Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Archive for August, 2008

My favorite computer-based puzzle game

Posted by sodaklady on August 7, 2008

I found Brickshooter seveal years ago and would say that, in my opinion, this is the best pure-thinking puzzle game out there.  I didn’t want a Bedazzled-type game; the timed aspect makes my heart race and my hands shake.  I wanted something that made my brain race and this is it!

 

Brickshooter screenshot

Brickshooter screenshot

The objective is to clear the “bricks” in the black area.  To do this, you click on one of the side bricks that line up with an internal bricks.  It shoots across and stops at the first brick it meets and a new brick joins the queue at the back of the line of side bricks.  When you match up 3 bricks of the same color, they disappear.  If the brick doesn’t match, it stops in the direction it was going and waits for you to either clear it with 2 like-colored bricks, or remove the bricks that are in its way.  Simple and addictive.

When you’ve cleared the screen, a new one automatically pops up with a new configuration and more bricks as the difficulty increases. You find yourself having to make a bigger mess of the board in order to get to the colors you need and trying to find a way to clear those out as well.  As you can guess, you’re required to do a lot of planning ahead in order to keep the extraneous bricks to a minimum.

There is a setting to choose your level of difficulty, changing the number of colors in the puzzle from between 5 and 10.  You can also choose to turn off the sound effects and music if you find them annoying. You have the ability to undo the last move, which gives you a chance for second thoughts but keeps you from thinking you can just click pieces willy-nilly to see what the next color in the queue would be.

I enjoy this game so much that when I recently bought a MacBook, I had no qualms about buying it again in Mac format.  I can sit playing for hours while watching tv or listening to music.

Edit: I forgot to put in a link to the website.  So much for thinking being my strong suit!

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Game Day-Featuring Druidenwalzer

Posted by sodaklady on August 2, 2008

Mike and I had a great day of gaming this Saturday even though I had forgotten it was Saturday so wasn’t ready when Mike showed up at 8:00 in the morning.  Due to my not-quite-ready-for-thinking brain, we started out with a simple game of Roma.  This is a game that we both still enjoy as it’s fast and doesn’t require that all of your brain cells be in attendance.  This time the Forums came out in the first and second rounds, no “gotcha” cards were played, and the game ended in about 10 minutes with Mike winning by a few points.

My brain awakened, we next played Jambo.  I enjoy the play of this game very much but never seem to manage the right balance of Utility cards to allow drawing lots of cards and also manipulating what goods I have.  In the last 2 times we played, I also have had a hard time getting a small market, which isn’t necessary to win but it sure doesn’t hurt!  As usual, Mike won.  I think he had about 20 points more than I did but after 10-12, who’s counting?

We played DVONN, which I think Mike has never played or it was so long ago that it makes no difference.  Mike is an excellent game player, much sharper than I am in almost every way, but this game just did not click with him.  I ended up owning every stack.

Mike requested Glory to Rome. We’ve played twice before, once vanilla and once with the buildings, and we’re both very impressed with the depth and variety in this game.  This time we also found that it’s possible to overuse the Jacks, especially early in the game. Play drug almost to a halt because the draw pool was either empty or had only 1 card. This makes the Laborer and Patron roles useless, and the Legionary less useful.  It didn’t help that for two or three turns I chose roles that I knew Mike wouldn’t want to follow.  This didn’t add anything to the draw pool but may have helped me win the game.

Now I get to the game that I really want to talk about: Druidenwalzer. This is one of the first games I bought which means I’ve had it for about four years and have played it maybe three times.  See, the thing is that the game in this small box, part of the Kosmos 2-player line, can turn your brain into a liquid that pours from your ears and leaves you with a strong desire to take a long walk in a quiet garden. Every time I’ve played it before, it left me impressed with the strange workings of it but too worn out to do more than put it back in the box.  Many months would go by before playing again and, of course, it was like playing it the first time. “Oh, wow..that was..brain hurts..wow.”  This time I made Mike promise that we’d play it twice.  And we did, but with a break in between to play Boom Blox on the Wii and let our brains cool off.

The set up is simple; each player has a set of 4 trees, numbered 1-4, and a Cult tile (also called a discard tile), a set of 30 cards, and 3 Druids.  The Tree tiles are laid out with the 1’s opposite each other, 2’s opposite each other, etc.  The players deal 5 cards to each of their trees, 4 face down and the top one face up, draw 3 cards for their hand and set the rest aside to draw another 3 cards when their hand is empty.  The moon player then places his three Druids on three of his trees, the sun player then places his Druids.  The game is ready to begin, moon player playing first.

BGG image by Propose

BGG image by Propose.

On your turn you can do one of three things.  The first two are easy: 1)discard a card either from your hand or from beneath one of your trees; 2)move one of your Druids to a different tree.  The third option is the heart of the game and the part that is tricky to wrap your head around.

