I can do this.

It’s that time again, time for the most amazing commercials you’ve ever seen to show up on YouTube and elsewhere. While I intend to do my usual run-down and review of the offerings when the time comes, an early favorite has crossed my feeds:

I love this so much. I love it because it puts video gaming on par with Chess and Football. I love the subtle call-outs to the anime and to the game mythology in the lead-in. I love that there’s diversity. And OMG, I teared up a little at the end. Yes, we can do this.

Part of me is like, how has it been 20 years? Part of me is like, how has it ONLY been 20 years? Just 20 years ago, this screen was state of the art on a handheld gaming device:
Pokemon original

Now, we’re just a few cycles away from having a location based real world Pokemon game on our phones…on our wrists!

Mind Games 2015 Recap

Background:  The Mind Games convention is where/how American Mensa awards games the Mensa Select seal.  The seal is awarded to 5-6 games each year. It’s an event with ~300 Mensans in attendance, specifically a self-selected subset of Mensans that are gamers. As a judge/attendee, you are assigned around ~30 games to play during the play period (Friday 11am until Sunday 9am). Between 50-60 are submitted in total each year by various manufacturers in lots of genres, though Euro games are sadly almost always under-represented and under-ranked. Each judge gets to vote on 7 (in a ranked order) from the list of ones they were assigned. To vote, judges must play the 25-30 they are assigned, but that is on the honor system. The remaining submissions are optional, but I try to get through all of them each year. Other people have different mandatory/optional lists versus yours, such that the number of people who judge each game are balanced. At the end of the judging/play period, the ballots are tallied and the winning games are announced on Sunday. A press release generally follows on Monday.  You can look up the winners for past years at http://mindgames.us.mensa.org/about/winning-games/.

Mensa Mind Games 2015 was held in San Diego, CA from April 30 through May 3. 60 total games were played over the weekend. Unlike prior Mind Games events, 2015 included an extra day (Thursday-Sunday instead of Friday-Sunday). The extra day allowed everyone to have a more relaxed pace and to check out San Diego’s terrific attractions. (Yes, I went to the zoo.) There truly was no excuse for not finishing your assigned games this year. I did all 60, per usual, and I didn’t even have to rush that much. I had time to swim and relax on Saturday evening.

Per Chief Judge Greg Webster, 210 ballots were cast, but 11 of those were deemed invalid due to mis-votes. (Yes, even among Mensans, some folks make voting mistakes.) The game submissions this year were remarkably good; all games except two got at least one vote. I have attended Mind Games where it was tough to come up with 7 games that I was willing to give a vote. That was not an issue this year at all. In fact, I have enough “honorable mentions” this year that I will cover them in a separate post and only talk about the winners in this post. I suspect that Kickstarter and other indie game publishing houses are the result of the shift.

Before I recap the winners, I wanted to note that Chicago Area Mensa will be hosting in 2016. It will be back to a 3-day format (which I actually prefer), and you can count on a gaming-centric group like CAM to put on an awesome event. You can already book hotel reservations, and there’s a Facebook event for those of you who use FB. Spreadsheet services for MG 2016 will be provided by yours truly. 🙂

Without further ado, the winners of Mensa Mind Games 2015 (in alphabetical order) along with my scoring and notes:

[table id=2 /]
Publisher: Bezier Games
Category: Euro/Economic/Tile

I had heard of this one and even nearly played it at AGOG before coming. However, my first play of it was at Mind Games. It, unfortunately, wasn’t on my ballot, but it was on DH’s. Folks who have played Suburbia (another game from the same publisher and designer) will immediately recognize some of the component design, but the game itself has little in common with Suburbia. Players construct their castles using rooms that are arranged on a market for purchase by the current round’s “master builder”. Thus, the cost of a building may change from one round to another based on whether the current “master” feels it is likely to be desired or not (or whether they want to try to reserve it for themselves). Also, unlike Suburbia, most building purchases are paid to other players rather than the bank. Like Suburbia, each building has qualities that score victory points for the building itself, potentially adjacent buildings, or all buildings on your board. There’s also a Vegas Showdown type element where the construction of your castle matters. An entrance from the outside is required, and the shapes of the buildings or the placement of doorways can end up constraining your construction. All in all, it has a lot of strategic elements, and while the gameplay is relatively straightforward, it at least feels like different skill sets could be used to win. Besides, even if you don’t win, you get to build a fun castle. Aesthetically, there are some very minor issues of clarity on pieces (it’s hard to remember the symbol for adjacent vs. all on board, for example, and the art can make the size symbol/number hard to read), but the instructions and player aids are very clear and make it easy to get going.

[table id=3 /]
Publisher: Gamewright
Category: Card/Set Collecting

Dragonwood is a card game with a quest/RPG type theme. Players draw and collect “hero” cards in sets, straights, flushes, and straight flushes to defeat “creature” cards that are drawn from a separate deck. Most enemies award victory points but some enemies award powers that help you with future defeats. The size of the collection of cards you play determines how many dice you get to roll, and the sum of the dice versus the corresponding strength vs. the type of cards played (set, straight, or flush) determines if you defeated the creature. The game ends either when you go through the hero deck twice or when you defeat both the red and yellow dragons, which are shuffled into the bottom third of the creature deck. At game end, the player with the most victory points wins.

I admit that seeing so many variants on the “collect gin-style sets of cards and play them to do X” card games at prior Mind Games has probably soured me on the genre. But, beyond that, the game frustrated us in that we easily got through the hero deck twice before being even close to seeing either dragon come up. We had four players. Also, collecting the sets took longer and felt more frustrating that it should have due to how slow drawing is. I think they had a good concept with the merge of fantasy quest theming with a basic card game, but the execution needed work to tune the decks correctly. Aesthetically, I was also disappointed by the artwork. It is cartoony and reminiscent of Dragon’s Lair (and parodies of that genre). I would have preferred more realistic or compelling art given how dull the gameplay is.

[table id=4 /]
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios and Foxtrot Games
Category: Euro/Tile

In past years, this one could have topped my list, but it had the unfortunate luck to be competing with so many other solid entrants. This is a tile laying game where each tile earns you and your opponent chips in various colors, and the orientation of the tile placement determines what your opponents get vs. what you get. Once you collect the chips, you can claim scrolls for endgame victory points by having sets of single colors or an assortment of colors. As each person claims a set scroll, the value of the subsequent scrolls goes down (i.e., first person gets a 7 point scroll, second person gets a 5 point scroll, and so on). So, it isn’t just what you collect but whether what you collect gets you the most points at any given moment. It’s very easy to play. DH has concerns that the strategy is minimal. When I was playing, I noticed that the chips are piece limited and so worked on denying my right hand opponents chips in colors that put them in competition with what I was planning to claim. However, your ability to do that is constrained by the tiles and the way your opponents play. I’d put it on a similar strategy level as Splendor (and similar complexity). Beyond that, though, the landscape you create with the tiles is very pretty, and the components are nice looking overall. Thus, even if you aren’t enjoying the strategy, you get to enjoy the aesthetic aspect.

