Archive for the ‘games’ Category

Werewolf Cards

werewolfCard

My favorite role in Werewolf is Moderator. Often, I’m the one introducing Werewolf to a new group. Also, I’m an unconvincing liar, and thus have become more interested in running the game than in playing it.

Werewolf is an excellent ice-breaker, with easy-to-learn rules and little equipment. All that’s required are cards containing the correct proportion of roles that can be randomly distributed among a group. A standard deck of cards or even scraps of paper can be used, but I’ve found that having a proper set of Werewolf cards adds to the pageantry of the game. As such, I made some for myself, designing, printing and laminating them for durability.

werewolfCards

You’re welcome to use this image for your own game. Print as many copies as you need. The game scales well, but the relative proportion of the roles should stay the same. It’s sized for 8.5″ x 11″ paper at a resolution of 300dpi. I’d suggest using a card stock to make the cards feel sturdy in the hand; a manila folder will work in a pinch. After laminating, round the corners with scissors with a sheen of professionalism. Enjoy!

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Dominion: The Game

Among all of my board games, which include Ticket To Ride, Tichu, Scrabble and Settlers of Catan, I have a proclivity for Dominion.

It was given to me by my former colleague and fellow board game enthusiast, Mike Duncan, and it was designed by a man whose name, Donald X. Vaccarino, is frighteningly similar to that of our former CEO. My wife, my in-laws and my friends are also partial to the game, making it a popular choice when anyone suggests playing. For me, though, Dominion’s real appeal lies in one simple mechanic, a system that strikes a chord in me and resonates with what I value about people, organizations and companies.

In the game, a player’s deck of cards is his Dominion, which the player cycles through many times throughout the game. Throughout, he adds cards (he generally cannot discard them) that enable him to gain “skill” cards, gain money cards and gain victory cards. It’s these victory cards that are so interesting, because while you need them to win, it’s a disadvantage to have them until the end of the game. That’s because they don’t do anything. They have no value except the value ascribed to them, and serve only to bloat and clog your deck of useful cards until the end of the game.

What the victory card mechanic rewards is leanness. It creates a situation where a deck devoid of victory cards is a powerful Dominion, with each card providing some tangible benefit or benefits. It’s not until the tipping point is reached toward the end of the game when it behooves players to race for the victory cards.

The game is a beautiful metaphor for a lot of things. It reminds me of my possessions, my baubles, and how they can clutter my life without providing any real value. It reflects how I want capability to be rewarded in the workplace. It suggests that the larger an entity gets, the more susceptible it is to gathering trappings of little value, or value as defined in a narrow and unimaginative way. It’s notable that the game isn’t typically enjoyed only by the victor, and the victor tends to be forgotten while the sense of society and pleasure remains among the players.

My Top 5 For 2007

After seeing numerous end-of-year lists around the web, I thought it fitting to sum up my Top 5 in each category of The Cookblog. And so, without further ado, here they are:

The Cookblog's Best of 2007

Art

These are the best web sites and artists that I discovered during the past year.

  1. Edward Gorey – I’ve posted about him before, but the maestro of macabre was my #1 artistic discovery of the past year. Meticulous pen sketches combined with a wickedly dark sense of humor make him my favorite by a country mile.
  2. Rockwell Kent – Moby Dick is a terrific book (at least the first few chapters), and these illustrations are great. They capture the majesty of the ocean, the madness of Captain Ahab and the calm of an evening anchorage in attractive woodcut style.
  3. Chema Madoz - There’s something about black& white photography that is just cool. The pictures on these sites juxtapose and re-imagine common elements in interesting ways, like a match set against a plank so that the grain of the wood looks like smoke. Check it out.
  4. BibliOdyssey – A really fascinating site packed with high-res illustrations of esoteric old books. The quality of the images and care with which they’re chosen really sets the site apart.
  5. OldBookIllustrations – I love old books and I love the types of illustrations on this site. On top of that, most are in the public domain, so I definitely plan on returning if I need fodder for any graphic design projects.

Food & Drink

These rate as the best beers I’ve discovered during 2007.

