I'm just an animal looking for a home

November 10, 2017
by mitcharf
0 comments

Boardgames!

Boardgames. I like them. Do you like them? You should like them. They’re fun!

What about helping out others in need? Do you like that? You should like that. It’s, well, not so much fun as, I guess, rewarding. And the right thing to do.

Assuming you answered yes to at least one of the above two questions, then you probably should check out the The Jack Vasel Memorial Fund Auction 2017 on boardgamegeek.com. The short version is that it’s a charity auction used to raise money for members of the gaming community who are suffering a personal hardship. It’s a community auction, meaning that anyone is free to offer up things to be auctioned. And lots of cool stuff is being offered up. You should go through the list yourself, since your idea of cool and my idea of cool may not overlap, but here is just a sample:

For some of these (especially the more hyped items), you won’t be getting a great bargain — but you can feel good about overpaying, since it all goes to charity. Also, be sure to read the description an item carefully before bidding on it — sometimes the thing being auctioned isn’t actually the game itself, but instead something related to the game.

The auction ends November 14th.

November 1, 2017
by mitcharf
0 comments

4 Kickstarters I’m Backing

I’m currently backing 4 active Kickstarter campaigns. I’m sharing them to spread the word:

Board Games

  • Detective: City of Angels – All players are detectives except one player, who is working against them. It’s not a hidden role game, though. From what I can tell, the players go around trying to solve a case, and the antagonist player has some control over whether witnesses lie or tell the truth. In general I like solving mysteries, and I’m curious about the idea of the player antagonist role.
    (Already funded. Only 34 hours left in the campaign!)
  • Coma Ward – A horror-themed game in which the players are amnesiacs who come to their senses in a hospital. The game seems to have a lot in common with Betrayal at House on the Hill, so your feelings about that game may govern how you feel about this one. There’s enough here to intrigue me, particularly since I am always looking for good horror-themed games.
    (Already funded. Only 22 hours left in the campaign!)

Music

  • Sidecar Astronauts – A side project of Storm DiCostanzo (from Paul and Storm). He started this project as an outlet for his non-comedic musical leanings. What I’ve heard so far sounds good to me!
    (Halfway to its funding goal — needs another $10k. 10 days left in the campaign)

Religion

  • Church of the SubGenius: A Documentary – “You’ll PAY to know what you REALLY think!” A documentary about J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius, a parody religion with which I became fascinated in my rebellious teenage years. Even now I still think it’s a brilliantly funny idea, and I’d love to see a documentary about it (whether it turns out to be sincere or parodical itself). “Eternal salvation or triple your money back!”
    (More than halfway to its funding goal — needs another $80k. 6 days left in the campaign
    )

If any of the above interest you and you’d like to follow me on Kickstarter, you may do so here.

While I have you here…

If you’re into nerdy stuff (board games, nerdy music, sci-fi/fantasy, books, podcasts, science, math, role-playing games, computer games, video games, etc), then you owe it to yourself to check out the JoCo Cruise. It’s like nerd heaven, but on a cruise ship. Trust me, you’ll like it. Johnna and I have gone the past 3 years and are booked to go next year as well.

And if you’re into board games specifically, you should trek to Essen, Germany in October for the annual Spiel. It’s the world’s largest board game convention, and you cannot believe it until you experience it. Your days are filled wandering the exhibition halls, demoing board games, and your nights are filled playing board games with new friends in the lobbies of hotels. It’s also a great excuse for a trip to Europe. Johnna and I have gone to this 4 years in a row now. The convention runs Thursday through Sunday. We usually arrive in Europe the Saturday before, visit other places until Wednesday, then travel to Essen, and spend the remainder of our trip there. That way our vacation is split between a more traditional vacation and board game madness. :) Oh, and I should probably mention that not speaking German is no impediment. At the convention, everyone speaks English as the de facto common language, since people are there from all over the world. And elsewhere in Germany, we have found that most people speak English quite well. When that was not the case, we’ve been able to get by using Google translate and charades.

If you have any questions about any of the above things, feel free to contact me!

