January 6, 1999 RussCon Report (New Year Special)

Happy New Year! We had a large turnout (17), including the famous and distinguished Dr. Mike Brotherton of Lawrence Livermore Labs. WendyWhi is back from the wilds of New Zealand!

William brought more of that weird Asian food. There were some sweet and spicey hot candies that look like those cardboard disks from inside the lids of medicine bottles. The real special treat this time was "Prepared Cuttle-Fish", aka Squid Jerky. To my amazement, both bags full of this chewy white stringy-looking stuff were actually eaten. Just please don't ever bring live scorpions as a snack.


Anniversary Looms (A Special Report):

January 14, 1998 was the first RussCon. There existed Wednesday night gaming before, at the lavish SimTex penthouse suite, but the group began to grow. We moved to my house, and the first actual RussCon As We Know It was January 14, 1998. 9 of us gamed that night, and back then that seemed like a lot! The next week there were 10 gamers, and I wrote the first RussCon Report. Back then, the ratings system was still in an early form, and I computed the ratings by hand. The RussCon Report was barely a screenful. A year later, I've collected ratings from over 70 players and 620 game sessions, and the RussCon Report has grown into the hideously bloated tract which you delete without reading, but you are too polite to ask me to quit sending it.

Here are the most-played games of the past year:

9 Montgolfiere
9 QuoVadis
10 Survive
11 Bohnanza
11 MississippiQueen
11 Samurai
13 Acquire
13 ElGrande
13 Elfenland
14 DurchDieWueste
22 Fight
22 Loewenherz
22 TitanArena
23 RoboRally
24 Raj
26 Entdecker
27 Guillotine
36 Medici
40 Euphrates
58 Settlers

Here are the ratings for players who've played at least 10 games:

Rank ratings:
 0.2857 DaveB (10 games played)
 0.2514 Daniel (45)
 0.1738 James (148)
 0.1392 Ken (158)
 0.1331 JeffF (66)
 0.1246 RussW (347)
 0.0938 KevinH (51)
 0.0764 Tim (103)
 0.0733 EricH (45)
 0.0584 Marty (171)
 0.0394 JonathanB (65)
 0.0382 JP (193)
 0.0350 WendyWhi (40)
 0.0000 Harry (39)
-0.0037 JonathanC (69)
-0.0238 Randy (21)
-0.0370 Peter (27)
-0.0385 WendyWhe (14)
-0.0577 Evan (14)
-0.0586 William (152)
-0.0603 Doug (117)
-0.0784 Laurie (15)
-0.1079 Jay (95)
-0.1101 Dawn (61)
-0.1189 Steve (35)
-0.1238 RussD (88)
-0.1500 JeffS (24)
-0.1777 Brady (123)
-0.2188 Jonobie (16)
-0.2245 JonathanR (25)
-0.2568 Clayton (80)
-0.2765 Alfred (72)
-0.3288 KevinT (25)
-0.4565 Rick (14)

Win ratings:
 0.4477 Daniel (45)
 0.2620 James (148)
 0.2264 KevinH (51)
 0.1995 Tim (103)
 0.1862 JeffF (66)
 0.1619 WendyWhi (40)
 0.1475 Ken (158)
 0.1388 EricH (45)
 0.1067 RussW (347)
 0.0959 WendyWhe (14)
 0.0866 DaveB (10)
 0.0546 JeffS (24)
 0.0545 JP (193)
 0.0486 JonathanC (69)
 0.0471 JonathanB (65)
 0.0237 Marty (171)
-0.0256 Randy (21)
-0.0439 Peter (27)
-0.0522 Harry (39)
-0.0609 William (152)
-0.0982 Jay (95)
-0.0983 Doug (117)
-0.1753 RussD (88)
-0.2100 Steve (35)
-0.2489 Dawn (61)
-0.2530 Alfred (72)
-0.2884 Jonobie (16)
-0.2965 Clayton (80)
-0.3421 Evan (14)
-0.3561 Laurie (15)
-0.3923 JonathanR (25)
-0.4391 Brady (123)
-0.6070 Rick (14)
-0.7973 KevinT (25)

(Daniel's looking pretty good in the ratings. That should turn his frown upside down.)

This year's closest Wednesday to January 14 falls on January 13, so that can serve as the First Anniversary RussCon. It's next Wednesday! Let's do something special. Uh, I have no idea what. Maybe I'll buy some pillows for the floor or something...

