Start of the celebrations

So today is the start of my weekend of awesome, which concludes Sunday evening with seeing the original Robocop on the big screen again at The Luxe Cinema. Which is a totally awesome way to end my birthday on Sunday.

With today being the last working day before my birthday, I conformed to work place tradition everywhere and took cakes in. I wanted to take in my favourite donuts for everyone Krispy Kreme. Luckily the Wisbech Tesco sold them. But when I arrived at 7am to buy them, their Krispy Kreme donut counter looked like I had been alone with it all night. “Bugger! I’ll have to pop into the March Tesco now and see if they have any in.” I thought. I also thought while I was in Tesco I’d pick up the second Lego Batman comic with it’s exclusive Joker mini figure on the cover, and take a peak at the Lego. So the comic and three of the latest set of mini figures were in my shopping basket.

Luckily at the March store they had by the looks of it not long had a delivery of Krispy Kreme donuts. I also picked up some fruit salad stuff for my vegan friend. Paid the bill, and made my way into work.

Frankly I was excited on the drive in. I was looking forward to having a nice coffee and a donut when I got in. The surprising thing really was the donuts survived untouched to the office.

Do I really have to spell it out that I did indeed have a coffee and donut once I had got to my desk? If I do, then I did, and it was nice, and I liked it. Probably more than Katie Perry did kissing girls.

Glenys (a friend at work who apparently I have been a bad influence on) using the same approach to subtlety that I use, told me to bugger off for five minutes. So I played along. Dale and I went off to get a coffee, and talk until I was allowed back.

Upon return they had done my desk up (see photo below) and got me some pretty cool Star Wars and Marvel stuff. Plus gift certificates for Amazon (I’ll show you what that got me tomorrow when it arrives).

I have to say I was pretty taken aback by the generosity of my friends and colleagues. I’ve been really lucky at my current employer, that I’m working with a great team of people who I am so fortunate that I can call them friends. They certainly have made an old codger like me very happy and welcome.

This will be top spot along with another memory for best work celebration. Sam, Amanda, Usher and Anna, sorry today has drawn with you for the top spot. Thought it would be hard to even come close to that birthday celebration meal we had. But…

So tonight I’m seeing Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Then tomorrow is International TableTop Day, so playing games. Then on my actual birthday it’s Robocop. One of my all time favourite films.

Yeah the birthday celebrations have got off to a great start.

Boardgaming and Coding

This post has taken me a day or three to write. Hence why you haven’t been bored by me.

Plus my only other gaming has been the enrichment session for my students since the last post. Which I don’t talk too much about. But do remind you from time to time that I do. I will say about the one at the start of the week is that I introduced a student to Star Realms and deckbuilding. We spent the session playing that game. It was just “one more game” from the student at the end of each one. Plus when I told the student there was an app. They were going to go on Steam to buy it that evening. So I think that was a success. It’s nice to see a student enjoy a game so much they get it for themselves.

Now on with the post and the words I’ve been struggling to write…

Everyone, and I mean everyone whose anyone in the boardgame social media world has done their top 100 games of all time or their top ten this or top five that. From time to time you also get a similar thing on Instagram (see screen grab below).

I’ve tried those sort of posts myself the odd time in the past. I’m not a big fan of them in reality. I kinda see them as click bait. Which will mean this post and the project I’m going to talk about will not make much sense.

These “my top 100 games (insert year here)” lists kind of interest me. Mainly how do they come up with their list? What process do they use? Now that I have started recording my game plays could I produce a similar list based on the number of plays? Would that be a fair reflection of how much I like the game? Is that a good way to rank games I like? I can see flaws in doing it this way.

Just before Christmas there was a website that went up that tried to help you rank the games in your collection. You uploaded a csv (comma separated file) of your collection. Then it would start a series of random game match ups from your collection, where you decide which is the winner. Eventually after lots of these match ups it ranks the games in your collection.

That process is known as pairwise comparison. And allows you to determine a relative order for a group of items. Which in our case is board games.

