Archive for Gaming

Man vs Wife: Sorry!

Man vs WifeSorry! by Parker Brothers, since 1934, is a cross and circle game. Which is another way to say a racing game, whose object is to move your pieces around the board from start to finish before the other players do the same. It’s also billed as “The game of sweet revenge”, which is a poetic way to say “The game of making the other players furious and hate you”.

The game comes with a board, sixteen game pieces in four groups of four, and a stack of cards. Unlike some other racing games, Sorry! uses cards drawn to do movement rather than dice, which ultimately is probably a good thing since throwing dice around in a game that can anger you so much is not the best idea in the world. (Wife: I love playing Sorry!) I’m pretty sure you don’t. (Wife: You’re wrong.) Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Sorry

The game of sweet reven... you know what?! Eat me!

For our 2 player game, we take up Blue and Green for our colors so that we are opposite each other. (Wife: Picking colors next to each other wouldn’t have been fair.) Because if given the choice I’d choose the color behind you. (Wife: Then I’d pick the color behind you.) And I’d switch colors. (Wife: Me too.) And we’d probably start our first argument before a single card had been drawn. (Wife: Oh, this is that game!) Wait, it’ll get worse.

One of the single most annoying rules of Sorry! is that you have to draw either a 1 or a 2 to move a piece out of your Start circle. (Wife: You can also use a Sorry! card to take the place of an opponent’s piece, bumping their piece back to Start.) Right, but in the beginning, it takes a while. We didn’t use the head start rules that puts a single piece outside Start to start, so we spend a lot of time just trying to get pieces out of Start. (Wife: You are exaggerating. It didn’t take that long.) I disagree. It took too long, that’s not a specific amount of time, it’s just too long.

The movement cards in the game are the following:

  • 1 – move a piece out of Start, or move a piece forward one space.
  • 2 – move a piece out of Start, or move a piece forward two spaces. Draw another card.
  • 3 – move a piece forward three spaces.
  • 4 – move a piece backward four spaces.
  • 5 – move a piece forward five spaces.
  • 7 – move a piece forward seven spaces, or split the seven moves between two pieces. You cannot use this to move a piece from Start and must you all seven moves or none of them.
  • 8 – move a piece forward eight spaces.
  • 10 – move a piece forward ten spaces, or move a piece backward one space. If you cannot move forward ten, you must move backward one.
  • 11 – move a piece forward eleven spaces, or swap places with an opponent’s piece. If you cannot move forward eleven, you are not forced to swap places.
  • 12 – move a piece forward twelves space.
  • Sorry! – move a piece from your Start to a space occupied by an opponent’s piece, bumping them back to their Start.

Any time your move ends your piece on the same spot as an opponent’s piece, you bump them back to Start. The board also has slides on it. If you end a movement on the top of a slide, you move to the bottom of the slide, bumping all pieces in the way back to Start. (Wife: That’s a lot of bumping people back to Start.) Indeed. (Wife: I think perhaps I only LIKED playing Sorry!, not loved it.) See, I was right. (Wife: I guess it has to happen from time to time.) Wait, it’ll get worse.

So, we begin drawing cards, finally getting some pieces out on the board and moving them around. She get’s the first Sorry! card. (Wife: Hah!) I get the first eleven, which I use to swap places. (Wife: Why did you move your piece backwards?) Because it moves your piece past the Safe Zone and you have to go all the way around again. (Wife: What?! You suck!) And then we spend the next hour making each other angry by bumping each other back to Start again and again, using Sorry! cards and slides and screwing each other over. (Wife: I’m pretty sure I don’t like this game at all.) See? (Wife: Don’t be smug.)

One of the best strategies in the game is to get a piece out of Start and then get a 4, move that piece backwards past the entry to the Safe Zone, and then move forward into the Safe Zone. It saves you from having to go around the board. (Wife: I did that.) I know. (Wife: Several times.) I know. You essentially want to get your pieces into the Safe Zone as fast as possible because once there you can’t be bumped back to Start.

With as much anger and spite as the game generates during play, it ends with a whimper. Eventually you end up with both people having only one or two pieces still in play, and because you have to move to the Finish on an exact count, and no one has any pieces in Start, and everyone’s remaining pieces are in the Safe Zone anyway, you wind up drawing cards over and over, doing nothing, waiting for the ones, twos and threes that you need to get to that final space. Or maybe you get lucky, get a seven and are able to split it between two pieces and get one or both in. By the time she wins (Wife: I win!) we’ve calmed down, our emotions mostly spent.

