A page a day, day thirty four: gaming with strangers

I spent the evening playing games tonight. I once again mustered my social courage and went out to join a social group organized around games. They have a regular Sunday thing that I’m thinking of joining on a semi-regular basis, but this was a special anniversary for the group and they reserved a room at Ceili’s on 4th ave.

Now… I like pubs. I like hanging out in pubs and talking with friends. It’s one of my most favorite things of all. I looked forward to adding the extra dimension of playing games to the mix.

Unfortunately… Ceili’s isn’t a pub. It does have much of the decor of a pub, but it has the seating capacity of a large nightclub and despite having a dance floor roughly the area of a family dining table they insist on blasting… BLASTING, mind you… dance music. Even though our group in the private room easily outnumbered the rest of the patrons, none of whom looked like they would have any inclination to dance… ever… the DJ was still pumping out the overplayed hits of the eighties and nineties.

It was, quite honestly, both annoying and sad.

The playing game part was pretty good. I quibbled over what game to bring and finally decided to go with the one that would take up the least amount of room. I took my Super Munchkin game.

As it turned out the group wasn’t made up entirely of strangers, I did know one person there albeit just barely. Dianne’s half sister M was there and as we were both new we kind of gravitated towards each other as quasi-familiar territory. Two others joined out table, a woman M knew who’s name I almost immediately forgot, and another fellow who had brought his Space Munchkin game to share.

Since we both had Munchkin games we decided to combine them into one game for the four of us.

I actually had a pretty frustrating time of it. Both of us guys did. We simply didn’t get any good cards and remained at lower levels through most of the game. The girls were both relatively new to the game yet still somehow managed to rack up amazing amounts of treasure cards. The lady to my right wound up with three or four Origins and thus was able to hold onto about five special powers, many of which she kept forgetting about as she played.

M managed to power up steadily with equipment and… hands. She gained a sidekick who provided her with four additional hands and a piece of equipment that gave her yet another one. She had seven hands and a weapon in four of them. Then she gained a card that provided her with a plus three for each empty hand. Before we knew it she was virtually unstoppable and we all had to gang up on her several times to keep her from winning the game.

Which, of course, meant that the other lady won the game by virtue of steady attrition and quiet profile. By the time we realized she could win the game with her next combat we were all out of preventative cards having spent them on M.

I still had a good time, though, and will be trying to make it a regular routine.

Remembering Danny

Sitting here trying to create some new discs for the house stereo. I’m trying to find new stuff, music to set and change moods that we haven’t all heard a million times…

So naturally I download an entire Gary Numan retrospective.

“Down In The Park” still takes me to places I’ve never been, and probably never will see beyond my own imagination.

I had a very odd friend back in high school. Well, okay, I’ve always had a lot of odd friends. It’s funny to realize I’m generally the most normal person in my circle.

Danny was… indescribable. A bum, quite likely, yet also a fine conoiseur of alternative music before there ever was Alternative Music. Hell, he was a massive collector of alternative music before anyone ever coined the term New Wave. David Bowie at his most Ziggy was just standard background stuff for Danny’s tastes.

Danny used to be a roadie for Pat Benetar, if you cared to believe him, before he wrecked his back forever. It was hard to believe him, of course, but he did have his ear and nose on some of the weirdest stuff to ever escape the depths of New York.

He lived on welfare and worker’s comp because of his various injuries. He rented a room from a gay landlord who was constantly trying to sneak in to his bed at night. He would have loved to have moved out but the rent was the cheapest anywhere so he just kept his door shut tight and alarmed the stairs to his bedroom with a random scattering of boxes and foil wrappers that were impossible to get past without making some kind of sound.

He walked everywhere and ate the cheapest food possible. He was socially awkward to the point of eccentricity but managed to avoid the line that crossed into offensive. Being slight of frame he managed to clothe himself from whatever he could afford at the salvation army.

All in all I suspect he managed to survive on about 100 bucks a month, including rent.

The rest he spent on records and, occasionally, gaming material. His room was like a hobbit hole dug out of a strata of vinyl, cardboard and paper. There was just enough room for him to sit on the floor next to his bed and stereo so he could make mix tapes.