So I’ve started a project to create my own little ranking program. I’m using Python 3 to write this little project. Mainly because it is quick to prototype with, has some great libraries for doing stuff like accessing a database, web scraping, reading csv files etc. Plus I need to keep my Python skills fresh.

My initial question for this whole project is “What are my top 100 favorite games?” After this has been completed I will then be able to ask other questions such as “What are my top 5 drafting games?” And I’m sure with the data in place other questions will be asked, and expanded on.

But what have I done so far for this project? Well we all know there are not enough hours in the day to do everything. You can’t be lazy, watch tv, play board games, write a blog, hold down a full time job and do other stuff! In other words I did nothing until recently.

Here is what I have done so far…

I started off with a csv file of my game collection downloaded from the bgg website. Which I then tidied up in Excel. This was mainly removing entries that weren’t games but expansions. In data science terminology I was cleaning my data!

I then wrote a Python program to read in the cleaned up data and put it into a sqlite3 database. For each game in the file the program uses the bgg api to get its details. The program then extracts from the returned results the missing information that I want to use later, such as genre, mechanic, designer, etc. Once it has done that the game is added to the sqlite3 database.

This means I now have an sqlite3 database that holds my game collection on a table with the extra info that I have always felt was missing from the csv bgg provide you with. I can now interrogate the sqlite3 database and get a list of all my dice games, or all the games I own by Eric Lang.

I am currently working on a new program in this project which is the the actual ranking engine.  So far this program connects to the sqlite3 database, finds out the number of games I have and generates two random numbers, and then pulls the games details matching those two numbers. You then get something like the following image:

At the moment I can type something in, and the program will keep coming up with new match ups. However at the moment I do nothing with the answer. That’s the next stage of this ranking engine. I need to store the result in a new table. I’m just getting my head round what the best way is to store the information. Because I am using a two dimensional array (well list in Python, although I might use the numpy library to give me a real array) to store the results, I think the best way to store that is with a blob field type. Which means I will have to serialize the data in the array before storing it in the database.

Once the ranking engine has been finished. It’s onto my data visualization engine. This will be the program that pulls off the results and give me like my top 100 games, or top 10 deckbuilders. I also plan to have it also be able to tell me how many of the bgg hotlist I have played or own.

The nice thing about this project is I can also share the badly written code with my students. So they will have examples of how to connect to a sqlite3 database, or read in a csv file, use a web api and use the xml libraries.

So now that I have bored you with an “overview” of my little project. I will threaten you with a more detailed write up once it is completed.

Crappiest tee design ever now available

The UK Games Expo is fast approaching. Which got me thinking what shall I wear on the extremely remote off chance people want to meet up with me? How would they recognise me? 

I could wear a gaming related tee. 

Such as this Imperial Settler tee I have by Portal Games. But then I thought about it. That’s like wearing the raspberry pi logo tee   at a PiJam (a get together of raspberry pi enthusiasts – that’s the computer btw not food). Not exactly unique.

Since taking the photo below I’ve kinda liked it. And thought I’d like that on a tee. But being the lazy so and so I am, didn’t do anything about it.

But on twitter this morning a friend on there Mark Hardisty (author of A Gremlin in the Works – which is bloody amazing) tweeted about a new tee design he had done and can now be bought from his store front on the TeePublic website.

“Interesting”, I thought. I’d briefly googled for places to print a shirt. But hadn’t been impressed with the search results. But here is a site a friend is using. That’s a recommendation I can get behind.

So in an unusual display of proactiveness I created an account and uploaded my photo.  Which was pretty painless.

Now there is a tee on its way to me with that photo on it. I went for the basic tee (it’s the cheapest), but they offer various quality options. When it arrives I’ll give some thoughts on it.

I suppose why my friend uses it, is that when some-one buys a tee with his design on he gets money ($2 when on sale, $4 if sold full price). In some ways there is a small corner of me that thinks/hopes the photo would be popular. But being such a pessimist I know in reality the only sale will be mine (which is ok I’m the one that wants the tee with that design after all). Anything else is a very pleasant bonus. 

