Wedding

Last weekend, I went to my manager’s wedding in Atlanta, flying in Friday and flying out Monday. You’ll also recall that Monday was when Irma was supposed to hit Atlanta. So that was fun.

The wedding itself was awesome. It was my first Indian wedding, and it was really colorful and full of delicious food and happy people and was generally a great time.


I also had some free time on Sunday, so I hit up the World of Coca Cola. It was an interesting experience… I think it was intended more for kids, as it was set up kind of as a super-high-tech amusement park with different “rides” that you walked through. Like the “Vault”, holding the original copy of the Coca Cola secret recipe, was after some videos and displays of historical artifacts, a game where players had to chase down a man with the recipe, and then the “vault room” that was a 360 degree promotional video that dramatically revealed the vault door at the end.
Still, it was an interesting experience, and was worth visiting once. The best part was probably the tasting room where they had different coke products from different continents, so you could taste what exotic flavors were being consumed around the world.

Still, the entire weekend was kind of filled with dread of being stuck in Atlanta for a couple days due to Irma. I spent my free time glued to the Weather Channel, looking up path and severity forecasts for the hurricane, and seeing what options there were for sleeping and working within the Atlanta airport.

In the end, it didn’t matter, because Irma weakened more than expected, and my plane took off (8 AM on Monday) without incident. I hear that basically all flights were cancelled after 1 PM, and the entire city also shut down for the day, so I count myself pretty fortunate that I got in and out without incident.

More photos of everything are at photos, as usual.

Cruise! (Or, really, esiurc!)

I went on a cruise! Actually, it was the same as the last (and first) cruise I went on, just in reverse (and with a Montreal stop at the beginning instead of an overnight in Quebec City at the end). Different ship this time (the Maasdam instead of the Veendam) and different people (friends instead of parents), but it was just as awesome as last time.

We traveled to Montreal on Thursday via Porter Airlines, which recently added a flight to Pittsburgh. It went through the Toronto City Airport, which is pretty much the best airport ever. The entire airport is like 3 gates, and has a large, comfortable waiting area with free refreshments (water, soda, tea, cookies, and snack mix)!

The flights were also pretty awesome. They were smaller propeller planes, but well-serviced by a friendly crew, and included free wine (red or white) served in real glasses, and a nice snack selection (Terra chips, almonds, and shortbread). In a lot of ways, it was nicer than Southwest, which I generally hold up as a great example of airplane travel.

Montreal itself was fine. We had all of Friday to explore the city, and spent it wandering. I hadn’t been there before (the last cruise stopped at Quebec City), but it was a nice time.

We got on the boat on Saturday, and the fun (and infinite food) commenced. The first stop the next day was Quebec City. Given that we’d had an overnight there on the last cruise, I opted to remain on the boat the whole day and enjoy sitting around, eating, and sitting in the pool. It was pretty awesome.


After that, it was a day on the boat, cruising the Saint Lawrence River. There was an interesting thing when a passenger had to be disembarked for a medical emergency. They contacted the coast guard, who came with a boat to receive the passenger in a lifeboat. Naturally, we’re all voyeurs, so everyone stood on the deck watching the crew lower the lifeboat. More interesting, though, was that the coast guard boat itself had an emergency onboard while waiting for the lifeboat, and had to return to shore. As far as I know, the person was fine, so the issue was apparently not super time-sensitive, but it was still an interesting thing.

The next day was Charlottetown. I remembed Charlottetown last time as being one of my favorite stops, due to all the Canadian history there. It was a little less good this time (had already seen Founder’s Hall, and Province House was closed for renovations. Still, we managed to see some interesting buildings (including an old historic house) and got Cow’s ice cream.


The next stop was supposed to be Sydney, but the winds proved too much and the ship had to skip the stop due to being unable to make a safe docking. This worked out just fine for me: I hadn’t been planning on leaving the ship anyway, and there really isn’t that much to do in Sydney outside of the (expensive) shore excursions. Yubin’s bird-watching tour had already been cancelled due to early bird migration. Instead, we spent the day on the ship, eating and enjoying the pool. The bonus was the free sparking wine from the captain due to missing the stop, plus a refund of the port fees on our ship statement.