  1. 840 IPA – An absolute classic, this well-balanced but beautifully-hopped India Pale Ale is the standard by which I now measure all others.
  2. Ten Penny Ale – The perfect counterpoint to the hoppiness of an IPA, the malty, smoky Ten Penny is made in East Hartford and finds its way into the refrigerator more than any other beer.
  3. Chocolate Stout – A great beer for a change of pace, this goes particularly well mixed with Saranac’s Carmel Lager or Guinness.
  4. Racer 5 IPA – A tasty brew offered on tap at The Library, a bar near my brother’s apartment in Los Angeles. Nice and floral.
  5. Southampton IPA – A random discovery at the local package store, this IPA with an orange label is thoroughly drinkable and always welcome.

Games

I’ve played a lot of games this year, but only a few stack up against my high standards. They are:

  1. Carcassonne – Board games don’t get more classic than this. Every game is different and the social aspect makes it perfect for beginners
  2. Tichu – A favorite at work and probably the best card game in the world, combining bluffing, anticipation and cooperation. It’s only $7. Get it.
  3. Caylus – The opposite of Carcassonne, involving almost zero luck and total diplomacy, Caylus would be the chess of board games if chess wasn’t a board game.
  4. Foosball – The only non-board game here, there have been some epic shots and games over the past few months with my work colleagues. The laws of physics bow down before our deft control and puma-like reflexes, but we’re still easily beaten by the slow roller.
  5. Ticket to Ride: Europe – The chosen game at home, it’s good for two players and conjures up images of actually riding a train from Edinburgh to Athena. Also, my girlfriend and I can usual overcome our rage at losing after only a few minutes.

Literature

I haven’t had a chance to read as much as I would have liked, but these are the books that I enjoyed at least part of this past year.

  1. Morbo – Phil Ball has a wonderful turn of phrase and the intensely interesting subject of Spanish soccer comes alive with his words.
  2. Selected Verses of Ogden Nash – Perfect for reading to that special someone, the quirk and wit of Ogden Nash never fails to bring a smile to my face.
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – That’s right, I’m a Harry Potter fan.
  4. The Stories of Paul Bowles – Imagine my delight when I found one of my favorite books at a library book sale for 1/4 cover price.
  5. The Devil Drives – A biography of Sir Richard Burton, it’s a gripping account of a man who lived in constant adventure, from India to Mecca to Ethiopia.

Music

There was some great music this year, and though I usually prefer individual tracks to full albums, these were great the whole way through.

  1. Radiohead – In Rainbows – One again, Radiohead has delivered a phenomenal album packed with electronic hooks and human feeling. By far the most played this year.
    Reckoner
  2. Feist – The Reminder – A great discovery, Feist has since come to prominence for her role in an iPod commercial, but the rest of the songs on her album are equally bouncy and catchy.
    I Feel It All
  3. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – Vintage Spoon and no complaints from me. This is piano rock at its best.
    The Ghost of You Lingers
  4. The National – Boxer – One of the most genuine bands around today, The National’s “Fake Empire” is one of the songs of the year.
    Fake Empire
  5. Peter Bjorn and John – Writer’s Block – According to the Wikipedia, this was a 2006 album, but Rolling Stone put it in their best of 2007 list, so I am, too.
    Up Against the Wall

Soccer

I like to think I have a talent for spotting quality when it comes to soccer players, not that it’s difficult to tell that these five footballers are several cuts above the rest.

  1. Kaka – The Brazilian is the Zidane of this generation. His seemingly-effortless skill has been winning match after match for AC Milan, including the World Club Cup and the Champions League trophy
  2. Lionel Messi – The only player that can rival Kaka, Messi has been carrying one of the biggest and proudest clubs in the world on his shoulders. That he’s already made Ronaldinho dispensable is an indication of his importance to Barcelona.
  3. Christiano Ronaldo – Like the two players above him, he has dragged his team to victory even when they haven’t deserved it. If he can deliver European success to Manchester United, he’ll move higher up the list.
  4. Didier Drogba – His questionable temperament doesn’t take away from his qualities as a player. Powerful and intelligent on the field, he takes his team into a different class when he plays and is worth far more to Chelsea than the rubles they paid for him.
  5. Daniel Alves – A marauding right fullback who has been the impetus behind Sevilla’s recent success, Alves will surely earn a move to a major club soon, where he should establish himself as the best wingback in the world.

Travel

I haven’t taken too many exotic trips this year, but these places have been welcome breaks from the usual routine at home.