If you want to use the site yourself click HERE or if your taste is as bad as mine and would like a tee with my meeple photo on you can click HERE (there is an initial 3 day auto initial promotion on a new design – IT’S CHEAPER).

Stepping out of the Vault

I’m a sucker for boardgames based on video games I love. Ok I’ve not bought Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game (yet), and the Doom game from last year might see the collection eventually, but more likely I’ll go for the first edition. Although I think the Gears of War board game is higher up on my wish list.

But I do have unplayed in my collection Starcraft, and Bioshock Infinite. And next week Dark Souls joins the collection. Which I think Nathan will love playing.

So I was kinda excited this morning when Board Game Brawl linked to the very brief post by Modiphius that they are doing a miniatures game based on the amazing Fallout games called Fallout Wasteland Warefare.

The minis look good. I’m hoping that because this will appeal to none miniature gamers that these will be pre-made. None of that having to cut off sprues and glue together shit. 

I’d say go over and read the thing for yourself. But the only reason to go there at the moment is to sign up to the newsletter about the game. So if you want to do that click HERE.

It’s cold outside

Fridays come round so quickly, especially on a week that starts with a bank holiday.

Diego and I arrived at the hotel at the same time. So while waiting for others to arrive we went for that micro worker placement experience by playing a couple of games of Mint Works. Diego and I shared the honours, one win a piece.

During our second game Edmund arrived, closely followed by Chris. We had enough to start playing a more weightier game, But what?

Edmund had recently been watching some “classic” Tabletop episodes, and chose the modern zombie survival, hidden traitor classic by Plaid Hat Games Dead of Winter.

Our overall objective for survival was guns and food. When doesn’t it?

But who was our traitor? One of the others at this table was going to betray the rest of us to meet their own secret agenda. Our failure would be their success.

The way things were going in our game no one obvious was acting suspiciously. Maybe my actions were making me look like the traitor. My Secret Objective was to make sure none of my group had wounds at the end, along with the successful completion of our main goal. I can see how constantly healing my characters could look suspicious.

Two rounds left on the clock, two morale remaining. We were not in a great position for succeeding. Then Chris made a great observation. If we exile some-one we needed less to meet our objective. I knew Chris was going to nominate me once it got round to him. I could see it in his eyes. Luckily on the end round I was group leader. I broke ties! So at the end of my turn I called a vote to exile Chris and his two dice. A vote that ended in a draw. A draw I decide on. Chris and his survivors were thrown out into the cold brutal night to fend for themselves. 

Naturally I’d forgotten one thing in my cunning pre-emptive plan. Chris had most of the guns we needed to win. Ok we were still short on the food front too. Bugger!

So we failed our mission. The zombies and Dead of Winter won.

The photo below is how this excellent evening ended for me.

But my night doesn’t end there with low quality greasy meat.

At 1am I woke up with a severe pain in my side, roughly where my kidney was.

The pain was incredible.

I phoned mum next door to come and get the dogs and call the emergency services. 

The pain was so bad. But it didn’t end there. No I was being sick too. 

Excruciating pain, being sick, it doesn’t get better than that. Well throw in sweating and shivering, and you get what my three hours were like before finally an ambulance arrived. 

They immediately put me in the ambulance after taking one look at me. Although my pain at that point was a 6/7 out of 10. When it was hitting 10, I was writhing on the floor. 

Inside I was given that gas used for pain relief by pregnant women during delivery. That’s good stuff. Twenty puffs of that, and that 6/7 was gone.

By the time we got to the hospital the pain had stopped. But they needed to do the checks etc. So biological samples were taken, readings made. But at this point it was like bolting the stable door after the horse had bolted.

The medical theory was that I’d had a gallstone move into a duct. 

I was prescribed some pain killers incase it happened again. And told to see my GP for a CT scan to check things out, especially if it happened again.

I was free to return home, have a snooze, recover and write this post.

Another great start to the weekend.