[table id=5 /]
Publisher: Ad Magic/Breaking Games
Category: Word

There’s an inevitable spate of word games at Mind Games, but this one managed to add something unique. Like many other word games, you draw cards with letters on them and then use those cards to lay down words in order to score (money in this case). The unique aspect of this word game vs. others is that after playing a word (and earning cash accordingly), you can pay to patent one of the letters you used. Once you patent a letter, you get money from the bank any time another player uses the letter in one of their words. Different letters have different costs based on frequency, but you always get paid the same royalty for the patent. The goal is to collect the most money by the end of the game. The patent cards also incorporate interesting factory art. One quibble I had with the game is that the payoff of stock rather than money (which occurs only on big words) seemed to be a pointless complexity, given that stock and money are equivalent with the exception that you can’t use stock to buy anything. If anything, it seems like the stock makes the larger words less valuable. If stock had some dividend mechanism or if it was worth more in the end game, it’d make more sense. I also nitpick that players should have to pay royalties to each other rather than royalties coming from the bank. As is, there’s not enough pain to playing a word when other players hold the patents, but that is likely by design and probably helps keep the game balanced among players of differing skill levels.

[table id=6 /]
Publisher: Bink Ink, LLC
Category: Euro/Routes/Set Collection

Trekking is a TTR-like board game played on a map of the US with locations based on the National Park System. In addition to a rules booklet, the game includes a guidebook of the included parks (each of which features a photo of the Kickstarter backer that sponsored that park’s inclusion). There are multiple ways to win. One is to complete the public contracts (not the game’s lingo) for sets of cards that you play once at the noted park to get the contract. One is to gather colored stones by being the first visitor to each park, getting a majority of each to score points at the end of the game. One is to complete private contracts (called postcards). All of these things get you victory points, and most victory points at game end wins. Like TTR, there’s contract decks and then the main deck where you collect colored symbol cards to be able to claim contracts. Unlike TTR, you don’t buy legs of travel. Instead, you’re completing the park contract cards that are publicly available with the specific card types noted on the contract. The game designer/publisher has a terrific website that includes very well done “how to play” videos. If videos aren’t your thing, the rule book is extremely well done, too. It is also fun to travel the parks, and I have to love any game that highlights the awesomeness of the NPS, as it’s truly one of our national treasures. I placed my order for this one while at the airport to head home from Mind Games.

You can view the official Mind Games press release here: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/05/prweb12697995.htm. Also, if you want to see my massive spreadsheet of scores and notes, it’s posted here: https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=f9c94cb9f01a9ee9!2232&authkey=!AFauXyK6LerQMAE&ithint=file%2Cxlsx. Finally, you can view my photos from the event here: http://tsukata.org/photo-galleries/mind-games-2015-and-san-diego-zoo/.

Pokemon Art Academy

I’ve been playing Pokemon Art Academy, which turns out to be a nicely relaxing game for me. It’s also teaching me some art skills, building on some of the things I’ve learned at Disneyland/WDW Animation Academy. I’m learning better shading and layering techniques. The game starts you out tracing outlines and coloring them in. It builds up to having you draw using pre-defined construction shapes. Finally, you are sketching entirely from a blank canvas but with guided steps to build up construction shapes and finally coloring and shading.

I’ve finished the main game, though there’s still 6-8 “graduate” lessons on advanced topics that I’m working through. The bad part is that it’s making me want a drawing tablet for my laptop so I can do similar work in Photoshop!

Mind Games 2014 Recap (Austin, TX)

Background:  The Mind Games convention is where/how American Mensa awards games the Mensa Select seal.  The seal is awarded to 5-6 games each year. It’s an event with 200-300 Mensans in attendance, specifically a self-selecting subset of Mensa that are gamers. As a judge/attendee, you are assigned around 25-30 games to play during the play period (Friday 11am until Sunday 9am). Between 50-60 are submitted in total each year by various manufactures in lots of genres, though Euro games are sadly almost always under-represented and under-ranked. Each judge gets to vote on 7 (in a ranked order) from the list of ones they were assigned. To vote, judges must play the 25-30 they are assigned, but that is on the honor system. The remaining submissions are optional, but I try to get through all of them each year. Other people have different mandatory/optional lists versus yours, such that it is balanced with the number of people who judge each game. At the end of the judging/play period, the ballots are tallied and the winning games are announced on Sunday. A press release generally follows on Monday.  You can look up the winners for past years at http://mindgames.us.mensa.org/about/winning-games/.

This year’s winners for Mind Games were Gravwell, Qwixx, Pyramix, The Duke & Euphoria.  My votes to win were (in rank order) Euphoria, Compounded, Pyramix, Four in a Square, Freedom: The Underground Railroad, 20 Express, and Tapple.  If I could have voted based on all the selections, my votes to win would have been Euphoria, Compounded, Coup, Freedom: The Underground Railroad, Sushi Go, and Qwixx.  So, there’s decent overlap between what won and what I liked. 🙂

Of this year’s winners, the only one that really bums me out is Gravwell.  I just did not find it to be a very interesting game.  The concept is that you program moves to try to escape a gravity well with your spaceship, but in my play of it, it felt like the programming could only rarely be done strategically.  Talking to other attendees, their experiences differed.  Either way, I will say that it’s better than some past winners that made it into the mix.

Qwixx is a Gamewright republish of a game found at Essen, and they did a great job with the rules and components.  It’s a very quick and simple dice game with no downtime and light strategy.  Its only flaw is that you need the included pad of scoresheets (which will inevitably run out).  It’s also a great value for the price.

Pyramix uses cubes (d6’s) with symbols on them to build a pyramid and then has each player collect cubes.  There are multiple approaches that can win, and, like Qwixx, it’s aesthetically pleasing.  The strategy is a little limited, as final scoring depends heavily on things you can’t discover until the endgame, but it’s a unique concept and turned out to be a great little game.

The Duke is a chess-like abstract strategy game.  It’s a bit tough to summarize beyond that, but one unique mechanic it uses is having pieces where the moves change each time you use them, alternating between two types of moves.  This is made simple by them printing the move on the piece itself, so you never have to ask “what does the wizard do again?”.  As with any abstract strat game, it will suffer from Analysis Paralysis (AP) with the right player(s), but if you can avoid that, it’s pleasing and a good challenge. There are expansions in the box that add more complexity and variety to the gameplay, too, but I didn’t get to try those.

