Day 191 – Glorious Return

Today we returned home from a trip down the coast. I had planned to do a picture post with some of the shots from the trip, but alas, I did not find the necessary time to sort through pictures today.

Our friend Michael was making a rare visit from Malaysia, so that had to take a higher priority than the routine. This is also why Wednesday was held on a Thursday this week, which is still not as bad as getting Wednesday cancelled altogether (I shall have to write about my new-found love of Welcome to Night Vale some other time as well!).

We ate too many appetizers, and too much dinner, and finally too much dessert as well. The scales now hate me. And tomorrow we do it all over again before Michael has to disappear once more.

It’s fun though.

Day 155 – Finishing Wednesdays

Tonight was the last Wednesday Night Regulars for the year. As of next week, Mr. Ken will be away for XMAS and NYE.

But that’s okay, because he brought very nice Champagne for the occasion, so he is forgiven. And he obliged with two games of 7 Wonders, both of which I lost; once to Abbey and once to Ken. But I had fun.

And we had Upper Crust pizza from Crust, which is excellent.

Black Bean Burrito
Black Bean Burrito

Behold the Black Bean Burrito; a spicy vegetarian combination sliced into 8 pieces, each served with a dollop of Avocado Salsa.

Pulled Pork & Slaw
Pulled Pork & Slaw

And the Pulled Pork & Slaw; shredded salty/tasty pork sliced into 8 pieces, each served with a dollop of Coleslaw and Pear.

One thing that never fails to impress is how close to the sales images on the site the actual finished product arrives. And edible too!

Day 128 – The Perfect Machine

I have been down this road before.
It’s never quite right.

When I have a stand-alone PC, I really want a laptop.
And when I have a laptop, I cannot wait to have a PC.

I want to easily carry my machine around. I want to upgrade the pieces when I want to. I want a high-res screen, lots of memory, a fast graphics card.

And when I got my most recent tablaptop for work (Samsung Ativ; best tool ever), I got to add touch screens to my must-have list as well. It doesn’t seem crucial until you’ve had one for a while and then it becomes hard not to touch every screen followed by a brief pang of disappointment when it turns out that’s my other machine.

I want touch. And a keyboard. And a mouse. And a pen. All at the same time. Because they each are good at something different. And oddly, the tool that has most driven that home for me has been Microsoft OneNote… I didn’t think I would ever be able to like it because it seemed clunky, but for some reason the combo of every-input-method-at-the-same-time seems to make it bearable.

I couldn’t have a main machine without a keyboard. I can type pretty well on a touch tablet, but it’s just not the same as having actual physical keys for best typing speed.

I’m more and more convinced that touch could completely replace mouse input once we get around all the legacy UI out there that isn’t designed for touch. I really use the mouse only very minimally when I need to manipulate things that are too small for my fingers. Which happens more often with the arrival of retina displays everywhere.

And a pen… I’m no artist… but there is something magical about doodling little diagrams and notes in the margin of a typed document. The S-Pen with the Samsung devices is absolutely amazing. I have no idea what hardware supports it, but the machine knows where the pen is before I even touch the screen; the cross-hairs will pop up as you approach the screen so you can aim where you want the next line to start.

The Ativ is great. It was worth every cent. The problem I have with it isn’t that it doesn’t do what I need. The problem is that I want it to do more. I want it to do EVERYTHING.

My dream machine would be a laptop that can convert to a tablet. Ideally not by undocking because that just leaves an awkward left-over keyboard to the side. The Dell XPS 12 appeals conceptually with its flip screen, but the other specs just do not go far enough. And it’s only 12″.

I like the idea of the new Dell XPS 15 for its high-res Retina screen. I want 15″ at 3200×1800 … I want my screen to look like there is no such thing as a pixel. I want that to be an implementation detail I no longer can notice.

But I also want a fast graphics card. I play games at times, and 3200×1800 really needs more than a medium-range card. I have a last-gen card in my PC, and a 27″ 2560×1440 monitor, and I haven’t found anything that I play that I cannot max out at that resolution.

I want an SSD only… no spinning metal for me, and at least 256GB please. I want 16GB main memory for development. I want a 4th gen i7 processor. I want a battery that lasts me through at least half a day without a power point. I want to be able to dock to my 27″ at home for extra screen real estate. Maybe even 2 external screens.