December 22, 2015
by mitcharf
0 comments

More games on sale

I noticed that Amazon has several hidden role games on sale. I highly recommend the following games to anyone who enjoys hidden role games or social games:

Oh, and I also noticed that Pandemic is on sale for $25.99. It’s not a hidden role-game — it’s a cooperative game about trying to stop global plague — but it’s a great game that you should pick up if you don’t already have it.

December 4, 2015
by mitcharf
0 comments

Board games on sale

For the next 13-ish hours, Amazon has got some good prices on strategy board games. Here are ones I can personally recommend as being great games:

  • Dixit ($17.49) – Light, fun family game, kind of like Apples To Apples but with pictures. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to anyone who doesn’t enjoy this game (or just enjoy looking at the gorgeous card art).
  • Dominion: Intrigue ($24.99) and/or Dominion Big Box ($51.99) – The game which launched the deck-builder genre of games is still one of the best examples of its kind. If you ever played Magic but were frustrated by the relentless “pay to play” model, you should give this game a try. On the other hand, even if you don’t like Magic, I’d still suggest you give Dominion a shot. I played a game of it last night, and just writing about it makes me want to play again now.
  • Bora Bora ($22.92) – If you’ve played Castles Of Burgundy, this is another game by the same creator (the talented Stefan Feld). If you like strategy and planning in your games, this is a good choice. It’s not super heavy, but it is deeper than the above two recommendations.
  • Flash Point: Fire Rescue ($19.54) – If you’ve played Pandemic, you’ll find this game to be in the same vein. Instead of saving the world from contagion, you are trying to rescue people from a burning building. Like Pandemic, it’s a cooperative game (as in, all players are working together to win, rather than competing with each other) and can be stressful. I’ve only played it once, so I’m not as familiar with this one as the others, but if what I’ve said sounds interesting, check it out.
  • Milles Bornes ($8.99)  – I remember loving this car-themed card game as a kid. If you’ve got a child, take a look and see if you think they’d like it.

In addition, there were some games listed which I’ve heard good things about but not personally played. Since the prices were so good, I figured I’d list them here too:

Or check out the complete list!

December 9, 2013
by mitcharf
0 comments

Two Player Games

Both Johnna and I enjoy playing games of all kinds, and for a while now we’ve been playing board/card games regularly. In the course of this, we’ve tried a bunch of new games, and have a list of others that we plan to try next. Recently I was talking to my friend Zook after a softball game, and the subject of good two-player games arose. I told her I’d send her a list, but I decided to turn it into this blog post instead, so that hopefully it will be helpful to others as well. Up front I want to state that I owe a big debt to Keith Law, since one of my major starting points in my game search has been his 2012 top board games list (and I see that he JUST posted an updated list for 2013!).

I’m going to make three lists:

  • Games we’ve enjoyed that are specifically designed for only 2 players
  • Games we’ve enjoyed playing just the two of us, but which permit more players
  • Games on our list to try with two players

I’ll provide links to buy the games on Amazon and, where applicable, I will try to note any available expansions.

Two-Player Games

Fun With Two Players

  • Carcassonne – It has lots of expansions. If you buy the base game via the first link, it includes The River expansion. Alternately, you can buy the Carcassonne Big Box, which includes a bunch of expansions (but oddly omits The River). Johnna and I have only tried the main game and The River. I’ve heard good things about the Traders & Builders expansion, and plan to try that one next.
  • Forbidden Island – A cooperative game — the players are not in competition.
  • Gloom – More of a silly game than a strategy game. Each player controls a family of people. The goal is to make your family as miserable as possible before they die, while making your opponents’ families as happy as possible. There are four expansions: Unfortunate Expeditions, Unhappy Homes, Unquiet Dead, and Unwelcome Guests. There is also a Cthulhu-themed Gloom game, which is a standalone game. It has its own expansion, Unpleasant Dreams. Johnna and I have only played the main game and the Cthulhu base game, and have not yet tried the expansions. This quickly became one of Johnna’s favorite games.
  • Guillotine – Another game heavy on the silly. You play rival executioners, competing to execute the most valuable nobles during the French revolution.
  • Pandemic – Another cooperative game, like Forbidden Island, but slightly more complex. It has two expansions (which Johnna and I have not yet tried, but plan to): On The Brink and In The Lab. NOTE: Pandemic has two different versions — 1st edition and 2nd edition. They are the same game, but the cards look different. If you don’t yet own Pandemic, buy the 2nd edition. If you already own Pandemic, when buying expansions, make sure they are for your version of Pandemic (otherwise the cards won’t match, which will give you a clue about which card you are about to draw).
  • Pente – The only “traditional” board game I’ve included on the list. You take turns placing tiles on a grid. The winner is the first player to capture 5 pairs of opponents’ tiles or getting 5 tiles in a row. Very simple to learn, but there is a lot of strategy to it.
  • Ticket To Ride – This game has a lot of expansions, several of which are actually standalone games (including Europe, Nordic Countries, and Marklin). Some of the expansions I’ve heard good things about are India & Switzerland (include new maps and cards, but require the game pieces from the base game), 1910 (an expansion to the base USA game), and 1912 (an expansion to the base Europe game). All of these are not just new maps, but also include new rules. Johnna and I have only played the base game, but plan to try these others. There is also a good version of this on Steam, Google Play, and iTunes. For the latter two, I recommend only using it on devices with displays at least 5″ in size (preferably larger). Sadly, it currently only supports live games — no ability to play a game at your own pace over an extended period of time.