Euphoria…now, looking at the names of this year’s submissions alone, I would have bet good money that Euphoria would  be a dog, but it turned out to be my favorite of the weekend.  It is a worker placement and resource management game.  You’ll see people complain that the rules are long.  If you’re a frequent euro gamer, you’ll find them remarkably well-written and easy to grasp.  It *may* have a bit of an issue in that it doesn’t provide enough encouragement to perform a mechanic that seems like they wanted to happen (building markets), but that may also be a result of inefficient play or simply not knowing the game well enough.  The theming, building in a dystopian future, reminded me of several young adult dystopian future novels. (Is that a new genre yet?  Remember when we had “young adult paranormal romance”?  Do they now have “young adult dystopian sci-fi”?)

Compounded was a non-winner that I enjoyed.  You play the role of a chemist in what is clearly a severely underfunded lab (you have to build your own fire extinguisher), and you use elements drawn randomly to fill compounds from a set that is available to everyone.  Different compounds, once claimed/created, have different benefits that help you make the next compound faster, and the goal is to get the most points before game end.  There’s also randomized explosions that occur, scattering the elements around the lab.  Overall, it’s a medium strategy game with cute components and a nifty periodic table as a scoreboard.

Freedom is a co-op game where players work together as abolitionists trying to move slaves on the Underground Railroad.  This game is masterful with white guilt, but it’s also nicely historic, beautifully laid out, and it plays well.  You really do care about your slave cubes and feel bad about not rescuing them.  Plus, the theme forces you to make tough decisions in the vein of deciding whether it’s worthwhile to sacrifice one person to save many.  (People who have trouble not saving a person in Flash Point will not do well at this game. 😉 )

Another notable submission was Coup, which has an endorsement by Wil Wheaton on the back and comes from the makers of The Resistance.  Coup has similar elements to Resistance, but it is playable with fewer players (2-6).  It very much reminds me of the dynamic in Survivor around hidden immunity idols.

Overall, this year’s submissions were remarkably good.  The “dog” of the weekend was Po-rum-bo, and, in many past Mind Games, that would have been a middle of the pack game.  The head judge noted that every single game got at least one vote, and that, too, is unusual. I think it reflects that the submissions were overall of good quality.

Full spreadsheet o’ ratings and other such joy:

Holiday Video Gaming Round-up

I did quite a bit of gaming in the time between returning from our pre-Christmas cruise and now. I’d received several games from my wish list for the holidays. I figured I’d share my thoughts on the titles I’ve been playing lately.

  • Fallout: New Vegas – It’s really an expansion of FO3 more than its own game, by all reports, and that’s fine, because FO3 was a really good game. However, I started getting through the main questline way too quickly, so I double-checked a walkthrough. Sure enough, just like FO3 started out, you can’t continue in New Vegas after completing the main quest. So, I’m now doing side quests. It feels like it happened too fast, though. I’m not sure how much of that is because I know the system now and how much is that it’s just a much smaller game. Also, I found New Vegas itself to be disappointing. FO3 was filled with real landmarks done in post-apocalyptic fashion. Just from going through the game, I know DC geography better. I suppose I recognize that they couldn’t do that with Vegas for obvious reasons, but it’s not even close. I suppose I wish that they had just picked a different location if they couldn’t do Vegas properly. All of this is really a nitpick though. It’s still an addictive game where you are enveloped in the story from the beginning. And btw, fuck the legion. (Hilarious bugs persist, too. My favorite was after I respawned in Nipton and the scene was setting up, the villagers were walking up to their crosses and hopping on, essentially self-crucifying.)
  • Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two – It pains me to say this, but it’s horrible. Okay, the first Epic Mickey had some control issues with the third person camera. Not only are those issues still present, the game is practically unplayable in single player form. Instead of letting you switch back and forth between Mickey and Oswald, the tried and true method for handling single player in a co-op game, they make you cope with AI Oswald, and the AI is horrible. Also, Oswald is lame compared to Mickey, which I suppose he had to be, since you can’t make the challenges very dependent on him because the AI is so bad. I’m still very early in the game, but it feels like it’s lacking the playful nostalgia from the original. Also, the EM1 storyline was really good. It really captured your attention. They made you care about the characters. EM2…it’s just kind of blah. It’s like any one of the issues would be forgivable but poor story + bad single player + bad controls = bad game. I’ll probably still play it through, because I’m dedicated, but it’ll be on the backburner.
  • Kinect Disneyland Adventures – Okay, this is surprisingly awesome. It really does feel like you’re in Disneyland. As far as storyline, it’s kind of Fallout-esque in the sense that it’s quest-based, with side quests and a main questline. Mostly, you’re just visiting Disneyland and doing stuff there. You can explore freely, or you can follow the quest path. The controls are all Kinect-based, which has pros and cons. To run around, you put an arm out and basically point toward where you want to go, or bend your arm toward you to turn around. It’s intuitive, but after a few minutes of running around (which can feel painfully slow…did they really need the realism of a crowded park?), my arm was getting tired. When you encounter characters or rides, you wave to interact, and then you have gestures that apply once you’re in that interaction. For example, to get an autograph, you hold out both hands, palms up, and say, “Autograph.” The rides are all mini-games based on the ride, rather than a ride-through. But, this game has what I would expect from a Disney title: attention to detail. As you walk around, you overhear other park guests talking about what they’re doing that day. Yes, some of it is PR (“Wow, this popcorn is amazing!”, “Dad, can we come back tomorrow?”), but it’s also a nice touch that some games would have skipped. The tutorial is fairly complete without being tiresome, and the game has lots of ways to help you out gently if you seem to have forgotten how to do something. Most of all though, it feels like you’re having a day in the park. I can see it as being a great way to tide you over between visits or to help a younger child understand what the park is like before their first visit. Also, if you’re a WDW person who can’t go to Disneyland, this lets you tour a virtual version of the iconic original cheaply and easily.
  • Just Dance 4 for Kinect – There’s not a ton of gameplay difference here in this one versus Just Dance 3. It’s got the same kooky animations and the same overly forgiving scoring system. Just like previous versions, you have to play to unlock features that really should be present out of the box, like playlists. However, the Kinect experience has been thoroughly improved. The tracking seems to be much better, and we were able to play with four people in a less-than-ideal space without too much issue. Also, they added video capture which has lots of potential hilarity. But, overall, you’re basically just buying a new playlist of dance songs.

Fallout 3

Warning: If you’ve never played Fallout, most of this post will not make sense to you. Also, I’m trying to be vague enough to be spoiler-free, but if you really don’t want game spoilers, don’t read this.

