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2004-10-20 RussCon Report


Matt mentioned this dubiously translated card in Saint Petersburg!

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14 of us played 12 games!

VOTE! Early voting is underway, and you are encouraged to vote early because there are worries that election day (November 2) will be a chaotic crowded Florida-style fiasco with not everyone even being able to vote. Please pass along this info to others.

Early voting info
League of Women Voters guide
Austin Chronicle endorsements with discussion (and their short reference list without discussion of the endorsements)
Note Lorenzo Sadun is a very worthy write-in Democrat candidate (I heard him speak at the county convention and liked him). If you support him, take notes when you vote to remember his name's spelling... even if you are a straight-ticket voter, you won't be voting for him since he's a write-in.
If you want to help Democrat candidates, 701 Rio Grande has yard signs for various candidates available for $2 each.
I have been posting a lot of political news at my blog lately, which I encourage you to peruse. This election is very important, please be informed and involved.

Note that early voting runs 7am to 7pm on Mon-Sat (and noon-6pm Sun) at most locations, and that one could vote at the Albertson's (Braker and Lamar) enroute to RussCon if one were so inclined. This would be especially fun if one were in costume...

...Halloween falls on Sunday this year, which is lousy timing for RussCon, but nonetheless the traditional annual RussCon Halloween costumes are encouraged at the next (October 27) RussCon. Jeffles hinted something about a ballerina Santa Claus costume. And there might even be apple bobbing again, but I'm not sure. And as JimG mentioned in email, there will be hot eclipse-on-moon action that night.

A message about RussCon recruitment:

Every month or two, I get an email from some random stranger on the net who found out about this gaming group by some mention on the web. Occasionally, well-meaning RussCon folks actually recommend this group to random strangers (on the net, in game stores, etc.). This sometimes results in awkward situations as (I hope you can understand) I don't necessarily want random strangers, whom none of us know, coming into my home. (Plus, there seem to be enough people starved for a gaming group, that it could become impractically large if I made a point of opening RussCon up to everyone who might be interested.)

So I'd like to reiterate that one of the things which has helped our group succeed is the "friends of friends" recruitment, which helps ensure new folks are more likely to be on the same wavelength. (E.g., I would be exceedingly unhappy if some random gamer showed up who started smoking and spewing homophobic racist sexist nuke-the-middle-east peaceniks-are-traitors type rants!) I've seen other gaming groups formed by public advertisements attracting random groups of people who don't particularly "click", and they often seem to fizzle and fail. I trust friends of friends; I'm less comfortable with random strangers coming into my home.

And no, I don't think random strangers spell automatic doom. Indeed, there have been a few random strangers who found there way here and turned out to be great. It's just that I prefer friends of friends. And that's just my own preference for my own home; I'm not saying this is the "right" way to run a gaming group - if anyone else wants their group to be more open to everybody, more power to them.

I'm also not trying to discourage you from bringing friends to RussCon if you think they'd fit in. Friends of friends = good! Random strangers = not so good.

I also want to make clear that I'm not trying to spank anyone who's steered random strangers to RussCon, because I know it has always been well-intentioned, and I've probably not always been as clear on that as I could have been; hence I'm giving you a heads-up. Thanks!

Game Results

Tichu2( Jeffles KevinU ) 1 ( Ben MarkH ) -1
SaintPetersburg3JP 2 Clayton 0 JimG -2
Jeffles6SuitBiddingPrototype6SarahM 5 KevinU 3 Jeffles 1 PJ -2 Ben -2 MarkH -5
LostCities2RussW 1 ToddG -1
Settlers4KevinU 3 JP 1 Jeffles -1 SarahM -3
TooManyCooks4JimG 3 PJ 1 MarkH -1 Ben -3
SaintPetersburg4Matt 3 William 1 Clayton -1 MarkY -3
Tichu2( Ben William ) 1 ( MarkH ToddG ) -1
HatTrick4MarkY 3 Matt 0 RussW 0 PJ -3
Exxtra5Jeffles 4 JP 2 KevinU 0 Clayton -2 SarahM -4
Carcassonne2MarkY 1 Clayton -1
SaintPetersburg4KevinU 3 Jeffles 1 SarahM -1 RussW -3

Five trick-taking games were played. Among them was "Jeffles 6 Suit Bidding Prototype", about which I know nothing except that it involves trick-taking and probably has some shadowy connection to Jeffles.

