Seattle Cosmic Game Night, Saturday, 25 January 2003

City Building and Xenocide

We executed another game night (it transpired, not expired) at Marty and Ron's in Kent on Saturday, 25 January. Present were Ron_Hale-Evans? (me), Marty_Hale-Evans?, Meredith_Hale?, Kisa_Griffin?, Melinda Hautala, Alex_Rockwell?, Karl Erickson, ChadUrsoMcDaniel, Steve_Dupree?, Nat Dupree, Dave Howell, and Eric Yarnell, for a total of 12 people -- a pretty good turnout for our house. We've been having a fair number of people at all game nights recently; it looks as though our underpopulation problems are over for the moment.


I would like to let everyone know how much fun I had at the 2 Seattle Cosmic nights I attended. Oh, if only the game night I'm trying to get going here in Kentucky could be like this!

--Melinda Hautala

Keep slogging doggedly for three years and you'll get it! Seriously, patience pays, and once your group gets some momentum going, fun will be had by all regularly. On the other hand, we are uncommonly lucky to have such a stellar bunch of players coming to SC, so we'll wish you luck as well.


Note of April 2003: Check out LexingtonBoredGameNight for a glimpse at Melinda's growing group.



The three Hale sisters (Marty, Melinda, and Meredith) and Kisa and I had been hanging out for a while already. Around 4:15, Kisa decided he'd go and pick up Alex from Renton, so Alex showed up around 4:45. Karl was as punctual as usual and showed up at 5:00 sharp. Everyone present except me joined in a game of Barbarossa ("Ron doesn't relish Barbarossa", explained Marty).

(1) Barbarossa players (clockwise from bottom left: Alex, Karl, Marty, Melinda, Mer, Kisa).
(2) Name those sculptures!

Meredith won and was awarded a non-playable Button_Men? promotional button. Since she's a big Button Men booster, she was pleased.


Mer H 24
Marty H-E 18
Alex R 10
Kisa G 10
Melinda H 7
Karl E 6



Red Alex smile & cube
Yellow Karl laptop & camera
Green Kisa bone & Shai-Hulud
Blue Marty porthole & elbow
Purple Meredith handkerchief & thistle
Brown Melinda doorknob & hedge

(Purple and brown are hard to tell apart, especially in the photo.)

Kisa disqualified his Shai-Hulud for accidentally using a hyphenated word after specifically mentioning that such is not allowed. Melinda complained that nobody would have guessed it anyway. Kisa felt that it would have been easy, given his mentioning of the Dune game on the mailing list, and the fact that he had put the three "mouth flaps" on the end and told people to look at the model carefully (I, for one, missed that comment, didn't notice the flaps, and guessed, naively, "snake", after getting the first letter).

--Karl Erickson

Kisa was obviously trying to top Meredith's sculpture of a Bantha from the Star Wars universe in a previous game. (Perhaps he was also hoping someone would ask whether it was "mythological". Oh oh, let's not start that one again...)

I'm wondering why Kisa didn't say "sandworm" instead of "Shai-Hulud" and avoid the hyphen. He could even have changed his mind halfway through the game and no one would have been the wiser, since both begin with 'S' -- not that I would advocate such heinous behaviour. :)


He didn't say "sandworm" because the brat was trying to be clever, and was hoist by his own petard!


Well, I had thought that "cube" would be easy... and people would guess "die" for it first, not get it, and then guess "box" or "cube". Didn't work that way, however. After first revealing that it was NOT a die in a yes/no question session, I was then asked, "Is there one on the table?" Saying yes would mean that "cube" would be instantly guessed and I would lose four points. So I looked at the little cubelike figures on the table. They were elongated in one dimension, not cubes, but actually rectangular parallelopipeds (3-D version of rectangle). So I said no. Thus, the cube was then an unfathomable item; what could it possibly be? Near the end, Kisa asked for the third letter, got a 'B', and guessed it. But that was it. My "smile" was a horrible choice of an object. Basically every question asked about it wasn't applicable, and no one could get the thing. I am sticking to distinct objects in the future. Not parts of objects, not something an object does, and not an alternate name for the object!