I finally got through the main storyline in Fallout 3 this week. I’d encountered a hiccup near the end of the story that caused me to lose both my companions (they were stuck in Vault 87), and I couldn’t let Dogmeat die like that, so I re-played from a savegame and sent Dogmeat home before going into the Vault. Just to be safe, I also sent Paladin Cross (my lesbian lover, in my version of the story) away before hooking up with Fawkes. I’ve decided to keep Fawkes for the time being, if only because the text to dismiss him seems so mean and Trump-like (“You’re fired, Fawkes.” Really? They couldn’t have just made it be, “Let’s part ways, my friend.” or something like that?). After Raven Rock blew up, I was quickly able to verify that Cross had made it back to the Citadel safely (though I didn’t re-recruit her). Dogmeat wasn’t at Vault 101, though. So, I zapped myself over to the scrapyard and came across three raiders, right where Dogmeat is found. Fawkes and I killed them off, but I still didn’t find my Dogmeat. Just to be sure, I zapped back to Vault 101, thinking I’d wait there for him for a day or so. As the Vault 101 door faded into view, I could hear Dogmeat panting and squeed with joy. My dog! Yay! I saved him! With our family happily reunited, we headed back to my Megaton apartment to stow stuff and rest before continuing to the end of the game. Dogmeat is having to adjust to being a house-pup, as I’m not taking him on anything dangerous. Granted, I’m level 23 now, so he has to be pretty strong, but I have seen a giant radscorpion take him out before. So, mainly, I keep him at home to sleep at the foot of my bed. I have plenty of meat in my cabinets, not that he truly eats any of it.

Later on, in the first mission of Broken Steel, I ran into Paladin Cross again, though she wasn’t named. It just called her “Brotherhood of Steel Paladin”, but from her voice, face, and dialogue, I could tell it was her leading the charge as we stormed the satellite base, with the flamer gun I gave her, I think. She pretended not to remember me (the bitch). 😉 I may still switch back out for her. Fawkes is nice for clearing rooms of minor enemies that I don’t want to bother with (ghouls and whatnot), as well as major enemies that annoy me (deathclaws)…but he also makes the game pretty darn easy. I wonder if cranking the difficulty up would make it harder, even with Fawkes? Hmm.

In other news, I saw a flying deathclaw today, like the ones shown in these videos. Mine was at F. Scott Key Campground, and it was hilarious. It’s the one that is scripted in to kill a wastelander, so it kept re-spawning and then flying up…infinite flying deathclaw! The wastelander was still dead, though, so the deathclaw must have killed him before he flew into the air. The best part was that Fawkes kept trying to shoot at the deathclaw flying in the air. He also got increasingly frustrated that the deathclaw wouldn’t come back and fight him; he kept screaming at the mid-air deathclaws! If I can get the glitch to happen again, I may record it because it’s *that* amusing.

Papaya Farm

I’m obsessed with playing Papaya Farm on my Android phone. It’s a Farmville clone, intended to be cross-platform. It’s free. If you’re interested in giving it a try, you can go to this link and use Barcode Scanner (or your barcode scanner app of choice) to scan the QR code.

Unfortunately, the support for Papaya Farm is really minimal. The developer is based in China, and the English instructions provided in the game are both in broken English and not complete. Once you get into it, it’s really fun though. You start with a small plot of land and access to only a few seed types, like carrots. Planting, harvesting, and re-plowing results in getting tools. For example, you can get a carrot blender to make carrot juice. Eventually, when you’ve played for awhile, you start getting repeats of tools and/or needing specific tools. That’s where the social game gets fun. Papaya provides a cross-platform (iPhone, Facebook, Android) chat area where you can meet up with other Papayans and set up trades for tools. This has led to some Type A documentation on my part…I have a GDocs spreadsheet online with all the products I’ve made, what I’m working on, what tools I have available to trade, etc. You can see the public trading page at my Papaya Farm GDoc. I’ve also got a big table of seeds, values, tools, etc. posted there that you’re welcome to download and modify for your own purposes.

If you want to friend me in Papaya Farm, my user name is exactly what you’d expect: tsukata. My avatar has pink hair, and it will say that I’m a US user on Android. (Papaya allows people to duplicate user names, so you need to know someone’s user name as well as a few details to make sure you’re friending the right person.)

I’m also happy to answer questions that people have about the game. Here’s a few tips on using the app to start:

  • In-game money is earned by selling products in the game. Papayas are earned by completing offers, buying them directly (using real money), or referring friends to the game. You also get a regular papaya bonus just for logging in. Papayas have significant in-game value, especially as you progress further in the game, so don’t waste them on early purchases of avatar clothing and such.
  • When you exit Papaya Farm (pressing quit from the farm), you can click your Android menu button to access “Home” (your profile, f-list, and inbox), “Chat/IM” (where the chat rooms are), and other helpful sub-areas of Papaya.
  • If you’re a new Papaya user, a friend (like me) can get bonus papayas by referring you. There’s a field for referrer when you first sign up with Papaya Mobile. Get your friend’s referrer ID (mine is my e-mail address 🙂 ) to give them credit for your registration. They’ll thank you!
  • Chickens and cows can be converted into meat to feed cats and other carnivores. Before you start on a carnivore, raise enough chickens and cows to feed it. Chickens have a better grass-to-meat exchange rate, but it’s faster to get more meat by raising cows.
  • Don’t buy a ranch or farm dog. It requires regular upkeep of dog food, which costs papayas. I can’t tell you how many Papyans are begging for dog food in the chat room because the dog’s animation when he’s hungry is so pitiful. No one can steal from you bad enough to justify the ongoing cost of the dog.
  • Speaking of stealing, it’s a normal part of Papaya. You earn respect points (which gets you periodic bonus items) by stealing from your friends *and* by being stolen from. In fact, it’s a common strategy to leave a pile of eggs laying around in the ranch for people to steal, because you get respect points for every item stolen. Your last fruit on the vine and last product on the ranch generally can’t be stolen, with the exception of “fast” fruits like pumpkins and grass. Someone has to use a special card to steal the last item.
  • However, plowing other people’s fields is a faux pas. Because plowing is how you get tools, and tools have the most value, plowing your friends’ fields is a sure way to lose friends. But, it’s your call in the end. Personally, I never leave my fields unplowed. I plow as soon as I harvest. But, some folks like to leave them unharvested because there’s a theory out there that you’re more likely to get tools if you’re plowing more fields successively. Also, my personal rule is that the “friend plots” (the areas where only your friends can plant) are fair game for either the friend or me to plow once we harvest.

Hope this helps!