Somehow, I have fond memories of playing this game as a kid. (Wife: Me too.) And I think it’s because my parents let me win and never took revenge on me when they could avoid it. (Wife: Me too.) I think it’s important that people get a proper exposure to Sorry! and that includes hating it. (Wife: We may never play this again.) Until we can secretly gang up on another player. (Wife: Woohoo! High five!) You know it!

My recommendation: Never ever EVER play Sorry! with 2 players. Play with 4, always 4. There is so much revenging on other players in a game of Sorry! that if you are forced to always do so to the same person, it just makes for bad feelings. You need to be able to spread the revenge around a bit.

Anyway…

Man, 0. Wife, 6.

(Wife: I’m not.) Not what? (Wife: I’m not “Sorry!” Mwahahaha! I win!) I have created a monster…

Man vs Wife: Guillotine

Man vs WifeGuillotine was designed by Paul Peterson for Wizards of the Coast. The tag line for the game is “The revolutionary card game where you win by getting a head.” It’s a wonderful play on words for a game about beheading nobles during the French Revolution. The game is for two to five players and claims to take around 30 minutes to play. The game comes with two decks of cards, a guillotine and instructions.

Guillotine

Don't lose your head.

The game plays thusly. The two decks – action cards and noble cards – are shuffled, you deal out five action cards to each player, and then lay out, beginning at the guillotine, a line of twelve nobles. On your turn, you can play an action card if you want, then you behead the first noble in line, and finally you draw an action card. You always draw an action card, even if you didn’t play one, and if you collect the head of a noble that contains special instructions you have to do whatever it says. The real meat of the game is in the first segment of your turn, because action cards contain all sorts of things, like rearranging the line, so you can use them to collect the best head you can or try to prevent your opponents from collecting them. Anyway, once the line is depleted, the day is over. You repeat the cycle for three days of beheading. There are no special rules for two player games.

We begin by shuffling the cards. (Wife: Does this guillotine actually do anything?) Of course. It cuts off heads. (Wife: How?) Oh, you mean does it actually DO anything… no, it doesn’t. It just marks the head of the line. (Wife: So it’s just a prop then.) Yes. I deal out the action cards and she deals out the line of nobles. She always wins (Wife: Hehe!), so she goes first. (Wife: So, I always get a guy from the front of the line?) Yes, unless the action card you play says you don’t.

She takes the early lead by causing King Louis to be discarded and collecting the Cardinal for 5 points. (Wife: I am winning!) I play Mass Confusion – which lets me re-deal the line – and then collect a Palace Guard. (Wife: He’s not worth any points.) Oh, but he is. The Palace Guard is worth as many points as you have Palace Guards. Since I have 1 now he’s only worth 1 point, but if I get a second one, both of them will be worth 2. (Wife: And if you get 3 then all of them will be worth 3.) Exactly! (Wife: You don’t have to be so excited when I understand math stuff.) Yes I do! (Wife: Just play.) It’s your turn. (Wife: Oh.)

So, play goes back and forth like that for day one, the last noble to meet the Guillotine is The Clown, and she fights desperately to not have to take him, until we realize that the action on his card says that if you collect him you get to give him to another player. (Wife: That’s you!) And that’s me. So I get The Clown, worth -2 points. (Wife: That’s MINUS two points.) And we deal out another 12 nobles for day two.

I said there weren’t special rules for two player games (Wife: Did you forget to tell me all the rules again?) and there aren’t, however a number of the action cards target an opponent which if you are playing with more than two players means something, but in two player it just means (Wife: You.) the other player.

I spend days two and three trying out various strategies (Wife: Strategy. Haha!) but she out plays me and when we total up the score she has 45 points to my 27. (Wife: I win!) Not so fast! Since the game only took about 25 minutes to play, we decide (Wife: You decide.) to play best two out of three. (Wife: You just want to steal my victory.) No, these are the rules. We play best of three for short games. (Wife: Whatever.)