Regarding Kisa's Shai-Hulud: I guessed "worm", and when it wasn't that, I thought "earthworm". If I had gotten the first letter, an 'S', I would have thought of "sandworm" from Dune... yet I never would've gotten "Shai-Hulud" since I didn't remember what their name was (nor would I have known how to spell it).


FWIW, I wasn't really complaining about Kisa's Shai-Hulud, I just found it to be a bit odd, considering that in explaining the game to newbies like myself, he'd made such a point that ones sculpture should be of something not too obscure -- I mean, I probably would not have guessed "sandworm" either, but I probably would have thought it less odd a choice, considering the crowd. And anyway, I loved Barbarossa, and recently purchased it from the Boardgame``Geek site!

--Melinda Hautala

En Garde

Until someone else showed up. I decided to read the rules to Skat?, which we were hoping to play that night because it is one of visitor Melinda's favourite card games. (Her husband Keith Hautala is a Skat fiend now, I hear. I wonder if those Skat players down in Lexington, Kentucky would like to help boost the North American Skat League, which is so far in decline that it does not even seem to have a web page...)

I didn't have long to wait, because Chad McDaniel showed up around 5:18. We chatted for a few minutes in the hope that someone else would show up soon, then settled into a game of Reiner Knizia's En_Garde?.

Chad smiles wryly. I wear a dubious expression on my nonexistent head.

En Garde is a favourite of mine, but I don't get to play it much because it's a two-player game, and Marty doesn't enjoy it. I think it's elegant. It's one of Knizia's first published games, and it has a mathematical purity that some of his later games do not. Card counting forms a large part of the strategy, but since there are only 25 cards in the deck, this is more feasible than usual. As Chad said, "It's almost a game to teach card counting!" It also simulates fencing very well (or so I hear); it's endorsed by the German Fencing Association, and a game really feels like a fencing match.

The winner is the first player to score five "hits" on his opponent. Chad and I each scored one hit in the Basic Game, then switched to the much more strategic Standard Game. Eventually I beat Chad, 5 hits to 3, but of course this was Chad's first time playing. I look forward to more games with him in the future.

This game is part of my EmergencyGameKit, so I almost always have it with me at game night. If anyone else wants to give it a shot, I'll be glad to teach it to you.


Ron 5
Chad 3



Indeed, it's almost all about card counting. The game starts out with each player's pawn 20 or so spaces apart. This gives enough non-confrontational card playing (just advancing forward) to get a good portion of the deck exposed before you are within 5 spaces of each other. You then have the cards in your hand and the cards you've seen played. With 5 cards of each of 5 values it's easy enough to keep some notion and compare it to what you see in your hand and guess what your opponent has.


What's in your emergency gaming kit?


DruidenWalzer? (aborted)

Around 6:15, Chad and I, still waiting for Barbarossa to finish, pulled out Kisa's copy of DruidenWalzer? ("Druids' Waltz"), the German game of dancing druids which has been called (unjustly, in my opinion), a Mancala variant.

Chad and I called the game off early, after only a few turns. We had both read the rules hastily and had a couple wrong: at first, we were circulating the tree spirits by the number of spaces on the card played, rather than by the number on the tree to which the card was played. We also forgot to discard our winning tree spirit cards. Kisa, who had given us a rapid-fire summary of DruidenWalzer? during a lull in Barbarossa, remarked later that he thought the latter mistake would break the game. No wonder Chad and I didn't enjoy it!

DruidenWalzer? board, just before we press the EJECT button.

In retrospect, this seems as though it might be a cool game if we played it correctly, and I'd be willing to give it another try.

For what it's worth (not much), I was "winning" when we quit the game.


That's my copy of DruidenWalzer?, which I loaned to Kisa. I haven't had a chance to play it against a willing opponent yet, but I'm trading it with Kisa for a copy of Bazaar, which I have a better chance of playing against Bev (my spouse, who doesn't like the cutthroat aspect of DruidenWalzer?). I agree that it is not a "Mancala variant", but it is certainly "Mancala-like" or perhaps "Mancala-inspired". I plan to play it again sometime, and may buy another copy if I enjoy it.