PS – I’ve created a Papaya Fan tumblr, since I wanted to play around with tumblr anyways. You can submit questions and tips over there, and I will post it. Papaya Fan on Tumblr

Mindgames 2010 – Day 2 (#mg2010) – My Ballot

Well, I’ve played every game that I care to play. I mean, there are seven more games that I haven’t played out of the entire group, but I have no interest in playing those. A few are solitaire puzzle games, and the rest are either ones that I’ve been told are bad or are ones that just don’t interest me as a genre.

My ballot is:

  1. Pentago Multi-player – I really debated giving this one the slot, because it is basically just an add-on of something that has won a Mensa Select before…but it’s a really good game that embodies the Mensa brand.
  2. Fish Stix – It’s just fun. It was a strong contender for first. It’s got enough strategy to be fun to those that want to play it strategically without excluding or losing value to people who want to play for fun only. It’s got a nice Ingenious element, with a much prettier and more pleasing aesthetic.
  3. Q-bitz – Another one that embodies Mensa brand…and it’s accessible. Anyone could be good at it, I think.
  4. Anomia – A nice improvement on Snorta with a bit of pop culture/trivia thrown in for good measure.
  5. Tri-Cross – Abstract strategy that is eminently playable, accessible, and enjoyable. It’s not one I’d play every day, but I wouldn’t turn it down.
  6. Bisikle – RV is chiding me for including a dexterity game, but it’s just really fun with good components. Even if dex games aren’t exactly “mensa” esque, you’re telling me Apples to Apples is???
  7. Word on the Street – It’s a nifty party game with a tug of war where you try to use words with letters that you “pull” to your side, and the words have to fit a random theme. Worth playing.

Games that I would have nominated if they were on my list include: Cornucopia, Stix & Stones, and Arimaa.

So that’s it. I’m headed down now just to play games for fun and help other people finish their ballots. 🙂 As before, you can view my entire list with comments, ratings, etc. at Mindgames 2010 Ratings/Ballot.

PS – For those who don’t know how Mindgames works or what it is: Mindgames is the convention where Mensa selects games to receive the Mensa Select seal. Game designers and manufacturers can submit games that either haven’t been released yet or were released in the past year and have never been submitted before. In addition to being entered as possible seal contenders, they get back ratings cards that we fill out with feedback on the game, like where we see potential for improvement or notes on ideal marketing or play. Each Mensan Judge is required to play a random selection of 30 games (assigned when you register). The judge must complete the assigned 30 games to submit his/her ballot for the award. (Yes, you have to complete 30 games in less than 2 days. But, as you can tell from my posts…it’s not that hard to get through the list, especially if you’re a frequent gamer who can digest rules quickly.) The judge may play additional games not on their ballot list but may not vote for those additional games. At the end of the weekend, the votes are tallied, the winners are announced, and the 5 copies of each game that were submitted by the makers are distributed to the judges as a thank you for participating. You are only eligible for the free games if you submitted a valid ballot.

New Year’s Weekend

Games played yesterday:

  • Time’s Up
  • L4D2 (XBox 360)
  • Wasabi!
  • Hare & Tortoise
  • Mall of Horror
  • ebay (electronic game)
  • Smallworld

Smallworld continues to be a favorite, though I still think of it as Vinci Lite. Pillars would have hit the table, but we didn’t want to play it six player. Through The Ages continues to be a tough one to get played, mainly because of the steep learning curve and long playtime. We had a really good group, with a nice mix of gamers and non-gamers. We also had a ton of delicious alcoholic beverages, thanks to our bartender, B*. The five of us that were staying the night got quite snockered. We set up the second XBox for L4D2 so that three of us could play online at once. That was really fun. It’s nice to play L4D2 with people I know instead of just random strangers.

For the rest of the weekend, I’m doing some random home projects. 🙂

A Test Of Your Deductive Skills

What can you deduce from this sign?

Now, first, what can you deduce from this sign?

ANSWER (highlight to the right of this to see): The floor is frequently slippery.

If you got it right, congratulations on your skills of deduction. I guess if you can’t make that deduction, you deserve to fall on the floor. 🙂

Also, from the graphic, it seems like the sign is actually warning you that the floor frequently contains Portals. 😉

PS – This is a joke, not a real test. If you got here by googling…this probably wasn’t what you were looking for. 🙂


I’m at the WBCs! So far, I like this convention. The people have been really nice and friendly. There’s a significant population of female and young gamers, which is a nice change of pace. There’s a bunch of restaurants in easy walking distance, plus the hotel puts out a really good spread at its various snack bars at a reasonable price. The hotel is older, but it’s nice enough once you take that into account…and the rate was really good. Plus, the best part is the games. I was afraid the “every game is a tournament” aspect would bug me, but the net result seems to be that people take the games seriously instead of just assing around. Also, the GMs REALLY take the games seriously. They take care to make sure the event is run smoothly and to resolve rules issues fairly. Many of them keep detailed statistics on the games that will be compiled and posted in a game report later this month.

The only exception to my praise for GMs has been the Empire Builder event. The GMs are really lax, if they show up at all. There’s little if any randomization of the event seating. And, for example, DH was in a game yesterday that they added a relatively unfamiliar player as a fifth person at the last minute…which meant his game ran a good hour longer than the others without being anywhere close to done. Plus, the GM originally said they’d adjudicate the game at 1:30, but then the GM left and didn’t tell anyone how to resolve it. Another GM helper came in and said to keep it going until 1:45 or until the original GM came back, but the original GM never came back. Then, that GM wanted to keep it going until 2pm, but a bunch of the players protested, as most of them were now going into their next event with almost no break, once you figure in time to break down and put away the game. (The one guy who wanted it to keep going was the unfamiliar player, who also was generally slowing the game down by asking irrelevant questions during his turn and such. And I mean, I’d feel bad for him, but he showed up late and let himself be added to a game as a fifth player, knowing that he didn’t know the game that well…and then was generally asshattish on top of slowing things down unnecessarily.) So, point being, I’m avoiding EB events here. Maybe I’m just spoiled to the TGA’s organization. I criticize the TGA often for being clique-y and often biased toward the clique, but they do run an excellent tournament.

The downside of the WBC is that it’s 2 hours from the nearest major airport. It’s also a con that runs 70% of its “open” events during the week. (The weekend is mostly semis and finals, with a few of the super-popular events still doing heats, e.g., Puerto Rico, St. Petersburg, TTR.) Thus, you really need to arrive by Tuesday evening. Granted, that’s only one day earlier than I’d typically arrive at GenCon, but the point being that, if you don’t make it into a final, Saturday and Sunday feel like wasted days, I imagine. But, I’ll see how that goes.

