Friday, December 19, 2008

The Blahs

"Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat..."

That would be me, that goose. About a year and a half ago I strained something in my wrist and had to lay off fencing for a few months. Then it got better (or so I thought) and I returned; but a month or so ago it was getting bad again. Now I'm again not fencing—and at Christmas, when there's far too much tempting, fattening food available. So far I haven't gained more than a couple of pounds. My wrist is feeling better and I hope to return to fencing in January.

An old friend of mine just got laid off from a job he'd held for well over a decade. That's not news in this economic climate, but it's depressing. Fortunately he got a good severance package and a lot of notice. He may need both; I have other friends who've been out of work for years.

Other "blah" non-news: no advances on any of my game designs. Somehow inspiration hasn't been striking. Had to work about ten days of intensive overtime, finishing up last week: fortunately it was not in vain, and we met the deadline. Really not much new, and really I'm writing this entry just to show that I haven't given up on the blog.

I have had a minor revelation (not an especially helpful one, alas) about my Rails Across America design, which has been languishing because I don't find it very original. It's that even my starting notion of a rail game that focusses on junctions as much as connections is not very original. I just wasn't remembering a number of games with that mechanic. One of them, embarrassingly, was my own Spatial Delivery. Another is Martin Wallace's excellent Brass. I played this game last May and enjoyed it, and Helen and I now have our own copy (after waiting months for a pre-order of the second edition). I can't recommend Brass enough, at least for experienced gamers. It's a tightly competitive game of linking towns and cities in Lancashire during the Industrial Revolution, and although the canal and rail links themselves are worth victory points, you get most of your score from building industries in the towns (using the links to transport building materials, and later products) and making them pay off.

Brass is great fun, but the rules are not trivial and are filled with difficult-to-remember exceptions. The second edition's rulebook was re-written and is apparently much improved over the original; but the rules themselves are still somewhat baroque. It's hard to play the game correctly the first couple of times. But if you stick with it, it's a great game. Helen and I were pleased to find a two-player variant on BoardGameGeek that some fan of the game designed. It works quite well. There are other two-player variants that we haven't tried, as well.

Finishing on an up beat: it turns out that idle blogging is not completely useless. Just talking here about Brass and Rails Across America gave me a new idea to spice up my design. Something to think about over the holidays!

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