated highly on the Internet Top 100 Games list. I'll bring a printout of the top 100 and have the full list available on a laptop -- all games on the full list count, not just the top 100. Average the scores for all the games you play; use the "Score" column, not the "Ave." column, of the list. The player with the highest average score wins.

Here are the current ratings of the games played as used by Sea Biscuit to compute the following Meta Scores:

8.447  PuertoRico
7.550  Carcassonne
7.522  Citadels
6.742  Tichu
6.551  Transamerica
6.385  Cartagena
5.850  Barbu
5.779  Titicaca
5.750  ZirkusFlohcati
5.617  Blokus
4.656  Clans
4.642  Exxtra

JimG:      (7.552+8.447)/2                         = 8.000
Clay:      (7.552+7.550)/2                         = 7.551
William:   (7.552+6.742)/2                         = 7.147
TimG:      (7.552+8.447+4.656)/3                   = 6.885
Matt:      (7.552+8.447+4.656)/3                   = 6.885
BradS:     (5.850+7.550+6.551)/3                   = 6.650
Clayton:   (5.617+6.551+7.550+6.385+6.551+5.750)/6 = 6.401
Steve:     (7.552+7.550+6.551+4.656+5.617)/5       = 6.385
JP:        (5.617+6.551+6.385+8.447+4.656)/5       = 6.331
BobR:      (5.617+6.385)/2                         = 6.001
JonathanC: (7.552+5.779+4.656+5.617)/4             = 5.901
RussW:     (5.617+6.551+6.385+5.779+4.656+5.617)/6 = 5.768 
Pauline:   (5.750+5.779)/2                         = 5.765
RussD:     (5.750+5.779)/2                         = 5.765
MarkH:     (5.850+4.642+6.742)/3                   = 5.745
Ben:       (5.850+4.642+6.742)/3                   = 5.745
Dan:       (5.850+4.642+6.742)/3                   = 5.745
RichardH:  (6.551+4.642+5.779+4.656+5.617)/5       = 5.449

JimG's one-two whammy of Puerto Rico and Citadels (ranked #1 and #6 respectively on the list) brought an easy win. RichardH had the misfortune to play both Exxtra and Clans, the two lowest-ranked games played. The full listing of game rankings is at http://scv.bu.edu/~aarondf/Top100/full.txt.

Thus JimG is the Meta Devil and will design next week's Meta Game!

Reminder of the new incentive to compete in the Meta Game: The Meta Devil gets full table rights, just like a regular Devil from now on, so they could stake out the dining table or the kitchen table. Of course Vice-Devils continue to get secondary dibs on the tables if no higher-ranking Devil or Meta Devil takes a table.

Evening's Soundtrack

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Music from the motion picture soundtrack
The Breeders, Last Splash
Hole, Teenage Whore
Rasputina, Thanks for the Ether
Timbuk3, A Hundred Lovers

twin peaks breeders hole rasputina timbuk3

This Valentine's theme rules, so I used it again!

my bloody valentine,
sweet comic valentine Valid XHTML 1.0!