Humpday News Chum: Ch-Ch-Changes

A few lunchtime news items on some recent changes announced in the news:

  • Borders Bankruptcy. If you haven’t read it by now, Borders has filed Chapter 11. They are closing a lot of stores. This article summarizes the SoCal closures, and here’s a full list. Looking at the SoCal closures: (a) I’m glad Northridge isn’t closing; (b) the one in Sherman Oaks is no surprise — it was a horrible location; (c) the one in Pasadena is probably great news for Vromans; (d) the one in Westchester, again, was a terrible location, in Howard Hughes Plaza.
  • Monopoly. Hasbro is coming out with a cashless version of Monopoly, where a central computer rolls the dice, collects rent, manages the bank, auctions properties, and introduces various new things when the game seems to slow down. Sigh. I didn’t think there was a way Monopoly could be made worse (it is, after all, roll and move), but Hasbro came up with one.
  • Feed a Cold. For those that thought chicken soup was good for a cold, research is showing zinc may be better. Of course, research is also showing there is no cure for the cold.

A New Broadway-Themed Game

In today’s The Producer’s Perspective blog, Ken Davenport writes about a new boardgame he has developed called “Be a Broadway Star”. Skimming the rules, it looks to be mostly “roll and move”, with some additional singing bits and Broadway-themed complications, like Equity cards and publicists. They don’t give an estimate of play time.

This intrigues me to some extent. After all, I have the board game that covers the other side of the picture: “The Broadway Game”. As I described it in a comment to Ken, that game (which is roll and move, to some extent) consists for three acts and a finale. In Act I, you are moving around the inner track, investing in the available shows for either a full or a discount price. Once a show has a full set of 10 investors (Act II), you move to the out of town tryout track, where you have do to things like meet payrolls, etc. If you can’t cover that from the initial investment, you have to go to your investors for money, and if they don’t have the funds, they may have to sell shares, which might move you to have to find investors again. If you make it through out of town tryouts, you open on Broadway, but again have to handle costs which could result in the show closing and having to go out of town again. Once all the shows have opened, there is an end-game with an odd voting scheme — perhaps the weakest part of the game.

The problem with “The Broadway Game” is that it is hard to get it played with the Euro-gaming crowd. Some just don’t like any game that involves rolling and moving (they don’t see the investing strategy part of the game). Some think it takes too long (playing the full game took almost 3 hours the last time I played it). Based on this, I’m not sure I want to pick up “Be a Broadway Star“. It isn’t that expensive ($29.95—and most Euros are $40+) looks potentially interesting (although I’m not sure about the singing aspect), but I fear that I would have trouble finding people to play it for the same reason that “The Broadway Game” has trouble.


From the “Get a Clue” Department: Board Games on TV

One more item I found that should provoke some discussion: In an article in the LA Times on the new “Hub” network—a joint venture of Discovery and Hasbro: “The Hub’s original-series lineup is heavy with Hasbro tie-ins such as “Family Game Night,” an hourlong show in which contestants play giant-size versions of the company’s familiar games including Cranium, Twister and Yahtzee.”

This got me thinking. Hasbro is the borg of gaming: they also own Wizards of the Coast and Avalon Hill. Can you imagine if they extended the concept to their adult gaming line? Aside from shows based on Dungeons and Dragons (which has been done before), imagine the possibilities:

  • A drama of global warfare and conflict, based on Risk
  • A drama of World War II, based on Axis and Allies
  • A drama set in the early days of Las Vegas, pitting tycoons against each other to raise the status of their casinos, based on Vegas Showdown
  • A horror series based on Betrayal on the House on the Hill

But keep thinking. Support Hasbro got beat up for only featuring their games. Now suppose they went to the other manufactures: Days of Wonder, Queens games, etc. Just imagine games based on Carcassone, Ticket to Ride, 10 Days in Africa, Agricola, Traumfabrik, Power Grid. What would your favorite board game look like, if it was turned into a TV series?


Games Day 42 Report

Yesterday was Games Day 42, which I squeezed in before our evening theatre. I was only able to play three games:

  • On The Underground. This was a game where we were teaching a new player. I did my usual building of the circle line first, and ended up winning the game.
  • The Broadway Game. This was the first time I played a complete game of this. Even using the “short” game, the game (with 5 players) went over 3 hours. I ended up investing in “A Streetcar Named Desire” (I was the lead producer on this) and “Oklahoma”, but ended up losing my shirt in the Broadway Theatre Awards competition. I’m not sure I like how the endgame works.
  • Vinci. This was the first time I played this; it was suggested by Marty as a better game than The Broadway Game. We only played to 100 victory points, and I tied for victory. It was a lot less random. I’ll likely try playing this one again until I get the hang of it.

For the first time in a long time, I won a game from the prize table: the card game version of Modern Art. I haven’t played it yet.

The next games day was announced as being on October 23rd. Alas, that is the same afternoon that Temple Ahavat Shalom has scheduled a Family Games Day, which I’m running. I may see if I can recruit a few regulars to come out to Northridge in the afternoon; if I can, I’ll just have to depend on friends and family to teach games. I have yet to decide if I’ll go out to Games Day 43 in the morning; the TAS Gaming doesn’t start until the early afternoon.