For the second game, I give up on strategy. (Wife: You are learning, young Skywalker.) Did you just make a Star Wars joke? (Wife: Yes.) I’m so proud! (Wife: You have taught me well.) Okay, now you are just showing off. (Wife: Punch it, Chewy!) What? (Wife: I am your father.) Just stop. So, without strategy I do much better and score 42 points. She performs about the same (Wife: Because I never use strategy.) and gets 44 points. (Wife: I win!) Let the wookie win. (Wife: Did you just call me a wookie?!) No, I… it was a Star Wars joke. (Wife: Sure it was.) Seriously. (Wife: Whatever.)

From my brief experience with the game, I’ve determined that playing a long game is useless. This is definitely a game of instant gratification. Stick to playing cards that help you right now, or hurt your opponent right now. Trying to lay in wait and bide your time just results in you losing by a large margin. And once we get more familiar with the cards, the game will go much faster. (Wife: I like this game.) Because you won? (Wife: No, because it’s fun.) Good.

Anyway…

Man, 0. Wife, 5.

(Wife: I win! Five! In your face!)

Telltale Zombies

Today marks the release of The Walking Dead video game by Telltale Games. Normally, I’m all over anything with zombies, but I’ve got such a large backlog of games right now that I’ll probably wait and pick this up later. And this isn’t even the whole thing. They’ll be releasing an episode a month, five episodes in all.

Anyway, check out the trailer:

I’ve enjoyed a few of Telltale’s other games, like the Sam & Max series that was released through GameTap, and I’ve heard good things about others. I’m looking forward to playing this at some point.

Man vs Wife: Uno

Man vs WifeUno was developed in 1971 in Reading, Ohio by Merle Robbins to settle an argument with his son about the rules of Crazy Eights. They made the original decks on their dinning room table before selling the game to International Games in 1981. Since 1992 it has been produced by Mattel.

The game consists of a deck of 108 cards. 0 through 9 and six special cards appear in each of 4 colors. The special cards in each color are two Draw Twos, two Reverses and two Skips. There are also 4 Wild cards and 4 Wild Draw Four cards. Play is pretty simple. You shuffle, deal out hands of 7 cards to each player and then turn over the top card. On your turn you have to play a card if you have a card to play, and to play a card it must be either the same color or the same value as the top card of the discard pile, or a Wild. When you play a Wild, you get to pick one of the four colors – blue, green, red, yellow – to switch to for the next player. If a special card is played, the action happens to the next player – i.e. that player has to draw two cards from the draw pile, that player is skipped, or play changes directions and a different player goes next. If you don’t have a playable card, you draw one from the draw pile – if it’s playable, you play it; if not, your turn is over. And while you can play a Wild at any time, in order to play a Wild Draw Four – where you get to pick the color AND the next player has to draw four cards – it must be the only playable card in your hand.

UNO - The Box

One of the many different variations of "Original" UNO

(Wife: So, how do I win?) Don’t you mean, “How does a player win?” (Wife: Sure, if it helps you sleep at night.) A player wins by getting rid of all the cards in their hand. When you only have one card left, you have to say “Uno”. (Wife: Why?) Because it’s Spanish for One. (Wife: I know that. Duh. Why do you have to say it?) Because it’s a rule. (Wife: Why?) Because if you don’t and another player catches you, you have to draw two cards. (Wife: Got it.) Anyway, once you go out, you get points based on the cards the other players are still holding. 50 points for wilds, 20 points for special cards, and face value for number cards. The first player to 500 points (Wife: Me.) wins.

Being that there were only two of us, we played the Two Player variant. The only important difference is that a Reverse card acts like a Skip, so if you play one it’s your turn again. (Wife: So, if I play a Skip, you get skipped. And if I play a Reverse you get skipped?) Yes. And with two players, playing a Draw Two or Wild Draw Four essentially skips the other player, since they have to draw cards instead of playing a card.

We shuffle and deal and play. (Wife: This is a big deck.) Yeah, shuffling is a bit of a pain. Just over twice the size of a normal deck, I remember having to shuffle it in pieces as a kid. Now I can do it all together, but still occasionally lose control of it. Game play can actually get kind of mean-spirited, especially in two person play. (Wife: Making me draw cards repeatedly sucks.) What about making me draw cards repeatedly? Does that suck too? (Wife: No, that’s a lot of fun!) Hrmph. One thing you can do in two player that you can’t do with three or more people is stack up your cards. If you had a hand that was a green Skip, a red Skip, a red Reverse, a red Draw Two, a blue Draw Two, a blue Skip and a Wild, and the play to you is something green, you’ve won the game because if you lay down the cards in the right order you are always skipping the other player or making them draw and you can always play.