Next To Try

UPDATE

(Jan 9 2014)

Since posting this, Johnna and I have played a few more games which were good for two players. Specifically…

  • Jambo – This game is a two-player game in which the players are competing traders in Africa. In some ways it’s a more complicated version of Jaipur (although still not especially complicated). It is fun, although based on limited playing it does seem like luck plays a relatively big factor. Depending on your preferences, this may or may not be a bad thing.
  • Small World – A very fun game for 2-5 players (soon to be 6 players, with an upcoming expansion). Over the course of the game, each player will control one or more races, each of which is paired with a special power. The fun of the game is in the various combinations of races and powers (since they are shuffled and dealt randomly for each game). The game has a number of expansions, but the ones I can personally recommend at this point are Be Not Afraid, Cursed, and Grand Dames. Each of these adds more powers and races to the game. Johnna and I recently purchased Tales and Legends, but have not yet had the chance to try it. Finally, they recently released an excellent implementation of this game (called Small World 2 for some reason, even though it’s the same game) on Steam, Google Play, and iTunes. For the latter two, I believe it is only supported for tablets, not phones. Or anyway, it wouldn’t let me use it on my Galaxy S4.
  • Terra Mystica – This game is 2-5 players, and is probably the most complicated board game I’ve yet learned. If you learn it from someone who already knows how to play, I suspect it wouldn’t be too bad, but it took Johnna and I several hours to read through the rules and figure it all out. That said, it has rapidly become one of our favorite games. The players control competing factions, each of which has different special abilities. The goal is to get the most victory points, which are granted for various things during and after the game — founding cities, building structures, terraforming terrain, controlling the most contiguous territory, having advanced knowledge of different cults, etc. It sounds overwhelming until you learn it, but then it all fits together very nicely and makes sense. Johnna and I have only played 2 player, and we’ve really enjoyed it. We’re looking forward to trying it with more people, though, as we’ve heard good things.
  • Tobago – This game may be out of print (or anyway, an online search does not turn up a place to buy new copies of it). Amazon has it listed, but right now the only copies available are from third party sellers. Johnna and I have played both 2 player and 4 player, and both were great. The players are all treasure hunters on an island. The thing which is unique about this game is that the players play clue cards which narrow down where the treasure can be located (for example, “the treasure is in the largest jungle” or “the treasure is within 1 space of a hut” or “the treasure is not on the coast”). Eventually, the clues combine to reveal the exact location of a treasure, at which point it may be excavated. The player who does the excavation gets a bonus for having done so, but players are rewarded based on how many clues they contributed toward that particular treasure. Also, some of the treasures are cursed, but there is a way to defend yourself against that. The game is pretty simple and fun. If you are able to find a copy, I recommend picking it up.

And also, if you are looking for more cooperative games and/or enjoyed either Forbidden Island or Pandemic, I just learned that a sequel to Forbidden Island was released not too long ago. It’s called Forbidden Desert (every time I type it, I want to type Forbidden Dessert, because that sounds much more delicious). I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds like it’s kind of a hybrid of Forbidden Island and Pandemic — the mechanics and theme are more like Forbidden Island, but the complexity and difficulty are more like Pandemic. Based on reviews I’ve read, it also introduces some new things which make it different from either predecessor.

