Seattle Cosmic Game Night

(Saturday, 10 August 2002)

The Night of Maximum Entropy (and Pinochle)

by Ron Hale-Evans

Seattle Cosmic met again on 10 August 2002 at the house of Meredith Hale and Lesley Hooker, in South Park, a suburb of Seattle. This was the first time we had ever met in South Park (say, that chocolate chicken pot pie does sound pretty good, mumble mumble...). Pretty much everyone liked the new meeting place, one of four we are now meeting in on a five-week rotation, so we'll be meeting there again in five weeks.

Present on Saturday were Meredith Hale, John Braley, Tim Higgins, Kisa Gryphon, Paul Unwin, Marty Hale-Evans, Ron Hale-Evans (that's me), Jay Lorch, Michelle Teague, Mark Purtill, Lesley Hooker, Tim Schutz, Dave Adams and his gaggle of kids, Kathy Kizer, Mark Haggerty, Eric Yarnell, and Dave Howell, for a total of 16 grown-ups and miscellaneous kids.


Time travel in action (or inaction...)

Game night started at 5:00 PM. Marty and I showed up at 5:30 to find Mer, John, Tim H, Kisa, and Paul playing Chrononauts at the poker table in Mer's living room.

Chrononaut Paul won the game with the "most toys" strategy: he had three Mona Lisas and a scroll. He was awarded a deck of giant playing cards for his victory.


While we were waiting for Chrononauts to end, Marty and I started a game of Entropy (a.k.a. Hyle 7) in the kitchen. I am slowly learning the strategy and tactics of this game. I got my highest score ever and managed to hold Marty to her lowest score ever when I finally beat her 85-84 at 6:45 PM.

Marty invokes the Goddess of Chaos. (Usually that's my job.)

OK, a one-point victory isn't much to crow about, but this is the first time I have ever managed to beat Marty at this great game. (Q: When will I stop beating my wife?)

Entropy is becoming very popular in Seattle Cosmic. People played three games of it on the night in question, and these were three completely different sets of people. The rules are extremely easy to learn and teach, yet the game involves a good deal of careful thought. It certainly sucks in bystanders, and they tend to want to play afterwards.

Our group is turning other people on to the game over the Net, too. I got a nice message this week from a gamer named Susan Rozmiarek, who wrote:

I really enjoy reading your session reports. I like your writing style and your group always seems to be playing a game that I've never heard of. In this case it was Hyle 7, which sounded so interesting that I've ordered a copy from Funagain. Keep on writing!

Thanks, Susan. (It's always nice to hear from people who read the newsletters outside our group.) I really think Entropy is a game whose time is coming, if not yet come. It currently draws more attendees than Poker does at the Mind Sports Olympiad in England. Speaking of which, here are some photos from the 2000 Entropy world championship.

More about this fascinating game later...

The Princes of Florence

Around 5:45 Meredith went to get pizza. At 5:55, Jay and Michelle arrived, and at 6:15, Mark Purtill showed up. It was a hot day for Seattle, so those who couldn't take the heat got out of the kitchen and went to the basement, where Mark P, Jay, Michelle, Paul, and Kisa started a game of The Princes of Florence.

Four princes and one princess

It was Kisa's first time playing this game, and he did quite well with a strategy that Jay remarked he had never seen before: obtaining lots of builders. (That's one of the things that makes PoF such a great game: there are many paths to victory.) Nevertheless, Jay won by three points with a score of 57. Kisa came in second with a score of 54, and Mark came in third with 50. (Kisa couldn't tell me what the scores of Paul and Michelle were.)

Jay, do I owe you a prize? Come collect it if I do.

Atlantic Star

Meredith returned with the pizza, and around 6:50, Marty, Mer, John, Tim H, and I started a game of Atlantic Star in the living room.

Looove, exciting and new...

Atlantic Star is a set-collecting card game in which players try to line up different cruise ships for the successive legs of sea voyages. Naturally, the Love Boat theme made an appearance as Marty and Mer sang it in harmony, to the bemusement of John, amusement of me, and non-musement of Tim, who told them they'd better get it out of their system before they played Atlantic Star at his house.

Tim's house was in fact the only other place I had played the game (we played it at the Unofficial Seattle Cosmic Fourth of July Spectacular). Although I did only a little better in terms of ranking this time than last time (fourth instead of fifth), I came close to doubling my score in absolute terms and felt I better knew what I was doing. We finished up around 9:00 PM. Scores were as follows, proving this is one of the few games John can't skunk us all at yet (although he did beat me and Meredith):

Marty ..... 51
Tim H ..... 50
John ...... 43
Ron ....... 40
Mer ....... 23

Pretty good for Marty's first time!