During our play, she won a hand where she only got 4 points (Wife: Lame!) because I only had three cards, two 2’s and a 0. But there was also a hand where she got 180 points (Wife: Woohoo!) when she ended with a Wild Draw Four (Wife: Suck it!) and in the four cards I picked up I got two wild cards to add to the one I already had. I took the lead pretty early (Wife: Boo!) and was up 431 to 216, but after that I only won one more hand for 9 points and she racked up five wins for 302 total points. (Wife: I win!) She wins, 518 to 440.

We were going to do two out of three again (Wife: Because you wanted to cheat me out of my win.) but it took well over an hour to play the first round. With all the drawing that happens, both because of cards played and because of not having a card to play, some hands can drag out. You can get down to “Uno” and then find yourself unable to play a card on your next five or six turns. (Wife: And you can come back from having a bunch of cards in your hand when someone else says “Uno” to winning.) Indeed. (Wife: Especially when someone keeps forgetting to say “Uno” and I make them draw two cards.) I thought we weren’t going to bring that up? (Wife: I agreed to nothing!) Well, yeah, sometimes I forgot to say it and I got caught. (Wife: Ha ha!) Shut it!

The basic strategy in the game is to get rid of all the cards that are worth big points, unless you seriously feel like you can chain cards together later to dump them. (Wife: You and your strategy.) The biggest point gains were usually done by making the other player draw cards with your last few plays. More than one hand ended with a Wild Draw Four. (Wife: Mostly mine.) Of course, with a game as simple as Uno, you can spice things up with all sorts of house rules. A typical one being that if you can’t play a card you have to draw cards until you get a playable one. And there are lots more.

Anyway…

Man, 0. Wife, 4.

(Wife: Uno! Times four, because I’ve won four times.)

Draw Something

So, the game Draw Something from OMGPOP has made a splash. Not only for being a game people seem to enjoy playing, but for being the reason that Zynga bought OMGPOP for $180 million.

If you haven’t played it, the game goes like this: You challenge another player and are given three words worth 1, 2 and 3 coins with the idea that these words are easy, medium and hard respectively. You select a word and then try to draw it. Your turn ends when you submit your drawing. Your opponent then begins by getting to see your drawing as you drew it – this is key because you can make crude animation this way, but they also get to see your mistakes – and at the bottom they have a number of spaces (if you drew a five letter word, there will be five spaces) and a rack of 12 random letters. They have to guess the word you tried to draw. Then they get a turn to draw a word, and the whole thing goes back and forth like that forever.

The coins you earn can be used to buy more colors, because you start with a limited number – you don’t realize how important a color is until you can’t use it. The free game comes with a selection of words and ads. The paid version loses the ads and gives you 2,000 more words.

Draw Something - TitanicI really enjoyed the game at first, running through enough games to buy three extra color packs, but as time went on, I had to fight with myself to keep playing. I’d look at the icon on my phone and the only reason I’d end up playing is because I’m holding up someone else. I suppose I would play more if I was awesome at drawing, or if the people I played with were. But none of my games have had masterpieces like the ones in this CNN story.

I suppose if I keep playing Draw Something I can switch to spending hours on a drawing instead of just under a minute – but then it just feels silly since people guess the word quickly, the animation skips to the end and then rolls the picture away. At the very least, this game needs a way to stop and admire a drawing, and a built-in method for taking screenshots or otherwise saving drawings would be awesome.

The ultimate failure of Draw Something is the limited vocabulary. Running a dozen or more games, I quickly exhausted the recognizable words and must resort to either going to look up words I don’t know or drawing the same things over and over again. But what makes the limited vocabulary even more of a flaw is that, by and large, people draw similar things to picture the same words. So when someone starts drawing the state of Florida, which has a distinctive shape, I can look at the length of the word and the letters available and guess “Miami” long before they even finish. If they start drawing the entire United States? Chances are the answer is “Timezone”. And so on, and so on. The more you play, the less the game becomes about guessing than it is recognizing and remembering. “Oh, that looks similar to the picture someone else drew for ‘Dresser’ and I’m looking for a seven letter word and have all those letters, so it’s ‘Dresser’.” Of course, you can stop that yourself by simply trying to think of the least common way to draw your word. Like if your word is “Paris” instead of drawing the Eiffel Tower or other well-known images, you could draw Lieutenant Tom Paris from Star Trek: Voyager.

