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2004-01-07 RussCon Report
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Happy new year! Feliĉan novjaron!
19 of us played 12 games, including long-lost Jeffles who has (probably) moved back to Austin, after traveling about France, Hungary, Australia, and Cthulhu knows where else. Also Marty was here (but I think played an unrecorded game), and Moloch and Omar (whom I met at Matt's recent potato latke party).
As in 2002 and 2003, we did a white elephant gift exchange during the first post-xmas RussCon, and had 14 participants (and 17 gifts!). Some of the more popular (i.e. stolen gifts) included a video documentary about American Indians, CDs by Tracy Chapman and the Cranberries, the boardgames eBay and Real Life, a small press comic book, and a medical school surgical kit. There was also a talking George Bush doll, Sherlock Holmes books and tapes, a clock, a vintage electronic game gadget, unpopular mugs, cat knickknacks, and all sorts of other things I don't remember right now. By the way, to handle the extra gifts, we randomly picked 3 people to take 2nd turns after each of the 14 players had done a pick (in randomized order), so 3 people got 2 gifts, and further stealing was triggered after the 14th player; this seemed a nice way to handle it.
Marty requested a special year-end wrapup, and the RussCon Management is always happy to oblige your requests. Ok, that's a lie, but in this case the RussCon Management obliged. In 2003, there were 70 players who played 646 recorded games. As for player ratings, I ended up being the 2003 Devil, and I extend my sympathies to Clayton. I'll also extend special congratulations to Pauline for kicking the butt of her soon-to-be-husband RussD, ha! As for games played, the evil Tichu was played the most. Further details can be found at the special 2003 wrapup page.
Our Most Assiduous Reader may notice a change of layout in the top of the RussCon Report. I was never quite happy with the look which historians and critics will later call "the 2003 RussCon look", which had the 2 big floating menus. (It's also always been a bit tricky since I often have an image at the start but its size and shape varies from week to week.) A while back Dan made some suggestions and gave me some ideas (but I absolve of him all blame for the new layout since it's actually quite different from what he was talking about, and I can already imagine him banging his head on his desk saying "No, you fool, that's not what I meant!") Basically the idea was to simplify it and de-emphasize the 2 menus (on the left are links for the current issue, on the right are links to pages outside of the current issue; I kept that basic concept but made the menus smaller and eliminated a few outside links (including the link to deepmachines where I'd made many exquisite corpses, since that site died) and also moved the weekly summary of how many people and games into the news section (on the one hand I liked it being prominent information, but on the other hand it always looked a little weird floating up by itself)... and the new layout preserves my perverse spartan desire for plain text rather than graphic images for all the links. Those who didn't like the spartan look before will still gnash their teeth at the new look, but at least the layout is (I hope) a little cleaner. (An additional minor change which I'd been planning for a while is the use of ISO 8601 date format in the title, instead of the more old fashioned style with month name...) Too bad I didn't do my planned changes to my ratings program for the new year, too! Mi maldiligentas!
Next Thursday January 15 is the classic 1925 silent film Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney, with live music by Golden Arm Trio at Alamo Drafthouse downtown; I'm thinking of going to that! I've seen the film several times, but always around Halloween at UT with live organ music by Frank Speller, so it would be fun to see what Golden Arm Trio does with it. If anyone is interested, let me know soon and we can sort out if we're doing the 7:00 or 9:45 show.
On January 19, there is going to be Monday night go-playing from 6 till 10 at Thor's Hammer (12626 Research Blvd, west side of 183, just a little south of McNeil, in the same strip center that once housed SimTex)... if it works out, this would become a weekly event, kind of a supplement to the existing Tuesday night go club at Great Hall Games in Dobie Mall.
January 23 and 24 (Friday and Saturday) is a go tournament in Houston, unaffiliated with Houston Go Club. No, I don't know why it's Fri/Sat instead of Sat/Sun, but I emailed Christopher Vu who confirmed that's when it is. Curious indeed! That's all I know. For more info email him at this spam-resistant address: wasonlyyesterday ĉe yahoo punkto com. UPDATE: I just received word that this go tournament was cancelled (or more accurately, made restricted just to members at a school there).
|Carcassonne||4||Fina 3 Clayton 1 Fred -1 Tim -3|
|FinstereFlure||7||MarkH 6 RussW 1 Matt 1 Ben 1 MarkG 1 Jeffles -5 Whendy -5|
|Scrabble||2||JeffS 1 Chad -1|
|PuertoRico||4||Fina 3 JP 1 Fred -1 Clayton -3|
|Rigamarole||3||( RussW William Chad Matt ) 2 ( Jeffles MarkY MarkG Tim ) -1 ( Whendy JeffS Pauline RussD Ben ) -1|
|Blokus||4||RussW 3 MarkG 1 Whendy -1 Fina -3|
|Bluff||4||PJ 3 Clayton 1 Whendy -2 RussW -2|
|Vampire||4||Fina 3 Whendy 1 PJ -1 RussW -3|
|Tichu||2||( Fred Ben ) 1 ( Chad Tim ) -1|
|Alhambra||4||Matt 3 RussD 1 Pauline -1 William -3|
|RealLife||4||Jeffles 3 JP 1 MarkY -1 RussW -3|
|WhatsThatOnMyHead||4||MarkY 3 Jeffles 1 JP -2 JeffS -2|
Real Life was one of the white elephant gifts (which became William's). It's a darkly whimsical and no doubt trademark-infringing take on the childhood classic game of Life, with lots of sex, drugs, and dysfunctional family stuff. JP was born rich but eventually lost it all in a stock market crash. Jeffles & I were in debt from almost the beginning despite (or perhaps because of) being middle class. MarkY became a prostitute and was eventually married. I was a lesbian with some sexual disease and then I picked up another more serious lingering disease when I was drafted when the US invaded Brazil. Eventually MarkY & I were both killed by a cougar. Jeffles was the first to die, but he had the most happiness and won. Amusing silly fun.