Living in the small town of Saskatoon (city of 150,000, sophistication of a town of 15) we’d never heard of any of the artists he collected, like Nina Hagen and many other German punk imports. He never bought the regular commercial stuff. If there were any bits he liked he’s just borrow it from the city library and tape it for himself. He reserved his hard scrounged cash for stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else.

By the time I’d heard Gary Numan’s “Cars” and gushed with boyish glee about it Danny already had a half dozen of the man’s albums. When he found out I like Gary’s single hit he mixed me a couple of tapes of his better stuff. I immediately fell in love with “Are Friends Electric?” and set about trying to find original copies for myself. I think I managed three tapes in all.

For a couple of years Murray and I gamed with Danny, gathering in Murray’s basement every weekend. We’d start sometime on Saturday afternoon and usually finished up around six in the morning. I’d spend most of Sunday just sleeping to recover in time for school.

Good times, good times.

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Time for an accounting of my adventures over the past few days.

I spent several hours addicted to this game yesterday. Just couldn’t quit playing. I kept trying to go for the next level, getting that upgraded drill bit or that larger fuel cell… it was very addictive. Especially when I discovered the game writers had placed bones and religious artifacts in the lower layers. And the game keeps hinting at some nebulous, faceless threat out killing other hapless miners on the planet and I confess I was curious to find out what it was.

I guess it’s that simple kind of game that keeps me entertained the most these days, games without too much… “work”, I guess.

I’m canceling my City of Villains account. I haven’t played since sometime before Christmas and I can’t see myself ever getting back to it. While that little mining game may have had me addicted for a few hours, that’s the *most* time I’ve ever had for solo game playing at all in the past month, and January is typically the “slow” month. I just don’t have the time to commit to an in-depth game, let alone an online community. Heck, I also haven’t touched my copy of The Elder Scrolls for months, and I’m damned curious to see where that goes.

No time for gaming. Who knew it would ever happen?

So what else have I been doing with my time? Oh, a number of things, I guess. Relaxing quite a bit, really.

Friday night a small group of us went out to see Pan’s Labrynth at The Uptown. Sadly, because the bar upstairs (The Marquee Room, which apparently has it’s own myspace) was hosting some kind of fund-raiser with a “suggested” cover charge of $20 we ended up going to a pub nearby afterward instead and didn’t get to hang out with Scott. Because Ronya had to head to work the next morning we ended up going home before he was off work, too.

Pan’s Labrynth is Very Good in that Very European way… in other words, it’s harsh and edgy in the way that says “You’ve been molly-coddled all your life, and now we’re going to dish you a heaping plate of sharp, rusty Realism”. While half of it is a movie of escapist fantasy (in a more literal sense than I was expecting) it is also an unapologetic movie about post-war Spain as it’s citizens tried to deal with a rather totalitarian government. I’m completely and utterly ignorant of Spain’s history, in it’s entirety, but my impression from the movie is that the forties were a rather bleak time for that country. Some of the violence seemed a little… gratuitous, but it definitely gave you a stark picture of the sociopathic captain and his casual rationalizations for his terrifying black and white perspective. It was very telling, to me anyway, that while we could easily watch and analyze the child-eating monster with the eyes in it’s hands we were considerably less eager to discuss the violence of the captain. The monster was fantasy and easily shelved, mentally, while the captain and his regime were all too real.

Any more than that I’m pretty sure I’ll be spoiling the movie. Just trust me that it’s a movie worth seeing, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to see it more than once.

Oh, and I’d love to sit down with folks and get everyone’s impression of the ending. As with many of the best films (and most often with European films) the ending could be interpreted in many ways, and some of the interpretations could being concurrent and equally correct at the same time in my opinion.

Friday also saw the arrival of our new king size bed which has been installed in the spare room downstairs. The room is now known as no mere bedroom, but rather The BED Room as the bed pretty much takes it over. Not only isn’t there any room for *any* other furniture in there (we’ve had to revise our plans of buying a couple of stand-alone lamps for each side as they would completely crowd out the corners) but we’re going to have to switch the bedroom door to open outward just so we can close it.