It doesn’t feel like reality is very far off this mark, but the closer it gets to meeting my requirements the more annoying it feels that we’re not there yet. I’m sure we have the technology to build my ideal machine today. I’m ready to pay handsomely for the privilege. But it. Just. Doesn’t. Exist. Yet.

At least today’s post has a nice round number.
That makes up for it a bit.
A little bit.

Day 107 – Post-Game Analysis

Last night the world returned to normal…
…we had a Wednesday for 4
…we had a cheese platter
…we had a dinner together
…we had a game of Trains
…Abbey fell asleep halfway through

Cheese and Fruit and Paste, Oh My!
Cheese and Fruit and Paste, Oh My!

Obviously, last week also had a Wednesday after Ken’s return from holidays, but that was mostly consumed with talk about said holiday. So this week felt more real than last week.

And with four it also feels a bit more real; Lexi came along as well… which was as well, because once dinner had been had, Abbey fell asleep on the lounge. If not for Lexi it would have been a one-on-one match of Trains between Ken and myself and that is just not as much fun.

Grey Geese in Glasses
Grey Geese in Glasses

We availed ourselves of the bounty of Ken’s travel; he brought back a goose in a bottle from the airport duty free. It was definitely good vodka, but I’m not sure if it was substantially better than Smirnoff Black. I must admit I am a little out of Vodka practice, so my taste buds may not have been as discerning as they could have been.

Cappuccino Crisp
Cappuccino Crisp

And as much as everyone else was enjoying the “New” Cappuccino Crisp chocolate, I was pretty certain myself that I had bought it at least once before. But why spoil the illusion by saying something? šŸ™‚

I tried to restrain myself from having too much chocolate, or too much food, and in the end it looks like it might have been a successful tactic. Last night the scales only registered 1kg that hadn’t been there in the morning, which is not bad for a Wednesday.

G(ame) & T(ea)
G(ame) & T(ea)

I didn’t win the game.

This is after all Ticket to Ride. Ken always wins. (almost)

But it was a very enjoyable evening. And a tiring day all up.

Day 100 – Return to Tradition

Last night was the first Wednesday we had in five weeks. For some reason with Mr.Ken in Asia, the regular Wednesday Festivities just do not come together like they ought to.

This also means that this morning I am 1kg heavier than I should be. A few days will take care of that though.

Jade Egg for Luck
Jade Egg for Luck

Ken returned from Malaysia and Vietnam with some lucky gifts. Or I am choosing to interpret them as lucky, although there was some suggestion that Jade may instead be for wealth. I’ll happily take either if it works, or the Jade for its own sake if it doesn’t.

Apparently I have been brainwashed though, because at first the colour of the egg threw me. I was sure it was Jade, but it just wasn’t as green as I felt it should be. But the above colouring is the natural one, so I’ll assume that the Jade I’ve seen in the past has all been treated with something.

Jade Horse for Wealth
Jade Horse for Wealth

It may actually be that Jade is for wealth. The horse seems to have caught some money at least. 3,000 Dong which translates to about 15 cents. As you might imagine, Ken was a multi-millionaire while travelling.

What surprised me is that apparently it is quite easy to get by with English and gesturing in Malaysia. When Ken ran into trouble trying to get a “horse”, finding a specimen to point at and then explaining the size requirements in English was apparently a very effective combination.

A Game of Tsuro
A Game of Tsuro

But most importantly, the return of Wednesdays means the return of board games. We talked most of the evening about Ken’s travels, so we needed a nice quick game for the end of the evening.

Tsuro takes about 15-20 minutes for a full game with 3 players. It can accommodate up to 8 though.

Everybody starts at the edge of the board with their stone and gets three tiles with crisscrossing paths on them to start with.

A Clash of Stones
A Clash of Stones

As the game progresses you put down a tile each turn next to where your stone is, and then move them to the next edge along the newly created paths.

You may not cause your own stone to crash into the edge unless you have no other alternative.

When you hit the edge, you lose.

A Feast for Jerry
A Feast for Jerry

Which means that at the start of the game, everybody starts off doing their own thing at the edge, but as you get closer to others the tile placements get more sneaky and nasty.

The aim is to place a tile that moves you forward but crashes someone else into the edge of the board.

There are enough tiles in the game to fill all but one space on the board. This *almost* guarantees that there will be only one survivor.