After that was a stop in Halifax. I stayed on the boat in the morning and got to watch a crew emergency drill, which was actually pretty interesting.


I mostly wanted to see the Citadel, so Max, Yubin, and I made the trek up there in the afternoon. It (and the views) were as nice as I remember, and it was free due to the Canada 150 celebration, to boot.

The final stop was Bar Harbor, where I spent the morning exploring the town and taking a trolley tour up to Cadillac Mountain.

After that, it was sailing to Boston and disembarking, followed by a 12.5-hour drive back to Pittsburgh. I got to drive in Pittsburgh for the first time that evening to finagle some stuff with getting a bike home, so that was also interesting.

Overall, the trip was awesome, and full of delicious food and friends and a daily dip into the pool. I also got to do a lot of relaxing and lounging around, while still having opportunities to go explore cities and landmarks as desired. I remain convinced that cruising is mostly the ideal vacation for me. :D

Tons more photos of everything are up at photos.

“Yay” Trip (San Francisco, Phoenix)

Got back from a trip to San Francisco for work, with a short visit to Phoenix afterward. It was pretty nice: got to see a lot of people, played a lot of board games, and had a lot of productive meetings and discussions.




Still, I can’t help but feel like the trip was overall a disappointment. Lots of things that didn’t quite go the way I might have wanted, which really aren’t that big a deal, but meh?

The biggest thing is probably my work laptop. It’s historically had issues bluescreening when on wifi. Predictably, it did the same thing again this trip, except it got worse because it started hard-rebooting sporadically with no error or message. IT provisioned me a new laptop, which worked great until yesterday. I guess it installed a huge package of updates or something, and now it’s bluescreening also, every ~5 minutes, when I’m not using it. It means I dialed in to meetings from my work phone all day, which is unideal, but at least a workaround.

Also lots of other small things, mostly around social events. Wanted to do dinner and board games with friends, but the friends that were interested in board games ended up having conflicts, and everyone else had places to do, so games didn’t happen. Tried to set up a reunion lunch for Auth, but the only people that ended up making it were me and Steven (and we see each other and can go to lunch normally anyway). Isaac ended up being busy with papers and thesis and couldn’t make lunch in Phoenix. Ended up missing dinner with Ty in Phoenix because I didn’t follow up with him beforehand.

In fun things though:
Played board games with coworkers. Yay board games!

Met all of the new people and had a huge team event across auth, identity, and cloud-to-cloud.

Had a going-away party for Alok, who’s switching teams, and saw his awesome place.

Played a VR zombie survival thing with my parents, that was really well done.

Met up with David, Jennie, Matt, and Dorothy for lunch, and heard awesome stories from lawyer and doctor things. Then played Betrayal and got thoroughly owned.

So yay for trips, overall, I guess. Tons more photos are at photos.

Origins 2017

I went to my first board game convention!
Apparently this is what happens when I go to a board game convention. Yay for 19 new board games and/or expansions (and promos, besides)?

I went to Origins in Columbus, Ohio with Kevin, Jenny, and their friend David. It ended up being an awesome experience; we basically played board games every waking and non-eating moment from Wednesday afternoon until Saturday evening.

It looks like I played (or sat and watched an entire game of) 47 different games. I think I only played four games more than once: Saboteur, Roll for the Galaxy, Codenames Duet, and Caverna: Cave vs Cave.

Photos of the entire trip are at my photos site.


I don’t want to forget my experiences and game impressions, so here is a brief summary of every game I played on the day I first played it, along with some brief thoughts about each. Also pictures, of course.

Day one (Wednesday):

Hounded – Asymmetric chess-like game where one player tries to corner another’s fox using hounds. Decent, but very easily broken (just block off a corner using your hounds), and not something I’d really replay. Also it’s only two players, and I wouldn’t ever really get a chance to play two-player games. The huge version of it was impressive though.

Codenames Duet (Prototype) – 2-player cooperative version of Codenames, due to be released at Gen Con. Plays really well, and is an interesting twist on Codenames. Would have bought it if it was available.

Glux – Well-made strategy game. Not too memorable (forgot we played it until I went to write this), but fine mechanically, and well-produced.

Captain Silver – Fun shape-feeling game (like sensors in Space Cadets) that is slowed down a lot by the scoring phase. Enjoyable enough, but meh.

