Alan Schmitt: November 2007 Archives

"Survival kit" games

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Yet another post I sent to BoardGameGeek... Following some conventions there, I use the monikers "the wife" for Christelle, and "the kid" for Augustin.

I recently had to move from France to Italy for a year, and as I was moving by car with my wife and two kids, the space for our things was quite limited. So I was faced with the question: what games do I take with me, taking into account that I want to have some games to play with my wife, with my 6 years old boy, and that I don't know anyone in Italy with whom to play. As space was the main limitation, I call these my "survival kit" games ;-) Here they are, with some notes describing whether I played them since I've arrived a couple months ago. Many of them are targeted for 2 players or with my kid.

  • Rummikub. One of the favorite of the wife to play with the son. Played it.
  • Pitchcar Mini. My son played it with one of his friends here.
  • Can't Stop. It's so small it's always in my backpack ;-) Not yet played.
  • Carcassonne (with the first two extensions in the box). One the son really like when we play without the farmers. Not yet played.
  • Kill Doctor Lucky. It does not take too much space, and even though I've had it for several year I've never tried it!
  • Alhambra (with the first extension). Played it (found it very interesting as a 2 player game in fact). I removed the inserts to put other games inside...
  • Caylus Magna Carta (in Alhambra's box). Not yet played.
  • That's life (in Alhambra's box). Played it (as a "gateway" game with a colleague).
  • Le Roi des Roses (Rosenkönig). Played it.
  • Settlers of Catan, the card game (with the Politics and Wizards extensions). Not yet played.
  • Yspahan. Played it. (I really liked this as a 2 players game)
  • Tigris & Euphrates. Played it (with the colleague we first played That's life with).

I have since bought a couple games (independently published) since I've arrived. Both have small form factors and have been played:

The ones I did not take that I miss:

  • BattleLore. Too big, and the wife does not enjoy it. I really miss it though.
  • LöwenHerz. One of my favorites, but too close to T&E.
  • Ticket to Ride, because the box was really big, but I now regret it because I'd love to try the new Switzerland expansion.
  • Caylus: I chose Magna Carta for space reasons.
  • Imperial. A bit too heavy and too big. I really like it, but I would need to find a game group.

I'm not sure I would change much, and as Christmas is around the corner my collection of games will grow here. I just don't want to think about when I'll have to bring them back...

How about you? What would be the games you would take for one year if you had limited space (let's say a moving box)?

On pourrait penser que notre cher ministre de la défense se sent proche du parti "Fetia Api", un parti pour l'autonomie de la Polynésie Française. En tout cas, son parti, le Nouveau Centre a conclu une convention de financement avec le Fetia Api.

C'est une orientation du gouvernement très intéressante, à moins que cela ne soit qu'une histoire de sous ...

... n'est visiblement pas quelque chose qui passionne Françoise de Panafieu. Pour paraphraser ce billet d'ASI, il faut savoir se serrer la ceinture ... des autres.

Stephen Fry » Blog Archive » Getting Overheated: "For the eco-believer it’s no-lose situation: we all survive if they’re right and we’ve acted on their belief, we survive if they’re wrong and we’ve acted on their belief. Whereas for the eco-denier we survive if they’re right and we’ve done nothing but we perish if they’re wrong and we’ve done nothing."

The really interesting bit start around the middle of the post, you can search for "It started amicably enough" to get to this part.

What I find really interesting in the argument is that it does not forget the forest (what may be going on) for the tree (the science that tells us, with some uncertainty, what may be going on). We can be so used to focusing on details, numbers, and small facts that we forget what we're really talking about. This post reminded me this quite clearly.

Heard yesterday on Escape Pod 118.

edited on 2007.11.30: The original quote on Escape Pod was "War is not about what's right, it's about what's left." Jacques Mossière kindly pointed me to the exact quote, by Bertrand Russell, so I fixed this.

My top 10 gateway games

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Here is a post I sent to BoardGameGeek, in the Dice Tower Guild. I reproduce it here for your enjoyment.

First of all, hello to everyone. I'm not an avid BGG user, but hearing about this guild a few episodes back made me join the guild, and now I'm following the very interesting forums here (through the RSS feed). I'm a fairly casual gamer (I usually play only one game a week), but I enjoy board games a lot. I guess a recent kid, a move from France to Italy, and not having found a game group yet are the reason for this lack of gaming meeple_smile.gif

Here are my top 10 gateway games, or maybe I should say my 10 gateway games (as I could not come up with that many). I'm going to only talk about games I've played as gateway games, and not so much about games that I think would make good gateway games but have not tried with new players.

For people who don't know anything about gaming and are afraid a game might take too long, my favorite is That's Life. It's a very simple game to explain, it plays fast, does not demand too much thinking, and is a nice introduction. And there is a lot of interaction!