Although, technically it is possible to finish an 8 player game in an 8-way-draw with all the players standing around the last remaining open spot in the middle of the board with no further tiles to play.

I don’t know what the odds of that outcome theoretically are… but I know Wednesdays, and I doubt it’ll ever actually happen.

Day 50b – Winner x2

Okay, so I wasn’t cheating in the game before, although my pacifism was causing Ken some grief. I was however cheating a little with my post, but here is the make-up post to settle that debt.

I ended up winning both games of 7 Wonders we played. This time we had two expansions included, which added a bit of time and complexity to the games we played.

What is annoying about this game is that you start the first turn with a hand of 8 cards (7 in the base game), and you get to play one card of the hand and then the rest of your hand gets passed along to your neighbour. Both games there were hands we wanted to keep completely… so you end up calculating which cards you may get back after they have been around the table, and which cards you have to get rid of so your neighbour cannot play them.

In the first game, I ended up hiding the bricks that Ken and Abbey needed to get into the later stages of building their own wonders, which proved very effective. In the second game I was less devious, but equally effective by picking a simpler strategy… I think they were expecting sneakiness and thereby didn’t notice how quickly I was accumulating simple points.

Odd Game

The Binding of Isaac is really a bizarre game. In case you were wondering why the character looks like he does:

  • The eye-patch is “just because”
  • The evil grin is from the steroids I collected just a moment ago
  • The little price-tag on the left of his face is my 50% off coupon for treasure
  • The slug on his head is a “parasite” which splits his tears on contact (oh yes, I forgot to mention, my weapon is the tears of the little guy)
  • Barely visible behind the slug is a crown which gave me some treasure

Does any of this make sense? No, not really. It’s still fun to play though. I better go see what monster lies behind that skeleton gate on the left now.

Dominion – Addendum

Okay; now that I have met my posting deadline, I can tell the full story a little more relaxed-ly(?!).

Most Wednesday nights with friends we actually have… you know… dinner. Sometimes, like tonight, there is just not enough room for snacks and dinner to co-exist in my stomach. We opened a rose that wasn’t entirely convincing, but not sufficiently un-convincing to move on to something else instead.

There was cheese. There is always cheese. Ken is our cheesy friend. Oh, also dip. And Ritter Sport chocolate, which is hard to resist and should never be left near me. I ate almost the entire block of marzipan-filled chocolate before anyone had the presence of mind to save me by removing it from my reach.

The dog looked on hopefully. But no crackers for him tonight.

He got honey-rice-puffs instead.
Don’t even ask.

And Fruit as Well
And Fruit as Well

As I was starting to fill up on chocolate and cheese and assorted fruit, Abbey suggested that we hadn’t actually had dinner yet. Abbey voiced some concern over carby pastizzi for dinner, but frankly, Wednesday is our night of sin and we eat whatever anyone puts on the table. I wasn’t going to argue.

I only managed two or three pastizzi, but I think I managed to hide that fact from the others.

And then the baking began.

And then the gaming began.

Dominion and Dominion Intrigue
Dominion and Dominion Intrigue

Dominion is a game with deceptively simple rules:

  1. You have five cards
  2. You can play one action card
  3. You can buy one new card
  4. Then you discard anything left
  5. And you draw five new cards
  6. When you run out, reshuffle the discards and start from the top

Once you deplete three stacks of cards from the supply, the game ends, and then the person with the most victory points on the cards in the deck they have collected wins.

Victory Points in Multiple Denominations
Victory Points in Multiple Denominations

However…

Each of Dominion and Dominion: Intrigue has 25 types of cards over-and-above the standard money and victory-point cards. At the start of the game you select 10 cards for the game. The manufacturers provided some standard recommended combinations, but we decided to randomly draw 10.

As a result, you play every game by a different set of rules. Every game is different. No strategy works twice in a row.

It’s a game of learning to adapt to circumstances.

We chose 5 cards randomly out of the two sets of 25. Using just this selection method, there are (25! / (5! x 20!))^2 = 2,822,796,900 different rules combinations possible. Oh, and there are about 5-6 more extensions to the game with anywhere from 15-25 new cards each.

It’s a great way to stretch the mind.

Action Cards A-Plenty
Action Cards A-Plenty

The first game I won handily with 106 to 90. It was really lucky that I caught on to Ken’s strategy early on when he was collecting a powerful combination of Duchy’s (3 points) and Dukes (+1 bonus point for each Duchy) which enhance each other for scoring purposes. I managed to keep pace with his buying while monopolizing the Provinces (6 points) which narrowly put me over the top.