Puppet Wars Unstitched – Miniature games for people that don’t want to build miniatures. Not really something I’d enjoy, but decent enough game.

Galaxy Trucker – The classic that I’ve played so many times and love.

Top Secret Spies – Hidden-role game where you move spies around a board with die rolls to maximize your points. Actually a really, really good game until you add in the top secret cards, at which point the game just falls apart. With the cards, this is probably one of the bottom 5 games I played. I’ll probably try making a version of this (basic rules only) with board game people’s faces.

Roll for the Galaxy – Dice-rolling game that fixes everything I dislike about Race for the Galaxy. Amazing game (easily top 5 of the games I played). Bought a copy of the base set plus the first expansion after playing it.

Day two (Thursday):

Radiant: Offline Battle Arena – A customizable card game apparently based on a video game. Decent enough gameplay, although like many customizable card games, it sometimes gets into weird loops or degenerate situations. Enjoyable, but I probably wouldn’t play it again.

Pinball Showdown – Everyone is a pinball and you’re trying to hit targets for points. It sounds weird, but it actually plays really well, and is a lot of fun while remaining really thematic. I bought a copy and got it signed by the designer.

Russian Roulette World Championship – Social bluffing game that is really, really well done and is a lot of fun. I would have bought a copy, except I think the theme (while it fits the game mechanics perfectly) might be a little off-putting to people in my usual gaming group. David picked up a copy, so we can play it, though. Really fun.

New York Slice – Set collection game that is mechanically awesome, and has probably the best production of any game I played. (The box opens like a pizza box, and the score pad is an order receipt). Easily in the top 5 overall, and might be my pick for best game I played there. Picked up a copy plus a sheet of promos.

Werewords – Social deduction game similar to Werewolf, except with a secret word that people are trying to guess by asking yes/no questions. Really good, and a lot of fun. Top 5 of the games I played. David picked up a copy, but it really just needs the phone app to play.

Century: Spice Road – Production game that reminds me a lot of Splendor, except it feels really clunky and was rather off-putting for me. The deck-building aspect of it was interesting, but I felt like I was often way too constrained to be able to do anything useful. Bottom 5 of games I played.

Trickster: Champions of Time – Trick-taking game (ha!) that is actually the best trick-taking game I’ve ever played. Mechanics don’t screw lead players and the abilities give you a lot of “outs”, plus you can collect the most of any given color to negate those cards. Bought a copy, and got some promos with it.

Element – Place elemental tokens on the board to trap other players’ pawns. Interesting mechanically, but wasn’t really memorable in any way.

Deadline – Detective story game that feels like someone wanted to write murder mysteries and slapped some card mechanics on top of it. Decent enough for what it is, but not something I’d want to play again.

Unearth – Dice-rolling and set-collection game that falls flat and doesn’t really feel like you have any control over it. Easily bottom 5 of games I played, and possibly the worst of the bunch? We didn’t finish the game the first time, and walked away from it when playing again on Saturday from frustration and lack of interest.

Portal Heroes – Card game where you collect number cards and use them to collect character cards. Fine, and plays fine, but not really memorable.

The Colonists – Worker-placement game with a moving worker on a hex board. Has the ability to be super complicated and deep (4+ hours), but has ways to reduce complexity for shorter or easier games. I really enjoyed it, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use a 50% off coupon on it, reducing its price to $45. Hopefully I’ll be able to convince enough gaming group people to play it.

Chicken Cha Cha Cha – Children’s memory game with chickens. Fine for what it is, but not something I enjoyed.

Dominion: Prosperity – It’s Dominion, the classic deckbuilding game. We played with only Prosperity cards, so the game was ridiculously full of trashing duchies and getting free gold for buying them. Final scores were over 100. Kind of ridiculous, but fun. It’s Dominion. :P

Near and Far – The “sequel” to Above and Below, except it’s only really related to Above and Below as far as the world goes. Story-telling adventure game that is really, really fun, and it has a campaign mode that I’m interested in trying if I can get a group to commit to it. Got my copy signed by the creator!

Day three (Friday):

Saboteur – Hidden-role tile-placement game. I’ve played it before, and it’s always enjoyable enough. Would probably buy it at some point, but didn’t pick it up here.

Costa Rica – Push-your-luck set-collection game. Fun enough, but not really memorable in any way.

Cottage Garden – Really fun game where you try to fill a board with differently-shaped pieces, themed around flowers and planting. Mechanic for piece-selection is what makes this interesting. Top 5 of the games I played, and I would have bought a copy except the asking price didn’t seem worthwhile (I think it was $65?).

Welcome to the Dungeon – I mostly tuned this out, so I don’t know what it’s about other than you finding items and fighting your way through some enemies.

Agricola: Family Edition – A variant of Agricola that strips down the rules and complexities of the game in a way that really works and keeps it interesting. If Cavera fixes Agricola by giving you more choices and complexity, this fixes Agricola by giving you fewer options but making feeding less stressful. Bought a copy (partially due to having another 50% off coupon), and I’m looking forward to playing it again.

Ethnos – Area-control game with card set collection. Decent game, but I feel like the card randomness is too random, with no real way to mitigate it. Would be much better with a couple rules tweaks (like having a constantly-refilling set of cards to select from when drafting). Probably wouldn’t play it again regardless, though.

Alchemists – Logic-puzzle game that “requires” a mobile app to play. Was a really interesting concept, and the puzzle-solving aspect was really interesting, but it felt like there was too much game around it, such that it stopped being interesting for us. We didn’t finish a full game of it, and stopped playing so David could attempt to solitare the puzzle in as few steps as possible, instead. Wouldn’t play it again as-is.

That’s a Question! (Prototype) – Social “would you rather” game that would be good as an icebreaker game, but that feels like it needs to support more than 6 players to be good. Decent enough, and it works well as what it tries to do.

Lyngk – Similar to chess or checkers, where you try to strategically move pieces and stacks to collect more sets than your opponent. Decent enough, but not really the kind of game I enjoy.

Tiffin – Cube-placement game where you collect colored cards and use them to complete routes. Had too much deck screw to really be interesting (both in routes and colored cards). We didn’t finish a game of it.

Piñata – Kids’ game that doesn’t try to pretend to be anything it’s not. Good game for what it is, but not really interesting enough to hold our attention.

Adrenaline – Basically “First Person Shooter: The Board Game”. Really good theme, and it felt like playing an FPS, but I didn’t really enjoy it. The jumbled rules explanation we got before someone else stepped in to correct everything probably didn’t help. I think Kevin, Jenny, and David enjoyed it, but this is not something I would play again. Still, playing with the giant version of the game was nice.

Lemming Mafia – Kids’ game where you race lemmings and/or cause them to drop out by putting their feet in concrete and making them “sleep with the fishes”. Bought it because it was on the $7 discount rack, and it actually ended up being a really fun game. Plays quickly, and is super easy to understand and explain, but still manages to have a lot of depth. Great game.

Johari – Card collection game with action selection that reminds me a little of Puerto Rico or Race for the Galaxy. Mechanically a good game, except the rules were really vague on some important points, and the graphic design was terrible enough that it hindered play a few times. With some small rules clarifications, would be a good game.

Day four (Saturday):

Food Chain (Prototype) – Quick card game where you try to play around what you think your opponents will play. Fun, and easy to learn, and has super cute art. Would play again.

Arena: For the Gods! – Combat game with dice that fails to be interesting and has way too much dice screw. We didn’t finish our game (even after resetting and trying it with the proper draft mechanics). Easily one of the bottom 5 games I played.

Lorenzo – Worker-placement game that is really well designed and that also has some of the best graphic design I’ve seen. Iconography is used so well in the game that we corrected the game-demo person a couple of times based on the icons not matching the explanation. Still, for some reason, it didn’t really click with me, and I can’t explain why. Excellent game, but not one that I’d want to buy or play.

7th Sea Miniatures Game (Prototype) – I don’t remember the name of this, but it’s a miniatures game in the 7th Sea world that seems to really accurately simulate ship movement and combat. Jenny played a round of it, and she seemed to enjoy it, but I have no interest in either the mechanics or the theme.

Paradox – Set-collection game where the primary mechanic is playing Bejeweled with colored tokens. Sounds weird, but it actually fits together really well, and was enjoyable to play. Fun, especially because we played it with the creator.

