27 September 2007

Sailing away

As I mentioned, I'm going on holiday tomorrow. That means this blog will be silent for a week, but I'll be back! I plan to return rested, refreshed, and ready to post on a more regular basis. With any luck I'll get to play a few new card games while I'm gone. See you soon!

26 September 2007

Games are my shield

ABM loves to socialize. He is at his best when he is in a big group of people. I am not so lucky. Even if I know several people in attendance, I am uncomfortable in a room with more than four people. If I don't have a task or a purpose, I get fidgety. I was the girl at the party who helped the hostess pick up empties instead of flirting with guys on the dance floor. Nowadays, that translates into me carrying my knitting everywhere; if I don't have anything to say, I can always concentrate on my hands and people don't think much of it. Unfortunately knitting doesn't work in all situations. For those times, I keep a deck of cards tucked in my purse. It may sound strange, but if I am teaching someone a game I feel like I have a reason to be there.

At first, it was difficult for me to pull out a card game at someone else's house. I didn't want to hijack the plans that the host may have had. It has gotten easier, though. First off, most of the couples we know don't have a plan for a get-together beyond what we are going to eat. Secondly, I think I'm getting a reputation as the game girl. When we go to someone's house, the couple brings up playing a game so I don't have to. They now expect me to pull something fun out of my purse.

ABM said that he didn't want to play games on this cruise because he didn't want to do the same stuff he does at home. However, I've got Poison, Word Thief, and some playing cards in my purse, anyway. I have a feeling there will be times when we don't have anything planned. For instance, we are flying to Miami the day before we have to board the boat but we don't want to spend money on renting a car and seeing the sights. Several other people in our cruise group are going early, too, and staying in the same hotel. Break out the cards!

24 September 2007

Moola: Not quite ready for prime-time

I signed up for the Moola beta and got my invitation today. Moola is ostensibly a casual game site. It has an appealing pseudo-gambling structure that is sponsored by ad dollars. Every new member is given a penny and they can play a game against any other player that has a penny (the site has an auto-match feature for players). If you win, you double your money and can play on the next level. If you ever lose your money down to zero, the site gives you a penny to start over. As I said, it is very appealing for people like me who want to gamble a little but not with my own money.

As far as I can tell, Moola's real business is as a get-paid-to site. I already belong to a couple GPT sites (CashCrate and Gangster Greed) that pay you to take surveys, and Moola has similar features. There are invitations that you can give out which are really referrals that will earn you a percentage of the winnings that your friends earn. There is also a Booster Zone where can get paid to sign up for free trials of services such as RealNetworks.

What about the games? Well, that is where Moola falls off. Right now, there are only three games. Hi-Lo is a card game where you guess whether the next card you are dealt is going to be higher or lower than the last card. Ro-Sham-Bo-Ful is Rock-Paper-Scissors with a karate theme. Gold Rush is a game where you try to pick a nugget that weighs more than the nugget your opponent picks. All games are played against real people, but there is no skill involved. It is all guessing. I think I would get bored out of my skull before I even got to the $40 rung! Unless they add some games that have a little strategy, Moola will suffer the fate of the other GPT sites I belong to -- just something I do for about five minutes a week to kill time.

19 September 2007

Casual Games = Family Games?

The results of a recent survey on casual games suggests that such games promote familial bonds. Some might find the results a bit suspect since it was sponsored by Popcap, one of the leading publishers of casual games. However, I can tell you that the results reflect how casual games are played in my house.

My kids' first casual game was Tumblebugs, a garden-themed Zuma clone. I remember ABM pushing me out of the chair after a few minutes to see if he could last longer than I did. It didn't take long for the kids to get in on the act. It was the first time since Tetris was popular that I had seen kids comparing high scores.

The current craze in my house are hidden object games like Mystery Case Files: Huntsville. All the kids gather around one computer and hunt for the objects. They've learned new words like spigot because the games use different names for the same objects as you get to the higher levels. My kids don't fight a lot, but they have their share of disagreements. These games always have them working together in harmony, without anyone arguing about whose turn it is in the computer chair.

Lately, I've noticed that the casual games are getting deeper. That may seem like a contradiction, but it's not. Many of today's games involve more strategy and trickier puzzles to challenge a player. However, they maintain the frequent save points that make a game casual. I welcome more challenging games, not only for myself but also for the kids. With their group brain power, they can finish all the levels on a simple game in a week. I'm looking forward to games that they don't devour so quickly!

Time for another game carnival!

Go visit the 6th edition of the Game Carnival! There are articles about all kinds of games there. My favorite is about a lawn game called Kubb. Since the pieces are just wooden blocks, I bet I could get my handy husband ABM to make a set for me in no time. September is the perfect time to play outside with the kids, now that the miserable summer heat has let up a bit. Anyway, go visit the carnival and find your favorite article!