Another game I found works well is Alhambra. It's longer, but as it's one of my wife's favorite, it's one that we've use with some friends new to gaming. The initial learning curve is a bit steeper than That's Life, but after a couple rounds our victims quickly got the hang of it.

A bit longer still, there is the classical Ticket to Ride, which has been much commented upon. The great thing about this game is that there is some confrontation, but it does not start right at the beginning. So players have the time to learn how to play before going one against the other.

I've had some successes with Munchkin. I used to like this game a lot, as a previous D&D gamer, but its novelty has worn off. Yet I introduced it to some younger family members (ages 12 to 17) and they just loved it. (Then we moved on to Ticket to Ride, and they have bought both games for themselves since!)

For younger kids, Pitchcar Mini is great. I consider it a gateway game for my 6 years old son, who has since taught it to some of his friends. He also played Carcassonne (without the farmers) and loved the puzzles aspect. We played it in a hotel lobby during vacations and it attracted a few people who were around, really interested about what was going on.

I know it's a party game, but Santy Anno was used recently during a "go to your neighbor" day, and it went really well. The game was quick, fun, and started a conversation about "modern games".

I work as a researcher in computer science, and I've introduced games to people there as well. They're a quite different kind, a bit more complex. The first one is Boursicocotte (You're Bluffing in English). A lot of player interaction, and a lot of thinking as well. The main issue I have with it (as with Modern Art), it's that it's very difficult for new player to give a value to things. Another game is of course RoboRally. No need to explain why these programmers loved it!

Finally, and surprisingly, I've had a great gateway experience with Caylus. We had a friend who wanted to try a game, so we described different ones we had, and he picked this. He loved it so much he wanted to go buy it immediately! I would not try this with anyone, but I was amazed how well it worked.

To conclude, I'd like to mention some gateway failures, probably because the game was not adapted with the audience. Tigris and Euphrates is one: complex rules and complex scoring made for several (yes, I tried it several times...) less than stellar experiences. I've seen Werewolf fail as well, because some people were just bother by the absence of rules.

I guess this is it. Thanks for reading all this cool2.gif

Earth from afar

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There is a Japanese probe orbiting the moon right now, and it took an amazing movie of the Earth rising. This is just beautiful.

I also recommend watching this talk at TED by Carolyn Porco, on the Cassini probe to Saturn: Fly me to the moons of Saturn. The last image of this talk has become my desktop picture. See the little dot on the left of Saturn, right outside of the rings? It's Earth.

Augustin a un coin aménagé pour faire ses légos ici à Bologne ...


Et ces derniers jours il nous a gratifié de quelques jolies créations.

Un commissariat:


Un passage à niveau (avec quelques engins de chantier en arrière plan):


Un avion spatial (un peu flou malheureusement):


Je vous épargne la cabane du chantier, le bateau de police, le robot ambulance ...

Migration terminée


Cela a pris un peu plus de temps que prévu, mais tous les billets et commentaires de l'ancien blogs ont été migrés sur le nouveau. Je vais enfin pouvoir parler d'autre chose ;-)

Flux RSS / RSS Feed


Si vous lisez ce blog par son flux RSS et si vous n'avez pas vu de mise à jour depuis plus d'une semaine, c'est probablement que vous n'avez pas vu passer le billet où j'annonçais le déménagement du blog. En fait il n'a pas bougé, mais l'adresse du flux est différente: il faut utiliser celle-ci à la place. J'ai mis un lien de l'ancien flux vers le nouveau, mais comme il est de type différent, vous aurez peut-être des problèmes d'affichage sur votre lecteur. Désolé pour le dérangement.

If you are reading this blog through its RSS fee, and if you haven't seen any update for more than a week, it's probably that you missed the post where I was announcing that the blog was moving. Well, it did not actually move, but the feed address has changed: you should now use this one instead. I did put a link from the old feed to the new one, but as they are of different format, you might have some display issues with your aggregator. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Vive la transparence !

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Arrêt Sur Images - L'inconnue suprême de la République: le salaire du président.: "Un budget qui augmente sans relâche depuis 2001, un président que les journalistes n'osent pas interroger personnellement sur son propre salaire: aucun doute, la transparence sur le sujet n'a jamais été si ... transparente."

J'ai particulièrement apprécié l'utilisation répétitive de la transparence pour l'augmentation du budget de l'Elysée.

Migration de ce blog


Je migre petit à petit les anciens billets de ce blog vers le nouveau système, et même si cela prend un peu de temps, cela se passe plutôt bien (j'en suis à la mi-juin 2006, il me reste une quarantaine de billets à migrer). J'en profite pour intégrer également les anciens commentaires, hébergés sur Haloscan. Comme cela, si ce dernier venait à disparaître, il n'entraînerait pas ces commentaires avec lui.