Maybe new owners Zynga will fix that, though, knowing Zynga, I expect new word packs to cost money, and the game just isn’t fun enough for me to sink any more cash into. Not when there are games like Drawception out there that are much more freeform, and thus has unlimited possibilities. Speaking of… this is my profile over at Drawception, so you can check out my games and drawings.

A Group Of One

Playing around with EverQuest again, I’m reminded how much I love First Person view for MMOs. I play Star Trek Online in “mostly First Person” because you can’t actually go all the way in, but you can get the camera right up behind the character’s shoulder and eliminate the ability to see behind yourself, and immediately the game gains ten times more immersion. I assume my fascination and love for First Person comes from my love of shooters, especially team based shooters.

However, if the world is going to continue to insist on 3rd person view (probably because retention studies show that people stick around longer when they can constantly see how awesome they look in their latest gear) and that games be playable solo (which I’m not going to get into an argument about), I’d love to see an MMO go full on Party Mode like the old SSI and other RPG games.

Bard's Tale

If you pressed 'Z' on the PC version you got an elemental to join your party.

And I’m not talking about playing one character and having AI controlled mercenaries. No, I mean the player creates and controls a party of 4 to 6 characters.

Assuming that each character would fill a role in the group, the UI really wouldn’t be much different from today. Instead of playing a single tank character who has a couple dozen abilities for tanking you’d have a character in your group who has a handful of tanking skills. Each character, as far as combat is concerned, is really just 3 to 6 abilities on hot-keys. And you could macro so that you can chain abilities from different group members to execute combo moves.

When traveling, you’d control the lead character and choose a formation for the others to follow.

The game wouldn’t be entirely solo (just solo in a way that makes sense), but you could still group up with another player. You’d join your groups together into raids. An odd advantage to this is that since each group is likely to be fully functional (having their own tanking, healing, DPS and other skills) it simplifies the raid interface by accident. Each player manages their own people and the game really only needs to maintain the players in a raid for chat and loot distribution purposes.

Suddenly a “5 man” raid is actually 20 to 30 characters. The raid events can feel more epic while keeping the people-complexity low – it’s easier to herd 5 people than 25 people. This would also allow events themselves to be more complex yet easier, in that the raid can involve fighting multiple targets or doing synchronous goals (2 or 3 players fight a boss while other players solve puzzles or do other tasks) but without needing to manage entire groups of players for each item.

The more I think about it, and if the MMO trend is going to continue in third person views, the more I like this idea. It definitely needs more thought, but I like the direction it is going very much.

Man vs Wife: Cthulhu Dice

Man vs WifeCthulhu Dice is another Steve Jackson Games original. Designed for 2 to 6 players, each player takes on the roll of a cultist in service to Cthulhu trying to drive the other cultists mad. The last sane cultist wins!

The game comes with a large 12 sided die, 18 glass stones, a ziplock bag and instructions. Yes, even a game about going insane has instructions, not a lot of instructions, but still enough to be very confusing if you don’t pay attention. (Wife: Great!)

Cthulhu Dice

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

In normal play, each player is given three sanity tokens. The owner of the game decides who goes first, with subsequent games starting with the winner of the previous. On your turn, you pick a target player and roll the die to attack their sanity. A Yellow Sign means they lose 1 sanity. A Tentacle means the Caster takes 1 sanity from the Victim – unless the Caster is insane, then the sanity goes to Cthulhu in the middle of the table. Elder Sign gains you 1 sanity from Cthulhu (unless he doesn’t have any). Cthulhu showing his face means everyone loses 1 sanity to the center of the table. And rolling the Eye means you get to pick which result happens. Once that is done, the Victim gets to respond to his attacker with a roll of the die. No one can pass when it’s their turn to play, they must roll the die. Once you are out of sanity stones, you are insane. You can still attack other players on your turn, but no one can attack you on their turns, and any sanity you steal (Tentacle) goes to Cthulhu. The only way to regain sanity is for you to roll Elder Sign. The game ends when there is only one sane player left at the end of a completed turn. If no one is sane Cthulhu wins! (Wife: This is confusing.) No. It’s insane! Mwa-ha-ha! (Wife: I can’t believe I married you.)