A great day of Boardgaming

Today was So Cal Games Day 40. I went, and was good, and had a great day.

Let’s take those in order. First the “was good”. Normally, at Games Day, lunch is a Subway sandwich and chips, and dinner is usually Sizzler. Today? I brought a salad and a little cottage cheese for both lunch and dinner, with a few pita chips, and some fresh fruit. That was it. No junk, even when it was offered to me (some interestingly flavored Doritos and chocolate—both of which I refused).

The gaming was great also. I played seven games. First up was “Power Grid: Factory Manager”, a new game for me. In this game (I’m quoting BGG here), each player owns a factory and tries to earn the most money during the game. To be successful, each player must use his workers to buy the best machines and robots at the market and to run the machines most effectively in his factory. Because of increasing energy prices, the players must be careful to check the energy consumption of their factories and to avoid using only energy-consuming machines. Otherwise, their profit will suddenly vanish, the worst fear of a good businessman. This isn’t one I would purchase, it just didn’t grab me.

Next up was a quick game of Exxtra. This is a dice game, and I had forgotten how much fun it is. I’ll have to play this again.

After that, I had a little time to pass before starting a large game, so I pulled out an oldie: Ace of Aces – Handy Rotary. I got shot down, but this is still a fun game.

After that was another new game: Powerboats. This I liked quite a bit. It reminded me of Speed Circuit, but with a bit more dice rolling. Still, it wasn’t roll and move—there was a fair amount of strategy.

Next up was a teaching game: 10 Days in Europe. This I won. I’m looking forward to 10 Days in the Americas to come out later this year, for then I can combine all five (Africa, USA, Asia, Europe, and Americas)

The penultimate game was another new one: Amun-Re. This is a game of farming and supply management in Egypt. It took a long time to explain, but once it got going it was pretty good. I’m not sure I would buy it, but I might play it again.

The last game was another favorite: Traumfabrik. Alas, my studio got outbid on most films, although I did a really crappy version of The Court Jester with Errol Flynn that won worst picture!

That was it. A full day of gaming with no junk food. Who could ask for anything more? The next So Cal Games Day is May 8.


Wednesday News Chum: Interpreting Science, Bad Adults, and Round Monopoly

Surprisingly, there hasn’t been that much news from the lunchtime news reading of late that has been chum-worthy — which usually means a theme hasn’t emerged. However, I do have some mini-themes to share with you:

  • From the “Leave Science to the Scientists” Department: In Steve Allen’s book Dumpth, he talks about how society today has lost the ability to do critical thinking. Two articles I’ve seen demonstrate this. The first, concerning the media’s favorite non-politician, Sarah Palin, highlight how she dismisses scientific findings on climate change (a much more accurate term than “global warming”) as “snake oil”. She said the government’s approach to climate change “didn’t make any sense because it was based on these global warming studies that now we’re seeing (is) a bunch of snake oil science”. Politicians are quick to remind us that it is difficult for normal humans to comprehend the workings of the political machines (the usual analogy is the making of sausage). Similarly, politicians should leave the understanding of scientific research to the scientists who have technical degrees. In particular, Ms. Palin’s education is in journalism and sports, does not have the training to judge or recognize truly snake-oil science. I’m sorry, Ms. Palin, I’m more likely to trust the Secretary of Energy’s opinion, as he has a technical PhD and has won a scientific Nobel prize.

    Related to this is another article related to the obesity “epidemic” (hmmm, does this mean you can catch it by contact?): It appears that a recent study has found that sitting in front of the TV doesn’t make you obese. It is the commercials. Oh Stan. Paging Mr. Freberg. Sigh. This goes to show that advertising, surprise surprise, works. You advertise junk food, and kids will eat junk food. The way to get rid of this is to ban all advertising. Let’s see that get through congress!

  • From the “What Adults Do To Kids” Department: Two small articles highlight some bad things that are happening to our kids today. First, an 11-year old girl has given birth. Read that again slowly. Eleven years old. That’s far too young, and I’ll relatively sure the father was not the same age, but was older. Another story tells of a father (an Iraqi war vet) who waterboarded his 4-yo daughter because she didn’t know her alphabet. Both of these are horrific stories — and as a father of a daughter, they just make me cringe. I just don’t understand how adults can do these things to children.
  • From the “Going in Circles” Department: Monopoly has to be one of the most well known board games around (I’m not saying that it’s good or strategic, just well-known). It has also inspired the most variants. But in general the base game has stayed the change: pass go, collect $200; jail in the corner square, free parking, and funny money. That’s changing. Hasbro has issued a 75th anniversary edition with a round board and no money, just an ATM machine. No pewter pieces, either. Inflation has also hit the game: pass go, collect $2,000,000.

So Cal Games Day 39

Today I did something I haven’t done in over a year: I went to SoCal Games 39. What did I play, you ask? Here’s a list: (1) Witches’ Brew; (2) 10 Days in Asia; (3) Metro; (4) On the Underground; (5) 10 Days in Africa; (6) Cat 5/6 Nimmt; and (7) Ticket to Ride – Europe. I only won (2) and (3). Still, it was a fun day, and I got a lot of good ideas on how to run the Men’s Club Family Boardgaming Night at Temple on May 2nd.