A ce sujet, si vous avez deux minutes et souhaitez essayer de poster un commentaire sous ce billet, je serais curieux d'avoir votre avis: est-ce que c'est plus simple qu'avant ? Préférez-vous l'ancien système ?

Augustin and Flash Games

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Augustin likes to use the Lego Digital Designer tool to build some things he does not have enough bricks to do for real. It's really nice to see him manipulate these 3D models, rotate them, add one brick here or there, and ask that we save the final result before we quit the program.

He also likes clicking everywhere, so he often ends up on the Lego web site, looking at existing models, sometimes finding some Lego movies and ... Lego flash games (at the moment this one).

I see in him the same fascination I had when I was 7 or 8 and going to some friend to play the Atari VCS. The mechanics of the games are also fairly simple, the graphics of the flash game are just amazingly better. And he's having simple fun.

I guess I'll have to start hiding my Nintendo DS.

Lawrence Lessig at TED


This is a must see. Lawrence Lessig gives a shorter, and much more brilliant, version of his talk on the necessity for Creative Commons.

Both the contents and the form are amazing. Go see it. now

As you may have seen, I decided to change the way I post information on this blog. I was not happy with the way RapidWeaver lets me manage draft posts, and I have found an hindrance to have to wait until a post is fully incubated before posting it. A solution used by many is MarsEdit, which I'm using right now to edit this post (well, to be completely truthful: I'll use MarsEdit to publish the post, right now I'm writing it in TextMate using Markdown syntax). MarsEdit seems to be a very simple application (I'm sure it's very complex under the hood) that lets one manage blogs and posts on these blogs. However it does not work with RapidWeaver, so to use it I'd need to switch systems.

Yesterday, I went to MarsEdit forums and asked about this, and Daniel Jalkut (the current developer of MarsEdit) suggested two platforms: Blogger and WordPress. Blogger did not really appeal to me, and WordPress requires installing MySQL (more on this later). Moreover, one site I really like, Daring Fireball, uses MarsEdit and ... Movable Type, and I found a very interesting post comparing the three and choosing the latter. The nail in the coffin was discovering that Movable Type supports a sqlite backend, which is included in OS X Tiger. As I only have a command line access to my web server, installing MySQL felt a little too much work, so I decided to go with Movable Type.

So here are the steps I followed to get this working. I was lucky to find a very useful tutorial at MacZealots, but as it was for an older version of MT, I had to change a few things.

First of all, one great thing is I did not have to touch the Apache configuration.

I downloaded DBI and DBD-SQLite and went through the usual for each of them:

perl Makefile.PL
sudo make install

I also (later) downloaded and installed Mail-Sendmail to have my machine send me some mails when necessary (typically to approve or reject a comment).

I downloaded MT (version 4.01) and uncompressed it (the tricky bit was realizing that it was gzipped twice...). I then moved it to the CGI directory, changing its name to "mt":

mv MT-4.01-en /Library/WebServer/CGI-Executables/mt

I took the mt-static folder that was inside it and moved it to my document root (as by default these files are not accessible under the CGI-Executable directory). I created a folder to hold my database in the CGI mt folder.

Now a very important step:

sudo chown -R www /Library/WebServer/CGI-Executables/mt
sudo chown -R www /mywebroot/mt-static

Until I did this I kept getting an error when finalizing the installation: MT was telling me that there was a dbi:driver problem and that it could not find my database.

I next check that I could access the cgi by going to http://yourwebsite/cgi-bin/mt/mt-check.cgi

I then created a directory where the files would be published, and made sure it was owned by www as well.

I finally ran http://yourwebsite/cgi-bin/mt/mt.cgi which created my configuration file and my site.

If you find this useful, or if you find there is a mistake here, don't hesitate to leave me a comment. And they don't use Haloscan anymore ;-)

Importation des vieux billets


Je vais commencer à importer les vieux billets de l'ancien blog, et je les effacerai au fur et à mesure de l'autre blog. J'espère que cela va se passer sans trop de soucis ;-)

Bienvenue / Welcome


(English version below.)

J'ai finalement décidé de changer de système de blog et de passer à des pages statiques (générées par RapidWeaver au système Movable Type. L'installation s'est plutôt bien passée, je pense que j'en parlerai dans un futur billet. Les anciens billets sont toujours accessible, sur l'ancien blog (qui a changé d'adresse). C'est aussi l'occasion de tester MarsEdit, avec lequel je compte éditer ce blog.

I finally decided to switch my blog system from static pages generated using RapidWeaver to the Movable Type system. The installation went fairly well and I may write a post about it. The old posts are still available on the old blog (whose URL has changed). I also seize this opportunity to test MarsEdit, with which I'm thinking of editing this blog.

Blog moving


I'm moving to Movable Type for this blog, so excuse the mess while the change takes place. I've put the old version away and moved the new one in its place. I'm migrating the posts so they'll slowly disappear from the old version as they appear in the new one.