Lost Cities is seeming to get a resurgence lately as a good 2-player filler game. Had a good close game with ToddG (who's been around for a few months now, but this was actually our first time to play in any game together!)

Hat Trick is infamous for insensitivity to color-blindness (and printed something from me about that back in June 2001), but that doesn't stop us from mocking the game about that every time it is played. It had been a while, so we screwed up the rules in the first round. (You can only discard a card if two suits are already in play; otherwise you must play a card.) I like the game, but any given round can have a lot of bad luck (First round, MarkY, Matt, and PJ each dominate one of the 3 colors, leaving me nothing; Second round, PJ and I split one color, leaving MarkY and Matt to get a whole color each; etc.), so it's good to play multiple rounds for sure.

If you haven't played Saint Petersburg yet, what are you waiting for?


Rank Ratings:    
 4.3820 KevinU
 2.5903 Jeffles
 2.1972 JP
 1.3863 Matt
 1.0986 William
 0.6931 MarkY
 0.2877 JimG
-0.6931 RussW
-1.3863 ToddG
-1.4917 PJ
-1.6094 SarahM
-1.7916 Clayton
-1.8971 Ben
-3.5827 MarkH
Win Ratings:
 3.0603 KevinU won 3 of 5
 1.7918 MarkY won 2 of 3
 1.5449 Jeffles won 2 of 5
 1.0986 Matt won 1 of 2
 0.9933 SarahM won 1 of 4
 0.9808 JimG won 1 of 2
 0.5878 JP won 1 of 3
 0.4055 William won 1 of 2
 0.1178 RussW won 1 of 3
-0.4700 Ben won 1 of 4
-0.7576 PJ won 0 of 3
-1.3863 ToddG won 0 of 2
-1.6094 Clayton won 0 of 4
-1.8560 MarkH won 0 of 4

KevinU is the Devil! Jeffles and MarkY are Co-Vice-Devils! JP and Matt are Co-Vice-Vice-Devils. MarkH is the Generous Angel.

It is perhaps appropriate that KevinU is the Devil, because coincidentally this week he presented to me an impressive 20-page technical document analyzing an anomaly in the Ratings System and proposing a change which would address it! I am most delighted and grateful to get such unexpectedly insightful and thorough analysis.

Through the years several RussCon folks have made significant contributions to the Ratings System. I especially remember JeffF who not only helped form the approach taken for team/partner games but even hacked my fugly code to implement the feature; and DaveB for many fruitful and memorable email discussions.

But I must say, this new document from Kevin outdoes anything I've ever seen. 20 pages of mathematical analysis and extensive examples, discussion, and ideas. Long story short, he noticed that when we changed to a multiplicative model instead of an additive model (which was a definite improvement), a nice "summation to zero" property was lost, and that ties should be handled differently (by using a geometric mean instead of an arithmetic mean) to avoid an upward drift in the ratings (currently a perfectly average player may get a positive rating over time if he happens to play games that have tied players in them). That's the high level idea; more details will appear later after I've reread and rechecked the proposal (and perhaps an electronic version of the document can be made available for the reading pleasure of ratings geeks.)

If you are confused how the ratings work, you could peruse the FAQ.

I used GraphViz to generate the graph image.

devil graph

Meta Game

Ben was the Meta Devil and designed the following Meta Game:

There have been several metagames aimed at penalizing Tichu players. I think it's time to reverse the trend. Anyone who plays a trick-taking card game gets 1,000,000,000 meta-points for each such game they play. Whoever ends up with the most meta-points wins (ties to be broken randomly).

Five trick-taking games were played. Let N=1,000,000,000. Points earned were:
4N Ben MarkH
2N Jeffles KevinU
1N JimG MarkY Matt RussW SarahM ToddG William

Random tiebreak finds that Ben is again the Meta Devil and will design next week's Meta Game!

Evening's Soundtrack

Evita, Premiere American Recording
Evita, The Complete Motion Picture Music Soundtrack
Huayucaltia, Horizontes
Inka Wayra, Magical Echoes from the Andes, Vol. III
Inti-Illimani, Leyenda

I enjoyed the new film Motorcycle Diaries, which involves a young Ernesto "Che" Guevera's long road trip all around South America, and has some cool music. Due to a comedy of errors I ended up seeing it by myself instead of with any of the several friends who suggested seeing it.

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