We decided to play with the two player variant Rival Cults. Each of us gets 3 cultists, but we still alternate turns back and forth between us. The twist here is that since you are playing 3 cultists, sometimes you may want to attack your own side. (Wife: What?) I know! (Wife: Why are you excited?) Because it’s Cthulhu! (Wife: I am placing my face in my palm and sighing heavily.)

We decided (Wife: I decided.) to only play one round instead of a best of three this time. (Wife: I don’t know if I could handle playing this more than once.) Then Cthulhu has already won. (Wife: Don’t make me facepalm again.)

Unlike with Zombie Dice, I’m not going to put in a play-by-play. (Wife: Good.) It really didn’t make much sense anyway, which is kind of the point. (Wife: Seriously?) But I do want to throw in a few things as they happen.

It is important to know that during a turn, for both the attack and the response, the initial attacker is the Caster and the other person is the Victim for both rolls. This is important because Tentacle specifies that the Caster takes 1 sanity from the Victim, so if the responder/Victim rolls Tentacle the attacker/Caster is the one who steals the sanity. (Wife: I guess that makes sense… Maybe.) That happened a few times during play, so it’s not uncommon at all.

I rolled a Cthulhu during the game. (Wife: Is that good?) Everyone lost a sanity stone, and I had my first insane cultist… which I used to attack on subsequent rounds. (Wife: What? Shouldn’t being insane mean he’s out?) Nope. Insane people continue to fight. (Wife: Just like real life!) Exactly! Though, post game I admit it was a mistake. (Wife: Just like playing this game.) I didn’t get to keep any sanity that I stole. If we played again, I’d do it differently. (Wife: But we aren’t playing again.) Well, if I play with someone else then.

She plays very well and all my cultists go insane. (Wife: I win!) Not yet. (Wife: Huh?) We play until there is only one sane cultist. (Wife: But only I have sane people.) Right. (Wife: And I can’t attack insane people.) Correct. (Wife: So, who do I attack?) Your own people. (Wife: Insanity!) Exactly! (Wife: What?) Just roll.

Essentially at this point, I’m attacking her people because I have to and praying to get an Elder Sign to regain a sanity from Cthulhu. (Wife: And I’m attacking myself, watching all my sanity slowly trickle to the middle of the table. Goodbye sanity!) It takes a few rounds, but eventually, she defeats herself. (Wife: I… win?) Yes. (Wife: I win!) Again. (Wife: Always!)

Despite the confusion, I like the game. It plays quickly once you know the rules, and would be much clearer if we had more people and weren’t playing the variant rules. (Wife: Really?) Probably. (Wife: Well, maybe we could play again, with more people.) Really? (Wife: I said maybe. Don’t push it.) Dragon*Con? (Wife: Perhaps.)

As with any dice game, there is math. (Wife: I don’t care what Danica McKellar says, math sucks.) Math is your Cthulhu. (Wife: What? … I don’t … oh. I think I finally understand.) You don’t. (Wife: Are you sure?) No. (Wife: Stop it.) Stop what? (Wife: Stop this insanity!) I can’t! You took all mine. Anyway, back to the math…

The die has 12 sides, 5 of which are Yellow Sign, so on any given roll you’ve got a 42% chance of rolling it. And there are 4 Tentacles, so 33% chance of that. That makes of 75% of the possibilities, so the bulk of any game is going to be a player losing a sanity to Cthulhu or a player stealing a sanity from another player. The remaining sides – Cthulhu, Elder Sign, Eye – each have only an 8 and 1/3 percent chance of showing up, so don’t count on them. In our play, only 1 Cthulhu was rolled, and no Elder Signs or Eyes. It’s only post game that I truly understand the flaw of my attacking with an insane cultist. I shouldn’t have done that. (Wife: It probably wouldn’t have mattered.) Probably not.

Anyway…

Man, 0. Wife, 3.

(Wife: I win! Forever and ever!)

0x10c

It isn’t often that I get excited for a game before it releases. Well, unless that game has zombies in it. I’m always excited for zombie games. But I have been such a huge fan of Minecraft, and as a graduate of a Computer Science degree program when they still required us to know bit processing, registers, assembly and all that stuff that plenty of developers don’t concern themselves with, the announcement for Notch’s next game, called 0x10c, has me excited.

From his site, the back story is this:

In a parallel universe where the space race never ended, space travel was gaining popularity amongst corporations and rich individuals.

