Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Games of Gencon

This is just going to be a few brief notes on some of the new games I played at GenCon. I pretty much enjoyed most of the games I played there, but these are the ones that I hadn't played before that stand out in my memory.

On Thursday I played a few rounds of Khet with a guy called Jason. Khet has an Egyptian theme, and the aim is to use the mirrors on the pieces to shoot your laser beam onto the opponents pharaoh. Each turn you can move a piece one step or rotate it 90 degrees, and then you shoot your laser beam. If you hit a piece other than on the mirror, it gets removed. The advanced version which includes a beam splitter for each side makes it even more interesting.

On Friday I got to have a go at the Battlestar Galactica board game, which is a pretty well done game. It is for the most part a cooperative game, where all the players work together against the game itself, with the complication of that at some point some of the players will be working against the other players and be trying to destroy the ship. Each player takes the role of a character from the show, each of which has strengths and weaknesses appropriate to their character. In this game I played a pilot character, and so mostly worked on protecting the ship from the enemy, and was not able to contribute as much to the crisis portion of the game, where the group has to work to resolve a problem. In the end we did work out who was the cylon, and we managed to get away from the bad guys, making the game a win for the humans.

On Saturday I played Chaos in the Old World, a game based on the Warhammer fantasy world. This is an asymmetrical four player game, with each player representing one of the four chaos powers trying to corrupt the world. I played Khorne, who is good at combat, but not so good at corrupting or manipulating the world. Through spreading my forces thin and not caring whose guys I killed (for the most part, although there was some targeted attacks) I managed to raise my threat level to where I won the game, although it was a very close run thing as one of the other players also got to 50 points that turn, another possible victory condition, and it's only because the threat level victory has priority over the points victory that I got the win. The win was especialy close as I had a terrible battle round that turn and only killed something by the skin of my teeth.

On Sunday I played Red November. This is another cooperative game. In the game, the players are a bunch of drunk gnomes on a run down submarine trying to keep it afloat until rescuers arrive in 60 minutes. As the game progresses fires break out, sections flood, things break down, kraken squash the ship and more. It gets even more fun when a gnome passes out drunk and a bunch of stuff happens with fewer people left to fix it. This is a fun game with a good theme.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Most of last week I was doing something or other related to GenCon, which is a big gaming and media convention here in Brisbane (when I say big, I'm grading on a curve). I started out on Wednesday going in to help out with the setting up, but since a bunch of the stuff they needed didn't show up, I didn't do much more during the day then help unpack a truck and a few cars and push some trolleys around. I also got to see just how big the Brisbane Convention Centre is. At one point there was a semi trailer just driving around inside.

Thursday was a bit more organised as stuff was starting that day. Early on I was packing showbags which weren't exactly the greatest showbags of all time, as they contained one program, one catalog, and two business cards. Things like pens and dice and hats had to be bought. After lunch, sneakily provided unasked for by the convention centre and consumed before anyone realised the insane price charged for said lunch. After lunch I started on my main role there, helping out in the board game section. At the start there was just myself and another regular from Critical Mass on Fridays, so we hung around and as people wandered by started a few games of different things, and kept on playing games until it was time to pack stuff up at around 9:30.

Friday was again mostly board games after I got there around twoish as I had to deal with centrelink and pick up my repaired computer. I played one game of Battlestar Galactica which was quite good, and I got into character quite well, but I played things a little too straight for my own good if I'd turned out to be a cylon later on in the game. In the evening while walking around the exhibitor half of the hall I bought a Dread Pirate Roberts action figure and a print of an artist's rendition of the Serenity poster.

Saturday was an easier day with a few games. The days highlight was the Q & A with Robert Picardo, who was very entertaining. The lowlight was when I went across the river to the Myer centre to buy lunch for a reasonable price (the convention centre charges $4 for a bottle of softdrink) only to find out my credit card was missing. Fortunately, I had left it at the subway I'd gone to for dinner the last two nights and the guy recognised me and had the card there.

Sunday was the final day and I did a little more shopping and a little more gaming. I bought a copy of the Battlestar Galactica game for myself, as well as a copy of the new Iain Banks (no M) book. Finally as the con came to a close I helped pack up all the games into the car of the board game area coordinator, and then told to get out as no one gave me a safety jacket which was needed after the con closed.

All up it was a good 4(5) days and I'll definitely be involved next year in some form.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow is a book I've been aware of for some time but have only just got around to reading, and I really don't think it's that great. It's reputation is more born out of the authors position on copyright and the fact that the book is available under a creative commons license than on any great artistic merits.

The story relates a conflict between two groups with different philosphies on how Disneyworld should be run in a future world where money has been replaced by reputation and transferring memories to clones has brought about effective immortality for all. The bickering between the groups seems almost petty at times, although the characters would probably say that is just my quaint parochial mindset showing through.