September 4, 2013
by mitcharf
0 comments

Suggested College Classes

– Object Oriented Programming: An Erotic Journey
– Scrapbooking: A Number Theoretic Approach
– Introduction To Racquetball & Inorganic Chemistry
– Principles Of Quantum Theory In Beowulf
– Applying Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems In Divorce Law

May 26, 2013
by mitcharf
0 comments

Snapchat

My username on Snapchat is mitcharf. Add me as a friend if you could use more cat photos and videos in your life. A lot more.

If you’re unfamiliar with Snapchat, it’s an app for Android and iPhone that allows you to send photos and videos which will disappear after a brief period of time. Although this is clearly intended for nude photos, nobody every said it had to be just human nudity!

While we’re on the app subject, if you like word games, I recommend you get Hanging With Friends and Scramble With Friends (I assume you are already familiar with Words With Friends). I play all three under the username mitcharf. Oh, and I recently decided to start playing chess on chess.com, for which are also both Android and iPhone apps (but bizarrely, while you can start and play games on the app, you have to go to the web site to make your account and add friends). Anyway, my username on there is also mitcharf. I haven’t really played chess since I was a kid, and I never played seriously, so please have mercy.

Oh, and I recently decided to expand my social media horizons. So I’ve created accounts on the following sites:

tumblr
keek
instagram
pinterest

This is in addition to my previous accounts on:

Facebook
last.fm
Twitter

Feel free to friend me on any of these — I have a pretty liberal friending policy!

March 22, 2013
by mitcharf
0 comments

Cards Against Humanity!

They just released a third expansion for Cards Against Humanity today — buy it on Amazon for just $10! And in case you are one of the poor souls who doesn’t have them yet, you can also get the second expansion, first expansion, and the original game. Trust me — it will be the best money you ever spent. You do-it-yourselfers can also download and print the original game (but not the expansions) yourself from the Cards Against Humanity web site.

November 21, 2012
by mitcharf
0 comments

Skyrim

I’m finally playing Skyrim, almost a year after I bought it.  It is perhaps the best open world role-playing computer game I’ve played.  That said, because of the size of the world and it being so open, I think it does suffer a bit on the role-playing side.  They seem to have hired a ridiculously small number of voice actors given the number of people in the game.  But overall it’s a very enjoyable game.  Some of my favorite parts are the small absurdities that you encounter.  I will give two examples.  I suppose they will be semi-spoilers if you haven’t played the game, although not in any big way.  They both involve optional side quests which don’t have any importance to the main story.  Anyway!

So I’m walking around the city of Markarth when I learn that there is trouble afoot in the Hall Of The Dead (which is basically a combined funeral home and mausoleum).  Apparently there have been strange noises and some of the corpses are being eaten.  I briefly consider the irony that they have chosen to bring this problem to me, a vampire.  On the other hand, nobody seems to realize I’m a vampire, although they sure to love to comment on my extremely pale complexion and the disturbing hunger in my eyes.

ANYWAY, I agree to investigate their little problem.  I’m not in the Hall Of The Dead five minutes when a woman named Eola appears from nowhere and begins talking to me.  Without me saying anything, she seems to be under the misapprehension that I’m a fellow corpse-eating enthusiast.  She agrees to stop eating the bodies here, but wants my help clearing out some zombies from a nearby cave.

I meet Eola at the cave and we merrily slaughter all of the zombies lurking within.  Having done this, she suggests that we have a feast to celebrate. My guess about what sort of meal she has in mind is confirmed when she asks me to lure a priest from Markarth (the same guy who told me about the corpse-eating problem) to the cave, so we can murder and eat him.

I’m already a vampire.  In for a penny, in for a pound, right?  I head back to town and persuade the guy to follow me, under the pretext that I need him to protect me from evil things in the cave, and with the promise of possible treasure.  Needless to say he is quite surprised when we get there and he finds a bunch of people sitting around a dinner table.  Eola performs some sort of hypnosis on him and he docilely stretches out on an altar.  I am then instructed to kill him.

