Recently in Less about games Category

Today ends our large board game auction. We have couple of hundred games for sale. See the auction at Lautapeliopas. Feel free to participate, if you understand the instructions and can pick up your games at Helcon or from me.

I made a huge inventory cleanup for the auction, I'm selling over 40 games. Lots of small card games, but plenty of big boxes. It's mostly games I don't like, but also some really good games I haven't played that much recently. There's Catan, Puerto Rico, Kardinal & K├Ânig, Wings of War, For Sale, High Society, Phoenicia, FITS, things like that. Looks like I might make 400 euros from the auction, and what's best, I get lots of space in the board game closet so I can fit in new games.

Here's a picture of just about every game I'm selling:

Auction games

(yes, there's a copy of Age of Steam in there, but don't worry, that's my spare copy)

I built myself a new box for Dominion. I found the plans in Geek, but had to fix them a bit - for one, the suggested length of 285 mm is huge, my box is slightly too short at 210 mm, correct length with Ultra Pro soft sleeves should be something like 230 mm to fit in Black Market and Envoy.

Here's a comparison with the Intrigue box. I can't fit both basic Dominion and Intrigue in my backpack, but two of these small boxes - no problem.

Dominion box

Here's a closeup, so you can see the simple dividers in the boxes. The cards are all sorted in alphabetical orders, but with the score and money cards in the beginning, since they'll be used always.

Dominion box
Hobby Games cover

I'm a tad late with this, I know, but I just finished reading Hobby Games: The 100 Best, which I liked a lot. It's a collection of hundred short essays on games.

The authors are a variety of games industry notables: designers, publishers, authors and so on. There's Steve Jackson (both of them, actually), Martin Wallace, Tom Wham, Warren Spector, Richard Garfield, R.A. Salvatore, Larry Harris, Gary Gygax and so on. The contributors are mostly from US or UK, with few exceptions, but even more dominantly they're male: I counted just a single woman among the hundred contributors.

The list of games is interesting. It's all hobby games, which means board games, collectible card games, role-playing games, war games and miniature games. No video games, classic board games or mass-market board games, that is. There aren't that many euro games, but plenty of board games in general.

The contributors had a fairly free choice of what to cover, as long as it was something they really loved. That's an interesting way to compile a list of 100 best games, and a successful, too. I think the list is very good and particularly for the euro games has all the necessary games and perhaps one or two interesting surprises.

Of course, discussing games that didn't made the cut or shouldn't have made the cut is an interesting pastime in itself - I think the list is missing either 1829 or (more likely) 1830.

I would've probably chosen Age of Steam myself, that's another game that could've been on the list. The game does have a pretty intense following, seven years after the initial release.

All in all, this is a wonderful book and a good read for any gamer. All sorts of single-genre gamers, particularly video gamers, would do well to read this book and learn about the world of games there is. Many of the essays pass the most important test for something like this: they really make you want to play the game they describe. That's what really makes a good game essay in my books.

Current affairs

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Boardgaming Finland has done their first podcast in English. It's an interview of Jussi Autio from Tuonela Productions, the creators of The Club.

I'm using Twitter these days, I'm msaari there. Actually, my priority feed is in Identi.ca (msaari there as well), I just automatically copy everything to Twitter as it's the more popular service. If you're new to this micro-blogging stuff, I recommend checking Identi.ca out, it's a cool concept.

I think I'll skip a larger session report for yesterday's game session. Suffice to say we played half a game of mahjong with the World Series rules and it was very nice. I won, too, thanks to winning the first four out of eight hands and scoring one major hand.

After mahjong we played a game of Verflixxt! with the standard mix of stuff from both expansions (Flixxy, risk tiles, Verflixxt tiles, exact finish bonus points and hats). It was fun, even though we used one pawn too many for each player. Quite a crowded race!

Dutch professor Ben van der Genugten has created a formula for calculating the skill level of a game. He has used it in Dutch courts to help determine that fantasy sports games are games of skill and now he's using it to argue that poker is a game of skill, too. (See Leading Professor Rekindles Dutch Debate on Poker as a Game of Skill by Gaming Intelligence Group, free registration required - bugmenot helps).

His formula is simple. Skill level is Learning effect / (Learning effect + Chance effect). Result is a score between 0 and 1.

Learning effect is the difference between the optimum player and a beginner. In games of pure chance like roulette this is of course 0, in a more skilled game this approaches 1. For example in go, a skilled player will beat a newbie for certain, so the value is 1.

Chance effect is the difference between the optimum player and a player who knows the result of the game before the game. Say, in roulette, a player who knows where the ball will land. Of course, in roulette the difference would be huge. In poker the difference is significant too, if you consider a pro player and even a beginner who can see the everybody's cards. In go and chess this would be zero, as there's really no information to be known in advance.

Professor van der Genugten gets a value of 0.4 for poker and 0.049 for blackjack. Fantasy sports leagues get 0.3 from him. I think this is a pretty neat idea, but coming up with the exact values can be a bit tricky.

I've got a copy of Winsome Games' West Riding for sale and it's ridiculously cheap for something that difficult to find: just 20 euros (under $30), including economy shipping anywhere in the world. If you want it, just head to the BoardGameGeek Marketplace.

I'm doing a translation here and got stumped by a word. Are there any Germans reading this blog? If someone could help me translate "sofortlosspieler", I would be most grateful. I understand the parts of the word, but can't figure out what it actually means as a whole.

I was scouring the web for interesting Poker news (that's what I do for living these days) and I bumped into a familiar name. There's a Man vs Machine Poker Championship coming, where two human Poker pros will play against Polaris, a Poker computer program. In the end of the article I read, they interview the director of the research team and who it is - Jonathan Schaeffer!

I've written about him before, check my entry about his book One Jump Ahead. He is the man behind Chinook, the Checkers-playing computer. Last time I blogged about him, there was an estimate that Checkers would be solved by 2010. Well, they did in 2007.

Apparently since Schaeffer solved Checkers, he has moved on to other challenges. Poker should prove him some challenge, though beating humans in two-player Fixed-Limit Texas Hold'em is only the start of it.

Another interesting aspect of the Man vs Machine contest is the way it's played: they're playing Duplicate Poker, which combines Poker with Duplicate Bridge to create a game where luck has less effect in the game.

Modiano was kind enough to send me some sample packs, so more playing-card reviews are coming up!

I have good news for those of you who have enjoyed my playing-card reviews: I just placed an order to Piatnik, I'm getting 17 of their packs. Tarock, mostly, but also several different European regional packs. You see, I asked around for cards to review and Piatnik's Finnish agent replied. I didn't get anything for free, but even after VAT and shipping, those prices were dirt cheap. So, reviews are coming as soon as I get the cards.

I asked other major European card makers, but haven't heard of others yet. Someone from Modiano did ask for my telephone number, but haven't called me yet...

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