  1. Boston – An awesome trip up to watch the Red Sox earn a spot in the World Series still rates as one of the best days this year.
  2. Los Angeles, CA – A great visit with the family for Thanksgiving was the perfect way to spend those vacation days.
  3. Onset – Having returned there for every year since I was born, it’s impossible to underestimate its importance in my life.
  4. Danbury – Always a relaxing and comfortable place to visit, you never know who or what you’ll find at the casa de Angela, Kathleen and Connor, but it’s always a good time.
  5. New York – A weekend in NYC with John, Georgia and Co. was a ton of fun. My only regret is that it was the only one.

Web

I’ve seen a lot of websites in my 25 years on this planet, but these deserve special mention.

  1. Slightly Shady SEO – The best blog about SEO in my opinion. Gives away secrets that are worth plenty, which makes me wonder how much more he knows.
  2. Asobrain Games – A great place to play Carcassonne with no frills, no fuss and no fees.
  3. Strange Maps – Since maps are something of a hobby for me, this site is always full of interesting things.
  4. Coudal Partners – I’m still not sure what they do there, but their features, including Photoshop Layer Tennis and the Museum of Online Museums are worth regularly checking out.
  5. Smashing Magazine – With their fingers firmly on the pulse of web design, this site displays great examples for study and inspiration.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my picks and I hope that 2008 has as much good material to see, read, hear and blog about. If you’ve got something to say about any of my choices, go for it!

A Smattering of Online Games

I spend hours each day working on a computer, so when I get home, it’s usually a relief to read, exercise, visit friends or watch TV. However, I’ve got some side projects that also require me to use a computer. All work and no play makes Brian a dull boy, so short gaming breaks are welcome. Here’s some games I’m playing online these days:

Tichu

Tichu

I’ve discussed Tichu here before, but must once again give the game my highest recommendation. Recently, a group of my friends has become addicted. I can’t say I’m surprised. Part poker, part setback, part bridge and part arsehole, Tichu boasts a ridiculous amount of variation and strategy. It’s perfect for four people who are looking for some fun and want to learn a new game. You can also play for free online against an assortment of Eurotrash Europeans at Brettspielwelt. For rules, strategy, forums and more, check out this Tichu site.

RBI Baseball

RBI Baseball

I never had a Nintendo growing up, which is probably a good thing. Having a computer instead helped introduce me to the fact that computers could do more than just play games. Still, it’s nice to make up for lost time every once in a while, and this web-based RBI Baseball ROM is the perfect way to do it. Besides standing alone as a great little time-waster, I love being able to play as the Boston Red Sox circa 1987; Roger Clemens, Jim Rice, Ellis Burks… they’re all there! And don’t even get me started on the music. Just check it out.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne

Still one of my favorites, Carcassonne is an excellent introduction to Euro-style board games. Easy enough for noobs to understand, but complex enough to keep seasoned gamers interested, Carcassonne has a lot going for it. The puzzle mechanism ensures that every game is different, while it also lends itself to lots of discussion between players. Those two points are vital for a game to become a classic, and Carcassone has earned that status. The AsoBrain version of the game (called Toulouse) allows you to play against computer players, which is great for honing your skills. The Friends-themed monikers(get it?) and weak AI will also keep your confidence high.

Room Escape Games

Noobs Room

I love lateral-thinking puzzles and riddles, and room-escape games really strike a chord with me. Typically, you have to find your way out of a locked room using only the items you can click on with your mouse. The items may be hidden, they may need to be combined with other items to serve a function, or they may require some logical leap to use appropriately. Little is explained and players are usually forced to get creative to solve the puzzles. Noobs Room is a good one for starters.

So those are my favorites games at the moment. Not many, I know, but I’m usually busy crushing tween dreams, astroturfing or decreasing the overall quality of the Internet. Who has time for games?

Travel, Film and Game Links You Should Know

I don’t like to brag, but I’m 1/4 of the most dynamic company with the best prospects in the world. I’m talking, of course, about Borgamo LLC, a board game business that is now expanding into all sorts of areas including travel and video games.

Toucan

These sites will very soon turn into outstanding repositories of information on their respective subjects, run as they are by people will extensive experience in those areas (for example, check out where I’ve been). In short, check back often to monitor the sites’ progress and be part of the revolution that is Borgamo.