It also seems appropriate to hold a special tournament for Settlers, perhaps on a Saturday or Sunday. Without Settlers, RussCon probably wouldn't exist. Settlers helped revitalize boardgaming a few years ago. As you see from the above table, it's the game we've played the most, by far. Furthermore, it was at Millenium Con (November 1997) that I met James, Brady, Jonathan & Dawn at the Settlers tournament which Brady ran, which directly led to the growth of our little SimTex gaming group. And I originally began keeping game statistics as a result of curiosity about rating Settlers games. (I was also testing their dice roll distribution; the dice from several games actually did pass a chi-square test for fairness, believe it or not.)

So would anyone be interested in a Settlers tournament? Do it that Wednesday night, or do a whole-day tournament on Saturday? Let me know ASAP if you want to play in a Settlers tournament, and when you could do so. I will even put up prizes of some sort, since I'm insane.


Games played January 6, 1999:

Can'tStop 4 Ken 3 Mike 1 RussW -2 Jay -2
Samurai 4 JP 3 Laurie 1 Marty -2 WendyWhi -2
QuoVadis 4 Clayton 3 RussW 1 Mike -1 Jay -3
LastChance 3 Laurie 2 Ken 0 JP -2
FilthyRich 5 William 4 DaveB 0 Daniel 0 KevinH 0 JonathanR -4
Medici 4 WendyWhi 3 Doug 1 Marty -1 James -3
DurchDieWueste 5 William 4 Clayton 2 Mike 0 Ken -2 JP -4
Medici 6 Doug 4 James 4 DaveB 1 Marty -1 WendyWhi -3 JonathanR -5
Settlers 4 Jay 3 Daniel 1 RussW -1 Laurie -3
Rainbows 4 RussW 3 Laurie 1 Doug -1 Marty -3
Samurai 4 Mike 3 JP -1 Ken -1 William -1
Fight 4 Marty 3 Laurie 1 Brady -1 RussW -3
Guillotine 4 James 3 DaveB 1 Daniel -2 JonathanR -2
Fight 5 Mike 4 JP 2 Brady 0 Marty -2 RussW -4
DurchDieWueste 5 JonathanR 3 James 3 DaveB 0 Daniel -2 Doug -4
Guillotine 5 RussW 4 JP 1 Marty 1 Brady -2 Mike -4
Cheops 4 RussW 3 Marty 1 JP -1 Brady -3
Kahuna 2 Doug 1 William -1
Kahuna 2 William 1 RussW -1
Kahuna 2 RussW 1 William -1

Thanks to everyone who surprised me with a vintage copy of Can't Stop! Now I own 3 of the games Andy brought from England on his international RussCon visit a couple months ago. (Can't Stop, Quo Vadis, and Bohnanza.) Hoody-hoo! Can't Stop is a fun and fast little game designed by Sid "Acquire" Sackson. (Well, the rules are little, the game itself is actually kind of big and flat...) I also found a Java (and therefore one assumes platform-independent) implementation of Can't Stop (which the author clumsily calls Roll or Don't); direct your browser to


I have downloaded it and played it -- it works! It has up to 4 players, AI or human. A fun little program.

Daniel gets the award for Greatest Settlers "I'm in Last Place" Whiner to Finish 2nd with 9 Points.

Rainbows saw more action, and I got a record-breaking high score of 165, dealing a death blow to Eric's previous high score of 135, which was also broken by Laurie this game with 140! The Rainbows score distribution is now:

165 (Russ)
120 x2
110 x5
100 x7
-10 (William)

I'm guessing the record scores of me and William will stand for a while.

I was glad to finally play Cheops. I think it's pretty cool and fun, and I definitely want to play it again.

William bought the new 2-player game Kahuna. It's rather interesting and clever! Normally I channel my 2-player game energy into go, but I gave Kahuna a try, and it's a fun little game. My first game William demolished me so that I resigned, but by then I was picking up some of the strategy and got revenge in my second game. Very simple concept: 12 islands connected by bridges (each island has 3-6 bridges to nearby islands). 24 cards with island names (2 for each island). Each player has a hand of up to 5 cards. On your turn you may play cards and then draw 1 card. Play cards to put a bridge on the named island to one of its neighbors. If you control more than half the bridges, you get control of the island, and destroy any enemy bridges touching the island. 3 rounds of scoring, based on having more controlled islands than the enemy. There's a little more to it, but that's the basic idea, and it works out to be an interesting blend of combinatorial graph stuff and card playing logic. Check it out. Too bad it's just a 2 player game (for social RussCon gaming).