San Marco

Tim Schutz arrived around 7:00 PM, and Dave and Kathy arrived around the same time, kids in tow. Meredith tucked Dave's kids away with a Harry Potter DVD. Mark Haggerty showed up as well, and there was a small crisis as he realised he had left his bike on the bus. The crisis was swiftly averted when Mark phoned and determined they had his bike and he could claim it Monday. It hadn't even reached the Lost & Found yet. Then Mark H, Dave, Kathy, and Tim S started a game of San Marco.

Bridges over troubled San Marco

I don't know much about this game except that it has a lot to do with building bridges (the little white things in the photo above, if I'm not mistaken). Dave, Tim, and Mark agreed it was "Kathy's game" and they were just along for the ride. Kathy won, Dave came in second with roughly half her score, Mark came in third with half of Dave's score, and Tim came in fourth with half of that. (You want more exact numbers? I only know what people tell me.)

Kathy, I may owe you a prize. You've got to come get your prizes, people!

Entropy (take two)

At 7:30, Eric Yarnell and Dave Howell arrived, and played the second Entropy game of the evening. It was the first time for both of them. Eric beat Mark, 110-62. (55 is considered a poor score, 75 an average one, and 100 good. Of course it depends upon your opponent.)

The heat-death of the Universe commences (again)

Dave thought Entropy was too luck-dependent. He said he drew most of the counters in sequence when he was placing them against Eric. He suggested Entropy be played "contract-style", with identical draws for each player. I pointed out that Contract Entropy would be unbalanced, since the second time through, the sequence would be foreknown. I suggested four symmetrical rounds to balance it, with two different draw sequences. It occurs to me as I write this that drawing the whole sequence before either round started would give both players a fair chance without doubling the length of the game.

However, while I admit chance plays a role, I don't think the game is overall too dependent upon luck. To quote Eric Solomon, the game's designer, in Abstract Games #11 (Autumn 2002),

I suppose that the game that is most similar to Entropy in the way it balances skill and chance is Backgammon. Strong Backgammon players tend to win despite the dice they throw. Another aspect that has emerged from the Olympiads is that the standard has steadily increased. Without access to definitive statistics I recall that scores in the first year rarely exceeded 100, but after five of these events scores of around 110 are quite common.



Around 9:10, Marty, Eric, Tim H, and Dave H started playing the ol' standard trick-taking game, Pinochle. Marty and Tim were partners; so were Eric and Dave.

The first game ended at 10:30 PM. Marty and Tim won, for which Tim was awarded a "sling-frog" (a little rubber frog you can snap at people the way you used to shoot rubber bands off your thumb in grade school).

A rematch was proposed, and Marty and Tim won that one too. Pretty good, considering Marty had never played Pinochle before.

The Lord of the Rings

Around 9:20, a game of The Lord of the Rings (with the Gollum variant) started in the basement. The players were Kisa (Gollum), Paul, Mark P, Jay, Michelle, and Mer. Below you can see the six players, with a nice two-level effect (but no little path running down the middle) as people play Can't Stop on the "game stage" in the background.

The long slog through the Dark Land

The game ended at 11 PM with a victory by the forces of Good, as seems to happen more and more often at Seattle Cosmic these days. (You know, for such a competitive group, we certainly like our cooperative games...)

Can't Stop

As seen above in the background of the Lord of the Rings photo, Dave A, Kathy, and Tim S started a game of Can't Stop with Dave's daughter Natalie. Kathy Kizer won the game, and for being one of the big winners of the evening, received a pair of big dice.

(L) Can't stop the Can't Stop. (R) Kathy, High Roller

Entropy (again)

Around 9:30 Mark H and John sat down to a game of Entropy, the third game of it played that evening. I sat with them, kibitzing and reading the rules to Hoax (by Eon, the company that produced Cosmic Encounter). I had hoped we would play Hoax later, but we never did.

I'm getting pretty tired of the heat-death of the Universe

John said he kept wanting to form two-dimensional patterns, and bemoaned the fact that you can't create patterns along a mirror plane in Entropy. Then he spilled a glass of water on the table. Fortunately, the board is vinyl and the pieces are wood sealed with a heavy coat of paint, so no harm was done to the game. John remarked that it was "awfully wet water", and Mark said he liked to mix it with detergent so it would reach his kidneys faster. It did actually taste a little alkaline; I'll have to ask Meredith whether she has "soft" water at her house.

While Mark and John played, former Chess master John did a little theorising about the strategic and tactical possibilities of the game. Here are some of the things he said:

John scored 108 points as Order, but had to leave during the middle of his turn as Chaos. I snapped a photo of the board so Mark and John could continue their game later.

Mark P left around 11:10; so did Jay and Michelle. John left around 11:30 with his ride, Tim H.

Who Stole Ed's Pants?

Around 10:30, Tim S managed to get a game of Who Stole Ed's Pants? going with Dave A and Kathy. Since this is a card game in which the object is to pin the hideous, heinous crime of stealing Ed's pants on one of the other players, Dave won when he managed to pin it on Tim.

