Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Letting Go is Never Easy

Statistically speaking, I'm probably closer to the end of my life than the beginning, unless the nanotech revolution gets here before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Since that's unlikely, I find myself taking more and more time to consider the amount of clutter in my life and whether having a library stuffed full of books is really making me happy.

I do love having a library, but because I have so many books it's really more of a storage closet than a place to read and relax. So, prompted by a discussion with Sean, I've decided to prune my collection even more deeply than before. Today I filled a large Rubbermaid container with books, destined for the Wee Book Inn or one of the Little Libraries in the Oliver community, or perhaps the Cross Cancer Institute.

It wasn't easy to do this. Some of the volumes I put in that container have been with me since the 1980s. But since I'm only reading a little over 100 books a year, what are the odds that I'll read these books again? Almost nil.

It's still hard. Each book tells a story beyond that contained within its pages; it also tells a story about the reader, where and who I was when I first turned those pages, now yellowing.

But why try to preserve memory when I won't be remembered more than a decade or so after my death - if even that? Why not instead try to enjoy the new more fully?

Profundities aside, I'd be pretty happy if I can cull enough books to add a nice easy chair and maybe a gaming table to the room. 

Monday, September 01, 2014

McDonald's McNugget Sauces Ranked in Order of Flavour

1. BBQ
2. Hot Mustard
3. Sweet 'N Sour

Yes, this is possibly the low point of The Earliad's 11-year existence, but this is one of those the-bear-gets-you days and there are three unused packets - one of each flavour - sitting on my desk right now for some reason. If Hemingway had a blog I'm sure he could write a post of enduring beauty using the same inspiration. I'm not Hemingway. I'm not even Michael Butterworth or Ed D. Wood.

And now I'm  thinking Hot Mustard is actually tastier than BBQ. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Stranger Rolled In

After playing Betrayal at the House on the Hill last night I started to think about other genres that could be adapted to the build-the-board-as-you-play mechanic. The western genre is rich with possibilities for this sort of game.

Let's call the game A Stranger Rolled In. The general object of the game: as one of 2-8 Strangers, each with different backgrounds, motivations and skills, roll into a small frontier town and complete one of half a dozen or so missions: collect a bounty, free a prisoner, win a gunfight, find a spouse, recover your horse, find a sidekick, win a convert, claim your inheritance to a gold and/or silver mine, establish a saloon, start a homestead, build a school. Further goals can be cribbed from watching westerns.

Players take on one of, say, eight western archetypes: the Lone Gunslinger, the Grizzled Sheriff, the Naive Deputy, the Plucky Homesteader, the Frontier Teacher, the Kid, the Preacher, the Soldier (Union or Confederate), with additional archetypes to be rolled out in the inevitable expansion sets. Player goals would broadly match these archetypes; the Lone Gunslinger, for example, would obviously be able to choose a gunfight or bounty hunting mission, but possibly also find a spouse or claim your inheritance. The Preacher would want to win converts, but he or she could also want to find a sidekick or free a prisoner. And so on.

Each character would have certain skills:

Shootin'. For gunfights and shootouts.
Fightin'. For the inevitable saloon brawl.
Yammerin.' For diplomacy and wheeling and dealing.
Ridin.' For driving horses or stagecoaches.
Sneakin'. For stealth.

And they'd also have attributes:

Stones. For courage under fire.
Smarts. For book learnin' and general cunning.
Stamina. For health, i.e. your character's hit points.
Presence. Your character's personal charisma and attractiveness.

The town would be composed of, say, fifty tiles, and might include:

Road into Town
Town Square
Railway Station
General Store
Post Office
Dentist Office
Farm Houses
Miner's Shack
Town Hall
Water Tower
Dry Goods Store
Boot Hill

The various tiles would be populated by townspeople, represented by a stack of cards called Townsfolk. This deck would consist of 100 cards, each representing a resident of the town. Players will have to interact with Townsfolk to meet their game goals.

Many tiles will contain supplies, which can be purchased, bartered for, or stolen, depending on the player. These supplies will help the characters meet their goals. They might be better guns, faster horses, books, fancy clothes, etc.

Certain circumstances will trigger events, which are gathered in the Plot deck of cards. When two player characters wind up in the same room, for example, a Plot card would be drawn. A sample card might read "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us," which would trigger a conflict - perhaps a gunfight or a duel of insults. Plots could also be triggered by revealing certain tiles.

I haven't considered all of the game elements with enough rigour to actually design it, of course - figuring out the victory conditions in particular requires more thought. And I can't decide if only one player should be able to win, making it necessary and part of the game to sabotage other players, or if it should be possible to have more than one winner, as sometimes happens in the western films this game attempts to simulate (much like "Last Night on Earth" simulates zombie movies).

Anyway, I'll keep thinking about it. Maybe I'll launch a Kickstarter.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Betrayal at House on the Hill

Mike, Sean and Jeff came over to try out three new board games: Archer, Legendary, and Betrayal at House on the Hill (above). Of the three I'd say Archer, while amusing, has the simplest game mechanic and the lowest replay value, but it's a quick diversion and supports up to eight players, making it a good nominee for Gaming & Guinness. Each player takes on the role of one of the ISIS agents from the animated series; the object of the game is to get the upper hand on your fellow employees. Booze and sex challenges test your mettle, and hurling insults at other characters is crucial to gaining upper hand points. I think this game might be more engaging with a full complement of eight players for maximum snark and chaos. 

My favourite of the night was Betrayal at House on the Hill, which uses the build-the-game-board-as-you-play mechanic I've enjoyed since discovering Zombies!!! many years ago. Players take the role of one of several pre-generated characters, each with an alter ego, which is important because at some point during the game one player is revealed as a murderous traitor. The goal is to survive your exploration of a haunted house (or, if you're the traitor, to ensure the others don't live through the night. It's a very atmospheric game, with trap doors, mysterious noises, ghosts, secret rooms - all the essential elements of a good haunted house story. 

I also enjoyed Legendary, a so-called "deck building" game set in the Marvel comics universe. We almost gave up on this game because its hundreds of cards came packed in no logical order, requiring us to spend about an hour on setup and learning the rules. However, once we figured out the mechanic, the game flowed quite smoothly. There's quite a bit of strategy involved in building a solid hand of heroes to face the menace of the various masterminds plotting to rule the world, and the game is quite fast-paced. Plus it's fun to imagine sending Spider-Man and some hapless SHIELD troopers in together to fight a Super-Skrull or a legion of HYDRA agents, particularly when innocent bystanders are at risk. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Deliciously Devilish

My screensaver rolls through images from my "My Pictures" folder, and today I came home to this picture of Sylvia in Timmins in 2011. Oooooo!