Also this week, I played a curious game called Ico which Ron brought into work. It's played on an icosohedron (20-sided regular polyhedron) of clear acrylic rods. Each player has colored clips to put on these edges. You can put your clip on any of the 3 edges resting on the table, then you rotate the icosohedron over that newly clipped edge, leaving that edge and 2 new ones resting on the table for the next player. In its basic version, the goal is to get your color clipped onto all three edges of a single face. This game was popular years ago at Ron's high school since one of his friends invented and marketed it!


A special message from the late Devil:

Alas poor Daniel's Devil privileges were pre-empted by our punctual Special Guest Devil Mike. So instead glorying in his Devilhood, he sulked on the floor as Jay beat him in Settlers (such an ignoble fate).

To add insult to injury, I forgot to mention last week his impressive Elfenland accomplishment:

"Ok my first devilish complaint! What about special mention for winning Elfenland in 3 rounds? I didn't sell my soul for nothin. Muhahahaha!"

Ironically, I later saw Alan Moon himself post on rec.games.board asking if anyone had seen players win in 3 rounds, so I publicly reported this instance. Perhaps this will bring a ray of sunshine into Daniel's bitter life.


Return of the Black Baron?

William has observed that the Black Baron (who excels at Montgolfiere with his advanced AI technology) could easily play Raj as well. I hypothesize that the Baron's strategy of choosing moves with uniform randomness will not serve him as well in Raj as does in Montgolfiere. William and I would like to test this sometime. And it would be fun to get the Black Baron a rating in some game besides Montgolfiere.


Evening's Soundtrack:

Ethos, The Black Blood (part 1 of the X&Y cybernetic opera trilogy)
Peter Gabriel, Passion (The Last Temptation of Christ)
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin ("ZOSO")
Ministry, Filth Pig
Nudeswirl, Nudeswirl

The covers of all these albums contain no text whatsoever, only art. This was apparently quite a puzzler.

Puzzle: find the hidden Led Zeppelin phrase in this RussCon Report. Now find the one that's not from Stairway to Heaven.


Rank ratings:
 0.7143 Clayton (2 games played)
 0.4667 James (4)
 0.4286 William (6)
 0.1429 Mike (6)
 0.1429 Laurie (5)
 0.1250 DaveB (4)
 0.0625 Doug (5)
 0.0357 RussW (10)
 0.0000 Ken (4)
 0.0000 KevinH (1)
-0.0870 JP (7)
-0.1429 Marty (8)
-0.1818 WendyWhi (3)
-0.2143 Daniel (4)
-0.2222 Jay (3)
-0.4286 Brady (4)
-0.5000 JonathanR (4)

Win ratings:
 0.7794 James (4)
 0.5789 Clayton (2)
 0.2653 Mike (6)
 0.2537 William (6)
 0.2444 RussW (10)
 0.2000 Jay (3)
 0.1290 Doug (5)
 0.1250 WendyWhi (3)
-0.0217 Ken (4)
-0.1325 JonathanR (4)
-0.2000 Laurie (5)
-0.3130 JP (7)
-0.3960 Marty (8)
-1.0000 DaveB (4)
-1.0000 KevinH (1)
-1.0000 Daniel (4)
-1.0000 Brady (4)

Clayton and James are the Devils! Mike and William are the Vice Devils. (Mike, you should change your flight so you're going to California a day later, since there's the chance you could stake out the dining table again!)

Kevin gets the Extra Average Award. I get the Dedicated Award.


A clash of priorities:

I'm going with Lance (who's long overdue for another RussCon appearance) to the marathon performance Sunday of all 3 parts of the X&Y cybernetic opera trilogy at the Paramount since I've been looking forward to it for about 6 months. This means I'll regretfully miss the 2-day go tournament in Houston this weekend. (Of course, none of those Houston bastards came to our last Austin tournament...) Alas, the sad consequences of having too many obsessions. I wish good luck to JP, Eric, JeffS, KevinT, JimC, and any other Austin go players who will compete in Houston this weekend.

As for the X&Y Trilogy, in the interests of balanced and fair reporting, the RussCon Report is obliged to publish the following alternate views.

Kate muses:

"I dunno Russ. I only saw Black Blood, and while you described it well, you may not have emphasized enough the fact that the plot (and most of the lines) are truly indeciferable, and for the length of these plays, that can get kind of tiring. Or have they gotten better about the lines?"

And WendyWhe opines:

"As someone who saw part 3 of this cybernetic opera, it *is* an acquired taste. You have to like insane, jerky moving people doing bizarre, unmotivated things and yowling into their mics with all kinds of sound warping going on. It does have cool lighting & costumes, though. And sometimes you can see boobies."

De gustibus non disputandum.


There's a feeling I get when I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving.