Virtual board games night again

Today was another warm and very humid day, with intermittent rain. It seems we’re stuck in this weather pattern, and it’s not particularly pleasant.

I had to make a quick Irregular Webcomic! today, because my buffer had run out and I hadn’t had time this week to make a full new batch. So this is a temporary fix until next week when hopefully i can get a new batch underway on Monday.

Tonight is virtual board games night with my friends, after we skipped last week due to it being New Year’s Eve. One of my friends has implemented a new Discord bot game, based on a game he plays with his family, in which you have to make words based on letters spotted on car number plates. We played it a few times and I actually managed to win a game, which I was pleased with.

We’re continuing now, as I type… It’s been fun and promises to be moreso as we continue into the evening.

New content today:

Last day of holidays

It’s Monday, the public holiday in lieu of the New Year’s Day holiday which was on Saturday. Tomorrow is back to work for many people after the Christmas/New Year break, including my wife, and myself, as I begin teaching classes on Outschool again tomorrow after my break.

Today was warm and summery. We went for a long walk with Scully in the mid-afternoon, and were pretty hot by the time we got home.

I worked on writing the lesson plan for the new week of ethics lessons – the topic for the week is “laws”. Asking questions like why we have laws, and what gives a government (or anyone else for that matter) the authority to make and enforce laws?

Another thing I’ve been doing today is downloading PDFs of the old TSR Dungeon magazines, containing Dungeons & Dragons (and occasionally other game) adventures. Someone on reddit linked to a Wizards of the Coast approved (hence legally available) archive of all 221 issues on I remember when Dungeon was first published, and I had print copies of issues 1 and 2, though I never bought any more as I had very limited money at the time, and I preferred the broader gaming subject matter of Dragon magazine. So being able to have the entire collection as PDFs is amazing. And not only is there a copyright-holder-approved archive of Dungeon magazines, but there are Dragon magazines there too.

New content today:

Gaming Friday + Trekking Saturday double update

I didn’t have time to do an entry yesterday as it was board games night with my friends and I was out all evening. I did my run and exercises in the morning and some Darths & Droids work.

In the afternoon I worked on making some tutorial exercises for students in the university data engineering course. I wanted to make some fairly simple exercises involving calculating means and medians and standard deviations and such stuff from a dataset. I found several sites with free datasets that could be used, and went through them looking for something interesting. The first I found was a Kaggle dataset on avocado prices. That seemed okay, but then I found a cool site with other datasets, including one that was almost 2000 different people’s guesses as to the weight of a cow in a guessing competition. That looked amusing, and it has some interesting statistical properties. And then I found another site which has a set of data about the passengers on the Titanic, including nationality, sex, cabin class, fare paid, and whether they survived the sinking or not. I think this could be really interesting as you can ask questions like the average fare paid by survivors compared to the average fare paid by people who died. I still have some work to do to analyse this myself and turn it into student exercises, but I think this is a good start.

Games night was face-to-face, but we only had four participants. The first game we played was Hadrian’s Wall.

Hadrian's Wall

In this game each player is a Roman commander in charge of an outpost on Hadrian’s Wall. You get a bunch of meeples representing different types of people, and “resources”, and you spend these things to develop your outpost. The game is played by marking checkboxes on a pair of playsheets – each time you pay the cost for something in meeples and/or resources, you mark it off on your sheets. Marking off certain boxes grants you more meeples or resources, or alternatively points which are scored along four tracks: renown, piety, valour, and discipline. There are a lot of interactions and much of the game is optimising your spends to cascade into more meeples and resources that you can then spend to get more stuff. There’s a lot going on and many many options.

I kind of enjoyed it and would play it again once or twice, but I feel like it wouldn’t hold my interest after a few more games. It’s a very solitaire-like play experience – there was virtually zero interaction between the four players, and we spent most of our times heads down examining our own scoresheets to try to optimise our turns, so it felt a bit antisocial as well. I ended up “winning”, with 80 points to the second player on 77, but I made a mistake at one point and did a few spends on things that I shouldn’t have had access to until I’d developed something else – it’s a very easy mistake to make on your first game.

The host’s wife arrived back home while we were playing, and asked us what we were playing and if it was fun. Another player said, “It’s a bit like we’re all working on spreadsheets, and yes, it’s fun.” I agree with that assessment – it felt a lot like optimising a mathematics problem, and it was kind of fun, but for me I think it would wear thin within another few games.

The second game we played was 18 Holes, a golf simulation.

18 Holes

I think this game could have been good, however we got kind of messed up during the set-up. The owner suggested playing the “chaos golf” variant, and we set up the board for that. But then when he described how to play it – everyone just aims at any hole they like and we all go around the course in whatever individual directions we want to try and complete unscored holes before other players – another player said that sounded silly and can’t we just play a normal round of golf? So we did that, but we kind of had half the chaos golf rules and set-up still, and honestly it got a bit tired and repetitive, and it became clear that because of the “chaos golf” club sets that were handed out, certain players had significant advantages over other players. So it was rather unsatisfying. I feel like if we’d played one or the other version according to the rulebook it would have been fine, but we ended up in a weird non-rules-legal hybrid that didn’t play well. I’d try this again, but I’d want to play it strictly by the book next time.

I got home late, so didn’t write this up until just now. Today we had a long drive out to another suburb because my wife had an appointment there, so we went together, and I took Scully for a walk at the nearby wetlands park while we waited for her. This is a nice place for a walk as there are plenty of birds, including many species that I don’t get to see around where I live.

We got home and relaxed for the afternoon. The day has been hot – it really feels like summer finally. We had 31°C in the city, up to 29°C in some suburbs (the city is always cooler as it’s on the water).

This evening we went out to a nice seafood restaurant for dinner. It’s one of our favourites, but a little expensive so we don’t go as often as we’d like to. It’s very nice sitting outside, in warm evening air, with light still in the sky and a cool breeze to soften the heat a bit, and have some really well prepared seafood.

New content today:

Joint Friday/Saturday update

I missed Friday’s post because I got home late after the first face-to-face board games night with my friends since before the Sydney COVID lockdown began in June. I headed over after teaching my Friday evening ethics classes, and arrived in the middle of a game of Jump Drive. The host ducked out to cook sausages and onions on the barbecue while I joined in for another game. I was doing reasonably well, but ended up coming second (of three players) after another player surged ahead in the last couple of turns.

After eating dinner, we played Nidavellir, with the Thingvellir expansion set, with 5 players. We’ve played Nidavellir on Board Game Arena a lot this past year and it’s a bit of a favourite right now, but this was the first time any of us had played it with the physical board game components. One guy had bought it just before lockdown and had been itching to play it. It’s the first time we’ve played with the expansion. It added some additional options and complexity, but seemed straightforward enough. It didn’t really affect the game much, I thought. I did okay, but one guy completely ran away with the game with a ridiculous number of green dwarves.

Next we played It’s a Wonderful World, which I hadn’t played before. It was easy to learn and quickish to play – under an hour including teaching time. You could play a game in about 40 minutes once players are familiar I think. It was intriguing and fun, with lots of interactions as you build up your resources and empire.

Other things done on Friday: Weekly grocery shopping, in person, rather than just picking up and online order. I’d forgotten how time consuming it is to walk down all the aisles of the supermarket. 2.5k run. And looking after Scully all day because my wife had a training thing at work and didn’t take her in to the office.

Saturday: 2.5k run. Worked on Darths & Droids writing. Unfortunately our buffer is still non-existent. I need to write and construct at least a week’s worth of strips in the next day, and then do it again a few days later, to build it up.

This evening we all went out for dinner to a French crêpe place. We had savoury galettes, and then sweet dessert crêpes. It’s a nice and slightly exotic dinner, to make us feel a bit like we’re on a holiday somewhere.

New content yesterday and today:

Buffering day and games night

Friday was another busy one. We had no buffer of Darths & Droids strips, so I had to put in some time writing and making new comics. In between that I kept up my new exercise routine with another 2.5k run and stretching exercises. It’s really starting to feel like I can do this every day. It was rainy in the morning though, so it was very humid. I’m keeping a record of my runs and the weather, and for the past week every run has been done in humidity over 85%.

Saturday morning (I’m writing Friday’s update late) has dawned cool, clear, and windy however, so the humidity has finally dropped. It’s 50% right now.

I had to go out a few times on Friday -to get the weekly groceries, to pick up Scully from my wife’s work, and then we went out for dinner at a local Turkish place. We had a selection of vegetarian meze, all very good.

And then it was online games night with my friends. I joined in a bit late after our dinner, but played a couple fo games of 7 Wonders, of which I surprisingly won the first one. Then we did 6 Nimmt, Gartic Phone, and finished up with a few rounds of Scattergories.

New content today:

Raining, running, and ruminating

It’s been raining most of the day, and heavily at times, with thunder and lightning. But there was a break in the morning, perfectly timed for me to go out on a run. I decided it was time to do another 5k effort, and I also decided that the oval track is so boring that I preferred to do my street route, even though it is quite hilly. I managed to complete the distance just a few seconds slower than last week’s 5k on the oval, so that was pleasing, if exhausting. And I just got home as it started to rain again, so the timing was ideal.

For lunch I drove over to a friend’s place, where he made us some food, and we played a couple of board games: 7 Wonders Duel, and Wingspan. I managed to win both games, which was pleasing. I really wasn’t sure about Wingspan until the final points tally.