So far, I’ve qualified for the Power Grid semi-final and the Stone Age semi-final. DH has qualified for the Vegas Showdown semi-final.

I miss my Pancake! 🙁 I wish he could travel with me.

Speaking of travel, I found out 2 days ago that I’m going to have to go to Taiwan for work, leaving the Friday after I get back from this. I don’t mind going to Taiwan again (Din Tai Fung!!!!!), and the timing is good in that I’m not starting school yet. But, the timing sucks in that our Adorable Nephew #1 is visiting us that week. I’d been looking forward to taking him to cool things and generally spoiling him rotten. As is, I may get to see him briefly on Friday afternoon after I get back from Taiwan, but that’ll be it.

That’s all the news. 🙂

Why I love Penn Jillette, reason #25698

(first seen by me on GamePolitics)

For my part, this is why I have trouble supporting groups like EqualityNow (though I did contribute to them during the Fannish fundraiser re: Prop 8 that was held on LJ). It’s why I have trouble with NOW, why I had to resign as VP of the LA chapter. I don’t believe in the prosecution of thought crimes, no matter what the potential crime is. (I also don’t believe in putting rape on a pedestal above other crimes. It’s a very terrible thing, yes…it’s a form of torture and just as sick and twisted as torture in its execution. But, there are other terrible things that don’t get anywhere near the attention…and IMO, the way the American feminist movement has escalated rape has, in fact, fetishized it even more.) A video game doesn’t convince you to rape someone, nor to murder. (It also won’t convince you to do things that are even less morally questionable. My husband could play Webkinz all day long, and he’ll never have the want to buy more plushies like I do.) You have to have the desire in you already, the moral/ethical disregard or psychosis, and if you do, and you don’t work out your issues or seek treatment, it’s going to come out someday, no matter what game you play or don’t play.

But, Penn says all this way better than I do, and what’s more, he says it while basking in the Las Vegas sunshine, just meters from his lovely technicolor backyard:

I’m a Fake Life Master!

I have over 300 masterpoints! Yay! 🙂 And, I got my fake Life Master (fLM) in the best way: with fake points. 🙂

You see, the ACBL instituted a really stupid rule the year before I joined. The rank of Life Master has colored point requirements, intended (to some extent) to require you to play at high-skill events to qualify for the rank. For most people, the hardest color to get is gold, because getting gold requires you to play at a (so-called) nationally ranked* event…and win. You’re also required to get a certain quantity of silver (sectional level) and red (regional level) points. So, it’s Gold > Red > Silver > Black (club games) > Colorless (internet play). These colored requirements existed before I joined. And, I have a ton of red points, all the silver I need plus some, and all the gold I need plus some. I also have a high amount of colorless points, because we play on the internet (BBO) alot.

But, the year before I joined, the ACBL instituted a rule that requires you to get black points. Specifically, you have to get 50 black points, which is more than any other required color. And, unlike any other colored point, having the point color that is a rank above black doesn’t count toward black points. That is, you can’t use a spare 50 silver points as black points.

Here’s my beef with this rule (aside from that it’s keeping me from being an official LM):

  • It’s damn hard to get 50 black points. Club games don’t give out very many points per session, because they’re *club* games…they aren’t supposed to be very competitive, so they don’t reward you very much for winning. Also, they don’t get high attendance, and point award limits are based on attendance. The most you can get is ~1.5 points, for a top award at a well-populated club game. So, just getting up to 50 points is much harder than at a sectional, regional, or national.
  • You can only get black points at clubs. Silver points are occasionally given out at clubs, and red points are sometimes given out at NAOPs and GNTs (special events that aren’t regionals). But, the only way you can get black points is to go to a club game.
  • Most club games are held during the day, because most club players are retired. We’re actually relatively lucky to have as many club games near us as we do, but even with that, it’s very hard for a person who works a standard week to get out to a club game. If you live in an area less bridge-oriented than here, it’s very likely that you, as a working person, wouldn’t be able to find a club game at all. (By the way, even though there are two clubs here with decent timing that are 10 and 23 miles away from us respectively, we’re also a bit screwed because this area has a higher-than-normal density of very good bridge players…meaning those club games are VERY hard to win.)
  • Even though the concerns with internet play are mostly unfounded and based on fear rather than reality (and easily preventable if the ACBL cared to do so), internet “clubs” don’t get you black points. They get you colorless points, and only a third of your points for any rank can be colorless. Meaning, for LM, only 100 colorless points count, even if you have more than that. (I don’t have more than 100 colorless, but it’d be much easier for me to hit that point count than to get 50 black, just because there are more internet games in the evenings and on weekends, and I don’t have to leave the house to do one.)
  • With the exception of the club games in this area, club games don’t (or shouldn’t) require special skill to win. You’re generally playing with the same people over and over again, not a wide base of bridge talent. So, whereas the red and gold requirement (and even silver to some extent) can be justified as requiring a certain level of play, the club point requirement only exists to force you to spend $$$ at the clubs, which were supposedly suffering vs. regionals and sectionals. And rather than let the bridge version of the free market do its job, the ACBL created an artificial incentive to bail out the clubs.

If I gave a damn (or if I thought the ACBL did), I might write all of this down and send it to them. But, I’m pretty well convinced that the ACBL is filled with retirees who, for all their moaning about getting young people to play, are not willing to learn or accept the technology that would actually encourage people my age and younger to take up the game…and that they’re arrogant asses to boot. So, I’ve decided I’m quite happy with being a fake Life Master and that I may well *intentionally* avoid club games just so that I never get my LM under this stupid rule.

Oh, and what’s better is that I got my fLM with internet points. Ha and ha! Take that, ACBL! fLM party to be scheduled at a later date…possibly over Memorial Day weekend. 🙂

* Note: There’s a color even higher than gold: platinum. The events that award platinum are what I would consider nationally ranked events…but that’s just semantics, I suppose.

The Wrong Reasons

From a Missouri news story, originally read at GamePolitics:

“There is no reason an adult should have this game,” says Andy Anderson, Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force.

Anderson says adults playing “animal crossing” and similar games are likely doing it for the wrong reasons.

Really? I haven’t played AC yet, but I want to play it. I also, as y’all know, play Webkinz, a game targeted at kids. I’m one of at least thirty adults I know of who do. Oh, and by the way, I have no, zero, zip interest in doing anything “wrong” with kids. Andy Anderson needs a reality check.