MarkH brought a new game Finstere Flure that I think of as being like Ghost Party but bloodier. We all have several dudes we're trying to maneuver from one end of a dungeon complex to the other, while avoiding being devoured by a monster which seems to be a shambling mound of flesh. There are columns that can be pushed around like in Sokoban or other such games, and there are pools of blood that you slide over just like oil slicks in RoboRally. ("Everybody slips on blood.") The last turn was quite deadly when many people were cramped at the exit trying to flee, just like those news stories you sometimes see about stampedes at rock concerts, when a monster runs amok killing the panicked music fans. Oh the humanity! I give it big bonus points for the art, especially the cover that is done like 1950s EC horror comics.
Finally, an in-depth report on Rigamarole, the social/party game which was mailed to me by its creators Hidden Talents (who emailed me back in November) since RussCon is a large gaming group with a glorious web presence. Since they generously mailed me a free evaluation copy of this game which lists for $29.95, I will give more of an in-depth review here than I normally do. Rigamarole is very much in the social/party vein, like Trivial Pursuit or Cranium or that sort of game, which is less commonly played at RussCon. It comes with nice components (mounted board, glass-and-sand minute timer, box of challenge cards, die, scoring stones, blindfold (!), slickly printed rules). Overall we enjoyed it as a social/party game.
Some stuff that bugged me: The box is unusually thick (due to the cards being in a single monolithic card box), much thicker than it needed to be otherwise, so there's a lot of air and cardboard inserts, under which the die was lost when I first opened the game. I would also have liked to see separate card boxes, for each type of challenge: this would have avoided the "big bulky box with a lot of air" syndrome as well as avoided the common mistake of picking a challenge card from the wrong section (due to confusion of "do I pick from in front of or behind the divider in the single big box of cards?") A more serious issue is the relatively small number of cards compared to other games of this sort. That would seem to limit the replay value, although based on the one game so far, it looks like it will take at least 5 to 10 sessions before you cycle through them. Since they are all in a single box, but sorted by category, there is some murky annoyance about having to sort the (single) set of used cards and redistribute them to the categories. Again, having separate boxes would have made that work nicer, so each category can cycle on its own and no sorting is needed. The rules seemed a little wandering/confusing and could probably have been a little better presented as we found ourselves puzzling a few times on the sequence of events and how things like the final challenge occur. (Games that are basically supposed to be simple and fast should have quick-to-read rules that are very clearly organized, instead of various separate boxes and columns of text.) But we got the rules questions sorted out ok without much pain.
So how did it play? We broke into 3 teams (initially 3, 3, and 4) (and a few more people joined teams as the game progressed). (The fact that teams can have different numbers of players underscores that this game is not about serious competition and more about social/party fun, and indeed in that spirit, we found ourselves being more lenient/generous than normal when there were questions about whether a team had accomplished a goal.) The basic idea is that typically each turn a team rolls the die to move on the track and land on one of 4 categories of challenge, and a player from a team will attempt to give clues to their teammates; if successful, stones are earned and often the card is kept. Collect one of each type of "Rite of Passage" card and the team can then advance to the final challenge to win the game. Stones can be used to buy rites of passage which your team lacks. The mechanics of rolling the die and choosing which way to move on the track are as uninteresting as any other game of this genre, so the juice of the game is in the cards themselves, and that is what ultimately determines the value of this sort of social game. Rigamarole seems pretty reasonable in this regard. A lot of the challenges are familiar "Password" or charades sorts of things, but some are more unusual and surprising (e.g. the active player is blindfolded and tries to name as many of the other players and their eye colors as they can), sometimes involving all teams (e.g. go around the table repeating an ever-lengthening phrase, dropping out if you fail; the last surviving player earns points for their team). Matt observed that it might be more fun to simply do the cards and ignore the other game mechanics of moving around the board and buying/stealing cards etc. But as a social/party game it often succeeded in getting us rowdy and laughing and having fun, and multiple players commented that it was good silly fun. I suspect it will get played again, although it is not a normal RussCon style game. It was a bit unwieldy with 11 people (not everyone being able to even sit around the table), but with 2 or 3 teams of 2 or 3 each it might go more reasonably.
Louis Armstrong, What a Wonderful World
Sarah Brightman, Harem
Nick Cave & Shane MacGowan, What a Wonderful World
The Flaming Lips, In a Priest Driven Ambulance
Miss World, Miss World
For several years I have owned four CDs with versions of the song "What a Wonderful World", and I dreamed of the day I would one day own five versions, and thus use "What a Wonderful World" as a soundtrack theme. Finally this Xmas I got the latest Sarah Brightman album, which has the song... yay! Seems a positive way to open the new year...
kia mirinda mondo