--Karl Erickson

Oops. Well, it's Kisa's copy now, or will be, right?


After the rules clarification I did feel better about playing again. I still would have wanted to stop in order to get more group-gaming going.



Around 7:00, the Barbarossa game finished, Chad and I quit DruidenWalzer?, Steve and Nat Dupree arrived, and the players present split into a group playing Sid Sackson's game Bazaar? and one playing Cosmic_Encounter?. The Bazaar players were Karl, Marty, Melinda, Mer, Nat, and Steve.

(1) Marty's turn! (Clockwise from bottom left: Karl, Nat, Steve, Melinda, Marty, Mer's hand.)
(2) Bazaar board.

Steve won the Bazaar game, for which he was awarded a coloured Slinky, then he and Nat left at 8:15. (Nat has to get up to work early on Sundays, so the Duprees can never stay late. It's too bad they had to arrive so late this time as well.)


Steve D 22
Karl E 18
Mer H 16
Marty H-E 11
Melinda H 10
Nat D 10


Early in the game I didn't think I was doing too well, but then I got a couple of good cards without too many excess stones, and one card with the exact number of stones. That makes quite a difference, although obviously not enough to win! Chad declined to join the game, saying that it was too much like systems optimization, which he does for a living. It's definitely the kind of game that one could devote some thought to. Not wanting to hold up the game on my turn, however, I played mostly by instinct and luck, and tried to think my way through it as much as possible while others made their moves.

--Karl Erickson

I really liked Bazaar, too. It seemed like the sort of game you could just pick up and play and get a good brain workout, like good classic games. Another one added to my "buy" list.

--Melinda Hautala

It is indeed; it generally makes my brain hurt, and I tend to suck at it, and still I really like to pull it out and play it. I find, too, that it's fairly easy to teach to people, and yet has some gaming depth. (As we like to say, quoting the old Othello slogan, "A minute to learn, a lifetime to master.") Great for learning to think ahead and plan a series of steps to reach a goal, too.


Melinda, Bazaar really is a "good classic game". It's been around in one form or another since 1967 -- before you were born, my dear, and not much after I was. It's one of those 3M / Avalon Hill games of the 1960s and 1970s that sparked the whole GermanStyleGame revolution starting in the 1980s. It is, of course, by my favourite game designer, the late Sid Sackson (neck-and-neck with Reiner Knizia for a while, but who I have to admit has made a bigger impact on the world of games).


Cosmic Encounter

Meanwhile, since it was a CosmicNight, at Table 1, Alex, Chad, Kisa, and I started a game of Cosmic_Encounter?. We played a two-power game with War cards. Powers were selected in standard Seattle Cosmic style: everyone is dealt four flares and grabs the corresponding four powers, then everyone keeps one, discards one, passes one right and one left, and then selects two powers from the three s/he has left. Alex was a Cosmic newbie, but had been complaining because we had skipped playing Cosmic on the last two CosmicNights, so he was bound to play. He had a little trouble understanding his powers during setup, so he laid them out and selected them openly with a few pointers from the rest of us. Kisa thought he had an unusually strong set of powers to choose from, and remarked, "I wish I had choices as interesting as yours."


Alex R Healer-Phantom
Chad McD? Equalizer-Virus
Kisa G Negator-Loser
Ron H-E Schizoid-Clone

Alex (R) attempts to shoot Kisa (L). No slingfrog is evident.

Dave Howell and Eric Yarnell showed up around 7:40, while we were still setting up and explaining the game to Alex, but after we had selected our powers. They considered joining, in which case they would each have been dealt two random powers, but opted instead to start a game of Hellas? in the computer room.

It was a weird game. We had the classic combo Virus vs. Loser, of course. (The Virus is normally a very strong power, but the Loser can declare an "upset" in which the winner of the challenge loses and the loser wins, so the Loser is usually bad juju for the Virus, and was this time too.) And of course I was the Schizoid, which meant that I wrote down a new, secret pair of victory conditions binding for all players, and necessarily achievable by all. The first condition had to be a number of foreign (external) bases, at least 3 (and in our case, no more than 15, since there were only 15 possible bases external to each player). The second condition could be practically anything, as long as it was related to the game (I couldn't write "To win, you must have a beard") and was demonstrable to all players at the time of victory (I couldn't write "To win, you must have lost the challenge before last").