The second game was all Ken’s. I wasn’t sure how many points either of us had, but I had the sneaking feeling that Ken had managed to get many more Provinces than I did (8 to 4), and we were racing for snapping up the remaining points towards the end. He won about 68 to 56.

This is another game that is great to play with a larger group, because the rounds are very quick, meaning that everybody stays more easily engaged with the game.

Ken's Wood-based Tea
Ken’s Wood-based Tea

And then it was time for tea with whatever remained of the snacks/chocolate. Ken tried the tea that was supposedly Rooibos-like with a hint of wood and honey. When I tried it all I got was wood and not much else.

Spearmint Tea for Me
Spearmint Tea for Me

And I got myself a cup of spearmint… but not before inhaling the box of loose-leaf tea first. I was expecting tea-bags, but I mentholated my eyes instead. It was a very refreshing experience that I don’t wish to ever repeat.

And by the time Ken was getting ready to go home, it was already around 10 to midnight. So, I had to excuse myself and rush to the study to do my 365-duty and quickly edit a picture and write a brief post.

This longer post is mainly because I felt guilty about the rush-job the other post was.

I think I have managed to ramble here instead.

Good night!

Day 15 – Dominion Over All

I have only just pushed my friend out of the door, and I have a very small window to get a post up, so this’ll be a short first post followed by a longer photo-rapportage. (I just cannot photo-edit fast enough to integrate it all into a quick post… I can type pretty quickly though)

Tonight as almost all Wednesday nights, we had a friend over (usually there is a few more takers) for snacks, dinner and board games. Dinner was a bit light-on, but that’s because the snacks were heavy.

Abbey had to bake tonight, so it was a game for two. Dominion seemed like a good option because it involves relatively limited direct interaction between players and lends itself well to any number of players.

I won one, and Ken won one.

I enjoyed both though.

Now on to photos to share. Hold on for another post shortly!

Day 8 – Games, Games, Games

Technically it hasn’t happened yet.

Technically I shouldn’t be blogging about this till around midnight.

But I’m going to anyway, because I can tell the future.

Dominion
Dominion

There is a long-standing ritual for Wednesdays (I wish I could capitalise the “W” even further, to pronounce it with a certain level of emphasis and gravitas that is hard to convey in writing).

Friends come over; who exactly depends. Over time some leave, others join.

We coƶrdinate beforehand.

We have our own lingo.

Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride

Someone hosts the Wednesday; they cater for dinner, sometimes drinks as well.

The other guests between them cater for “befores” and “afters”, which broadly constitutes snacks (typically cheese, fruit, chocolate) for the former, and dessert (typically ice cream, cake, chocolate) for the latter.

Sometimes we have way too much food.

Then we eat it anyway.

Then we feel joy and regret.

Cargo Noir
Cargo Noir

But somewhere among all the food, we also play board games.

If the first thought that conjures to you is Monopoly and Risk, then you really haven’t lived yet. There are so many more options available across the gamut of strategy, collaboration and back-stabbing.

Especially the back-stabbing.

We all play to win, but we try not to play too aggressively or be sore losers. We usually succeed. And it is a lot of fun.

Kingdom Builder
Kingdom Builder

And every year our collection of board games grows a little larger.

Every year in Germany, a jury of board game critics convenes and awards the Spiel des Jahres prize for the best new board game of the year. The competition is fierce, because where an average new game might sell maybe a 1000 copies. Nomination alone will raise that tenfold. And winning boosts sales over another order of magnitude.

And rightfully so.

Our all-time favourite recurring play is “Ticket to Ride”, which is incredibly easy to learn and so well-balanced that rounds go really quickly. This means that unlike Monopoly, you never get stuck in a turn where you have to wait 5-10 minutes for someone to make up their mind on exactly what their move is going to be, or how many properties they need to sell to stay afloat, or who they are trying to… ZZZZZzzzzzz.

Tsuro
Tsuro

If you have an interest in trying some board games, feel free to ask. I’m more than happy to make recommendations.

But a good place to start is the past winners of Spiel des Jahres on Wikipedia. Be careful not to end up with one of the “Kennerspiel” though, because these are more complicated games for frequent players that like a bigger challenge.