Stain glass craft

Have you ever read/seen/heard Misery by Stephen King? If you have then after hearing Lucia give an update on Will last night, you couldn’t help having the image of Annie Wilkes and the author Paul Sheldon, in that infamous hobbling scene in your head. 

That’s despite the proof of life photo (below) that Lucia bought in to show us.

So after laughing at Wills mishaps last night. Lucia, Jonathan and myself sat down to play Sagrada

Sagrada had arrived on Tuesday, typical after the Easter break, and I’m back at work. I’m really not impressed with Shipnaked, the distribution side that a lot of Kickstarter projects use.

This game is stunning. It’s almost a cliche I feel to say so. There are a lot of gorgeous games being made these days. But still it’s hard to not fall back on this cliche to describe the game. It’s bright, attractive. You can’t not think of stain glass windows looking at the box. 

Not to disappoint the production quality of the game is out of the park also.

I’d had a learning game earlier in the day with Dale. Where it turns out we misplayed a rule.

Sagrada has a nice puzzle element to it on the dice placement. That kind of reminded me of a bit of Roll For America and it’s placing of numbers.

It’s a quick game to learn, the rules are not that complicated. So quick to teach as well. Although the rule book could do with a page extra containing further explanations of some of the the tool cards.

There is potentially a lot of variety in the game, via the different player boards, randomly assigned hidden objectives, and randomly drawn open objectives and tool cards (used to manipulate the dice in some way).

Having a number of favour tokens (dependent on the player board selected) to spend on using the tool cards, is a great way to control when and how often a player can use these dice manipulation powers. It means you can’t just use them willy nilly but have to weigh up when to use them. 

The dice drafting worked well. And I liked using the last remaining die as the round marker.

I did find sometimes that it was a bit too cramped on the player board when placing dice. So sometimes you were knocking dice out of position. Curse my giant hands!

I like the fact they included a social media bragging card. It’s a little thing but it’s fun.

Lucia won our first game, with me winning the second, and becoming the new Master Artisan.

Yeah another great Kickstarter that delivered on its promise. 

We finished the evening attempting to save the world from disease by playing Jonathan’s dice game (although he hasn’t played Dice Masters or Star Wars Destiny) Pandemic: The Cure

Luckily for the rest of you we were successful in finding cures and cleaning up a disease ridden world.
Ok here is the bit you suffered for. I hope the pain of the rest of the post was worth it.

Stopping the Rise of Azathoth

The Bank Holiday Monday was spent trying to stop the rise of the Elder God Azathoth.

I was “aware” of the game Eldritch Horror. But had never played it. So when Justin asked if anyone in Fenland Gamers wanted to play it Bank Holiday Monday, “yeah I do”, I thought.

So I ended up at a new location to play this game. Is it common knowledge that Outwell has a climbing wall called Fenrock? I’m not sure. Even so you certainly wouldn’t list it as a possible gaming location. But thanks to the generosity of the owner Justin and I were playing Eldritch Horror there in a side room used for yoga.

There were only the two of us playing this Cthulhu themed co-op game. That plays apparently 1 – 8 players. I can’t imagine the game with the higher end of the player count. It must take soooo long to play. 

Ok this was a first play for me, Justin had partially played the game before. So it was a kinda learning game.

Setup takes a little while to do. There is lots of cards and stuff to this game. It definitely could do with an insert to organise things and speed up setup. 

Considering it was the two of us racing around the globe to hold back the forces of darkness, we were playing an “easy” Elder God Azathoth.

There are some nice touches to the game, and it feels like a more complicated Pandemic. But I’m not going to talk much more about Eldritch Horror in this post. I want to play the game with more players first. Which is a good sign that I liked the game enough that I want to play it again.

Justin and I did defeat Azathoth, and thus saved the world. After the tedious job of packing away (I did say there were lots of pieces etc), Justin and I briefly discussed games, Kickstarter and possibly having more sessions at Fenrock. 

A good afternoons gaming. Thanks Justin.

UPDATE: forgot to mention one important thing, the game could do with player aids. There are none. Luckily the back of the reference guide and rule book have a turn/round summary.