(By the way, it’s also worth noting that in Animal Crossing for Wii, as in ALL Wii games, you have to have both parties exchange friend codes before you can play together online. You can see mine in the sidebar at right or on the About Me page. That is, just because you have my friend code means nothing. I don’t see that you have my friend code, and I don’t see that you added me unless I also have your friend code and have inputted it. That’s not some arcane privacy setting; that’s how Wii works. On top of that necessary 2-way exchange, AC has a separate code that must be exchanged and set correctly by both parties, and you have to both be online at the same time *and* accept a chat session to be able to freely speak. In short, there’s no way for a predator to target a kid playing Animal Crossing or any Wii game without some serious effort on the part of the kid, not to mention a huge lack of oversight by the parents, considering that parental controls can block every single step in the process if desired.)

We are the champions!

Last night, Eaten by Delicious (our Rock Band band) gathered at the Harrah’s Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana for the Total Rock, Total Rewards Rock Band challenge, round 1:

Eaten By Delicious, or is it?

We checked the instruments. Then, we diva’d out and insisted on an opening band (one of the gathering crowd that wanted to play). We wanted any technical problems to be worked out before we were being scored, as this competition was purely score-based with no crowd component. We also woo’d and cheered loudly for them, though.

Then, just before we were getting onstage (as they were making sure their equipment was working), we had our VH1 Behind the Band moment. B* realised that the next round of competition is during a bridge tourney out of state. DH and I had already seen this and decided that we’d rather do Rock Band competition than a bridge tourney (even though this particular tourney is reputed to be awesome). Ms. Moo had already checked her calendar. But, B* had not checked on this/had not been told the date and thus told us he couldn’t play. At the last minute. Just before we were about to go on. At which point, I jokingly said, c’mon, it’s not a National…and then I realized he was seriously going to bail on us, and I got *pissed*. We had spent the past four nights practicing, working on this instead of doing other things. I’d left work early on Friday. And then he made the mistake of blaming my dear husband, which led to me biting B*’s head off. I mean, I was ticked anyways, but I also knew the history and felt strongly that this was in B*’s camp to check, not ours, so that just gave me justification to bite his head off.

We begged Mr. Moo to fill in. He’d just gotten Rock Band two weeks earlier, so this was a big ask. He was only there to root for us and take pictures. But, he was a really good sport about it and filled in on bass at medium. I was on guitar on hard (we’d figured out that, as a band, we scored better with me doing 99% on Hard than with me getting a higher individual score at 93% on Expert, due to the multipliers). My DH was on drums. Ms. Moo was singing.

Eaten By Delicious, rocking out

We ended up scoring okay on the song, but not up to our normal level. It is important to note that this was not Mr. Moo’s fault. He did wonderfully, particularly considering that he was relatively new to the game (granted, he’s a very good real guitarist). One problem was that the whole stage rocked whenever DH hit the drum pedal (and Ms. Moo, not realizing the problem, was stomping along with the beat), and thus his drum kit was creeping forward at an angle. The drum kit didn’t have enough weight to hold it in place. Also, there’s the “zOMG we’re on a stage with a crowd cheering!” factor, which meant that I only scored 93% on hard, with a relatively low streak.

Then, there was a promotion at the casino that you could get free buffets pretty easily, so we got free buffets. Mr. Moo went back to the poker game while the “original” EBD went to the buffet. (Technically, the original Eaten By Delicious is me and DH…the band name is a combination of our two Guitar Hero band names, Delicious and Eaten By Wolves. But, B* and Ms. Moo complete us.) While there, B* and I (having had time to cool down) talked and resolved the fighting. So, we were cool.

Then, B*, having had time to think about it more, decided that he wanted to do it after all. So, we registered again, as a different band (because you can swap out one person and be a whole new band). That necessitated a new band name. Thus, we are now known in the competition as Even More Delicious.

Even More Delicious won…with nearly 150% of EBD’s score. Granted, the competition was weak. There were no serious bands there. We could have won without practicing at all, as it turns out. Still, it’s a victory.

In April, we’ll be competing in the local finals, and, if we get past that, we go to regional finals. At regional finals, we each win an XBox 360 and Rock Band 2 (kind of silly since clearly at least some of the winning band will already have it). If we go to and win the national finals, we get to open for the B-52s in Vegas. 🙂 *That* is a long shot though. We might have a shot at winning the regional finals…but nationals…we’re good, but there are LOTS of people who are MUCH better. Still, it’ll be fun to try. 🙂

Time Travel

As many of you have noticed, the blog has gone back in time to catch up on posts from our (very awesome, wanna go back NOW) Disney trip. As such, I skipped over quite a few events that would normally warrant a blog post. I don’t want to spend another month re-capping, so below is a one paragraph, catch-all summary of the things that were, January 2009. As is fitting for anything dealing with time travel, I shall start with Lost

Lost is back on! Desmond’s baby named Charlie, the others speak Latin, woohoo! B* made me a cake with a Dharma logo. It was delicious…disappeared very quickly, did Ben turn the wheel, shift cake through time? Obama officially president, yay! Didn’t care about inauguration until the day it was on, then was sad I couldn’t watch live and had to work instead. Re-org’d at work into new group but otherwise similar. Got one estimate for the pipe burst repairs from the guy(s) who did our basement, liked their work, but the painting estimate alone was higher than was to paint whole basement. Something smells funny in Denmark, yo. Business name is of the form, [name] the [job]er…which led to Joe-the-plumber, bob-the-builder joking between DH and I. DH has been working odd hours at his second job. Very stressful. Ran Survivor at Mensa AGOG. Had to scramble to get to the minimum ten to play, but once we got there, it was AWESOME. Everyone had bonzer good time. Yay. Knee has been hurting alot lately. Also, period has been irregular. (Not related.) WTF is up with me? Wish knee would stop hurting. But yet, I will be going skiing on Saturday, yay! And knee can just suck on that, thank you very much. Pancake continues to be adorable kitteh. Races me up the stairs. I almost won last night, but only because he let me have a 5 step head start. Thought L4D was an evil time suck, but then Mr. Moo introduced me to Braid, which now is on my bedroom xbox (not mytsukata gamertag). Damn you, Mr. Moo! Got special L4D achievement last night for blowing the witch’s head off, Cr0wnd! Sweet. So cold outside. But weather Saturday promises to be ski-awesome. Found giant and strange fruit at the store, called Pomelo, is huge and we could kill a small child with it, but we won’t. Instead, will eat. Also got some honey tangerines. Enjoying finding and trying out new fruits. Finished second term of class, am 12.5% done with MBA. Group project ended much better than it started. Next term, taking two classes: Effective Leadership *coughbullshitcough* and Negotiations & Conflict Management (win win win). Hoping negotiations will make me awesome at negotiation such that I can help Mensa with hotel negotiation stuff. Will speak quietly so they have to lean in, then will change meeting location suddenly without notice…then will threaten to kill their daughter. 🙂 Oh and how did Frogurt’s shirt fit Sawyer? Nonsense.