Luckily we chose a bed frame that includes it’s own drawers so we won’t need our dressers downstairs when we move there for the summer. The plan is to use the king size in the basement over the summer and the queen size upstairs through the winter. Seasonal clothing will stay in their respective rooms as well. Then when we have guests they can use whichever bedroom we’re not. Knifty, eh?

Saturday morning Ronya rode off into the sunrise to start her four day rotation. Dianne and I, when we finally got up, spent much of the day wandering around the farmer’s market, after which we gave the giant bed a nice try-out with a much appreciated nap. The mattress is just right for me, which is to say it’s damn near solid. My back didn’t ache at all. Definitely need to get that door moved before we have any guests spend the night, though. When the furnace kicks in it’s like trying to sleep at the end of an airport runway.

Saturday evening I drove out to Brooks to have supper with Ronya before snuggling down for a few episodes of Desperate Housewives with her. Since Ronya’s work partner got her hooked on the show she insisted I get myself up to speed so we can talk about it. I was somewhat skeptical at first, but I confess that I’m getting into some of the deeper plot-lines, not to mention many of the characters make for interesting and in-depth discussions. Bree, in particular, provides much fodder for discussion.

I’m only up to about halfway through the first season, though, so don’t spoil anything for me. Rex is just back from the hospital and Bree is just starting to date the pharmacist. Lynette and Tom have just let their nanny go for being just too darned cute and sexy (and, honestly, she was waaaay cute and sexy) and Gabrielle just handed Carlos’ passport over to their lawyer. I’m not really sure what Susan is up to as I barely pay attention to Teri Hatcher’s character. Honestly, I find her far too embarrassing to care much about. Oh, right, she just gleefully figured out she no longer has any feelings for her ex-husband. Wee.

On a weird sort of side note I recognized both Doug Savant and Richard Burgi from the minor parts they played in Firefly. How geeky is that? Oh, and then I also realized that Doug played Sergent O’Neal in the American version of Godzilla. I’m sure I’ve seen other cast members in other films, but it’s all about the sci-fi geek to me. If they played even some minor role in a favorite sci-fi movie or series I’m sure to pick them out.

Sunday I slept in waaay late and then, as I said, got hooked on that drilling game. I also cleared off my MP3 player and re-stocked it from scratch. I tried out that leveling program last week and so far haven’t had any complaints. I filled the player up to the brim and created a couple of playlists, one for working out and one for relaxing. I’m listening to the chillaxin tracks right now and so far everything seems a-okay.

Sunday evening I was over at Dianne and Shane’s place playing some board games. I brought along Gloom and Roborally and we managed to get in a game of each.

And now tonight I have to start in on all those routine chores I ignored over the weekend.

Support the local guy

Wil Wheaton has written a great piece* about all those “local” stores that are slowly being bought and/or squeezed out of existence. It made me wistful about the old hobby shop we had in the same strip mall as my mother’s studio. The guys in the shop would have to chase us kids out, more often than not, but they never forgot where their money came from. When AD&D first came out they not only opted to stock the books but also set up advanced orders for us and kept us up to date when new stuff was coming out. That was way back in 1978.

Nowadays I feel we in town are very fortunate to have stores like The Sentry Box in Calgary and Valley of the Mage in Okotoks. I think, as Wil says, it’s important to keep these independent retailers going.

*Note: link goes to suicidegirls.com. While the specific page that hosts the article is Safe For Work, the rest of the site usually isn’t and the site itself may be blocked if you’re behind some kind of filter.

Tim Huesken, Successful Game Designer

A few of you may have a dim memory of my journal entry here about Tim’s art show at the Vicious Circle. Well, if you didn’t get to see his artwork then you can still see it today. Apparently he and a friend of his have designed a successful board game called Xig using his artwork. I haven’t seen the game myself but I definitely intend on checking it out. According to a local article (thanks to for the link) they have won the Origins Vanguard Innovative Game Design Award from the Academy of Gaming Arts and Design and have not only sold out of their first print run of 5,000 copies for the game, prompting them to print another 10,000, but have also release an expansion just in time for christmas. Woot!

Note: local article may be replaced soon and URL may link to something completely different.