Monthly Archives: April 2017

49 and not out

Somehow I’ve made it to 49 years on this planet. The last year of my forties.

So how did I spend the day of the year where I celebrate escaping the prison my mum kept me in for 9 months for a crime I never committed? (Imagine The Great Escape crossed with Prison Break and you’ll get the right image)

Well the afternoon was spent over in Cambridge visiting Scott, and dropping off the Star Realms and Hero Realms promos I had for him.

Scott introduced me to the game Fugitive. I played the marshal while Scott played the fugitive. I thought from the description of game play I’d been given this would be best for my first play. The game could do with a little shield for the marshal player to hide the markings on the little number board they use for tracking things on. I think I enjoyed it. It would be interesting to play the fugitive next time. From the marshal side it’s a deduction game trying to make guesses based on incomplete information. With each turn providing a little bit more information to help refine the guesses. 

I returned the favour by introducing him to Mint Works. Despite losing Scott enjoyed the game. It’s probably a 100% success rate at the moment for people liking the game after trying it. Just a shame it’s not easily available at the moment. Pretty sure there would have been some instant purchases.

Sadly while in Cambridge a cunning plan to recreate the following Ruby Wax sketch on a friend/colleague who was away doing adventurous type stuff in the Lakes came a cropper.

If it wasn’t for a minor flaw in the planning it would have been awesome and hilarious. Sadly the moment of comedy gold was ruined because I didn’t know their address. Nor did my partner in crime at work. Darn!

The evening has been spent at The Luxe. As if they knew (just a coincidence in reality), there was a showing of Robocop (1987), one of my all time favourite movies.

Will, Lucia and Jonathan met me before the film started for a drink and some gaming. Our pre-movie gaming sadly wasn’t a Robocop game, but Archer: Once You Go Blackmail.

In the first game we played I won the first two points before anyone else had a chance to take a turn! I drew the number 2 card Dr Krieger which allowed me to guess the hidden card, and if correct I instantly won. I did that twice in a row! I’m sure the others suspected me of cheating at that point. As Will said, I should have chosen the lottery numbers at that point. It won’t surprise you I won that game. We started a second game that ended in a draw because we had to go in for the movie.

We were in for a treat. It was the Directors Cut of Robocop we were going to see, with its extra 26 seconds (according to Bouncy).

It was a delight seeing it on the big screen again. I just love the movie. Over the years I must have seen the movie a good 15 to 20 times, if not more.

Naturally I’m old enough to have seen Robocop when it first came out. I also had it on video a year later, along with The Princess Bride (which I looove, and also getting the big screen treatment at The Luxe) and The Untouchables on a single long play video (yes not exactly legal at the time). It was this tape I watched a few times while studying at Brighton Poly. And accounting for a large number of those views. 

I had a fantastic time watching Robocop again with friends. It’s always great sharing a film like this. Plus the banter with Bouncy before and after the movie was fun. But then again the staff at The Luxe always look after you. 

Seeing Robocop again was a great way to end a very enjoyable birthday. And that’s that, the birthday weekend of celebrations has come to an end. Thanks everyone for the well wishes, presents, and spending time with me. Same time next year? 

TableTop Day 2017 – We Played Some Games

Well my International TableTop Day started the same as all others. Coffee made with my Hario V60 Dripper, using a limited edition roast called Kigoma Natural (with hints of black grape and blueberry) from Pact Coffee (yes I’m that coffee hipster/snob guy). I save the good stuff for weekends. Like all the other days I had the usual two chocolate chip brioche. I love my morning routine. 

After dressing I got a selection of games together to take along to the Fenland Gamers International TableTop Day Event, and then headed off to The White Lion.

When I got to the hotel there were people still eating breakfast. So I enquired if breakfast was still being served. It was. Result. I ordered a full English. Which was great value. It not only included the titular dish, but hot drink (tea/coffee), fruit juice and cereal.

Jonathan turned up just after I ordered my food. So we chatted about games, life the universe and other stuff, while we waited for my plate of goodness, and then devouring of said plate of food.

We had just started playing Jaipur when Lucia and the walking injured also known as Will turned up. I hadn’t played Jaipur before, but its been on and off my radar for a while. Jaipur is played over three rounds before a winner is decided. We only had time to complete one. But there was enough in the game for me to want to play again. It is a nice two player game, that combines set collection, drafting and hand management really nicely.

With Will and Lucia we played Archer: Once You Go Blackmail Love Letter. There was a slight hitch to the start of the game. Jonathan and I hadn’t realised Will and Lucia hadn’t played Love Letter! It just didn’t register that we hadn’t played the game with them. Oops.

During the game Chris arrived. Just in time to see Jonathan come back from behind and win.

It was time to be corrupt sheriffs and dishonest tradesman in Sheriff of Nottingham. This game is such a hoot. There was not that much bribing to get your own goods through, but lots of bribing the current sheriff to open someone else’s pouch. Somehow in all the chaos, lying and treachery Chris won.

Our final game of our TableTop Day session was Lords of Waterdeep. I think this was my worst play of the game ever! It has been nearly a year and a half since I last played the game physically, and nearly a year the app (which does not work properly on iOS, and needs a massive update). We did have one misplay. The first round was played with too many meeples. After that I just didn’t complete Quests as quick as the others or use the intrigue cards well. Mind you I did draw some turkeys. Oh Lucia won. 

When I got home Amazon had delivered the stuff I bought with the very generous gift from my friends and colleagues at work yesterday. 

So that was TableTop Day for 2017, and day two of Darren’s birthday celebration weekend.

TableTop Day 2017 – Play Some Games

So it’s the big day in the boardgaming calendar. Day two of my birthday celebrations. You think this is excessive wait until next year when I hit fifty. Some friends and family were wishing my birthday wishes yesterday on Facebook when I posted about the cool stuff at work. Didn’t have the heart to tell them it’s tomorrow. It was kind of them to take the time to say happy birthday. I’ll just hold those kind thoughts over until tomorrow.

So today from 10am (why did I set such an early time?) some of us Fenland Gamers will be playing games at The White Lion for the day. What will hit the table? Who knows. Instagram will be my main source of updates during the day for those that want to follow along with our gaming.

Have a great day playing games. 

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.