A quick word about the cards before I tell you about option 3.  Each card has a number between 1 and 5, and arrows showing either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction.  The third option is to play one of the cards from your hand on the pile beneath one of your trees.  This begins the Druid’s Dance.  First you will mark the tree where the card was played with the wooden ring. Then each card with the same number as the card you played (including on your opponent’s side) will “dance” in the direction shown on the card.  But they don’t move the number, which is what your brain wants to do; they move the number that is on the tree tile. This card now covers whatever card was on the top of the pile, or can end up being discarded if it ends up on the Cult tile.  Finally the Druids have a show of strength, which is just what it sounds like: the highest number wins, ties do nothing.  The winner places a chit on the loser’s tree, six such chits will kill the tree.  The winner of the show of strength discards the winning card to his Cult tile and turns over the next card on that pile.  Killing two of your opponent’s trees makes you the John Travolta of dancing druids.

The first game, for me, has always been spent talking to myself, becoming comfortable with the card play and the dance that results from it. I’ve never had the chance to explore any tactical abilities other than to move a druid from a nearly dead tree to a fresh one. This time, with back-to-back playing, I thought of moving my druid in order to have it on a tree with a higher strength for the next dance. You could also move it to a lower strength tree, provided it doesn’t have too many hit chits on it, in order to run the other player out of cards under his tree when he wins the dance.  Having no cards beneath your tree is a good way to lose it no matter the number of opponent’s chits on it. Another tactic is to move your opponent’s high cards to your Cult tile so they’ll be in your deck when you reshuffle, and conversely, move low numbers to your opponent’s discard tile.

We both enjoyed our second play and felt more in control.  It gave us a chance to look beyond the brain melting aspect and see some of the possibilities in the play.  I’ve always been impressed with the game but now I actually can’t wait to play again.

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The Squirrel in the Stovepipe Adventure

Posted by sodaklady on August 1, 2008

 

We have a couple of squirrels in our neighborhood and they have given us lots of entertainment ever since they showed up last summer.

Yesterday Cori came home from work, went downstairs and came running back up the stairs doing a bit of a freak-out.  A squirrel was squeaking from inside the stovepipe.

Now first off, I thought squirrels were smarter than that; strange, but smarter than that. Secondly, I thought Richard had put a wire cover on the top of the chimney after we had to get a bird out of it a couple of years ago.

The box we used to rescue the bird was still in the garage so we dug it out, checked it for spiders and put a little bird seed in it as enticement.  This box is taped shut but with a hole cut in it to fit over the end of the stovepipe where it comes out of the wall.  We carefully removed a section of the pipe, shown a flashlight into the pipe and saw a scared little squirrel looking back from its sooty depths.  With the box fit snugly over the end of the pipe, we settled down to wait quietly.

I was giving a couple of the cats some attention (they were very interested in the occupied stovepipe), and Cori was listening near the stove when a thought struck her: a squirrel is not a bird. Maybe you don’t know much about either so I will explain.  If a scared bird goes into a box, there’s a good chance you can move the box and cover the hole before it gets its wits around the circumstances and escapes.  A squirrel is very highly strung, much like Hammie in Over The Hedge, which made us wonder if it would be possible to remove the box before the squirrel flew back into the pipe where he felt safe.  We decided we needed a plan B.

Plan B came from Cori, some elaborate contraption involving the pet carrier, a small box with a slit in the top for a sliding panel, and lots of duct tape.  Even if this didn’t seem a bit of an extreme invention, we were stymied by the highly unlikely fact that we couldn’t find any duct tape!  On to Plan C.

Plan C seemed like the thing we should have done in the first place if we weren’t a family of self-sufficient, I’d-rather-do-it-myself types: call animal control.  But animal control was gone for the day!  Uh, o.k.  On to Plan D.

Plan D seemed quite logical, allowing the squirrel safe exit from the pipe while giving us an easy means to trap him and remove him from the house. We had brought in a huge, heavy drop cloth to put around the stove area to protect the carpet and I thought it would be great to just create a bag-like escape route with it.  When the squirrel was in the bag, we’d just squeeze the top shut and carry it all outside.  We thought we should put a small box at the bottom of this tube with food and water. In theory, this was a good plan; in reality, it was tougher to carry out. The drop cloth is very large and very heavy, creating something too unwieldy for the two of us.  Plan D needed modification.

We have several old sheets which come in handy for any number of purposes but they were very thin and I imagined the ruckus that squirrel would cause when he felt his trap being moved.  No, we needed something a little more substantial. Wheels turned in my head, envisioning what the perfect item would look like, and it looked pretty much like something we had at hand…a sleeping bag. We have some old, cheap ones that we got when the kids were little so it wouldn’t matter if they got nasty inside from soot and creosote.  

The sleeping bag slide escape for the squirrel

The sleeping bag slide escape for the squirrel

And ladies and gentlemen, this worked beautifully. A half hour of waiting found our unexpected house guest “in the bag”.  We carried it outside and laid it near a tree, gave it a little shake and out he ran.  He zipped straight up the tree and only stopped long enough to give us a look that may have said, “Thanks for the help.  Gotta go now since I’m really late for supper.”

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