The current offensive player is allowed to ask the Schizoid one yes-or-no question. By a series of such, the other players managed to ascertain that the winner did not have to obtain more than six bases (for the first condition) and that the second condition had to do with the number of bases the winner had in my system. I was pretty damn smug, because even knowing this fact couldn't help them much -- I had what I thought was a pretty inventive rule, namely,

You must have 5 foreign bases but no foreign bases in the Yellow system, in order to win.

I was the Yellow player. This meant that anyone who had any foreign bases in my system -- and this was all three other players, by the end of the game -- could not win as long as the bases were still there. However, by definition, all of my bases in the Yellow system were home bases, not foreign bases, so I could retain any number of bases in my system and still win. In effect, I was playing vanilla Cosmic, while everyone else had an extra victory condition, and one they were not likely to stumble across, since who loses a foreign base voluntarily? At one point, someone said, "Maybe you have to have no bases in Ron's system. Nah, he wouldn't do that to himself." No, I wouldn't -- exactly.

Kisa complained that Schizoid made the game too long, since no one knew when they were going to win, and no one wanted to ally, so it was hard to get bases (as far as they knew, even getting three bases could win someone the game, as long as the other condition was fulfilled). However, when we went into it, I predicted a two-hour game, and ours lasted from 7:00 to 9:15. Less, really, since we still hadn't started at 7:40 when Dave and Eric arrived, so the actual game was more like an hour and a half. That's not at all bad for a Cosmic game (I have played Cosmic games that lasted four hours), and I pointed out to Kisa later that all anyone had to do to win was obtain five foreign bases (the standard victory condition) and Cosmic Zap me so that the Schizoid conditions no longer applied. Kisa admitted that he hadn't thought of that, and that in retrospect the game just seemed long.

Heh. Not to me. Thanks to the Schizoid, I won. (The Clone power helped too, by allowing me to retain my War cards.) I really enjoy this game a lot, considering it's about exterminating intelligent alien species.


My first game of Cosmic. I have been told that it was an unusual game, due to the Schizoid power making it so we didn't know how to win. I would like to try it again without that power (or with me having it ;) ). I felt that the Healer power is very weak, and I shouldn't have taken it. I think that all four of the powers I was dealt were fairly strong, which unfortunately meant that I had to pass two of them to opponents, while I got weak powers back to choose from. I should have chosen the Loser power I foolishly passed to Kisa (if I had had more experience, I would've known better than to pass that one). The Phantom power was OK, but not amazing. Certainly not as good as the Loser power, and probably worse than the Clone power which I gave Ron. This game seems fairly chaotic. I'll have to try playing it again without Schizoid.


When it comes down to it, every game of Cosmic is unusual -- or should be.


The Schizoid choice by Ron was a good one. I made a comment as the game was beginning if it would be fair to make a self-referential condition that was symmetrical amongst the players. And then we found out Ron did. The Schizoid can certainly be abused more than this, though.


The one time Ron tried to explain Cosmic to me, it made my brain hurt, but after reading this, I'm sorry I've never gotten a chance to learn it, as it seems to be one of my favorite kind of games -- the kind where the rules change from game to game!

--Melinda Hautala

Yeah, I actually do think you'd like it, but it's really hard to jump in, especially with Ron's crazy Franken-set that has all the extra freaky things. Mer didn't like it until we started her off with the somewhat-simplified Hasbro/Avalon Hill version; after she got the basic idea with that, she's been able to ramp up to the crazy extras. We should find time to do the same with you sometime.


Bleeding Sherwood

Meanwhile, Bazaar finished before Dave and Eric had started Hellas, so they joined Karl, Marty, Melinda, and Meredith for a game of Bleeding_Sherwood?. This Cheapass game has gotten a bad reputation as being broken, and indeed, when Marty and I played it with some other people a couple of years ago, we decided the same thing. However, Dave Howell, who is a friend of James Ernest (a.k.a. El Cheapo), the creator of the game, made a good case to the other players that the game wasn't broken at all. I wasn't there to hear it, but I remember Dave's post to the Cheapasses mailing list back in August 1998, Winning at Bleeding Sherwood, and I'm guessing it contains much the same information.

