Hixie's Natural Log

2004-12-06 00:51 UTC Choo choo

Today I met some new people and played some games. First we played a game that took seven hours, namely 1856, one of the games in the 18XX series. I lost, but based on reading sites about this series of games, apparently I should expect to lose my first ten games and get a middling result for the next ten. So I'm not too worried. I was within a factor of ten of the winning amount...

Then we played Ricochet Robot, which I did slightly better at. That's a surprisingly mind-melting game.

Finally we played Munchkin, Star Munchkin to be precise. I love that game, it's just too funny.

The problem with Munchkin, in my opinion, is the randomness. The main thing I loved about 1856 is that there is basically no randomness involved. The only thing in the entire game that is outside the control of the players is the starting order, and in fact even that could be solved by allowing the players to bid for their places somehow. Similarly with Ricochet Robots: all the randomness affects the players equally, so everybody gets an exactly equal chance of winning.

Games with high randomness, on the other hand — like Munchkin, Killer Bunnies, or Monopoly — reduce the influence of skill a lot. You can be an expert Monopoly player and still get screwed by the die and lose, or you can be an expert Munchkin player and simply not get any monsters to attack.

Killer Bunnies (or rather, to give it its full title, "Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot") gets around this problem by admitting straight off the bat that the winner is random. Basically the game consists of an hour of trying to kill each other's bunnies, and then suddenly you ignore 95% of what happened earlier in the game, and randomly one player is picked as the winner. You can only affect who wins by increasing your chances of being a winner, either by (effectively) buying more lottery tickets or disqualifying another player altogether.

Munchkin is similar, although the randomness isn't anywhere as explicit in the game mechanics.

Both are hugely enjoyable though, and we've got every expansion available. The difference is that these games are much more about the having fun than the result.

Kam and I have been considering writing our own card game. We're currently arguing about exactly this issue. I'm arguing that the game should have built-in protection against the randomness favouring one player, by making every card be both a "good" and a "bad" card and requiring that players balance their "karma" so that they have to use skill to work out which cards to use on themselves and which to use on their opponents. He's arguing that the whole point of the card game should be that it is mostly random.

In other news, we watched the first episode of Stargate: Atlantis in detail yesterday. If you don't want to be spoiled, stop reading now. We were wondering, having seen the more recent episodes (in particular, say, episode 13 "Hot Zone") exactly how many people they had sent to Atlantis. Our thinking was that we would then be able to count the number of deaths over the season and be able to identify in which episode they'd run out of "red shirts" altogether. We never got around to counting the number of people (although we did establish that you should theoreticaly be able to estimate a roughly accurate number), because before we got as far as twelve people, we found a discrepancy. After Sheppard and his team comes through the wormhole, eleven items have crossed the event horizon. In order, they are: a MALP, Sumner, three unidentified airmen, Weir, Ford, Sheppard, three more unidentified airmen. So one MALP, ten people.

However, if you count the items actually in the Atlantis gate room just after those last three airmen have gone through, you'll see twelve people.

Where did the extra two people come from?

We didn't miscount. We checked. Several times. In slow motion, in fast motion, with a chipmunk audio track, and with freeze frames. Yes, I have no life, so sue me.

Several explanations (other than the boring one, "oops", which I'm sure will be the one on the director's commentary!) come to mind. My personal favourite is that the Reole, featured in the SG-1 episode "The Fifth Man" (season 5 episode 4), reached Atlantis before the Humans and will form a mysterious source of extra red shirts when the plot requires more people to die. Since the Atlantis team has no contact with anyone who has an independent way of verifying how many people are on the team, there's not really any way they could tell anything was going on.

Assuming the Reole don't have the Ancient Gene, they wouldn't have triggered any of the Ancient technology, and could therefore have lived there for some time without causing all the power drainage that the Human team caused within minutes of arriving.

Another possible answer is that the Pegasus-class stargates aren't completely backwards compatible with the Milky Way-class stargates and some of the people coming through got cloned. Seems unlikely though, since they would probably have found out about that relatively quickly.

Or maybe two of the people in the shot are actually ascended Ancients looking over the place and trying to blend in by taking on the rough silhouette of gun-toting nosy humans. That would also explain the way they move about very quickly between some of the shots.

In other news, I finished the last Salsa class of this year and signed up for the second course which starts in January. I really enjoyed it, much more than I expected, and look forward to the next set of lessons. Incidentally, having just googled for some of the things I've learnt in those classes, I'm glad it turns out I'm not the only one who heard "cross-bodily" when his teacher was saying "cross body lead". At least I can chalk it up to the fact that these lessons are in Norwegian so I'm having to guess as to what he's saying most of the time anyway...

Now, back to writing up a draft of the card game rules Kam and I are inventing.

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