18 September 2007

Thanks for your feedback!

I appreciate all the kind comments from experienced hobby gamers and bloggers. I promise I will read them in a more timely manner in future :-).

Nathaniel Todd said,

"You mention in a post (it may have been a different one) that you don't have access to a veteran gamer to help explain new games to your friends, and I agree that with most designer games that would be a big help. Given a few curious friends and a couple hours, however, I love to just open up a new game and figure it out."

It is encouraging to know that even experienced gamers have to slog through games. It makes sense, really. When a new game is released, someone has to be the first to play it. Unfortunately, my adult group isn't very patient when it comes to learning rules (especially my husband ABM). They expect me to know the game before I present it to them; if they have to struggle even a little, they want to fall back on our old favorites of Pounce and Poison. That's why I test games on my kids first. They are more patient about learning rules and they make good coaches for the adults.

In response to my Clue post, Mark suggested that I try Clue DVD. My husband is also interested in trying a DVD-based game. Now that we have a laptop with a DVD drive, this game is much more possible. I can't see crowding a group around the TV in my tiny den! Commenting on the same post, Nathaniel said that a game has never worn out its welcome with him. All I can say is that he has either been extremely lucky or he has a higher tolerance that I do :-).

Dumb, dumb, dumb!

I just noticed today that I have several comments on some of my older posts. For some reason, I thought that when I chose the option "send notification to my email address when someone comments" that it covered all my blogs. Now I realize it is only for my main blog. Duh! I hope I haven't scared anyone off by not responding to comments. I'm off to read my feedback :-).

Changing my focus a little

I originally started this blog to talk about board games and card games. While I still want to feature them, I would also like to add casual games (PC and online) into the mix. My kids, who are my main game group, have more homework than they did in previous years so we haven't been playing cards as much as we once did. ABM, my husband, has been putting in a lot of overtime so the adult game night is on hold for now. That leaves me to play games on the computer. Rather than let the blog go silent, I want to write about what I am playing in the interim.

One thing I don't want you to worry about is me posting reviews of shmups (shoot-em-ups) or other hardcore gamer games. As a wife and mother of four kids, I have too many other responsibilities to go gonzo over the big games. My taste in computer games is a bit more retro. I will be following the same guidelines I follow for picking board games: cheap or free to get and easy to learn. I hope you will stick with me!

17 September 2007

Many ways to play Ingenious

Ingenious started life as a board game by Reiner Knizia. Now there are several places that let you play it online, as well as a PC version that you can download and play offline. As I mentioned before, I downloaded the PC version. Since I don't belong to a big gaming group, playing computer versions of these games is the only way I can try before I buy.

Let me give you a brief outline of the rules. Ingenious is a tile placement game. Each tile consists of two hexes stuck together. Each hex has one of six symbols on it and each symbol is a different color. On each turn you place a tile so that it is touching the same symbol (for example, yellow circle next to yellow circle). You score one point for every matching symbol next to the one you placed. So if I placed a green circle next to a row of four green circles, I would get four points. The game ends when there are no more empty spaces for tiles. At that time, each player looks at the color on their scoring track that has the least points; that is your score. The player with the highest score wins.

Ingenious is a game that lends itself well to being played on the computer. It reminds me of a lot of the casual games that are popular on the internet right now. I don't think I would want to play it against bots that often, and that's not because the bots beat me all the time :-). This game just seems like it would be more fun at a table with live players. With games like this, I am not very good at picking the best move, so I get my enjoyment from chatting with friends. Still, the computer game served its purpose -- it let me test-drive the game.

I'm pretty sure that I want to buy this game now. It is moving to the top of my list. The rules are simple enough that the kids can play it without adult supervision. It is also perfect for our friends who are prone to forget game rules from one session to the next. The scoring is similar to the other Knizia game that I own, Poison. That will increase their comfort level. I can't wait to get this one in the house!

Places to play Ingenious online:


10 September 2007

Game called because of . . . eww!

I know that I owe you guys a description of Ingenious, but I ran into a little trouble. I will spare you the details of my yucky illness; let's just say I was too delirious to string 5 words together. Hang in with me and I will get that review up soon!

02 September 2007

Computer version of Knizia game "Ingenious" for free

The Reiner Knizia "Ingenious" is the current freebie at the site Giveaway of the Day. You have to download and install it today for the game to be fully functional. I've downloaded programs from GotD before and they have been a hit-or-miss affair. However, I am going to give this a shot and let you guys know what I think. Of course, you don't have to wait for me -- go over there and download it for yourself!