First Lostie to catch the embedded (very subtle) clue in the style of Lost gets something nifty, though I’m not sure what. Adoration? That’s nifty, right?

*This* is the face of consumerism?

Today, we had to do an emergency shopping trip on two counts. First, I needed some kind of “park purse” as my (super-awesome and carefully selected) park purse got stolen. Second, I needed a digital camera, preferably this Panasonic 9.1MP with 10x digital zoom and Leica lens. (I’d had my eye on that model when I did a rush buy in Taipei, but the electronics store in Taipei was out of that one.)

In Taipei, I’d paid ~$330 for my camera. This was a markup of $30-50 over what the US model was going for on Amazon at the time, but I was desperate and in a foreign country, with no time to comparison shop. So, I bought it. This time, even though I was again desperate, I was in my homeland, with the stores I know and love just a GPS click away. I figured it would be a much quicker and easier shopping experience.

We started at Best Buy. I like their rewards program, and for this kind of thing, where I know what I want, I find them to be a good retail option. After much looking around, I find my preferred camera on sale for $279. But (and I had this hesitation in Taipei, too), I was worried about pocketability. I didn’t mind a larger camera than my previous two, but it still needed to easily fit in my purse and pocket. Problem was, Best Buy had the camera on an anti-theft post. I could kind of shove it into my pocket to test, but it felt awkward. And, I couldn’t tell if I was feeling awkward because of the giant anti-theft mechanism or the camera. We call over a salesguy, who doesn’t seem to be occupied with other things. Speaking of, I shit you not, there was a LINE to get into Best Buy at opening, either because they opened later than they used to…new 2009 hours were posted at the door…or because Floridians are just that excited about electronics…but the place was relatively busy.

Me (with DH standing nearby): Hey, I’m thinking of getting this camera, but I really need to know if it will fit into my pocket or purse, and the anti-theft thingie is making it hard to tell. Could you unlock it just long enough for me to check it out?
Salesguy: No, I can’t do that. We have smaller models over there. (points and starts to walk away)
Me: Yeah, but I like *this* one…I just need to be sure that it will fit okay. Do you have a display model or something, maybe an already-open box?
Salesguy: No, we don’t do that. (very terse)
DH: Is there a manager or someone who *does* have a key and can unlock it for us?
Salesguy: I’ll get a manager for you in a minute. I have to help another customer. (walks away and begins talking to a customer who is looking at a sub-$150 camera)

Okay, benefit of the doubt: maybe the guy was in the middle of helping them and we didn’t realize it. But either way, doesn’t basic customer service dictate that you simply apologize, say you’re helping someone else and either offer to be back shortly (right at the beginning of the conversation) or get one of your salesguy-friends to come help? I guess, even giving this guy the benefit of the doubt, I was left with a crappy customer service vibe. DH and I came to this conclusion while standing there and decided that there are other stores nearby that we can go to…and even if the guy does get a manager to help us, we don’t want him getting a commission, so we walk out with the intention of coming back if this turns out to be the best price.

Our next stop was Target. My Target-branded Visa was my primary credit card now (as my usual ones got stolen), so I would get decent rewards by shopping with them, too. And, since I have a price point and model in mind, I figure it’s a reasonable alternative. But, Target’s selection was clearly geared at “cheap and compact” so my camera-of-choice wasn’t there. We scanned their purse selection for an alternative park purse and bombed on that count, too. (Of all places, why doesn’t the Target that is the closest Target to Disney (albeit still about 8-10 miles away) have a good park purse selection instead of silly fashion purses with short straps? :: sigh ::)

On the way to Target, DH had spotted a Ritz Camera, and he suggested that as an option. I initially pooh-poohed it. I, like any consumer, have perceptions about stores, and my perception of smaller camera shops like Ritz and Wolf is that they jack up the prices on cameras to near retail. DH pointed out, though, that we know how much it should cost, and so we can either try to get them to price match Best Buy or just go back to Best Buy if they’re a bust.

We walk in. It’s quiet. We go straight to the digital camera section, and they’re behind a glass case. Up toward the top, we see two Panasonics. One seems to be the new year’s model of the one that was stolen (priced at $360), with some minor updates, and the other is my camera-of-choice priced at $279. Well, I’ll be damned. And, even better yet, a salesguy comes over to us, asks if we need help…I tell him my situation and that I want to know if that Panasonic (innnn the window, woof woof!) will fit okay in my pocket. He unlocks the case and hands it over. I look it over, test it in pocket and purse, click a few shots, check the UI (Best Buy’s model had a dead battery), and basically fall in love. I tell the salesguy that I’ll take this one. DH thoughtfully asks if they have one with a charged battery (by now, I’ve explained the precise situation, theft, Taipei, and all, to the salesguy). Salesguy thinks for a minute and then checks his two floor models, but both have a low battery. He apologizes for not having a charged one handy…says they charge them throughout the day.

I bought a high-speed SD (class 6) card from him, too. Now, I’d planned to buy an “any ol’ memory card” for now, with intent to raid my collection of cards for a high-speed one once I got home…but I wanted to reward the customer service. So, I paid a really huge mark-up on the SD card ($39 for what should cost under $15).

Then, we went back to the room and plugged in the camera to charge. Meanwhile, we went to the pool for a quick swim before our bridge session. We ended up playing only the first half of the match (on a six-person team in KOs, each pair only has to play at least half of the session), so then we got to rent bikes and tour Port Orleans for awhile in the afternoon. We ate beignets at the French Quarter and took lots of pictures. I enjoyed riding a “cruiser” bike. We considered renting a Surrey bike or a kayak, but it turns out that you can’t take the kayaks to downtown disney’s lake (which was our interest in a kayak) and you can’t take the Surrey bikes to French Quarter (which was part of what we wanted to do on a bike). I took lots of pictures with my new camera. I love it. I’m really glad that I got it.

We had dinner with my parents at the Sizzler. We parked the truck where it was visible from a restaurant window. 😉 The Sizzler was a pretty good dinner deal, and it was good to reconcile the day’s activities with my parents.

We played both halves of the evening session (our picked-up pair wanted to cut out early to see the college football game), and we won…and not by a small amount, either. Yay for us! So, we made our teammates both life masters, which was a cool accomplishment. As for me, I’m less than a point away from being a “fake life master”…I’m missing 25+ black (club/local game) points, but I have the necessary red (sectional), silver (regional), and gold (top prize at regional and point-limited national events) points. I’ve decided that if the ACBL wants to withhold life master over black points, they can keep it. Fake Life Master is good enough for me.

Relevant photo albums: Port Orleans Riverside