A quick word about vampires in Skyrim.  Unlike with people, the longer you go without feeding, the stronger you get.  But there’s a catch.  If you go too long, you become blood-starved.  In this state, people CAN see that you are a vampire, and this makes them scared and/or angry.  So generally you need to feed regularly, or else sneak around a lot.  Or murder everyone who sees you.  Anyway, it’s easiest to feed on someone when they are sleeping.  If they are awake, then you aren’t given the option to feed on them unless you first use “vampiric seduction”, which is a lot less sexy than it sounds, and which doesn’t work on more powerful people.

Okay, so back to the feast in the cave.  I noticed that I’m given the option to feed on the priest.  I’m guessing the game considers him to be either asleep, because he is lying down, or seduced, because of the hypnosis.  Whatever, I’m not one to pass up a free meal.  Feeding won’t kill him, so this shouldn’t interfere with Eola’s dinner.  So I feed.  This brings me to the first moment of absurdity I want to share — the game promptly informs me that there is now a bounty on my head.

(When you commit crimes in Skyrim, provided they are witnessed, you generally gain a bounty in whatever major city is nearest.  This means that guards will harass you and attempt to arrest you.)

Now, I was aware that if someone saw you feeding, then it was considered a crime.  But:
1) The only witnesses to this crime, other than the priest himself, are members of the cannibal clan who asked me to lure this guy here
2) I’m about to murder this guy anyway

Rather than anger my new friends, I reloaded an earlier saved game and just murdered the guy outright.  This made them happy, and Eola insisted that I take the first bite of the feast.  I felt it would be rude to refuse.  A good time was had by all, and Eola agreed to be my companion.

Days later, Eola and I find ourselves on the other side of the continent, where we encounter a cult in the mountains.  The cult leader tells me that in order to prove myself, I need to show that I am a good liar.  How am I to do this?  Simple.  Convince someone to follow me out to this cult, lead them to a nearby pillar, get them to touch it, and then murder them.  Seems simple enough.  I walk over to the pillar in question, just to get an idea of the lay of the land.  Eola, my faithful companion, having heard this entire conversation, and having already seen me murder one stranger at the behest of another, calmly follows me.  We both stand there regarding the pillar in quiet contemplation.

I decide that I like Eola too much to murder her, so I tell her to head home.  I go to a bar in a big city and hire a sellsword into my service.  He obediently follows me back to the pillar, and touches it without question when ordered to do so.  This causes him to be paralyzed in place by some power, and I murder him with a dagger that the cult leader gave me for this purpose.

A few days later I’m walking around some city when a courier runs up to me.  He informs me that I have inherited some money from a friend who died.  He gives me money and a letter.  Reading the letter, I learn that my faithful sellsword left me 300 gold in his will.  Funny because:
1) In the day between the time we met and the time I murdered him, all of which was spent traveling from the city to the cult, he was able make out a will, and
2) Chose to leave me 300 gold, and anyway
3) I’m not sure how anyone found out he was dead, since I killed him in a pretty remote mountain location (and later killed everyone else in the cult, at the behest of the demon they worshiped).

Oh, Skyrim, you make murder and betrayal so amusing.

November 16, 2012
by mitcharf
0 comments

Bluetooth keyboard for Android

I want to write blog posts from the comfort of my bed, buried beneath cats. I generally leave my laptop on the kitchen table, tethered to monitors, speakers, etc. I am writing this entry using the WordPress app for my new Samsung Galaxy S3 Android phone. I’m liking the phone, and before it, I liked my iPhone 3GS (despite its lack of a camera flash at a time when even the cheapest phones had them). However, typing on a virtual keyboard is, for me, much slower and more prone to typos. The prospect of writing a lengthy blog post on here makes me long for the sweet release of death. While many would doubtless cheer anything which would induce more brevity in my writing, this sentence alone demonstrates how foreign to my nature that would be. The voice dictation system on this phone is surprisingly good, but still prone to mistakes, and not good with proper nouns. So I’ve decided to look into Bluetooth keyboards. I don’t have much more to say about this at the moment, since I haven’t done any research yet, and the true motivation for this post was to test out the Android WordPress app. But I’ll try to remember to post and let you know what I end up getting, in case anyone else has a similar need to be freed from virtual keyboard hell.