Caverna: Cave vs Cave – 2-player variant of Caverna that is super simple to play and explain, but that has a good amount of depth and strategy. If it wasn’t for my dislike of 2-player games (because I would never really get a chance to play them), I would probably consider buying it.
(No pictures because I only watched other people play.)

Lobo 77 – Quick card game that is a little like 6 Nimmt. Quick and fun and easy, but has player elimination that can be a little rough. Doesn’t try to be anything it’s not.

Bärenpark – Same core mechanic as Cottage Garden, but with the interesting mechanic being around placement order and position instead of piece selection. A lot of fun, and seemingly has more strategic depth than Cottage Garden, and a much better price point ($40). Top 5 games that I played. I bought a copy.

Spirit Island – We didn’t get a chance to play this, but it’s a co-op game where every player is drastically different (different character, different cards and abilities, different core functionality in the game). Looks really good, and is really pretty, but I’m not a fan of co-op games.

Jump Drive – It’s Race for the Galaxy with all the interesting parts of Race taken out in an attempt to simplfy the game. But, if Agricola Family simplifies Agricola well, this is the exact opposite. Mechanically seems interesting until you get to the point where you’re drawing 15 cards a turn (with cards already in hand and a hand size of 10), and you have to study all of those cards to figure out what to keep. Also snowballs in a ridiculous way (50 points ends the game, and I scored 42 points in the final round alone) that just isn’t fun. Easily bottom 5 of the games I played, and would probably be my pick for the worst game I played — it generally feels and plays like a mess and would benefit greatly from mechanical changes (like having separate currency that isn’t cards).


Purchases

Near and Far – Detailed above. I loved Above and Below, and heard good things about this. The ability to get it signed was just gravy. Played once.
Above and Below: Groves – Expansion cards for Above and Below.
Above and Below: Extended game and tokens – Expansion book with new adventures for Above and Below.
Mysterium Promo Pack – Additional suspect, location, and weapon card for the game.
Caverna Water Expansion – Extra Caverna tiles. For Max and Yubin.
Coup Speculator Promo – Extra Coup cards. For Max and Yubin.
Trickster: Champions of Time – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it. (Included promos.)
Pinball Showdown – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it, got it signed.
Johari – Detailed above. Purchased due to it being on sale for $7, but it seems worthwhile. Played once.
Lemming Mafia – Detailed above. Purchased due to it being on sale for $7, but it was actually really good. Played once.
Roll for the Galaxy – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it. (Got some promos for it as well from playing.)
Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition – Expansion for the above that was part of the demo set we played.
New York Slice – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it. (Also bought a sheet of promo “Daily Special” cards.)
Agricola: Family Edition – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it. (50% off helped make that decision easier.)
Bärenpark – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it.
The Colonists – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it, but only because I had a 50% off coupon.
Power Grid: The First Sparks – Had wanted this game a while ago, but it was out of print and unavailable. Saw it at the con as part of a buy-one-get-one-half-off deal, so picked it up with Roll for the Galaxy. Unplayed.
Gold Ahoy! – On sale for $4. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Zombies!!! Roll Them Bones! – On sale for $3. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Rocket Jockey – On sale for $4. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Forever Young – On sale for $7. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Monuments: Wonders of Antiquity – On sale for $7. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant – On sale for $10. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.

Travels, Carnival

I suppose I’m overdue for an update.

Life has been full of lots of events lately. I went to Phoenix and San Francisco a couple weeks ago for a business trip.
Phoenix was pretty uneventful. Saw some friends, and went on a trip to a copper mine with the parents.



San Francisco was full of work and people and food and surprising amounts of board gaming.





Then this past week was Carnival, and we had 8 people staying with us (two of which were young children). While it was really, really nice to see everyone and have lots of fun adventures, I think 10 people staying in one house is a few too many.


Midway itself was also a little disappointing this year, although Buggy made up for it by setting new records in both the men’s and women’s races on the qualifiers, followed by breaking both records in the finals. (I didn’t go to mobot, but I hear it had exactly two competitors this year, which is pretty sad.)



There was also a March for Science on Saturday. There were some pretty awesome signs.


Lots more photos of all of the above are at photos.