In 1988, a brand new deep sleep cell was released, compatible with all popular 16 bit computers. Unfortunately, it used big endian, whereas the DCPU-16 specifications called for little endian. This led to a severe bug in the included drivers, causing a requested sleep of 0x0000 0000 0000 0001 years to last for 0x0001 0000 0000 0000 years.

It’s now the year 281 474 976 712 644 AD, and the first lost people are starting to wake up to a universe on the brink of extinction, with all remote galaxies forever lost to red shift, star formation long since ended, and massive black holes dominating the galaxy.

He gives a few other details, like the game being similar to EVE Online in that you pilot a ship, and that ship has a generator with limited power, and everything on the ship draws power. And you’ll actually have to program the 16 bit CPU of your ship yourself, though I expect rather quickly people will begin trading code. And it’s going to have both a single player mode and an MMO-type mode with a monthly fee.

Being that it is Notch and the model worked so well for Minecraft, he plans on having an early release paid alpha where players can help him quickly iterate the design. The minute that becomes available, I’m in as this looks like another platform for emergent game play.

I’ll close with a screenshot of the in-game CPU running a simple program.

Hello world indeed.

Man vs Wife: Zombie Dice

Man vs WifeZombie Dice is the award-winning dice game from Steve Jackson Games. In it, you play a zombie and try to collect (eat) the most brains. The game comes with a cup (cardboard with two plastic lids for each end) and thirteen dice (and instructions – because selling games without instructions would be very silly – that said, if anyone put out a game with no instructions, it would probably be Steve Jackson Games).

The game is played as follows. The winner of the previous game, or the person who can most convincingly moan “BRAAAAAAAINS!”, goes first, they shake the 13 dice in the cup, then (without looking) they select and roll 3 of those dice. Dice that show brains or shotgun blasts stay on the board, while dice that show footprints go back in the cup. The player can stop at any time to end their turn and collect their points (brains), but if they get a total of 3 shotgun blasts their turn ends with zero points collected for the round. Put all the dice in the cup and pass it to the next player. When a player reaches thirteen (or more) brains at the end of their turn, finish the round and whoever has the most brains wins. If there is a tie for first, then those players play one more tiebreaker round.

Zombie Dice

Braaaaaains!

In our play, being only two players, we decided that simply the first player to 13 won, that way we wouldn’t have to keep track of which one of us went first so we’d know if the other person got another turn. Also, I totally forgot that rule when we played. (Wife: Cheater!) I didn’t cheat. (Wife: But we played without you telling me all the rules!) And? (Wife: Just sayin’…)

Anyway, we settled on playing a best-of-three series. We used the results of playing Life last time to determine who went first. (Wife: And I won at Life.) She went first. (Wife: Yay me!) On her first turn, she rolled three dice five times, ending her round after getting a second shotgun blast and scoring 4 points. I then rolled twice, getting 2 brains the first time and then two blasts on the second and quitting. Her second turn netted 2 more brains in four rolls, quitting when she got her second shotgun blast. For my second turn, I got 1 brain, one shotgun blast and one footprints on the first roll; on the second roll I got 3 brains (Wife: You suck!); on the third roll I got 3 brains again (Wife: You really suck!) and then I quit, scoring seven points for the round – more on why I quit despite only having one shotgun blast later. 2 brains and two blasts on her third turn. 2 brains and two blasts on my third turn as well. On her fourth turn she rolled twice, 2 brains on the first and 3 brains on the second, bringing her total to 13. (Wife: I win!) Only if you stop. You can keep going. (Wife: Nope. I like winning.) I know.

Round two… Despite her winning the last game, she let me go first (Wife: It’s because I’m awesome.) just so that I could see what it’s like to go first (Wife: And because I’m awesome.) and to shake things up. (Wife: Because if I went first, I’d just win.) That too. For my first turn, I got myself two brains and one blast on the first roll, then one brain and two feet on the second, and finally one brain and two blasts on the third. (Wife: Score for the human race!) I exit the round with no points. (Wife: Ha ha!) Laugh it up. (Wife: I will!) For her first turn, she rolls three shotgun blasts, and stops laughing. (Wife: I hate the humans.) Not so funny now, huh? (Wife: Just take your turn.) My second turn is looking good, I’ve got five brains and one shotgun blast, I’m about to stop when I decide to chance it, and get two more blasts. (Wife: The human race strikes again! Ha ha!) So, it’s only funny when it happens to me? (Wife: Yes.) Noted. She racks up 4 brains and stops when she gets two blasts. (Wife: 4 to nothing! I am winning!) Then on my turn I get 6 brains before stopping with two blasts. (Wife: I am not winning.) She gets 2 brains, then I get 2 brains. She gets 1 brain, then I get 3. She gets 2 more brains, and so do I, but my 2 brains happen to be the two I need to get 13 and win the round. (Wife: Come on, humans, kill that zombie!)