Scores were lost before they could be reported, except for the fact that Marty won.


It strikes me as a balance of power game, the power being the presence of cards in your hand. Even if they are low cards, they are better than no cards. You must be hesitant to play in order to stay in the game. Marty won because she outbidded everyone else on a hand that included a lot of extra cards. This let her easily outbid everyone else on the remaining hands (which is easy to do when you are bidding against no one), even though Eric had been close to victory for quite awhile. I think Marty had 105 or something close, Eric had 85, I had maybe 35. I don't remember the other scores.

--Karl Erickson

There's some balance of power issues, but even more, there's an underlying game of "chicken" going on. Usually somebody wins the game somewhere near the middle, but you don't necessarily know it until much later. In this case, Marty did when she collected the two peasants with their five bonus Goodes. Once you've learned that getting into an actual bidding war, even for one extra card, is very dangerous (we called them 'knife fights' in playtesting), then you have to learn when somebody's in a position to make that particular step forward that will greatly increase their chances of winning. Stopping them often means bidding against them; which means you're stepping into a knife fight, which you don't want to do. So, do you throw yourself on that grenade, or do you pass the buck to the next person, and hope they'll throw themselves on the grenade?

Karl's right, though, in that a hand with three low cards (2, 3, 4) is usually more advantageous than one with two high cards (5, 7), although not always.

I think my score was 60, but because of the dynamics of the game, the scores at the end really don't provide useful information. How many cards each person had in their hand, and what the total points were, would be somewhat more indicative of the relative positions at the end of the game.

--Dave Howell

Well, yes. Like with a lot of games, it has much to do with figuring out when taking a big risk is worthwhile, and when it's best to hang back and wait for your moment. When the moment comes, though, you have to take a big risk, bigger than a lot of people would be comfortable doing. I now think this game is much more fun than I did before (thanks, Dave!), and, of course, the cards are hilarious.


This game had a different play strategy than I thought it would, and was interesting. Even beyond the play, though, it totally cracked me up, like a lot of Cheapass games, so it gets points for that.

--Melinda Hautala


Don't know much about Medina?, except that it is a city-building game with an element of brinksmanship, similar in that way to AlienCity, which Karl and I played while Alex, Chad, Eric, and Kisa played this.

Alex and Kisa tied. Alex was awarded a rulebook for Auction? 2002 and Eleusis?, which had been donated to Seattle Cosmic by the author, the great game designer Robert Abbott. Kisa won a set of fake tattoos featuring space robots and a rubber razzer, which I suggested he give to his daughter Alexandra.

(1) Say "rectilinear prism!" (Clockwise: Chad sticking his tongue out, Kisa, Alex, Eric.)
(2) The Medina endgame.


Alex R 39
Kisa G 39
Eric Y 33
Chad McD? 28


An abridged version of the rules: each player places palace blocks in four colors. A palace consists of several adjacent like-colored blocks, and there can be only one unfinished palace of each color at a time. During their turn, a player may finish a palace by placing one of their four domes on it and claim it as theirs. After that no new palace blocks can be added to it and a new palace in that color can be started elsewhere on the board. Any player can add to the new palace, but it may only be claimed by a player who has not already claimed one in that color. Points are scored at the end based on size of your palaces, proximity to walls and corners, and the conga-line of townsfolks that players are also building.

Oooh, angsty first-play for me. Felt similar to my first time playing Torres, although with less multiplication. Medina very nicely transitions from the early game to the end game. Early on you are mostly concerned with whether the current palace will be worth less then the next one. This causes a very strong brinksmanship aspect as you vie for a larger palace, but claim it before someone else does. Later in the game, when the board is more crowded, there is a strong likelihood that there simply won't be room for a larger palace, so you are instead shifting into a riskier play since the next palace may be placed into a tiny 1x1 space leaving you as the only one to claim it.

I liked it very much.