At home I wrote the class plan for this week’s new ethics topic, on extraterrestrial intelligence. It’s basically exploring the questions arising out of the prospect of receiving a radio message from an alien civilisation. There’s plenty in just that to last for a full class. I’ll probably do another class later on about different scenarios such as physical contact. I ran the first three classes tonight, and it was very interesting because I got a very wide range of responses from the students. That’s always a lot more fun that everyone agreeing.

New content today:

A class for kids on playing & running tabletop RPGs

My new group class has been approved and is now public on Outschool:

Tabletop Roleplaying Games – Playing, Game Mastering & Writing Adventures

You can read all about it by following the link – but in brief it’s a forum-like community moderated by me, where kids aged 12-16 can discuss roleplaying games, ask me questions, and I will be posting tips and challenge activities for the kids to do. The kids enrol for access on a monthly basis, and it’s only US$5 a month. Also, since you’re reading my blog, if you sign a child up you use the code MORGANMAR5 at checkout to get the first month free.

I began this morning with another run, extending to 3.3 km this time. I’m trying to stretch to eventually being able to do 5 km regularly.

After getting home and cooling down, I checked out the assignments submitted by students in the university image processing course. I was enjoying not having to teach the tutorial on Monday night, but now I have six 50-page-ish reports and six 20-minute video presentations to mark! I’ll get stuck into that later this week.

I took Scully to the dog park for some exercise this afternoon. Last night she was a bit stir crazy, having just slept all afternoon, so today I made sure to get her running around, chasing a ball, and doing a walk down by the water to tire her out. It seems to have worked, as she’s now lying in her dog bed, fast asleep.

New content today:

Friday evening games night report

My Friday evening was busy with gaming night with my friends – still meeting online, though we may do a live gathering soon now that COVID restrictions have been lifted. We played games of So Clover, Azul, Coloretto, Incan Gold, and Sketchful.

Earlier in the day I did another 2.5k run, trying to keep up this strange idea of exercising not just once a week but more frequently. And I worked more on the course outlining for the university data engineering course. And ran a couple more Outschool classes on the topic of online product reviews for kids. I think I’ve found a better groove with this topic, and it’s working out better than the first day on Wednesday. The kids are generally pretty savvy about online stuff, and they have a sense of when to be suspicious. Several of them have mentioned that people could fake reviews, and there may be bots posting fake reviews. Most have said that they feel that deliberately posting false reviews is serious enough to be considered a crime.

Oh, and I wrote up a new review for Snot Block & Roll! I haven’t been travelling far enough in recent months to visit any new bakeries, but I spotted a new one opened within walking distance last week, and tried it out this week.

New content today:

Sleep in Sunday

After my busy week of morning ISO meetings, I finally got to sleep in a bit this morning. It was very nice not having to get up at 6:30. I had a weird dream while I dozed in the morning, that I was in Japan and ordering food but I’d completely forgotten how to say “thank you” in Japanese, so everybody thought I was being rude.

First task for today was revising the game rules and pieces for the Ruin the Wedding game that we worked on during yesterday’s Creative Thinking class. The kids decided that because some of the event cards were themed as things happening at the ceremony or reception, that should only be playable when people are tat the correct location. I realised this myself in the first version, but didn’t bother implementing any sort of fix, because I was hoping the kids would come up with something. And they did! We’re now separating the events into different locations and making separate draw piles for each, and players can choose which pile to draw from. It wasn’t actually my preferred solution, but the kids liked it so that’s what we’re going with.

I tried to write a few comics this afternoon, but found it hard to concentrate, so didn’t get much done. And tonight I had two ethics classes. It’s amusing – I’ve been asking kids if prisoners should be allowed to vote. So far three different kids have independently said no, and given the reason that if prisoners went out to vote then they could just run away from prison!

New content today:

Super busy week: Saturday

Today was the final day of the ISO Photography standards meeting, so I had to be up and ready to start by 7am again. The last day is easier as it’s administrative stuff and usually not technical discussion. In other business I suggested that we should establish formal liaison relationship with the W3C consortium, since they are doing work on defining a HTML canvas for display of HDR images, which is potentially overlaps with work we are doing on defining a format for HDR and wide colour gamut still images. We don’t want to be duplicating work, or worse, coming up with competing standards.

Once the meeting was over, I had to prepare for the 5th lesson of my course on Creative Thinking and game design. Because of student schedule changes it’s moved form Sunday to Saturday fo the final two weeks. I printed and cut out the Ruin the Wedding game, and played it a couple of times with my wife.

Ruin the Wedding, version 1

We discovered that it was far too easy to ruin the wedding, sending the bride home in disgust both times before most people even made it to the reception. There were also flavour issues with events written on the card that should really only happen at either the ceremony or the reception being playable when people were pretty much anywhere. So we brainstormed ways to fix these issues and the kids came up with some ideas that should work. I’ll make a new version of the game and we’ll do another round of playtesting and refining next week – and that’ll be the course done!

New content today: