22 January 2009

Battlestar Galactica Report: Game 3

Players - Ryan (Tigh), Lisa (Starbuck), Josh (Helo), Casey (Baltar), Lou (Boomer), Jason (Roslin)

We played game 3 at Lou and Sharla's house on New Year's Day.  Lisa revealed early on since, as a pilot, there is not much she can do to avoid her piloting duties without appearing suspicious.  The humans had a grand ol' time dealing with a damaged Galactica without the Chief around!  I myself had a wonderful time plotting everyone's demise as the unrevealed Admiral Tigh. =)

I was doing juuust enough good for the team to save myself a trip to the brig.  I think my final act of sabotage was to give me Executive Orders so I could jump the fleet at a cost of -3 population and then reveal.  

Josh and Casey had to leave mid-game to go to the airport, so a pair of Lou and Sharla's friends took over for them so we could finish the game.  Joanne and Chad?  I think that's right.  I remember Joanne sitting down and saying "OK, what do I get to nuke?"  Awesome.

Lisa and I ended the humans' quest for Kobol by destroying the Galactica outright.  We made some great rolls for the basestars!

Humans 1 - Cylons 2

Beer Log - Unibroue Trois Pistoles

There was one bottle of Trois Pistoles left in the fridge from a mid-2008 beer run where we bought a four- or six-pack of individual Unibroue bottles.  I decided it would be a good sipping beer while playing some Warcraft.  

How right I was.  At 9% ABV, this is not a drinkable beer!  "Belgian strong dark ale" describes it perfectly.  Smells and looks good.  My tongue was often combating the taste of alcohol to find the caramel and molasses flavors.  It does have a decent aftertaste and did get better as I drank it.

Not my favorite beer, but it is good for a strong dark ale.  If there were a little less alcohol in it, I think I would enjoy the flavor more.

L33T Pally

15 January 2009

Beer Log - Odell Easy Street Wheat

I went to the Odell brewery here in town last night with Lisa and Jerri.  Thought about getting a sampler, but decided against it so I could drive home soon.  I went with a 10oz draft of their Easy Street wheat beer.  Mm hmm!  Very tasty, unfiltered wheat with a hint of citrus.  I would need to do a full on taste test, but I want to say this out does New Belgium's Mothership Wit in my book.  Sooo drinkable!

How to Stump Blaine the Pain?

I've recently started book four of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, Wolves of Calla.  Trying to avoid spoilers, the protagonists find themselves aboard a monorail train that is driven by a computer thousands of years old.  The computer tells them that it will kill them unless they can provide a riddle it cannot answer correctly.

The idea is fascinating to me.  A computer that's been around and self-aware for millenia.  It's smart.  Really smart.  And it likes to solve riddles.  

I went to bed before reading through this scene to see how the situation is resolved.  It was the first time I've ever dreamt about something I'm reading.  I had a dream where I was also in the protagonists' situation, frantically trying to think of a riddle to stump a super-genius computer.  I thought of two of my favorite riddles, ready to save the day, but woke up before I could finish reciting.  

I thought it was neat that I was dreaming but I was conscious enough to dig through my real memories to find a riddle.  When I woke up, I couldn't stop thinking about ways to stump the machine.  What if you asked it, "What is one divided by zero?"  Would it crash the computer?  Or does he run everything through a try{ ... } catch(exception e) ?  I decided it would not be best to crash a computer controlling a train travelling in excess of 800 miles per hour.  

How would you try to stump a computer that excels at riddles?

In the spirit of riddling, here are the two I had remembered in my dream.  The third is one that I created while laying in bed.  Can you figure them out?

A man who lives in at the top of an apartment building takes the elevator down to the lobby each morning.  When he returns, he takes the elevator half way up and the stairs the rest of the way home.  Why?

Police investigators discovered the corpse of a man who had hung himself in the middle of a room with no windows and the only door bolted shut from the inside.  The room was empty and there is no way he could have lifted himself to the height of the noose by himself.  How did he carry out his death?

I live at the center of my universe; I am neither good or bad; neither happy or sad.  I never add anything to a situation.  What am I?

Answer them in the comments!

14 January 2009

Great Tunes

Today was something of a long day.  Fortunately, I had all of these great albums to get me through it!  I was working while listening to these, so I can't say anything more right now than I recommend all of them.  These were all first time listens for me:

Akron/Family - Love is Simple
Albert Hammond Jr. - Yours to Keep
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Take Them On, On Your Own
Death Cab for Cutie - Something About Airplanes
Deerhunter - Microcastle
Explosions in the Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
Explosions in the Sky - The Earth is not a Dead Cold Place

I dunno how many people are familiar with most or all of these albums, but if you are, you know what a freakin' great music day I had!

12 January 2009

Battlestar Galactica Report: Game 2

Players: Ryan (Boomer), Casey (Tigh), Jason (Tyrol), Steve (Helo), Lisa (Roslin)

Game 2! Steve and Jason joined us for this round at a good-sized holiday party at Casa de Manglass.  Neither of them were fans of the show, but this turned out to be a good thing.  It proved to me that this game is completely enjoyable without being a fan of the series!  Excellent news.

Setup and play went much faster, considering how much there is to explain and how many pieces and cards there are.  Jason grasped the Cylon concepts pretty quickly and Steve was able to watch a few turns before playing since Helo skips the first round.  (I love when the game rules reflect show plotlines and lore.  It's not gimmicky or game-breaking.)

Cylon activity was little to none in the first half of the game.  I recall only one skill check having three negative cards in the result ( a sure sign of an active Cylon) before the Sleeper agent phase.  This was enough of a tip off to get the humans suspicious of each other; a great early play for unrevealed Cylons.  

Lisa played a good President game, using her skill cards for checks while making use of the Quorom deck on her turn.  The rest of us did a decent job fending off the waves of Cylon fleets in space.  Casey was more than pleased to be a nuke-happy alcoholic.  I was thrilled at how effective Boomer's recon ability is for scouting crises (and how destructive it could be in the hands of a sleeper Cylon.

Things got a little hairy when Galactica was boarded by some heavy raiders.  It was right around this time that President Lisa Roslin revealed herself.  Crap.  Revealed Cylons are deadly when the ship has been boarded; they can use their turn to push the boarding party one step closer to ending the game.  That, plus any other heavy raider crises that come up on human players' turns means that a boarding party can end the game very quickly.  

Once again, I put off writing this too long and I've forgotten the end game.  Jason turned out to be a frakkin' toaster, too, but I think this happened after we dealt with the initial boarding party.  Somehow, we got another boarding party, probably from a Super Crisis Card, and then the Cylons pushed the boarding parties to our demise.  Frack.

I remember suspecting Steve of being a Cylon for the whole game... he was too smiley and coy when accused.  I had no clue Lisa was a Cylon.  She acted genuinely upset when the humans were threatened.  Jason also played it cool when he got his Cylon loyalty card.  I think his history of poker came into play.

Overall, this game played out in favor of the humans - only one Cylon on the first deal, good jump timing and resource management, little to no brig action - but they were just plain unable to deal with the significant heavy raiders and boarding parties.  We were still learning the game and use of powers & skill cards.  Good game!

Humans 1 - Cylons 1

09 January 2009

Smart ass

[16:31] Kyle: hey, it occurred to me that bioshock is a short game
[16:31] Kyle: and i've beaten it within a week of getting it
[16:31] Kyle: now what
[16:31] Me: uh
[16:32] Me: what do you do with a movie after you watch it?
[16:32] Kyle: complain about its faults

08 January 2009

Battlestar Galactica Report: Game 1

Players: Ryan (Baltar), Lisa (Starbuck), Josh (Tyrol), and Casey (Tigh)

Ah, the first game of BattleStar Galactica: The Board Game.  We spent most of the time referencing the rule book, but it wasn't any less interesting.  Play was pretty slow as we were constantly reading the cards in our hands, the abilities on our character sheets, and discussing how frakked we were.  Cylon fleets were everywhere (our first crisis card was '33') and we were still figuring out how best to deal with raiders.  Due to a lack of suspicious behavior, there was little in the way of Cylon accusation in the first half of the game.  

Then we hit the Sleeper Agent phase.  Lisa pulled the Sympathizer card and fortunately we had just recently dipped a resource into the red zone (otherwise she would have joined the Cylon team right then).  We did throw that frakkin' toaster lover in the brig, though!  Our concerns shifted rather quickly as Josh asked for the rule book after receiving his second Loyalty card (the ones that tell you whether or not you're a Cylon).  Uh oh.  On my next turn, I used my special power to look at Josh's Loyalty cards.  Definitely uh oh.  Baltar's Cylon detector actually worked.  Being our first game, I did not immediately reveal to Casey and Lisa that Josh was a Cylon.  That was a mistake.  Josh used his next turn to reveal himself and overtly work against us from the Cylon fleet.  

The next couple rounds went significantly poorer than the earlier rounds, as the Cylon player can do much more damage once revealed.  Naturally, we had a tougher time dealing with the crises that came up with one less player.  Josh did a good job of relentlessly keeping Heavy Raider and Centurion boarding party pressure on us.  He waited until we were low on cards before he used his Super Crisis Card which boned us into having two additional boarding party tokens.  Then he tried to end the game by forcing as much boarding party progress as possible.  The humans were barely lucky enough to eek out the last FTL jump to victory before the boarding parties took over the ship!

We had a good laugh after the game when we realized there are only two of each skill card type!

Humans 1 - Cylons 0

06 January 2009

Play N Trade

Have you been to a Play N Trade store yet?  It's like a GameStop, but not evil.  Really!

Lisa and I paid a visit to a Georgia PNT store looking for a copy of Wii Play for her mom.  I figured the store was a GameStop clone, but what a difference!  The interior is tidy, there's little audio/visual noise, and games are treated with respect.  I certainly didn't feel like I had entered a pawn shop, as I do in a GameStop.

This particular store had about eight game stations setup with different titles in each.  Older consoles going back to the original NES were on display almost like it was a hands-on museum.  Heavy waves of nostalgia struck me as I looked over a NES, SNES, Dreamcast, and several classic controllers.  Classic games from NES and up were displayed on shelves and at reasonable prices!  

I didn't check out their values on trade-in titles or for how much they sell used games.  Stores are split... some are corporate-run and others are franchises.  Thus, there is no centralized online store to check prices.  Anyone know if PNT gives decent value for trade-ins?  Do they charge full price minus five bucks for used titles, like GameStop?

Something else I noticed on the way in - they do weekly tournaments!  Nice!  Talking to Lou, he mentioned they do tournaments as well as rent the place out for LAN parties and the like.  Good stuff.  Actually PLAYING the games in-store is a big win in my book.

A quick look at the Wiki page for PNT, I just noticed they also do pre-purchase trials.  Quote from Wikipedia - "where customers can play any game in the store prior to purchasing it."  Wow!  That's what I'm talking about!  There are several games I wouldn't need to play via GameFly if I could just play for 20 minutes in the store.

Ever been to a PNT?  What did you think?  This is a franchise I would seriously consider running.

05 January 2009

GameFly Mini-Review

This one is about Condemned 2: Bloodshot.  I didn't play through the first one, but the demo was one of the first I downloaded when I got my 360.  The first-person melee combat intrigued me and the spooky CSI elements were also interesting.  In retrospect, I probably SHOULD have rented the first game!  However, I did not, and now I've skipped to playing the sequel.  

Bottom line - this game is freakin' scary!  Above all else, Monolith Productions (of AVP2 and F.E.A.R. fame, they are good at scaring me) nailed the atmosphere.  Excellent surround sound was constantly making me check my back and flanks as I moved through eerie levels.  Bad guys are thoroughly repulsive and in-your-face.  The levels are dark, but not Doom 3 dark and you have an unlimited flashlight.  They did such a good job making the game frightening... that I sent it back after 2 hours of play. I could NOT handle the black sac children hanging from the basement ceiling, waiting to grab your face and scream as you walk beneath.

Having only played the demo of the first game, I don't know how supernatural it got by the end.  I can tell that the main character did go through some crazy events and the story jumps right back into it.  I liked how the supernatural elements were included in the presentation.  Example: to get your next objective, you're forced to look up close at an old TV and move the antenna around until you get a signal.  A signal of a creepy Saw-movie-influenced character doing bizarre stuff.  

The melee combat was still as solid as I remember from the Condemned 1 demo.  You can pick up and swing blunt objects like pipes, 2x4's, and prosthetic arms (lol).  Enemies are really good at weaving in and out of range, running away at low health, and ganging up on you from multiple angles.  Would anyone else second me if I called the Condemned series a fine evolution of the classic beat 'em up?

If your taste in games goes anywhere near brawlers, supernatural stories, or hide-under-the-couch scary, I recommend you take a look at the Condemned series.  A big plus if you have a quality A/V setup.

P.S. There was another big factor that influenced sending the game back on day one.  It was the day before I was going on vacation for three weeks and I really wanted to have Mirror's Edge waiting for me when I got home!

04 January 2009

Beer Log - The Beginning

New feature for 2009!  I got it in my head that I should start reviewing and keep record of all the beers I enjoy in my travels.  Within the last year, I've finally been able to identify the qualities and aspects of beer that I like and apply it to new beer selection.  The biggest hurdle I've encountered on my journey is that American mass media only promotes mainstream beer, which in my opinion, is crap.  For the longest time, I associated beer with Budweiser, Miller, and Coors because that's what's advertised on TV, most available in restaurant chains, and so on.  I didn't like any of those beers so I had given up on the idea that beer was for me.  How wrong I was!  

It took a little Decatur pub and a friend's insistence that I try his beverage to forever change how I viewed beer.   Many thanks to The Brick Store Pub, Anthony, and Duchesse de Bourgogne for showing me the light!  

So far, my taste in beer tends to favor Belgian styles, white beers, and brown ales.  Some of my favorites so far:

I considered thinking long and hard about the last few beers I've had and writing about them in this initial post.  I decided against it because I'm too lazy to hunt them all down on BeerAdvocate.com (there's been 20+ new brews to me in the last two weeks) and if they made good impressions, they'll show up later on future Beer Log posts!  I will mention that I've tried several breweries new to me lately, and they are Sweetwater Brewing Company in Atlanta, and Green Man Ales, Highland Brewing, and Asheville Brewing Company in Asheville.  I can definitely recommend all four breweries (Green Man will likely be our pick to supply the wedding) for having at least 2-3 good recipes.

I'm a very lucky soul to live in Fort Collins, surrounded by several excellent microbreweries!

03 January 2009

BattleStar Galactica: The Board Game

Oh brother, I've been meaning to write about BSG:TBG since I got it for Christmas and now I don't know where to begin!  Let me start by thanking Josh and Casey again for finding it and gifting it to me for Christmas; I will cherish it always.

We opened the box together and began pouring over all the fun game pieces, thinking this game was mostly a simple one with the aim of fan service in mind.  Let me tell you, that is not the case.  Fantasy Flight Games produced this bad boy and it shows.  Quality board, full color images on everything, and a rule book that took me an hour to read!  

A breakdown of the game... human players take the roles of BSG leadership and are trying to find their way to Kobol.  Players, as a group, tackle a crisis each turn.  These crises represent the challenges of the fleet as seen in the series, such as food shortages, riots, or Cylon fleet attacks.  Players contribute cards from their hand in effort to overcome the crises and make their way toward Kobol with dwindling supplies.  Meanwhile, one or more players could secretly be a Cylon subtley laying sabotage to the group efforts until the time comes when they reveal themselves and join the Cylon fleet.  Their goal is to prevent the human players from reaching Kobol by reducing one of four resources to zero, blowing up Galactica, or successfully enabling a Cylon boarding party to the ship's demise.  

The genius of this game resides in the cooperative aspects.  Players are working together to win this game, a break from the norm where players are competing for some sole victory.  And while cooperation is the key to human success, there is always the threat of hidden Cylon player(s), working against the humans.  The suspicion that arises from every turn make for fun and entertaining table talk!  It makes for a unique board game experience that I've not encountered before.

So far, I've played the game three times, with only one human victory and two Cylon victories.  Good Cylon players do as much hidden damage as possible before revealing themselves and overtly working against human progress.  The game is so much fun to play that the victory is nearly irrelevant.  I feel as though I could play BSG:TBG fifty times, lose often, and still have fun each time.

I don't know how often we will get to play, but I definitely want to keep a BSG:TBG log of our experiences.  I'll write up the three games we've played to date and save them for rainy blog days.

In other BSG news, Lisa and I have only 3 more episodes left in season 4 before she is caught up.  Good timing - the final ten episodes start on January 16th!  So say we all!

01 January 2009

Happy New Year!

Hooray! It's 2009 AND my laptop is back online!

I purchased a spare ATI X1400 128MB card from eBay and made the replacement myself. I was recently all up in the innards of my laptop to clean some fans, so it was easy enough to repeat the steps from memory and swap out the dead part. It will be a hit to the gaming performance of the system, but now that the laptop is no longer my primary gaming PC, this shouldn't impact me too much.

I've been having a great holiday! Lisa and I took a weekend trip to Asheville to knock out some wedding items and for some nice time together. We wanted to personally scope out some hotels in town for recommending to friends and relatives, sample some of the local brewery options, and get some more details from the BBQ restaurant we want to cater our reception. The BBQ vendor was still closed for the holidays... two outta three ain't bad.

We did find some great hotels and learned that just about any hotel in town is 15 minutes max from the event location. We will be putting our findings on our wedding website, which will be linked soon in our Save the Date cards. From there, you will be able to find details about the wedding and RSVP. We will also send out a more formal invitation in the late spring or early summer.

At least we are now in the year of our wedding! Woohoo!