Alien City

Meanwhile, Karl and I played a game of AlienCity, which he was eager to learn after hearing so much about it. Boy oh boy, did he kick my ass: 128-50. I had expected to do relatively well against him, since it was his first game, and I had done relatively well against John Braley (John!) a couple of weeks ago (AlienCity20030111).

Karl and I played fast and both made a couple of mistakes, such as placing towers too early in the game, but it hurt me more. I actually placed and capped a red tower early without noticing that Karl would be able to place another red tower practically next door on the next turn, effectively nullifying my score for that tower.

We both waited too long and only managed to cap two towers each, instead of three. At one point, Karl allowed me a fairly generous "takeback", and I managed to place a tower with a distance of 14 to its competition. Karl's eyes fairly goggled, but my tower only had two customers, so I only scored (2 x 14 = 28) points for it. On the other hand, Karl had a tower that was also 14 spaces away from the competition, but he had set it up to have seven customers, so he scored (7 x 14 = 98) points for that tower, enough to win him the game by a wide margin. Karl had drawn my attention away from this blue tower by brazenly capping another one elsewhere on the board. I took the bait and squandered my last blue tower (if I recall correctly) on neutralising this decoy tower of Karl's. Karl was then free to place his high-scoring tower with impunity. I'll have to remember that one.

Karl enjoyed the game, and made the comment (common in my experience among people who try the game) that it was good enough to be marketed commercially. He said he was going to buy a piecepack set and several stashes of Icehouse pieces so he could play at home.

Another convert! For wiping the board with me, Karl was awarded a special set of handmade piecepack_pyramids? made by Tim Schutz.


Karl E 128
Ron H-E 50


Everyone who noticed we were playing Alien City assumed we'd be at it for hours, just as Ron and John were. They apparently had not taken into consideration the "John factor" (John habitually wins games by actually thinking his moves through.)

At first I didn't think I was going to like the game much, because the opening phase involves a lot of seemingly arbitrary moves. This opening phase, however, really just sets the stage for the actual game. Undoubtedly, skilled players can sculpt the board in the opening game so that they have an advantage. Although there is no bias toward one or the other player until towers are claimed, it is possible to influence the shape of the board toward situations that one feels better prepared to take advantage of. Like chess, it seems like the kind of game that players of approximately equal skill can have fun at, regardless of what that actual skill level is.

--Karl Erickson

Not only was John thinking his moves through when we played, but so was I, to a much larger extent than in this game. This (a) made the John/Ron game longer, and (b) helped me obtain a higher score in that game. By the way, I hereby nominate the JohnFactor as a new Wiki page.


The Big Idea

Around the same time that the Medina and Alien City games were starting (9:30), Dave Howell, Marty, Melinda, and Meredith started another Cheapass game, The_Big_Idea?, at Table 2 in the livingroom. This is the satirical card game of innovative products and IPOs. Melinda won handily, and for her financial victory was awarded the Big Money prize: a yoyo in the shape of a US coin and a notepad in the shape of a US $100 bill. (As she was visiting from Kentucky, she was probably the only person in the room who hadn't won one of these at some point.)


Melinda H $120
Marty H-E $105
Dave H $99
Mer H $96

I don't know too much about what products were floated, although I recall Erotic Tongs and Edible Cat being mentioned. Do any of the players recall some of the other products?


Um, Evil Radio, Laptop Chair, er, and lots of other things.

--Dave Howell

I liked Mexi-Smokes. This game was really made for the likes of Marty and Meredith, who are good at making a pitch. Another game that just made me laugh and laugh.

--Melinda Hautala

I am still cracking up that you described me as "good at making a pitch", when I think of myself as one of the worst salespeople of all time. (I'm thinking of my one day in telemarketing, when I was used as a public example of a bad salesperson to the rest of the group....OK, I admit I'm more persuasive now than I was then, but still.)



After The Big Idea (around 11:00), the same four players started a game of Torres?, the three-dimensional game of building and scoring towers.

A slow moment in Torres. (Clockwise: Dave, Melinda, Marty, Mer.)


Dave H 230
Marty H-E 216
Melinda H 213
Mer H 206

Dave won and was awarded a handful of eye poppers. It seems that these go over better with people if you show them how they work first! Duh. Dave was nonplussed initially, but after we set off a few, he said, "These rock!"


I enjoyed Torres, although our game seemed to go very slowly. I think this game could probably be even more fun once you are more familiar with the play of it, and especially more familiar with the special actions on the cards, so that it wouldn't be so slow. A lot of our game was taken up with (mostly me) trying to figure out exactly what move was not only advantageous but possible. If you already had this stuff in your head, there could probably be more of an "a-HA!" "You bastard!" aspect to it.

--Melinda Hautala

It definitely goes faster when the players have the basic idea down already. Torres is one of my favorites, and another game I love to teach people, so it was particularly fun to teach it to Mel and Dave both.


Schotten-Totten (x3)

I believe Chad left around 11:25, after Medina, and then Alex challenged Eric to a series of Schotten-Totten? games. They played three games. Alex won one 5-1, and Eric won two games, one by 5-3 and one by 5-???.

Alex (L) plays Eric (R) at Schotten-Totten.

Alex was awarded another handful of eye poppers, and Eric was awarded a slingfrog. As with Dave, Eric was nonplussed until I showed him how to shoot the frog. Below you can see Eric demonstrating how to launch the aeronautic amphibian.

Eric demonstrates the proper way to snap a slingfrog at someone.

A slingfrog for the first person to identify this quotation: "No, I fling her." (Marty, you don't count.)

Comments from the players?


"No, I fling her." --Monty Python, "Interesting People"

--Karl Erickson

Oh, very good. I owe you a slingfrog. I hope you obtained that from your internal memory (your grey matter) and not your external memory (Google).

Here's the full script of the sketch.


No significant memory effort was required. I got the Flying Circus DVD set for Christmas.

--Karl Erickson

You bastard! You and Mel both got the MPFC DVDs for Christmas, and I didn't, even though I've been told my life (in my brain, at least) is one long MP sketch. (Although I did get the complete Blackadder, and that completely kicks ass.)

--Marty_Hale-Evans? "I want to complain." "YOU want to complain? I've only HAD these shoes three weeks and the heels are worn right through!"

"In Russia, Frogs Fling You!" -DrBannow?




After our Alien City game, Karl agreed to a game of Kahuna? with Kisa. The object (I believe) is to have bridges on the majority of islands in the island chain on the board. Karl won, and was awarded -- what else? -- some eye poppers.

(1) Kahuna board, early in the game.
(2) Say "Big Kahuna Burger!" (Left to right: Kisa, Karl.)


Karl E 2
Kisa G 1

Mmmmmm! That's a tasty burger!


I took a strong lead early in the game, and thought I had it sealed in. Kahuna, however, is a game of chain-reactions and rapidly changing situations. One well-made move can change the balance of power instantly. Some moves that seem very strong, however, can actually set up a very strong rebound situation. At one point in the game, I thought I had knocked Kisa out of the running with a single move, only to find the original layout, minus a few of my (luckily non-crucial) bridges, restored on Kisa's next move. The end of the game turned out be quite close; we thought we'd tied for overall points, which would make Kisa the winner by the tie-breaker rule. After we checked our understanding of the tie-breaker rule, however, we'd realized we'd miscounted, and that I'd actually won.

Kahuna is a nice little cutthroat game. There's a variant listed in the rulebook that would make it less cutthroat and chaotic; Alex, wandering through, commented that the variant would ruin the game. I think it would make it a different, although perhaps still interesting game. I'm definitely up for playing this again, with or without the variant.

I forget who mentioned that the game seemed like a miniature Expedition. It's quite dissimilar to Expedition except for the networking aspect. This aspect is something that strongly appeals to my geometric inclinations.

--Karl Erickson

I don't think I said it would ruin the game; I think I said it wouldn't be very good. (Which may be the same, I guess.) I don't remember what the variant you suggested was; I just remember I thought it would lessen the strategic and tactical possibilities in the game. But I haven't tried it so I can't be sure.


Hacking Furbies

Around 12:15 AM, most people went home, leaving me and Marty to hang out while Karl and Kisa finished Kahuna. Melinda went back home to Lexington, Kentucky, so the rest of us will only have two out of three Hale sisters to entertain us for a while.