Funny, I've known Tim a while now, and I didn't think he was the pants-stealing type. Oh, well. Dave A won a pocket flashlight for the hideous, heinous crime of framing Tim. He said he planned to take it with him on a family camping trip (presumably he will use it to ensure that people don't steal his pants).

The Big Idea

Around 11:35, six of us started a game of The Big Idea, by Cheapass Games. Fortunately, we had Dave Howell with us, who said he had co-designed the second edition of the game (due out soon) with James Ernest, El Cheapo himself. Dave says the second edition is faster, with more idea cards. We got to play with Dave's custom first edition set, which had cards with corners he had rounded himself. (Dave said James Ernest told him, "Cheapass Games is too cheap to cut corners".)

Love.com, exciting and new (at least Eric would like you to think so)

I like The Big Idea for its opportunities to play-act commercials for outrageous products. My company is of course called Ronco. My first product of the evening combined the Lotion card with the Disposable card, to form the product Disposable Lotion. "There are times", I said, "when you don't want to re-use your lotion. I think you know what times I'm talkin' about."

"Talk to the latex!" said Dave. Disposable Lotion did OK for venture capital, but Gigantic Tool ("for those times when you have to fill a really big hole") did a whole lot better. Here's a complete list of the products brought to market that evening:

Ron ....... Disposable Lotion, Gigantic Tool, Zen Radio, 
            Swiss Game, Unholy Tool

Marty ..... Happy Beer, Laptop Chair (?!?!), Dangerous Sushi, 
            Edible Drink, Accelerated.com, Portable Drink

Dave H .... CyberShack, Mentholated Robot, Edible Tongs, 
            Mentholated Toy, Erotic Shack

Eric ...... Love.com, Swiss Chicken, Surprise Pants, Gigantic Car, 
            Addictive Toy

Kisa ...... Unholy Smokes, Moistened Projector, Disposable Clock, 
            Edible Soap, Evil Radio

Mer ....... Confusing Cheese, Erotic Cat, Mexi-Bulb, Frozen Lotion, 
            Dangerous Pants

Dave Adams and family left around 12:15, and Tim Schutz came upstairs to watch us play out the game.

Until that evening, I had been undefeated at The Big Idea, and decided that there wasn't a lot of strategy to it; you just threw your chips on the products that already had the most chips on them and were therefore most likely to pay off. Dave H said there was actually quite a bit of strategy to the game. I lost, so I had to admit he might be right (although some of the products I had thrown chips on suffered from low rolls of 1 or 2, while most of winner Dave's products had pretty good rolls). When Dave explained the strategy at the end of the game, he said no more than what I told you above: throw your chips onto products that are more or less "sure things" because they already have a lot of chips. However, what I observed him doing during the game in one case was throwing chip after chip onto one of his own products that had no other investors (it eventually paid off well with four chips on it). Perhaps then a mixture of strategies is appropriate; on the other hand, my score wasn't that far off from Dave's, so maybe chance had a lot to do with my standard strategy (and Dave's stated strategy) not paying off well for me.

As usual, we played only once around the table, instead of twice. Final scores were as follows:

Dave H .... $125
Eric ...... $118
Mer ....... $100
Ron ....... $96
Kisa ...... $90
Marty ..... $75

At 1:05 AM, after The Big Idea, we wrapped up and everyone went home. No drive-by shootings occurred, and I still have no head.

Thanks to Marty Hale-Evans for a quick edit and some of the best jokes (as usual). G'night.

Supporting Seattle Cosmic

The Center for Ludic Synergy and Seattle Cosmic Game Night are associates of Funagain Games. This means that 5% of your purchase there goes toward supporting us if you buy games via the Funagain logo at the bottom of this page. Any game you buy during a web session you start by clicking the logo qualifies; in fact, if you click the logo and bookmark the Funagain page that appears, you can donate 5% to Seattle Cosmic whenever you buy games, without having to return to this page. It's just as easy to bookmark as not, so why not make this your regular Funagain link? THIS MEANS YOU.

We've never yet earned enough money from the associates program for Funagain to cut us a check, and we're not sure what we'd do with the money -- but we promise not to squander it on booze and floozies.


Saturday, 17 August 2002, 7:00 PM in Mill Creek. Come play for fun and FABULOUS PRIZES!

Remember, Seattle Cosmic Game Night occurs every weekend, in one of four locations: Kent, Mill Creek, South Park, or West Seattle. Email Ron Hale-Evans for a full schedule and directions. If you come, please bring a snack or drink to share (cookies, chips, soda, juice, etc.).

Seattle Cosmic Game Night Home | Center for Ludic Synergy home

All photos on this page copyright © 2002 by Ron Hale-Evans except where otherwise noted.

Maintainer: Ron Hale-Evans, rwhe@ludism.org
Page last updated 2002-08-15.