Round 3… You see, in a best-of-three series it’s always nice when the first two rounds are split because then you get to play the third round. (Wife: Duh.) Well, it’s better than someone winning the first two rounds and just trouncing the other person into the dirt. (Wife: Unless I win, in which case it is awesome.) And when you lose? (Wife: I don’t, because I win.) Round three goes like this: 2 brains for her, 1 brain for me, 3 for her, 4 for me, 2 for her, 4 for me, 3 for her, 1 for me, and then 3 for her. (Wife: I win!) She wins. (Wife: I win two out of three!) The match goes to her. (Wife: And I rub it in your face!) And I glare at you. (Wife: And I smile.) And I cave. (Wife: And I do a victory dance!)

I love the simplicity of this game. The rules are uncomplicated, and scoring is easy. You can pass the cup around while still having conversations. In that way, it is a very social game. I plan to take this with us to Dragon*Con this year to have available for random games. I also might pick up the expansion, Zombie Dice 2, and a Zombie Dice Bag.

Another reason I like this game is that as simple as it is, there is also deep strategy if you pay attention. (Wife: You paid attention?) Yes. (Wife: But you lost.) Yes. (Wife: I’m going to go grab a nap while you get into boring math stuff. See ya!) As I was saying, there is a little more to the game than just rolling dice. Back up there in round one, I had a turn where I got 7 brains, 6 of which came from rolling 3 brains two separate times, and then I stopped. Here’s why. The game has 13 dice, each of them with brains, blasts and footprints on their sides, but they are also colored green, yellow and red. The green dice, of which there are 6, have three brains, two footprints and one shotgun blast, so a 50% chance of rolling a brain and a total 83% chance of not rolling a blast. The yellow, of which there are 4, have two brains, two feet and two blasts, so 33% brains and 66% not-blast. And the red, of which there are 3, have one brain, two feet and three blasts, so a 17% chance of a brain and a 50% not-blast. That means a red die also has a 50% chance to roll a shotgun blast. On my 7 brain turn, I had 8 dice on the table, 7 brains and 1 blast, and none of them red. That left 5 dice in the cup, 3 red and 2 yellow. I stopped because I felt that as awesome as it was to roll three brains twice in a row, there was a pretty high chance I might roll two more shotgun blasts and lose all those points.

Of course, knowing probabilities doesn’t always help that much. Smart people will sit at a craps table in Vegas losing all day long, or slowly winning small amounts, but then someone will come along who doesn’t know any of the math and will take the house for thousands. A case could be made that I lost round one because I thought myself out of taking the chance and getting more than 7 brains on that particular round.

Anyway…

Man, 0. Wife, 2.

(Wife: I’m back now. I win again! Victory dance!)

EverQuest at 13

EverQuestFor its thirteenth birthday EverQuest has gone Free-to-Play. Given that no game since has been able to grab me like EQ, in large part because no game since has had a class like the monk, I reinstalled.

I know going in that this isn’t the game I used to play. That game does exist, over on EQMac, but I don’t have a Mac to play it. It’s going to be different, but hopefully in a good way. I’m dusting off Ishiro, and the wife is bringing Lochie out of storage, the monk/rogue duo is back! I’ve heard we get mercenaries, so the monk and rogue will likely have warrior and cleric pets.

I’m actually looking forward to messing around in EQ again, and I hope to be able to drag some of my old friends (and maybe some new friends) in as well.

I really do like the Free-to-Play model for games. I expect if I stick with the game, I’ll pony up a little cash for extra bag or bank slots. Though I doubt they’ll get me for extra characters or many of the other bits. And they definitely won’t be getting a full $15 a month out of me.

Anyway, if you care to look me up, I’m on the Tunare server. I was originally on E’Ci, but that server is long gone, merged with others. I’ll be playing either Ishiro (the monk, level 66, when I group up), Orihsi (the druid, level 59, when I mess around solo), or Jhaer (the random character I’ve created to check something out).