The plot goes forward pretty straightforwardly, with a few diversions to look at how society got to where it is in the story. There are a few surprises along the way, but they are either easily predictable or not very significant to the story. The conclusion is a piece of deus ex machina and leaves the reader with a feeling of so what.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Gladiator

I picked up The Gladiator at the library while collecting a book I'd put on hold. The cover appealed to me with its soviet style artwork of a hand holding a D20. Being by Harry Turtledove also helped as I've enjoyed some of his previous works before. As with pretty much everything he writes, The Gladiator is a work alternate history story. It's an easy read and I managed to finish it that evening in about 5 or so hours of reading.

It's set in a world where America backed down over the Cuban missile crisis and so communism eventually won the day. Taking place in Italy about a hundred years from now, the main plot focuses on a group who have traveled from our world to this one and are trying to install capitalistic ideals by running game shops where people can play games that require capitalistic thinking. Things go haywire when the security forces crackdown, and the proprietor finds safety with the family of some of his customers. An escape is finally managed via a similar store in San Marino.

The story isn't really that deep, and the ideals the author favours are quite clearly those of our world. All of the main characters are shown to question the ruling ideology of their world, and those who have bought the communist kool-aid are mostly caricatures. The plot is pretty straight forward and there aren't any twists per se.

Overall it's an OK read, but aimed more at the young adult rather than the adult reader that Turtledove usually writes for. I doubt I'd have picked it up except for the gimmick of using games to subvert the communist regime.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


So as of Thursday I am once more employed. I do not say gainfully employed, as I don't really think it's a job that needs doing, and it's not one I feel particularly happy about doing. In fact it's something I don't like other people doing to me, and I feel less than stellar doing it.

The good thing about a crappy job is that it is even more motivation to find a bettter job, and it does pay about twice what Centrelink does, and will allow me to avoid a few hassles with them some recent events may cause.

I know I'm being a bit vague on the details, but that's because I really don't want to say exactly what the job is.

The one plus is that they are giving me Wednesday off which I had volunteered to help with the setting up of GenCon which with helping to run a few games over the weekend will score me a free ticket into the convention. This will be my first convention so I'm looking forward to it.


I've just posted the last entry of my travels from earlier this year. Given that I returned to Australia in early June and it is now early mid September, this has taken longer than I had hoped.

Early on most of the writing was done on trains between cities, just after I had left them. Since returning to Brisbane, pretty much all of my writing has been done at the Myer Centre Starbucks, so I guess a shout out to them is due.

All up I wrote 222 pages of travels plus another 20-30 pages of other materials. Coming up is a series of Cool and Not Cool for each country.

There is a certain amount of satisfaction in having completed this. It was a rather epic trip, and the tome in which I wrote it down will stay on my bookshelf for many years to come.

I am considering what to do with the rest of the space in the journal. The two options I can see is to keep it as a diary of sorts for everyday life, or to keep it for the next time I go a big trip. There's also the fact that I have been using the unruled section for various miscellania from life in Brisbane, which may come down on the everyday diary side of things, but now that I've thought about a next trip, that does seem like a nice idea.

On the topic of a next trip, since I've knocked a lot of stuff off my want to see list, a few new contenders are at the top. The top three would be in no particular order Egypt, China and South America. Other places that are on the list include Malta, North Korea, northern Europe, the rest of Australia, a pop-culture tour of America where I would try and see live all the things I like from America like The Colbert Report and Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me (New York or California would be a must).

The next trip is of course some time away, and I think that the next time I go on a big trip it would be good to have a travelling companion. While it was nice meeting lots of people along the way, there was also times where it got lonely, like the six days on a train as the only English speaker on the carriage.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Closing a few tabs

There's a couple of items I've had open for a few days intending to write something about them.

First, another sad story of a child who died because his parents went to a faith healer instead of a doctor. It's uncertain yet if the parents will be prosecuted for neglect.

Next was to be a link to a story about the continuing debate over a political movie about Hilary Clinton that got banned during the primaries in 2007, but the New York Times has decided you now need to subscribe to read the article, so there's no link.

In news I'm glad to see, Nozomu Sahashi, CEO of NOVA, has been sent to jail for three and a half years after being found guilty of embezzlement. About bloody time.

Finally is a business opportunity I should look into setting up over here in Australia. It's a company run by atheists that offers to look after the pets of Christians after the rapture. The Christians pay $110 dollars for ten years of protection. And if there's no rapture, there's no refunds. Pretty easy money I think.

Naughty North Korea

The Beeb has reported that the United Arab Emirates caught the North Korea sending a boat full of weapons to Iran. The ship claimed to simply be carrying "machine parts" but included machines such as rocket propelled grenades (a machine, sure, but not what one usually imagines when you hear the phrase machine parts).

This follows on from an aborted attempt to ship arms to Myanmar earlier this year (No one saw the arms in that case, but if it was the peaceful goods the two countries claimed it was, why turn back to avoid an inspection? If America had forced its way onto a ship and found nothing it would have been a big PR win).

I'm also rather glad that this ship didn't get to Iran given Iran's nuclear ambitions and North Korea's nuclear reality. I'm sure there was more on the boat than just the grenades that we haven't been told about.