Eventually Karl and Kisa emerged from the computer room, and we chatted a bit. Noticing that Kisa was stowing his copy of the game Corsairs, she pointed to the game Pirateer on our shelves (thrift store find) and remarked that we could have our own Super Bowl with the Corsairs vs. the Pirateers. (The next day was the 2003 Super Bowl, featuring the Buccaneers vs. the Raiders, or as the NPR comedy show Rewind would have it, the Pirates vs. the Pirates.)

(Some of us have long threatened to have a pirate-theme table some night, with Corsairs, Pirateers, Buried Treasure, Cartagena, etc. --Marty_Hale-Evans?)

Marty and I showed Karl and Kisa a couple of Furbies that I had bought for something like $1.50 each in a local thrift store, in new condition, but without boxes or manuals. In case you're not familiar with these critters, they are small robotic "pets" circa 1998 that can talk in a constructed language (like Esperanto or Klingon, but simpler) and have tactile, audio, and infrared sensors. They can even carry on audible conversations with one another via the infrared sensors in their foreheads (see the "third eye" position on the grey Furby, below).

Kisa stuck around for a few minutes but left after the Furbies started talking; he says they creep him out. However, I showed Karl an interface I had cobbled together on my Agenda VR3 GNU/Linux PDA (motto: "Not as dead as you think") that let me beam infrared commands to the Furbies' IR sensors. Marty calls this the "Furby Imperio Curse", after the spell in the Harry Potter books that lets the caster control the body of another person. I showed Karl how I could make the Furbies dance, sing, go to sleep, and so on.

Much of this reverse engineering comes from the Hack Furby project, which gained impetus with the Hack Furby Challenge, which offered a cash prize to anyone who could produce a fully-reprogrammable Furby (the prize was collected in November 2000).

Naba (L) and Welo (R) are bossed around by Agenda VR3 (bottom).

Sorry if this detail bores anyone, but the Furby is arguably an electronic GameSystem as well as a toy, since it can play three games out of the box: "Furby Says" (compare the electronic game Simon), "Hide & Seek" (one player hides the Furby, another seeks it), and "Ask Furby" (sort of a talking Magic Eightball).

Anyway, Karl left around 1:10 AM, and Marty and I cleaned up. My biggest regret is that we didn't get to play Skat? with Melinda before she left; my second biggest that we didn't play Mystic_Wood? -- but we can play that some other time.

I had a good game night. I hope you did too. See you next week!


I wish we'd gotten to play Skat, too, but I hope to be able to bring Keith out sometime, and he's really much better versed in it than I am. It's one of those games where the basics are simple, but the details of the bidding and scoring are a bit complex. Easier to play, though, than it seems when you read the written rules.

--Melinda Hautala

I'd never experienced Furbies before. To me, they are not quite creepy enough to be really cool.

--Karl Erickson

What's cool about Furbies is not their creepiness, but their hackability. Now that you can upgrade them to full programmability, people are trying to come up with an outer skin that resembles Tux the Penguin (the Linux mascot). But didn't you say you felt as though you were living in a Philip K. Dick novel when you saw them? What's creepier than a PKD novel?

I agree with you that if this were a PKD novel, the Furbies would actually be sapient, and would carry on detailed philosophical discourses with humans, only to be dismissed as toys and put away. On the other hand, if this were a PKD novel, Furbies would probably be called Wubs. On the gripping hand, I did converse with mine about the nature of reality in its "Ask Furby" mode, then dismissed it as a toy -- and the manufacturer claims they can see the future, just like Wubs. Hey, this is kind of creepy.


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 THIS VERY LINK. Any game you buy during a web session you start by clicking the previous link qualifies; in fact, if you click it 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, 1 February 2003, 5:00 PM at the house of Dave Adams and Kathy Kizer in West Seattle. Come play for fun and FABULOUS PRIZES!

Remember, Seattle Cosmic Game Night occurs every weekend, in one of three locations: Kent, Mill Creek, 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.)

NewslettersFor?2003 | CategoryGameNight? | FrontPage